29 October 2017

Puerto Rico: John Hancock, Phone Home

In 1776, 2.5 million people lived in the 13 colonies of what is now the eastern United States.  On 4 July, the colonies “in Congress assembled,” told King George III that they were “dissolving the political bands” which bound them to Great Britain.  

The declaration cited grounds for abuse and neglect by Great Britain.  The Americans had enough with being treated like a child in an adult conversation.

Great Britain resisted.  Americans were then and are now convinced that Great Britain was wrong, arrogant and selfish.

Puerto Rico has long had a separatist movement.  When we bother to think of Puerto Rico, Americans are convinced that they are wrong, arrogant and selfish.  Otherwise, we ignore separatists as extremist nuts.

But I wonder - Could we blame a Puerto Rican Congress from declaring their own independence?  

Puerto Ricans are American citizens - sort of.  They can get American passports.  There are no immigration regulations from them traveling to and living in the continental U.S.  They can participate in the Social Security system.

On the other hand, they cannot vote for president and have no congressional representation.  Certain other federal benefits (e.g., Supplemental Security Income from the Social Security Administration) are not available to Puerto Ricans.

Under current conditions, statehood for Puerto Rico is unlikely.  A majority of both houses of Congress would have to pass a joint resolution, and the President would have to sign it.  Were this to occur, Puerto Rico would send two senators and about five representatives to Congress.  The odds are that all would be either Democrats or aligned with the Puerto Rican Progressive Party and vote in the Democratic caucus.  Puerto Rico hasn’t seen statehood when the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the Presidency, and so they are unlikely to get statehood now.  Fair?  Unfair?  Beats me.  But it's reality.

If PR were granted statehood, it would rank around 30th in population.  So it’s not as if we’re talking admitting Guam or American Samoa.

Lots of Puerto Rico citizens probably curse the rest of us, the 50-state Americans, because of how the country has handled the Hurricanes of 2017.

First, Hurricane Irma hit.  About 12 people were killed and a quarter of the population had a moderately long-term loss of electricity.  (The death toll isn’t very much - but tell that to the families of the people killed.)

Then, Hurricane Maria plastered the island.  The “official” death toll is 51, but the island found 900 bodies to cremate.   

Puerto Rico is an island.  Therefore, it doesn’t have access to the mainland electrical grid, rickety though it is.  All electric used on the island has to be made on the island and transmitted through wires on the island.  The square pasting dealt by Hurricane Maria dealt minimal damage to power generation stations, but wiped out the island’s transmission grid.  The hurricane also wiped out a lot of those businesses which would have been able to fix the grid.

It’s now four weeks after Maria.  3+ million people are still without power.  This affects not just electronic toys, but the water supply, the food supply and health care.  In short, Maria transformed Puerto Rico temporarily back a hundred years.  

Puerto Rico has roughly the same population as Chicago, Iowa, Utah, Mississippi, Arkansas and Kansas.  

Please don't tell me that they need to suck it up and wait.  If Chicago were without power, Raum Emanuel would be going crazy and we’d be listening to him.  If the Heartland of America - Iowa or Kansas - were turned off, do you really think we’d leave them mostly alone?  Very few of us are prepared to endure four weeks without power.

In a time of increased hyphenated-Americans, I still believe in this one-nation-indivisible thing.  Were Kansas turned off, were they drinking dirty water, had sewage problems, had food shortages or had limited access to healthcare, what would we be doing?  Pigs would fly before we’d screw Kansas.  

When is the last time you thought about Puerto Rico?  

Folks around here are used to the idea of secession.  Barbour County was split evenly between Union support and Confederate support, so there was ample underpining for both seceding from the U.S. and then from seceding back from Virginia.  All it took was a good reason.

If I were a Puerto Rican today, I’d be thinking about this whole American thing.  

If we’re going to kiss them off, at least let’s be honest about it.


