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Conservative Political Commentary

Quote of the Day

Lady Liberty

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Missing Rita
posted by Bathus

I live in Houston.

At this very moment, as Hurricane Rita takes aim at my home city, I'm high and dry, well out of harm's way. In fact, I'm almost ashamed to admit where I am: Aspen, Colorado.

To celebrate my wife's fiftieth birthday, we've been vacationing here for the last week. In the mountain sky, close and clear, it's easy for me to count my lucky stars.

We were originally scheduled to return to Houston tomorrow morning. We thought about staying here in Aspen for a few more days, but the money is running out, and--though it would be insane to go back to Houston when half the city is evacuating--I still want to be a little closer to home. So instead of going home to Houston, tomorrow we'll be flying into Dallas where my dad will pick us up and take us to his place out in the country near Hillsboro. We'll stay there until Rita has done her damage, and then on Sunday or Monday we'll drive down to Houston to see what's left of our house.

UPDATE 09/25/05: Much to be thankful for! Houston was largely spared Rita's wrath. And because we were already out of town on vacation when Rita began her approach to the Gulf Coast, we were doubly lucky to avoid the chaos of the Houston evacuation, which turned out to be worse than the storm itself. Friday night we flew from Aspen to Dallas, and we've spent the last few days relaxing at my dad's place in the country.

Our next door neighbor, who did not evacuate, reports that our house came through unscathed, but the electricity has been out in our area since 5:00 a.m. Saturday. So, rather than hurrying home to a house without A/C (unbearable in Houston's 100 degree heat and 99 percent humidity!), we'll sit tight right here until the returning traffic eases up and the electricity is restored. I'm guessing we'll make it back home Monday or Tuesday.

UPDATE 09/26/05: We're home!

Traffic on the main routes from Dallas to Houston was still a little clogged, so we took the back roads. Took a little longer than usual, but we're home, the electricity is back on (the food in the freezer stayed frozen!), and all's well.

posted by Bathus | 9/21/2005 10:43:00 PM
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Monday, September 12, 2005

A Gift That Will Keep on Giving: The Small Business Disaster Relief Fund
posted by Bathus

A little over a week ago, when the putrid wind of post-Katrina political opportunism had yet to gather hurricane strength, I counseled Adeimantus readers that we all should try to resist the only-too-human proclivity to dissipate our frustration by descending into mutual recriminations at the height of a crisis, that we should all try to find ways to contribute positively to dealing with the challenges at hand, rather than wasting time and energy undermining our leaderships' efforts to do so.

With appropriate modesty, I am happy to report that my advice achieved its intended result--if not on a national scale, at least among faithful Adeimantus readers. Among those who read my recent post on this topic (a readership whose number easily surpasses low double digits), the level of carping dropped substantially as they turned their thoughts and efforts toward doing something positive to help people affected by the disaster.

One especially noteworthy example of a person who has eschewed public carping in favor of doing positive good work is my longtime online friend, Dan Juneau, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI). As a native son of the bayou and as a politically astute proponent of Louisiana business interests, Dan has a particularly good insight into the conditions, both recent and long-standing, that contributed to the successes and failures in the preparation for and the response to Hurricane Katrina. If he were inclined to do so, Dan could have used this disaster as a golden opportunity to make political life miserable for quite a number of prominent local, state, and national leaders on either side of the ideological divide. But instead of descending into political opportunism, Dan chose to highlight and to address a need the importance of which cannot be over-emphasized. Under Dan's capable leadership, LABI, in conjunction with the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, quickly established the Small Business Disaster Relief Fund to assist qualified small business owners in getting their operations back up and running.

We all know that meeting the immediate basic human needs of individuals displaced by this disaster has been the matter of most pressing concern. Yet, over the long haul, re-animating the economy that will make it possible for those individuals to lead productive lives independent of government assistance is perhaps even more important. In that process, the re-establishment of small businesses is the vital precondition to the long-term recovery of New Orleans and the region.

This revitalization of small business must be accomplished as rapidly as possible because small businesses provide the majority of jobs, and, as Dan Juneau wisely points out, if there are no jobs to return to, people simply will not return:
The rapid recovery of small businesses is the biggest factor in the preservation of the workforce on the Gulf Coast. If there are no jobs, there is no future-and workers will go where they can work.

It is incumbent upon those handling the public and private relief and reconstruction efforts (which follow closely behind the rescue effort) to do everything in their power to assist small businesses in their efforts to reopen and re-employ their workers.

