The musings of one Andrew Langer - defender of liberty, passionate protector of individual rights, foodie. (Note: Said Musings of Andrew Langer are his own, and the views represented herein are likewise his views, and not the views of any other people, entities, foodstuffs, etc [unless otherwise specifically and explicitly noted].)

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Katrina At One Year - A Recap...

Back in February, I posted segments of an article from Popular Mechanics, which I thought was one of the most balanced analysis put in layman's terms of how Katrina and its aftermath were handled. That post can be found here:

What I'd like to do today is repost a portion of that for all of you:

Published in the March, 2006 issue.
Now What?
The Lessons of Katrina


MYTH:"The aftermath of Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history."--Aaron Broussard, president, Jefferson Parish, La., Meet the Press, NBC, Sept. 4, 2005

REALITY: Bumbling by top disaster-management officials fueled a perception of general inaction, one that was compounded by impassioned news anchors.

In fact, the response to Hurricane Katrina was by far the largest--and fastest-rescue effort in U.S. history, with nearly 100,000 emergency personnel arriving on the scene within three days of the storm's landfall.

Dozens of National Guard and Coast Guard helicopters flew rescue operations that first day--some just 2 hours after Katrina hit the coast. Hoistless Army helicopters improvised rescues, carefully hovering on rooftops to pick up survivors. On the ground, "guardsmen had to chop their way through, moving trees and recreating roadways," says Jack Harrison of the National Guard. By the end of the week, 50,000 National Guard troops inthe Gulf Coast region had saved 17,000 people; 4000 Coast Guard personnel saved more than 33,000.

These units had help from local, state and national responders, including five helicopters from the Navy ship Bataan and choppers from the Air Force and police. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries dispatched250 agents in boats. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state police and sheriffs' departments launched rescue flotillas. By Wednesday morning, volunteers and national teams joined the effort, including eight units from California's Swift Water Rescue. By Sept. 8, the waterborne operation had rescued 20,000.

While the press focused on FEMA's shortcomings, this broad array of local, state and national responders pulled off an extraordinary success--especially given the huge area devastated by the storm. Computer simulations of a Katrina-strength hurricane had estimated a worst-case-scenario death toll of more than 60,000 people in Louisiana. The actual number was 1077 in that state.

NEXT TIME: Any fatalities are too many. Improvements hinge on building more robust communications networks and stepping up predisaster planning to better coordinate local and national resources.


Improving Response

ONE OF THE BIGGEST reminders from Katrina is that FEMA is not a first responder. It was local and state agencies that got there first and saved lives. Where the feds can contribute is in planning and helping to pay for a coordinated response. Here are a few concrete steps.

Think Locally: "Every disaster starts and ends as a local event," says Ed Jacoby, who managed New York state's emergency response to 9/11. All municipalities must assess their own risk of disasters--both natural and man-made.

Include Business Help: "Companies realize that if a city shuts down, they shut down," says Barry Scanlon, former FEMA director of corporate affairs. During Katrina, many companies coordinated their own mini relief efforts. That organizational power can augment public disaster management. "If 10 Fortune 100 members made a commitment to the Department of HomelandSecurity," says Scanlon, "the country would take a huge leap forward."

Prearrange Contracts: Recovery costs skyrocket with high demand during a crisis. Contracts with local firms must be signed before disaster strikes."You know beforehand that everyone is ready to move," says Kate Hale, emergency management director of Florida's Miami-Dade County during Hurricane Andrew in 1992. "The government blows the whistle and the contractors go to work."

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Mugged By Mideast Reality

I was home sick today (with the entire fam, in fact - we all picked up a bug either in Texas or on our way home). I ventured out to pick up some heavy-duty decongestants and happened to catch NPR's "Talk of the Nation". One of the guests was a scholar, novelist, and Fordham law school professor named Thane Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum is a progressive, much in the vein of classmates of mine from Fieldston - and one who, for many years, held the belief (some might call it naive) that the Israeli-Arab conflict could be solved by talk, negotiation, and compromise.

But Rosenbaum has had a change of heart - and I have to respect him for his intellectual honesty and willingness to come to terms with the reality of the situation. Anyhow, I want to post a recent opinion piece he wrote for the Wall Street Journal ( :

Red State Jews
Mugged by Mideast reality.

Sunday, August 13, 2006 12:01 a.m.

This is a soul-searching moment for the Jewish left. Actually, for many Jewish liberals, navigating the gloomy politics of the Middle East is like walking with two left feet.

