Zoning versus Hurricanes

An August 30 Bloomberg Businessweek article blames Houston’s lack of zoning for the severity of Hurricane Harvey’s impact. New York and New Orleans had zoning; they were inundated.

All three cities were flooded. Zoning or the lack of it wouldn’t have made much difference against topography. In Houston’s case a nearly flat bowl of semi-permeable at best land gets over fifty inches of rain.

All three cities had lots of people and businesses in the way of a flood. As American coastal cities swell in population, we will see more, worse examples. Whether zoned for it or not.

Bloomberg made a political, not an economic, meteorological nor geological point.

Could things be done differently? Sure, but hindsight is always 20/20. Neither New Orleans nor New York relocated.

My forecast: expect another of these every decade from now on.

In the face of a natural direct hit, we would do better helping each other. Not throwing bricks.

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Washington Reports on Climate Change

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publicdomainpictures.net image

The recently leaked climate report is undoubtedly those people’s best effort to make the case for the inevitability and impact of global warming, but for those who know how Washington produces such reports it’s less than convincing.

First, everyone working on it was a true believer. No skeptics, deniers, or even neutral folks need apply.

Second, even though it was touted as a multi-year, multi-administration effort, it’s still the report of one side.

Third, when asked a question in Washington, the question implies the answer. We called it “gaming the system.” It’s the way things are done inside the Beltway.

Finally, have all those folks sworn off flying? Parked their gas guzzlers? Charge their Prius’ only from solar panels? Live in zero-carbon condos? Grow their own food? Heck, no. They’re hypocrites just like you, me, and Al Gore.

That is not to say that the weather isn’t getting warmer, nor that human activity didn’t contribute to it, nor that the impact won’t be huge this century. It’s just to agree with Benjamin Disraeli that the worst kind of liars are statisticians.

America Made Great Again

image from suggest-keywords.com

image from suggest-keywords.com

America is not great because of it large, talented population. Nor of its huge gross domestic product. Nor its arsenal of nuclear warheads. Nor its vast natural resources. Many other countries enjoy some of those benefits and burdens.

America is great–and proves its greatness every day–because it respects its own limitations, most recently by a ruling by the government’s courts against the government.

The leader of the government may not like the ruling. He may appeal the ruling. He may berate and ridicule the judges, but … but he will abide by the ruling.

America is great because the most powerful man in America is not above the law.

And the least powerful is not beneath the law.

The Times May Be Changing, But Not the Divisions

The Times May Be Changing, But Not the Divisions

Not only do we live in an increasingly black and white world, but the polarization of American politics flips our values with every change of administration. Yesterday’s truth becomes today’s lie. What was formerly good is now condemned. Just because the party of the person sitting in the Oval Office has changed.

Folks now aghast at Trump’s coziness with Putin denied revelations that the Clintons fronted for Russian oligarchs buying American uranium mining companies. The people who used to complain about the size and cost of Michelle Obama’s entourages are mum about the expense of maintaining multiple Trump households. The test of “false news” is not truth, but consonance with my preconceptions. Who checks the fact checkers?

The filter of faction is highly polarized. We aren’t aware of our own bias because our sources of news and opinion pre-filter information before it reaches us. We think we’re reasonable. We’re not biased, only those other folks.

The filter we look through is the first thing we don’t see.

Reducing the Bureaucracy

A federal hiring freeze is a good start, but the Washington bureaucracy–including the Pentagon–needs a ten to twenty percent authorization reduction, not just current bodies.

C. Northcote Parkinson noted in the 1950s: (1) “An official wants to multiply subordinates, not rivals” and (2) “Officials make work for each other.” The number employed in a bureaucracy rose by 5–7% per year “irrespective of any variation in the amount of work (if any) to be done”.

“No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth!” Ronald Reagan

Also called a self-licking ice cream cone.

 

 

 

 

“Between the Devil and the Deep Sea”

www.yorkvision.co.uk public domain image

http://www.yorkvision.co.uk public domain image

“Between the Devil and the Deep Sea”*

Americans must decide, do we want a president who is crazy or corrupt?

Those who tout Trump’s business acumen and frankness ignore his sleaze. Those who tout Clinton’s resume and experience ignore her chronic lying.

Partisans of each side recognize the mote in the other’s eye but overlook the plank in the eye of their candidate.

And both candidates will raise your taxes … even you who don’t think you pay taxes.

* The expression dates from 1637. Western civilization is no stranger to such a dilemma.

Election Fatigue

If this were a normal election (whatever those are), we’d be hearing a lot more about Obamacare’s implosion, with each side blaming the other. And the deficit. Ditto. And the Battle of Mosul, with both sides taking credit.The weather. Ditto.

Instead we’re stuck with character assassination.

Not a good way to run a country, no matter who survives this stupidity.

I’m tired of it. I just want it to be over.

(I have voted.)

Wrong Side of (Turkish) History

The Turkish army’s timing was wrong.

In 1960, 1971 and 1980 they could overthrow the Turkish government, as the Egyptian army did in 2013. But today Turkey has too many radicalized Moslems. At best the army will fail; at worst it’ll start a civil war which will “invite” in Russia as did the war in Syria. It will only increase instability in Southwest Asia.

As Ben Franklin (proverbially) said, “Revolutions are always legal in the first person–‘our revolution’–but illegal in the third person–‘their revolution’.”

They were on the wrong side of history.

Of Polls and Politicians

The Brexit vote wasn’t even close. Good on ya, John Bull. For better or worse, the British people have taken control of their future, not left it to faceless, unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels. The polls, as usual, weren’t close either.

What’s the deal on polls? They seem farther off more often than in the past. (Yes, I remember 1848.) Could it be that their samples are no longer representative of the populous? Many folks have posited that.

Or, may I suggest, in this age of weaponized statistics, polls err more often because they aren’t intended to discover what people think as much as to alter opinions? Polling has become a hidden persuader. Politicians substitute opinion polls (and focus groups, etc.) for leadership.

The pollsters have happily obliged. Today we are bombarded with numbers of doubtful providence trying to persuade us that “all right-thinking people” hold this or that opinion.

Personally, though contacted, I have declined to be surveyed for several decades.

Maybe I’m part of the problem.