Showing posts with label hurricane. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hurricane. Show all posts

Thursday, September 05, 2019

The emperor has no brain

The president of the United States is pictured here expecting
Americans to buy what no second-grade teacher would

This will not be a lengthy post, mainly because I don't know what you really can say about displays of Category 5 crazy.

Either you recognize moonbattery when you see it . . . or you're a moonbat.

President Donald Trump proved once again Wednesday that he's a couple tacos shy of a combination plate. The man (or one of his obsequious staffers) doctored -- with a black marker, no less -- a hurricane forecast map from last week to "prove" that Alabama so too coulda been "hit hard" by Hurricane Dorian.

All because Trump tweeted this Sunday morning:


NOW, BY SUNDAY morning, everybody following the storm (except Trump, apparently) knew Dorian was going to come nowhere near Alabama. The only way you could write what Trump wrote in his tweet is if you are a) bat-shit crazy, b) suffering from dementia, c) have no fucking idea which of those states down there is Alabama . . . or d) all of the preceding.

My money's on D.

Trump began tweeting Sunday morning at 7:25. Between then and 7:58 a.m., he tweeted, retweeted and rage tweeted a number of things. Three of the retweets, in chronological order were these:



IN THE LAST retweet, the National Weather Service forecast map shows a small probability of tropical-storm force winds over a tiny sliver of southeastern Alabama. That would be if the hurricane tracked to the western periphery of the cone of uncertainty -- that is a far, far cry from "will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated."

But what you gonna do? Dotards gonna dotard. Trump's "Alabama" tweet came at 9:51 a.m. Sunday, after all these contradictory retweets.

The non-delusional community quickly responded to all this with a collective "What the fuck?" The press weighed in with a series of "the president erroneously tweeted. . . " dispatches, which is what journalists say when they really mean "What the fuck?"

Many think Trump doctored this as well.
And because the narcissistic nut job in control of 6,000-something nuclear weapons cannot ever be wrong about anything, he soon began rage tweeting about the lying fake-news media's lies about his inability to read a damn map with "circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explainin' what each one was." For the record, my beautiful and intelligent wife predicted he would do exactly that.

I was just trying to figure out exactly how drunk I could get before Trump managed to bring about the End of Days.

Then came Wednesday. And the press availability in the Oval Office. And the hurricane map from last week with the Marks-A-Lot makeover.

I WAS WRONG. In this Era of Truthicide, posts about what used to be self-evident can expand way beyond what used to be necessary. You can write reams attempting to convince cultists and true-believers-in-the-unbelievable that the craziness in plain sight is both crazy and in plain sight.

It is a fool's errand, and I plead guilty. In my defense, the alternative is surrender and despair.

In this Age of Trump, is it better to be a fool cupping one's hands around a flickering, dying flame of hope, or better to be a realistic fatalist awaiting the end of one's country . . . one's world . . . the end of reason and truth?

That's the question -- one of the questions -- confronting a country led by an idiot man-child coloring on government maps to make lies into something like the truth.

I don't know what's going to happen between now and November 2020. All I know is this -- whatever happens, however the Age of Trump ends, that this might somehow all end well lies well outside the Cone of Uncertainty.

Farther even than Alabama.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Here's your Enemies of the American People, a**holes


As Hurricane Michael hit Panama City, Fla., this afternoon with a massive storm surge and 155 mph sustained winds, the staff of WMBB television were in the studio, on the air and getting the news out.

That is, until the folks at News 13 weren't. The cement building was shaking, viewers could hear the roar of the wind outside the station, the wind gauge blew of the roof . . . and then Michael blew WMBB off the air and left the studios and newsroom dark.

Then this happened on Facebook. Live. Via somebody's cellphone.

My wife's college newspaper, the Daily Nebraskan, used to have a T-shirt with the motto "Don't Let the Bastards Get You Down." That's how journalists roll. Even when the bastard is an almost-Category 5 hurricane.

Here's your damn "Enemies of the American People," folks.

And if this can't keep the "fake news media" down, neither will the halfwit tangerine toadstool-in-chief, nor will the other little Hitlers who occupied the Republican Party and populate Donald Trump's Nuremberg for Dummies rallies.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I've seen this movie before


So this is what it looks like inside a tornado.

Yep. This looks right to me.

