Friday, September 30, 2005


[TPRC] The Right to Communicate and the Freedom to Connect

At TPRC last weekend, I met Carolyn Cunningham, a PhD student at UT Austin and author of "The Right to Communicate: Democracy and the Digital Divide," which includes a survey of the Right to Communicate. Cunningham traces the Right to Communicate back to (John) Locke's notion of Natural Rights as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Just as the Right to Privacy is not explicit in the U.S. Constitution, neither is the Right to Communicate in the Universal Declaration. And just as the Right to Privacy is established by at least five of the U.S. Constitution's first ten amendments (first, third, fourth, fifth and ninth), so, says Cunningham, is the Right to Communicate strongly implied by Articles 19, 27 and others. However, case law and scholarly thinking around the Universal Declaration, a much newer document, is not nearly as deep, hence the Right to Communicate is not nearly as well-established.

The Right to Communicate is still being actively defined. Cunningham sent me several links to currently active Right to Communicate advocates, including CRIS: Communication Rights in Information Society and The World Forum on Communication Rights.

Is The Right to Communicate the same thing as Freedom to Connect? I'm thinking about it, and I'm still learning, but my gut says that the Freedom to Connect is much more narrowly defined. The stuff I've read on The Right to Communicate does not seem to draw a distinction between the physical layer and content. CRIS seems to lump pipe and pageant, connection and culture, wire and writings, antenna and art, together under the Right to Communicate.

Lumping layers can lead to trouble, and it apparently has; an abstract on Women's Human Rights: Violence Against Women, Pornography and ICT (Information and Communications Technologies) asks some very difficult questions. The URL for the full text behind the abstract, however, leads to "Error/Kernel (20) Module Not Found" (as of 9/30/05). I can only imagine the disputes behind this. Layers have their purpose.

So for now, I will read the Right to Communicate literature with great interest. But my assumption, until proven otherwise, is that the Right to Communicate is only loosely joined to, and far less prescriptive than, the Freedom to Connect.

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Thursday, September 29, 2005


Quote of Note: John Greenly

"When we started our Wi-Fi project, the incumbent sent in a truck and started laying fiber. They said it was just a coincidence."
John Greenly, Wireless Services Manager, Lompoc Connect, City of Lompoc, CA at Esme Vos' Muniwireless meeting.

"Same thing in Hermosa Beach."
Michael Keegan, City Council Member, Hermosa Beach, CA.

Ah, competition.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Project Censored's top 25 stories of the year

The original source for this info is Project Censored itself.

I am sorry if this posting is "too political" for some of my readers. I am posting it because stories like these fly in the face of Internet ethics like openness, transparency and completeness. Take Story #1, for example; today open government, tomorrow it takes little imagination to see that what's being eliminated threatens the Internet as we know it.

Besides, doncha just wanna know this stuff?

[Update: Links fixed. Apologies for the initial hasty, untested posting. Thanks Frisky070802.]
#1 Bush Administration Moves to Eliminate Open Government
#2 Media Coverage Fails on Iraq: Fallujah and the Civilian Deathtoll
#3 Another Year of Distorted Election Coverage
#4 Surveillance Society Quietly Moves In
#5 U.S. Uses Tsunami to Military Advantage in Southeast Asia
#6 The Real Oil for Food Scam
#7 Journalists Face Unprecedented Dangers to Life and Livelihood
#8 Iraqi Farmers Threatened By Bremer's Mandates
#9 Iran's New Oil Trade System Challenges U.S. Currency
#10 Mountaintop Removal Threatens Ecosystem and Economy
#11 Universal Mental Screening Program Usurps Parental Rights
#12 Military in Iraq Contracts Human Rights Violators
#13 Rich Countries Fail to Live up to Global Pledges
#14 Corporations Win Big on Tort Reform, Justice Suffers
#15 Conservative Plan to Override Academic Freedom in the Classroom
#16 U.S. Plans for Hemispheric Integration Include Canada
#17 U.S. Uses South American Military Bases to Expand Control of the Region
#18 Little Known Stock Fraud Could Weaken U.S. Economy
#19 Child Wards of the State Used in AIDS Experiments
#20 American Indians Sue for Resources; Compensation Provided to Others
#21 New Immigration Plan Favors Business Over People
#22 Nanotechnology Offers Exciting Possibilities But Health Effects Need Scrutiny
#23 Plight of Palestinian Child Detainees Highlights Global Problem
#24 Ethiopian Indigenous Victims of Corporate and Government Resource Aspirations
#25 Homeland Security Was Designed to Fail

