Little-reported Hurricane Gustav News

This is from Jenka, an Indymedia activist who sort of splits her time between Portland, DC, and New Orleans...

hurricane gustav is expected to make landfall in a little over eight hours, just
west of new orleans, through the native nation of houma. the
government has ordered an evacuation, with the national guard stepping
in to enforce it. 1.9 million people have apparently gotten out, while
tens of thousands continue to be stuck on the highways out of town.
14,000 people without cars were taken out on buses and trains.

FEMA says they have it all figured out, and are doing much better now:

If you listen to their accounts, all is running like a well-oiled
machine, and things are as they should be. They omit the computerized
'ID bracelets' that failed dues to computer glitches on saturday, the
hundreds of people left waiting for buses in jefferson parish, the
hospitals that had to get help from the canadian airforce
because they had been forgotten by FEMA's evacuation plan....3
hospitalized patients died during evacuation. 80 people have been
killed by Gustav in several Caribbean countries. But no one was killed
in Cuba, even though the hurricane went straight across the western
part of the island - that country has evacuation down to an art (the US
won't ask them for advice though, even after Katrina's precedent)

And other big questions remain.
Will the levees hold?
"As the US Army Corps of Engineers and local authorities rushed to
shore up levees on the vulnerable West Bank of New Orleans, which
largely escaped Katrina???s punch, officials made no promises that
up-armored levees would hold. Of particular concern is the Harvey Canal
in Jefferson Parish, widely seen as a weak point in the system. In
fact, only about one-third of the city???s $12 billion new levee system
has been completed. With storm-surge projections of up to 20 feet and
many levees at eight feet, overtopping seems likely if the storm holds
its course."

"Leading experts from the U.S. and the Netherlands say the [levee]
system is riddled with flaws. They say that even a weaker storm than
Katrina could breach the levees if it hit this season." - from an
article in early august...

Where are they taking people, and what is the plan to get them back
home? After forcing people to leave after Katrina, many were prevented
from returning for 18 months, two years....far from the 'few days' they
were promised

What about the prisoners?
The prison officials at Orleans Parish Prison, if you remember, simply
left the prison during Katrina. Prisoners drowned in their cells, and
were abandoned for days in cells filled with water. Now, a
desperate call has been made by prisoner support groups in the region
to contact the sheriff and make sure that prisoners are evacuated too:

And what about those who can't, or won't (hey - you might be reluctant,
too, if it took you 18 months to get back home last time) evacuate?
"Those who stay will encounter a skeleton crew of law-enforcement
officers who will treat anybody on the street as a suspicious person,
says Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish. The idea is to
guarantee that property will be protected against looters ??? a main
reason so many residents decided to ride out Katrina. 'If you stay,'
Mr. Broussard warns, 'this will be no Mayberry.' 'We've learned from
our mistakes,' says New Orleans Police Officer B. Francois. 'And this
time, if we arrest someone, theyre not going to the local jail.
Theyre getting on a bus to Angola,' the infamous rural prison farm."

"Residents wonder whether by being vigilant -- or hysterical, depending
on one's perspective -- officials are putting themselves in a position
to be able to say 'I told you so' if anyone stays behind. This time
around, Mayor Nagin and all disaster-response spokespeople are making
it clear that if you stay behind and are stranded on your roof waving a
flag made from a bedsheet, it is you who will be held accountable, not
them. Many who are riding out the storm feel that's the motive behind
Nagin's emphatic plea during a press conference Saturday for citizens
to flee 'the mother of all storms,' and 'get their butts out of New

The law-and-order model that caused so much pain after Katrina is going
to be in force, and even more so, this time around.

Again, as during Katrina, many of those unable to evacuate are elderly
(according to a friend of mine in New Orleans now)

I am in touch with Common Ground Relief, the group I worked with in
2005, formed after Katrina and still going strong. Some have evacuated
to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and some are hunkered down in New Orleans.
If you want to help, or check for updates, check

You can follow the progress of the storm here:

Irony Deficiency

Although we have yet to pick our copy up from the post office, I just read about the cover of the new issue of the New Yorker and the ensuing controversy over it. It's amazing that anybody smart enough to read the New Yorker would not get the joke, and speaks to an old problem that an old friend of mine and I used to joke about and call the "Irony Deficiency" of our nation.

This particular instance of this condition made me realize a possible fundamental cause - the fact that our society is so diverse, so factionalized, and so polarized and full of hate and adversarial relations, that irony is almost impossible on a mass scale - why do I say that? because when you have a population in which some people truly believe what others consider are outlandish jokes, those jokes start to backfire if they spread into the realm of the believers.

