Military assets put to good use, but were officials prepared? Does not seem like it…

August 30, 2017

UPDATE to my Update of 8-31-17

And now the somewhat flamboyant retired army Gen. Russell Honore who led military relief efforts in Katrina is charging that even though a special military command was set up after that storm officials seemed to have been caught off guard and have been too slow to react.  He said they “ought to quit patting themselves on the back” and deploy the available military resources (more than they have) and questioned why all these days later some units are still waiting in reserve. He said that Harvey is much bigger than Katrina.


I had asked why the Marines (and I meant other military as well) had not been sent in to the flood zone or at least more of them but it appears today from what I read so far away is that forces of the regular and reserve military have been coming in since Monday and units from all the branches continue to be deployed. The Texas governor had already activated the entire National Guard from his state.

Whatever the case, it is an excellent use of our prized asset, the U.S. military.

So perhaps my question below did not need to be asked. I realize it is not a movie or TV program. It takes time to mobilize forces, and they are being mobilized.

My original post on this from yesterday follows:

Just a question: why didn’t we immediately send in the Marines as it became apparent that Harvey was the storm of all storms and an unprecedented number of people would be stranded in high waters?

I just read that in fact some marines with amphibious craft have been sent in but more await orders. What is the hold up?

I mean when I see that a whole city, Port Arthur, Texas, is under water and people in a shelter having to scoot up to the top of bleachers to keep above the water and when I constantly read that there have been people in the vast flood area awaiting rescue for days — why are we not deploying as much of our military assets as we can?

Now I don’t claim to understand what all might be involved. I am just wondering. Anyone have any ideas?

 

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How much will storm victims get and when? It’s all up to politics; Melania fashion gossip…

August 30, 2017

UPDATED POST (Wednesday, 8-30-17)

How much and how fast flood victims get help is up to politics. There is a controversy now because the Texas delegation is crying for hurricane relief when they voted against such legislation for people on the East Coast. Oops that’s embarrassing — or should be.

Meanwhile President Trump seemed more intent on making a show of himself and commenting on the size of his audience (size matters to him) than on actually getting out to the real scene of the floods and storm damage during his Texas visit Tuesday. In his defense, though, it is a tricky thing. With all the security that is needed for a presidential visit he would have likely got in the way of evacuation and relief efforts.

There was also kind of a gossip flap over the fact that First Lady Melania Trump was wearing stiletto heels when she boarded the plane for Texas — I guess all hell broke out on Twitter about the bad taste (or not) of her all dressed to the nines to visit a disaster area. Whether originally planned or not, she disembarked in Texas wearing sneakers and I guess a slightly more subdued or tame outfit than when she got on the plane.

I’ll give her a pass on that one. Heck, if I were a rich b…. I’d dress like one too (and that is a stupid joke by the way — I don’t know her personality. It has to be better than the other half).

What follows is my original post on this with one update:

Well I don´t know exactly how much good the president’s visit to the flood area in Texas did but I would think it should have some positive effect and be good for morale of the crisis-ridden people there. He is always big on promises but he promised the response from the federal government would be ¨bigger and better¨than has ever been seen before.

Perhaps depressingly it has been reported that 80 percent of those in the flood-prone areas do not have flood insurance. But almost just a bad, there are people enrolled in the Federal Flood Insurance program who have had multiple claims over the years and that federal agency operates at a deficit, making it a great fiasco, but likely a political hot potato that few want to touch. That hardly seems like a way to run an insurance business. In fact it encourages people to build in flood-prone areas and then stick the cost to Uncle Sam when they suffer flooding that could only be expected. I mean even if this is one like never seen before it is happening in a known flood area, much of which has seen development without proper flood precautions. Wetlands are there for a purpose. You pour concrete over enough of it and you have flood problems.

Nevertheless, what is what is. Right now people need to be rescued from the flood that just keeps getting worse and they need to have shelter.

