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September 30, 2005
Creative Editing
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 04:40 PM *

Those of us who watch entirely too many movies know two things: First, that the trailers* are often the best part of the show, and second that the trailers sometimes (most times?) may not really tell you if you’ll like the movie they’re advertising.

Those of us who are addicted to trailers can get a fix here:

But that isn’t the purpose of this post. Instead, I’m going to introduce a couple of trailers for movies you’ve probably already seen.

Here’s the way The Tattered Coat had the story:

A post-production house organized a competition where assistant editors “re-cut” trailers for famous movies to try and make them seem like different movies … .

Here are the folks who made a couple of the trailers**:

Princess, Tom, Jenna, and of course me. We all made it to the awards on time, except Robert who was still working. But he barely made it, and good that he did, because he won first fucking place! Yes, his recut of the Shining was just absolutely awesome. You don’t believe me? Just check it out, Rob’s Winner.

Oh and Tom got third, for his extremely eerie and cool infected thriller West Side Story zombie style. Way to go PS.

Here are the newly-cut trailers themselves:

The Shining as the feel-good romantic comedy of the year. (Also mirrored here.)

West Side Story as a horror flick.

I don’t know who the second-place winner was, but I want to see that trailer too.


* So called because they used to be shown after the main attraction.

** They also made a trailer for Titanic as a scary movie.


[UPDATE] Hat tip to PiscusFiche for finding the rest of the story. Mighty is your Google-fu!

Boards Magazine

NEW YORK - Imagine The Sound of Music as a documentary on the origin of snuff movies. Or Gandhi as a biopic about a standup comedian. Among other absurdities, that’s what participants at the Association of Independent Creative Editors’ first Trailer Park New York competition were treated to as 31 assistant editors from the Big Apple battled it out for best faux-trailer.

The Los Angeles Film School

In NY, LA and Chicago, the AICE (Association of Independent Creative Editors) puts on a competition for assistant editors (whose companies are in the AICE). For the competition, the entrants must choose between 5 movies (“The Exorcist”,”Cannonball Run”, “Ocean’s 11”, “Apocalypse Now”, or “Traffic”) and cut a 60 second trailer changing the genre of the chosen film. After which a group of AICE judges choose the winning trailers.

AEC Newsroom

New York, NY (Feb. 20, 2004) — The Association of Independent Creative Editors has awarded Kevin Halleran first place honors at the Trailer Park Festival. For the competition, assistant editors were given the challenge of cutting a two-minute movie trailer from a list of five film classics. The twist— the promo had to place the film in an entirely new genre.

Halleran won first place by turning the timeless family film “The Sound of Music” into a thriller flick by partnering slow-motion scenes with classic horror music.

“It’s definitely ‘Sound of Music’ meets ‘Village of the Damned,’” said Halleran. “It was such a fun project— and illustrates the power of editing.” He added, “The competition was a chance to do something out of the ordinary and a great venue to showcase my work.”

Other genre-changers included Forrest Gump as a thriller, Citizen Kane as a musical, and The Exorcist as a gay priest love story.

Here’s yet more on the contest with examples (alas, not the full trailers) at On the Media.

PiscusFiche also found the second-place winner, a reworking of the Haley Mills The Parent Trap as a lesbian love story, done by Paul LaCalandra at



And here’s the man behind Shining, thanks to The New York Times.

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 29 — Robert Ryang, 25, a film editor’s assistant in Manhattan, graduated from Columbia three years ago with a double major in film studies and psychology. This week, he got an eye-opening lesson in both.

Since 2002, Mr. Ryang has worked for one of the owners of P.S. 260, a commercial postproduction house, cutting commercials for the likes of Citizens Bank, Cingular and the TriBeCa Film Festival.

A few weeks back, he said, he entered a contest for editors’ assistants sponsored by the New York chapter of the Association of Independent Creative Editors. The challenge? Take any movie and cut a new trailer for it — but in an entirely different genre. Only the sound and dialogue could be modified, not the visuals, he said.

Mr. Ryang won the contest, and about 10 days ago, he said, he sent three friends a link to a “secret site” on his company’s Web site where they could watch his entry (

One of them, Mr. Ryang said, posted it on his little-watched blog. And that was that. Until this week, when he was hit by a tsunami of Internet interest.

On Wednesday, Mr. Ryang said, his secret site got 12,000 hits. By Thursday the numbers were even higher, his film was being downloaded and linked to on countless other sites, it had cracked the top 10 most popular spoofs on, and a vice president at a major Hollywood studio had called up his office, scouting for new talent.

“He said it’s being circulated everywhere in the film community,” Mr. Ryang said of the executive….

Thus is virtue rewarded.

Out of the Slammer
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 01:10 PM * 16 comments

Now that Judith “Aluminum Tubes” Miller is out of the hardbar hotel, it looks like she’s going to finger Scooter Libby as the guy who told her that Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA officer.

But what’s Scooter’s defense?

The Nation reports:

The end of this sub-plot has caused Libby’s team to leak his defense to the media. The Post quotes “a source familiar with Libby’s account of his conversations with Miller.” The odds are that source is Libby or his attorney. This super-secret source says that on July 8, 2003, Miller and Libby talked. This was six days before columnist Bob Novak disclosed the CIA identity of Valerie Wilson and two days after former Ambassador Joseph Wilson wrote an explosive Times op-ed disclosing that his trip to Niger in February 2002 had led him to conclude that President Bush had falsely claimed that Iraq had sought weapons-grade uranium in Africa. In this conversation, Miller asked Libby why Wilson had been sent on this mission by the CIA. (Miller, whose prewar reporting had promoted the administration’s case that Iraq was loaded with WMDs, had a personal, as well as professional, interest in Wilson’s tale.) Libby, according to this source, told Miller that the White House was, as the Post puts it, “working with the CIA to find out more about Wilson’s trip and how he was selected.” Libby noted he had heard that Wilson’s wife had something to do with it but he did not know where she worked.

And who are they going to blame? George Tenet, the guy who already took the fall for Paul Wolfowitz’s Weapons of Mass Destruction fantasy.

There’s no telling whether this source is being truthful. Karl Rove’s attorney put out facts that crumbled as more information became public. But you don’t have to look too far between the lines to discern Libby’s cover story. It goes something like this: Wilson wrote his Times article. All hell broke loose. The White House asked, “Who authorized this trip?” Someone called the CIA for information. The CIA reported back that Wilson was contacted by the counter-proliferation office, where his wife Valerie was working. But—and here’s the crucial “but”—the CIA did not tell the White House that Valerie was undercover. Thus, if any White House officials—say, Rove or Libby—repeated this information to reporters, then they may have been engaged in leaking classified and sensitive information to discredit a critic but they were not committing a crime. And who was at fault? George Tenet, the CIA director at the time.

Meanwhile, what of George “Bring It On” Bush’s promise to fire anyone who was involved in leaking classified information?

The grand jury expires at the end of October. It’ll be interesting to see who gets indicted.

September 29, 2005
Questionable content
Posted by Teresa at 11:09 AM *

Good morning. Have you been finding that your comments to Making Light are being blocked? When this happens, are you informed that your post contains “questionable content”?

Our fault. Sorry about that. Try again.

One of our bloggy crew here at Making Light was a little too quick with the “blacklist” button in MT-Blacklist, and unwittingly added “…” to our list of disallowed IP addresses. Everyone with an ellipsis in their comment has been getting bounced.

It’s fixed now.

September 28, 2005
Tom DeLay indicted
Posted by Teresa at 02:07 PM *

In Texas, on a charge of criminal conspiracy.

The first-wave stories from the Austin American-Statesman and USA Today are as good as any. See also: the NY Times, LA Times, Washington Post, BBC, and Guardian.

How bad do things look for DeLay? He’s resigned his leadership position. More indictments may follow. Other areas of investigation are opening up. And he’s getting publicly zapped by Rick Santorum and by the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page.*

Here’s a background article the BBC published before the indictment was handed down. Here’s a long chewy one from Mother Jones, originally published last November but swiftly re-posted to their site in the wake of this story.

DeLay, in this as in so many other ways a profoundly stupid human being, has called the indictment “…nothing more than prosecutorial retribution by a partisan Democrat.” We wish him the best of luck with that defense.

Reality Based Time
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:10 AM * 68 comments

To begin with, twenty-four hours in a day and 360 degrees in a circle are arbitrary numbers. But they lead us to the question: What time is it?

People like patterns. Recognizing patterns allows planning. Planning has led to a lot of things, and arguably our success as a species is one of them. So folks noticed that the sun came up every day, set every day, and came up again the next morning, pretty much in the same place it came up the day before.

Higher and higher every day
Till over the mast at noon…

Noon is when the sun makes its meridian passage — when it’s due south (if you’re above the Tropic of Cancer) or due north (if you’re below the Tropic of Capricorn). That’s what we navigators call “LAN” or “Local Apparent Noon.” (Meridian comes from the Latin medius, middle; dies, day — the middle of the day.)

If you’re between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer, this is a bit trickier. The sun could be directly overhead. The Tropic of Cancer (in addition to being a book by Henry Miller) is 23.5 degrees north of the equator. The sun is directly overhead there when it’s in Cancer. The Tropic of Capricorn (aside from being another book by Henry Miller) is 23.5 degrees south of the equator. The sun is directly overhead there when it’s in Capricorn. (And you thought that those hours reading the newspaper horoscopes would never come in handy.) The area between the two Tropics is called “the tropics,” and a hot, nasty place to live it is, to be sure.

Anyway … back a long time ago, perhaps in Babylonia (hah! An Iraq reference! This post wouldn’t be complete without one!) someone decided that there were twelve hours in a day. Twelve is easily divisible by one, two, three, four, six, and itself … so it’s a good number. A natural day runs from sunrise to sunset. That’s the “natural day” that Dr. Faustus is carrying on about:

Now hast thou but one bare hour to live,
And then thou must be damn’d perpetually!
Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven,
That time may cease, and midnight never come;
Fair Nature’s eye, rise, rise again, and make
Perpetual day; or let this hour be but
A year, a month, a week, a natural day,
That Faustus may repent and save his soul!

The natural day was divided into natural hours, twelve from sunrise to sunset, another twelve from sunset to sunrise. In northern lands that meant that a night hour in winter was a lot longer than a day hour. Chaucer, in his Treatise on the Astrolabe (the 14th century’s answer to Asimov’s An Easy Introduction to the Slide Rule) goes into quite some detail on how to figure the natural hours of day and night.

This worked great up until the invention and widespread use of mechanical clocks. Clocks didn’t change the length of the hours from day to day. (If someone asks you what time it is, betcha you say “o’clock” (of the clock) rather than giving the natural hour, dontcha?) Early clocks were only accurate to within a quarter hour. Due to the Equation of Time sundials varied over the course of a year up to around a quarter hour each way. Everything worked out fine.

Every day at meridian passage you’d reset your clock to noon, and let it run for another twenty-four hours, then reset. From meridian passage to meridian passage is one solar day. The clock time varies from the natural time by up to around sixteen minutes (depending on the day of the year). You figure the difference with the Equation of Time.

Look, up in the sky!

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s an analemma!

Yes, this mild-mannered figure-eight of light, strange vistor from the Copernican solar system, is the true sun. If you put a stick in the ground and put a pebble on the tip of that stick’s shadow every day at noon, the pebbles, over the course of a year, would trace out that figure.

One of the mysteries of Chartres Cathedral (proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that it was built by the Templars to hide mystic knowlege) is that at one spot on the floor there’s a brass nail which is only illuminated at noon on Midsummer Day. Was Chartres built just so the light would hit that one spot on just one day? I kinda doubt it. I suspect that what happened is that someone waited until noon on midsummer day, saw where a random spot of light was landing, and banged a nail on in.

Not that the sun following a unique path and shadows casting a unique pattern would be a big secret or much of a surprise by then — the clever buggers who built Stonehenge had the fact that the sun rises and sets at different places on different days, and stands at a different place in the sky at mid-day, figured out.

The true sun is that big yellow thing up in the sky that you can see with your own two eyes if you don’t mind going blind. The mean sun is the average of the true sun over the course of a year. The Mean Sun is what Mean Time is based on, as in Greenwich Mean Time, beloved of navigators everywhere.

The analemma’s shape comes from the fact that the earth’s path around the sun is an elispe, and the axis of the earth is tilted at 23.5 degrees (actually 23 degrees 44 minutes, but who’s counting?) away from the plane of its orbit. By a weird coincidence, the analemma is 23.5 degrees of arc from top to bottom, and is the loops are thirty-two minutes of time (eight minutes of arc) across at their widest.

Local time, setting the clock to noon each day, worked great for centuries. It worked right up to the point people had to start comparing times in different towns. At the same time (so to speak), clocks themselves were moving from crew-served tower-mounted devices to man-portable pocket instruments.

First came the railways. The sun moves across the sky, and it moves pretty fast (about fifteen degrees an hour), but even so railway speeds made the differences in times noticeable.

At my latitude (around 45 North), say there was a train pulled by a John Bull engine, running due west at thirty miles an hour from Appleton to Beeville, thirty miles due west. If that train pulled out of Appleton straight up on noon by the courthouse clock and ran west at 30 MPH it would arrive in Beeville at 12:56 by the Beeville town hall clock. If the same engine running at the same speed left Beeville straight up on noon by the Beeville clock, though, it would arrive in Appleton at 1:04 pm by the Appleton clock. This made scheduling difficult.

If you ever hear the expression “railroad time,” it means the master clock kept by one railroad company or another to which all its conductors’ watches and all its station clocks were set.

The New York Central ran on New York time. The Pennsylvania Railroad ran on Philadelphia time. The B&O ran on Baltimore time. Stations served by more than one railroad had clocks set for several times, including that town’s local time. The situation was … amusing.

Within towns (and cities were growing to the point where the eastern part could be a minute or more ahead of the western edge), setting your watch could be confusing. Individual jewelers would determine the time at their shops and set regulators in their windows. (In case you were wondering what a Regulator was.) Their customers would come by and set their watches to the jeweler’s time. Eventually many towns adopted the Time Ball solution, whereby a ball on a mast on top of the town hall would be lowered at noon town hall time, so folks at a distance could see it all at once and set their watches accordingly. The last remnant of this is seen at New Year’s Eve in Times Square. Other communities rang a bell, blew a whistle, or fired a gun at noon — and you can find examples of those methods still.

The ultimate answer turned out to be time zones — adopted in the UK in 1848, in the USA in 1883, and in Germany in 1894 — in which the earth was divided into twenty-four time zones, each fifteen degrees across, where by common agreement it was the same time at all points inside of that zone. Zone time matched local time only at one meridian in each zone — along the Reference Meridian, mid-way between the zone’s boundaries. The whole country ran on Railroad Time.

Daylight Saving Time is just moving a little farther away from reality, by using the reference meridian for the time zone one zone to the west of your current location to set your clocks. It was introduced in the USA during WWI. I see that President Bush has recently announced the centerpiece of his new energy policy — extending the length of Daylight Saving Time by a couple of weeks. He’s turning the corner in the War on Darkness, I guess.

Sundial Time.

Now is the time to declare loyalty to True Time, based on the True Sun. That time is told with sundials.

First they’ll register sundials, then they confiscate ‘em. When sundials are outlawed only outlaws will have sundials. Support your right to know the true solar time! Make your own sundial.

Shall we tell time by the True Sun? We shall!

Naming the parts: This is your nodus point, which in your case you have not got.

I got your vertical sundials. The style (gnommon) is parallel to the earth’s axis, the dial is vertical.

You wanted to know the declination of your wall, didn’t you? The shape of a vertical sundial’s dial depends on the wall’s declination — noon is always vertical.

This is a calculator for creating your dial, given your latitude and the wall’s declination.

This is why number 12 is always vertical.

I got your horizontal sundials. The style is parallel to the earth’s axis, the dial plate is parallel to the earth’s surface.

I got your equitorial sundials. The style is parallel to the earth’s axis, the dial plate is parallel to the plane of the earth’s equator: The dial has a northern and southern face; the northern face is read in summer, the southern face in winter.

I got your armillary sundials. The style is parallel to the earth’s axis, the dial is parallel to the earth’s circumference.

I got your polar sundials. The dial plate is parallel to the earth’s axis. The style is also parallel to the earth’s axis and the hour lines are parallel to the style and to each other. The distance between the hour lines is not dependent on the latitude but only on the height of the style.

Here’s how to build an analemmic sundial.

A few more dials: A combination sundial and a portable sundial and a pocket sundial.

Some other fun and useful things:

How to find latitude and longitude by Local Apparent Noon.

More on Latitude.

Sundials on the internet.

A Solar Noon calendar.

In conclusion: Sundials. They aren’t just for earth any more.

September 27, 2005
Posted by Teresa at 12:31 PM *

Thomas Hassan (TH) of Wos waas a Fremda? has devised a new autodisemvoweller:

In my copious spare time I also admin/host a few other blogs, among them a German political blog.

In that capacity I needed a good, discretionary and easy way to disemvowel inconsiderate guests. The current solutions didn’t satisfy me, so I rolled my own. Through judicious use of Brad Choate’s MTKeyValues plugin, and indiscrimate hacking of Bryant Durrell’s shrpshr plugin, I now have a solution to easily and non-destructively disemvowel individual comments.

If you want to use it or have a look, here it is:
Feel free to download and use.

As I understand it, the difference is that Brad Choate’s plugin disemvowels all comments coming from a specific IP address (or addresses), whereas TH’s new disemvoweller lets you discriminately zap individual comments.

If anyone’s interested (and really, I don’t presume to think they are), disemvowelling was born in the comment thread of this inoffensive post, as recorded in this comment. And boy, did he have it coming.

September 26, 2005
Ask the Man Who Owns One
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:09 PM *

Thanks to FranW for pointing this out.

Y’all remember Michael “Pad My Resume” Brown? Head of FEMA, a job that he got by being Joe Allbaugh’s college chum? (Allbaugh himself got to be the previous head of FEMA by being Bush’s campaign manager. The number two and three spots at FEMA went to Bush’s advance man and the guy who produced Bush’s TV commercials.)

Remember how Brown’s pitiful incompetence got a whole bunch of people killed, and left thousands of American citizens in wretched circumstances?

Y’all remember how Brown resigned on 12 September, when it was obvious to Ghod and the world that he was so out of his depth than not even a snorkel would help him? We’re talking about a guy whose previous job was running horse shows — and he got fired from that.

Well, what’s he doing for a living now?

Brown Rehired At FEMA

(CBS/AP) CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger reports that Former FEMA director Michael Brown told congressional staffers on Monday that he has been rehired by the agency as a consultant to help evaluate how FEMA responded to the Katrina disaster.

Yep, this bozo, this jerkwater who couldn’t find his ass with both hands, a flashlight, and a pre-printed disaster plan, is back at FEMA. Not only that, but:

Homeland Security Department spokesman Russ Knocke said Brown is continuing to work at the Federal Emergency Management Agency at full pay, with his Sept. 12 resignation not taking effect for two more weeks.

Full pay. Yes indeed. No buddy left behind, that’s the motto of this government.

Brown, if there were a shred of decency left in Washington D.C., would be talking to a grand jury, not consulting at FEMA. Didn’t he already prove that he knows not one solitary thing about emergency management? Unless the “emergency” is Bush’s poll numbers, I guess.

What groundbreaking truths has Brown uncovered? What errors in the Federal response has his expertise revealed?

According to the Associated Press, Brown also said he should have sought faster help from the Pentagon after Hurricane Katrina hit, and blamed state and local officials for failing to order an immediate evacuation of New Orleans, congressional aides of both parties said.

They’re mixing up whitewash in industrial-sized drums.

We are all so screwed.


Y’all who need right-wing sources for this stuff, here’s Fox News:

Brown is continuing to work at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (search) at full pay, with his Sept. 12 resignation not taking effect for two more weeks, said Homeland Security Department spokesman Russ Knocke.

During that time, Brown will advise the department on “some of his views on his experience with Katrina,” as he transitions out of his job, Knocke said.

[MORE Part II]

This isn’t the first time Michael Brown, Undersecretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response, has appeared at Making Light, either in main posts or in comments:

Precisely September 1, 2005

Erik V. Olson

FEMA was a utter clusterfuck. Here’s a little tidbit.

“FEMA director Michael Brown said the agency just learned about the situation at the convention center Thursday and quickly scrambled to provide food, water and medical care and remove the corpses.”

Really? Four days after the strike, and you aren’t watching the refugee centers? WHAT THE FUCK WERE YOU DOING, ASSWIPE?

Then there’s this charming tidbit.

“I don’t want to alarm anyone that New Orleans is filling up like a bowl,” Michael Brown, FEMA’s director, said. “That isn’t happening.”

Uh, pardon me, fuckwad, but you are WRONG.

Another term for it would be “lying sack of shit” September 2, 2005

Michael Brown is a man who has no idea what words mean.

Wheel, Re-invention of September 2, 2005

Take this online course and you personally will be more qualified than FEMA director Michael Brown to manage the Hurricane Katrina response.

Comedy Gold September 2, 2005


The damage done by Hurricane Katrina has been compounded by the huge floods created by major levees giving way. With me is Michael Brown, a major Bush Contibutor and head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Mr. Brown, thank you for speaking to us tonight.

The otters return, and they�re on fire September 3, 2005

Xopher (Christopher Hatton)

Chertoff, Bush, and Brown
Drowned New Orleans town.
You may think it was Katrina,
But these three were much, much meaner:
Chertoff, Bush, and Brown.

