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Katrina Media

Moribund coverage. Pumping gas prices. Also: Chicken squawks. Deregulating Lou Dobbs. Plus much more.

9.2.05

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TAKING COMFORT
Re: Jed Babbin's Joint Task Force Katrina:

Jed Babbin is absolutely correct. As usual, the United States has to rely on its own resources in a time of catastrophe. In the latest scenario, it's the U.S. military flying the rescue missions in Mississippi and Louisiana. You would think Canada or the Europeans could muster a few specialized rescue teams to supplement the rescue teams on-site, and to give these over worked people a bit of break each day.

If the U.S. isn't sending all available resources to a part of the world in a time of trouble, we are derided by the U.N. and the Europeans, yet in our own time of trouble, these same critics can only "pile on" with criticism of U.S. environmental policies that defies even the logic of a fourth-grader. I suppose it will always be that way, and Lord help this country when the nations on this planet decide to support us.

God bless those in the military servicing us at home and abroad.
-- Tom Fries
Dublin, Ohio

The response from the military is, as always, truly impressive. But surely the writer couldn't have missed the presence of all those orange and white helicopters that say "U.S. Coast Guard" on the side? Yes, I noticed the mention in the last paragraph (sorry, old coastie habit of bitchin' if we're not mentioned in the first paragraph!).

He mentioned the USS Hope, a quick Google shows that the Hope hasn't sailed since 1973. I'm sure he meant to say USNS Comfort, which should be departing Baltimore soon, if not already enroute.

I am really stunned by what appears to me to be the state and city total lack of preparedness to this. Maybe I'm being a Monday morning QB, but there seems to be a total lack of leadership there.
-- Paul Battenfeld CPO, USCG (ret)
Portsmouth, Virginia

(Jed Babbin replies: Chief Battenfeld, you are entirely right, and I do hereby apologize to you and the rest of the semper paratus crew. The Coast Guard's service in the Katrina disaster relief is, as always, brave, skilled, and literally life-saving.)

Thank you for Jed's column. It was a badly needed column full of things that badly needed to be said. I am absolutely disgusted with so very many of the reporters and talking heads covering this disaster on TV.

There seems to be a widespread determination that totally adequate relief forces and supplies should have been in place in every needed location within 12 hours of the storm winds subsiding. Few in the media seem realistic enough to admit that conditions simply did not allow for instantaneous total relief.

Then there is the widespread looting and criminal violence. Once again the media see a dereliction on the part of the state and federal authorities in not having overwhelming force on the scene from the first moment that they were needed. Never mind that the police and National Guard troops might be tied up with trying to rescue living people that were in life-threatening situations.

I have come to expect this of most of the exempt media, but it truly distresses me to witness it on Fox News also. It seems to me, Shep Smith has been particularly impatient with the authorities not having food, shelter, and ice immediately available in huge quantities in the middle of the roadway in New Orleans. Could more have been done in that direction? Sure! Were efforts by the constituted authorities somewhat less than we might have hoped? Sure! Could different and perhaps better decisions, in some cases, been made? Sure! Were and are the authorities doing the best that they, as flawed human beings, can? Damn straight they are.

Then we have the prime example of media arrogance and impatience: the Wednesday night O'Reilly Show on Fox News. First, O'Reilly did not consider the story important enough to come back from wherever he was to personally do his earlier shows. Then he spends valuable airtime berating the Army Corps of Engineers for building the dikes around New Orleans to withstand category three hurricanes, instead of category five hurricanes. My, isn't hindsight wonderful, but where was O'Reilly decades ago when these dikes were being designed and constructed to tell all the peons that they were doing it all wrong?

Next he takes on the law enforcement authorities for not stopping the looting and lawlessness immediately, particularly in New Orleans. He rants on as to how the National Guard should have been in the streets protecting private property as soon as the winds slacked off to below tropical storm rates. Never mind that the police and National Guard might be integral to rescuing people in the first day or two, and that many areas were isolated by impassible roads.

What is it with O'Reilly's fixation with the National Guard? His first answer to almost any problem is that the National Guard must be sent in.