Some news commentators and reporters have tried to dig at Texas congressmen who voted against flood relief for Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast. But they in turn point out that various political interests attached expensive riders to the legislation that had nothing to do with Hurricane Sandy.


UPDATE: since the original post I have read that fact checks indicate there is a question as to how much was in the Sandy legislation that actually did not address the immediate problem or that was simply the usual pork. One would have to do some research on that one but just looking at the politics of the whole thing, the Texas delegation is in an embarrassing spot now when they ask for help but denied it to others — no matter what the facts of the relief bill for Hurricane Sandy (if they voted against it).


And that to me would be a subject for another post. Supposedly congress changed the rules some time back and got rid of earmarks in legislation that served to fund often questionable pork barrel projects in the districts of individual legislators so that they could show how they were bringing home the bacon. But legislators found a method around that by pressuring members of the bureaucracy to spend money in their districts. I for one think riders should be done away with. The defense of riders I understand is that their original intent was to fix flaws in legislation but in practice they are add-ons that have nothing to do with the original bill.

It’s a tough call though. After all you vote for your congressman to help your district.

Oh, and back to flood insurance. I think some would like to see the federal government get out of the losing business and turn it over to private enterprise. Of course then premiums would go sky high.

Maybe that is part of what is needed in order to promote more environmentally-sound development — and in the long run a lot of people could be saved from the suffering and expense.

 

 

 

 


Desperate people or pirates shoot at rescue boats

August 29, 2017

Reports yesterday indicated that in some instances people desperate to escape the Texas flooding were in such a panic that some were shooting at rescue boats if they did not stop but that might not have been the correct interpretation of what is going on — I am not sure. This morning I read that it was really basically pirates trying to steal the boats. How could people do such a terrible thing? The answer: bad people are always bad people.

But for the most part in seems to be a story of human survival and people working together in a flood (and general weather catastrophe) of what can only be described as being in biblical or near biblical proportions.

In my last post I suggested the full resources of  the U.S. military should be deployed or that is as much as possible. From a report I just saw in CNN it appears that the military is responding and is ready to increase its response at any moment.

(All of the Texas National Guard had already been called out by the governor.)

I don’t think I have seen a flood like this in my lifetime (68 years) in the United States.

And I don’t know about you, but I was surprised to discover from the reporting that Houston is the third largest city in the nation. And why do they build cities on swamps?

This storm and its flooding is spread throughout the entire Gulf Region of Texas and threatens Louisiana too. Texas has never seen such flooding in its recorded history.

The president is due to inspect some of the region today. I did hear the director of FEMA pledge that they are on top of the situation and would likely have to remain so for “years” in the recovery situation. Talk yes, but a good message. This is a time when the Trump administration could prove itself worthy — good luck with that but it could happen. For the sake of all those affected and us all, I hope so.

Don’t want to get into Trump politics now except to say if he would stick to more formal (some call them teleprompter) messages he would do us all a favor.

 

e


Calling out the troops for Harvey relief missions in Texas only makes sense…

August 28, 2017

Calling out the entire National Guard in Texas for the major flood emergency in Houston and the whole gulf coast area — some 12,000 troops I understand — is a wise move by the governor of that state.

For that matter I would think that the president should commit as many of the regular military and/or reserves as possible — don’t our own people come first?

Maybe the governments (state and federal) will show they now have their acts together for hurricane/tropical storm Harvey and its aftermath.

I know that the U.S. military and the National Guard were deployed to a varying degree during Hurricane Katrina — but at the time it was reported that there was a shortage of resources due to the ongoing war (s) in the Middle East — poor excuse.

Also, I recall that sometime after that China had a catastrophic earthquake and the news reports showed its military as first responders, with China’s top government civilian leader on the scene. Also Communist Cuba, known for its high-class medical system (I don’t know, but I assume they are good), offered help in Katrina but that help was declined — of course that was politics on the side of both parties.