(Quite a bit more about FEMA in that thread, including the doctor’s report.)

In This Hour September 5, 2005

Lizzy Lynn

I am wondering: general question here: is the rest of the country, reds and blues, as mightily pissed off and ashamed as we are? I don’t have a TV so I haven’t heard the blah-blah-blah. Is there outrage? Can’t we at least get Michael Brown fired? (W, alas, is out of reach…) Or is the Republican machine even as we speak cranking up to blame this debacle on the state and local officials and on the victims themselves, (including the disabled and elderly drowned in their nursing homes) for presumably not having arranged beforehand to have relatives with a car, a full gas tank, room in the car, the required medicines and oxygen tanks —- okay, okay, sorry. I’ll stop. But I would like to know the answer to my question.

An Open Letter to the President September 5, 2005

State Rep. Karen Carter was right Friday when she said the city didn�t have but two urgent needs: “Buses! And gas!” Every official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be fired, Director Michael Brown especially.

In a nationally televised interview Thursday night, he said his agency hadn�t known until that day that thousands of storm victims were stranded at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. He gave another nationally televised interview the next morning and said, “We�ve provided food to the people at the Convention Center so that they�ve gotten at least one, if not two meals, every single day.”

Lies don�t get more bald-faced than that, Mr. President.

Looking ahead September 5, 2005

Xopher (Christopher Hatton)

Michael Brown knew or should have known that there were people trapped at the Convention Center, and that there were many, many people who weren’t there by choice.

Not An Imaginary Story September 5, 2005

James D. Macdonald

There’s a big part of the problem: Three weak links right at the top of the chain.

Words Line Up In Formation And Fail Me September 5, 2005

P J Evans

Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, sought the approval from Homeland Security Secretary Mike Chertoff roughly five hours after Katrina made landfall on Aug. 29. Brown said that among duties of these employees was to “convey a positive image” about the government’s response for victims.

Today’s Lesson (1) September 5, 2005

Lizzy Lynn

You remind me again that while it is entirely appropriate for me to judge competency or stupidity, it is not so easy to guess what is in the heart — and not my business to do so. Michael Brown may be a caring human being, I don’t know. Not my business to judge him. On the other hand, he is an utterly incompetent FEMA administartor and should be fired. That is my business.

All Disaster, All the Time September 6, 2005

But the downgrading of FEMA continued, with the appointment of Michael Brown as Mr. Allbaugh’s successor.

Mr. Brown had no obvious qualifications, other than having been Mr. Allbaugh’s college roommate. But Mr. Brown was made deputy director of FEMA; The Boston Herald reports that he was forced out of his previous job, overseeing horse shows. And when Mr. Allbaugh left, Mr. Brown became the agency�s director. The raw cronyism of that appointment showed the contempt the administration felt for the agency; one can only imagine the effects on staff morale.

Those Words, Se�or September 6, 2005

Lizzy Lynn

Bring me the head of Michael Brown! (for starters.)

What we did on our vacation September 7, 2005

Charles Dodgson

FYI, FEMA is still keeping volunteer first responders out of New Orleans —- and lest anyone think that’s not policy, it’s being justified right from the top, by our friend Michael Brown.

Rivka September 8, 2005

Steve Eley

On Thursday, September 1, Michael Brown claimed that no one in the federal government knew that there had been people in the convention center for days (a proven lie)….

Can Michael Brown be tried for murder? September 8, 2005

The Greatest Generation September 8, 2005

More about that “blame game” thing September 9, 2005

How Bad? September 22, 2005

And many more. And simliar. All over the place. From right and left.

This administration holds the American people in contempt.

Terrorist Targets
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 02:23 PM *

Do you want to know how to get a list of terrorist targets in the USA?

Get the Hollywood movies released in the last ten years. Take note of all the establishing shots that show a scene is set in “America.” (An establishing shot is the quick clip, often a stock shot, that shows where the movie is supposedly taking place, before the action moves to street scenes shot in Toronto and interiors shot in Burbank.) Check for the landmarks. One point for every time a landmark is shown. Double points if the landmark is destroyed in a disaster movie.

Arrange them in order of frequency.

There’s your prioritized list, guys! The Chrysler Building is way high on the list. The Bonnet Carré Spillway doesn’t even appear. Bad news for all you folks who work in the Flatiron Building. It’s been nice.

No need for thanks, Department of Homeland Security. Your tears of gratitude are enough for me.

September 24, 2005
Winning Hearts and Minds
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 03:11 PM * 158 comments

From the New York Times via The Agonist.

3 in 82nd Airborne Say Beating Iraqi Prisoners Was Routine By ERIC SCHMITT

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 - Three former members of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division say soldiers in their battalion in Iraq routinely beat and abused prisoners in 2003 and 2004 to help gather intelligence on the insurgency and to amuse themselves.

The new allegations, the first involving members of the elite 82nd Airborne, are contained in a report by Human Rights Watch. The 30-page report does not identify the troops, but one is Capt. Ian Fishback, who has presented some of his allegations in letters this month to top aides of two senior Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee, John W. Warner of Virginia, the chairman, and John McCain of Arizona. Captain Fishback approached the Senators’ offices only after he tried to report the allegations to his superiors for 17 months, the aides said. The aides also said they found the captain’s accusations credible enough to warrant investigation.

The captain tried to report the allegations to his superiors for 17 months. Were they all on the phone? Washing their hair? Why wouldn’t they take this report?

This wasn’t at Abu Ghraib:

In separate statements to the human rights organization, Captain Fishback and two sergeants described systematic abuses of Iraqi prisoners, including beatings, exposure to extremes of hot and cold, stacking in human pyramids and sleep deprivation at Camp Mercury, a forward operating base near Falluja. Falluja was the site of the major uprising against the American-led occupation in April 2004. The report describes the soldiers’ positions in the unit, but not their names.

Abu Ghraib, as you recall, was just a small group of rogue junior enlisted. No widespread pattern of abuse, no sir. Pure coincidence that these fellows came up with the same things to do to the prisoners.

So, what was being done with these prisoners?

In one incident, the Human Rights Watch report states, an off-duty cook broke a detainee’s leg with a metal baseball bat. Detainees were also stacked, fully clothed, in human pyramids and forced to hold five-gallon water jugs with arms outstretched or do jumping jacks until they passed out, the report says. “We would give them blows to the head, chest, legs and stomach, and pull them down, kick dirt on them,” one sergeant told Human Rights Watch researchers during one of four interviews in July and August. “This happened every day.”

If the Taliban were doing that to captured US troops, what word would you use to describe it? Does that word start with a T? If you had to describe these actions in two words, would those words start with W and C?

All this in the name of gathering intelligence, of course:

“They wanted intel,” said the sergeant, an infantry fire-team leader who served as a guard when no military police soldiers were available. “As long as no PUC’s [persons under control] came up dead, it happened.” He added, “We kept it to broken arms and legs.”

Never mind that the intel you get that way is useless — the prisoner will tell you anything at all to get you to stop hurting him. “Anything at all” isn’t limited to truth and reality. But then, we have it on the highest national authority that “reality” isn’t important.

But was getting intel the only reason for abusing the prisoners?

Not at all:

The sergeant continued: “Some days we would just get bored, so we would have everyone sit in a corner and then make them get in a pyramid. This was before Abu Ghraib but just like it. We did it for amusement.”

I guess collecting stamps just wasn’t as much fun.

Did we learn anything from Abu Ghraib?

Even after the Abu Ghraib scandal became public, one of the sergeants said, the abuses continued. “We still did it, but we were careful,” he told the human rights group.

Good thought, there, sergeant.

The whole article is worth reading.

This is a sign of a chain of command that’s broken, from top to bottom. This is the time for finger pointing. This is the time for blame. If not now, when?

Write to your senators. Write to your congressman. Write to your governor. Write to the editor of your local newspaper. If you’re outside of the USA, write to your representatives and to your ambassadors. How can anyone remain silent?

September 23, 2005
Making the magnetic ribbons pay
Posted by Patrick at 08:47 AM * 47 comments

Fred Clark has a brilliant idea for how to start financing the ongoing costs of occupying Iraq.

September 22, 2005
How Bad?
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 02:58 PM *

From the Houston Chronicle, February 20, 2005:

Houston’s perfect storm would feed on late summer’s warm waters as it barreled northward across the Gulf of Mexico, slamming into the coast near Freeport. A landfall here would allow its powerful upper-right quadrant, where the waves move in the same direction as the storm, to overflow Galveston Bay. Within an hour or two, a storm surge, topping out at 20 feet or more, would flood the homes of 600,000 people in Harris County. The surge also would block the natural drainage of flooded inland bayous and streams for a day or more.

It only gets better:

“Unfortunately, we’re looking at massive devastation,” said Roy Dodson, president of the engineering firm Dodson & Associates, which Harris County asked to model realistic “worst-case scenarios” for a major hurricane hitting the area.

Dodson’s firm modeled more than 100 storms of varying power, speed and landfall. It concluded that a large Category 4 or Category 5 — a storm only moderately larger than the four that struck Florida last summer — would cause as much as $40 billion to $50 billion in damage. That’s 10 times the cost of Tropical Storm Allison and approximately the city of Houston’s entire budget for the next 15 years.

Further sections of that article include “Coastal development,” “20-foot wall of water,” “Wave modeling,” and “Surprises after landfall.” It’s worth a read.

The good news is that FEMA is already prepositioning food, water, and supplies, and the Texas National Guard is predeploying satellite comms gear. The bad news is that gas stations are running out of fuel and the evacuation routes have turned into major traffic jams.

The next day or so will be very interesting.

Affairs of the Heart
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:59 AM * 67 comments

Last night I spent four hours up in Pittsburg, New Hampshire, helping teach CPR at a PAD (public access defibrillation) class. There’s a program nationwide for putting AEDs (Automatic External Defibrillators) into public places. These AEDs are being provided free, through the state, and up to ten people at each location are getting free CPR/AED training. We had folks from a truck stop, from the local Rite-Aid drugstore, from the Bridge Street Gym, and others present. The state has written legislation taking liability on itself for these AEDs, relieving businesses of the worry of getting themselves sued for any use of this equipment that they’ve got. There’s more legislation saying that anyone at all can use one.

The specific AED that we were handing out was a Zoll AED+Plus . These normally go for $1,500, but the state got ‘em as a group purchase for $750. The local ambulance squad put together little kits to put in the carrying case with each AED: One pair trauma shears, two pairs gloves (one pair nitrile, one pair vinyl), one CPR mask, one disposable razor, one washcloth, two alcohol wipes, all in a zip-lock Baggie.

(Formerly — way back in the 1970s — external defibrillation was done by physicians only. Then it became a paramedic-level intervention. Then it moved to specially-trained EMTs, the EMT-D. Then any EMT. Now any Joe or Jane on the street can do it. A big part of that is the advance in computer tech, so that the machine reads the heart rhythm rather than a skilled human operator.)

Around 250,000 people in the United States die of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) every year. That’s the guy walking down the street who just keels over. An AED right there on scene is a great thing, because at that moment you have 4-6 minutes to get that heart going again. CPR will extend that time, but it’s just putting the patient into a holding pattern. The electricity is what’s going to fix things.

But, SCA isn’t all, or even most, heart attacks.

Dearly beloved, let us pause to consider ataque del corazón.

To be exact, attacks of the heart that we middle-aged folks should beware of.

If you, or anyone around you, has any of the following signs and symptoms:

Chest pain
This can be anything from tightness, fullness, weight, or squeezing to Oh-Ghod-It-Hurts major pain. Often sub-sternal, but anywhere in the upper body counts. Especially if it radiates to an arm, to the jaw, or to the back.

Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
Turning pale, blue, grey, or mottled counts.

Chest discomfort that starts with exercise and gets better with rest
Especially if the discomfort lasts longer than five minutes.

Cold Sweat
Big ol’ beads of moisture when it isn’t hot out.

Nausea, vomiting
When beer wasn’t even involved.

Dizziness. Like it says.

Feeling of Doom
You’ll know it when you have it.

Chest pain all by itself, or two or more of the others … dude, you could be having the Big One.

What to do
Sit down, chew four baby aspirin, and call 9-1-1. If it isn’t really a heart attack — the EMTs don’t mind false alarms. Really. (Concerning that aspirin: The only contraindication for aspirin is a documented allergy of the “I blow up like a balloon, turn blue, and die” variety. “Funny tummy” isn’t a good enough reason to avoid it. A diagnosed ulcer isn’t a good enough reason to avoid it. Just do it. And, for that matter, taking an 81 mg aspirin every day as a preventative measure isn’t a bad idea.)

Who’s at risk?
Middle-age or over males, females past menopause, and everyone else. Particularly folks who smoke, don’t get enough exercise, are overweight, or use cocaine.

Is learning CPR a good idea?
Yes. If nothing else it gives you something to do while you’re waiting for the ambulance. Actually, that’s unfair. I’ve seen CPR save lives. It isn’t 100%, but what in this world is? CPR buys you time. Time for an AED to get there. Time for people with really good drugs and specialized training to get there.

More info?
You got it.

A story.

Play a game.

Copyright © 2005 by James D. Macdonald

I am not a physician. I can neither diagnose nor prescribe. This post is presented for entertainment purposes only. Nothing here is meant to be advice for your particular condition or situation.

Creative Commons License
Affairs of the Heart by James D. Macdonald is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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Index to Medical Posts

September 21, 2005
Posted by Patrick at 05:54 PM *

Atrios remarks:

There are certainly a large number of people who currently have a genuine interest in finding out where and when Rita will hit, but nonetheless there’s something a bit creepy about the number of people in this country who are truly obsessed with the tracking the weather…

Guilty as charged. But wait, no, I don’t think it’s entirely “creepy.” Of course most humans have a streak of fascination with watching things come apart, and arguably there’s something prurient about that. But disasters are also interesting if you’re fascinated with how things work, and most people of reasonable intelligence have a streak of that as well. You learn a lot about the machinery of a society by watching how it copes with catastrophic stressors. As we’ve been seeing, in both bad ways and good.

Hero-tales of the newspaper tribe
Posted by Teresa at 04:23 PM *

The Times-Picayune has been on the story all along:

The Saturday after Hurricane Katrina drowned my city, I sat alone in a rented Jeep in front of the latest headquarters of the Times-Picayune’s “New Orleans bureau”—our fifth in as many days—pounding furiously on a laptop, taking belts of Johnnie Walker Red to beat back tears. I was locked out of the staff’s uptown house, awaiting the return of the tiny team of colleagues that now represented the entirety of the paper’s presence in the city we once dominated. �

It had come to this: During the worst natural disaster on American soil and the biggest story in its 168-year history, the Picayune’s roughly 200-member city-based editorial staff had been reduced to about a dozen editors, writers and photographers. We’d set out four days earlier, as the rest of the paper evacuated to Baton Rouge and Houma, to cover the storm out of one delivery truck. Since then we’d gathered a canoe, a kayak, two bicycles and several staffers’ cars. We’d foraged in journalists’ homes for food, water, housing, computers, notebooks and sporadically working landlines. A wind-up radio served as our only connection to fast-breaking news of the storm.

My crying bout that morning had been hardly unique, for myself or for the rest of the New Orleans-based crew. I had watched a woman die on the street. Arkansas National Guardsmen had carted her body away to put with the others inside the food service entrance at the rear of the Convention Center. They’d been murdered, or they’d perished, like the woman in front of me, from simple lack of food, water and medicine—here in America, here in my hometown.

What broke me wasn’t the horror but the beauty of the sight just a few feet away, of refugee Anita Roach defiantly belting out gospel standards, leading a chorus of family members and complete strangers. We locked eyes, a poor black woman who had barely escaped death in the Lower 9th Ward and a relatively well-fed white reporter with a dry Uptown house and a rented SUV.

I lost it. My notebook and pen fell to my sides in my limp arms. I mouthed the words “Thank you” as she finished. She smiled and nodded. I walked to her through the filth, and she wrapped me in a bear hug. I sat her down and bled her and her family of the details of their suffering and the strength that now poured out of them in song. I knew then I’d never forget the privilege.

Back at the Uptown shotgun double, I had to write it—and fast, facing a ludicrous 4 p.m. deadline. I knew I’d have to dictate the story—again—which would eat up 30 or 45 minutes of the two hours I had to spare. I delivered it on the phone to Baton Rouge to Editorial Page Editor Terri Troncale, who had been with us until just a couple days before. We both struggled to avoid another breakdown as I read and she typed. �

Here’s where the story began:

Even before we’d stared the devil in the face, we knew Katrina had unleashed hell when Publisher Ashton Phelps, clearly distraught, announced the evacuation Tuesday morning.

Normally unshakably composed, Phelps, from the old-money family that has run the Picayune for generations, bounced from department to department in the three-story building shouting: “Get out of the building—now! You can not stay in the building!”

Not to say that Phelps overreacted in the least: Floodwaters from the burst levees had nearly entered the building, a giant, gray, brick box on the high ground of Howard Avenue, near the Louisiana Superdome. Then word filtered in that the inmates of Orleans Parish Prison, a block away, had either escaped or been freed. (Which turned out not to be true; the prisoners were later evacuated on buses at gunpoint—well before buses arrived for the tens of thousands of people at the Dome, at the Convention Center and wandering aimlessly on Interstate 10.)

The news staff that had stayed to ride out the storm and work—about 80 of the paper’s 260 editorial employees—loaded into the back of delivery trucks with a host of staffers from other departments. The fleet pushed slowly through water nearly high enough to flood their diesel engines. Certain now that the paper would fail to print for the first time in its history,

Their predecessors at the Times-Picayune will have had their own tales of journalism committed under difficult circumstances.

we drove on Interstate 10 over the Crescent City Connection, a bridge over the Mississippi River, to the newspaper’s still-dry West Bank bureau. We unloaded and regrouped. Changing minute by minute, the plan had been to flee to Houma or Baton Rouge, then parachute reporters back in with the National Guard. The best the brass hoped for that day would be to publish a blog reported by phones that might or might not work.

A few of us started grumbling immediately. We can’t just leave the world’s biggest story in our own hometown, we griped in hushed conversations. Sports Editor David Meeks, formerly the suburban editor and the man who hired me in 1998, harnessed the unrest. He made the pitch to Editor Jim Amoss: Give me a delivery truck and a small group of writers. We’ll go back.

“How are you going to eat?” Amoss asked him. “How are you going to file?”

I love that part.

It’s a long piece. I’m going to have to skip over the part about the Wal-Mart. Other stuff, too. This is an amazing story. Onward to:

�McCusker, Pompilio and I pulled up to the St. Claude Avenue Bridge in our truck, stinking of swamp water and the cigarettes I had been chain-smoking. The bridge over the Industrial Canal marked the dividing line between deluged and merely flooded.

I had been there the day before, Monday, with photographer Jackson. We’d found only two police boats running rescue operations for the thousands of people trapped in attics and on roofs. A rescue volunteer had offered to take us out on a third boat.

We floated through the Lower 9th Ward, past the house of the legendary Fats Domino, where a group of men yelled to our boat from a second-story balcony. We passed them and scores of others who screamed for help on our way east to St. Bernard Parish, the white working class suburb where people had fled after school integration first took hold in the 9th Ward in 1960.

Returning from St. Bernard with a deadline looming, we rode on a boat full of rescued people, a dog and a duffel bag full of cats one woman had smuggled onto the boat without the captain’s knowledge. The memory that sticks out most: We had to duck to avoid hitting stoplights that had towered over the street.

Now on Tuesday, refugees, many elderly and handicapped, hobbled and wheeled themselves across the bridge to the corner of Poland and St. Claude Avenues, the dry side of the bridge that had become a rescue boat launch. We found hundreds of people who had been rescued, then abandoned into a whole new struggle for survival. Filthy, soaked and stinking, they lined up behind three National Guard trucks that couldn’t begin to make a dent in the growing crowd. Those that did get taken out would end up in the Superdome or at the Convention Center downtown, which would become their own dark scenes of terror and suffering.

People mobbed us, competing to tell us their stories, hoping to let relatives know they were alive and authorities know they might still die without help. Pompilio and I interviewed a weeping Daniel Weber, a rotund man perched on a black barrel in the muck. I’d never seen a man so broken. He had watched his wife drown and then floated for 14 hours in polluted floodwaters on a piece of driftwood.

“I’m not going to make it,” he told us. “I know I’m not.”

When we got back in the car, Natalie said to me, “I know it may sound inappropriate, but I love my job on days like this.”

It struck me as perfectly appropriate, I told her. We were this man’s only lifeline to plead for help from the outside world. �


Art critic MacCash had been Uptown all day, collecting shocking anecdotes of standoffs between shotgun-toting business owners and armed gangs of looters. He’d relayed them in impeccable prose on a notepad and handed them off for the other three of us to weave into a 60- or 70-inch story that covered nearly every accessible neighborhood in the city. Who knew the 49-year-old art critic could tackle the hardest of hard news stories in history? Who would have guessed he’d even be there—and as a volunteer? A couple days later, nearing the breaking point and struggling to focus, MacCash would find himself interviewing Mayor Ray Nagin on a helicopter ride over the city.

That first night on our own we had to load up the delivery truck and flee to the West Bank to McCusker’s mother’s house. The news had come over the wind-up radio: “The bowl” that is New Orleans was filling up as the breach in the 17th Street Canal widened to the size of five football fields, pouring millions of gallons of water into the city and threatening to swamp even Uptown, engulfing the million-dollar homes on St. Charles Avenue, just a few blocks from our base at Troncale’s house.

