A little news
A reader has sent this link to a picture of the Dry Dock. As s/he pointed out, the buildings behind look okay...
Also - from the Times-Picayune (Nola.com) update page: Alert in Algiers
And on a personal note - I have finally heard from our missing family member. :>
Information is Hard to Get
I'm posting this mostly to the many who want to know when they can come home, if only to check the damage and grab some belongings (as they've said they're going to allow for Jefferson Parish).
I have arranged a call tomorrow with officials, and I plan to at least ask the question. I will absolutely post anything I learn.
I have to confess, though, that I have doubts about even the Jeff. Parish return actually happening. There are something like 1 million refugees - and a pretty large percentage of those are from Jeff. That sounds pretty unmanageable (imho).
About the looting: yes, it is happening. Breaux Mart and CVS, I'm told, have been hit hard. Last night, looters were going up and down Kabel Drive, to and from those stores. They weren't looting the houses, that I've heard.
Scary place all over... which is one reason why houses are only being looked at from the street for damage. Many are armed, and all are scared. So far, though, the all-out war zone we're seeing on TV is NOT being repeated in Algiers.
Okay - some specific requests. Please keep in mind these observations are all from the street. People are getting pretty jumpy there now, and it is probably unwise to approach a stranger's house.
Re: Tout Suite - the building, at least, is fine. Still boarded, so no looting I think. They haven't seen Jill.
- 329 Eliza - good
- 501 Pelican - good
- 420 Pacific - house is in good shape, although the neighbor's tree has fallen into your front yard (missed the house, though!)
- 538 Pacific - good
- Olivier - house in good shape, but the garage / apt. in the back seems to have some damage.
- Belleville Street - Mr. Gardner is there and is "doing fine". Said to pass along that the houses across the street (338 and 340) are good, also.... and the car is fine (I guess somebody knows what that means).
I'm trying to compile and group those that are still in my inbox, but it might be a bit slow getting some of these. Hang in there.... really, it's a miraculous situation - be hopeful!
I've seen a few postings from people who also are in contact with the Point. If you know anyone who is still in Algiers, and might be willing to help, can you ask them to get in touch with me? Thanks!
Somebody with the handle "gorditafer" posted about a house on Belleville. Can you please contact me direct at email@example.com. (Note: nothing wrong with the house.... messages.....)
No - there's no power
I keep seeing rumors floating around on the boards about power in Algiers. The short answer is, "there is NO power in Algiers".
The long answer is that rumors are everywhere, including Algiers. But nobody I've talked to actually has power, or knows of anybody with it.
What Algiers DOES have, that really is amazing, is water, gas, and phones.
Oh - and about those phones - I have received a few calls from Algiers Point now. So I know of at least one house that is working pretty well. That may not be universal. I have gotten through to them, however, almost every time.
And while the cell phones are not working, I've been told that text messaging does seem to be getting through. If all else fails, try that. (I haven't tried it yet, but I plan to.)
Neighborhood updates coming in a few...
Folks - knowing that the Point was (relatively) spared, and also knowing that nobody can come home for quite a while... is anybody interested in allowing their empty homes to be used in some fashion?
I'm kind of thinking out loud here.... bear with me.....
There are obvious concerns, not the least of which surround personal valuables, etc.
What (if anything) might make sense? If they set up "command operations" on the Point, I suspect there'll be some housing needs. I guess that's one approach.
If they are trying to shelter the masses from across the river, that's somewhat more problematic - but it's an obvious need.
Maybe there's some way for the authorities to make a "case-by-case" request for shelter, and if somebody was willing, they could make their home available in that instance.
Let me know what you think. I feel that there's some potential to the idea, but discussion would be good. The local authorities may not have the cycles right now to even consider any ideas.... but it's worth thinking about.
If anybody's interested, I'm willing to talk to the folks "on the scene".
From the mailbox
I've received lots of mail the last two days. Some have been answered at a general level in other posts, and some are stacked up. I want you to know that I am looking at them as they come in, though, and trying to stay in front of things. A couple of recent items struck me, and I wanted to respond more widely.
A reader asked:
"My husband is a New Oleans Firefighter and I have not heard from him in over 24 hours. I read that the station on Opelousas is setting up camp for the NOFD, can you can you confirm that?"