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Monday, September 26, 2005


[TPRC] My take on politics and

At TPRC over the last weekend, former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt debated former FCC Chairman Dick Wiley. Hundt was overtly political. It was absolutely clear where he stood. Wiley was significantly more opaque; often it was clear what he was against, but it was hard to understand what he was for. Hundt wore it on his sleeve -- he was all over the Republican Congress for everything from Telecom malfeasance to Energy pork to FEMA follies to Iraq idiocy to Global Warming to US unilateralism and decline. Wiley kept it to telecom, and even then he did not want to say very much.

Hundt is much more my style. I do not agree with Hundt on everything, but I do agree on the major points. At TPRC, Hundt's major point was that if the United States is to remain player in the global economy it must produce goods that people in other countries want. This is not likely to happen in the "atoms" economy, the carbon economy, the raw materials and manufacturing economy -- other countries can clearly mine and manufacture better than the US can. The information economy must be the engine of US growth, but for this to happen, the US must have cheap, ubiquitous broadband. Hundt says communications services should be priced at almost zero, with free voice telephony and broadband priced low enough to not be an unnecessary burden. Hundt says that we should use information systems to free ourselves from dependence on transportation systems (and meanwhile Congress passes a 286 billion subsidy for asphalt and concrete).

Ahem? $286B could wire America with hot and cold running wired and wireless gigabits in every city, town and pasture. This turn of events would put Dick Wiley's law firm, Wiley, Rein and Fielding, and all of its clients out of business. So Wiley kept his remarks narrowly focussed on telecom. He had to. Was he going to say he was deliberately slowing down US economic growth on behalf of his clients? Was he going to say he was helping his clients hold the price of telecom services artificially high? No. Instead he came off as "apolitical" (and angry at Hundt's overt politics). Wiley is not my style.

In the Q & A period, I had a chance to ask a question. I asked, approximately, "Suppose we knew that the Big One (a huge California earthquake) would occur in exactly one year, what would you have the FCC Chairman do? Wiley didn't seem to get it; he said, "Well, it'd take longer than a year to prepare for that." Hundt, on the other hand, had several concrete suggestions. First, he'd accelerate wireless mesh deployment. Then he'd get a satellite emergency long haul network deployed (over existing satellite facilities). And third, he'd ask all the relevant governors, PUC heads, mayors, etc., what their emergency plan was, and keep asking until they drew one up. (The difference in the way Wiley and Hundt was illustrative.)

However, despite my words about Reed Hundt, I do not think Democrats, in general, have any special claim to goodness. Most of them are no better friends of the open Internet than are most Republicans. The best current telecom bill before Congress is the (bipartisan) McCain-Lautenberg Community Broadband Act. And the best friend of the Internet on the Supreme Court appears to be Justice Scalia, a Reagan-nominated conservative. If there is to be a generalization about the two parties, it is that neither is the Internet party.) is not a job. It is a mission. I am not trying to introduce a protocol or grow a company or push a product. Instead, I am trying to save -- and grow -- the Internet, to keep it open, to make it a force for human benefit. This is a political endeavor. And it is connected to other political endeavors; the Internet, as it currently operates, is a tool of free speech and decentralized democracy. The Internet that others envision has other political aims. Therefore, this blog is political. And it is going to stay that way.

So, my conclusion, after much mulling, is that if you do not like the political aspect of, you are welcome to not read it. Or, as one commentor pointed out, you're welcome to skip the articles tagged "politics." I hope you won't, but there's nothing to force you to read any of it.

Or maybe you don't like the *direction* of this blog's politics. If that's the case, I'd much prefer that you comment on the politics you disagree with. Let's talk about it! I'm sure I'll learn a lot from your input; the readers of are smart people. I've already learned a lot from you. I'd be sorry to see the process weakened by your lack of participation.