Though we were thrilled to have it, the McCuskers’ place lay in a suburban area where the houses had been built with none of the high ceilings and wood floors of the famous homes on the East Bank—so the one-story ranch house had almost zero ventilation. With the humidity off the charts, sleeping inside that house felt like sleeping in Vietnam. We woke the next morning from broken sleep in pools of sweat and headed back into Uptown. The water had stopped at St. Charles Avenue, sparing some of the city’s most historic neighborhoods—and our base of operations in our personal homes.

Even as our reporting got stronger on Wednesday, our technological challenges became ridiculous, and basic law and order continued to disintegrate. As we drove from the McCuskers’ place, over the river and all the way to Uptown, a distance of several miles, we saw not one cop or soldier.

“Where the fuck are the feds? Where the fuck are the Marines?” I kept repeating as, in the civilized outside world, the lack of response churned into a national political scandal.

McCusker and I went to Interstate 10, chronicling the plight of a long trail of suffering refugees who had walked through the polluted waters surrounding their homes from neighborhoods across the city. Spera, the music critic, wrote about a body in the middle of Convention Center Boulevard, highlighting a rescue and police operation so overwhelmed it would ignore rotting bodies in plain sight for days to come. Perlstein teamed with Lee to write of how the city’s criminal justice system had been obliterated as the evidence room was flooded.

The real star that day would be Lee—a 27-year-old rookie cops reporter from New Jersey, who showed up the rest of us that day.

He’d instinctively realized what it takes some reporters years to understand and most never will. When the story gets too big to cover, in this case too enormous to even comprehend, you have to focus on the small story: one person, one family, one day, whatever, that personifies the larger whole. You fire the rifle, not the shotgun.

Lee, scribbling on a notepad at McCusker’s hot-as-hell West Bank house, wrote this lead: “Lucrece Phillips’ sleepless nights are filled with the images of dead babies and women, and young and old men with tattered T-shirts or graying temples, all floating along the streets of the Lower 9th Ward.”

Then Lee got out of Phillips’ way and let her tell it, quoting her saying: “The rescuers in the boats that picked us up had to push the bodies back with sticks… And there was this little baby. She looked so perfect and so beautiful. I just wanted to scoop her up and breathe life back into her little lungs.”

You aspiring writers out there? You make note of that. Lee nailed that story with one perfect and terrible detail. Which �

�almost didn’t make the paper: Late afternoon on Wednesday, I tried to make a call from McCusker’s landline. Nothing. I tried 10 more times. Nothing. We ran to neighbors’ houses to try their phones, to no avail. At about 5 p.m., we had four or five stories to file, written on notepads, ready to dictate—and no phone.

“We’ve got to run to power,” Meeks said, amassing the crew of people, cars—and now a dog and two cats after rescue missions.

We raced to Houma in heavy traffic, not exactly sure how to find the Courier, a New York Times Co. paper, where a small office in a conference room awaited us, along with the first hot food we’d had in days.

When we got there, I could barely focus my scattered brain on typing my story into an e-mail to editors in Baton Rouge, even though I’d already written it out on a legal pad. Then I screwed up the e-mail, and it never arrived—and so the story didn’t run. Then it didn’t run the following day, even though I re-sent it, because of a communication breakdown. I’d never felt so defeated.

In a perverse turn that saved the story of homeless residents filling Interstate 10, the roadway teemed with even more refugees two days later. The piece remained valid in a lightning-fast breaking news environment, with little updating, only because of the sickeningly slow emergency response.

Chalk up another account confirming Larry Bradshaw and Beth Slonsky’s story.

The city continued its descent into Hades. Russell, the City Hall ace, had been visiting the Superdome occasionally for several days. By Friday, 30,000 people filled the Dome, with many retreating to the large decks outside to escape the smell of excrement and the threat of thugs.

The scene washed over him like a bout of acute nausea. He nearly threw up inside the building simply from the stench, to say nothing of the stories he heard from the people lining up around him, shouting out their horrors in a desperate hope that the press could call in the cavalry. Rapes, murders, suicides, and where the hell are the buses to Houston?

But in a repeat of the experience all of us had across the city, Russell never felt threatened. By contrast, people cheered the sight of him—the hometown Picayune reporter—and grilled him about where they might get a paper.

The only threat Russell would face, in a bizarre twist, would come from cops. On Thursday, he and New York Times photographer Marko Georgiev had pulled up to the scene of a shoot-out between cops and God-knows-who. A couple of blocks from the looted Wal-Mart, they spied a white limousine crashed into a pole, and a group of New Orleans cops standing over a bullet-ridden body. Georgiev started snapping pictures—and then found the guns trained on his red SUV. The journalists stopped and tried to explain their business, but suddenly found cocked guns at their heads, then their faces being ground into a brick wall amid a hail of motherfucker this and motherfucker that.

The cops ultimately let them go, after tossing the photographer’s camera and Russell’s notebook across the street. The pair retrieved them before bolting.

I hate hearing about journalists getting roughed up. It’s not because I think they should be uniquely immune to mistreatment; but if journalists are getting whomped on, you’ve got to figure the citizenry is getting it worse.

On Friday, Meeks drove Lee and Perlstein to the Convention Center to report on the increasingly desperate scene, where thousands gathered without food, water or security. At one point, witnesses said, a convoy of commercial buses pulled up and idled for several minutes; then their drivers left, apparently out of fear. The center, one of the nation’s premier destinations for conferences for doctors, educators and entrepreneurs of all stripes, had become a nightly site of murders, rapes and regular stampedes.

Perlstein hadn’t been able to reach Police Chief Eddie Compass since the storm started, as police communications had been as decimated as our own. But there he was on Convention Center Boulevard. Both men wept at the sight of each other, familiar foes in the professional world of reporter-versus-public official, but now both comforted at the sight of anything familiar at all. Perlstein seized the moment for an exclusive, in-depth interview in which Compass would frankly admit that his shattered department had become a disconnected militia operation crippled by desertions—even combat conversions of cops to criminal looters—but he said the majority of his officers had stood strong. Going sleepless for days marred by harrowing gun battles, police in individual districts had organized their own crude chains of command and communications apparatus, Perlstein reported in Sunday’s Picayune.

As the two men talked, Meeks turned paper delivery boy, passing out Friday’s Picayune—the first paper edition since the storm had hit at the beginning of the week—into crowds that gobbled up the papers as if they were food. The printed Picayune, after a three-day absence, marked a beacon of normalcy, the bolstering of hope for the still absent influx of soldiers and evacuation buses.

As he handed out papers, Meeks peered into the crowd at a stunning sight: recently retired Picayune copy editor Bob Payne, a severely overweight diabetic, badly sunburned, signaling for help after having spent the last three days with little food or water.

“They didn’t bring any food or water here until the reporters started coming around,” Payne told Meeks.

There it is! See? That’s what newspapers are for.

I left the city Thursday, September 8, after 13 days of storm coverage and 18 straight days of work.

As I write this, I’m staring at the Picayune’s front page, that of Sunday, September 11. It’s dominated by two long Russell stories, an exclusive, astonishingly frank and profanity-laced interview with Mayor Nagin, and a hopeful analysis suggesting the flooded bowl of New Orleans might be empty in weeks, not months as predicted. Other stories since I left have posited that the death count, while still unknown, may be far less than the 10,000 bodies Nagin had predicted while I was in town.

I bought the paper at the convenience store down the street from my uncle’s house in Baton Rouge. Before Katrina we’d never circulated here, but now a flood of New Orleanians have bought houses in their new city. Meanwhile, the Dallas Morning News is setting up a bureau at my Uptown house, even promising to pay rent.

I wish I could end this story with one of those hopeful, clich�d phrases where “the mighty Picayune will rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes,” or some such trite nonsense. The ugly truth of the matter is that we’re fighting just to keep it alive, a fight that won’t end any time soon. Our circulation and advertising nearly vanished in one day and will have to be rebuilt along with the city, the prospects for which remain uncertain.

When it all shakes out, I trust we’ll still have a newspaper, of what size and power I haven’t a clue. Our Jefferson and St. Tammany parish bureaus, in high circulation suburbs, are already reopening. Since the storm hit, our Web site traffic on has exploded to more than 30 million page views a day.

More important, we’ve cranked out better journalism in the last two weeks than we have the last two years, and we’re getting stronger every day. And Katrina remains our story to own, and we mean to own it.

Read the whole thing. Really. Just read the whole thing.

Posted by Jim Macdonald at 02:05 PM * 68 comments

From today’s breaking news:

A) The death toll from Hurricane Katrina is now over 1,000.

B) Hurricane Rita is in the Gulf and has hit Category 4.

[UPDATE] Make that a Category 5 hurricane.

There’s a heck of a lot of heat energy in the Gulf.

[UPDATE 2] Evacuation routes from Matagorda County.

Galveston, Texas area map.

Triage for Fun and Profit
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:19 AM * 114 comments

The concept of “triage” has been much in the news. Since emergency medicine is one of my hobbyhorses, I’ll ride it for a while.

Triage is a French word that means “sorting.” It comes into play any time your resources are overwhelmed.

In any emergency involving casualties there will be some who will get better even if you do nothing, and some who will die even if you do everything. Between those two extremes there will be a number who will get better if you do the right things right now but will die if you don’t. The purpose of triage is to find those people so your limited resources can go to them.

Before we begin — the Tags. These are literally, physically, tags, with string to tie ‘em to the patient’s clothing, or wrist, or big toe:

Green — Minor. This person can wait.
Yellow — Delayed. Is treated ahead of Green tags.
Red — Immediate. Treat and ship these people right now.
Black — Deceased. No treatment required or desired.

The tags have colored strips on the bottom with perforations. If you don’t tear anything off, the bottom is green. Tear off that strip, the tag becomes yellow. Then red. Then black. You see the progression?

First step. There you are, a sole rescuer, facing a scene of disaster. Turn to a bystander, look directly into his eyes, point to him, and say “You! Call 9-1-1 now. Get help. Come back and tell me when you’ve done it. Okay?” When that person says “Okay!” and trots off… you go to step two. (If there is no bystander, call it in yourself. Nothing you can do else is more important than getting more help rolling.)

Now: with lungs of iron and a voice of brass, shout “Yo! Listen up! Everybody go to [name and description of safe area nearby]!”

Everyone who moves to that area is a Green Tag. They’re the walking wounded. You’ll get to them when you can. (Note: They’re also a resource.)

Now, if and only if it is safe to do so, enter the area where the rest of the casualties are. (If it isn’t safe there’s no point in going in. All it’ll mean is one more casualty and one less responder. You’ve made the situation worse.)

Go up to each person who didn’t walk out. You’ll be spending about 30 seconds with each one.

1. Is the person breathing? Yes/No. If Yes, go to step 3.

2. If the person is not breathing, open their airway. (Tilt head, jaw thrust, scoop out foreign material, as appropriate.) Is the patient breathing now? If yes, Red Tag. If no, Black Tag. Move on.

3. Is the patient breathing more than 30 times per minute? If yes, Red Tag. Move on. If no, go to 4.

4. Squeeze the patient’s fingernail until the nailbed blanches. Let go and count how long it takes to darken again. If greater than two seconds, Red Tag. Move on. If less than two seconds, go to 5.

5. Ask the patient his/her name and what happened. If the patient does not reply or answers inappropriately, Red Tag. If the patient answers appropriately, Yellow Tag. Move on.

That’s it! Keep a tally of how many and what kind you have and where they are. If you have triage tags, that’s great. If not, and you can mark them in some other way (strips of colored cloth, colored surveyor’s tape) that’s great. Or, you can take your Sharpie Marker and write the Roman numeral I on the forehead of your Red tags, II on the foreheads of your Yellow tags, III on the foreheads of your Green tags (if they stand still for it) and the Arabic number 0 on the foreheads of your Black tags. If you can’t do any of those things — when help arrives tell the person is charge what you’ve found.

If a patient is going into shock, you can direct a bystander or a Green tag to treat that person for shock (elevate feet, keep warm). If a patient is bleeding heavily, you can direct a bystander or a Green tag to control the bleeding (direct pressure). Don’t stop or delay to do these things yourself. You have more important things to do.

If you enter a building, draw (spray paint or Magic marker) a diagonal line on the wall beside the door where you entered. When you come out cross that diagonal line with another to form an X, and write on the wall the number of patients who are inside. Later rescuers, when they arrive, will know if they see a single diagonal line that someone went in but hasn’t come out. If they see an X, they’ll know that the room has been searched. If they don’t see any mark they’ll search the room themselves.

When more help arrives, go to the senior person, inform that person of what you know, and ask for an assignment.

Copyright © 2005 by James D. Macdonald

I am not a physician. I can neither diagnose nor prescribe. This post is presented for entertainment purposes only. Nothing here is meant to be advice for your particular condition or situation.

Creative Commons License
Triage for Fun and Profit by James D. Macdonald is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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Index to Medical Posts

Today’s Lesson (3)
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 07:46 AM * 13 comments

Matthew 7:12-29

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

September 20, 2005
The Enfield
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 01:31 PM * 81 comments

There I was, pottering away, quoting some Kipling in an attempt to make a point about novels (specifically, “There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays, / And every single one of them is right!”).

This led back to the poem itself, “In the Neolithic Age.” There we find another line: And I stepped beneath Time’s finger, once again a tribal singer / And a minor poet certified by Traill.

So who was Traill? Me an’ Google are chums, so off I went and soon found H. D. (Henry Duff) Traill, editor of the weekly Literature. Sounds good to me, I think we have a match. But along the way I found this:

On that last day in Lucknow fort!
We knew that it was the last;
That the enemy’s lines crept surely on,
And the end was coming fast.

To yield to that foe meant worse than death;
And the men and we all worked on;
It was one day more of smoke and roar,
And then it would all be done.

“The Relief of Lucknow” by Robert Traill Spence Lowell

The Indian Mutiny, the Sepoy Rebellion, the First War of Independence … hadn’t been touched on very hard in World History when I was in high school. Other than it happened, that is.

Most of what I knew of the Sepoy Insurrection had come from Flashman in the Great Game by George MacDonald Fraser, a book I recommend to everyone. Not many other novels make it worthwhile to keep a bookmark in the endnotes. It’s part of a series of what you might call an unusual treatment of the military history of the 19th century, told by a villain from Tom Brown’s School Days by Thomas Hughes.

“Was Flashman here then?”

“Yes; and a dirty, little, snivelling, sneaking fellow he was too. He never dared join us, and used to toady the bullies by offering to fag for them, and peaching against the rest of us.”

“Why wasn’t he cut, then?” said East.

“Oh, toadies never get cut; they’re too useful. Besides, he has no end of great hampers from home, with wine and game in them; so he toadied and fed himself into favour.”

I suppose you could call The Flashman Papers Tom Brown fanfic.

But what of the Great Mutiny?

The rule of the East India Company wasn’t marked by cultural or religious sensitivity.

Torture became a financial institution in colonial India, and was challenged by a petition from the Madras Native Association presented in January of 1856. The petition was dismissed on the basis of a lack of evidence, despite the fact that, according to the Marx, “there was scarcely any investigation at all, the Commission sitting only in the city of Madras, and for but three months, while it was impossible, except in very few cases, for the natives who had complaints to make to leave their homes”. Marx also refers to Lord Dalhousie’s statements in the Blue Books that there was “irrefragable proof” that various officers had committed “gross injustice, to arbitrary imprisonment and cruel torture”.

“John Company” trusted its native troops (the Sepoys). One of the sparks to the rebellion came when those troops were issued the very newest, top-of-the-line modern military rifles.

Enfield Rifle Musket: British - (1857) .577 caliber. British service rifle 1857-1866. Muzzle-loading, percussion. The Enfield’s paper ammunition wrapper, said to be greased with the fat of cows and pigs, was one of the causes for the Indian Mutiny.

Three years later that same Enfield rifle was being used widely by both sides in the American Civil War.

The sepoys took the initiative in killing women and children although in most cases this was done by riotous civilians and the riff raff. Still the sepoys are to be blamed since overall they were in charge. The British reprisals took place mostly in retaliation but as the adage goes i.e. two wrongs don�t make a right. The British reprisals were, however, much less in magnitude if we compare them with atrocities against civilians committed by Nadir Shah in 1739 or by Ahmad Shah in 1756-61 or even by the Indo-Pak armies in 1971 in Bangladesh, or later in Balochistan, Indian Punjab or Kashmir.

The British behaviour may perhaps be closely compared to Pakistan Army behaviour in East Pakistan in 1971. The initial atrocities were committed by the Bengalis but the martial races settled the �duby� a very large margin, exceeding at least by 100,000 to 200,000 men perhaps! But then Karl Marx made some very profound remarks about 1857 and these can be applied to any such situation. Karl Marx said “However infamous the conduct of sepoys, it is only the reflex, in a concentrated form, of England�s own conduct in India, not only during the epoch of the foundation of her Eastern Empire, but even during the last ten years of a long settled rule. The characteristics that rule it suffices to say that torture formed an organic institution of its financial policy. There is something in human history like retribution; and it is a rule of historic retribution that its instrument be forged not by the offended, but by the offender himself.”

The Sepoy Rebellion was marked by atrocities on both sides. Butchery, hangings, men blown from the mouths of cannon, others forced to lick clotted human blood from the floor, sold into slavery, floggings … it’s all here.

There had been a prophecy, widely repeated, that the rule of the British would soon come to an end. Then….

Somewhere about the end of the third week in January 1857, a khalasi, that is to say a labourer, accosted a high Brahmin sepoy and asked for a drink of water from his lotah (water-pot). The Brahmin refused on the score of caste. The khalasi then said, “You will soon lose your caste, as ere long you will have to bite catridges covered with the fat of pigs and cows,” or, it is added, “words to that effect.” (Palmer 15)

Here’s a bit of a timeline.

March 29, 1857: Mangal Pandy, a Hindu Sepoy of 34 Native Infantry at Barrackpore, shoots at British sergeant-major and Regiment Adjutant. A jemadar (non-commissioned officer) is told to arrest Pandy, but refuses to do so.

Mutineers in general were later referred to by the British as “Pandy” or “Pandies,” much as later foes would be referred to as boche, jerries, slopes, gooks, Charlie, or ragheads.

March 31, 1857: 19th Native Infantry disbanded.

The practice of disbanding or disarming regiments which were disaffected may have added a number of recruits to the rebel cause. These men were thrown out of the army losing their pay and pensions with little prospect of securing other employment. They bore a considerable grudge against the British for this.

April 7, 1857: Mangal Pandy, and the jemadar who refused to arrest him, are hanged. 34th Native Infantry regiment disbanded.

May 3, 1857: 7th Oudh Irregular Infantry Regiment refuses to handle rifle cartridges.

May 9, 1857: 85 members of 3rd Light Cavalry refuse to handle the cartridges at Meerut. They are stripped of their uniforms in public, sentenced to ten years of hard labor.

May 10, 1857: 7th Oudh Irregular Infantry Regiment disbanded. The sepoys revolt at Meerut, free their imprisoned comrades, then march on Dehli.

May 11, 1857: Sepoys capture Delhi, and proclaim Bahadur Shah II the emperor of all India. British defenders blow the magazine.

May 12, 1857: Lahore secured by British.

May 13, 1857: British march on Dehli.

May 14, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Ferozepur; march to Dehli.

May 20, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Aligarh, British east-west connection between Punjab and Calcutta cut.

May 22, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Mainpuri. Native troops disarmed in Peshawar.

May 23, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Ettawa. Rebels dispersed at Mardan by British; surviving sepoys sold into slavery.

May 24, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Bulandshahr.

May 30, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Lucknow.

May 31, 1857: British regain control of Lucknow.

The Indian Mutiny
By the middle of the nineteenth century, the British had come to believe they were a chosen race; chosen to distribute the benefits of western civilization to the backward areas of the globe. That the inhabitants of such areas often didn�t want these benefits and certainly not the accompanying British control of their lives was immaterial to Britain�s sense of a mission. Native opposition frequently required military force to be brought against it and few years passed without the British Army being involved, somewhere in the empire, in a continual series of border skirmishes and punitive expeditions.

May 31, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Bareilly and Shah Jahanpur.

June 1, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Badaun. and Moradabad

June 3, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Sitapur, Nimach, and Moradabad.

June 4, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Cawnpore and Khairabad. Road cut between Lucknow and Calcutta. British garrison at Cawnpore takes defensive positions in the Entrenchment, besieged by forces under Nana Sahib.

The Siege of Cawnpore
… the siege of Cawnpore was not a protracted affair. It lasted just over three weeks, but it took place in June when the Indian sun is at its most merciless. The entrenchment had almost no shade and contained only one serviceable well. This, the only source of water was in an extremely exposed position, covered by enemy fire. Many men died trying to get water. Inside the position were about a thousand Britons, including 300 women and children. Ammunition, at least, was plentiful but the food supply was dangerously small. The mutineers never actually took the place by storm though they made a few half-hearted attacks. They could, however, cover almost every inch of the entrenchment with their muskets and kept up a constant stream of fire into the British position. The British could get no rest and their movement was severely restricted. Still they held on, hoping for relief from Lucknow to the north-east or Allahabad downstream on the Ganges.

June 5, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Jhansi.

June 6, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Allahabad but are unable to take the magazine which is held by Sikh troops.

June 8, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Faizabad.

June 9, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Mehidpore, Gwalior, and Nowgong.

June 18, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Farrukhabad.

