Thursday, September 08, 2005

Instapundit Roundup

Rather than post separate entries for the Professor's wise posts, I will bring to you the greatest hists from the past few days. Rather than link each one separately, here is a link to the Instapundit's home page. Enjoy!

Monday Sept 5:

SEARCH AND RESCUE IN NEW ORLEANS: Gateway Pundit has a roundup, with video.

WHAT THE NAVY IS DOING for Katrina relief. Short answer: A lot.

HERE'S A Katrina response timeline from Rick Moran.


Tuesday, Sept 6th:

DISASTER KITS: My earlier post on radios produced more emails with suggestions. Here's one, from reader John Jones:

One of the first things I would grab in an emergency is the water filter that I normally use for camping. A filter like this is small, and can easily produce enough potable water for a family for weeks. The only problem I would foresee in a major flood is the presence in the water of chemicals such as pesticides and oil that the filter cannot remove. Still, for filtering rain water or questionable water from a city water supply, a basic water filter could literally be a life saver. I prefer this one.

Yeah. Stored water's best, of course -- and you don't have to be rich to store water, all you need are old milk jugs and a few drops of bleach. You can also store bleach, and use it (in higher concentrations) to purify water, though it won't get rid of chemicals.

I don't think there's much of anything that would clean out the toxic sludge in New Orleans. This list of survival goods may be over the top, though.

UPDATE: Reader Stanley Tillinghast, MD emails:

The MSR Miniworks is a good filter but doesn't kill viruses. This system includes a small bottle of bleach that is added to the water that chlorinates it, killing viruses.

That would be better for emergencies. I'm pretty sure that nothing would make that New Orleans floodwater safe to drink, though.

Meanwhile, reader Sarah Marie Parker-Allen sends this link to emergency water storage advice from the University of Wisconsin. Plastic 2-liter soft drink bottles are better than milk jugs, it says.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Robert Davis emails:

I'm mystified by all the instructions for cleaning milk jugs, filling them with water, spiking them with bleach . . .

For about $7 you can pick up three 2.5-gallon bottles of water next time you're at the supermarket -- enough to last one person a week in an emergency.

It's sterile and you don't have to worry about the top popping off. Your time would need to be worth practically nothing to have the do-it-yourself version make economic sense.

True, but whenever I post on disaster prep I get emails saying "that's all fine for rich guys, but poor people live hand-to-mouth, yada yada yada." I'm not sure that this is true in a relevant way -- poor people in America are disproportionately likely to be fat, suggesting that access to food, at least, isn't an issue. But the other point is that if you put things off until the last minute, store shelves will be empty while taps still work. And most people have bleach around.

Several readers also note that there are other emergency sources of water. Brad Mueller writes:

All fine and good, but most households also have a water heater which holds 40 gallons of potable water and the toilet tank holds about 3 gallons of drinkable water. A small amount of preparation could have prevented a lot of suffering. I'm left wondering if there isn't a segment of our population that, for whatever reason, steadfastly refuses to helped.

Well, yes, there is. Note that you should turn off the supply valve to protect the water heater from backflow of dirty water through the lines -- or leakage -- if lines are damaged. (Er, and turn off the heat!) Jugged water is also more portable than water in heater or toilet tanks -- but it's good to remind people that it's there.

It's aimed at earthquakes, primarily, but here's a page on disaster preparedness from the Los Angeles Fire Department. And here's a much longer PDF booklet from the LAFD, too, with instructions on water heaters, etc. Excerpt:

To those of us who live and work in the Greater Los Angeles area, earthquakes and other natural emergencies are a reality. In order to deal with this situation, emergency preparedness must become a way of life. In the event of a major earthquake or disaster, freeways and surface streets may be impassable and public services could be interrupted or taxed beyond their limits. Therefore, everyone must know how to provide for their own needs for an extended period of time, whether at work, home, or on the road.

That's reality. Take note. (Thanks to reader Susan Kitchens for the links).



How widespread is the corruption at the United Nations? The multibillion-dollar Iraq Oil-for-Food scandal was just the beginning.

Now the issue is becoming the scale of corruption in the U.N.'s normal operations — and which individuals and corporations are reaping the benefits of a network of bribery and conspiracy that investigators have just begun to uncover. So far, those identities are still a mystery — but perhaps not for much longer.

Last Friday, federal prosecutors in Manhattan indicted the head of the U.N.'s own budget oversight committee, a Russian named Vladimir Kuznetsov, on charges of laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bribes paid by companies seeking contracts with the United Nations.

Kuznetsov, who has pleaded innocent, allegedly took a cut so openly that he had part of it deposited into the United Nations' own staff credit union in New York.

Kuznetsov's arrest is the latest twist in the scandal involving the U.N. procurement department, which was the longtime post of Alexander Yakovlev (search), another Russian U.N. official recently fingered by U.S. federal investigators.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Much more (including video) here.

HERE'S the U.S. Navy's Katrina rescue photo gallery.

Lots of interesting pictures.

Meanwhile, here's a Katrina relief report card from RealClearPolitics.

And Chuck Simmins reports that total donations for Katrina relief have reached $465,769,985. And they're still growing.
Wed Sept 7:
IS IT THE vindication of Tom Ridge?