Yup, I think so. I found this out as a result of the blurb I ran earlier about the restaurant food going to the firehouse. My b-i-law tells me they have set up a base of operations right there on Opelousas. I'm told they have armed escorts.
From a comment:
"We feel blessed that there is so little damage in AP...but is it correct to assume we should not try to get back? Is thre any way to make our place available to someone who needs shelter?"
Jaxin, you are quite right - you should not try to get back yet.
Your question about making your place available for shelter struck me as a really interesting idea. I suspect it's a little early yet to act on, but I'm setting up a connection w/ the authorities to "ping" this off of them. What a nice thought. I'll let you know what I find out.
Thanks also, everyone, for the kind thoughts and messages. My best to you and yours, also.
More Good News!
Ha - I love hearing good news!
They've announced on the radio that the water levels have stabilized. Not rising any more! Major effort going now to close those breaches. (I got to listen to the local radio over the phone - too funny!)
And so you know all is not terrible - the people on Slidell St. on the Point are having steak right now. They wanted you to know.
For those asking about Eliza Street - they walked the first four blocks this morning. Everything they saw (100s, 200s, and 300s) looked fine. No major problems noticed.
Regarding Bermuda St - it might feel good to hear that the magnolia tree in the park is still standing.
Good News, Bad News, and Just News
First, some good news for a few folks:
My "b-i-law" went by a couple of addresses as he was handling some other things this morning. I've debated about posting these on the main page (for a number of reasons) but basically decided that since the comments are public, and there are many address queries out there in the world, it probably doesn't make much difference. If somebody has concerns about this, let me know.
Note that all observations were from the street only.
416 Eliza - "real good" - some gutter downspounts down, but that's about all he saw.
326 Pelican - also "real good"
214 Delaronde - "very good shape" (he seemed impressed with this one's condition, but notes he couldn't view the roof)
That's all I have so far for specifics. I'll post as I get them, unless someone asks me not to.
Here's some "just news":
A restaurant up on the Point (not entirely sure which one) cleaned out its freezer(s) and took the entire pickup truck load of food over to the firehouse. I gather they plan to get it distributed around...
It looks like some of the rescue operations are being staged now from the Algiers levee. I'm told there's 1/4 mile worth of Fish and Wildlife boats launching from there.
And now the bad news...
This is a difficult post to make, but I don't know how to avoid it and still be honestly reporting what I'm hearing. Please understand that my friends and family who are there can't be considered "unbiased news sources". Don't panic... although this won't be a surprise.
We all know that order is breaking down throughout the city. It is starting to be noticed now on the Point (haven't talked to Kabel Drive yet today). Looters were seen in the streets last night, and a couple of bars were supposedly looted.
It's likely that I'll be losing one of my "voices inside" soon. They are concerned about the growing unrest and will probably try to get out. That will likely mean I won't have any more specifics on addresses, but we'll see.
People who want to come home already
No. No and no.
Please, folks. Take a deep breath and try to think rationally.
Yes, Algiers seems to be an island. Certainly it appears to have ducked the devastation continuing to build across the river. Even in comparison to the rest of the West Bank, Algiers came out ahead somehow. But it's not over yet. Furthermore, there's some real damage in Algiers too. No major flooding didn't keep the trees vertical.
I'm told (and I've read) that they are not allowing anyone to approach the city, other than emergency services. Given that everybody is under martial law now, I doubt that there is any room for discussion at the road barriers, either.
I'd love to think that they'll let Algiers be set up as a haven and bastion - a base from which the rebuilding can be launched. I have to believe that when the city officials (and FEMA, et al) can come up for air, they will ask for help from those who are able to do so.
In the meanwhile, everybody's just got to wait.... and hope.
Houston info - Schools and Shelters
Sounds like they're starting to get more serious with the exodus out of the city. I don't know how many will be coming to Houston, but the Houston Chronicle online is running this headline on the article:
Buses prepared to bring Superdome refugees to Astrodome
I know that there are many people already here in the area, so here's some information gleaned from local papers and school districts. Please note that this is by no means exhaustive. I'll update as I can and permanently link this post if it proves useful.
HISD has already announced measures to enroll and accommodate evacuated kids. KPRC is running an informative article here.
KISD (Katy) has just met, and I'm waiting for an official statement from them. They have told us informally, however, that they are enrolling; students can just go to the school local to where they are staying.