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More on Politics and

Martin Geddes (whose opinion is always worth considering) cuts to the quick of it when he writes:
Well, as I once noted, the stupid network inherently embodies certain political attititudes and beliefs. So if you stop writing about politics, you'll have to write about crochet or birdwatching instead.

On the other hand, I do think you lose favour with otherwise "friendly" readers by including stuff that isn't related to telecom. Particularly when all the ills of the world get heaped on a cerain G. W. B.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Politics on

Today Henry Sinnreich, the Godfather of SIP at MCI, told me I should leave overt politics out of this blog. His point was that we have plenty enough work to do to get the network right.

What do *you* think?

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Block that app

Damn network users, always interfering with the operation of networks. They run applications that use bandwidth. They choose "free" instead of "paid." This must stop. Doug Mohoney writes
LAST WEEK, Verso Technologies ( announced the rollout of a "carrier-grade applications filter" that can block so-called bandwidth drains such as Skype, P2P messaging, streaming media, and instant messaging.
David Weinberger, who called this to my attention, writes,
. . . it's free and people like it, hence it must die.
Clearly the best network is one that has no users and supports no apps.

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Monday, September 19, 2005


Regulation destroys competition

At the August 5, 2005 meeting of the FCC, following the Supreme Court's decision that cable modem connectivity is an information service, the FCC leveled (lowered) the playing field by declaring that DSL, too, is an information service. These decisions remove the common carrier obligation of the line owner to share -- non-carrier ISPs like Earthlink are left to twist slowly in the wind. The industry is, for all intents, re-verticalized.

The central idea of the Telecom Act of 1996 -- that competition would replace regulation -- is all but dead. Regulation has systematically fought competition since 1996. Regulation has won.

The last two areas of potential competition, municipal networks and multimodalism, are being reduced to struggling also-rans. (Muni networks are under attack on every front, and the Powell drive for multimodal facilities-based competition isn't getting the emphasis it deserves in the Martin FCC.)

At least FCC Commissioner Copps realized the enormity of the experiment the FCC is doing. On August 5, he wrote
I objected strenuously to [the FCC's] original reclassification of cable modem and our tentative reclassification of wireline broadband. But the Supreme Court['s Brand X decision] has fundamentally changed the legal landscape . . . The handwriting is on the wall. DSL will be reclassified . . . [T]oday . . . we take the dramatic step of reclassifying DSL in order to spur broadband deployment and to help consumers. I want us to test that proposition a year from now. If by next year consumers have more broadband options, lower prices, higher speeds and better services, maybe this proposition holds true. If our broadband take-rate reverses course and the United States begins to climb up the ladder of broadband penetration rather than falling further behind so many other nations, then we’ll have something to crow about . . . I hope next year the Commission will put its money where its mouth is and check to see if its theory yields real world results for American consumers. And if it doesn’t achieve these results, I hope we’ll admit it. I plan to keep tabs.
Certainly the FCC has the authority to revisit its decision; it is a reasonable interpretation of law. But if they do, I'll be very surprised. I'm afraid that Copps is living in a reality-based fantasy world.

Thanks to Francois Menard, writing on the Cybertelecom list, for pointing me to this.

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Friday, September 16, 2005


Picture >1kword


For those reading this with RSS, paste this into your browser:

Thanks to Lee Dryburgh for alerting me to this!

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Open Internet, We Hardly Knew Ye

Great Wired News article entitled, Open Internet, We Hardly Knew Ye, by Jennifer Granick says
Hurricane Katrina tore families away from their homes and from each other. And with the Gulf Coast in chaos, electricity out and cell-phone towers down, people in far-flung places across the United States turned to the robust, decentralized internet to find their loved ones.

Almost immediately, there were too many sites to choose from. A grandchild looking for her grandmother, or a father for his son and wife, had literally dozens of online databases to search. The internet offered a solution here as well. An international, ad hoc group of self-described geeks built a system that automatically combined information from the dozens of refugee listing sites into a single, searchable database that family members could use to find each other.