In 1971, when I was 10½ years old,  Hurricane Edith was headed toward Baton Rouge, so my folks decided to keep me home from school. Now Edith wasn't much of a hurricane, but it seemed as good an excuse as any to not bother schlepping your sorry butt to the bus stop and spending the day at school . . . during a hurricane.

To tell you the truth, what we got out of Edith in Louisiana's capital city was more akin to a tropical storm -- no wild tales to amaze your Yankee friends with. The morning of Sept. 16, 1971 was starting to look like a complete kid hurricane-adventure bust. Hell, my old man was even at work at the Enjay Chemical plant.


For a real storm, they batten down the hatches on those suckers. Now who was going to run the camp stove, huh? In the Gret Stet, a hurricane is no excuse not to cook.

So everything was looking OK, which meant, to a kid, that it wasn't OK at all. Thunderstorms . . . meh. The most exciting thing was the street was flooded, and the water came halfway to the house.

Then something happened.

MY MOM was on the phone with my grandma, I think, when the sky went as black as night. I'd never seen anything like that before.

"Mama! Look at how black the clouds are!" I recall saying, just before all hell broke loose. There was a roar like a crapload of freight trains or jet engines, take your pick. There was a swirling whitish, grayish cloud -- pea soup doing the St. Vitus Dance -- out of which leaves, shingles, pink Fiberglas insulation . . . you name it . . . would emerge, stick to the front jalousie windows for a second or two, then blow away.

I was looking out the windows the whole time, transfixed. My mother was crying hysterically to Jesus. There were no tornado sirens in Baton Rouge, and we had no warning until the tornado announced itself.

Apart from watching the maelstrom, I was trying to calm Mama down. The thought did briefly occur to me that we might die.

Then . . . quiet.


THEN THE RADIO, which was tuned to WLCS, erupted with "(Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!) BULLETIN! BULLETIN! BULLETIN! (Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!) BULLETIN! BULLETIN! BULLETIN! (Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!)" It was a "tornado alert."

Thanks for the heads-up, y'all.

Surveying outside the house, the hanging address placard had blown off its chains and was out in the yard. The façade of the house was tar papered with green leaves, and Fiberglas was all over the place.

The street and the front yard were bone dry. Later, we'd hear that some houses the next street over were missing their roofs. And a shopping center and some apartments less than a mile away were all torn up.

The State-Times that afternoon said a "small tornado or tornadoes skipped across the Sherwood Forest area." The official weather records put it down as an F-3 -- not exactly "small."

To me, the Tornado From Edith was a marker -- a dividing line. You had life before the thing, and then life after it.

In life after Edith, hurricanes weren't "fun" adventures. They were damn serious business, and those of us who'd been on the business end of one -- or the twisters they spawn -- stood ready to deck any idiot who thought they weren't.

I've seen things. Look at the video, and you'll see what I saw that day.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Why they stay; why we won't go

(New York) Daily News

Some people.
 
Sandy the Superstorm has laid waste to large chunks of the Eastern Seaboard -- most notably, New York City and the Jersey Shore -- and some people's first reaction is to wonder why the suffering souls they see on the TV news didn't get the hell out of Dodge.

I have some thoughts on that. 

They were there because it was home. Was.

 Is?

They also were there because, generally unused to hurricanes, they couldn't believe how bad the wind and surge could be. And who thought an inferno would start amid the flood? Memories of what happened in New Orleans with Katrina are short . . . except for those of the looting, and of families there who may have escaped the federal flood but were cleaned out by the feral among them whose daily existence is preying upon their neighbors.

That's why they stayed.

Was it a particularly bright idea to stay? Hell, no. But the human instinct is to try to protect what one has worked a lifetime for, and the fear of abandoning one's home oftentimes is greater than the fear of nature's fury.

I'm waiting for someone to wonder why in the world anyone would live in New York, which sits so perilously astride the ocean fierce, which awaits the first opportunity to reclaim it, if but for a short while.You know, just like some people did about New Orleans in Katrina's murderous wake.

It happens every time.

THE ANSWER is the same as that of the citizens of New Orleans, and of the smaller communities of Plaquemines Parish, La., whose homes were sent under the waves by Category 1 Isaac this August. They live there because it's home, the place they know and love . . . and the people they know and love. It is who they are. In large part, it made them who they are.

