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Mail 378 September 5 - 11, 2005






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Monday September 5, 2005

See last week's weekend mail for letters from Phillip on the Navy in the Gulf of Mexico

Following is from my oldest son Alex in response to correspondence on how the response to the Gulf of Mexico crisis response was not well handled:

Hmm. Well. "Well." Certainly not well-handled as compared to what we'd like.


Compared to building the canals high enough, and compartmentalize the city enough, that the damage would have been limited?

Compared to having NO evacuated before the hurricane hit?

Compared to having the state, parish and city officials follow their own emergency plan?

Compared to federalizing the response on Saturday the 28th? (Remember, the State has to ask before the Feds can move in. Few talking-heads seem to know this.)

Compared to having the Governor call out the LA Guard on Sunday...Monday... umm... before Wednesday?

Compared to not having the 17th Street and Industrial Canals collapse and scour?

Compared to not having the NOPD completely collapse?

Compared to being compelled to restore order in the city before establishing a post-flood evacuation?

All those bad things happened. So: Compared to reality?

Compared to reality, the Federal response has been both wretched and nothing short of awesome.

Wretched at the top, and awesome below that. Wretched: Lack of coordination at the top, the know-nothing head of FEMA, the lack of immediate acceptance of non-Federal (and foreign) support, et very cetera. Many died unnecessarily. More will still.

Awesome: The early repair (24 hours before the already optimistic deadline) of the 17th Street canal, the air bridges, the movement of displaced persons, the medical evacuation, the beginning of restoration of infrastructure in N.O., etc. A quarter million people moved to TX in four days. With help, another quarter mil moved to other places. Without a single NO City or NO school bus usable.

10,000 rescues--TEN THOUSAND--by the Coast Guard alone, with one (non-fatal) helo crash.

So: if you're complaining that not enough support moved quickly enough, you're right--but considering where they had to start from, the Feds (including the much-hated FEMA) performed amazingly. And everyone, State or Feds, absorbed a doubling (and then another doubling) of the number of evacuees, WITHOUT the sort of operational paralysis that such insane changes of condition usually bring.

My opinion: The actions of those same Feds saved thousands of lives, up to (and maybe including) the FEMA Region VI director, Ron Castleman.

Complain away; it's your right. We Should Do Better. But know: Learning how to deal with emergency response ALWAYS builds lessons on the backs of the dead.

And if you think you can do better--FEMA is hiring.


My own view is expressed in the essay I just wrote, but Alex, who is involved in the California emergency response teams (as a volunteer, not paid) makes good points.

My own view is that restoring the old Office of Civil Defense, with local organizations of both volunteers and professionals, with emergency militia powers and responsibilities at the discretion of the governor, makes a very great deal more sense; but it will take a long time to build a proper organization. We have the technology. We can do it.

What we must end is the attitude that you can only trust professionals hired and paid for. Bureaucracy is the answer to many problems, like dog catching and enforcement of needful regulations. Bureaucracy is almost NEVER the proper response to emergencies and unforeseen situations.

The Military is a form of bureaucracy but one with remedies: there is no tenure, and command changes can be made quickly. We cannot afford, nor would we want, large military establishments everywhere. We need them as garrisons in many places to be the core of a rapid response to disasters; but the primary responsibility for your neighbor is your burden, and the best response to local emergencies is local Civil Defense organizations, volunteers trained and ready, old goons and biddies who like playing soldier and pretending to be part of a militia -- until they are needed. And then they become heroes.

I agree completely with Alex.

I've grown weary of listening to Nagin complain, when he is more responsible than anyone for the failed evacuation and miserable conditions of those left in NO after Katrina struck.

Barbara finally got through to a good friend of ours in Jackson, MI on Thursday. As distant as Jackson is from the catastrophic damage caused by Katrina, Allison told us she was barely able to get to the hospital where she works. There was no power, no water, no gasoline available, and people were shooting at each other over water and gasoline. Most of the major roads were still blocked by trees and debris, and hardly anything was able to move. And that's in Jackson. I can't imagine what it must be like in NO itself and the immediate surrounding area.

If there's blame to be allocated, I think Nagin deserves much of it. He could and should have commandeered the NO city buses and school buses and gotten as many of those people as far north as he could have done. That city should have been a ghost town when Katrina hit. Had he taken even minimal steps to evacuate those who didn't have their own transportation, the situation in NO would have been a lot more manageable.

And what about emergency stocks of food and water? I almost choked when I watched Nagin tell people to carry five days' worth of food and water to the Superdome. Does the man have any idea how much that weighs? How could he designate the Superdome a shelter of last resort and make absolutely no provision for food or water for the thousands of people that he'd left with that as their only option? As far as I've heard, the NO emergency management people didn't even think to provide chlorine bleach and trash bags for emergency toilets.

I'm not defending FEMA, although I'm sure their people on the ground were doing their absolute best. But comparing a CNN news crew flitting in on their helicopters, shooting some footage, and then flitting out again to the resources needed to move meaningful amounts of aid to those thousands who were stranded in NO isn't a useful comparison.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

In War everything is very simple but the simplest things are very difficult. It is called friction and Clausewitz wrote meaningfully of it. And disaster response is like to military actions, which is why it used to be CIVIL DEFENSE and local rather than FEMA and professional and a job for bureaucrats.

Subject: Local lack of preparation in New Orleans

I think FEMA guidelines call for localities to be capable of handling the first 72 to 96 hours of a disaster; the Feds commit to being there no earlier than 3 days after the disaster hits. The hurricane hit on Monday and the feds were arriving Thursday and Friday, right on schedule.

New Orleans was not prepared to last three minutes, let alone three days. I wonder how Los Angeles or Chicago would have fared.

I suppose you can argue that the feds had several days' warning before the storm even hit, and they should have been ready to move in. But still, a city ought to be able to hold itself together for 3 days. And a family ought to be able to survive without any help for 3 days after a disaster (assuming no injuries).

Probably many of the ones left in the New Orleans city center were those on the left end of the foresight bell curve, though; for them, as well as for the sick or disabled who couldn't get out, the city should have had a real plan and resources saved up.

Steve Setzer

Alas, FEMA uses the we are trained professionals trust us approach. The old civil Defense system made it clear who was primarily responsible. And see below.


From Lt. Commander Phillip Pournelle

Early today we drove out to USNS Arctic, tied up to her and offloaded supplies to her. These were the stores we took on in Pensacola last night. Arctic is unable to enter Pensacola due to the obstructions I wrote about earlier. We'll continue these operations for a while. The Captain likes to remind people we are "Fast and Versatile." He's very right


 Phillip Pournelle Lt CDR USN

The most important asset of all on this ship...

and the ship dockside.


More reports and photographs from Phillip in his long report below.


Subject: FEMA, Hurricanes, and Deployed Troops

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

While I agree with your assessment of Civil Defense, FEMA usually takes this long to respond to major hurricanes. In 1989, after Hugo pummilled the Carolinas, Governor Campbell of South Carolina complained about the slow Federal response. FEMA was also this slow in 1992 following Andrew. What we are seeing isn't the effect of troops deployed overseas, it's how FEMA usually reacts to major hurricanes. The only difference this time is that because of the magnitude of the disaster, the eyes of the entire world is focused on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, and is paying closer attention to what's going on. FEMA can be great when it get's going, but it always seems to take them several days to react to hurricanes.

Obviously there's much that can be done better. It's hard to imagine how it could be done worse. The City of New Orleans needs to ask itself why it never came up with a full evacuation plan. The State of Louisiana needs to ask why the Governor didn't activate the National Guard on the Friday before Katrina struck, when it first became apparent that it could strike New Orleans. FEMA needs to ask why it takes several days for them to get their act together every time a major hurricane strikes. And from what I've seen during disasters, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if some petty officials were trying to swing their weight around and gummed up the works in the process. I've seen that happen before, except that the right people involved said "forget you" and did what needed to be done. Could have, would have, should have. I'm sure all involved will be pointing their fingers at each other long before the water is drained from New Orleans.

Frankly the lack of improversation by all involved is dumbfounding. Dumptrucks and high-bodied trucks can carry people as well as buses; Citizens can be deputized as a police force multiplier; CB radios from the local electronics store can provide communications if satellite radios are not available; and so forth and so on.

We haven't even paid much attention to the Gulf Coast yet. As I'm sure you're hearing from your source on the spot, damage extended up through at least half of Mississippi. We're only hearing a small bit of the flustration with a slow FEMA response from there, about as much as we usually hear following major hurricanes.

The most obvious lesson from all this, as you have already pointed out, is that disaster response needs to be locally based. That point needs to be driven home to states and municipalities, if the tragedy of Katrina hasn't already done so. The Federal government needs a rapid reaction force to respond to disasters, and needs to plan for them in the same way it planed for a Soviet grab on Western Europe in the days of the Cold War. States have the legal authority (the exact part of the U.S. Code escapes me at the moment) to maintain a state defense force seperate from the National Guard, and perhaps the states should take a serious look in using it to provide muscle during major disasters. States should plan on dealing with disasters by themselves. If the Federal government can step in and help, fine and dandy, but if not, it doesn't need to be caught flat-footed. If there's any good that comes out of all this, maybe it will be that all levels of government will start to take disaster response seriously.

Kevin J Cheek


New Orleans will be rebuilt


I know that you've had Stratfor links before, but I don't know whether you read it regularly. The essay linked above was pasted into one of my usenet forums, and it makes it clear why such a large city was built in such an absurd location, two stories below sea level and even more below the river level.

We hear a lot about oil and Louisiana, but nothing about this year's agricultural exports without the nation's largest port.

Greg Goss


Subject: Troop "Over there"

Jerry. I don't buy this comment about not having enough troops to handle the hurricane disaster because of Iraq. One comment I read on the Free Republic Website said that only 10% of our current "National Guard" troops are in Iraq. The rest of the Iraq troops are Regular "volunteer" Army. That would leave 90% of the American National Guard available to be used for such disasters. I cannot verify the percentages, but I am sure that our total National Guard force IS NOT unavailabe, as you imply.

They weren't there faster because of the LAW that says who, when, and how they may be legally employed. A careful reading shows that although there was some confusion, it was the officials of LA that were faulty here. If Bush had invaded with troops before the Governor requested it, it would have been an "invasion", and an impeacheable offense that hasn't been done since the Civil War. Bush has failed to stop our government from becoming larger, and has done many things I disagree with. But the "false witness testimony" being presented by our, in my opinion, Bushophobic, communistically inspired propaganda type Main Stream Media is absolutely nauseating.

The other implication would be that we had "spent" all of the money that we might need for the disaster elsewhere. Jerry, I love your analysis of most things, but it was you who pointed out the fallacies of "Voodoo Economics." Even you should know that "Washington" economics is not dependent on reality. If Washington really, really wants money for anything, it will appear. PERIOD. For example, money is ALWAYS there for a war (not just Viet Nam, Iraq, or Korea).

The Levies broke because of the recalcitrance of NGO's, Environmentalists, Democrats in congress, and the absolute corruption of officials in LA over a long term period who refused to, or diverted that money. Money not spent in one or another place does not mean that someone intentionally did that to destroy a city. Shame on you. Our troops in Iraq has nothing to do with "Mabel" who is still sitting in her flooded house because she knows that every cop in N.O. is a crook and wanted to keep her stuff. AND SHE IS STILL REFUSING TO LEAVE TODAY, WHEN A NEWSCASTER INTERVEIWED HER!

It is a disaster. It doesn't help when people like George Noory present shows that state that all this is part of a "weather war" where hurricanes are being directed at American cities. It feeds in to the "unreality" of "somehow, Bush did it." Nonsense, but to much of our uneducated American public, who knows how much this will fan the flames of hatred.

I am sorry to come down on you. I am unhappy that we are stuck in Iraq, and do not know what the final results may be. But I am more unhappy that I think that, because Americans have turned away from the basic rules that are necessary for survival, and thus is doomed to die. I mean that once "false witness testimony" is accepted in any society, it is a poison that cannot be reversed, and that society dies. Also, the "rule" that "if you don't kill me, then I won't kill you" is being voided, and the value of human life is now nothing, whether you are disabled (Schiavo), unborn (abortion), or poor (the N.O. mayor not using busses for the poor). Not to mention the shooting at rescuers.

And of course, the total abrogation of "private property" by our "make it up as you go along supremes."

Sorry Jerry. America may be over. But, NOT because of our troops in Iraq. If you think Bush is bad in a disaster, can't you just see every journalists lips firmly planted on a democrat Presidents "butt" as he does absolutely nothing but "makes a great speech" about how he "feels our pain." Then he would hire Sandy Berger to hide any "Levee" papers, and Richard Clarke to "cover up and make a video" of how the Republicans broke the levee's. Republicans may be bad. Democrats are even worse.

Thus endenth my rant.




IT would be easier to reply if I were not so irritated at your needlessly contentious and hostile attitude. Rational debate has no need of such silliness.

 I was, in my haste, perhaps unclear: The overseas war absorbed, used up, tired out, a Lot of our READY forces, the very ones we need now, leaving as to Call up the secondary reserves, both on state and national levels. And, I will admit, I had not then given sufficient consideration to the thorough destruction of the old Civil Defense organizations I knew. My youngest son has just reminded me that when I was a Scoutmaster we were tied in to Civil Defense and Emergency Preparedness. He was involved in emergency preparedness for earthquakes and flooding.

 You have mastered the art of saying things I have said (some of them) in a way that makes me want to abandon my own positions. Congratulations.

