Sunday, August 31, 2008

Has the far Left gone absolutely stark staring bonkers???


I'm both appalled and (reluctantly) fascinated by the weird, far-fetched and utterly illogical attacks being launched against Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin by some left-wing critics. They're so utterly way out there as to be scientifically, medically and realistically impossible, yet they're coming thick and fast. What is it with these people?

  • A poster on the Daily Kos forums, one ArcXIX, insists that Palin's youngest son is actually her grandson, born to her oldest daughter and "covered up" by the Governor. Quite apart from the fact that the only "evidence" offered is the most far-fetched conjecture imaginable, the key item - a photograph of Palin's daughter with a slight "bump" on her belly - was taken, not earlier this year as ArcXIX insists, but two years ago. That's a heck of a long gestation period! Even Andrew Sullivan is going overboard, demanding "answers" to questions that only the far Left can visualize. Amanda Carpenter debunks this myth handily. My perspective: have these idiots never heard of Occam's Razor? Have these loony-Left dumbasses ever considered that the simplest explanation is actually the only one that fits here? They're in self-destruct mode, I fear, and the truth is not in them. They're as bad as the 9/11 Truthers - or Troofers, as I prefer to call them.
  • Alan Colmes of Fox News actually had the gall (and medical ignorance) to speculate that Palin's youngest son, who suffers from Downs Syndrome, might have got that way through Palin's lack of care and attention to the needs of her pregnancy. He's since deleted his post, complaining about the 'vile comments' of those offended by what he said: but other bloggers had already quoted it. See here for one such entry.
  • The inimitable Protein Wisdom debunks (as superbly as usual) the various far-Left conspiracy theories, cabals and controversies about Palin. Hysterically funny, and well worth reading.

Finally, Sean "Diddy" Combs has posted a profanity-laden video giving his (inarticulate, illogical, unintelligent and often unintelligible) perspective on Palin's selection. I won't dignify it by embedding it in my blog, but for those of you who want to watch it, go here. Language alert - not to mention logic deficiency!!!

The funniest development, to my mind, is the reaction of hardline Hillary supporters to Palin's selection. You can read it for yourself on the Hillary Clinton Forum. Priceless! Absolutely priceless!

As I've said before, I'm genuinely centrist. I'm neither a Republican nor a Democrat, and I vote for the individual, not for the party. However, I have to say that I've never seen a more massive outbreak of shoot-ourselves-in-both-feet as the outpourings of the far Left over Sarah Palin - and I've certainly never seen them do such a thoroughly good job about it!

Peter

Hurricane Gustav Update #5


Well, Gustav's almost here. New Orleans radar shows his eye clearly as it approaches. It's the open round feature almost directly below the North-South line of the border between Mississippi and Alabama.




Predicted landfall for the eye is still around noon tomorrow.




Gustav's increased speed has really helped to keep his intensity lower. By spending less time over the hot water of the Gulf of Mexico, he's not been able to grow stronger than a Category 3 storm. There's some speculation that as he heads over the cooler waters closer to land during the night, his intensity might even drop to a Category 2, but that's unpredictable for now. The trouble is, these darn hurricanes can vary so much from one another! One can roar ashore as a full-blown Category 5, the next - on almost the same path - can limp along much more weakly. That's why the authorities simply can't take a chance. If a hit to a major center looks likely, they have to assume the worst-case scenario, and go for it.

I'll be live-blogging events once Gustav's outer bands reach this area tomorrow morning.

Peter

Hurricane Gustav Update #4


Things may be improving slightly for those of us in North-Central Louisiana - but that makes it much worse for those in South-West Louisiana and East Texas, I'm afraid.

Gustav's predicted track has swung slightly West, putting its eye about 70-80 miles from my home at its closest point, instead of the 50-odd miles forecast this morning. That's excellent from my point of view, because the wind strength in my area will be that much lower. We're certainly going to get tropical-storm-force winds, but perhaps we'll be spared the real killer blow we were fearing. Click the chart for a larger view.




Gustav has also speeded up significantly, which is good news. It'll arrive almost a day sooner than first expected: and because it's moving faster, it'll have less time to pick up strength from the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It's now expected to hit land as a Category 3, rather than the Category 5 monster we were expecting. That's a huge, huge relief, particularly for New Orleans, which is going to catch the brunt of the storm surge from the North-East quadrant of Gustav as it approaches. Still, a Category 3 hurricane is nothing to sneeze at. Katrina was a Category 3, remember, and look what she managed to do! The first bands of Gustav's rain are already visible on New Orleans radar.




A friend of mine in the Louisiana State Police is tearing his hair out over the antics of some of our Southern Louisiana Cajun Redneck types. Apparently he and his officers have stopped literally dozens of motorists towing FEMA travel trailers - wait for it - without any towing ball or proper towing apparatus at all! They've simply tied or chained them to their rear bumpers, and are heading North with the family in the back of the pickup (and sometimes, illegally of course, in the trailer itself!). He says that there are a couple of back roads far to the South littered with the shattered remains of such trailers, that came loose within the first few miles of their owners' journeys. His comments on the intelligence, evolution and Darwinian self-selection aptitude of the drivers concerned are, unfortunately, not really the sort of thing I can reproduce here. The price of fireproof monitors would make reading them cost-prohibitive . . .

Anyway, we expect the main force of Gustav to make itself felt along the coast in the small hours of tomorrow morning. The eye should come ashore around noon tomorrow. If Gustav keeps up his present rate of speed, by then I'll be very, very wet up here! I'll try to live-blog events tomorrow morning as they develop, but I'm afraid we're sure to lose power in due course. I'll narrate events as long as I can, then you'll have to find a more weatherproof blogger to take up the baton.

Peter

Hurricane Gustav Update #3


According to the latest prediction, Gustav's track has shifted very slightly to the East, so the eye won't be a direct hit on my home: but I'll be within 50 miles of it - right in the bad North-East quadrant, where the strongest winds and rain are expected. The map below shows the currently forecast track as a red line. My home is marked with the letter "A" in the red icon. Click the map for a larger view.




I won't be evacuating. Due to my work with the relief teams, we hadn't considered evacuation, and at the time our area was designated an evacuation zone for refugees from further south. It's now been re-designated as an impact zone: but by now every hotel room and shelter North of here, as far out as Little Rock in Arkansas or Memphis in Tennessee, is full to the brim. I guess I'll be riding this one out.

Two problems have emerged. First, I can't put plywood over my windows. I bought some in preparation, and tried to mount it this morning: but the aluminum siding on my house won't take the weight, and the window-frames protrude from the siding, so that the wood can't be seated tightly against the house. I guess my windows will have to take their chances.

The other problem is the trees around my house. I have about six large trees which, if they let go in the high winds that are forecast, may fall on my home. (We have a 70%+ chance of tropical storm force winds, a 50%+ chance of winds over 50 mph, and a 30%+ chance of full-blown hurricane-force winds, according to the latest NOAA forecast.) There's not much I can do about that at this time, except pray hard! I'll have to ask my Guardian Angel to put on his catcher's mitt for the duration, I guess! I'll also move to a central location in my home, away from the nearest trees.

I suppose it's for the best that I stay put. I'll be on site to help co-ordinate our relief efforts as fast as possible after things blow over. I'll try to keep this blog updated, but it's a virtual certainty that we'll lose power at some stage, and probably not get it back for several days. I plan to live-blog the storm as it develops, so watch this blog from Monday afternoon for regular updates. If the updates stop coming without an explanation, it'll probably be because our power's gone out, or the telephone lines are down.

I'll try to let some friends know if I'm OK after the storm. If this blog isn't updated for a few days, check out Lawdog, JPG, Holly or Phlegm for news about me. I'll try to get messages to them somehow.

Peter

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hurricane Gustav Update #2


This is looking worse and worse . . .

Gustav's predicted track has jogged slightly to the East. It's now headed for a direct hit on my home town, sometime on Tuesday. This. Is. Not. Good.




If Gustav does clobber us, the contractors who are supposed to start work here on Tuesday, repairing my fire damage, won't be working: and there'll be so much more urgent damage that I may take months to get things finished!