Those who would normally laugh at such a joke are on such hair-triggers to defend against the attacks of the believers that they no longer have a sense of humor. The fact is that there are some people who are so naive, hateful, deluded, and/or stupid that they really think that Michelle Obama is a violent radical militant and Barrack is a muslim terrorist. That's just how wide, how separated by chasms of clashing belief and values, the spectrum of "political" dialogue, spectrum of opinion about what is real and true, has become in this country.

And who should be surprised, when there are some people that watch 6 hours of television a night, including FOX News, and others that never watch TV at all and spend those hours reading Noam Chomsky, Harpers, or the New Yorker (and/or the latest Crimethinc publication)? When there are some that listen to Merle Haggard and pump their fists earnestly when he sings "and I'd surely stand up, next to you" or whatever, in that stupid-ass song about the first Gulf War, and yet there are others, like me, who bike around town with songs like this stuck in our heads, a Cop Shoot Cop track from that same era:

It's okay to kill in the name of democracy
And dictators are swell if they like the smell of American money
It's making me sick, I want no part of it
Stop waving that flag
All you idiots bought right into it
And who's left holding the bag?
Surprise, surprise. Surprise, surprise.
The government lies.

Which, by the way, if you didn't get it, contains irony in the first 2 lines...

The Wired Method

I happened upon an article in Wired, I think it might be last month's coverstory(?), about how working with huge amounts of data (their big buzzword they keep repeating is Petabytes) and clusters of computers to crunch the data with statistical methods have qualitatively changed the way science will be done. The lead is basically "the end of the scientific method."

Of course the comments on the page after the article are full of people arguing and protesting that of course the writer is wrong and of course he knows nothing about science and this isn't fundamentally changing science.... blah blah blah.

The article is actually interesting, a bit, but it's mostly hype, and the conclusion that's most important is that Wired magazine is still up to the same old tricks: throw a bunch of smoke and mirrors up around a certain pop-tech idea and watch as all the outraged and/or excited geeks scurry around buying copies of the magazine and/or hitting the web site. It doesn't matter what's true, as long as it sells.

It's the same way with most papers and magazines, like the local arts/culture rag here in Tucson, the Tucson Weekly. Full of bullshit written by either imbeciles or racists (or both), spewing hate, nonsense, borderline softcore porn, and/or silliness that the editors may or may not agree with - but it doesn't matter because the outrage inflates circulation, which inflates advertiser revenue. I'm so sick of it but what to do? A letter to the editor would just be proof that one more chump reads the paper. Ka-ching! In fact, you probably shouldn't click on those links in this paragraph. doh!

Scary Facebook

This is a scary little video by Vishal Agarwala about Facebook and all the private information they collect and who they might be giving it to. There's a text article that cites sources of the information in the video.

Of course, ironically, I'm using YouTube, a company with a lot of the same scariness, to embed the video...

Turtle Island

I'm getting increasingly tired of people using the name "Turtle Island" without, in my view, really understanding it. Activists, new agers, poets, etc have been using it to be another name for the North American continent, in an effort to get away from using names invented by the white colonizers, ever since Gary Snyder published a book of poetry by that name. I guess it's somewhat debatable, but here's my point: the idea comes from the common Native American cosmovision that all the world is perched on the back of a giant turtle. One might argue that it refers to just this continent because they weren't aware of any other continents, but if there were there would be Deer Island and Whale Island and whatever else besides Turtle Island. But the point is that it's a cosmological, not geographic, worldview - they believed this continent was the entire world, was all there was for humans and other animals to live on. Therefore, I think you're really being too specific if you refer to North America as "Turtle Island." The whole world is Turtle Island.

I admit that it is ambiguous though. Here's part of a version of the myth:

Nanaboozhoo took the piece of Earth from Muskrat's paw. Just then, the turtle swam forward and said, "Use my back to bear the weight of this piece of Earth. With the help of Kitchi-Manitou, we can make a new Earth." Nanaboozhoo put the piece of Earth on the turtle's back. Suddenly, the wind blew from each of the Four Directions, The tiny piece of Earth on the turtle's back began to grow. It grew and grew and grew until it formed a mi-ni-si', or island in the water. The island grew larger and larger, but still the turtle bore the weight of the Earth on his back. Nanaboozhoo and the animals all sang and danced in a widening circle on the growing island. After a while, the Four Winds ceased to blow and the waters became still. A huge island sat in the middle of the water

So, is it "a new Earth", or is it just "an island" that is part of the Earth? Maybe a European, over-rational mind just can't make sense of it.

