Adsense2

Monday, October 03, 2005

ASSOCIATIONS

Learn about the channels that run through our lives. Lift the smoke and set the down the drink and you will discover universes unimagined. They are not magic or unexplainable, they are the patterns and pathways that have always graced our world. Ever since young children have been able to look at the moon and express that vision to a parent, our world has offered as many different universes to the curious.

Fascination is not reserved for children or dreamers. Dreams and the mysteries of reality exist all around every living thing. These sparkling discoveries hover right beside us almost begging to be noticed.

When a person is able to accomplish something that defies an easy explanation too many of us run and hide from the mystery. Many who remain behind to explore the unknown try to couch the unknown is religious terms. Religions of the world have long been used to soothe a confused observer of some unexplained natural phenomena. Spirits, smoke and mirrors are common tools for those unwilling to deeply explore the unknown. There are so many incredible capabilities of humans yet to be understood. It seems such a shame to see them buried under tobacco, alcohol or ancient scriptures written to confound.

Humans remain buried under the daily tasks, work we are enlisted in from birth. Desires born of instinct or advertising compete for any remaining time between periods of sleep. Many humans learn to hire others to share the burden of their daily demands. These activities are all normal parts of normal lives. Parents run to the crying child, man drinks the beer shown on TV and woman finds a man to help raise her children. What could be more normal in this age?

When there is no time to explain the other mysteries of life why even bother to notice them? If we see a detailed scene in our dreams and it comes to pass soon after, why dwell on the reasons why? Who has the time to figure out why some things happen and others do not?

If an illness creeps into our lives we can hardly begin to study medicine to cure ourselves. We go to the person, a doctor, who has taken the time to study that particular mystery. We allow the doctors to treat us, our bodies heal and we go back to the sort out the tangle of tasks left neglected.

What we do when the doctor's treatment fails to heal us reveals the power of the mysterious. Many people turn to prayers when confronted by unsolvable problems. Our world is crowded with people that claim this prayer or that incantation has worked miracles for them. Who has time to learn more than a prayer when death may come knocking at any moment?

Throughout the tens of thousands of years of mankind's existence on this planet a few people have had the time and desire to really explore the unknown. These people are called "explorers."

When we hear the word "explorer" we first think of folks like Magellan, Cooke or Livingstone. Some people realize that Marie Curie, Linus Pauling or George Washington Carver are also examples of famous explorers. Explorers do not need to have ships or expeditions like Lewis & Clark. To make a discovery you need only be diligent, brave and usually patient.

Exploring can be done with a microscope, a walking stick or even a pen. You can explore a mystery with only your mind. Almost any book will help guide you on some exploration of one variety or another. Some who explore risk getting lost or failing or worse. Explorers are always a breed apart from the common person you typically meet during daily life. People who seek new discoveries take the overgrown paths through life or blaze new trails in places no others dare to trespass.
Real explorers share many common traits. Of course common people see them as adventurous, brave and perhaps even foolhardy. Those impressions will only strike them, however, if the masses see the explorer at all. You see, voyagers are often far away from you or I, whether in thought or action, people who seek answers to things that are unknown often live apart.

In offices or jungles, on the high seas or under the waves, the daring seeker seldom wants much company. Many true explorers may venture into the classroom or boardroom but only for so long as required. It is true that inspired teachers may probe for new discoveries in the minds of eager students but unfortunately that is a rare type of explorer indeed. Even more scarce is the person who seeks to make new discoveries inside their own mind and life.
What can a person possibly hope to discover inside their own mind? What kind of explorer seeks to uncover new discoveries within their own behaviors? How many of you are thinking how crazy it might sound for someone to say they are exploring themselves? Think again. The workings of the inner universe, the mind, is often said to be as mysterious and unknown as the far reaches of the galaxies. Exploring the nature of man is an expedition few have dared to go on.

I am one of the very few that understands how vitally important it is to know the limits of human capability. Running for hours, exploring thoughts for weeks, capturing the glimpses of understanding that only an observant explorer would record in a daily journal, these are my methods.
Awakening in the night, picking up where James Joyce or Thomas Hardy left off, I seek answers to the real problems that plague mankind. What drives a few men to send an army to invade another land? Why do many women and men find it so difficult to live together happily? What drives a man to smoke one cigarette after another until faced with the same early grave as his mother? Do these questions seem important enough to deserve an expedition into the workings of the mind? I believe they are important questions. I believe the quest for answers to many human behaviors is so essential that if someone does not take the journey the human race may soon cease to exist altogether.

I invite you to explore the human mind along with me, in the essays of this blog. Are you brave and patient enough to be an explorer through the pathways of the mind?

Friday, September 30, 2005

Life In These United States

A family cries because the million-dollar house they built in dry grasslands just burned up in the annual wildfires. This just happened in California.

A man complains because the photos he left in an office 15 feet below the water level were destroyed in a flood. This just happened in New Orleans.

A woman breaks down over the loss of her mobile home in the annual hurricanes of southern Florida. This happens every year.

Friends mourn the loss of a friend who chain-smoked for decades. Their friend died of lung cancer. This happens every day in every city.

What keeps these people from thinking? What is it that prohibits otherwise educated humans from pondering the obvious? All of these losses involve causes that are very, very easy to spot. The events that brought about each loss were as easy to spot as an adult elephant standing in the middle of a small room.

Is there an adult living in California unaware of the annual fire hazards in the hills?

Who does not know that hurricanes regularly strike Florida?

What person living next to a wall of water really does not expect a flood some day?

When an earthquake crumbles a city in California who can honestly say they were surprised that it happened?

When another hurricane rips into a wooden home in the southern U.S. will that be a total surprise to anyone living there?

When tornados come ripping up the land in Kansas, or anywhere in the Midwest, is that really a shocker, a totally unexpected event?


It is apparent that many people live their lives ignoring the plain truth about where and how they live. This ignorance seems to be as infectious as a virus and many times more deadly. When people living in hazardous places are asked why, they respond, "I do not want to live anywhere else." When people who smoke cigarettes are asked why they choose to slowly kill themselves they respond, "It feels good to smoke, I like it!" or "I tried to stop but I cannot."

The Puerto Ricans build steel-reinforced homes strong enough to withstand hurricanes. Some people in the Midwest build tornado shelters. The Japanese build only earthquake-resistant buildings. The Dutch build real defenses against the most severe floods. Every day some people do quit smoking. There are ways to use our intelligence to reduce the risks we face in life.

Given all the talk about freedom it is amazing how many free people in the United States choose to live dangerously. It seems that people would rather stand unprotected in the face of deadly events every year instead of having more years to spend with their precious families. "To hell with the children's future, let's live on an earthquake fault line." "Give me a cigarette, I have no desire to know my grandchildren someday." "Old age is not worth living for. I want to live where the floods are sure to get me soon, the thought of drowning is really quite pleasant."

Nevertheless, when the earthquakes shudder, the floods come, the winds pick up or the cancer strikes; some people do run. When faced with imminent death most people suddenly wise up, get in their cars, and go sit in a traffic jam. The smokers with cancer go cry before a doctor, pleading for a quick cure. The flood victims demand help from everyone, they feel they deserve it. After all, they chose to live in a place 100% guaranteed to flood, everyone must remain ready to help them rebuild in that flood zone. The government gave them flood or fire insurance when no sensible company would insure that kind of risk. The taxpayers, the stupid taxpayers, must pay up, even if it means borrowing more money from China.

Do not blame the leaders of this nation for any of this. They need your votes and the cash contributions from the tobacco and insurance companies. They are elected to start wars and waste tax money. Politicians are not elected to solve problems. It is the job of leaders to create bigger problems and push more people into poverty. That is why more than half the citizens do not even bother to vote in elections. We are too free to be bothered to go vote for leaders that might help us with our problems.

All the people living in poverty are simply glad to have a huge discount store built in their town. It is wonderful to have a new business that does not pay employees a living wage. It sure is fun to work for peanuts, plus they offer health insurance nobody can afford to buy. What a deal! Why vote to change this wonderful life?

The way so many people choose to their lives in this nation makes no sense if you stop to think about it. Everywhere you look you see people showing signs of total insanity, with no indication of any desire to elect leaders that might make their lives better.

What would be really great is to chain-smoke, work at a discount store and live in a trailer in southern Florida. If the cigarettes do not kill you the hurricanes or the job just might do the trick. The crooked politicians make certain no problems get solved. It is so great to live the free life in America, who would want to live anywhere else like Norway?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Freedom Never Was

Are you free this afternoon? Can you do or say anything you want without fear? Leaders of nations use the word freedom carefully. Kings and dictators avoid any reference to freedom of speech or freedom of the press. Those ideas could lead subjects to think they are free to choose the next leader in an election. Freedom is not something any man in power really likes to talk about.

In the United States the word freedom is used frequently. Freedom is used in speeches, freedom is written many times in documents like the United States Constitution. Freedom is etched into slogans on government buildings. Ask most U.S. citizens if they live in a free country or if they are free. They will invariably say, "Yes, I live in a free country, I am free."