June 27, 1857: British surrender at Cawnpore. British troops are massacred.

June 30, 1857: Sir Henry Lawrence defeated at Chinhat, retreats to Lucknow Residency.

July 1, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Lucknow and Indore. Central India is no longer in British hands. British columns reach Dehli; seige of Dehli begins.

July 7, 1857: British/Sikh forces meet Sepoys at Jhelum; British are repulsed with heavy casualties.

July 9, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Sialkot.

July 15, 1857: Massacre of British civilians at Bibi-Ghar (Cawnpore Well).

July 16, 1857: Sepoys reinforce Dehli. British victory at Maharajpur.

July 17, 1857: British retake Cawnpore.

July 19, 1857: British take Bithur.

July 25, 1857: Sepoys rebel at Dinapur, attack British garrison at Arrah but are repulsed; rebels then move to Lucknow.

July 29, 1857: British victory at Unao.

August 2, 1857: Hindustani troops reach Agra.

August 31, 1857: British enter Dehli.

September 16, 1857: Pubjabi Muslim rebellion at Gugera.

September 25, 1857: Reinforcements reach Lucknow Residency.

The Siege of Lucknow
Finally, 90 days after the siege began, gunfire was heard on the outskirts of the city. Two days later, on September 25th, a mob rather than an army burst into the residency. The lead troops were highlanders and in their furious push into the Residency they bayoneted a few loyal sepoys by mistake. The highlanders’ uniforms were ragged and patched and their bearded faces were grimy with the smoke of powder. They were under the joint command of Sir Henry Havelock and Sir James Outram and had fought a gruelling campaign up from Cawnpore. Unfortunately, there were only a thousand of them and no sooner had the Residency gates closed behind them than the siege continued.

September 29, 1857: British forces take the Red Fort at Dehli. Bahadur Shah arrested; his sons are shot and their heads presented to him.

November 4, 1857: Muslim resistance suppressed in the Punjab.

November 15, 1857: Brigadier Gerard defeats Jodhpur Legion.

November 18, 1857: Relief of Lucknow.

And they wept, and shook one another’s hands,
And the women sobbed in a crowd;
And every one knelt down where he stood,
And we all thanked God aloud.

The relief force made no attempt to enter the Residency for its numbers were small. Instead it pacified the city long enough for the inhabitants of the Residency to be withdrawn. On November 18th the withdrawal began with, of course, the women and children leaving first. The city was not completely quiet and much of the withdrawal was made under fire. When the non-combatants were safe, the garrison left. It was no proud march past and the soldiers broke step to disguise their leaving. Finally the rearguard slipped out and the Residency and city of Lucknow were given up to the mutineers. The British remembered to take down the Residency flag before they left.

The whole force now made its way back to Cawnpore and safety. With their going the mutiny sputtered out into a sordid series of punitve hunts and guerilla engagements. Lucknow was retaken the following year and though sporadic fighting continued into 1859, with the relief of the Residency the mutiny was effectively over and it was only a matter of time before the British re-established themselves as rules of the north of India.

March, 1858: British troops retake Lucknow; advance on Jhansi.

June 1, 1858: Rani of Jhansi captures Gwalior.

June 21, 1858: Sepoys surrender at Gwalior.

July 8, 1858: Peace signed.

May 28, 1859: Battle of Sirwa Pass. Remaining Sepoys flee into Nepal.

“The scale of the Indian Mutiny should not be exaggerated. Three quarters of the troops remained loyal, barely a third of British territory was affected” — Sir Winston Churchill

1858: The East India Company abolished.

The Sepoys’ errors:
a) Failure to organise as brigades or divisions.
b) Failure to effectively threaten the British line of communication.
c) Failure to launch timely counter-attacks.
d) Failure to use cavalry to protect flanks.
e) Failure to have contingency plans in case of unforeseen enemy movement.
f) Failure to resort to manoeuvre warfare.
g) Failure to maintain a reserve to meet unforeseen enemy manoeuvres.

Nana Sahib was never captured. His fate is unknown.

Due to the bloody start of the rebellion, and the violence perpetrated upon the Europeans by the Indian forces especially after the apparent treachery of Nana Sahib and butchery in Cawnpore, the British believed that they were justified in using similar tactics. The British press and British government did not advocate clemency of any kind, though Governor General Canning tried to be sympathetic to native sensibilities, earning the scornful sobriquet “Clemency Canning”. Soldiers took very few prisoners and often executed them later. Whole villages were wiped out for apparent pro-rebel sympathies. The Indians called it Devil’s Wind.

History doesn’t necessarily repeat itself. But history does echo. Tell me — in Iraq, as we train and arm the Iraqi armed forces, as “they stand up” and “we stand down,” what would happen if one-quarter of the Iraqi forces in one-third of that unhappy country were to mutiny and turn their weapons on the American forces on the ground? What would it look like? And what would George, Dick and Donald say on that day?

September 19, 2005
Two Thousand Years and it’s Still True
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:56 AM * 39 comments

From another book George didn’t read at Yale:

When resources are exhausted, then levies are made under pressure. When power and resources are exhausted, then the homeland is drained. The common people are deprived of seventy percent of their budget, while the government’s expenses for equipment amount to sixty percent of the budget.

— Sun Tzu
The Art of War


September 16, 2005
Leviticus 19:33-34
Posted by Patrick at 01:46 PM *

The citizens and city council of Gretna, Lousiana endorse their police chief’s decision to used armed force to prevent terrifying gangs of sick and exhausted people from escaping into their suburb from New Orleans:

Little over a week after this mostly white suburb became a symbol of callousness for using armed officers to seal one of the last escape routes from New Orleans—trapping thousands of mostly black evacuees in the flooded city—the Gretna City Council passed a resolution supporting the police chief’s move.

“This wasn’t just one man’s decision,” Mayor Ronnie C. Harris said Thursday. “The whole community backs it.”

Via Majikthise, where Maryland commenter “Steven” says:

If I wanted to live with people like that I would. But I don’t and I expect our local governemnt and police to ensure our security. That is their job…and they did it much better than the local govenment of NEW ORLEANS—Who ran away!

What “ensures our security” most of all, of course, is a general mutual willingness to help one another. In blocking their bridge out of New Orleans, the people of Gretna, Louisiana have behaved as selfishly as any gangster. Certainly they have done more damage to the bonds that hold society together than could be caused by looting a dozen Wal-Marts. If they’re very lucky, neither Mayor Ronnie C. Harris nor his police chief will ever need the help of a neighbor in an emergency. And if the rest of us are lucky, we’ll never be one of those neighbors, facing the temptation to mete out what Mayor Ronnie C. Harris, his police chief, and many of the citizens of Gretna, Louisiana so evidently deserve.

September 15, 2005
Open thread 49
Posted by Patrick at 08:18 AM *

There�s crazy people running all over town
There�s a silver band just marching up and down
And the wide boys are all spoiling for a fight
I want to see the bright lights tonight

September 13, 2005
Dives and Lazarus
Posted by Teresa at 03:55 PM * 173 comments

If ever there were an oracle that could answer this, it would have to be you lot.

My question concerns Dives and Lazarus, a traditional ballad, which rhymes (or almost rhymes) the second and fourth line of every stanza—except when it doesn’t. Here are its last four stanzas, two of which don’t even pretend to rhyme:

Then Dives lifted up his eyes And saw poor Lazarus blest:
“A drop of water, brother Lazarus,
For to quench my flaming thirst.

“If I had as many years to live
As there is blades of grass
I would make it in my will secure
That the devil should have no power.

Oh, hell is dark, oh, hell is deep;
Oh hell is full of mice,
It is a pity that any poor sinful soul
Should depart from our saviour, Christ.

And now my carol’s ended,
No longer can I stay.
God bless you all, both great and small,
And God send you a happy New Year.

Anyone know what’s going on there—alternate versions, regional pronunciations, famous typos?

Abacha in Iraq
Posted by Teresa at 12:01 PM *

This morning’s mail brought me a brand-new variant on the Nigerian scam:

From: mark edward
Date: Sep 12, 2005 10:28 AM
Subject: FROM: Sgt. Mark Ed


FROM: Sgt. Mark Ed

Important Message

To President / Managing Director.

Dear Sir,

My name is Mark Edwards, I am an American soldier serving in the military of the 1st Armoured Division in Iraq, As you know we are being attacked by insurgents everyday and car bombs. We managed to move funds belonging to Saddam Hussien’s family.

We want to move this money to you, so that you may invest it for us and keep our share in a safety keep. We will take 70%, my partner and I. You take the other 30%. no strings attached, just help us move it out of Iraq, Iraq is a warzone. We plan on using diplomatic courier and shipping the funds out in one silver box, using diplomatic immunity. This Transaction is risk free and has a diplomatic coverage whereby the consignment cannot be checked in port of Entry.

Also, I regret if this email surprises you but rather I just need your kindest of assistance.

Sincerely Yours,


Isn’t that inventive? It’s the same old underlying form, but it’s had a whole new set of variables plugged in.

This is why it’s so much more apposite to classify scams by their structure, rather than their specific content. It wouldn’t take me long to come up with a half-dozen brand-new variants of my own that never mention the Abacha family, or their vast sum of money (looted from the Nigerian government) that’s currently stashed in a neighboring country, and can easily be rescued with the help of a kindly stranger like you. If I can do that, others can too—as witness here.

Annals of deniable plausibility
Posted by Teresa at 09:16 AM *

Andrew Northrup is being brilliant. Read his Bush administration promises speedier response to national disasters. Well may The Onion gnash its teeth in envy.

September 12, 2005
Cliché watch
Posted by Patrick at 09:11 PM * 32 comments

From Letters sent to Romenesko:

[9/12/2005 6:50:38 PM] From PAUL MAHFOUZ: We’ve had enough, please, of “sleepy” and “toxic gumbo.” Small communities on the Gulf Coast have never been sleepy and we’re not going to be sleep any time soon. Not only are we not sleepy, but we love gumbo and you’re destroying this magical food of the gods by overusing the phrase “toxic gumbo.” Please retire the word “gumbo” from your vocabulary unless you’re actually talking about the dish.
Noted, with approval.

Bugs, Mister Rico!
Posted by Teresa at 08:04 PM * 42 comments

We’ve temporarily disabled the advertisements on Making Light. They were generating weird bugs, ones that in some browsers were bad enough to make our site unreadable.

Did anyone else get the bug where links disappear as soon as your mouse touches them, and the text around them immediately re-flows to close up the gap? That was truly strange to watch. If bugs had names, I’d call that one Newspeak.

Anyway, sorry for the inconvenience. Hope BlogAds fixes it soon.

Listening to habaneros
Posted by Teresa at 01:13 PM * 226 comments

Habaneros are in season, those wicked little hot peppers that clock in at 100K - 580K Scovilles.* They taste of fruit and smoke—really a yummy pepper—but their heat puts them well up into the “biohazard” range. I’ve been working up improved methods for dealing with them.

Here’s the principle: Capsaicin, the molecule that makes hot peppers hot, is hydrophobic, meaning it doesn’t like water. Safely handling habaneros isn’t just a matter of wearing rubber gloves and never touching your face (though you do have to wear rubber gloves and avoid touching your face). Less obviously, you want to avoid having lots of habanero come into contact with water that isn’t heavily loaded with detergent. If you’ve ever handled metallic sodium, you know the drill, except you use olive oil instead of kerosene.

I was once cooking with habaneros and maintained proper procedures right up until the end, when I absentmindedly took the big wok I’d been using and ran it under the kitchen tap. It seemed like only a few seconds had passed before I heard Patrick start coughing, two rooms away. I went to him, eyes streaming, and told him that we were going eat out that night while the air cleared.

What I do with habaneros is use them to make a big batch of hot pepper oil once or twice a year, and then use the oil in my cooking, a drop at a time. Capsaicins are much better behaved in oil. It simultaneously picks up the hot pepper flavor and buffers it—sort of smooths it out and spreads it around. The result is still hot, but the burn has a nice long slow buildup and fade, without that raw feral bite that makes you want to scrub your tongue.

Equipment: A large glass jar (I used recycled spaghetti sauce jars) that will fit in your microwave oven. A tight lid for the jar. Rubber gloves, which you will infallibly wear every time you’re handling habaneros. (Goggles aren’t a bad idea, either.) A metal strainer. A microwave oven. Lots of dish detergent. Lots of paper towels. Utensils that aren’t made of wood, unless you’re planning to throw them away afterward. Optionally, an aerosol degreasing cleaner like Orange Clean or Xenit—it’s handy for the cleanup phase.

Ingredients: Fresh habaneros, half a dozen to a couple of dozen, depending on your tastes and ambitions. A big bottle of fresh olive oil. (I just used up a quart.) It doesn’t have to be virginissimo, but it does have to be fresh. Additional flavoring materials to suit your fancy (see below).

I like to freeze my peppers first. It makes them more inert when you process them, they give up their flavors more quickly when they’re cooking, and it means you can make hot oil when it pleases you.

Wash the peppers when you get them home. If you have an outdoor water tap, consider washing them there. Don’t stem and seed them. Just get the outsides clean. If you’re going to freeze them, wait until they’re reasonably dry, then pop them into a plastic bag and put it in the freezer.

When you’re ready to use them, take your large glass jar and fill it half full of olive oil. Lay a plastic grocery bag or other disposable covering on your cutting board. Take each frozen habanero, holding it by its stem, and give it one quick whack with a sharp knife, making sure the cut penetrates the inner cavity. Toss the pepper into the bottle of oil. Continue until the jar is close to full, or until you run out of peppers. Add more oil if needed. Don’t fill the jar all the way. If your peppers don’t all fit, wait a bit; the peppers already in the jar are going to be collapsing soon, which should make room for the rest.

Plain habaneros will give you a satisfactory result, but if you want to get fancy, you can toss other flavoring agents into the olive oil. Some congenial additions: rosemary, citrus zest, coarse black pepper, garlic, ground coriander, plain unsweetened cocoa powder, a small pinch of cinnamon, and maybe a teeny bit of cardamom or allspice. If you dry and process your own herbs, this is a good use for the leftover seeds and stems.* If you have a particular commercial spice mixture you like, you can put in a good big pinch—olive oil will pick up anything.

Put the jar into the microwave and nuke it until it just starts to bubble, then let it sit a little while. The air inside the chiles expands and escapes when they’re heated, creating a mild vacuum when it cools. This sucks olive oil into the chile. Add more frozen peppers and nuke it again in a leisurely and episodic fashion. Whatever you do, don’t let the jar boil over, unless you fancy having to clean up a biohazard spill. I nuke my jars for a minute or two at most, and watch them the whole time like a cat at a mousehole.

Nuke and cool, nuke and cool. Add more peppers, if you’ve got them. Add more oil, if there’s room after the peppers collapse. One batch of peppers can flavor two batches of oil, if you want to make that much. Eventually, though, you’ll start feeling bored by the whole thing, which is as good a sign as any that it’s time to strain off the oil. Do so. It’s okay to press the cooked pepper mass to get more oil out, even if some water-based stuff gets squeezed out too. If you decide the oil isn’t ready yet, you can just pile everything back into the jar and run it through a few more cycles.

How to taste-test your oil: Dip something thin and pointy into it, like a skewer or a fork tine. Pull it out and let all the oil drip off. Lightly touch it to your tongue. Count to ten. If you can’t feel the heat yet, try a slightly larger sample. If you’re convinced that the oil isn’t hot enough yet, take a pair of scissors, stick them into the cooked pepper mass, and snip repeatedly until it’s chunk-style, then reheat and cool it a couple of times. If it still isn’t hot enough, you bought the wrong kind of chiles.

When the oil is satisfactorily flavored, dump everything out into a strainer. While it’s draining, wash and dry your jar. Pour the oil into the jar, put the lid on tightly, and set it in the refrigerator upside-down. When the oil has cooled and hardened, remove the lid and pour off any water that has risen to the bottom. Make sure you get every drop. If need be, pat the surface dry with a paper towel. Put up your finished oil in a nice bottle. Smaller bottles of it make good gifts for other capsaicin junkies.

Cleanup: Either put an oily dish dry into the sink, squirt it generously with dish detergent, and then run water into it, or have a good strong mix of detergent and water already standing, and drop the dish into that. I like to wash everything, then zap it with a degreaser, then wash it again.

How to use: Carefully, possibly using an eyedropper—though Beth Meacham has been known to take a spoonful of the stuff straight, first thing in the morning, to rectify her humours and make her joints stop hurting.

[Recipe Index]

Telling jokes on the Ship of Fools
Posted by Teresa at 11:17 AM * 47 comments

In response to Britain’s proposed anti-religious hatred legislation, Ship of Fools (my all-time favorite religious website) has been running The Laugh Judgment, which is a competition to find the funniest and also the most offensive religious jokes. They’ve posted their lists of ten finalists in each category, and announced the winners.

I was delighted: there were four jokes I hadn’t heard before. Check it out.

Bumper sticker: “I Want To Sit on Trent Lott’s Porch”
Posted by Patrick at 10:26 AM * 11 comments

When Bush arrived in Biloxi, Miss. on September 2nd, he made a deeply felt speech in response to the devastation he witnessed and the stories he heard:

“Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott’s house—he’s lost his entire house—there’s going to be a fantastic house. And I’m looking forward to sitting on the porch,” he said, referring to the former Senate majority leader who lost his 154-year-old family home in Pascagoula, Miss.

I’m sure that the million people left homeless and the families of the 10,000 (just guesses at this point) dead were comforted. Eventually this horror will seem like a dream because Trent Lott will have a fabulous house again.

I, too, look forward to sitting on Trent Lott’s rebuilt porch, sipping a cool drink and enjoying the breeze from the Mississippi, someday soon. If life’s been tough for you lately and you’d like to join us on the porch, you can tell the world by putting this bumper sticker on your expensively tanked-up car.

All proceeds to various worthy disaster-relief charities. Well done.

from “The Shield of Achilles”
Posted by Teresa at 12:59 AM * 44 comments

From W. H. Auden, “The Shield of Achilles” (via Mark Kleiman):

The mass and majesty of this world, all That carries weight and always weighs the same
Lay in the hands of others; they were small
And could not hope for help and no help came:
What their foes like to do was done, their shame
Was all the worst could wish; they lost their pride
And died as men before their bodies died.

September 11, 2005
And watch out for them subversive pastries
Posted by Teresa at 07:56 PM *

Shallow, stupid, and corrupt Michelle Malkin has now declared war on geometry. She and diverse other wingnuts have noticed that the truly beautiful design for the Flight 93 memorial is in the shape of a circle … only it’s not a complete circle … IT’S A CRESCENT! Beloved emblem of ISLAMOFASCISTS! … and WORSE!!!*

As one of Captain Queeg’s cronies reasoned, “Add a handle to the crescent, then cross the whole thing with a hammer, and the designers’ true affiliations are exposed.” Riiiight. Draw a line that bisects the crescent, one that runs parallel to the points of the crescent, then stick a propeller at the widest spot in the resulting figure, and you have a beanie. And don’t anybody tell this guy about that sequence near the end of Episode 35 of Buffy where she does in the evil demonic sweatshop owners with a hammer and sickle.

One of the Nobel Laureates over at Little Green Footballs sees a different pernicious influence at work:

It makes me sick to my stomach, this “memorial” as well as the one in NYC. It seems like these moonbats are just beyond desperate to represent these terrorist attacks as anything but. This is a genuine outrage, and I hope it gets a lot of attention. All this “embrace” and multiculturalism bullshit is getting on my nerves. We were attacked; we kicked a good chunk of terrorist ass in response—and we’re still not done responding. Why does anything more than that need to be said?

Meanwhile, over at RealClearPolitics, an unnamed writer demonstrates the iniquity of the design by displaying the flags of eight different Muslim-dominated countries, every one of which has a crescent moon on it. Unfortunately, they also all have stars on them too, just like our flag, which must be counted something of a detriment to his argument.

Amazing, ain’t it? I picked this story up from The Liberal Avenger. He’s having trouble believing it too. I mean, this is hard. When I try to visualize people this dumb, I imagine them perpetually carrying around a little cheat sheet that says


and on the other side,


Bad Attitudes has pointed out that by this logic, South Carolina is an Islamic state. This may explain why a group called Christian Exodus has announced a crusade in the Palmetto State.

What these nutbars are planning to do about the Bay of Naples, some of their gramma’s quilt patterns, the insignia of airborne divisions, the letter “C”, and the moon’s twice-monthly display of Islamic sympathies, is anybody’s guess.

Walking out on a disaster
Posted by Teresa at 12:51 PM * 39 comments

Cherie Priest is irked at some of the comments she’s gotten in the wake of that striking post she put up last week. Here’s one variety that got up her nose:

Some of you asked gently (but cluelessly) why all the car-less poor people just didn’t walk out of New Orleans when they heard the bad weather was coming … and bless your hearts. If I seriously need to explain the logistics of that to you, what a precious and sheltered life you must lead.

Perhaps an object lesson is in order: I’d like to take you, all of you “walking escape” advocates, into a dense urban area in the middle of a thunderstorm … and turn you loose on the street carrying bottled water, some food, your children, your wheelchair-bound grandparents, your pets (if you have any), and tell you to get the hell out of Dodge within the next day or two. And … go! I sure do hope you’re in a superhero state of health, because otherwise you ain’t getting far.

If you’re in the middle of a violent thunderstorm, or for that matter an ice storm, blizzard, nor’easter, tornado, or hurricane, you’re not going to get far on foot. You’re also unlikely to get far in a vehicle. Unless you’re in immediate danger, take shelter and hang on tight until conditions improve. It’s only sensible.