Right now it seems from reports from the scene in Texas that citizens are doing a valiant job of helping each other in what is termed as an epic flood — the biggest in the recorded history of Texas.

I want to see the full resources of our federal government deployed. Just think, it could be you.

The president is set to visit the ravaged area on Tuesday. It is a symbolic thing, but sometimes that is what is needed. He could show up George W. Bush (who failed in Katrina) in his own state.

As much as I cannot stand the president, I wish him god speed on this one.

p.s.

Back in the mid 1950s (the winter of ’55-’56 I believe) one of my uncles, who was a pilot who flew missions over Germany in WWII in the old Army Air Force and who had just recently completed helicopter training as a then member of the National Guard, flew relief missions in the great floods in California that winter. I have always been proud to have him as an uncle. I think that one of the primary duties of the Guard should be relief in domestic emergencies — not going off to fight foreign wars.

 

 


Will the big bad federal government step in to help storm-beleaguered Texans? You know how much they hate Washington down there…

August 27, 2017

While this is not the time to pick on people who now are the victims of a natural disaster — never a time for that — I note that in times of trouble people turn to the big bad federal government who we are told so many people hate — in fact enough people hate it that they voted for a candidate who based much of his campaign for president on hating big bad government, and they voted in such a way as to make the majority of both houses of congress to be members of the party who claims to oppose big government. Like the world’s leading nation could get by with a small government?

While no one in his or her right mind would want an intrusive government that ran every aspect of everyone’s life, we do want one that is there to help us when we need it and has the power to do so.

I thought of that when I read this quote on the CNN site from a resident who lost nearly everything in Hurricane Harvey that hit Texas overnight and pummeled the gulf coast on Saturday:

“We lost everything. We need FEMA to help our town,” (the person) said. “The whole town of Rockport is demolished. My home was just one of the many that was destroyed. We need aid. We need quick aid. This is a disaster.”

And I hope they get it and fast.

But I find it ironic that someone in the state of Texas, so connected to the far right wing that eschews big government, would nonetheless see it as the go to thing when the chips are down. Of course I don’t know how this person voted or if this person voted and not everyone there thinks alike.

Our strongest president on progressivism and civil rights came out of Texas — Lyndon Baines Johnson, LBJ. Just watched an old interview with him where he indicated he had to hide his progressive wishes for years in order to keep getting elected.

And there I have done it, made a political issue out of other people’s’ suffering — but not really or that is not my intent. It’s just that you can’t take the politics out of this kind of thing. Governments are judged on how well they step in and help their own in times of crisis.

Why George W. Bush flubbed up so badly on the Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans is anyone’s guess. It was partly incompetence and perhaps party politics (albeit misguided politics). At the time Louisiana had a Democratic governor and the political demographics in New Orleans favored the Democrats. That may have informed Bush on his decisions to do a flyover and leave the rest to the infamous and apparently incompetent “Brownie”, as in “you’re doing a heck of a job Brownie”.

President Trump will be judged on how well he responds to the current crisis — all of his other failures or controversies not withstanding.

Since Trump is quite capable of ignoring his own rhetoric on big government he should have no problem in stepping in as the savior to a storm-beleaguered populace — and the fact it is in prime Trump-supporter territory maybe makes it all the easier (I don’t actually know the political demographics of the directly-affected area, I’m just referring to Texas in general).

Many hate the big bad government until they need it.

p.s.

Maybe folks in New Orleans will offer shelter (if they are not hit too) and say heck the Texans are better off there — ala Barbara Bush.

 


We are still 15 minutes away from obliteration, Trump makes it worse…

August 25, 2017

For about sixty years I have lived with the impression that we are all within no more than 15 minutes of nuclear annihilation and nothing has changed that — I mean you just kind of learn to live with it. And of course there could be any kind of natural calamity but a man-made one it would seem could be controlled save for accidents.