Our preparations continue. I'm going to try to find some help tomorrow to board up my windows (being partly disabled, it's a difficult job for me to tackle alone). Fortunately I have all the plywood, tools and screws I'll need. Those who haven't yet bought them are likely to find that the shops are bare . . .

The gentleman living next door to me has a problem. A tree branch fell on his outside building a couple of weeks ago and smashed it. He has lots of debris lying around - and hurricane-force winds just love that stuff! I'm going to have a word with him in the morning, and offer the use of my pickup to get as much as possible out of here and down to the dump. We don't need it blowing around when Gustav arrives!

More tomorrow.

Peter

A tip o' the hat to Sherwin-Williams


I don't often endorse commercial products or companies, but I have to offer a hat-tip to Sherwin-Williams for their amazingly useful Web tools, and the excellence of the service in two of their stores that I've visited recently.

As you know, my home was damaged in a fire last week, and amongst other things, the interior will be completely repainted to remove the smell of smoke from the walls. I checked out half-a-dozen paint companies' Web sites, but found the Sherwin-Williams Color Visualizer by far the most intuitive and useful tool on the Web. It allows you to apply any of their paint colors to walls and other elements, to visualize how it will look in your home. Sure, their pre-designed "scenes" are far too nice to compare to my own low-cost cottage-type environment, but they worked well enough to give me a pretty good idea of what I wanted.

Having done that, you can print out the visualizations you've created, along with a coupon good for a 15% discount on Sherwin-Williams paints. I took the printout into my nearest S-W store, in Pineville, LA, and bought a couple of sample quarts (low-cost, too!) of the colors I'd selected, to paint squares on my walls and see how they looked in real life, rather than in a computer simulation. The salesperson was extremely helpful, and came up with a couple of really good ideas for accent colors to complement the overall design. He was a young man, but not sloppily dressed or over-casual, as too many of them are nowadays: he was cleanly dressed, professional in his manner, and obviously knew his stuff very well indeed. Color me impressed!

Here are some screenshots from the Color Visualizer of the color schemes I plan to use in my home. I wanted a warm, cosy effect, and I think that with the help of the Visualizer I've got close to what I want. I'll refine it from this point onward by testing actual paint on the walls. The furniture and accessories in the Visualizer are nicer than mine, as I said, but the paint colors are reasonably accurate. Click any picture for a larger view.










For those interested, the living-room, kitchen and bathroom walls are in a color called Daybreak (Sherwin-Williams code number 6700); the ceiling's in Extra White (7006); the living-room furniture's in an orange-brown called Armagnac (6354); and the bedroom walls are in Jonquil (6674). I'll do the trim and baseboards in Extra White and Armagnac respectively, or I may pick another suitable color with the useful advice of that young man at the Sherwin-Williams store. Readers, please feel free to contribute your own suggestions in Comments.

All in all, a very satisfying experience as a consumer. Thanks, Sherwin-Williams, and you may be sure I'll be recommending your Web tools and customer service to all and sundry!

Peter

Mexico going from bad to worse?


In early July I wrote about the danger from Mexican drug cartels - a danger now evident on the US side of the border, as well as in Mexico itself.

I note that the past couple of weeks have seen things get even worse. Two weekends ago more than 30 people were murdered in the Mexican state of Chihuahua; and today we learn that eleven decapitated bodies have been found outside the city of Merida on the Yucatan peninsula.

Friends and readers, allow me to assure you, I know what I'm talking about when I say that the present situation in Mexico holds grave dangers for the law-abiding citizens of the USA as well. I've worked in (both State and Federal) prison with many of the so-called "drug lords", and I know how utterly ruthless they are. If they can use violence, murder, torture and other tools to expand their influence, increase their profits, or eliminate rivals, they won't hesitate for a moment to do so.

I've never forgotten one "drug lord", whose name I won't mention. This . . . creature . . . ordered the kidnapping of the six-year-old daughter of a potential witness against him. His men, on his orders, brutally gang-raped her, then tortured her to death (as evidenced by the burn marks and scars on her body). Her corpse was then nailed, crucifixion-style, to the front door of the witness's house, with a note stuffed into her mouth, warning him that if he didn't want the same to happen to his wife and his other three children, he'd better forget what he'd witnessed.

He did, of course. Wouldn't you?

That's the mentality of the people who are ordering and carrying out these atrocities - and they're not going to let a minor legal quibble like an international border stop them. They've already carried out at least one "hit" in Arizona, and they've allegedly given their hit-men permission to operate in the USA from now onward.

If you live anywhere near the Mexican border, and/or in any city with a large Hispanic population, you're at risk. May I suggest you beef up your personal security accordingly?

Peter

Another reason why dogs are so much fun


I'm greatly entertained by a report from England about two surfing Labradors, Branston and Pickle.

The pair of chocolate Labradors have become addicted to the sport since owner Mark Berry took them on a trip to the seaside.

Without any tuition, the four-legged beach bums have learnt to stand up on a surfboard and ride waves in to the shore.

And while the surf was only knee-high and unridable for their human counterparts at West Wittering, West Sussex, the pooches enjoyed tail-high waves to themselves.

The surf-mad mutts swim out to where the waves are breaking with Mark, 39, and then take it in turns to ride the 7ft board while the other one howls until it’s their go.

With a gentle push off from their master, they can manage rides of more than 10 seconds, barking all the way to the beach without wiping-out.




But unlike people learning to surf, the dogs aren’t content just to ride the whitewater - they've even started turning the board and riding along the face of each wave.

Their ability has stunned fashion photographer Mark, who now admits his pets are better at the sport than he is.

Dog Branston and bitch Pickle, both aged two, began surfing after Mark and his wife Gill, 39, a hairdresser, took them for a day on the beach.

While throwing a ball out to sea for the dogs to fetch, the couple were shocked when they spotted them riding back to the shore by body surfing in on the waves.

Realising their natural talent in the water, Mark and Gill decided to try them out on a surfboard.

And they were staggered when immediately the pair, who are half brother and sister, were able to balance on the board and catch waves.

The pooches are now hooked on the sport and have lost interest in trips to lakes or rivers - where there are no waves to be had.

And the couple from Ickenham, Middlesex, have even invested in a 7ft foam surfboard for the dogs.




Mark, who is a keen snowboarder and windsurfer, said: ‘Branston and Pickle have gone absolutely mad for surfing - they've really got the bug.

‘They're both very laid back, chilled out dogs for most of the time, but when they get to the beach they just go bananas.

‘They love water and we used to take them on walks to lakes and rivers so they could go for a swim but now they turn their noses up at anywhere that hasn’t got good waves.

‘When you get them in the sea, they howl and bark each other into waves and when one of them hasn’t got the board they paddle about waiting their turn and whining.

‘As soon as I get their board out they go crazy and it’s a race to see which one of them will get the first go - I think we might have to get them a board each now.

‘I can’t believe how good they are at surfing - it’s a bit embarrassing because they're already much better than me.

‘Maybe it’s something to do with having four paws on the board but they've got great balance and they're really competitive.

‘I just give them a little push off so the wave can pick up the board and then they're off - they've even starting to ride down the line - along the face of the waves.

‘Next thing they probably won’t need me at all and they’ll be paddling the board out themselves and doing tricks.’

Mark and Gill, who have their own artistic hairdressing business, are planning to buy the dogs a 9ft longboard, so they can try tandem surfing.

The dogs have also been invited by Wittering Surf Shop, which supplied them with their board, to provide a dog surfing demo at a contest later this year.


Great stuff! I've always loved Labrador retrievers, having grown up with one, and had a couple since then. The only reason I don't have two of them now is that my property is unfenced, and it's not fair to keep dogs if they can stray and get killed by cars. I've seen too many dead dogs and cats at the side of the road to want that to happen to my pets. If I can ever afford to fence the place, I'll be off to the animal shelter to see what Labradors - or Lab crosses - they may have needing a home.

Peter

Hurricane Gustav Update #1


I'm part of an emergency response organization, which at the moment is in full swing preparing for Hurricane Gustav. As and when I can, I'll post updates on what's happening. (Due to my physical limitations - injury-caused partial disability - I can't be part of a team in the field: but I'm qualified on radio, have extensive emergency management background, and can help co-ordinate activities, so I'm on board.)

