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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Power's back up, Everybody's fine.

I stayed at my parent's last night, a little higher ground, and their power went off this AM. My sister just got hers back an hour ago, and the power at my house never went out. Houston suffered very little damage overall, and it appears everyone I know is fine.

That's just an update. It's been a long couple of days, and I'm pretty tired. It's gonna take a couple of days, or just something colossally stupid by our government, before the outrage comes up enough for me to blog again.

I'm tentatively guessing tomorrow morning. And I still owe you one on the evacuation problems.

Just so very, very tired.


Friday, September 23, 2005

Hummers in Houston

I'm having a little Schadenfreude towards all the Hummer owners in Houston. You know, they bought those things for way too much money with some component of the macho fantasy of riding out the apocalypse in some action-hero-esque way.

Funny thing about that.

Individual owners of Hummers don't generally have trucks and supply lines bringing them fuel like the true army application. So in the evacuation yesterday, with their atrocious milage, those hummers were a huge liability. It appears the Hummer would, indeed be ideal for driving out of the apocalypse, assuming the apocalypse was only a hundred miles or so across.

The people who did best in that evacuation were the ones driving small efficient cars. A hybrid would've been golden. After all, evolution tells us that efficiency is the route to success. Insects don't develop strength they don't need, herbivores don't develop any more speed than they need to outrun their hunters. Evolution should have told us that the fuel limitations of the Hummer would be a far greater liability than their all terrain capabilities.

But then, I guess alot of those Hummer owners don't believe in evolution anyhow.

Ironic, huh?

Things look a lot better in Houston Today.

I wasn't going to blog the storm, but I've gotten a kind comment from Dorita, and a couple of emails from regular friends/readers who have my email, so I'm gonna take some time today and just do a little quick writing. (and dorita, if you can figure out a way to trade email addresses without making them too public, I'm game. After the storm.)

First let me say that despite my obvious happiness that this storm is now projected to land a good ways east of here, somewhere between Beaumont/Port Arthur and far West Louisiana, this is still a really big storm that is going to do some severe damage on its near east side, probably up into Lake Charles.

And I'll write a separate post on all the traffic/evacuation problems later today/tonight. My sister and her family tried to evacuate late Wednesday night, and just turned around 45 miles north of Houston and came back around 5:30 PM yesterday. I'll tell the story later.

But, I'm gonna concentrate on Houston and conditions here because that is where I have the most information.

Briefly, current projections say that East Houston on the water, Galveston bay and the ship channel area will only see a 4-6 foot rise in water level, and because that area is behind the barrier islands, it shouldn't see very big waves on top of that rise. So probably flooding, but comparatively slight compared to what we were looking at 24-48 hours ago. It looks like the Port Arthur through Lake Charles area are going to take the brunt of the east side of the storm. 20' storm surge with big waves on top of that. So, pray for them, they're taking the bullet on this one.

Expecting some minor to moderate flooding in Galveston and Bolivar, coming from the backside(mainland side) but the island is not going completely under water which was predicted about 36 hours ago. And the seawall should hold against the predicted tides.

Predicted winds are 90 mph gusting to 110mph on Galveston coast. In central/west Houston/ Harris County about 50 miles inland, we are currently predicted to have 60-65mph winds gusting to 75mph. And somewhere around 5-6" of rain. So, we're just getting a pretty nasty storm here, not the city killer that we were looking at 36 hours ago.

So, basically, we should all be in pretty good shape in Houston. Tree limbs down, and power outages are now the biggest concern. So if I stop posting here, it's not cause I'm floating out to sea, but because we've lost power. But in 95 degree heat and 100% humidity, that lack of air and water is a pretty big deal. But, on the water front, anecdotal information in Houston tells me that most people did a pretty good job preparing, the images of Katrina scaring the bejesus out of everybody. Plus, short of some downed limbs and trees, access to our area should be pretty easy for relief efforts.

But I gotta say this, the people at the point of the storm on the TX/LA border might be less prepared. They didn't start evacuating til late, cause the storm turned towards them late, so I would guess that they also didn't start gathering supplies til late.

