Sunday, September 25, 2005

All Right ... Who Did THIS? ...

I don't know how long this will last, but give it a try ... it was still working as of tonight.

Go to the Google main page ...

Type in the word failure ...

Click on the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button, and see what comes up.

Looks like someone at Google has too much time on their hands ... and if that someone's boss finds out who, they may have even more time on their hands. Oh, and miserable failure produces the same result.


UPDATE: 09/26: Apparently, I'm about two years behind on my current events !!!!! A friend just sent me the following link to a possible source (and, NO, it was not someone at Google), as well as a couple of reports on this from World Net Daily and BBC.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Thank God, Thank Goodness, Thank YOU ...

(Image by John Deering, Arkansas Democrat Gazette)

In the end, the impact of Hurricane Rita will not be as terrible as so many of us feared. Yes, there is damage, there is hardship, there is loss, there is injury and there is - at least in
one tragic case on a highway outside of Dallas - even death.

But - thank God, thank goodness and thank YOU - it has not been as bad as we feared.

We have much we should be thankful for ... and many to whom we should be thankful. And I do not use the word, "we," lightly. That's because, in the case of Hurricane Rita, there was so much first-hand, personal and professional connection between the people of the Texas Gulf Coast, and the people of West Texas. As the storm approached the shores of the Lone Star State .. so many of us were wondering, calling, offering.

I suspect that there will be many "what if" pieces published in the days ahead. What if a more potent storm had made landfall at Galveston, for example, or Houston? It should make for great chat ... or at least it WILL after many of us have gotten some sleep, catching-up on what was lost over the last few days and nights.

My own feeling is that, had the storm taken a turn for the worse, there would have been more damage, more loss ... BUT, that would have been alleviated by the emergency preparedness measures taken in advance of the storm by local, state and federal authorities. I suspect that, in the years ahead, policy-makers will look at Rita-Texas as a positive example, from which we might all learn ... and Katrina-Louisiana as just the opposite.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Let's Hold Off on 'Blame Game' Till Later ...

There will come a time, I hope, when an independent commission will sit down and sort out the natural mess that was Hurricane Katrina, and the bureaucratic mess that was our response to the storm and its devastation.

That being said, though ... do we have to sort out the mess and assess any blame NOW?

As time goes by, as the waters recede and order is restored along America's Gulf Coast, it's becoming apparent that many of the shots being taken - at one target or another, from from one direction or another - were based upon information that was, at best, limited.

I'd like to offer one example to illustrate that point ... but I have to warn you ... it's an example that relies upon a report from
National Public Radio, prepared the week following Katrina's pounding of New Orleans.

Do you remember the debate, the accusations over the levees that protect that city, the blame that one side or another attempted to lay upon someone else's doorstep? Plenty of conclusions were drawn in the very first days of the catastrophe ... and they were based upon incomplete information. You see, breached levees were only a part of the problem that led to 80% of the city being flooded ...
this report from NPR reveals that, "Engineers and scientists are getting a better idea of exactly how the New Orleans area flooded. In addition to several breaks in the city's floodwalls, engineers now say the Ninth Ward in the eastern part of the city was hit by a huge wave coming over a levee."

How massive was that wave? One estimate is part of the city found itself under eight feet of water in less than 30 minutes, and that the force of that water was enough to carry a 45-ton barge over the levee and deposit it a few-hundred-feet inside. Another analyst cited in the report states the wave was so big, it would have gone well over the levee, even if it had been raised a couple of feet, as had been proposed a few years back.

And it came with a speed and a fury that caught even the oldest, most storm-seasoned residents of the city by surprise.

That's just one example of new data reshaping our view of what happened ... I'm sure you've noted a few others of your own in the last couple of weeks. But it illustrates my original point ... there will come a time when an independent commission will sit down and sort out the mess ...

But not now.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

What's In a Word? ...

In the grim days following Hurricane Katrina's pounding of America's Gulf Coast states, people across the country and around the world were rushing in to fill some need, to contribute something to a rescue-and-recovery effort the magnitude of which may never be fully measured.

It was something that seemed to touch us all ... we ALL wanted to do SOMETHING. Some people contributed food, or clothes or money. Some people opened their homes to those fleeing the destruction ... while others rushed INTO that destruction, to deliver comfort and relief in person.

And some people argued over semantics ...

