Sunday, September 25, 2005

Imagine 20 Years of This - New York Times

…if science is correct, we will be repeatedly reminded what "a force of nature" implies. Meteorologists argue that we have begun a new era of Atlantic storms pumped up by hot gulf waters, a cycle that oscillates in decades. The devastating hurricanes of the 1960's like Betsy and Camille were followed by a lull from 1970 to 1995 as cooler waters stifled the wrath of adolescent tropical storms. Now the streams of warm water that encourage rapid evaporation and spiraling winds are back.

If these are just the first dark puffs of a new kind of summer weather that will prevail for the next 20 years, can we possibly be ready for what is to follow?

“The absurdity is that a dangerous squall can now be tracked almost from its birth off the coast of Africa, but its victims still cannot get out of its way. Despite our amazing ability to foretell the meteorological future, greed and sloth may have overpowered most sane efforts to plan for it.

Highways have clotted as families flee, and some of those without cars end up with nowhere to go but their rooftops. Evacuation plans for hospitals and nursing homes have been washed away by worst-case scenarios that no one envisioned - buildings marooned by deep water and beset by gunfire.

Encouraged by federal flood insurance, islands whose very existence is ephemeral have been lined with vacation homes. Low-lying urban neighborhoods with their asphalt toes resting in swamps have been built below levees too fragile to hold. Hurricane-resistant houses have been designed, but their squat forms have proven unpopular with customers craving ocean vistas.

We imagine ourselves to be a can do people. Elect a won't do administration that doesn't even believe in the job it campained so hard for. Why are we surprised that it creates can't do bureaucracy. It doesn't believe government has a right to life. What the market doesn't do shouldnt be done.

Marshes that once absorbed storms have been allowed to die off and sink, leaving stretches of open water that can be flung shoreward by storm surges. Pipelines designed to flex have snapped - Katrina's damage may include 10 major spills.

Even the economy, unable to flee, has become a victim. The nation's refineries have been concentrated in the threatened hurricane belt. Gas-guzzlers and rising prices are beating into the heads of drivers the nature of the laws of supply and demand. Insurance companies have been rocked, struggling airlines have gasped at their jet fuel bills. The damage so far already could reach $200 billion. ”

…As a society,I'm afraid our imagination fails. Again, and again, and yet, despite evidence, against all reason, again. We imagine ourselves to be a can do people. Elect a won't do administration that doesn't even believe in the job it campained so hard for. Why are we surprised that it creates can't do bureaucracy. It doesn't believe government has a right to life. What the market doesn't do shouldnt be done

Alfred Ingram…

Sunday, September 18, 2005 blogs and forums help save lives after Katrina

“OJR: Did you ever consider the possibility that you wouldn't have a print newspaper?

Donley: No, it neveroccurredd to us, we never discussed it. The idea was to use the Web to give breaking information to people and then the full stories would be in the newspaper. When we heard this would be a Category 4 or 5, that had an effect on us, on the number of people we would keep around. Normally, I would take two people with me into the hurricane bunker but this time I just went in by myself. People really needed to get their families out. We had a smaller staff than we normally would.

The electricity went out very early on Monday morning [August 29] and it wasn't settled until 8 or 9 at night that there wouldn't be a paper out. But we wanted to put all the newspaper coverage of the hurricane online because of the massive number of evacuees who wouldn't be able to see the newspaper anyway. We didn't know ahead of time but put it up online for that purpose late in the day.

In the hurricane bunker we never lost electricity or Internet connectivity up until the time we evacuated. But we lost the library system, and [the newspaper editors] lost the ability to print stories to the XML depositories, they lost the ability to transfer photos. We started to put together crude transfer systems on the fly, but in the end we just started pasting the final print versions into the Weblog.

OJR: How did you make the decision to put literally all your print stories into the blog?

Donley: We have used a blog-style situation ever since Hurricane Georges for news updates and breaking news stuff, but never with the intention to run the print stories. They usually combine the tidbits into print stories.

We were running two blogs live. One was from the city desk and they were funneling news from their reporters. And I was running the NOLA View blog, first what we were experiencing in the newsroom and that morphed into reports from the police scanner. I'm used to listening to scanner traffic in one ear and taking notes on it, but this is something we'd never heard before. The only parallel was scanner tapes from the 9/11 emergency. It was that kind of stuff. I could actually hear phone calls patched through, and you could hear the water going up in someone's attic, and you could hear the cops crying, "I can't get to them, they're dropping off the roof one at a time."

Eventually people started sending requests for rescues. So that blog morphed from my little color thing to people reporting other people trapped and some of the agencies using it to rescue people. I have some remote producers monitoring that full-time and going through rescue requests.