But it appears they did a hell of a job evacuating the Beaumont area, I've seen no info from Lake Charles. But, afterwards, relief from the north should be significantly faster than Katrina both because of geographical differences, and because you can bet that the Bush admin is going to just pour supplies in after all the Katrina press.

And there is one more concern in general. I'm sure the national media is covering the New Orleans levee breaks, so you probably have more info than I do, I've been focused on us, but Rita is currently projected to stall out in NE Texas and NW Louisiana, and rain heavy for DAYS, dropping 12-24+ inches of rain in upper La. And alot of that water is going to flow back down into the Mississippi and potentially into New Orleans. So that situation may get much worse in the next week.

Okay, enough for now. I promise I will post later on the traffic and evacuation. And thanks everbody for the concern, but it looks like the most were going to suffer is major inconveniences. Turn your well wishes towards the people on the near east side of the storm. This thing looks like it is going to do some pretty serious damage. I just hope that alot of that water is poured into some of the less populated areas.


UPDATE/INCLUSION: I forgot. Current conditions where I am. Hot, humid, and a little grey. Just guessing 90-92 degrees 90-100% humidity, wind gusting to 15 mph, solid cloudy but not ominous. No rain yet, and no visible signs of change looking Southeast towards the storm. And no sign of any animals, other than my 16 year old dog. No squirrels, no birds, no movement/ no sound. 3:45PM local Houston/central time.

Bugging out

As you can see from tv, no way I'm actually leaving Houston, but I'm going to move over to my parent's house this morning. Better built, less prone to flooding, and a little further west.

If it stays on the projected path, this shouldn't be too bad, here. May lose power for awhile, so the blog will be out of business for a weeks or so. I'll be back.


Thursday, September 22, 2005

I'm gonna stop here.

Sorry, the storm projections moved more towards us, and I've just got more important things than to blog today. And if the power's out, I'm gonna out of business for a week to ten days.


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Not as optimistic after the latest map.

Not quite as optimistic after this map. Galveston is evacuating. Reportedly this afternoon it was taking seven hours to go from galveston to Conroe, about 100 miles.

And as of tomorrow afternoon, Galveston will be not answering 9-1-1. 24 hours before landfall.

Gives you some kind of idea of what we're looking at.

New Computer modelling pushes further west of Houston

Having watched hurricanes for years, I used to sell chemical spill equipment all along the gulf coast, you can't completely trust the computer models. But having said that, in the last five years, they have gotten significantly more accurate, so I take the more seriously. Happily, for us here in Houston, the models are aligning into a tighter consensus about 75-100 miles south west of us. Which means we may miss the worst.

Galveston under water/Petrochem at risk

Channel Two, local NBC affiliate, has been showing an animation/graphic showing the entire city of Galveston going under water from the storm surge if Rita is a direct hit. Galveston has a seventeen foot seawall on the ocean side, and Rita is expected to have a nineteen foot surge. The seawall should significantly break the force of the water, greatly reducing any damage, but that's all it's designed to do. Most of the flooding will come from around on the backside, the bay, side of the island when it comes. Again, the seawall was laid out to take some of the force out of the surge, not to keep the island dry.

They also showed simulations(from satellite photos) of Texas City, Laporte and Pasadena. All of them showed about a third of those cities going under water.

Now, understand that these are cheap simulations done by a local TV station assuming peak storm surge, but it was still pretty amazing to look at Galveston island as it was swallowed up by the water.

But, looking at this, if you live in Port Lavaca, Palacios, Matagorda, even up to El Campo, I hope you're smart enough to get the hell out. Cause if it hits that area, the storm surge is going to funnel up in that inlet/port and be higher than the 19 feet predicted.

Same is also probably true of Freeport.

Looking at the current path projections, there will probably be some pretty substantial damage to some of the petrochem plants southwest of Houston in the areas I've listed above. BASF Formosa, Oxy, and alot of the chemical plants may be put out of action for awhilem but most of the refining, which is VERY substantial, is located on the eastern side of Houston, so unless the storm swings north more than expected, there will not be major refining shutdowns for lengthy periods.

But, the "simulations" of a direct hit mentioned at the top of this post, would innundate large sections of Texas City, damaging both Sterling and Union Carbide, and damage, to varying degrees, whole sections a majority of Houston's petrochem businesses.

Rita in Houston - one more quick note.