In any event we have not totally abandoned private property. The Court has said that state Law prevails over Federal judiciary in an important decision on property. Perhaps making people take their States and state law seriously is a step on the return path? It does not abandon the notion of private property, and it may be a return to sanity from the Federal Urban Renewal bulldozer. Most such rights are better arranged and protected by the states, for what the Feds give and protect the Feds may instantly take away.

 As to this  attempt to turn my analysis of structural failure into a partisan accusation, I have many such letters from both sides and I reject them all. The Civil defense defects are structural and partisan only in that they stem from The Cold War Liberal rejection of the whole notion of Civil Defense. Bush didn't kill Civil Defense because it was dead when he got into office. Neither did Clinton.

 Neither Party wants or wanted to change from the FEMA centralistic philosophy to one of local Civil Defense organizations as a local militia with federal help in training to act in emergencies. Trust us said FEMA. We are trained professionals. Don't try This as home. Well, we trusted them.


Subject: Disasters big and small

It was clear to everyone who looked at the situation that if no provision were made, the poor of New Orleans would suffer grievously in a major hurricane. This was said repeatedly, for years. Nothing was done. I think this inaction is symptomatic of a larger pattern.

America is a nation that has largely stopped really believing its myths. The "Great Society" to be created by winning a "War on Poverty," the vision of another generation of leaders, now seems an incomprehensible failure. One can argue methods, by my point is that now we can hardly imagine anyone even thinking they could actually realize such a ‘big idea.’ The now-pervasive cynicism and complacency mean that problems that could and should be solved are ignored. The result is obvious with Katrina, but there are thousands of individual-scale disasters in the U.S. every day, disasters of crime, poverty, domestic violence, economic decline, dysfunctional schools, and breakdowns of medical and other systems. These disasters are hidden and ignored, the same way the vulnerability of New Orleans' poor to flooding was ignored.

America cannot be sustained, as America, by the achievements of a relatively small stratum of technical/managerial elites, while ever-larger swaths of the population become ever-more marginalized and underserved. We need a vision of rebuilding the nation for all our citizens. Perhaps we can find it in the way we rebuild the region destroyed by a hurricane.

Mike Juergens mjcom99@hotmail.com



Subject: Apologists --

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

I was never one to believe in Original Sin, but after witnessing the barbarity of the scum of New Orleans -- not the unfortunates left homeless, but the looters and snipers -- I have to think that man is, indeed, born flawed. For ever saint and hero that arose in this crisis, there are a thousand who pluck a the wounded, figuratively cutting off fingers for the rings of dying.

Those who scavanged for the necessities of life can almost be forgiven, but those who raised the black flag and those who shot at rescue workers deserve no excuse and only punishment. Which brings me to the point of the e-mail.

On Saturday, on NPR, Daniel Schorr, apologizing or the looting or shooting stated: that's "what happens, I suppose, when you have people desperate at the same time a lack of uniformed authority or anything to deter them..."

So according to Mr. Schorr, the only thing between being a human and being an animal who shoots at rescue workers is the presence of a cop. Law means nothing. Morality means nothing. The only thing that keeps the jackals at bay are uniforms and guns. What does that say for Americans?

Another apologist, Harry Conick, Jr., was recorded as saying that if he were in such a situation that he might be looting as well. Funny how Mr. Conick can get to what was his home town when supplies are having a hard time. I wonder how much food, water, and relief supplies Mr. Conick brought with him. I expect to hear how he is now shoveling muck from the streets. Yeah, I'll hold my breath.

Pete Nofel

I would make The correction that those who scavenged for necessities need no forgiveness; otherwise, yes, indeed.



Letter From England

Most people here in England seem to be bemused watching events in America. Talk about chickens coming home to roost! Have you read John McPhee's The Control of Nature <http://www.johnmcphee.com/controlofnature.htm>?  It's extremely relevant to events, as is Jared Diamond's <> Collapse : How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive <http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/ obidos/ASIN/0713992867/qid=1125910487/sr=2-1/ ref=sr_2_11_1/026-8569031-0446041> . Really, we can't afford a ninety- day planning horizon for major disasters. America has our prayers.

BBC article on criminals adapting to ID cards: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/ 1/hi/sci/tech/4213848.stm> . Problems with 'chip and pin' <http:// money.guardian.co.uk/scamsandfraud/story/0,13802,1562682,00.html> , see also <http://www.chipandspin.co.uk/

"If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen": Labour complaints about grilling in speech by BBC commentor, Humphrys, <http://media.guardian.co.uk/site/story/0,14173,1562874,00.html> .

Durham Cathedral story <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/wear/ 4211426.stm

-- "The data (or the marks when teaching) are sacrosanct--they tell us what actually happened." Harry Erwin, PhD http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her

Well, the decision to Live there is local and responsibility is local. I live in an earthquake area, There are dangers. Should New York pay? Bit we have stopped thinking thus way. Federal caused problems are federal responsibility. Local problems may have National implications.



Subject: more education fun


September 04, 2005 Arts and Crafts in pre-calculus ... and law school

JoAnne Jacobs has a depressing piece about make-work in high school:

My niece started her junior year at a highly rated California high school. For her honor pre-calculus class, she was assigned to do a collage about herself.

But it gets worse ... a commenter, Amber Taylor, says

"Our first assignment at Harvard Law School was to make a collage."

Here's Amber's collage.

Ay caramba!

No judge that I know of requires collages in lieu of opening motions, briefs, and statements ... yet ... the students in Amber's class won't start becoming judges for a few years ...

Bailiff: All Rise, The United States District Court of the Southwestern District of Arizona is now in session, the honorable Homer Simpson presiding.

Judge Simpson: Good morning. Before we can start what looks to be an interesting trial ... Bailiff, are there any more of those chocolate glazed donuts? Bring me a couple please ... Uh, where was I? Oh yes. Counsel, there is a preliminary matter that must be taken care of. You have failed to submit your opening collages. If you need help, please see Lisa or Maggie.

The perfect court case for opening collages ... or cartoons ... is COYOTE V. ACME PRODUCTS CORP.

Update: Prof. Reynolds, thanks for the link.


this blog talks about the use of collage in the study of calculus and law in both k-12 and higher-ed.

sadly, i'm not making this up.

i found the link on instapundit.com , one of my faves.

enjoy the holiday!

=== Jay R. Larsen MBA, CNE, MCP

Just to Show old problems continue.


Subject: Shotgun Marriage

Re : "And it does appear that "full faith and credence" is being given to the marriage. The legality of the marriage is not in question. But the criminal acts that occurred prior to that marriage are being punished."

Interesting point however is that, now that the couple are married, the wife probably cannot be compelled to testify against her husband. And that likely includes *any* evidence including DNA etc.

Although I would think that the wife should take herself out of the prosecuting state until after the birth...

And thereafter, of course, the baby is merely premature, whatever the experts may say...


Who was admonished many years ago, that criminal lawyers have to associate with liars, cheats and scoundrels, and the clients are worse than that! And so does not practice criminal law....


Subject: Chernobyl Death Toll May Be Less Than Feared

But of course nuclear power is much too dangerous to use. It scares people.

"...but then he slumped into the chair, and they heard only a thin whisper that faded to nothing, "Give them the lightning again."

finis coronat opus


VIENNA, Austria - Fewer than 50 deaths have been directly attributed to radiation released in the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, and the final toll could be thousands fewer than originally feared, the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Monday.


The 600-page report says a lack of accurate information about the accident's consequences has made the mental health impact "the largest public health problem created by the accident."

File under "Don't worry, be happy!" and "You call THIS a future?!"

Petronius The Arbiter Of Taste

artes, scientia, veritas perditae


Would an American newspaper report this?


Stranded Aussies fear for their lives Matt Cunningham and Shannon McRae 03sep05

TWO Melbourne women were trapped in the chaos at New Orleans' Convention Centre last night.

Karen Marks, 25, of Meadow Heights, and her aunt Pamela Whyte, 59, of Broadmeadows, are stuck with thousands of hungry, frantic people tired of waiting for buses to take them out.

Karen's mother, Joy Marks, said they were getting desperate.

"They are running out of food and water and they are just hanging in there," she said.

"They are promised buses every day and they don't arrive."

Ms Marks said Karen and Pamela were concerned for their safety amid rising violence.

"There's a mob-like tendency in there. People are running around with legs broken off chairs, threatening people," she said.

Up to 50 Australians are believed to be stranded across the Gulf Coast.

About 10 escaped the New Orleans Superdome yesterday after it erupted in violence.

They were holed up in the foyer of the Hilton Hotel last night.

Brisbane's John McNeil, 22, told his family he'd witnessed murders, rapes and stabbings, and feared he would be killed.

Mr McNeil's father, Peter, said his son was with about 60 other foreign tourists who had fled the Superdome.

"They couldn't stay another night, the situation was so bad," he said.

"People were just staring at them and making suggestions that they were going to kill them."

John's sister Susie said he saw shocking acts of violence amid fierce racial tension in the Superdome.

"It's turned into a black against white thing," she said. "My brother has witnessed murders, stabbings, rapes . . . it's like a Third World country."

The mother of Sydney woman Vanessa Cullington, thought to be in the Superdome before it was evacuated yesterday, flew to the US in a desperate bid to find her daughter.

Sharon Cullington said she had not heard from Vanessa since Tuesday.

Vanessa's boyfriend, Toby Salmon, is accompanying Mrs Cullington.

"We've brought lots of photos and we're just basically going to see who we can hassle," she said.

"We're just going to try and talk people into taking the photos and try and find her."

There are also concerns for Queenslander Fiona Seidler, 27, and her sister-in-law, Katie Maclean.

The women had been staying at a French Quarter hotel since Monday, but a family spokesman said he had been unable to contact them yesterday.

"The latest that we heard was that they were staying in a hotel, but the manager or owner told them that they had to get out because it wasn't safe and now we've lost contact. We don't know where they are," he said.

Sydney woman Denise Riviera, 29, called her mother in Australia begging her for help.

She rang her mother, Mercedes, yesterday, saying she was trapped in a church without food or drinking water.

Mrs Riviera said her daughter told her: "Mum, I'm alive but I am trapped in this church. Get someone to come and rescue us. Report it, ring the embassy . . . since there's water everywhere we can't go anywhere; we haven't got any food or water."

A tearful Mrs Riviera said: "I wonder how long my daughter is going to be alive."

Adelaide man Scott Ramsay sat through the hurricane when it hit Biloxi, Mississippi.

Four Aussie workmates managed to cross into Florida before the hurricane struck, including Michael Hawkins, who said: "The images of the tsunami are exactly what you are seeing in Biloxi - just rubble everywhere, concrete slabs."

Queenslanders Tim and Joanne Miller and Garry and Cynthia Jones were rescued by a Channel 7 crew late yesterday.

The two couples had huddled under a bridge next to the Convention Centre since they were evacuated from their hotel on Monday.

Mr Jones said they were terrified by the violence.

"It's a battle zone. There's shooting, dead bodies in the street," he said, adding they had to steal to survive. "We're looters, like everyone else."

Mrs Miller said there were bodies around them.

"I had an altercation with a police officer and he ended up just crying to me because he was so frustrated and he couldn't do any more," she said.

The Millers' daughter, Kelly-Rae Smith, was elated her parents had been found safe and well.

"You don't realise how hard it's been. Now we can celebrate," she said.

Parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs Bruce Billson said the Australian Government was doing all it could.

"All foreign governments that have expressed interest in getting access to the disaster area have been advised that they're not able to enter at this time," he said.


"The group really feared for their safety because they were being targeted because they were the only white people there."

British tourists 'flee Superdome'
A group of Britons have been escorted out of the New Orleans Superdome to ensure their safety.
Jamie Trout 22, from Sunderland, was among 50 tourists stranded in horrific conditions in the devastated city.

They had joined up to 30,000 other people taking refuge from Hurricane Katrina in the venue.

But Mr Trout's family said the group was escorted to a nearby hotel by the National Guard after the Britons were targeted by others in the shelter.

The graduate economics student was traveling in the US when he was caught up in the devastation of the hurricane.



Valenti and her husband, two of very few white people in the almost exclusively black refugee camp, said she and other whites were threatened with murder on Thursday.

"They hated us. Four young black men told us the buses were going to come last night and pick up the elderly so they were going to kill us," she said, sobbing. "They were plotting to murder us and then they sent the buses away because we would all be killed if the buses came
-- that's what the people in charge told us this morning."

Other survivors recounted horrific cases of sexual assault and murder.

Sitting with her daughter and other relatives, Trolkyn Joseph, 37, said men had wandered the cavernous convention center in recent nights raping and murdering children.

She said she found a dead 14-year old girl at 5 a.m. on Friday morning, four hours after the young girl went missing from her parents inside the convention center.

"She was raped for four hours until she was dead," Joseph said through tears. "Another child, a seven-year old boy was found raped and murdered in the kitchen freezer last night."



I do not know how true this all is. It seems to be what overseas papers are reporting.


Subject:  Tierney proposes flood preparedness a local responsibility

John Tierney in today's NYT proposes that localities take responsibility for their own flood preparedness and that flood insurance not be offered by the feds at prices that encourage unsound building.

He suggests that preparedness for floods in other states will never be a Congressman's highest priority.

Seems right to me.


Your usual good sense. Sounds right to me, too.


On conditions in HOUSTON near the Astrodome:

My girl friend saw some reports of an area where she often stays at the local residence inn (this is next to Reliant Stadium). There is a strip mall where there a lot of little shops, and sidewalk sales, etc. Some of the refugees have vouchers and what not to buy stuff at the strip mall. Two things that have happened:

a) sidewalk sales have had to stop, people just take things without paying.
b) a car was stolen from the mall parking lot.

Many of the other possible convention attendees (mostly older women, this is the world's largest Quilt Show) my girlfriend has talked to our thinking about canceling their trip anyhow because they are worried about the refugees being housed in the downtown area.