15 October 2017

Admiring Ebenezer Scrooge

There’s something we can admire about Ebenezer Scrooge.  No, not the post-third ghost Scrooge, but the original Scrooge, the miserly Scrooge.  He’s had lots of faults, but one thing is sure:   He didn’t let people push him around to donate.

Somewhere, there is a law of human behavior that says Everybody thinks whatever they can wheedle out of you, by hook or by crook, they can do much better things with it than you can.  That’s not even a criticism (much).  You’re working for a good cause, you need money, you don’t have it, so you wheedle for it.

Hurricane relief?  Gimme.  Stocking a new school library?  Gimme.  Coffee for the troops?  Gimme.  The Children’s Hospital?  Gimme.  That’s the story for every charitable organization.  Well, maybe not American Pedophiles Support, until they change there name to “Love the Children Society,” at which time a few ignorant morons will donate.  [1]

I’ve been pitched for the first four recently.  In one, I happily forked over some money.  In the first two, I admit I acted like a bit of a jerk.

Each of these were variations on a point-of-sale donation, in other words, getting hit up at the cash register.  

The way the scam - let’s be honest about this - works is that you go to the cash register.  The clerk scans your items.  Then comes the pitch.  Speaking in a normal tone of voice, the clerk asks you to donate to XYZ.  So there, you can publically show a pre-Ghost Scrooge or a post-Ghost Scrooge.  Either let them die and decrease the surplus population or pay the doctor to fix Tiny Tim’s legs.  Surprise!  And that’s the whole idea.

My worst experiences with point-of-sale donating has come at Books-A-Million®. [2]     I prefer Waldenbooks®, but there are some things I can get a Books-A-Million a little cheaper and it’s also on the way to places I go frequently.   

So the last two times at Books-A-Million:

1 - “We’re trying to stock the library at the new Cheat Lake Elemetary.  Will you donate a book?”

2 - “Would you like to donate Coffee for the Troops?”

There are several choices.

One is to grimace, say “Oh, my, yes,” and get out of there. [Hint: That ain’t me.]

Another - the one which is seldom used - is to ask logical questions.  For the library: How much do you want?  Are we talking Dr. Seuss or a first edition Dickens?  Is this at your cost or at retail?  Have you already made the donation?  If I donate, does that REALLY add one more book to the library?  Tell me those things and I’ll consider it.  Coffee for the Troops - Huh?  What the hell are you talking about?  Do you plan to give the money to the Department of Defense and tell them to put it down on coffee?  Do you plan to prepare something piping hot and send it in a Thermos® in a real fast plane?  Are you bearing any of the cost of this?  Is this a gimmick to obtain future good will from educated people who may become future customers?  Or are you just taking advantage of the public’s patriotism and the fact that we pay troops poorly?

Understand, I don’t act like a jerk with the clerks.  They may hate to ask as much as I hate to hear them ask.  But they’ve been ordered to.  Managers?  That’s a different subject.  Sure, they were told to do it, but part of their duties is to report customers’ reactions and complaints.  When I ask for the manager, I’ll politely tell him or her that this approach really ticks some customers off and that I’m one of them.  

Sorry, school kids and troops.  Nada from me today.

Walmart does it differently, which is decidedly less intrusive and less likely to annoy me.  At the self-check-out-stations, you scan your items and before the payment screen comes up, you see a “Will you donate to the Children’s Hospital?,” with a yes/no option.  I don’t feel particularly bad about hitting no, because owning a hospital is the nearest thing to being able to print money.  But even I’ve been known to bite on that one.

Then there was my experience today at Sheetz.  Sheetz is a regional company that operated convenience stores - you know, gas, groceries, coffee, food, a bathroom.  This morning, I pulled into Sheetz to top up the Batmobile.  I did not intend to go inside.  Sheetz has music and ads playing inside the store and on speakers at the gas pumps.  Today, I heard “We’re collecting for relief from Hurricane Harvey.”  Well, OK.  And then, “We’ll match your donation.”  I went in the store, got coffee and a paper, and chipped a 5 into the box.  You see, they had answered the question of whether this hurt them a little.  A problem shared is a problem halved, so I was in.

