Tuesday, September 27, 2005

University Presidents aren't leading the way to excellence

Victor Davis Hanson has a thought provoking essay posted at OpinionJournal.com. He writes about four different university presidents. Each one is working hard to ensure “diversity” on their campus. Yet none of them offer a compelling reason for this stance. He concludes his article:

The signs of erosion on our campuses are undeniable, whether we examine declining test scores, spiraling costs, or college graduates' ignorance of basic facts and ideas. In response, our academic leadership is not talking about a more competitive curriculum, higher standards of academic accomplishment, or the critical need freely to debate important issues. Instead, it remains obsessed with a racial, ideological, and sexual spoils system called "diversity." Even as the airline industry was deregulated in the 1970s, and Wall Street now has come under long-overdue scrutiny, it is time for Americans, if we are to ensure our privileged future, to re-examine our era's politicized university.

In pointing out the failures of these four university presidents, he is not trying to play tabloid headline games. He is trying to highlight the decline of the American University and propose one important cure. In reading his remarks, I was reminded of a talk given by Dallin Oaks at BYU, where I work.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Bush puts reporter in place (I wish)

Amidst the clean-up and recovery of the nation from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, President George W. Bush held a press briefing about the nation's energy supply. When he opened the briefing for questions, he was asked the following by Nedra Pickler from the Associated Press:
PICKLER: I want to ask you about, um, a different result of these storms and that is the racial divide that's been exposed in the country. Blacks and whites feel very differently about what happened. We all, um, recognize that the response to Rita was much better than the response to Katrina, but there are some strong feelings in the black community that -- that difference had a racial component to it, that the white, you know, rural residents got taken care of better than the black urban residents. How do you respond to that?
President Bush gave an entirely unremarkable political answer about how his administration has done many things for the poor and underprivileged. However, in my little fantasy world, it would have gone something like this:
PICKLER: I want to ask you about, um, a different result of these storms and that is the racial divide that's been exposed in the country. Blacks and whites feel very differently about what happened. We all, um, recognize that the response to Rita was much better than the response to Katrina, but there are some strong feelings in the black community that -- that difference had a racial component to it, that the white, you know, rural residents got taken care of better than the black urban residents. How do you respond to that?

You know, Nedra, that’s a great question. I’ve been asking myself a similar question recently. During the hurricane Katrina coverage, many news outlets—including yours, the AP—reported numerous deaths, rapes, etc, happening in the Superdome and NO Convention Center. And now it’s being reported that those numbers were greatly exaggerated, if not completely false. Why were the media so eager to believe anything terrible about the poor, mostly black people in the Superdome? Is there a racial component to the way wild rumors were being reported as fact? (gives reporter innocent smile)
I actually don't think there was a racial component to the media's reporting of rumors. In fact, I think it is ridiculous and supremely unhelpful--oddly enough, just as unhelpful as suggesting that there was racism involved in the Katrina emergency. We should be talking about what went wrong and what should be fixed, not slinging ad hominem attacks around. And reporters who insist on pushing that angle ought to be politely asked to sit down and shut up. It's too bad the President can't be allowed to do just that.

Rush Limbaugh (press briefing info)/Michelle Malkin (rumor debunking)

Monday, September 19, 2005

Ring around the...

And now the CYA begins. Just a few links for future reference, I'll be updating this throughout the next few weeks.

Mary Landrieu, Queen of the Non-Answer
Update: September 19, from the LATimes, via Captain's Quarters:
Senior officials in Louisiana's emergency planning agency already were awaiting trial over allegations stemming from a federal investigation into waste, mismanagement and missing funds when Hurricane Katrina struck.
And $60 million are unaccounted for.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

What Roe Really Means for Abortion

Hadley Arkes has some insightful comments about Roe v. Wade. Writing about the John Roberts confirmation hearings now in progress, he concludes,
The critical turn in the law may come if Justice Roberts helps to flip the decision that struck down the laws on partial-birth abortion in the states. Sandra O'Connor was the swing vote in Stenberg v. Carhart (2000), but John Roberts could make the difference in sustaining the federal bill. If that is done, the Court will be saying, in effect, that it is in business now to consider anew this long chain of cases offering restrictions of various kinds on abortion. What would follow then is a long line of cases, moving in small steps, with the Court upholding one restriction after another on abortion, each one modest, each one regarded by the public as plainly reasonable. When that happens, the regime of Roe v. Wade will have come to an end, without even the need to pronounce it over.

The abortion issues Arkes still considers open in a Roberts court are:
  • Must late term abortions be lethal, or might a state require non-lethal late-term abortions?

  • What to do with an abortion that results in a live birth?

  • May legislatures require a woman be given information about the developmental condition of her unborn child prior to an abortion?

  • What will be the fate of parental notification laws?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Poor geology reporting

This has got to be one of the more confusing statements I've ever read in a news report:
...the unnamed bulge was created because of a big cavity, estimated to be about 4.5 miles below the surface, that is filling with fluid.

The fluid is likely magma, but could also be water. It was described in the report as a lake 1 mile across and 65 feet deep.

