Monday, September 05, 2005

In the Aftermath of Disaster

(first, from ace of spades HQ http://ace.mu.nu/)

“As was observed by someone I'm too lazy to google, 10% of people are naturally and almost wholly good, and will do the right thing under any situation. 10% are naturally and almost wholly evil, and will do evil under any situation, even when it's really not even in their best interests.

80% have a situational morality, and will be good when civilization demands it, and enforces order, and will do evil when civlization permits it, or disintegrates due to chaos, whether natural or man-made.

Most rioters and looters fall into that 80%. They see the 10% who jump at the chance to destroy or steal, and notice that they suffer no consequences. So they too join in.

Order has to be restored quickly, and roughly if necessary, to bring such folks back into a state of orderliness.”

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If you have any desire to grasp what is actually required for a relief effort on the scale of that needed by Katrina, check Countercolumn: all your bias are belong to us! (http://www.iraqnow.blogspot.com/)

There are some excellent detailed descriptions of the logistical considerations of moving and deploying supplies and transport across hundreds of miles of blasted landscape where the roads are destroyed and blocked by debris, and fuel supplies FOR THE TRANSPORT VEHICLES must be carried in addition to the relief supplies.

Living in San Francisco Bay Area (Fremont) for a decade, I found myself dating a lady with a five-year-old son. It reminded me how much trouble *I* had gotten into as a little kid, and eventually got me thinking I needed to be much better prepared for disaster on all scales. I took a 12-week Red Cross course in Wilderness Emergency Response AND CERT training from the local fire department.

The first words of the firefighter giving the first lesson of the CERT training sobered me up. He told us: In the event of a Mag7 quake in the East Bay (between San Jose and Oakland), it was expected that some 20,000 or more people would sustain injuries requiring treatment to prevent bleeding to death and restore functionality IN THE FIRST TWO MINUTES of the quake. Meanwhile, at any moment for the same geographic area there are on duty only about 200 trained circulating responders — police officers, firefighters, ambulance crew, etc. Hospitals and their staff will instantly be overwhelmed by damage, injuries, and new patients presenting themselves. Streets will be clogged and impassable. You can expect a period on the order of two weeks MINIMUM before any organized relief is fully established, so during that time you will probably have to rely upon your own preparations and training.

That sort of information was available to anyone who bothered to take a few minutes to skim any of the earthquake preparedness pamphlets that are distibuted in ton lots around the bay area, but who bothers?

From the IDIOTIC statements and accusations of the media, I have to conclude those pathetickers have no more bothered to research the realities of disaster relief than they bother to educate themselves on any other issue. The reporters and commentators of the Mainstream News Media are among the most irresponsible rascals on salary. They refuse to take any responsibility for their own accuracy, research or preparedness.

I've already ranted in an earlier blog (“The Ossification of the Fourth Estate”) about the sorry state of journalism. But it's a situation that needs much remediation. We have an astounding system of distribution for news and information. The shame of it is that the alleged News Media have become the refuge of the incompetent and the delusional. There is certainly a critical value to a free society in having a press that is free to express contrarian, diverse, and even obnoxious views. It is after all a fundamental concept of information theory that data contrary to your expectations and assumptions are far more important than information that simply confirms them.

But hiding behind sacred principle of Freedom of the Press, mediocrity and sensational commercialism have long since driven out the last shreds of responsible

Reporters ask staggeringly stupid questions at White House, FEMA and Homeland Security press briefings, and make absurd complaints and critiques in their articles. This is nothing new. As long as there have been college diplomas, Degrees in Journalism have always included on the reverse, a fine-print warning: "Caution: The issuance of this diploma only certifies that the holder was recorded in attendance for the required class sessions, and is not intended to imply that the diplomate is capable of logical, rational, or responsible research, inquiry, composition, grammar, or conversation." I was always counseled by other students and even faculty advisors, that if I found myself unable to cope with the rigors of hard science, math, philosophy, history, geography, English, or Art... there was always the Journalism major as a last resort.

Seriously, only supreme arrogance or delusion can explain how anyone presumes to be smart enough extemporaneously to analyse and critique the work, performance, history, psychological profile, sociological ramifications, scientific under-pinnings, and political leanings of any person, subject, thought, statement, or "sound-byte" that wanders into range. It is *INSANE* to assert that any human is enough of a genius to be able to grasp the nuances of any field of study, any profession, any art, disaster, or political wrangle, then pass on to the rest of us a few nuggets of wisdom we can use to make sense of a bewildering world.

And yet news reporters routinely make sweeping pronouncements and judgments on whatever subject comes along, and expect never to be challenged.

The behavior of the mainstream news media (and the people that echo their braying) are just another demonstration of how utterly contemptible and irresponsible they have become. Sometimes it seems as though it is only by accident, or by assuming the opposite of any assertion they make, that you can any longer find any useful information there.

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