Friday, September 30, 2005
IDIOCY OF THE DAY
The European Union is adopting regulations which will inhibit the use of MRI equipment (here, also here). According to a group of academics and medical professional in the UK, the new regulations will severely limit opportunities for diagnosing serious conditions in children and would stop surgeons carrying out "interventional procedures", where they use scans while they are operating. They say that about 300,000 procedures a year, including heart treatment and brain surgery, would be affected by the legislation, which seeks to restrict workers' exposure to electromagnetic fields.
MRI systems use strong magnetic fields. The new EU regulations are part of a wider directive aimed at limiting occupational exposure to electro-magnetic fields in all professions.
Professor Ian Young, OBE, who pioneered the world's first MRI scan of the head in 1978, said the new rules would "endanger patients". He said there was no clear evidence that MRI equipment poses any real health risk to operators, but the restrictions will put patients at risk by denying them the most accurate diagnoses and effective treatments. "If you start introducing arbitrary and stupid regulations such as this, you will force doctors to use less effective equipment or X-rays, which for children are a contraindication [exposure to X-ray radiation has been proven to carry health risks for children]."
Unbelievably, the authors of the EU directive acknowledge that "there is no conclusive scientific evidence establishing a causal relationship" between exposure to electro magnetic fields and long-term health problems. However, they say that Europe-wide legislation is necessary to create a level playing field and ensure that countries with stricter health and safety rules do not lose out.
So, if Lower Slobovia decides to ban antibiotics and electricity on grounds of health and safety, and Lower Slobovia is a member of the EU, then must all other EU members prohibit these things, too? Talk about a race to the bottom.
Since somebody in the EU is theorizing that MRI may lead to long-term health risks, children will be exposed to more X-rays...which definitely carry risk factors based on cumulative exposure. And how many people will die or suffer for lack of the additional diagnostic information that an MRI scan could have provided?
What we see here is a refusal to admit that sometimes one risk must be weighed against another. Instead, a blinkered focus on one particular kind of potential risk will have the effect of increasing total risk.
Let's hope that officials in Britain have the common sense to opt out of this idiocy..and ditto for the other countries in Europe.
(links via Natalie Solent)
SHEILA'S MILLIONTH HIT
Congratulations to Sheila O'Malley, one of the blogosphere's very finest writers, on the occasion of her one millionth page view.
Thursday, September 29, 2005
AUTHORITY AND RESPONSIBILITY
Peggy Noonan writes about the difference between taking authority and taking responsibility. She's talking specifically about the governmental response to Katrina, but the issue is a broader one.
Her article reminded me of a passage in Nicholas Monsarrat's WWII novel The Cruel Sea, which is about the crew of a British anti-submarine vessel. Compass Rose is escorting a convoy in the North Atlantic, at night, and ships are being torpedoed left and right. A tanker has just been hit and is on fire.
...the oil, cascading and spouting from the tanker's open side, took fire and spread over the surface of the water like a flaming carpet in a pitch-black room. Silhouetted against this roaring backcloth, which soon rose to fifty feet in the air, Compass Rose must have been visible for miles around; even in swift movement she made a perfect arget, and Ericson, trying to decide whether to stop to pick up survivors or whether the risk could not be justified, could visualize clearly what they would look like when stationary against this wall of flame. Compass Rose, with her crew and her painfully collected shipload of survivors, would be a sitting mark from two miles away. But they had been detailed as rescue ship; there were men in the water, there were boats from the tanker already lowered and pulling away from the tower of flame; there was a job to be done, a work of mercy, if the risk were acceptable--if it were worth hazarding two hundred lives in order to gain fifty more, if prudence could be stretched to include humanity.
It was Ericson's decision alone. It was a captain's moment, a pure test of nerve; it was, once again, the reality that lay behind the saluting and the graded discipline and the two-and-a-half stripes on the sleeve. While Ericson, silent on the bridge, considered the chances, there was not a man on the ship who would have changed places with him.
In organizations of all types, there are those who want the authority--the stripes and the saluting--but shy away from being on the bridge when the hard decision have to be made.
If you check out the website of a venture capital firm, you will find a listing of the firm's current investment portfolio. VC websites usually also give several examples of companies that they funded when the companies were unknown quantities and that have have since made it big.
Bessemer Venture Partners has all this on their website, but they have something a little different, too. They point out that they have been in the venture business since 1911, and that "this long and storied history has afforded our firm an unparalleled number of opportunities to completely screw up."
