Archive for August, 2005

South Bend gas prices soar

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

Martin’s Supermarket: count on us for service and… savings?

Alas, it’s the same story across the street at Speedway. Note the difference between yesterday (left) and today (right):

I do believe this is the first time that I’ve ever seen, with my own eyes (not in a picture on the news from some other city), a sign showing that regular unleaded costs more than $3.00 a gallon.

The random kindness of strangers

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

Someone from Texas called my parents’ house in Newington today (I must still be listed in the phone book at that address) offering to help me with my bandwidth, either by mirroring my site or by making a donation. I’ve had several similar offers via e-mail.

I deeply appreciate the offers. However, while it’s true that I’ve had some bandwidth issues, it’s nothing I can’t handle. You have to realize, it’s not like I’m streaming video or something — the only reason I’m having problems at all is that my site presently resides on a shared server, so there are artificially imposed limits on my bandwidth. Thus, I did have to pay $75 to add an extra 30 GB of bandwidth for the last two days of this month, and I am going to upgrade to a dedicated server (with 1000 GB of bandwidth, which should be plenty) for next month. That will cost either $149 or $219, so we’re talking, at most, ~$300 total. That’s why I haven’t put up a PayPal tip-jar or anything like that. It’s not like I’m thousands of dollars in the hole or something (as I believe Jordon Golson was after posting the tsunami videos and getting linked by Drudge).

Several of my personal friends have offered to chip in, which I’ll gladly accept, but I don’t want to publicly beg for contributions at a time when the people of the Gulf coast need money much more than I do. Those with the ability and inclination to donate money should donate it to the Hurricane Katrina relief effort, not the Brendan Loy bandwidth relief effort. :) I don’t want my own petty problems to distract from the real financial need. So again, I appreciate the offers, I really, really do. But if you want to help out, please make a donation to the Red Cross or the Salvation Army or some other charity. Make it in my name, if you want to. But don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine. Unless I get linked by Drudge. ;)

First refugees arrive at Astrodome

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

The first bus of Superdome “residents” has arrived at the Astrodome, according to CNN. There are now live aerial pictures of reporters interviewing the refugees, presumably asking them what the hellish conditions inside the Superdome will really like. “The first stories will be exactly that, the first stories,” says a babbling Aaron Brown.

In other news, perhaps this is a trite comment, but does anyone else find it utterly bizarre to have to keep referring to thousands upon thousands of American citizens as “refugees”? Aren’t “refugees” something they have over in places like Bosnia and Rwanda and countries whose names end in “-stan”? To say nothing of the armed bandits taking over and so forth. It’s mind-blowing to see an American city essentially become the equivalent of a devastated Third World war zone.

Another note, and I forget if I’ve mentioned this on the blog already, but one of the most amazing aspects (to me, at least) of the way things have developed in New Orleans is that we literally have less information about what’s going on in that city than we did about what was happening in, say, the deserts of Iraq during the invasion. This was especially true in the first 24 hours or so after the storm, but it remains true to some extent even now. In a country where instant information is the norm, having a levee breach on Monday morning and not finding out about it until the wee hours of Tuesday, and not really realizing how bad things are until late Tuesday, is… well, I already used the word “bizarre,” but once again that’s exactly what it is.

My dad said yesterday that he and my mom both noted that this is something totally unique, unlike any disaster they’ve ever witnessed before in their lives. That’s certainly true.

UPDATE: From the comments:

Sean Callebs on CNN is reporting that the first yellow Orleans bus that showed up tonight in Houston was driven by a 20-year old and was a “renegade” bus.

In other words, it was a car-jacked bus of refugees from New Orleans who may or may have not been from the Super Dome.

Blogging live from the drowned city

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

Here’s a blog run by a group of tech-nerds who are stuck in New Orelans but who have a generator, Internet access, a bunch of servers, and the ability to stream a live webcam, which they are calling “Lord of the Flies II: Escape From New Orleans.” (Hey, dark humor can help people get through dark times. And besides, it’s true.) Amazing stuff. Go back into the archives; I’ve only glanced, but there’s a lot there.

