Archive for the Haps Category

So here’s this: Southern US strawberry festival sparks a race row

Okay so, in 2009 when Bill Hemmerling died Clancy DuBose wrote…

In 2009, Bill was successfully represented at ART EXPO in New York, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and FI-ART in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. He has been honored by the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Northshore Regional Endowment for the Arts, and the African-American Heritage Museum in Aurora, Illinois, which praised “Brother Hemmerling for his tireless effort of presenting a body of work with honor and dignity.” In addition to creating the 2005 New Orleans Jazz Fest poster, Bill also was the poster artist for the 2008 and the 2009 Strawberry Festival in Ponchatoula.

So, at various points in the past, festivals, art organizations, publications, museums and expos have held the art of Bill Hemmerling up and said that it was worthy of acclaim and should be celebrated. White organizations, black organizations, organizations of mixed races, they all said it. Galleries were started. Articles were written. Exhibits were opened. Hemmerling, inexplicably, just got a pass on the questionable imagery he used in his art. He did the same stuff that is on the Festival poster. He was white. He was from Ponchatoula…and he just got a pass.

So when it is said that the organizers of the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival “should have known better” as I have read online, than to put a very similar painting by Kalle Siekkinen, who had been personally tutored by Hemmerling, I guess I have to ask. Should they have?

Maybe they looked at the acclaim heaped upon Hemmerling by ART EXPO in New York, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, FI-ART in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Northshore Regional Endowment for the Arts and the African-American Heritage Museum in Aurora, Illinois, and maybe they thought, “Well the images seem legit enough for them. They are renowned organizations. I guess we can put it on our Strawberry Festival poster.”

And the reaction on social media was, “No!!! Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival!!! You do not get a pass! You are dumb, country, white, racist people who offend and outrage us! We don’t exactly know if the people who organize the festival are but they MUST be! Only academics, curators, (big city) festival organizers and people who we generally consider (but don’t exactly know for sure) are NOT dumb, country, white, racist people can do it! We know they are doing it in a historical context and we know YOU ARE NOT!”

It would seem a more pointed and direct approach to address the concerns with the imagery with the organizations that legitimized it in the first place. The ones that essentially enabled the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival. I’m talking specifically about ART EXPO in New York, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, FI-ART in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Northshore Regional Endowment for the Arts and the African-American Heritage Museum in Aurora, Illinois. I fully encourage people to do this if they find the images offensive.

Not gonna happen though.

Online outrage goes after low hanging fruit and that fruit is the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival. Trying to explain how Hemmerling’s art was able to receive such attention in the first place is a harder nut to crack. Why did he get a pass? It probably has something to do with #standing. Ponchatoula Strawberry festival aint got none. ART EXPO in New York, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, FI-ART in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Northshore Regional Endowment for the Arts and the African-American Heritage Museum in Aurora, Illinois do.

Receiving far less publicity even though I think it addresses a more pressing and immediate social and racial concern is the artwork that was displayed in Oakwood Mall this week. This student’s artwork and the (much smaller) controversy surrounding it seems far less abstract and debatable than the Ponchatoula piece. Fear of police is a daily issue for us all. That there are police who do their best to serve and protect but are thought of as murderers is an issue. The huge rift of trust between this student and the police that have vowed to protect him perhaps represents the top social ill of our time. This student made a piece of political art and spoke his voice. This is important and it is critical to our freedom of expression.

But the story has seemed to have sputtered out while the festival poster has gone worldwide. Why? There are protests in Ferguson right now about police killings. Doesn’t this student’s art reflect how concerned he or she is about their future? Somewhere in the local area a student watched protests in Ferguson and was inspired to do something with his or her emotions on the matter and the story of it being pulled from an exhibit was just a blip on the media radar. Why was the Festival poster so sexy and this very relevant one not?

I guess because it’s an easier story to report: Small town white folks are ignorant and racist. Gets reported all the time in all sorts of ways.

Yet somehow RT EXPO in New York, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, FI-ART in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Northshore Regional Endowment for the Arts and the African-American Heritage Museum in Aurora, Illinois are not ignorant and racist despite doing the same shit.

