Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Letter to Nancy Boyda (D-KS)

Here's a copy of a letter I just sent to my representative, Nancy Boyda.

Hi Nancy,

The House messaging service is down right now, but I wanted to send you a quick note. Sorry if you're being bombarded!

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed when I saw that you voted against the bailout package yesterday. But, after reading your statements, I agree that the money could and should be spent more wisely than was proposed. Especially for things like building the new green energy economy, and making sure those jobs stay here, so our economy is stronger in the future.

My main issue is that you seem to be taking a partisan stance. I understand you're in a close re-election campaign, and the people of KS-02 are probably strongly against any more of their tax money being thrown into the fire on this problem. But this problem - the biggest economic crisis since the great depression - is bigger than partisan politics. And I do think congressional action sooner rather than later - even if it's just a start, is absolutely vital to instilling a bit of confidence in the markets and getting us back on track. The downside risks are too great for inaction.

That said, I trust your judgement and your priorities. It's going to be a tough couple of weeks.

Best of luck on the re-election campaign.

Eric Holthaus
Osage City, KS
currently New York, NY

10/2 UPDATE:
The House passed the Senate-altered version of the bailout package today - which included such things as an extra $100B of tax breaks for small businesses and alternative energy in order to win more votes. The bill is designed that when (if!) the market recovers, all $700B will be paid back to the taxpayers from the companies being bailed out.

Boyda still voted no. But, this is understandable as she's in a close race for re-election. And, I agree with her - now that we've bailed out wall street, we need to focus on bailing out main street. (Green Jobs for Kansas!)

MLB playoffs start tonight!

After 6 months of battling it out day after day (and a rough weekend series for the Twins versus my 4th-place Royals), the White Sox and Twins are tied for the AL Central lead. A one game playoff tonight will decide the division champion.

After that, it's on.

Personally, (like many other dreamers) I'm picking the Cubs to win the Series this year. The story is just too great, and the team is too deep not to like them. 100 years since their last championship. Great starting pitchers. So, Cubs over Tampa Bay in 6 games.

As for me, I won my (not very active) fantasy baseball league this year. I've played about 5 different years now, and won twice. It's a lot of fun. Here's the final standings and my roster throughout the season.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Debate (maybe) cancelled

Yesterday afternoon, McCain "suspended his campaign" to focus on travelling back to Washington to help out with the negotiations over the proposed $700B bailout of the economy. Interesting wording, "suspended" - I've only heard that word used when candidates withdraw from the primary races. McCain immediately pulled all his advertising, cancelled his appearance on Letterman, and has asked to postpone Friday's debate.

I'm bummed, because presidential debates are like the superbowl for politicos. At fivethirtyeight.com, there's a good post that relates the two - and how people look forward to the debates for months... if they don't happen, you're going to feel a little disappointed.

Bush's speech last night actually went a long way toward convincing me that the bailout is necessary. Expensive, yes, but necessary. Because, we don't want the economy to grind to a halt. And, I am definitely convinced (and have been for awhile) that this is the biggest financial crisis since the great depression. In a sense, it is the culmination of American exceptionalism since the end of WWII, our lives of excess, our huge footprint on the greater world order... all of that is coming home to roost. And what a fitting end to the Bush presidency.

Houston/Galveston is still suffering the effects of Hurricane Ike, and will be for weeks and years to come. Galveston residents were allowed back to their homes for the first time since the storm yesterday, and many were shocked at what they found. Nashville and other places in the southeast have been in a gas crisis all week (caused by lack of supply from Houston) with massive shortages and prices topping $5/gal in places. None of this is making the news. Granted, the overall problems with the economy, and a close presidential race are arguably more important, but still, we've had a major natural disaster, and people are suffering (not unlike during the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005).

I'm heading to Shea tonight to see the Mets and Cubs. I'm excited. I have a feeling the playoffs are going to be great this year. It's cool and cloudy in new york tonight... definitely feels like pennant chase weather.