I would know. For six years I was the literary editor of Tikkun magazine, a leading voice for progressive Jewish politics that never avoided subjecting Israel to moral scrutiny. I also teach human rights at a Jesuit university, imparting the lessons of reciprocal grievances and the moral necessity to regard all people with dignity and mutual respect. And I am deeply sensitive to Palestinian pain, and mortified when innocent civilians are used as human shields and then cynically martyred as casualties of war.

Yet, since 9/11 and the second intifada, in which suicide bombings and beheadings have become the calling cards of Arab diplomacy, and with Hamas and Hezbollah emerging as elected entities that, paradoxically, reject the first principles of liberal democracy, I feel a great deal of moral anguish. Perhaps I have been naive all along.

And I am not alone. Many Jews are in my position--the children and grandchildren of labor leaders, socialists, pacifists, humanitarians, antiwar protesters--instinctively leaning left, rejecting war, unwilling to demonize, and insisting that violence only breeds more violence. Most of all we share the profound belief that killing, humiliation and the infliction of unnecessary pain are not Jewish attributes.

However, the world as we know it today--post-Holocaust, post-9/11, post-sanity--is not cooperating. Given the realities of the new Middle East, perhaps it is time for a reality check. For this reason, many Jewish liberals are surrendering to the mindset that there are no solutions other than to allow Israel to defend itself--with whatever means necessary. Unfortunately, the inevitability of Israel coincides with the inevitability of anti-Semitism.

This is what more politically conservative Jews and hardcore Zionists maintained from the outset. And it was this nightmare that the Jewish left always refused to imagine. So we lay awake at night, afraid to sleep. Surely the Arabs were tired, too. Surely they would want to improve their societies and educate their children rather than strap bombs on to them.

If the Palestinians didn't want that for themselves, if building a nation was not their priority, then peace in exchange for territories was nothing but a pipe dream. It was all wish-fulfillment, morally and practically necessary, yet ultimately motivated by a weary Israeli society--the harsh reality of Arab animus, the spiritual toll that the occupation had taken on a Jewish state battered by negative world opinion.

Despite the deep cynicism, however, Israel knew that it must try. It would have to set aside nearly 60 years of hard-won experience, starting from the very first days of its independence, and believe that the Arab world had softened, would become more welcoming neighbors, and would stop chanting: "Not in our backyard--the Middle East is for Arabs only."

It is true that Israel has entered into peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan that have brought some measure of historic stability to the region. But with Israel having withdrawn from Lebanon and Gaza, and with Israeli public opinion virtually united in favor of near-total withdrawal from the West Bank, why are rockets being launched at Israel now, why are their soldiers being kidnapped if the aspirations of the Palestinian people, and the intentions of Hamas and Hezbollah, stand for something other than the total destruction of Israel? And if Palestinians and the Lebanese are electing terrorists and giving them the portfolio of statesmen, then what message is being sent to moderate voices, what incentives are there to negotiate, and how can any of this sobering news be recast in a more favorable light?

The Jewish left is now in shambles. Peace Now advocates have lost their momentum, and, in some sense, their moral clarity. Opinion polls in Israel are showing near unanimous support for stronger incursions into Lebanon. And until kidnapped soldiers are returned and acts of terror curtailed, any further conversations about the future of the West Bank have been set aside.

Not unlike the deep divisions between the values of red- and blue-state America, world Jewry is being forced to reconsider all of its underlying assumptions about peace in the Middle East. The recent disastrous events in Lebanon and Gaza have inadvertently created a newly united Jewish consciousness--bringing right and left together into one deeply cynical red state.

Mr. Rosenbaum, a novelist and professor at Fordham Law School, is author, most recently, of "The Myth of Moral Justice" (HarperCollins, 2004).

Copyright © 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

My Top 10 Anti-Statist, Pro-Liberty, Pro-Freedom Songs

I’d been meaning to put this list together for some time – along with my list of top pro-freedom, anti-statist films out there. The National Review came out with their list of top “conservative” rock songs ( I agreed with some of the entries – but their list was: a) limited to what they considered “conservative;” and b) to rock songs.

Obviously, music is a medium that effectively communicates the passionate beliefs of both the singer and the songwriter – more effectively, perhaps, than any book or pamphlet or even TV. Now, it goes without saying that I don’t look to artists for my political cues, but that being said, I like a good protest song.