"What do you call people who have been driven from their homes with only the clothes on their backs, unsure if they will ever be able to return, and forced to build a new life in a strange place," the Associated Press asked in
an article the week after the hurricane, as news media were filling with reports on the plight of hundreds-of-thousands of people who fled Katrina's wrath.

One thing for sure, those news organizations were being told, don't use the word "refugee."

Among those devoting an inordinate amount of attention to what, at first glance, seemed a non-issue, was the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who claimed, "it is racist to call American citizens 'refugees.'"

Of course, serious consideration might - for many people - have ended then and there ... as it often does when Reverend Jackson addresses an issue and attempts to shape and direct the debate and the attention it receives.

But, then, in came President George Bush. Now, President Bush will not go down in history as a wordsmith of the highest order ... his strengths lie in other areas of his mind and his character. But, still, he felt compelled to address the word usage, as well, saying, "The people we're talking about are not refugees. They are Americans, and they need the help and love and compassion of our fellow citizens."

Sources for definitions ... both on- and off-line ... vary. defines "refugee" as "One who flees in search of refuge, as in times of war, political oppression, or religious persecution" and that seems to exclude those who fled Katrina, if you limit yourself to the examples offered in that definition. At the same time, though, the website defines "refuge" as "1. Protection or shelter, as from danger or hardship; 2. a place providing protection or shelter; 3. a source of help, relief, or comfort in times of trouble" and THAT certainly sounds like what they were seeking, and what they were offered by those of us fortunate enough to be out of the storm's path.

So, what are these people?

In my own, humble opinion, they ARE refugees, among other things. In my work at, I have used the word, and others, to refer to those that fled the hurricane's destruction. Have I used it every time? No, of course not ... one thing a writer must beware of is over-using a word. So I use "refugee" as well as other words. (Another one that is over-used right now, "devastation")

And while it does set me at odds with Reverend Jackson and President Bush, that's fine ... there's plenty to keep us all busy in the weeks and months (and years?) ahead ... and most of it is a heck of a lot more important than the use of semantics as a form of political posturing.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

9/11 ... Different 'Spokes' for Different Folks ...

There are different ways to address the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States ... different thoughts ... different ways to share those thoughts ... different ways to engage others in consideration/discussion of those thoughts ...

Why should that be any different on the internet? ... or West Texas' own corner of the blogosphere?

Actually, very few of West Texas' virtual fora for discussion of news and views have anything to say about the '9/11' anniversary ... you have
Jessica's Well, for one, with its patented barbs ... but also a sprinkling of blessings. It may not be for everyone's tastes ... but you can always move on and 'talk' with someone else ... one of the perq's of the blogosphere ...

Then there's
Fire Ant Gazette ... but you'll need to visit it right away, because it appears to be a one-day post. No bile, no blame, and only a little finger-pointing ... but plenty of more substantive thought. And when it DOES point a finger ... it's in the direction of salvation.

Finally, there's the Open Forum over at ... unfortunately, the folks there have demanded that I not discuss their site ... so I won't.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Right Person for the Job ...

There are some people on our local corner of the blogosphere to whom I'll defer on some subjects ... one of those is Wallace, over at Streams, when it comes to matters military.

Recently back from the mountains of New Mexico (be sure to check out his pictures, the lucky son-of-a-gun), Wallace was commenting on
FEMA chief Michael Brown being relieved of Katrina duties. He also had this ... "I have one piece of advice for future Presidents. Here it is. When filling important positions like FEMA, get a military man ..."

He's absolutely right.

Something the magnitude of Katrina, and the death and destruction it has wrought across the Gulf Coast states, is not a civilian matter ... it's not even an extreme civilian matter ... it is something that calls for a military mind, and military resourcefulness. There IS a role, a HUGE role, for civilian services ... but I think those services are best directed by a mind and a vision tested and enhanced by military experience.

Think about it ... is there any facet of American society better suited to operating in an extreme situation, than the military? Is there anyone with more experience in establishing and maintaining order, communications, operations and supply in the most extreme circumstances (sometimes under simultaneous attack by both Man and Mother Nature) than the United States Armed Forces and its auxiliaries?

As for Mr. Brown, I don't grieve at his departure ... by all accounts, the guy couldn't even manage his own resume ... what chance did he have trying to manage the aftermath of Katrina

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

... and Then There's Rick Perry ...