Cyfair - checking
Spring Branch - Checking
Other stations locally are now carrying the story about moving Superdome refugees to the Astrodome.... so I'm thinking that's real.
The Houston area Red Cross has opened six shelters, listed here. I also heard on the local radio this morning that they are asking for blood donations to replenish supplies. Much of their inventory has gone to the Katrina efforts.
Here are some warm fuzzies from around the area:
"Fire Department Takes in Evacuees"
"Good Neighbors in Houston"
And here's a bad one (this really ticks me off):
Houston-Area Hotel Charges $200 For $79 Room
Rumors about the levee
I've seen lots of "chatter" on various forums about "punching a hole" in the levee to relieve the flooding in the city. Frankly, that doesn't make any sense. Punching a hole in the Algiers levee would not help the east side of the city in any way.
There is, of course, a ship on the levee just down from the Point. I suppose it's possible that there is a bit of seepage around it, but since the people in Algiers have not heard any warnings of water coming through, and they are still dry this morning (just checked), I think it's okay. Given what a break in that levee would do to Algiers, I'm absolutely confident they would hear about it.
To clarify about that ship: I'm told that it is not embedded in the levee embankment per se. It is partially on top of the dirt, but mostly it is on the concrete that faces the river. Word is that they (officials) are leaving it altogether alone, to avoid damage to the levee.
Hope that helps. More later as I hear.
An Uneasy Night
I wish I could end this day with some good news for all of you... but I can't. Things are unraveling in the city at an extraordinary clip, and I cannot begin to comprehend the horror.
WWLTV.com reports that Mayor Nagin has stated the 3,000 pound bags (actually, I was told "sand cargo boxes") never arrived - so the attempt to stop the breaches was not successful. Furthermore, the pumps there at the 17th Street canal have now failed.
I'm so very sad. Yet Algiers was spared, and I've managed to connect to all but one of my friends and loved ones - those who stayed, and those who evacuated.
I hope, when I come back online in the morning, things will be somehow better.
Rumors are Rampant
Just a quick note -
Apparently, the Police Chief has said that things are actually calm in the Superdome, contrary to stories hitting the world. (Gotta tell ya - it makes me nervous to contradict CNN...) It is true that people are not allowed to leave, but then... where would they go? Hard to know what's real about now.
About the looting - folks, this is really out of control. Apparently, the Walmart in Algiers was looted for guns, beer, and jewelry. Food I could maybe understand.... but this sounds like complete and utter social breakdown. Scary.
There have also been some shootings, stemming from the looting, and a New Orleans Police Officer was shot. He is in the hospital, in stable condition (thank goodness!), and the shooter (who was also shot), is also in the hospital.
Finally - Slidell reports that the storm surge they experienced was fifteen feet high, and traveled more than a mile inland. Incredible.
More from Algiers
Many of you have written to ask about specific addresses. I have passed these along to my friends there on the Point. However, they will not be able to get out again until perhaps sometime tomorrow. I'll let you know what I find out.
Don't know if I've told you that they seem to have only one radio station working there (is this possible?), and any news they have comes from that source.... or me. I've found myself in the very odd position of keeping them in the loop on events in the city.
Still quiet in old Algiers, although they're seeing quite a few helicopters flying overhead. (Earlier, the aerial activity was across the river.)
They also saw a big dump truck of some kind, pushing and moving downed trees off the road on Opelousas Street. Can't imagine there are any organized clean-up efforts underway yet, so I'm guessing that's a civic-minded individual trying to jump start life. We're going to need many of those types of folks in the coming months.
East Bank Notification
This just hit on http://www.wwltv.com/:
ALL RESIDENTS ON THE EAST BANK OF ORLEANS AND JEFFERSON REMAINING IN THE METRO AREA ARE BEING TOLD TO EVACUATE AS EFFORTS TO SANDBAG THE LEVEE BREAK HAVE ENDED. THE PUMPS IN THAT AREA ARE EXPECTED TO FAIL SOON AND 12-15 FEET OF WATER
ARE EXPECTED IN THE ENTIRE EAST BANK.
