Thursday, 1 September 2005

Who Do We Attack for Katrina?

Saturday Night Live had an opening sketch that sticks in my mind. In it, Bush wins the 2000 presidency and he’s commenting on the state of our nation: “The Great Lakes are on fire – even I know that’s not good.”

On September 11, 2001, 2,819 died in a terrorist action on our soil. Bush responded by focusing his energy on attacking Iraq. The grounds for such a move have been debated and debased elsewhere many time since. Still, we are in the middle of that uncomfortable decision, with our progress debatable. And a handful more of Americans dying on foreign soil each day.

On August 25, 2005, Katrina devastated Louisiana. Destroying one of the largest, most American of cities. Thousand are likely dead. Drowned in their own homes. From flooding caused by slashing 80% of the maintenance funding on weakening levees. The thousands that made it out of their homes watched each other starve and die while waiting for our over-stretched National Guard to rescue them (aren’t they in Iraq also?). The million that evacuated prior to this disaster are now looking for a home – any home – anywhere in the nearby states. Alabama, Texas, Tennessee are simply the first to be asked.

This is far, far worse than the World Trade Center. The entire population of New York City didn’t have to relocate. With nothing. Albeit with a heavy heart, the city that never sleeps picked itself up and continued onward. Even now.

New Orleans does not share that fate. Right now, it’s somewhere under 20 feet of sewage, corpses, and flood water. It will be years, if not decades, before that city is more than a shadow of itself. Until then, we have lost. Lost friends, lost homes, and lost a great American city.

Who do we attack for this? God?

There is no one to blame except ourselves. We weren’t prepared. Aside from the fact that the damage is greater and the number of lives affected is greater, what makes New Orleans more painful than 9/11? New Orleans was self-inflicted.

We elected Bush.

“New Orleans is more devastated than New York was.”( – even I know that’s not good?)

Jeneane Sessum, “President Bush Declares “War on Weather”

I quite like the War on Error

Wednesday, 17 August 2005

The Vastness of America at 10 MPH

One of the reasons we drove to Boulder was to remind ourselves of the vastness of this great country. Miles and miles of little more than telephone line. Maybe a house. Maybe a gas station. Dirt road intersecting the highway.

Even in the most remote areas, someone has a house. With electricity and a phone.

The fact ribbons of highway run multiple directions through every state with phone and electrical line spun even tighter is a remarkable feat. Something we take for granted far too often.

If you haven’t yet, check out the trailer of Hunter Weeks and Josh Caldwell 10 mph Segway journey from Seattle to Boston.

Kansas at 80 mph was a long day. At 10mph? That’s plenty of time to think.

Friday, 22 July 2005

Back from Boulder, Thanks All Around

Balance Rock

Jen and I just returned from Boulder, Co via Rapid City, SD and Kansas City, MO and I wanted to send out thanks to everyone helping to make it a fantastic journey through the midwestern states. In roughly chronological order, I’d like to extend a big thank you to:

  • Jen for booking the hotels and being in the car with me for 6+ hours a day for 6 days.
  • The RVing clerk at Wall Drug for recommending the Mt. Rushmore lighting ceremony.
  • Deadwood, SD for reminding me every town has a story to tell.
  • Lindsay, Brian, and Sidney for their exceptional hospitality and driving recommendations through the Rocky Mountain National Park.
  • Two Hands Paperie for giving Jen her paper fix and putting a spring in her step.
  • Jen Bohmbach for originally recommending the Boulder Dushanbe Tea House and joining us for dinner. Try the Persian Vegetarian Kooftah Balls and you can thank Brian also.
  • Roland for suggesting we stop at the Garden of the Gods.
  • Brian, our server at the Kansas City Kona Grille for a meal (amazing Maui Tacos with catfish) I’d gladly pay double for and service to match. Special bonus thanks for recommending the local Latte’Land when asked where to get a good cup of coffee. Yes, a Kona Grille would be an excellent addition to the Minneapolis dining landscape.
  • Griffin Technology’s iTrip and MacAlly’s PodCig for filling the long stretches of South Dakota and Wyoming with our favorite driving songs.
  • Chrysler for making a car that stays cool on the inside even when it’s 100+F outside.

A couple dozen photos are now up over in my Flickr site in the Boulder Road Trip 2005 set.

Wednesday, 22 June 2005

CPB – Subsidizing American Culture or Unnecessary Intermediary

Should the CPB continue to receive tax payer dollars?

On one hand, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting funds some of the most well known American culture icons – Sesame Street, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Nightline, among them. Programs and lessons that shaped my childhood and the childhoods of everyone I know.

