Roundtable: Mayor's Race, Hate Groups, Crowdsourcing Help
September 7, 2012 1:26 p.m.
Liam Dillon, Voice of San Diego
Dave Maass, San Diego CityBeat
John Wilkens, U-T San Diego
SAUER: I'm Mark Sauer, and joining me on the Roundtable are Liam Dillon from voice of San Diego.
DILLON: Hello, Mark.
SAUER: Dave Moss of San Diego City beat.
SAUER: And John Wilkins with the UT San Diego.
WILKINS: Glad to be here.
SAUER: Bob Filner and Carl DeMaio, if they were prize fighters, they'd be blind, bloodied, and covered with sweat at this point in the contest. The candidates have been trading hay makers for a handful of debates until this weekend. The debate Wednesday was a bit more genteel, but it was just one in 20-some debates. Why are they having so many?
DILLON: That's a great question. At this point, it's getting to be almost overkill. You hear them repeat the same tropes that they have been doing for over a year now. But there is it definitely a distinction in the types of things that they're talking about and emphasizing. I think that that's for a very clear reason. Carl DeMaio who has long been straight pension for the whole decade he's been here is talking about new types of plans. He wants to talk about education, the environment, the border. Bob Filner who was great the lyricist in the primary in terms of all the things that he hated, Proposition B,s pension initiative, the convention center, Balboa Park remodel, which went through calling them things like frauds and giveaways, and ruining historical natures of the park, now he's emphasizing that he will in fact implement all of those things if he is elected mayor. What we're seeing is that both candidates are much more partisan than wee seen in the past. And what they're trying to do to reach out to more of the center is present more of a conciliatory moderate image that is more in line with the kinds of mayors San Diego likes to elect.
MAUREEN SAUER: The debates, they really went after each other.
DILLON: Yeah. And I think it's been more Filner throwing the punches than DeMaio. And that's sort of interesting. He's clearly frustrating DeMaio during the debates. You see it on Carl's face. Bob is a very smart guy. He's a doctorate, history of science, he's very good at laying out a very broad vision, he's very aggressive. But he also operates in a realm where facts and details don't really matter to him, right? And when you're debating someone who doesn't care if what they're saying is true, it's really hard to win an argument. You combine that with what Carl is doing, which is that one of the recent debates Filner was hitting him over and over and over again about special interests funding his campaign, developers funding his campaign, those sorts of things. And Carl wouldn't even go after Bob for his union support. And Carl has been doing that, going after unions for the entire time that he's been here. And you see Carl really trying not to alienate anyone.
SAUER: But they must be getting pretty good at it because they're having so many debates. If he's getting under his skin, he's got to find a way to avoid that.
DILLON: Well, I think Carl has done a good job, despite some of the frustration coming out, of sort of staying calm. He's not willing to get into the mud as much with Filner. He's attacked Filner as Filner instead of Filner for his affiliations or Filner for his position. It's more taking him to task for being a DC politician and I expect to see more of that as the campaign continues.
MOSS: At these debate, who makes up the audience? I imagine it's the same crowd over and over again sometimes.
DILLON: Well, it depends on the group. A lot of these are sponsored by particular community organizations, particular neighborhood, interest groups, and you see the one this week, the La Jolla Rotarians. So you have some of the same usual suspects in the campaign staff, and folks like that, but a lot of them are just speaking to folks who just want to hear from the particular candidates.
MOSS: Are there independents coming out for these debates? Or are these mostly decided people just wanting to hear their candidates talk? I get the feeling that a lot of it is just waiting for people to mess up.
DILLON: Yeah, sure. I think part of it for certainly some of the reporters and folks who are there at all of these, I think, the one time you say something different is sort of when it gets interesting. But for folks who -- again, this is a down ballot race. People don't have a tremendous amount of familiarity with these candidates. You see extremely low turnout in the primary. The fact they are barnstorming around the city, there is some value there for people who belong to these groups.