SOME KATRINA LESSONS: We're going to see a plethora of commissions and inquiries (most about as useful and non-partisan as the 9/11 Commission), but here are a few lessons that seem solid enough to go with now:

1. Don't build your city below sea level: If you do, sooner or later it will flood. Better levees, pumps, etc. will put that day off, but not prevent it.

2. Order evacuations early: You hate to have false alarms, but as Brendan Loy noted earlier, even 48 hours in advance is really too late if you want to get everyone out.

3. Have -- and use -- a plan for evacuating people who can't get out on their own: New Orleans apparently had a plan, but didn't use it. All those flooded buses could have gotten people out. Except that there would have had to have been somewhere to take them, so:

4. Have an emergency relocation plan: Cities should have designated places, far enough away to be safe, but close enough to be accessible, to evacuate people to. Of course, this takes coordination, so:

5. Make critical infrastructure survivable: I think that one of the key failures was the collapse of the New Orleans Police Department's radio system. Here's the story on why:

Tusa said the police department’s citywide 800 MHz radio system functioned well during and immediately after the hurricane hit New Orleans, but since then natural gas service to the prime downtown transmitter site was disrupted and the generator was out. Transmitter sites for the police radio system “are also underwater with the rising water and [are] now disabled,” Tusa said.

Owners of the sites that housed police radio transmitters would not allow installation of liquefied petroleum gas tanks as a backup to piped gas, meaning generators did not have any fuel when the main lines were cut, Tusa said.

Radio repair technicians attempting to enter the city were turned away by the state police, even though they had letters from the city police authorizing their access, Tusa said.

This is absurd, and I'm pretty sure it's the major factor leading to the disintegration of the New Orleans Police Department. That sort of gear should be survivable -- and there should also be a backup plan for how to get messages back and forth if the radios go out anyway: Messengers, broadcasts on commercial radio, etc.

(There should be a separate post-disaster communications plan for survivors, too -- so that they can locate relatives and let people know they're alive).

Other crucial infrastructure should be hardened as much as possible, too. There's only so much you should do, but disaster survivability should be considered at every stage of design, procurement, and construction.

6. Stock supplies and prepare facilities: The Superdome didn't have adequate food, water, and toilet facilities, even though everybody knew it was going to be a shelter of last resort. The Convention Center was worse. All public buildings that might be used for refugees should be ready. We used to stock fallout shelters that way; we could do it again.

7. Be realistic: Here's what the Los Angeles Fire Department tells people about an earthquake aftermath:

To those of us who live and work in the Greater Los Angeles area, earthquakes and other natural emergencies are a reality. In order to deal with this situation, emergency preparedness must become a way of life. In the event of a major earthquake or disaster, freeways and surface streets may be impassable and public services could be interrupted or taxed beyond their limits. Therefore, everyone must know how to provide for their own needs for an extended period of time, whether at work, home, or on the road.

That's just how it is. People need to be encouraged to do this. Whenever I say this, I get responses along the lines of "poor people can't afford to stockpile food." But here's a family survival kit for $50 and it's pretty good. Most poor people in America can afford food (that's why so many poor people are fat). They do have other problems that make preparation less likely, though (if you're the kind of person who thinks ahead and prepares for emergencies, you're much less likely to be poor to begin with) and local authorities have to be ready -- see the stockpile advice above.

8. Put somebody in charge: Politicians and bureaucrats thrive on diffusion of responsibility, because it helps them escape blame (as they're trying to do in the fingerpointing orgy that's going on now). Somebody needs to be clearly in charge. Right now it's mostly state governors, but this needs to be made inescapably plain, regardless of where it is. I don't agree with Mickey Kaus that we should ignore federalism and just put the President, or the FEMA Director, in charge and empower them to override state and local officials, but even that would be better than leaving no one in charge.

There's much more to be done on this topic, but it awaits clearer information on who dropped what balls when. However, it's worth noting that structural problems are always soluble when the people involved are willing to cooperate, and that no structure works well when it's staffed by idiots or people who don't take the problem seriously. Which raises another point:

9. Make people care: Actually, Katrina may have done this. Most people -- and politicians are worse, if anything -- have short time horizons. Disasters are things that just don't happen, until they do. Planning for them is ignored, or even looked down on, often by the very same people who are making after-the-fact criticisms that there wasn't enough planning. People usually get better after a big disaster, for a while. Beyond that, voters and pundits need to treat the subject with the importance it deserves instead of -- as is more typical -- treating it as the silly obsession of a few paranoid types.

I'm sure there's a lot more to be learned, but this is a start. If you think I've missed something important, send me an email.

JOSEPH BRITT: Don't forget about Darfur. It is, in fact, worse than a hurricane.
Thurs. Sept 8:

WELL, THIS WILL HELP: A finger-pointing storm erupts in Congress. Congress, of course, is in no position to point fingers. While we're assigning responsibility, perhaps those who had committee assignments relating to the Katrina response should lose those assignments, and their seniority. . . .

UPDATE: Here's another idea -- maybe members of Congress should give up some existing pork-barrel projects to fund Katrina reconstruction.

Defund things we don't need to pay for things we do! That's so crazy it just might work!



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