Friday, September 30, 2005

A White Giraffe Photograph

Charles Foley has taken the photograph of a lifetime.

Foley works for the Wildlife Conservation Society in Tanzania, at the Tarangire National Park.  In 1993, he began hearing rumors of the existence of a white giraffe.  He kept his eyes pealed for twelve years, but never saw it.  

Recently, he was in a helicopter conducting an aerial survey of elephants when he spotted the elusive giraffe.  Click here to see his photograph of it.  It’s gorgeous – all white except for the legs, which are the usual brown.  

According to Foley, the giraffe is not a true albino, just a lighter color than usual.

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

…often go awry. Or the worst laid plans, in this case.

This is why I don’t like to plan things too rigidly (take that, Full Moon). According to the Weather Channel Online, all three of our possible trip options will be beset by weather of such unspeakable crappiness that we will be forced to re-route. The high temperatures in Glacier will be hovering around the upper 40s, and there will be rain and sleet. I don’t have a problem with the chilly weather, but the rain and sleet, when coupled with the cold, turn me off. We have a similar problem with the Mount Olympus hike and the Wonderland Trail.

The best forecasts within a reasonable driving distance are for Crater Lake and Grand Teton National Park. (You may be curious about the profusion of national parks – it’s a long story for another post. Just bear with me for now.)

I intend to wait until tomorrow to see if the forecasts change. Meanwhile, does anyone have any suggestions? Criteria for the trip locale are: 1) hike-able or paddle-able, 2) can be reached in a day or so from the Portland area, and 3) a relatively non-crappy forecast for next week.

Update:  Looks like the Wallowa Mountains have climbed to the top of the list.    

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Coming Soon: Good Old Fashioned Aimlessness

With the exception of journeys taken by plane, which were necessarily planned several weeks ahead of time, vacations used to go a little something like this, starting about the week prior to vacation:

Trailhead: Where do you want to go?

Trailhead Spouse: Dunno. Boundary Waters?

Trailhead: Maybe. Adirondacks?

Trailhead Spouse: Maybe.

Two days before:

Trailhead: Where should we go?

Trailhead Spouse: Hmmm. Maine?

Trailhead: Too far to drive during the time we have. Upper Peninsula?

Trailhead Spouse: Maybe.

The Night Before:

Trailhead: Where are we going tomorrow?

Trailhead Spouse: I don’t know. Just throw all the guidebooks in the truck and we’ll decide later.

Trailhead: Okay.

Sitting in the car at the end of the street trying to determine which way to turn:

Trailhead: What about the Badlands?

Trailhead Spouse: Okay.

Trailhead: Turn left.

Things haven’t happened that way in quite some time. That train left the station three years ago when the Parenthood Express rolled in. But thanks to Trailhead Mother-in-Law, who will arrive Friday evening, things are taking that turn once again. The arrival of TH MiL means the first week-long vacation for the Trailheads -- without Trailhead Kid -- in three years.

And we still haven’t decided where we’re going. The top choice is a paddling trip in Waterton-Glacier, mostly on the Canadian side. We have a couple of bad-weather backups, including portions of the Wonderland Trail in Mt. Rainier National Park, and a trip through the Hoh Rain Forest to the base of Mt. Olympus in Olympic National Park.

We’ll decide sometime before we get to the end of our street.

Gulf Coast, West Coast, What's the Difference?

This is a conversation I had with a drug store cashier last Saturday morning, while Hurricane Rita was lashing the Gulf Coast.  I had just walked into the drug store carrying Trailhead Kid, whose head was resting on my shoulder:

Cashier:  Awww, somebody’s tired.

Trailhead:  Yeah, we just flew in from the West Coast last night and he’s a little jet-lagged.

Cashier:  Where did you fly in from?

Trailhead:  Portland, Oregon.

Cashier:  Oh, no!  Are things getting bad down there?

I didn’t know quite what to say.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Political Joke of the Day

I can't help myself:

Donald Rumsfeld is giving the president his daily briefing. He concludes by saying: "Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed." "OH NO!" the President exclaims. "That's terrible!" His staff sits stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the President sits, head in hands. Finally, the President looks up and asks, "How many is a brazillion?"

(Thanks to CM for the forward.)

Bad Shoes and Tedium

There is nothing quite like the overbearing glare of fluorescent lights and the monotony of droning lawyers (Bloggerdad excepted, of course!) to relentlessly squash even the tiniest spark of creativity bold enough to peak out during a continuing legal education seminar.

Nothing of interest has happened to me in the last two days, other than an appallingly poor choice of shoes. This produced raw heels and shooting ankle pain, and no doubt made our secretary rue the day my plane landed safely as she walked to the drugstore, purchased moleskin and delivered it to me at lunch. (Thank you, T! I owe you five bucks!)

My midwestern sortie is nearly over.

My Wild Night with Jimmy Messina, or How I Sold Out My Principles at the First Sight of Clint Black

I was six years old when Loggins & Messina broke up. Back then, Kenny Loggins and Jimmy Messina were competitive little squirts in their 20s with way too much talent and perhaps a bit too much ego. The two personalities became too much for each other, and they went their separate ways in 1976. Fortunately, the seemingly endless span of thirty years eroded the egos, but not the abilities. The astonishing raw talent, so much in evidence when they were young, had long since given way to a richly textured skill honed by those thirty-odd years.

The difference between the youthful Loggins & Messina and the concert I heard Sunday night was like the difference between getting busy with a young man and an older one -- the younger ones can show you a sweaty, energetic night that lasts forever, but the older one really, really knows what he's doing. It's the difference between a sharp gasp and a low, languid moan.

Oh my -- did I say that out loud? I was thinking it, but I had no idea I'd actually said it. I must have been thinking about Jim Messina again. Forgive me for a moment while I press a cold cloth to my forehead.

Ahem. I think I've collected myself sufficiently to continue.

We were sitting in the eighth row -- so close I could practically see their fingernails as they picked their guitars. Messina is so good at what he does that it's obviously second nature. Watching him, one gets the impression that he could play a successful concert while juggling oranges or balancing a basketball on his head. And it's clear Kenny Loggins has never become bored with his music, even after so many years of it -- he wore his joy in every expression and every movement, and added these exuberant little leaps to his performance that just made you love him.

About halfway through, Jim Messina announced that Clint Black would be sittin' in for a song or two. Click here for pictures. Though his music alleviated many a long commute on I-40 from Greensboro, North Carolina to Duke Law School in Durham, Clint Black is not exactly on my most-loved list these days. But he sang "Killin' Time" and sat in on some other songs with L&M, and it was -- insert heavy sigh here -- just really damn good.

And I suppose the whole Clint Black issue illuminated a thought that germinated during the concert. There's something inherently odd about the live music experience. On a personal level, it's only minimally mutual -- though there's a bit of narcissism on both sides of this coin. To the audience, these performers are larger than life, each fan having stamped them with their own projections, experiences and desires.

Performers must be aware of this, at least to some degree. I think it's the ones with the least understanding of this principle who tend to succumb to the deepest degree of celebro-narcissism. But we cannot possibly love them for who they are, because we only know as much of them as they allow us to. I am a perfect example of this. It had never occurred to me that Clint Black would have political beliefs I find utterly repugnant, because I had projected my own notions onto him.

This much I can say, though. I don't know what Jim Messina's favorite foods are, whether he had a tough time in third grade, whether he sleeps on his side or on his back, or what his grandmother was like. I don't know what Kenny Loggins' favorite book is, or whether he reads at all, or what his relationship with his kids is like. But I do know what they look like and how they sound when they sing "Vehevala" or "Long Tail Cat" or "Peace of Mind." And that small part of them that I do know, I love. And so do thousands upon thousands of others.

