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Guy's Blog

Just one Guy's personal blog of thoughts & sense--common, non, and otherwise--of the world in which we live.

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Location: Nipomo, Central Coast, California, United States

I also blog over at Nipomo News, Messenger and Advocate and Bloggernacle Times

Friday, September 30, 2005

Our Fox Totem

Part of the Wood Badge training is practical training, dividing up the adult leaders into patrols, just like real scout troops are divided. Each patrol, is given a name at the start, then, they create their own flag, and also a totem, which is a drawing that is patrol specific and will follow you as an individual member of that patrol throughout your scouting career. We have finally come up with our Fox Patrol Totem, to the left. The numbers at the bottom reflect our particular Wood Badge course, taken in the western region, Los Padres Council, in 2005.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

What I've Been Doing

I've been too busy to blog regularly these past couple of weeks. I started Wood Badge training, for my scouting position. I'm in the Fox Patrol. For those unfamiliar with scouting, you can read all about Wood Badge training here. With work, and the extra time Wood Badge requires, my blogging has diminished . . ..though probably not noticeable to most. The practical portion of the training spans two three day weekends, one in September, and another in October, with two patrol meetings in between. We're now over half way done, with just the remaining three day weekend in October left. After that, its off to work my ticket, and complete the training within the next year or so. Thus far its been well worth the time investment--though somewhat more intense than I anticipated.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

9/11 Four Years Later

As we remember, let us also reflect. Just where are we fours years post 9/11, and four years into what Mr. Bush calls the war on terror. First stop, two articles in the September 11, 2005 Sunday New York times Magazine. The first article, entitled Lost at Tora Bora, is an insightful recap of one of Mr. Bush's greatest failures in his self-proclaimed war on terror.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Buck Stops Where?

As I reflect on the events of the last two weeks, I can't help but wonder the response of one of our former Presidents, who I think exemplified leadership at its best--Harry S. Truman. Of course, President Truman had a great sign on his desk that said, "The Buck Stops Here." In his farewell address to America President Truman reportedly said:

"The President--whoever he is--has to decide. He can't pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That's his job."

How refreshing a concept in today's political climate of finger pointing, and responsibility avoidance taken to new heights by the Bush administration. It seems to me there is one person ultimately responsible for the safety and welfare of the American people and this great nation. That person is the President of the United States. Mr. Bush can whine and complain all he wants that everyone else in the world is to blame for the shortcomings of the federal response to Katrina's aftermath; however, at the end of the day, he can't avoid the ultimate responsibility--particularly in light of the fact it was he who created a separate cabinet department, the responsibility of which is to provide disaster relief and response in this exact scenario.

My best response to Mr. Bush, and his advisors, is actually another response from President Truman:

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Long gone are the days where true statesmen occupied the leadership positions in the White House and the halls of Congress. One can only hope for a return to more dignified and responsible leadership in this country. I suspect the earliest that will posssibly happen is after the next election.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Blind Leading The Blind

According to the AP, none other that Mr. Bush himself will head up the investigation to review his own administration's incompetence. How exactly will that work?

Buffeted by criticism over the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, President Bush said Tuesday he will oversee an investigation into what went wrong and why — in part to be sure the country could withstand more storms or attack.

Bush also announced he is sending Vice President Dick Cheney to the Gulf Coast region on Thursday to help determine whether the government is doing all that it can.

"Bureaucracy is not going to stand in the way of getting the job done for the people," the president said after a meeting at the White House with his Cabinet on storm recovery efforts.

"What I intend to do is lead an investigation to find out what went right and what went wrong," Bush said. "We still live in an unsettled world. We want to make sure we can respond properly if there is a WMD (weapons of mass destruction) attack or another major storm."

Well, my question, is who is going to lead Mr. Bush? It's good to know that bureaucracy won't stand in the way of getting the job done. Seems to me that's all it has done. Bureaucracy along with Mr. Bush's incomptence has been a disaster for America, and particularly the Gulf Coast region.

But Bush said now is not the time to point fingers and he did not respond to calls for a commission to investigate the response.

"One of the things people want us to do here is play the blame game," he said. "We got to solve problems. There will be ample time to figure out what went right and what went wrong."
Well, Mr. Bush, just when are you going to begin this investigation. If not now, when? Perhaps after he has finished "playing the blame game" by shifting responsibility to everyone other than him and his inept administration. This ought to be a classic--not since Richard Nixon's vow to get to the bottom of Watergate have I felt so reassured by such an investigation.