Anyway, I just though I'd offer that since I have some first person information. I don't think this is the apocolypse or anything, *but these concentrations of refugees need to be broken up SOON*....

But hey, what do I care? I doubt Oregon is going to get any....


The crimes started as soon as the first bus loads arrived here in Houston.

I wish I knew what fool volunteered our Astrodome to house refugees. This action is going to impose enormous costs on Houston's taxpayers that will not be reimbursed, and even bigger costs on the small businessmen and homeowners who will be victimized by these newcomers.

There are *reasons* these people did not evacuate in an orderly fashion. Right now a cop friend of mine is collecting a lot of overtime working downtown to arrest refugees whom he characterizes as obviously mentally ill/impaired. (As Heather Mac Donald has documented, America has made a policy decision to use prisons as mental health hospitals.)

After disasters in the Third World, I believe that the U.S. military sets up tent cities for those displaced. Something similar should have been done for the New Orleans refugees. The direct costs might or might not have been higher, but the collateral damage to innocent citizens and businesses would have been much lower. So the net resources available to help these people would have been higher.



As I said at the start of the above section, I don't know how true any of that is.

According the the Houston Chronicle, the crime wave near the Dome is just rumor http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/front/3340879 

The Times-Picayune has the gang rape story at the NO Convention center "That's a kid," he said. "There's another one in the freezer, a 7-year-old with her throat cut.....One of the bodies, they said, was a girl they estimated to be 5 years old. Though they could not confirm it, they had heard she was gang-raped"


We're 400 miles from NO, and we have hundreds in shelters here. They're getting jobs and getting moved into longer term housing, but of course the ones that are here are the ones with initiative and means to get out on their own before all hell broke loose.


For more on Phil's ship:


We can all hope and pray that most of the horror stories are exaggerated or even made up. Unfortunately, we are dealing with an area that had the highest murder rate in the country before the disaster; and people who did not heed the warnings to get out of town before the hurricane. It will take a long time to sort out what really happened.

BUT: charity demands that we do something for the victims. Prudence demands that we consider the consequences of concentrating large numbers of people who were unable to keep order in their own communities in neighborhoods accustomed to having order kept largely by custom and civility rather than force.

Dispersion to allow the Melting Pot to work its civilizing magics may be in order. Concentrating the formerly lawless in a few places is probably not prudent.


Liberalism: the Fuel of Empires? The Chronicle of Higher Education, 5.9.2

2 political scientists at Princeton help revive debate on how European liberals of centuries past viewed colonialism and imperialism


It is one of the most troubling puzzles in the history of political thought: Why were some of Europe's early liberal theorists -- the people who imagined and promoted tolerance, universal suffrage, the rule of law, and minimal government -- also enthusiastic supporters of European colonization, conquest, and empire in Asia and Africa?

John Stuart Mill, author of On Liberty and The Subjection of Women, spent 25 years working for the British East India Company in the mid-19th century. He believed that India and other "barbarous" nations "have not got beyond the period during which it is likely to be to their benefit that they should be conquered and held in subjection by foreigners." Alexis de Tocqueville, among the century's most sophisticated proponents of democracy, argued during the 1840s that it was urgently necessary for France to subjugate and colonize Algeria.

Through much of the 20th century, political theorists and intellectual historians largely ignored that element of classical liberals' thought, focusing instead on their abstract arguments for liberty or their campaigns for domestic reform. (Tocqueville's voluminous writing on Algeria was virtually forgotten in the English-speaking world.) And when these liberals' pro-imperialist arguments were acknowledged, they were sometimes dismissed as simple hypocrisy.

More recently, some left-wing scholars have argued that -- far from hypocrisy -- the liberals' imperialist adventures reveal something essential about liberalism itself. The Enlightenment's calls for universal human liberty, according to this argument, have always contained a Eurocentric and potentially racist understanding of what human societies should look like.

Such discussions are no longer confined to the margins of postcolonial studies. With the end of the cold war's international order -- not to mention the U.S. invasion of Iraq -- the question of empire has moved close to the heart of legal and political theorists' preoccupations. The past 15 years have seen a flourishing of sophisticated explorations of liberalism, conquest, and international justice.

No Simple Formulas

Two of the most visible exponents of this new wave in empire studies are Jennifer Pitts and Sankar Muthu, who met as graduate students at Harvard University a decade ago and who are now assistant professors of politics at Princeton University. Along the way, they got married.

In Enlightenment Against Empire (Princeton University Press, 2003), Mr. Muthu examined the brief period in the late 18th century when several prominent liberal theorists -- notably Denis Diderot and Johann Gottfried von Herder -- were skeptical toward, and in some cases actively campaigned against, European colonialism.

Ms. Pitts's new book, A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France (Princeton, 2005), explores the very different mood of the mid-19th century, when most leading liberals, Mill and Tocqueville among them, sat comfortably on the imperialist bandwagon.<snip>








This week:


read book now


Tuesday,  September 6, 2005

Subject: How would Los Angeles fare?

Steve Setzer asks on your site, "New Orleans was not prepared to last three minutes, let alone three days. I wonder how Los Angeles or Chicago would have fared." I think I can answer that question: Los Angeles would fare just as well now as it did over a decade ago when the Northridge Quake hit. Unlike New Orleans, who seems to ignore the fact that it's situated in hurricane and flood territory, Los Angeles never forgets that it's in earthquake country. Our building code reflects this, we make it easy for people to get things they need to make their houses safer, and we have regular campaigns to remind people to keep their earthquake supplies up-to-date. Not being involved in such things, I can't know for certain that the city's emergency plans are adequate, but I'd be highly astonished to find they were as bad as New Orleans' turned out to be. I can't say there'd be no looting after another quake, but judging by what happened last time, there'd be very little, and the police would be right on top of it. New Orleans appears to have gone under the assumption that if they don't plan for an emergency, there won't be one. We've all heard of Kings Log and Stork; we now see what happens when a land is governed by King Ostrich. -

- Joe Zeff The only problem with trouble-shooting is that sometimes trouble shoots back.

http://home.earthlink.net/~sidebrnz http://www.lasfs.org


RE: Governor Blanco Must Share Blame


At this point in time it sure appears that governor Blanco of Louisiana has to share in the blame for the disorganization.

Here in Florida, at least in the past few years, we will *always* have a relief convoy and national guard on standby in a nearby region and we start to roll in as soon as a hurricane passes through. It does not appear there was anything like this in place in Lousiana. The national guard is in direct control under the governor for situations such as these.

Here in Tallahassee (the state capital) we have an emergency command and control center, designed for a direct hit by a category 5 hurricane and designed to be self sufficient for extended periods of time. Of course, we have come to this place via the school of hard knocks ourselves.

Mike Cheek


The primary responsibility for domestic crisis is the State which means the Governor. Everyone including the Governor knows this. Louisiana and Arkansas have for years contested to see which can be the most corrupt and least efficient state, and both generally win.

It is not the Federal Government's primary task, nor should it be. The dismantling of Civil Defense, an organization of locals with support and equipment paid for by both state and national sources, mostly volunteers with a small paid full time staff, was a disaster; and the creation of FEMA made promises that would never be kept.

The problems are structural. (See view)


One more point: I have mail wondering how many of the stories of lawlessness in Houston and elsewhere are true. Certainly there are those who delight in telling such stories to reinforce their own prejudices. I gave my response above so as to keep it with the reports; but it bears repeating here. I quote myself:

We can all hope and pray that most of the horror stories are exaggerated or even made up. Unfortunately, we are dealing with an area that had the highest murder rate in the country before the disaster; and people who did not heed the warnings to get out of town before the hurricane. It will take a long time to sort out what really happened.

BUT: charity demands that we do something for the victims. Prudence demands that we consider the consequences of concentrating large numbers of people who were unable to keep order in their own communities in neighborhoods accustomed to having order kept largely by custom and civility rather than force.

Dispersion to allow the Melting Pot to work its civilizing magics may be in order. Concentrating the formerly lawless in a few places is probably not prudent.


A long report from Phillip Pournelle. Pictures follow. I make no apology for the length:

HSV-2 (High Speed Vessel) Swift left Pensacola last night and re-supplied USNS Arctic and proceeded on to New Orleans. We saw more of the stricken oil rigs I described before. Coast Guard and NOAA ships were out conducting surveys of the area and I could see shipping traffic in the Gulf of Mexico, particularly oil tankers, has started to pick up.

As we started up the Mississippi river I could see that the full force of the storm had been unleashed on the southern shores. Navigation markers, buoys, protective docks and other structures were gone. If we sailed in there at night there would have been nothing to see. We can only navigate at night. There were a number of civil war era lighthouses still standing, but of course they have nothing to light them...

Looking out at the Mississippi area on the way in one could be lulled into thinking of it as a nice rustic quiet area. That is until you talk to the pilots who work the river. As we headed up the river I spotted a chemical plant that looked like it had been abandoned years ago. The refining tanks were dark black and appear to be aged and corroded. That was until the pilot pointed out the small patches of green paint. The rest had been scoured off by the wind.

We passed a barge that had wandered fifty miles down the river after breaking loose during the storm. Someone had pushed it ashore to keep it out of the way. As we went further up river the pilot told us the surge had caused the river to rise over twenty feet. This was evident by the large number of enormous ore barges and tugs that had been lift up and placed on the side of the river without breaking the trees in between.

We could see a barge larger than my ship used for oil recovery. It was sitting on the side of the river in perfect condition. It was like some godlike chilled had lifted it like a toy out of the river and placed it gently ashore. The sad fact is the barge may have to be cut up to put it back in the water. There are few mobile floating cranes heavy enough to lift objects of this size. As we headed further up river we started to see more grain, iron ore, and concrete bearing barges strewn ashore. I soon lost count of how many of these huge barges were ashore.

As we headed up further we started to see the outer villages. The villages were built in between levies. One levy held back the Mississippi, the other a lake or floodable land. Then in some cases, like New Orleans, portions of the villages are below sea level. During normal rain they just pump out the water. In this case the pumps could not keep up and were knocked out.

Entire villages were lost along with the parish seat.

Industrial loading facilities were severely damaged. A giant gantry crane used to ship coal into barges had fallen crashing into other structures.

Houses, offices, garages and other structures were gone, only their foundations remaining to mark where they were. Small boats were broken, some sitting on a neighbor's lawn, others broken into kindling. There were areas strewn with so much rubble that you could not tell what ever had been there before.

Then we saw the Pogie boats. These are 50-ton power tugs used to push flotillas of barges. Two of them had been picked up and placed on the highway like scattered toys. Again, the Pogie boats could probably be in perfect working condition if they could be re-floated. This was a double blow, jobs lost on the boats and with the roads blocked; it will be a while until this parish will be restored, if ever. This was perhaps the best illustration to me of the power of this storm.

HSV-2 Swift can travel fully loaded up to 40 knots. At times we were traveling at 30 knots or more. We had to slow down in a number of areas as we saw tugs, cranes and others trying to clear the river or pull barges off the banks. We slowed to ensure our passage did not disturb their work.

Four hours in we started to see the outskirts of New Orleans. The damage initially did not look too severe. We saw fewer barges strewn ashore and more boats and ships operating. Then we saw the Coast Guard working boats.

They were about surveying damage. They became more numerous as we went up river. We saw more and more helicopters. Then it became obvious there was a flotilla of police, coast guard and military working boats in the water and a larger armada of helicopters in the air.

The large number of helicopters reminded me of early footage of the first gulf war when Saddam's airmobile troops had invaded Kuwait city. Looking back, it also reminds me of Mogadishu where I watched Marine Corps helicopters take off from USS Tripoli and patrol the skies during Operation Restore Hope. The helicopters in Mogadishu were escorting the Marines and UN aid personnel through their lawless streets. Then I saw the truck convoys on the highway running through St. Bernard Parish and 9th Ward. The helicopters were hovering over them, escorting the convoy...

St. Bernard Parish was one of the areas where a levy for an inner coastal highway had broken and sent water spilling in. Water was starting to recede. High ground was strewn with debris, lower ground was still flooded.

Roofs were missing, some structures were wrecked. The 1800 era steam boat houses were built to look like steam boats, now they were awash.

9th Ward was flooded as well. We could see smoke still rising from the Mandeville warehouses/wharfs that had been set afire. I watched an army Chinook helicopter with a load slung below it. Initially I though it was carrying stores in a VERTREP. It turned out it was carrying a fire-fighting bucket. Several helicopters were picking up water from the flooded business district and dropping it on another warehouse that had been set afire. Our destination was USS Iwo Jima. She is moored to the quay wall on the Riverwalk near the Crescent City Bridge along with a Hamilton class Coast Guard Cutter. They are serving as command and control centers for the Joint Operations Center here in New Orleans. We watched helicopters come and go from USS Iwo Jima's flight deck. We pulled up and displayed the ship's maneuverability by landing on the pier in one location, pull out, twist around and land in another all without any tugs. It helps when the Captain is the best shipdriver I've watched in action.

After unloading some fuel and parts for Iwo Jima, we set flight quarters. We are conducting a vertical replenishment. Helicopters are lifting stores from Swift's flight deck to USS Shreveport and USS Tortuga. The same crew of 44 motivated sailors, who drove the ship up the river, landed and tied her up, then proceeded to stage the stores and is working the flight deck.

It has been a very long day for them. Fortunately, because the Mississippi is only open during daylight, they will get full nights sleep before we head down the river and start this all over again. They deserve it.

The good news is there is power on the Riverwalk and the lights are on in Kelley's. I was able to call my wife on my cell phone and ask my daughter about her first day of school. The bad news is there is a nightly curfew and no one may leave military facilities unless part of a convoy. There is a joint task force here in New Orleans.

I've watched sailors, soldiers, Marines, Coastguardsmen, National Guard and local police setting out this evening. Many will be able to sleep easy tonight because tough disciplined men and women are on station. The crew of HSV-2 Swift did such a great job providing the task force the food and equipment they need. I had almost nothing to do with it. I just make sure they get fed and nag them about sunscreen and look after the other details executive officers are supposed to do. I have to go. I've spent too much time on this already. My in box is crammed full of messages.

I love you,


P.S. Please feel free to post this. The crew deserves all the credit they can get. I just get to watch them in action.

The pictures and captions below are from Phil:

The Gantry Crane

The Captain in action. (He's in the middle) Me trying to keep up with him on the bridge.


A Barge tossed ashore like a toy.

Helicopters flying around an outlying parish


New Orleans. It looks so peaceful. Pan further to the left and you would see an armada of helicpoters rising and faling towards USS Iwo Jima. 


Helicopters patrolling New Orleans skyline

HSV-2 Swift is moored forward of USS Iwo Jima, at least until morning...


With the time zone change (it is now 4:30 on the West coast) you just might turn on the TV to NBC nightly news in time to see Philip's ship behind Bryan Williams on the Mississippi river. It is either his ship or one of the same type.

They zoom in on the ship, and the helicopter carrier next to it at one point early in the broadcast.

Chuck Bouldin

[The above was the picture you saw as background to Bryan Williams on NBC News. We did get to see it. JEP]


Raising the colors after mooring.


Helicopters putting out fires...


USS Iwo Jima the flagship for the Joint Operating Center.

(and another report with pictures below)



Dear Jerry:

The bit about looking in Japan in 1995 after the Kobe quake mystifies me. I did a column about the lack of preparedness for the event and how there were a lot of problems, but I also recall that the population was very orderly and looting was noticeable only by its absence. They're Japanese, fer cripes sake. Buddhists. Not inclined to take something not theirs.

It turns out that the reports of looters firing on helicopters in New Orleans were false. Instant Urban Legends which I am sure will be with us, corrupting the real facts, for years to come. If you think about it, firing with a rifle at a military helicopter attempting rescues is the ultimate definition of "evolution in action."/ They will likely shoot back. I don't know why people enjoy making this stuff up, but they do. We had one such character in Frankfurt, an officer no less, who wasn't allowed in the Headquarters. The reason why? He once told me, "If I don't hear a rumor by ten in the morning, I start one." Very personable guy, but lonely since everyone avoided him like the plague. He had a drinking buddy who was a reporter for the local English language scandal rag and created a lot of work for me that I could have done without.

I am sure that some of the dire reports we are hearing have some basis in fact, but that the facts have been severely bent in the service of entertainment and self aggrandizement. As the SecDef so famously said in another context, "this is not helpful". What it is, is disinformation or deadly memes that infect rational discourse and problem solving.


Francis Hamit

Yes, I fear I may have bitten on some of the rumors myself; I am doing my best to see what I can do to get the actual story up. I am afraid I don't understand? Was I unclear? Of course there was no looting in Kobe.


From Monday's Mail, pundit "J" opined in part:

<snip> > Anyway, I just though I'd offer that since I have some first person information. > I don't think this is the apocolypse or anything, *but these > concentrations of refugees need to be broken up SOON*.... > > But hey, what do I care? I doubt Oregon is going to get any.... <snip>

Ahem. I wrote up care plans for five of them last night, and had to pass seven more on to the next team... folks do evacuate themselves (the smart ones, anyway.... read Heinlein's "On the Slopes of Vesuvius", http://www.baen.com/chapters/W200310/0743471598.htm?blurb highly instructional under the circumstances).

But, Oregonians _are_ preparing for FEMA's promise of a thousand or so evacuees:

http://www.katu.com/news/story.asp?ID=79433 http://www.gazettetimes.com/articles/2005/09/06/news/oregon/tuesta00a.txt http://news.google.com/news?q=Katrina+Refugees+in+Portland&hl=en&hs=Gc8&lr=&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&sa=N&tab=nn&oi=newsr

Fortunately, there's a donut shop http://ijcoffee.com in downtown Portland which serves beignet and chicory cafe au lait, so if the refugees are form New Orleans, they won't be completely lost... with free WiFi http://local.google.com/local?q=cache:Q1fb4a9_dF4J:wifipdx.com/spots/Island_Joes+Island+Joe%27s&near=Portland,OR&hl=en no less, well suited for 'fugees form the Silicon Bayou (as my wife and I were amused to read New Orleans describe itself in recent visits).

We'll do our part to take care of them. -- --

John Bartley K7AAY PDX OR USA http://k-help.blogspot.com ''This is a carburetor,'' Hank tells his son. ''Take it apart, put it back together; repeat until you're normal.'' - KOTH


I don't remember whether I mentioned or not in my prior letter that while FEMA is on site nobody at the mid level or lower could even tell you that they are there. They are assisting with the highest level planning but leaving it to the local organizations to carry out the work.

As I mentioned earlier from what I've seen it has worked well. Apparently the Mayor things so also. See <http://baboonpirates.blogspot.com/2005/09/message-from-hizzoner.html> a blog from an anonymous City of Houston employee.

In one view this backs up your position. Things are getting done relatively smoothly because FEMA is not running the show. An alternate view is that FEMA is working well because it is doing the high level assistance that it is supposed to do. Unfortunately my position is lower down and so I don't have enough information to make a judgement either way.

From the tinfoil cap crowd though it doesn't seem to make a difference. Everything is Bush's fault.

Another bit of news of the Federal Government helping people by getting the heck out of the way is the emergency IRS order issued on Friday. They've waived the onerous paperwork and income requirements for the victims in obtain LIHTC ("Tax Credit") housing. Normally this is a very paperwork intensive operation with very severe tax and financial consequences if you rent to someone who does not meet all of the Federal and State rules for low income housing.

This IRS waiver was issued very quickly after request from the State of Texas. Whether Bush had anything to do with this in terms of approval or speed I have no idea. But I am fairly sure that the media will not give him any credit.

Name withheld

Which is how things used to work. And it is unfair, perhaps, to blame the actual FEMA employees for the "trust us, we're professionals" attitude that finished off the local Civil Defense organizations (doomed to begin with because their rather small funding was cut off entirely; as was the Director of Civilian Marksmanship and the program to see that every qualified US household had a rifle -- surplus M1's were being sold for under $100. Horrors! Guns in the hands of citizens who had qualified and were not felons and --

Anyway when the local organizations were disbanded, the opportunities to work with FEMA were limited. Presidents of both parties used FEMA as a place to put old friends. This is how things work in the US, and it can be useful -- political friends of the President usually have more access than bureaucrats -- but it also means that the political people have to understand enough to fight for what is needed.

The structural failures are what we need to concentrate on. Neighbor to neighbor; organization; communications that actually work; incentives for volunteers to spend a lot of unpaid time being prepared in the hope they will never be needed.  Tennessee Colonels were not entirely a joke, nor is the militia entirely needless.

I have been working at the Reliant Center complex. The stories appear to be complete fabrications. If anything the environment is surprisingly calm.

I was planning a longer letter describing my observations. I don't have time right now but wanted to get a quick note off after reading some of the letter on your site.

Yes, there are screwups all the time in any large operation but so far I have seen nothing out of the ordinary. I've probably seen more screwups in much smaller major corporations. At least here the people working are actually trying to help the clients (yes, that's what we are supposed to call them.)

Whether this is because of or in spite of FEMA I have seen an amazing operation that has made me very proud of my fellow citizens. Perhaps this is because we are outside of the area but FEMA appears to be letting the local organizations run the show. If they are giving orders it is only at the very highest level. Today (Tuesday) we were expecting a drop off of volunteers showing up to help due to the end of the Labor Day weekend. From 6:00 AM to 11:00 AM I was estating roughly "only" 250 an hour arriving. Then the floodgates opened (ooh, bad choice of words) and over a one hour period close to 500 people showed up. These are just the walk-in "grunts" who are showing up to just do something. This does not include the thousands who are official name badged workers.

One lady from California commented that Texas just amazes her. She was almost stunned by the community outpouring of help.

The local evil money grubbing corporations have been sending money, goods, skilled manpower, even in one instance hiring people off of the street to come work. Local communications suppliers are fighting over rack space to supply additional data lines.

The "clients" for the most part have the highest priority in getting their families back together. This lead to an interesting twist today when word was leaked about sheltering select groups on cruise ships that were leased for temporary housing. Rather than a mob scene of people trying to get on the list the opposite happened. People are so afraid of losing the ability to receive news of missing relatives and friends that they didn't want to leave in order to go on a free cruise. Somehow this doesn't quite match the the reports of the people sent here I read in the letters.

Name Withheld

In both cases above I know who the writers of the above letters are, and I have considerable confidence in their veracity.

I also have:

To give you an idea of the magnitude of what is going on, here is a description from a Washington Times story:

"Storm victims are raped and beaten; fights erupt with flying fists, knives and guns; fires are breaking out; corpses litter the streets; and police and rescue helicopters are repeatedly fired on.

"The plea from Mayor C. Ray Nagin came even as National Guardsmen poured in to restore order and stop the looting, carjackings and gunfire....

"Last night, Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco said 300 Iraq-hardened Arkansas National Guard members were inside New Orleans with shoot-to-kill orders.

" 'These troops are...under my orders to restore order in the streets,' she said. 'They have M-16s, and they are locked and loaded. These troops know how to shoot and kill and they are more than willing to do so if necessary and I expect they will.' "

The reference to Iraq is eerie. The photo that accompanies this article shows National Guard troops, with rifles and armored vests, riding on an armored vehicle through trash-strewn streets lined by a rabble of squalid, listless people, one of whom appears to be yelling at them. It looks exactly like a scene from Sadr City in Baghdad.

The above is from a widely circulated article/letter/blog from a political writer who says it is a politically incorrect view of Katrina. Whether he has an incentive to believe the horror stories I do not know. I will admit that I heard so many from so many sources -- this while I was serving on about 15 panels at the science fiction convention and meeting with my colleagues about various matters -- that I began to believe them. And, I think, some were true. But many were not, as it turns out.

There has always been crime in Louisiana and a lot of crime in New Orleans compared with other cities. One does not expect the crime rate to go down by much when the police are distracted from other matters. One also does not expect rapes of 7 year old girls (we can pray that that unconfirmed story was a vicious rumor) but one may not be astonished if a few people go over the edge. Niven and I wrote The Burning City as a kind of explanation of some of the phenomena; but that is another story.

I also know the writer of the following:

Subject: Firsthand report from Astrodome

Dr. Pournelle,

I spent 8 hours yesterday as a volunteer in the Astrodome manning the Red Cross phone lines. I'd describe it as a controlled confusion that is being heavily policed. Most of the people inside the dome just seem exhausted as can be expected. Almost all of the children seemed happy, and many were playing with the volunteers who were assigned to children duty.

It's easy to see that there might be a crime wave around the astrodome. As young men in low hanging pants seemed to be just circling around outside the buildings in the 90 degree heat, waiting for sunset. Maybe that is just my biased perceptions, but I wouldn't let my wife go there alone to volunteer.

There is an 11 pm curfew, and wristbands control the ebb and flow of people and don't allow anyone back in after 11 pm. This will be good for internal control, but woe to the surrounding neighborhood.

The database that I was supposed to be checking against for survivors was only about 10% complete after two days of furious typing by data entry people. It was heartbreaking to tell callers that we had no information and no way to contact the people on the floor of the astrodome unless the refugee asked a volunteer to check on the web if someone is looking for them.

I only managed to locate 3 people after spending 8 hours taking calls, while I collected information from about 80 relatives. (Next time I'll volunteer to carry heavy things in the hot sun instead of this.) One of the problems was the refugees didn't sign a form saying their data could be released, so now registration has to be repeated. Anarcho-tyranny rules.

I've really enjoyed your books over the years, especially the collaborations with Larry Niven.

please don't use my last name or email address.

Take Care, Joe




Class Struggles

Stories from the front lines of American schools reveal the world beneath policy debates.

By Eric Hoover Sunday, September 4, 2005; BW13

In 1983, a national panel of education experts released the report that launched a thousand headaches. The document, "A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform," warned that public schools were foundering. The nation's jaw dropped, and politicians promised improvements.

Two decades later, they're still promising. But the bickering over reforms is ceaseless. Take the No Child Left Behind Act, the controversial federal law requiring schools to show annual progress on state tests taken by students in grades 3 through 8. Supporters say the get-tough program promotes high standards and accountability; critics say the plan is too rigid and out of step with reality. Who's right? And how do such big questions relate to struggles in school systems near you?

Satisfying answers rarely come from politicians and wonks, who dwell in a fog of slogans and statistics. But welcome are those authors who find the pulse of human drama in the education trenches. The experiences of students, parents, teachers and administrators in American schools make compelling stories, full of heroes, villains and conflicts.<snip>




This week:


read book now


Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Subject: disaster

As we study this disaster, let us see why the disaster response required that every one in the command chain make an immediate, correct analysis of the situation and take that action, within the law, that would be unarguably the best action to take. Any law that works only if everything is perfect is a really stupid law. A system that falls apart if any single component fails is a bad, bad system. Bad systems are the fault of bad designers.

Congress, in the comfort and ease of your offices, rewrite the laws so as to make the best use of whatever information, people and materials are at hand. Make those laws with the knowledge that perfection is the enemy of good enough. Until congress is perfect it is hypocritical for them to demand perfection of others.

Walter E. Wallis

Indeed. Well said. The failure was structural; the fix is to use volunteers trained and equipped well in advance.



HMCS Athabaskan, Toronto, Ville de Quebec, and CCGS Sir William Alexander leave Halifax, Nova Scotia on hurricane-relief mission to the gulf coast:


I know at least two of the people on this mission.

Cheers, Mike Csey Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

A number of countries are sending help, which is noble of them. The primary problem here is coordination of resources and resource efforts, not lack of wealth; but lack of coordination early on results in the desperate need for more and more people and equipment to throw into sudden emergency situations.

I just hope FEMA doesn't have them passing out leaflets (see view)


Dr. Pournelle:

An interesting response to some of the misinformation that is going around about Katrina and its aftermath. I've provided excerpts, below.


Reality #1: A very high percentage of the population of New Orleans and surrounding low lying areas were successfully evacuated before the hurricane hit. An article in 2002 in the New Orleans Times-Picayune explored the hurricane-induced flooding scenario and estimated that 200,000 residents of the city would be stranded by such an event. A Houston Chronicle article from 2001 estimated that 250,000 residents would be stranded. That is over 40% of the population of the city, which stood at 484,000 in 2000.

Reality #2: The basic major media premise all week has been that the 20% who were left behind were all black, and poor and the rich got out of town. This is simply put, nonsense – and racist. New Orleans is a poor city (more than twice the national poverty rate). Most of those who got out of town were not rich, and were not driving SUVs, as Tim Russert sneered on the air Sunday (in a disgracefully-conducted interview with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff).

Reality #3: The destruction from the storm affected far more whites than blacks. This is the ultimate answer to the racism charge that Bush did not do enough because the victims were black. If more whites than blacks were storm and flood victims, and the federal response was slow, than I guess by this logic, the response was insufficient because Bush is a racist towards whites. As James Taranto pointed out Friday, in his opinionjournal.com column <http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110007203>  , the three Mississippi counties that were hardest hit - Hancock (home to Pass Christian), Harrison (home to Biloxi and Gulfport), and Jackson (home to Pascagoula and Ocean Springs) are among the whitest counties in Mississippi...

Reality #4: There were many victims of the storm this week that the media largely ignored <http://www.breitbart.com/news/2005/09/03/D8CD6TQ03.html>  . On the Mississippi coast, the hurricane caused damage we expect to see from a big storm, but far worse than last year’s Florida hurricanes. Buildings, both commercial and residential, cars, boats, and roads were leveled or destroyed by the powerful 145 mile per hour winds. Many areas of the Gulf Coast have been unreachable, even without the major flooding that occurred in the New Orleans area. In low lying areas of Louisiana near the coast, there are also communities that have not been reached yet, where many likely died.

Reality #5: The lawlessness in New Orleans was more of the same for a city that has always had a very high crime rate <http://www.americanprowler.com/dsp_article.asp?art_id=8684>  .

Reality #6: There were enough National Guard forces in the region and nation when the hurricane and flood hit, and our commitment in Iraq did not <http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB112587264899231569,00.html>  prevent an adequate response by the Guard.

Reality #7: While the news media have focused on a few modest appropriation cuts for New Orleans levees and water control, they have largely ignored the fact that the major reconstruction project that would provide more than a temporary fix to the city’s sinking condition, has been stalled for years. The big problem, as even the New York Times admits <http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/05/opinion/05mon3.html>  , is that the Louisiana coast is disappearing

Lee Keller King

I would argue that our overseas adventures did very much affect our abilities to deal with the hurricane/flood, but since we have so many capabilities the lack of much of the ready force was not seen as often as I would have predicted. Otherwise I have no quarrel. Thanks. You are one of many who has sent me excerpts from this.


Subject: Creative Commons

Dr. Pournelle,

First of all let me thank you for hours and hours of reading and thought.


Now to humbly try and answer a few of your questions.

1. Yes it is missing a lot of details. This is because it is an attempt to use as liberal a copyright as possible. The reasons behind this are in the talk that I'm linking to. So the idea is to not be very detailed, leave a lot up to the user and to have something to maybe fall back on the case of obvious abuse.

2. The reason, or at least the reason I think, that Dvorak has talked so much about this is because it produces page views for him. But I take the cynical view of him on most things.

3. It works as a business model. I have 3 of Doctorow's books on my palm and at least one on an iPod. I also have deadtree copies of all three of them. I know I'm not alone here. It's the same theory on which Baen gives away content only with more liberal reuse rights.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.


I hadn't noted Baen using this. From what I can see, this is a series of canned rights statements, very useful to those who do not have literary agents. I do not see why it is particularly controversial. Having said that, I also have a lot of hate mail from people telling me what is wrong with me for not using Creative Commons. I threw all that away.


And for pure fun

Feathered, particoloured dinosaurs.


 Roland Dobbins

Hah! And see Burning Tower...


Item of probable interest to another pet lover, Dr. Pournelle:

"People and pets: Members of the news media have redeemed themselves in coverage of Katrina. But one truth is mystifying correspondents and anchors. They can't understand why some New Orleans residents still refuse to go despite water around their houses and the stench of dead bodies.

"One reason is their pets. So now, to force the people out, the government is telling people they're on their own. No more water and food will be delivered. That's wrong. These people have lost so much. And they are holding onto life - in that pet - that gives them love and security.

"Maybe some of us love our pets too much. But when we take an animal, we make a commitment through good times and bad. And no matter what the times are, that pet is always there to give back. We just can't desert them.

"If the government wants people out, then let them take their pets. After losing so much, they should not have to give up life that provides so much unconditional love and reassurance."

Quoted from Tim Chavez at

Indeed. "We're from the government and we are here to help you..."


More from Lt. Cdr. Phillip Pournelle Exec of USNV SWIFT (and see above)

Subject: Swift 7 September

Dad, Today we headed out of New Orleans bound for Pensacola. As we started south from the Riverwalk I could see more areas where fires were burning. The local news reported that with large portions of the city abandoned there was no one to call the fire department. The only way to detect the fires were to watch for smoke rising. 9th Ward and St. Bernard are still flooded, but the highways were open. Military convoys were still streaming in.

The good news is Salvage operations on the river are starting up in earnest. There is a lot to do. The bad news it means we had to slow down a lot. At 30+ knots Swift does not leave a huge surface wake but the catamaran hull and water jets creates a surge that can bounce people around ashore. So we had to drop to a measly 15 knots at times...

Ashore I could see working trucks and other traffic on the highways. With a second view along the way, I could see more villages and towns that were wiped out. The Pilot pointed out a furniture factory that looked like a pile of rubble. A car dealership was completely demolished. Horses were grazing nearby. There were 20,000 cattle near a town called Venice. A much smaller portion of that herd was now grazing on the opposite bank from their ranch. A local merchant prince owns a cattle ranch on the river. The paddocks where Horses, Cattle and Elk lived were flooded. The remaining livestock were now all grazing on his front yard.

Fuel tanks that had been emptied before the storm were crush inwards like beer cans, the drop in pressure caused them to implode. Enormous oil tanks looked like their roof was rolled back with can opener.

Merchant traffic is starting to pick up but is still very light. One River pilot for the lower river portion stated they usually handle 30 ships each a day. Today they would handle 15 total.

The seas have picked up here in the Gulf of Mexico as we head to Pensacola. We'll arrive early in the morning tomorrow. There we will load up with more refrigerated containers. Additionally, we will load out with MREs, food, bottled water, parts, equipment, etc. Up to 500 tons of necessary materials for transfer to the Joint Task Force in New Orleans.

The crew is doing great. They were chiding me about the Plan of the Day (POD) I write every morning. It is supposed to give them an idea of what to do that day. Today was the only day since this started where it has not changed (well actually one event did have to be delayed...). They now call it the "Premonition of the Day." They are great folks, smart, motivated and flexible. I wouldn't trade this assignment with any other job in the Navy.


Here are some pictures of us conducting VERTREP operations last night. Note the lights are in the Riverwalk area.


[Following were not captioned, but from same series]:


The Navy on the job. Thanks, son.

And see below


Subject: Zarqawi's Communiqué About Katrina

Dr. Pournelle:

Please note Zarqawi's communiqué of September 4 thanking "Allah for harnessing the elements of nature against America" and swearing "to carry on from there."






CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, September 8, 2005

Subject: It's the lawyer's fault


This is pathetic (the situation, not the essay):

Robert Novak at http://www.townhall.com/columnists/robertnovak/rn20050908.shtml 

<snip> Democrats have seized on the administration's performance in handling Katrina to bash George W. Bush, but Republicans are not much happier with him. The common complaint is that the president has let the lawyers take over. Chertoff, a former federal judge and assistant attorney general, is a quintessential lawyer who has surrounded himself at Homeland Security with more lawyers. Michael D. Brown, who as head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is Chertoff's subordinate, is also a lawyer. Neither Chertoff nor Brown was experienced in politics or large-scale management before joining the Bush administration.

<snip> Rep. Mark Foley of West Palm Beach, Fla., not known as a shouter, was especially critical. Contrary to claims that FEMA's Brown was doing just fine until Katrina struck, Foley has been at odds with Brown over the government's handling of hurricanes that have hit his Florida district. Foley has stories of Brown's denial of reality and FEMA's inherent bureaucratic sluggishness. Attempts in Florida to send 500 airboats to the Gulf Coast to help, the congressman says, hit a governmental brick wall.<snip>

The Democrats on the ground, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, have done little to commend themselves. But that does not excuse the federal performance, in the candid opinion of many Republicans. To start with, these Republicans talk about taking FEMA back from the Homeland Security Department. They agree that heads must roll, certainly Brown's and possibly Chertoff's. Above all, these Republican politicians say, let's get the lawyers out of disaster relief.<snip>

Well, the situation is more complex than that; I will have some things to say in my essay on the subject. Since it is column time and I have deadlines I may not get that done today but I will try. I do point out: the usual activity of bureaucracies is compliance with a myriad of rules and regulations. It takes a lawyer to deal with them. An administrator who ignored them would be jailed.

And now an illustration of bureaucracy in action:

Subject: Unbelievable


-- Robert Bruce Thompson

I think I can rest my case? See also my notes toward an essay, on how we are using this to build imperialism and destroy the republic. Then weep for the Republic.

Subject: Lawyers in government


Over 25 years ago, I worked as a consultant (Beltway Bandit) to the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA). Most of the ERDA employees were engineers, with a serious interest in energy research. Much of the work that got funded was similar in spirit to your beloved X-projects. By contrast, the then Federal Energy Administration (FEA), the group entrusted with energy policy and most directly responsible for the 1970’s gas shortages, was mostly lawyers and bureaucrats. When all federal energy agencies were consolidated into the Department of Energy, many expected FEA to be dissolved. Instead, it and the much larger ERDA (plus other agencies) were combined into DOE, and it was the FEA people who ended up in charge. Not surprising, given that their primary focus was on their careers, not on the supposed mission of DOE.

At the time of this transition, I had a meeting at FEA with on of the Deputy Administrators. I can still vividly remember her condescending attitude towards the ERDA engineers. She told me that they had been living in a dreamland, but now, with the FEA folks in charge, they would find out what it was really like to work for the government. She was right, and when they did many of them left DOE for industry or academic positions.

I guess the only surprise in all this is that anybody still believes that it can ever be otherwise. The definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting different results” certainly seems to apply here.


John DeVries


But Trust Us:

Subject: Astrodome radio station blocked

I know the folks involved in this, the report is 100% accurate:


 Roland Dobbins

We are from the government and we are here to help you, Citizen.


Subject: Detainees? 

I don't know the veracity of this report:


- Roland Dobbins

Nor do I. The horror is that I do not know the veracity of that report. There was a time when I could have said, with some vehemence, it was propaganda put forth by enemies. Now I do not know the veracity of that report. Weep.

It is well to be skeptical of fast reports. See below.

(Monday, September 12: it wasn't entirely true. See next week's mail.)

Subject: Re: Falls Creek "detainee" story

About the story linked here http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/fema.html recounting the FEMA use of the Falls Creek Baptist Assembly "campgrounds" for Katrina refugees. I cannot (yet) verify the narrative, but the pics are all legit, all definitely Falls Creek, all legit OHP vehicles, etc. And the volunteering of the facilities is a fact. I have some emails out to folks in Oklahoma who may be able to discover more locally.

David Needham http://thirdworldcounty.blogspot.com/



Private Volunteer Efforts Complicate Disaster Response

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/07/AR2005090702070_pf.html <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/07/AR2005090702070_pf.html

(More) Get out of here boy. You bother me!

The utter audacity of telling people NOT to help, you are just in the way.

I am proud of the American frontier heritage. I keep getting this odd mental image of a frontier town putting together a barn raising for a neighbor whose barn was struck by lightning. Then the sheriff organizes a posse to block the townspeople people from helping the neighbor. It just does not make any sense to me. This is just plain old un-American.

Yes, I do weep for what we once were.



Dear Sir:

While watching all this tragedy and farce immediately to the south of my home (Columbus, MS) unfold, I was attempting to extrapolate what a properly run emergency response organization should look like. From my training as a Boy Scout and work done in the Episcopal Church, I had some idea what the words "emergency preparedness" meant and that local organizations could serve as quite effective responders.

Seeing the Surgeon General on CNN caused me to wonder what life would be like if we had a civilian service like the Public Health Service, uniformed and with some quasi-military traditions, to instill continuity, duty, and the importance of the task. Such a service could be small in number, simply serving as a core to assemble emergency response bursts around (so we don't have to wait around for three-star National Guard generals who show up three days later from somewhere else).

