Better Archeology Through Google

From the New Editor comes a fascinating story that all our Common Room Scholars will find thrilling:

Using satellite images from Google Maps and Google Earth, an Italian computer programmer has stumbled upon the remains of an ancient villa. Luca Mori was studying maps of the region around his town of Sorbolo, near Parma, when he noticed a prominent, oval, shaded form more than 500 metres long. It was the meander of an ancient river, visible because former watercourses absorb different amounts of moisture from the air than their surroundings do.

His eye was caught by unusual ‘rectangular shadows’ nearby. Curious, he analysed the image further, and concluded that the lines must represent a buried structure of human origin. Eventually, he traced out what looked like the inner courtyards of a villa.

Mori, who describes the finding on his blog, Quellí Della Bassa, contacted archaeologists, including experts at the National Archaeological Museum of Parma. They confirmed the find. At first it was thought to be a Bronze Age village, but an inspection of the site turned up ceramic pieces that indicated it was a Roman villa.

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Collected Quotes

Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom realize fully the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realize it best when we talk to an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through the eyes of others.

C.S Lewis

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Douglas Brinkley Accuses FEMA of Fending off Would Be Rescuers

Today while toodling about the country roads in our van I listened to NPR, so I got to hear Terri Gross of Fresh Air interview David Brinkley (historian, professor at Tulane in New Orleans), who is already writing a book about NOLA and Katrina. He’s also starting an oral history project to document the events following Hurricane Katrina.

Because we write this blog in part for our high school age children who may not realize who Brinkley is, I provide the following biographical information. Brinkley is also the author of Tour of Duty, John Kerry and the Viet Nam War; biographer of the deranged and now deceased reporter Hunter Thompson, and a member of what the Aspen Daily News called the ‘makeshift Democratic election headquarters’ at Hunter Thompson’s house on election night and mentioned in the Aspen Daily News report of November 4, 2004, which report says, “Actor Sean Penn, presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, Kerry press secretary David Wade and others checked in with Thompson “ for his views on how the election was going (I think they mean something other than presidential historian).

Terry Gross asked Brinkley about his Katrina Oral History Project, and he said:

“I’m very determined to make sure we don’t forget what happened and this is not just a catastrophe, it’s a deluge, try to get to the bottom of it, the media has been very good and is generating great stories, but I want to do my own oral history project…”

She asks him to tell her more about it, and he says (I transcribed this from the audio file at NPR as carefully as I could):

“The first thing is to communicate which is what didn’t happen. I was in New Orleans for Katrina and then got out of town afterwards and I came back and I was constantly encountering people on dry land, mainly FEMA people, trying to stop rescue attempts of people that were desperate for help, and that, um, startled me that this could happen in our country. uh I understand politics and I understand that sometimes we can debate something like the war in Iraq, but this seemed so basic, ‘people are flooded they are screaming for help- get a boat and go get them-’ yet people that had the means to save a lot of people weren’t doing it, and I recognized at that point something Dwight Eisenhower had said um when he was general after WW 2 and encountered the concentration camps in Europe and he said immediately I wanted it completely documented by photographs, film, interviews, everything because uh
If our government can turn their backs at these people in need they will try to whitewash what happened and make it seem like it was uh God’s uh storm and there was not that much that could have been done, and I think it’s uh , uh, the story’s much bigger than that.”

You probably want to read that again slowly and carefully. He says he saw FEMA people wave off rescuers from people who were screaming for help. He says he was immediately reminded by concentration camps in WW2 (Nazi references so soon?), and that our government turned its back on people in need, and he’s got an obligatory backhanded swipe at religion.

Terry Gross asks him about this incredible accusation, ‘You say that you saw FEMA representatives preventing people from rescuing people?