Hence, the anti-portfolio. This is a selection of companies that Bessemer could have invested in...but chose not to. Companies like Google, eBay, and even Federal Express. The stories are well worth reading.
I give Bessemer a lot of credit for putting something like this on their website--it takes a certain combination of humility and self-confidence to be able to laugh at one's misses, and especially to do it in public.
Bessemer is a very successful VC firm and has many, many successes to point to with investments in companies like Staples, Harman, Sports Authority, and Ciena. They were also an investor in Skype, which is now being acquired by eBay.
The anti-portfolio demonstrates just how difficult it is to see into the future and pick the winners, even for astute, knowledgeable, and experienced people.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
WOLFIE AT THE BANK: IN THE FIELD
Financial Times reports on Paul Wolfowitz's trip to India. Very worthwhile reading.
This is the man that so many "progressives" love to demonize.
Given the kind of man that Paul Wolfowitz seems to be, this says a lot about the kind of people that they are.
(hat tip: Cake Eater Chronicles)
INSANITY OF THE DAY
A hospital has banned visitors from "cooing" over newborn babies to protect their dignity and parents' right to confidentiality.
Read the whole preposterous thing.
(via Relapsed Catholic)
Monday, September 26, 2005
THE "PEACE" DEMONSTRATIONS
In downtown DC on Saturday, I talked with an Iraqi man who was attending the counterdemonstrations. He had ridden in by Metro, and the car was filled with "peace" demonstrators. These people didn't like his sign--which supported U.S. policy and President Bush--so they snatched it away from him and tore it to pieces.
I guess it's no surprise that goons of that type were attending the "peace" rally, given some of the speakers, like Cynthia McKinney and George Galloway.
The event has been well reported by a number of bloggers (here, here,for starters), so I'll only add a few observations. Some of the signs I saw were:
STOP THE TANKS / SMASH THE BANKS
END IMPERIAL WAR / ABOLISH IMPERIAL CAPITALISM
JUSTICE FOR PALESTINE (lots of these)
SOLIDARITY WITH THE RESISTANCE AGAINST THE OCCUPATION OF PALESTINE
DC..IRAQ..WEST BANK / OUR RESISTANCE IS GLOBAL
DEMOCRASSY IN IRAQ
(now, that's really respectful of all those Iraqis who risked their lives to vote)
GIVE BACK IRAQ
(guess they think things were just fine when Saddam had it)
OCCUPATION: WRONG IN IRAQ, WRONG IN PALESTINE--END US SUPPORT OF ISRAEL'S ILLEGAL OCCUPATION
...also, banners in the Nazi-Nuremberg style with "W" on them.
This demonstration didn't come across to me as being truly focused on the Iraq war--although I'm sure there were many individuals there because of their specific concerns about the war. But principally, this was an outpouring of resentment--against the President, capitalism, against the United States, and against Israel. These seemed to me to be people who were glorying in their anger.
The hostility toward Israel seems to be a major feature of such demonstrations, as in this call-and-response chant:
HOW ARE ISRAELI SOLDIERS PAID?
Only through U.S. aid!
(from the NR link above)
There was a group of about 200 counterdemonstrators, supporting U.S. policy and freedom for Iraq and Afghanistan. They were separated from the "peace" demonstrators by a fence and a line of police, which was just as well--because many of the "peace" people (some of whom wore scarves to cover their faces) seemed extremely angry at the presence of sign-carrying opponents.
There were also demonstrations and counterdemonstrations in other cities; see this report by Citizen Smash on the events in San Diego.
Baldilocks reports on the "sights and sounds" of the demonstration in LA. Among the sounds she heard were these:
Spoken (over the loudspeaker): “To understand Iraq, you must understand Palestine. Palestine has been occupied for 57 years." Yep. It’s all about the Jews, as usual.
Overheard: “I’m an atheist, but if there is God, we deserved the hurricanes.” Yes, I really did hear that.
Writing about some of the organizations behind the "peace" demonstrations, Christopher Hitchens says:
It is really a disgrace that the liberal press refers to such enemies of liberalism as "antiwar" when in reality they are straight-out pro-war, but on the other side. Was there a single placard saying, "No to Jihad"? Of course not. Or a single placard saying, "Yes to Kurdish self-determination" or "We support Afghan women's struggle"? Don't make me laugh.
