The Fragility Of Complex Societies

Thoughts from Victor Davis Hanson:

I don’t know quite why many of our environmentalists and urban planners wish to emulate such patterns of settlement (OK, I do know), since for us in America it would be a matter of choice, rather than, as in a highly congested Japan, one of necessity. Putting us in apartments and high rises, reliant on buses and trains, and dependent on huge centralized power, water, and sewage grids are recipes not for ecological utopia, but for a level of dependence and vulnerability that could only lead to disaster. Again, I understand that in terms of efficiency of resource utilization, such densities make sense and I grant that culture sparks where people are, but in times of calamity these regimens prove enormously fragile and a fool’s bargain.

Actually, many of them do favor decentralization and “appropriate” technology. But most of them also favor depopulation. And some of those favor it by whatever means are necessary.

Public-Employee Union Thuggery

Some thoughts:

In the letter to Wisconsin businessmen, however, we see why so-called collective bargaining is particularly corrupting to the police. Although the letter explicitly threatens only an economic boycott, when it is written on behalf of the police–of those on whom all citizens depend to protect their safety–it invariably raises the prospect of another kind of boycott. Can a businessman who declines this heavy-handed “request” be confident that the police will do their job if he is the victim of a crime–particularly if the crime itself is in retaliation for his refusal to support “the dedicated public employees who serve our communities”?

Sykes sums up the letter this way: “That’s a nice business you got there. Pity if anything were to happen to it if, say, you didn’t toe the line and denounce Governor Walker like we’re asking nice-like.” He’s right. “Organized” law enforcement bears a disturbing resemblance to organized crime.

Outlawing public-employee unions was one of the few good ideas that Franklin Roosevelt had. And most notably, for the right reasons.

[Update a while later]

Pedagogy:

Aren’t you forgetting a thing or 2? You’ve got them chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, Scott Walker has got to go” — but what do they know about Scott Walker? That he’s done something the teachers don’t like. So, maybe some day, when you do something they don’t like, some kid might start “Hey hey, ho ho, [TEACHER’S NAME] has got to go.” Today, you’re pleased to teach them “The children, united, will never be divided.” I’m picturing them repurposing that chant back in the classroom.

What will you do if they learn the lesson you’re teaching them, to denounce legitimate authority when it crosses your heartfelt interests?

I don’t know which is more of an abomination, a policeman’s union or a public-teacher’s union. If one of those kids were mine, I’d sue, but then, I probably would have pulled them out of the public schools long before.

Better Late Than Never

Steven Chu finally steps forward:

The Obama administration’s most vocal advocate for nuclear power said Tuesday that the nuclear disaster unfolding in Japan will eventually help the United States strengthen safety at its 104 reactors.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu told a House panel that “the American people should have full confidence that the United States has rigorous safety regulations in place to ensure that our nuclear power is generated safely and responsibly.” But he said that the administration “is committed to learning from Japan’s experience.”

It’s not just about improving existing reactors, but in designing the many new ones we will need. But I’m glad they’re not using this as an excuse to pander to their technophobic base, as they did in the Gulf mess with the moratorium.

While Japan Burns, Drowns And Melts Down

…and while Colonel Whathisname continues to slaughter the people over whom he rules, the president is focused on the serious things:

Via Mike Allen’s newsletter, we see in the first line how the leader of the free world will spend his day during this awful crisis:

President Obama is taping his NCAA picks today, and they’ll be revealed tomorrow on ESPN.

Okay, that’s not all he’s doing. “Obama will tape interviews from the Map Room with KOAT Albuquerque, KDKA Pittsburgh and WVEC Hampton Roads on education reform and the need to fix No Child Left Behind.”

Japan faces an almost unparalleled crisis, Libya is in civil war, and we’re having another budget showdown after running up a $222.5 billion deficit in the 28 days of February. And after last week’s bullying summit, Obama is spending this week talking education reform.

I have to say, though, that I actually agree with this comment:

I’m not sure if it is more dangerous for America that he do nothing or do something. Generally, if you have a dysfunctional child who lights fires all over the neighborhood, it makes you happy when he is just sitting in the corner scribbling on paper. Maybe we should just leave little Barry in the corner with his pencil and bracket sheet and count ourselves blessed.

In case any of you are wondering about my bracket, I don’t have one. Basketball is evil. On this there can be no dispute.

How Did Japan’s Bullet Trains Fare?

Not all of them so well:

Clearly, some of the country’s slower commuter trains were caught in the tsunami. There are reports, again unconfirmed, that up to four of these trains were involved. Wading through photos on the Internet, I found at least three discrete shots of derailed trains, although it is possible the passengers survived.

If indeed a bullet train was lost, it will likely be the working of the law of unintended consequences. For the most part, bullet trains north of Tokyo run inland, so these were probably out of the tsunami’s range (see this map). However, there’s a small loop seaward to Sendai, among the hardest hit areas of the island. This is pure speculation here, but given the timing of the shock wave and the following tsunami, it is possible that safety systems stranded one or more trains in the path of the killer wave. Commuter trains follow a much longer stretch of coastline, and would have been particularly vulnerable.

…liberal planners just might want to reexamine their ideological yearnings for high-speed rail, namely their conviction that it is somehow “better” for people to live in concentrated urban clumps, connected by public transit, than in diffuse, sprawling suburbs. Densely populated Japan must rely on rails to get people to and from work. When centralized systems like these fail, they fail across the board and, as appears likely in Japan, will be out of commission for a long time; aside from the track damage, electrical shortages due to nuclear-plant shutdowns are forcing service reductions. Suburbs and cars, on the other hand, are distributed systems, with inherently redundant roads and vehicles that are more resistant to natural disaster. Rescue workers aren’t taking the train to succor tsunami victims, they’re driving.

This makes a lot more sense than rethinking nuclear power.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!

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