One more quick note, people of Houston. If you're out and about getting gas and groceries and stuff, be nice to the people who work in the stores. They're getting paid largely minimum and near minimum wage, and are doing the best they can to help out. And if they weren't there, it would be a huge problem.

They're not going to get the respect like cops and firemen, but these folks are at their jobs doing everything they can to make sure that it all goes smoothly. And as a group, they are critical to the rest of us getting food and water. And they have families and homes that they're going to have to take care of after they finish their twelve hour day today.

So say a kind word, and if you get frustrated, take it out on the other shoppers. Leave the clerks and stockboys alone.

Houston is Freaking Out

Went on a supply run this morning, gas, smokes, food, water. I guess it's because people have been watching the horrors that Katrina wroght, but Houston is freaking out. My regular gas station had the pumps covered in plastic bags, the universal symbol for out gas, although the lady who runs it, turned one of the pumps on for me. She said she had about fifteen hundred gallons left and was giving it to her regular customers. As I drove out, and looked around, a fair percentage of the gas stations were showing that they had no gas. Most troublingly, my friend who runs the Chevron, she told me that there would be no more scheduled gas deliveries until after the storm has passed. And there were already gas lines between four and ten cars deep in the center of the city. But as I got out a little bit, it seemed to be less of a problem.

Went to the bank ATM, one of them was out of money already, and the other had a line of five cars waiting. Went to the HEB, one of the large grocery stores here, and it was a madhouse. The shelves were about half empty overall, and key items soup, tuna, peanut butter, charcoal, were all completely gone. Fortunately, I already had a light hurricane supply that I lay in every year, a case of water, a few cans of soup and corn, along with the other staples I keep around the house. I figure I've got about ten to twelve days of supplies on hand.

But as I was coming out of the bread/chips isle, which was nearly empty, I ran into a line of people and baskets. And being the good russian that I am, I fell into line before I even knew what they were giving out at the end of it. Turns out it was cases of water, they only got forty- eight on the truck, and I was about half way through so I picked up an extra case of water.

Headed back towards home, dropping off some stuff at a friends' place, and swinging by the whole foods near my house to buy rice. (In past storms here, the power goes out for a long time, but generally, the natural gas stays on.) Even at the whole foods people were going kindof crazy.

And this was all before 10:30AM on Wednesday. Three days before the storm is supposed to hit.

Also, It's looking slightly more likely on current projections that the storm will come in south of Houston/Galveston which would mean we are on the "dirty side or wet side" which means more rain and tornado threat than the other side. Again by today's projections, it looks like it's going to hit Matagorda county area which means we're about a seventy-five to a hundred miles away, so probably 70-90 mph winds and lots of rain.

I'm currently debating whether I'm going to stay in my house, or move over to my parent's house, which will be in the same situation, but is a far better structure. I figured I'd decide tomorrow; my neighbors seem to be about half staying, half going. Alot of the people who are going, are simply relocating to other family homes in Houston like I'm considering.

I'll post throughout the next few days just to keep everybody up on it.

Pictures from Houston Freaking Out.

First picture, you can't really see the gas line, but it stretches out to the right onto the street.

Second picture is a shot of the tuna section. All that was left was canned shrimp, sardines, and that kindof thing.

Third picture is back down the water line behind me, I was standing about in the middle of the line for the 48 cases of water they were expecting to get before lunch. As you can see, everyone is pretty congenial about it all.

And, overall, photos will be fairly limited to where I actually need to go, cause I don't want to burn a lotta gas in case I have to leave town.

The latest models.

Here's the latest computer modeling for Rita.

(Click for enlargement)

That little inlet right to the right of all the storm tracks is basically the Port of Houston. My eyeball estimate puts the storm in at about Palacios, just north of Port Lavaca based on these models. About 75-90 miles southwest of Houston.

And for those of you who are in the know, it should pass right over Ganado/El Campo. I sure hope the Bubellas and the rest have gotten out of Ganado, eh?

Houston spazzes out about Hurricane Rita

Allright. Down here in Houston, people are starting to get pretty agitated about Hurricane Rita. So despite the fact that Iraq seems to be taking turns(note the plural) for the worse, Karzai has more or less asked the US to stop military activities in Afghanistan, the North Korea "deal" now appears that it isn't, the british have attacked the Iraqi gov't, and a new supreme court nominee coming up, and indictments of Bush admin officials, etc.... etc....,

I'm gonna have to start writing about Hurricane Rita.