No matter where you live, you very well could be done in by something -- hurricane, flood, tornado, earthquake, wildfire, drought, tsunami or blizzard. Such is life in this fallen world and on this wild and perilous planet.

I was born and raised in south Louisiana and have lived almost half my life in Nebraska. I know hurricanes, I know tornadoes, too, and I have come to know drought, catastrophic thunderstorms and blizzards. Folks down South wonder why I'd willingly live in a place where summer can bring 110-degree days and winter can hit you with 25-below-zero cold and snow drifts up to your neck.

It's the same reason they refuse to pack up and move because of air you nearly can drink and catastrophes you know by name that blow in off the Gulf of Mexico to try and kill you. It's because Nebraska is home now. I love it, and it's where the people I know and love stand beside me to brave whatever curveball nature chooses to throw at us. Because between the bad times and the peril lies the beauty and the wonder of the Great Plains.
 
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
HERE, JUST beyond Omaha's suburban sprawl, lies a horizon that stretches beyond all telling, rolling hills that give this wild land its texture and an endless expanse of sky brilliant with untold billions of stars. The threat of an F5 tornado once in a blue moon is nothing in the face of a landscape "charged with the grandeur of God."

I imagine the good people of New York and New Jersey feel the same way about endless beaches, the Manhattan skyline, boardwalks and an ocean that stretches beyond the blue horizon. I grew up feeling that way about the Mississippi River, upon which my hometown of Baton Rouge was built 313 years ago.

And the Mississippi can kill you in a New York second in more ways than you can list.

I know why people live on peril's edge in New York and on the Jersey Shore, and I can understand why -- foolish as it ultimately was -- they balked at surrendering their homes and home places to nature's fury without a fight, futile as that usually is.

I suggest that instead of second-guessing people who probably already are second-guessing themselves, we instead hold out a hand -- preferably one filled with cash -- to our brother and sister Americans during their darkest hour.

No man is an island, even though he might live on one, and we never know when we will be next in fate's crosshairs.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fire and rain


Won't you look down on me, Jesus
You've got to help me make a stand
You've just got to see me through another day
My body's aching and my time is at hand
And I won't make it any other way

Oh, I've seen fire and I've seen rain
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I'd see you again

I’ve been walking my mind to an easy time
My back turned towards the sun
Lord knows the cold wind blows,

it’ll turn your head around
Well, there’s hours of time on the telephone line
To talk about things to come
Sweet dreams and flying machines
in pieces on the ground.
-- Fire and Rain (1970)
James Taylor

That dead Russian egomaniac in the attic


Every man is an island . . . until it hits the fan.

Add this to the list of memos the fruitcake-dominated Republican Party never got. And not getting your memos has consequences.

Thus we had the spectacle today of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie -- a nationally prominent Republican once high on the party's presidential wish list -- singing the praises of the Antichrist, otherwise known as President Obama. The reason? Christie thinks the prez is doing a bang-up job coordinating the federal response to Hurricane Sandy, which has devastated the governor's state and inflicted great suffering on his waterlogged people and many others.

Things like massive hurricanes almost always aim right for the underbelly of the good-time Ayn Rand disciples who stole the brain -- not to mention the heart -- of a once-great political party as they lurch about like Stepford pols droning on about self-reliance, the evils of government, blah, blah, blah, blecch.

In other words, every man is an island. I got mine. Eff you.

Then the day comes when the island gets swamped by a massive storm surge amid a nasty hurricane. And your Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, once argued that the federal government ought to get out of the catastrophe-fixing business because catastrophes are expensive and we're broke.



IN OTHER WORDS, Romney was against FEMA until he was for it. Which was . . . right about now.

The Christian Science Monitor recalls one of the approximately 468 GOP presidential debates last year:
The topic under discussion was the role of the federal government, and which functions Washington keeps. Moderator John King turned to Mr. Romney and asked him about disaster relief, following the tornado that struck Joplin, Mo., the month before.

“FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we're learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role,” Mr. King said. “How do you deal with something like that?”

Romney’s response: “Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that's even better.

“Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut – we should ask ourselves the opposite question,” Romney continued. “What should we keep? We should take all of what we're doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we're doing that we don't have to do? And those things we've got to stop doing, because we're borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we're taking in. We cannot ...”

King interjected: “Including disaster relief, though?”

