Thursday, September 29, 2005

Return of the Evacuees

Well, this recent Tuesday, my Mom and I returned home, after a 5 hour trip coming south from northern Texas. The Houston area is returning to normal. The heat here is unbearable for this late in September, what with the humidity it always feels like it is 103 degrees F outside.

Last Thursday there were evacuees who had run out of gas in our little town here. Huge lines at the few stations that had some gas. A cousin of mine who came back last Saturday says that many of the stores had empty shelves in them.

The real damage was over in Beaumont/Port Arthur, and places like Cameron, LA, and Lake Charles , LA. Plus a lot of East Texas towns had damage, trees down, and power down, and 100 degree heat outside.

One could say that starting from High Island, all the way to Mississippi, this whole stretch of the coast has been hammered by Katrina/Rita. It will take years for many communities to recover if at all.
Houston, lucked out, as there was not so much physical damage as there was nervous damage--- the I45 100 mile traffic jam for example.

Our backyard looks remarkably the same except for some blown around twigs. Go figure. The high pressure system over Texas kept Rita from coming in near Matagorda.

So Houston lucked out this time, but given a hotter Gulf of Mexico, who knows what will happen in years to come.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Evacuee; fleeing from Rita

Well, Weds. the 21st, my Mom and I became Rita evacuees-- fleeing from a storm which on that day was rated as a Category 5 that was supposed to come in at Port Lavaca or Matagorda on the Texas Coast.

We decided to get out that morning. My idea was to get to Austin , Texas, but I quickly found out that most hotels/motels in Texas were all ready booked because of Katrina evacuees, and others fleeing from Rita.
We ended up leaving Rosenberg, at 7:15pm , on Sept 21st.

It took us 5 hours to go from Rosenberg to Eagle Lake, Texas. At that time Rita looked to be a Category 5, with 165 mph winds. I packed my stuff, and then Mom packed the family photo albums, her clothes, and we left thinking 145mph winds might wipe out our house, because we are just 55 miles inland from the gulf. Burnet , Texas was our destination, as that was the only room I could get on short notice.

So there we were traveling about 3 mph in a stream of cars. At one point I got very worried that if all the roads were like this, we would run out of gas,and we would be stuck at 12;30 at night, with my Mom with a pacemaker, plus hot weather is hard when you are old and used to air conditioning. Well , it was totally frustrating and also scary, as you could feel some panic in the air. I hope I never experience anything like it again.

But then , THEN, once we got thru and past Eagle Lake,then we took alt 90 to Gonzales , no problem ,had the road to ourselves,and then 183 up thru Luling, Lockhardt, then I35 Austin, then to Burnet. Got there at 4:40 am the morning of Sept.22nd. I drove from 7:15pm til that 4:40 am.

All that we could figure out , was there had been some sort of accident in Eagle Lake, but it was strange as when we finally got to Eagle Lake, it was just a 4 way stop , with a guy with a red flashlight directing 4 way traffic, that was backed up on both of this farm to market 2 lane roads.

As we waited some people cheated by using the opposite lane to go foward.
So we got to Burnet , Texas, totally wiped out.

We made it up to my brothers in Mckinney, yesterday. I am glad we did come here, as at the time there was no way to know Rita was going to shift and go in near Sabine Pass.
Both of us needed it. My sister in Sugarland, was going to escape to Brenham , Texas, but traffic gridlocked in Houston, and they could not even get out of Sugarland! They are okay though, as Rita went further east, and down to a Cat 3.

Though awful, it could have been much worse.
Maybe the Dalai Lama, who was in Austin, last Tuesday did powerful prayers, and got the magnitude of the karma reduced. Hard to say, but as I say, at least my Mom and I have a home to drive back to. People in Slidell, LA, had it much worse.
So I give thanks, for getting out of there, and being safe here with family.
It shakes you up, but makes you realize how precious our time here on earth is.

My Mom and I became 2 out of 1 million evacuees for a while, but I feel even more sorry for Louisiana, that has been hit twice in 4 weeks.

I brought my laptop with me, and one of the things I grabbed, was a box with most of the negatives of all the photos I have taken over the years. It is funny what you grab, when, you leave a house, and think it may get blown away. Some physical items can be replaced, but once blown in a hurricane, photos are gone. I am afraid my energy is still a bit in an uproar. Or stressed.

