Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Some News Items of Interest

New Orleans Violence During Katrina Exaggerated
Apparently, the social collapse among New Orleanians awaiting evacuation from the Louisiana Superdome and the New Orleans Convention Center during the flooding following Hurricane Katrina's passage through the central Gulf Coast was vastly over-reported. This is the conclusion of two reporters for the Seattle Times. While it si true that there was a degree of violence, and certainly a great deal of looting, the "crime wave" of armed gangs, and rapes and murders was nothing compared to the "storm surge" of media reports that have given an ugly image of the citizens of that city across the country and around the world. One example: It was reported that there were as many as 200 bodies in the Superdome; the actual count was -- six. Of these, four died from natural causes, one died as the result of an overdose, and one fell or jumped in what may have been a suicide attempt. A similar "return to reality" is found with the initially-reported numbers at the Convention Center. (You should follow the link and check out the article.)

Commentary: Much has been made of the "racism" that is supposedly pervasive in our society, based upon the reports that came as we sat (helplessly) and watched the flooding of an American city, and the desperation of those who sought to escape from the terrible conditions this caused. I don't know about anyone else, but the main thing on my mind as I watched the reports was, "What would I do if my family and I were in similar circumstances?" Did anyone think, or know anyone who actually said, that "those people" -- and, for those of you who aren't "plugged in", that's a code phrase for the minority group that you disdain -- "those people" deserved what happened to them? I know that there are some on the "Christian right" who saw the devastation as "God's punishment" for the sins of New Orleans, such as the "gay celebration parade" that was scheduled to take place shortly after the storm hit. (It did, in fact, occur -- just on a much smaller scale than in the past.) I would suggest that these folks haven't got a clue about God; or else God wanted innocent people with absolutely no connection to the event in question to suffer as well -- I guess, to underline and highlight the infamy of these "perverts." Nah...

It seems to me that, if anyone should be questioned about "racism" in these reports, it is the reporters! After all, they seem to tbe the ones who took unsubstantiated (or undersubtantiated) information and broadcast it as "fact." Can't always believe what ya read in the papers, or see on the tube...

Micropower Generation Gets Renewed Attention
Let me call to your attention two reports by the BBC on an avenue of power generation that, to me, holds some potential for making a transition away from the fossil-fuel-based energy economy of today. The first is entitled, "Microgrids as Peer-to-Peer Energy" (think of it as the "Napster" of the energy world -- talk about your "power user!"); while the second is, "Turn Your Home into a Mini Power Station." The first looks at some theoretical aspects; while the second is a down-to-earth examination of some practical (and not-so-practical) alternatives that are available to the "average" homeowner today. Oh, the costs are reported in pounds sterling; but if you're so inclined, you can do the conversions: 1 pound sterling = 1.7666 U.S. dollars.

Ah, the sweet scent of vindication. Back in the late 1970's, as a graduate student in an Environmental Studies program at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (not the party school - that was in Carbondale!), I read extensively into the concept of community-based, small-scale power generation as a way to effectively utilize alternative sources of power in order to go "off the grid" by making power locally. As a Research Analyst for the Arizona State Senate in the early 1980's, I tried to find someone among the senators who would introduce legislation to allow communities to organize themselves into "special districts" that could issue bonds for the purpose of small-scale power generation and distribution -- something that could be applied within a single residential subdivision, or commercial cluster, or industrial park. No one was interested. There was, during that time, one homebuilder in the greater Phoenix area - John F. Long -- who actually tried to interest homebuyers into some ways his designers developed to conserve energy, but no one was interested -- at least, not in numbers sufficient to make the project viable.

Anyone agree with me that it's time to re-visit the subject?