That database, at, is tangible evidence of the beauty and power of internet technology in the hands of well-meaning citizens.
But under a permission-only legal regime, the volunteers would have had to contact every site with listing data and ask for authorization to use the information first. With dozens of sites popping up in the days following the storm, getting permission would have taken a lot of time — if the site owners could even be reached and convinced of the merit of the idea in the first place.

On the internet, having to ask permission first can kill the creation of a useful new tool.

The law should treat the internet as open by default — a public resource rather than a gated community. This doesn’t mean that we can’t protect our networked computers or data with copyright law, passwords, firewalls or perhaps even terms-of-service agreements. But rather than asking whether a user obtained permission to access computers connected to the internet, the law should ask whether the owner did anything to prevent public access.

In the absence of intellectual property protection or technological barriers to information access, courts and legislatures must allow free, unfettered use of data and machines that owners place online and leave publicly accessible.

It’s an accident of technology that data published on the internet must be contained on computer servers. By giving owners too many rights to control whether and when the public accesses those servers, we will lose the very openness that makes the internet particularly cool. We’ll also lose the rights that we already have in the real world, to comparison shop, to search, to collect information or even to help hurricane victims find each other.
Thanks to Steve Guich for the pointer!

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Quote of Note: Hossein Eslambolchi

"To me Skype is like a toy."

Hossein Eslambolchi, AT&T's CTO and CIO, and AT&T Fellow, to a packed house at Harvard yesterday.

Disruptive technologies always appear to incumbents as toys.

The use of the T-word reminded me of then-CEO Bob Allen's 1995 speech almost exactly ten years ago, on September 12, 1995, where he said,
". . . we have all spent a lot of money in trials and experiments trying to force the technology into the minds of the consumers. Until we find applications that are easy to use, affordable, make people's lives easier and prove their bottom line, online services are merely going to be toys. But . . . we are beginning to get it right, and . . . [they] will be a big part of people's lives one day."
[I was in the audience. My memory was that he said, "Until . . . the Internet will be a toy . . . " But a paper transcript, obtained years later, says " . . . online services . . . ", and that's what I documented above and in SMART Letter #25.]

David Weinberger blogged a nice set of rough notes of Hossein Eslambolchi's talk.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Coalition of spooks, suits and vandals

This article in The Guardian paints a tale of digital freedoms under attack as plausible as a hurricane strike on New Orleans. It says, in part:
In an era whose triumphant idea is capitalism, where success is generally measured in the accumulation of wealth, it is hard to conceive of a[n on-line] parallel society established and self-governed on principles of trust and common ownership. But it exists. The biggest aggregation of human experience and knowledge ever created belongs to everyone, it is available on demand and it is free.

But for how long? Ranged against the new culture of digital freedom is a strange coalition of spooks, suits and vandals. There are governments unable to resist the technology that can track our every move; there are corporations lusting after the attention of the 2 billion eyeballs focused on screens; and there are the spammers, clogging up the net with junk mail, hijacking computers to peddle trash.

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Monday, September 12, 2005


McDonalds sues city for making burgers?

Almost that bizarre, but not exactly.

Qwest -- the former disruptive fiber player that wisely bought an ILEC so it'd be too big to shut down -- is suing the City of Portland for running a municipal network. The Oregonian reports
Portland's $14 million system links several city offices, and a few government agencies outside the city, to a network of fiber-optic cable that carries city phone calls and Internet traffic . . . The Integrated Regional Network Enterprise [IRNE] . . . provides super-fast Internet connections the city couldn't otherwise afford.
Qwest's latest suit, filed late last week in U.S. District Court, calls IRNE an illegal, government-sponsored competitor. Qwest complains that the city is abusing its regulatory authority by forcing telecom companies to connect IRNE to their networks in exchange for permission to use city-owned rights of way for the companies' private networks.

"It provides, basically, unfair competition and makes it very, very difficult for the private sector to compete," said Judy Peppler, Qwest's Oregon president.

Portland grants IRNE access to the Oregon Department of Transportation, the Port of Portland, Metro and other government agencies, which Peppler said robs telecom companies of large, lucrative customers.
I think I've got it. Qwest is saying, "What's our traffic, generated by your city government, doing on your city network?" Clearly the city network is interfering with Qwest's Freedom to Connect to its (putatively wholly owned) customers.

