The still before the storm

Jack wrote this in September, 2005, a few days after a post which he repeats in this post:

This morning a close friend of mine attended services at the San Antonio Mission Church (Catholic) in the village. I’m a bit incredulous what happened next.

The priest was discussing the issue of how Christians ought to point out the sins of their neighbors. Then he stuck his toe into different waters.

“A lot of you mightn’t have noticed,” I’ll paraphrase him, “that on the very day the hurricane hit New Orleans, a hundred thousand gays and lesbians arrived to have a celebration of their sexuality and an enormous parade.

“Now, this mightn’t have been the work of the Lord, hitting New Orleans the way he once destroyed Sodom and Gonorrhea (me smiling to meself), but I just want you to think about it.”

Hey blog readers.

I refer you to this blog entry Thursday, September 01, 2005, entitled,

“Who’d have thunk it?

“Seems a body of leading edge Christian thinkers has figured out what caused that hurricane to hit New Orleans and do so much damage.

“It ain’t a chaos butterfly at all.

“It’s the Wrath of the Good Lord done it.

“All that sinning and drinking and whoring down on Bourbon Streetfinally caught up with them, evidently. The Good Lord finally got a belly-full of Mardi Gras.

“But don’t be surprised if you begin hearing all those flood victims in New Orleansaren’t deserving of Christian pity and help in their sufferings. They just naturally brought it all on themselves, like Sodomand whatchallit, Gonorrhea.

Next thing down the pike is probably going to involve those homeless Louisianans bringing the wrath down on the rest of us, as well, with their Godless frivolity.”

I’m not a Mormon, but I’ve always appreciated Brigham Young’s response when he heard there was a Christian army headed for Utah to straighten things out.

“We’ve all experienced a lot of Christian Charity before we came here, them confiscating our property, burning our houses, killing, beating and raping our families, murdering Joseph Smith.

Now they want to send us some more Christian Charity. Arm yourselves, stock up food, clothing, blankets, guns and ammunition and hide in the hills if you hope to survive.”

Don’t get the idea I’m as good at predicting lottery numbers as I am at predicting the behaviors of Christians. I’m not.


Is there something wrong with this picture?

Jack wrote this in September, 2005. He gave the disaster of Hurricane Katrina a lot of thought.

An October, 2004, synopsis in a national magazine.  (A post which I am not including was a very long article written the previous year by National Geographic-J.). A well-researched, widely publicized feature that reads like a news story from last week?

That story didn’t come out of a crystal ball.  It came out of the mouths of all the people in a position to know what to expect, who knew it would happen.  People who study hurricanes and what they do, people who study geography, hydrology, emergency managements and disaster.

They all agreed.

Those people who were interviewed for the feature didn’t keep the information hidden.  It wasn’t in a folder drawing dust in the file cabinet.

Every one of the agencies who were interviewed to create the story had been communicating the information to the State of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans for decades, where evidently it DID sit in file drawers drawing dust.

I know for a fact this is true from personal observation.

During the early 1990s I toured those levies, the lower lying areas with FEMA officials, Red Cross officials, Emergency Management Coordinators from other States inthe FEMA Region VI, Corps of Engineers officials, and Louisiana State and local officials.  The precisely same information concerning what would happen if a major storm hit was communicated to and by everyone present.  It was obvious.  We even kicked around ideas involving specifics of needed emergency plans with City and State emergency managers.

A case can be made that when a tsunami hits and kills people it’s an accident.  When an earthquake hits in an earthquake prone area and lives are destroyed, it’s still an event that mightn’t have happened, had reason to catch residents by surprise.  A tornado in West Texas tornado alley is still a low probability at any give spot.

This is a disaster of another sort.

Responsibility lies with every human being to behave prudently in matters involving his own personal safety.  To look carefully at the traffic before venturing to cross a street with the knowledge that cars use that street.  To mosey over toward Metairie if there’s a hurricane stalking in the gulf.  But, before that, to elect officials of the sort who were responsible officials, who weren’t merely demigogues and rhetoriticians.

In this instance the secondary responsibility for the safety of the residents, making sure they had the information to allow them to make prudent choices, lay with the City and the Parrish.  An evacuation plan in place and tested.  Intergovernmental agreements with inland communities for shelters in the event of an evacuation.  Disaster plans in place and exercised.  Everyone educated on the possibilities, everyone knowing what would need to be done and when, where and how to do it.