And to me, I’d rather see a list of songs about freedom, and the struggle for freedom against the forces of tyranny and statism. So, I diverge from the potentially-schizophrenic “conservative list”. What’s more, my list isn’t confined to traditional “rock” music – it includes folk, a show-tune, and a rap song. I share some artists with the NR list, and one song (but more on that in a moment)…

10) Freedom Is A State of Mind (Peter Udell - The Shenandoah Soundtrack)

This is a song I’ve had in my head since I was a kid going to Fieldston camp when I was five. I didn’t know until a few years ago where it came from – all I knew was the truism, “Freedom’s in the state of mind!”. Yes, it was 1976, and yes, a song like this was par for the course that summer, nevertheless, it was a lesson that Fieldston ought to keep teaching, over and over again.

Incidentally, that summer of 1976 was an important one for me, politically, as I began to learn those important lessons as to who we are as a people and why. If you’re not into seeing “Shenandoah”, then I recommend another great musical in this vein (and a better one, as far as I’m concerned): 1776. It’s the story of the crafting of the Declaration of Independence, set to some very stirring music.

9) Philadelphia Freedom (Elton John)

Again, in the Bicentennial vein – though this single was released in 1975, it became very relevant the following year. Yes, it’s kind-of a disco tune, but how many disco songs have lines about living and breathing freedom?

8) The Patriot Game (authored by Dominic Behan, I prefer the version by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem)

You don’t much more stirring or passionate songs about liberty than those written about Northern Ireland’s struggle against the British. I write more about the Clancy Brothers’ Carnegie Hall album below, but I single out “The Patriot Game” here. If you’re looking for a freedom-loving lullaby for the kids, this one’s a winner.

7) Find the Cost of Freedom (CSNY)

There were a number of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young songs I could have put on this list (Ohio and Long Time Gone come immediately to mind), but “Cost of Freedom” sticks for its simple message: Freedom is a constant and self-sacrificing struggle.

6) Sunday, Bloody Sunday (U2)

New Year’s Day, Pride, and a number of other U2 songs come close, but if we’re talking about the hardest-hitting, hardest-rocking song of the modern-era struggle in Northern Ireland, Sunday, Bloody Sunday stands head-and-shoulders above the others.

5) Free Will/Tom Sawyer/New World Man (Rush)

Ok, so I break my promise here and choose not to select one Rush song. Why? Because all three of these songs stand together as representing Rush’s commitment to individual rights. Though “Free Will” probably has the best pro-liberty lyrics of the three (“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”, “New World Man” and “Tom Sawyer” are somewhat better songs.

4) Biko (Peter Gabriel)

The couple of times I’ve seen Peter Gabriel in concert have stood out for a number of reasons, but probably the most singular moments have been the live performances of this song. People get to their feet and raise their fists in honor of the memory of Steven Biko, who died in the struggle for freedom in South Africa in 1977. The “eyes of the world” did watch, and liberty was eventually won.

3) Freedom (Richie Havens)

Maybe some others wouldn’t put this impromptu, singularly simple song near the head of their list, but I do. At a time when liberal statists were duking it out with conservative statists trying to keep hold of power, Richie Havens reminded his brethren that in the end, it wasn’t about some nebulous idea of social justice, it was about freedom.

2) Fight The Power (Public Enemy)

When I did my radio show, I liked to juxtapose the quiet folk music of Bob Dylan with the thunderous rap of Public Enemy. Dylan and Chuck D are both poets, with similar messages, but severely contrasting methods. Scary as it might be to some, Chuck D hits the nail on the head: for an oppressed minority, opposing the power structure is the only way to transform society. And America is a nation where the power of the majority is held in check by the rights of individuals.

Perhaps I should put this song together with it’s sibling from the “Fear of a Black Planet” album, “Welcome to the Terrordome”. The two songs go hand-in-hand, inasmuch as Terrordome makes it clear that this struggle is an intellectual and mental one, not a violent one (“When I get mad I put it down on a pad…”).

But while Chuck D directs this message at people of color, it’s a message for all of us who fight the same struggle: too much power in the hands of any one group, especially the government, is a bad thing, and we must oppose it at all turns.

1) Won’t Get Fooled Again (The Who)

Alright, so this is where the NR list agrees with mine. But I will say that “Won’t Get Fooled Again” has been at the top of my list forever, long before the NR even contemplated making such a list. If The Who are the greatest rock band of all time (and in my estimation they are), then “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, as the Who’s best song, is the greatest rock song ever.

It has everything: great music, thunderous guitars and drums, it tested the bounds of musical technology (for its time), and it’s got a hard-hitting message.