UPDATE: Here's an extensive slide show of the LA demonstration. Note especially:
END THE MILITARY CORPORATE OCCUPATION OF NEW ORLEANS
ISRAEL, STOP KILLING PEACE
INVEST IN PEACE / DIVEST FROM ISRAEL
FOR WORKERS REVOLUTION FROM IRAQ TO NEW ORLEANS
Sunday, September 25, 2005
WOLFIE AT THE BANK, CTD
Here is an interesting interview with Paul Wolfowitz.
Friday, September 23, 2005
OLD TECHNOLOGIES, NEW AGAIN
They're closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks
Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain't coming back
To your hometown
This post is about three industries: textiles, furniture, and fasteners. Sound boring, and maybe even a little depressing? Read on...
Virginia Postrel writes about Craig and Randy Rubin and their company, Hi-Tex Inc. Craig, whose background is in marketing, developed an idea for a fabric that would be stain-resistant, breathable, and impermeable to liquids. He told Randy, whom he married in 1992, about the idea, and she convinced him that they could build a company around it. They patented the technology and trademarked the fabric's name, Crypton.
Their original business model was "virtual company"--Hi-Tex would coordinate things and handle the marketing, but the actual manufacturing would be contracted out. This worked fine at first, but growth and complexity led them to the conclusion that they needed their own factory. In July 2001, the company bought a 115,000-square-foot former L'eggs hosiery plant in Kings Mountain, N.C., And they bought it basically for a song--for the empty building on 35 acres, the price was $1.1 million, down from the original asking price of $3.7 million.
The company now has 52 workers and about $25MM in annual sales. Having their own factory lets them test out new product and process ideas more rapidly. They've ordered a new custom-made production machine from Italy, which will allow them to make a more flexible material, and they're now trying to build brand awareness among consumers. Part of the branding strategy is a line of dog-themed products designed by the photographer William Wegman.
Virginia also writes about Bob Duncan, who studied engineering management and then went to work as a consultant with Andersen Consulting (now Accenture). When Duncan decided to start his own business, he picked...furniture. "He decided to do for leather furniture what Japanese companies had done for cars, steel, and shipbuilding--shake up a staid, complacent industry by rethinking the manufacturing process."
Duncan's company, American Leather, uses small-batch manufacturing techniques to cut leadtimes, and they manufacture in the U.S (Dallas, to be specific). Rather than organizing the factory by function (cutting, sewing, etc), he established a "cell" structure in which small teams perform all operations on a single order. This reduces order leadtimes, as well as in-process inventory costs. By combining these manufacturing efficiencies with geographical proximity, he is able to offer much faster delivery than competitors that manufacture in the Far East using traditional large-batch techniques and then must ship the product by ocean freight to destinations in the U.S. The company employs 390 people and expects sales of about $68 million this year.
Read Virginia's whole article, especially the comments from the furniture designer. (Also see Virginia's interesting blog.)
The humble screw is a vital if unglamorous piece of technology. Improvements in screw-making technology were important in the Industrial Revolution; in recent decades, however, the field has been relatively static.
Forbes (9/19) reports on some recent innovations. As useful as they are, screws have long had their deficiencies. When they are used on concrete, for instance, cracks can result. And screws don't fit tightly in plastic: therefore, auto manufacturers mold brass inserts into plastic parts (at additional cost, of course) for the screws to mate with.
Kenneth LeVay, a product development director at Illinois Tools Works, got the idea of screws with threads shaped specifically to mate with the substance being penetrated. A concrete screw, for example, could have tiny chisel tips on the threads, so that it could chip its way in rather than compressing and cracking the concrete. But when he discussed the possibility of actually manufacturing such a screw in volume, "I was laughed out the door" by the factory people.
He persisted, and hooked up a thread-rolling machine to instrumentation that would let him observe the process in detail, and used 3-D modeling software gain further insights into what was actually happening. By borrowing some ideas from the injection molding field, he was able to solve the manufacturing problem. In 2003, ITW began marketing a specialized concrete screw under its Tapcon brand. These screws have tiny arrowhead-spaped chisels wrapped around the circumference of the screw, to cut into the concrete without crushing and causing cracks. The company has now also introdued the BosScrew, for plastics, and Sinuloc, for metal. GM has placed an order for 60 million of the plastic screws. "We've removed the screw from the commodity realm," says an ITW vice president.
