Florida Pilot

A compendium of random thoughts from a former Washington Beltway insider who is now having a lot more fun flying small airplanes in Central Florida.

Monday, October 24, 2005

6 million without power in Florida; will anything different be done in the future?

According to reports, Hurricane Wilma knocked out power to 6 millions Florida residents and it will take weeks before power is restored.

If there is one thing that has been consistent about the hurriicanes striking the United States over the past few years, it has been the devestating effect on electric power infrastructure. While the extent of injuries and even loss of life has been relatively low in even the more severe of storms in recent years, damage to electric power infrastructure has been widespread and has taken a long time to repair.

After being repaired and replaced, the power infrastructure is left no less vulnerable for the next storm. And the utilities are always there to take advantage of the situation to raise rates. In fact, while building codes have been strengthened over the years, typically requiring new or rebuilt structures to be made less vulnerable to storms than older structures, fragile electric power lines and poles are replaced again and again with a certainty that they will fail at the next opportunity.

Perhaps the view is that the larger investment costs associated with running power lines underground is not justified by the frequency of storms that can disable the fragile above-ground infrastructure. The number and strength of storms over the past few years suggests that is not a convincing argument. Scientists tell us that we are about 10 years into a 20 to 40 year cycle of increased hurricane activity. Over this period of time, it is likely that much of the vulnerable power infrastructure will be rebuilt multiple times under emergency conditions with associated high costs.

One might think that a smart and visionary political leader would gain something by advocating hardening of the power infrastructure but no one has made such a proposal. Certainly the technology to run power lines underground exists and is proven. In addition to being inherently fragile, overhead power lines are an eyesore. A 20-30 year project to replace vulnerable overhead lines with storm-resistant underground service would certainly cost a lot of money but perhaps less in the long run by piecemeal rebuilding of facilities that have been shown from experience to be extremely fragile. And that doesn't include the costs to the economy when power supplies are disrupted for long periods of time.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Jeb Bush changes position on oil drilling in the Gulf

Florida Governor Jeb Bush has changed his position and is now supporting limited oil drilling rigs in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

Although part of the problem of high fuel consumer due in great part to its high population, Florida has not been part of the solution in terms of developing national fuel resources due to opposition to oil and gas development in the Gulf of Mexico. But gasoline prices around $3.00 a gallon may result in changing some minds.

The opponents of drilling have attempted to demonize proposed offshore oil and gas development by claiming it would result in large scale damage to the coastline and there is a widespread public perception that oil fields would be visible from the shore. In fact, nothing that has been proposed would be visible or noticeable in any way.

The bias against energy development has been pervasive. The Sun-Sentinel story about Bush's change of mind contains the following poll question alternatives regarding whether to drill off the coast if that nation faces a gasoline shortage.

Yes. Drilling is OK if there is a major fuel crisis.

No. Damaging Florida's coastline is not a good solution under any circumstances.

The two alternatives tacitly assume that drilling would damage the coastline.

Senator Bill Nelson has gone so far as to suggest that the area off the coast be excluded from drilling so it can continue to be used as a military bombing area. This from a Senator who rarely finds anything positive about the United States military.

In the aftermath of the recent hurricanes, other countries drew down some of their own reserves in order to reduce the price spiking resulting from speculation about damaged production and refinery capacity in the United States. Are these countries going to continue to do that kind of thing if the United States continues to avoid even exploration in large areas with substantial potential oil and gas production?

Sandy Berger again "unaware"

We had last heard from Sandy Berger, national security advisor to Bill Clinton, when he was given a "slap on the wrist" level of punishment for stealing classified documents by hiding them in his trousers and then attempting to lie about it when he was caught. Before admitting his guilt (and getting almost no punishment), Berger had claimed that he was unaware that he had stuffed documents into his pants.

Now we hear that Berger was again "unaware", this time that he was speeding 33 mph over the speed limit on I-66 near Washington, DC.

When making the required report to his probation officer, Berger claimed "that he had been speeding because he was late to a meeting and was unaware of how fast he was traveling."

For those not familiar with it, that part of I-66 is in a very urbanized area and it is a busy road filled with traffic. Perhaps a lot of people are doing "10 over" or 65 and might be "unaware" that they are speeding but it is no more credible to be "unaware" of travelling over 30 mph over the limit there than it is to be unaware one is walking out of the national archives building with a bunch of documents in your pants.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

prosecutorial abuse -- a case study

The criminal justice system offers extraordinary powers to prosecutors which, when abused, can result in really outrageous results. The recent personal "jihad" of Santa Barbara county prosecutor Thomas Sneddon against Michael Jackson was one example and now, Texas democratic Ronnie Earle is showing just how far he is willing to abuse the system in an attempt to get even with Tom Delay for his successful efforts to break the democratic stronghold on the Texas state legistlature and congressional delegation.

The grand jury process is particularly suited to an abusive prosecutor as no defense or even exculpatory evidence need be presented when the prosecutor chooses to seek and indictment. It is typically the case that a good prosecutor can manipulate a grand jury to bring almost any charge. For Ronnie Earle, however, even those overwhelming advantages were not sufficent and he had to use three separate grand juries to get the results he wanted.

"Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle acknowledged that prosecutors presented their case to three grand juries — not just the two they had discussed — and one grand jury refused to indict DeLay."

Earle, of course, has a history of failed political prosecutions. Even those who don't care for Tom Delay have to be appaled at the conduct of Earle.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

gun control lobby gets desperate

The gun control establishment has been on the decline for some years now. Absent Columbine-style incidents that can be manipulated into public and legislative sympathy for more restrictions on second amendment rights, the general trend has been to relax sometimes irrational restrictions on the public's rights to own firearms.

The fact is that claimed terrible consequences that the gun control establishment has stated would result from increased firearm rights have simply not come about. Instead, crime rates seem to come down as gun rights increase. It will result in a major blow to the gun control lobby and their highly paid staffers if voters in places like Washington DC and New York start to become aware that increased gun ownership by law-abiding citizens will lead to less crime and that the gun control lobby has lied and misrepresented facts for years.

A sign of the lobby's desperation is their attempt to convince Florida visitors that recent changes in Florida's self defense laws will lead to shootings of innocent visitors. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth as the gun control lobby well knows. The intent of the Florida law is to permit individuals to exercise longstanding rights to self defense without fear of prosecution by aggressive liberal prosecutors. Having long ago lost credibility with Florida voters and legislators, the gun control lobby is now resorting to passing out misleading leaflets and sponsoring misleading advertisements to visitors to the state.

One thing you can be sure the gun control lobby will never do is to compare crime rates in places with substantial firearms freedoms like Florida with those in Washington, DC or New York City with the most stringent firearms control in the country.