Saturday, September 27, 2008

McCain Implies Canada Is A Hostile Nation

Politicians in the heat of a political race tend to make broad sweeping statements that oversimplify facts while obfuscate the record and positions of their opponent. Last evening during the Presidential debate Obama had some misstatements. One was saying that 95% of “American people” would see a tax cut under his plan. When experts have looked at his plan, the figure is more like 81%.

Obama also stated that Iraq has a $79 billion surplus in oil revenue. The implication is that Iraq should be paying for the rebuilding of their infrastructure and the US should be intentionally withdrawing from Iraq. Obama exaggerated the amount since most estimates peg the figure as less than $60 billion.

McCain repeatedly obfuscated the difference between himself and Obama. McCain stated that the Joint Chief of Staff has called Obama’s Iraq plan as irresponsible and dangerous. McCain knows full well that active military officers are not permitted to engage in political campaigning or comment upon proposals put forward by candidates. Playing to the ignorance of the average electorate, McCain stated that General Mullens has called Obama’s plan for Iraq as “very dangerous.” Mullens was not speaking about Obama’s plan but about a proposal made by the Democratic leadership last year to put in place timetables to withdraw all troops within twelve to eighteen months. Obama has called for a carefully thought out timetable to downsized and withdraw from Iraq by 2010.

General Eisenhower drafter two letters on the eve of the Normandy invasion, one if it was successful and one if it failed. The existence of the two letters is widely known. In speaking of the failure letter and taking responsibility McCain stated last night that in the failure letter Eisenhower tendered his resignation. In the letter Eisenhower accepted the failure as his alone, and that the troops and general should not be blamed. The letter did not contain or hint at a resignation. Like a great story teller who embellishes for dramatic impact, McCain too embellished the truth into a great sounding yarn. It makes leaves me wondering how many other embellished yarns he is telling and would tell as President.

McCain in his embellishment and playing loosely with facts stated that the US pays $700 billion a year for oil to hostile nations. Oil imports for the current year at the current rate will come in around $536 billion from all countries. Has he embellished the figure by 30%. Maybe McCain has not embellished. Maybe he has inside knowledge that oil prices are going to double again before the end of the year so that we will be close to the figure he quoted.

Given that about a third of the oil imports come from Canada, UK and Mexico, McCain has called Canada and UK hostile nations. As McCain has championed himself and his campaign as the "Straight Talk Express" I will take the statement as not a generalization gone astray but how he views the world and that in his eyes Canada and the UK are hostile nations. Woe to America, if these nations are hostile to the US, then there is no country in the world that McCain can be call friendly.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ike Rescue

Below are some dramatic pictures. As Ike approached the shore a utility company realized that one of its facilities in Port Fourchon La was at risk. With the hurricane surge combined with the tidal surge the yard that held about 500 vehicles, many of them the very vehicles needed to do repairs. Entergy quickly sent 11 busloads of drivers to navigate through rising water to evacuate the equipment ahead of the yard going under water.

Below are pictures of the convoy of equipment moving out of harms way as the water poured in and the winds increased. Minus these vehicles, restoration of power would have been become delayed well beyond a week.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ike Report 2

Disaster related matters are coming to a close in Lufkin TX. The power is back on in most of the homes. The few that lack power are in small pockets on one to three homes here and there that are in more remote locations.

We will be heading home early. Whether we fly back Tuesday or Wednesday will not be known until later today. It all depends on flight ability.

Today will be spent finishing up paper work and cleaning up the Lufkin Corps. Yesterday the canteen from Shreveport LA was released to go home. The Mobile and Columbus canteens will be released later this morning to return home as they were in Baton Rouge before coming here. The Lubbock TX canteen will be reassigned and deployed south where relief work will be continuing for several more weeks. The Hampton canteen will remain here to handle the last request to help with meals for those who are still sheltered in Lufkin.

I noticed this clip last night. This is the LSU show from Saturday. Each week they learn a different drill and music. This is their road show. If Josh reads this I will leave it to him to say where he is located.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Ike Report

Most of the damage done by Ike between Houston and Lufkin is due to trees being blown over and taking down the power grid. In some of the counties, 99.5% of the residents lost power. As I post this on Friday afternoon there are counties that still have power out to more than 50% of homes.

Below you can see a tree that was downed from the roots.

With power being out, gasoline became scarce. Few stations with no power created long lines. We saw lines this all throughout Monday and Tuesday.

With limited gasoline, people used extra gas cans to limit the number of trips to the gas station. Some also were buying gas for their generators.
As you can see, the National Guard was activated to help limit looting, help keep line-ups at gas stations orderly and to pass out water and ice.

Some Texas National Guard members also helped to distribute food from Salvation Army canteens.

