Friday, August 25, 2006

Another vile, anti-Fox diatribe

Another vile, anti-Fox diatribe: "Move over, Bob Laurence. Former Snohomish County, Wash., Democrat party official Mike Whitney has taken your place as anti-Fox News Channel scum of the week. From ',' a pro-terrorist propaganda outlet deemed a legitimate news source by Google News: Are..."

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Bens Advice


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Subway Platforms and Heat Waves

The hottest places in New York City during the summer may well be subway platforms.

Television and radio stations should include this information in their regular traffic and weather reports. It might be the first step in getting the MTA to do something to make subway platforms more humane during summer heat waves.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Emergency Evacuation Plan

What is your Emergency Evacution Plan?
Imagine that you and your loved ones needed to get 200 miles away from NYC with 12 hours notice and could not return for an extended period of time.

Also imagine that communication, transportation and other infrastructure that you rely on every day are not available.

  • How would you get out?
  • Where would you go?
  • What would you take with you?
  • How would you meet up with your family members?
  • What would you eat?
  • What would you drink?
  • What would your shelter be?
  • How would you stay warm, dry and safe?

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Direct Relief for Tsunami

One of my contacts in India sent me the following. If you want to donate directly to an organization in India that has been providing social services to people for a long time this is an option that I would encourage you to consider.

You can donate directly, please read directions carefully. Also, let me know, what you send, I have set a modest goal of $500 and would like to track the progress of donations through these efforts.


Dear Sir, I thank you for consulting me about your wish to help the Tsunami victims. since long, I have been searching for the right organisation for such donations, so that my money isused properly and all of it goes to the needy and poor. I have found the 'Ramakrishna Mission' of Belur Math,West Bengal ideal for this purpose. This is a very old institution , founded by Swami Vivekananda and is run by a group of dedicated and honest men who have left their personal interests of lifetime for the sake of social welfare.This group has been serving the needy people since many years.The organisation has got experienced and selfless persons in the institutions to conduct such work honestly and efficiently. Ramakrishna mission has swung into action since Day One of the disaster in the worst hit areas like coastal land of Tamilnadu, Andaman, Nikobar Islands and Battikalova of Shrilanka. Their site gives details of the work done by them so far and is self explanatory. The site also mentions their SWIFT account number for foreign donations.My small amount of donation I have sent to their postal address and I feel you may safely send your donation and those of your friends to them . I am sure, that it will be utilised properly and immediatley for the needy people of the Tsunami hit areas. Their site address is as follows:A)
for latest informationB)
for information of work done at Chennai and even for“ONLINE” donation.

Thanking again,
Regards[Sham Shrinivas Yemul]
107 Sakhar peth, Solapur
Maharashtra, INDIAEmail :

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The Tsunami

The earthquake and subsequent tsunami in south Asia is unquestionably one of the largest disasters of our time. The scope is unimaginable. The effect on coastlines is many thousands of miles, lots of which is in areas that are difficult to access under good circumstances.

Sungchul sent a simulation.

The shemac sent me the following article.
Thanks to both.

Tsunami Warning Failed to Get Through-Thai Expert

By Crispian Balmer
PHUKET, Thailand (Reuters) - A Thai expert said on
Monday he tried to warn the government a deadly
tsunami might be sweeping toward tourist-packed
beaches, but couldn't find anyone to take his calls.

Samith Dhammasaroj said he was sure a tsunami was
coming as soon as he heard about the massive Dec. 26
earthquake off Indonesia's Sumatra island that
measured magnitude 9.0 -- the world's biggest in 40

"I tried to call the director-general of the
meteorological office, but his phone was always busy,"
Samith said as he described his desperate attempts to
generate an alert which might have saved thousands of

"I tried to phone the office, but it was a Sunday and
no-one was there," said the former chief of the
meteorological department now charged with setting up
an early warning disaster system for Thailand.

"I knew that one day we would have this type of
tsunami. I warned that there would be a big disaster,"
he told reporters.

"Everyone laughed at me and said I was a bad guy who
wanted to ruin the tourist industry," he added.

The tsunami took just 75 minutes to hit the beaches
and islands of Thailand's Andaman Sea coast, 375 miles
from the earthquake's epicenter.

Now more than 5,100 people are dead, nearly half of
them foreign tourists who abandoned Europe's cold,
dark winter for golden sands and turquoise seas, and
left 3,800 missing, nearly 1,700 of them foreigners.

Downstairs from where he spoke, dozens of foreigners
were still scanning message boards, trying to match
grisly photos of bloated, battered bodies to the
smiling pictures of missing friends and relatives.

"I feel very sorry for the people who died," Samith
said. "I will make sure this thing does not happen

The early warning system for Thailand -- which has not
had a natural disaster in living memory worse than
floods during the annual monsoon -- would be ready in
six months, Samith promised.