Per the Wall Street Journal, Congress has agreed tentatively to the $700B bailout, including strong oversight of the interventions and a $400K cap on executive salaries. Still waiting to see if this means McCain will show up in Mississippi tomorrow night or not.

To put the bailout in perspective, from MSNBC:

Just how big is the proposed Wall Street bailout? Let's look at how it compares to some other numbers...

-- $700 billion: proposed Wall St. bailout
-- $695.4 billion: GDP of Taiwan. If the bailout were a country it would be the 21st largest GDP, larger than most nations.
-- $653 billion: cost of Iraq war (so far)
-- $515.4 billion: proposed 2009 Pentagon budget
-- $315 billion: McCain's nuclear energy plan
-- $295 billion: amount Pentagon overspent original budgets by.
-- $150 billion: Obama's energy plan
-- $50-$65 billion: Obama's health care plan, per year
-- $59.2 billion: proposed 2009 U.S. education budget
-- $10 billion: McCain health care proposals, per year
-- $38 million: Hank Paulson's post-2004 salary as Chairman, CEO of Goldman Sachs
-- 16.1 million: number of median Ohio household incomes ($43,371 as of 2004) that would add up to the bailout -- or about THREE Ohios.

McCain has just confirmed he will attend the debate tonight.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I'm so excited for Thanksgiving in Tennessee... =)

from becca, my old, good, Tennessee friend:

so, i'll tell you about the farm since you are going! it is kind of interesting there. i maybe should have told you before you decided to come, but i don't think you'll have a problem with anything. its in the middle of nowhere in McEwen, TN, west of Nashville. the town has no traffic light. There is a Dairy Queen that has everything you could imagine. Like everything. They have meat and three stuff and all sorts of craziness. There is a little Catholic church and school. Maybe 1 other restaurant, a pizza place... that may be it. Oh, there is a new gas station that has pizza and has Baskin Robbins! Oh, and there is a new Sonic which was a big deal. But no McDonalds! How fun is that! The farm is maybe 10 minutes from town. We have a couple hundred acres I think. The farmhouse is kind of old. The original burnt to the ground in I think 1925ish and the neighboring farmers all chipped in materials and help to rebuild it. It looks and seems older than it is, I guess because of that. There is the house, a barn, and some other little buildings like a smoke house, outhouse, wood shed, and a couple more that had old farmy purposes. Inside the house, there are beds everywhere. We added a bathroom a few years ago, so there is now a toilet that flushes! and a shower! and a sink outside of the kitchen! before that we used the outhouse, which some people still do cause there is always someone in the bathroom, or go behind a tree. When I was little we would all go down there for a week with the moms and we would take baths in the creek. Anyway, there are 2 front rooms. one has a big bed where my parents sleep, and the wood burning stove for heating the house is in there, and some chairs. it is the hang out room often. the other front room has three beds- i sleep in one that i have slept in forever. everyone else (of the cousins) decided they had to sleep upstairs b/c there are several adults who snore downstairs, but i just bring my ipod and deal with it. My Aunt Marie and Uncle Pete have a bed in that room, and there is another bed that is not really designated for anyone. We have this cousin, Anne, who is around my parents age and she stays sometime and sleeps there, but she doesn't seem to like to stay a lot. The bathroom is off that room too. There is the back bedroom where Uncle Jerry and Aunt Beba sleep. There is a dining room and a kitchen. Off the dining room are the stairs that go up to the loft area, which is full of beds. Tons of beds. My cousins sleep up there (Angela and her husband Jessi, Ab and his girlfriend Raven if she comes, Lori and her husband Jake, Josh, and Lindsey, my sister and her husband and the babies if they stay there, and friends if anyone else brings friends which they usually do). You'll probably have a bed up there, or if Anne is not going to stay overnight then you can sleep in the other bed downstairs if you want. Outside we have a fire pit and seats and stuff around it. so, there will be probably 16 people, 17 if cousin Anne stays, and 4 more if my sister and her family stays. I think they will stay with Jason's family though and just hang out at the farm some cause Jason's family has a modern house in town. Oh, you can't drink the water cause it is well water and we don't know if it is safe. So we always bring bottled water, but the water is fine for showers and cooking hot stuff and teeth brushing, and I am sure would be fine if you didn't drink too much. But we bring water. There is always a lot of food. We'll probably just be there for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, which will hopefully have enough veggie stuff for you. We usually have sweet potato something, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, stuffing, cranberry sauce stuff, rolls, and then turkey of course. If there is something else you want me and you can make something and take it down to contribute.

