Monday, August 04, 2008
Your guess is as good as mine.
I head up to Boston tomorrow to see my wife and do some job hunting. Since her place has Internet, I wasn't even going to mention the trip since I anticipated no interruptions to my normal posting schedule.
Or at least I didn't until yesterday, when some weather in the Gulf I'd been keeping an eye on did what I was afraid it might do and developed into a tropical storm. As Stan's Uncle Jimbo of South Park might put it, "It's coming right for us!"
This thing wasn't even classified as a depression until some time yesterday, and now the forecasters are saying it could be a minimal hurricane at landfall, which currently is right around the time my plane is supposed to take off!
There really isn't much time to change my plans or basis for doing so. If it stays on course and it's a minimal hurricane, I'd want to make sure things are fine at home before going up and I imagine my flight would be canceled anyway. If it dissipates or makes landfall in Louisiana, it would be a waste of money to have changed my plans. If Edouard stalls, intensifies, and then slams Houston, I'll already be out of here if it does. And then, of course, since its path is nearly parallel to the coastline, even a tiny deviation will make it miss Houston entirely. I'm rooting for it to wobble to the right a little and crash-land in the swamps of Acadia.
The (highly unlikely) worst-case scenario is for it to stay on course and somehow become a major storm during the short time it has left at sea. As I learned with Rita, it would already be too late to leave by the time that became apparent.
This storm has a similar origin as Alicia, which hit Houston in 1983 and was the last major storm to do so. Fortunately, it seems, Edouard formed north of where Alicia did and thus has less time to grow before making landfall. If it doesn't stall.
Awhile back, I came up with a list of things I'll miss (and not miss) about Houston. Were I to make a top ten list of things I'll definitely be glad to leave behind, surprise storms like this would top it!
Oh yeah! So if Edouard smacks Houston and you don't hear from me for awhile, I'll be digging through the rubble as fast as I can, and probably waiting for the power to come back on after that....
Update: As the day wore on, further information indicated a tropical storm. Leaving early makes more sense now, but the earlier flights are booked. The Houston Chronicle's weather blogger cites a favorable forecast for wind speed at my airport, but that was this morning, before Edouard's wind field diameter increased.
I may well need the jog to the right he and others are now talking about to get out of here tomorrow.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, RIP
Ilya Somin writes a thought-provoking obituary of the author of A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Somin credits Solzhenitsyn with exposing the horrors of the Soviet regime, but notes that this did not make him a champion of individual rights.
[H]e was suspicious of Western-style democracy and individual rights. While he was not as much of a chauvinist as some other Russian nationalists, his writings defending czarist Russia and Russian culture sometimes verged into anti-Semitism. ... Solzhenitsyn's nationalism also led him to endorse some of Vladimir Putin's authoritarian measures, and to oppose allowing Ukraine to become independent of Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union (he did, to his credit, support independence for all the non-Slavic parts of the former Soviet empire, which he did not consider to be legitimate Russian possessions).The "nationalism" Somin speaks of in his first paragraph sounds to me more like a tribal or racial variant of collectivism than the nationalist variety. Or the communist variety.
It is not my intention here to emphasize Solzhenitsyn's negative aspects. For what it's worth, I think that while Solzhenitsyn was wrong to excuse and minimize the crimes of czarist Russia, he was right to emphasize that the oppression of the Soviet Union was rooted more in communist ideology and institutions than in Russian cultural tradition. As he pointed out, similar repression occurred in every other communist state, including those whose preexisting cultural traditions were very different from Russia's. [bold added]
Solzhenitsyn was right to expose the atrocities of the Soviet regime, but he is also an object lesson regarding the importance of fundamental philosophical ideas. Racists and nationalists -- and all other varieties of collectivists -- are guilty of varying degrees of tyranny to the extent that they practice their ideas and due to the nature of their ideas. An indictment of one type of collectivism does not get any other version of the same thing off the hook.
Simple rebellion against one form of collectivism does not an individualist or an ally in the fight for freedom make. Knowing that there is a problem is not the same thing as identifying the solution to that problem. Note Solzhenitsyn's support of Putin.
Unions against Freedom of Speech
I blogged on this long ago, but the so-called "Employee Free Choice Act" will threaten the freedom of millions of American workers and the standard of living of everyone if it is enacted. It is one of many things we will be facing soon, thanks in large part to the fact that in the twelve years the Republicans held power in Congress, they failed to embrace a moral defense of capitalism or act to repeal the welfare state in any significant way.
Both supporters and opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act believe it would simplify and speed labor's ability to unionize companies. Currently, companies can demand a secret-ballot election to determine union representation. Those elections often are preceded by months of strident employer and union campaigns.
Under the proposed legislation, companies could no longer have the right to insist on one secret ballot. Instead, the Free Choice, or "card check," legislation would let unions form if more than 50% of workers simply sign a card saying they want to join. It is far easier for unions to get workers to sign cards because the organizers can approach workers repeatedly, over a period of weeks or months, until the union garners enough support.
Employers argue that the card system could lead to workers being pressured to sign by pro-union colleagues and organizers. Unions counter that it shields workers from pressure from their employers.
Conservative columnist Lorie Byrd quotes Oregonians for Employee Freedom in the vein of fleshing out what the Wall Street Journal calls "workers being pressured to sign":
Unions "prefer card check because it means they know exactly how people are going to vote. For anyone who doesn't agree with joining the union, they are more open to threats, intimidation and undue pressure by other co-workers, union organizers and even their supervisors. Workers can even be visited in their homes by union organizers so that the organizers can 'persuade' workers that a union is the right thing to do in their workplace."She then cites this looming threat as a reason to vote for conservatives. I wish stopping it were so simple.
Too bad more people don't see such things as reason to help more people, including themselves, understand the intellectual foundations of individual rights and the importance of protecting them in our daily lives. Even if the conservatives grow a spine and stop this, theirs will be a holding action at best and may even precede other kinds of encroachments on our rights that they favor.
One More for the Road
Just after posting this, I happened to notice that Stephen Bourque has written about something I noticed, but which had slipped my mind: A trial balloon on Obama's part for nationalizing the oil industry.
I wonder: what policy would not be acceptable to the masses if it were uttered by this charismatic, undenouncable Messiah? How does Mr. Obama's "emergency economic plan" differ from say, Hugo Chavez's nationalization of Venezuela’s oil industry? It differs only in degree, not in kind: he plans to use government force to seize the assets of private citizens in one particular industry, for the purpose of advancing his socialist agenda (an agenda opposed by almost nobody today). If Mr. Obama becomes our next president, what is to stop him from wielding the entire executive branch to implement a de facto, if not de jure, nationalization of the oil industry? Then, after oil, how about steel? Pharmaceutical drugs? Automobiles? Insurance? Corn? Wheat?Read it all, and then look at the comments.
Today: (1) Added fourth section. (2) Corrected typos. (3) Update to tropical storm section.