Hard Choices: New New Orleans Or Missile Defense?

September 25, 2005

Some spend on Katrina recovery is unavoidable, but $200 billion is out of the ballpark and absent tax increases and pork reduction will force hard choices. For example, completing US missile defenses will cost about the same as rebuilding France-sur-Mississippi. You may have to choose between them.

One day an enemy will lob nuclear warheads at the US. If they get through, the dead will number hundreds of thousands – much more than Katrina’s 1,500 max. Here are the GAO numbers (my emphasis) for the two defense programs that will stop that happening.

Ground-based Midcourse Defense

This is the system being deployed at Fort Greely in Alaska.

The Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) element is a missile defense system being developed to protect the United States against limited long-range ballistic missile attacks launched from Northeast Asia and the Middle East…DOD’s planned investment in the GMD program from program inception in 1996 through 2011 is approximately $31.6 billion.

Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense

This is the sea-based system being deployed by the US and Japan.

The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (Aegis BMD) element is designed to protect U.S deployed forces, friends, and allies from short-and medium-range ballistic missile attacks. Additionally, its shipboard radar can serve as a forward-deployed sensor for surveillance and early tracking of long-range ballistic missiles in support of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) mission… DOD’s planned investment in the Aegis BMD program from program inception in 1996 through 2011 is approximately $10 billion.

These two programs total about $42 billion over 15 years, with about $25 billion as yet unspent. Of the Katrina $200 billion, I’m guessing about 20% will go to NOLA rebuild – say $40 billion, so call it a wash.

Which would you prefer – a carbon copy of New Orleans, complete with a welfare-dependent brutalized underclass and hurricane vulnerability, or protection against nuclear attack? Unless you want higher taxes, you may have to choose.

Remember Gaza?

September 25, 2005

The MSM exulted when Israel removed all of its people from Gaza – including many who had lived there for decades. Now the Palestinians use their new base to attack Israeli civilians and all is silence until the Israelis retaliate. Sensible Israelis will conclude that concessions give them nothing.

The Jerusalem Post reports (my ellipsis):

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon responded strongly to the firing of over 40 Kassam rockets over the weekend…At least six Israelis have been wounded in the barrages.

MyWay’s front page doesn’t mention these attacks, of course. But they’ll soon howl at the Israelis beating the crap out of their tormentors – the Brit MSM is already on that job.

Israel mobilised thousands of troops for a potential re-entry to the Gaza Strip yesterday, vowing to “crush” Palestinian militants, less than two weeks after its last soldiers departed the territory in a historic withdrawal.

Troops began to mass on the border with Gaza while others had their leave canceled as Israeli jets carried out repeated air strikes on Palestinian militants.

The new cycle of violence began later on Friday at a military-style Hamas rally to trumpet what the militant group sees as its achievement in driving Israelis from Gaza.

Here’s the “cycle”:
1. Israelis give up territory to the Palestinians.
2. Palestinians use that territory to attack on Israeli civilians.
3. Israelis whack their attackers to stop them doing it again.

I’m just an engineer – not a journo – but this looks to me like a sequence, not a cycle.

Sensible Israelis will conclude that concessions make them less safe, and that will be really bad news for the MSM’s pet Palestinians.

America Should Not Rebuild Its “Little Bit Of France”

September 25, 2005

Katrina has highlighted the corruption and incompetence of the low trust polity of Louisiana. It’s similar to – maybe derived from – the French social model. Feeding it $200 billion of Federal subsidies will merely perpetuate a broken and alien culture and harm the President’s standing.

On Friday, the Katrina death toll was 1,069:

Alabama 2
Florida 14
Georgia 2
Louisiana 832
Mississippi 219

It’s likely the death toll will reach 1,250 – less than my estimate but higher than I’d hoped for.

Why did the folks in New Orleans die?

The timeline is laid out in the 5-day photo sequence by Alvaro, a young Nicaraguan. It’s been deleted from Kodak EasyShare, but I captured the essential details and have combined them with non-political engineering accounts.

