Archive - September 2005

Katrina Relief

Newer Orleans

Goddard's a Pain in my Gas

The Asian Hoard

A Break in the Action

Sleep Denied

No Shortage of Fuelish Politicians

Governor Challenges Nature

Take Back the Memorial

Stuber Auction Remembers
Lorraine Kerley

Remembering 9/11

Looting and Finding

Janice Rogers Brown for SCOTUS

F-cubed still too big for Flagstaff

When the Logic Levee Falters - Part I

When the Logic Levee Falters - Part II

A Liberal Dose of Flagstaff
may be Toxic

The Market moves Faster than the (Daily) Sun

Nothin' in Nagin's Noggin?


Democrat Leaders MIA

NAU faculty senate - Getting Stuck on Stupid

Remembering the crew of the B-24

Grand Canyon: Access-Challenged

NAU's Convention Center "complex"

In Her Words - Janice Rogers Brown

Thursday, September 1, 2005

     Katrina Relief - The web is abuzz with efforts to publicize Katrina relief efforts.  Lots of choices available to those that want to contribute.  See an array at Instapundit.  A charity that I felt especially worthwhile, and to which I have contributed is Soldier's Angels (click on their logo below)

Friday, September 2, 2005

     Newer Orleans - Even while the waters are still flooding New Orleans, there is a growing body of commentary that seeks to place the blame on the federal government, for refusing to adequately fund levee construction in years past, and even on George Bush, in particular.  It is not especially convincing, according to Duane Freese, and I agree.  But, I would take this one step further.  The problem isn't that the government is paying too little, it really is a problem that it is paying too much.
     The city of New Orleans is sinking.  It has been sinking for a long time.  It will continue to sink.  Sounds like a bad place to put a city.  Over time, without federal support, we should expect that these people will move elsewhere - maybe a little further inland, or maybe much farther away.
     Plenty of federal money has been spent on keeping the waters at bay in New Orleans, and there has been a proposal to spend some $14 billion to shore up the coastal shorelines in Louisiana.  Congress has yet to approve such an expense.  Hopefully, they never will fund this project.  If the residents want to raise, and spend, this money, then fine.  But, when the funding comes from the feds, we treat it as if it were free.  Based on that simple calculus (free money), we are inclined to invest in any project with a positive return, no matter how costly.  You cannot expect the recipients of free money to weigh the costs of their decision - at least financially, they don't exist!  We would be better off just giving the city, and state, the money, to do with as they see fit.  I doubt that it would be used for coastal shoreline restoration.
     If federal politicians didn't aggressively pursue money for pork-barrel projects, long ago the citizens of New Orleans would have had to face the question of whether building levees was worthwhile.  I suspect they would have found it easier to move, and, given enough time, this would have been facilitated without the major disruption that looms on the present horizon.
     In the weeks and months ahead, there will be lots of calls to rebuild New Orleans.  I hope we can sit back and better evaluate this situation.  A terrible tragedy has befallen these residents - lets not repeat it.  Another city, further inland, on higher ground, perhaps to be called Newer Orleans, would be my suggestion.

Saturday, September 3, 2005

     Goddard's a Pain in my Gas - Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard may want to become governor so badly that he is willing to politicize any issue just to get headlines.  Either that, or he is just an idiot - I'll report, you decide.  His office just issued a press release titled, "Terry Goddard Presses Need for Price-Gouging Protection."  I don't know why it is that people won't recognize that politicians make bad situations worse, not better.  I'd trade a thousand politicians for a million speculators.  That would create as much market stability as you can, given that these current disruptions are beyond our ability to control.
     Can Terry Goddard undo the damage done by Hurricane Katrina?  It's not rocket science - the answer is, "No."  Can he produce more gasoline by restricting its price?  No.  Can he create shortages, long lines, black markets and increased incivility through his actions?  Yes.
     "The oil companies should stop playing 'Can You Top This' and stick with the rules of supply and demand," Goddard is quoted as saying in the press release.  We can only hope for the day when the good Attorney General actually understands the "rules of supply and demand."  To help cue him in, let's consider the events of the past week and how the market responds.
A natural disaster causes supply disruptions.  Well, that's what happened.  We can't undo this.  Suddenly, we have a mismatch between resources available and resources desired, i.e., supply and demand.
The market responds by raising prices.  Yes, that's what happens.  Why?  Because there is less available.  So, now, we need to reallocate gasoline supplies around the country and we need to find a cheap and efficient way to do this.  That is the inherent beauty of prices.  They go up - everywhere.  We really don't want that next tanker truck heading off to Marble Canyon, Arizona to restock their supply.  We don't want as many tankers coming to Flagstaff for a while.  We want to get gas diverted to where it is most valued.  So, the price of gasoline at my local Fuel Express rises to $3.09 a gallon.  That makes me reconsider my driving habits.  It stretches out the time before the owners will have to get a truck there to fill up their storage tanks.  Terry Goddard argues that the gas in the storage tanks has already been paid for and that the owners should not be allowed to charge a higher price than they did last week.  He's missing the point of what prices are all about - allocating scare resources.
Regulating the price of gas will exacerbate an existing problem.  If Goddard had his way, prices would not rise.  Consumers would not have any incentive to cut back on their purchases.  In fact, quite the contrary - knowing that gas stations will run out of gas, we all have an incentive to fill up as much as possible.  Gasoline supplies will not be routed to the areas of greatest need, because there is no incentive to do so.
Price gougers" are good for the economy.  Raising prices causes consumers to conserve, and to do more so over time, and producers to produce more, and to look for alternatives (shale oil making a comeback?).  Prohibiting that is akin to building an economic levee around the gasoline market.  Even if it keeps back the flood waters of supply and demand, eventually it will get swamped, causing even more ruin and misery!

Sunday, September 4, 2005

     The Asian Hoard - For some time there has been this idea circulating, mostly on the web, that the Chinese (and Japanese) could ruin the U.S., financially, if they decide to unload their stocks of U.S. Treasury Securities.  Today, that bogus notion was echoed in the editorial of the Daily Sun:

Something as benign as a decision by the central banks of Japan and China to stop buying U.S. treasury notes could start a chain reaction that would topple everything.