Yesterday, the Walmarts ran out of water, there was an announcement on the local news that there would not be anymore until 7AM today. I attribute this to a sudden unexpected buying and expect the folks at walmart to catch up to demand.

Rumors are starting to run here. My friend Stan just called me, I'm gonna do some shopping for him today, to tell me that this thing may come in at a category five. I would expect my shopping trip, pretty much a normal weekday shopping trip to be something pretty unusual. Just called dad, and I'm gonna pick up his camera so I can post some pictures up here.

I'll also put up my hurricane list, later, stuff I need to do, and supplies. I think it might be kind of "slice of life" interesting.

And I also should say, that all this is starting pretty early considering that it is Wednesday AM and Rita is now projected to come ashore Sat noonish.

Anyway, if you want to keep up with my progress, I will write more later.

(One necessary inclusion. I live in Central Houston, about 45-50 miles inland. I will have no storm surge issues, and the winds will be greatly cut down, probably 2 "categories" by the time it gets here. But the real issue here is that if this thing comes in within 50 miles to the west of us, we will probably be without power for a week, which is a pretty big deal.)

More later.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Take 15 seconds to look at this.

Take 15 seconds to look at this.

I promise, it's totally worth it.

I don't know what to say, I am both disturbed and laughing at the same time, but I've been watching it and reloading/restarting it for ten minutes. No twenty minutes now.

And I just figured out that if you click on him, you can drag him around, too.

Just Brilliant

I just love this. It's a market solution to those pesky anti-choice protestors.

From Southeastern Pennsylvania Planned Parenthood.

Here's how it works: You decide on the amount you would like to pledge for each
protester (minimum 10 cents). When protesters show up on our sidewalks, Planned
Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania will count and record their number each day from October 1 through November 30, 2005. We will place a sign outside the health center that tracks pledges and makes protesters fully aware that their actions are benefiting PPSP. At the end of the two-month campaign, we will send you an update on protest activities and a pledge reminder.

A veterinarian appointed to the Office of Women's Health - FDA

I've seen this bumping around for days, but hadn't come across a credible source, .... til today. I first saw the stories two days ago, but the mentions on the .gov websites were removed so all that was left were copies and screen saves, not hugely credible. But the WaPo picked it up, so the FDA wasn't able to make it go away. Here it is. Brace yourself.

The Bush administration tried to appoint a verterinarian to head the FDA's Office of Women's Health. This is a pretty big post, so I don't know what the hell they were thinking. Click the link, it's freakin' unbelievable.

One week ago, the Office of Women's Health of the Food and Drug Administration sent an e-mail notice to women's groups and others announcing the appointment of Norris Alderson as its new acting director.

An FDA veteran trained in animal husbandry who spent much of his career in the agency's Center for Veterinary Medicine, Alderson quickly became the subject of active and largely negative comment on the Internet and elsewhere.

The Office of Women's Health serves as a liaison with women's health groups and as an advocate on women's issues; critics said that a man with a primarily veterinary background could not properly fill the role.

The last director, Susan Wood, resigned last month to protest the agency's unwillingness to make a decision on whether to make emergency contraception more easily available.

90,000 bullets for each Iraqi insurgent

From an Antiwar.com opinion piece by Paul Craig Roberts. It kinda wanders around, but a few interesting points.

According to the Sept. 1 Manufacturing & Technology News, the Government Accounting Office has reported that over the course of the cakewalk war, the U.S. military's use of small caliber ammunition has risen to 1.8 billion rounds. Think about that number. If there are 20,000 insurgents, it means U.S. troops have fired 90,000 rounds at each insurgent. .....

If 2,000 insurgents have been killed, each death required 900,000 rounds of ammunition.

It's getting weird out there

It's just getting so weird out there in the world. Someday, I'll write the lengthy post here about how I think the Bush administration was revolutionary in regard to the global power structure because it represented a major shift of the American government and all it's means of power and influence between different factions of world power.

