Wednesday, May 31, 2006

National Guard: Heroes of Katrina

I remember hearing some very dire reports during hurricane Katrina. People shooting at helicopters, mass rapings and murders in the Superdome, and rescues delayed for days after the disaster. All, I now learn, totally and completely wrong. Lou Dolinar has written an amazingly informative piece for Real Clear Politics, "Katrina: What the Media Missed."

The upshot is this: The National Guard performed like champs and saved tens of thousands of lives. In most places in the world, Katrina would have killed the tens of thousands that everyone was predicting. Instead, the whole state of LA incurred about 1500 deaths. That is on par with the deaths that have been caused by recent heat waves.

Dolinar awknowledges that FEMA and others were ineffective but that National Guard units from Louisiana and surrounding states, in conjunction with the Coast Guard, were able to handle the rescue. Their command center was in the Superdome. That bit of information alone should have been enough to cast a huge shadow of doubt on the horror stories that were being "reported" about the conditions in the Superdome.

If you're like me, you probably won't go read the article, but it is information packed and very readable and I highly recommend it. Here are a couple of other tidbits that I found interesting outside the summary I've provided above.
Besides rescuers and local first responders, another big story at the
Dome was the medical center. Like a Chinook helicopter landing on your
roof, that sure was hard to miss. Fifteen doctors and a total of 65
medical personnel set up at the New Orleans Arena, within spitting
distance of the Dome. It was primarily for survivors brought in by air
and boat, but also for people in the Superdome with medical problems.
There was never any shortage of medical care, Dressler and Bush both

The success of the makeshift medical center was such that there were just six deaths at the entire Superdome complex: four of natural causes, one drug overdose, and one suicide during the week of supposedly rampant anarchy and death.

They weren't happy campers. Besides the smelly but safe Superdome, which was not a pleasant place, many had been dropped off on the nearest high ground, primarily Interstate overpasses, in the rush to clear rooftops and attics. There were genuine shortages of food and water at these locations, especially at the Convention Center, another drop-off point. They were stuck, as search and rescue and lifesaving continued.

Governor Kathleen Blanco, meanwhile, had a direct pipeline to the command center and clearly knew what was going on, which might explain why she maintained her authority over the Guard and resisted calls from the President to federalize it. It also explains her apparent callousness to those stuck in the Dome - she knew the real situation was not as bad as the media was reporting. At the very least, she deserves credit for standing up to the national media and following the advice of the junior officers on the scene.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Net Neutrality

The concept of "net neutrality" has been in a news a lot recently. Basically, the concern has been that Qwest or Comcast or other ISPs could de-prioritize internet traffic that competes with their other business interests. For example, Comcast could make video traffic from a video-on-demand provider very slow so that online video rentals wouldn't compete with Comcast pay-per-view. Or Qwest could make your Vonage or Lingo service run slowly so that you can't get good voice quality through an internet phone line and you'll have to continue to get a land line from Qwest for your telephone service.

Mind you, neither vendor has proposed these changes, but that is the fear that is driving "net neutrality" legislation before Congress.

Pete Ashdown, a Democratic candidate for the US Senate, happens to be a technology expert. He runs the large Utah ISP, XMission. He has a take on the net neutrality issue on his campaign wiki. Ashdown's technical smarts give him an important weapon in his fight against Orrin Hatch. Many Republicans have come out in support of Ashdown for exactly this reason.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

College Isn't For Everyone

John Edwards, former presidential and vice presidential candidate, is championing a new program called "College for Everyone." I think the title of the program is a slap in the face to people who don't want or need a college education. If we really needed everyone to go to college, we would just put it in with the K-12 education system and make it free. But we don't do that because the fact is that most people don't really need a college education.

Most people? I think that a college education is beneficial for making you into a well rounded person, but in most cases it is not essential for the work that you will spend the rest of your life doing. Why would we want to make decent people feel like they are failures because they didn't go to college? It is a noble pursuit, but so are a lot of other things that don't require a college education.

Half Sigma has had some thought provoking posts on this subject over the past year that have really persuaded me.

Where Should Guest Workers Come From?

From an article at (ht Drudge):
"If 60 percent of our illegal immigration comes from a single country, and another 20 percent comes through that country, logic would say the vast majority of visas should go to the country of origin," [Demetrios Papademetriou, president of the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank] said. "The last thing you would do is create a global temporary worker program, as if somehow we should need Bangladeshis or Russians to pick our fruits and vegetables."
The argument, which is quite persuasive, is that we need to focus on making Mexico strong. Their stability is more important to us than most any other nation on earth because we share a border with them. Things aren't so dicey with Canada because they are already wealthy and stable.

The economies of the United States and Mexico are so interwoven that their success is very important to our continued success. The article also points out an important factor in the continuing stabilization of Mexico.
Last year, Mexico received a record $20 billion in remittances from migrant workers. That is equal to Mexico's 2004 income from oil exports and dwarfing tourism revenue.