can't wait. =)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Scranton, PA

On Saturday, I spent the day in Scranton, Pennsylvania with a large bunch of other Obama supporters from the New York area - knocking on doors and talking to undecided voters. As Pennsylvania is considered a swing state (or at best, "lean Obama"), time spent there is much more useful than time spent back in Brooklyn. As many studies have shown, for approximately every 14 door knocks, one new vote is generated from someone that otherwise would have stayed home, or voted the other way (compared to 1 vote for 35 phone calls, or a negligible impact for email forwards). Knocking on doors is the single most important thing you can do to help generate more votes for your candidate.

Scranton was big Hillary country in the Primaries, but is also home to Obama's VP running-mate Joe Biden. It's a very catholic, blue-collar, union, hard-working city. The main issues people talked about were the economy, the war, and abortion. (The NY Times had an article last week about the Catholic vote in Scranton.

The Scranton office was packed with volunteers. There was, conservatively, probably about 400 volunteers going canvassing. Their goal was 10,000 door knocks on Saturday alone, and I'd be surprised if they didn't reach that goal (I did about 40-50 doors myself). All in all, it was a very rewarding experience - I'm planning on going a couple more times before the election.

If you live in or near a swing state (per MSNBC:

Lean Obama: IA, MN, NJ, NM OR, PA, WA (76 votes)
Toss-up: CO, MI, NV, NH, OH, VA, WI (78 votes)
Lean McCain: FL, IN, MO, MT, NC (67 votes)

I strongly encourage you to go to www.barackobama.com or your local Obama field office (example: ny.barackobama.com for new york) and sign up for some door knocking yourself. It's fun!

Our New York-Scranton PA group on Saturday.

The highlight of the IRI retreat

Yesterday was our first organization-wide long-range planning happy-feely work retreat in 4 years. It actually turned out to be a pretty fun chance to bond with my co-workers, meet people down the hall that I always see but have never talked to, and build up excitement in a nerdy, saving the world sort of way.

Here was the highlight, sung by my co-worker and friend Judy to the tune of 'Summertime' by Gershwin:

It's CRM baby @ the IRI

Climate's Changin'
And the weather is tricky
Ice caps meltin'
And the temperature's high

It's feast not famine
For the folks in Malawi
If the rains are late
Still the children won't cry

You've got your payout
There's a'nothin' can harm you
Weather index insurance standing by

Don't waste no water
In greater metro Manila
Now you've shared the rains
With the peasants nearby

With your new contracts
There's a'nothin' can harm you
Probabilities shifting: forty for dry

It's CRM Baby
@ the IRI

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

So let me see if I understand this right...

By allowing big Wall Street investment banks to fail (or at least, assist in their liquidation/cut-rate mergers), the federal government is:

-Sending a signal that large investment banks should be more vigilant about the types of investments they make.
-Thus forcing smaller banks/real estate firms/insurance companies to be less willing to grant mortgages for houses people cannot afford.
-Thus forcing a change in behavior by millions of Sam and Sally Homeowners who have spent well beyond their means in the last 10 years, and causing them to forclose on their dream McMansion in the suburbs.
-Thus forcing Americans to cut back on their spending and their lifestyle.

And making average people like me (who, I thought, was investing responsibly) lose 50% of their retirement savings in the process. Here's how I've done over the past 3 days.

But, taking a bath once in a while is healthy, right?