I desperately need to update the left sidebar; I hope to do so later tonight, and when I do, I’ll definitely be adding them.

More Texas news

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

Refugees are being sent to Reunion Arena (where the Stars and Mavericks used to play) as well as the Astrodome, according to Brooke and the Dallas Morning News (free registration required).

You know you’re a legal nerd when…

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

…you’re reading a Supreme Court case, and not having noticed who wrote the majority opinion, it occurs to you after a couple of paragraphs, based on the style in which it’s written, that “Scalia must have written this” — so you scroll up to check, and sure enough, Scalia wrote it. :)

P.S. The paragraph that set off my “Scalia-dar” was this one:

No one can disagree with the dissent’s assertion that “Congress sometimes uses slightly different language to convey the same message,” but when it does so it uses “slightly different language” that means the same thing. “Member of the House” instead of “Representative,” for example. Or “criminal offense” instead of “crime.” But to say that “subsequent offense” means the same thing as “second or subsequent conviction” requires a degree of verbal know-nothingism that would render government by legislation quite impossible. Under the terminology “second or subsequent conviction,” in the context at issue here, it is entirely clear (without any “sentence parsing”) that a defendant convicted of a crime committed in 1992, who has previously been convicted of a crime committed in 1993, would receive the enhanced sentence.

Nobody needles the dissent with quite the oomph that Scalia does… he’s a master, really. :)

Volunteers sought in Houston

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

According to JH, the following message was sent out to citizens in Harris County, Texas: “We need your help. We are requesting volunteers to assist in setting up the (Astro)dome with cots and other basic necessities. This needs to be completed by 1700 or 5pm CST. We need for you to forward to anyone who can help … please e-mail Mark Sloan (MTSloan@itc.co.harris.tx.us)… as this time it will be a 24/7 operation.”

Martial law revisted

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

Mike Wiser here again. We’ve had conflicting reports about martial law over the past few days, with some commenters stating that such a term has no legal meaning in the state of Louisiana, and others saying that it needs to be declared by various different officials. For what it’s worth, the WWL blog now reports that Mayor Nagin has declared martial law. Direct quote from their site: “7:32 P.M. – N.O. Mayor Ray Nagin declares Martial law in the city and directs the city’s 1,500-person police force to do “whatever it takes” to gain back control of the city. He will also enlist the aid of troops.”

So, if the mayor has the power to declare martial law, it’s been done. Even if he doesn’t have the legal authority to do so, though, it’s possible that pragmatically it won’t matter–it may well be that the police department will take it for granted that the mayor is able to do this, and leave worrying about the technical legality of it to legal scholars. As a disclaimer, though, I speak from the viewpoint of someone unfamiliar with the details of either the declaration of martial law in general or the specifics of the Louisiana legal system.

Mayor Nagin orders police to focus on looters

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

As looters get way out of control, the New Orleans mayor told the police to abandon their search and rescue efforts and crack down on the lawlessness in the city. Nagin says, “They are starting to get closer to heavily populated areas — hotels, hospitals, and we’re going to stop it right now.”

(Guestblogger Em)

The view from way above

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

Here’s the before-and-after picture from NASA, showing Katrina’s effects on Louisiana as seen from space. Here’s a wider, animated version. Unfortunately, there are some low clouds in the way of the “after” view, but you can definitely see the devastation nonetheless. I’m sure an even better (and doubtless more horrifying) view will come along eventually, when they can manage to get a shot without any clouds in the way. I’m particularly interested to see the Mississippi coastline, which is totally obscured by clouds in this shot.

UPDATE: Much more here.

A request and a report

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

Someone e-mailed me looking for information about the area near Kenner and Chateau Blvd. The e-mailer, whose sister lives in that area, writes, “My sister, I do believe is in shock….she thinks she will be going home Monday.” Anyway… any information anyone has would be appreciated.

Meanwhile, Bill Crews writes in again from St. Amant, LA, between New Orleans and Baton Rouge: “Still fighting the heat w/ no power, but we’re still hanging on.” Listening to XM radio, he heard an Army Corps of Engineers colonel telling Wolf Blitzer that “it may take 3 to 6 months to completly empty the city of water, once we get all the pumps running.”