And maybe that's enough -- for us and for them.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Back from my Tour of the Midwest

I have returned from Columbus, and am working on my post about the Loggins & Messina Sittin' in Again Reunion Tour. But right now I have to take TK to Full Moon's house and attempt to restrain him from chasing Joe Kitty around the house and picking him up by the neck.

Bet that Olive Garden parking lot is lookin' a lot better now.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Joe Kitty Hits Fat City

There’s a certain alchemy that takes place when I’m with Full Moon. Noteworthy things happen with startling efficiency.

We had been together tonight only two hours before we had found a stray kitten, captured him, named him, fed him, purchased the requisite kitty supplies, got him purring, and settled him nicely at Full Moon’s house.

Joe Kitty is an interesting little guy. He wears a look of constant bug-eyed surprise, as if perpetually overcaffeinated. Accordingly, I suggested she call him Joe. Joe Kitty, just to make him sound a little more rednecky and ridiculous.

It was a good night for Joe Kitty. He went from scoping the Olive Garden parking lot for scraps to jumping into the arms of a total pushover.

Wasteland Takes One for the Team

I see that open thread joke went over well.

I can’t believe you all let Wasteland hang out to dry with that humidity question. You guys are brutal.

But seriously, what is up with this humidity here? I started to bead up like a can of cold beer on race day as soon as I stepped off the plane.

Open Thread -- Hahahahahahahahahaha

Anyone who frequents the big political blogs like Eschaton or Daily Kos knows they employ a device called the “Open Thread.”  This means that the comments section for that particular post is open to any topic – hurricanes, Iraq, pork futures or navel lint.  You see, these guys have so many people thronging to their sites and eager to make comments on any conceivable topic, that they are forced to post open threads in order to maintain topical discipline on their other threads that are actually devoted to one issue or another.

I’ve often chuckled at the idea of posting an open thread here at Trailheadcase, with its seven or eight regular commenters.  Such an act seems the height of hubris and delusionality.  So I think I must do it.

As soon as I click “publish” on this post, I’m off to PDX airport and won’t be back online till sometime tonight.  And, believe it or not, it appears I have some readers beyond those who comment.  So, it’s your turn.  Amuse everyone.  If you haven’t commented here before, please do so – that way we can welcome you to the asylum.  

At least I know Bloggerdad will be able to find something to say.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Hoosier Beaver?

On Friday morning, TK and I are headed back to Indiana for the first time in many moons.

In light of my upcoming flight, it was probably unwise to spend the late afternoon in front of the TV, riveted by the emergency landing of the Jet Blue plane at LAX.

Assuming our aircraft's landing gear performs as it should, TK will get to spend some time with the grandparents and the aunts and uncles, and I will get to spend two thrilling, action-packed days at a continuing legal education seminar. That is the sort of thing they make you do to keep your license to practice.

I will also be making a short sidetrip to Columbus, Ohio with FullMoon, for the Loggins and Messina reunion concert. (It has been clear for some time that, at least with respect to music, I was born twenty years late.) Also, Trailhead Kid will get to spend time with one of his favorite preschooler pals, Wasteland Kid.

So it is that I continue my life as a native midwesterner transplanted to the Beaver State. Or, as I've suggested above, a Hoosier Beaver. As you can imagine, I've had a great deal of fun with Oregon 's nickname, as has every other Oregonian above the age of ten, I'm sure. Frankly, it's one of the things I like most about Oregon. We know perfectly well that our state name corresponds with a slang term for female genitalia, and yet we still drive around with bumper stickers on our car that say, "Dam right I'm a Beaver!" This is my kind of place. It's impossible not to admire that.

In other news, I have acquired a Flickr account and will be scanning in slides and posting them over the next few weeks.

Nature Smacks Itself Upside the Head

The direct human cost of Hurricane Katrina is so glaring, we’re only now becoming aware of the grave environmental consequences of the storm.

Consider this: according to the article linked above, coastal Louisiana produces a full thirty percent of this country’s domestic seafood, and that production has been severely impacted by the toxic aftermath of Katrina. The aftermath of the storm may cost shrimpers up to $540 million in sales over the coming year. There may be reason for optimism with respect to any long-term health hazards for residents of the city, but:

The floodwater being pumped out of New Orleans is "a toxic gumbo like we've never seen," said John Rodgers of Clemson University. It's being pumped into Lake Pontchartrain, but Rodgers said he believes some of it will enter the Mississippi River as well.

Scientists will have to monitor river sediments for toxic metals and pesticides, which in the short term could kill fish and crustaceans or make them hazardous to eat, he said. Over a longer period, Rodgers said such contamination could diminish fish reproduction for several years.

Additionally, the Coast Guard believes that seven million gallons of oil was spilled in the aftermath of Katrina, about two-thirds the quantity of the Exxon Valdez spill.

Lots of work to do.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Trailhead E-Mail

After I sought his advice on an issue in the comments section of his site, Bert helpfully pointed out that my e-mail address is not accessible on this site. It actually is, but it's absurdly hard to find. You have to go up into the profile and click on it and then look into the corner. So I've relocated it to the right of the main page. As soon as I figure out this HTML stuff, maybe I'll be able to mess with the template a little more.

So it's there. E-mail me tips, dirty jokes, random thoughts, obscenities and what not. But no threats or scams relating to Nigerian royalty, please.

And thanks for the suggestions, Bert!

My New Reading List

It’s almost Banned Books Week! I believe Athena did a post on these issues awhile back, but this seems timely now as well. The week from September 24 through October 1, 2005 has been designated as a week to celebrate intellectual freedom and resist censorship.

This is my kind of celebration.

You can find the American Library Association’s proclamation here. My favorite parts are these:

WHEREAS, every silencing of a heresy, every enforcement of an orthodoxy, diminishes the toughness and resilience of American society and leaves it less able to deal with controversy and difference, and

WHEREAS, Americans still favor free enterprise in ideas and expression, and can be trusted to exercise critical judgment, to recognize propaganda and misinformation, and to make their own decisions about what they read and believe, and to exercise the responsibilities that accompany this freedom; and

WHEREAS, conformity limits the range and variety of inquiry and expression on which our democracy and our culture depend….

The ALA observes that challenges to books are usually made with “the best intentions – to protect others, frequently children, from difficult ideas and information.” The top three reasons, in order, for challenges to a particular book are 1) because the book allegedly contains sexually explicit material, 2) offensive language, or 3) because the challenger believes it is unsuitable for a particular age group.

Well, this year it’s the gay folks getting people all worked up. There’s a surprise.

Three of the ten most challenged books of 2005 were cited for “homosexual themes,” the highest number in a decade. The ten most challenged books of 2004, in order, were:

"The Chocolate War" [by Robert Cormier] for sexual content, offensive language, religious viewpoint, being unsuited to age group and violence

"Fallen Angels" by Walter Dean Myers, for racism, offensive language and violence

"Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture" by Michael A. Bellesiles, for inaccuracy and political viewpoint

Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey, for offensive language and modeling bad behavior

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky, for homosexuality, sexual content and offensive language

"What My Mother Doesn't Know" by Sonya Sones,for sexual content and offensive language

"In the Night Kitchen" by Maurice Sendak, for nudity and offensive language

"King & King" by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland, for homosexuality

"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou, for racism, homosexuality, sexual content, offensive language and unsuited to age group

"Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck, for racism, offensive language and violence

The list of 100 most challenged books from 1990-2000 contains the usual suspects, including "Catcher in the Rye," "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," "The Handmaid’s Tale," and "Heather Has Two Mommies." But frankly, I’m stumped by "James and the Giant Peach" and "How to Eat Fried Worms." Maybe it’s just been so long since I’ve read them that I can’t recall what’s landed them on the most challenged list.