I’d like to address the overall question of walking evacuations, because I spoke in their favor in What we did on our vacation. I was commenting on Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky’s account of being mistreated and effectively imprisoned in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Here’s what I said:

Until I read this story, it had never once occurred to me that law enforcement might be keeping people from leaving the city on foot. That’s mainly how New York City evacuates when we have a disaster. If you’re prudent, you keep a pair of comfortable walking shoes at the office where you work.* It may take you hours to reach home, or a place with working transit, or just an area that’s less affected by the disaster, but you’ll eventually get there.

Walking out lightens the load on services in the city core. It frees up resources that can be better spent evacuating people who are injured, elderly, frail, or disabled, or who commute long distances by rail. It means everything doesn’t have to go into and out of one small central area. In the case of New Orleans, it would move people who need relief out of the worst-flooded areas, which could only make things easier for everyone.

If anyone took that to mean that informal pedestrian skedaddles are a substitute for a comprehensive emergency evacuation plan, they’re much mistaken. And anyone who took it to mean that a refugee who can walk a few blocks unaided must therefore be personally at fault for not having gotten out of a disaster area, has clearly been putting real work into being mistaken.

I may be big on walking as an evacuation strategy, but like all New Yorkers I know it’s not a complete answer. Single parent with one or more little kids? Frail, elderly, disabled, or caretaker for same? No way. This isn’t rocket science. There obviously have to be other means of evacuation.

Walking is for those who can; for those for whom it’s easier than any other means of evacuation; and for those who have no other means of evacuation and are in immediate danger. It’s a natural strategy in New York City, where on weekdays we have godzillions of people working in Manhattan, many of whom live within ten or fifteen miles of their workplace, and we also have a very limited number of routes on and off the island. You can get a couple of thousand pedestrians over a bridge a lot faster than you can move the same number of cars.

However, I’ll argue that walking can be an applicable strategy in areas where things are more spread out. You don’t have to be able to reach your final destination, or even know what it’s going to be, in order to get away from the worst of a disaster. The trick is to get out of the center and into a less-affected zone where there’ll likely be more resources, more options, more information, and fewer refugees. See where you can go from there.

More rules of thumb (mine; others may have better sets):

In a crowded situation, if everyone cooperates, keeps moving, and maintains a calm, orderly flow, you can get lot more traffic through than you can if a few jerks decide to play “it’s me or them” and jam up the flow.

Non-ambulatory evacuees are the responsibility of first responders, civil authorities, and relief workers. If friends, family, or private commercial transportation can get them out, that’s great, but it’s nothing anyone should count on.

On the other hand, if nobody official is around to move non-ambulatory patients, and it’s urgent that they be moved, accept help from anyone who volunteers, and use anything that rolls.

Those who can walk out on their own, no problem, should assist those who can almost manage it.

If you have time and the plumbing’s working, fill your water bottle(s) before you go, and use the john. If you’re going to be walking a long way and it’s seriously hot outside, consider soaking your shirt or dress with water, then putting it back on.

A cooperative group of pedestrians can carry a lot of weight if they frequently swap out the people doing the carrying. That’s how a lot of wheelchair-bound evacuees got down the fire stairs following the first WTC bombing.

Don’t assume everyone got out until you check. Once you do check, consider putting a sign on the front door of the building to keep other searchers from wasting their time and energy.

If you’ve got a bunch of pedestrians (students at your school, employees at your company) who’re heading off in different directions, take a moment to sort yourselves out into groups of people who are walking in roughly the same direction. That way you can take care of each other. Also, traveling in groups increases the number of people who know who got out and where they went, so they’ll be able to pass on that information later.

You-and-yours should agree in advance on someone in another city with whom you can leave messages in an emergency. It’s often difficult to contact people who’ve gotten hit by the same emergency you have, but if you can both get through to Aunt Minnie in Bangor, she can pass along messages in both directions.

Get help along the way. Give help along the way. Be cheerful and pleasant. Pay attention to the news.

And so on and so forth. Like I said, this isn’t rocket science. It’s just a good ground-level strategy.

The date rolls round again
Posted by Teresa at 10:51 AM * 27 comments

It’s going to keep doing this, you know. Every year’s going to have a 9/11 in it.

This time around, I don’t much feel like celebrating the singular awfulness of that occasion, because it hasn’t stayed very damned singular. There’ve been plenty more intervening. Just this past week and more, we’ve watched a far worse disaster unfold.

I’m getting tired of hearing from Dubya about disasters nobody could have foreseen, when his own people did the foreseeing and he overruled or ignored them.

September 10, 2005
Fantasy Bedtime Hour
Posted by Teresa at 04:02 PM *

It goes like this: There’s a Bay Area public access cable show called Fantasy Bedtime Hour. Each episode is the same: two bubbleheaded and ostensibly naked girls, Juliana and Heatherly, lie in bed and read a four-page selection from Stephen R. Donaldson’s Lord Foul’s Bane, then try to figure it out. They invite “experts” to join their on-the-air discussions. They also direct Fantasy Action Sequences, in which are reenacted their interpretation of the latest four pages. So far, they’ve aired twenty-seven episodes.

Here’s Tadhg O’Higgins, their favorite expert, trying to explain the thing:

Heres my understanding of how this show came to be: Juliana was working for a startup a couple of years back, and had very little free time. A friend of hers recommended Lord Fouls Bane, and she started reading it at night, which was the only time she had to read. Working ten- and twelve-hour days didnt leave much concentration for reading, and she would read about four pages a night before falling asleep. Lord Fouls Bane is a somewhat portentous, involved novel, heavy in both style and subject matter, not really suited to being dipped into and digested in small chunks. So each night Juliana would read four pages, and the next night remember just enough of what was going on to continue.

After about eight or ten months of this, another friend of Julianas asked her what she was reading. Juliana said Lord Fouls Bane, and the friend asked what it was abouta question to which Juliana, thinking about it, realized she had no answer… And from that, somehow, Juliana and Heatherly came up with the idea for a TV show based on the two of them playing ditzy girls who trying to figure out the novel, in bed.

It’s an inspired blending of book and concept. This is the show’s plot summary from Episode One:

Thomas Covenant has just left his house in the country to walk two miles downtown to pay his phone bill at Pacific Bell. He is walking mechanically with his arms braced like a strangler because he has this disease called “VSE” which causes him to lose appendages (ie - 2 fingers) as a result of being very unclean.

On his way, he encounters a small boy who reaches out to touch him. The boy’s mother, whose heart is quailing, snatches her son out of harm’s way. Thomas Covenant is pissed. He is suppressing a memory of his ex-wife Joan when he notices 2 teenage girls trying on jewelry in a store. He pauses to eye them lecherously. It is as if his penis is just another amputated member. A man in an ocher robe runs into him and points at him. Grimacing wildly, he continues his journey to Pac Bell still walking like a strangler (ie - a robot).

And Episode Two:

Thomas Covenant has just reached Pacific Bell to pay his bill. He is greeted by a hot chick who works there. She takes his bill and goes to the back room to check the status.

While he waits, Thomas Covenant takes out a pamphlet that was given to him earlier in the day by a Mormon boy. He is considering becoming a Mormon. When the hot chick returns, she informs him that his bill has already been paid. Thomas Covenant is really pissed. He has to focus on his aching ankles and wrists as he struggles to keep the anger at bay.

He then attempts to pick up the hot chick by lying to her about his leprosy. He tells her that “It isn’t catching. Except to children” (and beggars but apparently not hot chicks). She refuses his advances and he leaves Pac Bell in a rage. He walks mechanically downtown until he reaches a beggar.

Taking pity on the beggar, he attempts to tear off his white gold wedding ring to toss in the beggar’s cup but instead tears off his entire finger! Blood squirts from the wound! The beggar returns Thomas Covenant’s finger to him and Thomas is somehow able to reattach it. Suddenly, he finds himself surrounded by construction. Then as if appearing out of nowhere, he almost falls into a giant precipice filled with rough damnations multiplying below him.

And onward to Episode Three:

Thomas Covenant finds himself falling into the precipice of his future after being hit by a car and struck in the head by a metaphorical spear. After bandaging his massive head wound, he realizes that he is deep within a cave filled with churros. A wretched figure is standing above him waving a staff.

The creature is yelling, “Mine! Mine! Done it! I have the staff! Lord Drool!”

From deep within the bowels of the cave a second ominous figure appears. It is Lord Foul himself! “Back, Rockworm!” he yells, “This prey is too great for you!”

Thomas Covenant cowers in terror. Eating a churro, Lord Foul explains the doomed lineage of Berek Lord Father, Loric, Ravi Shankar and Kiril Threndar Heart of Thundar. Don’t miss this compelling episode with our tallest Expert in Lord Foul’s Bane, Sean Knox!!!

Contrary to popular rumor, this is not how John Clute got his start.

September 09, 2005
After which, he pinched their noses, tweaked their cheeks, and gave them a big ol’ noogie
Posted by Patrick at 05:24 PM * 44 comments

From the Houston Chronicle’s DomeBlog:

U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s visit to Reliant Park this morning offered him a glimpse of what it’s like to be living in shelter.

While on the tour with top administration officials from Washington, including U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao and U.S. Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, DeLay stopped to chat with three young boys resting on cots.

The congressman likened their stay to being at camp and asked, “Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?”

They nodded yes, but looked perplexed.

(Via Nig—er, ortho_bob.)

More about that “blame game” thing
Posted by Teresa at 04:16 PM * 87 comments

I have just arrived at a personal decision. I am not going to listen to any more crap about “blame games” and “not pointing the finger” unless the person speaking has first made it clear that he or she didn’t vote for Bush. I want it explicit, and I want it persuasive. Because otherwise, I’m going to figure that what they’re really saying is this:

“I knew what he was, I knew what he stands for and the kind of men he keeps around him, but I voted for him anyway. Now that it’s been made gut-wrenchingly clear that God won’t magically intervene to save America from its own stupidity and self-indulgent folly, I don’t want to see anyone pointing fingers. I don’t want to hear any talk about blame. Because I know that along with George Bush and Michael Chertoff and Michael Brown, they’re talking about me.”

Speaking of Jon Carroll
Posted by Patrick at 04:10 PM * 10 comments

From today’s column:

Some will say: We have to move on. I think that is what I will say the next time I am charged with murder: Let’s not play the blame game. Let’s not start pointing fingers. It is time to move on. It is time to make sure that more murders do not happen. Won’t you join me in this national campaign against murder? God bless America.

Read, the, whole, indeed, heh, thing.

New Orleans Talking Blues
Posted by Teresa at 04:00 PM * 9 comments

Jo Walton has posted her New Orleans Talking Blues:

When levees are flooded and hurricanes roar,
When the waters start seeping up under the door,
You’d expect the escape plans to include the poor
But this isn’t that kind of song.

Of course there’s more. Go look.

The real “looting” is yet to come
Posted by Patrick at 03:53 PM * 22 comments

Kathryn Cramer says, correctly, that FEMA needs to tell people what it intends for their homes.

Since, with the powers-that-be clearly planning a future NO that doesn’t include those tiresome poor people, while heavily armed “private security” firms make it scary to stay in town, one might almost think something was up. Of course, American landowners have never used big, distracting calamities as cover for the wholesale expropriation of the tiny holdings of poor people, as the Delta blacks of 1927 or the California Nisei of 1942 would be the first to tell you.

Another problem FEMA’s not on top of
Posted by Teresa at 03:24 PM * 17 comments

From MemoryBlog, via theweaselking:

Infectious Disease Research in and Around New Orleans

Summary: At the very least, there are two Level-3 biolabs in New Orleans and a cluster of three in nearby Covington. They have been working with anthrax, mousepox, HIV, plague, etc. There are surely other labs in the city.

Here’s a great tip for all reporters looking for a completely new—and extremely important—angle on the situation in New Orleans. As far as I can tell, no one has yet mentioned the biological research labs located in and around NOLA. For example, in nearby Covington, Tulane University runs the Tulane National Primate Research Center, a cluster of Level-3 biological labs containing around 5,000 monkeys, most of which are housed in outdoor cages. According to an article in Tulane University Magazine, “The primary areas of focus today at the Tulane National Primate Research Center are infectious diseases, including biodefense related work, gene therapy, reproductive biology and neuroscience. The Tulane primate center is playing a key role in the federal strategic plan for biodefense research.”

So what happened to these diseased monkeys living outside in cages? Granted, Covington didn’t get hit nearly as hard as NOLA, but it still got hit.

According to the Sunshine Project, which digs up grant proposals and other primary documents from the US biowarfare effort, “Tulane scientists are working with anthrax, plague, and other biological weapons agents.”

And how much of this kind of research was going on within New Orleans itself? Apparently quite a bit. …

If all the counsels of religion and philosophy, and all the long experience of the human race, weren’t enough to teach us that we lead interdependent lives, and that we can’t oppress and abandon our fellow critters with impunity, surely the existence of infectious diseases should do it?

“There would be no Superdomes in their city”
Posted by Patrick at 01:54 PM * 294 comments

Via Atrios: Rogers Cadenhead sums up the tale of how police from New Orleans suburb Gretna, Lousiana used armed force to keep law-abiding Americans from walking out of New Orleans.

Here’s UPI:

“We shut down the bridge,” Arthur Lawson, chief of the City of Gretna Police Department, confirmed to United Press International, adding that his jurisdiction had been “a closed and secure location” since before the storm hit.

“All our people had evacuated and we locked the city down,” he said.

The bridge in question—the Crescent City Connection—is the major artery heading west out of New Orleans across the Mississippi River. […]

“If we had opened the bridge, our city would have looked like New Orleans does now: looted, burned and pillaged.”

Just to refresh your memory, here’s the pertinent bit from Larry Bradshaw and Lorry Beth Slonsky’s report (previously quoted in this Making Light post):

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander’s assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn’t cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the six-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their city. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

Readers may judge for themselves where Arthur Lawson, chief of the City of Gretna Police Department, ultimately belongs. What’s certain is that he was acting entirely as many of his constituents wanted him to act: keep the black people out, even if you have to shoot them.

Of course, perish forbid we should talk about race.

Desperately seeking Santa
Posted by Teresa at 01:09 PM * 4 comments

I’ve got someone who’s trying to track down one or more organizers of the annual “Bad Santa” event, sometimes known as Santacon. Can anyone here help me? No public confessions required; just drop me a note with “Bad Santa” in the subject line. Thanks.

September 08, 2005
The Greatest Generation
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:52 PM * 42 comments

On Tuesday, 30 August 2005, the day after Hurricane Katrina hit the Louisiana coast, while water was still pouring across the broken levees, at the very hour FEMA was turning back volunteer firefighters who were trying to enter New Orleans, President Bush was in Coronado, California, delivering a speech. The occasion was the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII. Mr. Bush, in his speech, compared himself to FDR.

So, let’s talk about WWII for a moment. Specifically, let’s talk about, not the end, but the start of WWII for the United States: The devastating surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Pearl Harbor attack took place just before 8:00 am local time on a Sunday morning, 7 December 1941. Surprise was total, sucess was complete: Within minutes 2,400 Americans were dead, five out of the eight battleships in the harbor were sinking. The men responsible for the defense of Pearl Harbor were Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, Commander, US Pacific Fleet, and Major General Walter C. Short, Commanding General of the Hawaiian Department.

Ten days earlier, on 27 November, Admiral Kimmel received a “war warning” from the Chief of Naval Operations indicating that war was imminent. Rather than prepare an active defense of Hawaii against attack, General Short set up passive defenses against sabotage.

Over an hour before the raid, USS Ward, a destroyer, fired on and sank a Japanese midget submarine in the Pearl Harbor approaches. Admiral Kimmel was informed of that sinking, but no alert was issued; no planes were launched, no guns manned.

The failure of the New Orleans levees during a major hurricane had been predicted for years. When assistant secretary of the Army Mike Parker, head of the Corps of Engineers, objected to cuts in funding for Mississippi delta flood control during testimony before congress, Mr. Bush fired him. Rather than strengthen the levees, President Bush cut the funding for their improvement and maintenance by 80%. Rather than create plans for a hurricane strike on New Orleans, FEMA outsourced planning to a civilian agency. It is unclear whether those plans were ever produced. Seventy two hours before the levees broke, Hurricane Katrina’s path and strength had been accurately forecast by the National Weather Service. The Departmnet of Homeland Security took no effective measures in response.

One day after the Japanese attack, President Roosevelt asked congress to declare war in the “date that will live in infamy” address. One day after the levees broke, President Bush compared himself to President Roosevelt and accepted a gift guitar.

Two days after the attack, the Knox Commission (9-14 December 1941) investigated the facts. Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox went to Pearl Harbor, and reported back to the President.

Two days after the levees broke, Bush returned to Washington.

On 16 December 1941, nine days after the attack, General Short was relieved of command.

On 08 September 2005, nine days after the levees broke, Michael Brown is still director of FEMA.

On 17 December 1941, ten days after the attack, Admiral Kimmel was relieved of command.

No one knows what tomorrow will bring, but I’m willing to bet that ten days after the levees broke Michael Chertoff will still be Secretary of Homeland Security.

The Roberts Commission, headed by Justice Owen Roberts, was convened on 18 December 1941, eleven days after the attack. They delivered their report on 23 January 1942. The Roberts Commission report begins:

JANUARY 23,1942

The White House

SIR: The undersigned were appointed by Executive order of December 18,1941, which defined our duties as a commission thus:

“to ascertain and report the facts relating to the attack made by Japanese armed forces upon the Territory of Hawaii on December 7, 1941.

“The purposes of the required inquiry and report are to provide bases for sound decisions whether any derelictions of duty or errors of judgment on the part of United States Army or Navy personnel contributed to such successes as were achieved by the enemy on the occasion mentioned, and, if so, what these derelictions or errors were, and who were responsible therefor.”

The Congress speedily supplemented the Executive order by granting the Commission power to summon witnesses and examine them under oath.

The Commission examined 127 witnesses and received a large number of documents. All members of the Military and Naval Establishments, and civil officers and citizens who were thought to have knowledge of facts pertinent to the inquiry, were summoned and examined under oath. All persons in the island of Oahu, who believed they had knowledge of such facts, were publicly requested to appear, and a number responded to the invitation and gave evidence.

Various rumors and hearsay statements have been communicated to the Commission. The Commission has sought to find and examine witnesses who might be expected to have knowledge respecting them. We believe that our findings of fact sufficiently dispose of most of them.

The evidence touches subjects which in the national interest should remain secret. We have, therefore, refrained from quotation of testimony or documentary proof. Our findings, however, have been made with the purpose fully and accurately to reflect the testimony, which as respects matters of fact is substantially without contradiction.

23 January 1942 was forty-seven days after the attack. 16 October 2005 will be forty-seven days after the levees broke. What are the bets we’ll see an investigatory report on the New Orleans disaster on that day?

Now what are the bets that Mr. Bush will still be comparing himself to Franklin Roosevelt on that day, even as he continues to tear down the last parts of Mr. Roosevelt’s legacy?

I’m running out of expressions of amazement
Posted by Teresa at 11:26 PM * 57 comments

Quick, ask me who’s patrolling in New Orleans right now. Just ask.

It’s Blackwater USA: armed private commandos. If you think you’ve heard about them in connection with the war in Iraq, yes: these are the same guys.

FEMA won’t let the Red Cross into New Orleans, but they’ve had Blackwater USA running around loose there—and until I hear differently, I’m going to assume Blackwater isn’t doing it for free.

FEMA has been making decisions and sending down orders that have horrified the entire world. We may never find out who made the decisions, but we should be able to figure out who gave the orders. Consider writing to your representatives and asking them to go after that question.

UPDATE (by Patrick): Kathryn Cramer, who has blogged mercenary-related stories before, makes several good points about Blackwater operating in New Orleans.

Max Weber Speak, You Listen
Posted by Patrick at 10:02 PM * 13 comments

Nathan Newman clues us in:

As I’m coincidentally preparing readings for a class on government and bureaucracies, I came across this piece by Max Weber, the early 20th century sociologist, who outlined what was needed for a well-functioning bureaucracy.
Office Holding is a Vocation: That is the office is a vocation finds expression, first, in the requirement of a prescribed course of training…Furthermore, it finds expression in that the position of the official is in the nature of a “duty”…Entrance into an office, including one in the private economy, is considered an acceptable of a specific duty of fealty to the purpose of the office in return for the grant of a secure existence. It is decisvie for the modern loyalty to an office that, in the pure type, it does not establish a relationship to a person, like the vassal’s or disciple’s faith under feudal or patrimonial authority, but rather is devoted to impersonal and functional purposes…The political official—at least in the fully developed modern state — is not considered the personal servant of a ruler.
Guess what was lacking at FEMA, with its untrained hacks acting not with duty to their office, but as vassals to Bush’s political needs?

The story of Katrina is not of individual incompetence but a more fundamental breakdown in the operations of our nation’s civil service. Step by step, Bush has been dismantling every rule and every law that they can that would ensure loyalty by government employees to the public, rather than to the political needs of the incumbent. From the destruction of union rights in [the Department of] Homeland Security to the privatization of services to allied political cronies, a Katrina disaster became inevitable.

Weber describes what a functioning “modern developed state” looks like. If Katrina made our response look like a third world nation, it’s because while our technology and wealth may be the top in the world, our political institutions are sinking back into feudalism.