Seriously, I honestly think this correction/crash/recession is a good thing. Despite a lot of short term pain, it will force us as Americans to live a more balanced, sustainable lifestyle. Remember all those stories of your grandma saving and reusing scraps of tinfoil during the Great Depression? Yeah, that.

It's kind of fun if you forget about how much of your savings you're losing and all the people that are going to be out of jobs.

The government should be bailing THEM out, not the wall street types.

In other news,
This song from The Black Keys seems appropriate for today.

Kings and sons of god
Traveled on their way from here
Calmin restless mobs
easing all of their, all of their fear

Strange Times
Are Here

The statue in the square
meant so much when it first stodd
people come from far and near
bless them if, bless them if it would

Strange Times
Are Here

Sadie, dry your tears
I will be the one
to pull you through the mere
before you come, before you come undone

Strange Times
Are Here

Monday, September 15, 2008

Big news day.

Bank failures on wall street, oil below $100, Zimbabwe power-sharing agreement, and Ike fallout.

Is it the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning? I'm optimistic.

Five of the top 10 most emailed stories at NYTimes.com are about Sarah Palin. Is a stock market crash the only thing that can get her name out of the media spotlight?

Or maybe, Tina Fey can. =)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Wichita flooding today, too.

Some rough weather back at home today, too. Pictures literally just down the street from my sis's house.

From the Eagle:

The remnants of Tropical Storm Lowell are rewriting Wichita’s record book.

The record for most rain in a 24-hour period in Wichita was 7.99 inches on Sept. 6-7, 1911. As of 1 p.m. today, 8.27 inches of rain had fallen….in just 12 hours. That number will climb, too.

Update: 24 hour rainfall total was 10.31 inches. Wow.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Saffir-Simpson scale needs a provision for storm surge.

Inspired by what I think has been a dangerous (deadly) false sense of security in the Houston/Galveston area as a result of the comparatively high surge/low winds of Hurricane Ike - I think I'm going to try to put together a paper for the AMS arguing for a revision to the Saffir-Simpson scale.

Like the current scale, the new scale would be designed to quantify potential damage to homes. The new scale could potentially include a letter after the number, to account for water effects (the number accounts only for wind speeds). For an average Category 2 storm, the designation would be Category 2C, for a storm with below-average flood risk (maybe a fast moving storm) it could be Category 2B or 2A. So maybe Ike, on the new scale could be given a designation of "Category 2E" for "greatly higher than average storm surge/inland flooding potential".

Current scale

CNN: 20,000-30,000 people remain on Galveston Island

This is going to be very bad.

Some 24 hours before landfall, Galveston is already flooding.

From the Houston Chronicle:

Hurricane Ike: the dreaded "fist" has emerged.

A satellite signature of rapid intensification has just emerged in Hurricane Ike - appropriately referred to as "the fist" - and already the winds are jumping higher. The Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft currently examining Ike has just recorded a wind speed of Category 3 strength (123kt flight level), equivalent to about 115mph sustained surface winds. Look for an official upgrade to major hurricane strength in the next few hours from the National Hurricane Center.

Ike grows even larger, winds now hitting the coast

A very large and growing Hurricane Ike will make landfall overnight in Texas - scoring almost a direct hit at Cat 2/3 strength - a near worst-case scenario for the Houston/Galveston area. Normally when hurricanes make landfall the strongest winds are confined to a limited region just 20-miles wide or so near the eye wall. Ike is different. Its strongest winds begin about 20 miles from the center - and extend out another 100-120 miles. It has a structure similar to Hurricane Katrina (though Katrina was slightly stronger) - whose effects were felt some 200miles from the point of landfall.

So, New Orleans (about 200 miles from Ike's landfall) has closed its flood gates, and is now experiencing tropical storm force winds, and occasional funnel clouds. This should continue for almost 24 hours.