     It doesn't surprise me that the editors of the local paper cannot grasp economics, much less global economics.  The concept they need to learn is called "fungibility."  It sounds like some kind of odd disease, but it actually refers to the fact that a dollar is a dollar is a dollar.
     So, what happens if the Chinese decide to "ruin" the U.S. by selling off their Treasury bonds?  Well, nothing!  Except that their act will depress the price of such bonds a bit and the Chinese take a capital loss.  If you believe that their action would have a huge impact on bond prices (and, there is zero evidence that such is the case), then you are saying that the Chinese will take an even bigger hit.  The U.S. economy isn't any worse off.  Those bonds have already been sold and the funds collected by the Treasury and used by the government to finance its spending.  It represents an obligation, with principal payments due in 3 months, 6 months, 5 years, or 10 years, depending on the maturity of the bond in question.
     Nothing has changed except the owners of these bonds.  The Chinese sell these bonds - as the price gets bid down, others buy them up.  It is as simple as that.  There is a bit more to the story - what will the Chinese do instead?  Well, they will either buy some other financial asset (e.g., French bonds, driving up their price, further costing the Chinese) or they will have to buy foreign goods (i.e., our exports).  In the latter case, this would reduce our trade deficit, which might make some people happy, but, which is a totally arbitrary goal.  [A trade deficit reflects the strength and superiority of our financial instruments - that is, the U.S. is an extremely safe place in which to sock away your savings.]

Monday, September 5, 2005

     A Break in the Action - It's Labor Day!  Time to get out and do something different.  Actually, I was out yesterday - hiking up Mt. Humphreys, which, at 12,633 feet, is the tallest spot in Arizona.  Lots of folks on the trail, even though it was cloudy early in the morning.  We reached the summit at 11:00 a.m., when the clouds were still above us.  But, soon we were surrounded by a gray mist and, at the first sound of distant rumbling, the peak cleared off within a minute.  Still, all the way down we passed people headed up, despite the turn in the weather.  We did hear a few more rumbles of thunder, although they always seemed distant, but we didn't see lightening.  We started up at 8:22 a.m., from the upper parking lot, by the Skyride, and returned at 1:23 p.m., making this a 5 hour trip.  Here are a few photos - click on them for larger images.  Go here to see more pictures.

Mt Humphreys in Flagstaff Arizona Mt Humphreys in Flagstaff Arizona Mt. Humphreys in Flagstaff Arizona

Mt. Agassiz with some snow.

The Inner Basin

Climbing to the summit - 12,633 ft.

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

     Sleep Denied - The Flagstaff City Council is set to tighten up the law prohibiting "camping" (which may just be someone sleeping in a car) within the city limits.  As an interesting piece of irony, while camping is prohibited on public and private property, there is nobody to cite in the former case.  That is, the "camper" is not the liable party; rather, it is the land owner that is charged with such an offense!  So, if you are caught "camping" on a public street, the city is at fault!
     This certainly is an item we can file under in the "Law of Unintended Consequences" folder.  The primary object of this law, in the first place, seemed to be the people who were staying in their RVs overnight in the Wal-Mart parking lot.  By and large, they seemed like decent people.  They didn't really have a need for external facilities.  They weren't trashing the place, otherwise the management would have put a stop to this activity.  And, these people probably felt reasonably safe, being that the area was well-lit, that there is some safety in numbers, and that the store was open 24/7.
     Well, thank god we got rid of this riff raff!  The law, as it currently stands, forces people to park on city property (except for parks, where they can be charged), or head off into the National Forest, or head down the highway to the nearest rest area.  Thanks for visiting Flagstaff and don't forget to leave!
     The City Attorney claims that this action "will help eliminate the large amounts of litter and human waste generated by individuals illegally camping, enhancing the overall aesthetic appeal of the City" and will "aid in the prevention of fires, eliminating the danger posed by illicit campfires."  How odd.  You would think that such littering, and campfires, would already be illegal.  Why not punish the criminal act instead of the innocuous behavior?  Well, because it is easier.
     Here are a couple more observations.  First, are the truckers that sleep overnight (or, even during the day) at the Little America violating the law?  Does the Little America have a conditional use permit?  And, when the weather is bad, say when there is lots of snow and the interstates are shut down, there are truckers (and others) sleeping overnight alongside the roads near the exits.  It seems to me that they, too, will be violating the law.  Sounds like a potentially big payday for the city!  Of course, we all know that under such circumstances, the law won't be enforced.  We do know that, don't we?  Maybe the law should be revised to include this section:  Violators will be punished, except when we decide to look the other way.
     Secondly, I do observe, from time to time, visitors to the city camped out in front of the home they are visiting - in trailers or campers.  They are usually quite discreet and are not a bother to anyone.  Obviously, they, too, are violating the law and subject to penalties.
     So, here is a radical idea - just prohibit the offending behavior.  I can, at first glance, see five components to an effective law in this regard (however, I am open to the notion that there is something I missed):

(i) Identify the prohibited acts - littering, obstructing public access, public urination (et al.), fires, and whatever else should go here.  [This is what we really want to penalize.]

(ii) Make the penalties suitable to prohibit these acts, with the additional proviso that any such offenders are barred from camping within the city limits for a period of six months.  [This would help keep away serial violators.]

(iii) Allow camping on private property, or on city streets in front of private property, at the discretion of the property owner, but, making them also liable for violations identified in part (i).  [This would allow for uses that we currently don't find objectionable.]

(iv) Allow camping on city property, as long as there is no traffic danger, unless otherwise posted.  [This would allow for the situation that arises during harsh winter weather.]

(v) Any such "camping" should be limited to vehicles and trailers.  [That is, this camping is a temporary measure.]

Thursday, September 8, 2005

     No Shortage of Fuelish Politicians - When the price of gas goes up, we seem to be able to count on one thing - there is no shortage of politicians with bad ideas and no shortage of bogus economic reasoning.  I almost yearn for the day when a politician just admits that they don't know anything, and that they will lie to us on every possible occasion.  Not only would I vote for such a politician, I'm pretty sure I'd vote for him/her again and again.  But, back to gas, and the nonsense it induces . . .

