Friday, May 28, 2010


Andree and I went ahead and spent the money to form a not for profit on Haiti. The name is Tech Assist Haiti. Web site coming soon.

One of the primary reasons I did this was that I can deduct my own expenses on the Haiti stuff. I did my tax return last month and realized that I couldn't take any of the money we have spent off of income. Argh! So the corporation is formed and the application for 501(c)(3) designation is in process. So anyone moved to donate money to a reliable cause will have a place to put it. And equipment which can be donated; a fair value letter will be provided; bingo a return of some of your taxes paid.


Here are the current projects that I am work on. I can't get anyone to spring a single penny to move stuff forward but the struggle will continue until I am successful or I drop. Right now put your wagers on dropping but I am buying lottery tickets regularly.

• Save the Children-Computer labs in schools. Need computers.
• Ministry of Education. Two projects: computer labs in schools and building tech infrastructure for the ministry. Need computers. Funds for various logistics activities.
• Salvation Army: computers in their schools and putting broadband connectivity into their facilities. Need computers, funds for volunteer travel.
• MultiLink: Helping with engineering assistance and looking for funding to put their nationwide broadband buildout into operation.
• Ministry of Public Works and Ministry of Energy: Strategic planning conference on building Haiti tech infrastructure properly. we need a sponsor to pay for the facility and prep work.
• Ministry of Public Works, Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Education, IBM: Building an academy to house/feed/train technology works. Build a datacenter to host outsourcing. Huge project, $ 8 to $ 10 million next two years.
• Grand Chemin Project: Community building project to create business center, clinic, school, farmer’s coop. Need computers. Need funds for various logistics activities.
• Conde Naste Magazines and Hotel Oloffson: Build a reliable internet cafĂ© for the use of all journalists (this one is almost finished)
• Richard Morse and Jimmy Buffet: Community building in the countryside to bring jobs, technology to underserved population. Don’t know what is needed there.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Rant: 48 hours on

So my rant or fit of anger or pique or whatever it is called is 48 hours old now. I have had time to calm down from the sensory overload that I experienced Thursday to Monday.

Going back and forth between the US and Haiti as I have been doing is a jarring exercise. The fact I am doing this every few weeks is creating a cumulative effect on me. My frustration with the lack of activity on the part of every segment of my home society is growing by the hour. There is a humanitarian disaster (as opposed to a point event disaster like an earthquake) evolving less than two hour's flying time from my house. That really bothers me.

It bothers me because for the first time in human history the facts of an imminent disaster are available to everyone who cares to know. This is not the early Soviet Union where Stalin killed 20 million and no one knew. This is not Nazi Germany where our leaders knew that the government of Germany was killing millions of innocents but the population did not know here. This is not Rwanda in Bill Clinton's term where people sort of knew something was wrong but the tribal complications and distance created indifference. This situation is simple; the facts are out there for everyone; the situation degrades every day.

I have come to the conclusion that the US is comprised of a bunch of hard working people who care deeply about a lot of things. People who look themselves in the mirror and tell themselves that they are contributing members of society. The totality of this culture is one of giving and compassion. The problem lies in that totality.

We seem to think that our government will take care of things like Haiti. Our government will make sure that tens of thousands do not die of malaria. Our government will 'do the right thing' and make sure that things are OK for the Haitian people. After all, we tell ourselves, the US gave billions in aid after the earthquake so we have done our part. Many of us donated money to the Red Cross for Haiti. We can feel good about that.

That sort of group think collective avoidance of individual responsibility for action is directly affecting the people of Haiti. A nation built on the principle of individual responsibility and individual action has become a nation that wants reality TV and delivery pizza.

What is our individual responsibility? We all have our own answer to that question. Based on the comments I have received from my rant two nights ago I pissed off a lot of folks. I think that is wonderful. According to the site counter there have been just under 200 readers of that page since I put it up. 200 folks; the few who reached out to me were angry. I hope I made 200 angry. Maybe one or six or thirty will take action.

The next rant is scheduled for the 24 hours following my next return from Haiti if not before. Fair warning.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The reason for the rant...

I live in Florida and work in New York. I had seven client meetings yesterday it was a very long day.

One of the meetings was at a company (I can't say the name) that has, hands down, the most opulent facility I have ever seen. Fifteen or twenty floors of office building. On every floor two, not one, food/coffee bars. Everything free. All of these people rushing around doing their work and stopping to get a coffee or juice or something to eat.

I sat there for half an hour waiting for my meeting. Watching all of these people go by. Thinking of the streets of Port au Prince. Knowing that if we transported 1,000 Haitians into that building they would think that aliens had abducted them and taken them to the mother ship of Doritos and Coke.

It weighs on one. A lot.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Fair warning. This is a rant. For a lot of reason I will not explain I am fairly well placed in a space where I am fed up.