Romney replied: “We cannot – we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we'll all be dead and gone before it's paid off. It makes no sense at all.”

Fast-forward to now. Contacted by the media, the Romney campaign asserts that Romney would not abolish FEMA, but still prefers that states take the lead in disaster response.

“Governor Romney believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions,” Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement to Politico. “As the first responders, states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA.”
THE BOTTOM LINE of this amorphous public-policy Randianism so in fashion among conservatives is that if it's all about me, it's not all about you. Or about us.

That's a problem when the default for humanity is to live in community. Together. Not on our own private islands protected by the wide expanse of the Eff You Sea.

Protected, that is, until the Eff You Sea rises up to engulf you, and there's no one with the reach or strength to pluck your rational self-interest out of the storm-tossed waters.

* * *

SOMETHING just occurred to me: At what point does this present Republican nutjobbery actually become nothing more than an ongoing argument against the Constitution and in favor of the Articles of Confederation?

Which we recall worked out so well at the time. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy has a vowel movement


Now, does the extratropical weather system formerly known as Sandy -- or, perhaps, Sndy -- hate vowels, or just hate Gannett?

If it's the latter, she'll have to get in line with lots of employees . . . and former ones.

To every thing there is a season

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

There is a time and a place for everything. Even being an a-hole.
 
The press refer to Chris Christie as being "tough-talking," "straight-talking" or simply "blunt." Now you've seen the guy on TV, and you no doubt have read about some of his encounters with ordinary citizens of the Garden State who might be less than enthusiastic about his tenure as governor.

You know what the guy is, is what I'm trying to say here.

But, as the Good Book says, there is a time and place for all things, and if it's in the Good Book, it must be so:
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven;
a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
HURRICANE SANDY, my friend, is Chris Christie's time in Noo Joisey:
Governor Christie said during a 12 p.m. briefing Monday that conditions will worsen as Sandy makes landfall and anyone who stayed along the coast to ride out the storm is “now in harm’s way.”

“I read some joker in the newspaper…saying he’s never run away from one of these [storms]. Well, you might end up under it…this is not a time to be stupid,” said Christie.

The governor urged residents to stay off the roads, use caution and heed warnings.

He also had a warning regarding power outages.

“If you do not have power, please do not choose today to tap into your creative juices and jerry-rig a [power source],” said Christie. “If it looks stupid, it is stupid.”
LISTEN to the a-hole. If it looks stupid, it is stupid.

Stay safe out there on the Joisey shore. Hurricanes ain't nothing to mess with.

Jim Cantore: Sign of the Apocalypse

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Don't look at me, it's in the Bible.

Somewhere in the back, as that great theologian Homer Simpson has duly noted in the past.
And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.

And I saw, and behold a white satellite truck: and he that stood at its side had a microphone; and a Weather Channel rain slicker was given unto him: and he went forth into the gale from lower Manhattan, and into the Great Flood.
BASICALLY, I think what the Lord is trying to tell us here is that if there is a great wind and a mighty tide over the horizon, and Jim Cantore appears on your shoreline, perhaps you need to make your peace with Him -- God, not Jim -- before putting your head between your legs and kissing your ass goodbye.

And when that shoreline is lower Manhattan, well. . . .

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pet Clark's hurricane-survival tip


With Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the Northeast and forecasters getting their Apocalypse on, Petula Clark has some timely storm-preparation advice in advance of the end of days.

Indeed. Do not sleep in the subway, darlin'.


You might drown.

Monday, August 27, 2012

#*@! you and the false idol you worship


As a native of south Louisiana who seven years ago watched on TV as New Orleans drowned -- and whose hometown of Baton Rouge is gonna get whacked by Isaac -- I would just like to say to Rev. Airhead of the Fashion-Challenged Church of God's Own Party that . . . never mind.

It's not fit for print.

I will say, though, that the God you worship seems to me to be a pretty piss-poor caricature of the Creator of the universe. Furthermore, you might be surprised at what the Holy Trinity really thinks of the Republican Party, not to mention nimnals such as yourself.



HAT TIP: Rod Dreher.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The biggest loser (with the biggest megaphone)


I wonder how many "dittoheads" were listening to the latest from Rush Limbaugh as they mucked out their flooded houses?

Or made arrangements for the funeral of a loved one lost to "overhyped" Hurricane Irene?