OJR: I heard from a number of people posting on your blog that it helped save the lives of people they knew.

Networks, at least the uncentralized ones, just worked. Both the people and the protocols routed around the damage and, as a result lives were saved. FEMA, centered in Homeland Security, fell apart. In part, because the center tried to hold all authority… Al Ingram

Donley: Necessity is the mother of invention. We do know that this Lt. Gen. Honore who oversees the military operation, one of his aides who has a group of people who have been monitoring the forum continually and taking notes and sending out rescue missions based on that information. In fact, one time we had some server issues, and he wrote us frantically saying, "Get this up as soon as you can, people's lives depend on it. We've already saved a number of lives because of it."

OJR: I can't think of another online forum that's saved lives like that before.

Donley: It was weird because we couldn't figure out where these pleas were coming from. We'd get e-mails from Idaho, there's a guy at this address and he's in the upstairs bedroom of his place in New Orleans. And then we figured out that even in the poorest part of town, people have a cell phone. And it's a text-enabled cell phone. And they were sending out text messages to friends or family, and they were putting it in our forums or sending it in e-mails to us.

The cell service didn't work, but they could send text. They're saying now that the body counts won't be as bad as they thought, and I know at least some of that is that people figured out how to hack the system, to use this kludge to save people's lives.”

…Networks, at least the uncentralized ones, just worked. Both the people and the protocols routed around the damage and, as a result lives were saved. FEMA, centered in Homeland Security, fell apart. In part, because the center tried to hold all authority to the point of refusing to act when explicit total authority wasn't transferred from the governor to them in triplicate.

Food, medicine, even diesel fuel sent to supply a hospitals emergency generator was confiscated, not allowed to go through. Buses sent to evacuate desperate people were halted. Truckloads of supplies were blocked. It's not that the local authorities didn't make deadly mistakes and FEMA did. It's the nature of the mistakes, why they confiscated supplies, why they cut the sheriff's line, why they held up search and rescue volunteers, that must be examined.

Security was put ahead of human need in a natural catastrophe. Management swallowed emergency. I think Brown was the smallest part of the problem. What the agency was structured to do will turn out to be a lot more important.

This administrations theory of governance will be most important of all. Unless the press and congress blow this one too.

Unfortunately, that would be totally consistent. The real shame is that the outstanding coverage of the response to Hurricane Katrina is inconsistent.…

Friday, September 16, 2005

Some Things Bear Repeating

More US Military dead in combat than being reported.

US Military Report: The High Death Rates exposed by Brian Harring

The Bush Butcher’s Bill: Officially, 52 US Military Deaths in Iraq from 1 through 15 May, 2005 – Official Total of 1,803 US Dead to date (and rising)

U.S. Military Personnel who died in German hospitals or en route to German hospitals have not previously been counted. They total about 6,210 as of 1 January, 2005. The ongoing, underreporting of the dead in Iraq, is not accurate. The DoD is deliberately reducing the figures. A review of many foreign news sites show that actual deaths are far higher than the newly reduced ones. Iraqi civilian casualties are never reported but International Red Cross, Red Crescent and UN figures indicate that as of 1 January 2005, the numbers are
just under 100,000
by Brian Harring, Domestic Intelligence Reporter

Note: There is excellent reason to believe that the Department of Defense is deliberately not reporting a significant number of the dead in Iraq.

The Bush administration is an Accessory Before the Fact to Murder.
If we don't act on this we're Accessories after the fact.


The Natural Talent of a Burning Bush

I think we all know a “Mr. Fix-it.” You know the type. They're the guys (and yes, they always seem to be guys) who'll burn down the house lighting the stove. They've got a million and one ideas for improving the world (all wrong), and they're natural born salesmen.


I've Been Interviewed — Audio and Text Part 1



I've Been Interviewed — Audio and Text Part 2

…A.J. Liebling said,"Freedom of the Press belongs to those who own one." What passes for news in the conventional media is too often the mere opinion of the powerful. The answer to the speech of the few is the speech of the many. People feel that their freedom is at stake.

The government gets away with these huge lies because they claim, falsely, that only soldiers actually killed on the ground in Iraq are reported. The dying and critically wounded are listed as en route to military hospitals outside of the country and not reported on the daily postings. Anyone who dies just as the transport takes off from the Baghdad airport is not listed and neither are those who die in the US military
hospitals. Their families are certainly notified that their son, husband, brother or lover was dead and the bodies, or what is left of them (refrigeration is very bad in Iraq what with constant power outages) are shipped home, to Dover AFB. You ought to realize that President Bush personally ordered that no
pictures be taken of the coffined and flag-draped dead under any circumstances. He claims that this is to comfort the bereaved relatives but is designed to keep the huge number of arriving bodies secret. Any civilian, or military personnel, taking pictures will be jailed at once and prosecuted. Bush has never attended
any kind of a memorial service for his dead soldiers and never will. He is terrified some parent might curse him in front of the press or, worse, attack him.