On the other hand, the CPB is structured in such a way that the reigning administration pulls the purse strings. As Mike O’Connor has stated repeatedly, “he who pays the piper calls the tune.”

This begs the question on the definition of “public”. Are we talking “publicly funded” or “created by the public”?. Tax dollars are public monies funding all sorts of services only a subset of us (the public) agrees with at any given time; highways, Medicare, Iraq War, education, parks, space travel. Seems to me, financing extremely large projects that none of us can accomplish individually is what governments and taxes are for. Whether we as individual investors fully appreciate them or not. Does the CPB’s mission fall into the ‘bigger than all of us’ category?

The fact you’re reading this weblog means CPB’s current model is expiring. As Jeff Jarvis states, It’s time to..

“Reexamine the mission of public broadcasting in an era when the public can broadcast.”

The no-barrier-to-entry of weblogs, podcasts, and videoblogs has caused an explosion in self-publishing. All produced independent of CPB funding. From this public is “created by the public” angle KYOU – a Clear Channel AM station – may actually be more public than NPR.

If I’m reading CPB’s site accurately, a full 26% of their funding comes from memberships. Less than 15% of their funding is from Congress – about $370 million dollars. If as Evol mentions, $370 million breaks down to $1.25 per year per American, then we need to find a way for each American to easily – and independently – invest $12.50 to continue supporting public broadcasting. Making it easier for citizens to become customers as Doc Searls states. Ideally on a per-production basis rather than at the network level. This will transform the “money sucks but we need to pay the electric bill” fund drives to an actual marketplace where Americans have direct control over what’s called “public broadcasting.”

With this, I challenge PBS to change the “take action now” link at from “call your congressman” to “give us $12.50”. Same challenge for NPR. Hell, I’ll happily flag my $12.50 for experimental and new programs.

Otherwise next year, it’ll be deja vu all over again.

Sunday, 10 April 2005

Historical Political Drama Double Feature

Last night, Jen and I watched All the President’s Men, off the Netflix. It’s the screen adaptation of the Watergate investigation starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Woodward & Bernstein, or “Woodstein”.

Considering the whole thing went down months before I was born, my understanding of Watergate is ethereal at best. The movie is more than a retelling of one of America’s low points, it helped form the basic language of our cloak-and-dagger stereotypes; the smoking informant that will only meet the dark of night, hints just falling into your lap, and a nondescript enemy foiling you at every step. Or maybe that’s just Washington politics.

The dynamic between Hoffman and Redford was remarkable, the Washington Post’s office furniture stylish, and the intrigue kept me on the couch and away from the laptop for more than 2 hours.

As Redford was searching through a stack of big, heavy telephone books, I couldn’t help but wonder how different this same investigation would be today. With Google, weblogs, and 24 hour news, would it be easier or more difficult to uncover the conspiracy?

I vote for the same.

On the subject of enlightening historical political dramas, The Fog of War – Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara. McNamara was Kennedy & Johnson’s Secretary of Defense, putting the subject of this movie just a few years ahead of All the President’s Men.

This movie gave Errol Morris an Oscar for best documentary and he deserves it. Walking into it, Jen and I had no idea who McNamara was – just that Morris is a brilliant documentary filmmaker.

By the end, I was stunned. Stunned at how little I knew about; the Cuban Missle Crisis, the Vietnam War, and how the Cold War wasn’t so much.

Wednesday, 9 March 2005

Gas Prices are like Bad Haircuts

Overheard at the Dunn Bros in downtown St. Paul:

“It’s like gambling, losing all that money at the gas pumps these days.”

Complaining about gas prices is like complaining about a bad haircut. Each of us has the power to change the impact it has on us. In the case of cars; drive less, use public transit, bike, buy a car that gets better than a mile per gallon, or just stop whining.

Similarly, it should be illegal to complain about traffic and gas prices. They’re directly correlated.

To finish the metaphor, in the case of bad haircuts; get it re-cut by the same stylist, get a wig, re-cut it yourself, get a new stylist, let it grow out.

Wednesday, 2 March 2005

Ankle Bracelets for Immigrants Good and Scary

This morning, NPR had a segment on Homeland Security requiring illegal immigrants to wear electronic monitoring ankle bracelets (read the comments). Yes, I’m all for reducing the load on the detention centers and allowing the immigrants to contribute something to America while they prepare an asylum claim.

This program needs to be closely watched. Closely. It, combined with other secret laws, has the potential to slide us down a slippery slope destroying the American Dream and accelerating the emigration from America described by Richard Florida in his latest book (The Flight of the Creative Class).

Norwegianity, thanks for the link.