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Haiti & Relief Logistics

·January 15th, 2010·

Red Cross Volunteer

I have been watching some of the coverage regarding the terrible tragedy in Haiti right now and I am beginning to see some “commentary creep” regarding why food/water/first aid is “slow” in getting into Haiti.

Having served with the Red Cross in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I can offer some insight on the type of logistical problems a major disaster provides.  When I arrived to serve the Gulf Coast as a Red Cross government liaison, we could not land in Mississippi.  We had to arrive in Birmingham, AL and get cars to drive to Biloxi, MS.  By the time we reached Mobile, AL it was apparent is was going to be difficult driving the remaining hour or so to our destination.

Bridges were damaged and roads were severely restricted by debris and the masses of trucks of supplies driving westward.  So, it took about 5 hours to drive 1 hours worth.  We even got into a fender-bender with someone slamming on their brakes to avoid debris.  When we finally did get further into MS, it became so frighteningly clear what we were up against.

There was no electricity, no stores, no restaurants open at that time and there was a strict curfew after dark.  It was easy to see why.  The landscape was decimated, devastated and utterly destroyed.  Trying to organize all the supplies to reach everyone along the Coast was a logistical nightmare.  It was not for a lack of effort, or trying.  It was simply extremely slow-going and everyone had to work around broken bridges, debris filled streets to try and get points of distribution set up and mobile relief vehicles on schedules amidst the destruction.

Disaster relief is initially a slow, painstaking process.  And that is in the United States.  This is Haiti, the 4th impoverished nation in the world.  Haiti’s airport was not meant to handle the amount of air traffic it is trying to accommodate at this moment.  In addition, its tower was destroyed and some areas of the tarmac compromised.  So to land a C-130 filled with equipment, unload it/refuel is a not a quick turnaround.

Then comes the problem of getting that machinery over heavily damaged roads in a 4th world country.  One cannot imagine how large a task this is.  Their port is damaged, so that’s out of the equation.  In addition, Haiti is an island.  Our aircraft carrier has just arrived and the USS Comfort is days away.  It’s not as though one can airdrop supplies upon the collapsed buildings.

I say this because I feel so sick about the tragedy and wish I could help out on the ground.  My heart goes out to all the Haitians–struggling to survive, struggling to stay alive, trapped and praying for rescue and for the countless lives lost–and to their families in the United States as well.  My heartfelt thanks to all those on the ground trying to make a difference and help in this Herculean effort.

This is a disaster of unimaginable proportion.  The logistical challenge is immense and I hope the commentary doesn’t turn into a chorus of “why is it taking so long?”  Their government is virtually gone and I am sure everyone is doing everything they can to get in to provide relief.

P.S.  To Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson & Rep. King: Can you really call yourselves “Christians?”  If so, your God has a special place for you.

Keep on Walkin…

·January 8th, 2010·

Here is another song from my friend Joel Schaan, a Twin Cities based singer/songwriter. The song is called “Keep On Walkin” and if you like what you hear, please check him out on iTunes.  He is also a part of the Twin Cities bands “Test Site 67” and “New Primitives.”  Support local music :)  P.S.  I designed the Test Site 67 site and has some “Easter Eggs” hidden within.

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One of my favorite songs….

·January 8th, 2010·

I just wanted to share one of my favorite songs written and performed by a good friend of mine, Joel Schaan.  The song is called “Wishin’ The Worst” and if you like what you hear, please check him out on iTunes.

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Governing in the “Social Age”

·December 17th, 2009·

When I turned on the news this morning,  there was a lot of buzz about a new poll regarding President Obama’s job approval rating.

NBC/WSJ Poll

If you were to take this at face value, you would assume that Obama has been steadily failing and ready to have more people disapprove than approve of him.  The problem with polling is that when you go through the questions they asked (http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/MSNBC/Sections/NEWS/A_Politics/___Politics_Today_Stories_Teases/091215_NBC_WSJ_Poll.pdf), you’ll find they ask direct questions regarding if one approves of some type of healthcare reform, yet they do not ask if the respondent if they “know the details on what is being debated.”  In addition, there was not one question in their polling regarding how respondents regard Healthcare Insurance companies.

These are important questions because quite frankly, “ordinary citizens” do not understand anything in the bills being discussed.  They get their viewpoint from the news (on this poll 27% said they get their news from Fox), or from the “chilling, ominous commercials” touting “massive tax increases” and essentially a guarantee you will lose your job if healthcare reform passes.

This brings us to social media.  I think we have quickly gone from one revolution to another.  Our last revolution was the Technological Revolution (TR) with the advent of the PC & Internet.  I think we have moved into the “Social Revolution (SR).”

Information now quickly changes hands faster than it did before.  In the (TR), you might get a chain letter about something of interest, or a blog post might gain notoriety and referenced in mainstream media.  Now, the tools for immediate dissemination of information (valid or not) is in the hands of anyone possessing a phone, computer, or their library card to access a computer.  Twitter & Facebook has, in the spirit of Thomas Friedman, flattened the information landscape and balled it up.  Hashtags, Lists, Trending Topics, followers and synergies between all these services allow for someone to say something and it potentially reaches millions of people in an instant.  Gutenberg isn’t turning in his grave, but definitely has a large petrified phallus.

In fact, when I post this entry, it will be simultaneously posted on my Twitter account available to my followers (hopefully) retweeted to their followers (and on and on).  It will also be posted to my Facebook account.  If that were not enough, this article can be shared by clicking on one of the handy sharing links at the bottom of the article.

The bottom line is that this new (SR) has created the conditions where politicians need to ignore polls and ignore the chatter.  They need to act on conscience, reason, intelligence and with purpose.  If you were to poll these same Americans about how macroeconomics works, Fiscal vs Monetary policy, etc I am sure you would get a lot of blank answers.  Do most Americans think the US economy handles like a Porsche around a U-Turn?  This country was on the brink of a second great depression.  It has been pulled back from that and most indicators point toward future growth.  It has been just under a year.  But I forget.  Most Americans want what they want now! (I mean they want it yesterday).

Americans elect representatives to understand this stuff and make the decisions for them.  We do not have a true democracy.  We have a “Representative Democracy.”  Members of the Senate and House, it is high time you start acting that way and stop it with the nonsense of “more and more Americans do not want a public option.”  Quite frankly, most Americans don’t know who they want to vote for on “Dancing with the Stars” let alone whether President Obama is doing enough for the economy.

(Side Note: If you check out the pdf for the poll questions, pay attention on the leading question on the “Tea Party Movement.”)