Galveston could be, simply, devastated. Downtown Houston will take a direct hit. The surge forecast has increased even from yesterday - and surge is expected to be 22-25 ft, with surge over 30ft possible. As the Houston NWS said yesterday, those attempting to ride out the storm on ground level in Galveston face 'near certain death'.

Prayers to all those affected, today and tomorrow.

Hurricane Ike's wind field, as of 11am today.

Maximum storm surge forecast.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Frightening words from Houston NWS office...

In tonight's local hurricane impact forecast for Hurricane Ike, the Houston National Weather Service uses some very graphic and strong language to urge residents to evacuate Galveston Island at all costs:








Eerily reminiscent of the Slidell National Weather Service warning prior to Hurricane Katrina.

Tracking Hurricane Ike

Well, after being lulled into a false sense of security early this week, Ike has decided to shift a little farther north over the last 24-36 hours... prompting a tropical storm warning for New Orleans.

This thing is huge. With a capital G. Although Ike is still a mid-category 2 hurricane, Tropical storm force winds extend up to 275 mi from the center, and Hurricane (with a capital rrrRRR!) force winds up to 115 mi! Houston is definitely back in line for a direct hit, even if landfall is technically well to the south. And with a minimal central pressure of 945mb (normally almost a category 4), storm surge will be bad on Galveston Island. If I were anywhere on Galveston today, I'd be getting out.

Update: After checking the latest storm surge models, I'm even more worried for Houston (and to some extent, New Orleans, believe it or not). The NHC expects 20ft storm surge at Galveston, but the latest SLOSH model has a 10% chance of a 30ft(!) storm surge right up Galveston Bay into suburban Houston. There's also a chance for at least 10 ft storm surge around New Orleans, which is close to what was experience recently in Gustav.

The maps below show the storm surge probability as of 11am this morning. The first map shows the likelyhood of receiving a storm surge greater than 5ft, and the second map shows the maximum expected storm surge height.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Eric enters the 21st century.

In the last 36 hours, I have loaded up my new iPod and joined Facebook. Whew! Who knew I could be so with it, finally.

It's great to know all my old friends were just out there, waiting for me. In the past 12 hours, I already have discovered about 7 weddings, 4 new babies, two handfulls of friends I thought I had lost contact with for good - and as a result made 3 phone dates and hopefully a couple of NY meetups. Yay for technology!

Update: from 6 to 160 friends in 12 hours! Beat that Caitlin Hannon! =)

Obama, McCain on campus tomorrow

Barack Obama and John McCain will be on campus here tomorrow to address a summit on community service. It's also September 11th, so it's fitting a summit on community service should take place in New York that day. Should be a good event. Here's an email we received this morning:

To all members of the Columbia community:

On Thursday, September 11, Columbia University will host a ServiceNation Summit event in Alfred Lerner Hall featuring presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama. The purpose of this message is to provide important information about campus access and the events taking place this Thursday.

Please carry your University ID card with you on Thursday to ensure that you can access campus at all times.

Lerner Hall will be open only to University ID holders on Sept. 11. Beginning at 2:00 p.m., the Broadway entrance to Lerner Hall will be closed, as will the Lerner Gate at 115th St. and Broadway. After that time, please enter through the building's campus entrance by using your University ID. The first floor of Lerner and the 4th floor corridor near Ferris Booth Commons, including the Package Center, will also be closed at 2:00 p.m.

All other Lerner Hall offices, Café 212, the 3rd floor of Ferris Booth Commons, and the Columbia Bookstore will be open during normal business hours. After 2:00 p.m., the Bookstore will be accessible via the Lerner campus entrance only.

114th St. between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave. will be closed to vehicular traffic from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. on Thursday. "No Parking" signs will also be posted. Please do not park your car on 114th St. overnight on Wednesday or it will be towed by the Police Department.

Pedestrian traffic on 114th St. will be restricted to the south side of the street beginning at 2:00 p.m. At that time, the Carman and John Jay gates will also close.

The east side of Broadway between 114th St. and 116th St. will be closed to pedestrians beginning at 2:00 p.m.