We have with us a canteen from our division.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Over the next day, as you travel around your community, imagine what life would be like if 95% of the homes, businesses and industry lost power. Imagine that that loose of power is not because of a few breaks in the power lines but ten’s thousands for breaks. Imagine tree limbs or whole trees falling upon the lines, sometimes breaking the line and in other occasions whole trees being held up on a forty-five degree angle by a sagging power line.

Imagine life without electricity for day after day. You cannot go to work as there is not power. Your freezer starts to thaw and the meat will go bad. Some who have gas stoves could eat well for a day or two as you quickly devour the thawing meat. But what would you do if your stove was electric? The gas station has no power to pump gas and the few stations that have power have longs so long that it could take you five hours to get to the pump. You ration your driving and food only so far until you have to go seeking for food. Imagine trying to sleep in 85 degree weather without air conditioning.

That is what is taking place throughout southeastern Texas. Power is slowly being restored. Of the 2.3 million electrical customers, only a little over 100,000 did not lose power. Imagine an area stretching from Oshawa to Hamilton to Orangeville and Jackson's Point without power and you will have will have a sense of the scope of damage. Today, only 40% of the homes and businesses have power. It will be two to three more weeks before all homes and businesses will have power.

I am part of a team that is working out of the Lufkin Texas Corps. We have six mobile kitchens assigned to us. Today we served a little over 9,000 meals out of those locations. Lufkin itself has most of its power back on, but in the three counties around Lufkin only about 15% of the homes have power.

Watch for further reports. Below is a picture of tonight’s meal. We ordered in pizza for the crews that have given yeomen service. We also ordered in fried shrimp, fried gator and blackened gator. That’s right alligator. For the last three nights I have eaten both fried gator and blackened gator. The picture is from tonight as I am about to have another piece of gator.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What Do We Draw From 9-11?

This past week was the seventh anniversary of 9-11. With the dedication of the new memorial at the Pentagon many in the community became reflective. Radio and television stations carried features that drew my thoughts to that day.

Naturally for many their thoughts returned to what they were doing that day cloudless day the moment the aircrafts impacted the Pentagon and the twin towers, and when each of the towers fell before our eyes. My thoughts returned to rushing back to the office from an appointment, trying to get there by driving down back laneways, traveling down side streets trying to avoid main roads were chocked with people exiting the city and making two illegal turns. I recall that day running between phones making calls to instruct crews where to deploy, and telling them that when they arrived at their station who my boss and I had designated as on site command. I vividly remember doing lists on giant sheets of who had already arrived, who was on the way and their anticipated arrival time, what they would be doing calling individuals on their cells go give them instructions as to what routes to take through security checkpoints. I recall appointing one individual at another office to order two giant circus-like tents along with tables and chairs for 200 and asking them to be delivered as soon as possible, what the rental company is to say to the Sergeant at the first checkpoint on their way toward the Pentagon.

I was just reacting without taking time to think through the meaning or significance of the day. I was pleased that vendors who we called took me at my word that I was who I claimed to be, who was my employer and to address the bills to me at my office address. When a call came saying the Pentagon and FBI were asking for two semi-loads of ice, I just made it happen without giving it a second thought. It was not until nearly midnight that the significance of the ice request struck home.

The next morning via one of my staff, Evie sent down a change of clothing. Exhausted I finally got out of the office on the afternoon of the twelfth. Before heading home to crash I went to our incident command center where I was taken to the Pentagon and given a tour of what was happening. As we were walking along, the busy sight went quiet. The two navel officers who where my escorts suddenly turned, went to attention and saluted as the large US flag belonging to the Army band dropped down the side of the Pentagon. Needless to say that was a deeply moving and humbling moment in my life.

Only days and weeks later did I start to think about the significance of that day and of what I had been an extremely small part. In the following weeks various interpretations of 9-11 were articulated by religious leaders, political and community leaders, talking heads on television and the general public.

Some, in keeping with the national bent to view every great tragedy as a governmental conspiracy, put forward theories that the attacks were orchestrated by the current federal administration as a means to invade Iraq and the Taliban.

Some evangelicals and fundamentalists, through the prism of faith, saw the attacks of divine retribution for the nation’s sins. Some of these took that reasoning at step further by defining those national sins as abortion, gay rights, banning prayer from schools and the availability of pornography. Such advocates never stopped to think that they were actually advocating against underlying constitutional principles that have made America a free society. None of them stopped to think that they were attacking the very freedom that grants them to right to gather for worship and to worship as they please.