Misogyny Alive and Well

The New York Times has a great op-ed about treatment of women and how little attention presidential candidates give to it.

If there was ever a story that deserved more coverage by the news media, it

Happy, Smart, but Still Fascinated

I was listening several days ago to a short program on KXCI, a weekly feature called "Growing Native with Petey Mesquitey". Petey is the real deal, a unique talent in residence at KXCI, the local community radio station. Every 5-minute or so episode of his show he tells a brief story about some experience he had recently out in the outdoors and what plants or animals he encountered. It might be discussing his trek out to find a christmas tree, or the blooming of some special flower, or finding some strange bug. I've listened to him several times, and even attended a live appearance he did in town, though I've not followed him obsessively or anything.

But last week I realized what makes him so unique: he's a combination of 3 characteristics that no one else I've encountered in the field (of nature writing) really brings together:
1) He obviously knows his subject. He can name the latin names of every organism he comes across, and talks extensively about the details of its appearance, behavior, life cycle, etc.
2) Despite this extensive knowledge, he is REALLY EXCITED and intrigued about everything he talks about and does, and has a deep emotional and spiritual connection to nature.
3) He's happy and optimistic about it all.

This is pretty exceptional. Many writers and thinkers about nature know the science, but are cold and clinical about nature. Others have this (occasionally wackadoo) spiritual link going on but they don't know the details, the science. And some even have both of these but they look at it all through a dark lens of "it's all going away and doomed, isn't that sad. we're fucked." Charles Bowden or Ed Abbey are good examples of the latter. They know their stuff, they feel it too, but where they go with it is pessimistic and negative.

Petey, though, somehow avoids that trap and just exalts in the beauty and simple pleasures of the outdoors.

I think this kind of take on things is really really important. People must know the threats, but they also must be inspired to simple enjoy. Otherwise, the only response can be to throw up one's hands in hopelessness.

Happy Birthday Dry River

We returned from our 5-day trip to Portland with a video projector and DVD player courtesy of Free Geek, which gave it as a hardware grant to Dry River Radical Resource Center here in Tucson. We got it back via the plane fine and used it at the space for the first night of the Dry River 2-year birthday celebration. The event was attended pretty well and got good advance press in both the Arizona Daily Star and the Tucson Weekly, although I'm not sure if the good attendance was because of that or because there's a zillion bands playing and that brought in all their fans.

We premiered my just-finished documentary about Dry River first, and after a few more bands played we showed a short video about Free Geek and the rough cut of a doc about squats in Spain that my compa Lotus is working on. Later, at midnight, John Carpenter's "They Live" was shown as well, but O and I were too tired from our day of travelling to make it till then. The party went on and we went to bed.

Later this morning the festivities continue with brunch and more bands and stuff. Yay. Happy Birthday, Dry River, this is also roughly the anniversary of my move to Tucson. It's been a good 2 years.

WTF? In Moline, Illinois?

So I was looking at the tour schedule of a band I recently really fell for last year and then again recently called Pony Pants. In fact I shot footage of them playing at Dry River a couple weeks ago and I just edited together a video of them today.

But anyway they list a show tomorrow they're playing in "Moline, Iowa", which is really Moline, Illinois, the city across the Mississippi from my home town, Davenport, Iowa (the mistake is to be expected, it's a group of 4 cities divided by the river, known as "Quad Cities, USA"). They're playing at "The Meth Lab" with a band called "Meth and Goats" - so I google that and find their page and they fucking rock, too!

Pony Pants is from West Philly so, yeah, whatever, you'd expect awesome culture from a big city like that, but Moline? **NOTHING** like this was going on there when I was a kid - at least that I knew of... though of course I was a total nerd when i was growing up and wouldn't have known about a punk house party if it was next door to my place, and my parents wouldn't have let me go anyway
(I remember when, a high school senior, a friend loaned me a Cure tape and told me it was punk, and I believed it for at least a year - i'd never heard of punk before...).

But anyway, yeah, Meth and Goats, they're pretty cool. They remind me a bit of Jesus Lizard.

Resizing Over Truth

This video presentation about a new image manipulation technology called "seam carving" is really disturbing to me. changing real pictures of real places and people just so you can have a certain sized image?

The motivation or "problem" implied at the beginning of the video just goes to show, like I've noticed all my life so many times, how form always seems to get prioritized over content. that some designer wants a photo to dynamically resize so that their silly page layout always looks nice and is willing to sacrifice truth for it makes me shiver. and they're willing to let a computer decide what is important in an image!? yikes. What if it's important to me that the bear was that far away from her cubs? What if I want to know that I'm looking at what the landscape really looks like, not some artificially distorted fantasy?


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