This is so hard to watch... ___________________________________________________
UPDATE: They've changed the wording:
****ALL RESIDENTS ON THE EAST BANK OF ORLEANS AND JEFFERSON REMAINING IN THE METRO AREA ARE BEING TOLD TO EVACUATE AS EFFORTS TO SANDBAG THE LEVEE BREAK HAVE ENDED. THE PUMPS IN THAT AREA ARE EXPECTED TO FAIL SOON AND 9 FEET OF WATER IS EXPECTED IN THE ENTIRE EAST BANK. WITHIN THE NEXT 12-15 HOURS****
Some Conflicting Reports about Mandatory Evacuation
It's not clear to me whether there has actually been a call yet for a full-scale evacuation. I've seen headlines that indicate this, but the articles don't sound definitive. I do hear a great deal of concern, and in that eventuality, it's sure hard to figure out how to get out of there!
I have just called to see whether there are known routes out of the area from the West Bank. I am told that the following roads are available:
Travel down the West Bank Expressway to Boutte.
At Boutte, get on I-310, and take it to either the Airline Hwy Exit (toward Baton Rouge), or take I-310 all the way to I-10.
I read somewhere (NOLA forums) that people should take Hwy 1 out of Boutte. Sandy says she understands Hwy 1 to be under water.
Also - one cannot get onto I-10 before Bonabel - the rr underpass and entrances are all flooded.
Just talked to Algiers....
According to the information they're getting - the source of the flooding in the city has been found. There are apparently 3 breaches now at the 17th St. Canal levee. (They only knew about one before, I think.) The CBD (Central Business District) is continuing to flood, but the closer one moves toward the river, the dryer it is.
The officials apparently estimate that they will be able to pump out 1" per hour. Assuming no further influx or rainfall.... they're looking at 6 weeks before they can get the water down. Nobody's coming back anytime soon.
Sheriff Lee has been calling for all flat-bottomed fishing boats, to be brought for the rescue operations. They are starting to move the rescued folks to the Sports Arena.
Local to Algiers
Trees and wires are down everywhere. Most streets are impassable.
Someone inquired about the NSA (Navy station). Yes, they took quite a bit of damage.
Re: Specific addresses on the Point. I don't have any details on particular homes yet, sorry, other than what I've reported so far. I'll see whether anybody can do a walk-by on some of the addresses I've been asked about, a bit later.
Re: Forest Isle / Tall Timbers area. I'm told that last night, they had some water in the streets, and maybe up to an inch or two in some ground floors. It's pretty much all drained off there now, though.
Light in the Darkness
Like all of you, I am in anguish over what is happening in New Orleans. As relieved as I am about the situation in Algiers, I know that the people in the rest of the city and surrounding areas are living through absolute hell on earth right now.
I am very afraid for the "Big Easy". I am terrified for my baby brother, who is a Police Officer working in the midst of the madness right now. I'm sick as I read the horrific descriptions of the destruction, flooding, fires, and looting.
Just as you are.
So when this was shared with me today, I thought it might help you, too. The human spirit shines in the woman who called the local police department substation today.
She told them she knows that everything in her freezer is going to perish without electricity - and so she's started cooking. She plans to cook it all, knowing she can't possibly consume it or store it. So she has told the people at the substation to please come by, as/if they are able, and eat.
Bless you, Sandy, for sharing and caring.
Report from Algiers Point
They (my family/friends) did a walkabout around the Point, and called me with some details. Pretty much all good news.
Yes, there is indeed a ship, nose into the levee, at the bottom of Pacific. My second mom went close enough to take pictures, and I gather there are a couple more boats underneath the ship (!).
Oddly enough, they tell me the River is peaceful and quiet - almost a blue color (I don't think I've ever seen it that way). Kind of ironic, although the river didn't cause the damage.
Around the Point, they tell me that all the trees are damaged in some way, bar none. ALL of the trees down by the river (on the other side of the levee) are snapped in half.
Sadly but unsurprisingly, there is some property damage. They tell me that they found only two homes, though, that were "flattened" - and they believe both of these were uninhabited properties (no, I don't have the addresses). Several others are damaged badly, but those two were the only ones he described as "destroyed". Sheds and stuff are another matter.
There are some condos (the Point Condos?) that apparently are "blown out" on the upper East and West corners. Apparently you can see right through them.
The Old Courthouse had all its windows blown out.
The Library is "in fine shape", they tell me - although the big oak tree across the street blew down.
My (sort of) brother in law asked me to pass this message along: "If I could tell people anything, I'd want them to know this: somehow, it seems that every tree that fell down, managed to fall the only way it could have to avoid damaging anything.... either into streets, yards, or onto lines."