Too often, it's assumed that innovation is something that happens only in the so-called "high technology" industries. But in fact, innovation is possible in any industry. There are no inherently boring industries; there are only boring people and boring companies. No one is forced to be among the latter.
Our fate, my dear Brutus, is not in our SIC codes, but in ourselves.
(SIC code = Standard Industrial Classification code)
Thursday, September 22, 2005
VERY SCARY PEOPLE
Here is a report on another event involving George Galloway and his American supporters. Do not fail to read this post. See also my post below for a description of another event involving Galloway.
I am very, very concerned about the amounts of rage and hate that seem to be floating around among today's "progressives."
(hat tip: The Anchoress)
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
THE HITCHENS-GALLOWAY DEBATE
About a week ago, there was a debate in NYC between Christopher Hitchens and George Galloway, focusing on the subject of Iraq. Several bloggers attended. Mary has a well-written report. Excerpt:
We rightwing infiltrators were scattered throughout the crowd...I sat with Rona, Bruce W. and Pamela, a very enthusiastic Hitch supporter. Judging from the stern looks the people in front of us threw our way, they were mild-mannered Galloway supporters. The guys behind us, greying, rumpled academic types, were definitely Galloway dittoheads. Some were downright rabid. When Hitchens requested a moment of silence for the Iraqis who were sadistically murdered by the insurgency, they were among those shouting "NO! NO!" When Hitch praised the US for making life better for the Afghan people, they shouted "Who Cares?" When Galloway said that the 9/11 hijackers emerged out of a swamp created by us, their cheers didn't turn to boos.
One of them hurled the worst epithet he could think of at Pamela - he called her a zionist. She said, "yes, I am a Zionist." Flabbergasted, he had no comeback.
Galloway got the most cheers from the non-rightwing infiltrator crowd when he condemned President Bush or mentioned his "victory" in Washington. They cheered when he demanded that we "rid the world" of George Bush and Anthony Blair. He also got cheers when he called the U.S. and Britain the biggest rougue states in the world today, that no tinpot dictatorship in the Middle East could cause more damage than an invading imperialist superpower. People were cheering for the idea that genocidal, oppressive tinpot dictatorships could never be as bad as our democracy.
She also quotes David Adler, as follows:
The sight of these comfortable Manhattanites applauding Galloway’s unequivocal support for the Iraqi "resistance" made me despair for the left, and quite frankly, for our species. The term "people of goodwill" came into my head; alas, there weren't many of them in the room. This is now the litmus test for the decent left. Galloway and his cheering section have flunked it spectacularly.
Definitely read her complete post. Also read reports from Judith and Pamela.
I agree with Mary's analysis: the Galloway supporters are very scary people. Unfortunately, it seems that they are representative of a large segment of today's left.
Sunday, September 18, 2005
THE HOLOGRAM FACTORY
Forbes (5/9) describes a process for the relatively-rapid creation of 3-D images in the form of holograms, developed by a company called Zebra Imaging. According to Forbes, Zebra "has figured out a high-speed print process that can reproduce any form of 3-D computer data as an image that can be viewed from any angle without distortion. Standing new to a Zebra hologram, you'd swear you could touch it and stand aside for a look around."
One application of the holograms is military. In Iraq, some military planners now carry 2-foot-square plastic tiles that carry a 3-D "apparition" of an area in which operations are being planned. It's easier to visualize a situation in advance with these images than with a conventional map (or, apparently, even a conventional computer-based 3-D image).
The holograms are also being used in the automotive industry. Ford (which is a Zebra investor) used an image to reveal hidden design imperfections in the 2002 Thunderbird (specifically, an unsightly gap between a door and front-quarter panel, as well as a strange bend in the hood). Ford's head of North American design views the holograms as serious alternatives to the traditional clay models, and points out that you can have them done in much less time than a model would take.
How much time does it take? A large monochromatic hologram can now be created in 90 minutes. This is a very significant advance over Zebra's prior process, which could take several days for a single hologram.
Zebra also offers a workstation which allows the user to interact with the 3-D image: by using a pen with force feedback, he has the illusion of actually touching objects and surfaces. In a military application, for example, this capability could be used to measure distances or plot lines of sight. Zebra says that the system, with enhancements, can even let you "feel" gaps in a model (as in the Ford door example).
Zebra sees potential applications in many areas of manufacturing (to replace physical prototypes), in architecture (for viewing designs before they are built), in oil & gas (for visualizing geology, as well a process plant design), and even in medicine (for surgical training).
