Tag Archives: Hurricane Katrina

Redefining the term ‘cutthroat’

John and Dathel Georges are trying to redefine the term “cutthroat” as it applies to describing media purchases.

The couple that owns the New Orleans Advocate has just purchased the once-might New Orleans Times-Picayune — and has laid off the entire Times-Picayune staff! All of ’em are gone, or will be gone soon.

This is the way it has become, it seems, in the world of print media.

The Times-Picayune once was the newspaper of record for The Big Easy. It became a media powerhouse, reporting on the ravages brought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Then social media, the Internet and cable news began taking its toll. The T-P reduced its publication schedule to three days a week. Its circulation plummeted. As did its ad revenue.

The Advocate continued on. It became the scrappy alternative the Newhouse family’s once-formidable media presence.

Now the Advocate — owned by Mr. and Mrs. Georges — has taken over the T-P. It will restore its seven-day-a-week publishing schedule.

The T-P staff, though, won’t be part of the story.

Oh, my, this story hurts.

Sadly, though, it is just yet another example of how media companies operate. I once worked for a company, Morris Communications, that made a ton of bad business decisions at the top of the chain of command. When the company’s initiatives failed to bear sufficient fruit, the execs at the top decided to “punish” the staff by invoking pay cuts across the board and eliminating the company match toward staffers’ retirement accounts.

I also worked for another media group, the Hearst Corporation, that around 1988 decided to settle a major newspaper war in San Antonio. Hearst owned the San Antonio Light, which was battling with the Rupert Murdoch-owned Express-News. Hearst then purchased the Express-News.

However, Hearst then extended its “thanks” and expressions of gratitude for the battle fought by its Light staff by closing the Light and laying off its employees.

What’s about to happen in New Orleans, therefore, is not a newly contrived event. It’s happened many times before in the media business. It doesn’t make it any less disgraceful or dispiriting.

Working in the media world these days is tough, man!

I am so glad, delighted and relieved, to be free of that pressure.

Another unsubstantiated assertion from POTUS

It wasn’t enough for Donald Trump to insult Puerto Ricans by visiting the island territory and tossing rolls of paper towels in one of the stranger photo ops in modern presidential history.

Or that he denigrated the suffering of those Americans by suggesting the death toll (at the time) didn’t rival that of a “real tragedy” such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Now he blurts out yet another evidence-free assertion that Puerto Ricans are squandering relief money on things unrelated to the rebuilding of the island infrastructure. The president says the island government is using the money to pay off debts.

Let me add — with emphasis and a healthy dose of extreme anger — that he’s saying this without providing a scintilla of proof to back up his assertion.

Trump takes aim at PR again

Does this guy have any boundaries of good taste, good sense, compassion, empathy, sincere heartache? Any of it? All of it?

No! He doesn’t.

Instead, he continues to fire off accusations, innuendo and gossip about matters about which he knows not a damn thing.

Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, which wasn’t in great shape to begin with. It killed nearly 3,000 of Puerto Rico’s residents, who I should add are U.S. citizens.

Relief was slow to arrive in the wake of the killer storm. Yet the president boasted about the “great job” he was doing.

The mayor of San Juan has engaged in a public spitting match with the president, which I suppose is likely the reason for Trump’s latest baseless tweet accusing “inept politicians” of doing something on which he has no basis.

Disgusting.

This is how a POTUS with no shame functions

Donald John Trump is actually proud of his shamelessness.

He takes pride, or so it appears, in the notion that he won’t apologize for mistakes. He won’t even acknowledge them. He speaks from his gut and let’s it stand. Or … he doubles or triples down on the thoughtless and arrogant statement that flies out of his mouth, or gets blasted into the Twitter-verse.

Thus, we have a president of the United States refusing to back down on that idiotic, brainless, evidence-free, crass and despicable statement that nearly 3,000 Americans didn’t die when Hurricane Maria blasted through Puerto Rico one year ago.