WASHINGTON August 5, 2005
Pentagon Agrees to Issue Photos of Coffins of Iraq War Dead
Under the terms of a legal settlement announced on Thursday, the Pentagon will make available "as expeditiously as possible" some photographs of the coffins of service members killed in Iraq. The agreement runs counter to a longstanding Pentagon policy that bars the public release of such photographs. But in response to requests under the Freedom of Information Act, the Pentagon has already released hundreds of such photographs this year, and it agreed under the settlement to continue to do so.

The agreement responded to a Freedom of Information Act suit filed in October in Federal District Court here that sought all photographs and video images that showed coffins or similar items that held the remains of American military personnel at Dover Air Force Base, Del., beginning in February 2003.

The Pentagon has strictly enforced a policy barring news photographs showing the coffins. That policy has been in place since the Persian Gulf war in 1991, and President Bush has said it protects the privacy of the families of the dead.

Ralph Begleiter, a journalism professor at the University of Delaware who was a lead plaintiff in the current suit, said the Pentagon's agreement to release the photographs represented a "significant victory for the honor of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in war for their country, as well as for their families, for all service personnel and for the American people."

The Pentagon issued a statement, saying, "As with all information, including images, the Department of Defense has an obligation and a responsibility to strike a balance between our strong desire to be as transparent as possible and the legitimate concerns to protect the privacy of military families and as necessary, operational security."

But there was no indication that the government would permit news organizations to begin taking such photographs.

Under President Bill Clinton, the policy against taking such photographs was not rigorously enforced, and Mr. Clinton took part in numerous ceremonies that honored dead service members.…

Sunday, September 04, 2005


“The first rule of the social fabric - that in times of crisis you protect the vulnerable - was trampled. Leaving the poor in New Orleans was the moral equivalent of leaving the injured on the battlefield.
The Bursting Point

“AS the levees cracked open and ushered hell into New Orleans on Tuesday, President Bush once again chose to fly away from Washington, not toward it, while disaster struck. We can all enumerate the many differences between a natural catastrophe and a terrorist attack. But character doesn't change: it is immutable, and it is destiny.

As always, the president's first priority, the one that sped him from Crawford toward California, was saving himself: he had to combat the flood of record-low poll numbers that was as uncontrollable as the surging of Lake Pontchartrain. It was time, therefore, for another disingenuous pep talk, in which he would exploit the cataclysm that defined his first term, 9/11, even at the price of failing to recognize the emerging fiasco likely to engulf Term 2.

After dispatching Katrina with a few sentences of sanctimonious boilerplate ("our hearts and prayers are with our fellow citizens"), he turned to his more important task. The war in Iraq is World War II. George W. Bush is F.D.R. And anyone who refuses to stay his course is soft on terrorism and guilty of a pre-9/11 "mind-set of isolation and retreat." Yet even as Mr. Bush promised "victory" (a word used nine times in this speech on Tuesday), he was standing at the totemic scene of his failure. It was along this same San Diego coastline that he declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln more than two years ago. For this return engagement, The Washington Post reported, the president's stage managers made sure he was positioned so that another hulking aircraft carrier nearby would stay off-camera, lest anyone be reminded of that premature end of "major combat operations."

This administration would like us to forget a lot, starting with the simple fact that next Sunday is the fourth anniversary of the day we were attacked by Al Qaeda, not Iraq. Even before Katrina took command of the news, Sept. 11, 2005, was destined to be a half-forgotten occasion, distorted and sullied by a grotesquely inappropriate Pentagon-sponsored country music jamboree on the Mall. But hard as it is to reflect upon so much sorrow at once, we cannot allow ourselves to forget the real history surrounding 9/11; it is the Rosetta stone for what is happening now. If we are to pull ourselves out of the disasters of Katrina and Iraq alike, we must live in the real world, not the fantasyland of the administration's faith-based propaganda.…
Falluja Floods the Superdome

“"Why didn't they leave?" people asked both on and off camera. "Why did they stay there when they knew a storm was coming?" One reporter even asked me, "Why do people live in such a place?"