The next level of responsibility lay with the State of Louisiana, and the Governor to absolutely drop a hammer on the heads on responsible local officials who weren’t doing their jobs.  To use every means available, legal, publicity, and volume to order, threaten, plead and cajole those City and Parrish officials to prepare for the inevitable.

This storm could have happened a decade from now and it would have been no different, maybe worse.  The City of New Orleans would have been no better prepared, and Louisiana would have been no better prepared.  The population would have been no better prepared.

The lazy, irresponsible, shirking attitude of the residents, the City and Parrish governments and the State of Louisiana would not have changed even though every year the inevitability of this event increased and they knew damned well it was doing it.

There are disasters, and there are disasters.


Edited in as an afterthought:

I did some drinking on Bourbon Street with the Louisiana State Flood Plain Administrator after that tour.  We talked about his problems implementing any kind of plan, even the minimums required by law in Louisiana.  He was a good guy, a solid, caring black man who’d really like to do his job.

“It’s politics, man.  The City doesn’t like exercising emergency plans.  It might upset the tourists.  Out in the parrishes it’s all cousins and nephews.  They don’t want to hear anything about anything but Federal grant money and new roads.”

Kings, dictators, and presidents

Jack wrote this in September, 2005:

The framers of the US Constitution knew all about kings.

That’s the reason when they created the job of president, they were careful to studiously limit his powers, making it so almost anything he did required the consent of the US Congress.

The Constitution of the US gives the President the power to pass, or veto acts passed by Congress, with the caveat that Congress can over-ride his veto.

The Constitution makes him the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. He’s allowed to make war, provided a declaration of war has been passed by Congress.

He owns the diplomatic corps and gets to appoint judges and cabinet members, but only with the advice and consent of Congress.

Otherwise, the framers didn’t allow the president to do much of anything.

They didn’t want a king. They knew perfectly well what kings, dictators emperors, and presidents behaving as any of the above were capable of doing.

Today, Americans have come the full circle.

While the dictators have mostly been stripped of their powers all over the world, while the monarchs are eunich figureheads, while the emporers have all fallen into the wastebins of history, Americans are demanding, absolutely begging for the American president to become a king, (or remain one) and continue ignoring the limits of the office established by the US Constitution.

This hurricane disaster is a glowing example of Americans once more demanding that their president act as a king, or emperor.

The people who are whining and complaining aren’t, as they should be, demanding that the president act precisely in accordance with the requirements of the Constitution. They are screaming hatred at him because he’s not behaving the way they fanaticize some king they’d prefer from another political party might behave, given the opportunity.

I don’t like this guy. He’s already performing plenty well enough like a king to overly satisfy my needs and desires. The people who are demanding he become a monarch wouldn’t like him better if he was more like one, either.

And there’s cause to doubt any of us would like a king from the other party any better, comes to that.

This country doesn’t need a king. It doesn’t even need a president. The machinery of government is so entrenched the country would go on operating business as usual indefinitely, were he to simply vanish.

The only people who would miss him, miss the office are the king worshipers and the media.

The framers of the US Constitution knew all about kings and king worshipers.


Ramblings- about Zuni Salt Lake

Jack wrote this in September, 2005:

This is Zuni Salt Lake.

It’s about forty miles south of the Zuni Rez, almost in AZ.

There’s a ghost town you can barely see in the pic…. used to be a considerable community down in there when it was private land, from the 1840s until the 1950s, evaporating salt from the huge concrete beds.  Most of the buildings are still intact, though they’re going away rapidly.

Today it belongs to the Zuni tribe, one section of land, but it’s not in the national trust as part of the Rez.  Tribes have been acquiring a lot of land from casino monies and other ways during the past decades, making the lands acquired ‘tribal’, but not Rez, which puts them into an interestingly ambiguous position insofar as road maintenance and county taxes.

Salt Lake was acquired as a piece of a lawsuit against the US government involving an airplane with a hydrogen bomb aboard that crashed on the Rez, with first responders being Zunis, but which the feds didn’t bother telling them about the bomb, leaving emergency workers exposed to hazardous materials without knowing it.  The tribe got a few million out of that, which they used to purchase 60k acres of land to the south of the Rez, but Salt Lake was thrown in as a bonus.

Salt Lake’s a sacred place for the Zunis, home of Salt Mother.  If you are willing to risk hopping the fence and wandering around down there ….. it’s a volcano crater with a hollow secondary plug you can climb, then a spiral trail leading back down inside … that’s where most of the rituals for Salt Mother are held… but all over that section you’ll pass over various religious items from recent times you’d be well advised to leave untouched.