Et Tu Brutus

Wow, the venerable conservative bastion, The Wall Street Journal is taking Mr. Bush to task for his post Katrina incompetence:


Bush and Katrina
September 6, 2005; Page A28

The White House is slowly recovering from its first-week stumbles responding to Katrina, with President Bush taking his second trip to New Orleans yesterday. His quick elevation of John Roberts to Chief Justice is another welcome sign of energy (see related commentary). But Mr. Bush can't afford to stop there, because the aftermath of Katrina poses a threat to his entire second term.

We aren't referring here to the storm surge of recrimination blaming post-Katrina problems on everything from Iraq, to tax cuts, to his refusal to endorse the Kyoto Protocol. The American public knows this was an epic natural disaster and won't fall for political opportunism. By the same token, Americans also won't have much patience for White House claims that state and local officials were the greater incompetents. Yes, Louisiana needed a Rudy Giuliani. But what Americans want now is proof that their government understands the nature of the challenge and is acting forcefully to meet it.

On this point, Mr. Bush is going to have to recognize the obvious initial failure of the Department of Homeland Security in its first big post-9/11 test. The President created this latest huge federal bureaucracy, against the advice of many of us, and we're still waiting for evidence that it has done anything but reshuffle the Beltway furniture. If FEMA can't now handle the diaspora out of New Orleans to Houston, Baton Rouge and other cities, the political retribution will be fierce.

Notably, the New Orleans mess improved only after the Pentagon got involved. Though the military is normally barred from domestic law enforcement by the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, Defense officials have been doing a lot of creative thinking about what they can do and what the public now expects post-September 11. The press corps might even want to report on that thinking, which is contained in a June 2005 report, "Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support." If he ever fires anyone, Mr. Bush could do worse than find a few more Donald Rumsfelds as replacements.
When the snakes start committing suicide, you know you need to watch your step!

Update: 10:40 a.m. In my earlier post of Barbara Bush's let them eat cake comment, Discourse.net astutely points out that the editors at E & P actually softened Mrs. Bush purported quote in their piece. You really need to listen Mrs. Bush make the comment, which you can listen to it here for the time being. I don't know how how it will be up on NPR's website.

Monday, September 05, 2005

New Orleans Heartbreak Update

I've updated my prior New Orleans post here, with further photos and commentary. I'd also add this link from the current New Yorker Magazine with one New Orleanian's thoughts of his hometown. It's late, I'm tired, and perhaps there will be more to say in the morning, ahh....make that later this morning.

Another link here to an Anne Rice opinion piece in Sunday's New York Times. The photo at the left is from that article. She provides an informative history of New Orleans along with an opinion on New Orleans from one who is well qualified to render such an opinion.

Update 3:30 p.m.

How refreshing would it be for an elected government official on any level to admit they made a mistake on the response to Katrina's aftermath---apologize for that mistake, and ask forgiveness of the affected victims? And, what's the likely of such an unlikely scenario?

Update 5:30 p.m.

According to the President's mother, Barbara Bush, things are just working out very well for the New Orleanians evacuated from their city. They are so enthralled with their new homeless shelters in the Houston area, they are going to move there. Her quote, from press reports is:

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this (she chuckled)--this is working very well for them."
How understanding of Mrs. Bush of those poor underprivileged folk. By the way, just how would she know? The Bushs have been out of touch with reality from Bush I all the way down to the current Bush President, for decades. All that pretend Texas front can't cover up that life of East Coast privilege and blue blood background.

Along the same lines, the current President Bush revealed the same privilege outlook handed down byhis parents. Thanks to Radio Saigon for this observation and press account:

THE PRESIDENT: We’ve got a lot of rebuilding to do. First, we’re going to save lives and stabilize the situation. And then we’re going to help these communities rebuild. The good news is — and it’s hard for some to see it now — that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott’s house — he’s lost his entire house — there’s going to be a fantastic house. And I’m looking forward to sitting on the porch.(Laughter.)

Well Mr. Bush, please do let us know when that porch is done, so we can all come sit a spell!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Katrina's Political Storm Rages

A fascinating article appears in Today's Times-Picayune, (New Orleans' print newspaper) about Katrina's political storm that continues to unfold. You can read Editor and Publisher's comments on the article here. You can read the Time-Picayune's actual letter in their online edition here.