SAUER: Wednesday's debate was about creativity.
DILLON: They were saying for the most part, similar things. And I think it does go back to what I was saying earlier, Filner being very broad vision based, DeMaio being more detail oriented. And the biggest break was Filner would come out and say, well, why don't we have a group of folks, young people helping to -- as part of the science and math education, help install solar panels as part of my plan to put solar panels all over city buildings? And various ideas like that that may cost money but not really identifying the way to pay for it, and all being part of a broad vision. Filner said I'm tired of hearing about arts and culture only being done because there's bang for the buck. We should appreciate arts and culture for its own sake and spend money on it. Where DeMaio distinguishes from that, he says, look, this thinking that we just need to do things without identifying revenue sources or fixing the city's financial problems led us into the financial problems in the first place and limited our ability to do those sorts of things. So Filner providing a coherent vision for what he wants to see, not so good on facts. DeMaio trying to pull the argument back to finances.
SAUER: John you've been here a long time, seen a lot of these mayor campaigns. We've got Jerry Sanders, the incumbent, who's termed out and leaving and retiring, presumably. How does this campaign compare going back to the last one, the major one with the mayor and Donna Frye comes to mind?
WILKINS: It was a whole different ball of wax. Running as a write-in candidate, and coming close to winning, and some claiming she actually did. This one is interesting to me about the shift from the primary and the demeanor of the two guys. Are they worried about their likability factor? I wonder with both of them who both have a reputation for being a little bit snarly. I wonder how that's going to play. Maybe this Wednesday debate was trying out a softer look for each of them.
DILLON: I think they're both trying, but I think Carl is better at trying, if that makes sense. He's trying to present an image that really is in contrast with what he's been during the whole time he's been in San Diego, and that may stick. Filner is Filner. I wrote a story about his personality that basically talked to a lot of people who have called him a jerk over the last 40 year, and a lot of the response I got was, well, we can see that he's a jerk, but he's our jerk, from democratic partisans. And I think Filner comes off as human in that way, not really trying so hard to moderate himself because he can't.
WILKINS: He doesn't try to curry favor, that's just on who he is. And he recognizes that about himself too.
WILKINS: So what's your sense about how the public is tuning into this race? Is it too soon for the public to do that? Short attention spans of everybody these days?
DILLON: Yeah, it was interesting. To me, a good barometer of this, although it was before labor day, which is when people generally tune in if they're going to, was a few weeks ago when Filner made the allegation that DeMaio's partner was involved in the Balboa Park water gun fight, and he had no evidence. But Filner didn't seem to get punished for that. There wasn't much outrage other than from DeMaio partisans that Filner was speaking out of turn, even though he was.
SAUER: And you're wondering if there wasn't another point there for Filner to point out to maybe some of the conservative constituents for Carl that he is a gay man, which is not a secret, obviously, but not something he's highlighting. So he mentions partner, even if it's a baseless charge.
DILLON: Yeah, it's certainly a possibility. It doesn't excuse accusing someone of being involved in criminal activity.
MOSS: I don't buy into this whole idea that Bob was trying to get out Carl DeMaio's sexuality. I feel like Carl has already won over a lot of the most conservative, most Christian right folks in San Diego. Charles lemandry being one of the most. Maybe Bob Filner can convince James Hartline to come endorse him, but I don't think that's so much of a problem for Carl anymore. Maybe I'm wrong.
DILLON: I don't want to speculate too much on this.
SAUER: Right, it is speculation.
DILLON: It is a pretty sensitive issue in terms of campaign tactics. But I think it is fair to say that a lot of folks don't pay attention to these down ballot races even though it's an important mayoral election for the 8th largest city in the country. And if you just see some images of a guy on TV once or twice, you may not know their whole background.
SAUER: We talked about them being very willing to change their positions and come back and forth. What do you think that means? Are they getting more moderate? Or do they just have to try and run to the center from the primary?