As for authors, I don’t think Judy Blume could write a grocery list that wouldn’t get her into trouble. Blume and her books are a consistent presence on the “challenged” lists, as is Toni Morrison.

The website has more.

So, Happy Banned Books Week to you all! And remember, if “they” don’t want you reading it, maybe you should be.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Another Ball Rolling Down Hurricane Alley

Tropical Storm Rita has cleared out the Florida Keys like a drag queen at a Promise Keepers Convention.

So another swirly-looking ball is headed toward the Keys, and I'm on pins and needles, hoping the Keys aren't destroyed like New Orleans was.

That string of little islands is part of my native memory, home to my earliest recollection. My Dad's parents managed a hotel in Key West for years, and when I was but a tot, my Mom's parents used to spend every spare moment fishing off the Upper Keys and staying at their favorite establishment.

My brother and sister and I have returned there as adults and made our own memories. My brother and I each tend to visit the part where we spent the most time as kids: he goes to Key West, I visit Islamorada and Marathon and devote only a day or so to Key West. My sister, TS and I celebrated my thirtieth birthday swimming with the dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key. One of my most breathtaking memories is diving with TS at the John Pennekamp State Park, and watching mesmerized as an enormous sea turtle swam between us, breaking our linked hands.

Just last week my brother and I were having a discussion about what our ideal day would look like. Here's what I said:

Trailhead: Here's my ideal day: Sleep till I wake up, which is early, because the windows are open and I can hear the palm fronds rustling in the breeze, along with the waves lapping up on the pier and the occasional seagull squawking. Throw on a bathing suit and some shorts and flip flops. Shoot the sunrise off the pier. Head to the Blue Mountain and drink coffee while sitting in the Adirondacks under the palm trees, and petting the stray kitties. Talk to some local about how he used to be rich but after he lost it all he came down here. Then go to the Marker 88 pier and photograph the heron there for half an hour or so. Throw the kayaks onto the rental car and put in at Whale Harbor. Make the open water crossing to the mangroves, wondering whether there are sharks underneath. Cruise around the mangroves. Get in the water and shoot the Nikonos when it's clear enough. Head back to condo. Gather dive gear for an afternoon reef dive. The water is smooth as glass. Do the scissor step off the boat and enter the food chain. Shoot the Nikonos at a couple of clown fish and a lobster. Run hand over the giant sea turtle's barnacle-crusted back as he swims by. See a reef shark. Get off the boat and go to dinner at Islamorada Fish Market or Marker 88. Have a mango salad, a bowl of conch chowder, scores of grilled shrimp, and key lime pie. Watch the sunset since I had the good sense to go to dinner on the gulf side. Drift off to sleep to the palm fronds that are still rustling in the breeze.

Trailhead Brother: That sounds pretty good. Grilled shrimp. Your day seems very National Geographic.

Trailhead: You're right, it is very National Geographic. Except I forgot drinks at the tiki bar in Marathon after dinner.

This is the sort of trip I hunger to take in March, when I have gone so loopy from lack of sun that I can no longer be trusted not to burst through a door with an ax and a manic grin and announce, "Here's Trailhead!"

So I get a little nervous when I see one of those little twisties headed toward my islands. We've seen the devastating loss of culture, tradition and history in New Orleans. To think of Mallory Square and Duval Street destroyed, or the Marker 88 or the Rain Barrel blown to bits -- that's too much for my intestinal fortitude.

Some small part of me just needs to know those places are still there. Thing is, they won't always be. And as we have seen so graphically of late, they could be gone sooner rather than later.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

No, I'm not Dead

Just tired. We had a great party tonight. For me, this meant prodigious quantities of TwoTone74's four-bean salad, chocolate cake and Trailhead Sister's bean dip (I only wish she'd been here to make it herself).

I have concluded that the only way to motivate Trailhead Spouse and myself to unpack and organize is to schedule a gathering. Once we realized we had five adults and seven kids coming to our place, we got off our collective butts and organized -- well, the downstairs, anyway.

No doubt nothing else will get done until the much anticipated arrival of Trailhead Mother-in-Law on September 30. (No, she's not the type to comment on any kind of mess. Fortunately, neither is my mother. It's only our own personal shame that drives us to clear a path for her to walk through.)

I'll be back to regular posting on Monday. I know you are all breathing a sigh of relief at that news. Otherwise, you would have to find some other website on which to cheat your employers out of their time.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Destination of the Day

This is cool. Business partners Walt Gregory and Lynne Weis own and operate an organic pizza farm in Illinois. The farm is a circular half-acre plot which they have divided into “slices.” A pizza ingredient is grown on each slice. Tomatoes and peppers, fennel and rosemary – all grow organically on the farm on their respective slices. A cow, three goats, some chickens and a few pigs also reside on the pizza.

The pizza farm helps to add to Gregory’s and Weis’s bottom line, which can be grim for a conventional farmer, let alone an organic farmer. Gregory is blunt about his commitment to organics:

Gregory hopes to educate guests about organic growing. He makes no bones about his opposition to corporations behind agricultural biotechnology or farmers who use herbicide-resistant products he considers dangerous.

"Someone's got to stand against them. That's what I try to accomplish with the pizza farm," said Gregory, who elsewhere on his spread grows asparagus, zucchini, watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, squash, pumpkins and corn.


Wanted: Two Cents

I want to take a poll.

I was reading to TK this evening before bed, and I realized that he has some books I really love. One of my all-time favorites is Bear Snores On, by Karma Wilson, about a hibernating bear who wakes up to a group of woodland animals partying down in his den. Then there’s What Makes a Rainbow? by Betty Ann Schwartz. In that book, brightly colored ribbons appear as you turn the page, and by the end there’s an entire rainbow.

I could go on forever, but I have to squeeze in How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight, a hilariously illustrated book, and Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type, a book written by lawyer Doreen Cronin about a group of cows that learn how to stick it to The Man. It’s sort of an early education in labor organizing.

So, parents and/or former kids – which kids’ books are (or were) your favorites?

Time-Waster of the Day

Go over to Bert’s place and check out his photographs. I found Bert on Oregon Blogs, and I love his images. We also seem to like to hike the same spots.

As a bonus, Bert will be heading to Europe in five or six weeks, so I’m hoping for more beautiful images.

The Lights are on, but Nobody's Home

The lights came back on in New Orleans last night – er, for awhile. This is from journalist Brian Williams’ blog:

I am duty-bound to report the talk of the New Orleans warehouse district last night: there was rejoicing (well, there would have been without the curfew, but the few people I saw on the streets were excited) when the power came back on for blocks on end. Kevin Tibbles was positively jubilant on the live update edition of Nightly News that we fed to the West Coast. The mini-mart, long ago cleaned out by looters, was nonetheless bathed in light, including the empty, roped-off gas pumps. The motorcade route through the district was partially lit no more than 30 minutes before POTUS drove through. And yet last night, no more than an hour after the President departed, the lights went out. The entire area was plunged into total darkness again, to audible groans. It's enough to make
some of the folks here who witnessed it... jump to certain conclusions.
In other news, Mississippi's Clarion-Ledger has obtained documents that suggest the administration is rooting around for another target in its own “blame game:”

Federal officials appear to be seeking proof to blame the flood of New Orleans on environmental groups, documents show.

The Clarion-Ledger has obtained a copy of an internal e-mail the U.S. Department of Justice sent out this week to various U.S. attorneys' offices: "Has your district defended any cases on behalf of the (U.S.) Army Corps of Engineers against claims brought by environmental groups seeking to block or otherwise impede the Corps work on the levees protecting New Orleans? If so, please describe the case and the outcome of the litigation."