Then as conditions became unbearable, the looters took to the streets. Windows were smashed, jewelry snatched, stores broken open, water and food and televisions carried out by fierce and uninhibited crowds.

Now the voices grew even louder. How could these thieves loot and pillage in a time of such crisis? How could people shoot one another? Because the faces of those drowning and the faces of those looting were largely black faces, race came into the picture. What kind of people are these, the people of New Orleans, who stay in a city about to be flooded, and then turn on one another?

Well, here's an answer. Thousands didn't leave New Orleans because they couldn't leave. They didn't have the money. They didn't have the vehicles. They didn't have any place to go. They are the poor, black and white, who dwell in any city in great numbers; and they did what they felt they could do - they huddled together in the strongest houses they could find. There was no way to up and leave and check into the nearest Ramada Inn.

What's more, thousands more who could have left stayed behind to help others. They went out in the helicopters and pulled the survivors off rooftops; they went through the flooded streets in their boats trying to gather those they could find. Meanwhile, city officials tried desperately to alleviate the worsening conditions in the Superdome, while makeshift shelters and hotels and hospitals struggled.

And where was everyone else during all this? Oh, help is coming, New Orleans was told. We are a rich country. Congress is acting. Someone will come to stop the looting and care for the refugees.

And it's true: eventually, help did come. But how many times did Gov. Kathleen Blanco have to say that the situation was desperate? How many times did Mayor Ray Nagin have to call for aid? Why did America ask a city cherished by millions and excoriated by some, but ignored by no one, to fight for its own life for so long? That's my question.
Do You Know What It Means to Lose New Orleans?

“THE white people got out. Most of them, anyway. If television and newspaper images can be deemed a statistical sample, it was mostly black people who were left behind. Poor black people, growing more hungry, sick and frightened by the hour as faraway officials counseled patience and warned that rescues take time.

What a shocked world saw exposed in New Orleans last week wasn't just a broken levee. It was a cleavage of race and class, at once familiar and startlingly new, laid bare in a setting where they suddenly amounted to matters of life and death. Hydrology joined sociology throughout the story line, from the settling of the flood-prone city, where well-to-do white people lived on the high ground, to its frantic abandonment.

The pictures of the suffering vied with reports of marauding, of gunshots fired at rescue vehicles and armed bands taking over the streets. The city of quaint eccentricity - of King Cakes, Mardi Gras beads and nice neighbors named Tookie - had taken a Conradian turn.

In the middle of the delayed rescue, the New Orleans mayor, C.Ray Nagin, a local boy made good from a poor, black ward, burst into tears of frustration as he denounced slow moving federal officials and called for martial law.

Even people who had spent a lifetime studying race and class found themselves slack-jawed.…
What Happens to a Race Deferred

“They waited, and they waited, and then they waited some more in the 90-degree heat, as many as 5,000 people huddled at a highway underpass on Interstate 10, waiting for buses that never arrived to take them away from the storm they could not escape.

Babies cried. The sick huddled in the shade in wheelchairs or rested on cots. Dawn Ray, 40, was in tears, looking after an autistic niece who had soiled herself and her son who is blind and has cerebral palsy. A few others, less patient, simply started walking west with nowhere to go, like a man pushing a
bike in one hand and pulling a shopping cart in another. But most just waited with resigned patience - sad, angry, incredulous, scared, exhausted, people who seemed as discarded as the bottles of water and food containers that littered the ground.

"Disease, germs," one woman, Claudette Paul, said, covering her mouth with a cloth, her voice smoldering with anger. "We need help. We don't live like this in America."

New Orleans has always existed in a delicate balance between land and water, chaos and order, black and white, the very rich and the very poor. It has been the lacy ironwork of French Quarter balconies, the magical shops and galleries on Royal Street and the magisterial cuisine not just at Galatoire's or Mr. B's or Commander's Palace but also at humble po-boy joints and neighborhood restaurants in every part of town.

But it has also been a place of crushing poverty, of dreary housing projects and failing schools, where crime and violence have been an incessant shadow in daily life, as much a part of the local sensibility as the smothering blanket of heat and humidity.

This week, bit by bit, that delicate balance came completely undone. Water took over earth when levees broke, putting 80 percent of the city under water. The mix of fatalism and bravado that allowed the city's biggest fear - a killer hurricane - to become the marquee drink of Bourbon Street gave way to terror and despair and horrifying spasms of looting and violence. New Orleans became unrecognizable not just physically, but psychologically as well. Faced with a disaster of biblical proportions, everything fell apart, and government was either overmatched or slow to the task.…
A Delicate Balance Is Undone in a Flash, and a Battered City Waits

con·cept: September 2005