Even that’s giving them too much credit, though. Feudalism entailed the idea that rulers had obligations to the ruled. What we’re “sinking back into” is barbarism, plain and simple: unmediated Might Makes Right.

Can Michael Brown be tried for murder?
Posted by Teresa at 06:26 PM *

This morning’s news from New Orleans, reported in the Los Angeles Times:

Police May Force Out Residents
Bacteria Counts Off the Charts, U.S. Warns …

NEW ORLEANS � Police officials threatened Wednesday to resort to forced evacuations by the end of the week to clear out residents who had not left, pointing to environmental tests warning of dangerous bacteria levels in the floodwaters. …

Police and military officials were focused on saving the lives of those still holed up in the shells of eroding houses and apartments. New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin is counting on a toughly worded evacuation order he signed Tuesday night to persuade thousands of residents to leave.

Nagin instructed police and National Guard troops “to compel the evacuation of all persons from the city of New Orleans, regardless of whether such persons are on private property or do not desire to leave.”

But partway through the story, you get this:

Michael D. Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency—who is under fire for the agency’s slow response to the flooding—said Wednesday that scores of police and volunteer firefighters from around the nation, as well as trucks loaded with donated water, were even now being prevented from entering New Orleans while troops conduct house-to-house searches.

“They can’t just yet,” Brown said during a briefing in Baton Rouge. “There is going to come this natural time when we will release this floodgate of cops and firefighters who want to help. It’s the same for anyone who wants to volunteer—we have over 50,000 offers of donations from the private sector. It has to be coordinated in such a way that it helps.”

What “natural time”?!

The natural time for aid to come into the city was as soon as the hurricane had passed!


(Note: That was not “shrill.” That was a roar.)

A person who has no drinkable water will die in three days. The survivors of Hurricane Katrina have been stranded twice that long—and still Brown doesn’t think it’s time to send in aid! With the authorities now threatening to evacuate the city, the only “natural time” he can possibly be waiting for is the point where no one who needed help is still alive in New Orleans.

Brown has been actively prohibiting aid to the city. Under his direction, FEMA has repeatedly and unambiguously prevented aid of all kinds from getting into the city. There are no excuses for this delay. The survivors’ needs are apocalyptically simple: Rescue. Food. Water. Medical care. Transportation out of the city. Shelter. People have died and are still dying there for lack of basic assistance which Brown won’t let reach them.

The White House doesn’t think Brown’s doing anything wrong. They’ve put no pressure on FEMA to change its policies. While it’s true that Bush & Co. did come up with a big plan to address complaints about their response to Katrina, it had nothing to do with helping the survivors and cleaning up the wreckage. It was all about containing the political damage. This was a two-pronged plan: have high-ranking administration officials do meaningless photo ops in the Gulf Coast area (Bush does that a lot), and meanwhile try to shift all the blame for mishandling the situation onto local officials.

Elsewhere in the news, federal emergency teams have succeeded in delivering at least one batch of supplies to the Gulf Coast disaster area: 25,000 body bags. They’ve pulled more than thirty bodies out of one nursing home alone, at St. Rita’s in St. Bernard Parish. They found fourteen bodies in an abandoned hospital. Many, many more bodies are expected. Those death and casualty figures you’ve been seeing are risibly low, completely unrealistic.

How serious is it? FEMA is trying to keep reporters from taking pictures of the bodies of the dead. They’re claiming it’s in bad taste to show such things. They are wholly contemptible.

These guys are willing to let innocent refugees die in filth and misery. They let corpses lie unattended in the Superdome, some of them undoubtedly in the sight of the grieving relatives. Their body-hunting crews are tieing the corpses they find to trees and fences for later collection. One of the relief crews they wouldn’t let into the area was a bunch of professional morticians. FEMA didn’t want them. The Gulf Coast dead are going to be jumbled into body bags. Identifying them is going to be a nasty, nasty business. FEMA says people ought not find out that their loved ones are dead by seeing them in a news photo, but they’ve made almost no effort to identify the dead, and they’ve made it impossible for anyone else to find out that information.

Taste has nothing to do with it. They don’t want people looking at pictures of the helpless and pitiable dead.

Shamelessly politicizing the Gulf Coast tragedy
Posted by Teresa at 02:54 PM *

My head. is going. to explode.

Quoted today, in the Mother Jones blog:

[I]n CongressDaily today: “[White House spokesman Trent] Duffy asserted that the vast spending that would be required to address the hurricane’s impact adds to the need to change Social Security, which threatens to strain the budget in coming years.”

As I hope everyone knows by now, Social Security is in no danger—except from the Bush administration, which wants to privatize it. All the stories you’ve heard over the past several decades about Social Security going bankrupt have been false—a well-funded long-term disinformation campaign conducted by people who do not wish you well.

No, really. Just because you wouldn’t believe it if you read it in a book, doesn’t mean it isn’t true. That’s what’s been happening. For decades.

The White House is in on that conspiracy. (God, I hate this! Conspiracy! It’s so tacky!) The Bushies floated the idea of Social Security privatization at the beginning of this term of office. It didn’t prosper. I take Trent Duffy’s proposal to mean they’re at it again.

This is like Bush’s tax policy shifts during his first administration. There’s a budget surplus? Cut taxes for the rich. There’s going to be a budget shortfall? Cut taxes for the rich. After a little while, it became clear that the only part he cared about was cutting taxes for the rich.

Privatizing Social Security’s another one of those campaigns. There’s absolutely no need for it. Social Security’s doing fine, and should continue to go on working and doing what it does far into the foreseeable future. But Bush wants it, or anyway his very rich friends want it, so it’s just going to keep popping up.

When it does? Say no. Write to your congressman. A miserably impoverished old age is no one’s idea of fun.

Welcome to the Insurgency (Here’s Your Accordion)
Posted by Patrick at 01:47 PM * 65 comments

Lizzy Lynn asks:

One wonders: one of the reasons the Powers That Be were able to get away with this shit is that the media bought all the stories about “looting” and “insurrection.” They were used. Is there any part of the media—print, TV, whatever—that is capable of self-examination and can see this? Are they able to get mad about it? Or is all this insurrection-talk going to become part of the popular myth about what “really” happened in NO when Katrina hit, and end up being used as the justification for the government’s wretched behavior?

Just in case anyone missed this stuff: Matt Welch questions the accepted narrative here. Lenin’s Tomb asks very similar questions here. Digby reminds us of America’s long history of this kind of thing here.

The famously left-wing Chicago Tribune(1) provides background:

BATON ROUGE, La.—They locked down the entrance doors Thursday at the Baton Rouge hotel where I’m staying alongside hundreds of New Orleans residents driven from their homes by Hurricane Katrina.

“Because of the riots,” the hotel managers explained. Armed Gunmen from New Orleans were headed this way, they had heard.

“It’s the blacks,” whispered one white woman in the elevator. “We always worried this would happen.” […]

All it took to set the rumor mills in motion were the first TV pictures broadcast Tuesday showing some looters—many of them black—smashing store windows in downtown New Orleans. Reports later in the week of sporadic violence and shootings among the desperate throngs outside the Superdome clamoring to be rescued only added to the panic.

By Thursday, local TV and radio stations in Baton Rouge—the only ones in the metro area still able to broadcast—were breezily passing along reports of cars being hijacked at gunpoint by New Orleans refugees, riots breaking out in the shelters set up in Baton Rouge to house the displaced, and guns and knives being seized.

Scarcely any of it was true. […]

Of course there was violence in post-flood New Orleans. Pre-flood New Orleans wasn’t exactly an oasis of municipal peace. But it couldn’t be clearer that it was exaggerated by several orders of magnitude, and that these exaggerations have now been used to justify treating law-abiding Americans, many of them sick, injured, or exhausted; many of them people who faithfully followed the rules…as an “insurgency” to be corralled, detained, and abused.

This will continue. As the happy new century winds on, it will happen to other Americans. It will happen to some of you.
(1) Joke.

By yogh ash ond thorn
Posted by Teresa at 11:10 AM * 10 comments

It’s a tad unnerving to find your current-events reporting being linked-to amidst a thicket of thorns and eths:

au tluu a ganga yfir brna milli daua og lfs, en a var skoti au. Svo er hr umra um greinina Making Light. Frttirnar fr NOLA alltaf fallegri og fallegri.

Welcome, Jon Carroll readers
Posted by Patrick at 08:56 AM * 12 comments

We’ve long thought Jon was the best unsyndicated columnist in America, so finding the link back to us in this morning’s column was like blearily padding to the kitchen to find that someone has left a pound of genuine Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee. If you’re coming here from there, check out our comment threads, which (as Teresa says) are the best part of this weblog. If you’re a Making Light regular who’s never browsed the Jon Carroll archives at, then by all means, go, do.

September 07, 2005
What we did on our vacation
Posted by Teresa at 08:20 PM *

Warning: I’m about to link to a page that has a little “sfsocialists” logo in the upper left corner. If that makes you twitch, skip this post. You’ll be doing yourself a disservice, though. The piece is descriptive. What the authors are writing about is what happened to them during the time they were stuck in the city after the storm passed.

The authors, Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky, were attending a paramedics’ conference in New Orleans, staying in the French Quarter, when the hurricane hit. Afterward, they were in the same situation as other survivors in the city: no food, no water, no transportation, and no help from the outside world:

On Day 2, there were approximately 500 of us left in the hotels in the French Quarter. We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees like ourselves, and locals who had checked into hotels for safety and shelter from Katrina. Some of us had cell phone contact with family and friends outside of New Orleans. We were repeatedly told that all sorts of resources including the National Guard and scores of buses were pouring into the city. The buses and the other resources must have been invisible because none of us had seen them.

We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled our money and came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the city. Those who did not have the requisite $45.00 for a ticket were subsidized by those who did have extra money. We waited for 48 hours for the buses, spending the last 12 hours standing outside, sharing the limited water, food, and clothes we had. We created a priority boarding area for the sick, elderly, and newborn babies. We waited late into the night for the “imminent” arrival of the buses. The buses never arrived. We later learned that the minute they arrived at the city limits, they were commandeered by the military.

By day 4 our hotels had run out of fuel and water. Sanitation was dangerously abysmal. As the desperation and despair increased, street crime as well as water levels began to rise. The hotels turned us out and locked their doors, telling us that the “officials” told us to report to the convention center to wait for more buses. As we entered the center of the city, we finally encountered the National Guard.

The Guards told us we would not be allowed into the Superdome as the city’s primary shelter had been descended into a humanitarian and health hellhole. The guards further told us that the city’s only other shelter, the Convention Center, was also descending into chaos and squalor and that the police were not allowing anyone else in. Quite naturally, we asked, “If we can’t go to the only two shelters in the city, what was our alternative?” The guards told us that that was our problem, and no they did not have extra water to give to us. This would be the start of our numerous encounters with callous and hostile “law enforcement”.

We walked to the police command center at Harrah’s on Canal Street and were told the same thing, that we were on our own, and no they did not have water to give us. We now numbered several hundred. We held a mass meeting to decide a course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command post. We would be plainly visible to the media and would constitute a highly visible embarrassment to the city officials. The police told us that we could not stay. Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp. In short order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the city. The crowed cheered and began to move. We called everyone back and explained to the commander that there had been lots of misinformation and wrong information and was he sure that there were buses waiting for us. The commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, “I swear to you that the buses are there.”

We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched pasted the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and others people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did not dampen our enthusiasm.

If Bradshaw and Slonsky are socialists, of course they were excited, hopeful, determined, and optimistic, with undampened enthusiasm: they were taking part in an honest-to-god self-organizing people’s march in search of peace, freedom, and better treatment for all. Once in a while, situations do arise where the trad socialists are the ones who understand what’s going on.

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander’s assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn’t cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the six-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their city. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

Don’t give me any knee-jerk reactions. I’m a centrist, not a socialist, and I know perfectly well that that translation is correct. I could drag in a half-dozen translators, of diverse political leanings, and they’d tell you the same thing. Gretna law enforcement panicked at the prospect of letting some half-starved shell-shocked hurricane survivors, grannies and little kids and all, come limping on foot through their area. May they be ashamed of themselves forever.

Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain under an overpass. We debated our options and in the end decided to build an encampment in the middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway on the center divide, between the O’Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned we would be visible to everyone; we would have some security, being on an elevated freeway; and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet-to-be-seen buses.

All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away. Some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the city on foot. Meanwhile, the only two city shelters sank further into squalor and disrepair. The only way across the bridge was by vehicle. We saw workers stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks and any car that could be hotwired. All were packed with people trying to escape the misery New Orleans had become.

Until I read this story, it had never once occurred to me that law enforcement might be keeping people from leaving the city on foot. That’s mainly how New York City evacuates when we have a disaster. If you’re prudent, you keep a pair of comfortable walking shoes at the office where you work.* It may take you hours to reach home, or a place with working transit, or just an area that’s less affected by the disaster, but you’ll eventually get there.

Walking out lightens the load on services in the city core. It frees up resources that can be better spent evacuating people who are injured, elderly, frail, or disabled, or who commute long distances by rail. It means everything doesn’t have to go into and out of one small central area. In the case of New Orleans, it would move people who need relief out of the worst-flooded areas, which could only make things easier for everyone.

Why should people be prohibited from leaving New Orleans on foot, but the same people be allowed to leave if they’re in cars and trucks? We already knew the people stuck in the city didn’t have cars. That’s why they’re stuck there.

Corroboration: the story of three intrepid Duke University students who cobbled together enough fake ID to pass for journalists, then made two trips ferrying survivors to LSU and Baton Rouge. They got a look at the situation in the Superdome, and the arbitrariness of the situation:

“We found it absolutely incredible that the authorities had no way to get there for four or five days, that they didn’t go in and help these people, and we made it in a two-wheel-drive Hyundai,” said Hans Buder, who made the trip with his roommate Byrd and another student, David Hankla. …

“Anyone who knows that area, if you had a bus, it would take you no more than 20 minutes to drive in with a bus and get these people out,” Buder said. “They sat there for four or five days with no food, no water, babies getting raped in the bathrooms, there were murders, nobody was doing anything for these people. And we just drove right in, really disgraceful. I don’t want to get too fired up with the rhetoric, but some blame needs to be placed somewhere.”

More corroboration: this segment, from (of all places) Sean Hannity & Alan Colmes’ show on Fox News, with Geraldo Rivera and Shepard Smith reporting from the NOLA convention center and the encampment on I-10. Shepard Smith reported that there were thousands of people still stuck on freeways and bridges, with no food or water, ignored there for days. Back in the studio, O’Reilly said that what they needed was a strong leader like Rudy Giuliani. Smith shot back that what they needed “on the first day was food and water and what they needed on the second day was food and water and what they needed on the third day was food and water.”

Geraldo tried to describe the inhuman conditions at the shelter, then broke down and cried as he begged the authorities to let people still stuck in the convention center walk out of town. Shepard Smith confirmed that the authorities had set up checkpoints, and were turning back people who tried to leave. When Sean Hannity said Smith and Rivera needed to get some perspective, Smith yelled “This is the perspective!”

See also the comments on this at Digby and TalkLeft.

FEMA’s contemptible excuse for not letting the Red Cross into New Orleans was that if they alleviated the suffering there, people might be disinclined to leave. As every report from the city attests, the people in New Orleans are desperate to get out. And how does FEMA’s excuse fit in with law enforcement’s refusal to let the citizenry leave the city? Furthermore, what reason can there be for keeping obviously harmless people from walking along public roads in order to get out of a dangerously unlivable situation and into safer areas where the civil authorities could give them assistance and get them into shelters?

We return now to Bradford and Slonsky and the rest of their group, huddled in the middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway between the O’Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits, where they’re organizing a cooperative:

Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water delivery truck and brought it up to us. Let’s hear it for looting! A mile or so down the freeway, an army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight turn. We ferried the food back to our camp in shopping carts. Now secure with the two necessities, food and water, cooperation, community, and creativity flowered. We organized a cleanup and hung garbage bags from the rebar poles. We made beds from wood pallets and cardboard. We designated a storm drain as the bathroom and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for privacy out of plastic, broken umbrellas, and other scraps. We even organized a food recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).

This was a process we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina. When individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for yourself only. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or food for your parents. When these basic needs were met, people began to look out for each other, working together and constructing a community.

If the relief organizations had saturated the City with food and water in the first 2 or 3 days, the desperation, the frustration and the ugliness would not have set in.

Emphasis mine. They’re right. People in stressful emergency situations tend to cooperate rather than panic. It takes a terminal weenie like Jonah Goldberg to come up with masturbatory post-holocaust fantasies about the imminent breakdown of civilization. (I’ve met his type in the consuite. They tend to own lots of knives, talk big about how dangerous society has become, not know their neighbors, and never have gotten into so much as a streetcorner shoving-match, much less a fight.) What Goldberg is actually demonstrating is that he’s never dealt with real human beings during real civil emergencies.

It takes very little to turn people into part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. You practically have to work at it to get them to do anything else. But if you make them feel like they’ve been abandoned and are on their own, they’ll do whatever they can to ensure that they and their loved ones survive. You’d do the same.

We return once again to Bradshaw and Slonsky in the freeway-median cooperative:

Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water to passing families and individuals. Many decided to stay and join us. Our encampment grew to 80 or 90 people.

From a woman with a battery powered radio we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the city. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway? The officials responded they were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking feeling. “Taking care of us” had an ominous tone to it.

Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking city) was correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, “Get off the fucking freeway”. A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.

Let’s rehearse the situation: There are no available shelters in New Orleans. Poor pedestrians aren’t being allowed to leave the city. Since they’re stuck in the city, the freeway cooperative people are taking care of each other and organizing the provision of food, water, sanitation, and other basic needs. Nobody is using their chunk of freeway. What possible reason can there be for destroying their encampment and scattering its inhabitants?

As a bonus question, what legitimate use could the sheriff have for water and C-rations, other than to put them into the hands of refugees?

Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated or congealed into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of “victims” they saw “mob” or “riot”. We felt safety in numbers. Our “we must stay together” was impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.

In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of eight people, in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from possible criminal elements, but equally and definitely we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew, and shoot-to-kill policies.

It would appear that sick, starved, homeless, and weary though they were the refugees were nevertheless so frightening to law enforcement that they had to hide from the very people who should have been helping and protecting them.

Tell me again who’s been firing off all those shots that’ve been reported in New Orleans?

Bradshaw and Slonsky’s adventures weren’t over, but they were eventually airlifted out by an urban search-and-rescue team. Given how much search-and-rescue work remains to be done, one wonders why Bradshaw and Slonsky couldn’t be allowed to walk out of the city under their own power, and let the pros concentrate on rescuing less resourceful survivors.

Official priorities didn’t improve once they were out of the city:

Those who managed to make it out with any possessions (often a few belongings in tattered plastic bags) were subjected to two different dog-sniffing searches.

Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations had been confiscated at the airport because the rations set off the metal detectors. Yet no food had been provided for the men, women, children, elderly, and disabled as they sat for hours, waiting to be “medically screened” to make sure we were not carrying any communicable diseases.

This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm, heartfelt reception given to us by the ordinary Texans. We saw one airline worker give her shoes to someone who was barefoot. Strangers on the street offered us money and toiletries with words of welcome.

Any lingering suspicions that Bradshaw and Slonsky’s account was an exercise in ideology should dispelled by the brevity and austerity of their conclusion:

Throughout, the official relief effort was callous, inept, and racist. There was more suffering than need be. Lives were lost that did not need to be lost.

Today’s lesson (2)
Posted by Teresa at 03:40 AM *

Anyone who thinks this has nothing to do with current politics is invited to think again.

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

(Matthew 25:31-46)

September 06, 2005
Those Words, Señor
Posted by Patrick at 10:32 PM *

Defense Tech has a succinct answer to the frenzy of blame-the-locals emanating from some quarters:

In the last few days, some have tried to shift the blame onto the state and city authorities. A whole bunch of it is well-deserved. […] But the City of New Orleans’ ability to cope with a crisis isn’t a matter of national security. The Department of Homeland Security’s ability is. Ray Nagin isn’t going to be responding to terrorist attacks. That’s what DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff and his team have been hired to do.

DT, which is subtltled “the future of the military, law enforcement, and national security”, also raises an eyebrow toward readers who complain about the Katrina coverage:

“I thought the name of this web site was Defense Tech?” asks JD, echoing the e-mails of several folks who wrote in over the weekend. “Enough with your personal political views about Katrina. This is not the place for it.”

With all respect, JD, I have to disagree. This isn’t about politics. This is about all of our safety.

Of course, Defense Tech is written from the sensible idea that “national security” means national security, whereas for a significant number of people the phrase simply means blowing up bad guys. If killing people isn’t on offer, it’s not “national security”. This is one of those divides that’s so obvious that it generally goes unremarked.

All Disaster, All the Time
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 05:44 PM * 4 comments

From the New York Times, an Op-Ed by Paul Krugman:

Several recent news analyses on FEMA’s sorry state have attributed the agency’s decline to its inclusion in the Department of Homeland Security, whose prime concern is terrorism, not natural disasters. But that supposed change in focus misses a crucial part of the story.

For one thing, the undermining of FEMA began as soon as President Bush took office. Instead of choosing a professional with expertise in responses to disaster to head the agency, Mr. Bush appointed Joseph Allbaugh, a close political confidant. Mr. Allbaugh quickly began trying to scale back some of FEMA’s preparedness programs.