Cynthia Magnuson, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said Thursday she couldn't comment "because it's an internal e-mail."

I guess this is what happens when you put Karl Rove in charge of the administration – I mean, New Orleans – reconstruction effort. (You’ll have to read quite well into that New York Times article to find that nugget, unfortunately.)

So let’s see. So far, the administration or their shills have blamed black people, gay people, Democrats, single mothers, and the evacuees generally for the administration’s own failures, and now they’re looking for evidence to pin it on environmentalists. I suppose I should be stunned that they’re even bothering to look for evidence, but I don’t suppose it will matter to them whether they actually find it or not (since there is none). But who will be the next target? Surely the French had something to do with it. Didn’t they design part of the damn city? Anyone else?

(Via Talking Points Memo.)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Picture Perfect

My mother e-mailed me a joke today, and claims it was sent to her by a Republican friend of hers. As a photographer, I particularly enjoyed it:

This test only has one question, but it's a very important one.

By giving an honest answer, you will discover where you stand morally. The test features an unlikely, completely fictional situation in which you will have to make a decision. Remember that your answer needs to be honest, yet spontaneous.

Please scroll down slowly and give due consideration to each line.

You are in Florida, Miami to be specific. There is chaos all around you, caused by a hurricane with severe flooding. This is a flood of biblical proportions. You are a photojournalist working for a major newspaper,and you're caught in the middle of this epic disaster.

The situation is nearly hopeless. You're trying to shootcareer-making photos. There are houses and people swirling around you, some disappearing under the water. Nature is unleashing all of its destructive fury.

Suddenly you see a man floundering in the water. He is fighting for his life, trying not to be taken down with the debris.You move closer. . .somehow the man looks familiar. You suddenly realize who it is.

It's George W. Bush!

At the same time, you notice that the raging waters are about to take him under ... forever. You have two options--you can save the life of George W. Bush or you can shoot a dramatic, Pulitzer Prize-winning photo, documenting the death of one of the world's most powerful men.

So here's the question, and please give an honest answer:

Would you select high contrast color film, or would you go with the classic simplicity of black and white?

(Second) Time-Waster of the Day

If you are even remotely annoyed with President Bush right now, this Daily Kos diary will have you peeing yourself from laughing.

If you're not -- um, go do something else for awhile.

Time-Waster of the Day

Twenty most unusual excuses when calling in sick.

My favorite is “a hit man was looking for me.” Ohhhh, okay then.  We understand.  By all means, don’t come to work.

My second favorite is “I tripped over my dog and was knocked unconscious,” because that is entirely possible – perhaps even likely – in my household.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Johan Otter and his 18-year old daughter Jenna were attacked last week by a grizzly bear mother trying to protect her cubs. Both are alive, fortunately. Johan bore the brunt of the attack, on purpose. He attempted to keep the bear interested in him to spare his daughter Jenna. That strategy largely worked – Jenna sustained some facial lacerations and other injuries, but she is in much better shape than her Dad. See their interview with Katie Couric here.

There’s a point during the interview when Jenna is talking about how hearing her father scream was the worst thing a person could ever hear. Actually, it’s not. There’s one thing much, much worse – it’s so bad most parents would rather be mauled by a bear than hear it, and that’s the choice Johan was forced to make. His injuries are extensive, but he’s expected recover, thank goodness.

But I just knew – even before I heard it on the interview – that the attack had taken place in Glacier National Park.

I was reluctant to blog about this at first. It would be a crime to miss hiking Glacier because of a fear of bears. In the park’s 95-year history, only ten people have been killed by bears there. And the attack on the Otters was the first reported bear attack at Glacier this year, and the season is almost over. That’s not a bad record, considering that as of August, 2005, Glacier had already had over a million and a half visitors this year alone.  

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in this park, in the frontcountry and backcountry, and I have never laid eyes on a bear there, either black or grizzly. Oddly, the bear sightings I’ve had in Montana have taken place in much more populated areas – the first one was on the road going up to the Big Mountain resort, and the second was on the road up to my father-in-law’s house in Libby. Those were both black bears.

Grizzly bears are threatened in the lower 48 states, and don’t need any more bad publicity. In fact, grizz are really just big pussies, and will almost always flee at the first sign of a human. But if you surprise them, and they think you are threatening their babies, they will Mess. You. Up. Plain and simple.

The Otters came around a blind curve to find themselves facing the bear. The park rangers advise you to make a lot of noise as you’re heading down the trail – clapping, shouting, whistling, anything that will alert the hard-of-hearing bears to your presence so they will run away like the big wimpy babies they usually are. I don’t know whether the Otters were doing this; they were hiking the steep Grinnell Glacier Trail, and could have been huffing and puffing instead of shouting “Hey, bear!” That happens to me a lot going uphill. Or they might have been making the prescribed amount of noise, and the bear just didn’t hear them. It seems like that could happen too.

But in any event, it doesn’t really matter. Where humans and bears intersect, there will be attacks, and fatalities. Where there are cars, there will be fatal crashes. Where there are viruses, sometimes people sicken and die. Where there is lightning, people might be hit. And the statistics with respect to the bears are such that I’m willing to take my chances, yet listen carefully to the rangers to minimize the risks.

Here’s what they say to do to prevent an encounter:

  • Make noise. Most bells aren’t loud enough. Clap and call out.

  • Don’t assume that just because a trail is well-traveled, that you don’t have to watch for bears. Some of the most heavily traveled trails in Glacier are surrounded by excellent bear habitat.

  • Be mindful of conditions that make it difficult for bears to see, hear or smell hikers. In that vein, be careful by streams, in the wind, or in heavy vegetation. A blind corner or a rise in the trail also requires special attention.

  • Keep kids close, and avoid hiking alone.

  • Avoid hiking during the early morning, dusk, and after dark.

  • Don’t hike where bears eat. For example, avoid cow parsnip thickets, berry patches, or fields of glacier lilies.

  • Watch for calling cards, including scat, tracks, torn-up logs, diggings, trampled vegetation, and overturned rocks.

  • Finally, don’t approach a bear. Duh.

And if you do see a bear, here’s what you do:                  

  • Bend over. And kiss your ass goodbye.

Heh. Just kidding. Here’s what they really say:

  • Talk quietly or not at all; the time to make loud noise is before you encounter a bear. Try to detour around the bear if possible.

  • Do not run! Back away slowly, but stop if it seems to agitate thebear.

  • Assume a nonthreatening posture. Turn sideways, or bend at the knees to appear smaller.

  • Use peripheral vision. Bears appear to interpret direct eye contact as threatening.

  • Drop something (not food) to distract the bear. Keep your pack on for protection in case of an attack.

  • If a bear attacks and you have bear spray, use it!

  • If the bear makes contact, protect your chest and abdomen by falling to the ground on your stomach, or assuming a fetal position to reduce the severity of an attack. (This is what Johan Otter believes saved him.)  Cover the back of your neck with your hands. Do not move until you are certain the bear has left.

  • Report all bear attacks to the nearest ranger or warden immediately.

They continue:

"In rare cases bears may attack at night or after stalking people.  This kind of attack is very rare but can be very serious because it often means the bear is looking for food and preying on you.  If you are attacked at night or if you feel you have been stalked and attacked as prey, try to escape. If you can not escape, or if the bear follows, use pepper spray, or shout and try to intimidate the bear with a branch or rock. Do whatever it takes to let the bear know you are not easy prey."

I love how they say a bear stalking you “can be very serious.” Thank you for that insight, Captain Obvious.

But please, go hiking. Even in Glacier. You'll probably never get lucky enough to see a bear.