Anyway, Salt Lake used to be the place all the tribes got their salt throughout history.  A place where a constant truce between warring tribes existed.

It’s also part of what the power companies would love to strip mine so El Paso and Phoenix can fire up their hair dryers every morning, and keep their homes refrigerated.

Which the Zunis believe would thoroughly piss off Salt Mother, with considerable resulting pain for the Zunis, and all the rest of us.

They might be right.


Pledge of Allegiance woes

Jack wrote this in September, 2005:

I recall being in a school auditorium as a youngster when they added the words, ‘under God’ to the Pledge of Allegiance. Mr. Doak and Mr. Burke, Civics and History teachers were up there trying to get it right while teaching it to a couple of hundred kids.

Kid’s who were still on shaky ground from learning it the first time. That would have been in the mid-1950s.

Now, a Federal District Judge in San Francisco’s declared the phrase, ‘under God’, to be unconstitutional, which means the US Supreme Court will one day devote time and energy to deciding which way the wind’s blowing. The question of whether the framers of the Constitution would have thought a child having to say, ‘under God’ is a fairly weird one.

The reason it’s weird lies in the fact that the question of whether this nation is indivisible was never considered by the Supreme Court, never mentioned in the US Constitution.

It was decided by force of arms, one half, (the half possessing an army) of the nation believing it was indivisible, the other half believing it was divisible. The stronger half forced the weaker half to accept indivisibility at gunpoint after a lot of bloodshed.

Thus, the Pledge of Allegiance came into existence after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. The winning side forced each surrendering Confederate soldier to say a pledge accepting indivisibility as one of the precepts of citizenship, followed afterward by many generations saying the pledge from early childhood since then.

But the US Supreme Court was never asked whether that Pledge acknowledging indivisibility was Constitutional, which might have saved a hundred thousand lives, legs, arms, and a whole different approach to US governance.

Instead, they’ll be asked to decide the easier matter of whether it’s a violation of a child’s civil liberty to utter the words, “Under God”.


Speaking the unspeakable

Jack wrote this in September, 2005:

The scrutineering’s begun, the witch-hunters are getting their torches all lit up for some really juicy burnings at the stake.

So who is responsible for what’s happened in New Orleans and surrounding communities?

The people of Louisiana are responsible. Louisiana knew about those dikes. The residents knew about them. They continued to build behind them.

Now they’ve been destroyed by the flood they knew was coming for many years.

Who’s responsible for the mess there now? FEMA? President Bush?

Frankly, I dislike FEMA somewhere around Category 5, assuming this was a Cat 4 storm. But FEMA is not responsible for what happened here. They didn’t make the choices that put houses in areas where they’d flood. In fact, they pleaded, begged, threatened and cajoled the communities of Louisiana for many years trying to get them to mitigate flood damage by building outside floodprone areas.

I wish I could assign some blame to FEMA, but I can’t.

So, who then?

The Corps of Engineers?

With the exception of 404 Permitting personnel, the employees of the US Army Corps of Engineers are probably the most qualified, responsible, competent workforce I’ve ever had the pleasure of dealing with. The Corps, however, is the instrument of the US Government. It can do nothing without the consent of Congress and the President.

Prez Bush?

I like this president about as well as I like FEMA. I’d love to see him take a bath on this. But the bath would be misplaced, because this Prez, however stupid and lousy I believe he is, (the mirror image of the electorate) had nothing to do with this. He was asked to assist, and he’s assisting as best he can. It might be his fault he can’t respond better, but he had no responsibility to respond, except within the context of the overall well being of the nation.

So who does that leave?

The people you’re seeing submerged in anguish on the news are precisely the people who caused this disaster, by their failure to evacuate, their failure to vote taxes to improve levies, their failure to support building standards to prevent this kind of devastation, their failure to elect officials who’d behave responsibly in the face of this threat that’s been before them for generations.

This nation has no responsibility to Louisiana for this disaster, other than a humanitarian one.

Whatever help can be provided through charities, FEMA (short of funds for rebuilding), and individuals is admirable. It’s compassion and generosity of the sort we ought to demand of ourselves.

But no person who is not a resident of Louisiana is responsible for this debacle. No person who resides outside the boundaries of Louisiana has any obligation beyond a moral one to do anything for them at all.

Louisiana is getting the kind of help you’d give when you extend a hand to a drowning man. It doesn’t matter whether he was drunk and fell out of the boat, whether he was using bad judgment to get himself into that predicament. The rest of us will extend a hand.

But anything we do beyond that is purely a matter of personal choice.