I was just on my balcony have a cigarette before going to bed. My balcony looks across the Hudson River at the World Trade Center. I was comparing in my mind the events of 9/11 and the Haitian earthquake. Then I thought about Katrina.

In Katrina we lost under 3,000 Americans. On 9/11 the death toll was about the same. Between these two events the US government and US charities spent a lot of money. $ 300 billion dollars perhaps?

We are failing our brothers and sisters in Haiti.

$ 300 billion dollars would feed the population of Haiti, pre 12 January, for 60 years. If every single Haitian sat down on the ground and did no not do a thing our expenditures for the two events here in the good old USA would feed them all for sixty damned years. Two generations.

People I knew died on 9/11. i was as upset about that event as anyone. I went to Katrina and spent all of my money helping people. I borrowed everything I could and spent that too. I still haven't paid off those bills. I feel that I am justified in commenting on those events and on Haiti.

The ugliness in our society has just simply reached a level that I am not able to tolerate. People in Haiti die every day. And in Sudan. And in Yemen. And in Uruguay. And in West Virginia. And in Miami. Mumbai. Name a place.

We live our lives of indescribable luxury. We do our little bitty things to 'help' and go on with our soccer matches and our lunches at work and our prewashed blue jeans. And we ignore the suffering on our planet.

I watched a man die on the streets of Port au Prince yesterday. Nothing special except to those who loved him and trust me there were people who loved him. Children starved to death today on this planet. Mothers cried that cry that is unique; most of us here in our pampered palaces do not know that sound. I do.

Haiti is one hour and 20 minutes from Miami by air. At least four airlines fly to Port au Prince on a regular schedule these days. It cost me $ 160 to fly to Port au Prince last week.

So tell me good and caring Americans: why aren't those airplanes full of you going to Haiti with your baggage full food? Why are there tens of thousands of people in Haiti whose minds have broken wandering around without a therapist to counsel and heal them? We have lots of shrinks here. Why aren't they there?

So we argue our silly political arguments. We actually give a rolling shit if Rush Limbaugh really speaks for the right. People spend millions of dollars arguing over a woman's right to an abortion.

Get over yourselves. You are spoiled. Your concerns are just about 100% childish. You won't go hungry in America. Your biggest concern will be the wound to your pride if you have to get food stamps. You can go to a hospital and get treated; if you do not have insurance you may get nasty telephone calls from a bill collector. Oh goodness, a bad phone call.

Live in a tent during a six hour torrential downpour. Do that when your four year old child has pneumonia. And your elderly mother (old at 50 in Haiti) has one leg because she got slammed by a concrete block on 12 January. Know that whatever you do your child will probably die and when your mother is too much of a burden that you will turn her out on to the street because you simply can not take care of everyone around you who is in need.

You are spoiled rotten. That's not your fault your parents, your society, did that. You are an adult. It is your responsibility to live your own life now. Care about others; care about strangers. Spend all of your money and walk away from your job and abandon the competition with who has the nicest car or the prettiest dress or the best record on liberal social causes. Get over yourself you are not all that important.

You do not matter any more than the naked woman walking the crowded streets yesterday or the nice man who fell over and died while I looked in his eyes. Yesterday. The people who never had a chance because they have had bad government and bad schools and bad luck.

Shut up about what matters to you. I don't care. I am sitting here watching Keith Olberman and if I had the opportunity I would walk in his studio on-air and ask him 'what have you done for Haiti?'.

What have you done for Haiti?

I have the answer: nothing. If you had I would have met you there because you know what? I have.

Shame on you.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Woke up with a song in my head

Nice day here in Haiti. I woke up this morning after a 20 hour day with a song in my head. Don't know the tune I think it is something like Jimmy Buffett's Havana Daydreaming.

Haitian Tears

I smoked too much dope
Never snorted no coke
Didn’t have the money
Rode some waves
Loved the babes
Tried to find what’s funny

Somewhere there in my life
I got old
My hair fell out
My friends moved on
And I just made money
53 years and all I had
Was a family that loves me full
I thought life was bad
Didn’t know what I had
Fishing for reds and reading some books
What more can there be?

I smoked too much dope
Never snorted no coke
Didn’t have the money
Rode some waves
Loved the babes
Tried to find what’s funny

Dad and granddad to the kids
Son and buddy and brother
Haiti got hurt and I got called
Left Memphis and didn’t’ go home
My pack weighed my back
Old bones ached with every step
Delmas 2
In January
Nothing could really be this bad
Sat phone rings
The wife says hi how are you are you alive?
Yes I am fine I have to go
The kids have no water
Aftershocks and MREs and bonfires in the night

I smoked too much dope
Never snorted no coke
Didn’t have the money
Rode some waves
Loved the babes
Tried to find what’s funny

