Goose the Blog 2.0

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it's very bad, and getting worse

by John at 8/31/2005 06:41:00 AM

Help them help them.

Update: This was written after Hurricane Ivan missed New Orleans in 2004 (via Slashdot) [my emphasis].


For those without means, the medically challenged, residents without personal transportation, and the homeless, evacuation requires significant assistance. The medically challenged often rely on life support equipment and are in such fragile states of health that they can only be moved short distances to medically equipped shelters. While a large storm-resistant structure with appropriate equipment has yet to be constructed or retrofitted, the Superdome was used to shelter nonevacuees during Ivan.

Residents who did not have personal transportation were unable to evacuate even if they wanted to. Approximately 120,000 residents (51,000 housing units x 2.4 persons/unit) do not have cars. A proposal made after the evacuation for Hurricane Georges to use public transit buses to assist in their evacuation out of the city was not implemented for Ivan. If Ivan had struck New Orleans directly it is estimated that 40-60,000 residents of the area would have perished.

Unwilling to merely accept this reality, emergency managers and representatives of nongovernmental disaster organizations, local universities, and faith based organizations have formed a working group to engage additional faith-based organizations in developing ride-sharing programs between congregation members with cars and those without. In the wake of Ivan’s near miss, this faith-based initiative has become a catalyst in the movement to make evacuation assistance for marginalized groups (those without means of evacuation) a top priority for all levels of government.

To the Rescue

If a hurricane of a magnitude similar to Ivan does strike New Orleans, the challenges surrounding rescue efforts for those who have not evacuated will be different from other coastal areas. Rescue teams would have to don special breathing equipment to protect themselves from floodwaters contaminated with chemicals and toxins released from commercial sources within the city and the petrochemical plants that dot the river’s edge. Additionally, tank cars carrying hazardous materials, which constantly pass through the city, would likely be damaged, leaking their contents into the floodwater and adding to the “brew.” The floodwater could become so polluted that the Environmental Protection Agency might consider it to be hazardous waste and prohibit it from being pumped out of the leveed areas into the lake and marshes until treated.

Regional and national rescue resources would have to respond as rapidly as possible and would require augmentation by local private vessels (assuming some survived). And, even with this help, federal and state governments have estimated that it would take 10 days to rescue all those stranded within the city. No shelters within the city would be free of risk from rising water. Because of this threat, the American Red Cross will not open shelters in New Orleans during hurricanes greater than category 2; staffing them would put employees and volunteers at risk. For Ivan, only the Superdome was made available as a refuge of last resort for the medically challenged and the homeless.

The Aftermath

In this hypothetical storm scenario, it is estimated that it would take nine weeks to pump the water out of the city, and only then could assessments begin to determine what buildings were habitable or salvageable. Sewer, water, and the extensive forced drainage pumping systems would be damaged. National authorities would be scrambling to build tent cities to house the hundreds of thousands of refugees unable to return to their homes and without other relocation options. In the aftermath of such a disaster, New Orleans would be dramatically different, and likely extremely diminished, from what it is today. Unlike the posthurricane development surges that have occurred in coastal beach communities, the cost of rebuilding the city of New Orleans’ dramatically damaged infrastructure would reduce the likelihood of a similar economic recovery. And, the unique culture of this American original that contributed jazz and so much more to the American culture would be lost.

Accepting the Reality

Should this disaster become a reality, it would undoubtedly be one of the greatest disasters, if not the greatest, to hit the United States, with estimated costs exceeding 100 billion dollars. According to the American Red Cross, such an event could be even more devastating than a major earthquake in California. Survivors would have to endure conditions never before experienced in a North American disaster.

Loss of the coastal marshes that dampened earlier storm surges puts the city at increasing risk to hurricanes. Eighty years of substantial river leveeing has prevented spring flood deposition of new layers of sediment into the marshes, and a similarly lengthy period of marsh excavation activities related to oil and gas exploration and transportation canals for the petrochemical industry have threatened marsh integrity. Sea level rise is expected to further accelerate the loss of these valuable coastal wetlands, the loss of which jeopardizes the fabric of Louisiana communities by threatening the harvesting of natural resources, an integral part of coastal culture. Concerted efforts by state and federal agencies are underway to develop appropriate restoration technologies and adequate funding to implement them.

The Future is Now

These solutions may not be able to overtake the speed of coastal loss. Strong storms not only threaten human lives, but also the physical coast itself. National hurricane experts predict more active and powerful hurricane seasons in the Atlantic basin for the next 10-40 years. The hurricane scenario for New Orleans that these converging risks portend is almost unimaginable. Hurricane Ivan had the potential to make the unthinkable a reality. Next time New Orleans may not be so fortunate.