There are others who do point-of-sale donation with a little dignity.  Every McDonald’s has a slot beneath the drive-up for donations for the “Ronald McDonald House,” which are places for families to stay near children’s hospitals.  We know that they actually operate them and that they are expensive, so change goes in the box.  A Morgantown restaurant just advertised a “Scout night,” where 30% of the gross goes to the Boy Scout council.  It’s good for the council. [3] It’s good for the restaurant, because some people who haven’t been there will come and hopefully come back in the future.

Charitable donations are good.  I like to make them, but who I make them to and how much they are are none of your business.  Years and years ago, at a particularly tough time in my life, I swore I would NEVER walk by a Salvation Army kettle without putting in a donation that hurt a little bit.  And I’ve kept my promise.  I don’t supposed I’d mind walking by the bell-ringers if I didn’t believe in them.  Lots of people do, but they don’t annoy the non-givers.  But that was MY decision and not forced on me.

I have to wonder.  We have vague assurances that the Post-Ghost Scrooge became generous and showed the spirit of Christmas 24/365.  But I wonder whether even the Post-Ghost Scrooge would be hornswoggled by surprise point-of-sale donation tactics.  He became pleasant, considerate and reasonable, according to Dickens.  But, so far as we know, he didn’t become stupid.

[1] That promises a blog post about misleading names for organizations.

[2] This is not a good time for bricks-and-mortar bookstores.  Amazon is the unkillable giant.  There are about 250,000 people who live within 30 miles of here.  10% of them may go into a bookstore once a year.  The bookstores really depend on the 1 - 2% of people who are READERS.  So my access to convenient bookstores is quite limited.

[3] A post on girls-in-Scouting will follow anon.

05 October 2017

A Tiny Bit More About Human Rights . . .

I saw an ad in the Fairmont paper today urging people to sign a petition to put the new Fairmont Human Rights Ordinance on the ballot.  It was signed by Citizens for Public Safety or some such  lofty name. [1] (The person who paid for the ad identified him/herself.  Frankly, I don’t recall who it was, and s/he is to be commended for not doing it anonymously.  There are too many cases of “internet balls” where people don’t identify themselves.)

I’ve heard that one reason for the uproar is the gender identity thing and bathrooms.  Let me say, I don’t  understand the gender identity thing and it’s no higher than 58th on the list of stuff I want to find out  about. 

But, let’s assume that the new members of the Human Rights Commission are a bunch of gender identity freakazoids who have it as their sole goal in life to eliminate separate bathrooms. 

There is NOT ONE DAMN THING they can do to advance such a plan.  They can talk.  Period.  There are so many things to be upset about in government that it smacks of the ridiculous to get upset about something that no one, however allegedly warped, can do anything about.

In the  meantime, we STILL have joblessness, we STILL have child hunger, we STILL are selling our souls to the Chinese to buy shitty consumer products, we STILL have a health care system where lots of people can’t get treated for treatable conditions, we STILL have crimes and an armed citizenry (no matter what you think of it, we still have them and have to talk about it) . . .

So if we are going to protest, at least let’s protest something that matters. 


[1] I remember an opinion by my friend Justice Neely many years ago.  He was talking about harmless sounding names of organizations and acts of the Legislature.  He said that if the Legislature enacted a law to kill all women at age 60, they would call it the "Motherhood Improvement Act."  I wonder if we could accurately call groups what they really stand for - The Let's-Arm-Everybody Committee; The Only-Anatomical-Females-Can-Go-in-Women's-Bathrooms League; The Let-The-Other-Guy-But-Not-Me-Pay-Taxes Coalition.  Wouldn't that be refreshing?

30 September 2017

Human Rights & Human Wrongs, or, I'm Glad I Don't Pretend to Have the Answer

The City of Fairmont, West Virginia, is a place that 20,000 call home.  It’s in Marion County, located on I-79, between two larger cities, Morgantown and Clarksburg.  I practiced law in Fairmont for 38 years before I became a prosecutor.