We’re #1!

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

Uncharacteristically, I’ve mostly refrained from excessive navel-gazing in the wake of Katrina, feeling it would be unseemly — obviously, I would give back all the traffic and all the ego-boosting attention if it could make Louisiana and Mississippi whole again. But I gotta admit, this is pretty cool:

Intelliseek’s BlogPulse (http://www.blogpulse.com), which analyzes daily posts from 15.6 million blogs, finds that CNN.com and Yahoo! News are the most cited news sources for Katrina-related information, while the Irish Trojan blog (http://www.brendanloy.com/), written remotely by Brendan Loy from South Bend, Ind., is the most frequently cited hurricane-related blog.

Later in the same article, I am referred to as “Brendan Troy,” which is by far the best misspelling of my name ever. GO TROJANS! BEAT THE RAINBOWS! :)

I’ve also moved up to “Large Mammal” status on the TTLB Ecosystem. Previously, I had been a “Flappy Bird.” I jumped right over “Adorable Rodents” and “Marauding Marsupials”! :)

I’ll do a bit more navel-gazing later, as I have some more links — and an audio clip — to share with y’all.

The big picture

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

Earlier today, someone commented that we’re focusing so much on the short-term ramifications of Katrina that we’re missing “the big picture.” Well, I’ve gotten two lengthy e-mails today that address some of the big-picture issues. First, from Dane:

Watching this on CNN at the office, and thinking about it a bit, there is a thought that has slowly dawned on me. This is a significantly more catastrophic event than 9/11. In terms of loss of life, property damage, long term ramifications, economic impact, etc. By any measure, this is the most destructive and damaging event to ever occur on U.S. soil. I understand that reporters don’t want to say such things. And certainly, 9/11 is a different kind of catastrophe. But in this case we are talking about the destruction of an entire city. And flooding and sanitary conditions that will lead to significant and deadly diseases that there are no means of treating in that area. A complete refugee, public health crisis. And that is only part of the area that was hit. There is also Southern Mississippi that was completely destroyed. A significant crisis in its own right. The economic center of a entire state is almost completely destroyed. And a vital energy distribution location destroyed. Beyond that, simple import/export into and out of the country has been seriously damaged. This situation will likely continue for the forseeable future. … More or less, this has more in common with Dresden after WWII than it does with New York or Washington post 9/11.

I think the jury is still out on whether this is worse than 9/11 in terms of loss of life, though it’s certainly possible that that will prove true. I also think that the Civil War was clearly a more “destructive and damaging event” that occurred on U.S. soil, but in terms of “events” that unfolded over a matter of hours or days, rather than years, he may well be right. Two possible competitors: the Galveston hurricane of 1900 and the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

Then there’s this, from Mike Barnes:

Survival Priorities:

SHORT TERM & Long Term

Water
Food
Shelter (including clothing)
Medicine
Communication
Law & Order

LONG TERM

Social
Housing
Work
Transportation
Education

All the focus has been on the short term need. These needs are critical to survival and the focus is appropriate. Most of the blog has focused on the short term.

I hope those people who are not in the middle of the disaster will start thinking about the long term. “Not in the middle” includes all that had to evacuate throughout the country. Their initial evacuation has greatly assisted officials deal with this tragedy. Too many recovery resources have had to be diverted to rescue and later to recovery. Early evacuation has preserved precious resources.

Thinking of the future:

Farm land in LA, MS, TX, & maybe FL will be condemned and FEMA villages will be set up. Maybe even the Astrodome, or convention centers, long term. Hotels may be converted. If people do not have their own resources somewhere else in the nation, they will call these villages home for one to five years!

Jobs have been destroyed. At the same time, Katrina has created more work. Many will find work in the FEMA villages. Teachers, plumbers, electricians, medical workers, social workers, computer techs, grocers, pharmacists, child care, insurance adjusters, secretaries, firemen, truck drivers, warehousemen, police officers, ministers, leadership, entertainers, etc. (even morticians) will be needed. No, it will not pay what they are used to. It will not have the same benefits. However, it will provide an opportunity to work, to contribute. Creating community will be critical. Most will live in identical gray FEMA trailers. All will be needed. Participation will be important to the community and to survival.