Personally, I try not to communicate the African American experience in my art. I empathize with it but I don’t sympathize with it. I think I know it but I don’t actually know it. I have some depictions of African Americans themselves in my art. But, they aren’t meant to communicate anything about their experience in our Universe because I am not qualified to comment on it. It’s their story to tell. I wouldn’t have even tried it if I was Hemmerling. Maybe he felt stronger in his empathy than me. He went ahead and gave it a go and (for reasons I don’t agree with or even understand) was accepted for it. Looks like his pass has expired now. Or maybe his pass goes on and Kalle Siekkinen’s gets revoked.

On a side note, this week I have also heard some of the worst interpretations of art, on both sides of the debate, about this poster, about other works. Yes, art is subjective. Somehow, somewhere people became convinced that simply having an opinion or a feeling is enough. Validation of either was just not something they feel they need to present if asked. If someone sincerely wants to understand your emotions and opinions, “You just are never going to understand” or “It’s just how I feel” or “It’s just my opinion” is really upsetting. Someone is trying to relate to your opinions and feelings and it would help not to get defensive about it.

Director Mike Nichols died yesterday.  I  arranged some of his Jax Beer commercials and put them here. Because, you know, there’s a New Orleans connection to damn near everyone…

Talking dog Louis is my favorite…

Cyclist run over, killed by large truck in Marigny

I saw the aftermath of this horrible accident and was pretty damaged by it.

The response to it by some members of our community has been further damaging.

The witch hunt is on. People want the driver of the truck charged, not realizing or caring how little tangible good that will do. Not realizing how much very real damage it will inflict on someone who is undoubtedly already distraught beyond words. They want to make him an example so that others will view his situation and not make the same mistake he presumably did and cost more lives. This is after the police, who have a greater understanding of both the situation and the laws that apply to it have declined to charge him. And ultimately it is up to them to make and live with that very hard decision.

People need blame though. There always has to be fault. Someone has to always suffer. You can read through 375 comments in the story above and so many of them are about blame. The cyclist. The truck driver. Eventually of course, they start blaming each other, their philosophies and “people like” them. Many times they see themselves as perpetually victimized.

They blame “the city” whether that means politicians or planners or civic engineers, I don’t know. But before this accident people had as much of an opportunity to get involved as they are now, but didn’t. They are stirred to action by a tragedy and that’s understandable. But consider that just a few actions before this event could have helped also. Maybe some postings on a page or message board or even a conversation about the dangers of cycling on St. Claude, a state highway packed with commercial traffic from industries in St. Bernard and Plaquemines. It’s not safe. It won’t be made such. It’s a truck route. Believe it or not, we need trucks for our locally produced organic fruits and vegetables and all sorts of other items. We have to coexist with them. They can have state roads and we can stick to neighborhoods.

And “the city”? It’s ALL OF US. Citizens are part of the government. So really, if blame is to be assigned here, why did cycling activists fail to spur the types of change to prevent this types of accident? I don’t really blame activists. But see how easy it is to assign blame?

With no compassion, people callously photographed, posted and shared grotesque images of this man’s horribly disfigured corpse laying on the hot asphalt of Elysian Fields with the arrogant reasoning being “people need to see what can happen” as if the rest of us who may be sensitive to such images can’t possibly conjure the emotions without being subjected to such an assault. We are sensitive to those images because we CAN conjure them, quickly and intensely. Many of us have experienced them. Or they said “this is the only way things are going to change” as if the news accounts or descriptions of what happened wouldn’t suffice, as if there were no alternative to achieving this outcome without taking this very drastic step.

I can only assume that people were very emotional and acted in an emotional way by posting or sharing the pictures. That’s understandable. But it says a lot about the sensitivities someone lacks when they think, without consideration, that a visual battery like the images of that man’s very vulnerable vessel in the street are required to spur someone’s feelings. The damage done to everyone who viewed it is very tangible and palpable and the good they are hoping to get out of it is abstract and diffuse and can’t be proven. But the what I felt seeing it all again can be proven because I am here saying it. The sensibilities of myself and anyone who may have been damaged by the photos weren’t considered and this was stated bluntly. It was stated. Anyone who objected to them were bullied.