What is most interestingly is not once did I hear a religious official blaming the leadership of the church. No one dared to point the blame to the church for a string of corrupt financial practices, for covering up sex crimes within their midst and allowing young people to be victimized again and again, the fleecing of people by the promise that God will grant them a miracle healing if they but believe and send in a financial gift, a church leadership that is focused on remaining silent when a President or Congressional leader takes an unjust position, and the general lack of spiritual leadership. Interestingly they could point to problems in the nature and to conduct of those outside the church but not see that hypocrisy of their position.

Some saw the attacks as Islamic retribution for America’s unjust current and past foreign policies.

Still others blamed an industrial colonialism mentality of American industrial leaders. Others faulted this group or that group, or this position to the point that a list potential sources of blame would likely surpass five dozen.

People, especially those who are religious, seek to explain the 9-11 attacks in more global terms. Such explanations, even if they are clearly illogical, help to explain why God would allow the attacks to occur. Therefore there has to a just cause and the attacks are some type of divine punishment.

A reality of life is that cruelty and vengeance occurs all around us. Injustice abounds because of self centered beings willing to trample upon others to gain their goals. People driven by their own base sinful nature cruelly lashes out at others, sometimes in subtle ways and at other times openly.

The challenge for each of us is in how we respond when confronted by such actions. We must resist passing down our anger from one generation to the next. We should not instill that our children and grandchildren are duty bound to seek vengeance for wrongs done to past generations. They are duty bound to live out their lives peacefully and with love to all.

This does not mean we should remain silent about injustices. Far from it, we must speak out against injustice wherever it is found. We can learn much from Gandhi and Martin Luther King regarding social advocacy through non-violent means. We must use the force of persuasive and humble speech, rather than using the tools of extremism that force the wills of the extremist upon others by coercion and force. Let us decry all forms of extremism since extremism tends to see those who are not like the extremist as the hated enemy, and they are hated just for existing.

Also, we must fight the revenge urge. Its violence consumes lives and turns hearts toward bitterness and hatred. Instead let us draw toward compassion and love for those who are not like us. Lets us not shun them but be in dialogue with them. Let us get to know each other. One of the many lessons we should draw from 9-11 is that such attacks are never justifiable. Let us work together through non-violent means for a more just and compassionate future for all societies….a work that starts with how we interact with our family members and neighbors.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Name Change and the NFL

In the NFL there was a Cincinnati player named Chad Johnson. Just prior to the season he changed his name to Chad Ocho Cinco. The NFL has the gall to say that he cannot wear his new name on his jersey since the name change came too late. Reebok had already generated 100,000 Johnson jerseys and the NFL says he can only were his new name if he shells out about $4 million to Reebok for the unsold jerseys.

Set aside that this highly skilled athlete has a huge ego and is one of the most narcissistic athletes in the nation. NFL has needs to get a life for its unjust and hypocritical posture. What if Johnson was traded to a new team two weeks ago? Would the NFL say the trade could not take place until one of the teams buys up the unused jerseys? No. If he died in an automobile accident, would the NFL or Reebok sue the estate for the cost of the unsold jerseys? If they did they would be a laughed out of court and told that lost was the cost of doing business.

Would the NFL say to a team that wants change jersey designs that they cannot do so unless they buy up the old jerseys first? Of course not. There are professional teams that change uniform designs every five to seven years. They know full well that once they change uniform designs that their sportswear sales spike up for two years as fans quickly buy up the new items.

The jerseys which cost 30 to $40 to manufacture retail for three times that cost. Regardless of what name goes on his jersey, who is going to pay $100 for a jersey with the former name knowing that he has changed names and next season there will be jerseys with the new name? If Reebok thought they could sell 100,000 jerseys this season, they would likely sell double that with new name as fans who bought jerseys over the past two or three years snap up ones with the new name. If 220,000 of the new jerseys sold, would Reebok or the NFL give Ohco Cinco the lion share of the profits to him? Of course not! They would gleefully keep all their profits.

The NFL needs to get a life and act more justly. So he has changed his name. So what if Reebok has a useless supply of jerseys? It is part of the cost of doing business. Lets also remember that though Reebok made 100,000 jerseys they were already expecting to eat or deeply discount around a significant portion. That said, are they really out that much money? I doubt it. They could easily discount and sell what they can for $40. Reebok can manufacture and sell a limited supply of jerseys (say 30,000) with the new name at a premium price of 150 to $180. There will be a host of people who will pay the premium price to be one of the few to have the new name. Reebok also needs to keep some (about 10,000) in storage for two decades in case the player goes to the hall of fame. If he goes into the hall, mint official jerseys with is old name will be costly collector’s item.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Where Is Unknown But I Am Leaving For LA or TX

Today I received the official word that on Friday I leave for fourteen days on EDS deployment. There is a large group from VA flying into Jackson Mississippi. At least that is the current plan. Where I end up will be determined in the coming days.