To assist in that regard, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry-with the assistance of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation-has created a Small Business Disaster Relief Fund. The fund will provide start-up grants to Gulf Coast businesses severely impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Contributions to the fund-dollar for dollar-will be used to help get as many small businesses back into business as possible. The grants will serve as "gap funding" for things not covered by insurance. Beginning September 15, the grant application form and details can be accessed via the LABI Web site. Any business in one of the federally designated disaster parishes or counties with fewer than 100 employees on August 29, 2005 that suffered significant damage or disruption due to the hurricane is eligible to apply. Volunteers recruited from the CPA Society, the local Bar Association, and the Independent Insurance Agents will screen the applications in an anonymous system to ensure fairness.
Many of you have already dug deep into your wallets, your closets, and your cupboards to help meet the immediate essential needs of Hurricane Katrina's victims. But now I'm asking you to please dig a little deeper and to click here to give a gift that will keep on giving, a contribution to the Small Business Disaster Relief Fund.

posted by Bathus | 9/12/2005 03:30:00 PM
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Friday, September 02, 2005

Maps of New Orleans Flooding
posted by Bathus

The map below shows areas that were under water in Jefferson and Orleans parishes in New Orleans as of 8/31/2005. The image below has been stiched together from maps that are available here on a FEMA website.

On FEMA's site you can find separate and more detailed maps (pdf files) showing all areas of New Orleans that were under water in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, Plaquemines, and St. Charles parishes.

UPDATE 09/07/2005: C&C Technologies, Inc. has put together a clickable map (integrated with Google maps) that gives an estimate of floodwater crest depth at any point in New Orleans. Here's a sample screen cap:

Instructions for using the map are on this page, with a link at the bottom of that page that'll take you to the clickable map.

¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤ ¤

[Note: Because small businesses collectively provide the majority of jobs, the re-opening of small businesses will be absolutely crucial to the long-term recovery of regions affected by Hurricane Katrina. If you'd like to help small businesses put their people back to work as quickly as possible, please consider contributing to the Small Business Disaster Relief Fund. Further information is available here.]

posted by Bathus | 9/02/2005 07:36:00 PM
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Thursday, September 01, 2005

I Demand to Know Why This Disaster Isn't Being Run More Smoothly
posted by Bathus

Katrina has brought a disaster of an intensity never before experienced in this country.

Certainly in terms of physical and economic damage, perhaps in terms of loss of life and perhaps even in terms of the psychic blow to the body politic, 9/11 was by comparison a gentle autumn rain.

A great part of the man-made portion of this disaster (and in every disaster there is a man-made portion) stems from the fact that so many people did not heed the mandatory evacuation order. Although I am sure there are exceptions, I am not buying the excuse that most lacked the wherewithal to leave. Most of those who stayed behind did so, not because they had no choice, but because they made an astoundingly bad choice--one that put their own lives, and the lives of their rescuers, at grave risk. But their bad decisions are water over the dam now. One hopes that all this will count as one of the lessons learned so that if there is, heaven forbid, a "next time," the authorities will enforce and implement their evacuation orders more vigorously. But enough of that--there'll be plenty of time for recriminations later.

At this stage I don't think it's fair, or helpful, to waste time laying blame on the authorities and political leaders who have the unenviable responsibility for trying to bring order out of chaos. In the few group crises I've experienced in my life, I've observed that the most useless people--the ones you just want to throttle and toss overboard--are the ones who are constantly bitching about how incompetent the leadership is. The only thing these whiners accomplish is to make everyone angry at everyone else and to make others feel more helpless, lost, and miserable than they are already. The best use to make of such people (assuming one is not permitted to give them a massive injection of thorazine) is to sit them down well off to the side where they can't get in the way, give them a box of pencils and a fat spiral notebook, and tell them that they have been specially selected for the very important assignment of making a list of everything that is totally screwed up.

Their list might actually come in handy later.

But right now there isn't time to have an election to choose new leadership. We are stuck with the fallible humans we have collectively put in charge. So instead of bitching about the people in leadership positions, it would be better if we all try to refrain from carping, find a way to be useful, or at least provide moral support to the ones who are trying their best to make things better, give calm and constructive advice if in a position to do so, and pull together instead of apart.

If you can't do that right now, then kindly please do shut the hell up.

Yes, we've noticed things are screwed up. We had heard that disasters usually don't run smoothly, but thank you so much for reminding us. Yes, all sorts of things that should have been done, both before and after this disaster struck, were left undone or done in a way that now looks ridiculous. Yes, even now all sorts of things that could be done differently aren't being done exactly the right way at exactly the right speed. Yes, it's pandemonium. We'd really appreciate it if you would try not to add to it. If you've got an idea that might work better, let's talk it over quickly and quietly, without getting bogged down on who's to blame for this or that.

Whatever you do, don't you dare start agitating about race and class. If you do that, then as far as I'm concerned you're worse than the street looters. In a time of crisis, you brazenly loot the stores of the public trust to haul off a garbage bag full of ephemeral political trinkets. I hope you drown under the weight of it in hell's molten brimstone.

The right steps to take in a crisis always seem obvious to people who have no responsibility for getting something done in that crisis. Decisions are easy when nothing depends upon them. So if pointing out the leaderships' failures is the only contribution you have to offer at the moment, then come sit over here in this quiet corner where there's a big box of pencils with your name on it.

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[Note: Because small businesses collectively provide the majority of jobs, the re-opening of small businesses will be absolutely crucial to the long-term recovery of regions affected by Hurricane Katrina. If you'd like to help small businesses put their people back to work as quickly as possible, please consider contributing to the Small Business Disaster Relief Fund. Further information is available here.]

posted by Bathus | 9/01/2005 08:52:00 PM
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