You might have expected the administration to reconsider its hostility to emergency preparedness after 9/11 - after all, emergency management is as important in the aftermath of a terrorist attack as it is following a natural disaster. As many people have noticed, the failed response to Katrina shows that we are less ready to cope with a terrorist attack today than we were four years ago.

But the downgrading of FEMA continued, with the appointment of Michael Brown as Mr. Allbaugh’s successor.

Mr. Brown had no obvious qualifications, other than having been Mr. Allbaugh’s college roommate. But Mr. Brown was made deputy director of FEMA; The Boston Herald reports that he was forced out of his previous job, overseeing horse shows. And when Mr. Allbaugh left, Mr. Brown became the agency’s director. The raw cronyism of that appointment showed the contempt the administration felt for the agency; one can only imagine the effects on staff morale.

That contempt, as I’ve said, reflects a general hostility to the role of government as a force for good. And Americans living along the Gulf Coast have now reaped the consequences of that hostility.

The administration has always tried to treat 9/11 purely as a lesson about good versus evil. But disasters must be coped with, even if they aren’t caused by evildoers. Now we have another deadly lesson in why we need an effective government, and why dedicated public servants deserve our respect. Will we listen?

And from The Accordion Guy, a pop quiz:

For the purposes of this question, please ignore certain geographical impossibilities, such as your living in the midwest and being a thousand miles away from any large body of water.

Here’s the scenario: imagine that you’re doing exactly what you’re doing right now. There’ve been rumblings in the news of an extremely severe storm that might come your way. Suddenly, you are given notice — perhaps from your supervisor at work, a phone call, email or instant message from a family member or friend, a civil defense announcement on TV or radio — that the order to evacuate is given. The storm is headed right for your town, and it is expected to be a category 5 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale: winds at 150 miles per hour (250 kilometres per hour), trees blown down, damage and even complete destruction to houses and buildings. The evacuation order says that the safe distance is at least 150 miles (250 kilometres), which you can assume to be a two and one-half hour trip under normal conditions. You have 24 hours before the storm is expected to hit.

Assume that you have only the resources available to you, in their current state. Do you have a car, is it working and is the tank full of gas? If not, can you arrange for a ride? Are you at work, and how long would it take you to get home to collect your things under normal circumstances? How about during a general evacuation? Where would you go? Is there somewhere you can stay where you’re going? Whom would you take with you? What would you take with you?

Additional Scenario Twists

For an additional challenge, add these twists to the secnario:
  • The Joey twist: Your father, who lives in the same town as you, is handicapped and walks slowly with a walker. He also takes insulin before each meal, which means you need to stock up.
  • The Joey’s sister twist, part 1: You have three kids, aged 4, 2 and 4 months.
  • The Joey’s sister twist, part 2: You are the assistant health director for the region; they’re going to call on you for emergency duty. And yes, you still have the kids.
  • The new kid in town twist: You just moved into town, don’t have a car and know almost no one.
  • The “the Weather Channel screwed up again!” twist: They were right about the storm, but wrong about the time — you have 12 hours before it hits.
You’ve got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?

September 05, 2005
Today’s Lesson (1)
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:10 PM * 37 comments

And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

He said unto him, “What is written in the law? how readest thou?”

And he answering said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.”

And he said unto him, “Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.”

But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”

And Jesus answering said, “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, ‘Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.’

“Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?”

And he said, “He that shewed mercy on him.”

Then said Jesus unto him, “Go, and do thou likewise.”

(Luke 10:25-37)

Words Line Up In Formation And Fail Me
Posted by Patrick at 09:55 PM * 52 comments

Henry Farrell writes to point out that Michael Froomkin has a link to the audio of that interview with Barbara Bush. Henry observes:

Editor and Publisher actually softened it. She actually said, “What I’m hearing—which is sort of scary—is that they want to stay.”

Maybe I will have that drink after all.

Not An Imaginary Story
Posted by Patrick at 08:30 PM *

From Editor and Publisher:

In a segment at the top of the show on the surge of evacuees to the Texas city, Barbara Bush said: “Almost everyone I�ve talked to says we’re going to move to Houston.”

Then she added: “What I’m hearing is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality.

“And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this,”—she chuckles slightly—“this is working very well for them.”

To answer your first question: no, this is not a piece of Onion- or Daily Show-style “fake news,” or a spoof by Billmon or Michael Bérubé.

“This is working very well for them.”

I read stuff like this and just a couple of things reel me in from having a stroke, or going and getting deliberately and thoroughly drunk.

One is the excellent advice posted on this very page earlier today.

The other is this post from China Miéville, reminding us to focus first on the primary events, not just the story about the spin.

While it’s right and important to point out how unprecedented the tone of the coverage of the catastrophe has been—this is not, I think, business quite as usual—there’s a real danger, in all the hyperbolic, increasingly self-congratulatory guff about how enraged and bolshy the media has been, how it is now “saved”, of focusing on form over the content, of being meta-scandalised about the meta-scandal of how scandalised the media is.

To take a couple of examples that currently have the blogosphere aflutter. The point of this story for us shouldn’t be that Shep Smith shouted angrily at his Fox News anchor: the point should be that Shep Smith shouted angrily that the authorities were refusing to let people out, were deliberately turning them back if they make it to a checkpoint.

Or take the now-famous footage of Aaron Broussard, president of a local parish. The germane fact is not that he breaks down crying on Meet The Press, but that he breaks down crying after describing how FEMA refused his stranded community water and fuel, and then, in an astonishingly chilling flourish, cut their emergency communication lines.

MSNBC’s Meet The Press told the USA, coast to coast, that FEMA was deliberately cutting off communities from which it had withheld the resources necessary for life. The anchor then suggested that the sobbing Broussard “take a pause”, and changed the subject. Not hurriedly or defensively, but just because that wasn’t the point of the story. That I’ve seen, only one dissident reporter has stressed this fact (scroll to the 4 September report).

It isn’t enough to uncover these crimes. They’re already uncovered, naked, on the BBC, NBC, and Fox News. With all their angry focus on the “incompetence” (this could never be planned, after all), the newsreaders just know they’re not the point.

Next to this, the unselfconscious depravity of Barbara Bush is small beans. It does make me want to say and do things I’ll regret. I’m beginning to think that’s its point.

Mission accomplished
Posted by Patrick at 07:19 PM * 0 comments

Loyal MSM reporter Michael Bérubé reports:

WASHINGTON—Hours after making an historic landing aboard a moving aircraft carrier in the waters of the Gulf Coast, President Bush told reporters aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln Thursday that “major rescue operations in New Orleans have ended.”

“Operation Cover Our Asses was carried out with a combination of precision, speed and boldness the American people did not expect,” Bush told a select group of Gannons standing on the flight deck. “We set up an array of emergency photo ops and Potemkin villages with a can-do spirit that dazzled the world. I personally have hugged black people in the Gulf Coast, and the photos are now available on the White House website.”

Fox news analyst Sean Hannity praised Bush’s speech, saying, “I will say anything my leader tells to say. That’s what a journalist is supposed to do.” Time magazines Blog of the Year concurred, writing, “The City of New Orleans and its residents owe the President a profound debt of gratitude for these photographs.”

A celebratory parade is scheduled in the Washington Mall for the morning of Saturday, September 10, which, according to White House press secretary Scott McClellan, will hereafter be known as “V-K Day,” for “Victory over Katrina.”

Looking ahead
Posted by Patrick at 06:50 PM * 14 comments

Via Avedon Carol, this play on Clarke’s Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.

As Roz Kaveney observes:

I love it simply because it nails both the folly and the irrelevance of conspiracy theory. It is not necessary to claim that the President of e.g. the USA is setting out to kill a maximum number of African Americans out of deliberate spite. It is sufficient to point out that if you take a job involving life and death, and go on doing it when you are clearly incompetent, then you are morally responsible anyway. There is a duty not to be crap at what you do.

Which is the short form of all the analyses we are going to get for the next month.

An Open Letter to the President
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 06:01 PM * 9 comments

From an editorial in the Times-Picayune

Emphasis mine:

Television reporters were doing live reports from downtown New Orleans streets. Harry Connick Jr. brought in some aid Thursday, and his efforts were the focus of a “Today” show story Friday morning.

Yet, the people trained to protect our nation, the people whose job it is to quickly bring in aid were absent. Those who should have been deploying troops were singing a sad song about how our city was impossible to reach.

We’re angry, Mr. President, and we’ll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry. Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. That’s to the government’s shame.

State Rep. Karen Carter was right Friday when she said the city didn’t have but two urgent needs: “Buses! And gas!” Every official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be fired, Director Michael Brown especially.

In a nationally televised interview Thursday night, he said his agency hadn’t known until that day that thousands of storm victims were stranded at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. He gave another nationally televised interview the next morning and said, “We’ve provided food to the people at the Convention Center so that they’ve gotten at least one, if not two meals, every single day.”

Lies don’t get more bald-faced than that, Mr. President.

Yet, when you met with Mr. Brown Friday morning, you told him, “You’re doing a heck of a job.”

That’s unbelievable.

Can we nominate these guys for a Pulitzer?

Folksongs Are Your Friends
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:50 PM * 512 comments

I have four children, two daughters and two sons. Naturally, I worry about their moral upbringing. As everyone knows who’s paying attention, “Just say no” doesn’t work. Instead, I made sure they were constantly exposed to the traditional folksongs and legends of Great Britain. Nothing’s more certain to give you a strong sense of the negative consequences of immoral or imprudent behavior.

Things I’ve learned from British folk ballads

Don’t ignore warnings. If someone tells you to beware of Long Lankin, friggin’ beware of him. If someone tells you not to go by Carterhaugh, stay away. Same goes for your mother asking you not to go out hunting on a particular day. Portents about weather, particularly when delivered by an old sailor who is not currently chatting up a country maid, are always worth heeding.

If someone says that he’s planning to kill you, believe him.

If someone says he’s going to die, believe him.

Avoid navigable waterways. Don’t let yourself be talked into going down by the wild rippling water, the wan water, the salt sea shore, the strand, the lowlands low, the Burning Thames, and any area where the grass grows green on the banks of the great North Sea. Cliffs overlooking navigable waterways aren’t safe either.

Broom, as in the plant, should be given a wide berth.

Stay away from the greenwood side, too.

Avoid situations where the obvious rhyme-word is “maidenhead.”

If you look at the calendar and discover it’s May, stay home.

The flowing bowl is best quaffed at home. Don’t drink with strangers. Don’t drink alone. Don’t toss the cups or pass the jar about in bars where you haven’t arranged to keep a tab. Drinks of unusual or uncertain provenance should be viewed askance, especially if you’re offered them by charming members of the opposite sex. Finally, never get drunk and pass out in a bar called “Cape Horn.”

Members of press gangs seldom tell the truth. Recruiting sergeants will fib to you shamelessly. They are not your friends, even if they’re buying the drinks. Especially when they’re buying the drinks.

If you’re drinking toasts, mention your One True Love early and often.

If you’re a young lady, dressing yourself in men’s array and joining the army or the navy has all sorts of comic possibilities, but you yourself aren’t going to find it too darned humorous at the time.

If you are an unmarried lady and have sex, you will get pregnant. No good will come of it.

If you are physically unable to get pregnant due to being male, the girl you had sex with will get pregnant. No good will come of it. You’ll either kill her, or she’ll kill herself, or her husband/brother/father/uncle/cousin will kill you both. In any case her Doleful Ghost will make sure everyone finds out. You will either get hanged, kill yourself, or be carried off bodily by Satan. Your last words will begin “Come all ye.”

Going to sea to avoid marrying your sweetie is an option, but if she hangs herself after your departure (and it’s even money that she’s going to) her Doleful Ghost will arrive on board your ship and the last three stanzas of your life will purely suck.

If you are a young gentleman who had sex it is possible the girl won’t get pregnant. In those rare instances you will either get Saint Cynthia’s Fire or the Great Pox instead. No good will have come of it.

New York Girls, like Liverpool Judies, like the ladies of Limehouse, Yarmouth, Portsmouth, Gosport, and/or Baltimore, know how to show sailors a good time, if by “good time” you mean losing all your money, your clothes, and your dignity. Note: All of these places are near navigable waterways. In practical terms this means that if you’re a sailor you’re screwed (and so are any young ladies you happen to meet). See also: Great Pox; Doleful Ghost.

If you are a young lady do not allow young men into your garden. Or let them steal your thyme. Or agree to handle their ramrods while they’re hunting the bonny brown hare. Cuckoo’s nests are right out. And never stand sae the back o’ yer dress is up agin the wa’ (for if ye do ye may safely say yer thing-a-ma-jig’s awa’).

Never let a stranger teach you a new game. No good will come of it.

Sharing a boyfriend with your sister is a bad plan.

Having more than one True Love at a time is a non-starter.

If you’re a brunette, give up.

Not that being a blonde will improve the odds much.

If your name is Janet, change it.

If you are a young lady and an amorous soldier, sailor, ploughboy, blacksmith, cavalry officer, or other young man fails to stop the first time you tell him he’s being too bold, knock off the maidenly protests and take more direct measures. If saying “no” the first time didn’t stop him, you’ve no reason to believe that twice will work any better.

Professions to be particularly wary of: clerks, salty sailors, serving maids, blacksmiths, highwaymen, gamblers, rank robbers, stonemasons, soldiers, tinkers, and millers. Anyone described as “jolly,” “bold,” or “saucy.” Supernatural creatures are best avoided. If they can’t be avoided, they should be addressed respectfully. If a supernatural creature sets you a task you’re well and truly screwed.

If you are a young lady and a soldier promises to “marry you in the morn,” it means he’s already married. And has kids. And he’s not going to marry you anyway. Even if you’re pregnant. Which you will be.

If you’re a young unmarried lady with child, and your pregnancy embarrasses or inconveniences someone else, consider yourself a sitting duck. Don’t meet with your young gentleman alone, or at odd hours, or in isolated locations, even if he says he’s taking you to be married. Next thing you know your Doleful Ghost will be telling your mother all about it. While he may say “Come all ye….” in the last stanza or two this will be small comfort.

Young ladies who feel uneasy should always act on their feelings. If in your good opinion you fear some young man (however handsome, rich, and well-spoken) is some rake, depend upon it: He’s a rake. Rakes will protest that you have them all wrong. They’ll be fibbing. Never go anywhere with a rake, particularly to isolated spots. See above: Doleful Ghost.

If you are a young lady and someone arrives to tell you that your boyfriend was slain on a foreign battlefield, take it with a grain of salt. Especially if you’re carrying a broken token.

If a former significant other turns up unexpectedly after a long absence, don’t throw yourself into his/her arms right away.

That goes double if they refuse to eat anything.

Triple if they turn up at night and want you to leave with them immediately.

Have nothing to do with former boyfriends who turn up and say it’s no big deal that you’re now married to someone else and have a child. If their intentions are legit, that’s got to be a problem. If it’s not a problem, their intentions are not legit.

You are justified in cherishing the direst suspicions of a suddenly and unexpectedly returned significant other who mentions a long journey, a far shore, or a narrow bed, or who’s oddly skittish about the imminent arrival of cockcrow.

If you are a young lady and you meet a young man who says his name is “Ramble Away,” don’t be surprised if, by the time you know you’re pregnant, it turns out he’s moved and left no forwarding address.

A fellow who’s a massively accomplished flirt hasn’t been spending his time sitting around waiting for his One True Love to come along. Furthermore, odds are poor that you’ll turn out to be his One True Love who will reform him.

If you arrange an assignation with your new sweetie, a little foot page will be listening in and will carry the news to exactly the last person you’d want to hear the story.

If your girlfriend insists that you go back to sleep after some odd sound woke you, it’s time to dive out the window and run for the hills right then.

If you’re hiding in the hills, don’t inform anyone exactly where you’re sleeping, particularly not an attractive member of the opposite sex.

If your girlfriend serves eels in eel broo, make sure you see her eat some first.

Informing your current significant other that you’re about to be wed to someone else is … risky. Even if you’re doing it as a joke, or to test their love. Especially if you’re doing it as a joke or to test their love. Testing someone’s love in general isn’t too bright.

Not even sending a talking goshawk to tell your significant other that the engagement is off will help you. You’re going to find yourself at the bottom of a well full fifty fathoms deep. A Doleful Ghost may get involved.

If, after you inform your current significant other that you’re to be wed to someone else, he or she suggests that the two of you meet in some lonely spot for one last fling, do not go.

Inviting your old flame to your wedding is a bad idea.

If your old flame invites you to his/her wedding, leave town.

If your old flame shows up uninvited at your wedding, start eyeing the exits. There’s a chance he/she is a Doleful Ghost. Be that as it may, no good will come of it.

If you’re out hunting, make sure of your sight picture before you pull the trigger/loose your bow. Especially so if you’re near a navigable waterway or the greenwoodside.

Do not allow the words “I wish” to pass your lips.

Avoid oaths, particularly when you’re near navigable waterways or the greenwoodside.

If the jailer indicates his willingness to take your gay gold ring to carry a message to your sweetheart, see if he’ll take that same gay gold ring to leave the door open and look the other way for five minutes while you or the sweetheart (as appropriate) escape.

Always use the buddy system. “Bare is brotherless back,” as Grettir the Strong put it; and if Grettir was worried about going places alone, you’d better worry too. So bring a friend with you. Friends keep bad things from happening. If things go badly anyway, you’ll need their help. And if things go well (hey, it could happen), it’ll be nice to have a friend along to share the laughs.

Moving to America for a minute:

Do not, for any reason, mess with a man’s Stetson hat or a man who is wearing a Stetson.

Pop quiz!

You are a beautiful young lady named Janet. On the first of May you meet a man in a patch of broom down by the greenwoodside. He invites you to his home on the far side of the sea, and earnestly entreats you to keep his invitation secret from your parents. The ship is leaving right away, this very night!

What should you do?

A) Woo hoo, sounds like fun! You’ll go, have a great time, and return home happy, healthy, and with some great gossip for your chums.

B) You blow loudly on a police whistle and run home as if jet-propelled. You tell mom and dad what just went down, put on a Stetson, and load your forty-four caliber revolver with silver bullets.

C) You decide that it would save everyone concerned a great deal of trouble if you skipped ahead a bit and hanged yourself right now. Your Doleful Ghost informs mom of the situation.

D) Rather than go with him you disguise yourself as a man and join the Army. Next time you’re marching through the Lowlands Low you seduce a beautiful young lady. She is so amazed to discover that she isn’t pregnant that she hangs herself. Her Doleful Ghost gets confused and drives the young man you met down by the greenwoodside mad. He delivers a long speech that begins “Come all ye wild and roving lads a warning take by me….”

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In This Hour
Posted by John M. Ford at 11:35 AM * 56 comments

The emotional symptoms of stress include, but are by no means limited to, moodiness, irritability, and anger. Physical symptoms can include headaches, nausea, insomnia, and all manner of physical pain. (Here’s a link to a detailed list of symptoms, just in case.)

If any of this sounds familiar, congratulations, you have been keeping well informed on current events. There is enough grief in the atmosphere to suffocate anybody. There are a lot of other, equally intolerable emotions, but if you’re still reading this I don’t need to catalogue them for you.

May I suggest that everybody here who is not physically in the front lines stop for a moment and take inventory: are stress effects starting to have a constant, or even just a distracting, effect on you, or somebody near you?

I don’t mean “are you depressed,” or frustrated, or angry. It would be a much bigger warning sign if we weren’t. I mean, is the depression coloring everything you see, whether it’s related to these events or not? Is the frustration keeping you from things that would normally define you — work, pleasure, ordinary conversation? Are you constantly angry, and is the anger spilling out onto people who did nothing but be in range?

If this is happening, then I would quietly ask you to take a step back. Turn off the television, shut down the computer. They, and the crises, will still be there. Go do something else, now.

—Find a distraction and allow it to distract you. Pick up some unfinished work. Go for a walk and pay attention to every detail, even the ones that remind you of Topic A; this is about coping, not pretending it’s not there.

—Read, watch a movie, put on some music. It doesn’t have to be “happy.” This is what catharsis is all about, and why there’s been a word for it for so long.

—Talk to someone about something else that matters to both of you. Or, perhaps better, talk to someone you care about who’s also stressed — I doubt you’ll have much trouble finding someone — about how you both feel. Talk each other down. If you need to hug or cry, let it roll. In this hour, the trolls of damned-lie stoicism have no claim on your soul.

I am not asking anyone to stop assisting with relief efforts of any kind. Was that understood? Good.

All this assumes that you or yours are dealing with the effects of “ordinary” stress. If something more serious is going on — deep, unrelievable grief or depression — find counseling, sooner, not later.

Unfortunately, stress doesn’t end with the event. The present crises have already created a great number of people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and there will be more, not all of them direct victims. (One powerful reason for taking time out now is to avoid being in this group.) Most of you will be aware of PTSD; dealing with it is beyond my scope here. Here is one source, with specific observations on the Here and the Now. (Yes, it’s from a Federal agency. If that bothers you, there are many other sources.)

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
To live in one of those times need not mean turning one’s back on the other.

Posted by Patrick at 10:05 AM * 26 comments

Before piling any more praise on New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin for his now-famous outburst against the Feds, read this.

While you’re at it, before buying the right-wing spin that condemns Nagin as a “big-city Democrat”, read the same piece.

It’s enough to make you suspect the “politics” we’re allowed to see is not much more than a stage show designed to distract us. Imagine thinking such a thing.