Gustav is looking more and more worrying. He's already up to a Category 4 hurricane as I write these words, and is bearing down on Cuba. I wouldn't like to be in West Cuba tonight, I can tell you! After crossing Cuba, Gustav will move into the Gulf proper. Given the speed at which he's intensified (from Category 1 to Category 4 in less than 24 hours), I wouldn't be surprised to see him hit Category 5 (the top of the scale) by tomorrow evening.

There's still no mandatory evacuation in place, for obvious reasons. Gustav is still 72 hours or so away from a landfall on the US coast: and current hurricane-modeling technology simply isn't accurate enough to predict a precise location that far out. His track could deviate up to 300 miles either side of its present predicted course in that 72-hour window. The way it looks right now, New Orleans will get wet, and be hammered by tropical-storm-force winds, but be spared a direct hit. However, that could change very quickly. If the high-pressure system over Florida (which is currently forcing Gustav to stay West) should weaken, he could swing East and threaten New Orleans and the Gulf coasts of Mississippi and Alabama: alternatively, if it strengthens or moves a little further South, Gustav could be shoved further to the West and clobber Texas.

The map below shows the current projections (click it to enlarge). The orange lines to either side show possible extremities of movement of Gustav from where he is now. The red line shows his predicted path as of this moment. It's likely to change. A couple of hurricane 'veterans' on our team both feel that Gustav is likely to shift slightly further West, threatening more of Texas and less of Louisiana: but that's a SWAG (Scientific Wild-Assed Guess), not a certainty. Nevertheless, given that they've experienced Heaven knows how many hurricanes between them, I'm willing to take a chance on their guess in our betting pool. I'll let you know if I win!




Anyone with any sense isn't waiting to find out which way Gustav will go. All morning heavy traffic, including a huge number of RV's and vehicles towing trailers, has been passing North through the Alexandria area. The stores, particularly Wal-Mart and other supermarkets, are absolutely swamped with shoppers stocking up on necessities. (I already had most of what I needed, and I nipped into Wal-Mart at 4 a.m. to get the few items I still needed. At that hour it was just about deserted, except for the poor shelf-stockers, who were frantically unpacking truckloads of emergency supplies and laying them out.) You can't buy gasoline containers for love or money; ditto for defensive ammunition. (I've already got mine, thank you very much: and with memories of post-Katrina alarums and excursions firmly in mind, I'll be armed 24/7 until this is over. So will almost every member of our teams.)

We're sending our teams to gathering-points North of the predicted track of the storm. (No, you don't send them directly to where the storm's going to hit. That way your teams end up needing assistance themselves!) We'll have a couple of dozen teams ready to move in as soon as the storm strength decreases.

By the way, for readers in East Texas: don't get complacent. If Gustav comes ashore in the Western half of Louisiana as a Category 5 storm, he's still going to be at Category 2 or 3 when he crosses the Sabine River and hits Texas. Anywhere on a line North from Beaumont, through Lufkin, to Longview is at serious risk of taking a hammering, and if Gustav swings even slightly further to the West, Port Arthur, Houston and Galveston are looking vulnerable. If I lived in any of those areas, I'd be battening down the hatches right now - or getting the hell out of Dodge before the last-minute rush!

Stay safe, readers. This looks like a very bad one.

Peter

Lessons learned from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005


In a comment to my previous post, Pappy asked:

Peter, how about a post about what you do to prepare for a hurricane, and also for the influx of "visitors" running from the storm.


Funny thing you should ask that, Pappy. In 2005, following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, I posted a number of "lessons learned" to an online forum and an e-mail list to which I belong.

For the benefit of those who may be interested, I'll post all four of them below. I'd be pleased to have readers' feedback, and I hope they're of help to you.

Remember that the four posts below date from 2005 - not today!

Peter


____________________



FIRST POST

I've had over 30 people staying with me since Sunday, evacuating from New Orleans and points south in anticipation of Hurricane Katrina. Only two families were my friends - they told other friends of theirs that they knew a place where they could hole up, and so a whole bunch arrived here! I didn't mind, because there were six RV's and travel trailers, so we had enough accommodation. However, I've had the opportunity to see what worked - and what didn't - in their evacuation plans and bug-out kits, and I thought a few "lessons learned" might be appropriate to share here.

1. Have a bug-out kit ready at all times. Many of these folks packed at the last minute, grabbing whatever they thought they'd need. Needless to say, they forgot some important things (prescription medications, important documents, baby formula, diapers, etc.). Some of these things (e.g. prescriptions) obviously can't be stocked up against possible emergency need, but you can at least have a list in your bug-out kit of what to grab at the last minute before you leave!

2. Renew supplies in your bug-out kit on a regular basis. Batteries lose their charge. Foods have an expiration date. So do common medications. Clothes can get moldy or dirty unless properly stored. All of these problems were found with the folks who kept backup or bug-out supplies on hand, and caused difficulties for them.

3. Plan on needing a LOT more supplies than you think. I found myself with over 30 people on hand, many of whom were not well supplied: and the stores were swamped with literally thousands of refugees, buying up everything in sight. I had enough supplies to keep myself going for 30 days. Guess what? Those supplies ended up keeping 30-odd people going for two days. I now know that I must plan on providing for not just myself, but others in need. I could have been selfish and said "No, these are mine" - but what good would that do in a real disaster? Someone would just try to take them, and then we'd have all the resulting unpleasantness. Far better to have extra supplies to share with others, whilst keeping your own core reserve intact (and, preferably, hidden from prying eyes!).

4. In a real emergency, forget about last-minute purchases. As I said earlier, the stores were swamped by thousands of refugees, as well as locals buying up last-minute supplies. If I hadn't had my emergency supplies already, I would never have been able to buy them at the last minute. If I'd had to hit the road, the situation would have been even worse, as I'd be part of a stream of thousands of refugees, most of whom would be buying (or stealing) what they needed before I got to the store.

5. Make sure your vehicle will carry your essential supplies. Some of the folks who arrived at my place had tried to load up their cars with a humongous amount of stuff, only to find that they didn't have space for themselves! Pets are a particular problem here, as they have to have air and light, and can't be crammed into odd corners. If you have to carry a lot of supplies and a number of people, invest in a small luggage trailer or something similar (or a small travel trailer with space for your goodies) - it'll pay dividends if the S really does HTF.

6. A big bug-out vehicle can be a handicap. Some of the folks arrived here with big pick-ups or SUV's, towing equally large travel trailers. Guess what? On some evacuation routes, these huge combinations could not navigate corners very well, and/or were so difficult to turn that they ran into things (including other vehicles, which were NOT about to make way in the stress of an evacuation!). This led to hard feelings, harsh words, and at least one fist-fight. It's not a bad idea to have smaller, more maneuverable vehicles, and a smaller travel trailer, so that one can "squeeze through" in a tight traffic situation. Another point: a big SUV or pickup burns a lot of fuel. This is bad news when there's no fuel available! (See point 10 below.)

7. Make sure you have a bug-out place handy. I was fortunate in having enough ground (about 1.8 acres) to provide parking for all these RV's and trailers, and to accommodate 11 small children in my living-room so that the adults could get some sleep on Sunday night, after many hours on the road in very heavy, slow-moving traffic. However, if I hadn't had space, I would have unhesitatingly told the extra families to find somewhere else - and there wasn't anywhere else here, that night. Even shops like Wal-Mart and K-Mart had trailers and RV's backed up in their parking lots (which annoyed the heck out of shoppers trying to make last-minute purchases). Even on my property, I had no trailer sewage connections, so I had to tell the occupants that if they used their onboard toilets and showers, they had to drive their RV's and trailers somewhere else to empty their waste tanks. If they hadn't left this morning, they would have joined long, long lines to do this at local trailer parks (some of which were so overloaded by visiting trailers and RV's that they refused to allow passers-by to use their dumping facilities).

8. Provide entertainment for younger children. Some of these families had young children (ranging from 3 months to 11 years). They had DVD's, video games, etc. - but no power available in their trailers to show them! They had no coloring books, toys, etc. to keep the kids occupied. This was a bad mistake.