My Mom called a neighbor, who says our house is okay, so we will likely go back down this coming Tuesday. I am sure tree branchs are down.
In all it has been a strange and scary week.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Red Tara , again

Red Tara Thankha ---- found over at Tibetan Spirit - - just thought I would post this because a lot of the news has been really dispiriting lately and can only do so many political type posts. Plus it looks like Tropical storm Rita could be headed this way. This could effect the author of this blog.
I will say I have always had good dealings with Tibetan Spirit, check them out, they have cool stuff. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Reading Newspapers--- sort of a basic thing

I recommend reading "How Bush Blew It, over at Newsweek.
Here is an excerpt:

"How this could be—how the president of the United States could have even less "situational awareness," as they say in the military, than the average American about the worst natural disaster in a century—is one of the more perplexing and troubling chapters in a story that, despite moments of heroism and acts of great generosity, ranks as a national disgrace.

President George W. Bush has always trusted his gut. He prides himself in ignoring the distracting chatter, the caterwauling of the media elites, the Washington political buzz machine. He has boasted that he doesn't read the papers. His doggedness is often admirable. It is easy for presidents to overreact to the noise around them.
But it is not clear what President Bush does read or watch, aside from the occasional biography and an hour or two of ESPN here and there. Bush can be petulant about dissent; he equates disagreement with disloyalty. After five years in office, he is surrounded largely by people who agree with him. Bush can ask tough questions, but it's mostly a one-way street. Most presidents keep a devil's advocate around. Lyndon Johnson had George Ball on Vietnam; President Ronald Reagan and Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, grudgingly listened to the arguments of Budget Director Richard Darman, who told them what they didn't wish to hear: that they would have to raise taxes.

When Hurricane Katrina struck, it appears there was no one to tell President Bush the plain truth: that the state and local governments had been overwhelmed, that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was not up to the job and that the military, the only institution with the resources to cope, couldn't act without a declaration from the president overriding all other authority."

and:" One by one, the lawmakers listed their grievances as Bush listened. Rep. Bobby Jindal, whose district encompasses New Orleans, told of a sheriff who had called FEMA for assistance. According to Jindal, the sheriff was told to e-mail his request, "and the guy was sitting in a district underwater and with no electricity," Jindal said, incredulously. "How does that make any sense?" Jindal later told NEWSWEEK that "almost everybody" around the conference table had a similar story about how the federal response "just wasn't working." With each tale, "the president just shook his head, as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing," says Jindal, a conservative Republican and Bush appointee who lost a close race to Blanco. Repeatedly, the president turned to his aides and said, "Fix it."

And then over at MahaBlog,( here is that bloggers reaction to this article:

There's something fundamentally screwy about a president who won't read newspapers or watch television news, but instead relies entirely on his staff to tell him what's going on in the world. This is not normal. Imagine a CEO who pays no attention to his company or industry in general until someone on his staff works up the courage to tell him the company is losing money. Granted, a lot of corporate heads are oblivious, but not that oblivious.

(According to legend,
John Kennedy used to speed-read six newspapers every morning while he ate breakfast. As I recall, Kennedy usually had a clue what was going on in the world.)

Second, what is the point of an executive who gives no direction? Many's the time I've attended "crisis" meetings in which staff and managers and maybe a couple of vice presidents dealt with a serious problem. After thorough discussion of the goals and obstacles, and after questions are asked and suggestions are made, the big shots decide on a plan of action. They don't just sit there and yell, "fix it!"

From my own reading of History, I believe that FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, LBJ, Nixon, Carter, they all read newspapers each morning. LBJ had 3 tvs set up so he could watch all 3 network news programs.

It sort of pinpoints one of the really strange aspects of "W". He doesn't read newspapers, or watch the news(has to get a Dvd made of summaries), and he doesn't talk to any ordinary Americans, any American in some diner or cafe, or on the street, or anyone who disagrees with him. All meetings with the public are totally vetted events. Thus like Nixon he islolates himself more and more. Unique and strange, and in the case of Katrina, deadly for those stuck in attics, in the poorest neighborhoods.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Am going to post most

of Craig Crawfords post today to the Huffington Post, - - -The Unmasking of George Bush - - - "

Hurricane Katrina exposed to the bone what many consider George Bush’s true persona. We’ve seen it all in the past two weeks: his patrician instincts, the seemingly disingenuous posturing and a stubborn refusal to fully take responsibility for what goes wrong.