When they say "freedom" most U.S. citizens are talking about concepts like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to vote for anyone or being free to choose to how to live their lives without someone else ordering them to do something they do not want to do.

In truth, most people living anywhere in this world, including the U.S.A. are not free. The few "liberties" some people believe they "enjoy" are in fact grand lies they have been carefully programmed to believe.

To begin looking at "freedoms" consider Freedom of the Press. Can you get anything you write printed in a big city newspaper? Will your small town paper print something you write? If you work for a newspaper can you write anything you want? If you are not rich or powerful or supporting the people in power you can forget about freedom of the press.

Now you think, at least you can read any book you want to read. No, you can read only any books the government, churches and the rich publishers allow printed and placed in bookstores. You can go to the library and read any book there. Remember this, since 2001, the government is keeping a list of the books you read at the library. Government leaders now have the power to force librarians to tell them what books you are reading.

You are free to go anywhere and read anything you want on the Internet, right? In some countries, yes, but the governments is watching what you do and keeping files on any person it considers "suspicious." In other countries many Internet sites are simply blocked by the rich and powerful. Even in free countries they use your freedom to find cause to jail you.

The recent popularity of blogs, public journals on the Internet such as this one, gives some people the illusion of true freedom of the press. However, most ideas now expressed in blogs are reaching only a very small percentage of the people around the world. Loss of control over even one percent of the population scares the rich and powerful. People with power and money are now working very hard to find ways to control and regulate blogs. Rich people are the only ones permitted freedom of the press on any scale in the world. The rich need this control to keep fooling people into giving them more money in return for trash. This trick is called advertising.

Freedom of religion? Do not talk about your religion at work, you will lose your job. Do not talk about religion on a street corner, people will have you placed in a hospital for people with mental illness. Do not disagree out loud with what the minister at your church tells you. You will not be allowed to attend that church, synagogue or temple any longer. Do not try to write a story about your religion and get that published in a public paper. You will be pilloried in the public square.

In many families children or even adults cannot even mention the idea of going to a different temple or church next Sunday. You can only believe what you are told to believe as a child. As an adult, if you have very different spiritual beliefs than the other people in your town you better keep quiet about it. If you really express any freedom with regard to religion, anywhere in the world, expect to lose the freedom to associate with most other people. In some nations you will be put to death. In all other nations you can expect not to be invited back to that party.

You think you are free to vote? Sure you are free to vote for one very rich businessman or another powerful wealthy person. Would a poor man have any chance in the next election? When was the last time you heard about a poor person running for any office higher than perhaps town council? Most town councils are even controlled by the people with the most money.

You are free to spend your money anywhere you want to, after you pay more and more taxes to the rich congressmen and President. Be sure he will waste all of that money on weapons to kill, fine wine and meats, not clean water or medicine to heal. When the leaders have spent your taxes they will borrow more money from the communist dictators. They all play the game of human torture now. They are free to beat men to death and bomb babies.

You are free to go anywhere you want, if you keep giving more and more money to the very rich oil barons. You are free to spout pollution into the atmosphere, heating Earth to death.

You are free to buy a house anywhere racist real estate agents let you buy a house, once you sign over your life earnings to the greedy local banker.

Freedom starts to look like something you can have only if you are evil enough and rich enough. Only the cold-blooded killers are free and they use that freedom to exploit the less fortunate.

You are free to work in any career you want to, right? Wrong, you can only work where the rich let you have a job. These jobs must help to make one person very rich and pay the other people working there as little as possible. You are free to be tossed out the factory door at the slightest whim of some rich man in the back office.

There is no freedom anywhere in this world. There is only a world with strict rules you must follow or else you will be put in prison or starved to death. Follow the rules that make the rich richer and the poor poorer. Do that or expect to die homeless on a steam vent. There is no freedom of any kind anywhere in this world, only rules, very strict rules. Follow the rules carefully or die as a result of your actions. This is the "civilization" we have developed over so many centuries. It still bears close resemblance to the jungle that spawned it.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Unbearable Pain of Injustice

The days grow shorter as the end of one more year approaches. There is a feeling of pain shooting through life right now. It even hurts just to be sensitive to the impending loss. It is not the leaves falling early from the late summer drought. It is not the unexplained pain shooting though an arm and shoulder. Someone close is in such pain that the future holds no promise. The many poor people in the classroom today harbored more hurt than most can imagine. Nearby today a hundred thousand cried out in pain for the mothers of dead soldiers. Yet, none of these manifestations were the source of the pain I feel right now.

Mountain Village of Ossanite 00004

The trees will blossom once more next year, branches need no sympathy. My physical pain will go away, if not from healing then from my body's passing. My mother's back has tormented her for so many years it amounts only to so much ongoing torture. The poor in the classroom were at least making progress, learning a new career. The loss of an army to the whims of a few despots drunk with power is nothing new. No, my pain comes from a different source. It is a hurt born of mass ignorance, greed, and insensitivity. A society that has learned only how to inflict ongoing torment on the greater world around it makes me writhe in agony.

Each day millions of Americans just suck and suck and gnaw at the nerves of a world dying of hunger. With each person consuming ten times the resources of people in poor nations, the citizens of the United States pile injury on insult. Wreaking havoc on traumatized Middle Eastern towns, raping the equatorial forests and crushing the Third World farmers is how the United States brings unbearable pain to the rest of the world. Whatever the war and economic machines leave unscathed the searing garbage culture of Hollywood and corporate greed smother. Finally, the stupid citizens gnaw on their bones while somewhere in the world a million babies starve for lack of mother's milk. A mother's breast is empty because there was no nutritious food for her to eat today, or yesterday.

In the streets of California and New York the dogs get fat while in Burundi and Niger babies bloat. It hurts so bad because there is not a soul in the United States that seems willing to look beyond their well-manicured but fruitless lawns.


I am alone, out of work again for a few months, resisting the insult of WalMart, Kmart or pizza delivery jobs. Letting a billionaire exploit my sweat for pennies just seems like the final defeat. There is a driving desire in me to relieve the pain lived by my neighbors in Africa, Asia, Haiti and the Third World, all sucked almost lifeless. A reader sitting in any developed Western nation must be laughing uncontrollably at the mere folly of the suggestion that one man could make a difference. "There is nothing that can be done, let them suffer and save only yourself!" one friend implores me.

Butterfly 15420

I cannot believe that I am but a butterfly in a cyclone, that the flap of my small wings has no impact.

I have prepared for too long, in too many unique ways, to believe my mission is only to sit in this chair and feel the pain. There is far more I can do to bring justice to the trampled, I know it for certain. Behind some torn curtain, under some tattered rug, tucked under fallen limbs, a greater solution waits patiently. My impatience is part of the driving force seeking to uncover that solution and bring it out into the light of day. A flap of my wings beside the Chesapeake is not enough to shake the leaves of ignorance in Washington. "Throw off this discouragement and arise like a fire that burns all before it" my old friend suggests, "The wise grieve not for those who live; and they grieve not for those who die – for life and death shall pass away. Because we all have been for all time…and we all shall be for all time, we all for ever and ever."

Somehow his words do not still the outrage at deliberate human injustices on a global scale. The balance is too slow in coming. I flap my wings once again. Another leaf flutters to the ground outside my window.

Rothrock State Forest, PA 01160

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Importance of Community Involvement

When I worked in the Third World we would occasionally issue "micro loans" to deserving mothers. This would be a loan for perhaps $150 US dollars to an enterprising mother. The woman would use the loan to buy vegetables or some other commodity in bulk. This product would be sold in a local market for a small but consistent profit. The money from that sale would be used to buy more product at wholesale and that product would be sold. The woman was required to have a business plan and proven ability to manage a small stall at market. Over a period of time the initial "microloan" would be paid off, sometimes in installments of as little as $5 a week. In many cases the women paid off the loan quite early, after only a few months. This money would then be loaned out to other women for the same purposes. This was years before the global World Bank discovered the significance of such a simple technique.

For the men I would give out a small sack of high-quality seed soybeans. The men could only have the soybeans if they proved they had a place to plant the beans. The men also had to be married and living with their wife. It was also important that the couple had children. The gift of soybeans was accompanied by a lesson in organic farming and given out only around the correct time of the month and year for planting. The beans were a gift from my Uncle Allen, a soybean farmer and speculator.

The rich, riding in giant four-wheel drives, drive past these people quickly. Tinted windows make it difficult to see those living in squalor. They try not to drive in these neighborhoods but it becomes necessary as the ghettos expand.

To people living in developed Western nations the significance of $150 or a sack of soybeans cannot be comprehended. People in the United States or northern Europe can earn $150 in a few days and easily spend it on a new coat or groceries for the next two weeks. In rural India or Haiti $150 is more than a person might ever see at one time in years. In local currency it was the equivalent of 5,000 rupees or gourd. It allowed certain people to start a business, that is those who were responsible and understood how to manage such a sum. Older people, married people, or people with children to feed were likely to carry out a business plan and pay back the loan. There really was no other way to determine a person's reliability, the poor often do not own any property other than a cooking pot and a change of clothes.

