Unrequired Reading: Nov. 10, 2006

As you know, I’ve been interested in the development of the new Airbus A380 (the really big plane) and all the production problems Airbus has been having with it. The fact that I fly between 25,000 and 35,000 miles each year is a key contributor to this interest.

Barbara Peterson at Popular Mechanics takes care of my addiction with an article on the engineering issues Airbus is running into:

Will the A380 be the next Concorde — an engineering breakthrough with little chance of breaking even? Certainly, the problem the jetliner was supposed to help solve — airport gridlock — still exists. The world’s major hubs already operate at full capacity during peak hours, and traffic is expected to increase 4 percent annually, from 4.2 billion passengers in 2005 to 7 billion passengers in 2020. Building new airports or significantly expanding existing ones, though, is a practical and political nightmare.

The Airbus solution: Increase capacity with a plane that carries up to 900 passengers — nearly twice as many as the 747. “It is this big monster,” says Hans Weber, president of Tecop International, a San Diego-based aviation consulting firm. “And Airbus has struggled with the nightmare of making something this big economically efficient.”

Meanwhile, Boeing has gambled that the market is most interested in a fuel-efficient, midrange widebody that gives airlines flexibility. Its flagship project became the 250-passenger 787 Dreamliner, slated to go into service in 2008.

Virtually all experts agree that the A380 will eventually join the civilian fleet. (The plane’s maiden voyage — a planned Singapore Airlines flight to Sydney, Australia — was recently pushed back, again, and is now slated for late 2007.) But the problems facing the most expensive, ambitious nonmilitary aircraft project in history are mounting.

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The AV Club interviewed Steven Wright this week. Turns out he and I share thoughts on travel:

AVC: What are the best and worst parts of touring?

SW: The best is definitely being in front of the audience, that rush in front of all those people. And then the other part is, “Oh my God, I’m in another hotel.” I say to my friends, if I won some contest, it would be like, “You have won five weeks in your own house!” Oh my God! I’d be jumping up and down hugging the host, hugging the other contestants.

AVC: So you’re not a fan of hotels?

SW: There’s just so many of them. It’s not that I don’t like hotels. This sounds kind of simple, but it’s true: The fact that you’re in a hotel means also that you’re not home. So as the time keeps going, and the experiences keep going, it’s like, “Man, I have not been home in this giant amount of time.”

I wonder if he was really enthusiastic and energetic in the interview.

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Five teams of finalists have been named by the New Orleans Building Corp. for the project of rebuilding the city’s waterfront. Unfortunately, Frank Gehry’s on one of the finalist-squads.

The potential development zone includes a largely derelict 4.5-mile stretch of the north bank of the Mississippi River between Jackson Avenue and the Industrial Canal, which now includes mostly wharves and port facilities. It borders the Lower Garden district, the warehouse district, the French Quarter, Marigny, and Baywater.

The RFQ calls for new commercial, cultural, park, and transportation uses for the area, and for maintaining cruise and cargo operations. This, says Cummings, could include a continuous park with walking and bike paths, museums, a large performance venue, a culinary university campus, and modern cruise ship terminals. He stresses that the area will be oriented to public facilities, not ”condominiums and private property.”

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In the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” category, Sheldon Silver helped shut down the West Side Stadium project, for which I’m quite thankful. As this City Journal article points out, Rep. Silver’s done a lot of stuff I don’t agree with:

Until last year, New York had an 80-year-old law that held auto-leasing companies ultimately responsible for accidents caused by drivers who leased or rented their cars. The law made about as much sense as, say, holding Chrysler responsible for accidents caused by the customers who buy and drive their vehicles. The law drove many auto-leasing companies out of New York, and it forced those that stayed to protect themselves by asking customers to jump through expensive legal hoops. The law had no constituency save the trial lawyers.

But the law stayed on the books thanks to Silver, who used his control of the assembly to block its repeal repeatedly. Silver said that he got in the way to protect victims of car accidents. But the more likely explanation for his obstructionism is that he himself is a trial lawyer and is beholden to the trial lawyer lobby. In fact, it took blanket federal legislation last year to nullify the auto-leasing law and similar if more limited laws in a few other states.

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Rumsfeld et al. obviously mangled the postwar planning for Iraq, but I think he had some revolutionary ideas about how to execute a war-plan itself, sorta like being a good in-game basketball coach who has no ability to manage his players between games. The Iraqi army, one of the largest in the world, with months of preparation, was flat-out annihilated by a relatively light force of troops. That’s nothing to sneeze at, even with all the disastrous consequences. I think military theorists (and practitioners) will have plenty to learn from his mistakes and his successes.

Victor Davis Hanson goes a lot further in his praise for Rumsfeld.

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Speaking of the election, Brandon Arnold at the Cato Institute contends that gerrymandering is still a major force in Congressional elections:

Consider that there were 435 races in the House and Senate with an incumbent trying to retain his or her seat. Only 26 — 6% — of challengers in these races have won. That’s pretty low for a “throw the bums out” election. Pending the outcome of three or four yet-to-be-determined races, this year’s 94% incumbent reelection rate appears to be slightly higher than the 90% rate of 1994.

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Where’s the cup holder?

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Pop music stars should not write children’s books. Only Ph.D.’s formerly at contract research organizaztions should write children’s books.

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According to Theodore Dalyrmple, New Zealand once had excellent used bookstores but now has a crappy penal system.

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And finally: “A chicken, with two asses!” (thanks, Tina!)

3 Replies to “Unrequired Reading: Nov. 10, 2006”

  1. I have to disagree with the Cato guy. From My blog friend Bob Harris:

    The good guys’ win is even more one-sided than it looks at first glance.

    If the numbers stay as they are, here’s the final scoreboard, assuming I haven’t missed something:

    • Not one Democratic incumbent lost in the Senate.
    • Not one Democratic incumbent lost in the House of Representatives.
    • Not one Democratic incumbent lost in any state Governorship.

    All told, 504 major offices were at stake tonight.

    Not one changed hands going Democrat to Republican.

    I’ve looked, and while several past elections saw a greater number of seats changing hands, I can’t find a more one-sided repudiation of a ruling party in U.S. history.

  2. You’re contending that one major party not losing a single seat refutes the role that years of gerrymandering (and ‘campaign finance reform’) played in the elction?

    That’s a non sequitur at best, and an inversion of logic at worst. Tuesday’s results can be a repudiation of the GOP and a sign that far fewer seats are “in play” than ever before.

  3. I’m not arguing there is no gerrymandering, etc. I guess I just find the argument flawed, not only because this is a group (Cato,I mean) that is pretty crazy in their libertarian committments(note their policy on how tiny and managable global warming is on their website), but also because, well, to paraphrase that pillar of the GOP Tom Delay, this looks like a pretty old-fashioned ass-kicking to me.

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