Frankly, I am disgusted with the million dollar media stars who sit and pontificate on all the mistakes made by the elected and appointed authorities, but refuse to take a pay cut to run for office and actually make the decisions and take the responsibility themselves. All decisions are easy if you are not the one that will be held responsible for the results later. Decisions and policies can be criticized-- there's nothing wrong with that; but this holier-than-thou, "I am never wrong and you are stupid" arrogance raises my blood pressure. Only one infallible being ever walked the earth, and none of these news media stars were that one.
-- Ken Shreve
New Hampshire

The USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) is already on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. It, and its sister ship the USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), are sometimes staffed by volunteers from Project Hope.

The original Hope was scrapped a long, long time ago. Ike gave it to Project Hope ca. 1950.
-- Doug Welty
Arlington, Virginia

GAS PRICES
Re: Reid Collins's Looters?:

"Why more today? Is it like whiskey, getting better with age?"

'Cause its replacement is gonna cost the service station guy more.

"Okay. Then raise the price of the replacement gas, when it arrives with its higher tag."

Here's the problem with that and the reason those gas station owners were on the phone. They will have to buy that replacement gas with profit made from what was previously in the tank. If they paid $1.50 a gallon for what's in the tank and priced it at the pump accordingly then learn from the supplier that their cost for its replacement will be $2.50 a gallon they have to raise prices at the pump right then or leave them the same and put up "Going out of Business" signs.
-- Scott Gibson

I beg to differ with Mr. Collins. The value of gasoline on hand did change in value.

Any knowledgeable retailer knows that he must sell his good based on what they will cost to replace, not what they originally cost.

A grocer that buys peas for 50 cents and sells for a dollar can suddenly buy peas for 25 cents. He should drop his price to 75 cents. He is selling based on the cost of replacement, not the original cost.

This is only fundamental economics.
-- Charlie Sorgen
Portales, New Mexico

Charge only the price when the fuel was delivered. Sounds nice though I would hate to be the operator that buys a load just before the price drops. I'm sure you would be willing to continue buy his higher priced stock until he gets the cheaper fuel even though other already have the lower priced fuel in stock.
-- unsigned

Mr. Collins does not understand why businesses raise prices on existing stocks just because new stocks will cost more. An example might clarify this. Suppose gas costs $1 and is sold for $1.25. Wholesale goes to $5. The businessman must sell based on $5 or he won't have enough money to restock. While he sells his thousand gallons for $1,250, it will cost him $5,000 to restock. He will be out of business. I doubt Mr. Collins does not understand the reverse. If the business bought gas at $5 and wholesale dropped to $1, the price will quickly drop or no one will buy. Competition will be selling at the low price.
-- David Moshinsky

WHO YOU CALLIN' CHICKEN?
Re: Andrew Cline's Challenging the Chickenhawk Epithet:

I served in Iraq from April to December 2003. During that time, I helped arrange and supervisor local contractors as they renovated the buildings which my unit lived in. Many of these Iraqi contractors spoke English and some had lived in the U.S. Many also received death threats. One of them told me that he had received a death threat, so I asked him if he thought the U.S. invasion and all of the violence had been worth it.

He told me it was worth it. He used to be afraid of what he said in front of his young children: he would be arrested and tortured if he said anything remotely critical about Saddam's regime and his children repeated it at school. Although he was afraid of many things, at least he didn't have to be afraid of trying to teach his children right from wrong anymore.

Here's another question to toss back at the "chicken-hawk" peddlers: They should move to Syria: How can they condemn others to live under brutal, repressive regimes unless they are willing to do so themselves?
-- David Chappell
Abingdon, Maryland

There is no good reason in hell that most of these strapping young Republicans scattered across this country, on or off campuses, driving around with their "W" stickers, and vocally hooting out their support for the war, should not be signing up to serve in droves if they really believe in this invasion so much. If they did, the military wouldn't be in the recruitment crisis it is right now. But most of these young Republicans are not signing up, because they are only gung ho with their loud mouths and aren't willing to actually sacrifice, put their lives on the line for their country, or giving anything back.

When WWII started, men of all ages ran out to join up and fight without being asked. You couldn't slow them down, and many wanted to serve that were not allowed to because of age or other conditions.

It's a far cry from these chickenhawks supporting this war.
-- unsigned

As a foreign friend of this outlet, one who has had the privilege of being published in this space many times, might one suggest that the publication of Andrew Cline's piece on the "chickenhawk" epithet on the day on which the USA is coming to terms with its worst natural disaster in living memory, is very poorly timed?