Today in the United States there is a growing class of people in need of the most basic assistance. They are raising children alone, working one or two jobs and yet still falling behind. The bills get a month and then two months behind. Corporations feed on these people like lions at a carcass. The late fees and interest payments accumulate, there are cut-off notices for essential utilities, landlords charge additional overdue payment fees. In order to reconnect the utilities higher deposits and high connection fees are charged. All of the late payment history is kept in credit reports for years to be used to judge the poor and to charge them higher interest rates. Health insurance is not provided to the poor, they must hope they qualify for substandard government health care programs if sickness arises.

The rich, riding in giant SUVs, drive past these people quickly. Tinted windows make it difficult to see those living in squalor. The rich build highways through the poor neighborhoods, this sometimes makes it necessary to pass by such scenes of hardship.

Rich people do not clearly understand the idea of community. It means more than a small donation to charity at tax time. Community means more than an hour in some house of worship each week. It is not enough to place old clothes in a box and leave it at a collection center. If poverty is going to be reversed there is a greater need to take a larger risk.

The risk may be extending a small loan to a responsible single mother. The risk may be hiring someone who does not wear new clothes. The chance may involve driving the car into the ghetto and teaching people a better way. It is a gamble more rich people must be willing to take if the entire community is to survive. If not enough rich reach down to the less fortunate the class divisions will soon shatter the peace for all. The sharp edges of a completely broken society will cut all members, rich and poor alike. This day fast approaches in America.

Friday, September 23, 2005

A Walk Through Town ( or Fighting Reality)

Walking through the nearby town is such a lesson. There are run-down row homes with $750,000 price tags on them. Homes with the special allure of being located in the area flooded by the storm surge two years ago. Every block has another new home under construction. The popular thing is to purchase two small homes, tear them down and build one huge McMansion. The big houses already completed tower over the little homes that have existed for decades. They seem to threaten these little houses just like the big SUVs out front threaten the little cars next door.

All these homes are built in an area prone to flooding with only a two foot rise in water level. Storms on the nearby bay have inundated this area many times throughout the local history. People do not study history so the chance of flooding does not matter. The big new homes have insurance issued by the federal government so that people in Kansas and Iowa will pay to repair damage from the next flood. The people living in these big homes are wealthy enough to convince a banker that they can make payments on the house, but everyone will cry out loud if nature takes it away.

They drive to their homes and work one person at a time in big trucks. Each driver hangs a cigarette out the window until they get close to home. At that point they toss the lit cigarette in the street. Nothing to worry about, they have fire insurance and health insurance. If they set a house on fire or get lung cancer the cautious people that live in Nebraska and Wisconsin will help pay the bills. Insurance makes it easy to forget about lung cancer and house fires.

The people in the big houses drive too fast on the narrow streets in town. They just drove up the street to buy more cigarettes and alcohol. Walking to the store is out of the question, they would never think of doing that when gasoline is only $3.25 per gallon. Maybe when fuel gets to $4.00 a gallon they will drive a little slower to go get cigarettes and whiskey.

As they get out of the big trucks they drive, each person struggles. It is not easy to move around when you are so obese. Luckily they only need to walk a few feet to the front door. They press a button and the door to their garage comes down automatically. There is no need for exercise at all.

The poorly trained dog barks at the owner. This barking sets all the other poorly trained dogs in town off, all barking at nothing at all. It is as if the dogs are there to announce how ignorant their owners have become. Some owners can be seen walking their dogs, cigarette in hand. Once the dog defecates the owner reaches down to pick up the feces. Now it is time to quickly go back inside to the box with the blue light.

The sidewalks are mostly empty after dark. It is time for everyone to stare at the box with the blue light. Every single house has a big box with a blue light in it. The people sit alone and look at the big colorful boxes. They do not seem to be talking to each other very much. There are no smiles on the faces of these people.

The library parking lot is empty. The library closes quite early these days, there is not enough money. It does not matter, people do not read the old books, they buy new books and do not read those. Talking to these people is like talking to the big blue boxes in each house. The people in town use the same stupid words as the people in the big blue boxes. It is rare to find someone with an original story to tell these days. Most people only repeat the dumb things they see and hear on television.

The newspaper boxes are still full at night. People do not like to read the newspapers. In the morning the paper delivery man, no longer a boy or girl but a grown man, drops a newspaper at every tenth home, maybe. Many of these newspapers are bundled up too neatly on recycling days. The papers look like they were never even read. What a waste of trees and recycling energy.

You can see all this in the town because so many lights are turned on in every house. There are lights turned on in every room it seems. Younger people do not seem to pull curtains or close blinds at night anymore. That is a peculiar fashion trend that is not easy to understand or overlook. The new houses have very big windows, bright lights and no curtains. These homes are full of expensive furniture, appliances and art. For the poor person who likes to go walking this is an insult difficult to ignore in the early evening.

Automatic lights blink on as a person walks on the sidewalk. These lights have motion sensors designed to scare people away. People walking on public sidewalks can expect these lights to surprise them many times. The untrained dogs will snarl and bark each time you walk past. The huge screens of the giant televisions project insulting images out into the street. The smell of burning animal flesh fills the air. At dinner hour the whole town smells like a crematorium if you think about it. The restaurant district always stinks of burning meat.

If you walk around for an hour you will see the intoxicated fat people stumble out of the restaurants. Everyone on the street talks too loud or shouts into portable telephones. They quickly light a cigarette on the short waddle to their trucks. Quickly smoking the cigarette, they throw the butt on the sidewalk. Now they are ready to climb into their big trucks and drive away too quickly, swerving to avoid the crazy person out walking for exercise. A few blocks up the street the big trucks pull into garages near the big houses. All the untrained dogs start to bark again.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Hurricane Rita and Texas Gulf Coast

Much of the Texas Gulf Coast has been over-developed by real estate developers. South Padre Island is the most obvious example of this trend. Here is a quote from the University of Texas at Austin that pretty much sums the situation up:


The more intense the coastal development, the greater the potential for destruction by hurricanes. Developers, vacationers, and condominium owners often assume an uncompromising attitude in facing the killer hurricanes, refusing to acknowledge that the Gulf beaches and barrier islands actually belong to the sea. A case in point is the intensive development of South Padre Island, a part of the 113-mile stretch of barrier sand between Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande. This development, with apartments and condominiums built on bulldozed dunes, has been built since Hurricane Beulah sliced the island into thirty-one segments in September 1967. Considering the pitfalls of predicting a hurricane's path and timing, forecasters cringe at the thought of the loss that a Beulah-like storm might cause in the same area today.


HURRICANE BEULAH, SEPTEMBER 1967

Hurricane Beulah was one of five severe hurricanes to affect the Texas middle coast in this century. Previous severe hurricanes in this area were those of Sept. 14, 1919; Aug. 26, 1945; Hurricane Carla (Sept. 11, 1961) and Hurricane Celia (Aug. 3, 1970). Hurricane Beulah's effects on the Texas middle coast were comparable in many respects to those of Hurricane Carla, with major exceptions in comparatively light flooding of the offshore islands, a very high number of tornadoes, and severe flooding after landfall. The storm began in the extreme eastern Caribbean near the island of Martinique on Sept. 7 and intensified to hurricane force on Sept. 8. Moving generally west-northwestward, Hurricane Beulah touched land in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and the northern Yucatan Peninsula before reaching the southwestern Gulf and heading for the Texas coast. Beulah weakened temporarily to only tropical storm intensity on September 12 and 13 as it crossed the central Caribbean and weakened slightly again as it moved over the land of the Yucatan Peninsula on Sept. 17, but regained strength rapidly in the southwestern Gulf and became a great hurricane as it approached the lower Texas coast on September 19. Like Carla, Beulah moved in a cycloidal path across the Gulf.

Beginning on the afternoon of Sept. 17, persons were advised to remain off the Gulf beaches of Padre, Mustang, and St. Joseph Islands. Immediate evacuation of Port Aransas and Mustang, Padre, and St. Joseph Islands was advised on the morning of Sept. 19. Most of the residents and others on the islands evacuated, including the personnel of Padre Island National Seashore. About 40 persons remained on the islands, including about 20 at Port Aransas. Immediate evacuation of Rockport and Live Oak and Lamar Peninsulas was advised in the evenimg of September 19. These areas and the towns of Ingleside and Aransas Pass were nearly completely evacuated. About 50 persons remained in Rockport. The evacuation of the University of Corpus Christi was advised on the morning of Sept. 20, and Corpus Christi Beach and parts of Flour Bluff were also evacuated. During the storm there were 30,000 people in shelters in Nueces and San Patricio Counties, including 6,000 in Corpus Christi.

After the landfall of Beulah near the mouth of the Rio Grande about 7 AM on Sept. 20, the highest winds diminished sharply, but the remaining storm was very persistent. It moved northward, carrying hurricane winds to south of Alice, stalled there and weakened during the night of Sept. 20, then moved west-southwest passing south of Laredo on the night of September 21, moved southwestward to near Monterrey on Sept. 22, and broke up in the mountains of northern Mexico. The remnant of the center moved southeastward over Mexico and reached the southwestern Gulf area again on Sept. 25.