9. Pack essentials first, then luxuries. Many of these folks had packed mattresses off beds, comforters, cushions, bathrobes, etc. As a result, their vehicles were grossly overloaded, but often lacked real essentials like candles, non-perishable foods, etc. One family (both parents are gourmet cooks) packed eighteen (yes, EIGHTEEN!!!) special pots and pans, which they were going to use on a two-burner camp stove. They were horrified by my suggestion that under the circumstances, a nested stainless-steel camping cookware set would be rather more practical. "What? No omelet pan?" Sheesh...

10. Don't plan on fuel being available en route. A number of my visitors had real problems finding gas to fill up on the road. With thousands of vehicles jammed nose-to-tail on four lanes of interstate, an awful lot of vehicles needed gas. By the time you got to a gas station, you were highly likely to find it sold out - or charging exorbitant prices, because the owners knew you didn't have any choice but to pay what they asked. Much better to leave with a full tank of gas, and enough in spare containers to fill up on the road, if you have to, in order to reach your destination.

11. Have enough money with you for at least two weeks. Many of those who arrived here had very little in cash, relying on check-books and credit cards to fund their purchases. Guess what? Their small banks down in South Louisiana were all off-line, and their balances, credit authorizations, etc. could not be checked. As a result, many shops refused to accept their checks, and insisted on electronic verification before accepting their credit cards. Local banks also refused (initially) to cash checks for them, since they couldn't check the status of their accounts on-line. Eventually (and very grudgingly) local banks began allowing them to cash checks for not more than $50-$100, depending on the bank. Fortunately, I have a reasonable amount of cash available at all times, so I was able to help some of them. I'm now going to increase my cash on hand, I think. Another thing - don't bring only large bills. Many gas stations, convenience stores, etc. won't accept anything larger than a $20 bill. Some of my guests had plenty of $100 bills, but couldn't buy anything.

12. Don't be sure that a disaster will be short-term. My friends have left now, heading south to Baton Rouge. They want to be closer to home for whenever they're allowed to return. Unfortunately for them, the Governor has just announced the mandatory, complete evacuation of New Orleans, and there's no word on when they will be allowed back. It will certainly be several weeks, and it might be several months. During that period, what they have with them - essential documents, clothing, etc. - is all they have. They'll have to find new doctors to renew prescriptions; find a place to live (a FEMA trailer if they're lucky - thousands of families will be lining up for these trailers); some way to earn a living (their jobs are gone with New Orleans, and I don't see their employers paying them for not working when the employers aren't making money either); and so on.

13. Don't rely on government-run shelters if at all possible. Your weapons WILL be confiscated (yes, including pocket-knives, kitchen knives, and Leatherman-type tools); you'll be crowded into close proximity with anyone and everyone (including some nice folks, but also including drug addicts, released convicts, gang types, and so on); you'll be under the authority of the people running the shelter, who WILL call on law enforcement and military personnel to keep order (including stopping you leaving if you want to); and so on. Much, much better to have a place to go to, a plan to get there, and the supplies you need to do so on your own.

14. Warn your friends not to bring others with them!!! I had told two friends to bring themselves and their families to my home. They, unknown to me, told half-a-dozen other families to come too - "He's a good guy, I'm sure he won't mind!" Well, I did mind . . . but since the circumstances weren't personally dangerous, I allowed them all to hang around. However, if things had been worse, I would have been very nasty indeed to their friends (and even nastier to them, for inviting others without clearing it with me first!). If you offer a place of refuge for your friends, make sure they know that this applies to them ONLY, not their other friends. Similarly, if you have someone willing to offer you refuge, don't presume on his/her hospitality by arriving with others unforewarned.

15. Have account numbers, contact addresses and telephone numbers for all important persons and institutions. My friends will now have to get new postal addresses, and will have to notify others of this: their doctors, insurance companies (medical, personal, vehicle and property), bank(s), credit card issuer(s), utility supplier(s), telephone supplier(s), etc. - basically, anyone who sends them bills, or to whom they owe money, or who might owe them money. None of my friends brought all this information with them. Now, when they need to change postal addresses for correspondence, insurance claims, etc., how can they do this when they don't know their account numbers, what number to call, who and where to write, etc.?

16. Have portable weapons and ammo ready to hand. Only two of my friends were armed, and one of them had only a handgun. The other had a handgun for himself, another for his wife, a shotgun, and an evil black rifle - MUCH better! I was asked by some of the other families, who'd seen TV reports of looting back in New Orleans, to lend them firearms. I refused, as they'd never handled guns before, and thus would have been more of a danger to themselves and other innocent persons than to looters. If they'd stayed a couple of days, so that I could teach them the basics, that would have been different: but they wouldn't, so I didn't. Another thing - you don't have to take your entire arsenal along. Firearms for personal defense come first, then firearms for life support through hunting (and don't forget the skinning knife!). A fishing outfit might not be a bad idea either (you can shoot bait!). Other than that, leave the rest of your guns in the safe (you do have a gun safe, securely bolted to the floor, don't you?), and the bulk ammo supplies too. Bring enough ammo to keep you secure, but no more. If you really need bulk supplies of guns and ammo, they should be waiting for you at your bug-out location, not occupying space (and taking up a heck of a lot of weight!) in your vehicle. (For those bugging out in my direction, ammo supply will NOT be a problem . . . )


SECOND POST

Here are some more ideas.

1. Route selection is very, very important. My friends (and their friends) basically looked at the map, found the shortest route to me, and followed it slavishly. This was a very bad idea, as something over half-a-million other folks had the same route in mind . . . Some of them took over twelve hours for what is usually a four-hour journey. If they'd used their heads, they would have seen (and heard, from radio reports) that going North up I-55 to Mississippi would have been much faster. There was less traffic on this route, and they could have turned left and hit Natchez, MS, and then cut across LA on Route 84. This would have taken them no more than five or six hours, even with the heavier evacuation traffic. Lesson: think outside the box, and don't assume that the shortest route on the map in terms of distance will also be the shortest route in terms of time.

2. Keep in mind the social implications of a disaster situation. Feedback from my contacts in the Louisiana State Police (LSP) and other agencies is very worrying. They keep harping on the fact that the "underclass" that's doing all the looting is almost exclusively Black and inner-city in composition. The remarks they're reporting include such statements as "I'm entitled to this stuff!", "This is payback time for all Whitey's done to us", and "This is reparations for slavery!". Also, they're blaming the present confused disaster-relief situation on racism. "Fo sho, if Whitey wuz sittin' here in tha Dome waitin' for help, no way would he be waitin' like we is!" No, I'm not making up these comments... they are as reported by my law enforcement buddies.

This worries me very much. If we have such a divide in consciousness among our city residents, then when we hit a SHTF situation, we're likely to be accused of racism, paternalism, oppression, and all sorts of other crimes just because we want to preserve law and order. If we, as individuals and families, provide for our own needs in emergency, and won't share with others (whether they're of another race or not) because we don't have enough to go round, we're likely to be accused of racism rather than pragmatism, and taking things from us can (and probably will) be justified as "Whitey getting his just desserts". I'm absolutely not a racist, but the racial implications of the present situation are of great concern to me. The likes of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and the "reparations for slavery" brigade appear to have so polarized inner-city opinion that these folks are (IMHO) no longer capable of rational thought concerning such issues as looting, disaster relief, etc.

3. Implications for security. If one has successfully negotiated the danger zone, one will be in an environment filled, to a greater or lesser extent, with other evacuees. How many of them will have provided for their needs? How many of them will rely on obtaining from others (by hook or by crook) the things they need? In the absence of immediate State or relief-agency assistance, how many of them will feel "entitled" to obtain these necessities any way they have to, up to and including looting, murder and mayhem? Large gathering-places for refugees suddenly look rather less desirable . . . and being on one's own, or in an isolated spot with one's family, also looks less secure. One has to sleep sometime, and while one sleeps, one is vulnerable. Even one's spouse and children might not be enough . . . there are always going to be vulnerabilities. One can hardly remain consciously in Condition Yellow while bathing children, or making love! A team approach might be a viable solution here - see point 6 below.