The “Lifehouse” concept from which the song, and the album “Who’s Next” emerged, is one of several artistic endeavors into the subject of the individual versus society (Rush and Styx had their own versions, for instance, discussed below). “Baba O’Riley,” “Going Mobile,” “Pure and Easy,” and “Join Together” were further reflections on this theme.

But “Fooled Again” is at the pinnacle – with its celebration of freedom and its dire warnings against trusting politicians, it continues to stand the test of time.

Close, But Purposely Left Off:

1) Mr. Roboto (Styx)
Styx, The Who, and Rush have all written rock operas (or, at least, made concept albums) about the concept of tyrannical states destroying individual rights (generally as regards the public’s right to rock). In Styx’s iteration, Kilroy Was Here, the hero, Kilroy, evades capture by the statists by hiding in a robot. But instead of simply railing against an evil central state’s abuse of the public’s rights, Styx takes it a step further, turning Mr. Roboto into an anti-technology anthem.

In the end, it’s the same statist, liberal dogma: we’ll gladly exchange one overbearing, statist government for one made in our image.

A Whole Album To Check Out:

Really, if you want an entire album to get your pro-freedom blood pumping, I recommend The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem’s “In Person at Carnegie Hall”. From start to finish, the album contains gem after gem of pro-liberty music. Johnson’s Motor Car is an anthem about rapidly responding to a British attack on Irish rebels. And even the Childrens’ Medley takes a turn at instilling the importance of freedom in wee-ones.

Other folks have been working on their lists, too. Russell Roberts’ “Café Hayek” blog has his list of “Classical Liberal” folks songs ( ) - like him, I love the song “Joe Hill”, despite the fact that it’s a labor-organizing song. And Bryan Caplan has his list of “Punk Songs for Classical Liberals” on the EconLog blog:

Yes, I probably could have had some Clash, Ramones, even a Dylan tune – and there are some that are close to that top 10. But I’ll leave it here, and look forward to some recommendations from others.

- Andrew Langer

Friday, August 18, 2006

My Campaign Ad

This will be going into the Queen Anne's County Update next week, for their special election issue:

The reason I make note of not being a "member of any slate or faction" is because the election in QAC is fairly divided - there is a group of 7 (including 5 of the incumbent members of the Central Committee) who are running as a slate - the QA7. Then there are a group of others who are running in direct opposition - an anti-development faction.

I was asked to run. I'm not entirely certain that the people who asked me to run understood just who I am when they asked me. Apparently, given my work on expanding Centreville's Town Council, which to me is a good government initiative, left some people with the impression that I'm somehow much further to the left than I actually am.

In the coming weeks, I'm going to offer up some short blurbs about where I stand, philosophically. Most of the faithful readers of the Liberty Blog already know this - know that I'm pro-property rights, that I want to sharply rein in government, know that I approach public policy from a rational and analytical perspective. But some of the folks who are going to be reading my blog are going to be learning all this for the first time.

The point is, I don't wanting people making any assumptions about me moving into this election. I don't want people assuming that because I'm not part of the QA7 slate that I'm ardently anti-growth. I don't want people assuming that because I haven't been endorsed by the "Citizens Alliance" that I've got conflicts of interest preventing me from serving.

It's that last point I'm going to touch upon as well. It's become abundantly clear from looking at how things play out politically here that folks seem to confuse the idea of having a "special interest" with having "conflicts of interest". This is symptomatic of a greater perception problem nationally as well - it's tied into the same misconceptions that people have of "lobbying" and lobbyists".

As you can imagine, I've got something to say about that as well.

Anyway - I'd put the ad up last night, but thought I'd add to the post as well.

- Andrew Lan ger

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Energy Policy and the "March Against Terror"

Did an interview yesterday with my friends, Kerri Houston and George Landrith, on their net-broadcast radio show "March Against Terror" (

Thought I had a picture of me and Kerri, which I would have put here. Unfortunately, I don't.

It was a fun interview. You can download the mp3 of the broadcast here:

I'm at about the 26minute, 45-second mark, and on for about 12 minutes.

- Andrew Langer

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


As promised, I have pictures from my trip to Dallas last week. My buddy, Dr. Patrick Brandt, PhD, teaches at UT Dallas (he's an exceptionally gifted political scientist). I don't have any pictures of our trip to the Ranchman in Ponder (nor of the CFS [chicken or country-fried steak] served there), but I have pictures of our visit to Dealey Plaza. No political junkie can miss this trip.

