Harvey: Working together for the common good

I happened upon a list of 71 shelters opened in the Houston area, and the makeup of that list is remarkable to me. 27 churches, 22 schools, and 22 “other” (homeless/abuse shelters, VFW halls, Gallery Furniture, etc.)
From the largest facility (GRB, Lakewood) to the smallest neighborhood church or women’s shelter, this mix is, I believe, emblematic of the spirit of America, and of the spirit of Texas. It’s embodied not in separation, but in collaboration and cooperation. We prosper because we want our neighbor to prosper. We want the same health and happiness for them as we want for ourselves. We want to survive the storm, and we want our neighbor to survive the storm. We rebuild — together.
We might spit and fight like cats and dogs on political and economic matters, but when a neighbor needs help, Americans step up, and many step out in faith. There is no skin color, there is no religion, there is no socioeconomic status, there is no sociopolitical bent that separates us as citizens of the United States of America.
God bless Texas. God bless America!
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TD/TS/Hurricane Harvey: To Evacuate or Not to Evacuate

I did not write this, and do not want to subject the friend who I’ve copied it from to any unwanted attention because of it. I do not know who the original author is, but extend to that person my thanks and deep appreciation for writing such an excellent post.


For those not affected by Harvey but are wondering how bad it really is in the Houston area and why, this is for you.

First of all, this is being called a catastrophic flooding event, not simply serious or even severe. Catastrophic. Not even a 100-year flood (which we seem to get pretty regularly these days) but a flood of the millennium.

Houston is flat. Houston is exceedingly large in area. There’s a LOT of concrete and buildings, not an abundance of green areas (but we’re trying), and heavy clay soil. The area is criss-crossed by untold number of waterways – dry most of the time and often ignored – and new construction requires building retention ponds nearby (also empty most of the time).

Most of the time, when it rains here, everything works as it is designed without too many problems. When we get a lot of rain, concrete and clay soil don’t absorb water and the runoff heads to ditches, retention ponds, creeks and bayous. It’s not unusual to have street flooding when drainage systems are overwhelmed but it usually goes down fairly quickly. We are known for many low spots in major roads and drivers regularly ignore warning signs and/or media reports, choosing instead to drive through…and suffer the consequences (from ruining their car to drowning).

Then comes Hurricane Harvey.

All kinds of weather people predicted exactly what ended up happening – Harvey strengthened to a Cat 4 right before coming ashore and proceeded to stall as intensity diminished. Unfortunately it stalled right where the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico continued to feed the storm. The right side, known as the dirty side, continues absorbing water and building the outer rain bands while another front tries to push it down from the north, resulting in continuing the counterclockwise motion of a tropical storm. And so all of this weather sits on top of Houston, the 4th largest city in our country.

Now… mix weather and geography… and we end up with catastrophic flooding.

The big question I’ve heard asked is why didn’t you all evacuate? Uh, no. First rule of hurricanes – evacuate from storm surge and wind, not rain. Besides, evacuation was tried when Hurricane Rita threatened us. People jumped in their cars and promptly got trapped in a massive traffic jam lasting almost 24 hours. They ran out of gas, and food, and patience. It was hot, Texas hot. No bathrooms. Around 100 people died in this fruitless evacuation, fruitless because Rita turned away and ignored Houston.
So why didn’t everyone prepare for this? Actually most people did but even though massive flooding was expected, Houston is so very large that you simply cannot predict exact spots of flooding. Many spots now flooded have NEVER flooded, even in the recent hundred-year-floods. There has been so much rainfall that it simply overwhelms everything designed to move it away. And the rain continues…in fact, the flash flood warning has been extended to *Wednesday*. That is 3 more days of this because the remnants of Harvey are not going away anytime soon. Plus, as the rain falls on Houston it is still raining to the west of us and waterways there drain toward the Houston area, AND the storm continues to push Gulf waters toward land making it difficult for waters to drain into the Gulf.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? A perfect storm. Truly, a catastrophic event.

Can you even begin to imagine shutting down a city this size for days on end? Businesses closed. Schools closed. Cannot drive without running into roads closed by flooding. Airports closed as runways are under water. You see the pictures and videos and news reports and wonder, How? Why? You can plan as much as you can, but sometimes it’s simply not enough.