4. There are "too many chiefs, not enough Indians" in New Orleans at the moment. The mayor has already blown his top about the levee breach: he claims that he had a plan in place to fix it by yesterday evening, but was overruled by the State government in Baton Rouge, who sent in others to do something different. This may or may not be true . . . My LSP buddies tell me that they're getting conflicting assignments and/or requests from different organizations and individuals. One will send out a group to check a particular area for survivors: but when they get there, they find no-one, and later learn that another group has already checked and cleared the area. Unfortunately, in the absence of centralized command and control, the information is not being shared amongst all recovery teams. Also, there's alleged to be conflict between City officials and State functionaries, with both sides claiming to be "running things". Some individuals in the Red Cross, FEMA, and other groups appear to be refusing to take instructions from either side, instead (it's claimed) wanting to run their own shows. This is allegedly producing catastrophic confusion and duplication of effort, and may even be making the loss of life worse, in that some areas in need of rescuers aren't getting them. (I don't know if the same problems are occurring in Mississippi and/or Alabama, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were.) All of this is unofficial and off-the-record, but it doesn't surprise me to hear it. Moral of the story: if you want to survive, don't rely on the government or any government agency (or private relief organization, for that matter) to save you. Your survival is in your own hands - don't drop it!

5. Long-term vision. This appears to be sadly lacking at present. Everyone is focused on the immediate, short-term objective of rescuing survivors. However, there are monumental problems looming, that need immediate attention, but don't seem to be getting it right now. For example: the Port of Louisiana is the fifth-largest in the world, and vital to the economy, but the Coast Guard is saying (on TV) that they won't be able to get it up and running for three to six months, because their primary focus is on search and rescue, and thereafter, disaster relief. Why isn't the Coast Guard pulled off that job now, and put to work right away on something this critical? There are enough Navy, Marine and Air Force units available now to take over rescue missions.

Another example: there are over a million refugees from the Greater New Orleans area floating around. They need accommodation and food, sure: but most of them are now unemployed, and won't have any income at all for the next six to twelve months. There aren't nearly enough jobs available in this area to absorb this workforce. What is being done to find work for them, even in states remote from the problem areas? The Government for sure won't provide enough for them in emergency aid to be able to pay their bills. What about mortgages on properties that are now underwater? The occupants both can't and won't pay; the mortgage holders will demand payment; and we could end up with massive foreclosures on property that is worthless, leaving a lot of folks neck-deep in debt and without homes (even damaged ones). What is being done to plan for this, and alleviate the problem as much as possible? I would have thought that the State government would have had at least the skeleton of an emergency plan for these sorts of things, and that FEMA would have the same, but this doesn't seem to be the case. Why weren't these things considered in the leisurely days pre-disaster, instead of erupting as immediate and unanswered needs post-disaster?

6. Personal emergency planning. This leads me to consider my own emergency planning. I've covered my own evacuation needs, and could probably survive with relative ease for between two weeks and one month: but what if I had been caught up in this mess? What would I do about earning a living, paying mortgages, etc.? If I can't rely on the State, I for darn sure had better be able to rely on myself! I certainly need to re-examine my insurance policies, to ensure that if disaster strikes, my mortgage, major loans, etc. will be paid off (or that I will receive enough money to do this myself). I also need to provide for my physical security, and must ensure that I have supplies, skills and knowledge that will be "marketable" in exchange for hard currency in a post-disaster situation. The idea of a "team" of friends with (or to) whom to bug out, survive, etc. is looking better and better. Some of the team could take on the task of keeping a home maintained (even a camp-type facility), looking after kids, providing base security, etc. Others could be foraging for supplies, trading, etc. Still others could be earning a living for the whole team with their skills. In this way, we'd all contribute to our mutual survival and security in the medium to long term. Life might be a lot less comfortable than prior to the disaster, but hey - we'd still have a life! This bears thinking about, and I might just have to start building "team relationships" with nearby people of like mind!

7. The "bank problem." This bears consideration. I was at my bank this morning, depositing checks I'd been given by my visitors in exchange for cash. The teller warned me bluntly that it might be weeks before these checks could be credited to my account, as there was no way to clear them with their issuing banks, which were now under water and/or without communications facilities. He also told me that there had been an endless stream of folks trying to cash checks on South Louisiana banks, without success. He warned me that some of these local banks will almost certainly fail, as they don't have a single branch above water, and the customers and businesses they served are also gone - so checks drawn on them will eventually prove worthless. Even some major regional banks had run their Louisiana "hub" out of New Orleans, and now couldn't access their records. I think it might be a good idea to have a "bug-out bank account" with a national bank, so that funds should be available anywhere they have a branch, rather than keeping all one's money in a single bank (particularly a local one) or credit union. This is, of course, over and above one's "bug-out stash" of ready cash.

8. Helping one's friends is likely to prove expensive. I estimate that I'm out over $1,000 at the moment, partly from having all my supplies consumed, and partly from making cash available to friends who couldn't cash their checks. I may or may not get some of this back in due course. I don't mind it - if I were in a similar fix, I hope I could turn to my friends for help in the same way, after all! - but I hadn't made allowance for it. I shall have to do so in future, as well as planning to contribute to costs incurred by those who offer me hospitality under similar circumstances.


THIRD POST

(A quick explanation: I was actively involved in relief efforts for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, organizing and dispatching teams of field workers to assist in the disaster-stricken areas. This is where many of the references in this post came from.)

Over the course of today I've heard back from several of our field reps who were in the hurricane-damaged areas from Wednesday through Sunday, and have also picked up on after-action reports from my contacts in the Louisiana State Police, and, through them, some from the Mississippi State Police. This e-mail summarizes experiences and lessons learned.

1. People who were prepared were frequently mobbed/threatened by those who weren't. This was reported in at least seven incidents, five in Mississippi, two in Louisiana (I suspect that the relative lack of Louisiana incidents was because most of those with any sense got out of Dodge before the storm hit). In each case, the person/family concerned had made preparations for disaster, with supplies, shelter, etc. in good order and ready to go. Several had generators ready and waiting. However, their neighbors who had not prepared all came running after the disaster, wanting food, water and shelter from them. When the prepared families refused, on the grounds that they had very little, and that only enough for themselves, there were many incidents of aggression, attempted assault, and theft of their supplies. Some had to use weapons to deter attack, and in some cases, shots were fired. I understand that in two incidents, attackers and/or would-be thieves were shot. It's also reported that in all of these cases, the prepared families now face threats of retribution from their neighbors, who regarded their refusal to share as an act of selfishness and/or aggression, and are now threatening retaliation. It's reportedly so bad that most of the prepared families are considering moving to other neighborhoods, so as to start afresh, with different neighbors.

Similar incidents are reported by families who got out in time, prepared to spend several days on their own. When they stopped to eat a picnic meal at a rest stop, or an isolated spot along the highway, they report being approached rather aggressively by others wanting food, or fuel, or other essentials. Sometimes they had to be rather aggressive in their turn to deter these insistent requests. Two families report attempts being made to steal their belongings (in one case, their vehicle) while overnighting in camp stops on their way out of the area. They both instituted armed patrols, with one or more family members patrolling while the others slept, to prevent this. Seems to me to be a good argument to form a "bug-out team" with like-minded, security-conscious friends in your area, so that all concerned can provide mutual security and back-up.

I can understand these families being unwilling to share the little they had, particularly in light of not knowing when supplies would once again be available. However, this reinforces the point I made in my "lessons learned" post last week: plan on needing much more in the way of supplies than you initially thought! If these families had had some extra food and water in stock, and hidden their main reserve where it would not be seen, they could have given out some help to their neighbors and preserved good relations. Also, a generator, under such circumstances, is a noisy invitation (and a bright one, if powering your interior lights), saying, "This house has supplies - come and get them!" I suspect that kerosene lanterns, candles and flashlights might be a more "community-safe" option if one is surrounded by survivors.