Bad idea:  There is an effort to suspend, temporarily, gas taxes in Arizona.  This is being proposed by State Senator Verschoor (R), with regard to state taxes, and by Representative Shadegg (R), with regard to federal taxes.  While the economic reasoning is sound - these proposals will stimulate supplies and reduce prices* in this market - the policy of eliminating a tax that is essentially a user fee is untenable.  The gas tax is an excellent example of a revenue stream that is tied to specific (government) spending that is directly related to our use of the product (gas).  That is, the more we drive, the more impact we have on the infrastructure of roads.  However, the more we drive, the more taxes we pay, which are used to maintain, repair, and improve this infrastructure.  In a less-than-perfect world (where taxes are raised) this kind of scheme is far preferable to one that uses general tax revenue for general uses.  If we want to debate about lowering, or raising, this tax in some permanent fashion, then let's do so; otherwise, just walk away from such hare-brained schemes.

The bogus economics:  Governor Napolitano (D) has opposed this tax cutting proposal.  I might be inclined to hold my nose and, with one hand, applaud her position.  But, her arguments are so specious, that I can't help but think that she "learned" her economics from Attorney General Goddard.  In today's Daily Sun, the governor's press spokesman, Pati Urias, is quoted as saying, "Even if you suspend the gas tax, it doesn't necessarily mean that the price is going to go down.  The distributors could just leave the prices as they are."
     This is worse than bad economics - it is just plain stupid.  Distributors don't set the price of gasoline - the market sets the price of gasoline.  If you don't believe me, then why isn't the price of gas $4 a gallon?  Or, $5 a gallon?  Or, $10 a gallon?  Or, $100 a gallon?  If they can set the price, why didn't they charge $3 a gallon a month ago?  A year ago?  Five years ago?  Because, they can't set market equilibrium prices.  The only way in which the statement of the governor's spokesman can be true is if (i) producers were just too dumb to realize that they could be charging more; or (ii) the government has set a price ceiling of $3 a gallon, in order to keep gas prices from rising.  Under either case, we would observe gasoline lines, stations running out of gasoline and black markets for gasoline.  None of these things are occurring.

*Note that this is the proper causal ordering of events.  You cannot drive down the price unless the demand falls (which these proposals are not designed to do) or the supply increases.  The chain of effects, as outlined in the attached graphical analysis, is that reducing taxes lowers the cost of production, which boosts profits, which stimulates supplies, which puts downward pressure on prices.

Friday, September 9, 2005

     Take Back the Memorial - The ongoing plans for a memorial at ground zero in New York City have generated tons of controversy for their political-correctness aspects.  Michelle Malkin has been keeping track of this on her site.  There is a rally scheduled for tomorrow.  To learn more follow the link below:


     You can also read more on the proposed memorial for the victims of Flight 93, which is shaping up to be the artistic equivalent of getting a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.  Check out Zombie's observations.

     Governor Challenges Nature - Governor Napolitano seems to draw inspiration from a bottomless pit of crazy ideas.  While yesterday it was about the price system, today it is about nature.  Should New Orleans be moved, perhaps to a Newer Orleans?  The governor is quoted in today's paper as saying that talk of rebuilding elsewhere is "fundamentally flawed."  Writes Howard Fischer, "[S]he said geography and meteorology is trumped by something else: history."  Is it even worth commenting on?  I suppose that this attitude is also a reflection of poor economic schooling.  The presumed benefits of "preserving history" cannot possibly be worth the cost of rebuilding in the same lousy location.  Get a grip.  It is especially unworthy of taxpayer funds, although if you want to start up your own private charity to rebuild New Orleans below sea level, go ahead.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

     Stuber Auction Remembers Lorraine Kerley - If you have been to more than a few auctions, you know that the participants become something of a surrogate family.  You see each other at least a couple of weekends a month, be it at an estate sale or a storage unit auction.  You contend with rain and sun, wind and storm, and, on occasion, awful directions.  You swap stories about the bids of past auctions, both won and lost.  You wait, with what may seem an unending supply of patience, for items you are interested in to cross the auctioneer's table.
     With the recent death of long-time auction-goer Lorraine Kerley, the folks at Stuber auction wanted to pay a special tribute to the loss of a member of this extended family.  Fittingly, they gave away cowboy hats, to shade the weary eyes in what can seem like a marathon event, as a small way in which to remember Lorraine.  So it was that Bob and Rusty, Marjie and Dot, Jan, Kirsten and Cathy not only handed out hats but spoke fondly of Lorraine during the preview at today's auction.  Lorraine was always especially interested in clothing and kitchenware, which could, in turn, be sold or given away, on the Navajo Reservation.   [Click on any image below to see a larger view.]

With their registration numbers in hand, attendees gather 'round for the start of the auction.

Free cowboy hats were given out in remembrance of long-time auction-goer Lorraine Kerley.

Rusty and Bob begin the meticulous, and efficient, handling of items available at today's auction.

Sunday, September 11, 2005 

     Remembering 9/11 - Today we do two things - remember the events of 9/11 and go on with our lives.  There is a lot to remember about 9/11, and there isn't much I can add to that story.  The Discovery Channel's presentation of The Flight that Fought Back has been highly recommended by reviewers.  For a good reference source for lots of 9/11 reading, go to this Winds of Change web site.
     One of the victims of the World Trade Center attack was the remarkable Rick Rescorla.  If you have seen the Mel Gibson film, We Were Soldiers, you will know some of his background.  Read more at the Mudville Gazette.
     Rescorla was a Vice President of Security for Morgan Stanley in the World Trade Center.  He evacuated these employees during the 1993 WTC bombing, and did so again in in the 2001 attack.  A film airing today on the History Channel, The Man Who Predicted 9/11, is about Rescorla, and how his planning, and his actions, saved the lives of many thousands of people on that fateful day.  His wife, and others, have formed a foundation to have a statue built in Rescorla's honor at Ft. Benning, Georgia.   Follow the link for more on this effort.