Arriving in small monthly transfers of $100 and $200, remittances have formed a vast river of "migra-dollars" that now exceeds lending by multilateral development agencies and foreign direct investment combined, according to the Inter-American Development Bank.

The money Mexican migrants send home almost equals the U.S. foreign aid budget for the entire world, said Arturo Valenzuela, director of the Center for Latin American Studies at Georgetown University and former head of Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council during the Clinton administration.

"Where are we going to come up with $20 billion?" to ensure stability in Mexico, Valenzuela asked at a recent conference. "Has anybody in the raging immigration debate over the last few weeks thought, could it be good for the fundamental interests of the United States ... to serve as something of a safety valve for those that can't be employed in Mexico?"

Obviously whatever policies we implement to control illegal immigration from Mexico, we'll have to consider the economic effect that will have on Mexico and whether the US can afford the fallout of that effect.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

John Jacob Isn't Clear on Definition of GOP Convention

According to the Deseret Morning News, John Jacob made a goofy comment after getting a higher percentage of the delgate vote than incumbent Chris Cannon at the state GOP convention.
"The delegates sent a message to Washington that they will replace a
Republican with another Republican if they don't get the job done."
Did Jacob think they were going to nominate a Democrat in the Repubican Convention?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Immigration Rhetoric

Recently I heard the following on a clip from The John and Ken radio show from LA, broadcast on May 1, 2006 (starts at the 8:45 mark, but the whole ten minutes is very interesting):

Tony Valdez (Fox 11 News reporter): “…There is a group in Los Angeles that’s called Culture Clash, and they do some very interesting things, satirically and with comedy, and one of the things they say is, ‘We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.’ What I would suggest that these gentlemen [John and Ken] and everyone else who is watching do, is look at your own history, 1846, and see how the United States invaded the country of Mexico…”

Whoa. That is some fiery rhetoric you’re spouting there, Mr. Valdez.

Consider what he is saying: “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.” Oh, really? So you (or even your family) have been living here in California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, or New Mexico since 1846? When the border truly did move? Since I doubt there are any illegal immigrants that fit those criteria, this statement is invalid--both legally and morally.

Tony Valdez: “…Remember the last [indistinguishable] you took this country, you killed people in order to take this country for yourself.” (at the 10:03 mark)

Interesting choice of pronouns: “you” and “yourself”. Is Mr. Valdez 100% pure indigenous American Indian? If not, his ancestors, at some time, be they Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, British, etc, did the exact same thing--killing people to take the country for themselves. Is his argument based on how long ago it happened? So anything that happened 160 years ago is fair game, but anything that happened 300 years ago isn’t? That’s pretty darn arbitrary, and pretty darn indefensible.

We have to do something about our immigration problem here in the US. Reasoned debate is useful and has helped inform me of different points of view. Impassioned, illogical, inflammatory rhetoric like Mr. Valdez’s does nothing to further the debate. In fact, it alienates those he is trying to convince.

(Hat tip to Ryan at Blogger of Jared for pointing me to the audio clip--he discusses another part of the same reporter's rhetoric here.)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Mike Ridgway... Hmm...

While I'm not thrilled with Orrin Hatch, I am decidedly less impressed with Mike Ridgway. There seems to be very little chance that he has the social skills to serve as a United States Senator. It takes a certain amount of finesse to deal with the many different types of personalities one will encounter in D.C.

How can I say this? I have never met Ridgway and I've read very little about him. But I did read a couple of entries on his blog. That was enough for me to realize that I won't be voting for him. He just sounds bitter about everything. It is hard to picture him working effectively with other members of the Senate or their staffs.

Monday, May 01, 2006

"Undocumented Immigrant" is a misleading term

The battle over language is an important piece of any policy debate. Everybody tries to frame their side of the debate in positive terms. Thus, people are not anti-abortion. They are pro-life. They are not pro-death, but pro-choice.

The clever term in the immigration debate is "undocumented immigrant" or "undocumented worker." I dislike these terms because, while technically true, they are not the most accurate terms because they have the wrong connotation. (I realize changing the connotation is the whole reason that people use it.)

If I have a shirt in my possession that I stole from K-Mart, I could called it an "undocumented credit card purchase."

But the honest term is "stolen."

An immigrant who has snuck into the country is not merely "undocumented." A closer term would be trespassing.

This debate is made all the more difficult because the illegal immigrants I've known (or at least that I suspected of being such given their comments and behavior) have been deeply good people and very hard workers. But even good people can make bad choices, especially when they are trying to help their family.

It is immoral for us to continue to use illegal immigrants in our workforce. They are being denied the protections of laws that our country wants to be able to grant. The current system allows the workers and their families to be abused. It shouldn't be like that.

We need much more generous immigration quotas. The people are coming, and there is demand for their services. We need to bring them in and make them fully part of our society, with full access to our legal system and our legal protections.

But I do not favor amnesty. Too many people have worked too hard to do it the right way. We slap them in the face when we reward the people that have done it the wrong way. We need to make a path to citizenship for those that have come illegally, but it needs to be difficult and it ought to be at least as expensive as what we've made every legal immigrant go through.