Qwest seeks to set a dangerous precedent. The article says
Qwest['s suit] asks the court to stop Portland from forcing telecom companies to connect to IRNE.

If the interconnection requirement of the Telecom Act is weakened or overturned, the sound of one hand clapping will echo throughout the land.

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Content blocking in UK

Harvard Law Professor Jonathan Zittrain (a Berkman Center mentor) is at a "cybersafety" conference in the UK this week, where he ran into some breath-taking content blocking. He writes
. . . I searched for the "virtual child pornography case," to find Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition. What I got instead was not only a block page, but a note that the IT manager would be investigating whether the "attempted access to illegal material" was intentional or unintentional.
The Internet is acting as D.A. and court system? (That's a some smart 'net.) The IT manager serves as detective/enforcer? (I guess they teach "intent detection" right after they teach system upgrades.) JZ continues
I'm on a Vodafone wireless CDMA card as I type, and can't get to Orkut -- that appears to be for "over 18 only," and after a byzantine process to enable the card for "adult" content, I still find it blocked.
Signs of an Internet where "Everything is forbidden even when it is permitted." Freedom to Connect? Not.

UPDATE: Here's a prose-grab of the "Ashcroft v. Free Speech" block page that JZ got:
Webpage address:
Said Business School
University of Oxford

The webpage you have tried to download has been blocked. This page may pose a threat to network security, or contain offensive, pornographic, illegal or other inappropriate material. Attempted access to blocked webpages is logged and in cases of intentional access computers and users will be traced.

If you inadvertently attempted to access the unauthorised content, no action will be taken.

Intentional access to websites containing offensive, pornographic, illegal or other inappropriate material is in breach of School and University regulations and may lead to suspension of network access and disciplinary action. Browsing or downloading files from websites containing illegal material may lead to criminal prosecution. If you believe the website should not be blocked please contact the Network Manager, Said Business School.
UPDATE #2: Here's the Vodaphone block page that JZ got when he tried to access Orkut:

It says:
If you're 18 years old or over, you can easily remove Vodaphone Content Control. Go to About Content Control below for further information and details about how to remove it now.
Link to this page.
Link to About Content Control page.

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We resume our regularly scheduled blogging

My last post was on September 6 . . . sorry! I've had other fish to fry.

I am trying to catch up, but geez! I'm 133 posts behind on Dave Farber's IP list. BoingBoing? Fuhgedaboudit. The news? Sure looks like the Mississippi mud is getting deeper (while CNN does more fuzzy puppy stories).

It's not even like I was off line for this interval, just busy, that's all . . .

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Who will be the Dan Gillmor of government?

All kinds of wonderful Gulf Coast grassroots help efforts listed here (thanks Adina) and here (thanks Ethan) and here. And the Wikipedia coverage grows deeper and more accurate every day.

Who will do for government what Dan Gillmor did for the press? That is, who will effectively "break" the story that citizens know more than government officials, can act faster, cheaper, more effectively, in a better-targetted way . . . ?

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Duck and CYA

Aptly, September is National Security Month. Got duct tape?

In a Nuclear Blast,
" . . . close windows and doors, turn off air conditioners, heaters or other ventilation systems. Stay where you are, watch TV, listen to the radio, or check the Internet for official news . . . "
In a Flood
Listen to the radio or television for information . . . If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture . . . Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.
In a Hurricane
Moor your boat if time permits . . . [and then] . . . lie on the floor under a table or another sturdy object.
Every day in September there's a "Tip of the Day." Today's tip says
. . . remember to practice your tornado, fire escape or other disaster plans.
OK, so I am blogging this sitting under my desk covered by a wet blanket.
Who writes this stuff? Jackie Mason? Chris Rock? Jon Stewart? (Nah, Stewart makes jokes about real news.) Do we actually pay tax dollars for this, tax dollars that could be used, oh, say, for kevlar vests in Iraq, vaccine research, stronger levees, conservation (as in conservative) or alternative energy research?

Thanks to Jerry Nelson for pointing to this gala holiday. Jerry writes,
Karen Hughes, Bush's newly named Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, will be contacting you with tips on how to stage your 911 Anniversary Celebrations.
We don't need smaller government. We don't need bigger government. We need Competent Government. Throw these Homeland pretender bums out.