The president has said, in effect, that the loved ones who lost 2,975 of their own in that terrible storm are fake. They aren’t really grieving. They aren’t mourning their loss.

Trump has disparaged the independent review of the Puerto Rican territorial government that established a death toll that, by golly, exceeded the number of victims who perished when Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast in 2005.

Trump tweeted this: “When Trump visited the island territory last October, OFFICIALS told him in a briefing 16 PEOPLE had died from Maria.” The Washington Post. This was long AFTER the hurricane took place. Over many months it went to 64 PEOPLE. Then, like magic, “3000 PEOPLE KILLED.” They hired….

And then this: ….GWU Research to tell them how many people had died in Puerto Rico (how would they not know this?). This method was never done with previous hurricanes because other jurisdictions know how many people were killed. FIFTY TIMES LAST ORIGINAL NUMBER – NO WAY!

Meanwhile, as the Carolina coast was bracing for the Hurricane Florence onslaught, the president had the gall to declare the federal response to Hurricane Maria an “unsung success.”

It was nothing of the sort.

A president with a sense of shame would acknowledge that the government he was elected to lead could have done better.

Not this fellow. He is merely “telling it like it is.”

Disgraceful.

Worrying about New Orleans all over again

I know I’m not the only American who is worried a little more than normal tonight about what might occur in the next couple of days in New Orleans, La.

Tropical Storm Gordon is pounding South Florida. The storm is heading into the Gulf of Mexico and is drawing a bead on the Big Easy.

Why the worry? You know what I mean.

Thirteen years ago, New Orleans fell victim to the deluge brought ashore by Hurricane Katrina. The levees that were supposed to protect the city’s residents failed. Water poured in over the city. The tragedy became a worldwide story as residents fled their homes for places far inland, away from the danger.

They eventually drained the water out of New Orleans. They buttressed the levees. They say the city is protected better than it was in the summer of 2005.

But … is it?

TS Gordon might grow into another hurricane. Or it could make landfall as a tropical storm as it churns across the Gulf of Mexico.

And, yes, I’m going to worry about New Orleans residents who no doubt get the heebie-jeebies whenever the summer season produces these storms every single year.

I’m sending them all good thoughts and positive karma as they await this latest unwelcome visitor coming in from offshore.

Be strong.

‘Real disaster’ struck Texas … no kidding!

Texas emergency officials have reported that Hurricane Harvey has killed 88 people.

Eight-eight families have lost loved ones. They are grieving to this day. Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas Gulf Coast twice, first as a Category 3 hurricane and then as a tropical storm.

Watching the storm’s savagery from afar, I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that it constitutes a “major disaster.” The hurricane blasted the Coastal Bend region with killer winds and storm surge. The tropical storm deluged Houston and the Golden Triangle with unprecedented rainfall: 50 inches in one 24-hour span of time, a record for the continental United States of America.

Harvey hit us real hard

I want to mention this because of something that Donald John Trump Sr. told our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico. He seemed to chide them because — at the time of his visit — “only” 16 people had been killed by Hurricane Maria, which destroyed the island’s power grid and its potable water supply.

Yet, the president seemed to suggest that Puerto Rico was “fortunate” to have suffered so little loss of life, unlike what happened to New Orleans in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina stormed ashore.

Well, I guess I ought to remind the president that the Texas coast didn’t suffer the amount of deaths that other storms have brought, but he dare not dismiss the damage from the Coastal Bend to the Golden Triangle as anything short of a major disaster.

Houston, we have a development problem

There will be time — in due course — to start thinking seriously about the future of a city that’s been devastated by Mother Nature’s awesome power.

It is beginning already, though.

Houston is still bailing out and digging out from impact of Hurricane Harvey. Residents remain displaced. Many thousands of Houstonians are grieving and wondering where they go from here, what they’ll do to rebuild their shattered lives.

Meanwhile, city officials have begun to start asking: What have we done to exacerbate this tragedy?

