Archive for September 2005

Brown Blames Everyone…Except Himself

Tuesday, September 27th, 2005

As you may recall, in the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina, fingers were pointing left and right. Blame the president, blame Gov. Katherine Blanco, blame New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. I remember Nagin’s fiery speech in which he asked the nation to pardon his French.

But in the days that followed, cooler heads prevailed. Nagin toned down his rhetoric, Bush apologized and took responsibility for the federal government’s lack of decisive action, and all sides admitted shortcomings, took on conciliatory tones, and set to work with the rebuilding process.

And then there was Michael Brown.

On the hot seat in Congress, the former FEMA director saw fit not to lavish House members with mea culpas, but rather to angrily blame Nagin, Blanco, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, and yes, even the hand that fed him, the Bush White House itself. And of course, blame the media.

I’m not going to go into whether the criticisms leveled against him are valid, or whether his criticisms of Blanco and Nagin are either. But one thing I do know. I’m not a fan of President Bush, but I will give him credit for his speech from the French Quarter in which he accepted the criticisms. Because a mark of a good leader is one who accepts responsibility for the failures of those who report to him, and recognizes that whatever happens to him, he either created, promoted, or allowed. Doing that is necessary (but not sufficient) for being a good leader.

Brown, by choosing to play the blame game, has clearly alienated even many Republicans, most notably Rep. Christopher Shays, who, publicly and on the record, applauded his departure.

If this is reflective on how he ran FEMA during his tenure, I’m not the least bit surprised that the response was substandard.

86 has been 86ed

Monday, September 26th, 2005

Sad day on the old-time TV front…actor Don Adams, famous for his role as Agent 86, Maxwell Smart, in the hit TV series Get Smart, has died at age 82. (courtesy of The Moderate Voice)

So How’s The Weather?

Friday, September 23rd, 2005

“Some say the world will end in fire,” some say in ice,” wrote Robert Frost. However, with all due respect, if current events here and elsewhere are any indication, it seems the world might end in wind and rain instead.

Just a few short weeks ago was the catastrophe called Hurricane Katrina, and until recently Hawaii was on the edge of its seat seeing if Hurricane Jova would do the same thing (fortunately, it’s passing well to our north). I’m watching coverage of Hurricane Rita on CNN and seeing wind and rain hitting the reporters in Galveston, Port Charles, and Beaumont. And earlier in the evening, rain was coming down in buckets here in Kailua. As I’m writing this, we’re still under a flash flood warning. It’s still coming down on the North Shore between Kaaawa and Kahuku, forcing the main highway out there to close down.

Normally, asking about the weather is cliched small talk, but now talking about the weather is all the rage. That’s all we’ve been hearing about this month.

Better Late Than Never

Saturday, September 17th, 2005

A lot of people are still skeptical after his speech to the nation in which he took responsibility for the failure of the federal government in the response to Hurricane Katrina. But not this Democrat.

My friend Eric pleaded for level heads to prevail here, and admittedly I sorta lost mine in an earlier post. For myself, I’m really glad that President Bush did make the speech from New Orleans. And I’m more than willing to say, OK, I agree, Monday-morning quarterbacking can wait; let’s get to work. My only wish is that he had donned the hip boots and made that speech earlier in the waters of New Orleans. Imagine the impact that would have made.

As the inhabitants of New Orleans wait out the rebuilding in cities across the nation, it’s safe to say this: Just as we were all New Yorkers after 9/11, today we are ALL New Orleanians.

Honolulu: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Tuesday, September 6th, 2005

Sarah Dylan Breuer read my entry on my recent Kauai trip and decided to ask the following:

I have a huge favor to ask. I’m interviewing for a job in Honolulu this week. I grew up in Los Angeles (loved it — especially when I could surf often), and now live in Maryland. If you’d like to tell me as much as you feel like saying about the positive and the negative of living in Honolulu, I’d be very grateful. I visited Hawaii as a tourist once years ago; I loved what I saw of Maui and Kauai, but I wasn’t all that impressed with Honolulu. Admittedly, at the time I was twelve years old, and it was mostly about not liking Waikiki Beach so much. Nowadays, I’m sure I’d be grateful for the cultural life of a large multicultural city. Many thanks for any wisdom you feel like sharing!