The City of Fairmont just passed a “Human Rights Commission” ordinance, which has gathered lots of press and discussion on social media attention.  

The HRC Ordinance is extraordinarily weak.  It lacks any sort of real power.  It’s sole strength is moral suasion, and what is called “Jawboning,” or convincing people to do what other’s think they should do.   That goes back to President Hoover.  President Johnson loved the term and used it.

The question was - and is - (1) do we need a Human Rights Commission on a local level and (2) will it be effective.  

If you expect a definitive answer in these Dispatches, sorry, you’re looking in the wrong place.  MY answer is (1) to create, what the heck, we might as well try it, because it would be tough to screw up human dignity any more than we’re doing and (2) whether effective, not in any appreciable fashion over the short term.

Had I continued on the Fairmont City Council, I would have had to have voted on it.  I probably would have voted Yes.  It’s not often that you can vote on something that the downside is that what you’re trying will merely be useless.   [See Note 1 for my story of the shortest political career in Fairmont history.]

Let’s start with the Mission assigned to the HRC:  “. . . [T]o encourage and endeavor to bring about mutual understanding and respect among all persons and encourage and endeavor to safeguard the right and opportunity of all persons to be free from all forms of discrimination[,] whether by virtue of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, blindness or handicap.”  

WOW.  That’s some goal.  It’s a worthy meal, like serving a tiger steak.  The catch is, first you have to catch the tiger.

The HRC’s mission is what God, Jehovah, Allah, Zeus, Odin,  Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, The Force, The Universe, and Congress have been trying to do since the beginning of time.  (OK, Congress wasn’t really trying - They realized that it was very unlikely.  Instead, they adopted the Viking Motto: “I’ve got mine.”) 

The fact that so far, amity and understanding has never worked doesn’t mean that it’s stupid or invalid, just that it’s unlikely to happen to humans.  But, didn’t Robert Browning say (in Andrea del Sarto,) “Ah, a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”

Oh, a “Man’s reach”?  Oops. [See Note 2.]

In 1978, I became the Chairman of the first Fairmont Human Rights Commission.  The first HRC stopped working in the 1990's, perhaps because that ordinance was unwieldy, full of twists and turns, and didn’t apply to lots of people.  Oh, and in retrospect, some of the provisions (e.g., exclusiveness of the remedies - if you went with the original HRC and they ruled against you, you were done) are unconstitutional.  It also could have secret hearings and could handily escape Freedom of Information requests.  But it could convene hearings and make weighty pronouncements.  Harrumph, harrumph.

Oddly, “human rights” was in style in 1978, and it received almost no press.  Social media did not yet exist, so discussion was limited to word-of-mouth and the press.  That didn’t that a few folks didn’t like it.  The City Manager at the time (I forget his name) called the first HRC “a bunch of bomb-throwers.”

So why bother with it now?  

Look, we discriminate all the time.   There are four restaurants within easy walking distance of the Courthouse.  If I go out for lunch, I’ll eat at Moe’s, hands down.  He makes a good bowl of chili.  I discriminate against the vanilla diner, the Mexican place and the Chinese place.  Is that because I’m repulsed by Americanism, Mexicans and Chinese?  Or is it because I favor the sons (and daughters) of Italy.  (I knew Moe’s father - He was an immigrant from Italy and established a thriving law practice in Barbour County.)  To some people, I’m obviously a pro-Italian bigot.  No one will EVER convince them otherwise.  Some people just cannot handle that I like chili, Moe’s style.

We discriminate in what cars we drive, what town we live in, what colors we wear, what tattoos we get, ad nauseum.  Some of the time, we choose stuff which MAY be based on race, religion, etc.  If I get a Confederate Battle Flag tattoo, first it’s my business, not yours.  I can be driven by racism, a celebration of history or because I think it’s a nice flag.  If I tell you were to tell you WHY, you will not believe me because that’s the sort of thing you - and everyone else - has already made up her mind about.  (By the way, my only tattoo is Christian.  Like any symbol, that’s driven by the First Amendment.)