Houston is known as a city with limited urban planning guidelines. Over many years the city has quite willingly paved over grasslands and wetlands with pavement. They’ve built highways and bridges, paved streets, laid down parking lots, erected skyscrapers. Residential neighborhoods have sprung up where alligators once swam.

The result of all that has helped produced what we’ve witnessed in recent days. Indeed, Harvey’s savagery isn’t the first such incident to bedevil Houston. Hurricanes Ike and Rita, anyone? Hurricanes Carla and Alicia? Yes, we remember those events, too.

What does Houston do? How does the city cope with the potential for future disaster? I fear it’s too late. The city isn’t going to bust up the asphalt. It’s not going to knock down those buildings and bridges. It won’t shoo away the millions of residents who have flocked to the city.

I suppose the city is now left to ponder ways to control more tightly developers’ designs on future construction. I remember some discussion after Hurricane Katrina laid siege to New Orleans in August 2005 about how the city should rebuild whole neighborhoods washed away. There was some talk of turning former Ninth Ward neighborhoods into wetlands and relocating the residents who fled the storm’s fury.

Houston might need to ponder a similar response to recovering from the damage and destruction delivered by Hurricane Harvey.

A word of caution: Don’t dawdle, Houston. The changing climate might well produce another killer storm soon. I don’t need to remind our friends along the Gulf Coast — but I will anyway — that we are now entering the peak of the 2017 hurricane season.

Let’s cut Mayor Turner some slack, eh?

Imagine being in Sylvester Turner’s shoes … for just a moment or two.

You are the mayor of Houston, the fourth-largest American city. A killer storm is bearing down on you and your constituents, not to mention millions of other residents living nearby.

Do you order a mass evacuation, remembering what happened the last time a mayor issued such a call in your city? Or do you hope the storm might miss your city and then hope your city’s emergency response teams can react accordingly?

Mayor Turner has been getting a lot of grief of late from those who believe he should have shooed residents out of his city in the path of Hurricane Harvey.

I’m trying to give the mayor the benefit of the doubt.

Houston resident Kam Franklin, writing in Texas Monthly, has explained why she believes the mayor made the right call.

Read her article here.

Franklin recalls heading north on jammed-up freeways in 2005 as Hurricane Rita was drawing a bead on Houston. Rita was the second act in that terrible Gulf Coast twin-bill drama that featured the tragedy and devastation brought by Hurricane Katrina to the greater New Orleans area a month earlier.

The evacuation order didn’t go well as residents sought to flee Rita’s wrath. Franklin tells a story of horrific traffic jams (see the picture attached to this post) that kept people on highways for many more hours than was necessary.

She has no tolerance for those who live far from Houston but who think they know how to respond in the face of pending disaster.

As Franklin declares: “It’s very easy to judge people who are in a situation you’ve never been in. Right now isn’t the time to argue over who said what and when, because we’re still in the middle of this. Unless you’re here trying to help people, I don’t think you should be preaching about it. I’m know I’m going to try to help the best I can.”

This story just keeps getting better

Consider this item to be the “gift that keeps on giving.”

It involves a teenage girl from Mississippi and a U.S. Air Force pararescue jumper who became acquainted at a time of intense national tragedy: Hurricane Katrina.

LaShay Brown was struggling to escape Katrina’s wrath in New Orleans in September 2005. Airman Michael Maroney rescued her from the torrent. The picture of them embracing after the rescue went viral.

They reconnected a decade or so later. They have remained BFFs ever since that reunion.

LaShay is now 14 years of age; Maroney is set to retire from the Air Force. But they have a date to keep. LaShay has invited the man who saved her life to her junior ROTC ball in Waveland, Miss., where she now lives with her family.

Maroney says LaShay saved his life too. Her embrace of him that day meant the world to the young airman.

Emergencies often build lifetime friendships

The above link is of a blog I posted in 2015 of the two getting reconnected. It warmed my heart then to read of the initial rescue and of Maroney’s efforts to catch up with the little girl he pulled from Katrina’s wrath.