Bush could throw a trillion dollars into the Mississippi Basin, dispatch hundreds of spinners to shift the blame — even fly to the region every other day until he is out of office — but to many Americans none of that would undo their first impressions of his above-it-all response to Katrina.
The president’s handling of this disaster reveals a part of his nature that explains so much more than the arguably preventable extent of Katrina’s unprecedented wreckage. It explains such things as his refusal to back down on Social Security revisions that even his own party leaders don’t want anymore. It explains how the “compassionate conservative” proclamation of his first presidential campaign translated into little of significance, especially for the urban poor. And it explains why he hasn’t gone to one funeral for an American soldier killed in Iraq.In short, rising numbers of Americans perceive Bush as someone who thinks he’s always right, who believes his critics are know-nothing wimps, and who considers the little people as mere tools for the rich and powerful to do what he considers right for America." CQ Weekly

There is a bit more to this article. The full article can be found by clicking on the CQ Weekly link.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Reading on the edge

What have I been reading lately? Aside from Blazing Splendor, which I reviewed earlier I just picked up How we Lost Iraq by Aaron Glantz.
After living in Iraq in 2003 and 2004, he pretty much sums up what many are beginning to notice: whatever goodwill we garnered for getting rid of Saddam, has been totally squandered in Iraq by an Administration incapable of making shrewd moves, or even what would be fair for the people of Iraq. Here is a large excerpt from a review at, done by V.I. Scherb:

"Aaron Glantz, a reporter for Pacifica Radio, has written a compelling first hand account of his experiences in Iraq between early 2003 and early 2005. This is new journalism at its best. Mr. Glantz is very upfront about where he is coming from as a supporter of human rights for all, whether they be Americans, Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, or Iraqi Christians. He is quite willing to acknowledge the atrocities of Saddam's regime as well as of the terrorists and U.S. forces. Living among the Iraqi people and sometimes mistaken for one by U.S. soldiers, he brings clarity to a complex situation and puts a human face on people under enormous pressure that you won't soon forget. Glantz's honesty comes through in a way you never see in the mainstream media, whose reporters are often isolated from the day to day lives of Iraqis in their suites at the Palestine hotel. He is also quite willing to turn his eyes on himself, asking "How many people can you interview whose relatives have been killed before you start to crack--or worse, tune it all out?"

In addition to a strong narrative arc that describes how American liberators became occupiers became oppressors, the book is filled with details and conversations that make pieces of the puzzle that is Iraq fall into place. To pick one example, his discussion of kidnappings in Iraq brings up thought-provoking points that one rarely hears voiced. Glantz notes an Associated Press report that "80 percent of the roughly 170 foreigners kidnapped in Iraq had been peacefully released. Overall, it seemed hostages directly involved in the occupation [this would include contractors working for the military] fared much worse than their civillian counterparts" (217). Details that should be reassuring turn out to be disturbing, such as Glantz's comment that the soccer stadium converted into a mass grave in Fallujah "turned out to be a lot smaller than I imagined it" which necessitated the bodies being buried very close together, "and each mound has a small concrete slab as a headstone, the name of the person hand-scrawled with red paint. Sometimes there are more than one name" (273).

Although he gives you his own opinions (and identifies them as such), many of the book's most powerful moments come when he gives the voices of the Iraqis scope. To take one example, a simple conversation with a shopkeeper suggests a chillingly plausible reason for the number of suicide bombers: there are people willing to pay them, rumors suggesting one might get as much as $250,000. As the shopkeeper explains, "Of course some people will take money to explode themselves . . . That way their family and and their grandchildren will be able to live well in the future." While huge sums go to military contractors and to protect oil interests, little goes to help the locals. As the shopkeeper wistfully comments, "If some of the money went to unemployed Iraqi people . . . there would be fewer bombings" (119-20). The passage is shocking, not only because it critiques U.S. policy, but because it suggests that many of the "fanatics" may not be fanatics at all, but simply people who are trying to protect and provide for their families by victimizing the families of others. Can the noblest of ends justify the worst of means? It is a question that some Iraqis answer in the affirmative, but obviously many in the U.S. answer the same question in the same way.