The guy who has a little corner store near my family is open for business, selling sodas and supplies til they're gone. That made me feel good.
I'll post more when I learn it. And to navelstone: the word I got was that anything right around the library came through pretty well. I hope that you and yours are as lucky as my family has been.
Algiers - Phones, Water and Power
Another Algiers-specific update:
I can't speak for the rest of the city, but Algiers, at least, has sporadic phone service. However, they do not seem to be able to call out. If you have not heard from someone who you believe to still be there, keep trying to call. I am getting through more often than not...
Sounds like the earlier rumor about problems with the water in Algiers were false. Everybody is still using the water.
Also, Algiers has a power station that apparently remained dry. With luck, they'll come back 'online' soonest. I have read that Entergy will require a complete rebuilt of the system, but that same article also said there were isolated areas that were not as damaged. Read the article here (it was posted before the Times-Picayune was evacuated earlier today).
Latest from the City
Just hung up with my second mom in Algiers. They are planning a foray down General Meyer and River Road today, and I'll hopefully learn more then. Here's what's going on now, either via radio reports, or just right out the windows:
- The radio is also reporting the ship on the levee near the foot of Pacific Street (Old Algiers / the Point). Levee fine still.
- "Everything from Donner Canal back to the Intercoastal Canal is questionable" in terms of flooding.
- The middle of Terrytown is not flooded, but perimeter streets apparently are.
- Sheriff Harry Lee has authorized a "shoot after one warning" if anyone is going into houses after dark.
Update on New Orleans and Algiers
Panic is setting in, it sounds like. There are many reports now that looting is taking place on a large scale, and martial law has been imposed. WDSU.com has ongoing updates here: http://www.wdsu.com/weather/4913354/detail.html
It sounds as if there are several ships and barges that broke free (or were collided with by others) during the storm. I've been told by people on Algiers Point that one of the ships is on the levee further downriver (toward O.Perry Walker High School and the Police Station). Also, a barge is grounded near the Chalmette Ferry. My friends have been told that these vessels are not going to be tampered with, in hopes that the river levels will rise enough to re-float them. They can't risk trying to move them, or the levee could sustain major damage.
I'm also told now that the sky above the city is full of black smoke. That could be any number of things... none of them good.
Water still coming into the city itself, too. Most recent update at wwltv.com said, in part:
"The expectations are that the water will not stop until it reaches lake level."
News from New Orleans
First - on a personal note - I've now talked to and confirmed the locations and safety of all but one of my 'second family'. Phew! From them, I have learned:
Algiers Point (aka Old Algiers) is dry, although there are lots of trees down. I've heard rumors that there is a break somewhere in the main waterline in Algiers, and that the water is completely unsafe. If that's true, they (the people there) don't know about it. I'm trying to confirm.
The Lutheran Church on Olivier Street has lost its steeple - it's lying in the street.
There is a "very large ship" stranded on the levee on the Point.
Something big is burning across the river right now, they say. No idea what.
Other news from them is that the waters are continuing to rise in the city. They have been told there is 4 (four) feet of water now in the French Quarter, and it's still coming in.
The Point of Contact and no news... this is hard
I am straying widely from my normal blog focus. It's easier to vent here than go through the trouble of setting up another site just because people are used to finding information about crime and other ills here. Bear with me...
Sunday morning, as it became clear that New Orleans was going to get smacked hard by Katrina, I tried very hard to get my second mom, Sandy, to head West toward me (in the Houston area). I told her to load her 'critters' and just go - I'd meet her someplace along the road if she needed me to.
She just broke down. Having had recent surgery, Sandy didn't see a way to do that... and the shelters she knew of weren't going to allow her pets. My best friend from childhood (her daughter) was sheltering in a church on Opelousas Street on Algiers Point, and Sandy went to join them at the church. She promised to call me as soon as she could, and made sure her other kids had my numbers, so everybody had a point of contact outside the storm's path. I have heard nothing from them since.
One of Sandy's sons evacuated to Natchez MS. No word.
Another son is a Police Officer in New Orleans. I spoke with him Sunday about mid-day, and he was typically confident. Since then, no word.
Another son evacuated to the east, near Pensacola. So far, he's the only one I've heard from. The good news - he and his wife are fine. The bad news? I have nothing to tell him.