DILLON: Well, for the most part, I think may take is if this image is who they say they are, it would be a huge break from what they have been in the past. Their histories don't really bear that out. I talked to dozens of folks about both of their backgrounds. They had a lot of formative experiences as teenager, Carl with losing his mother, and Bob with being a part of the civil rights movement. And also they sort of made their political hay in Washington DC. Filner was a Congressman for 20 years, and Carl starting his businesses there, which he sort of dealt with government issues as well. So they're both similar in that respect. Their personalities are often their biggest enemies, they're built up their political resumes in Washington DC, and they have hard charging act centrism in the causes they believe in. So yeah, they may be different when they enter office, and Filner has said as much. Carl has implied as much. One of the ways Filner was successful was in terms of securing benefits for Filipino veterans who were promised them during World War II, didn't get them. He was combative about it, got arrested at a protest for Filipino veterans. But the gentleman that I spoke with said that he also hurt the cause when he was so forceful in his advocacy during the Clinton administration in the '90s, that turned off a lot of folks in that administration, and the Clinton VA opposed some of the bills that would have granted some of these benefits earlier than they did. Carl had a very well known falling out with City Councilman Donna Frye, and you may think that, well, okay, don is a democratic, Carl is a Republican.
SAUER: But they had gone together before he took office.
DILLON: Exactly, exactly. Did share some populist ideals and open government. But she found and has said over time in this scathing criticism of him, she just learned to believe that he wouldn't do what he said. And once it happened time and again with her, she broke that relationship. And I think that that's in some ways where they're -- Carl finds it very hard, I think to -- it's hard to tell sometimes whether he believes more in the cause or his own ambition. And I think she was responding to that.
SAUER: A couple of things happened in the primary. We had prop B pass, are the pension reform, and we also had one of the major candidates, district attorney Bonnie Dumanis make this education a center of her platform. So is that influencing now what both candidates are having to do? Obviously you've got pension reform. They've negotiated with the unions. It's there you have to deal with it if you're a candidate for mayor on Filner's side. And education, they both addressed that.
DILLON: I think with education, Bonnie did a good job making it an issue in the campaign. I think it's easy to understand why. San Diego unified schools in particular are in a significant amount of financial turmoil. When you look at some of the public poles come out, the first issue that everyone talks about is education.
SAUER: All of a sudden, let's get a role.
DILLON: That's get involved, yeah.
MOSS: What's the significance of DeMaio partnering up with Tony Young on this education?
DILLON: Well, it was funny because Filner held a press conference yesterday on his education plan at which Tony Young was also there. And I asked Tony, well, what can we take from the fact that you were at a similar event with Congressman Filner's opponent a month ago? And he said, well, it was not a similar event because there I was just talking about putting -- supporting this release of this study, and here I am supporting a mayoral candidate talking about an education plan. So he's really trying to parse that pretty close -- split hairs there. But I think there is sort of a method here, and he wants education to be more a part of the mayor's race, so he uses his endorsement, which he hasn't given yet, as leverage to make both of these guys talk about education. And so far that's working.
SAUER: I mentioned the primary candidates. And on midday on Monday, we're going to have Nathan Fletcher on, and he's going to talk more about how he sees the race. We're going to have to leave it there.
SAUER: Welcome back to the Roundtable on KPBS. I'm Mark Sauer. My guest, Liam Dillon, Dave moss, and John Wilkins. Six people died in the recent shooting rampage at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. The gunman who was shot to death by police was identified as a 40-year-old army veteran and former leader of a white supremacist heat wave metal band. On labor day, four marines were arrested for beating a man unconscious at a gay bar in long beach. Hate crimes are back in the news, and though California attorney general Kamala Harris reported this week that the number of such crimes is down slightly in California, hate crimes continue to organize and operate. Dave, what did the attorney general say in her report this week?
