Free Markets, Free People

Hurricane Irene


The “Irene makes big government okay again” lobby

Well now we know why, at least for some, Hurricane Irene was so hyped.   It gave apologists for big government a chance to spin the response into plaudits for big government and a claim it is still necessary.  Missing, of course, is any context or proportion.  Those, like Dana Milbank and Steve Benen, just use the opportunity to bash small government conservatives in general and the Tea Party in particular.

And they brilliantly erect giant strawmen and then just flat tear them apart.

Milbank:

Tea Partyers who denounce Big Government seem to have an abstract notion that government spending means welfare programs and bloated bureaucracies. Almost certainly they aren’t thinking about hurricane tracking and pre-positioning of FEMA supplies. But if they succeed in paring the government, some of these Tea Partyers (particularly those on the coasts or on the tornadic plains) may be surprised to discover that they have turned a Hurricane Irene government back into a Katrina government.

Tea Partiers have a very specific notion of what government spending means to them and it certainly isn’t just centered in the canard of “welfare programs and bloated bureaucracies.”   In case Mr. Milbank hasn’t noticed, his big government now owes more in debt than our economy produces in a year.  That is the problem the Tea Party has with “big government”.  And, frankly, that’s a problem Milbank should have with it too.  Instead he spends a column  touting big government using the pretext of a natural disaster (and government’s response to it) to attack those who object to the continuing deficit spending of big government.  Instead, if had in sense, he’d be leading the charge to rein it in.

Stipulated, there are things that government can do because of government’s orientation.  Wage war, for instance.   But that doesn’t then excuse the excesses elsewhere.  Nor does it justify its intrusion in areas it has no business being in.  And it certainly doesn’t justify it spending more than it takes in.  Those are the Tea Party’s objections to big government’s spending, Mr. Milbank.  Please try to present them properly the next time you attempt the subject.

Of course nonsense like Milbank’s above lead to absurd conclusions in order to attempt to persuade:

The other model is to have a weak federal government, without the funds to forecast storms or to launch a robust emergency response in time to do any good. You might call that the Tea Party model.

Really.  Who said anything about a “weak federal government”?  I believe what the Tea Party is more interested in is a Constitutionally structured federal government that does its job, stays out of areas it doesn’t belong, and spends no more than the revenue it takes in.  Oh yeah, and the real pesky part – doesn’t engage in social engineering.

As for Benen he seconds Milbank:

That Tea Party model, by the way, isn’t a hypothetical scenario — congressional Republicans are not only unwilling to provide emergency disaster relief without offsetting spending cuts, they’re also eager to cut the resources NOAA needs to track storms, while also slashing the FEMA budget.

This week, federal agencies are winning generally rave reviews, but if the public expects equally competent disaster response efforts in the future, Americans will have to hope the GOP agenda is rejected.

Oh, the horror – those dastardly Republicans want to actually not spend in a deficit mode.  They want to live within the revenue stream that the federal government has coming in.  Imagine wanting to offset spending in one area to ensure payment in another without borrowing money?  Those simple Tea Partiers!  Don’t they know that sometimes you just have to spend, spend, spend?

Uh, gee Mr. Benen, isn’t that what has gotten us into this mess in the first place?  The fact that the government actually got something right for a change doesn’t then justify “big government”.  What it does is demonstrate nothing more than every now and then a blind squirrel will find an acorn.  Lord knows the fed has had enough practice it’s certainly something it should be getting right.  But then, our military has been “getting it right” on disaster relief missions outside the country for years, decades even.   It’s not like there wasn’t precedent.   Yes, again stipulated, sometimes it takes a big organization to do what is necessary in a disaster to provide aid where needed.   That said, that doesn’t excuse “big government”, spending excesses, waste, fraud, abuse, intrusion into areas the government doesn’t belong, social engineering via the tax code and other means and bankrupting the nation.

What is it about these types of apologists for big government that they don’t seem to ever be able to quite grasp those points?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Irene–hurricane of hype?

What a weekend.  Hurricane Irene, the most hyped hurricane since Katrina, lived up to its billing … as a category 3 hurricane.   In other words, it did what you’d expect a cat 3 to do.  But if you listened too the press and government officials, this was a mega-storm, a storm that was the “harbinger of a change in climate” as the NY Times breathlessly claimed.

Instead it turned out to be a pretty ordinary hurricane that did indeed do some damage, but no more than a normal cat 3 (although it did make landfall twice) and it unfortunately killed some people, but mostly in freak accidents.  Finally, it blew out, downgraded to a tropical storm, before it ever reached New York City.

However the spectacle created on-shore by the approach of the hurricane was something to behold.  It had to be at least category 6.  We have a president with plummeting poll numbers taking “command” at the National Hurricane Center.  And we have the press out and about, trying to make the storm much more than it was:

For the television reporter, clad in his red cagoule emblazoned with the CNN logo, it was a dramatic on-air moment, broadcasting live from Long Island, New York during a hurricane that also threatened Manhattan.

“We are in, right, now…the right eye wall, no doubt about that…there you see the surf,” he said breathlessly. “That tells a story right there.”

Stumbling and apparently buffeted by ferocious gusts, he took shelter next to a building. “This is our protection from the wind,” he explained. “It’s been truly remarkable to watch the power of the ocean here.”

The surf may have told a story but so too did the sight behind the reporter of people chatting and ambling along the sea front and just goofing around. There was a man in a t-shirt, a woman waving her arms and then walking backwards. Then someone on a bicycle glided past.

So much for Irene the storm.  What was all the hype about?