"We will make the system very efficient," he said.


Preliminary investigations by a team of six Japanese
experts showed that the wall of water hit beaches
along the Thai coast at different speeds and heights,
with the phenomenon exacerbated by a high tide that
fed the tsunami as it neared land.

Khao Lak beach, lined with hotels and resorts
especially popular among Scandinavians and Germans
just north of Phuket, took the worst hit from waves up
to 10.5 meters (34 ft) high.

They roared up Khao Lak's gently sloping beach at
speeds of up to 8 meters a second (29 kilometers an
hour), said Professor Hideo Matsutomi, who led the
Japanese team.

"There have been six major tsunami in this region
since 1797, but I think this last tsunami was the
biggest," he said.

Tsunami are much more frequent in the Pacific Ocean
and countries there have long established an early
warning system to protect them from disaster.

Samith said countries in the Indian Ocean had to
follow suit and set up a network of underwater sea
monitors which might cost as little as $20 million to

Warnings of imminent inundations would be sent out
automatically on television and radio and by text
messages to mobile phones.

The system would help woo back tourists scared away by
the mass loss of life, Samith said.

"No-one can predict an earthquake, but you can predict
a tsunami," he said. "We will build a good system."

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Running for Congress

I had a first hand experience running for office. I am going to share the highlights of those experiences.

My campaign team was a wonderful group of people that had incredible synergy when we all got together. Many time that was around a kitchen table other times on the streets of Harlem. The year was 1994 and the office we ran for was Congress. We were running against Charles Rangel.

Getting on the Ballot
The way to get elected to office is to be one the ballot and then have the most votes. I like to think of the ballot at the shelf in your local grocery market. The candidates are like the products you buy. In my view of a healthy election system it would operate as a market. The best person, presumably the one that convinces voters that he or she will do the best job gets the most votes. It turns out there was a very high threshhold for appearing on the ballot. We need 1200 signatures from registered democratic voters.

It wasn't just that we needed 1200 signatures, we needed 1200 signatures that passed the muster of the lawyers that would be assigned to challenge those signatures. We were adviced (quite well it turned out that to get 1200 approved signatures we needed 2.5 times that amount. I set a goal of 3000. About five minutes before the midnight deadline we arrived at the board of elections with our stacks of green, petition signatures, properly bound and precisely counted, per the election rules.

Petition Signature Rules
It turned out that there were rules upon rules upon rules regarding the petition signatures.

For example, at the bottom of each petition sheet there is a space to count the number of signatures on the page, if the number representing the total of signatures on the page, the entire page of signatures can be declared invalid.

Another example or just how arcane these rules are was the need for the correct election district of the person who acquired the signature to appear on the petition. Most people probably don't know their election district. If the election district is incorrect, all the signatures of the person who collected those signatures can be declared invalid.

Change in a person handwriting over time. In one incident the signature of a women did not match closely enough to the signature card onfile with the board of elections. When we took a closer look at the signature card, it had been signed 35 years ago! To think that a persons handwriting might not change significantly over time underscored the uphill and time consuming battle that my loyal campaign staff were facing at the NYC Board of Elections during the summer of 1994.

The challengers.
We questioned who the people were that were challenging our signatures, one by one, in the board of elections. The court appointed judge, who was with us day in day out in the board of elections said they didn't have to tell us who they were. It turns out they were a melange of local political wannabee from the New York State Democratic party under the leadership of someone whose name was never revealed to us, but who always wore a suit and tie and had a large bankroll of cash with which he paid the workers to try and get my name from appearing on the ballot.

Other candidates didn't fare as well
At the start of this signature vetting process, we had the company of many other insurgnet candidates. Sadly, one by one, these people who really trying to made a difference, as were we, got "knocked off the ballot", by having the number of approved signatures fall below the necessary number. One in particular stood out in my mind, Mary Stanley, she was running against Denny Farrell for State Assembly. Mary's people were extremely upset because one day they were served with some legal papers while waiting for the subway train. A legal part of serving papers in NYC is that you have to touch the person with the papers. So you can imagine what felt like a shove on a crowded NYC subway platform, being served papers from a process server, because you wanted to run for office, was very upsetting. About eight months after that I was at a function and found myself standing next to Denny Farrel, who is one of the most arrogant people I have every encountered. I asked him how it felt to have been re-elected and he responded, "Oh, there was an election, I didn't even know."

The Testimony and the Lawyers
Thank goodness for Dominic Fusco. Dom was the only election lawyer in NYC at that time that was willing to take on the political establishment and we found him. Each person who gathered signatures, had to testify under oath, regarding the circumstances of how the signatures were obtained. It was somewhere around this time that I realized that if the Democratic spent half the effort that were putting forth in keeping me off the ballot in address issues like education or the local economy, people like myself would not even feel driven to run for office. This was taking on a life all its own, dragging on for weeks, lawyers, court reporters, witness, process servers, all bent on keeping little ole me off the ballot!