The national news reports are absolutely worthless. As of last night, they were still reporting that New Orleans was "spared". However, local news there has a much different story. The mayor appeared on WWLTV.com and reported that the 17th Street Canal levee has a breach two blocks long, with water rising rapidly. Mayor Nagin also stated that 80% of the city is under water. View the complete interview here.
There is so much more to New Orleans than the French Quarter, and while I treasure beignets as much as the next person, I'm frustrated as hell!
The Times-Picayune has published their newspaper online, in .pdf files, here. They also have forums that support parish announcements, and general queries. Thus far, it looks like almost all the postings are questions with very few responses. Nobody has information about much of the city, including Old Algiers.
For specific queries, I found this link: http://qso.com/satern/emailfrm.htm. I'm planning to ask them for information, and while I worry about these folks being overwhelmed with pleas, I wanted to share it for anyone who is searching.
My heart goes out to everyone there along the Central Gulf Coast region this morning. Gulfport and Biloxi, by all reports, is completely devastated. I'm so sorry - I have many happy memories of those towns when I was growing up. I'm sure the houses in which I played are gone. They were very near the beach...
Oh for goodness' sake
Every person who reads this blog knows that I am highly concerned with the sex offender problems. Today, though, my attention is focused fully on the Central Gulf Coast area; I'm thinking nothing but hopeful thoughts for my friends and family there. Yet even in the midst of potential disaster, the madness continues.
The Times-Picayune (a local New Orleans newspaper) has an online forum, where hundreds of people are posting messages of support, and queries about various localities in the city. Amazingly, in the midst of all that, I found this:
712. Where are they putting the registered sex offenders?
The poster reminded everyone of Florida's new policy for denying public shelters to registered sex offenders, and wondered whether New Orleans is trying to do something similar.
As one of the responders wondered, if you and your children are at a public shelter in the midst of a disaster, you surely wouldn't take your eyes off your children for even an instant..... would you???? Or would you assume that since all the registered offenders were elsewhere, everyone could roam freely?
No matter how I try, I can't picture the officials at the doors to the Superdome trying to determine whether people were registered offenders. Furthermore, despite my level of involvement lately with RSO issues, I hadn't even wondered or worried about their presence in the shelters. I'm a parent, and I still accompany my child to public restrooms, even though she's plenty old enough to handle the details on her own.
At what point does parental vigilance get replaced? In my opinion, never... but in an emergency situation (such as Katrina), even raising the question makes it manifestly clear that normal concern has been replaced by outright paranoia and hysteria.
When we were young and immortal, my friends and I would greet the periodic hurricanes that came through New Orleans with Hurricane Parties. We laughed in the face of the winds and knew (as all young people know) that nothing would hurt us.
I don't think they are laughing this morning in the Crescent City, and I'm definitely not amused, even from my distant perch in Texas. Katrina appears to be taking aim at the Big Easy - and I'm very worried.
I remember taking my father's canoe into the streets after tropical storms or other hurricanes, and entertaining myself by seeing if I could walk up MacArthur Blvd. against the waist-high floodwaters. Those were little bitty storms in comparison to what is coming.
We still have many friends there, and I don't know if they have evacuated. I hope so. I can't imagine there will be anything short of complete disaster there. Holding my breath...
I reached my friends, and unfortunately most of them are not able to get out. One of them is a police officer (and obviously critical), and his mother (my "second mom") just had surgery. She, and a daughter/grandchildren, have removed to a Methodist church that has four stories. Sadly, she could not take her animals with her.
Race: the ever-present trump card
Even after reading this article twice, I'm at sea. In today's online Houston Chronicle is a story by Allan Turner and Cynthia Garza called, "Efforts to halt execution of black woman surge".
Is the issue that Frances Newton is black? That would certainly be an assumption based on the title. Yet other than noting that she'd be the first black female executed in Texas since the Civil War, race isn't discussed in the article.
Maybe the problem is that she's female? Apparently (if the stay is not granted) she will be only the third woman - of any race - to be executed since that same War. Is the fairer, gentler sex immune somehow from societal punishments? (Seems a bit of a double standard, eh?)
I had to conclude that it is somehow worse to be a black female about to face execution whilst maintaining innocence than it is to be a green martian or a purple pygmy. Either that, or the title's inclusion of Mrs. Newton's race is merely a shallow attempt to rally support based on an inflammatory irrelevancy.
I sure do wonder why race has to be dragged into everything.