As with Hurricane Carla, the Corpus Christi area was spared the major violence of the storm. At landfall winds near the center were about 136 miles an hour, and the central pressure, which had been as low as 27.26 inches (937 mb), was 28.07 inches, or 951 mb at Brownsville, which gave the storm a tide producing potential of about 15 feet. The highest winds and tides were expended against the coast about 20 miles north of Port Isabel. As the storm center moved over land southwest of Corpus Christi, generally higher winds occured in inland areas of the Coastal Bend than in coastal areas (See chart at bottom). Gale winds began at Corpus Christi International Airport at 10:30 AM on Sept. 20 and continued until 2 AM on Sept. 21, a duration of 15.5 hours, and hurricane winds occured in gusts between 5:57 PM and 8:40 PM on the 20th.

Tornadoes were extremely numerous with Beulah; a total of 95 have been estimated. Many of the funnel clouds were as small as 20 to 40 feet in diameter where they touched the ground, and they made only brief contact of a few seconds to less than a minute. They travelled generally from east to west or east-southeast to west-northwest, at times as fast as 60 miles per hour. In the Coastal Bend area there were fairly firm indications of about 40 tornadoes. Five were detected near the intense part of the storm on Sept. 20, three on radar as the storm approached in the morning, and two by observations and damaging effects in the evening at Ingleside and Fulton. On Sept. 22, far behind the storm center, a total of about 35 tornado indications were detected on radar within a radius of about 50 miles of Corpus Christi, and about 20 sightings were reported.

Damage from winds and tides was heavy on Corpus Christi Beach and in the Aransas Pass and Rockport-Fulton areas. The Fulton Tornado of Sept. 20 destroyed or badly damaged 20 to 25 buildings and caused three minor injuries. In contrast to the tornadoes reported later, this one and others in advance of the storm center evidenced the usual severely violent tornado characteristics. North of the Coastal Bend other violent tornadoes in advance of the storm killed three persons at Palacios on Sept. 20 and one at Louise and caused numerous injuries and considerable property damage. Electric service was cut off to 8000 customers in Corpus Christi. Two of three TV stations were off the air, one briefly. Salt water was moved up Nueces Bay at Calallen and forced shudaown of the Corpus Christi city water plants. Flooding from salt water along the bays was added to by the very heavy rainfall and runoff from the rainfall over land. The water level in the bays was slow to fall because of the copious runoff from the rains inland, even though Corpus Christi Pass and two other new channels were opened between the bays and the Gulf by the storm. At one time the water level in the bays was about two feet higher than that in the Gulf, and the outflow through channels was very heavy. Many persons living in low areas were homeless for the several days of persistent high water. Wind damage, other than from torndoes, was widespread but mostly not severe to trees, shrubs, telephone and power lines, signs, windows, trailers, boats, beach cottages, and piers and other beach installations. Damage to industries was minor; most of their loss was in shut-down and start-up coasts and in lost production. The damage directly attributable to the storm in the Coastal Bend, not counting the subsequent flooding, was of the order of $20,000,000. There were no fatalities in the Coastal Bend area.

Most of the damage from Beulah was from the floods following the storm's extremely heavy rains. Rainfall attributable to the storm totalled 10 to 20 inches over a widespread area of southern Texas, and amounts ranged up to nearly 30 inches. Adding also to the flooding potential of these rains was the near saturation of the ground over wide areas resulting from earlier rains in August and September. All-time record floods occurred on all Gulf drainage streams and the Nueces and Frio watersheds except for the extreme upper portions. Major flood warning were issued on Sept. 19 and continued through Sept. 25. The stage on the Nueces River 2 miles south of Three Rivers reached an all-time high of 49.20 feet of Sept. 23. The previous highest stage was 46.0 feet, which occurred on September 18, 1919 and was also in a flood following a severe hurricane. An all-time highest flood also occurred below Wesley Seale Dam to Nueces Bay and was nearly 3 feet higher than the previous highest flood. Many towns, especially Three Rivers, Sinton, and Falfurrias, were severely flooded. Water remained for months on poorly drained areas of the Coastal Plains south of Corpus Christi. The total dollar damage from the floods is estimated more than $100,000,000.

THE GREAT GALVESTON HURRICANE, SEPTEMBER 1900

The Great Galveston Hurricane showed on September 7-8th, 1900. It towers alone as the worst natural disaster in the United States in terms of lives lost; the most frequently used estimate of the death toll is 8,000. The potential of this disaster had been shown in the destructions of Santiago in 1844, Clarksville/ Baghdad in 1867, and Indianola in 1875 and 1886. At the time, the population of Galveston was near 30,000. Most of its structures were wood frame built just above ground level and supported by pilings.

A new innovation helped relay details about what the storm did in the Caribbean Islands; it was known as the wireless telegraph. Word has been received of a hurricane which struck Trinidad and destroyed almost all the structures on that island. Word of the storm's passing over Cuba and moving northwest into the Gulf of Mexico in the direction of Texas has been relayed to the Weather Bureau office on the Island. Sailors began to arrive in port telling of horrific weather offshore.

On the 6th, a hurricane watch was posted along the Gulf Coast westward to New Orleans. By the 7th, it was extended further to include Texas. Driving rain began at 4 am on the 7th. At 9 am, large waves began to pound the shores of Galveston Island. Winds began to increase as high, fish-scale shaped clouds (known as altocumulus) began to move inland. The pressure fell rapidly at the weather office. This caused them to hoist a hurricane flag - their version of a hurricane warning in those days. This action caused about 20,000 to evacuate, which saved many lives.

Many people ignored the warning. Gentry from Houston rode out to the Island by train to witness the spectacle of the huge waves crashing at the coast. Through the morning of the 8th, greater numbers of people crowded the beaches. Isaac Cline of the Weather Bureau could not believe what was happening. He took matters into his own hands and rode down the beach in a horse-drawn buggy with his brother, warning people to go back to the mainland - in effect, making him a modern day Paul Revere. Unfortunately, few listened. The weather, however, changed their tune as a wooden pagoda along the beach and its associated boardwalk became mere driftwood before the crowd's eyes. Then they began to disperse. For many, it turned out to be far too late. A steamship broke free of its moorings and went on a rampage, destroying all three bridges to the mainland.

Winds of 100 mph blew away the anemometer at the Weather Bureau. Winds gusting over 125 m.p.h. sent raging waters covering Galveston Island by 15 feet just after 3 am, with additional waves much higher on top of the storm surge. As flood waters rose, people fled towards the center of the island, which had slightly higher ground. This turned out to be fruitless, as it merely delayed the inevitable. The force of the wind threw boards, chairs, and tree limbs through the air. Pebbles and chards of glass became deadly missiles. When the water began rising, Harry Claiborne, keeper of the Bolivar Point Lighthouse, fled to the safety of his workplace. People soon after began pounding on the door, begging to be let into the lighthouse. The tower was soon crammed with over 100 people, many of which were from a train stranded in the rising waters. After a while, the big door to the lighthouse was hidden under 30 feet of water. The lighthouse survived the storm (Roberts 86-88).

Wooden buildings floated off their pilings and smashed into one another. As houses disintegrated, unfortunate occupants were thrust into the water to drown. More than 2600 homes were demolished. Twelve square blocks, comprising 3/4 of the city, were completely wiped out of existence. All bridges across the bay were destroyed, along with 15 miles of railroad track. All communications with the mainland were gone.

The British freighter Kendall Castle was moored offshore. Several ships were driven against her. But it wasn't until the Norwegian freighter Gyller nudged against the Castle when it went on "a wild ride" over the Halfmoon Shoal lighthouse, pounding it into the sand, on the way to Texas City (Cipra 185). Very little damage was done at Sabine Pass however, showing how small the core of this storm was. Thirty million dollars in damage occurred.

Fewer than 2000 of those remaining on the island survived. The weather office chief survived, but his wife drowned. The Bolivar Point Lighthouse became the focal point of relief activities after the storm. The lighthouse over the ensuing days let people in the area know that at least one thing still worked on the island, as it helped storm-battered ships return to shore. Martial law was declared, with looters being shot on sight.

Mustang Island also saw many bodies litter the beach. Corpus Christi had a stiff northeast breeze and exceptional fishing. In Flour Bluff Harbor, millions of red, trout, and mullet infested the waters, avoiding the hurricane. Local residents feasted on tarpon and helped Galveston with over $1000 being raised for food and clothing. After the storm moved inland, it accelerated north to the Great Lakes, still carrying 70 mph winds. It then moved across Canada, the North Atlantic, and Northern Europe before finally dying in Siberia.

A massive public works project was undertaken to raise the city's elevation and build a 3 mile long, 17 foot high, concrete seawall. This has, to date, prevented a tragedy of similar proportions from occurring in Galveston. The city never regained its importance as a major port due to the construction of the Houston ship channel; quite similar to what happened in Indianola 14 years before. As the population swells along the coast, construction has begun to expand into areas not protected by the seawall. Those that have not learned from history are doomed to repeat it! See Louisiana Hurricane History for more details on this storm.