Monday, September 12, 2005

     Looting and Finding - In a letter to yesterday's Daily Sun (which, as of this morning was still not posted up on-line), Carol Thompson doesn't just blur the lines between reality and fantasy, she blurs the lines between fantasy and insanity.  While she may have credentials in race-baiting, and consider herself a class warrior, her international experience has, apparently, only eroded any appreciation she might have for the scientific method, much less for logic and coherence.  Here is an excerpt:

If you are black and poor (race and class), beware.  The accelerating economic inequality, whether in The U.S. or globally for Africa, condemns black folk not only to poverty, but to oblivion.  They don't exist, except when they are "looting."  AP sent out a picture of white folks wading through water, after "finding bread and soda from a local grocery store"; a similar AP picture of black folks wading through water with provisions called it "looting."

Clearly, Ms. Thompson isn't going to let facts get in the way of her agenda of "Hate America First."  The "looting" and "finding" photos she references are exactly what they purport to be and her attempt to play them like race cards should fall on deaf ears.  Consider these points:

1.  These photos were taken by two different photographers, and they were the ones that wrote the captions.

2.  The captions reflected what the photographer saw.  In the case of "looting" the photographer (Dave Martin) saw a man (one man, not "folks") wading through the water, pulling along a large plastic garbage bag (like a 30 gallon job).

3.  In the case of "finding" the photographer (Chris Graythen) saw people wading down the street by a grocery store.  The contents of the store had, in part, been floating around the street and a woman in the photo was carrying a loaf of bread and one other item, identified as soda by Graythen.  Read Graythen's comments here (about halfway down the page).

4.  In the "finding" photo, the two people are not clearly "white folks."  The man is white, although it is not certain that he and the woman are traveling together.  The woman is of uncertain ethnicity and may be white, or, perhaps Hispanic, or, even black.

5.  Finally, the photos are not both from the AP.  The "looting" photo is from the AP, while the "finding" photo was circulated by the AFP - Agence France-Presse.  This tidbit of irony may be lost on Ms. Thompson, but it isn't lost on me.

Ms. Thompson may hate the Great Satan that is the U.S., but she can't blame the problems of the world on America.  The slaughter in Rwanda (during President Clinton's tenure), the murderous events in the Sudan, and the unfolding famine in Niger were/are tragic, but don't automatically threaten U.S. security.  If she wants to speak out and organize private efforts to "give peace a chance," then good for her.  But, if Ms. Thompson is calling for U.S. military involvement in these internal conflicts, in order to bring peace, freedom, democracy and capitalism to these impoverished peoples, perhaps she should detail that in a future letter.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

     Janice Rogers Brown for SCOTUS - I have been watching today's hearings on John Roberts nomination to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  Fascinating stuff.  The abysmal haranguing questioning by Senators Leahy and Kennedy is just appalling.  The TV talking head consensus is that Roberts will be a shoe-in and that the Democrats are, by and large, preparing to battle over the next nominee to the SCOTUS.  And who should that next nominee be?  My vote (by a very wide margin):

Janice Rogers Brown -  former California Supreme Court Justice; recently confirmed (after an interminable wait due to threats of filibuster in the Senate) to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.  She is the ideal choice, in my opinion.  Her appointment would knock both the race and gender cards out of the equation, or, would allow those cards to played against the cabal of old white males - Kennedy, Leahy, Schumer, Durbin, et al.  She is tough as nails, having really been to the school of hard knocks - born to sharecropper parents in Alabama; being raised in California by her grandmother following her parents' separation; marrying and having a child while in college; her husband died of cancer leaving her to raise their son while finishing her undergraduate degree and going to law school.

     Here is a passage from a speech she gave in 2000 to the Federalist Society at the University of Chicago Law School, as highlighted on Professor Bainbridge's website:

Writing 50 years ago, F.A. Hayek warned us that a centrally planned economy is “The Road to Serfdom.” He was right, of course; but the intervening years have shown us that there are many other roads to serfdom. In fact, it now appears that human nature is so constituted that, as in the days of empire all roads led to Rome; in the heyday of liberal democracy, all roads lead to slavery. And we no longer find slavery abhorrent. We embrace it. We demand more. Big government is not just the opiate of the masses. It is the opiate. The drug of choice for multinational corporations and single moms; for regulated industries and rugged Midwestern farmers and militant senior citizens.

     Janice Rogers Brown is my kind of justice.  Face it - Dubya is going to get his hat handed to him if he selects another conservative white male.  But, a candidate like Brown, even though she had to wait two years for the Appeals Court appointment to be confirmed, will kick this debate into the stratosphere.

     More links of interest regarding Brown:
The 'Golden Eloquence' of Rogers Brown
In support of Janice Rogers Brown
Free Janice Rogers Brown
Wikipedia entry

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

     F-cubed still too big for Flagstaff - The Friends of Flagstaff's Future, or F-cubed, recently announced that their membership now exceeds 1,000.  This local activist group generally opposes economic development and supports an environmental agenda.  It reminded me of a letter I wrote to the Daily Sun this past April, in the midst of the Prop 100 campaign, which concerned whether "big box" stores (i.e., Super Wal-Mart) would be allowed in Flagstaff.  Prop 100 would have capped retail space in one store to 125,000 square feet and would have limited the amount of space dedicated to groceries to 8% of the store's space.  F-cubed supported Prop 100, claiming that Wal-Mart killed off local businesses and paid lousy wages . . . well, in general, Wal-Mart can be blamed for all the ills in the world that can't otherwise be blamed on President Bush.  So, without further ado, a blast from the past . . .


To the editor:

     I note that the Friends of Flagstaff’s Future supports Prop 100 and claims that this will help preserve the character of our town.  This is especially ironic, since F-cubed is, itself, a big box, and is already degrading the quality of life in Flagstaff.

     F-cubed claims to have over 900 members.  That is far too many for a town of our size.  The insatiable appetite of this behemoth activist organization is  clogging up our political system and choking off mom-and-pop activism.  If we could limit the size of F-cubed to 70-125 members, we would see more activist competition and a more vibrant community.

      I would also note that there are many volunteers that work on behalf of F-cubed for a salary of zero.  That is worse than a travesty.  You cannot afford to live in this town if you can’t even earn a positive income from the work you do.  Those that volunteer to work at Wal-Mart get paid infinitely better than their counterparts at F-cubed.  Why, even workers in foreign “sweatshops” get paid more!