Ultimately, this cycle of violence underlies the whole book, and it applies to both Iraqi history as well as to U.S. actions in the Middle East. Although the book is hardly a justification of the invasion of Iraq, the book is by no means an unrelenting attack on U.S. policy. Glantz sometimes defends U.S. actions and critiques the anti-war Left; Glantz also describes his struggle with his editors at Pacifica who want more sensational stories than Iraqi discontent with the lack of power, water, and proper sanitation. He refuses to believe many of the worst reports of the U.S. military's behavior, although he acknowledges that a number of them turn out to be true. One of the things that makes the book remarkably compelling, is that you can actually see the shift from denial to acceptance taking place in his narrative, a shift that parallels the Iraqis transition from hope, to disappointment, to outrage. Glantz also makes unheard of efforts (at least for a journalist these days) to talk to multiple witnesses and check out their statements when this is possible. If he doesn't see things himself, he describes the aftermath in telling detail and interviews survivors. Ultimately the story Glantz tells is a tragic one, a story in which a bad situation is dishonestly exploited by the powerful, opportunities to do good are squandered, and arrogance and poorly thought out policy make a situation increasingly spiral out of control. " see How America Lost Iraq

It is a easy read, and I recommend it to anyone curious about what has gone down over there. --- J.P.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

If we are to pull ourselves out of the.....

"If we are to pull ourselves out of the disasters of Katrina and Iraq alike, we must live in the real world, not the fantasyland of the administration's faith-based propaganda. " ----from
Falluja Floods the Superdome by Frank Rich, New York Times 9/04/05.

I emailed this to several of my friends . New York Times articles tend to get archived very fast now days, and then you have to pay. But this article is also over at:
Maybe it will be around for awhile there.

Meanwhile today I came across this clip from a Yahoo News article:
"Local officials bitterly expressed frustration with the federal government's sluggish response as the tragedy unfolded.

"Bureaucracy has murdered people in the greater New Orleans area. And bureaucracy needs to stand trial before Congress today," Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish, said on CBS' "The Early Show."

"So I'm asking Congress, please investigate this now. Take whatever idiot they have at the top of whatever agency and give me a better idiot. Give me a caring idiot. Give me a sensitive idiot. Just don't give me the same idiot."

Also over at the Huffington Post there is a link from David Corn contrasting how FEMA performed in Florida during 4 hurricanes in 2004 with the prepositioning done this time:"

How do you explain FEMA's abysmal response to Hurricane Katrina only one year after its swift action in the four storms of 2004?

Well, Louisiana isn't Florida. And Kathleen Blanco isn't Jeb Bush.

For the full story on the politics of Bush-era disaster relief, see:
"FEMA: Florida Election Management Agency"

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Obviously a Major Malfunction

"Obviously a major malfunction"--- those were the icy, technocratic words of the capcom announcer at Nasa when the shuttle Challenger disintegrated in early liftoff back in 1986.

Well as early as last Sunday morning, when Katrina became a Category 5, someone should have assumed the worst and ordered some actual troops to be prepositioned, just based on the experience of Hurricane Andrew if nothing else. Instead we see a major malfunction of the system. And the same technocratic disconnect initially.

I remember at one point last Weds., because of 2 shots, it was announced that all rescue boats would "stand down" , until further notice.
Meantime over at David Corn's web blog, I found this reminder of what was accomplished during Dunkirk , when thousands of private boats had Stuka dive-bombers to worry about, while they attempted to evacuate British & French troops> I will let the rest speak for itself:

"I see that the [Louisiana] governor is committed to moving everyone out in the next two days. What is really obscene is that we plan to bus them 350 miles, in school buses, to another sports area, although this one will have electricity and air-conditioning.

That is not how a country responds to disaster, and it is pathetic that our government and leadership cannot expect or inspire more. I was thinking about the comparison to Dunkirk, when the British military fell victim to a massive miscalculation about the strength of Nazi troops (the parallels abound). The British figured out, on the fly, how to evacuate 338,226 troops between May 26 and June 4, 1940, from the beaches of Dunkirk, often using small privately owned craft to get in out to the shore. (I Googled it. No, I didn't remember it from Dr. Miller's history class in White Plains High School.) Over 200,000 were also evaluated from other coastal towns. This was all accomplished with little or no time to plan, under fierce bombardment and aerial attack. Legend says the troops were treated to hero's welcome with special trains and high tea waiting at the British shore.

We are pathetic."