SOME OTHER HURRICANES THAT HIT TEXAS

On August 16, 1915, a large and violent storm struck Galveston, Texas. Even though a seawall ten-feet high was built after the 1900 hurricane, this storm caused tides 12 feet above normal. These tides flooded the central business district to a depth of more than six feet. Unfortunately 275 people lost their lives from a combination of the high water and strong winds.

On Sept. 14, 1919, an unnamed storm became the fourth most intense and deadly storm of the 20th century. It passed near Key West, Fla., on September 9-10. It was a slow moving storm that reached an intensity of 27.37 inches (927 mb) in the vicinity of the Dry Tortugas, islands in south Florida, 65 miles west of Key West. Ten ships were lost at sea accounting for more than 500 of the approximately 800-900 deaths. This hurricane continued slowly westward and finally, on September 14, the center moved inland south of Corpus Christi, Texas. At that point, the tides rose 16 feet above normal and another 287 lives were lost.

Hurricane Audrey struck the Gulf coast in 1957. Audrey made landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border on June 27, 1957. Its core pressure deepened considerably beginning 5 hours before landfall. 390 Americans died as the result of a storm surge in excess of 12 feet, which inundated the shallow coast of Louisiana, south of Lake Charles.

In 1961 Hurricane Carla became the largest and most intense Gulf Coast hurricane in decades. On September 8, 1961, Carla's winds took aim at the Texas coast. By the 9th of September, Carla's winds and rains had impacted the entire Gulf of Mexico causing damage along all Gulf Coast states.

On September 9th. 1961, the largest mass evacuation to that date took place, when an estimated 500,000 residents of coastal areas and barrier islands off Texas and Louisiana were evacuated to higher ground. As Carla approached Texas on the 10th, winds near the eye of the storm reached 150 mph. Government aircraft flying in the storm indicated a central pressure of 931 mb just before Carla struck the coast. Incredibly, only 46 people lost their lives as a result of early warnings. Severe damage along the Texas Gulf coast was magnified by unusually prolonged winds, very high tides and major flooding from heavy rains.

REFERENCES

Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "GULF OF MEXICO," http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/GG/rrg7.html (accessed September 21, 2005).

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, http://www.srh.noaa.gov/crp/docs/research/hurrhistory/Beulah/beulah.html
(accessed September 21, 2005).

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service, http://www.srh.noaa.gov/lch/research/txlate19hur.htm
(accessed September 21, 2005).

Monday, August 22, 2005

Like A Blind Man Playing Darts

"…people are running around making strategic decisions and plans based on asymmetrical warfare and terrorists." - from an article in the New York Times on Monday, August 22, 2005

Buried In The Past

Old generals and admirals sit around collecting retirement checks unable to offer a clue about the current threats facing modern society. They still envision massive armadas sailing up to the shores of New York to launch salvos at the city. Some suspect the Chinese of preparing to sink merchant ships sailing to California. Generals refuse to understand the simple reasons why a huge army is unable to defeat a few guerrilla warriors in the desert. The Air Force calls for more nuclear warheads while militants slip across the border along with migrant farm workers. Old outdated concepts die slowly while the world rapidly changes, for better or worse.

The facts stare us in the face but the eyes of those in power remain firmly shut. An intercontinental missile provides no deterrent to a suicide bomber with a backpack full of explosives. Billion dollar submarines or aircraft carriers are no match for a small nuclear weapon packed into a 40-foot shipping container. A thousand B-52 bombers cannot stop a car bomb assembled a few blocks away from the intended target. Explain how a battalion of soldiers can stop a man in any city from building a bomb from common grocery store items?

Failing To Learn

The nature of war has changed in fundamental ways but the people paid to protect us have not changed tactics and tools to meet the threat. It seems only a few people are learning to speak the languages used by our enemies. Law enforcement agencies cannot get a decent computer system up and running. Borders flow and cities brim with undocumented immigrants. Nevertheless, the admirals cry out for more submarines and carriers. Will anyone learn about effective deterrents to asymmetrical warfare before the next big attack? Sadly we must expect the old commanders will always refuse to change, even after the next attacks and the next and the next.

A few million dollars in job training can take thousands of unemployed former soldiers off the streets of Baghdad or Gaza. Effective diplomacy can steer a trusted ally on a path certain to quell massive civil unrest. Thousands of people could be put to work manually inspecting air and sea cargo containers. Yet the old men in charge ignore these ideas and continue to spend billions mostly on big bombs.

Will the Old Guard ever see the sense in using human eyes, hands and ears to combat a rising militant underground? Give people real jobs and they will be less likely to want to blow us to pieces. Must the obsolete ideas of old men continue to be tolerated while young soldiers or civilians lose arms, legs and lives? How many rows must be added to cemeteries before we learn that bullets teach us nothing at all?

There must be some reason for all this pointless death other than just ignorance and stupidity.

Lost History Lessons

National policies promoting imperialism and colonialism were proven wrong during the World Wars and the Cold War, at the cost of millions of lives. So why do the leaders of superpower nations suddenly feel the need to establish new colonies in the Middle East? Do teachers in Great Britain still teach students about the great tragedy of the Colonial Wars? Students in the United States do still study the reasons for the American Revolution. Why don't they understand how Iraqis feel when an American army occupies cities in Iraq and shoots all who object to the occupation? History is taught but apparently the lessons learned are not applied to present-day situations.

Censorship and Propaganda

The results of terrible national policies are carefully hidden by clever leaders. Censorship prevents newspapers and television from showing pictures of the dead on battlefields or returning in coffins. Sadly, the history of our times is illegal to teach. The poor suffer more from this censorship than do the rich, who mostly refuse to serve and die in the military.

Politicians stand before us announcing victory. We were told the mission was accomplished years ago. So why not bring the troops home? Fake evidence and fake numbers are used to claim the Army is winning when it is actually losing. George Orwell's novel 1984 addressed this very issue. It seems nobody learned the lesson.

Poor military gear is called "state of the art" in order to protect a rich man in the Pentagon. The people that die using these lousy war tools are held up as patriots instead of the victims of poor planning. It is all so much war propaganda, learned from Hitler's example. When the grisly truth finally comes out the real criminals will be safely in retired in Texas and Wyoming.

Blindness and Greed

When we fail to properly educate ourselves we become blind to gross injustice. Poor citizens continue to send their children overseas to die to provide huge profits for rich business executives. Greed does not stop at pointless bloodshed. Humans love their own children but some still think nothing of sending other people's children to die for that next tank of gas. All the money rich countries spend on war and weapons is really money that should be spent on education and jobs. The people that spend millions of dollars to become our leaders know this fact. They also know that the rich people who donate money to their political campaigns make more money from war than from education.

In a rich capitalist country it is better to kill your neighbor to make a big profit rather than improve the schools so people can make smarter decisions. People are allowed to die for lack of health care but there is always plenty of money for guns. The war veterans are denied decent health care and good jobs. They can no longer fight so why spend money on them? The real terrorists are the people called "leaders" in these nations.

A nation will never know peace when the rulers are cold-blooded killers. Good citizens must learn the truth and fight for positive changes or perish as cannon fodder. Stand up for what is right before it is too late. Educate your children about the real cost of wars fought blindly. We must stop the carnage caused by the old men who refuse to mend their evil ways.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A Family Revolution

Children Deserve Attention

The company of children is teaching me volumes about all humans. My neighbor, a four-year old boy and his five-year old friend are like most children. They want to play games outside and learn all they can about the world around them. My nieces and nephews are being pushed rapidly past this curious stage, but I still remember them passing through it. Most adults claim to be far too busy to spend additional time with the next generation. My observations of the "far too busy" excuse reveal a lack of patience and understanding of the next generation's needs. Too many adults are never too busy spend an evening drinking too much, never too busy for another cigarette and always have time to waste watching all the drug-addled professional athletes. There simply is no time left for the children produced by relationships we pursued back when we had the time.

When relationships break down children suffer more than adults. There is less time for children when the home must maintained by a single parent. The children we have "no time" for will soon stand beside us living as young adults. Do we want our children growing up with little or no guidance? I think not, yet the predicament still stands before us asking for attention, demanding a solution.

The people of the United States are obsessed by the need to work. Every man and woman is taught the fiction that our work defines us. People spend so much time at their work and so little time with their families. With the rapid decline of jobs that pay a living wage, most mothers now go to work each day. Men spend ten hours or more involved in their occupations and the commute back and forth. Evenings and weekends become essential time for rest, to maintain our grueling schedules. Our children get only whatever time they can steal from this routine.

For decades this society has undervalued the people that raise children. Mothers, schoolteachers, day care staff and babysitters are not occupations we associate with good pay. After all, what is the value in preparing the next generation to live in our society? Mothers are expected to raise children and work another job. Schoolteachers get only enough money to survive, the job they perform is worth little to the future of our nation, right? It is so much wiser to shower money on steroid-filled professional athletes and crooked politicians, they provide so much more for our future than mothers.