MOSS: She noted a 4% decrease in hate crime events in California. We can frame it as a decrease. It is so slight that I would just say it stayed about event.
SAUER: Okay. And so do we have any idea why the number of hate crimes against Hispanics has dropped so much?
MOSS: Maybe it's a growth in the population. It's hard to say. I feel like one of the more significant growths over the years is against the LGBT community. So perhaps there's a transfer there.
SAUER: Of course I referenced that incident involving the Marines in long beach this week. You've done quite a bit of report on hate crimes in San Diego County, you wrote with about a skinhead concert in July.
MOSS: There were several bands. Most of them were skinhead related groups, and a lot of them had been around for years. Some had been affiliated with Wade Page, the shooter at the Sikh Temple. He would fill in as a bassist I believe with them in concerts in the past. It was put on by a group called the western hammerskin, which is probably the largest strongest racist skinhead group in the country, as well as crew 38, which is kind of the Southern California group. And a label called antipathy records. Falling the Wade page incident, they kept selling his CD, and offering a discount if you mention Wade page. So they're clearly not apologetic about this.
SAUER: So when you get an event like this, how does the word get out?
MOSS: Well, they kept it totally under wraps. I found out about it through searching a website called stormfront.org, which is kind of the central online forum for white nationalists. And they were advertising it with a poster, but they weren't saying where. You had to send messages and ask questions. You even hear it just coming through twitter, e-mail, text message, at the very last minute.
SAUER: You interviewed a member of a group called American 3rd position, white nationalism package for a main street audience. Tell us about Damon.
MOSS: Well, American 3rd position is essentially a racist group that attempts to frame itself as a political party. A lot of the people are involved, this guy Damon, he's also involved with the hammerskins. It's hard to say what they believe. They have a presidential candidate named Merlin Miller, like the wizard. And if you go to his website, it has all the iconography of the tea party movement, liberty, liberty bell, freedom, the American flags all over the place. If you start reading through the literature, you realize references to Zionism and Zionist conspiracies, and the white people losing power. And in the end it comes down to the same issues that you see across the spectrum with white supremacy.
SAUER: Is it fair to say, and I certainly don't want to encourage any speculation here, is it fair to say that in the general election, the actual mainstream election that we're all watching on the national scene, you mention this extreme and racist aspect of it, but the tea party aspect bleeding into that and all. What is the -- how are we to relate that to the main election here in terms of racist overturns that have been raised by some commentators in the press?
MOSS: I don't think tea partiers are necessarily racist. But as a group, they have to realize that there are elements that are trying to recruit new members from the outskirt, using the Birther movement, trying to find people who they feel like might be sympathetic to hearing a little bit at a time until they're able to pull them into full-on white supremacy.
WILKINS: It's like a Venn diagram. Overlapping section, maybe not the whole thing, but some parts of it they can pull people from.
SAUER: Right. Some words have been criticized by some pundits saying we want to take our country back. Some say that has racial overtones of conservatism, and certainly elements of the GOP are saying, that, take our country back from whom? Who are we?
DILLON: I'm curious, what kind of threat or what kind of impact do these groups actually make nationally? I understand why there's concern and why there's reporting about it. But what sort of effects and what sort of impact are these guys having, particularly locally?
MOSS: I think you see a lot of them do spin off and do violent acts in the end. And I don't want to paint that for all of them, but there was the holocaust museum shooting a few years ago. You have the Sikh shooter. So there is this potential for small bursts of great violence. And a lot of people would classify these groups as cults. A lot of people say these are harmful in harnessing people's -- the worst parts of people. I don't think they have necessarily a huge impact over elections or anything like that. And in the end, these are very small groups. In the end, this concert had like 90 people, and that was considered a huge success. I think the voice of San Diego pulls in more than 90 people.