      And one more thing – no more than 8% of F-cubed’s finances, nor membership, should come from beyond the city limits of Flagstaff.  If you live in Kachina Village, or Mountainaire, or Doney Park, form your own groups, and stop trying to use your time and money to influence changes that hurt the character of Flagstaff.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

   PC problems today - blog postponed to Friday.  Catch up with my Antarctica journal:  Cape Royds

Friday, September 16, 2005

     When the Logic Levee Falters - Part I - The editorial in today's Daily Sun begins with a reference to the fable about the emperor with no clothes and draws an analogy to President Bush.  Is it just me, or is this constant haranguing of Dubya just insane?  I am beginning to think that O'Reilly has latched onto something with his Kool-Aid references. It may be that the president is just an automatic punching bag when it comes to any catastrophe, large or small, real or imagined.  And, as politicians like to take the credit even for the sun rising in the morning, perhaps we are justified in blaming them when it sets in the evening.  Still, I just don't get it.  This behavior is not only short-sighted and unproductive, but it is as insidious as a terrorist attack, in that it helps to undermine our basic principles.
     And, what are those basic principles?  Well, the idea of federalism seems pretty clear to me.  Governing is, to a lesser extent than I would prefer, decentralized.  The federal government does not have unlimited power.  In the case of impending hurricanes heading towards New Orleans, the responsibility for dealing with it start with the city and, then, moves to the state.  The feds may find ways to get involved unilaterally, but they are supposed to defer to local governments, regardless of their level of incompetence and/or corruption.
     Why isn't it Bush's fault?  Well, let me count the ways:

1.  The City of New Orleans had an evacuation plan, and didn't use it.  I would link to their plan, but it has been removed from public access on the web!

2.  Certainly you have seen the flooded buses.  The fact that there were people in New Orleans without adequate transportation is a given.  The mayor had access to these buses and didn't use them.  It is not a federal responsibility.  Check out more on this at Snopes.

3.  The governor turned down assistance and dragged her feet on requesting federal intervention.  That is her responsibility, not Bush's.

4.  And, as has been widely noted, if it hadn't been for President Bush, it isn't clear that the mandatory evacuation would have been issued - he is the one that pressed the governor and the mayor on this point, before the hurricane hit.

     So, by blaming Bush, logic and reasoning are just thrown out the window.  Apparently, the emperor really does have clothes, but critics demand that he acknowledge that he doesn't.  All of this is starting to sound more and more like some show trial from the old Soviet days under Stalin.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

     When the Logic Levee Falters - Part I I - The Friday editorial (9/16/2005) in the Daily Sun chastised President Bush leadership in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  As I noted yesterday, this is patently unfair – Bush is not only the last one that can be blamed, in fact he deserves credit for the arm-twisting he engaged in before the hurricane hit.
     There is, however, more in this editorial that deserves comment.  It segued from the Katrina mess to their view that American principles are insufficient and materialistic.  Here is the pertinent passage:

 . . . [J]ust as there may be lessons to be learned from the Katrina disaster, so, too, there are lessons available from our engagement with an anti-modernist Islamist worldview that, even among its most progressive practitioners, doesn't lend itself to western-style tolerance and democracy . . . [We] may have to accept the fact that some societies will have religious values that frustrate American appeals to individualism and mass consumerism.  That means that what worked against Communism - dangling examples of political self-determination and store-bought luxuries in front of the indoctrinated masses until they threw off totalitarianism -- isn't necessarily going to work with Islam.

     America’s primary appeal to other people is our “mass consumerism” and “store-bought luxuries?”  Is that why East Germans risked getting shot while crossing the Berlin Wall?  Is that why dissidents in the old Soviet Union were carted off to real-life gulags?  Is that why millions were murdered by Pol Pot and his henchmen?  I don’t think so.
     We have a history (though, not an unblemished one) of opposing tyranny, oppression, authoritarianism, despotism, communism, and radical Islamofascism.  From the Revolutionary War, to the Civil War, to the Great War, to World War II, and, even, to the Vietnam War, despite the missteps, the chaos, and the blunders, there was, at their core, our values and our principles.  What principles are these?  Well, every year, the paper publishes them:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

    The point of the Declaration of Independence is that we do not accept tyranny, whether under the guise of a slave-based Confederate state, or a totalitarian Marxist state, or a murderous national socialist state, or a fundamentalist Islamic state.  The Declaration is our line in the sand.  It is a statement of how our moral compass is set, even if we fall short of these precepts from time to time.  We may, or may not, choose to confront others in a forcible manner on these points - we have in Afghanistan and Iraq, we haven’t in North Korea and Iran.  At least, not yet.
     The American appeal is to liberty and freedom, not “mass consumerism.”  The logic of the Declaration of Independence is that “these truths are self-evident.”  The only “societies” that can “frustrate” a man’s desire to be free is one that is based on authoritarian power, which is not why governments are “instituted.”

Sunday, September 18, 2005

     The Market moves Faster than the (Daily) Sun - The web version of the Arizona Daily Sun, Flagstaff's local paper, has an on-line poll about gas prices that was still up this morning.  The screen shot, below, I took yesterday.  The poll asks, "What lies in store for gas prices?"  The choices are:
a) Level out at $3/gal."
b) Back to $2.50/gal.
c) Up, up and away.
d) We'll never see below $3 again.
     Well, let's see, as of yesterday, gas was running between $2.96 and $2.99 at every station I have seen around town.  That means answers a, c and d are just plain fantasy.  Granted, this poll has been up for a while, but these three answers, which all posit that prices will be at, or greater, than $3, have received 60% of the "vote."  Only a minority have voted that prices will fall, and, of course, the market is already manifesting that outcome, even though there are still serious supply disruptions from the Gulf of Mexico.  At first glance, I'd say that the 40% minority is about the same as the proportion of Republicans registered in this area - coincidence?