Shirley Laska
Center for Hazards Assessment, Response and Technology
University of New Orleans

Next time is this time.

I don't want to bring a sour note
Remember this before you vote
We can all sink or we all float
'Cause we're all in the same big boat

Update 2: Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen? (via Bob Harris at This Modern World) [my emphasis]

New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.

Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.

Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

Newhouse News Service, in an article posted late Tuesday night at The Times-Picayune web site, reported: "No one can say they didn't see it coming....Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation."

In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness.

On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: “It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.”


The 2004 hurricane season was the worst in decades. In spite of that, the federal government came back this spring with the steepest reduction in hurricane and flood-control funding for New Orleans in history. Because of the proposed cuts, the Corps office there imposed a hiring freeze. Officials said that money targeted for the SELA project -- $10.4 million, down from $36.5 million -- was not enough to start any new jobs.

There was, at the same time, a growing recognition that more research was needed to see what New Orleans must do to protect itself from a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. But once again, the money was not there. As the Times-Picayune reported last Sept. 22:

“That second study would take about four years to complete and would cost about $4 million, said Army Corps of Engineers project manager Al Naomi. About $300,000 in federal money was proposed for the 2005 fiscal-year budget, and the state had agreed to match that amount. But the cost of the Iraq war forced the Bush administration to order the New Orleans district office not to begin any new studies, and the 2005 budget no longer includes the needed money, he said.”

The Senate was seeking to restore some of the SELA funding cuts for 2006. But now it's too late.

One project that a contractor had been racing to finish this summer: a bridge and levee job right at the 17th Street Canal, site of the main breach on Monday.

The Newhouse News Service article published Tuesday night observed, "The Louisiana congressional delegation urged Congress earlier this year to dedicate a stream of federal money to Louisiana's coast, only to be opposed by the White House....In its budget, the Bush administration proposed a significant reduction in funding for southeast Louisiana's chief hurricane protection project. Bush proposed $10.4 million, a sixth of what local officials say they need."

Local officials are now saying, the article reported, that had Washington heeded their warnings about the dire need for hurricane protection, including building up levees and repairing barrier islands, "the damage might not have been nearly as bad as it turned out to be."

Maybe the needed repairs wouldn't have made a difference. Maybe it's not an issue of not having allocated enough money. We will never know how many lives could have been saved and how many billions of dollars in property and other economic damage could have been prevented, because we didn't even try.


everybody talk about pop musik

by John at 8/29/2005 03:55:00 PM

I'm stealing a meme from here and twisting it around to make it simultaneously more complicated and less fun - take that, remix culture!

1) Go to Music Outfitters and enter the year you graduated from high school in the search bar (look at the top of the left column).
2) Select the top 100 hits of that year.
3) Copy the list to an editor, and delete all the songs you don't know, don't really remember, or didn't like.
4) For each song remaining, subtract its chart ranking from 101 - this new number is the song's score.
5) get a calculator, add the scores together for all the songs, and divide this sum by 5050.
6) This final number is your "pop whore" rating.
7) Post your list and pop whore rating in the comments - a 1 means you are a perfect pop whore!

I'll demo with mine.

Year: 1988
2. Need You Tonight, INXS (101-2=99)
3. Got My Mind Set On You, George Harrison (101-3=98)
12. Wishing Well, Terence Trent d'Arby (101-12=89)
23. Simply Irresistible, Robert Palmer (101-23=78)
39. Red Red Wine, UB40 (101-39=62)
56. Desire, U2 (101-56=45)
65. New Sensation, INXS (101-65=36)
78. The Valley Road, Bruce Hornsby and The Range (101-78=23)
80. Always On My Mind, Pet Shop Boys (101-80=21)
84. We'll Be Together, Sting (101-84=17)

Total score: 568
Pop whore: 0.112



by John at 8/26/2005 09:24:00 AM

The bad idea behind our failed health-care system.

by Malcolm Gladwell (The New Yorker, 8/29/2005)

It's several pages long, but read it. I'd excerpt a portion, but it is all worthwhile.

stop this crazy thing!

by John at 8/26/2005 08:24:00 AM

The Earth's solid inner core is spinning out of control! It makes one extra revolution every 900 years - the whole planet could fly apart at any time.


a little perspective

by John at 8/24/2005 12:13:00 PM

The Medium Lobster sets the record straight.

It's all too easy to forget one's own tumultuous past when criticizing another, but we must put Iraq's small troubles of today in perspective. Compared to the attempted secession of New Englandistan, John Jay's kamikaze raid on the Continental Congress, and Supreme Emperor Adams's fitful six-day coup during the Annapolis Convention, Iraq is doing splendidly. All present should be content to sit back and watch what the president has so aptly described as "an amazing event."


bullshit protector

by John at 8/23/2005 07:52:00 PM

Why does this man hate America?