[ LAUGHTER ]
WILKINS: San Diego has such a long history of these kinds of groups taking root here. Tom Metzger who headed the white Aryan resistance, he was -- he almost made it into Congress. He was the democratic nominee for Congress in 1980. He was here for years, a national leader in that movement. And for a while, recently in Escondido, we had the Aryan nations guy are was here. Just a few years ago, you had a young guy in his 20s in Lemon Grove running one of the most prolific hate websites in the country was targeted as somebody to pay attention to. And he got convicted of hate crimes, and one of his victim was Bob Filner.
SAUER: And you mentioned getting involved in mainstream politics, we have David Duke, ran on an -- in the south I want to say Arkansas?
DILLON: Louisiana, I believe.
MOSS: American 3rd position has started running candidates in very, very, very bottom of the ballot, like Riverside water board, trying to sneak people in, very, very lowdown the ticket.
SAUER: So what would the difference say between American 3rd position and Neo-Nazi groups?
MOSS: Oh, if you actually dig into it, you see very strong connections. Damon is this guy in my story from the American 3rd position, on one hand, he was talking about reforming politics, about you he admitted he came from that background, a sort of violent Neo-Nazi background, and still is a part of it.
SAUER: You interviewed him in an Irish pub in --
MOSS: He chose an Irish pub in Carlsbad. And that's where we met, and he was very hope. He wasn't really worried about other people overhearing what we were talking about. He just didn't want his last name used.
MAUREEN SAUER: We talked about 90 folks here. How do these folks recruit? Who's showing up?
MOSS: There are a lot of young people, a lot of people who have been a part of it for a long time. A lot of them get recruited in prison. A lot of them are just angsty young people who need an outlet. And you see angsty young people being pulled into all sorts of groups. People when they're young are passionate about things and want to get involved. So I think it's -- and I think there's also a white middle class and working class that do feel marginalized as the Hispanic population grows.
SAUER: Would this have something to do with the economy and how tough it's been lately and unemployed people?
MOSS: I think some people would say yes. But I don't think the movement right now is as strong as it had been in years past. Economies come and go, and Neo-Nazis stick around.
SAUER: If you go back to 1948, we had a -- basically a white segregationist party. Strom Thurman was the head of that, and to some of us it's not that long ago, it seems. We had the great civil rights movement in the meantime. But these folks have to stay below radar.
MOSS: Well, they are very aware that they're being watched by the FBI. They're very aware on their message boards that anybody who contacts them is probably a lurking member of the ADL, or a member of the southern poverty law center, or FBI, just spying on them. And somebody from law enforcement did find out about the event right before, called the El Cajon police, and said, hey, there's going to be this massive concert. So El Cajon police sent police down to monitor it outside, make sure things didn't get out of hand. And fortunately there was no major incidents.
SAUER: It's interesting. What can they really do? It seems it would butt up against the first amendment.
MOSS: Well, it's funny. When I was in college, hisome nonracist skinheads, invited me to a dropkick Murphies show. And we go outside after the show, about 150 of us, and there's like eight neoi Nazi racists standing outside of burgee king, and they're throwing peppers at us, before the bouncers show up with pepper spray and hose everyone down. That's the sort of thing you worry about a lot of times, whether some other oppositional group will show up, or whether people get so revved up at these eventses that they go out and attack the first Latino they see.
SAUER: We mentioned some of the incidents, at least involving the Camp Pendleton marines. Of course the Sikh tragedy, much has been written and examine body that. But so far it sounds like it's a lot of posturing, a lot of social media back and forth. But it hasn't resulted perhaps in any action, aggressive behavior that we can tell.
MOSS: There was a series of vandalisms with swastikas in east county. I don't cover east county that much. I just read what was in the paper. But it could just be annoying high school kids, or it could be actually Neo-Nazis. But this Camp Pendleton-related beating of an LGBT person, and you kind of have to distinguish. You have organized hate groups that would go after typically Jew, African Americans, things like that. But then you have in our society a sort of -- it's still -- I don't want to use the word culturally acceptable, but there's still a large possible of the population who believes that people who are gay are committing sins, shouldn't have equal rights.