2. When help gets there, you may get it whether you like it or not! There are numerous reports of aggressive, overbearing behavior by those rescuers who first arrived at disaster scenes. It's perhaps best described as "I'm here to rescue you - I'm in charge - do as I say - if you don't I'll shoot you". It appears that mid-level State functionaries and Red Cross personnel (the latter without the "shoot you" aspect, of course) were complained about most often. In one incident, a family who had prepared and survived quite well were ordered, not invited, to get onto a truck, with only the clothes on their backs. When they objected, they were threatened. They had pets, and wanted to know what would happen to them. They report that a uniformed man (agency unknown) began pointing his rifle at the pets with the words, "I'll fix that". The husband then trained his own shotgun on the man, and explained to him, in words of approximately one syllable, what was going to happen to him if he fired a shot. The whole "rescuer" group then left, promising dire consequences for the family (including threats to come back once they'd evacuated and torch their home). The family were able to make contact with a State Police patrol and report the incident, and are now determined that no matter how much pressure is applied, they will not evacuate. They've set up a "shuttle run" so that every few days, two of them go upstate to collect supplies for the rest of the family, who defend the homestead in the meantime.

Another aspect of this is that self-sufficient, responsible families were often regarded almost with suspicion by rescuers. The latter seemed to believe that if you'd come through the disaster better than your neighbors, it could only have been because you stole what you needed, or somehow gained some sort of unfair advantage over the "average victims" in your area. I'm at a loss to explain this, but it's probably worth keeping in mind.

3. There seems to be a cumulative psychological effect upon survivors. This is clear even - or perhaps particularly - in those who were prepared for a disaster. During and immediately after the disaster, these folks were at their best, dealing with damage, setting up alternative accommodation, light, food sources, etc. However, after a few days in the heat and debris (perhaps worst of all being the smell of dead bodies nearby), many found their ability to remain positive and "upbeat" being strained to the limit. There are numerous reports of individuals becoming depressed, morose and withdrawn. This seemed to happen to even the strongest personalities. The arrival of rescuers provided a temporary boost, but once evacuated, a sort of "after-action shell-shock" seems to be commonly experienced. I don't know enough about this to comment further, but I suspect that staying in place has a lot to do with it - there is no challenge to keep moving, find one's survival needs, and care for the group, and one is surrounded by vivid reminders of the devastation. By staying among the ruins of one's former life, one may be exposing oneself to a greater risk of psychological deterioration.

4. There is widespread frustration over the lack of communication and empathy by rescuers and local/State government. This is partly due to the absence of electricity, so that TV's were not available to follow events as they unfolded: but it's also due to an almost deliberate policy of non-communication by rescuers. There are many accounts of evacuees wanting to know where the bus or plane was going that they were about to board, only to be told "We don't know", or "To a better place than this". Some have found themselves many States away from their homes. Other families were arbitrarily separated upon rescue and/or evacuation, and are still scattered across two or three States. Their efforts to locate each other are very difficult, and when they request to be reunited at a common location, all of those with whom I have contact report a blanket refusal by the Red Cross and State officials to even consider the matter at this time. They're being informed that it will be "looked into" at some future date, and that they may have to pay the costs involved if they want to join up again. This, to families who are now destitute! I'm very angry about this, but it's so widespread a problem that I don't know what can be done about it. I hope that in future, some means will be implemented to prevent it happening again. Lesson learned: never, EVER allow yourselves to be separated as a family, even if it means waiting for later rescue and/or evacuation. Insist on this at all costs!

5. Expect rescuers (including law enforcement) to enforce a distinctly un-Constitutional authority in a disaster situation. This is very widely reported, and is very troubling. I hear repeated reports from numerous States that as evacuees arrive at refugee centers, they and their belongings are searched without legitimate Constitutional authority, and any personal belongings seen as potentially suspicious (including firearms, prescription medication, etc.) are confiscated without recourse to the owner. I can understand the point of view of the receiving authorities, but they are acting illegally, and I suspect there will be lawsuits arising from this practice. Another common practice reported on the ground in the disaster areas is for people to be ordered to evacuate, irrespective of their needs and wishes - even those folks who were well-prepared and have survived in good shape. If they demur, they are often threatened and bullied in an attempt to make them abandon their homes, pets, etc. Lesson learned: in a disaster, don't expect legal and Constitutional norms to be followed. If you can make it on your own, do so, without relying on an unsympathetic and occasionally overbearing rescue system to control you and your destiny.

6. Don't believe that rescuers are all knights in shining armor who will respect your property. There have been numerous reports of rescuers casually appropriating small items that took their fancy in houses they were searching. Sometimes this was blatant, right in front of onlookers, and when protests were made, the response was either threatening, or a casual "Who's going to miss it now?". Some of our field agents report that this happened right in front of their eyes. Another aspect of this is damage caused to buildings by rescuers. I've had reports of them kicking in the front door to a house, or a window, instead of trying to obtain access with as little damage as possible; climbing on clean, highly-polished tables with hobnailed boots in order to get at an attic hatch to check for survivors; etc. When they left the house, often the door or window was left open, almost a standing invitation to looters, instead of being closed and/or secured. When the families concerned get home, they won't know who caused this damage, but they will certainly be angered by it. I think that if one evacuates one's home, it might be a good idea to leave a clearly-visible notice that all residents have evacuated, so as to let would-be rescuers know that this house is empty. On the other hand, this might make it easier for looters, so what you gain on the swings, you lose on the round-abouts . . .


FOURTH POST

This will be about broader issues than just bug-out or threat situations. Over the past couple of weeks, I've been watching closely as the whole evacuation and rescue drama has played out, and have been very active in the relief process, learning all I can for future reference. There are some broader issues that might not come to mind at first thought, but which are directly relevant to our own safety, security, and peaceful possession of our homes. Some of these have been mentioned in earlier e-mails, but they bear repeating in the light of the number of incidents of which I've heard.

1. If you choose to help, you may be sucked into a bureaucratic and legal nightmare. Example: a local church, in the beginning stages of the crisis, offered its hall to house evacuees. Local and State officials promptly filled it up with over 100 people. Their "social skills" proved extremely difficult to live with . . . toilets were blocked, restrooms left filthy, graffiti were scrawled and/or carved on the walls, arguments and disputes were frequent (often escalating to screaming matches, sometimes to physical violence), evacuees roamed the neighborhood (leading to all sorts of reports of petty theft, vandalism, etc.), church workers were subject to aggressive begging and demands, etc. Requests to the authorities to provide better security, administrative assistance, etc. apparently fell on deaf ears - the crisis was so widespread and overwhelming that a small facility such as this seems to have been very low on the priority checklist.

After two days of this, with complaints from the neighbors becoming more and more insistent, the church informed local officials that it wanted the evacuees removed at once, if not sooner. They were promptly subject to bureaucratic heavy-handedness (including threats to withhold previously-promised reimbursement for their expenses); threats of lawsuits for daring to insinuate that the evacuees were somehow "lower-class" in their conduct, and for alleged racism, slander, and general political incorrectness; and threats of negative publicity, in that officials threatened to put out a press release denouncing the church for its "elitist" and "un-co-operative" attitude in a time of crisis.

The church initially caved in to this pressure, and allowed the evacuees to stay: but within a couple more days, the pressure from neighbors and from its own members became impossible to bear, and they insisted on the evacuees being removed to a Red Cross shelter. I'm informed that repairs to their hall will cost over $10,000. This is only one example among many I could cite, but it makes the point clear - if you offer your facilities to authorities, you place yourself (to a certain extent) under their control, and you're potentially liable to a great deal of heavy-handed, insensitive bureaucratic bullying. Those of you in the same position as this church (i.e. with facilities you could make available) might wish to take note.

2. Law enforcement problems will often be "glossed over" and/or ignored by authorities. In many cities housing evacuees, there have been reports of a significant increase in crime caused by their presence: but you'll find that virtually all law enforcement authorities publicly deny this, and/or gloss over it as a "temporary problem". This is all very well for publicity, but it ignores the increased risk to local residents. I've been tracking crime reports in about a dozen cities, through my contacts with local law enforcement and the Louisiana State Police. All the LEO's I speak with, without exception, tell me of greatly increased crime, including rape, assault, robbery, shoplifting, vandalism, gang activity, etc. However, you won't see these reports in the news media - indeed, you'll often see senior LE figures actively denying it. The officers with whom I speak are angry and bitter about this, but they daren't "go public", as their jobs would be on the line if they did so. They tell me that often they're instructed not to report certain categories of "incident" at all, so as not to "skew" or "inflate" the "official" crime figures.