A couple things seem apparent.   Politically the storm was seen as a, forgive the word choice, windfall.  It was something which would allow the government to prove its worth, to demonstrate the lessons it had learned since Katrina (funny that this is the first hurricane since Katrina on which this could be “demonstrated”).  It also gave the president national face time (speech), a way to demonstrate leadership (without risk) and hopefully a surge in the polls.  The compliant press was glad to go along:

The White House sent out 25 Irene emails to the press on Saturday alone.

There were photographs of President Barack Obama touring disaster centres and footage of him asking sombre, pertinent questions. With his poll ratings plummeting, Obama needed to project an aura of seriousness and command. He was all too aware that the political fortunes of his predecessor George W Bush never recovered after the Hurricane Katrina disaster of 2005.

The press mostly reported the message the White House had carefully crafted: “Obama takes charge” read the headline of one wire service story.

Instead, it all turned out, it seems, to have been a giant over-reaction.  We’ve handled numerous cat 3 (and higher) hurricanes throughout our history without all the governmental drama and dire warnings.  One can only factor sinking poll numbers into this particular event to have it make any sense.

Then there was the global warning crowd who seems bent on using any weather event as a “harbinger” of things to come because of wicked, evil humans and their carbon drenched lifestyles.  And they end up trying to use a fairly ordinary cat 3 hurricane as their example.  But, of course, the hurricane seasons of the past few years have been a bit of a disappointment to those types, hasn’t it? Fewer storms and of a lesser intensity.  You know your theory is bankrupt when you’re reduced to hyping a cat 3 as Justin Gillis did in the New York Times:

The scale of Hurricane Irene, which could cause more extensive damage along the Eastern Seaboard than any storm in decades, is reviving an old question: are hurricanes getting worse because of human-induced climate change?

The simple answer to the question seems to be – “no”.

But that doesn’t stop the alarmists from using this occasion to tar the skeptical side with ad hominem attacks instead of facts.

Paul Krugman publishes pure fiction:

In fact, if you follow climate science at all you know that the main development over the past few years has been growing concern that projections of future climate are underestimating the likely amount of warming. Warnings that we may face civilization-threatening temperature change by the end of the century, once considered outlandish, are now coming out of mainstream research groups.

And, of course Al Gore is reduced to calling skeptics the equivalent of racists.

Back to Krugman though.  As I’ve followed it, climate science seems to be saying exactly the opposite of is assertion seems to be true. A) it seems most scientists are becoming more aware of how much we don’t know about the climate (certainly not enough to be drawing the conclusions being drawn), B) the CERN study seems to put “broken” on the alarmist modeling which has driven the AGW crowd’s argument (I won’t dignify it with the word “theory”) and C) if anything, science now sees the possibility of a cooling trend, not a warming trend.

But you have to actually “follow climate science” to know that.

Meanwhile in Australia, a study is coming out that links mental illness to climate change:

RATES of mental illnesses including depression and post-traumatic stress will increase as a result of climate change, a report to be released today says.

The paper, prepared for the Climate Institute, says loss of social cohesion in the wake of severe weather events related to climate change could be linked to increased rates of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress and substance abuse.

As many as one in five people reported ”emotional injury, stress and despair” in the wake of these events.

Yeah, is the “emotional injury” a result of “climate change” or having your house, which shouldn’t have been built in a flood plane to begin with, washed away in a flood?  Obviously people are going to be emotionally injured when they lose their house.  But the same could be said about them if it burned down because of a grease fire.

These examples provide a look at two groups desperately casting around for favorable examples and coverage for themselves and their agendas.  Politicians who’ve now decided the new normal for weather events is to have a media event, and the AGW crowd who will use anything, absolutely anything, no matter how absurd, to try to revive their dying assertions.

Welcome to the hurricane of hype. 

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 28 Aug 11

In this podcast, Bruce Michael, and Dale discuss Hurricane Irene and the results of CERN’s CLOUD experiment.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


As Hurricane Irene heads north, the Hurricane Hunters are tracking her

As the east coast prepares for Hurricane Irene’s arrival, the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron out of Keesler AFB in Biloxi MS, better known as the “Hurricane Hunters”, is tracking her.

I had the good fortune to ride along with them into Hurricane Alex a couple of years ago.  You can read about it here.

We’d be flying in a WC130J. These “Super Hercules” are equipped with both the power and the equipment to weather the storms they fly through. They contain palletized meteorological data-gathering instruments which are used to gather real-time information as the aircraft penetrate the storm. The information is then sent by burst transmission to the National Hurricane Center where it is compiled and used to both track and predict the storm’s path and intensity.

At about 10am we went wheels up on the mission, 3 full crews serve the flight because of its duration and the intensity of the activity they are subjected too. Each crew has a pilot, copilot, navigator, weather officer and load master. The load master is responsible for dropping the parachute-borne sensor known as the dropsonde. It measures and encodes the weather data down to the ocean surface and transmits it to the weather officer’s station.

As soon as a tropical storm develops and heads toward the US, the Hurricane Hunters are usually tasked with tracking it by the National Hurricane Center.  That means one of their specially equipped C130Js is constantly on station within the storm sending back information to the NHC and giving it the data it needs to accurately track the storm and issue warnings about landfall.  It is estimated that the this information helps narrow the warning area and that precision saves $1,000,000 a mile for every mile that doesn’t have to be evacuated.

The unit is also an all reserve unit.   All the pilots are reservists with civilian jobs such as a commercial pilot.  Flying a FedEx jet into Memphis one day and a C130J Hercules into a hurricane the next.  The 53rd is also the only military weather recon squadron in existence.   You can read more about them here.

Good luck to those in Irene’s path.  Batten down the hatches and follow her progress closely.  And remember, it is the Hurricane Hunters out there flying through her eye and sending back all that data that allow you to know so precisely where she is.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO