Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Destruction of BOTH Professionalism and Resilience

As we near a symbolic anniversary, I must say that I have long viewed the events of September 11, 2001 in a unique way - as a moment when the Age of Amateurs briefly came to the fore, showing some of its potential for the 21st Century.

EmpoweringCitizensAs I have described elsewhere: The Value and Empowerment of Common Citizens in an Age of Danger, The one truly significant and revealing thing that happened that day was not the attack itself, the damage done, or the nation’s official response.

Only the Boston Globe’s Elaine Scarry joined me in pointing out that the attacks triggered a truly staggering display of citizen competence, courage and autonomy, on a day when all of our paid professional protector castes failed.

Since then, these castes have united around a single goal - to distract the people from what really happened on 9/11. Have you noticed that pundits and high muckities of both left and right constantly speak in terms of public “fear and panic” when - in fact - there was very little of either trait in evidence that day... or, indeed, the months that followed? Instead of going with what worked on 9/11 by investing in ground level citizen responsiveness, both the administration and its critics have tended to parse the problem relentlessly in terms that bicker over which branch of the protective caste should be given more power over our lives.

An example: Debates over the PATRIOT Act swirl around a devil's dichotomy, choosing *between* security and freedom. In this debate, the civil libertarians have my loyalty... but ONLY to the extent that I am forced to accept this dismal, narrow, zero-sum game. Being asked to choose between my childrens’ safety and their freedom. (Bah!) While I send them checks I am also resentful that they want to "protect" me... instead of helping me protect myself.

Now we have Katrina, another example of the Protector Caste failing utterly to prepare or prevent or palliate harm... only on a vastly worse scale than 9/11.

otherculturewarAfter all, on 9/11, their failure came about as an unfortunate confluence of many factors, some of which weren’t anybody’s fault, all uniting to create a sudden and very brief Perfect Storm. Isolated acts of incompetence combined with sheer bad luck - plus enemy innovativeness - to make Professional Anticipation fail at all levels.

This did not mean that our paid protectors were systematically incompetent... they had doubtless been saving us from many other threats all along, quietly and professionally, and have continued doing so, even hampered recently by the Neocons' all out war on neutral professionalism.

What 9/11 did prove was an age-old adage, that even the best anticipators only succeed some of the time. Inevitably, no matter how skilled, anticipation will fail. And when that happens - when surprise comes at us like a ton of bricks - we must fall back on the other thing. Anticipation’s partner, in helping human beings to deal with the shocks of an onrushing future.

Resiliency. The thing our fellow citizens - (mostly Bostonians and New Yorkers) - demonstrated prodigiously on that day. And the one thing that the Protector Caste has been downplaying - (instinctively and surely NOT consciously) - ever since.

Define irony. The Protector caste has been doing this - by reflex - defending their turf from amateurs, at the very same time that skilled professionalism has been under relentless attack by our political leadership. By the appointment of political hacks into management positions for which they were totally unqualified. By stacking the upper echelons of agencies like the CIA with partisan attack dogs. By dismantling independent advisory panels and waging ideological war on science. And - above all - by commencing an unprecedented purge of the United States Officer Corps.

Somehow, we must make it clear to these skilled and dedicated men and women, ranging from FEMA and the CIA to generals and admirals, all the way to local fire marshals, that the uppity citizens who are lifting their heads, increasingly empowered by education and new technologies, are not the enemy. That our rising competence and ability to self-organize in a split second does not threaten their jobs.

We will still need their depth of knowledge and skill for decades to come.

What citizen empowerment will do is provide the backup that enables them to do their jobs at all, in a world that grows increasingly complex with each passing day. Indeed, if they turn to us, we will be their help, their reserves, their bulwark against political meddling and destructive interference.

Oh I could go on... only now there is Katrina.

Here, unlike 9/11, there was plenty of warning. Years in the case of the levees (see my 1990 novel EARTH) and many days in the case of the storm. Failure of anticipation now becomes culpable. Failure to enhance citizen autonomous resiliency can only be seen as criminal.

Online, the mystical-libertarians are going ape, claiming that this all shows the INHERENT incompetence of government. An insipid response that is wholly insupportable. Other emergencies have been handled well, within recent memory. Especially when skilled and vigorous officials swiftly cut red tape and engaged all resources, including private, corporate and individual effort.

Government's failure in this case arose from the War Against Professionalism waged by this administration. (Was this in order to spread a failure of confidence in government? No, too early to get quite so paranoid.)

What is less clear has been the parallel war against citizen empowerment. PEOPLE could have stepped in, taking the place of the missing National Guard, for example. And countless other ways. Instead, every barrier was put in place to prevent individual effort.

Since 9/11, the professionals have been undermined and the people hampered. BOTH anticipation and resiliency have fallen into dark times, exactly when we need both traits to become super-enhanced, to face of a world transforming before our eyes.

And this despite a hundred billion dollars spent on readiness?

When do coincidences add up to deliberate harm?

==See more articles on Disaster Preparedness: Citizen Involvement in Emergency Planning

==MISC Matters==

A preview of a posting I’ll make next week on http://www.davidbrin.com/

"Will the first decade of the 21st Century be known as the time when our Scientific Age came to a whimpering end? The one trait shared by anti-modernists of both left and right appears to be disdain for our ability to learn and do bold new things. My published review of Chris Mooney's The Republican War on Science, explores how partisanship can explain much of this collapse of confidence... and why partisan interpretations don't cover everything. http://www.davidbrin.com/gopwar

Two recommended books that tout assertive problem solving are The Past and Future of America's Economy: Long Waves of Innovation that Power Cycles of Growth By Robert D. Atkinson and Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near.

 The first explores assertive measures that would allow us to play our roles better in the world economy. The latter pursue’s Kurzweil’s argument that our scientific competence and technologically empowered creativity will soon skyrocket, propelling humanity into an entirely new age. I don’t entirely agree. But boy, what a ride.

27 comments:

Mike said...

A somewhat related question: what do you think about the prospect of a gradual shift of fundamental science and technology research to developing nations such as India and China? Is this really something to worry about? I mean, if (in the short term) scientists can be employed more cheaply in China and India, and if the ensuing knowledge will be made publicly available (or, in the case of proprietary knowledge, if those scientists will in fact be potentially employable by multi-national corporations based in the US), then...where's the downside for the US? Slight loss in prestige, perhaps, but so what?

David Brin said...

It means the end of one of the greatest scams in history. American universities lured thousands of the worlds' brightest to come and PAY to be educated here. Then, we would SCOOP UP the best of those and make them Americans, while sending the rest home infected with our values.

And they paid for this.

Now things have changed. The very brightest are heading home to India and China where there's huge $$$ to be made on the frontier. Good for them. The world will be better.

Still, we need to restore American modernism as our core meme. If we do, the new age will still be ours to lead... by an ever-narrowing margin.

Mark said...

Can you point to some concrete examples of the "Protector caste ... defending their turf from amateurs"? Do you mean stuff like FEMA in New Orleans turning away volunteers with boats?

David Brin said...

Look all across society. The 20th Century was one long trend toward the Preofessionalization of Everything men used to do for themselves or their families. And it was mostly good. I LIKE having pro pilots fly me strawberries from New Zealand every winter, so efficiently they only cost 2X as much as in summer. Wow.

But it can't go on. Demographics. We'd run out of competent people in a decade. Some say we already have.

Hence the coming Age of Amateurs (see The Transparent Society ) may be vital and not just a cute quirk.

A decade ago, doctors were in a lather, resenting the web sites that turned compliant patients into irksome questioners. NOW doctors diagnose a patient and immediatley give them a dozen URLs for information and support groups. Many patients become valuable and knowledgable members of the TEAM that's treating them. Of the one person on that team who can detect anomalies & errors.

If doctors can adapt, so can other professions. But it never happens except reluctantly. Human ego makes us want to feel that our narrow expertise makes us vital and everyone else clueless.

This won't do. Katrina shows what happens when a community is fragile, patronized, dependent... and then betrayed. And where self-reliance & mutual reliance have been long forgotten.

Citizen Action Networks are more important than ever.

Frank said...

"But it can't go on. Demographics. We'd run out of competent people in a decade."

Could you point out some actual demographic data showing this ?

DemetriosX said...

Another example of professionalization by the protector caste may be the dismantling of the old Civil Defense structure. Jerry Pournelle has been discussing this quite a bit since Katrina. Now, I'm just old enough to have a caricature of the CD as a bunch of Birchers in hardhats shouting through their megaphones for everyone to go to their bomb shelters. But in fact, they were much more than that and were ususally the first to respond in an emergency. They were everywhere, they were local, they were amatuers with a bit of training and support from state and federal governments. And the whole thing was dismantled and replaced by FEMA.

michael vassar said...

Can you suggest any evidence that our paid protectors, or more to the point our non-accountable paid protectors, were not, in, fact, systematically incompetent. I doubt that they quietly and professionally saved us from threats in the past or in the present. I am fully aware, however, that they put both Saddam and Osama in power.

Thane Walkup said...

Not all people have forgotten the art of self-reliance in NO - but when they exercise it, they were punished by the authorities. See the enclosed link:

survival story

Frank said...

From the article thane walkup linked to:

"Now secure with the two necessities, food and water; cooperation, community, and creativity flowered. We organized a clean up and hung garbage bags from the rebar poles. We made beds from wood pallets and cardboard. We designated a storm drain as the bathroom and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for privacy out of plastic, broken umbrellas, and other scraps. We even organized a food recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).

This was a process we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina. When individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for yourself only. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or food for your parents. When these basic needs were met, people began to look out for each other, working together and constructing a community."

Brother Doug said...

This whole situation in New Orleans makes me mad. I first thought if the poor were not taxed maybe they would have had enough money to buy a bus ticket get out of town like the rest of New Orleans. But I find out that Greyhound, the car rental companies and the airlines shut there offices even before the hurricane arrived. The invisible hand of the market has been shown to be one big lie by this disaster. Were was the private sector during the first week, that the neo-cons keep saying are better than bureaucracy for handling this crisis! It seems to me like the police and military are the only ones who have successfully responded to the disaster, but there are too few of them. It was criminal for Bush not to have immediately sent army helicopters and troops like the 82 and 1 divisions and others from all over the USA to aid the coast. My God, there were unused military planes and helicopters sitting on the very tarmac where Bush made his speech on Monday after the disaster! Here we have a situation likely to cause as many or more deaths as 9/11 and our "leader" is just as useless.



I just got finished reading a science fiction novel called Twilingers Voyage were the alien race that meets mankind has no taxes lawyers or formal government yet it worked better than our system. To me it was more believable than the garbage I read in the Wall Street Journal editorial page. They keep talking about how the private sector could do so much better when the facts point the opposite conclusion. Unless the mean the looters who distributed food and water that they stole.

David Brin said...

I have to post this horrific example of racism, petty bureaucracy, callousness and ... yes... one aspect is also the war of professionals against citizenry.

NONE of these things happened in New York, on 9/11. So this is NOT a simpleminded libertarian rant-release about all-government-is-bad.

(Note! Say "9/11 and NoLa" aloud together.)

No, this is about a city where everything that DID work on 9/11 wasn't allowed to, this time.

--

Below is a small excerpt from the link that Chris Corrigan provided. It is an account by two American paramedics trapped in NO by the hurricane when they were attending a conference. The crimes committed by those in power were and continue to dwarf those committed by the powerless. Notice by the way, how the forces of "law and order" systematiclly kept people isolated and unable to help themselves.


We walked to the police command center at Harrah's on Canal Street and were told the same thing, that we were on our own, and no they did not have water to give us. We now numbered several hundred. We held a mass meeting to decide a course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command post. We would be plainly visible to the media and would constitute a highly visible embarrassment to the City officials. The police told us that we could not stay. Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp. In short order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the City. The crowed cheered and began to move. We called everyone back and explained to the commander that there had been lots of misinformation and wrong information and was he sure that there were buses waiting for us. The commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, "I swear to you that the buses are there."

We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched pasted the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and others people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did not dampen our enthusiasm.

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain under an overpass. We debated our options and in the end decided to build an encampment in the middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway on the center divide, between the O'Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned we would be visible to everyone, we would have some security being on an elevated freeway and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet to be seen buses.

All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away. Some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the City on foot. Meanwhile, the only two City shelters sank further into squalor and disrepair. The only way across the bridge was by vehicle. We saw workers stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks and any car that could be hotwired. All were packed with people trying to escape the misery New Orleans had become.

Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water delivery truck and brought it up to us. Let's hear it for looting! A mile or so down the freeway, an army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight turn. We ferried the food back to our camp in shopping carts. Now secure with the two necessities, food and water; cooperation, community, and creativity flowered. We organized a clean up and hung garbage bags from the rebar poles. We made beds from wood pallets and cardboard. We designated a storm drain as the bathroom and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for privacy out of plastic, broken umbrellas, and other scraps. We even organized a food recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).

This was a process we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina. When individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for yourself only. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or food for your parents. When these basic needs were met, people began to look out for each other, working together and constructing a community.

If the relief organizations had saturated the City with food and water in the first 2 or 3 days, the desperation, the frustration and the ugliness would not have set in.

Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water to passing families and individuals. Many decided to stay and join us. Our encampment grew to 80 or 90 people.

From a woman with a battery powered radio we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the City. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway? The officials responded they were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking feeling. "Taking care of us" had an ominous tone to it.

Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking City) was correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, "Get off the fucking freeway". A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.

Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated or congealed into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of "victims" they saw "mob" or "riot". We felt safety in numbers. Our "we must stay together" was impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.

In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of 8 people, in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from possible criminal elements but equally and definitely, we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and shoot-to-kill policies.


Gadzooks.

Thane Walkup said...

Who is Chris Corrigan? :D Wouldn't say anything normally, but this is the second time you've attributed something I've posted to somebody else. Not offended at all, just amused.

David, I was wondering if you had ever read any of David Gerrold's Chtorr books, especially book 3 - "A Rage for Revenge". In that book, he chooses to focus on two seperate classes, one a high school class that is a bit more like a savage socratic dialog (the kids end up taking over the class at one point and instituting their own government within the classroom), the other a training designed to help a person realize the different modes they operate in - and thus control their own emotional states more effectively, with the idea that it produces a more effective person.

As a product of our public schools, somebody who came through despite the best efforts to crush individuality and self-respect, I am strongly interested in finding ways to reinvent education, to change it from the current worker-drone production system to a system that turns out millions of inquisitive, curious minds that question everything. I asked you about that book because Gerrold seems to have at least one model for doing that. I'd be curious if you think this is just as important as well. (I'd also be interested to know if you saw my post on the array of cheap solar satellites a few blogs back, but that's secondary.)

Anonymous said...

Well, this is a bit off-topic, but I found a link to a guest blog by Rep. Rush Holt, a Congressman whose former job was Assisant Director of the Princeton Particle physics laboratory.

http://www.tpmcafe.com/section/tableforone

With the mix of science and politics of this site, I thought it might be of interest.

David Brin said...

Thane, I respect the public schools more than most people do.

1. I got a fabulous education... tho I admit many quirks made it luckier than most, even in a semi-ghetto.

2. We owe gratitude to whatever it was that raised the America of 1930 and turned it into what you see around you. Public education did that. and I do not resent the fact that it made YOU the rambunctious guy you are. (Admittedly in part by using reverse psychology!)

I saw the solar post. Had no comment. Space is hard. Been in the field a long time. Save modernism first.

Yes Gerrold is very good. The hardest thing in the world is to get people to admit they have many inner people. I preach about it in EARTH. I teach it to my kids.

Thane Walkup said...

David Brin said:
"Public education did that. and I do not resent the fact that it made YOU the rambunctious guy you are. (Admittedly in part by using reverse psychology!)"

Hmm, it must be a plot. Stick a bunch of kids in a classroom, feed them conformist ideology, and watch them all rebel into the ideal critical student. :D

David, I'm not suggesting that the public school system be abolished - far from it, I think a public education is essential to the very continuation of our society, and in its current form is being hijacked too often (CF current "Intelligent Design" debate) for things that it was not intended for.

TC said...

Damn. Mr. Brin, if that paramedic’s account you posted is true, that’s about the worst news I’ve read in two weeks of bad news. I’m reminded of the Civil War, and the cold arrogance that kept an entire people in slavery. I guess that attitude dies hard in some.

I’ve maintained that the blame for America’s Katrina response crosses federal, state, and local levels. I’ve seen nothing in the news or in any of the blogs I follow (especially http://mgno.com/) to make me think otherwise. But as pessimistic as I am, even I didn’t think that anyone in authority would actively try to thwart individuals trying to save themselves and others. That’s worse than un-American. It’s inhuman.

On a brighter note, the FEMA director said today that they intend to distribute $2000 debit cards to those Katrina displaced. To me, that’s a hopeful sign, because it places power exactly where it belongs: in the hands of the individuals. In fact, it’s so hopeful I find myself wondering how they’re going to screw it up!

Regarding the question about India and China: History suggests that America responds best when directly challenged. Look at the Apollo program. I know that India has its own problems, like the caste system still so prevalent in the North, but the folks I’ve met from India are more than a match for most of the developers I’ve worked with. The main difference? They’re hungry to prove themselves, and they’re eager to work hard to do it. Granted, I’m basing that characterization on the 5 people from India with whom I’ve worked, but if I can’t draw conclusions from personal experience, I don’t know what to base it on.

In other words, a strong, confident India and/or China is exactly what America needs.

Regarding Brother Doug’s question “Where was the private sector during the first week, that the neo-cons keep saying are better than bureaucracy for handling this crisis!” I think it would really help if we all stopped trying to over simplify matters. We can find examples from the private sector where businesses stepped up; we can find plenty of examples where the bureaucracy failed. What we really need to do is honestly look at what happened and understand it in the light of reality, not the light cast by some agenda.

For example, even with the preliminary information from Katrina, we can see clear indications of widespread communications failure. The major, governor, and FEMA didn’t fully understand their roles in the context of each other. Why not? Even if they had procedures (and FEMA claims those procedures have been written), they never practiced those procedures! I mentioned before that I’ve designed business continuity procedures and systems for a company of a mere 100 people, and even then, it took several dry runs before we got it right. I can barely imagine “getting it right” for a three state region. Yet, they’re going to have to do something like that, or we’ll see this situation repeat itself. But we can’t do even that if we don’t honestly review what happened.

This response is over long, so I’ll wrap it up with a question. Should we push for a greater role for amateurs in events? So many professional fields require such a huge investment of education and time that there’s practically no opportunity to become even vaguely familiar with other disciplines. Wouldn’t a generalist amateur be able to pull strands from various professions together and come to new conclusions? Or start new avenues of inquiry? Maybe that’s overly simplistic, but even though I’ve designed client/server and e-commerce applications for years, if a janitor came up to me and offered criticism on one of my designs, I’d be certain not to dismiss it out of hand. Sometimes a disinterested or generalist question can help even the most highly trained professional see the situation in a revealing new light. Isn’t that an example of the CITOKATE you’ve been talking about?

For some reason, that question puts me in mind of the green toward the end of Kiln people. Just some guy trying to do the right thing even though he felt he was in way over his head. Yet, his actions were instrumental to the planet’s survivor. That’s an image that really stuck with me!

Rob Perkins said...

I agree with David. The public education I got was not objectionable, and relatively high-quality, but there were things it absolutely missed. Other training regimens, such as Scouting, and the things my own family did, fleshed it out.

But there were barely any AP type courses in the high school, limited to hand-picked teacher favorites, the only sports of interest were men's football, basketball, and wrestling, and the conform-or-die meme was absolutely in charge all the way through 1986 or so.

There have been some very positive improvements since then, in that particular school district.

So yeah, stuff is happening in the public schools which bemuses me, but what is amazing about them is that for as little money as we spend (and it's not much, compared to other critical professions, IMO), with just a little involvement by parents in cooperation with these teachers and administrators, my kids are getting the best possible education, not just in the three R's, but also explicit education in diversity and otherness. There wasn't anti-bullying anything when I was in the 3rd through 8th grades, but today, it's simply not tolerated.

And I know that schools out in the Eastern U.S. are doing even better than we are in the Portland area.

That story from the Kos is appalling, and seems to show that racism and contempt for the poor are still parasitic memes on the South. And we also see how blogging is routing around government and institutional newsmaking to get these sorts of stories in front of our eyes. The similarities in that respect to the "rathergate" stuff are interesting, and seem to support my supposition that we're going to see power shifts at all levels during the next elections over this mess.

Re David Gerrold, will someone please send him $80,000? He's been "working on the last one/two Chtorr books" for what? 10 years now? I can get by with the light stuff, like the Dingilliad, which was entertaining and clever, and even thought provoking in places, or his Star Wolf space opera, but man, I wanna read the rest of his epic...

Nah, he'd probably donate most of that $80K to some cause he believes in, like his son's education or AIDS Project Los Angeles or something similar. Imagine valuing your family and causes over myyyyyy entertainment! Wait, that's what *I* do! :-)

(And I'm pretty sure I remember the high school class training in the first Chtorr volume, with the Mode training being in the third...)

Rob Perkins said...

Should we push for a greater role for amateurs in events?

I say, YES.

Teaching basic triage skills, "first aid", for example, is something I think everyone should know, along with the ability to purify water, if only by evaporation and distillation, which can be done with a tarp and two buckets if needed...

I realize those are survival skills, but how handy might it have been if our evacuees had had more Scout troops, or organized elements like them, among their numbers? Say what you will about who is admitted and who is not, those sorts of groups train their people, adult and youth alike, in knowing a little bit about as many subjects as possible, including things as diverse as governmental theory, environmentalism/conservationism/naturalism, and basic survival skills, none in expert quantity, but they create people who are at least not inept at staying alive, given some equipment.

(And what I have to say about whom they exclude is no more than this: To prove them wrong, organize something like them which does not exclude avowed homosexuals and atheists. Nothing stops anyone from doing that...)

Sean from DocintheBox said...

Have you read any of Kim Stanley Robinson's books? His "Forty Signs of Rain" paint a bleak scary picture of what the near future could bring. John Barnes "Mother of Storms" has some horrible what if's too. Each day the news is treading more and more into the realm of the Science Fiction what if's, it's September and we're already at the O's in storms, the Oceans are heating up. Global Warming viewed from a nice political Pedestal of we can change crops, cut back on emissions, spot clean here and there doesn't do anything about the natural desasters . There needs to be a shift of view points of how America looks into the future but as with anything, there's no clear answer.

Tony Fisk said...

I think that the survival story link is appalling: did Katriana blow Louisiana over to Darfur?

More likely, a relatively small number of 'professionals' were in over their heads and were panicking. Rather like a freeway that operates perfectly up until its capacity is reached and suddenly, the standard procedures don't work anymore.

However, I think that another excerpt is equally relevant to the current topic:

.. What you will not see, but what we witnessed,were the real heroes and sheroes of the hurricane relief effort: the working class of New Orleans. The maintenance workers who used a fork lift to carry the sick and disabled. The engineers, who rigged, nurtured and kept the generators running. The electricians who improvised thick extension cords stretching over blocks to share the little electricity we had in order to free cars stuck on rooftop parking lots. Nurses who took over for mechanical ventilators and spent many hours on end manually forcing air into the lungs of unconscious patients to keep them alive. Doormen who rescued folks stuck in elevators. Refinery workers who broke into boat yards, "stealing" boats to rescue their neighbors clinging to their roofs in flood waters. Mechanics who helped hot-wire any car that could be found to ferry people out of the City. And the food service workers who scoured the commercial kitchens improvising communal meals for hundreds of those stranded.

Most of these workers had lost their homes, and had not heard from members of their families, yet they stayed and provided the only infrastructure for the 20% of New Orleans that was not under water.


I might also add that, following on from the London bombings, the british police requested that the public provide any relevant photos in identifying the bombers.

Different nation, but it's a start. While forensic science still stays on the pointy end of professionalism, I think it would have been interesting if the public had been invited to assist in collating all those photographs in building a picture.

----

Meantime, the Culture of Lief appears to be spinning into action at what it does best:

spin #1: Bush pleaded with state officials to evacuate(!). Plus, reports that media coverage is being blocked (dailyKos, Sept 7)

spin #2: Bush says he will lead an inquiry into why the NO response was so slow (I wonder what he would find?)