Or sat in a sweltering, darkened house with a battery-powered radio?


From Business Insider:
"I'll guarantee you Obama was hoping this was going to be a disaster as another excuse for his failing economy," he said. "If he's out there blaming tsunamis, if he's blaming earthquakes, and whatever natural disasters there are, this one was made to order, but it just didn't measure up."


I guess this was just Vermont's warning from God about Bernie Sanders.
Right?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Just a little Category 2 hurricane

For more than 108 years, the Markham-Albertson-Stinson Cottage has stood watch over Old Nags Head, N.C., as in this picture from last year.

Did I say "has stood watch"?


I'm sorry, I meant had stood watch.

It had survived all manner of hurricanes, squalls and nor'easters since 1903. Three families had whole worlds wrapped in its weathered timbers.

It could not survive "just" a piddly Category 2 hurricane named Irene this weekend. Eventually, worlds cease to be, except in blessed memory.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

Friday, August 26, 2011

3 Chords & the Truth: Tunes for a stormy day


I grew up during a heyday for hurricanes on the Gulf Coast.

The first I actually remember was Hilda in 1964. What sticks in my mind was my confusion as to whom this Hilda person was and why she was in the news. I pictured in my mind a middle-aged lady who had been in a bad car wreck.

I am not making this up. At any rate, I was soon to learn otherwise.


WHEN YOU'RE a little kid, hurricanes meant one thing: You got to camp inside. Quilts on the living room floor. Hurricane lamps. Candles. Battery radios. No lights. Picnic food at home.

Too, you got to stay up way late. Hilda, and Betsy the next year, were nighttime hurricanes. And who the hell could sleep through all the howling and banging outside?

What we needed then -- but didn't have then -- was 3 Chords & the Truth, and lots of tasty storm tunes, on the transistor radio. An iPod also would have been nice in the mid-'60s, but back then that would have been an unmistakable sign of an alien invasion.

ANYWAY, you guessed it . . . not that you really had to guess. This week's episode of the Big Show features a great big heapin' helpin' of songs to hunker down with if you happen to be on the East Coast of the United States.

If you're not, enjoy anyway. Then save the show for when you need it, all right?

It's kind of like having a hurricane party on an MP3 file, only you're not too liquored up to save your own butt if the occasion presents itself. In other words, make the best of the situation . . . but be careful out there.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there (and stay put, for cryin' out loud). Aloha.

Monday, December 20, 2010

If Nash said it. . . .


If there are Marks-a-Lots in heaven, we're gonna be all right. Nash Roberts will have the weather covered.

The legendary New Orleans weatherman and hurricane guru got promoted to the ultimate Weather Center this weekend at age 92.

If it was a storm, and if it was in the Gulf of Mexico, Nash Roberts had it covered, and he pretty much always knew where it was going to end up -- and this in the age of doing math on paper, peering into World War II-vintage radar scopes and drawing TV weather maps with a black, felt-tip marker.

If Nash said it, it must be so -- that's what about three generations of folks in south Louisiana came to think of the fixture on Channels 4, 6 and 8. May the Good Lord see things the same way as ol' Nash -- the poor, sunken city of New Orleans' meteorological guardian angel -- gets sent up to the majors.


WWL-TV
in New Orleans announced the sad news Sunday evening:
During a career that lasted more than 50 years on local television, New Orleans viewers came to trust his calm and accurate forecasts so much so that the question “What does Nash say?” was the way many gauged the potential impact of an impending weather system.

“Sometimes I wish I knew myself why I am right,” Roberts said in a 1998 interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “But a portion of it is just instinctive. It’s just a talent I have.”

Roberts retired from meteorology and his on-air role at WWL-TV during hurricane season in 2001. Throughout his career, he was the informed and educated voice of calm and reason, and his forecasting with felt-tip pens (which served him well, years into the high-tech age of broadcast meteorology) helped illustrate the direction of hurricanes since 1947. When he was inducted into the Greater New Orleans Broadcasters Association’s New Orleans Broadcasting Hall of Fame, the group commented that Roberts had been on the air longer than 95 percent of the stations in the country. By the time he retired, Roberts had worked at three of the city’s television stations.