Bill Moyer, 73, wears a "Bullshit Protector" flap over his ear while President George W. Bush addresses the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

(via Daily Kos)

Update: Make your own bullshit protector! (via Boing Boing)


kaiser baby

by John at 8/19/2005 01:30:00 PM


Some folks call it a sling baby, I call it a kaiser baby.


scary thought

by John at 8/19/2005 08:50:00 AM

A couple of nights ago, I read (near the end of Collapse by Jared Diamond) that humans now make use of about half of the Earth's photosynthetic capacity. Photosynthetic capacity is, roughly speaking, the amount of energy that can be converted and stored by plants through photosynthesis. As you know, almost all life on Earth is solar powered, with the notable exception of some deep sea dwellers that get their energy from bacteria metabolizing sulfur found near the volcanic vents. Anyway, this leaves the other half of the Earth's photosynthetic capacity available to the rest of the biosphere, to provide energy for things that aren't specifically used by humans - dolphins, for instance, or the garter snake that lives in my backyard.

By 2050 (if I remember correctly), the estimate is that humans will use almost all the photosynthetic capacity of the Earth. That means, roughly, that there will be almost nothing left for anything else.

What do you think of that?


P.S. That I am almost done with Collapse means that there just might be another "30 second book reviews" coming up. Yeehaw.


"Pleistocene Park"

by John at 8/18/2005 08:20:00 AM

I whole-heartedly endorse1 this idea:

"In North America, by about 13,000 years ago, humans were leaving evidence of big-game hunting using sophisticated stone tools. This hunting probably helped to drive many animals to extinction, including North American mammoths and mastodons, lions, cheetahs, camelops (a relative of the modern camel), horses and asses.

"Although those animals are gone forever, related African and Asian species could serve as proxies, the authors say. They propose introducing the animals over 50 years, starting with horses, asses and camels, working up to elephants, and finally bringing in the big cats.

"Eventually, the animals could roam in preserves hundreds of thousands of hectares in size. The best place to create this “Pleistocene Park” would be in the North American Great Plains, where the human population is relatively low and the grazing animals would have a ready supply of food."


1. But only if we dress the elephants up in long, shaggy, faux-fur coats. After all, it can get pretty cold on the Great Plains in winter, and they are going to have to stay warm somehow.


why my nearly two month old son is like the USA

by John at 8/16/2005 08:45:00 PM

In which I make fun of this great nation:

1) Attracted to movement, contrasting colors, friendly voices, and smiling faces
2) Alarmed by unexpected loud noises
3) Angers quickly when he does not get his way
4) Strikes out at convenient objects in a seemingly random and very uncoordinated manner
5) Craps in his own pants and then cries about it.


BloodyHell, even (some) staunch conservatives want out...

by MarkJumblie at 8/15/2005 02:18:00 AM

So, the other day I was listening to Jay Severin's EXTREME GAMES, cuz I'm fair and balanced like that...He's now saying we should have gotten out the moment we realized there were no WMDs...

And today, I read this:

Time to Get Out of Iraq
Armstrong Williams

"You cannot lead in a global democracy, if people do not trust you. It is undeniable that we went about this in a very flawed manner. We need to admit that. We cannot solve the problem of terrorism by asserting our will on the world. Meanwhile, the deterioration of Iraq continues, serving as a sad reminder of the failed promise of this mission, and the need to pull out."

C'mon hawks! Stick to the agenda!


war roundup

by John at 8/14/2005 09:48:00 AM

Two good articles on the future of the Iraq war and Iraq:

Someone Tell the President the War is Over (NYT, login required - try user: mailinator pass: mailinator)

U.S. Lowers Sights On What Can Be Achieved in Iraq (Washington Post)


Here's a couple more good ones:

Someone Tell Frank Rich the War Is Not Over (

The U.S. Has Lost the Iraq War (Immanuel Wallerstein)

My favorite part of the second one: "As a result, the Bush regime is in an impossible position. It would like to withdraw in a dignified manner, asserting some semblance of victory. But, if it tries to do this, it will face ferocious anger and deception on the part of the war party at home. And if it does not, it will face ferocious anger on the part of the withdrawal party. It will end up satisfying neither, lose face precipitously, and be remembered in ignominy." Ooh, my fingers are crossed! Ignominy might just be the thing we need to put the kibosh on large-scale optional wars based on faulty and false rationales for another thirty years.