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Sunday, September 04, 2005


Wise People Don't Rush In

David P. Reed, writing on Dave Farber's IP List, reminds us:
During [the September 11, 2001 incidents], Internet based communications worked pretty well. The result was that reporters descended on "experts" like me to try to get a "money quote" that the Internet was designed to withstand Global Thermonuclear War. When I pointed out that that was not the case, it took a lot of effort to keep them from calling the next guy in search of the story they wanted (truth be damned).

Now it seems that everyone is claiming their technology (including some, like "self-organizing mesh radios" that don't exist yet) would be the "best" solution for Katrina-like disasters.

I'd submit, Dave, that most of the "experts" don't know much at all about the situation faced in Katrina. The technologies being discussed may or may not be useful for the actual jobs at hand.

Trunked radio systems (which are the most common police and fire systems) have central points of failure, and showed problems in 9/11. Cellular systems are not engineered for disasters, and may or may not degrade gracefully. 2-way systems with repeaters like Ham radios can be quite useful, but don't scale well.

Mesh systems look promising, but they've hardly been tried in such situations.

It seems less likely that "hardening" existing systems is the proper approach, compared to rethinking the overall emergency comms architecture to focus on resiliency via flexibility and internetwork interoperability.

If we want to deploy more resilient communications systems for near and far future emergencies, I'm sure we could, given resolve and innovative/creative thought coupled with engineering judgment. But it's a sad waste to focus all this "expert" energy on Katrina's relationship to today's random collection of technologies, as if we are trying to be Cisco, Verizon Wireless, or Tropos shills.

If we rush in with today's half-baked, transitional technologies, we could find ourselves in situation analogous to that created by the Help America Vote Act, where the cure is worse than the disease. Let's do what we can to help Katrina's suffering victims, but then let's take a step back. And think.

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Saturday, September 03, 2005


Quote of Note: Mary Landrieu

"Yesterday, I was hoping President Bush would come away from his tour of the regional devastation triggered by Hurricane Katrina with a new understanding for the magnitude of the suffering and for the abject failures of the current Federal Emergency Management Agency . . . Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a presidential photo opportunity . . .

" . . . I understand that the U.S. Forest Service had water-tanker aircraft available to help douse the fires raging on our riverfront, but FEMA has yet to accept the aid. When Amtrak offered trains to evacuate significant numbers of victims - far more efficiently than buses - FEMA again dragged its feet. Offers of medicine, communications equipment and other desperately needed items continue to flow in, only to be ignored by the agency."

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La quoted here.

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Friday, September 02, 2005


Un-Presidented Disaster

Uh huh. Video here (following brief commercial).

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"Talk to us, Mister President. Tell us why."

As the magnitude of the Hurricane Katrina chaos meets massive unresponsiveness, even CNN reporters and the Mayor of New Orleans are joining Cindy Sheehan's plaint, "Talk to us, Mister President. Tell us why."

They are saying, President Bush, get your ass on an airplane and come talk to us. Tell us why CNN can get here but FEMA, the Red Cross and the National Guard can't.

No electricity, no water, martial law, looting, police stations under siege, shooting at copters, total breakdown of security, detached leaders (Chertoff, Bush) that don't know what CNN watchers do . . . New Orleans has become Baghdad on the Mississippi. Why, Mr. Bush? Why?

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Quote of Note: George W. Bush

"I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees."

U.S. President George W. Bush on "Good Morning America" TV Show, September 1, 2005.

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Thursday, September 01, 2005


Three catastrophes foreseen by FEMA

According to this 12/1/01 article in the Houston Chronicle:
Federal Emergency Management Agency ranked the potential damage to New Orleans as among the three likeliest, most castastrophic disasters facing this country. The other two? A massive earthquake in San Francisco, and, almost prophetically, a terrorist attack on New York City.
Solution: cut FEMA's budget: FEMA obituary here.

Hat trick? Hope not. Hope SF has better foresight than NO.

Update: Steve Crandall says, "Nobody can say they didn't see it coming," and cites this 2001 Scientific American Article.

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