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
ELECTRONIC PAPER UPDATE V
Philips Polymer Vision now has a prototype out for its "rollable display." You can keep it tightly rolled up, then unroll it and view text and image on it. It's said to be easy to view in bright sunlight, and power consumption characteristics are favorabe (I believe power is used only when the page refreshes, not while it is being viewed statically.)
I've posted several times previously about electronic ink / electronic paper technologies, and I think this stuff has potential to be a very big deal if it is packaged intelligently and creatively. More about the technology and its business implications (especially for the publishing industry) here, and a chain of updates starting here.
(Disclosure: I'm a Philips shareholder)
Hat tip: Recruiting.com
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
APPROPRIATE REMEMBRANCE OF 9/11--NOT
Rare Kate decided to pass on going to church this past Sunday, after reading the appalling liturgy on which the service was to be based. She does a brilliant job of fisking it. This is must reading.
What if American and British religious leaders had responded the depradations of Naziism in the spirit of this liturgy? Actually, some of them did. The impact on preparedness was certainly malign, and the people who took such positions certainly bear a share of moral resposibility for the deaths and devastation that took place. Ditto for those who are behaving in a similar way today.
See also my post Repent Now, based on something C S Lewis wrote when faced with something very similar to the liturgy that is Kate's subject.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
A DIFFERENT SEPTEMBER 11 ANNIVERSARY
The Heroism of Noor Inayat Khan (rerun)
61 years ago today, a woman named Noor Inayat Khat was executed at the Dachau concentration camp. The name is not something one would expect among a roster of concentration camp inmates in 1944. She was not Jewish, nor indeed European. Although she had been in France at the time of the German invasion of 1940, she had escaped with her family to England, and could have remained there safely for the duration of the war. Why was she in Dachau?
Her story is one that deserves to be better known.
Noor (the name means "light of womanhood") was the child of Hazrat Inayat Khan, a leader of the Sufi movement, and his American wife. She was a descendent of Tippu Sultan, a prince who had been one of the most effective enemies of British rule in India. Strangely, she was born in Moscow, where certain members of the Czar's court were interested in Sufiism. After the Revolution, the family moved to a suburb of Paris. Noor is remembered as gentle, shy, musical, dreamy, and poetic. She was noted for her kindness to animals, and it was to her that neighborhood children often brought an injured kitten or puppy. She attended the Sorbonne and became a writer of children's books and stories; she broadcast some of her stories on the radio. (Her book, Twenty Jataka Tales, is still in print.)
As World War II approached, Noor and her brother Vilayat both decided that the urgencies of the situation overrode the pacifist principles of Sufiism. She studied nursing, against the wishes of her then-fiance, with the intent of assisting the wounded in the coming war. But the collapse of the French Army took place more quickly than anyone had expected, and she escaped to England with her family. There, she enlisted in the Royal Air Force and became a radio operator, skilled in the high-speed transmission and reception of Morse code.
Wanting to contribute at a higher level, she applied for a commission. The interviewing officer asked her about her views on Indian independence, and she became very vehement on the subject--saying, in essence, that she would be loyal to the British Empire while the war against under Hitler was underway, but that afterwards she would work for Indian independence. She left the interview feeling that she had lost her temper and ruined her chances.
She never found out if she would have gotten the RAF commission or not, because she was presented with another opportunity to serve. She was contacted by the secret organization Special Operations Executive, which supported resistance operations in France and other occupied countries, and asked to come in for an interview. SOE badly needed radio operators, who were sent into occupied Europe by parachute and light aircraft. The job was, of course, a very dangerous one: the Geneva Convention afforded no protection to secret agents.
The interviewer was SOE's principal recruiter, the writer Selwyn Jepson. He was immediately impressed with her, but was reluctant to accept her for the job...telling her that she might be of more value to humanity if she survived the war and continued writing her children's books. She indignantly rejected the suggestion. Jepson: "..with rather more of the bleak distress which I never failed to feel at this point in these interviews, I agreed to take her on." (more)
INFORMATION AND DECISION-MAKING
Financial Times (9/10-11) has a profile of Lousiana Governor Kathleen Blanco. It gives her credit for reducing coruption and in bringing new employers to the state. It also quotes a long-time friend as follows: "She is not one of those politicians who just grabs an idea out of a hat. She likes to have all the experts around her and mull things over. Some people misunderstand this and think that she does not know what is going on."