I don't have the tinfoil hat handy right now, so for now, you'll just have to make do with this little bit of weirdness. Not that I'm surprised the Vatican would do something like this, they've been doing it for fifteen hundred years, I just don't see the motivation/connection.

From BBC.

The Vatican is helping Croatia's most wanted war crimes suspect evade capture, a top UN prosecutor alleges.

Carla del Ponte, chief prosecutor for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, has said she believes Gen Ante Gotovina is hiding in a monastery in Croatia.

Monday, September 19, 2005

What is this?

What is this? British soldiers conducting a paramilitary jailbreak on an Iraqi jail run by the government in "peaceful" Basra?

BASRA, Iraq - British soldiers used 10 armored vehicles to break down the walls of the central jail in this southern city Monday and freed two Britons, allegedly undercover commandos arrested on charges of shooting two Iraqi policemen, witnesses and Iraqi officials said. But the British government said the two men were released as a result of negotiations. ......

"A British force of more than 10 tanks backed by helicopters attacked the central jail and destroyed it. This is an irresponsible act," al-Waili said, adding that the British force had spirited the prisoners away to an unknown location. ......

But the spokesman stopped short of denying reports that British tanks crashed through the jail walls. The ministry issued a statement saying the two Britons were back with other British troops. ......

Outside the jail, a melee broke out in the streets as angry demonstrators attacked the encircling British armor with stones and Molotov cocktails. During the chaos, one British soldier could be seen in a photograph scrambling for his life from a burning Warrior armored personnel carrier and the rock-throwing mob.

I don't know what to make of this? What does it mean?


150 Iraqi prisoners are also thought to have fled the jail during the British attack.

UPDATE: Tue Morning CNN.

In a statement released in London, Reid did not say why the two had been taken into custody. But the Iraqi official, who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity, said their arrests stemmed from an incident earlier in the day.

The official said two unknown gunmen in full Arabic dress began firing on civilians in central Basra, wounding several, including a traffic police officer. There were no fatalities, the official said.

So, British agents disguised as Arabs, opened fire on a crowd? Targeting somebody in particular or trying to "stage" an attack? This is getting weirder

UPDATE: Juan Cole's version adds some context but still leaves me feeling a bit uninformed.


yet the British have been facing a sharp rise in attacks from an increasingly sophisticated and deadly foe.

There are strong suspicions that the bloodshed is being orchestrated with weapons and encouragement from Iran.

Interview with Chavez on Democracy Now

Democracy Now did an interview with Chavez while he was in New York for the UN Summit. If you're a fan, video here, audio here, or the whole show audio mp3. I really like this guy, and his critiques of the current corporate based governmental empire the US is imposing under threat of force are pretty compelling. I'm somewhat mixed on his solutions.

But, I remain thoroughly convinced that this guy is sincerely working to improve the condition of the poor and powerless in his country. How many other worldl leaders can we claim are doing the same?

And that's why the US will not allow him to stay in power.

Interesting polling coverage

The Left Coaster, a blog I really like cause they actually seem to put some thought into what they say, unlike me, has a very interesting post on the current congressional polling showing generic dem congressional candidate beating generic repub congressional candidate by twelve points.

That's only part of it, it is the breakdowns by age and party that are interesting.

Each and every day

I know I've been harping on the similarities between Iraq and the Central American wars of the eighties, but how much do you want to bet that some of this money has been siphoned off for other operations. The Iraqis pay $3500 for an American made MP5 and get a $200 Egyptian copy, and the other 16 copies, where did they go? Syria, Iran, Venezuelan opposition groups? Can't get funding through congress for some operations, but so far, congressional reps have been afraid to vote against Iraq funding.

One billion dollars has been plundered from Iraq's defence ministry in one of the largest thefts in history, The Independent can reveal, leaving the country's army to fight a savage insurgency with museum-piece weapons. ......

The carefully planned theft has so weakened the army that it cannot hold Baghdad against insurgent attack without American military support, Iraqi officials say, making it difficult for the US to withdraw its 135,000- strong army from Iraq, as Washington says it wishes to do. .....

Senior Iraqi officials now say they cannot understand how, if this is so, the disappearance of almost all the military procurement budget could have passed unnoticed by the US military in Baghdad and civilian advisers working in the defence ministry.