From 5:00 p.m. onward, the campus will be open to University ID holders only, through the following gates:

- 116th St. and Broadway (north walk only)- Note: this gate may be subject to closure depending on pedestrian traffic on Broadway
- 116th St. & Amsterdam Ave. (north walk only)
- Earl Hall Gate (117th St. & Broadway)
- Chapel Gate (117th St. & Amsterdam Ave.) until 6:00 p.m.
- Grove (119th St. & Amsterdam Ave.)
- 120th St. Gate until 6:00 p.m.
- Mudd Building entrance on 120th St. until 6:00 p.m.
- 115th St. & Amsterdam Ave. Gate

** You must present your University ID to enter campus at any gate after 5:00 p.m. **

If you have temporary staff who do not have a University ID and who need access to campus on the afternoon of Sept. 11, you will need to make the following accommodations for them. Please prepare a letter on University letterhead stating that the person is reporting for work, specify the campus location, and sign the letter. Please give this letter to your temporary workers before Sept. 11, and please instruct them to carry a photo ID, such as a driver's license, matching the name in the letter.

The ServiceNation Summit event will be simulcast on a large screen facing Low Plaza. All University ID holders are invited to view the event here. The simulcast will begin at 7:00 p.m. A live feed of the event will also be accessible via CTV in all Columbia residence halls. It is likely that the event will be broadcast live on major media networks, and we encourage schools and departments to organize screenings where possible.

A series of student-organized events, including a food drive, will run throughout the day. Please check the Columbia homepage for updates on these plans.

Your cooperation during this busy and historic day is greatly appreciated. We hope that you will take advantage of the events surrounding this summit and join the University in recognizing the importance of public service.


Jeffrey Scott
Executive Vice President
Student and Administrative Services

James McShane
Associate Vice President
Columbia University Public Safety

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Happy Tuesday

Some good writing today - celebrating my first ever ipod/subway commute this morning.

From today's NY Times op-ed, written by a Pennsylvania nurse on witnessing her first patient die:
What can one do? Go home, love your children, try not to bicker, eat well, walk in the rain, feel the sun on your face and laugh loud and often, as much as possible, and especially at yourself. Because the only antidote to death is not poetry, or drama, or miracle drugs, or a roomful of technical expertise and good intentions. The antidote to death is life.

From The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay:
Sammy performed the rapid series of operations - which combined elements of the folding of wet laundry, the shoveling of damp ashes, and the swallowing of a secret map on the point of capture by enemy troops - that passed, in this mother's kitchen, for eating. Then he stood up, wiped his lips with the back of his hand, and pulled on his good wool blazer. "Come on, Joe, we gotta go."

Love life, guys.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Hanna vs. Montauk, Ike on the way

My experience watching Tropical Storm Hanna make landfall on Long Island was everything I could have hoped for. My weather nerd gadget recorded max sustained winds of 29.5mph (and minimum pressure of 998mb), not quite as high as elsewhere around the island, but I would have rather been in Montauk than Coney Island. =)

The next storm is Ike, and the latest from the Gulf Coast is not looking good. Gov. Jindal has declared a state of emergency in advance, requested $160M in emergency federal aid for infrastructure repairs from Gustav ($60M over the limit allowed by law), something like 30% of gas stations across the state are still without power, meaning no gas for potential evacuations, and he's begging state workers in baton rouge to come back to work today to prepare for ike even though it was hardest hit by gustav and still mostly without power, houses damaged, etc. and many people in louisiana, based on times-picayune interviews, probably wouldn't evacuate anyway if another storm came in the next couple weeks. many of those that are most vulnerable are already out of money - dipping into savings for the gustav evacuation - and many of those with means have the perception that gustav wasn't really that bad anyway. what a mess. lets hope evacuations aren't necessary, at least for louisiana.

On to the pictures from this weekend.

Montauk beach with 6-8ft swells.
Surfers contemplating the rad waves.
Forecast: Tropical Storm!
Lawn chairs scattered by the wind.