     A Liberal Dose of Flagstaff may be Toxic - Thanks to Jack at Arizona Watch for the plug for the Kaibab Journal, and thanks to the nice comments from Spectregunner and BridgetB.  Jack writes, "[I]t’s a pleasant surprise to find that there’s a rational person among the tree-huggers in Flagstaff."  I wonder what gives him the idea that Flagstaff is full of flaky people.  Hmm . . . I wonder.  Well, for starters, let's run down the letters to the editor in today's paper:

"Gov't tries to cover-up" - about the incompetence of the Bush administration with regard to hurricane preparedness.  No mention of local government shortcomings here, as I have commented on.

"Most congressmen's kids not in Iraq" - bemoans the fact that members of Congress, because they don't have children serving in Iraq (the old Michael Moore bugaboo), makes their decision to be there untenable.

"Patriots oppose war in Iraq" - well, there you go.

"Where would we be without the GOP?" - mostly, the writer concludes we'd have no war, no hurricanes and low gas prices.

"Impact fees offset monopoly advantage" - which rails against developers, who, apparently, storm the city gates, build houses and then leave!

"Bush administration piling up scapegoats" - where (ex-FEMA director) Michael Brown's intelligence shortcomings are compared to George Tenet's.  To bad that the author didn't see fit to mention that Tenet was selected by Pres. Clinton.

     OK, I fudged a bit - I left two out.  One was on whether the new city pool should be built on 4th Street, which begs the question of whether we really should have the city build a pool, especially since the city council already rations my water.  And, the other letter was a defense of the police chief in nearby Williams (30 miles west), who tried to hide his checkered, and perhaps criminal, past.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

     Nothin' in Nagin's Noggin? - The mayor of New Orleans continues to make a Democrat of himself with his recent efforts to re-populate New Orleans when it is still at risk, especially now that Rita is heading that way.  He has been pressured by the feds to postpone his plan, at least for now.  This illustrates, yet again, that it is local officials that (rightfully) are in control, even if they are incompetent, and that the feds are there to help.  How has Ray Nagin distinguished himself so far?

Nagin had to be pressured by a phone call from President Bush to issue his emergency evacuation, which should have come hours earlier.

Nagin failed to insure that the emergency shelters were adequately stocked with supplies.

Nagin failed to utilize the available buses to transport residents from New Orleans.

Nagin failed to implement New Orleans' evacuation plan.

Nagin failed to control the police department as they left their duties, ignored looters, and even participated in looting.

Nagin offered free Las Vegas vacations to the New Orleans police force a few days after Katrina hit, even while the relief effort was in full swing.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

     Porkbusters - As noted on an earlier version of the Sidebar readings, The Truth Laid Bear has posted up a contributed list of federal funding that bloggers recommend for cutting in order to fund the Katrina cleanup.  President Bush announced that he wasn't raising taxes to fund this mess - the money would have to come out of current spending, or through borrowing.  So, the idea at TLB is to get the blogosphere to kick in ideas for spending cuts from their locales that could be redirected to the cleanup.  The Kaibab Journal (that's me) is proud to have made two entries on behalf of this project (which I've lifted from one of my virtual editorials):

Buses for Coconino County - $2 million - Funds allocated for new buses. Not only is there nothing wrong with the old buses, but they are hardly used anyway! The only reason we are getting these buses is because they don't cost us anything. Congressman Renzi's press release states that this will help "reduce traffic congestion in both Flagstaff and Sedona." No, they won't.

Grand Canyon Greenway Trail - $2.5 million - Let's cut to the chase . . .
1) Grand Canyon National Park has raised over $100 million in "fee demonstration money" which could be wasted on this project.
2) The park service just announced that the entrance fee to the Grand Canyon will rise by 25% next year, further adding to this "fee demonstration" slush fund.
3) The portion of the greenway to be funded is from the visitor's center to the nearby community of Tusayan - no views of the Grand Canyon - just a pleasant 7 mile walk through the forest for those that would rather not spend time actually looking into the Grand Canyon!

Friday, September 23, 2005

     Democrat Leaders MIA - Ruth Bader Ginsburg was easily confirmed to the Supreme Court (18-0 by the Judiciary Committee and 96-3 in the full Senate) because Republicans found her to be “competent” even if they disagreed with her views – in fact, even if they found her views to be abhorrent.  Why aren’t Democrats acting that way towards John Roberts?  Is it because they are (mostly) all hypocrites?  When Pat Leahy is the only leading Democrat to lend support to Roberts, it's time for the Dems to hang out a "Help Wanted - Leadership a Must" sign.
     The crybaby litany from Harry Reid ("I was . . . swayed by the testimony of civil rights and women's rights leaders against confirmation.") and Ted Kennedy ("Nominees must earn their confirmation by providing us with full knowledge of their values."), Diane Feinstein, Chuck Schumer, Joe Biden, et al., just proves the point.  They don't care about competence, especially when they can just blather on with their pious holier-than-thou sermons.  One might think that the fact that they control neither the White House nor either house of Congress would give them some pause, and motivate a more humble stance.  Well, you'd think so.
     And, then, there are the recent comments made by Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg.  In opining on a woman to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice O’Connor, Ginsburg said that
“any woman will not do” and that those who would not do include those “who would not advance human rights or women's rights."   Funny, I did not think that it was the purpose of the Supreme Court to advance human rights.  That is a legislative prerogative - rightfully left in the hands of the people's elected representatives.  The purpose of the Supreme Court is to insure that politicians don’t screw up the constitution, which they will pretty much try to do at every turn.
     So, while I hope RBG gets half of her wish - another female justice - I hope she can learn to get along with Janice Rogers Brown, who seems more interested in upholding and defending the constitution.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

     NAU faculty senate - Getting Stuck on Stupid - If ignorance is bliss, then the members of the faculty senate at NAU that are supporting a “Resolution in Support of Affordable Textbooks” (RSAT) are especially . . . blissed.  The resolution, which I don’t believe has actually passed the senate, is a “textbook” example of how an advanced degree is no insurance against a dreadful understanding of how markets work.  Some of my favorite passages are:

Whereas, textbook publishers use gimmicks to increase the price of textbooks…
Whereas, textbook publishers add bells and whistles to textbooks …
Whereas, textbook publishers put new editions on the market frequently…
Whereas, textbook publishers are unfairly charging students at a time when tuition and other college costs are rising…

     For readers that don’t otherwise understand the obscure world of university classroom textbook adoption protocol (UCTAP), here is quick synopsis – faculty are assigned to classes and, then, they pick a textbook to use.  It may, at first glance, strike you as funny that book publishers play no role in this UCTAP.  Apparently the members of the faculty senate don’t think it’s funny - book publishers must be 100% to blame for all of the ills that follow from this protocol.  If, however, you are thinking that the primary blame must fall on the shoulders of professors and the university, well, you’d be right.  But, there is no mention of lazy professors and culpable university bureaucrats in the RSAT.