SAUER: There are some planks on the platform for one of the major political parties for that.
MOSS: Exactly. So there's a lot of animosity that isn't organized. People have opinions. And when somebody's drunk or somebody gets aggravated, then there's lashing out. But it's not in the same way like they're going home to the antiLGBT club.
MOSS: It's more spontaneous.
SAUER: We don't know that much yet with the investigation going on in the Pendleton incident. But they did go to a gay bar, which is kind of --
MOSS: Yeah, very interested to hear more about that.
WILKINS: It's also interesting. But Camp Pendleton used to bring in reformed skinheads to give lectures to marines to actually try to teach them how to avoid being recruited into those kinds of groups.
SAUER: So there's a concern in the military for this kind of --
WILKINS: There has been in the past.
SAUER: All right. We'll wrap it up there.
Welcome back to the Roundtable on KPBS. I'm Mark Sauer. A pair of hikers in the Peruvian Andies were overdue, and an e-mail that circled around their friends of ominous, it read should be down the mountain by now. John, give us the details about what happened when a UC San Diego graduate student and his friend went missing.
WILKINS: Well, there's a company in San Diego called Tomnod, they work with satellite imagery, and they're adventurers, outdoor guys who were close to these two guys who went missing. When they heard that they had not shown up when they should, it dawned on them that they might be able to use the same technology they use in their work to help search for these guys. So they were lucky. There was actually a conference here in San Diego, a high-tech conference, and the satellite imaging companies were here for that conference. They knew each other, sothey basically went across the room and said hey, can you help us out and get us an image of this mountain? So the companies got together and did that. They first sent them an image about a week old, and then they were able to send them an image that was pretty fresh. This company takes these huge images and giga bites of data, and they have to tile them into much smaller files to put on a website, and they send out the word for climbing communities for people to come through this website and look through the photos and identify things that look out of place or things that might have looked like a camping site. So they did that, and tracked several hundred people when who went through these images for hours on end. And they identified three areas that looked promising, one was an area on the ridge that looked like footsteps that had suddenly stopped. All offis sitting here now, it seemed a pretty good clue. So they sent that report to Peru where search crews were just getting ready to go out again. And as it turned out, that's where they were found at the bottom of that ridge.
SAUER: So it was about a 1,000-foot drop?
WILKINS: Yes. We're normally used to satellite images on Google earth or wherever, they're really old images. So the idea here was to try to figure out a way to get access to these images quickly, and actually be able to use them in sort of a real-time situation.
WILKINS: And the way they look at it is these guys were really broken up about what happened to their friends. They went back to Colorado to help scatter ashes and things. But they're looking at this as a silver lining and saying maybe the next time this happens they won't be dead, and we can help rescue them.
SAUER: Right. So tells about Tomnod.
WILKINS: It's Mongolian for big eye. And that dates back to their earliest interest. It was started by four PhD's in emergencying from UC San Diego. And one of them is a pretty famous national geographic explorer of the year, and a longtime fascination with trying to get Genghis Kahn's tomb. That's where the Mongolian connection comes in.
SAUER: Explain to us what's meant by the wisdom of the crowd.
WILKINS: Well, they do a number of projects along this line. But the wisdom of the crowd is the crowd sourcing with these photos. It would take a couple of people so long to pour through all of these photos and try to identify things that might stand out. But if you can bring in hundreds or thousands of people to go through those photos, then you take a look at what they're marking, and through some algorithm, they're able to say we're getting the wisdom of the mass here telling us these are the places we need to look. And they do some real interesting work with twitter. During the Republican primary, they looked at at what twitter traffic was saying about the various candidates, and ahead of the poles they said who was going to win, and they turned out to be right a lot of the time.
MAUREEN SAUER: Oh, interesting.