Well, Sarah, I’m not going to sugar coat this, but nor am I going to invoke Oregon’s Tom McCall and say “for heaven’s sake, don’t move here to live” either. I’m gathering this both from personal experience and from what other people have told me.

Live in paradise, pay the price. That’s the main thing to remember about Hawaii. And the price of everything is much higher here. Of course, the main thing that mainlanders first notice when they visit an island supermarket is, “Milk costs HOW MUCH?” I’m not sure how comfortable your existence has been up to this, but if you come here, expect to pinch pennies a little. The main inflationary item, efforts to control the price of which has made news and drawn scorn on the mainland, is gasoline. Hawaii no longer has the undisputed highest gas prices in the nation (whether the price cap had anything to do with it is debatable), and Honolulu has it better than not only the neighbor islands, but many places on the mainland as well…but even with the cap in place, expect to pay through the nose for a tank of gas.

You are fairly fortunate that if (when?) you move here, you’ll have a job offer in hand. Too many people come here on whims and end up working minimum wage for years at a time. And minimum wage doesn’t pay the bills…see above. Tourism has been booming nowadays, but higher-paying professional jobs are still harder to come by. so in that sense you would be lucky.

But on the plus side…well, where do I start? Enviable weather, people with an active lifestyle (hiking, jogging, and yes, surfing too), an ethnically diverse population, lots of history, and natural beauty just minutes (or less than an hour) away. There truly is more to Honolulu than just Waikiki Beach, and I think as an adult that’s what you’ll discover. And if you love nightlife, Honolulu has it here too.

Keep in mind that Hawaii’s population is so diverse than no one ethnic group has a majority, so people need to cooperate to get along here. On one hand, Hawaii is fairly color-blind, but on the other hand, pride in one’s ethnicity, be it Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, and white too, is paramount in island culture. As long as you’re respectful, open-minded, and willing to try new things, you should have very little trouble fitting in in Honolulu, or anyplace in Hawaii for that matter. Hawaii tends to attract these types of folks. Bigots will find little sympathy here.

Good luck in your job interview and I hope you can make it here to the islands!

Kinetic Electronic Infiltration and Troubleshooting Humanoid

Monday, September 5th, 2005

Kinetic Electronic Infiltration and Troubleshooting Humanoid

I guess this is pretty appropriate for an IT professional like myself. :) To get your own, visit www.cyborgname.com.

Labor Day Weekend

Monday, September 5th, 2005

Saturday I took time out to help the Mid Pac Road Runners with packet pickup for the 20K the next day. Didn’t man the front desk this time, but spent most of the time folding shirts. If things ever get tough, if HMSA ever ends up laying off IT staff and I have to find a job, Crazy Shirts may be a good place to look. Lord knows I’ve got the experience and practice in folding shirts efficiently. Not neatly, but efficiently.

I stayed there for a total of about two hours, then headed to Zippy’s Pearlridge to pick up a spaghetti Mini-Pac and then to Aiea High School to park and walk to the stadium. Met up with the guys just as they were ready to dismantle the tent, table, etc. and go in. As for the game itself…well, it seemed like it would be a game for the first half, until the third quarter when the Hawaii levee burst and the USC offense came pouring in. They’re still mopping up the mess afterward. Ugh.

Woke up early on Sunday, around 3:30 a.m., for the Kalaeloa 20K, and ended up leaving the house three times, because I had first forgotten my breakfast (a single banana), then something more important…my race packet with my number. As for the race itself, my full recap of it is posted on my Team in Training blog, but suffice it to say I was satisfied with my time, even though it was rather hot and humid. Made my way back home…I was of course pretty much useless and exhausted for the rest of the day, so I catnapped, about three hours total.

And today was mostly spent recharging the batteries a bit more. Got a chance to mow the lawn today also.