For over five decades, the New Orleans native was a rock of stability during trying times: the horror of Hurricane Audrey in 1957, the devastation of Hurricanes Betsy and Camille in the 1960s, and the heart-stopping threat of Hurricane Georges in 1998. Roberts was there through it all, with his simple map, felt-tipped pen and lifetime of weather wisdom.

The Times-Picayune summed up Roberts’ impact in 199
8, in a special issue commemorating 50 years of television in New Orleans: “His power is tremendous. Some of us won't go to sleep until Nash says it's OK. His strong suit is personal forecasts - a mix of hunch and 50 years of knowledge - mapped out in Magic Marker.”
NASH ROBERTS is gone. Now the Gulf Coast is stuck with those damned computer models, none of which was produced by a supercomputer with even a fraction as much processing power as a certain meteorologist's brain.

Monday, August 30, 2010

. . . and if the Gulf don't rise


This is a storm surge.

This was what Katrina was like in St. Bernard Parish, La. -- Aug. 29, 2005.

This is why, when the authorities tell you to get your ass out of Dodge, you get your ass out of Dodge. And as we allow the Louisiana coastal wetlands to disappear, this is the fate awaiting some people who never took an inch of water from Katrina.


THERE ALWAYS
will be another Katrina. Just like there was another Betsy, and another Camille.

And the next one just might blow through the wetlands that are no more and take out the port that delivers a third of the oil and gas to which you are currently addicted.

Happy motoring, America.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Killing Cassandra


It's like a scene out of the ruins of postwar Europe. There's a denuded landscape and desperation is in the air.

Desperate people are doing desperate things, among them women trading their virtue for greenback American dollars. Or nylons and Hershey bars. You need what you need, and you'll sell anything -- or anyone -- to get it.

Even one's soul. Humanity can be ugly that way.

The principle holds, even when the denuded landscape is merely financial and we're talking federal grants instead of Spam or candy bars. We all have our reasons for prostituting ourselves, but objective reality tells us nevertheless that a whore is a whore is a whore.

MY ALMA MATER, Louisiana State University, is a whore. For indeterminate reason$, but following year$ of official hara$$ment, it finally ha$ fired the Ca$$andra of Katrina -- profe$$or Ivor van Heerden of the L$U Hurricane Center. Van Heerden was the man who headed up the state's investigation into why New Orleans' levees failed during the storm, killing hundreds upon hundreds of people.

And he was the man who tried to tell people what would -- and did -- happen to the city if and when a storm just like Katrina struck. He was ignored then; he's been fired now.

Why?

THE REASON probably was
pretty well outlined in a 2006 New York Times article:

To many in Louisiana this outspokenness has made Dr. van Heerden a hero. But at his university it has gotten him called on the carpet for threatening the institution's relationship with the federal government and the research money that comes with that. Last November two vice chancellors at Louisiana State — Michael Ruffner, in charge of communications for the university, and Harold Silverman, who leads the office of research — brought him in for a meeting. As Dr. van Heerden recalled in an interview in Baton Rouge, La., the two administrators — one of whom controlled his position, which is nontenured — said that "they would prefer that I not talk to the press because it could hurt L.S.U.'s chances of getting federal funding in the future."

The administrators told him to work through the university's media relations department instead.

Dr. van Heerden regarded the meeting as a threat to his career. "I actually spoke to my wife about it that night," he remembered, "and said: 'Look, we need to recognize that I could lose my job. Are we prepared for that? Because I'm not going to stop.'"
HERE'S ANOTHER SIDE of that same story from Thursday's New Orleans Times-Picayune:
A version of Ruffner's letter also appeared in The New York Times, which prompted [hurricane center chief Marc] Levitan to demand a meeting with Ruffner to get a retraction and an apology on van Heerden's behalf. Although he does not have an engineering degree, van Heerden was granted a doctorate in marine sciences by LSU in 1983, and the research he had overseen at his health center was aimed at determining the potential for hurricane storm surge to overtop the New Orleans levee system.

"I brought a copy of Ivor's resume, showed him his background and degrees and a copy of the summary of the Team Louisiana contract that Ivor was appointed to head, " Levitan said Thursday. He also pointed out that van Heerden had issued his critiques of the corps as the director of the forensic investigation, which included a team of scientists and civil engineers.

Ruffner refused to retract the letter or apologize, Levitan said.