* I shamelessly swiped this fabulous term from this article and the bear expert who used it. As for the subject of that article, that's a topic for another day, and another (even longer) post.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

To the Extent the Press Has Stuck me with this Buck, I Guess it Will Have to Stop Here

I see Karl is back on the job after his bout with kidney stones, and has decided to go with the “stun the press” approach by having the President accept responsibility for his failures.

Sort of. Here’s what Bush said:

"To the extent the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility."

Heh. For those of you not familiar with lawyering, “to the extent that” is one of our favorite phrases. It leaves a hole in the statement that a freight train could barrel through. Because according to the speaker, the “extent” that the government didn’t do its job right could be zero.

Of course, anyone who hasn’t spent the last two weeks giving himself a colonoscopy with his own head knows that “extent” goes a little farther than zero.

But in any event, this is a brilliant tactic, because this administration hasn’t taken responsibility for anything it’s done in four years, and the media will be stunned. And will therefore accord Bush far more respect than he deserves. It fits neatly into the “low expectations” game they are so good at playing.

Let me just say that, to the extent I think Bush is sincere, I’m impressed he took responsibility.

Update: See the transcript of the President’s remarks here. I hope he’s serious about fixing the problems. But I think his suggestion that the rescue workers on the ground need “defending” is absurd. No one has attacked them and the job they are doing right now. Moreover, the people on the ground bear no responsibility for when they got to NOLA. So, cut the shit on that, please.  It’s a shameless attempt to imply that people who criticize the feds for the lethally incompetent response to Katrina are really slamming the first responders.  Where have I heard that line of reasoning before?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Muse on a Stick

Here is what passes for intelligent conversation at Trailhead House:

Trailhead: I don’t know what to write about. I’ve been working all day and that dries up my blogging. What should I write about?

TS: Ummmm. How about how gift cards don’t always get used.

Trailhead: What?

TS: You know, how they’re a big way for retailers to get free money because they don’t always get used.

Trailhead: I’m not feeling the love on that one.

TS: Okay, how about the lifespan of a gas bubble?

Trailhead: An intestinal gas bubble?

TS: [Nods head.] Yeah, from start to finish.

Trailhead: So, from stomach to rectum?

TS: [Nods head again.] Or you could talk about how dogs eat their own—

Trailhead: No thank you, I’ve had enough of that for one day already.

TS: How about weird Southeast Asian food?

Trailhead: Why, because that’s all you’re going to have to eat in six weeks?

TS: [Makes disgusted face.] Ugh, yes. But this was even worse. There was a show on it last night. It was farther south, in Thailand or Vietnam or something. They had deep-fried bats. And deep-fried frogs. You know how you see people here walking around at the state fair with a stick of corn on the cob? Well, down there, people walk around the same way, except its deep-fried frog on a stick. And the grossest thing was the frog heart on a stick. It was still beating.

Trailhead: Please, please stop. For the love of God, stop. I’m a vegetarian.

TS: But I thought we were trying to get you some blogging ideas.

Trailhead: Oh, I’ve got something to blog about now.

TS: Glad I could help.

Time-Waster of the Day

Dictionaraoke.  Yes, it is as odd as it sounds.  Audio clips from online dictionaries sing for you.  I recommend AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” for pure hilarity.  The Dictionaraoke version of “I Wanna Be a Cowboy” isn’t all that different from the original.  Nor is “Blinded me with Science.”

Take a listen.

Thanks to Wasteland Fan, quite possibly the only person I know who matches my own time-wasting abilities.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Someone Open the Window, it's Getting Warm in Here

Nick Kristof uses Hurricane Katrina as a springboard for a climate change discussion today.

Kristof acknowledges that it is unknown whether global warming contributed to Katrina’s existence or ferocity, but observes that there are indications that climate change will produce more Category 5 storms.

Accordingly, he says, “[n]ow that we've all seen what a Katrina can do - and Katrina was only Category 4 when it hit Louisiana - it would be crazy for President Bush to continue to refuse to develop a national policy on greenhouse gases.”

As an aside, let me first say, Mr. Kristof, that I won't be holding my breath that President Bush will do something because it would be "crazy" not to (See FEMA, failure to appoint competent people to).

But I digress, sort of. The real matter of interest is this interplay between hurricanes and climate change.

The eggheads at frame the relevant question:

Due to [the] semi-random nature of weather, it is wrong to blame any one event such as Katrina specifically on global warming - and of course it is just as indefensible to blame Katrina on a long-term natural cycle in the climate.

Yet this is not the right way to frame the question. As we have also pointed out in previous posts, we can indeed draw some important conclusions about the links between hurricane activity and global warming in a statistical sense.

The situation is analogous to rolling loaded dice: one could, if one was so inclined, construct a set of dice where sixes occur twice as often as normal. But if you were to roll a six using these dice, you could not blame it specifically on the fact that the dice had been loaded. Half of the sixes would have occurred anyway, even with normal dice. Loading the dice simply doubled the odds. In the same manner, while we cannot draw firm conclusions about one single hurricane, we can draw some conclusions about hurricanes more generally. In particular, the available scientific evidence indicates that it is likely that global warming will make - and possibly already is making - those hurricanes that form more destructive than they otherwise would have been.
It's a fascinating blog, if extremely technical. Head on over if you want to have the bejesus scared out of you in that cold, clinical way that only hardcore scientists can manage.

Barrow, Alaska

I have this weird little game I play with myself.

My, you do have a filthy mind. Pry your brain out of the gutter for a moment and pay attention, please.

On an idle night at any time of the year, I'll surf over to The Weather Channel online and plug in Barrow, Alaska, to see what the temperature is there. Barrow is the northernmost town in Alaska. It's basically a year-round ice cube.

In the dead of winter, I do this to shock myself. As in, "I cannot believe there is a place on earth where it's 50 degrees below zero. Are the polar bears freezing their balls off?"

Then in July, I do it to shock myself again. It's 150 degrees wherever I am, but it's 45 in Barrow.

Tonight it's 33 and cloudy. Tomorrow it might get to 44.

This evening I surfed onto the monthly averages for Barrow. July's average high is 47. The highest temperature ever recorded was 79 degrees. It was 1993.

4,500 people live in Barrow.

I would swiftly go insane if I lived in Barrow.

The Maiden Voyage

Today was an ideal day for any kind of outdoor activity. The sun was out, but a few puffy clouds blunted its rays. The temperature hovered in the mid-70s. There was no wind other than an occasional gentle breeze. The trees are wearing the first hints of color. And best of all, the river was a smooth pane of opaque green glass.

Trailhead Kid loved kayaking. TS and I had some concern about this venture. As TS explained to Kayaker Fred, TK is in a stage right now where he complains about even the things he likes. But gliding along the river astounded our otherwise verbose preschooler into appreciative silence.

We paddled upstream along the Tualatin River for a few miles after putting in at Tualatin Community Park. We continued past Cook Park, then turned around and headed back downstream.

This is an excellent paddle for kids. This stretch of the Tualatin is slow-moving, flat water, but not boring. In the three hours we were on the water, we spotted many ducks and other waterfowl, a frog, a beaver, and several jumping fish.

Coming Soon: What Happens when you Kayak with a Three-Year-Old

No babysitter today. So we've bundled up TK in a kid-sized PFD (life jacket), and we're headed for the Tualatin River. Any more tranquil a body of water than the Tualatin is a bathtub. TK is all hyped up and ready to go.

The primary problem so far is that TK wants to take along the enormous rubber snake his uncle gave him last year. TS hates snakes, and anything that looks like a snake, and so we have to persuade TK to leave the huge rubber snake to guard the house.

Again, I ask: What could go wrong?

Friday, September 09, 2005

Collaborative Time-Waster of the Day

In case you didn't know, it's Help Your Blogger Day.