Others will be located near enough to cities and towns to find work. Locals will initially welcome and support the recovery effort. But these villages will tax the local resources and the initial welcome will wear thin. Establishing relationships with the local people will be critical.

Others will be needed in the recovery area. Reconstruction villages will be located near the affected areas. Craftsmen and support workers will be needed. Some workers will spend the rest of their working days in the Katrina Recovery Effort! Some of these workers will work directly for FEMA or the local government. Most will work for contractors that come in to rebuild. (Get ready for the politics about the profit that these companies make while they restore the area.)

Rebuilding cannot even start until New Orleans is drained. Then the city must be searched, bulldozed, and removed. Where will all the debris be put? NYC only had to move a relatively small part of town debris to a dump and did not have to drain (pump) toxic water. Weeks? Months?

Then the area can start rebuilding the infrastructure. Electrical, water, sewage, roadways, and communication will be restored in some areas right away, but for the majority of the area this infrastructure cannot even be started for weeks, months, and indeed years.

The entire SE quadrant of the country, along with NYC, California floods & earthquakes, Great Plains tornado alley, and others will be in competition for the national resources. Not to be political but to be pragmatic, we are involved in wars that also demand national resources. The good news about the resource demand is that it creates jobs. As ironic as it is, Katrina will contribute to the GNP in the long run, and also to imports of materials to rebuild.

On the last day of August, Katrina + 3, it is too early to decide long-term strategies for those displaced. However it is time to consider future options. If living in a FEMA village is unacceptable, it is time to think about alternatives. Many will relocate.

God bless all that have had their lives changed for ever. There is hope and most will get through this. My home is called “Casa del Fuego,” House of the Fire, because it really is the blessing from the Los Alamos Fire. Losing everything and living in a basement for fourteen months is something I would have never chosen to go through. The years we spent focused on recovery cannot be recovered but they have made us stronger. I believe that Lewis & Clark were successful because the adopted the motto, “Proceed On.”

Thanks for the thoughts, Mike.

On at least one of Mike’s “long-term” priorities, education, there are already some steps being taken. Various universities, from ASU to LSU, are accepting “emergency transfers.” Perhaps more importantly, steps are being taken to deal with the many public-school students, K through 12, who have become refugees. I mentioned Lafayette earlier, and now it seems the entire state of Texas has jumped on the bandwagon. WWL-TV reports:

Texas public schools will enroll children of Hurricane Katrina refugees sheltered within each district.

The Texas Education Agency has been directed to provide all needed support for districts having to absorb children from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. TEA has said the refugee children can qualify as “homeless” and may enroll without proof of residence.

Also, normal immunization requirements for attending school or child-care facilities in Texas will be temporarily waived for children displaced by the hurricane. Schools are allowed to waive the 22-to-one teacher-student requirement.

Districts with an influx of 50 or more students can get an immediate funding increase, rather than waiting until the end of the school year.

Austin schools are working to ensure the students get backpacks, school supplies and clothes.

To some extent, some officials may be envisioning these as short-term (i.e., one semester or one year) steps, but in fact they may become quite long term. That transition will itself be a difficult thing.

Anyway… I don’t pretend to have thought all the ramifications through, but there are certainly a lot of them. It isn’t every day that a city of 1.2 million is destroyed, and all its residents forced to indefinitely relocate.

Text messaging works

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

Here is a report that cell-phone text-messaging is working in some cases where it is otherwise impossible to get through to people in Katrina-affected areas.

“Tryin’ to wash us away”

Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

Kevin Moot sends along the rather eerie lyrics from “Louisiana 1927” by Randy Newman, which he stumbled upon randomly while listening to his iTunes. Excerpt:

What has happened down here is the wind have changed
Clouds roll in from the north and it started to rain
Rained real hard and rained for a real long time
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline

The river rose all day
The river rose all night
Some people got lost in the flood
Some people got away alright
The river have busted through cleard down to Plaquemines
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline

CHORUS
Louisiana, Louisiana
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
Louisiana, Louisiana
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
They’re tryin’ to wash us away