And Geric Geck? The victim? He had no say in it. Wasn’t given a chance. Decisions about how he would be portrayed in the very intimate moments after his death were made for him. For many people that is all they will ever know of him despite that he was an artist and a friend and an animal lover. I can say if something ever happens to me or someone I love, I would beg my fellow humans to give us our privacy.

It struck me more as gory, grotesque fetishism. There was an arrogance behind it that whoever posted it assumed they knew better what we needed to see than we did. It was unwelcome. Seeing the aftermath of the accident I can say I have never seen something so awful in my life. I had not even had a chance to just decompress or cherish the people in my life and begin to recover from it before the images began showing up in my Facebook feed. Stirring it up again.

To Sherry and Rex and Louis, the people I contacted on Facebook about taking them down, thank you for doing that. I wish more were capable of your understanding that even if it spurs folks to action, that’s not the only way to do so. It certainly was an easy way though.

I read accounts in the news of people taking photos of the dying Bourbon Street shooting victim a few weeks back, interfering with efforts to save her life. And a few years ago, there were photos of entertainer Messy Mya taken moments after he was shot posted on the Internet almost instantly. It’s never ok, for any reason.

Perhaps if in the moments after this accident someone could have simply thought to take their shirt off and enact one of our civilization’s oldest death rituals and cover this man and save him and his loved ones from the very public display of what really should have been intimate.

I ride a bike quite often in New Orleans. I ride for work, for play. I ride Uptown, West Bank, the Quarter, the Marigny, Bywater. Everywhere. I put it on a boat sometimes. I am also somewhat involved. Not as much as I should be. I could do more. We all could. I have been to marches like this and protests like this and this. I organize a conference for the future of New Orleans and have for several years. I’m involved somewhat. I should do more. That’s my failing. So, I should be exactly the type of person who should be spurred to movement by this cycling death.

Unfortunately, I will have to do so on my own because I have no wish or want to be involved with any cycling organization that feels it has to post pictures of mutilated people to promote its message. It is EXACTLY THE SAME tactic as abortion protesters who post mangled fetuses. The causes are different. But the tactic is identical.

So in people’s rush to force people to get involved through their posting of graphic imagery, perhaps they need to consider how many supporters they are losing by doing so. But maybe they will be too wrapped up in their outrage porn to realize it.

I also am forced to think about the first responders to this accident, what they saw, and what they must see every day in a routine manner. This was an isolated event that I happened to regrettably see. To them, it is an everyday part of their lives. And they aren’t allowed to process it properly because they have jobs to do. It’s their job to sort it out for the rest of us and not for themselves in their hearts and souls. But I am sure, the images and the sorrow and the experiences they go through doesn’t just vanish. They endure it. For something of a paycheck but also for duty and to try and help. And they are so often criticized and not enough thanked for it. Particularly police.

The bonafide good that someone can do is contribute to this man’s funeral fund…

Fund for Geric Geck’s final trip home

What would also do a some good is a little understanding that even tiny errors have huge consequences. But it was still an error. Whether it was an error of the cyclist or the trucker or, the most probable scenario, a little fault of both. It was an error. Similar to forgetting your keys at home or spilling coffee. One life is over. There is no need to ruin another one. Results can be achieved other ways. Human’s don’t always have to suffer.

The Universe is sometimes cruel and we have to have accept the the things we cannot change. In this incident, we cannot reverse this man’s very tragic, very sad death.

The courage to change the things we can is showing one of humanity’s essential virtues, compassion, to one of the people most affected by it, this working man from Violet.

French Market Corp. hires Jon Smith as executive director after first pick declines job over salary dispute

The first four paragraphs of this story are reminiscent of some passive aggressive cocktail party conversation. It’s all like, “Well…she KNEW we weren’t trying to pay her that much and, we ARE just a “public benefits corporation” that “returns a portion of its revenues each year to the city” so, why was she asking for more?

We don’t know because she didn’t return calls for comment.


That’s not what this post is about. But I should at least give Jon Smith one bit of advice, be very fucking careful with those parking lot contracts!

What should be stated here of course, the obligatory “wants to transform the flea market into a place known more for art made in New Orleans and Louisiana than a dumping ground for cheap products largely made overseas.”