Prepare For The Future

People in the United States show a complete lack of concern for the future in so many ways it comes as no surprise that many children are neglected or even abused. We no longer save money, we depend on credit and home equity loans and we waste more energy than any other nation. If you step back and look at life in the United States objectively, most people live like there will be no tomorrow. Driving too fast and often after drinking alcohol, constantly smoking cigarettes, eating until we are grossly obese are three obvious examples. Divorce rates are another case where we ignore the future and seek only easy pleasures. Finally, we neglect to spend enough time raising our children. If you have none of these issues at all in your life, stop reading this right now. Everyone else knows exactly what I am talking about even if you already raised your family.

Now you want me to spell out easy answers to the problems mentioned above, right?

There are no easy answers, raising children and living the good life becomes a tough balancing act.

Grandmothers and grandfathers are being asked to help raise children in many cases. In some groups of our society, grandparents are regularly expected to become parents again. The mothers and fathers of the children have no time at all to spend with their offspring. Parents caught in the swirl of drug addiction or crime completely lose sight of their sons and daughters. Other fathers and mothers love their successes at the office more than they love seeing success in their homes. Finally, there are many parents who really do not know how to be good parents. For most couples it is easy to produce a child but extremely difficult to raise that baby to adulthood.

Parents Are Valuable

The first step is valuing the role of being a parent. Parenting is the very act of creating the future, an immensely important task. In relation to the future of mankind there is no more important task than preparing children to live in the world. It will probably never happen in our backwards culture but mothers or fathers must be given incentives to stay home and raise children. Parents are performing a far more important task than almost any other job you can imagine. We need to elevate the role of care-giver far above that of the sickening heroes we now adore. Is a home run hitter that shoots drugs in his buttocks really more important than a mother? Does a venom-spitting politician really deserve more attention than a great father?

We have been sold trash heaps as role models while the real examples of virtue go unnoticed. Television, radio and newspapers use fancy words to describe people who do nothing but live sickening lifestyles. Movie theaters and computer games mostly add to the mounds of garbage, choking family life to death. Mothers get a brief mention on Mother's Day, fathers get a story or two on Father's Day. The rest of the year we hear and read long stories about dishonest elected officials, murderers and millionaire athletes. Turn off the television now and start paying attention to your children.

The outside influences are an easy place to start fixing the family. Stop going to see professional sports, at least until they decide to clean up their stinking act. Play sports at the park with your children instead. Cancel your newspaper or newsmagazine subscriptions until they start writing articles that promote good family life. Check out good books from the free library and read them with your children. Take your children to parks, museums or zoos. Learn the answers to the questions asked by your children.

Along the way get ready to confront internal obstacles to a great family life. Stop smoking cigarettes. Second-hand smoke will give you and your children lung cancer. Is this really a good family atmosphere? Stop drinking so much alcohol. A half-drunk parent is no help to a child. Learn how to love each other more, this includes children, husbands and wives.

Family Money

Turn the power generated by the money you earn into family money. We know that business people are not going to pay a living wage to most families, no matter how much we spend. So forget the advertisements businesses shove in your face every day. You do not need to buy all the things that make your monthly bills so high. Raising a family does cost money but think about how you spend family money. Do you spend family money on violent movies? Why? Do you spend family money on sports played by reckless professional athletes? Why? Do you donate money to politicians? Why? Each of us has the power to promote families rather than support really bad ideas.

Along the way, we need to learn to live without consuming and wasting so much. You have two children, why do you need a vehicle that can transport six people? Drive less and stay home with the kids. Are you and your children overweight? Learn to eat less food, especially junk food. Think about the name we give it, "junk food." Why buy it? Make another point not to eat fast food anymore. The people that sell it have no concern whatsoever for the health of your family. They want your money so they can get even richer and continue to pay people lousy wages. Do not give it to them. Save it for the future of your family.

Starting The Revolution

You should know that making a real effort to raise your children properly will start a revolution. A peaceful revolution is still a revolution in so many ways. If you start spending more time with your children, your neighbors might notice. If you stop smoking cigarettes, the vile tobacco company executives will notice. If you stop going to professional sports, the players and owners will soon realize this. When you stop pulling into fast food restaurants and handing them twenty dollar bills this is a revolutionary act. All these things will change the world around you faster than you can imagine.

Stay home with your children, this will change the world in the most significant way. The future will suddenly look more promising than you ever imagined it could. Other people will soon join the revolution, your example will be the reason why.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Antique Roadshow: Shuttle Discovery

Well, the Shuttle Discovery finally made it up into orbit. A bird hit it and chunks of tile and other unknown parts fell off during the ascent. It did not even reach the planned altitude. NASA officials say one chunk may have been an eight-inch piece of tile. The crew needs to get outside and crawl underneath before they are certain they can safely make it back home. It all reminds me of a 1967 Buick Special I owned in 1979.

Did you know that construction of the 4.5 million pound Discovery began in 1979? It was only the third shuttle of a total of five off that assembly line. They finally finished building Discovery four years later, in 1983. It has been back in the shop for repairs every year since then. The Space Shuttle should have been retired years ago, like my Buick.

Let me put this in perspective. Do you know that the first few cars off the assembly line of any factory, anywhere, usually do not even start? That has always been true for any new model, not just the Yugo. Car manufacturers do not dare put those first cars on the road. They actually tear them apart not long after they are built. Now imagine that you are now riding one of the first models of something made back in 1979; a motorcycle, a car or even a plane. Are you willing to take it up to 100 mph? How about 7,500 mph? Could you feel confident about taking that machine for a few spins around the planet? Remember, you will need to seriously slam on the brakes and glide that old ship back through 50 miles of Earth's junk-filled atmosphere. What a risky gamble the US Space program has become!

Do you know if there is a serious problem with a tile they intend to park the shuttle at the International Space Station (another ancient piece of flotsam and jetsam) for repairs? Nothing a roll of duct tape and some plaster of paris cannot remedy, huh? Actually, if they cannot fix it properly, the astronauts/demolition derby drivers are stuck at the station until spare parts can be sent up via a much more reliable unmanned Russian craft. The Space Station is the most expensive and dangerous human habitation ever constructed. Do you wonder what it might be like to spend a few nights there? The plumbing doesn't work, the food is terrible and the air stinks. The Space Station is also near the point where it will come roaring back to Earth in a burning flash. Nice motel. Sounds like the Bates Motel.

Why all this risk? Let me guess, we need the Shuttle and the Station for expanding military operations into Earth's orbit and beyond? NASA says this is part of the objective to go to the Moon and reach Mars. Strangely, we have already sent manned spacecraft to the Moon and unmanned craft to Mars. It is a well-known fact that NASA is primarily a cover for conducting military operations in space. No other purpose can justify the incredible expense of manned space missions.

What about the cost of this huge bottle rocket? America is spending billions to build one house in space while millions of humans starve in Niger and Burkina Faso. The budget of this single shuttle mission could feed the starving masses in Central Africa for at least a year! Of course, one week's military operation costs in Iraq would cover the same costs of starving Africans, for several years. The U.S. Space Shuttle is a perfect example of how rich nations waste the world's precious resources while leaving children in the Third World to needlessly die premature deaths.

When the one million-piece Discovery comes gliding back through the atmosphere, as a slowly burning hulk, as it is designed to do, no wonder if it barely makes it safely to the ground. Discovery has already flown 30 previous space missions. Engineers admit the Space Shuttle design is obsolete. Many of the systems, including the onboard computers, make it a real antique in every sense. My '67 Buick Special was driven into the ground sometime in the early 1980's, after 270,000 miles and three engines. Then again, that Buick was not the 4th car off a new model line that only produced 6 working cars. The previous two working models off the Space Shuttle assembly line were the Challenger and the Columbia. We must learn from what happened to the scientists we risked on the last flights of those two vessels.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Rich Trample The Poor

They tell us that we live in a great free republic; that our institutions are democratic; that we are a free and self-governing people. That is too much, even for a joke….
Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder…. And that is war in a nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles….


Eugene Debs

Think about the words of that great American, spoken in a speech given in June of 1918. Debs had just visited men who were in prison for opposing the draft. At his trial, after he was arrested for making that speech, Debs spoke these words:

I have been accused of obstructing the war. I admit it. Gentlemen, I abhor war. I would oppose it if I stood alone…I have sympathy with the suffering, struggling people everywhere. It does not make any difference under what flag they were born, or where they live…

Your honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element; I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.


Eugene Debs was found guilty of violating the Espionage Act and sentenced to ten years in jail. It is now 2005 and the United States is still waging wars for conquest and plunder. Our leaders and rich neighbors want all the cheap oil they can possibly waste. Our corporate executives want millions of dollars in annual salaries. These same robber barons want to keep millions from getting proper health care or a living wage. Politicians that stole the people's vote with lies and fear about weapons of mass destruction want to build more bombs to drop on the poor. Your schools and roads are crumbling, your taxes are going up along with the prices of everything you need. The government prints fake reports to make you believe everyone is employed yet millions are out of work. Business people tell you the economy is great but the National Debt is more than $7,875,946,479,699.72!!! Almost 8 trillion dollars of debt is not a sign of a great economy, it is a measure of how severe the nation's economic crisis actually is.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Lessons of Hate

Here’s a thought for everyman who tries to understand what is in his hand…
Oasis

Or head. Or Heart.