Yes. Um First off they would stop trucks in Baton rouge that they didn’t have on their clip board um and if you were a private sector truck trying to bring in supplies you were just completely derailed. Secondly, in New Orleans at St. Charles near Manalli’s (he stutters on this and I don’t know the restaurant) restaurant um there were groups of federal officials who didn’t want to get a wrinkle in their, their clothes who stood by when virtually people including schizophrenics, people with diabetes, elderly people with arthritis, uh were being having to be saved by common citizens in fishing boats who would bring them to dry land. we’d put them on the shore and then the government officials would just let them sit there and they‘d tell you well we’re gonna get them to a hospital. I didn’t trust them bec- uh, and so I would circle back and four or five hours later these people that were in desperate pain with nothing still sitting on a street curb after they were pulled out the water- nobody there to help them yet they are surrounded by a sea of government officials. You know, part of it seemed to be a resentment that these people had stayed in New Orleans. The feeling was you had a warning to get out, why did 100,000 of you stay?

Okay, so he’s a mind reader, too. FEMA deliberately left wet, sick, suffering people sitting on shore because they didn’t want their suits wrinkled and they didn’t want to take these people to the hospital anyway because it was all their own fault. Brinkley knows this for a fact.

Terry does not point out that he has not even come close to supporting his original accusation of having seen FEMA officials actively preventing these people in boats from rescuing people in the water. She just asks him why he decided to become a freelance rescuer.

He says he got his family out and got them set up in Houston and watching the news coverage made him feel guilty, because it was his city and he needed to do something, So he went to go check on some friends and relatives of friends. A friend wanted him to check on the friend’s mother, who had altzheimers and was in an apartment. I hope the friend had a good reason for leaving a mother with altzheimer’s alone in an apartment during a hurricane while the friend escaped.

Then he says he met a preacher who told him some children were trapped, so he got a boat and he rescued peopled. We do not ever find out about these children. He tells us instead that the people he saw were generally people who were left behind because they “were too ill to go, living on pension checks, couldn’t leave, were elderly people living by themselves and people with mental disabilities who weren’t really loved by anybody, people who had drug addiction, and people with AIDS- the downtrodden, people we don’t see a lot or hear a lot, were there in mass, hadn’t left and were frightened to death, it would have been a normal reaction for anybody who was there on the spot” to save them (except FEMA people, I guess) .

It’s interesting that his motivation to go was, according to him, this urgent need to go down and do something, and this need came over him as he watched the coverage on television. Tim Blair quotes the New York Daily News as saying that Brinkley was “assigned by Rolling Stone editor Will Dana to write about New Orleans’ recovery.” So he took the time to get in touch with Rolling Stone before he left to get this trip paid for, and he already has a home for his first article on it.

Brinkley also says “I’m very disappointed in my country… I love America… I am a great patriot… but I feel that our government, particularly our federal government, but also our state government in LA let us down”

I wanted to know more, so I did some internet searching.
At the Bookblog we learn that: Bestselling author and historian David Brinkley has inked the first major Hurricane Katrina book deal.
Douglas Brinkley is planning “an analysis and narrative of the ongoing crisis in New Orleans in historical context,” according to his publisher William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins. The book, tentatively titled The Great Deluge, is scheduled to be published by Morrow early next year.

Financial terms were not disclosed Monday and there was no immediate word on whether any proceeds would be donated to charity. “Hurricane Katrina is without question the worst natural disaster in American history,” Brinkley, a professor at the New Orleans-based Tulane University who was in town when the storm hit, said in a statement. “With the death toll rising and toxic sludge draining into Lake Pontchartrain, it’s imperative that we learn what went wrong.”

According to the NPR website the proceeds will be donated to “the Historic New Orleans Collection, a museum and research center in the city’s French Quarter.”

Elsewhere (at Fratpack) Douglas Brinkley has claimed he personally saw Sean Penn rescue forty people in his waterlogged boat, saying he saw Sean up to his waste in ‘toxic sludge,’ and Brinkley does show up in the photograph of Penn bailing water with a red plastic cup. So is this boat rescue adventure Brinkley talks about the same trip? Because if so, Sean’s account differs slightly from Brinkley’s: “Penn said he spent about nine hours in the water. In that time, he told Larry King, he saw only three military-helmed boats.
“Most of the National Guard presence was in the air,” Penn said. “They were doing a great job, those that were there. But there weren’t enough there.” ”

Sean has made no claims about personally witnessing FEMA fend off would be rescuers, keeping them and their boats from screaming victims.