I have three posts cooking, but they're just not finished. And I have a big work project I've been struggling to finish.

So I'd like to get some "outside input" from all of you. Post your own favorite time-wasting websites in the comments.

I know you have them -- you're all as big a bunch of loafers as I am.

And I'll be back later.

Hiker Power

This is cool. I can't say I'll be hauling it along with me on overnight trips, but it's still neat.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

All This and They're Great at Hockey, too

So the Canadians were there a week before we were.

What is this, people? Some freakin' Bizarro world? Because I have to tell you, the stories I'm hearing just get more and more stunning with each passing day:

The forty-six member Vancouver-based Urban Search and Rescue Team arrived in the St. Bernard Parish which lies east of New Orleans a full 5 days before American rescue units, and the volunteers worked 18-hour days rescuing 119 people in total.

The team worked closely with the Louisiana state police who provided an armed escort throughout the rescue mission because of the increasing violence in the area. A St. Bernard official offered sincere gratitude and told the team that the Canadian rescuers were their first sign of relief.

St. Bernard Parish was home to 68,000 people but was virtually forgotten by U.S. officials who were concentrating their search and rescue efforts on New Orleans which is only a few kilometers away.

Although little mention has been given to aid and assistance pouring in from around the world, four Canadian ships, three navy and one ice breaker all laden with essential supplies are heading toward the Gulf and expect to arrive by later Thursday or Friday.

Yeah, you're doin' a heck of a job all right, Brownie.

Time-Waster of the Day

For those of you not acquainted with Wasteland Fan’s outstanding TV blog, go over there and see if you can guess where WF lives.  WF needs to be relieved of the burden of geographical anonymity.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Just Add Water

Trailhead Spouse has no "medium" setting. This means events are either low-key to the point of being all but forgotten, or they are wildly spectacular. This year, as you can see from the photograph above, the birthday fell into the latter category.

Best. Birthday. Ever. We'll be spending some time with Kayaker Fred and Brenda this weekend.

Three Blue Devils go to New Orleans

I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of my fellow Blue Devils.

Often, I’ve been less than thrilled with the company I’m in as a Duke University Law School alum. Ken Starr and Richard Nixon seem to be the most famous graduates of that otherwise fine institution.

But these guys are amazing. They are undergraduates, not law students, but I'm claiming them anyway.

Last week, three Duke University sophomores posed as Associated Press journalists, slipped into New Orleans, and evacuated seven people who were receiving no assistance from the authorities.

Pissed off sitting in Durham watching news reports, they packed up their car with bottled water and headed to the Gulf Coast to help. They worked for a little while at an emergency shelter on the LSU campus, swiped an Associated Press identification, photocopied it, and headed into New Orleans, brandishing the fake ID. (Do spare me the conservative bleating about “stealing.”) They made it all the way to the Convention Center, where they described the scene:

"The only way I can describe this, it was the epicenter," Buder said. "Inside there were National Guard running around, there was feces, people had urinated, soiled the carpet. There were dead bodies. The smell will never leave me."

Buder said the students saw four or five bodies. National Guard
troopers seemed to be checking the second and third floors of the building to try to secure the site.

"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."

After their tour of the Convention Center, they ferried seven people out of the city in two trips in their Hyundai, and put them on a bus to Texas.

Bush should replace Brown and Chertoff with these guys.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

And Now, A Quick Break from Misery and Pain

I think we could all use a laugh, a brief escape from the endless messages of death, destruction and despair. So let's be grateful that we have the opportunity, and take it.

Besides, this is some plump, juicy, low-hanging humor fruit.

Jim Garrison was fired for eating pizza.

That's right. Garrison, 39, won an internet contest seeking stories about outrageous firings. He won a Caribbean cruise for this account of his firing:

I had been working for a mortgage company as a developer for 18 months and things were going well. Then, one day I saw that a different group in my company had just finished up a pot-luck and had some pizza left over. I thought they would probably end up throwing it away and I was kind of hungry so I went for it ... I took a slice of pizza.

Apparently the employees who threw this pot luck were planning to take it home and were offended by my action. Now I thought we were all basically on the same team and if someone didn't like what I did they would tell me so and I would apologize and maybe offer to pay for the pizza. These employees ended up telling their manager, who told her vice president about what I did.

The worst part about this is that I wasn't told about any of this until a month after the incident. No warning, no second chance.

I know that I left an impression because to this day my former coworkers refer to unattended pizza as "programmer bait".

As funny as this is, I think my favorite story was the runner-up who delivered furniture for a living. He and his co-worker found a large stash of sex toys under a bed they were moving and began, uh, fencing with them. Worst part about this? He worked for his Dad, who had to fire him.

Go here to see the list of winners.

Accountability is for Losers

Via Talking Points Memo, we see that President Bush will be leading the investigation into his own failure. Nice work, if you can get it. Josh Marshall points us to an AP article:

Buffeted by criticism over the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, President Bush said Tuesday he will oversee an investigation into what went wrong and why — in part to be sure the country could withstand more storms or attack.

Bush also announced he is sending Vice President Dick Cheney to the Gulf Coast region on Thursday to help determine whether the government is doing all that it can.

"Bureaucracy is not going to stand in the way of getting the job done for the people," the president said after a meeting at the White House with his Cabinet on storm recovery efforts.

"What I intend to do is lead an investigation to find out what went right and what went wrong," Bush said. "We still live in an unsettled world. We want to make sure we can respond properly if there is a WMD (weapons of mass destruction) attack or another major storm."

Gee, I can’t wait to see this report.

Now, I don't object to Bush investigating the errors of his own administration, and I certainly would encourage an honest attempt to improve our disaster response machinery. But this is the guy who gave the Medal of Freedom to George Tenet and Paul Bremer. So forgive my skepticism.

Moreover, an internal investigation should not take the place of, or interfere with, an independent, bi- or non-partisan investigation. I wonder how long it will be before we hear that "a thorough investigation uncovered no wrongdoing on the part of the Administration." That it was the President's investigation of himself won't matter to many of the talking heads. I'll also be interested to see how much blame gets apportioned to the state and local government in the President's "investigation."

Monday, September 05, 2005

Another Place to Donate

Former Presidents Bush and Clinton have been asked to head fundraising efforts for Katrina relief, as they did for the Asian tsunami. Donate to that fund here.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Far From Home

Oregon will be receiving 1,000 Katrina evacuees.

Volunteers worked through the night setting up cots at the former Washington-Monroe High School, and coordinating with Portland Public Schools and other agencies to deliver needed services to the evacuees when they arrive.

Here are the most poignant paragraphs of the story:

It's important to keep the well-being of the evacuees as the paramount focus, Miller said. Uprooting to come across the country, possibly to a state they've never visited, will be an emotional and physical challenge.

"A week ago, they were in their homes," she said. "It's hard to sleep knowing what these people are going through."

A week ago they were in their homes. Now, after going through hell and very, very high water, they are headed to a place thousands of miles away from home, with a very different climate, topography and culture. (Although I must say, it's a wonderful place on all three scores. And they'll be received by Pacific Northwesterners, a group I've found to include some of the kindest people in the world.)

Make a donation to the Red Cross Oregon Trail Chapter here. Donate to the American Red Cross here. (And please remember -- all American Red Cross disaster assistance is free to the people who receive it.)

Someone Call the Fire Department

Because Mr. Chertoff's pants are on fire again.

It's riveting to watch, isn't it? I mean, the disaster plan. They use it every time the shit comes anywhere near the fan. Tell a lie. Lather, rinse, repeat. And before you know it, the untruth becomes truth, and they've washed that scandal right outta their hair.