It's certainly a valid subject for comment; but not today. Last time I looked at a map of the USA, Mr. Cline's New Hampshire was a heck of a long way from New Orleans, and his energies might have been better spent rallying the good folks of the Granite State to the aid of their countrymen down in the Big Easy; not, I'm sure, that they need any rallying.
-- Martin Kelly
Glasgow, Scotland

It's going to be interesting to see how the Democrats in 2008 justify a Hillary presidency in light of the fact that they made Kerry's military service in combat such a big issue in the last campaign.
-- Gordon Paravano
Sedona, Arizona

TAX THE RICH
Re: Rod D. Martin's D-Day for the Death Tax:

What is Rod Martin's big problem with inheritance taxes? All of the problems he cites can be solved simply by making the first $10,000,000.00 of an estate exempt from the tax and taxing the rest of the estate, if any. Who cares if Paris Hilton only inherits $50,000,000 instead of $100,000,000.00? What she doesn't get will be available to defray the taxes us middle classer's down here in "flyover country" will have to pay. Sorry, but I don't feel the least bit sorry for the poor children of multi-millionaires. They were born in a great country, one that enabled their ancestors to accumulate great wealth! They didn't earn it. The country is entitled to a share of that wealth.
-- Bob Keiser
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania

NAUTICAL KNOW-HOW
Re: Jay D. Homnick's Biloxi Blows:

Does Mr. Homnick realize that for someone in Biloxi, Miss., to swim to Georgia, he or she would have to swim around Florida?
-- Martha V. Kelley
Oxford, Mississippi

FREAK MARKET ECONOMICS
Re: Charles Simpson's Clueless Lou:

Mr. Simpson is right to call Lou Dobbs on those points on which he is wrong. But, while Dobbs may be wrong on free trade, some of the points he raises have merit. Free trade is not some floating concept but rather one that exists within the broader laws of economics. Those laws tell us that free markets benefit everyone most when markets are actually free. For this reason, truly free trade between nations presupposed capitalism and free markets within them. The more one moves away from those conditions, the more distorted and potentially negative the outcome.

In a properly capitalist system the government respects the rule of law and protects property, person, copyrights, and contracts. It does not intervene in nor regulate the economy to any great degree. In such a system, low-wage foreign competition and corrupt, dishonest foreign governments present no real economic threat. If all we had to contend with were low-cost and not particularly lawful foreign competitors, free trade would clearly work to our advantage without any question at all, as it has done in the past. After all, our labor costs have always been the highest in the world and our workers the best paid. Our workers were also the most productive in the world because they worked with the best equipment, and benefited from a high level of capital investment, strong savings rates, low taxes, small government and a generally good public education system. Today, however, the situation is somewhat different. We still have the highest labor costs in the world, but a lot of those costs are the result of government policy. Today, approximately one trillion dollars worth of payroll and related taxes burden workers and businesses for the sole purpose of funding government-run (Ponzi-style) entitlement programs, to which both our politicians and a lot of the electorate seem completely addicted. Add to that various minimum wage laws and the cost of labor is artificially high. Then, there's another trillion dollars worth of federal regulations. New regulations are added almost daily by a largely unaccountable bureaucracy and existing regulations are frequently revised. After that, comes another trillion dollars in legal costs brought on by the need to defend oneself against and keep informed about the regulations, to say nothing of our out-of-control tort system. The justification for all of this that it is the only way to protect workers, consumers and the environment, a point that is debatable to say the least. Added to that is an out-of-control national debt, enormous personal debt, and one of the lowest savings rates in both the world (and in our own history). All of these things reduce the amount of capital available for investment in our own industrial plant and infrastructure. Finally, we have a public education system that is governed by political correctness, and which seems unable to graduate reasonable numbers of people who are actually numerate and literate. All of these things are the true cause of any problems we have competing with other countries.

When one takes our current policies and combines them with free trade, the law of comparative advantage does push certain jobs overseas and contributes to our enormous and unsustainable trade and budget deficits. Dobbs is right to raise concerns on these points, even if his proposed solutions are wrong.