Which, of course, is a falsehood. We’ll all do a lot more than that, and we won’t have any choice at all. We’ll pay for it in deficit spending by our government and tax dollars without anyone asking whether we’d like to do more.


Ask Old Jules: Nature of reality, 10 happiest songs, This funny, imperfect world, What is Love?

JackCDbackupJune03 536

Old Jules, what do you think about this idea about the nature of reality? My question is: If in dreams we “create” a new ephemeral fragmented reality from a more real reality, could this reality be a dream we’re all having from a more perfect reality? Like there’s another reality more real than this one and there we sleep for some years having this dream, and when we die we just wake up there?

We’ve got a lot to learn about dreams. Everything sentient probably has them. Certainly animals from chickens upward do, and when they’re dreaming their brains believe dreams are real enough to cause physical response. My personal thought these days is that the dreaming mind is responding to a different reality than the conscious mind responds to. Lately I’ve been thinking of it within the context of a hologram and something akin to a computerized flight simulator as one of several analogies. Consider the pilot in command flying by visual flight rules [VFR] and responding to what’s available to the five senses within the hologram. But when he takes a break and hands it over to the co-pilot, the co-pilot’s only able to fly by instrument flight rules [IFR]. What the co-pilot sees is a reality communicated, not by the five senses, but by an air-speed indicator, altimeter, rate-of-climb indicater, compass, navigational radios, tach and so on. But the co-pilot interpretes this data into a set of visual phenomena within a hologram, same as the pilot interprets the direct input of five senses into visual phenomena. But that doesn’t exclude what you’ve suggested. There certainly might be alternative realities and the sleeping mind might visit them.

Old Jules, what are your top 10 happiest songs?

Simon & Garfunkel – The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)
Lonnie Donnegan – Jack of Diamonds
Frankie Laine – Cool Water [my pump’s out]
Righteous Brothers – Rock and Roll Heaven
Nat King Cole – Stardust
Roy Acuff – Wabash Cannonball
Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love
Merrilee Rush & the Turnabouts – Angel of the Morning
We’ll Sing In The Sunshine- Gale Garnett
Artie Shaw- Begin The Beguine

Old Jules, I need funny reasons why our world is imperfect?

The north pole refuses to be north despite the fact it’s centered on the spin axis. Every compass in the world points to a place a few degrees off north where the magnetic north pole is located. As if that weren’t bad enough, the magnetic north pole wanders around like a drunken sailor, moving a few miles every year. Then there’s the duckbill platypus. Don’t get me started on the duckbill platypus.

Old Jules, what is Love and why is the word so misused?

Commerce. Love is big business. It sells songs, sells jewelry, sells roses, sells movies. It also provided a rhetorical lever for religions and doctrines. Preachers, gurus, motivational speakers, writers and candy kisses manufacturers all love love in different ways. Patriots love loving patriotism, gun lovers love loving guns, fanatics love loving fanaticism, car lovers love loving cars, bankers and brokers love loving money and morticians love loving corpses and mourners. And most of all, women love love.

A Salute To Immortal Prose In Haiku and Limerick

A Salute To Immortal Prose
In Haiku and Limerick

Cemetery is the place
Save haiku with chisel and mace
No editor chortle
Will spoil your immortal
Words once your headstone’s in place

Muse for men of words:
(In driving drunk and killing)
Man’s consistency

From Poems of the New Old West, Jack Purcell, copyright 2002

Blindsiding ourselves

Jack wrote this in March, 2006:


Morning blogsters:

Occasionally I have to remind myself how stultified we humans are in our belief systems.  How willing we are to turn a blind eye to information that contradicts what we’ve chosen to believe.

One of the means I use to remind myself is my own memory, my own beliefs during past times.

During Peace Corps Training in 1964, I recall a session with the India X psychologist.  The USSR and the US were experiencing frequent ‘brink of war’ confrontations at the time.  I explained to the psychologist, for reasons I don’t recall, that I believed the Russkies would mind their own business if we would.  That the US was, at least, half to blame for the Cold War.

Which might have been a middling sized slice of why I was booted out of the Peace Corps, though there were plenty of more valid reasons I see today for them doing so.

But my point is, that while the second part of my viewpoint held some solid truth, any suggestion that the USSR would have pulled in the horns and begun to behave themselves if the US did likewise is simply absurd.  My insistence in believing it was a demonstration of my willingness to overlook much of what I knew in order to maintain that belief.

The Russkies weren’t going home at that stage of the game.  Soviet tanks would have rolled across western Europe.  Whether it was proper for the US to risk nuclear destruction to keep this from happening is an entirely different issue.