Friday, September 5, 2008

longest commute EVER!

someone didn't want me to get to work this morning. after leaving my house at 7:39am, I watched the J train pull away as I got to the platform - 10min later, finally one stop away at Broadway Junction, I watched the A train pull away as I got to the platform. These two near misses combined to help me miss the 9am Lamont bus by 3 min. So, as the 10am bus was nearing Lamont, what could it be, but an oil tanker straddled across the highway, leaking its precious cargo into a drain down to the Hudson. Police had closed the highway for the accident, so we on the bus ended up walking the remaining 3/4 mile up to campus. Arriving at my desk at IRI at 10:58am. A 3 hour and 20 minute commute, one way! I could have been most of the way to Florida...

Speaking of Florida, Tropical Storm Hanna arrives tonight in the southeast coast, probably in the Carolinas. Shouldn't be too bad - but could still reach category 1 before landfall. I'll be going to Montauk this weekend to witness her arrival to the northeast. =)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Tonight is Sarah's night

So, now the Republican party also has a historic presidential ticket. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin will present herself to the world tonight at the RNC, trying to be the first female vice president. Personally, this solidifies my support of Obama. Palin has been governor only two years (previously mayor of Wasilla, AK - where I did a 5K 3 years ago! cute town, but as you can guess, not to relevant on the world stage), and to me politically is a cuter, more likable version of Ann Coulter. What's more, the pick shows that McCain is willing to gamble with major decisions. What happens when Iran threatens Israel with a nuke in 2009?

The New York Times is all over the Palin stories this week:

David Brooks says John McCain really hasn't picked his vice president yet.

Maureen Dowd lays out a frighteningly funny scenario where President Palin takes on Putin (she has experience with Russia because it's close to Alaska).

And as far as climate goes (my #1 voting issue), Thomas Friedman argues that John McCain disqualified himself with the choice of Sarah Palin as VP (a staunch advocate of drilling in ANWR).

New Orleans reopens

New Orleans reopens, all checkpoints lifted.

But, it could still be "days" until Entergy restores power to all 825,000 households who lost it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Gustav dissipates over northern Louisiana

Gustav is history, but unfortunately, more on the way this week and next week...

Monday, September 1, 2008

Industrial Canal overtopping in upper 9th ward

Here's the latest from NOLA.com.


Gustav making landfall in Terrebonne Parish

Right now, Gustav is making landfall just west of Grand Isle, LA officially as a category 3 hurricane, though probably in reality as a strong category 2. Gustav has had some moments of intensification throughout the last 24 hours (like finally regaining a complete eyewall an hour before landfall), but never regained category 4 status, and thankfully spared southeast Louisiana a worst-case scenario. It's still much too early, but I think Gustav will be remembered as the first true test of post-Katrina Louisiana, a test we will hopefully pass.

But it's not over yet.

About an hour ago, an elevated observing station in Southwest Pass - at the tip of Plaquemines parish on the MS River - recorded peak sustained winds of near 100mph with gusts to 117mph. The primary threat to the region remains the storm surge, and winds are also still on the increase in metro New Orleans for the next few hours. Water continues to push into Lake Pontchartrain. The newly reconstructed floodwall in the West Bank will be vulnerable. Floodgates have been closed on the Harvey canal in the West Bank in an attempt to keep the storm surge out. Overnight, Plaquemines parish officials constructed an emergency levee over LA-23 highway in an attempt to control the surge there. And the eyewall is yet to reach Houma, where it is forecasted to make a direct hit with 100mph winds.

By all accounts, the preparations stage of Gustav was a success. Nearly 2 million people were evacuated in one of the largest, most orderly mass movements of people in American history. Coordination at all levels of government was good. Now we have to wait and see if it was enough.

You can watch WWL-TV live online for complete coverage of the landfall. Also, NOLA.com's BridgeCam is giving live shots outside. And the NYTimes is posting eyewitness reports.

Gustav at landfall