Such a service would not interfere with the existence of FEMA as such (for it does do some useful tasks), nor with private charities or the useful bits of Homeland Security. Instead it would provide the one thing lacking above all else in this situation -- coordination. Combined with local volunteers and FEMA resources, the service would probably do a far better job of preparedness and planning for both natural disasters and homeland security than FEMA and DHS are doing alone.

I design all this in my mind... and then log on to your website and discover that before I was born, all this actually existed under the name of Civil Defense! Imagine my shock.

Do not yet weep for the Republic, sir, for there are many who would gladly take part in these things if they but knew of them! Indeed, one of the major public responses I see in the media and in public discourse is outrage over the interference of FEMA in citizen-organized rescue operations. I think this is the first time people have really noticed government interference in basic civil society... and many of the calls for the FEMA director's head are for ignoring or discouraging civilian responses in favor of less efficient professional responses.

So let us resurrect Civil Defense: "...The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring..." ...but per your comments on Republic and Empire, I think we can do without the king. With all due respect to Professor Tolkien, there are better places to put our trust than in the blood of the Dunedain.

Respectfully, --Catfish N. Cod

America has no king. America needs no king.


A report from an Air National Guard pilot:

I just returned from New Orleans on a hurricane relief mission in the C-130. Let me just start by saying I was awed. Not in what I saw in destruction and devastation because I had/have already seen enough of that on TV. What really hit me hard was the absolute determination and willingness of all those involved in the relief effort. I just want to quickly tell you what I was a part of and what I witnessed as it just really filled me with pride and reminded me again why we are such an amazing and successful country.

It started when I showed up for the flight in Nashville. Instead of the flight planning I would normally do (the other pilot did it), I was tasked to call all 60 or so of the pilots from the 105th Airlift Squadron (my squadron) and find out their availability to fly hurricane relief missions. Now, don’t forget these are all Air National Guard men and women and most all have full time jobs outside of flying for the Guard.

Almost without exception, every pilot offered whatever assistance was needed. No surprise. I then jumped in the airplane and flew directly to New Orleans Int’l, which was and is only open to relief efforts. We had on board with us an aero medical evacuation team. They are a group of highly trained nurses and med techs that are qualified in evacuating wounded and sick soldiers from the battlefield and keeping them alive enroute to a medical facility.

One of the many missions of the C-130 is basically a flying hospital. We can literally set up and intensive care unit in the back if needed. So, with our team of aero meds and flight crew on board, we set course for New Orleans with the rough idea that we would transport injured and sick people to Elington Field, TX (Houston, TX). >From there we would fly to Alexandria, LA, Charlotte, and then back to Nashville. Our mission ended up evacuating one of the VA hospitals’ patients as well as several civilians.

The weather was not great once we neared New Orleans. We made it in and were met by an airport SUV that led us to what is normally an airline passenger gate. The difference was the gates housed medical teams (mainly military that had just arrived) and scores of sick refugees (for lack of better term). We squeezed ourselves into a parking spot perpendicular to a C-141 and next to two C-17’s. There were other Air Force planes on the ground as well. By the time we finally left, five other C-130’s and another C-17 had joined us.

What happened next just really made my heart well with pride. From every direction and in about 15 to 45 second intervals, helicopter after helicopter continued to land right next to us. It was a mix of Army Blackhawks, Coast Guard helicopters as well as Marine and Army. They were joined by what must have been 15 “Flight for Life” helicopters from hospitals all around the Southeast. I saw Miami, Arkansas, and many other names painted on the sides. This was not normal operations. These pilots were practically landing and taxing on top of each other. They came in fully loaded with sick personnel. Many right from the rooftops. One New Orleans Airport fireman took on the duty of aircraft marshaller and marshaled in choppers left and right. The helos would unload and then take right back off. It was not uncommon for a helicopter to be on the ground less than two to three minutes and then blast back off. We were basically parked in the triage area. These helicopters were immediately met by ground personnel who helped the people off the helos and if they couldn’t walk, they put them on a stretcher or just flat carried them.

What makes it so extraordinary is when I realize that these ground personnel were just the airport workers, airline employees, cart drivers, fireman, and then the staff of all the emergency teams. It was amazing. They were not necessarily trained for the jobs they were/are undertaking. They just stepped up to the plate and did it. The tower and ground controllers were coordinating airplanes and helicopters like they had never imagined in their most terrible nightmares and were doing a very good job of it.

There were literally so many helicopters coming in and out of the triage area that I do not understand how the tower guy could see through them all to control the planes once they landed. The little baggage trailers and tugs that you normally see zipping around the airport were being used to move survivors out to the airplanes. They can best be described as mini ambulances.

The terminals at the airport were triage and staging areas. The airport vehicles that are usually operated by airport managers and security were leading airplanes and helicopters to newly created parking spaces. Then the huge thunderstorm hit to make matters even worse. Thunder, lightening, and driving rain pounded the airport and surrounding area for over 1.5 hours. The helicopter pilots and crews never stopped.

Everyone was so determined and working with such purpose. I literally watched this one helicopter bring people in a then leave again for another load four times in the 1.5 hour long torrential rain storm. This pace was not uncommon. Another thing that exemplified the unselfishness of the rescuers was this one old and worn out red and white helicopter. It looked like something that does heavy lifting for construction up on mountains. Basically, it did not look like one that was designed to carry people and conduct search and rescue.

From all I can tell, it was just a privately owned helicopter that the two pilots decided they were going to make work for this. I still remember the pilot in the left seat. He just had on jeans, tennis shoes and some kind of old shirt. He was a little overweight, but you could just see the determination and purpose on his face as he brought that big helo in run after run after run. Don’t misinterpret what I am describing. The military guys were doing this too, but I did not expect this from some private company or individual.

It just was incredible. Absolutely incredible. There is no way the helos should have been flying in this weather. If this was just some regular mission or training flight, you can bet your kids Super Play Station that they would not have been flying. It would have been easier and probably safer to floss a shark’s teeth them to have gotten these guys to stop flying.

The same thing went for everyone working to organize and evacuate the sick, hurt, and elderly inside the airport. The process was a little slower than ideal, but it is a massive undertaking not ever encountered by the agencies initially put in charge. Long story short, the Air Force medical teams got in there and got the ball rolling. As we left, a medical evacuation command post was coming on line, which will significantly speed up the process of bringing people into the airport and them putting them on planes to fly out.

Another one of our Nashville C-130’s was on the ground with us. They received their patients first. Once they could not physically fit anymore on their plane, they left and we took they next group. Our aero med team and flight crew just started helping the people who could barely walk onto the plane and assisted in the loading of stretchers. Back to selflessness, we were also joined by two doctors who had been assisting in all the relief efforts at Tulane Hospital. They decided to go on the flight with us.

One was an MD in his 7th year of surgery residency and the other was an MD who worked full time at Tulane hospital. They had been working nonstop since the hurricane. Another resident MD told me how after the hurricane hit he had to go home and get some sleep. He awoke to rising water at his place, so he got in his kayak and paddled down the street, past looting, which he said was very unnerving, and into Tulane hospital where he has been working ever since. The great American spirit is indeed alive and well.

We ended up taking 20 patients on litters (military for stretcher) and 31 people (not healthy at all) that could sit up for a total of 51 to Elington Field, TX. We arrived there and were met by what can only be described as an eye watering reception. We called the field 20 minutes out and let them know we would be landing shortly and passed on our patient information.

Well, let me tell you something. As we taxied in I looked towards our parking spot and I must have counted 30 ambulances and a line of hospital workers/volunteers with wheelchairs at the ready lined up 50 deep. There was another equally long line of paramedics with gurneys. These people had it together. We shut down engines and then watched as Elington’s smooth operation kicked into gear. The sickest of the sick were rushed to hospitals. Everyone else was given food, cold drinks, seen by a social worker, doctor, and other specialists. Then, one of the head NASA people there gave me his car to go to Jack in the Box to get food for the crew. Incredible!

By this time we were running out of our 16 hour crew day and we still had two more stops. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get to it all as we had to head right back to Nashville, but another crew picked up the mission. I will be doing missions similar to this one tomorrow (Fri) and Saturday.

Our Guard Base (TN Air National Guard) is flying six of our eight or nine airplanes out tomorrow in direct support of rescue operations. We plan on doing this for the foreseeable future.

Overall, I cannot do justice to all the good I saw today just by writing. I wanted to try though. Basically, the operation set up down there at the New Orleans Airport is one eerily similar to that of Baghdad Int’l airport when I was there for over eight months. Just a hive of activity with people pushing their bodies and aircraft to the max. No one complains, they just get the job done and worry about the rest later.

Every citizen of this country should be so proud of what their fellow citizens are doing for each other. The pressure they are working under knowing these sick and stranded people do not have time on their side is unexplainable. Our country is one of great strength and determination. It is evident in all the rescue and relief efforts that are taking place down there. If the hard work and pure grit of all the rescue and medical personnel I witnessed today are of any indication of the eventual outcome of this indescribable tragedy, then we are on the absolute fast track to victory.

I just want to add one more thing. I did not write this all out to highlight myself. In fact it is quite the contrary. I want all of you to know the efforts that are being made from the individual level to the highest level of government. Nothing is being held back. I just happen to fly an airplane from one field to another and am very happy to do it.

Please say some extra prayers for all of those suffering due to hurricane Katrina and for all of those working to save lives and rebuild a city.


And on a lighter note

Subject: Important Reminder

OK folks...it's only 10 days until International Talk Like a Pirate Day! (Arrrrrgh!)

In addition, you may want your dog to look the part:

or not!

So get the info here: http://www.talklikeapirate.com/piratehome.html 

Avast ye, matey. Shiver yer timbers, batten yer hatches, and hoist the Jolly Roger on the mizzen yard.



And back to serious matters:

Subject: Disarming New Orleans Residents

On today's, 8 Sept 2005, ABC World News Tonight was a piece that showed police or National Guard (I couldn't tell which) going to a dry mansion. They did not forceably evacuate the residents of the house, but did handcuff them (a man and a woman) and take their weapons. Of course the police by case law are not responsible if looters come to that house tonight. This nation is not the one I grew up in.

Weep for the republic. I can recall when they would arm citizens.


Subject: N.O. gun confiscation a reality...dear lord.


"No one will be able to be armed," Compass said. "Guns will be taken. Only law enforcement will be allowed to have guns."

Insanity. I cannot think of a situation in which I would need a weapon more than now in New Orleans.

This one policy disturbs me almost more than the front-line failures.


Oh no, American cops and soldiers would never confiscate our weapons, never happen! PKM

The message is ready to be sent with the following file or link attachments: Shortcut to: http://media.putfile.com/NewOrleansGunConfiscationSmall

What did you expect? Subjects armed are subjects in rebellion. Don't wait for them to commit crimes. Prevent crimes.

=== However, the military is now at pains to point out that it is NOPD and ONLY NOPD that is actually ordering people out, and NOPD is saying they haven't got around to actually arresting anyone for staying.

My guess is that you have been seeing some typical ham handed work by a notoriously ham handed police department, and that some of the police really are stupid enough to hope they can make everyone leave Bourbon Street and its bars, evacuated and unguarded.

The disarmament continues though. A proper Civil Defense organization would have been arming its members with training.

Either you trust the citizens or you do not.






CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday, September 9, 2005

Another report from Phillip Pournelle on HSV2 SWIFT (see previous)

Dad, We arrived in Pensacola early this morning and loaded out with more supplies. We now have six 20 foot milvan refrigerator/freezers onboard. I've sent pictures earlier of our crew loading them into the mission bay. They demonstrate the versatility of Swift's design. We can reconfigure the ship for a new mission within hours by loading on equipment.

For the moment the mission requires refrigerated stores, but Swift is able to support a variety of mission modules for a wide range of missions to include Mine Warfare, Expeditionary Warfare, Undersea Warfare, etc.

The additional refrigerated stores are for bringing more food and supplies to the Joint Operations Center in New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA).

This is the food the 82nd Airborne, 2nd Cavalry, national guard, FEMA, police, and guests are eating on the three ships in the Riverwalk area. We are moving from immediate relief to sustained operations, though relief supplies are still arriving to support outlying areas.

We left late tonight and will arrive around Noon tomorrow in New Orleans to offload supplies. Today was a busy day, but we were able to take a break and allow crew members to go to the base exchange. We apparently cleared out the cash in all the ATMs nearby. The drastic change in our schedule left many short of basic items and cash.

 I have no pictures of today's events. Instead I've included some pictures and logos of the ship. I hope people will enjoy them. We are all very proud of our ship. I can't say enough about the crew. Remember, the rating of a ship is not in its guns, but in the quality of her crew.

Love, Phil


And See the Friday Report below



Subject: Falls Creek Story - National Guard Camp Gruber


I read the Falls Creek Story Link with an astonished disbelief, this kind of thing is not acceptable in Oklahoma.

I live only a few miles from the National Guard's Camp Gruber training facility. There were around 1500 New Orleans residents that were brought there this past week. Now Camp Gruber is also located in a very rural area, though not quite as isolated as Falls Creek. To my knowledge the people there have been able to travel to the surrounding cities ( Tulsa, Muskogee, Talequah ) to look for work, the children are being enrolled in local schools, and something like a tenth of the people that were there initially have already left to move into apartments or in with relatives.

To the best of my knowledge there is not a police state type of approach being taken at Camp Gruber. I know that some volunteer aid was turned away, mainly because it wasn't needed.

Heck I can push a couple of buttons on my Scanner and hear what is going on at Camp Gruber. The only communications that they have between the various support groups there is because they have Ham Radio volunteers working with them. (The FEMA Radios don't work with the National Guard Radios don't work with the OHP / State EMS Radios, the typical nonsense.)