Moral Suasion
Maybe it was a sign of desparation but one day I used by 11 year old daughter lay a guilt trip on the opposing lawyer. She got that they were trying to keep daddy off the ballot. I asked her in front of the lawyer if thats what she was being taught in shcool about democracy. She shook her head side to side, bless her. Our campaign also took to group hugs and singing a modified version of Go Down Moses, to When Harlem was in Rangel's hand, let my people go, oppressed so hard they could not stand, let my people go, Go Down, Davis, way down to Harlem land, tell old Rangel, Let my People go.

Board of Elections Staff
It turned out to my complete surprise the the New York City Board of Election staff is comprised almost entirely of political appointees. I was amazed. I thought this was turning reality on its head. If anywhere you would want impartiality it would be in the board of elections. But no, our opponents, the democratic party, had its people working as employees in the board of elections, as well as on a legal team working to knock us off the ballot.

Getting on the Ballot with No Time left for campaigning
Amazing at it may seem, we were able to successfully run the ballot gauntlet, mostly because of the cleverness of Dominic Fusco, in his argument before a five judge appeals court. Our court appointed surrogate judge, who had been with us day in and day out at the board of elections, who one morning told me, "Mr. Davis, the system is designed to protect the incumbent." ruled that we were on the ballot. His boss typically rubber stamps his findings, however in our case didn't he ruled against us. $300 bucks later and some more papers to be filed is how we wound up in the ornated ceilinged appeals court in front of five judges. Dominic did the equivalent of a legal headfake and caught opposing counsel off guard. 75 signatures that had been collected by someone who marked the wrong election district, were accepted, because Dominic persuaded enough of the judges that the voters would have been disenfranchised if the signatures were not allowed. In obtaining this ruling Dominic changed the election law in New York a bit because the ruling become precedent for future cases. After we had our moment of glee, we looked at the calendar and realized that we had spent most of July and August in the process and the actually primary was a week a way. We realized that the process, even if it you succeed in breaking through, which only a few candidates managed to do, robs your campaign of money and time. Instead of bringing a message to the people, we were tied up in the board of elections.

The Televised Debate
"I'm a nice guy, but I'm not that nice." Those are the words Charles Rangel spoke to me in the conference room of New York 1 cable television station. He was preparing to debate the other candidate, who also barely made it on the ballot, son of Adam Clayton Powell, Adam Powell IV. Since I had made it onto the ballot I was also at the station, even though the station manager said I couldn't be part of the debate. Prior to the debate, we were told that I could not participate because I was not on the ballot. Now that I was on the ballot I was still being told that I could not participate. I appealled to my congressman, who certainly would have the power to tell the station manager, that I had right to participate in the debate. Another win for politics wins over principal. Internally I considered getting arrested right there in the Television station. Maybe the station manager considered that was an option that I had also, he offered me a half hour all to my self in a program coming up in a few days. I took it. The ensuing debate between Rangel and Powell did not touch on any issues relevant to the community. I found out later, that I would share the interview with two other insurgent candidates and be introduced by Andrew Kurtzman this way. "They have no money, they have to chance of winnning, they are the gadflies of local politics and we are going to talk with them tonight."

The Van
Our most effective get out the vote tool was a blue van with a platform built on top and signs all around. We would go out crusing the distric, blaring a loud speaker and waving to people.

The Message
Our campaign was focussed on the tragedy of the Rockefeller era drug laws with their mandatory sentencing that was repsonible for large number of Harlemites being sent to prison for long periods of time. My observations is that lack of legitimate employment opportunities leaves many with no alternative but to get into "the business". JOBS NOT JAILS was our simple message. We did not even make it up. It was not original with us. But it does capture what we believed in. It seems so tragic to see the wasted lives, that could be productive lives. Its also very costly or profitable depending on the side of the equation one sits on.

The Signs
We made signs out of canvas with the help of Ehrling Rohde, lifetime Harlem Activists. One sign was actually a giant letter to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority(MTA) which hung from the side of Rohde's dilapidated building, exhorting the chairman to live up to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission clauses included in the $300 million dollar renovation of a commuter rail bridge, to hire and train Harlem residents to work on the project. The rest of the signs were written on canvas which we hung from firescapes of abandoned buildings as high up as we could place them. Jeremiah Drake, a homeless veteran who joined the campaign, was able to climb to amazing places. Yes, we had a clear message, organize the young men of Harlem into a work force to fix the abandoned buidlings, instead of shipping them off to prison.

The Results
Voting: Rangel 55%, Powell 34%, Davis 10%
Spending: Rangel $100,000, Powell $35,000, Davis $5,000

What it All Means
Choices of candidates in the election marketplace are limited by a system designed to protect the incumbent. Competition of candidates and ideas has been wrung out of the system.