It’s just that having someone who seems irrational as president of the United States throwing out slightly-veiled threats (or not really veiled) of nuclear retaliation (or even pre-emption) is unnerving.

My first realization of how close we all are to what is often referred to as nuclear Armageddon (last battle before life on earth ends) came about 1960 during the Cold War stand-off between the old USSR and the U.S.  At this time fallout shelters were all the rage (like there would be anything left when you peeped your head up out of the hole).

I remember attending a PTA meeting in the evening after school with my folks. I was in sixth grade as I recall. The movie showed the bursting of the atom bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan and the devastation of both structures and human life it produced.

I had grown up in the 50s on a diet of war movies where we were the good guys and the Japs and Germans the bad guys. And at the time of WWII, which happened just before I was born, that was essentially true.

It was a shock to me to learn that we, the U.S., had been the first (and so far only) nation to ever use nuclear bombs.

Had the Cold War turned into a hot one it would not have been long — about 15 minutes — and life as we have known it would not exist — that is my understanding. And even if there is more to it or somehow life would survive we all know it would be hell.

And what about the 15 minutes? Maybe it would be 20 or 30, but at that little time, what difference does it make?

The fear has been that a nuclear war would break out more likely as the result of an accident or misunderstanding than a deliberate act.

And as we know, during the Cold War neither the East nor West really wanted nuclear war, and despite bluster from the likes of Nikita Khrushchev (and I used to fear him), it appears the leaders of the two nuclear-armed super powers at the time were not bonkers and that is what saved us. Yeah there was worry about Richard Nixon in his final days but the story is that staffers agreed to prevent him from carrying out the unthinkable.

Today many more nations have nuclear-weapon capability and a launch anywhere anytime could trigger not just disaster in a certain region but world wide both because of the resulting nuclear fallout and the likely chain reactions from the various players on the world stage (not unlike the break out of WWI).

And of course we now have the looneytune who is Kim Jong-un of the belligerent state of North Korea — although in some ways he may be crazy like a Fox. I mean we know that he is using the nuclear threat as a way to get the powers that be to stand up and take notice of him and to force or blackmail the U.S. to both recognize him as legitimate and to even assist him.

But it is our own strange and scary actor, President Trump, I am worried about.

As many news reports and commentaries, especially in the last day or so, have noted, he has a split personality. One said there is the rally trump and the teleprompter trump, a kind of Jekyll and Hyde if you will. The one bullies and threatens and delivers harangues to crowds of his faithful and the other speaks in more measured and conciliatory and structured (well to a degree) form. In the end, though, you don’t know where he is coming from or what is really on his mind or what the message is.

And yet within 15 minutes more or less he could wipe out the planet — and he can be volatile we know.

We cannot do anything about the other actors of the world, not directly, but I think Trump needs to be removed from office for our own safety (and I am talking in a non-violent and legal manner).

I saw a report on PBS News last night, an interview with a professor who was said to be an expert on the subject, and he offered scant assurance that there are checks and balances within the nuclear missile launch procedures on our side.

While there is a requirement down the line that two people have to take actions together at various points in the process, at the top, where the actual order would be given, it is only the president who can make the final decision — no two-man rule there.

The professor suggested that in a true crisis there would be time for those under the president, both civilian and military, to talk him out of an unwise or un-called for nuclear launch. But 15 or 20 minutes, I don’t see that as likely. Yeah like everyone is standing in the same room wide awake 24 hours per day?

And could the president in a fit of pique — like if Kim Jong questioned his manhood — launch an attack?

The way I heard it, this professor suggested that those under the president would likely not go along with that — but it is murky as to what legal authority or means they would have to stop it.

And I mean there could be all kinds of scenarios and the president might seem agitated but there could be a real threat — an ICBM coming from North Korea or a report that one was about to be launched — what then?

Or it could be intel suggests North Korea is making moves on the ground that signal it is preparing for imminent attack. So the president decides enough is enough, we’ll just wipe them off the face of the earth — never mind that such would likely trigger launches against us from Russia and China.