Leave and return it’s in my skin
I can’t explain don’t want to explain
No one understands
The kids are hurt the mothers are sad
We gotta help them out
Money is easy time is scarce
How can I find the balance?
Wife says OK you go away
Don’t forget we love you and come home soon
Mom says you may die there I say I know
And I will be proud of you , you gotta go
Everyone says you have work the team needs you bad
I say OK I’ll do it someday but right now the rucksack is packed
Call you later if the cell phone works take care of things my friends

I smoked too much dope
Never snorted no coke
Didn’t have the money
Rode some waves
Loved the babes
Tried to find what’s funny

I get it now what I needed
It’s all right there at home
Love and time and smiles and tears
They filled up all those years
They made me strong for the days so long
To wipe these Haitian tears

I smoked too much dope
Never snorted no coke
Didn’t have the money
Rode some waves
Loved the babes
Tried to find what’s funny

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


I have been working on a number of projects in Haiti. Anyone following these infrequent blog posts know what I am doing. I am doing quite a few posts on Facebook simply because it is easier than doing a blog update.

I have been working with an individual in Haiti to get broadband into his hotel for a public access internet cafe. It is 80% public service and 20% for his clientele. I am going to Haiti this week to do the site survey. The logistics are all in place. The provider is set. I have to find a few desktops to set up in the hotel for public access; that will not be a problem at worst case I have an inside source at IBM that gets them for right at $ 200 each.

So the reason for this post: We were emailing back and forth on details. The guy asked me a question about streaming video (the question was actually generated to him by Jimmy Buffet) and I answered the question.

So two things humbled me:

1. Jimmy Buffet (who I admire on all levels) is involved in this discussion. Way cool.
2. Richard (the client/customer/user/friend) asked me "Are you a technology Angel"

The caps were his.

Wow. I am head down working details to get stuff done. Anyone who knows me knows that is what I do. If I was a mule pulling a plow in the Delta I would probably run into the oak tree at the end of the row. I spend so much time in the weeds I sometimes just don't realize that some of this stuff is important on an individual basis.

You can approach the level of sadness despair death and anger in Haiti in two ways. You can get there and lose yourself in the simple fact that many people die every day. Things that we here in the US don't even think about kill people. A scratch on the leg from a piece of reinforcement bar sticking out into the sidewalk. A drink of water from a dirty source. Spoiled food. A mosquito bite. That is if you did not get squashed on 12 January or in the aftershocks in the following 10 days.

A hundred other ways to die. You can lose yourself in this; Sean Penn is doing that right now. I admire him like few people I have ever witnessed but the man is killing himself saving lives. That is one way to do it. The other is to write them all off. Accept that many will die while you working to resolve the infrastructure problems that cause the poverty that is the foundation of everything. That is how I view it. I have to step back and say 'I can't save them all so maybe I can save the next generation.'

That is an arrogant attitude and of course I can't save the next generation. The principle is valid. Most of the humanitarian assistance people I know have developed deep capability to ignore individual suffering. At least on the conscious level. I will never tell anyone of the nightmares. It is the only way to stay sane and do the work.

Then some guy who you have met twice who is trying to do good things for his nation calls you an angel. Wow.

When the day job is killing me and my wife is yelling at me because I am neglecting my kids and grandkids and she is scared I will die in Haiti I don't have a reply for her. This is tough stuff to do. It was tough the first week and it is tough now after four months. We are now into the deep grind period. The media are gone. No telethons this week; some other disaster has taken the stage. I could have gotten on an airplane to Chile or to China in the last two months. Logistics and communications are the closest things disaster response has to a religion and I guess I am a high priest. Haiti is going to be my last. It may be the end of me but that is Ok because in the end we should be measured not by what we put in the bank but what we give away. All the people who love me are reminding me constantly that I am giving it all away and my response is 'go with me and see why.'

It's my blog so I get to pontificate any way I want.

Poverty has been with us forever. My Baptist upbringing says that the poor will be with us always. I reject that statement. We can break the back of poverty. We can end hunger. 1,200 children a day die on this planet from prevantable causes. Tweleve hundred!

When you brush your teeth tomorrow morning look in the mirror and think about the 400 children that died while you were alseep. The 400 who will die while you work at your stamping machine or desk or gas pump or fly your airplane. Another 400 will die while you have your after work drink and your dinner and watch American Idol. 50 will die during the show. If you are disturbed by these facts and toss and turn all night another 400 have died. If you are blessed to be a parent think about the fact that every hour 100 parents have had their dearly loved expire. Died. Gone.

I don't need a zero percent financed new car every two years. Neither do you. 1,400 square feet is fine for a family of five you do not need 3,500. I know people who handle it in 40 square feet of Coleman tent. Turn off the air conditioner. Cook your meals instead of spending a thousand a month eating out. Give to Doctors Without Borders or Oxfam or Salvation Army. Don't give to the others because, despite the posts below, those are the international NGOs I believe have it together.

I am no angel. I am a spoiled narccistic self indulgent spoiled brat. We all are.

Richard you paid me the highest complement of my life but I am not worthy.