But we as a society DO discriminate partly on the wrong reasons, on illogical reasons.  But that discrimination (1) is hard to prove and (2) won’t change until people’s minds change.  The mind has to DECIDE that the barber’s sexual preference doesn’t affect how she can cut hair and national origin doesn’t (usually) mean that you blow stuff up.  And then we need to differentiate amongst rational discrimination based on classification from silly reasons.  Foreigners who talk jihad shouldn’t get in the country.  A blind person shouldn’t get a pilot’s license.

As with everything, the devil’s in the details.  If we try to make up rules for everything, the day after tomorrow a situation will arise not covered by the rules.  Common sense will take a vacation and everyone will try to fit it within a rule that doesn’t apply.

It seems to take some sort of moral elevation or evolution to discriminate rationally.  We’re far from that.

So, will this little city HRC be effective?

Oddly enough, it’s strength is that the ordinance renders it powerless.  The new HRC cannot force anyone to do anything.   The only affirmative duty it imposes is that the City cannot contract with someone who discriminates based on race, blah, blah, but that already illegal under a host of other laws. 

Hmmmm - I’ve just come upon a personal example of the power of thinking things through.  As I started this post, I would have said, nope, the HRC won’t be effective.  Now, an hour later, I’m not so sure.  It depends on who is appointed to the HRC.  I’m really not sure who to appoint.  

But I have an opinion about who NOT to appoint:

  • People who already know exactly what the problems are.

  • People who know the answers and cannot believe that we don’t see it.

  • People who hide their feeling behind the cover of political correctness.

  • People who hide their feelings behind the delusion of political INcorrectness.

  • Most people who say, hey, I’d be a good member (as opposed to a faithful member or a thoughtful member).

  • People who think it will be easy.

The new HRC’s strength is it’s powerlessness.  The members can talk.  They can advertise.  They can cajole.  In other words, they can join the public discussion.  In doing so, they can be a part of the solution.  Or part of the problem - It’s their choice what messages they deliver and how effective the message will be.  

Were I on the commission, I would start by patiently listening.  Patience is necessary because everyone needs to get stupid ideas off his chest to make room for thoughtful ideas.  If you think that American society will live or die based on what bathroom people use or whether we fly the “Stars & Bars,” that’s a stupid idea.  But people have stupid ideas and they need to utter them a while before they will start thinking.  In fact, I’d be prepared to patiently listen for a couple of years before thought kicks in.

Then, we MIGHT be prepared to discard what we already “know” and start to think rationally.  Oh, and the members will be made up of the larger pitiful group called “humanity,” so they’ll have to spout stupid stuff, too.

Then, the commission needs to be ready to make lots of mistakes, go down lots of dead ends and learn from them.  Ideally, what will the answer be?  Beats me.  Maybe I could qualify as dumb enough to be a faithful or thoughtful commissioner, but if I said I was qualified, I’d automatically (by my rules) disqualify myself.  

But this I do know:  What the members of the new commission cannot do is bring about an instant change in the human heart.   So be ready for the long haul or be ready to be disappointed.


Note 1: Yes, I was an active member of the City Council in Fairmont - for less than 5 hours.  I was appointed on a Tuesday night about 6:30 PM.  I was feeling great.   At 11:00 that night, I had a stroke and was unable to return to work for three months.  So my political career is a mere speck in the dustbin of history, far less than identifying who was president under the Article of Confederation.  

Oh, I recovered great from the stroke.  I can fight twice my weight in wildcats now.

Note 2: I wonder what the supporters of the HRC would say about Browning.   The poem is quite sexist.  It included the lines, “Your soft hand is a woman of itself / And mine the man’s bared breast shw crawls inside.”  Does that render any helpful opinion void?  Does the fact that he lived in a sexist time count?  Should we ignore everything that George Washington or Thomas Jefferson said because they were sexist slaveholders?  You decide.  And lots of luck.