After five years, this response has become almost reflexive on the part of the administration. It seems, however, that the media is no longer willing to put up with it. Here are the first two grafs of a story on CNN's website:

Defending the U.S. government's response to Hurricane Katrina, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff argued Saturday that government planners did not predict such a disaster ever could occur.

But in fact, government officials, scientists and journalists have warned of such a scenario for years.

And then, CNN is rude enough to point out that Chertoff's colleague, Michael Brown of FEMA, has said that his agency has already planned for such a scenario.

Though even I will admit that none of this means Chertoff is lying. There is, of course, another explanation. He could be breathtakingly incompetent.

And you know what? He's the head of the Department of Homeland Security.

The Ever-Traveling Buck

The Washington Post has a story detailing the White House's attempt to shift blame to state and local officials. Here's what WaPo has to say about the President's comments in his weekly radio address:

Bush, who has been criticized, even by supporters, for the delayed response to the disaster, used his weekly radio address to put responsibility for the failure on lower levels of government. The magnitude of the crisis "has created tremendous problems that have strained state and local capabilities," he said. "The result is that many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans. And that is unacceptable."

Huh. That's interesting. It's certainly true that the crisis has "strained state and local capabilities." Of course, that's why we have FEMA, or what used to be FEMA, but is now some loose change jangling around in the Department of Homeland Security's pocket. Let's go to the DHS website to see what they have to say about the role of the feds during large-scale disasters:
In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility on March 1st for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort. The new Department will also prioritize the important issue of citizen preparedness.

Primary responsibility. For mounting a swift and effective recovery effort.

So now they're trying to shift the blame. But it looks to me like the media might have awakened from its five-year hibernation. So I don't know if that dog's gonna hunt, Mr. President.

Then again, I can't count the number of turds this administration has managed to float.

Saturday, September 03, 2005


I wish I could claim to be surprised:

At one point Friday, the evacuation was interrupted briefly when school buses rolled up so some 700 guests and employees from the Hyatt Hotel could move to the head of the evacuation line — much to the amazement of those who had been crammed in the stinking Superdome since last Sunday.

"How does this work? They (are) clean, they are dry, they get out ahead of us?" exclaimed Howard Blue, 22, who tried to get in their line. The National Guard locked him as other guardsmen helped the well-dressed guests with their luggage.

The 700 had been trapped in the hotel, next to the Superdome, but conditions were considerably cleaner, even without running water, than the unsanitary crush inside the dome. The Hyatt was severely damaged by the storm. Every pane of glass on the riverside wall was blown out.

(Via Body and Soul.)

Update: I've been reading in the comments on various blogs, but still can't find a concrete link, that Mayor Nagin needed to set up operations in the Hyatt, and so moved the guests out. But you know, that still doesn't explain why they weren't required to get in line at the Superdome like everyone else. From a triage standpoint, I can't figure this out. The same article linked above talks about women in the Superdome miscarrying. The hotel guests, according to the article, just weren't in as bad a shape as the Superdome folks. So I still haven't seen a rational explanation. Does anyone have a link?

From the BBC

FullMoon was speculating yesterday about what people in other countries make of this situation. From the BBC:

It is astonishing to me that so many Americans seem shocked by the existence of such concentrated poverty and social neglect in their own country.

In the workout room of the condo where I am currently staying in the affluent LA neighbourhood of Santa Monica, an executive and his personal trainer ignored the anguished television reports blaring above their heads on Friday evening.

Either they did not care, or it was somehow too painful to discuss.

When President Bush told "Good Morning America" on Thursday morning that nobody could have "anticipated" the breach of the New Orleans levees, it pointed to not only a remote leader in denial, but a whole political class.

The uneasy paradox which so many live with in this country - of being first-and-foremost rugged individuals, out to plunder what they can and paying as little tax as they can get away with, while at the same time believing that America is a robust, model society - has reached a crisis point this week.

Will there be real investment, or just more buck-passing between federal agencies and states?

The country has to choose whether it wants to rebuild the levees and destroyed communities, with no expense spared for the future - or once again brush off that responsibility, and blame the other guy.
(Thanks to reader GLT for the link.)

Friday, September 02, 2005

Reality Bites

CNN has a page documenting the stark differences in the official version of events in New Orleans and the version of the people actually there. It's entitled "The big disconnect on New Orleans." Here’s a sample:

On Conditions in the Convention Center:

FEMA chief Brown: We learned about that (Thursday), so I have directed that we have all available resources to get that convention center to make sure that they have the food and water and medical care that they need.

Mayor Nagin: The convention center is unsanitary and
unsafe, and we are running out of supplies for the 15,000 to 20,000 people.

CNN Producer Kim Segal: It was chaos. There was nobody there, nobody in charge. And there was nobody giving even water. The children, you should see them, they're all just in tears. There are sick people. We saw... people who are dying in front of you.

Evacuee Raymond Cooper: Sir, you've got about 3,000 people here in this -- in the Convention Center right now. They're hungry. Don't have any food. We were told two-and-a-half days ago to make our way to the
Superdome or the Convention Center by our mayor. And which when we got here, was no one to tell us what to do, no one to direct us, no authority figure.
Go read the whole thing.

(Via Echidne of the Snakes.)

The Elephants in the Room

There’s a lot of good reading on Slate this week.

Jack Shafer addresses the twin questions of race and class– why isn’t the media talking about it? Everyone who’s paying even scant attention has noticed that the overwhelming majority of the New Orleans refugees are black. Shafer understands that it doesn’t have to be the overarching theme of the story, but:

[I]n the their frenzy to beat freshness into the endless loops of disaster footage that have been running all day, broadcasters might have mentioned that nearly all the visible people left behind in New Orleans are of the black persuasion, and mostly poor.
Shafer chalks it up to anchors and broadcasters being afraid they’ll say something racially stupid, and ruin their careers.

Better, most think, to avoid discussing race at all unless someone with impeccable race credentials appears to supervise—and indemnify—everybody from potentially damaging charges of racism.
Shafer’s probably right, but I don’t think he ever gets to how the discussion might devolve into racist, career-ruining moments. Listen, there’s an 800-lb gorilla in the room here: Would the feds’ response have been as slow if the sea of agonized faces on TV were white, and middle class? That’s what everyone’s thinking, and what everyone’s afraid to talk about. The idea is repellent, particularly while the nation is watching people subjected to death, mayhem and misery.

Jack says:

But we aren't one united race, we aren't one united
class, and Katrina didn't hit all folks equally. By failing to acknowledge upfront that black New Orleanians—and perhaps black Mississippians—suffered more from Katrina than whites, the TV talkers may escape potential accusations that they're racist. But by ignoring race and class, they boot the journalistic opportunity to bring attention to the disenfranchisement of a whole definable segment of the population. What I wouldn't pay to hear a Fox anchor ask, "Say, Bob, why are these African-Americans so poor to begin with?"
Well, to see why the media might be reluctant to talk about this issue, let's see what happens among the armchair commentariat when this issue arises (and yes, I know I'm in an armchair myself).

Consider this thread on Slate’s own discussion board, The Fray. The first message is entitled “Black Looters Shld Be Shot”; the post continues, “on sight. They bring disgrace to this nation and world.”

One might ask why the poster felt the need to specify “black” looters. Was it because anyone can see that they’re all black? Well, then why the racial descriptor?