Brinkley has lately inked a development deal to become the featured star of a new, independently produced reality show set in New Orleans. Its creators haven’t yet settled on a name for the program, but Brinkley will play the role of “director” at the “Theodore Roosevelt Center for American Civilization”–described in the show’s promotional materials as a division of “Tulane University.”

The art of writing only gets one so far. To really succeed in the field, one needs to be very good at self-promotion. Just saying.

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The Stories we Missed

From Real Clear Politics:

“With body recovery teams in New Orleans finding far fewer than the expected 10,000 to 25,000 dead, despite the flooding of 80 percent of the city, it is time to ask: What went right?

Largely invisible to the media’s radar, a broad-based rescue effort by federal, state and local first responders pulled 25,000 to 50,000 people from harm’s way in floodwaters in the city. Ironically, FEMA’s role, for good or ill, was essentially non-existent, as was the Governor’s and the Mayor’s. An ad-hoc distributed network responded on its own. Big Government didn’t work. Odds and ends of little government did.”

Click on the link in the title for more details. Very interesting stories. You’ll want to read this one, because in a little while I’ll be posting link to an oddly contrasting story.

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Rare September

‘Tis the radiant rare September,
With the clusters ripe on the vine,
With scents that mingle in spicy tingle
On the hill slope’s glimmering line.

And summer’s a step behind us,
And autumn’s a thought before,
And each fleet sweet day that we meet on the way
Is an angel at the door.


From Child’s Calendar Beautiful, arranged by R. Katharine Beeson, 1908, “a collection of poems and prose selections to be memorized by children,’ arranged by year and month. This poem is for September Fourth Year students.

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Kyoto Treaty and Tony Blair

The Corner sent me to TCS to read about this fascinating and mostly unreported story of Tony Blair’s remarks at the Clinton Global Initiative:

Blair, a longtime supporter of the Kyoto treaty, further prefaced his remarks by noting, “My thinking has changed in the past three or four years.” So what does he think now? “No country, he declared, “is going to cut its growth.” That is, no country is going to allow the Kyoto treaty, or any other such global-warming treaty, to crimp — some say cripple — its economy.

Looking ahead to future climate-change negotiations, Blair said of such fast-growing countries as India and China, “They’re not going to start negotiating another treaty like Kyoto.” India and China, of course, weren’t covered by Kyoto in the first place, which was one of the fatal flaws in the treaty. But now Blair is acknowledging the obvious: that after the current Kyoto treaty — which the US never acceded to — expires in 2012, there’s not going to be another worldwide deal like it.

So what will happen instead? Blair answered: “What countries will do is work together to develop the science and technology….There is no way that we are going to tackle this problem unless we develop the science and technology to do it.” Bingo! That’s what eco-realists have been saying all along, of course — that the only feasible way to deal with the issue of greenhouse gases and global warming is through technological breakthroughs, not draconian cutbacks.[emphasis the DHM's]

James Pinkerton has the rest of the story at TCS: Tech Central STation, where I learned, among other things, that Condi Rice attended this conference and that France gets perhaps 80 percent of its power from…. nuclear power.

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57th Carnival of the Recipes is UP

And it looks like some goooood eatin’!

BLT dip, crepes, Moroccan Chicken Apple Beanpot, peach cobbler and Apple raspberry crisp, mmmm, mmm.

Time for a feast, methinks.

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Reaction to the President’s Speech

After the President’s speech last night ABC News intereviewed Katrina survivors staying at the Astrodome to get their reaction. Wizbang has the video and a link to the transcript, which is at Brent Baker’s blog

ABC’s Dean Reynolds

asked Connie London: “Did you harbor any anger toward the President because of the slow federal response?” She rejected the premise: “No, none whatsoever, because I feel like our city and our state government should have been there before the federal government was called in.” She pointed out: “They had RTA buses, Greyhound buses, school buses, that was just sitting there going under water when they could have been evacuating people.”

Not one of the six people interviewed on camera had a bad word for Bush — despite Reynolds’ best efforts. Reynolds goaded: “Was there anything that you found hard to believe that he said, that you thought, well, that’s nice rhetoric, but, you know, the proof is in the pudding?” Brenda Marshall answered, “No, I didn’t,” prompting Reynolds to marvel to anchor Ted Koppel: “Very little skepticism here.”