10 September 2017

Mama’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Molest Children or Use Meth

Hey, it works for Willie Nelson - He crooned a memorable song urging mothers not to let their babies grow up to be cowboys.  Certainly, there are fewer cowboys today.

He sings,

“Cowboys ain't easy to love and they're harder to hold.
They'd rather give you a song then diamonds or gold.
Lonestar belt buckles and old faded Levi's and each night begins a new day.
If you don't understand him and he don't die young.
He'll probably just ride away.”

And then it gets worse.

So yes, by Golly, Willie has convinced this old Buckeroo to discourage my son from becoming a cowboy.

(Oh, he’s already a firefighter-paramedic.   He’s lost to the world of 9 - 5 easy work.)

But Willie needs to update the lyrics to address a new set of mama’s.  Nothing else seems to be working, so maybe a song will dissuade impressionable young parents from smoking methamphetamine and raping young children.  (If the subjects too raw, move on.  It won’t go away, but if you’re lucky, you’ll only blindly support the issue by paying taxes and bitching about why “somebody won’t do something.”)

There was a newpaper article in the Exponent-Telegram today which quotes my boss as saying we’ve file 75 abuse & neglect child petitions already this year.   The county has 17,000 people.  Um, sorry you were in Court all day Friday, Thomas.  We’re up to 80 - it was a busy day.  We need to talk in the morning.)

(One of these days real soon, I’ll tell you how this ol’ gunslinger defense lawyer ended up on the Lone Ranger’s side of the law.  I do abuse & neglect and crimes against children.  There is plenty to keep me busy.  At the end of a case, I look all solemn, but I admit, my heart does a little zippidee-do-dah when the baliff takes into custody a child molester.)

I’m absolutely not fooling when I tell you that half of abuse & neglect cases are based on the parents use of drugs.  Around here, it’s usually methamphetamine which it pretty easy to tell - It rots your teeth, covers you with sores like a leper, you lose massive amounts of weight and you forget that you have kids.  Oh, we do have the heroin here and pain pills there, together with the “treatment meds,” buphrenorphine, but meth is our big deal now.

Do you remember how your parents watched you every minute and you could get away with anything?  And if you were away from the house and smoked a cigarette, a well-intentioned (ho-ho) neighbor ratted you out before you got home?  

There’s less of that which goes on now.  In the last year, I’ve had 2 year olds go exploring on a farm (including one that had an unprotected farm pond), 4 year olds take their odd assortment of toys in a wagon on a BUSY highway because they were hungry.  I’ve seen multiple kids left with drug-addicted babysitters, some of whom appear on the sex-abuser lists.  Those are the high points, just some examples.

Well, somebody ought to do something.  Harrumph.  Harrumph, I say.  (Psssst - Hey, Governor - the freeze in state hiring and the across-the-board budget cuts are doing wonders for our work with children.  Nice going.)

Oh, and the title mentions having sex with children.  Another quarter of our Abuse & Neglect cases are sexual.  Oh boy, does it happen.   I know that you don’t believe that it happens in your nice neighborhood.  After all – A child molester doesn’t bring the kid out on the front steps and abuse him or her or both him and her there.  By and large, they are warped, they’re not stupid.  And then after the abuse, after the damage is done, they do additional damage by making up all kinds of BAD THINGS that will happen to the kid and the family if he or she tells.  Then, the kid sits in a private hell for 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 years before s/he reveals.  And then the defenders do what they are supposed to do - cast doubt because it’s not a fresh complaint.  If only the children knew that your average child molester (usually a man) is a screwed-up giant pussy who’s afraid of his own shadow.  

And the saddest part is, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.


The Megachurch in Disasters

Rev. Joel Osteen and his megachurch are getting a lot of noise about not opening the church during the Hurricane Harvey flooding in Houston.