At least the good thing is that this work week will be short.

Why NOT Blame George?

Sunday, September 4th, 2005

Notes in the Key of C sends a message to those who were caught in the flooded areas of New Orleans:

You “choose” to live in an area that’s below sea level, refuse to evacuate when you’re asked to do so for your own safety, steal and commit other acts of violence against each other when you are given shelter from the storm and whine that you’re not getting help fast enough? So, you starting pointing fingers…….and you blame GEORGE.

Well, I’m going to entitle this the same way, except emphasize a different word, because that’s how I feel.

Why NOT Blame George?

Right off the bat, I have to say that the actions of those certain New Orleanians, looting stores and shooting at police, National Guardsmen, and relief workers is inexcusable also. On that point, I agree. That having been said, though, the federal government cannot be held blameless for this, and least of all President Bush…after all, he does head the executive branch of our government. Where was he?

First, let’s take a look at his actions when Katrina first came through. I mean, you’re talking about a Category 5 storm about to hit one of the largest cities on the Gulf Coast, and the place where much of our domestic oil production goes through. He could have done two things on Monday as the storm blew through…fly back to Washington or run things from Crawford. He did neither. Where was he?

And the requests of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin for more troops, more FEMA resources, went all but unanswered. When Nagin gave that highly emotional, inflammatory interview on Friday, he had VERY good reason for being frustrated. He did declare martial law in the city, but by definition, you can’t get martial law without soldiers. And who ultimately OKs the sending of troops? The President. Where was he?

And as for the implication that the people of New Orleans brought this on themselves:

Willfully taking on Mother Nature is one thing. Not having any alternative but to stay is another. Try getting out of a city if you are elderly and have limited mobility, and/or don’t have access to a car. (And let’s take an extreme example. Say a category 5 were headed straight for Honolulu right now. Are you going to order people to leave Oahu?)

Hawaii is in a hurricane prone area, but we’re not wrong to live there. We manage the risk as best we can. So does New Orleans; it is…was a heck of a town. New Orleans as a city is well aware that it is vulnerable to floods; thus the floodwalls and levees. But when calls to improve the system to meet the demands of a category 5 storm are met with funding cuts from the government…

And as Nagin said in his interview, there are some “knuckleheads” out there who decide a flood is a good time to get a new computer (good luck on finding a place to plug it in), but the majority of them are just trying to find food and water. Essentially, tens of thousands of people, some of whom were probably stupid, but most of whom probably had no other alternative, were reduced to survival mode. And when there’s no food or water for several days, backed up toilets, and no air conditioning in sweltering bayou heat, don’t you think even reasonable people would be…for lack of a better term…cranky?

Now, aid has finally started to flow, but the aid should have been flowing soon after the water started to flow.

After a major disaster after this, is it too much to ask that the victims’ needs be given top priority? We did in Southeast Asia after the tsunami. Why couldn’t we give our brothers…our fellow Americans, damn it…in New Orleans the same courtesy?

Our president could have made the lives of tens of thousands of people easier. Where was he?

And Just When President Bush Thought It Was Safe to Come Back to Washington…

Sunday, September 4th, 2005

…and just as confirmation hearings are starting for John Roberts, Jr., suddenly we hear that Chief Justice William Rehnquist has succumbed to cancer. Something we were definitely expecting, but not this soon.

And now the gloves will come off in the Senate.

When Bush nominated Roberts, the Democrats were wary but for the most part made nice, and other liberal groups were suspicious but not overtly hostile, trying to poke holes into his nomination. But now, with Rehnquist gone…we could have not one, but as many as three confirmation hearings (if Bush promotes Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas, thus creating another vacancy). Extraordinary circumstances? As many as three Supreme Court vacancies to fill? We might see Senate Wars II: Return of the Judicial Filibuster.

At least one million people in the South, the former residents of New Orleans (or is that the residents of the former New Orleans? Whatever..) are pissed off at the president right now, I just hope that President Bush treats this with more care than he did post-Katrina New Orleans.