John Tierney, now relegated to irrelevance as a TimesReject columnist, got results with his Sept 6 column titled "The Magic Marker Strategy":
We can learn more [about disater preparation] by listening to men like Jim Judkins, particularly when he explains the Magic Marker method of disaster preparedness.
Mr. Judkins is one of the officials in charge of evacuating the Hampton Roads region around Newport News, Va. These coastal communities, unlike New Orleans, are not below sea level, but they're much better prepared for a hurricane. Officials have plans to run school buses and borrow other buses to evacuate those without cars, and they keep registries of the people who need special help.
Instead of relying on a "Good Samaritan" policy - the fantasy in New Orleans that everyone would take care of the neighbors - the Virginia rescue workers go door to door. If people resist the plea to leave, Mr. Judkins told The Daily Press in Newport News, rescue workers give them Magic Markers and ask them to write their Social Security numbers on their body parts so they can be identified.
"It's cold, but it's effective," Mr. Judkins explained.
Mr. Tierney's column was effective as well - in readying for Rita Gov. Blanco of Louisiana has adopted the line, as has a mayor in Texas. Blanco first:
Governor Kathleen Blanco minced no words in telling any holdouts in the largely abandoned city to leave, suggesting they mark their bodies with identifiers so authorities can determine who they were if flood waters claimed them. ''If some people insist on staying -- perhaps they should write their Social Security number on their arms with indelible ink," she said.
And from Texas:
Tharling says that the 1,000 or so die-hards who refuse to evacuate are being given permanent markers and asked to write their Social Security number, next of kin and a phone number on their arm or across their abdomen — so that returning officials can identify their bodies.
Tierney will never have this clout again.
MORE: My official prediction is that the new Times Select will go down alongside "New Coke" as one of the great corporate belly-flops of the era. What, exactly, is the marketing pitch - "Pay for the opinions no one else is talking about"? Good luck.
That said, the Times decison to stifle their commentariat may be a great thing for the Dems, if it allows voices of reason to emerge.
STILL MORE: Excellent point from blogger "Tom" - picture the reaction if Bush has said what Blanco did. The outcry might even make people sign up to read MoDo's reaction.