This is what everyone has seemed to want for the French Market for years and years, presumably back into the days when the thing began to change in the first place. I don’t know the history of it and how it happened but its return is an ideal that even an idealistic person may begin to think is increasingly more and more unlikely simply based on the fact that the French Market is actually fine the way it is. People shop there. They buy stuff. There are local artists. I remember there were local artists there in the ’90s. Not every vendor is all that great. Most aren’t. But it seems there is an effort to change people’s tastes simply by not offering them any choice and that won’t work.

Let’s say that everyone’s dream comes true and the tenure system is dissolved, people who have built their lives around it go away and the market becomes open and available for local artisans. I mean, no cheap Chinese crap, all local artists. Are there enough to fill it to the level of revenue it generates now? Will Bywater H-words and their sorta local crafts be enough to provide the revenue the vendors of cheap Chinese crap do? Will visitors be appreciative of this?

And let’s be honest. The tenure system and the expulsion of the current vendors is going to be next to impossible. They sued last time and I didn’t blame them. Sucks that it was set up like an oil field in the past with no real future plans in place but that’s how it went down. And when Jon Smith says, “People will either come along for the ride or phase themselves out and once their leases or contracts are up they are free to go if they don’t want to work within the grand vision of the market” Sounds like a big “fuck you” to them. Unless I am reading it wrong. Forecast: Shitstorm. And really, a shitstorm for something that really isn’t as horrible as it is made out to be. Efforts to improve it have worked to some extent.

And let’s talk about this dream, this return to the way the French Market used to be before 9/11, I mean Katrina.. I mean…wait, what happened to destroy it? I am assuming it went away because systems weren’t in place to protect it (like they are in Jackson Square I might add). But was it even sustainable economically anymore? So I don’t see how a return to it could really be supported economically. But, it is a good thing to say if you want a little love from the folks you have to live around so it was a smart thing for Jon Smith to say. And maybe he is going to give it a go, who knows? It sounds hard and the end result will have a dubious benefit. I wouldn’t be too heavy handed.

Sure a nice genuine Farmer’s Market will seem to fill the needs of French Quarter and Bywater and Marigny residents but really, how often are they truly looking for local art? Every weekend? A few times a week? As an artist, I can say I sell to quite a number of locals. They sustain me some months. But visitors are the meat and potatoes. So they need to be considered. And they do sometimes buy the cheap Chinese crap too.

Of course, full disclosure. I AM a local artisan. And I actually don’t mind cheap Chinese crap. I try not to buy it and do well at that. But above all, it makes me and my art look better. I am not losing money to cheap Chinese crap because those who buy it were never going to buy my art in the first place. I look at most of my customers as having been destined to buy my or a few select others’ art and pretty much nothing else. It’s a slim, slim margin I work but I net gains from it. And all the cheap crap in China simply provides the negative space that my recycled architectural salvage shines against.

Picture this…

You are Justin Sipp. You have a criminal record but currently you are working at Burger King. Your brother is giving you a ride there for your early morning shift. He may be drowsy. He may be hurried. Either way, he commits a moving violation and is pulled over by a police officer.

You don’t know it, but that officer is Jason Giroir. You also don’t know that Giroir sees himself as a “punisher.” He doesn’t always do every thing “by the book.” He sees you as a thug and thinks a thug should “die like a thug.”

But you know there are rouge officers in this police department. You have heard the stories about the Danziger Bridge, about Henry Glover, about Len Davis, about Antoinette Frank. You know the police are under investigation by the Federal Government. But more than that, you have heard about and witnessed things in your neighborhood, things that happened to your friends and family, things that never reached the media. You have never trusted the police.

There is something, a hunch maybe, that leads you to believe this is one of those rouge officers. Something he said, something he did.

Two more officers arrive.

They take your brother from the car and put him in handcuffs.

You are alone now. Just a guy who works at Burger King in a violent city, with a violent police force, with no one around.

Are you terrified?

Are you enraged?

You have a stolen gun.

Family: Teen murdered was at wrong place at wrong time

Pastor Raphael knows many of the neighborhood kids. He said one boy told him he had seen Summers laying there wounded hours before anyone called police.
“He had this fear of calling the police. He wanted something to be done and he said he knew that kid and he just felt he couldn’t call the police that he wouldn’t be treated right or he would be considered a suspect if he called to report it, which a tragedy,” Raphael said.