24, a popular program broadcast on the tube this year, portrayed a man shooting down the plane containing the president of the United States. That was on a network television station that is seen by millions. The fictional perpetrators were Islamic fundamentalists and their supporters.

At that same moment a public TV station was broadcasting the uncomfortable historical facts of 1930s Catholic support for killing the Jews. Far fewer people learned that lesson, however, because hardly anyone watches public TV these days. Those few who did watch Frontline on April 4, 2005 could not have easily ignored the message about the power of messages of hate.

The millions that saw the fictional shoot down of Air Force One learned a lesson of hate that evening as well.

A gunshot just rang out near my home. Not a firecracker or backfire or recording, but a gunshot. In a very urban setting. This is America. Land of the free, home of who knows what…

Learning about hate is not fun. Watching blacks kill blacks in Haiti was a tough lesson. Right before my eyes. Not once or twice but day after day, sometimes week after week. It depended on the season. It was called dechoucage or "pulling up the roots." It means out with the old leadership and in with the new.

Necklaced. When I first saw a man with burning tires around his neck I wondered if there even is a thing called society. A concept of civilization. Perhaps not, at least not yet. Maybe someday, maybe…

When I read about some Jewish extremists spreading blue poison pellets around the Holy Lands I wondered if advances in human culture are possible. Wild gazelles died along with some Palestinian goats. Those same thugs poisoned a poor village’s only well. Deliberately dumped used baby diapers in the drinking water. In the desert.

If it is possible to breed hatred then it is possible to breed love. Instill love in the people you brush past in your life. The cause needs every supporter it can find.

A weary Pope could no longer keep up the struggle. The little Polish man tried to change what he could without causing more death. He knew far more than he shared with us. He lived in Warsaw while the carousel went round and the Jewish ghetto burned alive. Necklaced en masse.

Have you ever been robbed? Alone in an alley? Maybe at gunpoint or at the tip of a knife? I have. Caribbean Islands, Hawaii, Vancouver, India, Virginia, Amsterdam and other places. Too many times. All wonderful, beautiful, flower-strewn places. It is all about looking the face of hate and desperation right in the eyes. I looked hate right in the eyes on each occasion and spoke words of compassion and love. Scares the hell out of hate to get sympathy at that moment. Not at all what they are expecting. No, not at all.

You may still get robbed but not killed. Show fear or anger or anything but love and compassion to your thief and that may be the last thing you ever do. Show love and compassion and sometimes funny things happen.

I ended up taking one thief to a restaurant and buying him all he could eat. The restaurant owner knew the man as a thief and tried to make me hate him by openly showing her hate to the thief and myself. I still made her feed us both and give extra to the criminal. She was stunned into silence at my momentary show of compassion for a very hungry man. No matter, we all learned a lesson that morning.

When the Haitian man pushed the gun in my face I laughed at him. He was quite serious about killing me. I knew that too. I knew that man for many months. When I stopped laughing at his foolishness I said to him, “You can kill my body, but not me. Go ahead, shoot me, then what happens?, another person comes along, you shoot that person and the next, pretty soon you are out of bullets.” He started to shake, rather uncontrollably. He still pointed the gun in my face and demanded my money. I refused. (I do not recommend this approach, bear with me.)

Plain thieves do not know what to do next when the gun or knife does not produce the expected result. Drug addicts, hungry people and killers may go ahead and shoot you anyway. In this case I knew this man. He was not particularly hungry or an addict or a man who had killed recently. He was failing to elicit fear in me. I slowly sat down but never stopped looking in his eyes. I have been told you do the same thing with snakes but not bears or mountain lions. Who knows.

The man kept on threatening me and shaking. I asked him if he knew who I was. I said, very firmly but not shouting, “Do you know who I am? Do you know what I am? Do you realize what happens when you kill me? I am not who you think I am. You cannot kill me, my body maybe, but not me. I will still be right here in this room in your face, even if you kill me.”

He was violently shaking at this point. I was really concerned that the weapon would discharge just from his shaking but I showed no fear. No fear on display to indicate weakness. None at all. Under my shirt I was sweating buckets but not my face.

He asked me who I thought I was “God or something?” I replied, “What do you think? What do you feel right I am right now? You answer that question, I know who I am.”

He slowly set the gun down but kept it pointed at me. I kept looking deeper and deeper into his eyes. (I also moved ever so slightly to one side so that the bullet would pass just to my left.) I realized that I was already deep in his head. He said to me, “You cannot act like God, that is a sin. The Bible says that is very bad.”

“I am not acting, Pierre. I can only be exactly what I am with you there pointing a gun at me, threatening to kill me. You forced me to show you who I really am. Now you know. Put the gun away, you cannot kill me and you know it.” He did put the gun away and he did know it. From that day on he showed immense respect to me in every way he could.

Later, I replaced the bullets in that gun with blanks, just in case Pierre flipped out again.

A few days later I walked right through the Haitian revolution without getting shot. People were shooting each other from both sides of the street. I was the only white man in that village town on that day. Walking right down the middle of the street with a briefcase. When I realized the bullets were going past it was too late to run, to show fear. So here’s what I did:

Three big ladies were still walking down that street. They had baskets of fruit on their head. They were singing. This is Haiti, the very poor still have to take their ripe fruit to market, even during a revolution. So I put my briefcase on my head, marched behind the ladies, swung my ass back and forth wildly and sang out loud. The shooting stopped. The shooters were laughing so hard at the sight of this white missionary man swinging his ass and singing that they could not fire. The ladies looked back at me and laughed too. I just kept marching along, swinging my ass with that briefcase on my head. Scared as all hell, but not showing it, in the least.

The gun fight resumed only minutes after the fruit ladies and I danced on past. I got to the clinic, where Pierre was, only a few minutes later. He knew about the gunfight, everyone knew, you can hear the shots for miles. Pierre was absolutely sure I was Jesus or Buddha after walking through all that killing that day. I knew I was just me, only using the brains I was born with and what I learned along the way. Best to let people like Pierre make up their own minds.

I learned that Pierre had killed someone before and gone to jail for it. So I suggested he go live up into the mountains, to live and work with the poorest people in the world for a few months. Without the gun. There are better lessons to learn there than jail ever taught him. He really changed his act after watching me and living among the destitute and desperate.

Many other rich and poor Haitians would often ask why I stayed on for months when all the other foreign aid workers quickly got on planes and left the country. I said this to each person that asked me, “When all the aid workers leave that is when you need us the most. So I am still here and you should carry on just as if all the aid workers are still here. No looting the missions, do not stop preparing the big pots of food. The missionaries will come back one day (I hoped.)” I ended up adopting many other missions for the duration of the revolution. I would just stop by, tell them I was now in-charge and make them carry on as usual. The Baptist mission, the 7th Day Adventist mission, a CARE location and many others. It was strange. All I had to do was carry on like everything was normal. And walk down streets where some people shot at each other while others starved to death. Show no fear and others will not be so afraid. And maybe, just maybe, the gunmen will be laughing too hard at the sight of you to shoot straight. It is that simple.

Since my work in India and Haiti I am not so afraid to die anymore. At least not foolishly, by the hands of a deranged man or revolutionaries. I drive just about at the speed limit everywhere I travel. And remember to sing out loud and swing my ass back and forth if someone points a gun at me.

Death is one thing that will happen to every living thing, one day. The idea is not to hasten death’s arrival by acting foolishly. Like smoking or driving too fast or failing to show compassion and love always. Always.

Not trying to scare you, just teach you something. Survival is more about laughter and loving the people around you.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Finding New Great Leaders

Taking the distant thoughts up close. That seemed to be what floated to the surface these days. Teaching had been a way to bury unpleasant thoughts. Buried under layers of other people’s business, buried under the inane rules dreamt up by software programmers and self-consumed businessmen. Teaching those rules to other people had been a way to bury the thoughts that he valued. Now they all had time to float to the surface and he looked back at at those years, searching for answers.

Important thoughts in our heads are like little children, they both keep asking “Why?” If you do not answer this “Why?” the little children and thoughts do not go away. Eventually the children may go away for a time but they will come back to ask again. Thoughts are the same, only they can come back late at night after the kids are put to bed.

Answers to hard questions, like those the Pope attempted to tackle, take time to formulate. Answers must be found to these questions, that is why they keep coming back. These are not mathematical or engineering questions, those are so easy to answer by comparison.

If you are assigned to figure out the trajectory of a ballistic missile as it soars over the oceans on the way to annihilate a city of humans, you have many reference books to turn to. The super computer in the next room will assist you. Past tests, models and wind tunnels can get you close to the truth. So easy are the answers for the teams that are tasked with that project.