I don’t really care for Joel Osteen.  I have no reason to hope that something bad happens to him.  If he were coming down the street, I’d greet him like I greet everybody.  But if he were coming down the sidewalk on the other side, I wouldn’t bother crossing the street just to meet him.

It’s that smile.  In the original Star Trek, a Klingon commander said he didn’t trust anybody who smiles that much.  

And it’s that “prosperity gospel,” which seems a bit shaky scripturally. (1)   It seems rather self-serving that God wants me to have all this money.  And disappointing when it doesn’t work.

And now the good Reverend is getting heat for not opening up his “megachurch” in Houston for victims of Hurricane Harvey.(2)  
The internet is aflame.  Anyway, that’s what everyone says.  There was a cute, catchy article in the Washington that the only thing that the megachurch shelters is people from paying taxes.  Whether that’s accurate is not nearly so important than I didn’t think of that line.

I have two concerns about the criticism.

First, have the noisemakers done anything other than make noise against Osteen?  

It’s awfully easy to say “You should be doing thus-and-so.”  In this case, open up the church.  How many people does the Washington Post house in an emergency?  What about the last sub-zero day in Washington, how many folks slept on cots in the newsroom?  How about us as indivduals?   The Red Cross is accepting donations.  Wouldn’t it be more honest to criticize Osteen only after you pitch the ARC10 bucks?

Second, what resources does the church actually have?

Well, there’s money of course.  Picking on someone rich ignores the significance of the Widow’s Mite.  From each a portion is expected and fair - but from everyone in accordance with their means.

There’s the “megachurch” building.  What’s shown on TV is HUGE - theater seating for maybe 10,000 adoring church members.  It’s got to be 150,000 square feet.   Couldn’t you store refugees in there?

Well, it’s not like a warehouse.  It’s REALLY high and unless they’re going to erect scaffolding, only the lower 7 feet of the floor plan can be used.  What is there?   Well, it’s 2/3 filled up with theater seating for maybe 10,000 adoring church member.  Look, listening to The Sound of Music in a theater seat is bad enough.   Try living there.

There’s the rest of the building.  Never been there.  I assume it has some purpose which in many cases would be inconsistent with housing refugees.  Sorta like the newsroom at the Washington Post.

What resources other than space would the church (or the Washington Post or your house) have to provide?

Water - To drink, for sanitation, at least one gallon per person per day.  Water, normally no problem.  Uh-oh, severe flooding shuts the water service down.  So you depend on what you have stored and what you can get by truck.  For every thousand people you house, you have to have 4-1/6 tons of water every day.

Food - 1500 calories per person per day, with some special needs (e.g., diabetics) thrown into the mix.  There will be no electricity, so it has to be food that will withstand room temperatures for long periods.  It also has to be refreshed from time to time, even freeze-dried items.  The people in the Greenbrier in West Virginia - where the emergency congressional bunker was located - knew that when items from cans started showing up in the employee’s kitchens that the Government was replacing the emergency food supply.

Electricity?  We got along for a 100,000 years without electricity.   But we are so used to being at the end of (fragile) power grid, when the electric goes off, we freak.  

We have an example for how a facility roughly like the big church works for a hurricane, Hurricane Katrina.   The City housed people in the Superdome, the NFL stadium.  The toilets quit working, they ran out of water and food was scarce.  Also, kids were going crazy because their electric toys to which they were addicted didn’t work.

I wonder if the Osteen church has buses?  I note below that a lot of people gambled that the storm wouldn’t be as bad and they lost.  The truly poor couldn’t gamble.  Had they had a “let’s get the hell out of here” mentality, they didn’t have the means.  So I can see churches, bus companies, RV owners, van owners having a moral duty to help people who are sufficiently cautious to get out of Dodge.  

To do emergency planning, you have to do it before the emergency.  And then, you have to have ONE person/heirarchy making decisions.  In the 1985 West Virginia Floods, the State emergency people were ineffective, until Gov. Moore stepped in and ran it like a King.