Here I am behind the fence on the Grassy Knoll. What's fascinating is that I'm facing the railroad switching tower (which is in the middle of the parking lot that is bordered by this fence) where the switchmen claimed to have seen the 2nd team.

This is just in front of the spot where the first shot hit Kennedy (as marked by the X in the road).

On the Grassy Knoll with the Schoolbook Depository in the background.

It was a really hot day, and as Pat and I were leaving Dealey Plaza in search of a cold drink, I spied a billboard advertising a new "sports drink" - touted as a hangover cure. I didn't really need a hangover cure, but did need something to drink, and frankly, I was intrigued. Yes, you're reading that bottle right - it's a bottle of "Pickle Juice" sports drink, and I had just had a sip.

It tastes like pickle juice. Seriously.

Those of you interested in my low-carb diet (and low-carb diets of your own) will be happy to learn that the bottle only contains 2 carbs per serving (2 servings per bottle). However, those of you watching your sodium intake as well as your sugar intake will be dismayed to learn that each serving of "Pickle Juice" contains over sixteen hundred milligrams of sodium (that's right 3200 milligrams per bottle!).

I had a bottle of cold water instead.

- Andrew Langer

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Business Journals On The Dudley Nomination

This has been in The Washington Business Journal and some of the other papers in the Business Journal chain...

Business likes new regulatory czar; others don't

Business groups praised President Bush's nomination of Susan Dudley to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which reviews new federal rules before they are issued.
Prior to her nomination, Dudley directed the Regulatory Studies Program of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Much of her work has focused on the cost of federal regulations.

Andrew Langer, who heads regulatory policy for the National Federation of Independent Business, says Dudley "understands the tools that will be required to bring the regulatory state under control."

Langer says that's a key issue for small businesses, which pay much more per employee to comply with regulations than large businesses do.

Dudley will build on the work done by John Graham, her predecessor at OIRA, to improve new regulations by measuring their costs, comparing these costs with the benefits of the rules, and determining whether other priorities are more important, Langer says.

"We can have better and smarter regulations," he says.

Consumer advocacy groups, however, contend that OIRA under Graham weakened regulatory agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

"If Dudley is confirmed by the Senate, she will further strip them of their ability to stand up to government secrecy, politicization and corporate interests," says Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. "Throughout her career, Dudley has consistently fought against government safeguards and advocated a radical, hands-off approach to regulating corporations."

Robert Shull, director of policy at OMB Watch, calls Dudley "an anti-regulatory extremist."

"Corporate special interests are about to have the best friend they could have wished for installed in the White House office that oversees regulatory policy," Shull says.

For more information on Dudley, see

Monday, August 14, 2006

Where Have I Been?

It's August. One would think that this being DC, things would have slowed down some. Not true. The Susan Dudley nomination has picked things up quite a bit, among other items that have conspired to keep me from writing on the blog (more on that nomination later).

I was in Dallas last week - great hotel, but with (insert appropriately derogatory term here) internet access. Seriously - bad WiFi, but just as bad hard-wired 'net access. I'd planned on updating the blog down there, but it just wasn't happening.

Saw my buddy, Patrick, down there (met his girlfriend). Pat and I did a dinner at Nobu, lunch at this great tex-mex place where I had some fantastic brisket tacos, and then the three of us went out to Ponder, TX for country-fried (also known as chicken-fried) steak. Unbelievably good.

There will be more on this, too - including pictures of our expedition to Dealey Plaza, where I got my picture taken on the grassy knoll.

I got home, and in addition to dealing with election and county fair stuff, found that our three-year-old laptop had managed to flummox itself again - this time really doing it. No, no "blue screen of death". In this instance, a loose power adapter toggle finally broke off. They are unsure if it can be fixed.

So, no laptop over the weekend. At least, no laptop with high-speed internet access. I spent a good portion of the weekend trying to resurrect my 7-year-old no-name laptop. Because it doesn't have Windows 98 "SE", I'm having a devil of a time trying to get various things installed on it.

Options are numerous, and include taking a laptop of my youngest brother whose age (the laptop's, not my brother's) is roughly equivalent of the one that's currently in the shop. Also, buying a new laptop is on the table, though we hadn't wanted to do this for a few months.

Anyhow, I need to start posting on issues again. In the interim, let me offer a restaurant recommendation: Shin Chon, a Korean restaurant in Ellicott City. Had lunch there with the fam yesterday. Excellent.

- Andrew Langer