But the Russkies weren’t going home.

Not any more than the US troops are ever going to come home from Korea, Europe, the Middle East, and who-knows-where else, simply because the rest of the world decides to behave itself as US government says it should.  Not until internal conditions force it to do so, as happened with the USSR, or foreign nations discover a way to make it happen.

In my Peace Corps days I was deliberately overlooking the piece of human nature that’s always prevailed whenever one human, or one nation, possessed overwhelming superiority in weaponry or force.

The reason for these ramblings this morning is all the browsing I’ve been doing on groups and blogs recently.  I’m finding myself wondering which piece of human nature is going to succeed in blindsiding itself with some other piece of human nature next.  My money is on brute force, one way or another.

But there might be some favorable alternatives I’m just turning a blind eye to.




Random pre-dawn notes

Jack wrote this in September, 2005:

Morning blog-readers,

Nice morning here.  Moon’s still full, almost straight overhead, cool, clear sky.

A friend told me a couple of interesting anecdotes she’s encountered recently, yesterday.

Seems there’s an outfit in California that’s found a successful means of treating Alzheimer’s, which is a happy piece of human gossip.  Lady just out of the village is putting her home up for rent to take her mother out there for a year to go through the complete 19 month regimen.  She’s gone through the first phase here (six weeks) and seen such improvement that she feels a lot of confidence the treatment works.

Interestingly, it’s mainly a matter of retraining the communications within the brain, re-routing electrical impulses to do what they did before the brain deterioration began, but via different packets of nerves.  Evidently, the mere restoration of communications within the brain halts further progress of the physical damage.

The nursing home industry and possibly the medicos won’t like this, but everyone else probably will find it a blessing if they’re able to afford the treatment for their loved-ones whom they’re watching slowly sink into an ugly oblivion.

Same friend also told me an interesting anecdote about the daughter of yet another woman who’s just come back from Iraq, evidently National Guard.  Says she’s overwhelmed by nightmares, getting no sleep, won’t go anywhere and sleeps with her M-16.  Constant state of unreasoning fear and anxiety.

The ship carrying all her belongings and those of her co-troops was evidently destroyed in the NO hurricane, so there’s also that to keep her feeling down.

Crazy sending women to a place such as that.  This whole all-volunteer army thing is one that could have used some testing in a lot of ways before it was implemented, but the political atmosphere was absolute death to the draft, and they needed to shore up the numbers of warm bodies to use for cannon-fodder some way.  Adding women doubled the pool while tipping a hat to political correctness.  Still does.

And strangely enough, while men mostly weren’t much interested in making a career of the military if they could do anything else, except those of a particular personality type, women chomped at the bit to get in, then fought to get into the combat arms branches.

A person has to be careful what he asks for in this life, out of respect that he might get it.  They’ve got it all worked out now as a precedent.  Next war big enough to involve the draft will have women coming home in body bags in roughly the same numbers as men.

What a piece of work is man!
How noble in reason!
how infinite in faculties!
in form and moving, how express and admirable!
in action how like an angel!
in apprehension, how like a god!
the beauty of the world!
the paragon of animals!
And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?
Man delights not me; no, nor woman neither.

I have of late,–but wherefore I know not,–
lost all my mirth,
forgone all custom of exercises;
and indeed, it goes so heavily
with my disposition
that this goodly frame, the earth,
seems to me a sterile promontory;
this most excellent canopy, the air,
look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament,
this majestical roof fretted with golden fire,–
why, it appears no other thing
to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.

William Shakespeare
Hamlet II

Back during the draft days a major part of the young men were tickled pea green to have flat feet, anything to keep them out, while women had an automatic non-obligation along those lines.  They were what young men were supposed to be fighting for.

Strange stuff, when you think of it.

It’s going to be interesting to watch the battle between the FDA and medicos and that new Alzheimers treatment bunch, thinks I.  It’s not a ‘medical’ treatment, per se, and it has all the earmarks of just the sort of thing that ought to bring the folks who make a living out of keeping the status quo on ugly death out with their jack-boots polished to a fine sheen.

Similar to the way they’ve kept out a simple herbal method of shrinking tumors to zip clean out of the respectable cancer treatment business.  Native American herbal recipe involving sheep sorrel, black burdock, slippery elm and turkey rhubarb you can brew at home, knocks out benign and malignant tumors anywhere and in the human body, but there’s not a medico in the US who will prescribe it, despite the thousands of people whom they’ve pronounced living dead who are walking around because of it.

Ah well.