WILKINS: If somebody is saying Rick Santorum is whatever on twitter, they would track that, and they could tell you who was going to win the primary. And they'll be doing some of that kind of work during the presidential election as well.
SAUER: How are they making any money?
WILKINS: That's the million-dollar question. They do have clients who have done work. A newspaper in Ireland hired them to do some crowd sourcing work on St. Patrick's day parades. The UT has hired them to do some work like that.
DILLON: I'm curious what the long-term implications and promises are of this. Is this like a law enforcement thing? A search and rescue thing? Or something else? Where is the end game?
WILKINS: Well, they're looking at it as a search and rescue thing. But it also could potentially be a law enforcement thing. I'm thinking about San Diego is famous for some cases where we had some young girls disappear.
SAUER: Certainly, yeah.
WILKINS: And there are a couple of cases where they just had no idea what happened. Amber DuBois, they spent a long time running down some red herrings in that case. And I could see the implication where if they knew she was walking to school when she disappeared, if they had some kind of satellite imagery they could track in real-time, it would be interesting. The big issues are trying to get those images really quickly. And over time, you're going to see more satellites up in the air, more use of aerial drones, and data is going to be coming in a lot faster.
SAUER: And less extensive.
DILLON: And there's a line with privacy concerns as well.
WILKINS: That's a big issue. Just this we think, we heard that the U.S. is considering authorizing the sale of drone planes to some 65 countries in the world. And maybe they're our friends now, but as we know through history, they may not be tomorrow.
WILKINS: So it does raise all sorts of privacy issues. Google earth has faced them, they tile out faces when they show up. So the images now, you can get a resolution that's basically the size of the home plate on a baseball field.
SAUER: Your story talked about crowd sourcing, which seems to me incongruous with the idea of searching on a remote mountainside.
WILKINS: The crowd sourcing is the sort of wisdom of the crowds. You had dozens if not hundreds if not thousands of people in the climbing community be who wanted to do something.
SAUER: So they had expertise in mountain climbing and hiking?
WILKINS: Well, they would help them in this situation. But the beauty of the Tomnod thing is you don't have to be an expert in satellite imaging. You can go to that site and they'll walk you through it, and it's just a matter of putting a pin down where you think there's something. And if you're the only guy looking at the image, and you put a pin there, they're going to say you're an outlier. But if 150 people put pins in the same place, they're going to go, okay, this is something we ought to pay attention to.
WILKINS: So like Chelsea king, you had hundreds of thousands of people in San Diego who helped with the actual physical searches, you probably would have had even more who would have been willing to look at images of lake Hodges to find something.
SAUER: Let's get back to Genghis Kahn.
WILKINS: National geographic, that's what they do. They were interested in this partner so they hired Tomnod. And they put those images up, and they had I think 10,000 people who looked at satellite images to try and identify what looked like vegetation that was more beaten down or younger than some of the trees around Tmaybe old trails, that kind of thing.
SAUER: Really old here.
WILKINS: Really old. But obviously the satellite images don't date back to Genghis. Still it was the idea of trying to do that and trying to narrow the field through the crowd sourcing of where they ought to go.
SAUER: And they're looking for his tomb.
WILKINS: They are. But there are some issues with his tomb. And through all this, and through some radar technology, underground, they narrowed their search to this one area. And there's some oral history in Mongolia about where his tomb might be. So when you put all that together, they went to this one place, and they actually had this pretty horrific storm there that upended a bunch of trees. And in the roots of these tree, they found some roof tiles that date back to roughly the period withheld have been buried.
SAUER: So let's dig! Why not?
WILKINS: Well, there's a lot of cultural reasons why you don't want to do that. And you have to be sensitive to who runs the country. So they're in consultations with Mongolia to basically turn over the place to them and say you guys do what you want to do.
SAUER: And there's a curse, is there not?
WILKINS: There is allegedly a curse that if you open the tomb that the curse will basically destroy the world.