Instead, you just pitch in and help where you can, doing what you can. For some of us, it’s keeping others informed. For others, if you can get out, it’s rescuing some, feeding others, volunteering however you can. The news stations continue to show regular citizens helping others, bringing in boats to rescue those stuck in flooded homes. That is the Houston spirit we know and love. We are very thankful for all the emergency responders, many on their way from out of state but also for Houston firefighters, police, Coast Guard, National Guard and more.

We will survive. We will. We will be fine, just a bit soggy for a while. We are thankful that most of what has been lost is just “stuff” and VERY thankful that we are providing a welcome break from dismal news coverage of the hate and division in our country. Nothing like a good disaster to bring us all together.


Keith’s Note: I add this only to help readers understand the scale here: Houston proper has a population of ~2.3 million. Depending on how you draw the lines, “metro” Houston has somewhere between 4 million and 6 million souls

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Words of Wisdom from Astronaut / Shuttle Commander Eileen Collins

Eileen Collins’ witness statement from the hearing on “The Space Leadership Preservation Act and the Need for Stability at NASA” in February of this year was short, to the point, and dead on. To whit:

“I believe program cancellation decisions that are made by bureaucracies, behind closed doors, and without input by the people, are divisive, damaging, cowardly, and many times more expensive in the long run. As a shuttle commander, I would never make a huge decision without input from all the experts, even the ones I do not agree with. So what will keep us from having surprises like this that set us back years? Answer: A continuity of purpose over many years, over political administrations, and over normal changes in leadership throughout the chain of command. I know there must be ways to do this through policy, organizational structure, and strong leadership.”

Indeed. I love working at NASA (as a contractor), and I want to continue to love working at NASA. The current administration has not been helpful in this regard.

You can read the entire content here: http://spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=48489

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Free Enterprise Works – So Let It

Seeing a flurry of social media posts about the minimum wage got me to thinking that it really is a terrible idea to have a federally-mandated minimum wage at all.

Companies should pay wages that are tied to an employee’s skill set and contributions to the company’s success. In fact, they pretty much have to, otherwise employees leave to go work for companies that do. That’s how it should work. Free Enterprise as a system is pretty good at taking care of that. In fact, there’s really no reason in this age to have a federal minimum wage. Federally regulating the wage floor has hurt the U.S., not helped it. It established a “good enough” mentality at which anyone with a W-2 can be content to do the minimum effort needed to get their federally-mandated minimum wage.

We’ve all be victims of this assault on the economy. Workers who give terrible service, who don’t care about making customers happy, etc. They have, I think, the most pernicious and damaging of entitlement mentalities that the government has enabled via bad ideas like a minimum wage.

Anecdotal stories about people making minimum wage after working at McDonald’s for several years says far more about the employee than the employer. I can’t imagine being that ineffective as an employee, or having so little ambition to better my position!

Also, one cannot ignore the fact that arbitrarily hiking the minimum wage for all workers puts people at the lowest income levels OUT OF WORK. The CBO predicted it (http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/44995-MinimumWage.pdf), and it has already happened in the states that have raised the minimum wage.

Hopefully Trump and Clinton can read and do the math.

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Blame it on Trump and Clinton: I’ve Become Meme-er

Learn From History

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To Mr. Trump from a fan and a Republican: Stop. Please!

While addressed primarily to Donald Trump, I also have two additional pleas for sanity, one to the other candidates in the Republican primaries, and one to that segment of the voting public who continue to support Mr. Trump.  (N.b.:  If you’re not a voter, none of this will matter to you.)

Donald Trump: I’m a fan of The Apprentice; my wife and I have enjoyed many seasons of both the regular and celebrity flavors of the show. Clearly that sort of thing, like commercial real estate development, is in your wheelhouse. Go back to it, please.  To be blunt, you’re a transparently bad presidential prospect.  You certainly know how to appeal to patriotic emotions and national pride, and so have gained a lot of traction.  Too much traction, I believe, for the good of the American political process in general, and the Republican party in particular.

