Monday, July 16, 2018

America's "Titles of Nobility"

An extraordinary article was published in this morning's USA Today that succinctly describes what is so terribly wrong with America's "political class." I urge you to read it in its entirety. Here are excerpts: 

"By custom, we allow our politicians to retain their titles for life. Throughout the 2012 election, Mitt Romney was referred to as 'Governor Romney,' though he had not been in public office for six years," Cooke wrote. "One can only ask, 'Why?' America being a nation of laws and not men, political power is not held in perpetuity, and there is supposed to be no permanent political class."

The article goes on to say: 

In America, if you misunderstand the law, or simply are ignorant of it, you will nonetheless be liable to go to jail or be sued — if you are an ordinary citizen. If you are a government official, you can generally avoid liability in a lawsuit by pleading “qualified immunity,” meaning, in essence, that you misunderstood the law or were ignorant of it, but acted in good faith, a defense that is not available to ordinary citizens.  As a judge or prosecutor it’s even better: you enjoy “absolute immunity,” meaning that in almost every circumstance you can’t be sued at all.
These governmental immunities aren’t in the Constitution, and they’re not the product of statutes passed by Congress. They were invented by judges (themselves government employees) who thought immunity for government employees was a good idea. And government officials almost never face criminal prosecution for their official acts, and on the rare occasions that they do, they are almost never convicted.
When the EPA poisoned the Animas River in Colorado, it rejected claims for damages, and nobody from the EPA went to jail.  A private company under similar circumstances would have faced ruinous losses, and the executives would have risked criminal prosecution. Then-EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy skated.
When I was young, Congress met about six months a year. Many congresspeople came home to their regular jobs when they left office. I can't tell you exactly when all of this changed but I sensed it during the administration of the first President Bush. It got much worse during the Clinton Administration. 

The election of President Trump -- who had never held political office -- was an instinctive reaction to all of this. The Trump supporters (many of whom were holding their noses with one hand as they cast their ballot with the other) knew that our nation (as we have known it) depended on breaking this cycle. Thus, an outsider had to be brought in. 

My solution is that qualified and absolute immunity have to go. Period. Yes, there can be some type of protection for them but bad acts should be prosecuted. 

A Fair Question

Especially since it is now hurricane season and, if anything, the money is more desperately needed for repairs.
Screen capture via Twitter

Joe Bastardi is Worried About an East Coast Hurricane Strike This Year

Here is an article from Joe that, especially, emergency managers may find useful. He believes there is a better than even chance of an East Coast hurricane.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

How Much Rainfall Is Forecast for This Week

click to enlarge
This is the forecast rainfall from now through 7pm CDT next Sunday evening.

A Little Business...

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Sunday Fun: It Is Never Too Early To Be an Entrepreneur

Congratulations to my granddaughters! Their lemonade stand collected money for an important charity, Braden's Hope. The lemonade was delicious and the service was outstanding. In case you are wondering, Daddy outlined the letters and the girls filled them in.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Why Forecasting Rainfall Is So Difficult

Rainfall amounts, especially from thunderstorms, can vary widely in time and space. Meteorologists have been hopeful that a very new technique called "mesoscale modeling" will eventually be of great assistance.

Yesterday, we had an example of the promise and peril of mesoscale modeling.

The Forecast
This is a view of south central Kansas with the 4.5 (inches) over Wichita. The darker brown are forecast amounts of 5.5 to 6.1 inches. The forecast was made from the 7pm data yesterday evening and applied to the overnight hours.

The Actual Rainfall 
In terms of the amount of rain, the forecast was remarkably good. Amounts in excess of five inches are highlighted. The issue is that the real-world heavy rain was roughly 15-20 miles farther west and south than forecast. For example, at Wichita's Eisenhower National Airport (the official reporting site) had .75  inches versus a forecast of 4.50 inches. A huge difference.