Reynolds pressed another woman: “Did you feel that the President was sincere tonight?” She affirmed: “Yes, he was.” Reynolds soon wondered who they held culpable for the levee breaks. Unlike the national media, London did not blame supposed Bush-mandated budget cuts: “They’ve been allocated federal funds to fix the levee system, and it never got done. I fault the mayor of our city personally. I really do.”

You really want to read it all, or watch the video if you can.

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Racism In America

I know that it exists. We’ve in been a small midwestern town where there were simply no minorities at all and heard a man who did not support his family say the reason was because all the minorities got first pick of all the jobs. I do know there have been situations where a minority had a hiring advantage, but this was simply not the case. With no minorities in the town, it’s simply impossible for preferential hiring to be the reason this man did not have a job. When we were in our early twenties we rented a house from a little old lady at our church. When we were moving she wanted us to help her find a replacement renter. We kept sending her potential renters, and she kept saying she needed us to help her find new renters. One day I called her on the phone to say that we were sending somebody else over to interview her and I thought they seemed great. There was a pause. Then she said, “WEll, are they like us?” I thought she meant “Are they Christians?”
What followed was a very tangled conversation as she tried to say what she meant without actually saying what she meant and I failed completely to understand her. I wasn’t being deliberately obtuse, it simply never, ever would have occured to me that somebody would refuse to rent a house to a family just because of color. Maybe I was stupid and naive, but my parents did rear me to be color blind, and I appreciate that. My landlady didn’t. She finally had to say what she meant, “Are they white?” I was utterly flabbergasted, gobsmacked, incoherent, and astonished. There was a long and painful silence as I tried to make my mouth and brain work together. I think I just said “I don’t know” and hung up. Then I called her back to say, “You know, you just can’t, can’t, can’t, can’t, I mean you can’t, it’s just not, well, you know, you just can’t say things like that.”
She said she knew, and she apologized and asked me not to tell anybody, because she was just an old lady.
My mind still reeling I weakly repeated my ‘but you just cant, can,t can’t do that.’ and added the even weaker, “It’s illegal.” A friend told me later that the legality part was least important, I should have explained that it was immoral, unbiblical, unchristian. My friend was right, and I wish I’d been better at thinking on my feet.
I could give other anecdotes, but my point is simply that racism does exist, and I get very tired of discussion where people insist it doesn’t.

I get equally tired of discussions where people insist it exists where it doesn’t. Which brings me to this article, an excellent response to all the ridiculous accusations floating around about the reasons for the tragicomic response to Katrina: The RAcism Charges Won’t Wash

“If the government’s failure to get help instantly to Katrina victims reflects American racism, why have the images of thousands of poor, displaced blacks triggered the greatest outpouring of charity in American history?

…News outlets and pundits the world over—from the Washington Post to Al Jazeera—have gleefully portrayed the Katrina suffering as the product of what Braun calls “America’s original sin—racism.” Yet for racial sinners, Americans are sure behaving strangely. As of September 11, they had donated at least $788 million to Katrina charities, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy—an unprecedented pace of giving, easily topping the post-9/11 and tsunami giving”

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Government Spending

“I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”

—James Madison, 1794

Does Government Always Have to Grow? by Stephen Davies is a very interesting article available online from the Foundation for Economic Education (a highly recommended resource). Says Mr. Davies:
“Today in the “developed” world, governments spend on average between 40 and 60 percent of the national income. Most people take this for granted. This is where the first element of historical perspective comes in. Government spending on this scale is historically recent. In 1900 the average share of national income taken by government was about 10 percent. Government spending rose as a proportion of national income throughout the twentieth century. The two critical episodes in most countries were the two world wars. Government spending soared during the conflicts. Afterwards, although it declined, it never went back to its pre-war level.

All this is well known. There is an extensive scholarly literature on the reasons for this growth of government since 1900.1 The common conclusion is that the growth of government was unavoidable and is irreversible. However, taking a longer view than one that stops in 1900 leads to a different conclusion. Government grew, apparently inexorably, before and then was sharply cut back.”

For that history lesson looking at the longer view, read the rest of the article.

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