Paraphilia and the Sex Offender Registries
If an 18-year-old high school senior has sex with his 16-year-old girlfriend, should he fall under the sex registration laws? How about the 13-year-old boy who is peeping in the neighbor's windows? Streakers? Skinny-dippers?
As many well-spoken people have pointed out, current laws allow all of these to potentially be designated as "sex offenders", potentially required to register for the rest of their lives. However, there's only one of the above that worries me: young Master Peeper, who may escalate to other behaviors and ultimately become a terrible danger to us all.
"Peeping" is the lay-term for voyeurism, one of several paraphilia. Paraphilia, at its most generic level, is a term encompassing many different sexually dysfunctional behaviors that replace normal relations. In addition to voyeurism, paraphilia includes exhibitionism, necrophilia, and pedophilia (and others). Paraphiliacs are obsessed with their fantasies, and require the dysfunctional behavior for sexual gratification.
This doesn't mean that all Peeping Toms are sexual predators. A peeper could be a curious adolescent who wondered about the neighbors. To hit the danger meter, the voyeurism would replace normal sexual relations. Similarly, exhibitionism can be a paraphilia. Streaking does not qualify, nor does skinny-dipping (presumably) unseen at the local pond. Exhibitionism as a paraphilia, however, may escalate.
Some psychotherapists state that exhibitionism and voyeurism are harmless "nuisance" crimes. Dr. Mark Hillman, for instance, says that exhibitionists are "not assaultive". However, research indicates that paraphiliac behavior can not only escalate, it has high recidivism rates. (See various G. G. Abel research, some of which is cited at the end of this article.)
So – how does this relate to the Sex Offender Registration Laws? A lot of hype surrounds them, and rightfully so. The danger to our children and our society is grave. But our children are not in danger from a high school boy who had consensual relations with his underage girlfriend. And frankly, I don't care one whit about the guy who stopped on the side of the highway to relieve himself.... provided it wasn't for sexual relief enhanced by people watching him. We really should not be interfering with these folks' civil liberties (nor worrying overmuch about how someone responds to an emergent call to nature, for that matter).
The sex offender registries are well-intentioned responses to hideous atrocities, as illustrated by such recent infamous notables as Joseph Duncan and John Cooey. There's a fundamental flaw, however, in how these registries are designed and utilized. The "one size fits all" approach is undermining the validity and acceptance of monitoring. It is also blurring the lines between the dangerous and the merely different.
I believe we should be pursuing and supporting classification of sex offenders in relationship to paraphilia. Paraphilia are deemed “incurable”, and control requires constant effort, support, and monitoring. To me, these are the truly scary people - and there are lots of them.
We, as a society, need to focus more tightly on the actual dangers and stop reacting with hysteria to all things that bother us. Not only is this not helpful, it is muddying the waters badly. We DO need the Sex Offender registries, and we need them to be useful.
I cannot hope to cover all the available research, data, and theories that are available regarding sex offenders. For more information regarding paraphilia and sex offenders, I strongly recommend the following articles and sites:
Update (August 23): Texas (of all places) is also noticing this problem. I don't know whether they have identified how to weed the registries, but at least they have noticed the issue. You can read about it here.
Drugs Kill.... and other inanities
Darwin would probably have had something to say about the recent heroin-related deaths in New York City. And I gotta admit - on the face of it, this seems like a self-limiting problem.
NY officials probe heroin link in 6 deaths
According to the article, there's a bad batch of heroin on the streets right now. Since NYC has something like 900 deaths a year, it took a while to identify these six as related to one another.
Phew! Luckily for all of us, officials have identified the problem and are no doubt working hard to warn all those main-liners to be careful. Hmmm.... Maybe it's a plot to illustrate why we should legalize (and then regulate) drugs. Sure would help with the federal deficit!
Or.... it's a new manifestation of the "war on drugs", this time in an insidious form of Russian Roulette (also designed by the government - I'm feeling strangely perverse this morning). Possibly they're thinking the junkies will stop shooting up if they suspect it could be fatal. Officials need to get a whole lot louder about it in the press, if they hope to convince any addicts that their habits are any more dangerous than usual. Of course, this scenario assumes the dopers are rationally considering the issues and problems... or even reading the papers at all. Seems like a long shot.
Darwinians and Libertarians likely have the best answer for this problem. Ignore it and let the junkies take their usual risks. Ultimately they'll either die off or get rid of their habits.