Alright ... enough is enough ... just WHO is that they have sitting in the Texas Governor's office, and where have they squirreled-away the REAL Rick Perry?

Like water pouring through a breached levy, we have had a veritable torrent of phone calls, executive orders and emergency declarations ... all originating from somewhere in the vicinity of the offices of the chief elected official of the Lone Star State.

They have served to mobilize pretty much the entire state to receive and care for an estimated quarter-of-a-million refugees from Louisiana and other states ravaged last week by Hurricane Katrina. They have also served to cause me a great deal of distress as I contemplate doing something I never thought I'd have occasion to do ... write something complimentary about Rick Perry!

Yesterday, I wrote of
Congressman Dan Flood, whose personal initiatives - strengthened by every ounce of political clout he could bring to bear - focused badly-needed state and federal attention and resources on communities threatened by the rising waters of the Susquehanna River, in 1972. Am I seeing a similar display of will as I watch Rick Perry dealing with a flood of his own in 2005?

By all appearances, emergency preparedness and planning by local, state and federal officials, for the possibility of severe storms and flooding in Louisiana, looks more like the script of a Marx Brothers movie. But, couple this with the unprecedented sweep of Katrina and the total destruction of infrastructure for communications, transportation and emergency response, and there's nothing to laugh about.

And then there was Texas. It looks to me as though calls went out from Perry's office to just about every agency and department of the state government, with marching orders for putting much of the state on an emergency relief footing ...

* The
Texas Education Agency (TEA) cleared the way for Texas public schools to opening their doors to school-age refugees.

* The
Texas Attorney General warned businesses that fraud and false advertising to inflate prices in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in Southeast Louisiana will not be tolerated.

* The
Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) offered expanded, round-the-clock services at highway rest stops and welcome centers to accommodate buses with evacuees from New Orleans, provided constant updates on highways in and out of the affected areas, and polled its 25 districts to develop a list of assets that can be made available to the Louisiana Department of Transportation to assist the state in its cleanup efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

These are just three early, very general examples. There are, by now, a hundred other, smaller and more detailed examples of how the State of Texas is mobilizing to meet the emergency needs of its neighbors.

And it appears to have all started in Rick Perry's office, and it was given teeth by the Governor's
emergency declaration earlier this week.

Rick Perry? ... Who'd'a thunk it?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

(insert official's name here) is No Dan Flood ...

As I noted in a previous post, the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina across America's Gulf Coast states has reminded me of the devastation I witnessed when Tropical Storm Agnes raged through northeastern Pennsylvania, and flooded the communities of the Wyoming Valley.

I counted myself blessed that there were a number of differences between what I experienced in 1972, and what the people of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama are experiencing now.

But in the day's following the storm's departure, I have come to realize that the people of northeastern Pennsylvania were blessed in another way ... we had Congressman Dan Flood.

Flood was a man of another century, of another America. In his heyday, he was probably the most adroit and effective individual to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. The people of his district loved him, and sent him back to Washington over and over again, usually after running unopposed in the election. Admittedly, people of other districts probably despised him for what he was able to do for his district and his state ... and for his 'pull.'

And, boy, did he have pull! As a leading member of the House Appropriations Committee, he held a firm grip on the nation's purse strings, and his influence in the federal government was considerable.

He needed every ounce of that influence, and more, as the prospect for disaster grew in northeastern Pensylvania in 1972. Even as flood waters were still on the rise, a variety of relief and security resources were already on their way to the scene. It's hard to underestimate Flood's impact on bringing those resources to bear on the situation. There was no federal structure at the time for dealing with such a disaster ... in fact, Flood's actions, and those of local and state leaders, laid the groundwork for the establishment of FEMA, later on.

As I watch the chaos, now, in Louisiana and elsewhere, I realize that Flood's initiatives might not be possible today. We have a massive federal emergency preparedness and reaction bureacracy in place, now, that would stifle any such attempts.

Of course, we've been told there really aren't any problems in Louisiana and elsewhere ... that emergency services have been delivered, and delivered well, and that the timeline for delivering those services is really alright. I watched the President's briefing, and I listened to his assurances ... and I thought, "he's no Dan Flood."