     And, what does the RSAT ask be done?  Here are more passages:

"Resolved, the Faculty Senate calls upon college textbook publishers to adopt the following practices:

  • To keep the cost of producing textbooks as low as possible without sacrificing educational content;

  • To give faculty and students to option of buying textbooks separately, without additional bells and whistles;

  • To keep textbook editions on the market as long as possible without sacrificing the educational content;

  • To pass on cost-savings to students once purely online textbooks are on the market.

     From Basic Economics 101 – 
markets reward producers that keep their costs low; 
markets reward producers that provide consumers with what they want; 
markets reward producers that can extend the lifecycle of their products; 
markets punish producers that price their product higher than that charged by a competitor.

     Although in a different context, I think we can adopt General Honore's  maxim for this waste of time, energy and effort - “You are stuck on stupid.”

Monday, September 26, 2005

     Remembering the crew of the B-24 - I took a hike yesterday to the site of the B-24 crash, which occurred almost 61 years ago to the day - September 15, 1944.  It takes a bit of off-trail work to find this site.  Behind the wing, shown in the picture at right, is the Navajo Army Depot, in Bellemont, a fitting backdrop as a memorial to the crew of this flight.  For extended comments and additional photos, go to Remembering the B-24 Crew.

Click on any photo to see a larger image.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

     Grand Canyon: Access-Challenged - The editorial in last Sunday's Daily Sun concerned the increase in fees at Grand Canyon National Park, and the uses to which these monies will be put.  On the one hand, it is heartening to read that the editor(s) believe that raising prices will hurt visitation, especially local visitation.
     That being said, the editorial goes on to bemoan the plan to use this money to fund a meek bus transit system that would provide relief during the busiest times of the year.  The Daily Sun's motto here is that a world-class wonder deserves a "world-class mass transit system."  Clearly, this is just empty rhetoric.  If one were to apply this distorted logic to its absurd end, we would have to support not only a world-class mass transit system, but also a world-class hospital, schools, housing, food service, hotels, entertainment - anybody really ready for Wayne Newton playing the Hindu Amphitheater?
What's wrong with mass transit?  Besides the fact that people don't like it, don't want to use it, that it is slow and, in general, in a questionable state of cleanliness?  Well, it also will deter local visitation.  Does anyone understand that time really is money?  Even if the feds completely paid for a rail system, and visitors didn't have to spend any more for entrance fees, it still would be costly for local residents to make a "spur-of-the-moment day trip" to the park.  You would have to park in Tusayan, at the rail terminus.  You'd have to wait for the train.  If it is the busy season, you might have to wait for a second train.  You will board with, potentially, hundreds of other visitors, also waiting for the train.  Then, you'd have to go where the train goes.  If you wanted to take a day trip to the park and do some sightseeing along the West Rim Drive, say at Pima Point, it will take a while.  First, take the train to the Visitor's-Center-that's-not-really-a-visitor's-center.  Then, take the train to the Village.  You might also have to take a bus.  Then, hoof it to the West Rim bus staging area.  Then, get on the West Rim Shuttle and wait about 40 minutes to get to Pima Point, which is about 6 miles away.  To get back, repeat this process, in reverse.
     And, while you're hanging around the Village, you might think twice about buying something like a tee-shirt, or a book about the canyon.  That's because your car is seven miles away, and you'll have to lug your purchases around until you leave.  No quick trips to the car to store purchases.  No access to a cooler you might have brought, so that you could picnic at/near the rim.
     The Grand Canyon doesn't need a "world-class mass transit system." 
What it does need is world-class access.  Unlike museums and monuments, the Grand Canyon is huge.  It is big enough so that infrastructure improvements can be made to accommodate rising visitation levels, without adversely affecting the quality of the visitor's experience.  In fact, doing this would improve the deteriorating service visitors currently encounter at the park today.
     Oh, yes, t
hat's me in the photo, waiting for a second bus to get me back to the Village from the South Kaibab Trailhead.  In case you were wondering . . . No, it wasn't a world-class experience.  The waiting, that is.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

     NAU's Convention Center "complex" - The city council voted to kick $2 million into the pot for a convention center complex, to be built on Northern Arizona University property.  I have critiqued this proposal earlier, in Convention Center Madness.  To the issues raised in that critique - that the city has no rationale for funding the construction of a convention center and that the city is ignoring the effects this development would have on the existing infrastructure - I will raise some more:

Why is NAU interested in a convention center?  Well, that question is easily answered - "Because they can."  When it comes to the request for money, the President of NAU has zero incentive to keep his request low.  There is no end to which money can be siphoned off from the state and wasted on "educational" projects.

Why should there be a convention center on any university campus?  I don't know.  I mean, in terms of a legitimate rationale.  The self-serving reason is clear - more control over more resources, enhancing the power, prestige, and income of the university bureaucracy.  Otherwise, I can't think of a compelling state interest in such a facility.  And, in a world where one can more easily teleconference, video conference, and participate in web-streaming conferences, the justification for building a physical structure becomes even more problematic.

Does the university have a lack of meeting spaces?  Not insofar as I can see.  There are meeting rooms at the University Union and at the duBois Center, both on-campus.  Virtually every classroom building is empty at night, and on the weekends.  It may be unseemly to use classroom spaces for conferences - after all, they don't have nice plush carpeting, nor wood paneling (or, fake wood, as the case may be), nor do they have convenient ancillary facilities (food service, for example).  So, maybe it would be more efficient to design spaces that had multiple uses?  Yes, but it will never happen.