"At this point, Ruffner also mentioned to me -- and this was still in the post-Katrina environment when, every single day, hurricanes were front-page news -- that van Heerden was causing problems with the Hurricane Center and if he were no longer part of the center, things would probably be better for the Hurricane Center on campus, " Levitan said, "at which point, I told him to go stuff it and walked out of his office."

Levitan, still an engineering professor in the university's department of civil and environmental engineering, said he expects to be criticized by LSU's leadership for revealing his meeting with the chancellors to the media.

"But it's time for me to come to his defense, " Levitan said. "For someone who has done so much for LSU and the state, this is uncalled for."
IF LSU was that terrified of the threat van Heerden posed to its access to federal grant money during the fat times of 2006, imagine the panic and paranoia running through Thomas Boyd Hall now the state is gutting the school's budget during the Depression of Aught Nine.

Obviously scared enough that the non-tenured van Heerden, who also was removed as deputy director of the Hurricane Center, will be gone when his contract is up next spring. Again, the Times-Picayune:

Also, engineering professor Marc Levitan has stepped down as the center's director. University officials say they will reshape the center's research direction in the wake of the moves.

Van Heerden will remain director of the LSU Center for the Study of Public Health Impacts of Hurricanes, financed by a $3.65 million Louisiana Board of Regents Health Excellence Fund, until his LSU contract ends next year.

LSU officials have refused to address the van Heerden decision, citing the school's policy of not commenting about personnel matters.

"Legally, we're not allowed to comment on any kind of personnel action, " said spokeswoman Kristine Calongne. "We're bound by confidentiality of our employees."

Van Heerden said the university would not give him a reason, either. David Constant, interim dean of LSU's College of Engineering, told him the decision "wasn't due to my performance. But he couldn't tell me why," van Heerden said.
WELL, IF IT WASN'T due to his performance, and if van Heerden hasn't been arrested for something, that narrows the range of what we're to think, now, doesn't it?

And I think the LSU administration is standing on the rubble-strewn street corner, wearing its best come-hither face and saying "Hey, Uncle Sam! You gotta some nylons, I gotta some. . . . (winks)"


The cost of this institutional prostitution will be high, primarily for the long-suffering residents of Louisiana. By all accounts, the LSU Hurricane Center -- and van Heerden -- had been doing yeoman's work, in addition to gaining favorable attention for the university. Furthermore, it is without doubt that the center's work and van Heerden's post-Katrina quest -- if allowed to proceed unhindered -- would have saved many lives.

Would have. Because, you see, that work and van Heerden's quest have just been hindered by the university. One that allegedly exists in the public interest.

And, really, since when have Louisiana's government and its public institutions been all about the public good?

SOME MIGHT SAY Ivor van Heerden's firing is just par for the course at a crooked little school in a crooked little state. I'd suspect they're probably right. I'd also suspect that a lot fewer Louisianians will care about this LSU personnel matter than care passionately and obsessively about who's in and who's out at the LSU Athletic Department.

If Les Miles gets fired because LSU can't win enough football games, the only losers are Miles and the boosters who have to ante up to buy out his massive contract. But if the university is going around firing environmental scientists and "reshaping" its hurricane center's "research direction" because it doesn't like the inconvenient truths LSU scientists unearth, that's going to get somebody -- or a lot of somebodies -- killed.

Despicable.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

And if you're still not convinced. . . .


Did I mention that Hurricane Ike was only a strong Category 2 storm when it plowed into the Texas coast?

This is why you evacuate


These government before-Ike and after-Ike pictures of Texas' Bolivar Peninsula is why you get the hell out of Dodge when The Man says "Get the hell out of Dodge."

As anyone in south Louisiana will tell you -- well, anyone but the really stupid and the really foolish -- you don't mess around with hurricanes. Hurricanes have lots of ways they can kill you.

And they have lots more ways they can kill you if you do something stupid. Like stay on the coast when one's aimed at you.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Analyzing cable's coverage of Ike


As we watch, for the 400th time, the "new video" of cars creeping around debris on Texas roads today in the wake of Hurricane Ike -- both in stand-alone mode and in multiple frames on the TV screen -- it reminds us cable news is almost as good a parody of itself as was the most devastatingly funny send up of television news ever.

That would be Saturday Night Live's "death of Buckwheat" sketch from March 1983.

All that needs to be said about television news got said 25 years ago. Enjoy.