This reminds of something that happened to me a few years back. It was probably some time late in 2006. I was finishing up some work on the house in the front yard and was hosing off brushes. A kid who looked to be in middle school came up to me and asked me if I could walk him home. He seemed timid and frightened but I can’t tell you how many red flags went off in my head. I thought for sure I was being set up for something. I was somewhat new to the neighborhood and a neighbor I had at the time was constantly telling me how mad it was and how we were “urban pioneers” by even living there. I still thought critically about things but still, hearing things over and over again affects your sub-conscious to a degree. So my guard was up more than maybe it should have been.*

I asked the kid a few questions. First, “why do I need to walk you home?”

He said he was out after curfew and was afraid of the police. That seemed like a legit fear. I asked where he lived and he gave a decent enough answer, on Hendee a few blocks up and a few blocks over, probably 8 blocks total. I asked him where he was coming from and he said his grandmother’s house across the river. That seemed legit too. I asked how it was that he was out after curfew and he said the ferry was late. At that time the ferry schedule was pretty bad so that seemed to check out.

My neighborhood isn’t too bad but it gets worse the closer one gets to Hendee. A few murders had happened there and it was a hot spot on the crime map. I didn’t want to walk this kid through there for my sake more than his. But he didn’t want to walk in the Point any more than he had to either.

So I told him I’d drive him home. No go. He didn’t want to. I guess that was reasonable on his part because I could take him anywhere once he got in the car right?

What convinced me to go with him more than anything was he looked scared. Maybe scared of getting in trouble but mostly it seemed he was scared of the cops themselves.

So we walked. All the way through the rest of the Point. We talked but I don’t remember about what. Some people hollered at us and we got some strange looks from everyone outside the Newton Market. At the corner of Whitney and Newton, I asked him how much further and he said he only lived a few blocks more and I asked him if it was okay to finish off the rest of the walk on his own. “Why?” he asked. “For the same reason you didn’t want to walk up to this spot, I don’t want to go any further. I’m scared.” This reply seemed to satisfy him.

More in his own neighborhood and more comfortable it seems, he agreed to do the rest on his own and seemed in better spirits as he crossed the street on toward his block. His demeanor having altered greatly. He didn’t seem scared or vulnerable any more.

I’ll never know if I was being set up for something or not. I’ll never know what would have happened if I had walked him all the way home or what may have happened on the way back alone. I believe nothing.

Point is, this kid was scared of the cops and took a chance on a complete stranger rather than those sworn to serve and protect him. I only wish the kid in the story above had told a stranger about what he saw. I wish more that he felt comfortable going to the police.

* That neighbor has since moved away. We had a falling out not long after and I stopped talking to him but those that do said he’s thinking about moving back to New Orleans. I am so happy the rest of us “pioneers” got the place back together for him just in time.

Prison guards, inmate detail brutality inside jail

“Everyone was smoking crack,” Picou said.

Picou said inmates constantly threatened to kill him, usually for being white

These two lines are almost identical to a colloquial report I heard a few weeks ago from a fella that spent 60 days in OPP. Almost exactly. Completely different guy. Same shit though.

Between this and the consistent dismissal of murder victims as having lengthy criminal records (as if that makes it less bad) and Gusman’s pleas for a better facility to lock people up …well …it makes me wonder why anyone thinks criminal justice isn’t the cause of, rather than the solution to crime in New Orleans. It makes me wonder if the deteriorating conditions aren’t being permitted to drive home the supposed need for a new prison?

I read more words in a dead tree edition than I have in a many years Sunday afternoon. Like almost everyone around town I was gripped and saddened by the Steve Gleason story. More so because earlier that week I was cleaning up the iTunes folder and listened to several podcasts on not only ALS and its seemingly undeniable link to brain trauma from hits but also the links to depression and suicides of former atheletes who have sustained brain injuries from concussions and injuries that were less than concussions but on the same level as having your “bell rung.”