Shouldn't we be encouraging academic interaction through convention meetings?  Well, yes.  But, there is no particular reason why that has to be in Flagstaff.  And, even if we did agree that such meeting should take place here, let's look at what meetings actually do take place at NAU.  I don't have a comprehensive list, but the "meetings" I mostly notice taking place are the big cheerleading camp and the Arizona Cardinals camp, both of which occur during the summer.  Of course, the Cardinals weren't here last summer because members of the wrestling camp infected the campus with norovirus.  Well, we should thank our lucky stars that we have the space to accommodate football players, wrestlers and cheerleaders!

Friday, September 30, 2005

     In Her Words - Janice Rogers Brown - The Senate has confirmed John Roberts as the 17th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and he has been duly sworn into that office.  Now, it is time for President Bush to select a replacement for retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.  I have earlier opined that Janice Rogers Brown would make the ideal choice for this next vacancy.  She is currently on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.  Alas, I don't really have faith that President Bush will really select Judge Brown for this position.  The politics of the Roberts nomination just don't bode well in this regard, and Dubya will most likely seek a less-controversial nominee.  So, since this historic opportunity is about to pass by, I thought it would be a good time to actually post up an extended selection of her views, as expressed in a speech she gave to The Federalist Society, in Chicago, Illinois, on April 20, 2000.  The title of her speech was, "A Whiter Shade of Pale: Sense and Nonsense - The Pursuit of Perfection in Law and Politics."  I trust that after reading her words, you'll agree with me - Janice Rogers Brown rocks!

There are so few true conservatives left in America that we probably should be included on the endangered species list.

[I]n our lifetime, words are ceasing to have any meaning. The culture of the word is being extinguished by the culture of the camera. Politicians no longer have positions they have photo-ops. To be or not to be is no longer the question. The question is: how do you feel.

Writing 50 years ago, F.A. Hayek warned us that a centrally planned economy is "The Road to Serfdom." He was right, of course; but the intervening years have shown us that there are many other roads to serfdom. In fact, it now appears that human nature is so constituted that, as in the days of empire all roads led to Rome; in the heyday of liberal democracy, all roads lead to slavery. And we no longer find slavery abhorrent. We embrace it. We demand more. Big government is not just the opiate of the masses. It is the opiate. The drug of choice for multinational corporations and single moms; for regulated industries and rugged Midwestern farmers and militant senior citizens.

It is my thesis today that the sheer tenacity of the collectivist impulse — whether you call it socialism or communism or altruism — has changed not only the meaning of our words, but the meaning of the Constitution, and the character of our people.

Government is the only enterprise in the world which expands in size when its failures increase.

America's Constitution provided an 18th Century answer to the question of what to do about the status of the individual and the mode of government. Though the founders set out to establish good government … they … wisely did not seek to invent the world anew on the basis of abstract principle; instead, they chose to rely on habits, customs, and principles derived from human experience and authenticated by tradition.

Democracy and capitalism seem to have triumphed. But, appearances can be deceiving. Instead of celebrating capitalism's virtues, we offer it grudging acceptance, contemptuous tolerance but only for its capacity to feed the insatiable maw of socialism. We do not conclude that socialism suffers from a fundamental and profound flaw. We conclude instead that its ends are worthy of any sacrifice — including our freedom.

At this moment, it seems likely leviathan will continue to lumber along, picking up ballast and momentum, crushing everything in its path. Some things are apparent. Where government moves in, community retreats, civil society disintegrates, and our ability to control our own destiny atrophies. The result is: families under siege; war in the streets; unapologetic expropriation of property; the precipitous decline of the rule of law; the rapid rise of corruption; the loss of civility and the triumph of deceit. The result is a debased, debauched culture which finds moral depravity entertaining and virtue contemptible.

But what if anything does this have to do with law? Quite a lot, I think. In America, the national conversation will probably always include rhetoric about the rule of law. I have argued that collectivism was (and is) fundamentally incompatible with the vision that undergirded this country's founding. The New Deal, however, inoculated the federal Constitution with a kind of underground collectivist mentality. The Constitution itself was transmuted into a significantly different document.

There is nothing new, of course, in the idea that the framers did not buy into the notion of human perfectibility. And the document they drafted and the nation adopted in 1789 is shot through with provisions that can only be understood against the supposition that humanity's capacity for evil and tyranny is quite as real and quite as great as its capacity for reason and altruism … [I]n politics, the framers may have envisioned the former tendency as the stronger, especially in the wake of the country's experience under the Articles of Confederation.

Protection of property was a major casualty of the Revolution of 1937 … Something new, called economic rights, began to supplant the old property rights. This change, which occurred with remarkably little fanfare, was staggeringly significant. With the advent of "economic rights," the original meaning of rights was effectively destroyed. These new "rights" imposed obligations, not limits, on the state.

It thus became government's job not to protect property but, rather, to regulate and redistribute it. And, the epic proportions of the disaster which has befallen millions of people during the ensuing decades has not altered our fervent commitment to statism. The words of Judge Alex Kozinski, written in 1991, are not very encouraging.  “What we have learned from the experience of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union ... is that you need capitalism to make socialism work.” In other words, capitalism must produce what socialism is to distribute.  Are the signs and portents any better at the beginning of a new century?

The oracles point in all directions at once. Political polls suggest voters no longer desire tax cuts. But, taxpayers who pay the largest proportion of taxes are now a minority of all voters.

[T]here are even deeper movements afoot. Tectonic plates are shifting and the resulting cataclysm may make 1937 look tame.

We find ourselves … in a situation that is hopeless but not yet desperate. The arcs of history, culture, philosophy, and science all seem to be converging on this temporal instant. Familiar arrangements are coming apart; valuable things are torn from our hands, snatched away by the decompression of our fragile ark of culture. But, it is too soon to despair. The collapse of the old system may be the crucible of a new vision. We must get a grip on what we can and hold on. Hold on with all the energy and imagination and ferocity we possess. Hold on even while we accept the darkness. We know not what miracles may happen; what heroic possibilities exist. We may be only moments away from a new dawn.

The Kaibab Journal