Initially I, like many others, was excited to have a self-funded candidate in the race. But you have failed — profoundly — to live up to any hopes or expectations I had for a candidate uninfluenced by donors.  I hoped we’d hear good, sound, conservative ideas from you, not colored by the influence of PACs or big spenders on your campaign.  I — we — liked, even loved certain  of your opening salvos, where you spoke with a strong public voice, conveying ideas that have been censored or quashed in current political speech. But once others started speaking, your focus changed completely from what does and can continue to make America great, to what’s wrong with the other guy.

Over the months, this sad shift never has shifted back.  Now you seem to have self-funded not a serious political campaign, but an extravagant self-promotion tour.  I believe this is not an endeavor that educated, thoughtful voters can or should respect.  Your public commentary has become increasingly substance-free, and utterly unencumbered by thoughtfulness or intellectual rigor.

It’s very disappointing.  Not to you, perhaps, but for me and others who know that words matter, that ideas matter, and that a President should be a leader in the mature application of both thought and word.

To be fair, you might actually have some good ideas, but I can’t find my way to them. Spelunking down  the ever-expanding cavern of adolescent, playground-bully-like sound bites you’ve issued forth, any well-thought-out ideas you have on leadership, policy, or getting things done as President are lost to me.

Mr. Trump, it’s not just that the substance of your candidacy is overshadowed by your use of verbal inside fighting and breaking away.  Your words and tactics, even if they are effective, embarrass me.  You appear to revel in actively and selfishly disrespecting your fellow candidates, the primary process, and the voting public.  You would argue that you’re not disrespectful, I’m sure.  But shallow and contrived ad-hominem attacks, carnyesque barking, and regular displays of personal animosity towards your opponents add up to exactly that: disrespect.  You regularly make mean and/or insipid comments that you must know are not true, then try to back away from your words, as if we who hear this verbal bile are at fault for misunderstanding you, that we somehow owe you another chance, because… why?  Because you are rich and independent, and can say what you want?

No, we don’t owe you that, and I for one will not give it to you.

Also, for everyone’s benefit, please stop making remarks of any kind on religious matters or personal faith, unless they are remarks on you and your personal experience with such things.  Nearly every comment I’ve heard from you regarding religion and faith has revealed a stunning level of ignorance.  You know from your business dealings to never pontificate on matters you have no knowledge of, lest you inevitably get caught and lose credibility.  For you,  this is clearly the case when it comes to matters of others’ faith and religion. Candidly, Donald, you come across as mean, vulgar, and stupid when you try.  I expect that from ignorant posters on Facebook, not from a candidate for President of the United States.

Show some maturity.  Own your words, examine yourself, and stop this.  Even better, drop out of the race and go back to things you do well that add value to American life.

Senators Cruz & Rubio, Governor Kasich, Dr. Carson, et al: Please keep talking about the things that truly matter to America and our future. Donald Trump is not one of those.  Engaging Mr. Trump on his level drags everyone down, and makes you individually, and the Republican field as a whole, look foolish.  Being in Texas I’ve already voted, but I will say that the four of you I’ve addressed by name here strike me as excellent candidates, and if the one I voted for does not win the nomination, I’d willingly and enthusiastically support the nominee if indeed it’s one of you.  In fact, I’d have extended that sentiment to some who have dropped out, too.  We had a really good field this time around.  Candidates Christie, Paul, Bush, Fiorina, Perry, Gilmore, and others, thank you for being willing to give it a go.  I hope we see you back again!

It’s very frustrating to me that so many of your good ideas and well-reasoned debates were given so little media coverage because of candidate Trump, the single participant who has failed to impressed me in the ways that matter when choosing a candidate for President.

Finally, to those who continue to support Mr. Trump: I used to get it, I really did.  But that time has long passed. Please, let reason and sound judgment do their work. Throw your support to one of these other candidates; listen carefully to what they say; they are all worthy of the White House, in my opinion.  We have at least four excellent candidates to choose from. Donald Trump can not be counted among them until or unless he exhibits the marks of a great leader, something he has not done in this campaign.  He has been brash, he has been loud, and he has been allowed to get away with too much shouting down others instead of engaging them in the arena of ideas (yes, I just went all Rush Limbaugh there, because Rush is right!)  Let’s not let Donald Trump win the nomination.  Not this way.

It’s time to stop the ongoing childishness.  Let’s discourage Trump-eted tantrums by ignoring them.



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