My mind went back 33 years, when Flood addressed us by television. He didn't look as good as George Bush ... he was not the 'Dapper Dan' we all knew. He was old and he looked tired, he seemed almost scrawny inside a large Army field jacket and standard field cap of the era, and was soaked by the rain. He lacked, the freshly made-up and combed appearance politicians demand today. Yet, for all of that, there was nothing bedraggled about his voice. He spoke with strength and a cocky defiance, saying to us all, something like, "I have ordered the Army Corps of Engineers not to let the water advance another inch!"

And it didn't ...

Returning to Washington, Flood still used whatever clout he had. One of the results was President Nixon's appointment of Frank Carlucci as a special White House administrator for flood relief services.

All in all, 1972 was one of Dan Flood's finest 'hours' ... and it would be one of his last. He would later find himself under investigation, and step down under a cloud of elections violations.

But back then, he was something of a savior, an inspiration ... and a public servant of the highest order. He was someone who got something done, when and where it needed doing ... and political consequences be damned while people's lives were at stake. Flood may not have been familiar with Davy Crockett's advice of to 'go ahead and do what you're sure is right,' but he applied it, and applied it well. And he did it all with style and panache, with a flair that reflected the time had spent on the stage as a young man.

May all of our leaders ... take note.

The Return of "Jessica's Well" ...

A cause for celebration on the local blogosphere is the return of Jessica's Well from their summer-long hiatus. One of the pioneers of blogging in West Texas, they sport a great (I think) new look that is definitely worth your perusal ... among the many details of that new look, my particular favorite is their blogroll.

But some aspects won't change ... and that's a good thing, too. It appears Jessica's Well will still be what I once referred to as a "nattering nablog of negativism" when it comes to some of the 'usual suspects' ... one page under construction there is called 'Old Media' ... devoted, perhaps, to debauched harlots of the mainstream media, like myself?

But, while I may disagree with their take on a variety of topics, I will still visit, and I hope you will, too. Sure, it's their take ... but, maybe - just maybe - it's also the right take.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina's Devastation and Memories of Agnes ...

I'm sorry to have been absent for so long this week ... I have visited and enjoyed all that you've been posting, here and on other sites of the blogosphere ... but time for posting of my own? ... that's something else.

But I have had time to think in the midst of the thousands of words, photos, videoclips and links I have published - so far - this week, and you have given me much to think about ... and for that, I am grateful, for it has had some effect upon what, when and how I publish.

I am also thinking back more than thirty years, standing on the banks of the Susquehanna, desperately raising the the level of the dikes that were so hard-pressed by the floods that accompanied Tropical Storm Agnes ...

I remember the odd mixture of excitement and exhaustion as thousands of us labored at sandbagging ... the shock and incredible sadness when air raid sirens filled the air with their mournful wail ... telling us that the engineers had determined a break was imminent, and that we had to leave ... NOW ...

I remember being overwhelmed by the site of a river three miles wide, after the dikes burst on both sides of the river, flooding the communities of the Wyoming Valley ...

Thank God, we were spared the horrors being visited upon New Orleans and other communities smashed by Katrina ...

The flooding was confined to our valley ... relief in the form of volunteer fire companies and ambulance squads, emergency shelters and fully-functional hospitals ... communities untouched by the ravages of Agnes ... were just ten miles away, on the other side of the mountains that lined the valley ...

We had effective leadership that had prepared for such an event (previous floods in 1936 and 1902), we had a plan that incorporated policemen firefighters, stat police, even Boy Scouts (that's how I ended up on the dikes).

We had effective communications that survived Agnes' rampage and enabled us to identify and address emergencies as they came up ... a fire, for example, in Wilkes-Barre's flooded downtown district ... that was extinguished after a firefighting boat was airlifted to the valley ... but also sending a couple of people out in some guy's little motorboat to pull someone off the top of their house.

And we weren't alone ... the National Guard and the regulars of the U.S. Armed Forces turned out in force ... and for the first few days after the waters of the Susquehanna receded, something like martial law was imposed and traffic in and out of the valley was severely curtailed as the damage and the death toll was assessed. They also choppered supplies and medical personnel back and forth across the valley before the bridges were repaired, and trucked supplies to shelters that were established in neighboring communities.

I've thought a lot about our National Guard in the last few days. That most effective of forces for tackling emergencies and restoring order is stretched to the limit ... and beyond ...

For these reasons, and more, I never felt the absolute desperation people are feeling - and rightfully so! - in the streets of New Orleans tonight ... God bless them and comfort them, strengthen their spirits, and the spirits of those rushing to their aid!