I certainly see this as a "glass three-quarters full" situation. The amounts of rain were quite accurate and the locations were close enough to be useful -- but, the human meteorologist was required in this situation to monitor the radar and place any flood forecasts (with the drought, little flooding expected).

So, while this is an excellent start, we still have a ways to go before these forecasts are good enough to be used on their own.

Friday, July 13, 2018

FEMA's Response to Criticism

While the document below, published this afternoon, is a response specifically to the New York Times, it is appropriate to post it in response to my comments of yesterday (scroll down) on this blog.
click to enlarge
One can read FEMA's response and say, "Gee, sounds like they are trying to do the right thing." And, given the extreme nature of 2017's hurricanes, ordinarily I would give them a pass. But, we have heard these same "we're trying to do better"words so many times before!
Hurricane Marina damage. FEMA
The root problem is that FEMA and the National Weather Service investigate themselves, and that is only when they are inclined to do so. There is absolutely no assurance another poorly warned tornado like the one in Eureka, Kansas, two weeks ago or the poorly warned and catastrophic Joplin Tornado of 2011 will not recur with the unnecessary loss of scores of lives.

Since so many readers of this blog are meteorologists, emergency managers and others engaged in disaster forecasting and response, please get on board with my proposal to create a National Disaster Review Board. You can read part one of the proposal here. Part two is here. A disaster board, modeled on the highly successful National Transportation Safety Board, would let us objectively know how well FEMA did and whether the organization is making progress.

If you believe my proposal is appropriate, please let that be known to your elected representatives. I have. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

FEMA: Excuses, Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

As someone who has observed the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) in (usually non-) action for three decades, it is nearly impossible to overstate how awful the agency is at its job of anticipating and mitigating the effect of disasters on America. I have written about it extensively in Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather and on this blog on numerous occasions (regarding Hurricane Sandy here).

Now we learn, predictably, how badly FEMA failed in the response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. You can read the story for yourself, here. One thing in the story I wish to comment upon is the number of deaths in Maria. I do not believe the "official" number of 64. However, I also find Harvard's 4,000 to be far-fetched. 

Despite its assurances after every major disaster, FEMA doesn't get any better. My guess as to why is that a huge disaster like Andrew, Katrina, Maria, a Northridge Earthquake, etc., happens about once per administration. The administration is out of office by the time the next big disaster occurs and the cycle restarts.

For the first 203 years of the existence of the United States, we did without FEMA. Maybe it is time to try again.

Desperately Needed Rain For the Corn Belt

Here is the forecast for rain from now through 7pm CDT Sunday.
The flash flood risk (scroll down) continues in the Southwest.

Global Warning: Is There Nothing It Can't Do??!!

Apparently, global warming trapped the boys and their coach in the Thailand cave.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Yes, the Climate Changes Naturally

Union Pacific experienced damage to a wooden bridge due to lightning a few days ago. Their photo of the repairs (below) bring to mind an important point regarding the back and forth between the various points of view pertaining to global warming.
This bridge spans the valley of what was once a mighty river but is now a dry river bed. While the river (not identified) might currently be dammed, a river valley this high and wide was cut by a vigorous river flow. The reason the flow is so much less now? Natural climate change.

One of the main issues in the global warming battle is what is natural and what is human-caused global warming and climate change. I am not confident of our ability to tell the difference at this point.

Three Days of Flash Flood Danger

I have good news for those fighting wildfires but bad news for those outdoors or camping.
Above is the seven-day rainfall amount forecast for the Southwest and High Plains. A few spots are forecast to receive five inches of rain. These are extremely heavy rains for this part of the country. Most of this area is in serious drought so the rains are welcome. However, they bring with them a flash flood risk.

Here are the flash flood likelihood forecasts for the next three days.

Now Until 6am MDT Thursday

6am Thursday to 6am Friday

6am Friday until 6am Saturday
I am most concerned about Friday night and Saturday because there will be more people out and because the rains may be heaviest. So, while there is a "slight" risk of flooding at a given location, this is a significant risk. Please factor this forecast into your plans.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

President Trump's Pick of Brett Kavanaugh

According to a post on Twitter, President Trump's pick of Judge Brett Kavanaugh will "take us back to the Inquisition."