In a widespread emergency, someone needs to activate the specific-type emergency plan for the region and extend it however far geographically as it needs to go.  (Wow, this is dry stuff.  Emergency planning is dry.  Until the hurricane.  Or the TRULY sudden emergency, an earthquake.)  

After all, a disaster is not defined as something which has to kill a lot of people.  It’s an emergency that the normal response assets in a community cannot deal with.  A serious school bus wreck in Barbour County, West Virginia, would be a disaster.  We don’t have enough rescue companies or ambulances to respond and take care of everyone.  The same school bus wreck in New York City would be a bad school bus wreck, not a disaster.  The World Trade Center was a disaster.  

By the way, Flight 93 wasn’t a disaster.  The people in Flight 93 were killed on impact.  That’s a great big huge tragedy.  It’s not a disaster.  A few fire trucks, police to mark off the scene, and the NTSB are all that they needed.

Houston is a disaster, no doubt.  But don’t go picking on one megachurch as being the bad guy.   In helping others, most of us are bad guys.

(1) I probably approach about the mean among the readers, so don’t take the “shaky scripturally” as the voice of authority.

(2) I hesitate a little to use “victims” about everybody inconvenienced.  What some of them were are people who miscalculated that a hurricane that they knew 2 days in advance was coming with a lot of rain.  It’s not like an earthquake where one minute you’re normal and the next minute things have gone to hell.

24 April 2016

Elections - Who Cares?

Take a step back from this election cycle.  

Hey, we all know that the “other guy” is crooked, a closet atheist/axe murderer, an uptight libertine, teetotally drunk, a kindly grandmother/grandfather who hates children and puppy dogs, and who supports pickpockets, pimps, pederasts and other people who’s sins begin with the letter “P.”  That is a given.

For sure, s/he’s vain, believes that God/the Universe/the Force has decreed that s/he rule and that s/he will save America from certain doom which is certain to follow another candidate’s election.

And we drink the Kool-Aid deeply.  We actually believe that s/he is the only hope for America and the world.

History does not really support that.  We have survived public officials who a substantial part of us saw as devils, the Anti-Christ and all-round bad people.  Just looking at presidents, this includes Thomas Jefferson (founder of a party that Washington warned us about.)  It includes Jackson, a poorly educated hothead.  VanBuren who just was sort of VanBuren.  Buchanan who fiddled while the nation fell apart.  Lincoln, who got ZERO votes in several states.  Grant - great general, lousy president.  Theodore Roosevelt, that “damned cowboy,” according to Mark Hanna.  Wilson who, along with TR, took the country hopelessly left-ward.  Warren Gamaliel Harding, who played a great game of poker.  FDR, Truman, LBJ, Reagan, Clinton, two Bush’s and finally Obama.  That’s quite a rogues’ gallery.  You know, I’m looking forward to the Tubman $20 bill.  At least it’ll be someone’s picture who we haven’t heard real bad things about.

Oh, and it includes Oook, who first took over the Neanderthals.

And we survived most of them.

What to do . . . 

No, do not expect answers from these Dispatches.  At least I’m not quite so vain as some people mentioned above.  

One possible explanation is inertia.  Government is a ponderous beast.  The most radical of candidates is talking about changing the way government spends maybe 20% of the money it takes in.  Government and people’s expectations of government makes it highly resistant to change.

Another possible explanation is the vast mix of deeply held political beliefs.  Abortion, gay anything, defense, foreign competition, immigrants, health care is the ONE THING that matters.  But it depends on who you ask.  The voting public mills around like cattle in a pen.  And each separate interest has approximately the same access to means of communication.  We just claim that the other guy has an unfair advantage, usually gained through some sort of skullduggery.  We just don’t want the other guy’s position to be discussed because it's clearly silly.  

We’ll survive President Trump-Clinton-Sanders-Cruz.  We always have.