The question of how to bring lasting peace to the world is perhaps the most difficult question there ever was. Should women become priests? Should we allow a man and woman to decide not to have a baby that has already begun to grow inside the woman? Answers to these questions are tough for leaders. They would be tough for you too, if you really, really thought about them as a leader, no matter what you personally feel the answer should be.

The reason these questions are difficult for leaders is because once you make a decision and the millions, no, billions, hear your answer, they will take actions. Many will abide by your decision, in a somewhat blind deference to leaders they trust. Others will start years of struggle against your decision, organizing anyone who may listen to them, all because they have a different set of facts they believe in.

If you make no important decisions, you are not leading, just holding the office until a real decision maker comes along. A warm body sitting in a seat, approving the budgets and scolding the miscreants is not a leader.

So many questions. No unbiased reference books, no tables, the Lord does not seem to be taking your calls, no super-computer to run calculations on models. Sure the computer may be able to compute how many die if you tell the people of Africa not to use condoms but will it tell you how many great leaders will never be born because of the same decision?

Societies definitely need great leaders. Right now there is such a shortage of real critical thinkers that entire nations are being led by fools or worse, by very smart but very greedy men. I believe the Taoists say that a truly great leader comes along only once in every thousand births.

That one in a thousand potential leader then has to make it to adulthood without being taken down nasty paths. Only one in a thousand of those possible leaders will get a chance to lead. So often that chance to lead will be squandered on an apple orchard or an oil company. Apple orchards and refineries need smart leaders but not the one in a million type of leader for sure.

Therefore the one in a million leader that gets into the position to lead millions is almost as rare as a planet with intelligent life in a galaxy of stars. It rarely happens. When it does, you can be sure a man with a gun will come along and attempt to cut short that leader’s life. This nearly always happens.

No matter what you think of their personal lives or decisions there is no denying that Gandhi and Pope John Paul II and Dr. Martin Luther King were leaders. Millions flowed behind them like rivers, listening and acting upon what they heard. These great leaders impacted the human world like the volcano Krakatoa impacted the earth’s geography. Massive changes in human relations resulted from the decisions they made during the lives they lived.

Let us not forget that all these leaders were shot with guns because they dared to make decisions about important questions. Decisions the rest of the leaders at that time failed to make. The seat warmers, holding the place until next person comes along.

There are great leaders living among us today. We know about Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. It is the great leaders we have not yet identified that need to found. The women and men that will take the time to find all the truths hidden among so many lies, these people need to be found. We need to give them the chance to help us along.

New leaders need to be allowed to put forth the questions, to listen to all the experts and the mothers and fathers and the poor and rich. The one in a million needs to be allowed to prove why they are one in a million. The great leader that is out there must be given the time and position to lead the billions away from the slaughter of the battlefields. This new leader must have the opportunity to show us why she is great. This new leader must also be allowed to make a small mistake or two during the first days of leadership.

The greatest of leaders are never born that way; they are shaped by the events that transpire around them and by other good leaders and by everyone. We all contribute to creation of a great leader by recognizing the qualities that make them great and letting them lead.

Terrible leaders are only created when enough people do not pay enough attention to the decisions made by these tyrants. Societies allow evil leaders to prosper by failing to study their actions and failing to hold them accountable for the very wrong decisions they make. We are all to blame when a bad leader makes many wrong decisions.

If a parent fails to answer a child’s “Why?” maybe only that child will really suffer. When a parent answers a child’s “Why?” with a malicious answer perhaps more people come to grief or harm. When a powerful yet terrible ruler continually arrives at the wrong answers to important questions millions can suffer the consequences. These wrong answers can even cause the unnecessary deaths of thousands or even millions of innocent people. We are all to blame in this case, not just the leader.

We must all search among our young to find the new great leader that is surely out there. This is far more important than searching the stars for a planet containing intelligent life. This is more important than looking for a person with great musical talent or scientific abilities. This new great leader must be located and then permitted to lead a billion or more followers for a few years. This must happen soon so this great leader can have enough time to arrive at excellent answers to the big questions, before they are shot down. Because we all know, in the end, they will be.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

TRUTH ALWAYS FINDS A WAY

The leaders of China ignored the air pollution from burning coal for many years. The leaders did not tell the people about the harmful effects of that pollution. The bodies of Chinese citizens had no way of hiding from the mercury and other pollutants introduced into the atmosphere by that coal. People in Chinese cities now understand many people are suffering from asthma and dying of lung cancer. Finally, the leaders of China had to admit that nearly 10% of Chinese efforts are lost due to the effects of air pollution each year.

Many people believe they have little control over the events that shape their daily lives. They really do not understand that powerful leaders are the cause of many major issues. When your wife tells you to take out the trash, you do so obediently, even if it means missing part of the game you are watching. The boss wants more work done by Friday, you dare not complain about how that means you now need to work late every night this week.

The evening traffic jams seem to move slowly past never ending road construction. You think it is because you left work later than usual. The radio announcer reads stories about some kid that died in the Iraq War or about rising health care costs or about problems with local schools. You finally get home and your wife hands you the new bills that arrived in the mail. She already opened them and wants to know where the money to pay them will come from. You can only sit down, pour a drink and try to guess how your world got this way. Did you bring all these problems upon on yourself?

When a leader cannot accomplish the great promises made during the heat of an election, it quickly becomes obvious. To begin with, leaders hold press conferences under bright lights to announce how they will fulfill those promises. Details and plans are only partially explained, the leader promises to provide more complete answers at a later time. If a leader openly told us they are going to spend all our money on a war, change the system that provides some security for old people and outlaw certain medical procedures, people would immediately shout "NO!"

Rich leaders know the truth does not sound good to ordinary people. This is why leaders try to trick their citizens with fancy excuses and even lies. They say the war is over, they promise lower taxes to everyone and forget to even mention the big issue of health care costs.

Opponents of failing leaders quickly begin making plans to stop the damage and reveal the truth. Hearings are called to determine the real truth. In other lands, other leaders gather to make plans in case their country is impacted by the poor leadership of that other country. Small nations worry about being invaded. Leaders of a powerful country seldom enjoy any real element of surprise but their mistakes sure can do a lot of damage to other parts of the world.

As the days go past, the pressure on our leaders only increases. News organizations closely follow how much each leader is accomplishing. Press people are expected to hold news conferences, eventually leaders must also face questions from inquiring journalists. Effective leaders can look directly into the cameras as they outline each success. A failing leader looks down, here and there, anywhere but at the lens that serves as the eye of the people.

Computers and the Internet bring the truth into the public eye far more rapidly than ink and printing presses did in the past. Now anyone can cross-check facts, look at actual photographs and possibly make more informed choices. If the majority of the people spend most free time intoxicated and passively watching pointless television programs, a crafty leader may be able to hide the truth for a little while. If only a small percentage of the population knows the truth, it may be possible to fool the crowds, for a short time. Truth, however, has that eternal power to become visible over time.

The leaders of United States try hard to conceal the true reasons, the use of torture and the ultimate consequences of the War in Iraq from the American people. Americans still learn the truth no matter how hard they try to hide it from us. Each poor American family that lost a productive member through combat death or severe injury has no way of ignoring that grim reality.

The rich do not send their children to go die in combat. But it was the wealthy who demanded that American armies initiate yet another crusade in the Middle East. The rich knew they needed that Iraqi oil to be able to continue lining their family pockets with gold. To pay for luxurious homes, giant automobiles and expensive vacations, America's millionaires need cheap oil.

The oil of Iraq turned out to be quite expensive indeed. The cost for that oil is being paid in deep red American blood. The money for the war comes from US school budgets, healthcare programs and giant loans from countries in Asia. Finally, the people of America are waking up to the understanding that the invasion of Iraq was a very stupid and illegal action.

The real cost of the War in Iraq is being deducted straight out of the future of poor families in the United States. Families with no father, no son, no daughter or no healthcare are trying to get by on jobs that do not pay the monthly bills. Poor communities across the US have no money to repair broken down schools, bridges or roads. The Army does not even have enough money to provide proper treatment for the disabled veterans wounded in the last war! All the money is being stolen by the people who used lies to convince everyone to go to war in Iraq.

In each case, people are learning more from the actual events taking place around them than from commercial news sources like TV or newspapers. The price of gas is now more than twice what it was before American leaders started the war. You know the schools and roads are a wreck. Many people now say they have no way of paying larger and larger hospital bills. Repeated visits to hospitals and eventually, attending a funeral teaches us a harsh, unforgiving lesson. The cold truth of losing a loved one can only be accepted if the actions that led to that lost life were absolutely necessary and understandable. Do the results of the War in Iraq seem necessary and understandable to you?

The lessons we each must learn lurk behind the names etched in rows of new granite blocks throughout military burial grounds across the United States. We have no other choice but to understand exactly who got America into this terrible war and why. The real reasons for this bloody slaughter must be made clear to everyone. All people in positions of power must be held to account for their decisions, but especially those who deliberately deceived the public. If those leaders are not brought to justice soon we can blame only ourselves when the same leaders repeat the same pointless slaughter of our precious children, wives and husbands, in the next war.