I've also heard reports from Texas, Alabama and Tennessee of brand-new high-end motor vehicles (e.g. Cadillacs, Lincolns, BMW's, etc.), with New Orleans dealer tags, being driven through various towns on their way North and West. The drivers were described as "gang-bangers" (and sundry less complimentary terms). However, there have been no reports of stolen vehicles from New Orleans, because there are no workers to check out dealer lots, or report thefts, and no working computers to enter VIN's, etc. into the NICS database of stolen vehicles - so officers have had no choice but to let these vehicles proceed. Draw your own conclusions.

3. Your personal and/or corporate supplies and facilities may be commandeered without warning, receipt or compensation. I've had numerous reports from in and near the disaster zone of individuals (e.g. boat-owners, farmers with barns, tractors, etc.) and corporate groups (e.g. companies with heavy equipment, churches with halls, etc.) finding an official on their doorstep demanding the use of their facilities or equipment. If they demurred, they were told that this was an "emergency situation" and that their assistance was being required, not requested. Some of them have lost track of the heavy equipment "borrowed" in this way, and don't know where it is, whether or not it's still in good condition, and when (if ever) it will be returned. In the meantime, they can't continue their normal operations without this equipment. Others have had their land and facilities effectively confiscated for use by rescue and relief workers, storage of supplies, etc. In some cases, in the absence of their (evacuated) owners, the property of the individuals and groups concerned (e.g. farm gasoline and diesel supplies, the inventory of motor vehicle dealers, suppliers of foodstuffs, tarpaulins, etc.) have been commandeered and used by law enforcement and relief workers, without permission, receipts, reimbursement, etc. Protests have been met with denials, threats of arrest, insinuations of being "uncaring" and "un-co-operative", etc.

Lesson learned: if you've got what officials need in a time of crisis, forget about Constitutional protections of your property! Sure, you can sue after the fact, but if you need your goods and facilities for your own survival, you're basically SOL. Those of us who stockpile necessities for potential crises like this might want to consider concealing our stockpiles to prevent confiscation: and if you need certain equipment for your own day-to-day use (e.g. tractors for farmers, generators, etc.), you might have a hard time retaining possession of these things. This problem applies to relief workers as well. I've had several reports of private relief workers (e.g. those sent in by churches, etc.) having their vehicles and supplies commandeered by "official" relief workers, without compensation or receipt, and being kicked out of the disaster area with warnings not to return. The fact that the "private" workers were accomplishing rather more than the "official" workers was apparently of no importance.

4. If you look like you know what you're doing, you may be a target of those less prepared. There have been many, many reports of individuals who were more or less prepared for a disaster being preyed upon by those who were not prepared. Incidents range from theft of supplies, through attempts to bug out with these persons (uninvited), to actual violence. It's genuinely frightening to hear about these incidents, particularly the attitude of those trying to prey on the prepared. They seemed to feel that because you'd taken steps to protect yourself and your loved ones, you had somehow done so at their expense, and they were therefore "entitled" to take from you what they needed. There's no logical explanation for this attitude, unless it's bred by the utter dependence of many such people on the State for welfare, Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, etc. Since they've always been dependent on others, and regarded this as an "entitlement", in a disaster situation, they seem to automatically assume that they're "entitled" to what you've got! In one case, the family's pet dog was held hostage, with a knife at its throat, until the family handed over money and supplies. In two cases, families were threatened with the rape of their women unless they co-operated with the aggressors. In four cases that I know of, children were held hostage to ensure co-operation. There have also been reports of crimes during the bug-out process. Families sleeping in their cars at highway rest areas were a favorite target, including siphoning of gas from their tanks, assaults, etc.

The lessons to be learned from this are obvious. One family can't secure itself against these threats without great difficulty. It's best to be "teamed up" with neighbors to secure your neighborhood as a whole, rather than be the only house with facilities in an area filled with those less prepared. If you're in the latter situation, staying put may not be a safe option, and a bug-out plan may be vital. When bugging out, you're still not safe from harm, and must maintain constant vigilance.

5. Those who thought themselves safe from the disaster were often not safe from refugees. There have been many reports of smaller towns, farms, etc. on the fringe of the disaster area being overrun with those seeking assistance. In many cases, assistance was demanded rather than requested, and theft, looting and vandalism have been reported. So, even if you think you're safe from the disaster, you may not be safe from its aftermath.

6. Self-reliance seems to draw suspicion upon you from the authorities. I've mentioned this in a previous e-mail, but I've had many more reports of it from those who survived or bugged out, and it bears re-emphasizing. For reasons unknown and unfathomable, rescue authorities seem to regard with suspicion those who've made provision for their safety and have survived (or bugged out) in good shape. It seems to be a combination of "How could you cope when so many others haven't?", "You must have taken advantage of others to be so well off", and "We've come all this way to help, so how dare you not need our assistance?" I have no idea why this should be the case . . . but there have been enough reports of it that it seems to be a widespread problem. Any ideas from readers?

7. Relief workers from other regions and States often don't know local laws. This is a particular problem when it comes to firearms. I've had many reports of law enforcement officers sent to assist in Louisiana from States such as New Jersey, California, etc. trying to confiscate firearms on the streets, etc., when in fact the armed citizens were legally armed, under local law. One can't reason with these officers in the heat of the moment, of course, and as a result, a number of people lost their firearms, and have still not recovered them. In the chaos of the immediate post-disaster situation, they may never do so, because I'm not sure that normal procedures such as logging these guns into a property office, etc. were followed. I understand that in due course, steps were taken to include at least one local law enforcement officer in patrols, so that he could advise officers from other areas as to what was legal, and what wasn't. Also, in Louisiana, law enforcement is conducted differently than in some other States, and officers from other States who came to assist were sometimes found to be domineering and aggressive in enforcing a law enforcement "authority" that doesn't normally apply here. So, if you're in a disaster area, and help arrives from elsewhere, you may find that the help doesn't know (or care) about local laws, norms, etc. Use caution!

8. Relief organizations have their own bureaucratic requirements that may conflict with your needs. A good example is the Red Cross. In many cases, across three States, I've had reports that locals who needed assistance were told that they had to register at a particular Red Cross shelter or facility. The help would not come to them - they had to go to it. If they wished to stay on their own property, they were sometimes denied assistance, and told that if they wanted help, they had to move into the shelter to get it. Also, assistance was often provided only to those who came in person. If you left your family at home and went to get food aid, you might be denied aid for your whole family, because there was no evidence that they existed. Only the number that could be physically counted by relief workers (who would not come to you, but insisted you come to them) would be provided with food. Needless to say, this caused much anger and resentment.

I hope that these "lessons learned" are of use to you. I'm more and more convinced that in the event of a disaster, I must rely on myself, and a few friends, and never count on Government or relief organizations for the help I'll need. Also, I'm determined to bug out for a fairly long distance from a disaster in my home area, so as to be clear of the post-disaster complications that may arise. Once again (as it has countless times throughout history), we see that to rely on others (let alone Government) for your own safety and security is to invite complications at best, disaster at worst.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Preparing for Hurricane Gustav


All of us in Louisiana are battening down our hatches and making preparations for what looks, at the moment, to be the arrival of Hurricane Gustav in a few days time. I'm fairly well prepared anyway, of course. I can feed and look after myself for at least a month, if my house isn't damaged too badly by the storm. I'm always bemused by the rush of shoppers at the last minute, trying to stock up on essentials. Why can't they have those basic preparations in place long before hurricane season?

I'm also hugely amused by the run on local gunshops. We had many thousands - tens of thousands! - of refugees from New Orleans arrive here after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Many of them were what can best be described as "low-lifes", gangstas out for trouble. They learned - rapidly, and some of them the hard way - that what they could get away with in New Orleans doesn't pass muster in these parts. Decent defensive ammunition is right out of stock now, in every town around here, and some of my friends (knowing that I have a suitably sizable stash of the stuff) have been coming around to beg, borrow or buy some from me. (They don't try to steal it. That would be counter-productive in the extreme!)

The general sentiment around here, from residents of all races, ages and educational backgrounds, is, "If them ******'s are gonna try their monkey business here again, I'm gonna be ready for them!"

I do hope that any refugees from further South behave themselves this time . . . or there really will be blood on the streets. At least the rain from Gustav will serve to wash it off!