Seriously, though, I think the failure we are facing in Iraq will inhibit the next President's ability (our ability!) to address and prevent terrorism in the near future. But then again, Bush and his crew haven't been serious about actually preventing terrorism in a long time, so in all probability not much will appear to change.

Update 2:

What the hell, one more:

Get Ready for World War III (

My favorite part: "The Bush administration is insane. If the American people do not decapitate it by demanding Bush's impeachment, the Bush administration will bring about Armageddon. This may please some Christian evangelicals conned by Rapture predictions, but World War III will please no one else." The author is Paul Craig Roberts. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?


guns, germs, and steel

by John at 8/11/2005 01:56:00 PM

That is, the middle one.

"Avian influenza is sweeping across Asia, killing birds in Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia. And the strains found in Russia and Kazakhstan are the deadly H5N1 virus, say officials."

Story here. Although this isn't exactly Diamond's theory in action, because (as the article states) if the disease is spreading through migratory birds, then it can spread almost as easily to North America as to other sites in Asia.


Better late than never

by Amy, Bill, Guillermo and Alma at 8/10/2005 07:20:00 PM

I finally agreed to watch, "The Corporation" last night after months of telling Bill that I didn't want to watch anything that depressing as a form of entertainment. I know I'm a bit late, but I found myself going online this afternoon to find out more about Interface CEO, Ray Anderson. Upon reading, Interface Sustainability", the company's mission, goals and progess in regard to becoming a sustainable corporation (what?!), I found myself thinking that maybe one guy CAN actually start something and make a change for the better (something that I've begun to laugh at lately). I do not by any means think that Mr. Anderson is the norm, but it's nice ot know that he's following his instinct.


not an unlucky day

by John at 8/09/2005 11:07:00 AM

Discovery touched down safely. Of course, I'm glad everyone is back, but that doesn't mean I don't have mixed feelings about the whole thing, with which I will not bore you.

song game

by John at 8/09/2005 09:19:00 AM

I found this on an odd blog. It looks fun:

1. Take the lyrics to a favorite song.
2. Go to Google Language Tools, tranlate the lyrics into German, then from German to French, and finally from French back into English.
3. Post the results verbatim.
4. Invite friends to guess the song based on the interesting new lyrics.

I didn't pick a well known song, just one of my current favorites. It doesn't matter because you're not going to play anyway, are you? Note that the previous statement isn't some kind of tricksy reverse psychology, just a prediction.

The test starts now. I thought me, which I thought were intelligent that I had the right. I thought him better, not to fight. I thought that there was coldly a virtue with always sound. Thus, it came to fight time, thought me that I precisely take a step side and that time would examine you false and that you would be the imbecile. I do not know, where the fine sun radiates and that the star lights start. It is a a whole secrecy.

That's not too hard!


free market über alles

by John at 8/05/2005 02:32:00 PM

I know the famine food insecurity in Niger is Somebody Else's Problem, and just another piece of bad news in a world chock-full of bad news. But I was reading about it anyway on, and a couple of paragraphs jumped out at me:

Throughout Niger, the hunger crisis is an affliction of the poor. While people in Terbadeen starve, there is food in the markets of the nearest big village, Abalak, four miles away down a winding dirt track. And in the hotels of the capital, Niamey, breakfast coffee comes with seven cubes of white sugar lining the saucer.


Aid is beginning to arrive in Niger. But until three weeks ago, it was government policy not to distribute free food to the worst-affected communities because of concern that it would disrupt the markets. That has changed, and the United Nations plans to start the first general distributions of food aid next week, targeting 2.5 million people. Even then, it will take time to reach every affected village in a vast, landlocked country where the aid must be brought hundreds of miles by road.

Mustn't disrupt "the markets"!

Update: Wow. It really is all about the markets. In part, food speculators have caused a crisis in prices (counting on a locust infestation to drive up regional food demands), and the poorest can no longer afford food. There is food, but just not for them.


story time

by John at 8/02/2005 09:11:00 PM

A little history from Juan Cole.

something something think alike?

by John at 8/02/2005 07:33:00 PM

How's that old saying go? I humbly submit that George Lakoff has some brilliant ideas about the demise of the "War on Terror":

That policy is now being disowned, and so the words must be dropped. The hope is, in the absence of the old words and the presence of the new, a new frame will take hold and the old policy will be forgotten. The goal is that the public will no longer associate the Iraq War with terrorism and see the failure in Iraq as a failure to curb terrorism. That way most of the troops can be brought home before the midterm elections without the implication that the administration is giving up on stopping terrorism.

There's more, and it's interesting. He's also a better and more persuasive writer than I am, so check it out if you want.


porky pigging it

by John at 8/01/2005 10:13:00 PM