Now some underlings could countermand the order, except they have no explicit authority to do so, except the rule that one is not obligated to obey an illegal order. But would the order be illegal? And there is always the catch 22 in that one. After the fact a court can decide it was not illegal after all (of course in nuclear Armageddon that might be of little concern).

Bottom line:

We are still 15 minutes away from human-caused obliteration. What we can’t change, so be it. But what we can, we need to.

We’d all be a lot safer without Trump.

Even if he would never order an attack (unless it was the only option), his bellicose nature, his tendency to insult anyone and everyone, even the leaders of the political party that put him in the White House (well I guess that could be read both ways) presents and existential threat to us and the world.

p.s.

Here is a link to the PBS story to which I referred:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/heres-goes-presidents-decision-launch-nuclear-weapons/

 


Yes the president did call out the Nazis but at the same time he was always equivocal on blame…

August 23, 2017

Equivocal.

If I did not use that word to describe President Trump’s stance on who was to blame or most to blame for the violence in Charlottesville I should have. That one word describes it.

At a rally last night in Phoenix Trump ranted and raved as he did a kind of Mussolini-style strut on the stage against what he called “fake news” from the “media” (as I often feel compelled to note, “media” has become a pejorative, for the most part, for what was once referred to as “the press” or journalism.

I often think it is comical when right-wing broadcasters/ bloviators disparage the “media” when they are part of it.

But let’s get back to Charlottesville. To some extent I think Trump has a point that the mainstream press or media portrayed him as not condemning the neo-Nazis and Klansmen and like groups and implying at least that it was radicals on the left (or as Archie Bunker used to say, “commie pinko fags”) who were more to blame for the violence. But he did — with a caveat.

I’m not going to go back over when Trump said what, except to say that originally, as I recall, he failed to condemn the right-wing agitators but followed up with a condemnation of them in the strongest terms. But at the same time he never let go of his position that the violence came from “many sides”.

Ironically, while the New York Times (and of course others) seemed to imply or state in its coverage that the Nazis (I’ll just use that term for shorthand) were to blame, it also ran a story about a loosely-knit group unofficially called Antifi (short for anti-fascist) that seeks to fight violence with violence. Nevertheless I think it is correct to say that the mainstream media has pretty much portrayed the whole thing as basically violence conducted by extreme reactionary thugs against milk-toast forces of peace in the middle or on the left of the political spectrum.

Trump in his rally last night kept objecting that he over and over again condemned the violence from right-wing groups but the press falsely reported otherwise. He left out the fact that his statements were always equivocal as who was to blame.

So on the one hand Trump accuses the media of lying, presenting fake news, and on the other hand he attempts to deceive by conveniently leaving out an element of the story — his equivocation. Of course his supporters have no interest in what most of us would call the truth. They know what they know.

We all know that what power Trump may have (if any, other than to push the nuke button, and that in itself is quite enough) is dependent upon continued support from about the only group left who could or would support him: far-right reactionaries. So Trump feels compelled to pander to them. That is why and what he was doing in Phoenix last night.

Failing politicians always go after the press or media if you prefer.

Trump won the presidency in a bizarre and disastrous-for democracy fluke of our convoluted system of presidential election.

He is steadily losing his grip on both his mind and the presidency.

The Republicans who nurtured this bad seed are finally beginning to realize what they have sown.

What with terrorism, civil strife, a navy that can’t seem to guide its ships, and a continued erosion of our status in the world, let’s hope it is not too late.

p.s.

And if you support Trump and are concerned that the media are biased against him, what is there to worry about? You have Fox News don’t you? Now I have not been watching it, but are they turning against your hero too?

p.s. p.s.

At this point I think Trump is either just plain nuts (really) or a maverick like no one has ever seen. If he had any sense though he would court the media instead of attack it. So, yeah, he’s a nut case no doubt.