Starting to sound a bit thin and stretched? Methinks we have another example of 'professionals' being overwhelmed by catastrophe!

Steve said...

A couple of threads...and I'm gonna try to get those links right this time.

1. Did you hear the spin the neocons are making now about NO? "Bush partisans went on the offensive. Grover Norquist, the conservative activist with close ties to Karl Rove, blamed the chaos on "looting in a Democratic city run by a Democratic mayor and a Democratic governor." (Newsweek link)

2. Regarding public school: My daughter's elementary school is implementing the International Baccalaureate Organizations Primary Years Programme. It is not a curriculum so much as an integrated teaching strategy to build students who can thrive in any society. I think this is a stupendous way to provide education. (link to IBO) I recommend anyone concerned about education to check it out. Of course it helps if your school's administration has a passion to educate. As an aside, I am the only male that shows up to the Parent-Teacher meeting, I am the only male on the School Improvement Team and the only time I see other fathers involved in the school is on curriculum night or fund-raisers. I think that people believe that all education should come from the school, not that it is a starting point as I believe. My daughter just skipped first grade and is still at the head of the class. Nature? Nurture? :)

3. Rob, I'm with you on David Gerrold. He has a few chapters posted, but that just makes it worse. I think the purple catapillars come from the far future of Earth. :oP

4. If that paramedic story is true and it is not covered by the media, I will be very very scared. I am going to send a link to NPR and see what happens.

Anonymous said...

The "Survival Story" is getting legs. Yes, let NPR know. At the very least, it would make a hell of a story for "This American Life."

The GOP spin on the disaster is revolting, but I think Bush's teflon has been irreversibly scratched. Last night's "Daily Report" segment on the subject was sublime.

Does anyone have a bathtub big enough to drown Grover Norquist in? Assuming he isn't a Deep One?

Stefan

Anonymous said...

OK. This is beyond the pale. FEMA and the military are doing everything they can to shut down press coverage of the aftermath:

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2005_09/007071.php

There's something very, well Soviet about this. Not "Evil Empire" Soviet, or Repressive Oligarch Soviety, but the most common manifestation of Soviet-ness:

Secretive, paranoid, self-delusional, incompetent, and bumbling.

Stefan

Nate said...

I don't really have anything to add here except a link to the Daily Show. Jon Stewart gets it. And the timeline portion is especially good.

Perhaps later, when it's not 2AM

michael vassar said...

Does anyone know, statistically speaking, what sort of product the public schools are producing... according to their own advocates... after excluding 8% of the student body from testing for various reasons? Here are the actual numbers. I think they speak for themselves.
http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/
In case they don't, note that the top 10% of 4th grade students equal or outperform the bottom 25% (really over 45% after accounting for children excluded from the test and children who dropped out of high school) of 12th grade students, and the top 25% of students outperform the bottom 10% (really over 30% for reasons given above)! For your reference, roughly 25% of the US population gets a college degree, so the average person who will get a college degree has better math ability and reading comprehension in 4th grade than the bottom 4th of the population will have after 8 more years of schooling supposedly teaches them these subjects!
This is all the more remarkable because there are many cognitive tasks which are not taught in school in which the 10th percentile 17 year old substantially outperforms the 90th percentile 9 year old. In other words, performance in the subjects which are "taught" improves Less than would be expected simply from mental maturation.

Rob Perkins said...

@Nate-- Actually, that was one of the most simplistic, least helpful collections of fallacy I've ever seen come out of the mouth of any one man.

Made me laugh, tho.

Rob Perkins said...

'course, I'm watching The Daily Show tonight, where Brian Williams has the floor, and the story he tells underscores David's points about both ineptitude at the highest levels and the overdependence on the professional class.

There's Brian, a news reporter, "just a journalist" by trade, connecting the efficiencies he saw in military supply operations in the Iraq War, and wondering why something similar couldn't have been done for the poor and stranded last week.

He's not a logistician, and for cryin' out loud neither is Jon Stewart, but here Brian Williams had ideas that according to him had not occured to the director of FEMA.