It’s hard for me to differentiate between the increasing ALS diagnosis in former athletes and the many, many instances of mental health diseases as a result of head trauma. Though the specifics down the line may be different, the issues are a result of Tau proteins in an athlete’s brain that form after an injury. Sometimes the proteins linger in the brain for decades and cause what’s called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (punch drunk), sometimes they also seep into the spinal column and cause a disorder almost identical to ALS.

And lately, it’s been contributing to a growing ethical issue that I have been quietly dealing with. It’s not been enough to cause me to stop watching football like the gentleman in the first story below. It has been enough however to give me pause and it has added another, more serious element to the thrill of seeing the “big hit.” I have been thinking critically about it as I try to consider what the fans’ role is in the whole thing. Is the thrill of the game worth the sorrow of seeing the great athletes disabled?

Articles and other media below:


The first is from American Public Media and it presents in the first story a fan’s perspective on the guilt in watching football knowing the damage that is being inflicted on players.

The second story tells of former University of Florida and Tampa Bay linebacker Scott Brantley and the disabling strokes he has endured.

Giving Up The Game
Friday, February 04 2011

I looked up Brantley on YouTube and found this smasher on Detroit QB Eric Hipple which is the most powerful hit I have ever seen.


The Real Sports segment on concussions, depression, suicide and mental health later in life. It includes former Saint safety Gene Atkins….

Part 2 is here


Real Sports segment linking ALS (or similar diseases) to concussions…

BO Real Sports Part 1: Steve Smith, former Penn State and Raider Football Player, has ALS Part 2 Part 3


NPR story on studies that shows ALS in athletes may be a very similar disease related to repeated brain trauma…

Study Calls Lou Gehrig’s Disease Into Question

Note that this forecast puts a major metropolitan area in the northeast quadrant with an uptick in intensity just off the coast. Remember that.

Back in 2007, I did an e-mail Q&A style interview with Chuck Watson, Director of Research and Development for Kinetic Analysis Corporation. In the five-year history of this blog’s goofy musings and absurd ramblings on the New Orleans experience, this interview probably contained the most important thing this blog has ever done- a qualified hurricane forecaster stating emergency mangers in areas prone to be in Hurricane paths imply or even demand exaggerated predictions from forecasters and, the forecasters indeed comply…

The Chicory: You said in your comment that emergency managers “always want people scared” and the media doesn’t always publish below average predictions. Does this mean authorities pressure you to deliver sensational numbers? Does it effect the manner in which researchers study and predict storms?

Chuck Watson: Huge question. I don’t think pressure from emergency managers and other sources directly impacts the research itself (although it does impact who gets funding to an extent), but it has a big, big, impact on forecasts and the way they are reported, both seasonally and operationally.

Emergency managers have a tough job. They are always pushing hurricane awareness, especially at the beginning of the season. Calling for a quiet season means less press coverage, and less scary coverage, at exactly the same time they are trying to get people to start thinking about evacuation plans and preparedness. So they get touchy when we say a below normal season for their jurisdiction because they perceive it as making their job harder. They prefer that we, in the words of one irate caller from a couple years ago, “either tell people they might get hit by a storm this year or shut the f*** up, ’cause people won’t prepare otherwise”. I (obviously) disagree with that attitude – if you treat people like idiots, generally they don’t disappoint you. I think if you explain the risks and the benefits of mitigation and preparedness, without the scare tactics, most people will react accordingly.

I always tell people that it only takes one storm to ruin your day, and even if our odds for a hurricane in your county are half of normal, say 1 in 100, that’s still pretty big odds you will lose your roof. Sometimes that message gets lost in the technical discussions about the forecasts, but it’s not because I’m not saying it.

Operationally, the hype from the media and pressure from emergency managers is intense. NHC sometimes uses what they call the “forecast of least regret” (their words). For example, if the storm is forecast to brush the coast, they tend to show it making landfall, making a direct hit on a major city rather than an adjacent lower populated area, or call for the winds to be higher than either the models or unbiased forecasting would indicate. NHC has reportedly changed tracks at the behest of emergency managers to make them “scarier” and encourage people to evacuate, especially for high risk areas like the Florida Keys. I think this is a bad idea. The forecast should be the best possible rendition of where the storm is going and how strong it will be when it gets there. Fudging the tracks and, more typically, the intensities, tends to decrease the credibility of the forecasts and over time is counterproductive.