I will forward the link to my State Senator, Representative and Governor as well as my US Congressman and Senators. If there is any truth to this, and I don't doubt that there is, then someone at FEMA needs a serious attitude adjustment.

Oklahoma does not treat people that way, not on MY WATCH they don't!

Mark Gosdin Proud Resident of the State of Oklahoma.

Good for you. Attitude adjustment. But understand that bureaucracies have rules, and rules must be obeyed. It's the nature of Empire.


Dr. Pournelle,

No direct confirmation or refutation, yet, from folks in Oklahoma. Some conflicting emails returned to my inquiries (some didn't read the question and returned confused replies). Some churches have planned to take donations down to Falls Creek (it's always "down to Falls Creek" no matter where one is in the state, it seems :-) this weekend—according to one friend in Lawton, OK (member at Calvary Baptist Church), today. so perhaps I'll have something definitive by Saturday or Sunday.

So, why am I writing you this? *sigh* Perhaps just because I saw the story on your site and Falls Creek is a hook to so many memories. But with a sizeable number of churches planning on taking donations and volunteers down over the weekend, IF the story is true, then I'll surely hear about it. Heck, if the story's true, it'll probably break nationally, with so many churches involved. If it is not true, or highly exaggerated, I expect I may well hear that, too.

My suspicion is that perhaps there are some FEMA folks there throwing their weight around, as petty bureaucrats are wont to do, but that the OWNERS of that property will likely dig their heels in pretty hard if not allowed to serve the folks they have donated their cabins to. Remember: these are Baptists we're talking about. heh. (Recall the Rhode Island Leland/Madison Constitutional/First Amendment events; THE reason for the establishment of the Southern Baptist Convention—interference in local church affairs by Northern Baptists, etc.) Baptists can be a prickly lot. :-).

David W Needham

September 12: For the end of the story see next week's mail.


Confessions of a Welfare Queen.


- Roland Dobbins

Why, would someone do that? Deliberately? I am shocked...


The ham sandwich fiasco.

'The spokesman said he still did not know whether or not Ms Nugent's lunch was stolen.'


-- Roland Dobbins




--- Roland Dobbins

Open Door and markets: there is a price for free trade.


Subject: In Defense of His Majesty.


-- Roland Dobbins

An interesting defense of Kaiser Bill...


Subject: Bogus link and ideologue scoundrels

Mr. Pournelle,

Been reading your site for well over a year now. My father told me about it, and he is also a longtime reader of yours both here and from your print articles (he has all but the first couple of issues of Byte magazine still at his house). Always informative and interesting even when I don't always agree.

However, a post appeared on Friday:

"For anyone who left New Orleans and is wondering what they're going back to, this site is very useful: www.katrinadata.com ..."

I checked out the link, and it appears to divert to an article on annoy-dot-com called "Hero Fiddled: Mass Destruction For Real" which (while mildly amusing as a bush-bashing rant) does not contain any of the information for people that was described in Mr. Bouldin's posting. No NCAA/FEMA/satellite imagery - just a partisan diatribe.

I know you don't have time to check out all of the links sent to you, but whoever sent you this was playing a VERY cruel joke on people. I have a good friend who is from NOLA and is going to graduate school up in New York. She has been worried sick about what happened to her home town and her family's home (her family got out in time, but haven't had any information about what they'll be going back to).

This sort of thing is utterly reprehensible. For someone to bait-and-switch like that?!?

That kind of political partisanship without regard for human decency is far more an indictment of the declining American "culture" than any breakdown of community or centralization of responsibility rampant in our federalized society today. That kind of "me first and damn the consequences for anyone else" is more often than not at the heart of most of society's ills that have been mentioned on this site.

I don't know if Mr. Bouldin was duped into thinking that site was legit or if he is trying to get people to read that site, but I was livid when I landed on that article. I was hoping I might actually be able to give my friend some peace of mind, or at least brace her for what would come. Instead I was bludgeoned with someone's political views.

Disgusting. Not your fault I know, but I am still fuming.

Regards, J. Scott Cardinal

Friday I was in Seattle, working with a laptop; I did check that link and at the time I put it up it went to what looked like what was described. Generally do check links, and I had no reason to doubt that one was what it said it was. Apparently some kind of later linkage changed it.

Napoleon Bonaparte said "Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence." I find that a good principle, but carried further, because it doesn't always take incompetence, just human failing.

If you care to go to that web site now you will find that its owners have put up a lot of data, and they do not themselves know why traffic to the addressed site is being transferred to theirs. In any event there are many sources now. My apologies if anyone was deceived.

And see below from Mr. Bouldin


Subject: Oil Shale


Shell has developed a process for recovering the oil from the oil shale. They've demonstrated it. They think it should be economically viable with crude at $30/bbl.

It is about time.


 That at least is good news.


And now another report from Lt. Cdr. Phillip Pournelle:       (previous)


Today was a long day. We left Pensacola, Florida late last night. We took a Mississippi pilot aboard early this morning and headed up the river. As we approached the mouth of the river we could see a lot more shipping traffic. Many ships were anchored waiting to head in. The few pilot available were working hard to get them going. We could also see a lot of helicopters on some of the oil platforms along with a flotilla of work/resupply boats attending to them. It would appear the oil companies are starting to survey their platforms and get them going.

The lower river pilot was talking about how the pilot station at the mouth of the Mississippi was very high tech with computers, radars, radios and Automated Identification Systems (AIS) (kind of like transponders, but for ships), etc. 20 years of technology was wiped out in hours. What was more unfortunate was Pilottown. Pilottown was the oldest pilots association in the country. Pilottown was established in the 1800s and many of the buildings were historic and unique. The storm drove a wave through the front door and took all the contents out the back with the back door. Pilottown will probably be abandoned and the associate moved up to Venice where it will not be so remote. Currently they are living out of a working barge. They are attempting to restore the outer station at the mouth of the river.

Meanwhile the Army Corps of Engineers is very busy conducting salvage operations. Today we saw a large number of ferry crossing stations they have restored. They continue their work in recovering barges and other craft while surveying the banks of the river for erosion, etc. Again we had to be careful of our wake and had to apologize to one crew as we came by. We slowed down as we approached them but our wake overtook us. The pilot had never seen a ship's own wake overtake it before. Our wake does not create so much a wave as a ground swell. no one was harmed, but we were even more careful following that event.

As we approached New Orleans we could see more movement of regular vehicles, though the sky was full of military aircraft. the Murphy refinery was burning gasses off their towers and were starting to come to life. I did not spot any fires and the water levels in Ward 9 and St. Bernard Parish appeared to have receded significantly.

The best sign that something was coming to life was when we were attempting to moor the ship. We use handheld Motorola radios to communicate with our line handlers to know when to tie the ship up. It turned out some hotel staff nearby were using the same channels. They were talking about cleaning rooms and getting towels and other things. They were also speaking Spanish. My Spanish is very rusty, but I attempted to ask them to be quiet for a few minutes so we could land our ship.

We tied the ship up again off the bow of the Iwo Jima. We then proceeded to offload supplies for Iwo Jima, Tortuga, and Shreveport. We offloaded food, parts, MREs and other supplies via our crane into two Mike boats (LCM-8), a cousin of the boats with the bow ramp from Saving Private Ryan. So in the span of less than a week Swift has rafted with a supply ship twice, conducted multiple VERTREPs and now conducted large boat operations. This is in addition to countless sea and anchor evolutions in and out of Pensacola and two trips to New Orleans. At this rate, I'll earn a Mississippi Pilots license before this deployment is concluded.

We head back down tomorrow and on to Pensacola. There are more ships coming into New Orleans, including some cruise liners hired by Military Sealift Command. So it will be very crowded here soon. I'm not certain what we will be doing next, but that is no surprise. Being very flexible is routine around here and the crew is responding greatly. I'm the laziest man on this ship because I have only one job. Everyone else has at least three. The same Chief Petty Officer overseeing the offload today was the Officer of the Deck as we headed into the Mississippi this morning (and one of the best ones out there). The Navigator of the Watch (kind of like a copilot) was guiding the crane and slinging pallets... I hope you get the idea. They work hard and are very bright. The best this country has to offer.



P.S. Swift is a United Stated Naval Vessel (USNV). As it is leased from a foreign nation and the Jones act prevents the military from purchasing foreign built ships, we are not a USNS. A small technicality, but one I'm required to correct.

Went back and fixed it. HSV or USNV. Thanks. Keep up the good work. I have notes from fairly senior Navy guys who wish they had your job...

And see below


More on the Swift.




 Roland Dobbins


Good morning, Jerry.

A couple of general comments, since (for the moment) my brain has a couple of at least partially functioning cylinders...

It appears that Mr. Brown is being shackled for the crime of building FEMA bureaucracy instead of maintaining an effective emergency response capability. That of course is a fairly libertarian (and non-politically correct) explanation, and as you've noted he is hardly alone in that responsibility. So, basically, he is unlucky to be the person in the hot seat when the systematic problems began to unravel. Unfortunately, his replacement is likely not to have learned this lesson -- unless he is replaced by a retired general (or at least a colonel) from one of the fighting divisions rather than the Pentagon and procurement crowd.

Regarding recovery of oil from oil shale. That is indeed very good news. Except...it means that petroleum extraction may now have the problem of something very akin to mine tailings, depending on how the process works. (It is all subsurface? How many solids are brought up mixed in the oil, and how are they separated/discarded? etc.) Note of course that I'm no expert on petrochemistry, but I can easily envision the environmentalists pitching a major fit over the process if it's in the least "dirtier" than current processes.


Agree on both. Bureaucracies have structures. Armies build bureaucracies and it takes wars to weed out the placeholders; a generation without a war can destroy an army. Navies are a little better off because there is the requirement to get the ships from one place to another without running aground or sinking or ramming other ships, and thus navies do in peace time much of what they do in war. Air forces have similarities to both but with the added problem that the pilots are the stars, but pilots do not necessarily make good generals and strategists.

Emergency services organizations are more like armies: the skills needed for the vast majority of the time are bureaucratic skills including ability to comply with meaningless regulations and rules. Then comes a genuine emergency and they have to function, and that's the opportunity to weed out deadwood -- except that in a Civil Service system you can't really do that. Which is why big centralized bureaucracies are not good mechanisms for dealing with unpredictable emergencies.

Ten minutes' thought would convince most people of that. Alas, people aren't encouraged to think. Trust us. We're the professionals.


Following is after a couple of exchanges of letters.

Here is a summary of the worst of Brown from MSNBC.

"In a strange way, the most outrageous news pictures of this day may be those of progress: The palettes of food and water that have just been dropped at selected landing zones in the downtown area of New Orleans. It's an outrage because all of those elements existed before people died for lack of them: There was water, there was food, and there were choppers to drop both. Why no one was able to combine them in an air drop is a cruel and criminal mystery of this dark chapter in our recent history. The words "failure of imagination" come to mind. The concept of an air drop of supplies was one we apparently introduced to the director of FEMA during a live interview on Nightly News on Thursday evening. (Watch Brian's interview with FEMA Dir. Michael Brown from Sept. 1.) He responded by saying that he'd been unaware of the thousands gathered at the Convention Center. Later that evening an incredulous Ted Koppel on ABC was left with no choice but to ask if the FEMA director was watching the same television coverage as the rest of the nation.



Who died? I don't mean that callously, but the paragraph says "before people died". The city officials are now saying most of those reports were false. I literally do not know what happened in there.

The above paragraph gives no locations, or precisely who did not do what.

It is my understanding that the military and civilian aid agencies offered to take food and water to the Superdome and Convention Center and were told not to do it, lest that make these places magnets, when the notion was to get people OUT of there. This was by the Mayor and city officials. The operational forces were ready. Now you can fault FEMA for not having proper communications to get this information up the line and quickly, but it's pretty clear that Brown hadn't been told any of this. His fault, perhaps; he doesn't seem to be the sort of guy who takes charge and makes sure he knows what is going on, and we are likely better off without him.

That may be an incorrect understanding, but long accusations without details do not convince me of much. Look, indictments without specifications aren't impressive. Brown was clearly a college roommate type (like Balmer) who got lucky (like Balmer) and then got caught out when he couldn't do the job well (unlike Balmer).

It would be unimportant if the Director of FEMA knew about the Convention Center (and many were in fact confused about Convention Center vs. Superdome) if the local field commanders were both competent and in charge. The head of an agency like this is head of a bureaucracy and the skills needed to keep it running -- compliance with regulations, influence over budget, etc. -- have little or nothing to do with the operations direction of anything. It's administrative. Administrators can sometimes be transformed into commanders -- that is why we used retired military people in Civil Defense -- but usually they never do, and if they are lucky they never have to.

I am not half so concerned about Brown and hanging him or shooting him (perhaps we could take him, the Mayor, the governor, and the looting policemen to Fort Smith Arkansas, revive the old court there, and sell tickets to the mass public hanging) as I am about the structural failures. Bureaucracies that do little until times of crisis need a different organization structure than the usual Civil Service plus Public Service Worker Union organizations we have now.

Something has to fix that.


Or perhaps it can never be fixed:

Dr. Pournelle, You state:

What was it the head of FEMA did that he should not have done, and what did he leave undone that he should have done so that there is no health in him? I ask seriously because I keep hearing "he's dumber than a post" and "Wow was he incompetent" but in fact I have not heard what he did that was so egregious. The heads of most agencies mostly are charged with seeing that the bureaucracy is in compliance with the regulations (six or eight linear feet of regulations, usually) and are not commanding figures. Brown certainly was not inspiring as a leader.

I am sure he is culpable, but are there specifications to the charges? This is not a defense of the man; I just would like to know what he is to be dismissed for other than being unlucky.