In some of the responses to the original “Black Looters” post, I found this gem:

The problem is evident though Moses. There is out of control violence, compounding this tragedy. And guess what, nearly 100 PERCENT of those committing the crimes are black. Please do not feed me any B.S. about lack of opportunity, blah, blah, blah.Have you been listening to the news. There are cops resigning because the BLACK community is too dangerous to be around. There are doctors who refuse to render aid because the BLACK community is out of control and those doctors have said they will not put themselves at risk for 'people like that'. Rapes, and killings at the only place to find shelter. That isn't being done by other groups, ONLY by the BLACKs there. Do you see a pattern here?!? There are absolute rights and wrongs in this world, and there are far too many wrongs being done by this black comunity in New Orleans. These lazy, stupid, thuggish
welfare fools had a week to decide what to do. True to form, which is why they're on welfare, they chose to do NOTHING. Well, I say shame on them. They had opportunity and time to leave. Yes, if someone is looting, and I mean anyone, shoot their ass, and add the number to the death tally.
I have to say, that might qualify as a career-ending screed if uttered by someone with any media credibility. I hope.

Or this comment on the Philadelphia-based blog, Attytood:
Wasn't there a MANDATORY evacuation order the day before the hurricane? I seem to recall one. Now I can understand SOME to not be able to leave but over 100000? Or is it that this was the segment of society that constantly has its hand out for gubmint cheese, the same segment that is always first to lay waste and riot in thier [sic] own neighborhoods. oh, my mistake, its those evil white republicans who are at fault.
(I should add that this commenter is not, uh, in sync with the outlook of Attytood.)

Do I sense a theme forming here? A couple of stray loonies do not a movement make. I’ll be interested to see whether this view begins to take hold among the more prominent commentators. But I wonder whether the hard-right line will be, in the coming weeks, “hey, look what the welfare state has wrought.”


Thousands of National Guardsmen have arrived in New Orleans with food, water and weapons.  

I feel like crying, I’m so relieved.  Let’s see what happens today.

Wes Weighs In

Wesley Clark on the President’s claim that nobody “anticipated the breach of the levees”:

Then just this morning, the President claimed that no one could have anticipated the levee breaches we've seen in New Orleans after Katrina hit. That's not leadership, that's an excuse. In fact, people have predicted this kind of disaster for many years, including President Bush's own FEMA in 2001, when they ranked hurricane flood damage to New Orleans among the three likeliest, most catastrophic disasters facing America. Instead, funding was significantly cut back, leaving key engineering projects on hold. Instead, this Administration focused on the war in Iraq, tax cuts, and private sector economic growth without asking the American people to make needed sacrifices for the good of the country. Again I ask
you, where is the leadership?

Read his whole post on TPM Cafe.

Limited Government?

President Bush has acknowledged that the results of the relief effort thus far are “not acceptable.” That’s right. But I know enough about this administration that I’m leery of accepting these words as an admission that his administration has dropped the ball. Rather, I’m afraid it portends the beginning of an Orwellian blame shift – possibly to the local officials, or, if the comments from Chertoff and Brown are any indication, to the refugees.

What I hope it really portends is a massive shift in competent federal relief efforts to the city of New Orleans. And now there’s been an explosion. We are watching the slow obliteration of an American city and the people heartbreakingly stuck inside.

Is this what they mean when they say “limited government?”

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

They still don't get it. The director of the Federal Emergency (Mis)Management Agency, Mike Brown ( a former estate lawyer before working at FEMA) was interviewed by CNN today:

"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."
Maybe it's just me, but I think he just made a judgment. I mean, there was a mandatory evacuation, right? These people chose not to leave. They chose to go to the Superdome. Hmmm. Let's see what else he had to say:
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. 'Now is the time to recognize that whether they chose to evacuate or chose not to evacuate, we have to help them.'
This is all very slick, and I might add, very lawyerly. He's right about one thing; now isn't the time to be blaming. But he is, of course. Unless you're trying to cover your own ass, why kick these people when they're down?

After all, it's not like everyone didn't expect those levees to fail.

Oh, wait. President Bush did say today, on Good Morning America, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." See the video here.

Looting, Schmooting

Can we please – please – begin to make rational distinctions about what constitutes morally unacceptable “looting” and what constitutes survival? Do we really expect people to leave perishable food inside stores where there is no mechanism to pay, when they have not had anything to eat or drink in the last two days? To suggest that this is somehow criminal, as you head downstairs to your refrigerator to pop open an ice-cold Coke, is disturbing.

If, on the other hand, we are talking about armed gangs roving the streets stealing goods for which they have no survival need, we are on the same page. That’s looting, and it’s criminal. But I have not always seen that distinction made adequately. Indeed, the President’s own press secretary has not made such a distinction, at least at this morning’s press briefing:

[Question] Scott, do you cited the President's zero tolerance for insurance fraud, looting, price gouging. Does he make any allowance for people who have yet to receive aid who are taking things like water or food or shoes to walk among the debris?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think you heard from the President earlier today about his zero tolerance. We understand the need for food and water and supplies of that nature. That's why we have a massive effort underway to continue getting food and water and ice to those who are in need. There are ways for them to get that help. Looting is not the way for them to do it.

Scotty, why don't you go get yourself a cold one. You’ve been working hard during this thing, you deserve it.

This is a fine point of view to have, but understand this: people who have racked up a two-day or even three-day deficit of food and drink are going to get sustenance wherever they can, as soon as they can. If you want them to stop breaking into grocery stores, then get them some food and water. That’s not criminal, it’s human.

(Again, via Atrios. And yes, I do read other websites.)

UPDATE: According to the Washington Post, a military helicopter has dropped food and water near the New Orleans Convention Center. Thank goodness.

Brother, Can you Spare a Room? has started a website at which folks can go and offer up spare rooms for Katrina refugees.  I hear also has listings.

According to Moveon, shelter is most urgently needed within driving distance of the Gulf Coast – about 300 miles or so.  So if you’ve got it, list it.  

Department of Homeland Absurdity

First up, Department of Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff. The Washington Post reports this morning that he said the following:

"The critical thing was to get people out of there before the disaster," he said on NBC's "Today" program. "Some people chose not to obey that order. That was a mistake on their part."

Now, even Trailhead has heaped scorn on those whose only reason for not evacuating was they don’t like being told what to do.

But that is not the case with the overwhelming majority of the people still trapped in New Orleans. They couldn’t get out beforehand. You see, they didn’t have the resources to evacuate.

Consider this. You have no car. Maybe you have a couple of kids. You live paycheck to paycheck. And, since you embrace “personal responsibility,” like the righties say you should, you don’t carry credit cards. It’s the leanest time of your month, the time when you’re making dinners out of the dregs from your frig – you know, the two remaining pieces of lunch meat, the one remaining egg and an old soft tortilla from the last time you made burritos. Then you hear on the radio (the one you bought from the proceeds of a summer job ten years ago when you were seventeen) that you are supposed to get the hell of out New Orleans right now.

You look in your wallet. You have $1.50. That was to be bus fare to work tomorrow. You have no family, or maybe your mom lives down the street and she has $1.75 until she gets paid.

Where do you go? The Superdome, probably.

At this late date, the chief of this country’s Homeland Security Department doesn’t understand this?

And of what importance is such a statement now? I don't give a good goddamn why people didn't evacuate, at this point. The time for scorn-heaping was before the hurricane, when we still had hopes that the truculent ones -- those with resources, at least -- could be shamed into leaving.

That time is past. Can we please just get them out?

(Via Atrios.)

A Break From Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

TS asked last night why I don't do more political blogging. Most everyone reading this knows I have pretty firm political beliefs. The answer is simple. I spend all day on the job making arguments. When I blog, I want to switch gears.

But not today. People are dead, and more are dying, slowly and terribly. There have been real failures in our government, both in disaster prevention and post-disaster planning, that have contributed to the sky-high index of human misery on the Gulf Coast.

So today you'll probably see some posts on the aftermath of Katrina, and they may have -- gasp! -- a political slant.

We'll return to our more relaxed theme tomorrow.