Reading that I almost immediately recall this “Hell on Earth” forecast before Katrina from the National Weather Service. While the NWS was patting itself on the back for scaring the shit out of people and inciting them to leave, consider that the many details in the release didn’t happen. All gabled roofs didn’t fail. All apartments didn’t collapse. It mentions throughout the damage from wind but the majority of Katrina damage in Louisiana and Mississippi was from levee failures and storm surge flooding. Nothing about flooding was mentioned in the release. So while the bulletin was heralded by the NWS as saving lives, it was mostly bogus and off the mark. Perhaps if it urged people to seek higher ground it would have saved even more lives?

The chickens came home to roost three years later when Hurricane Ike approached the Texas Gulf Coast…

Why Hurricane Ike’s “Certain Death” Warning Failed

So if my dreamed-of “absolute database of everything” actually existed, I would love to find out just how useful scaring the shit out of people to motivate them is. It appears to be one-shot pony as many residents quickly figure out the tactics. Nudge that intensity up a little bit, nudge that path over a little bit.

Next thing you know you have a Cat 3 Irene hitting the 300 year-old port city of Charleston and effecting 700,000 people in the metro area. And it’s already working…

Forecasters say SC could see effects of Irene

There are larger issues here as well, stuff like the role government should play in our lives, “nanny state” shit. I think this type of thing creates a dependence on government for thought and direction when an average person is perfectly capable of thinking for them self despite what a lot of others think. Chuck agreed above when he said, “if you treat people like idiots, generally they don’t disappoint you.” People aren’t as stupid as they are thought to be. There are labels telling folks not to eat the rat poison or think an inflatable Sponge Bob is a good lif life preserver* (helmet, seat belt and open container laws fit in here too).

But hey, at least people will actually get sick or die from eating the rat poison. These hurricane forecasters have escalated / devolved into “we know what’s good for you more than you do” with a heaping helping of “fear is better than truth.”

* Consider the possibility of a drowning person with no life preserver whose friends don’t toss him the huge inflatable Sponge Bob because it specifically says not to on it. Oh fortuna, if I’m ever drowning throw my ass anything that floats and I’ll take my chances.

But first, this is all so Social Media, Social Justice.

The good…

Using Twitter handle @Riotcleanup, citizens are coming together following protests of the police shooting a Tottenham man. The Twitter account is raking in thousands of new followers per hour in the process. (At last count they had 59,000.)
Meanwhile, lists times and locations for clean up efforts, along with suggestions for equipment that people could bring along.
Facebook pages such as Post riot cleanup: Let’s help London and Riot Cleanup are keeping up with the aftermath as well, and serving as launch pads for other local communities to begin their own work.

From After London Riots, Social Media Plays Janitor, Cop

Aaaand the bad…

THE destruction in dozens of parts of London began to look like the first “BlackBerry riots” yesterday, with gangs using the smartphones to co-ordinate some of their targets for looting and burning.

From BlackBerry riot driven by the mob mentality

And some ugly…

On Monday, RIM tweeted: “We feel for those impacted by the riots in London. We have engaged with the authorities to assist in any way we can.”

As a result, a hacktivist group going by the name TeaMp0isoN (cute) hacked into RIM’s official blog on Tuesday to post the following menacing reply:

Dear Rim;
You Will _NOT_ assist the UK Police because if u do innocent members of the public who were at the wrong place at the wrong time and owned a blackberry will get charged for no reason at all, the Police are looking to arrest as many people as possible to save themselves from embarrassment…. if you do assist the police by giving them chat logs, gps locations, customer information & access to peoples BlackBerryMessengers you will regret it, we have access to your database which includes your employees information; e.g – Addresses, Names, Phone Numbers etc. – now if u assist the police, we _WILL_ make this information public and pass it onto rioters…. do you really want a bunch of angry youths on your employees doorsteps? Think about it…. and don’t think that the police will protect your employees, the police can’t protect themselves let alone protect others….. if you make the wrong choice your database will be made public, save yourself the embarrassment and make the right choice. don’t be a puppet..

From London rioters organized looting with BlackBerries
As RIM works with police to identify rioters, the company’s receives a threatening message