According to New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Blanco told the President that she would need 24 hours to make a decision about Federal relief operations. (CNN interview, aired 9/05) When I first heard about this, my thought was: If this is true, it's probably reflective of a person who has a very deliberative decision-making style involving heavy staff involvement. Certainly, the action cited by Nagin is consistent with the FT profile.
Shortly after reading the FT profile, I read a relevant passage in Malcom Gladwell's book Blink. In a study done many lears ago, a researcher asked psychologists to evaluate a particular individual (Joseph Kidd) based on writen information. In the first stage of the experiment, he gave them just basic information about Kidd. In later stages, he gave them more and more information about this same person--first, one and a half pages about his childhood, eventually, a detailed account of Kidd's time in the Army and his later activities. After each stage, the subjects were asked to answer a 25-item test about Kidd.
As the the psychologists got more and more data, they became more and more confident in their judgments. But objectively, the judgments didn't get any better. The overall accuracy remained pretty constant at about 30 percent.
Gladwell also cites a medical experiment having to do with diagnosis of heart attacks, in which consideration of increased information led to worse results.
There is a law of diminishing returns in information as in everything else, and decision-makers always need to balance the time delay involved in getting additional information with the benefit of that information--and the consequences of the delays. Most decision-makers know this at some level: they certainly should, at any rate. But the study referenced by Gladwell adds another factor. If you have a lengthy and elaborate decision process, it may give you a totally unwarrented level of confidence in the probable accuracy of your decision.
With specific regard to Blanco and the hurricane: leaders differ greatly in their decision-making styles. A style involving lengthy and careful decision making may work fine in cases involving, say, economic development--but if the executive cannot change that style when a crisis occurs, then it will be a hindrance. The law of diminishing returns of information may then work in conjunction with a curve of exponentially increasing harm as the decision is delayed.
(I do have a bit of a methodological issue with the psychology study: apparently, only one individual was provided for the psychologists to assess. What if there were something unique about this person such that (hypothetical) assessment methods that normally work--and that offer increasing accuracy with increasing information--didn't work for this person? In that case, the increased confidence of the psychologists with additional information would have been justified, and the conclusion about no more accuracy would have been misleading. I'd like to see the same study repeated with a reasonable number of individuals to assess. Without this, the results are intriguing and suggestive, but seem to me to be subject to a caveat.)
If you're interested in the subject matter of this post, you'll probably also enjoy my post on Smart Talk and my review of the book The Logic of Failure.
Michele remembers, and has put up her archives from that day and the succeeding days.
Sheila also remembers, and has a Billy Collins poem.
There is an extensive collection of links at Winds of Change. See also Lori Byrd and Sister Toldjah.
And, via Donald Sensing, here is a memorial slideshow. (it will take a minute to load--7MB file)
Saturday, September 10, 2005
The New York Times (9/10) has an interesting interview with J Wayne Leonard, who runs Entergy--the power company that serves New Orleans and many other areas in Lousiana and Mississippi. There are now 1.1 million customers without power--individuals and families, also refineries and port operations. Excerpt:
Q. Close to 10,000 linemen and tree trimmers from other utilities and contractors have joined the thousands of Entergy employees working to restore power, which creates huge logistics challenges for you. Does the industry need more extensive and formalized agreements to make emergency responses more efficient?
A. No. It's the culture of people who have been in the business for a long time that we feel the exactly same sense of urgency whether it's our lights or someone else's. Other companies are eager to return the favor. Crews don't want to be sent home. They want to be sent to New Orleans. And these guys are exhausted. It's a wonderful business when something like this happens. You realize how dedicated people are.
Q. You've spent a lot of time talking to government officials at all levels about the recovery process. What's your assessment of how well the various levels of government have understood and reacted to Katrina's impact on the power industry?
A. They have been far more understanding of what we're up against than I've ever seen before. Nobody has said no to anything we've asked for. The Department of Commerce called me this morning before I even got out of bed to go over our list of long-term needs. When we've said we won't go there without protection, they've delivered it. Everybody understands now that power is an absolute necessity.
The whole thing is worth reading.
Friday, September 09, 2005
CHANGE OF PACE
...for Friday night. No hurricanes, wars, or educational incompetence.
Read the romantic story of Sheila's right foot. And don't miss this picture.
Here's a different approach to Bookmobiles.
Selling tiger meat is illegal in China: see the excuse offered by this restaurant when they got busted.