There is a good possibility that I will end in Baton Rouge as the team from Kentucky/Tennessee that is running the Incident Command is departing for home on Saturday and Sunday. Power is still out for a good part of the the Baton Rouge and southwest Louisiana area.

There is also a possibility that we will be driving into Texas in support of the Texas division's response to Ike.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Is the Right to Vote Truly a National Principle?

One of the founding principles of the United States is no taxation without representation. From the moment of independence landholding citizens of age had the right to vote. It was then expanded to all male citizens and later to all citizens, both male and female of age. In the 60s great efforts were taken to expose and rectify laws that made it difficult for African American citizens to vote.

Those who are imprisoned are unable to vote while in prison and for a period after. I can understand that since in the United States a large portion of the judges, Sheriffs and all the DAs are elected. As such these individuals can readily become victims of retaliatory voting by those convicted of a crime.

Today there continues to be a pocket of citizens who are unable to vote in federal elections. Though they live in a 21 square mile area in the heart of the country they are structurally and intentionally denied by Congress and the States from being able to have a voice in Congress or to vote for the President. The refusal of the country to address this injustice is deplorable. For a country that prides itself on the electoral process as a founding principle and tried to bring democracy to foreign lands, the lack of concern within the citizenry to push their elected State and Federal officials to correct the matter is utterly disgraceful.

Who are those who are denied the right to vote in federal elections? They are the citizens who live closest to the Capital Hill, the citizens of the District of Columbia. This issue exists because the Constitution mentions only States. But the Constitution was penned prior to the creation of the District of Columbia out land gifted by Maryland so that no State could lay claim to the capital and lord it over other States. A simple fix is to insert “and the District of Columbia” into the appropriate clauses. Those who resist this by noting that giving the District voting rights would then give it unfairly two seats in the Senate while only one seat in the House should get a life since there are seven other States with small populations who also have one seat in the House and two seats in the Senate.

Not correcting this injustice undermines America claim that voting and democracy is a fundamental principle. I wish that some head of state would have the boldness to privately and publicly put the President in his place when the American President raises the issue of encouraging democracy. I would love to hear a national leader say to the press that he told the President that they will be happy to converse about voting and democracy when the President and Congress put their own house in order by granting voting rights to those living in the District of Columbia.

It is long overdue for the country to cease being hypocritical. It is time for Congress, the President and the States to amend the Constitution. Give the citizens of the District the right to participate in Congress.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Same Facts, Different Interpretation

During our trip to LSU via Indianapolis and back we blew two tires and lost our passenger mirror. When the first tire went we were a short distance from an exit with a big rig tire repair shop. When the inner tire gave way, there was no sway of the vehicle and the other tire held to allow us to get to the tire shop.

When the second tire went on the driver front six days later, I was surprised that there was no strong pull to the left and we were able to slow down onto the shoulder in heavy traffic without incident. We waited four hours for the auto club guy to arrive when the fire department pulled up looking for a grass fire. Within twenty minutes their dispatch had a guy on the way to change the tire, and do it free (he wanted gas money).

We lost the mirror at the half-way point but were able to find a temporary mirror to install. We were also happy that the gas prices decreased by about 17% from what we had anticipated and our gas mileage was stronger than normal by about 8% both of which helps the budget on 3,500 mile trip.

Those are the facts. This past weekend on our trip to Leola Evie and chatted about what happened. An interesting dialogue ensued as to how to interpret those facts. I concluded that one’s faith colors how one interprets the events. Though not an exhaustive list, here are some of the options for interpreting the same facts.

1. Evangelical Christian – Thanks God for his protection and grace.
2. Fundamentalist Baptist/Reformed – Thanks God for His providence and for being part of the elect.
3. Nominal Christian – May not give thought to God unless someone mentions him.
4. Liberal Christian – These things happen to the good and the bad. It is just part of life.
5. A person not having faith – sees it as just part of life. May or may not be frustrated and angry by the events, but such emotional expression is due to their personality type.

I also think that the faith position of those experiencing the events colors how a firm evangelical may well interpret the events. Our perception of the person can color the interpretation of what has happened to another person. Here are some options, again not an exclusive list.

1. An evangelical speaking to Christian experiencing the events – “God has been gracious to you. Give thanks.”
2. An evangelical speaking to a person who he/she sees as not being saved but having some belief in God – “God protected you as His way to remind you that He loves you.”
3. An evangelical speaking to a person who he/she sees as not having any faith or belief that God exists – “God is showing you that He exists.”
4. An evangelical speaking to a person who he/she sees as once having faith but has entered into a backslidden state – “God has warned you and is giving you an opportunity to repent/return.”

I would be interested in your thoughts.