Of course, at the time of Katrina's actual landfall, Mr. Bush was on vacation at his Crawford Ranch. He spends lots of time on vacation in Crawford, and rarely interrupts those vacations; however, when Congress rushed through the Terri Schiavo bill in record speed, Mr. Bush abruptly interrupted his vacation to personally fly back to Washington D.C. to sign that bill at 1:00 a.m. Yet, while New Orleans flooded, where was Mr. Bush? Why wasn't he immediately flying back to Washington D.C. to oversee recovery efforts? Once again Mr. Bush was AWOL.

When is the time, by the way, to discuss what went wrong? As I sit and watch nonstop coverage of Katrina and its political aftermath, one administration official after another sings the mantra, now is not the time to point fingers. There will be plenty of time later to review what when wrong. Well, I say NOW is the time to begin asking those questions. To America's free press, I say do your duty, and don't give Mr. Bush and those whose
incompetent policies led to this fiasco a free pass. Let's have some measure of responsibility and accountability here.

If you did not watch today's Meet the Press, you should certainly read the transcript, which is here. Again, more of the "now is not the time to discuss our failure mantra", from Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff. There is also a heart breaking account from
Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard of government's failure in Katrina's aftermath. If you can, you should really watch a re-broadcast. If you can't, you should download the podcast here and listen to these mindnumbing exchanges.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

More New Orleans Thoughts

A few more thoughts on New Orleans. First, and most important, it appears relief efforts are finally reaching the thousands and thousands of stranded residents. While much of the city is flooded by varying depths of water from Lake Ponchartrain, there are a few bright spots. According to the Washington Post, some of the historic French Quarter has survived, but of course remains closed (Though, one article reports there are still some residents living life in typical French Quarter Style). I remain hopeful that one day my lovely wife and I will again snack on beignets at Cafe Du Monde, and feel the spirit of old New Orleans.

But, for now, the harsh and brutal realities of New Orleans, including the unimaginable death and destruction that hang over that city, require that "we the people" begin asking our elected representatives some hard questions--that require real answers.

Damage estimates from Katrina range anywhere from $25 to $100 billion. The average price of gasoline in the United States has risen to over $3.00 a gallon. In my area gasoline is over $3.09 a gallon. Production is in jeopardy. Demand is sky high. It is virtually impossible to build new oil refineries in the United States, and the ones we have are stretched to the breaking point--see here and here. America's electical grid is in need of major upgrades, requiring tens of billions of dollars.

Yet, in Iraq, we continue to spend up to $5 billion each month based on estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. By 2010 the United States is likely to have spent (simultaneously killing and rebuilding) up to $600 billion. We could have rebuilt, New Orleans, Mississippi, and Alabama's Katrina damage six times based on that estimate. We could have updated the country's entire electrical grid. We could have invested in true mass transit in our country (thereby reducing our need for foreign oil), including high speed bullet trains throughout the United States. Of course, these dollar figures don't even begin to address the incalculable human losses. When is it enough? What will it take for our leaders in Washington to realize we are squandering America's financial and human wealth in the sands of the Middle East?

It has been nearly four years since 9/11. In that time, Mr. Bush has created an entire federal agency to help keep the homeland safe. The Department of Homeland Security's own website sets forth its mission statement relating to natural disasters:
Emergencies and Disasters

Preparing America

In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility on March 1st for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort. The new Department will also prioritize the important issue of citizen preparedness. Educating America's families on how best to prepare their homes for a disaster and tips for citizens on how to respond in a crisis will be given special attention at DHS.

This cabinet level department is supposed to assume the primary responsibility for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. Well? What happened? Homeland security chief Michael Chertoff, who was supposed to have assumed this primary responsiblity lamely claimed that the Katrina scenario just did not exist--it was not anticipated. CNN's piece on their website throughly discredits this nonsensical claim. There has also been much discussion about two disasters, i.e., the hurricane and then the levee break. In reality it was one disaster. Two disasters would have been a hurricane, then followed by say an earthquake. One more instance of Mr. Bush's inability to accept responsibility for anything. The president who has never made a mistake, continues with his perfect score.

The blogs are replete with excellent and much greater in depth coverage than I could ever hope to produce. Therefore, I suggest that you take a look at some of the best posts I have found on these issues here, here, here, here, and here.

I am so tired of Mr. Bush's all too predictable responses to the facts of any given situation which stand in stark contrast to his own interpretation of reality. Now more than ever we need all of our resources marshaled at home to take care of our own. It is embarrasingly clear that America's Department of Homeland Security is woefully unprepared to assume primary responsibilty and perform the function for which they were created: To keep the homeland safe.

Mr. Bush is and has been seriously out of touch with reality in this country. His policies are are misguided, and are wasting desperately needed resources here at home: both monetary and human.