Sunday August 28th. On the insistence of the President, the NO mayor and Louisiana governor issued a mandatory evacuation order. About 100,000 people stayed in the city. This was not completely irrational – as Rita has shown, predicted paths of hurricanes are unreliable, and Katrina could have missed. Those remaining were:
– the old and infirm with nobody to evacuate them to places of safety
– tourists without transport
– the car-less poor
– the criminal who planned to prey on the abandoned city
– risk-takers who chose to stay to protect their property

Monday August 29, Morning. The hurricane hit NO twice (leading and trailing edges?) in early and late morning. Damage was superficial – old brick walls collapsed, windows sucked out, signage and trees down. Power and telecoms went down over a wide area. 200 school buses were left unharmed in a central parking lot.

Monday August 29, Afternoon. People were out inspecting the damage and filling the bars. Some Louisiana National Guardsmen were on the scene.

Unknown to the stay-behinds, the two canals linking Lake Pontchartrain with the Mississippi had been breached in between 5 and 7 places. To save space, these canals don’t have sloping earth-bank levees, but massive steel and concrete walls. Engineers did not expect them to fail and investigations continue – barge strikes are possible, but it seems odd that owners would leave barges moored in these narrow channels.

Monday August 29, Evening. The day ended peacefully, but the canal breaches widened and the city began to fill up. Amazingly, there was no siren system to warn of the breaches, so Alvaro and the rest of the city went to bed believing that the worse was over. Its probable that many people died that night – in particular the old and immobile, and those unable to get to roof areas.

Tuesday August 30 Morning. Streets were full of water and the public order collapsed. Alvaro has pictures of cops standing by while shops were looted. People who could do so fled to the Superdome which had a contingent of 300 National Guardsmen with limited supplies. Those unable to get in broke into the Convention Center, which had no cops or military.

Tuesday August 30 Evening. The damage was done. The frail and immobile were dead, the living were struggling to protect their possessions and persons in the face of collapsed public order.

The subsequent Federal effort to restore order & evacuate the city had little effect on the death toll but some effect on property damage since an earlier army presence would have reduced looting.


1. The primary killer was Katrina.

2. The secondary killers were the New Orleans mayor and his staff. They left 200 buses in Katrina’s way and failed to monitor the integrity of the levees. One enterprising citizen used a single bus to pull out 70 old people, mothers and kids, so we can estimate that – knowing the canals had been breached – these buses could have evacuated 14,000 people on the Monday afternoon. Protection of the weak is a basic civic responsibility in high trust societies. A resolute mayor would have used the buses to save the old, young and the sick.

3. The primary cause of civic breakdown was the low trust culture of the city and state, which led to a large number of feral individuals in the city and its police force.

4. The secondary cause of civic breakdown was the failure of the governor to send all available National Guard units to the city on the Monday. This was another failure in to perform the core civic responsibilities of a high trust society – to protect property.

Low Trust State Model

Individuals in low trust states lack civic responsibility and rely on a corrupt state for their salvation. For example:

September 25, 2003. The death toll in France from August’s blistering heat wave has reached nearly 15,000, according to a government-commissioned report released Thursday, surpassing a prior tally by more than 3,000.


Louisiana and New Orleans behave like a little bit of France.

The current proposal by the President to flood the state and city with tax dollars will make matters worse, since it creates a moral hazard in which individuals do not have to account for their activities.

A better response would be to impeach the mayor and governor, to prevent any rebuilding below sea level, and to encourage evacuees to relocate to other areas.

If the President follows the present course, he will win no friends from the groups he subsidizes and will lose the support of the many who elected him to promote civic virtue.

France? Don’t Go There!

September 24, 2005

A review of the French tax and legal systems reminded me why it’s crazy for an Anglo to live or start a business there.

One book, although nominally boosting France, paints a picture of classic Low Trust society in decline.

Erosion of Trust
The French tax system is based on the practice of “denunciation” – people are encouraged to denounce neighbors to the French tax authorities and are rewarded with a cut of the penalties the authorities impose.

Erosion of Justice
Tax investigation assumes guilt – parties denounced must prove their innocence.

Erosion of Property Rights
Like any other state, French state takes property for infrastructure projects, however the legal resources available to the citizen are much more limited than in Anglo societies. Plus there’s a nasty trick called “preemption” that applies to 90% of all properties in France. This allows the local mayor to step in and take a property that you’ve signed up to buy. Or, after you’ve bought, require that you give up part of your property for redevelopment.