Thursday, September 08, 2005
TWO KATRINA STORIES
Here's a story about people in New Orleans who stuck together, helped each other, and prevented the thugs from gaining an upper hand--quite a contrast to the dystopian scenarios that have been so widely reported.
And here's a man who paid his back his debt to the U.S. by helping Katrina survivors--60 years after American soldiers liberated him from a concentration camp. (via Donald Sensing)
UPDATE: Iraqi soldiers contribute for hurricane relief.
Monday, September 05, 2005
KATRINA: NAVAL SUPPORT OPERATIONS
Sounds like quite a lot has been accomplished so far in getting naval resources deployed to New Orleans. The aircraft carrier Harry S Truman is now on station, along with the amphibious assault ship Bataan and the expeditionary group consisting of USS Iwo Jima, USS Shreveport, and USS Tortuga. USNS Pollux is there with 1.5 million gallons of fuel to support relief operations, and is operating onboard dialysis equipment for patients from a local hospital. Also on hand is USS Grapple, a salvage and rescue ship, and USS Swift, a high-speed catamaran capable of navigating shallow waters. Ships on the way include the hospital ship USNS Comfort--departed from Baltimore Friday and will be there Thursday. Canada is sending a destroyer, two frigates, and a coast guard vessel. More on the naval relief effort here.
So far, the naval response sounds better managed than most aspects of this situation.
Read about the rapid response of the Iwo Jima group here.
Sunday, September 04, 2005
KATRINA: IMPACT ON WATERWAY TRAFFIC
There's been a lot of discussion about the impact of Katrina on oil refining and distribution, but there are also issues involving the transport of food, especially food destined for export. Huge amounts of agricultural commodities move down the Mississippi by barge, much of it for transfer to ocean-going vessels in New Orleans. The Port of New Orleans is now of course shut down: its reopening will depend both on the degree of damage to the port itself and on the restoration of electrical power.
There is still a little time to get these issues resolved: the bulk of the corn and soybean harvest usually moves down the river from October through February.
Rail transportation can provide an alternative to the river, but it is more expensive and less fuel-efficient (although much more fuel-efficient than trucking.) It's not clear whether the relevant railroad have sufficient slack capacity--locomotives, specialized cars, crews, track capacity--to handle the full additional load.
(For more on waterway transportation see my earlier post here.)
Friday, September 02, 2005
THE BEGINNING OF WORLD WAR II
Thursday marked the anniversary of the beginning of World War II. On September 1, 1939, Germany launched a massive invasion of Poland.
Britain and France were both bound by treaty to come to Poland's assistance. On September 2, Neville Chamberlain's government sent a message to Germany proposing that hostilities should cease and that there should be an immediate conference among Britain, France, Poland, Germany, and Italy..and that the British government would be bound to take action unless german forces were withdrawn from Poland. "If the German Government should agree to withdraw their forces, then His Majesty's Government would be willing to regard the position as being the same as it was before the German forces crossed the Polish frontier."
According to General Edward Spears, who was then a member of Parliament, the assembly had been expecting a declaration of war. Few were happy with this temporizing by the Chamberlain government. Spears describes the scene:
Arthur Greenwood got up, tall, lanky, his dank, fair hair hanging to either side of his forehead. He swayed a little as he clutched at the box in front of him and gazed through his glasses at Chamberlain sitting opposite him, bolt-upright as usual. There was a moment's silence, then something very astonishing happened.
Leo Amery, sitting in the corner seat of the third bench below the gangway on the government side, voiced in three words his own pent-up anguish and fury, as well as the repudiation by the whole House of a policy of surrender. standing up he shouted across the Greenwood: "Speak for England!" (more)
Amid all the horrible reports from the Gulf Coast, Michele has been searching for rays of light--and has found quite a few. But she also has some pretty grim stuff.
People around the country are offering temporary housing to Katrina victims.
Glenn has an extensive collection of links from bloggers recommending organizations for donations.
UPDATE: An extensive collection of information and links at Michelle Malkin (not to be confused with Michele Catalano, above)
UPDATE 2: A report direct from the Houston Astrodome, where many refugees have been taken, by Rightwingsparkle, who is volunteering there.
UPDATE 3: A post on some of the realities of disaster relief, by someone who has done it.
Donald Sensing has a summary of military relief operations now underway. Don also has information on the Louisiana National Guard Joint Task Force which is assigned to restore peace and order in the city.