Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Oh faithful Esims... come thee yonder

I click refresh with
a mechanical finger
looking, praying,
coming back to linger

and yet it blinks at me
with unforgiving eyes
my email is empty
it does not lie

The grad schools laugh
at my measly GPA
whilst I drink
my worries far away

Maybe, soon a sign will come
of grades to be...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hello? Can you hear me now?

The gamut of what is classified as “disaster” runs wide. The interpersonal hell of a couple divorcing is a type of disaster seeing an unwelcome growth. The unspeakable horrors of genocide fall on the larger scale of disaster. A semester of abysmal grades, the death of a family member, a terrorist attack, paella gone terribly wrong… In the aftermath of disasters we ask ourselves What Went Wrong?

Analyzing the reasons for the Katrina disaster brings with it the inescapable interconnectedness of the factors associated with the reasons, effects and far reaching consequences of the days of the hurricane. In the innumerable readings, video’s, documentaries and associated media we are exposed to a barrage of reasoning for why it all went so horribly wrong. Frontline’s investigation into “The Storm” examines how local, state, and federal governments dealt with the Hurricane Katrina Disaster. As with other documentaries, this one provided compelling footage into the real life events of the week in New Orleans that no one will forget. What was unique to this documentary was the apparent blame game that officials on every level played. From FEMA to the Bush administration “The Storm”

Questioned big wigs about who, and what was responsible for the ultimate fail to respond in a time of need, a need for action. And as stated by David Brooks the "human storm" – brought with it the recriminations, the political conflict and the battle over compensation.

Yet even as I sit and listen to the video’s message and read the scholarly writings that seek so vehemently to discover to true cause of the disaster, one word speaks volumes while the rest fall upon deaf ears.


Interoperability speaks to the need for people to be able to effectively communicate, to operate between bureaucracies. Something that was severally lacking within the agencies responsible for the clean up for Hurricane Katrina and the delivery of help to desperate people. While these agencies sat back bickering and placing blame on each other, people continued to die. So while the fingers for the cause of this disaster can be pointed at nature, at a lack of infrastructure, at an overriding racist mentality, or any other convenient reasons offered, the reason for what went wrong at the crucial hour was in fact the lack of interoperability between everyone involved.

We’ve long discussed digital communications both in our class and in our society, yet in a classic example, composed of the usual suspects, those same forms of communications did little to produce action. Along with a greater sense of preparedness there needs to be a more efficient way for government agencies to a) interact and b) get things accomplished. Without it, it’s like playing a game of broken telephone. One says “Guys, please help. Our phones have no service and our homes are flooded” and the other hears… “Our guys are being serviced, and I’m getting it all on my phone.”

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Singing the New Orleans Blues...

New Orleans is a city of many influences, cultures, histories, legends- it is a city with heart and with soul. Soulful as the song it plays; the melancholy background to a long and assorted history of settlers, immigrants, slaves and ideologies. Initially, the French and Spanish settled along the banks of the Mississippi river, a gold mine for coastal commerce. With the introduction of African slaves, New Orleans had begun on the path to its uniqueness. Adding to this new cultural and racial mix was the progressiveness of the city in the allowance of rights to freed slaves. New Orleans saw a cultural cultivation of a city unlike any other. With the events of reconstruction, segregation and the civil rights movement it would be some time before stable progress would be made yet with the addition of Caribbeans and Cajuns to the cultural hodgepodge, New Orleans and its people came to embody a true cultural heterogeneity

While cultural influences played huge roles in the formation of the New Orleans as we know it today, the geographical location and circumstances ultimately molded the city into its present state. Built by the Mississippi river’s sediment deposits, the city historical patterns of growth were based on differences in elevation and the relative proximity to both commerce and danger. Even though New Orleans is geographically magnificent in terms of trade the actual site of the city is located in a dangerous and precarious environment. Flooding has been a constant threat to its existence.

After the failed attempts of reconstruction, the status of blacks was again reverted to inferior levels and as with other cities in America the most dangerous and economically unfortunate areas were designated to blacks. While the country was fighting for civil rights, white flight was taking place in a constant flow, unlike that of the Mississippi itself. Middle class whites moved out into the suburbs at alarming rates. Blacks who previously held prestigious positions as doctors, lawyers, and politicians were startled to find that their city was now in a perilous fight. A fight up against the prejudices and discrimination of the times as well as the formation of ghettos, the crack-cocaine epidemic, and influx of crime. With poverty rates sky rocketing, segregation was at an all time high encompassing at least two of the indexes (dissimilarity and isolation). A similar tune is heard over many cities across America, one that sings of inequality, disadvantages, and a history of discrimination.

It is with these realities of life in New Orleans that discourse about Hurricane Katrina must stem from. While the hurricane was a natural disaster the circumstance within which it took place, the consequences of the structural racism can not be ignored. Yet they were ignored as were the multiple warning by scholars, engineers and the army about the faulty construction of cities crucial anti flood constructs. Both metaphorically and literally a blind eye was turned to the protection of the city and its black population. A second wave reconstruction is in order. One that reconstructs the city physically and realizes the challenges of this unique city on a sociological level.