It’s thought that about 60% of Brits who move to France give up and return home within two years. They’re the lucky ones – many can’t afford to return, having lost their capital to the locals.

The corporate level is just as bad. Here’s a WSJ view (subscription, my ellipsis):

If you thought starting a business in France was difficult, try closing one.

Last month, a French court ordered Nestlé to reopen an unprofitable factory shut down in June. Apparently, the Swiss food giant hadn’t met all of France’s labor law requirements — even though it had offered the 427 workers in question early retirement schemes or jobs in other Nestlé plants in France.

So when President Jacques Chirac asked his cabinet Tuesday to ensure that Hewlett-Packard “fully respects” its obligations under French labor law, it was no empty threat. CEO Mark Hurd, who wants to cut…1,240 positions in France, had better make sure his lawyers have read the fine print of the French legal code.

France’s staggering (10%) jobless rate is largely the result of a fundamental misunderstanding of capitalism. Somehow, the country’s fabled “social model” assumes that companies should operate like nonprofit organizations. But neither do entrepreneurs create jobs out of charity nor do they lay off people out of malice — despite French Employment Minister Gerard Larcher’s calling Hewlett-Packard’s plan “brutal.”

Many French understand that their current model is not sustainable, but – as in Germany – those with entitlements outnumber those funding them.

Stay away.

Cops Bust Lefties

September 23, 2005

New York cops have joined firefighters and 9/11 families to stop the left from turning the 9/11 memorial into a covert attack on America.

Hat tip LGF, the NYP reports:

Police-union leaders have joined the battle to scuttle plans for the controversial International Freedom Center at Ground Zero — a site they say should be treated with the same reverence as Pearl Harbor.

“The World Trade Center is not a place for domestic or international politics,” Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch wrote in a letter sent yesterday to World Trade Center Memorial Foundation Director Gretchen Dykstra.

“It is not a place for inappropriate art or entertainment and programming which trivializes or ignores the history of the site,” Lynch’s letter continued.

Lynch said any use of the site should be focused only on 9/11 and the lives that were lost at the World Trade Center. Among those killed were 23 city cops and 343 firefighters.

Lynch’s Pearl Harbor analogy is a good one. The left would by now have converted the Arizona into a giant Rising Sun with its centerpiece a museum that chronicled the sufferings of Japanese detainees during WW2.

Another Great Chinese Achievement

September 23, 2005

Japan is building up its missile defenses, no doubt to complement its future nuke capability. This confirms the continued ability of the Chinese despots to shoot themselves in the foot.

A previous post reported the successful test of the Raytheon SM-3 ship-based Ballistic Missile Defense system. It’s launched from an Aegis cruiser or destroyer and Japan will deploy it next year.

Now Japanese sources report that it will co-develop the SM-3:

Demonstrating both cooperation with the U.S. and its own ambitions to pursue missile defenses of its own, Japan will partner with the U.S. to design a nose cone for a ballistic missile interceptor, Kyodo reports, citing close sources. The interceptor at issue is an upgraded version of the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) which is part of the Aegis sea-based defense system, in which Japan and other countries are quite interested. An agreement between the two countries specifying the cooperation is said to be expected soon, possibly by the end of the year.

A Japanese SM-3 will give that island nation a world class defensive system to to complement a future nuclear deterrent capability.

Spot The Republican Governor

September 22, 2005

Even the BBC should be able to figure out the politics of this Governor.

Texas is facing the ever strengthening hurricane Rita, and three days ago, its Governor did this:

September 19. Today Gov. Rick Perry recalled the Texas National Guard, Texas Task Force 1 and other emergency personnel and equipment from Louisiana in anticipation of Tropical Storm Rita entering the Gulf of Mexico. Current projections indicate that Rita will continue to strengthen into hurricane force and could threaten the Texas coast by the end of the week.

“With the potential of another major hurricane forming in the Gulf of Mexico and threatening the Texas coast, the time is now to begin mobilizing our resources and implementing our plan to ensure an orderly response before Texas is hit,” Perry said. “For the past three weeks, our emergency personnel have been assisting our neighbors devastated by Hurricane Katrina and over the last year our state has heightened preparations for dealing with a catastrophic storm. While we continue to hope that day never comes, Texas must be ready if it does.”

Still not sure? Here’s the killer clue:

School buses evacuating thousands from Galveston