For those unfamiliar with that unfortunate part of Western history, here is a primer.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Some of the Root Reasons Our Nation is So Divided

...and, political correctness is making it even worse. Here is a story about an academic paper on diversity . It turns out the research shows that "diversity" -- by itself -- has serious negative effects on society and the people who live in it.

    In the presence of [ethnic] diversity, we hunker down. We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don’t trust people who do look like us.
    —Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam
You'll find the comments about Los Angeles and Hollywood to be especially interesting. In the "brothers" comments, add the Zuckers (Airplane!, etc.). The lack of trust in Hollywood may be why the stars are always lecturing the rest of us...they assume they are the height of enlightenment (how else would they make so much money?) yet at least instinctively, they understand the extremely low level of trust. If it is that bad in Hollywood, much worse must it be elsewhere?

This re-launched blog is going to try to bring you useful information without worrying about political correctness. We can only fix these problems and become a more united United States if we learn about our problems and so we can fashion real solutions. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Congratulations to ...

Our son, Richard who reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro yesterday! That's him in the red hat on the right.

Absolutely Necessary: Disperse the Federal Government

I’ve been thinking a lot about the divides separating our great nation 
and a couple of recent tweets come to mind:
 
Shannon lives in Washington. Amanda originally didn’t want to come to Kansas. But, they have discovered the kindness and civic attitudes of the people of “Flyover County.” 

However, since the election of President Trump, we seem to have gone from “Flyover County” to the status of a foreign nation. It has been amusing watching various members of the news media, various politicians, and now the President of Harvard making treks to learn what makes us tick: 
In a bid to win over middle America, Bacow is venturing into Trump country and plans to visit Pontiac, Mich., a once-thriving automobile city that has fallen on hard times. 

After reading the various articles after their visits, I have a much better idea.

Disperse the United States Government

The Kansas Flint Hills
I will leave the discussion as to whether the nation needs all of these Cabinet-level agencies to others and another time. For now, I urge President Trump to move his government agencies to these cities...

·     State, Defense, OMB, CIA, Treasury and Justice remain in Washington. I’m tempted to move Treasury to the Flint Hills of Kansas (so they will stop so strongly favoring New York bankers at the expense of the rest of the nation) but I realize moving it out of Washington is a political impossibility.
·     Transportation to Chicago
·     Health and Human Services to Atlanta
·     Agriculture to Wichita
·     Small Business Administration to Austin
·     Education to Minneapolis
·     Interior to Denver
·     Representative to the United Nations to New York
·     EPA to Salt Lake City
·     Department of Energy to Dallas
·     Commerce to Indianapolis
·     Homeland Security to Houson
·     Housing and Urban Development to Phoenix
·     Labor to Pittsburgh
·     Energy to Knoxville

The advantages to these make so much sense that only politicians could be against them. They are:
·     One of the functions of the members of the Cabinet is to provide advice for the President. That advice would be much more diverse and of much higher quality with this plan. The anger that so deeply shocked the people inside the Beltway wouldn’t have been so shocking if the government were dispersed.
·     Better quality information: Want to know about the next generation (safe and possibly cheap) nuclear? Ten miles away. Want to know the condition of the wheat crop? Drive 15 miles. Much better than hearing everything forth-hand through lobbists!
·     Make the Cabinet members live as we do. I want them to fly first class, as there should be some perks for serving in addition to salary. That said, make them go through airport security ( No TSA Pre √), make them read local newspapers, let them live in the same neighborhoods we do (they can have security but no gated communities), shop at the same stores. If they live in a city without a Tiffany’s branch, fine. 

Another advantage of this idea is that it would lessen the influence of the various lobbies, at least to some extent. 

Everyone wins except real-estate agents inside the Beltway. 
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