Update: This morning, I'm either really punchy-tired, or there are some truly idiotic news items out there. Just came across this Local10.com article (Miama / Ft. Lauderdale):
Judge Says 78-Year-Old Man Accused Of Bomb Threat Might Be 'Really Stupid'
The whole situation reminds me of the 11-month-old baby who is on the "No Fly" list. What a bunch of insanity! Everybody needs to take a deep breath (in-two-three, out-two-three... repeat....)
TMI = Too Much Information
I've noticed recently that tragedies are being reported in more gruesome detail than seems absolutely necessary. A recent example is the crash of the Helios Airways plane.
We now know (thanks to the relentless reporting) that of the 121 folks on the plane, 26 were still alive when the plane crashed. More specifically, it apparently is necessary to inform us (the public) that a 5-year-old boy was still breathing, "but only for a second", after the plane slammed into the mountain.
Did we really need to know this?
I've always known that planes occasionally fall out of the sky. Furthermore, I have what's known as "bad plane karma". This has manifested itself in numerous ways, including lightning strikes on wings and birds sucked into engines on take-off. As a favor to fellow travelers (and to avoid damage charges from fingernail gouges in the arm-rests), I now drive most places.
I'm aware that statistically, my chances for an accident on the road are much higher than in the air. Somehow, though, the horror of dying in an airplane crash seems much worse. While I suppose I should be grateful to the bloodthirsty reporting for bringing my worst flight nightmares into the light of day, I really was better off without all this extra information.
Convicted Child Murderer Wins $50,000 Lawsuit
Seems this guy Mark Allen Harris fell out of a jail van and broke his face. As a result, he feels he's suffered "inconvenience" and has lost his "enjoyment of life". HUNH????
A partial quote from the AP article running on TheDenverChannel.com says,
Monday, a jury awarded him $30,000 for past mental and physical pain and suffering; $10,000 for annoyance and inconvenience and another $10,000 for loss of enjoyment of life.
Poor suffering Mark had apparently already been convicted of murdering a 2-year-old child, and was in the judicial process phase on sexual assault charges. He has a life sentence.... and we are thinking he should enjoy it?????
This is precisely why I don't like my tax dollars supporting life sentences. It's not supposed to be fun!
Some People Will Believe Anything
This blog was born in response to the intense emotions I had about Joseph "Jet" Duncan - the person who today stands accused of serial murders spanning (so far) 8 years. Even before recent connections were made to other murders, it was obvious to everyone who read his blog entries that he was in denial. He blamed society, his father, the government, the system - pretty much everybody.
His excuses and explanations were the typical convict denial (it's amazing how few guilty persons there are in prisons - just ask almost any of them!). But Jet also felt that he was persecuted and discriminated against by the sex offender registration laws, and resented being labeled. The first time I read the fifthnail blog, I could see that some people would agree with poor, misunderstood Jet's version of events, and it was the first article I wrote here as Polimom.
Sure 'nuf - surfing around the web this morning, I stumbled across some confused soul who thinks that the Groene atrocities could have been avoided if society were handling sex offenders differently.
Among many other naive perceptions, this individual seems to have believed everything Duncan said in his fifthnail blog. For instance, "Initially, he was enrolled in a treatment program, but when one of the program officers propositioned his mother, he dropped out. " Do ya think the program officer propositioned mom while Duncan was out peeping through windows? And how come ole Jet didn't mention that peeping, anyway?
The gullible blogger also wrote, "Here we can see how the label ‘sex offender’ hangs over the head of the former offender like the sword of Damocles. Media coverage and a public registry made Duncan’s name very familiar in his city and he often worried that he would be recognized. He also expresses trepidation in social situations as he is afraid of the reactions of people to finding out about his status. " I wonder whether the public registries caused him to grab, violently abuse, and then murder Anthony Martinez? Or Sammiejo White and Carmen Cubias? Puhleeeze!
I'm happy to say that after searching a bit online for more of this kind of rubbish, I was not able to find any more. However, I'm sure we're going to see and hear a LOT more about poor pitiful "Happy Joe", who only became "the Boogeyman" because everybody else made him. Folks - Level 3 Sex Offenders like Joseph Duncan are absolutely not safe to be in society. I personally could not care less how he felt about things, and I wish he'd been monitored even more closely than he was.