September 04, 2005
Discover America! It’s 2700 smiles wide
Posted by Patrick at 12:02 PM * 54 comments

The Observer, Sunday, September 4, 2005:

British families trapped in New Orleans last night claimed that US authorities had refused to evacuate them as Hurricane Katrina approached the city.

Although assistance was offered to US residents, British nationals were told they would have to fend for themselves. According to those who remain stranded in the stricken city, police had visited hotels and guest houses on the eve of the hurricane offering to evacuate Americans, but not Britons.

The order meant UK holidaymakers without cars were left helpless in the face of the hurricane. Some have been trapped in hotels and guest houses since the hurricane struck at 7am local time last Monday.

One family from Liverpool, trapped in a flooded section of the city, told relatives yesterday of their bewilderment when they realised US citizens would be offered preferential treatment.

Gerrard Scott, 35, spoke to his brother Peter from the Ramada Hotel in New Orleans where he has been stranded without assistance with wife, Sandra, 38, and seven-year-old son Ronan for the past six days. “Those that didn’t fit their criteria were told to help themselves. The police said they were evacuating Americans, and took away the majority.

“The British who were left all thought the police would come back, but nobody has. They have just been left,” said Peter Scott last night. Among the 30 or so people still inside the Ramada Hotel is a woman recovering from breast cancer who had been confined to a hotel room by herself because of fears over her immune system. […]

Other Britons are, apparently, stranded in the hotel. However, contact with the outside world remains haphazard.

There is a payphone in the hotel lobby, but US operators have been refusing to accept collect calls from stranded Britons.

“Some of them are just hanging up even after they have explained they are trapped in New Orleans. It’s like—what emergency?” said Scott.

Posted by Patrick at 09:42 AM *

Some days, you can’t really do better than to quote entire posts by other people. Here’s the mysterious Alameida:

Now, I’m going to say something that’s going to maybe make you all think I’m a bad person or something, but that’s what “anonymous” blogging is for. Living in D.C. for much of my life, I’ve given a lot of thought to the post-apocalyptic, breakdown of society questions. What would I do? I was just talking about this with my sister today; what if we were at our house and the dirty bomb went off? Let me be totally honest. I’d have my babies in the sling, the SKS in my hand, and a 9-mm in my pants waistband. (Well, unless we couldn’t get away; then let’s say we’d divide the labor and leave the babies at home). Hell yes, I would loot the pharmacy on day 1. Diapers, iodine, formula, food, electrolyte solution, clean water, heavy-duty antibiotics, wound dressings, and oxycontin. Valium too. Would I leave the liquid morphine behind for other, less enterprising looters? No. Fuck the bullshit, people. Would I go around and try to save everybody in my neighborhood, bring the old ladies in their houses to my place, get formula to those other people’s babies? Yes. If somebody looked at me wrong, would I shoot them? Yes. If I saw the 20th rescue helicopter pass me by would I fire in the air to say “here we are, assholes! Somebody get down here!” Yes. And now, just to mix things up—would I loot the local jewelry store? The bank, if I thought it was practical? Yes. I’m kind of an amoral person that way. But I’m white! So it’s all good. Discuss.

Seriously, stipulate that you have guns and ammo at home, but you’re worried supplies will run low, and you know from personal experience watching TV this whole fucking week that you are totally on your own. Are you telling me you’d wait there like a putz? “Oh the government will come soon.” With your children? You wouldn’t go down to crowbar the front off the CVS? You’re lying. All these “shoot-to-kill” warbloggers can kiss my ass. They would be the first ones out there, if they had the guts to go outside. More likely they’d die with Cheeto dust on their hands in the basement, having just won convincingly at Risk.

One thing the last week has clarified is that, as far as a lot of right-wingers are concerned, self-reliance and survivalism are virtues only when practiced by people who look like right-wingers. Practiced by the rest of us, they’re grounds for summary execution.

God Be Praised, The System Works
Posted by Patrick at 07:59 AM * 8 comments


WASHINGTON (Reuters)—Two key U.S. senators said on Friday they will launch a bipartisan coverup of what they described as an “immense, but probably unavoidable failure” of the government response to Hurricane Katrina.

Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who heads the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the panel’s other top-ranking Republican, said they hope to shift as much blame as possible to lower-ranking officials and career federal employees—ideally at an obscure government agency that few Americans have ever heard of.

“In keeping with recent congressional practice, we will try to shield the president and the senior members of his administration from directly responsibility for this fiasco, although a few token resignations may be required this time around,” the pair said in a joint statement. “Our primary focus, however, will be on figuring out how to throw billions of dollars in additional funding to the very same agencies that failed so spectacularly this past week.”

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist expressed his own support for a cover up, saying it would follow in the “proud footsteps” of Congress’s refusal to hold anyone accountable for the failure to stop the 9/11 attacks, the completely inadequate investigation into the Abu Ghraib torture abuses, and the Senate Intelligence Committtee’s whitewash of administration efforts to cook the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Speaker of the House Denny Hastert declined to comment on the hurricane or the proposed Senate investigation, other than to make a loud “BRRRRRRRR” sound while pushing a toy bulldozer across a map of New Orleans.

In other news, it’s harder and harder to tell the joke fake news from the real.

September 03, 2005
Welcome to your dystopian future
Posted by Patrick at 08:41 PM * 70 comments

Via BoingBoing: The Army Times is now referring to certain Americans in New Orleans as “the insurgency.”

The observation that the United States is best understood as a third world country that happens to have a lot of money has never seemed more correct.

The otters return, and they’re on fire
Posted by Patrick at 11:27 AM *

Welcome back, Rivka:

The Red Cross has been ordered not to enter New Orleans with relief.
Hurricane Katrina: Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?
  • Acess to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.

  • The state Homeland Security Department had requested—and continues to request—that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.
“Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.” See, and here you thought that tens of thousands of people spent the last few days trapped in the Superdome or the Convention Center without food, water, medical care, electric power, or basic sanitation, in constant fear of violence, surrounded by the unburied corpses of their fellow victims, because they couldn’t evacuate. But all this time, they’ve been there by choice. If they had a Red Cross station distributing fresh water and sandwiches, they’d choose to stay in their fetid, corpse-riddled, life-threatening, lawless swamp of a city indefinitely. You know what those people are like, always sitting around waiting for a handout. Humanitarian aid just encourages them.

Yes, clearly, it’s far better to evacuate Katrina’s victims than to leave them in place in New Orleans. But when you can’t get them all out right away—and they haven’t even been able to finish evacuating the hospitals, much less the lower-priority evacuees—you need to provide aid in place. Immediately, not five days later. To willfully withhold basic life support from tens of thousands of desperate people because you think it will discourage evacuation is—actually, I have no words strong enough for what it is. Unconscionable. Morally depraved. A crime against humanity. Nothing seems strong enough.

Tryin’ to find out what I didn’t know
Posted by Patrick at 10:05 AM * 6 comments

Chuck Taggart’s Looka is another weblog that’s been tracking events in New Orleans; we should have linked to it days ago. This day’s worth of posts includes a list of which well-known New Orleans musicians are accounted for, and which are still missing. (Still missing: Alex Chilton.)

“Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.”
Posted by Patrick at 06:34 AM * 376 comments

You know that involuntary little sharp intake of breath that we sometimes experience when a writer nails exactly the right telling detail?

John Scalzi on what being poor actually entails.

September 02, 2005
It’s your own damned fault for living there
Posted by Teresa at 05:57 PM * 40 comments

Via Debra Doyle, a map showing where not to live in the continental United States, and why.

A minor note
Posted by Patrick at 05:53 PM * 0 comments

Blogads temporarily disabled while they sort out whatever’s wrong with their servers.

Comedy Gold
Posted by Patrick at 05:52 PM * 26 comments

George W. Bush, today:

The good news is— and it’s hard for some to see it now—that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott’s house—he’s lost his entire house—there’s going to be a fantastic house. And I’m looking forward to sitting on the porch. (Laughter.)

Ezra Klein’s commenters run variations. Bitch PhD. has one of her own.

Never forget
Posted by Patrick at 05:32 PM *


(Via “highacidity” at Kos.)

Max elaborates.

Wheel, Re-invention of
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 01:57 PM * 107 comments

Incident Command System

How it’s supposed to work.

So, how do you deal with major disasters? The answer is: We already know that answer.

Way back in the 1970s, when Emergency Medical Services were first being invented, when the 9-1-1 national emergency telephone number first came online, when the Jaws of Life was patented, when the Star of Life was trademarked, some folks out in California noticed that the response to disasters (in their case, wildfires) was a clusterfuck.

At that time, too many people reported to one supervisor, different emergency response organizational structures were used, incident information was lacking or unreliable, radio systems were inadequate and incompatible, coordinated planning between agencies was practically non-existent, terminology differed between agencies, lines of authority were unclear, and probably the worst problem was that incident objectives were unclear or unspecified.

Well, what with this and that, some clever buggers came up with the Incident Command System as an answer. Like Herman Wouk once described the US Navy: A system designed by geniuses to be operated by idiots. ICS allows multiple agencies over multiple jurisdictions to work together and actually accomplish something useful. Wildfires don’t wait while you get your act together.

Notice that the word “Command” is part of the name of the system. You have to take command early. How the first five minutes go can determine how the next five hours will go, and how those five hours go can determine how the next five days go.

ICS scales up and down as the situation develops. You always have a measurable objective or goal in a specific timeperiod. You put that goal in writing. That way you can track what’s happened, and what’s happening. Goals can change as the situation develops.

The ICS is based on three principles: First, somebody has to be in charge. One person.

Second, No one can keep everything in their head. In fact, experimental evidence (confirmed by years of experience) is that one person can direct three to seven others with five people being optimum.

Third, no man can serve two masters. You only get orders from one person, and you know who that person is.

[Note—military structures reflect this; so do Boy and Girl Scout troops. A squad leader gives orders to three fireteam leaders, each of whom has three members in his fire team. The squad leader reports to and gets orders from the platoon leader. The platoon leader orders three squad leaders, and reports to one company commander. The company commander orders three platoon leaders (four in a reinforced rifle company). In Caesar’s legions, each cohort had ten centuries, each centurion ordered ten decurions, and each decurion ordered ten men. This is known tech.]

For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. (Luke 7:8)

Smallest incident, at a minimum, there’s always an Incident Commander. There’s always an Incident Command Post, and there’s always a Staging Area. Largest incident: There’s still one Incident Commander, in one command post. His or her identity is known to everyone, and that person is only getting reports from, and giving orders to, a bare handful of subordinates. Each of those subordinates is getting information from, and giving orders to, three to seven subordinates.

Everyone reports to just one person (and knows explicitly who that person is) and commands just a few subordinates. And so on, down the line.

Who’s the incident commander? The first responder on scene. As other responders arrive, the Incident Commander may change, but everyone still knows who it is.

Authority can be delegated. Responsibility can not.

The IC has a command staff and a general staff.

The priorities are, in order:

    Life safety
    Mitigating the situation
    Securing property

Given limited resources, you save life. With more resources, you save lives and keep the incident from expanding. With all the resources you want, you save lives, put out the fire, and protect other property.

“I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensible.” —Dwight D. Eisenhower

I’m going to talk about the Medical sector on a smaller event—say train vs. school bus—because that’s the area I’m most familiar with.

The Medical Branch commander will most likely be the senior paramedic on scene. He or she will report to the Operations Officer or directly to the IC.

The Medical Branch will have his or her own subordinates: The Triage Officer, the Transportation Officer, the Treatment officer, the Logistics officer, and the Staging officer.

Triage identifies numbers and severity of patients, and reports back to the Medical Branch Commander: “We have forty patients; Six red tags, twelve yellow tags, twenty green tags, and two black tag.”

The Medical branch commander passes the numbers of patients to the Treatment officer (who passes it on to the Red Sector, Yellow Sector, Green Sector, and Black sector team leaders—the Red Sector leader doesn’t need to know, or care, how many Green tags are on scene).

The Medical Sector commander then turns to the Transportation officer and says “I need three helicopters, six ambulances, a bus, and the morgue wagon. Go get ‘em.” The Transportation officer goes off to find, get, or obtain the transport. He or she doesn’t care about treating the patients, just transporting them.

Meanwhile, the various sectors (with the aid of the firefighters, coordinated up and down the chain of command) have gathered into their various casualty collection points the sick and injured. They determine the supplies they need, pass the lists up to the Treatment officer, who consolidates and prioritizes them, then passes the list to the Medical Sector Commander. The Medical Sector commander turns to the Logistics officer and says (for example), “Get six bags of normal saline to the red sector, three backboards to the yellow sector, and a teddy bear to the green sector.” The Logistics officer does so, or directs subordinates to make it so, bringing supplies from where they have been placed by the Staging officer.

Information and orders move up and down the chain, not side-to-side. The folks who are providing treatment don’t go off freelancing scrounging the supplies they need—they ask up the chain, supplies are provided, as available and in order of priority.

Meanwhile the Transportation officer is finding hospitals to take all the patients, in order of priority (red first, then yellow, then green, then black).

The idea is to maximize efficiency and minimize confusion in a chaotic, fast-moving situation.

Who talks to who is defined. Only the transportation office talks to hospitals: “Rampart General, this is Hill Street Transportation sector. How many patients are you prepared to handle?”

“Hill Street, this is Rampart. We can take one red tag, two yellow tags, and six green tags.”

“Roger that. I am sending you one red tag, patient #224098, elderly female, decreased level of consciousness, at this time. ETA plus six minutes.”

“Hill Street, Rampart, roger, out.”

And so it goes, right the way through debriefing, cleanup, restocking, lessons learned, continued training for the next time.

Anyway, that’s the way it’s supposed to go. The system is scalable: From a national-level emergency down to a nasty car wreck. (In fact, since you fight the way you train, it’s a good plan to use ICS for everything, including the Memorial Day Parade and your kid’s birthday party.)

One thing that Logistics can do prior to an event is figure out what all the need-to-have, good-to-have, and nice-to-have items are, and make out undated purchase orders for the lot of them. Put the purchase orders in a folder. Then, when the world is collapsing around you at two in the morning, and the mayor says “Anything! Anything at all! Say the word!” you just slap that folder into his hand and say “Start signing.”

You have to have the system in place, everyone trained, reading off the same page, using the same terms. It’s really good to find out in advance whether your radios can talk to the radios of the folks you need to coordinate with before the day you need to talk with ‘em.

Several states have adopted the ICS as their standard. ICS is required by federal law in all HAZMAT incidents. Natural disasters, however, don’t require ICS.

Right now, I’m told, Homeland Security, through FEMA, is trying to impliment ICS nationwide as NIIMS: National Interagency Incident Management System. And that might point out a problem: Notice the difference between “Command” and “Management.”

Anyone who wants to learn all about the Incident Command System can take FEMA’s independent study course:

Take this online course and you personally will be more qualified than FEMA director Michael Brown to manage the Hurricane Katrina response.

Copyright © 2005 by James D. Macdonald

I am not a physician. I can neither diagnose nor prescribe. This post is presented for entertainment purposes only. Nothing here is meant to be advice for your particular condition or situation.

Creative Commons License
Wheel, Re-invention of by James D. Macdonald is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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Index to Medical Posts

Did you think we were just making it up?
Posted by Patrick at 01:26 PM * 39 comments

Via the Washington Monthly, Joan Walsh on Salon:

Why didn’t we send a caravan of buses into the city’s poorest neighborhoods on Saturday or Sunday, when the dimensions of the disaster were already predictable?….Sure, Houston’s got electricity and running water, but tens of thousands of scared, angry people packed into an abandoned sports stadium—we couldn’t come up with a better symbol of how little we care about the poor, how little we’ve thought about what to do with them, for them, if we tried.”

Washington Monthly guest poster Amy Sullivan remarks in response:

We’ve heard the warning “this isn’t about politics” over and over in the last few days. The hell it isn’t. And I don’t mean kicking Bush while he’s down, just for the fun of it, although there are surely liberals eager to do that. For the rest of us, however, we’re seeing the awful real-world consequences of conservatism play out on our television screens. This is why we’re liberals. We don’t yell about poverty and racial disparities for kicks.

Right on. I’ve been impatient with Amy Sullivan on several occasions over the past year or two, but forget that. Right on.

Elsewhere on LiveJournal—
Posted by Patrick at 01:05 PM *

—“orangemike” reports:

I’ve just gotten news on HordeNet that there are relief convoys of members of the Society for Creative Anachronism from all over driving into the South to do what they can; and looks like as well organized as the FEMA seems to be right now. Guess all that time recreating the Middle Ages may come to some good use after all!

Say what you will about the SCA, but they do know something about dealing with large events that take place in a sea of mud.

Just a thought
Posted by Patrick at 12:48 PM *

New Orleans LiveJournaler “cobaltgreen” suggests what can be done to get help into the city faster.

1. Announce they are giving late term abortions down at the Convention Center.
2. Spread the rumor that they’re thinking about disconnecting the feeding tube of a (white) woman in a coma at one of the hospitals still standing.
3. Ask a calm, mourning, middle aged woman to camp out for peace along Canal Street.

Imagine that
Posted by Patrick at 12:11 PM *

China Miéville on the Gulf disaster, here, here, and here.

Amazingly, it turns out that Baton Rouge-based Innovative Emergency Management, beneficiaries of the clever plan to privatize emergency planning, have suddenly turned shy about letting the world see their old announcements and press releases.

It’s almost as if someone was trying to evade responsibility for incompetence that’s resulted in the deaths of thousands, or something.

It�s almost as if “business” includes a social class of people who don’t care if we live or die. But only a wild-eyed communist would think anything so rude.

Another term for it would be “lying sack of shit”
Posted by Patrick at 10:25 AM * 65 comments

From CNN:

The director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Thursday those New Orleans residents who chose not to heed warnings to evacuate before Hurricane Katrina bear some responsibility for their fates.

Michael Brown also agreed with other public officials that the death toll in the city could reach into the thousands.

“Unfortunately, that’s going to be attributable a lot to people who did not heed the advance warnings,” Brown told CNN.

“I don’t make judgments about why people chose not to leave but, you know, there was a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans,” he said. […]

Asked later on CNN how he could blame the victims, many of whom could not flee the storm because they had no transportation or were too frail to evacuate on their own, Brown said he was not blaming anyone.

“Now is not the time to be blaming,” Brown said.

Summing up:

If you didn’t leave New Orleans before the storm, your problems are your own fault. Not that we “make judgements”, of course. And remember, “now is not the time to be blaming.”

Michael Brown is a man who has no idea what words mean.

September 01, 2005
Posted by Patrick at 09:44 PM *

Belle Waring:

Say what you like about casting blame for the unfolding tragedy in NO, the bare facts of the matter are these: America suffered a serious attack on Sept. 11, 2001. That was four years ago. I think we had all assumed that in the meantime a lot of wargaming and disaster-mitigation planning and homeland security gearup had been going on. If this is what the Federal and State governments are going to come up with when the suitcase nuke goes off in D.C., then we are well and truly fucked.

Urban Legends
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:50 AM * 36 comments

The Writer With A Manuscript In His Hand

This happened to a friend of a guy I knew: He and his girlfriend were out parking, and they were getting real cuddly when the radio came on and there was a story about how a local man had written a book and was trying to get it published. Well, the girl got scared and wanted to go home, but the guy wanted to keep going with what they were doing … they had a big fight, and he peeled out of there and drove her home, and when he opened the door a manuscript was stuck right through the door handle!

The Writer Who Got A New Carpet

My uncle used to know this writer who got a new carpet installed. The writer went out while it was being put in place. Well, carpet installer found a strange lump under the wall-to-wall when he’d got it all tacked down, so he smashed it flat with his hammer. Later the writer found his canary was still in its cage but his manuscript was missing.

The Writer in The Bathtub

I heard this from a guy who worked right in the emergency room. A writer went down to Tiajuana, and he had a bit too much to drink and left the bar with this sexy girl. The next morning he woke up back in his hotel, hurting all over, in a bathtub full of ice. There was a note written on the mirror in lipstick: Call An Agent! And he found his book was being printed by PublishAmerica.

The Writer Who Worked On His Book Too Long

An editor told me about this really well known writer who had gotten writer’s block, and in order to make up for it he wrote a really long book. But by the time he’d finished it tarantulas had nested inside his manuscript so when he picked it up they all came out and bit him and he died, and his widow had to return the advance.

The Writer Who Got A Phone Call From His Agent

A guy posted a story on the internet about a writer he’d met, and one night when the writer was home alone he got a call from his agent who said, “I’ve got a deal for your book for a a nice six-figure advance! Now all you have to do is write it.” The writer was really happy about that, so he went to open a beer to celebrate, and while he was drinking it, the phone rang, and it was his agent! And his agent said, “Why aren’t you writing your book?” And the writer said, “I’m writing it right now!” And he went and locked the doors, and pulled the curtains, and decided to watch some TV to relax, when the phone rang, and it was his agent saying “Why aren’t you writing your book?” And the writer said, “I am!” and he was really scared, so he called the police, and they said “We traced your line. Get out of there right now! No one’s called your house — you’re talking to yourself again.”

The Writer Who Used Poor Man’s Copyright

There was a story in the newspaper about this writer who wrote a book, and when he’d finished he mailed it to himself and never opened the envelope. And about a year later a really famous writer had a book published that used the exact same plot, so the writer took the sealed envelope to court, and he won and got a lot of money.

Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:25 AM * 53 comments

While Patrick and Teresa are otherwise occupied, I’m moderating here.

I’m not as sweet and forebearing as Miss Teresa.

Everyone drop and give me fifty.


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