SAUER: So hope is implicit in this technology when people go mising and need to be rescued. But it's not as easy or cheap as it sounds. Deeper into your story, you realize this is great, it sounds wonderful, but there are some challenges.
WILKINS: It's very early in this attempt to do this. But it's interesting, sort of the implications about what it says about how much more of this technology will be out this in the future, and how are people going to be using it. There are other people who have tried to use it in search and rescue efforts for missing airports. Steve Faucet's plane for example. The problem was the satellite images they had were for Nevada and he crashed in the eastern Sierras. But the technology is getting better, I think it will get cheaper, and I think you'll see a lot more of it available. There's one company that's talking about if you wanted to pay them, they'd give you a satellite image every three hours of any one place on the earth. That's a little mind-boggling to get images that quickly.
SAUER: As a practical matter, I'm dreading the days when the Santa Anas come, and 30% humidity, is this hopeful for use in a wildfire situation?
WILKINS: They have been contacted by some of the emergency agencies in San Diego County about trying to use this technology in cases of wildfires and other things. I'm not sure exactly how. It might give them an idea of the direction the fire is headed, certainly an idea of damage assessment. Of
SAUER: People tracked in had a cul-de-sac or a certain area, which we have had.
SAUER: They might be able to somehow use this in real-time. And it is though -- you were mentioning the big brother aspect to this, are and the drones and all. So it's a double-edged sword. The thought of so many people spying, so many photos being the sho.
WILKINS: And what areas do you allow the images to come from? You can go on the Internet and type in your address, and there are any number of companies that will sell you a satellite image of your house or street. It is interesting, the privacy questions. Especially as the technology gets better. Everybody thinks that the military probably has satellites that could pick our face out on a street right now. But --
MOSS: I just love this name. There's this other company, Palind, it's this Lord of the Rings eye that could see everybody, and it's really evil sounding. Whereas Tomnod is kind of the same concert but in a more Ben everybody lent way.
WILKINS: When I went to do the story, I assumed it was some shortening of names of the people running the company. But that's nota it at all.
SAUER: You mention in your story SAR, I assume it's search and rescue. What are the challenges outlined by the folks leading that group?
WILKINS: Well, they don't get the same access to the images these guys do. They were working with cruder images. Their thing is to try and find -- they believe it's too hard to try and find people, so they look for airplanes that have crashed. In one of them they tried to do in a jungle somewhere, which swallow an airplane pretty quickly. They had not had success the why. And their efforts are more of a recovery thing. These are people whose loved ones have disappeared in a plane crash, and they want to know what happened.
SAUER: It seems like San Diego would be a logical place for this because there's so much innovation going on, so many high-tech companies here.
WILKINS: Well, this company actually works out of one floor in a building downtown, and it's full of all sorts of incubating companies. They're doing a lot of thinking outside the box, which I think is what helped them in this case to try and think of these applications for search and rescue.
SAUER: We had the hurricane last week, which disrupted the Republican convention and caused grief and havoc there. Hurricanes have days of lead time. The wildfire season, we can see these things. So I wonder if you have some warnings like that, and you have situations where you're looking for rescues in a flood situation, tsunami situation, can they get geared up? Get the 3,000 folks in the crowd ready to go and practical apply this?
WILKINS: Well, those are sort of the two main steps of the challenge. One is to get the satellite images and get them into their computer so they can break them down into images you and I can look at. The other one is how do you let people know we need you to come in and do the search something
DILLON: Well, are and then how do you pay for people to do that?
SAUER: If it's a FEMA situation, great. But if it's an individual looking --
WILKINS: That's another key. How do you motivate people to do that for you? These crowd sourcing people are volunteers. They're not being paid. Unless they have somebody who's missing, you might not be able to get too many people to do it.
MOSS: We're totally going to find Big Foot with this technology.
[ LAUGHTER ]
SAUER: That's a fascinating story. Thanks so much.