Eh? A lake one mile across and 65 feet deep? 4.5 miles below the surface? That is a REALLY poor way to describe it, seeing as many people already believe that water is found in giant underground lakes instead of in pore spaces of rocks. Maybe this could be a better way to put it: "The amount of fluid causing the earth to bulge would fill a lake one mile across and 65 feet deep."

If that's what is even meant in the report. It's terribly unclear, and misleading to boot. And I'm probably one of about sixteen people in the world who even care.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Spirals of Fame

The ever circling spirals of fame are swirling around Keryn again. She submitted a headline from the Deseret News to Opinion Journal's Best of the Web. It isn't the first time her name (or her words) have appeared in a national publication! I feel famous just living with her!

Emergency Response Plan

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit has a great post up on the some of the emergency response lessons that better be learned from Katrina. All of it is great, but I especially appreciated this part:

7. Be realistic: Here's what the Los Angeles Fire Department tells people about an earthquake aftermath:

To those of us who live and work in the Greater Los Angeles area, earthquakes and other natural emergencies are a reality. In order to deal with this situation, emergency preparedness must become a way of life. In the event of a major earthquake or disaster, freeways and surface streets may be impassable and public services could be interrupted or taxed beyond their limits. Therefore, everyone must know how to provide for their own needs for an extended period of time, whether at work, home, or on the road.

That's just how it is. People need to be encouraged to do this. Whenever I say this, I get responses along the lines of "poor people can't afford to stockpile food." But here's a family survival kit for $50 and it's pretty good. Most poor people in America can afford food (that's why so many poor people are fat). They do have other problems that make preparation less likely, though (if you're the kind of person who thinks ahead and prepares for emergencies, you're much less likely to be poor to begin with) and local authorities have to be ready -- see the stockpile advice above.

There was so much wrong with the Katrina response, but for many (not all) people at least some of their suffering could have been lessened by having a 72-hour emergency kit to grab on the way to the roof. (UPDATED TO ADD: And it's not just the prophet telling us to have an emergency kit. Remember when Dept. of Homeland Security's Tom Ridge told every American family to make one?)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Virginia's evac plan

From the NYT, via the Corner:

Mr. Judkins is one of the officials in charge of evacuating the Hampton Roads region around Newport News, Va. These coastal communities, unlike New Orleans, are not below sea level, but they're much better prepared for a hurricane. Officials have plans to run school buses and borrow other buses to evacuate those without cars, and they keep registries of the people who need special help.

I guess New Orleans has a similar plan, but it wasn't implemented. But here's the kicker in the Virginia plan:
Instead of relying on a "Good Samaritan" policy - the fantasy in New Orleans that everyone would take care of the neighbors - the Virginia rescue workers go door to door. If people resist the plea to leave, Mr. Judkins told The Daily Press in Newport News, rescue workers give them Magic Markers and ask them to write their Social Security numbers on their body parts so they can be identified.

"It's cold, but it's effective," Mr. Judkins explained.

That simple strategy could have persuaded hundreds of people to save their own lives in New Orleans. What the city needed most was coldly effective local leaders, not a president in Washington who could feel their pain.


UPDATE: Or maybe just an "addition": Apparently the New Orleans police were told not to come in to work on the day the hurricane hit, to save money on the budget. Is that crazy? It seems backwards to me--you have this huge potential emergency, and you tell your police not to come in. I've never been in a hurricane, so maybe this is just standard operating procedure. But it seems...stupid.

Breaking News?

This is the red banner on the top of cnn.com's website at 11:38am Tuesday Sept 6.

"Breaking News: New Orleans flood waters contaminated with e. coli, official in office of Mayor Ray Nagin tells CNN. Details soon."

Gee, you think? With fecal matter from the sewers backed up into the flood? I'm shocked and surprised.

Or not.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Re: The case for well-armed citizens

I'm not ready to go out an buy a gun (as Keryn was when she wrote the post below), but I am far more convinced of the need for citizens to own firearms than I've ever been in the past. The constitution speaks of the need for a militia. I thought that our professional armies and National Guard had supplanted that need. But in the case of a disaster, more help is needed in the crisis moment. If I were to purchase a gun, it would be to add it to my emergency supply kit--under lock and key. Then I would be willing to use it to defend the public good should the need arise.

The case for well-armed citizens

Although I am a stauch supporter of the Second Amendment, I have never wanted to own a gun. I didn't grow up around guns, and so they still intimidate me a little. Add to that a lack of interest in shooting and hunting sports, and a lack of money to own a gun and a safe place for it (I have small children), and I never expected to change my mind. My husband has been of the same opinion, and so we have been a NRA-supporting, but gun-lacking, family.

Until now. The situation in New Orleans frightens me badly. Like many of the members of my church (we are LDS, aka Mormons), we are counseled to have reserves (food, money, etc) in case of emergency. We hope we would be willing to share our supplies with others in a disaster. But the anarchy and violence in New Orleans...we are not willing to allow looters to take what our family needs to survive. And we ARE willing to defend it.

In the middle of the chaos that accompanies disaster, it would be too late to go get a gun, be trained on how to use it safely, etc. And, honestly, I never considered it an emergency necessity. The events in New Orleans--and the actions of the small number of lawless and immoral people--have convinced me otherwise.