Peter

Sarah Palin


I'm enjoying all the fuss about Sarah Palin's selection as Senator McCain's vice-presidential running mate.

I think she's a great choice. A strong, independent spirit, not afraid to take on party vested interests; a proven record fighting corruption and the "good-old-boy" network; strong on many positions and values that I regard as very important, even though she has others with which I respectfully disagree; in short, a very strong figure to balance what I perceive as the real weaknesses in McCain himself.

I'm hugely amused at the immediate attempt by the Democratic Party and its mouthpieces to portray her as far too inexperienced to handle the responsibilities of the Vice-Presidency. As Governor, she's got more practical experience in two years than Senator Obama has in his four years in the Senate. Just check out his voting record, and how often he was absent! I'm willing to bet that her solid down-to-earth record of accomplishment as a mother, and local and State politician, will be as good a foundation - if not better - for her job than Obama's Chicago-machine political background will be for him. If he's qualified to run for President, she's at least as well qualified to run for Vice-President.

Hint: When the opposition immediately jumps on one aspect - and one aspect only - of an opposing candidate, and tries to flog it to death, it's a pretty good sign that they're really, really worried about the other aspects that candidate can bring to the table.

(I'm also cackling at the response of a number of middle-aged men of my acquaintance. When they see a picture of her, very attractive lady that she is, their eyes light up and you can almost see the new bounce in their steps.)

I'm told that Rush Limbaugh commented:

"So with her we've got drilling, babies, guns, and Jesus. HOT DAMN!"




Peter

Post-fire progress report #6


Well, folks, it's been another loooong day, but worth it. I'm also here to tell you, all the hard work of the past ten days has paid off!

I took a great deal of trouble to keep in touch with the various contractors, making sure that their bids were in on time and in the right format, querying every problem they identified with the insurance assessor before they put it into their quotes, getting him to agree that it was a legitimate claim or repair and not something designed to maximize the contractor's profit. All that work meant that I was running very hard to check and double-check everything - but it paid off big-time today.

The assessor tells me that all the quotes together (a little over $30,000) came in at a few hundred dollars below what his computer model said the repairs should cost. As a result, he's not only given blanket approval to everything, but he's even giving me a "bonus" by settling accommodation costs (while repairs are carried out) for a lump sum, giving me a bit more money to put towards repairs if I can spend less on a hotel. He's also given blanket approval to my claim for damaged and destroyed personal property. No quibbling, no hesitation. That makes all the effort worthwhile!

Hurricane Gustav permitting, I've booked the crew from Servicemaster to start the cleanup on Tuesday next week. The painters will come in the following week, and the carpet people the week after that. Of course, if Gustav takes out half the State, I daresay it'll be this time next year before I get everything done! The contractors will (quite rightly) have to give a higher priority to those whose homes are more severely damaged than my own.

Peter

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How Generation Y got its name


An e-mail from Fred M. explains this conundrum.

I've always wondered about this myself. Now I know.

  • The Silent Generation, people born before 1946.
  • The Baby Boomers, people born between 1946 and 1959.
  • Generation X, people born between 1960 and 1979.
  • Generation Y, people born between 1980 and 1995.

Why do we call the last one generation Y? I didn't know, but a caricaturist explains it eloquently. Learn something new!








Peter

Doofus Of The Day #62


Today's Doofus (possibly plural Doofi) is/are (a) check-in clerk(s) at Arlanda Airport in Stockholm, Sweden.

A 78-year-old woman who was planning to fly to Germany from Stockholm’s Arlanda airport found herself taking an unexpected trip on Tuesday.

The woman misheard instructions from airport personnel, who directed her to an unmanned baggage conveyor belt after she had checked in.

Rather than placing her bags on the conveyor belt, she instead hopped on the belt herself, at which point she was whisked away to the baggage handling area, writes the Upsala Nya Tidning newspaper.

Within a few minutes, the confused woman was met by surprised airport personnel who were able to assist her.

The woman emerged from the incident without injury, and in time to catch her flight, according to the Arlanda police.


Hmm. I can understand an elderly woman getting confused - heck, it's happened to me! Still, I can't believe airport staff couldn't have seen her movements and prevented this accident. It reminds me of some of the finer moments of our very own Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) doofi in the USA - who, in my experience, seem to set the world standard for idiotic conduct, either not knowing or deliberately ignoring their own regulations, and harassing innocent travelers.

That's why I don't fly any more unless I absolutely have to.

Peter

Food fight!


The annual La Tomatina, or Tomato Festival, was held in Bunol, Spain, on Wednesday. I imagine the goings-on would send the makers of ketchup everywhere into a tizzy of excitement!

The origins of the Tomatina are unclear. The most cautious view is that, one day in 1944 or 1945, in the little town of Bunol in Spain, someone decided to throw a tomato. There are many speculations about the motives, about how the town got involved and about who and when it was decided to make it a yearly custom.




But there you have it: on the last Wednesday of every August, the townspeople indulge in a huge tomato fight. Today the natives, about 9.000 of them, are far outnumbered by visitors from all over the world (by some estimates even 30.000 strong). The quantity of tomatoes is the most wildly speculated on: from 90.000 to 240.000 lbs., trucked in by dump trucks from around the countryside.




The tomato fight is part of a week-long fiesta or festival of parties, concerts, parades, dances, a paella cook-out (not for throwing), fireworks, craft sales, etc. Though the festival doesn't have a religious origin, it is an occasion to celebrate the town's patron saint, San Luis Bertran (a Dominican friar, d. 1581) and the Virgin Mary.




On Wednesday, at 11 am, the main attraction kicks off on the center square, Plaza del Pueblo. First someone has to reach a ham stuck on top of a tall, greased pole. Initially people fight one another for the honor, but slowly they pull together. When the ham comes down, a cannon shot is fired, the signal for the trucks to bring in the main course.




The batalla or battle is supposed to be every person for himself, but it often develops into a girls versus boys competition. There are some rules: squeeze the tomatoes before you throw them, don't bring bottles and the like into the fray, and don't tear off someone else's clothing. The precaution of wearing goggles and gloves is more than often overlooked.




You must obey the cannon shot, which after two hours signals the end of la Tomatina. Fire trucks move in to spray the streets clean, and within a few hours the town is spotless. As for the participants, most bathe afterwards in the nearby Bunol River.


Looks like everyone had fun! More pictures of La Tomatina may be found here.

Peter

Why fleeing flies flummox flapping swatters


(Well, I like the headline, anyway!)

An article in the Daily Mail reveals why it's so difficult to swat a fly.

High-speed cameras showed that upon spotting a looming swatter, flies were able to plan and carry out an emergency take-off in under 200 milliseconds - or a fifth of a second.

A human eye takes around 300 to 400 milliseconds to blink.

The finding comes from a series of bizarre experiments carried out by American scientists using a 14cm black disc to mimic a fly swat.

Researchers dropped the disc on to fruit flies standing on a small platform and filmed what happened.

Long before making the leap, the fly calculates the location of the threat, works out its escape plan and positions its legs for a jump in the safest direction.

They found that if the disc approached from in front of the fly, the insect moved its middle legs forward and leaned back.

It then raised and extended its legs to push off backwards, the journal Current Biology reported.

When the threat came from behind, the fly moved its middle legs slightly backwards before leaping forwards.

Danger from one side caused the insect to keep its middle legs stationary, lean its whole body in the opposite direction, and then jump.




Professor Michael Dickinson, from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said: ‘These movements are made very rapidly, within about 200 milliseconds, but within that time the animal determines where the threat is coming from and activates an appropriate set of movements to position its legs and wings.

‘This illustrates how rapidly the fly's brain can process sensory information into an appropriate motor response.’

Flies are helped by their compound eyes which have an almost 360 degree field of view, allowing them to look in front and behind at the same time.

The research, made possible by advances in super-high speed imaging, offered clues to the best strategy for swatting a fly.

‘It is best not to swat at the fly's starting position, but rather aim a bit forward of that to anticipate where the fly is going to jump when it first sees your swatter,’ said Prof Dickinson.

Flies are unable to register slow movement, making it possible to ‘creep up’ to a fly before delivering the killer blow, he added.


Now you know. As we used to say in darkest Africa, "Softlee, softlee, catchee monkey!"

Peter