OK, so the Eastern narrative on Arizona is that it is full of a bunch of wacked-out xenophobic conservatives. And sure, we have our share. But the NY Times delves into an issue that, living here, I had never even heard of
The massive dust storms that swept through central Arizona this month have stirred up not just clouds of sand but a debate over what to call them.
The blinding waves of brown particles, the most recent of which hit Phoenix on Monday, are caused by thunderstorms that emit gusts of wind, roiling the desert landscape. Use of the term “haboob,” which is what such storms have long been called in the Middle East, has rubbed some Arizona residents the wrong way.
“I am insulted that local TV news crews are now calling this kind of storm a haboob,” Don Yonts, a resident of Gilbert, Ariz., wrote to The Arizona Republic after a particularly fierce, mile-high dust storm swept through the state on July 5. “How do they think our soldiers feel coming back to Arizona and hearing some Middle Eastern term?”
Presumably Yonts also uses some numeric system other than arabic numerals for his math as well. Seriously, I could mine any community and find some wacko with some crazy idea. Good journalists are supposed to have some kind of filter on these things to determine if they really are some pressing regional issue. I live here and I have not heard one word about any such controversy. But it fits the NY Times caricature of AZ, so they ran with it.
In fact, I think "haboob" has caught on pretty fast because it is a fun sounding name and it is something that is unique to AZ vs. other states. After living on the Gulf Coast and in tornado alley and on the west coast, it is kind of nice to live in a place where the worst natural disaster you get is a dust tsunami that makes you have to go out and wash your car.
I was thinking today, what must the families of the 11 people killed on the Deepwater Horizon be thinking? Their losses are never mentioned in any news reports I see. Its all about getting oil on the ducks.
Sure, I am pissed off about the enormous damage to the Gulf Coast as well. But I got to thinking, were I the engineer that made the wrong risk/safety decisions here, what would I feel most guilty about? I was put in that position for years in a refinery, constantly asked, "is this safe" or "can we keep running" or "do we need to shut down" or "is that vibration a problem?" These are difficult, because in the real-world of engineering, things are not ever perfectly safe. But never-the-less, if I had made the wrong call here, I think I would be feeling a lot worse about the 11 dead people than a number of dead fish and birds. Perhaps my priorities are out of whack with the times.
By the way, TJIC has a great post on risk and cost in the real world of engineering. I agree with his thoughts 100% from my experience as a troubleshooter / engineer in the field making just these decisions.
Look, we all trade off safety in order to save time and expense.
Do you put on your seat belt when moving your car from one point in the driveway to another?
Do you buy the car that costs twice as much, because it's got a 1% increase in crash survivability?
Did you pay $40k to get industrial fire sprinklers installed in your house?
Do you have a home defibrillation machine?
There is nothing wrong, in the abstract, with trading off safety in order to save time and expense.
The question is whether BP did this to a level that constitutes "gross negligence".
Jason McBride was arrested for selling gasoline at too high of a price during the shortages that followed Katrina, under an Alabama anti-price-gouging law. What was the legal price he violated? Well, the law doesn't actually set a price maximum, it just makes you liable to be arrested if a random government bureaucrat feels like your price is too high. Mr. McBride followed up with more information on his original story to Christopher Westley at the Mises Blog:
I recently heard from Jason McBride, who was the subject of my last Mises.org
article, "The Right to Set Your Own
Price". McBride, a gas station owner from Aliceville, Alabama, was arrested
for violating Alabama's "anti-gouging" law on the day that Hurricane Katrina
slammed into the Gulf Coast.
Jason told me that there was more to the story than what had been reported in
the newspapers. He said that the price he charged for a gallon of gas that day
was actually $3.49 (not the $3.69 that was reported) and that he purchased that
gas that very day for $3.29 a gallon. He said that this information was provided
to the district attorney during his investigation.
But there's more. Jason told me that he sold gas for only three hours at the
$3.49 price until he received a call of complaint from the D.A.'s office. His
response was to shut down his pumps until the the State of Alabama contacted him
with a "correct price." His pumps were shut down for 18 hours until the
state told him he could sell gasoline for $3.09 a gallon. This happened in the
midst of a crisis when consumer demand for gasoline increased dramatically.
Despite his bending over backwards to comply with the law, and despite zero
evidence of malicious intent, the district attorney's office still arrested him.
His picture was on the front page of a state newspaper the next day (while, he
pointed out, a report on a murder was relegated to page 6).
During these same hours that Mr. McBride was shut down by the state, my COO was actually in southern Alabama, desperately driving all over creation looking for anyone who had gas, trying to get any supply he could at any price to prevent him from running out of gas entirely in an unfamiliar state.
Mr. McBride went to jail solely to allow some DA or elected official to get 24 hours of populist media coverage to tell the world that they were "doing something" about high gas prices.
Government censors often try to rewrite the past, but Reason's Hit and Run passes on this funny story of British attempts to rewrite the future:
Britain's Meteorological Office has instructed forecasters to describe the
country's damp, dismal, seasonal-affect-disorder-inducing, godawful weather in
Bob Rossian terms:
Prolonged sunshine is expected under new "positive" forecast
guidelines issued by the Meteorological Office...
There is no need to dwell on a "small chance of showers" when "mainly dry"
tells a better story. If there are "localised storms" then it must be "dry for
most". Clouds over Manchester mean generally clear visibility for motorway
I don't know what the Brits are complaining about in a forecast such as "small chance of showers". In the States, the same forecast would be communicated as "huge, civilization ending storm approaching - details at 11". When I lived in St. Louis, I remember that the local news successfully predicted 11 of the last 3 snowstorms.
Update: I appears that the media has also been reporting 11 of the last 3 murders:
Five weeks after Hurricane Katrina laid waste to New Orleans, some local, state
and federal officials have come to believe that exaggerations of mayhem by
officials and rumors repeated uncritically in the news media helped slow the
response to the disaster and tarnish the image of many of its
Claims of widespread looting, gunfire directed at helicopters and
rescuers, homicides, and rapes, including those of "babies" at the Louisiana
Superdome, frequently turned out to be overblown, if not completely untrue,
officials now say.
The sensational accounts delayed rescue and evacuation efforts already hampered
by poor planning and a lack of coordination among local, state and federal
agencies. People rushing to the Gulf Coast to fly rescue helicopters or to
distribute food, water and other aid steeled themselves for battle. In
communities near and far, the seeds were planted that the victims of Katrina
should be kept away, or at least handled with extreme caution.
I had my own commentary about media malpractice here.
When you first see the comparison of Katrina before and after photos, you will think the "after" photos seem underexposed. Examining the larger images, you will find that they are not underexposed, just everything is now covered in dark green water. What a mess. Here are downloadable versions of many of the same photos.
Update: These photos of the Mississippi Gulf Coast don't have the flooding, but very dramatically show the type of damage sustained. The USGS has a gallery of before and after Katrina photos here. This site shows the levee breaks in New Orleans from space.
Other Katrina-Related Topics:
Technocrats and the Katrina Response **Popular**
Bottom-up vs. Top-down Solutions
Hurricanes and Big Government
In Defense of Price Gouging
Fallout of Federal Control and (here too)
Technorati Tags: Katrina