I'm not expert in leading disaster relief, so I will leave the practical details to others. But in my view he simply lost the political game. There was a disaster and he headed an agency tasked with helping. The relief effort had some very obvious bumps and he found himself on TV a lot. Every time I saw him on TV or heard him on the radio (CNN, FOX and NPR) he acted lost. In each of those three interviews I heard, he learned a significant fact from the interviewer - a fact available from several news outlets and the online scanners. The most extreme example was a NPR interview that followed a long piece on the fiasco going on at the Convention Center. Brown stubbornly insisted that everything was fine at the Convention Center when, it later became clear, he had no information whatsoever about the Center. His people later called NPR back to say that they had confirmed everything in the previous report. I know that for a few days I saw him a lot and he never appeared to have control of the basic facts, let alone the situation.

In any case, my point isn't that I know of specific things he did right or wrong. It is that in the face of a very public disaster in which the public felt things weren't going well, he had very publicly appeared clueless and out of touch and, to boot, he was appointed, not elected. Ergo, he's out. It sounds to me like serious mistakes were made from the lowest ranks of the New Orleans police to the top of the federal government (and, while we're at it, let's not forget the average citizen). Brown's misfortune is that we know his name, face, and clueless rabbit-in-headlights facial expression. It was a time for all good bureaucrats to be scurrying under desks and he didn't get there in time.

As for the Republic, I do weep for it, as it sounds like a great place. But, being born in 1971, I'm not sure I ever lived in it. It seems to me that the nation changed considerably, moving away from the idea of the Republic after WWII and possibly earlier. I honestly don't personally know anyone my age (aside from myself) who thinks the states should hold any power or sovereignty over the federal government under any circumstances. On the whole, we now clearly think that in times of crisis the federal government should hold Imperial power and more than a few people think we're always in crisis. I don't really ever recall living in a country that thought differently than this. Perhaps too many of us live comfortable lives to take a stand; well-fed, happy men have only rarely rebelled.


As Tocqueville noted. Republics die.

We want centralized efficiency. Sometimes that happens, if you have someone who can cut through regulations and red tape. Empires demand an emperor. With luck we will have a structure in which an emperor feels safe enough to retire and allow a successor. It has rarely happened of course. Someone will demand "justice" and prosecutions, and faced with that emperors are tempted never to let go. Allende certainly regrets allowing a return to democracy. By definition those who get to the top tend to be cunning if not smart, and seldom miss the political implications...

We can hope for orderly succession of emperors. When that fails -- it always does, since the unscrupulous generally get on top in any system -- we can hope for long reigns and stability during them. We can hope for Claudius or Aurelius, not Caligula and Commodus. Trajan and Titus did well for Rome... (hard cheese on some of those in the Middle East who caused too much trouble, of course).






This week:


read book now


Saturday, September 10, 2005

Subject: a story about Katrina


Here's at least one instance of somebody who didn't wait for FEMA to help out. Recommended reading, if the news has been too dispiriting.

"The tallest oldest one looked at me and smiled. 'Sir', he said, 'we know what you done been doing'. I didn't know what he meant. He told me he meant he knew I had come from New Orleans. How did he know? 'You stink like the dead, man'. Ahhh, I hadn't noticed."


--Erich Schwarz


Another report from Lt. Cdr. Phillip Pournelle (For previous see above.)


We left New Orleans early this morning and we pulled into Pensacola at 7PM. We made pretty good time down the river even with all the recovery efforts. We had a better idea of where to slow down. Local news reported it may take 8 years for some parts of the city to be livable again. There was so much water contaminated by the refinery it may take years to make it habitable again.

Talking to one of the pilots they described the New Orleans Diaspora is already in motion. His church parish has a lot of close families where the kids know each other almost from birth. They are already spread around the country. He was looking to move to San Diego, others to all parts of the country. He was fortunate that his whole clan was gathered in a town an hour north of New Orleans, all in the same condo complex. Meanwhile, the only connection he has to other families is through a very long E-mail list. These are families where the children were expected to go through school all the way up to college together as their parents had done before them. It was a very sad story to hear and a real blow to a very devout Catholic community.

Water is receding from several of the small towns down the river and we could see electrical power company vans heading south. Many other villages between levies are still under water, many will never be rebuilt. They were very remote to start with and people are very hesitant to try again.

Tonight I was able to utter the most important words to the crew in the world, "Liberty Call." At the entering port brief, I noted the most dangerous times for a ship is when it is inbound to port from a high operating tempo. People get antsy and want to get ashore and rush things (they smell beer). I told them to take it easy and that if anyone was to get hurt, there would be no beer. Well they heard me. The detail went so smoothly that I was not able to find anything to say at the debrief. Later one of the supervisors told me the threat of the loss of beer caught their attention. I'll try not to use that one too often.

My personal goal is to bring them all home in safely and in one piece. They are great sailors and their families and country deserve them to be safe. To steal a phrase from you: "Maybe a day late, but never a sailor short."



For next report click here.




CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, September 11, 2005

Subject: Well, there WAS satellite data there! (see above)


The link I sent you to katrinadata.com DID have satellite images; I used them to find my parent's and sister's houses.

I am embarrassed and apologetic. It appears to me that someone has maliciously fiddled with the web site causing a redirect to another page. I would appreciate if you would post this note to dispel the idea that I did this; at the time I posted the link it was exactly as I described it.

I haven't yet found the original link that I used, but the forums at nola.com were the original source.

Chuck Bouldin

Be assured that one reason I posted your note is that I had, and continue to have, confidence in your judgment and intentions. As you say, someone seems to have hacked the original link.

Subject: Another useful hurrican info site


In addition to the satellite map, this is a site I used to get info. I just checked it again (10:50 EDT, 9/11/05). It is a google map with locale annotations of first hand reports on the ground. It now loads very slowly because there are so many annotations, but still very useful.


Chuck Bouldin


Several have sent me this link:


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette September 11, 2005

No Shame

The federal response to Katrina was not as portrayed

By Jack Kelly

It is settled wisdom among journalists that the federal response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina was unconscionably slow.

"Mr. Bush's performance last week will rank as one of the worst ever during a dire national emergency," wrote New York Times columnist Bob Herbert in a somewhat more strident expression of the conventional wisdom.

But the conventional wisdom is the opposite of the truth. <snip>


Dear Dr Jerry Pournelle,

I just want to get this off of my chest, as many Americans, were asking 'where is the foreign aid?".

Well Canada had DART (first line disaster response team waiting for Bush to say, "hello".) Including many others but besides the politics, we rushed to your aid anyways.

Firemen showed up, utilities companies and more, before your federal government did. I don't have the links for these right now, but I'll get them to you.

Canadians are your brothers. As much as I dislike your current administration, I have many American friends. We can bicker about 'softwood lumber' and other NAFTA agreements that you seem to ignore, but when push comes to shove, we actually like you bastards.

And Canada has a history of helping people, as opposed to 'blowing them up'. We have good experience cleaning up these messes. So to you, and your son, we are helping too. We were there at hour zero.

It would be nice if we could get beyond all of this killing and disasters and actually fly to Mars. But, oh well. Damn huricanes.

I know it's in hind site, but wouldn't one or two billion dollars spent on protecting the coast really saved 200-300 billion dollars? Now we know, I guess. Peace.

I honestly don't know where you're getting all this money for wars and disaster. Some nations have a budget.

But, I still love you. Cheers. And good luck.



Greg Burland American Lover


Subject: thoughts on honor, after Katrina


A Navy veteran makes some telling points about honor in the wake of Katrina:

"Being in the Navy, or any branch of the military, is a form of public service. Part of what some people call the public sector. Something we've lost sight of is the meaning and the value of public service. Like our infatuation with our clever technologies, we've become enamored with the many supposed virtues of the marketplace, and its rewards for efficiency. But where is there room in the marketplace for keeping faith with one another? Faith isn't a commodity that can be bought or sold. If there is a place, how does it compare in priority with things like maximizing shareholder value, or the bottom line? Who is the competition when it comes to keeping faith with one another?"


Which reminds me a bit of Robert Heinlein's words:

"The two highest achievements of the human mind are the twin concepts of 'loyalty' and 'duty'. Whenever these twin concepts fall into disrepute -- get out of there fast! You may possibly save yourself, but it is too late to save that society. It is doomed."

--Erich Schwarz


Subject: a letter from Brigadier General Gregory Zanetti of the New Mexico National Guard

(excerpted from the frontlinethoughts.com <http://www.frontlinethoughts.com/> newsletter)

Dear Mr. Mauldin,

I command a Maneuver Enhancement Brigade in the New Mexico Army National Guard.

I understand your frustration and perhaps anger at the seemingly slow response to the disaster in New Orleans and Mississippi.

Let me offer a re-cap from a soldier's perspective.

First, New Mexico Guardsmen arrived in Louisiana on Friday. It's important that you understand that over 80 percent of the New Mexico National Guard has been deployed. Many of our soldiers who are now trying to restore order in the Superdome have already been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, or the National Capital Region in D.C. They volunteered for this duty...as they volunteered after 9-11.

Next, please recall the first two days following Katrina there was very little visibility regarding the extent of the damage. We were flying blind with little or no communication. Nonetheless, my Adjutant General put us all on alert (without orders) with the quote, "I am not going to sit around and let Americans die, while we wait for orders." Thus, we started getting ready.

At this exact same time, my brigade was deploying soldiers to Iraq and we were trying to get them out the door with all their equipment, records, medical supplies, etc. That mission could not be put on the back burner. We have Americans dying in Iraq, too.

Then, we found out the news that set us back two days -- we couldn't simply send our remaining soldiers to Louisiana, because there was no command center or means of support. Our soldiers had to take everything they needed to sustain themselves for 10-14 days on the ground. We were told, "If you don't bring it, you don't get it."

The reason for this was a good portion of the Louisiana Guard was also currently deployed the Mid-East, so those who were left behind were short on both personnel and equipment. They had no support to offer any incoming troops.

Mr. Mauldin, sending troops can be done quickly. Creating a supply line -- sending soldiers with Humvees, water, MRE's, Deet, tents, weapons, ammo, commo, updated shots, and everything it takes to support a battalion takes a little planning. Do it wrong and you are more of a hindrance than a help.

The staff and soldiers of the New Mexico National Guard worked around the clock to make a rapid deployment possible. We are a large state. Bringing soldiers from Farmington to Las Cruces (after they have been released by their employers (hopefully), and getting their families squared away) takes time. We got the official go-ahead on Thursday. Friday morning our soldiers were gone. I couldn't be prouder.

Beyond this, we coordinated transportation with our Air National Guard brethren who came through like champs. We do not have air lift capability organic to NM. Therefore, the good men and women of Kansas, Delaware, South Dakota, and Arizona came to our assistance. Yes, our soldiers traveled in KC135 refueling vehicles instead of the preferred C-130s. But the Air Guard got us there and even made multiple runs to make sure we got everything on the ground that we needed. Meanwhile, the "Red Chile Express" is convoying across your great State of Texas at this moment to make sure we can sustain our soldiers for what looks like the long haul.

Right now, I have soldiers defending the National Capital Region as Air Defenders. Many of the soldiers who just got back from Iraq volunteered to go to New Orleans and place their "boots are on the ground" or in the water as the case may be. Plus, we have soldiers in route back to Iraq and Afghanistan. Oh, and Kosovo is next for more of our soldiers before year end. One last thing: my soldiers also have civilian jobs and usually take pay cuts (or risk losing their jobs despite legislations that supposedly protects them) when they deploy.

My guess is that any soldier in any state could write this same basic letter to you. We are all stretched thin.

So, forgive me if I sound a little testy. Still, I felt compelled to defend my soldiers, their admirable performance, and amazing sense of duty. If you knew them as I know them your chest would swell with pride.

Gregory Zanetti Brigadier General Commander, 111th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade


Subject: Your web site sucks

Hi Jerry,

Sorry to be so blunt. The content deserves an A. The presentation an F. The site is old and dusty. Please consider a major overhaul.


vince nash [vince433@yahoo.com]

What is interesting is the vehemence. I offend by existing. Pity. I suppose I can endure.


Subject: "What did FEMA do wrong?"

You don't know me, but you wondered what the specific crimes of FEMA and the gang were. I wondered the same thing and got my eyes brutally opened by this weeks edition of This American Life on NPR. It contains only in depth interviews with people who were actually there, and it's quite different from the sanitized news reports.

For example, the demand that the government feed you seems much less silly to me once I learned that people were being kept locked into the super dome by deadly governmental force. If you keep up the incarceration combined with no food or water for just a few days, people will start dying. And they did.

You may be able to catch it on your steam radio today, or it will be available for free download, from (I think) tomorrow from: http://www.thislife.org/

- - - - - - - - - - - - "The mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work unless it's open." --- Frank Zappa

Lars Petrus - lars@lar5.com http://lar5.com

Of course we take it that NPR has no agenda, that all things considered does consider all things, and that people were in fact being kept in the Superbowl by deadly force.

Perhaps so. Perhaps. At least I am certain the Navy was not doing that. Just who was?






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If you want to PAY FOR THIS PLACE I keep the latest information HERE.  MY THANKS to all of you who sent money.  Some of you went to a lot of trouble to send money from overseas. Thank you! There are also some new payment methods. I am preparing a special (electronic) mailing to all those who paid: there will be a couple of these. I have thought about a subscriber section of the page. LET ME KNOW your thoughts.

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atom.gif (1053 bytes) CLICK HERE for a Special Request.

If you didn't and haven't, why not?

If this seems a lot about paying think of it as the Subscription Drive Nag. You'll see more.


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Entire Site Copyright, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

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