Government officials in Baghdad even suggest that the skill with which the robbery was organised suggests that the Iraqis involved were only front men, and "rogue elements" within the US military or intelligence services may have played a decisive role behind the scenes.

The Salvador option.

This is beginning to really take on some aspects of the dirty war in Central America in the eighties conducted by many of these same administration officials under Reagan. There were leaks way back when that Negroponte was being brought into the Iraq planning cycle so that he could install the "Nicaragua" option. The WaPo had a telling piece on the new tactics which echoed those of the "death squads" that operated in Nicaragua when Negroponte was involved there.

Everytime you read about an Iraqi found, hands bound, a bullet in the head, you should understand that this is often a result of policy.

An Iraqi working as a reporter for the New York Times was found dead in the southern city of Basra on Monday after being kidnapped by masked men, family members and a doctor said. .....

Haider's brother told Reuters in Basra that four masked men in a dark Toyota vehicle had arrived at the family home in an apartment complex in central Basra after midnight on Sunday.

They said they were from the intelligence services and that they needed to speak to Haider in connection with an investigation, the brother said. They bundled him into their vehicle and told his wife and family not to interfere.

If the US is resorting to allowing these sorts of "dirty war" tactics, like the "death squads" in Nicaragua or the Phoenix operations in Vietnam, we need to get out of Iraq. We need to set a timetable to allow the Iraqis to plan to take over security, but we've got to get out.

In the effort to bring the Iraqi government up in freedom and human rights, we are allowing ourselves to be dragged down in the same measures.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Another interesting map

Enough already!!!!!!!!!

Hey, for those of you that believe in god, can you sit him down and tell him, "enough already."

More executed Iraqis

Now, everytime I hear about the finding of executed Iraqis, especially handcuffed Sunnis, I remember Negroponte's "Salvador Option" and this WaPo description of what happens when reporters are there. And when they aren't.....

Authorities reported finding two dozen more bodies Sunday, men shot to death in the apparent ongoing tit-for-tat killings between Sunni and Shiite death squads.

Four of the dead were found handcuffed and shot in east Baghdad. Twenty more were dragged from the Tigris River near Balad, a city 50 miles north of the capital, police reported.

Remember the death squads and what went down in Central America?

"The Grand Old Spending Party"

Fareed Zakaria - I sometimes disagree with the guy, but, unlike so many other columnists, he actually seems to reason an argument out and not just fire the first gut level bashing based on his team's talking points. Pro-Bush, Anti-Bush, Pro-Iraq war, Anti-Iraq war, it's nuanced. He actually seems to be able to like one part of Bush strategy and while disliking another. Kind of strange to come across grown-up opinions in this media era.

...Bush will go down in history as the most fiscally irresponsible chief executive in American history. Since 2001, government spending has gone up from $1.86 trillion to $2.48 trillion, a 33 percent rise in four years! Defense and Homeland Security are not the only culprits. Domestic spending is actually up 36 percent in the same period. .....

What we can't afford simultaneously is $1.4 trillion in tax cuts and more than $1 trillion in new entitlement spending over the next 10 years .....

Today's Republicans believe in pork, but they don't believe in government. So we have the largest government in history but one that is weak and dysfunctional. Public spending is a cynical game of buying votes or campaign contributions, an utterly corrupt process run by lobbyists and special interests with no concern for the national interest

And veeerrrryyy second hand

From Huffington.

Dr. Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Ambassador to Iraq, made the off the record prediction that the US will go into Syria to combat insurgents that have been using the country as a staging ground for terrorist activity in Iraq.

Ambassador Khalilzad’s comments were made at businessman Teddy Forstmann's annual off the record gathering in Aspen, Colorado this weekend.


Pretty good Frank Rich

Pretty good oped by Frank Rich. Enjoy it, I think the NYTimes pay for editorials starts tomorrow.

ONCE Toto parts the curtain, the Wizard of Oz can never be the wizard again. He is forever Professor Marvel, blowhard and snake-oil salesman. Hurricane Katrina, which is likely to endure in the American psyche as long as L. Frank Baum's mythic tornado, has similarly unmasked George W. Bush.

UPDATE: Pretty harsh Doonesbury, too.