It is also worth noting that while all of these problems have been caused by the government, someone elected the government. There is little popular demand for the types of policies that would fix these problems and improve the economy within the context of free trade. Likewise, there is no strong voice from the business community calling for the country to adopt more capitalist policies. In fact, the heads of most major corporations encourage government regulation and intervention, because it makes the positions of their companies more secure. Even when that is not the case, it is hardly surprising that businesses seek to move production abroad. Lou Dobbs calls this type of behavior unpatriotic. And, in a very real sense, he is right. Too much of the (big) business community seems to have little real allegiance to either capitalism or to our country. In this it mirrors the internationalist pretensions of the so-called liberal elite, which likewise seems to see itself as citizens of the world and not of the United States. People in both of those groups (particularly those at the top) do well enough out of this system, but a healthy country and a strong economy require success by a larger portion of the population. And, not everyone has the skills or ability to take advantage of the information and non-traditional economies, which are largely borderless.

We can fix any of the things that ail our economy. We do not need protectionism or industrial policies or any variation on mercantilism. We need real deregulation. We need government to get out of the way and allow the creative potential of free men, free minds, and free markets to work their magic. But, we also need to stop pretending that there are no serious structural problems with our economy. Lou Dobbs is absolutely right to raise that point, particularly about the unsustainability of the trade and budget deficits, and the long-term impact on our economic and political freedom of action, especially in the realm of foreign policy. He is also right to point out that far too many of the most successful people in our society seem to have little real allegiance to this country or any understanding of, let alone willingness to fight for, its basic principles. He is wrong only in his proscriptions for fixing these problems. My concern is that simply shouting "free trade" in response to someone like Mr. Dobbs suggests that everything is really very good and that we have no real problems, except those that would be caused by protectionism. The fact that non-free trade is a bad idea does not mean that a policy of free trade combined with our current economic, education and immigration policies is a good one. And by framing this as a choice between protectionism and our current policies, with the latter held to embody the best of capitalist ideas, we are absolutely guaranteed to discredit free trade and market capitalism should we face any sort of financial or economic crunch.
-- Anthony Mirvish

Mr. Dobbs apparently made a conscious decision at some point a few years ago to reinvent himself as "The Populist Preacher of the TV Business News." Whether it was out of conviction or for higher ratings, I don't know. Whether it is sincere or not, I can't tell. What I do know, is that (for me, at least) it has made him and his show unwatchable.
-- D.C. Norman
Durham, North Carolina

LET'S SEE YOUR MINISTER CARD
Re: Rev. Larry Hollon's letter (under "The Church Strikes Back") in Reader Mail's Revenge of the Methodists and David Holman's Madison Avenue Methodism:

Someone needs to ask Mr. Hollon, from whence did he gain his title? The entire New Testament NEVER mentions evangelic religious titles (other than "teacher") in a good light. In fact, Jesus excoriated the Jewish religious leaders of his time for having lavish titles and wearing flowing robes, drawing attention to and placing themselves above the "average person." No one is more "revered" in Christianity. It's not Christianity if one wears another name or teaches additional man-made dogma than that of Jesus. John Wesley did not die on the cross for mankind, nor Luther, nor anyone else. If the Instructions in the New Testament will get you to Heaven, then why add to or change it? Heaven is as far as I plan to go anyway! Just trying to get you to think, folks.
-- K. Wilson
Morgantown, West Virginia

SOME PEOPLE
Re: Jonathan Frost's letter ("Shush About Bush") in Reader Mail's Revenge of the Methodists:

I'm very pleased to see that the only statement I made in my letter about Cindy Sheehan that Mr. Frost found erroneous was that I categorized George W. Bush as a conservative Republican. I can then assume that he agrees with my categorization of Pelosi, Boxer, Clinton, Kennedy, Schumer, et al. as liberal Democrats. As for his diatribe about "Dubya," well... "when you can't argue with the facts nor the logic, attack the other side." Ad hominem, ad hominem, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.
-- Bob Johnson
Bedford, Texas

FOXY
Re: James Rosen's Covering Crawford:

Having just read James Rosen's column on the President's ranch in Crawford, I must tell you that you have a talented young man writing for you. Hang on to him. He is going to go far. I see big things ahead for this guy. And he's cute too.

This from an old lady in Wisconsin.
-- Eileen LaCanne

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