The idea that he now would be the girl’s “date” at an ROTC ball warms my ticker even more.

“I am proud of her no matter what she does and will support her in everything she does,” Maroney says. “I think she understands service and I believe that she will do great things no matter what she chooses.”

Hearing of this upcoming event makes my day.

President ought to take a look at the flood damage

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I am one of those who believes Barack Obama should take day away from his vacation to do something quite presidential.

He ought to take a jet ride south from Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., to tour the flood damage of Louisiana. He ought to spend just a bit of time talking to local residents, local officials, state officials and his Homeland Security staff to get an up-close look at Mother Nature’s fury.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has said he’d rather have the president wait before going there.

Look, this isn’t written into the president’s job description. It’s understood, though, that when Americans are hurting their head of state sometimes gets called upon to offer personal words of comfort, love and support.

A historic flood, to my mind, counts as one of those times.

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post makes an interesting argument that the president famously doesn’t always do things just because they look right.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/08/18/heres-why-president-obama-isnt-stopping-his-vacation-to-visit-the-louisiana-flooding/

I get that, too.

However, this president did join the amen chorus of critics in 2005 when President Bush staged that noted flyover during in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which wiped out much of New Orleans. The critics all said Bush needed to set foot on the ground and the flyover became something of a symbol of alleged presidential nonchalance about the suffering that befell one of America’s great cities.

Cillizza writes: “Presidents don’t get vacations — they just get a change of scenery,” Nancy Reagan famously told critics of her husband’s regular trips to the family’s ranch. Work, especially in this digital age, follows you around.

I get that, too.

Presidents, though, assume the role of “comforter in chief.” Obama has performed that role masterfully many times during his two terms in office. Whether he’s embraced family members of those slain in spasms of violence or gone to natural disaster sites — such as when he went to the Jersey Shore after Super Storm Sandy devastated that region — he’s been there.

Some folks in Louisiana need comforting right now.

Heat: It’s all relative

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The dog days of summer have arrived a bit earlier than usual on the Texas High Plains.

We’ve been simmering in 100 or near-100-degree weather for several days now. How’s it going with my fellow Panhandle residents? Not too well, based on some of the social media postings I have been reading of late.

Pardon me for snickering … just a bit. I promise I’ll be discreet. I won’t guffaw out loud.

Still, I must remind my many friends here just how bad it could be during this time of year. We could be living on the Texas Gulf Coast, where my family and I lived for nearly 11 years before my wife and I skedaddled to the High Plains in January 1995. Our sons were in college and were on their own.

I now shall inflict a brief version of a story I’ve told many times about life in what I call The Swamp.

It was around 1989. I was working in my yard. The temperature outside that summer day was just this side of 100 degrees.

The humidity? About the same. High 90s. I’m telling you, there’s nothing quite like the Gulf Coast heat/humidity combo that makes one appreciate cooler places and cooler times of the year. Our many friends who live between Beaumont and Corpus Christi know of which I speak.

I stopped working in my yard and went inside the house. I announced to my wife, “We’re going to the beach!” So, we gathered up our beach gear, threw it into our Honda Civic and peeled out for the coast.

We raced through Mid-Jefferson County then turned east, across the Sabine River that borders Texas and Louisiana and headed for our favorite spot on the coast.

Holly Beach, La., beckoned us. Hurricane Katrina and later Hurricane Rita in 2005 wiped out what passed for the “resort” there. On this day, though, it awaited us.

We drove our Honda onto the beach, we got out and raced to the water.

I plunged into the surf — and came up immediately and ran back out onto the sand! Why? The water was as stinkin’ hot as the ambient air. That’s why!

There was no refreshment to be found in the Gulf of Mexico that day.

OK, we stayed for the rest of the day. We rented inner tubes and lolled around in the surf. Why go back home when we’d made the effort to find some comfort in that oppressive heat?

The moral of the story?

Suck it up, my Panhandle neighbors and remember: It’s a dry heat.