Tag Archives: Hurricane Irma

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? A Glimpse of How the President Will Handle Disasters not of His Making

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I’ve been back in the United States for a bit over three full days. Over the past two weeks I kept up with events in the United States while traveling in Germany and was spared the real time 24-7 coverage of the the soullessness, callousness, and incompetence of President Trump and his administration to real world crises.

However, over the weekend I was blown away by the President’s response to the desperation of the people of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands, all American citizens, following Hurricane Irma and then Maria. As I have seen the President deal with the crisis I can only hope that Otto Von Bismarck was right when he said “God has a special providence for fools, drunks, and the United States of America.” If he doesn’t then we are doomed because the sociopathic soullessness and incompetence of the President is unmatched by any of his 44 predecessors. Even the most sociopathic of them like Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk were hard working and competent, while the most incompetent Presidents had at least some redeemable qualities. But President Trump appears to be not only a sociopath, but lazy and incompetent too.

For the first time in his nine months in office we have seen this President deal with a crisis not of his making in real time, and it has not been pretty. In fact it is terrifying. As the storm hit the President went golfing at took to twitter to chastise NFL players and team owners about kneeling during the national anthem. For four days after declaring a state of emergency the President and the administration did nothing.

Not only did the administration not proactively prepare for a disaster that they knew was coming, they delayed the response by days as the President praised his supposed actions to help while doing nothing. When the Mayor of San Juan confronted him the President went on the attack because how dare she criticize him. The President blamed he government and people of Puerto Rico for what was going on even though the island is devastated, 90% of the island is without electricity, 90% of people have no cell-phone service, fuel is running out, over half of the island has no potable water; ports and airports are heavily damaged, many people have no homes left standing, while many roads, bridges, and other are critical infrastructure are damaged or destroyed. Army National Guardsmen and Reservists mobilized to help are in terrible shape. Not only are their families struggling, but the storm means that their bases and armories are damaged, they lack fuel for their vehicles, they are dealing with knocked out communications networks, and have little support from any higher echelons.

Likewise, the are few supplies, or equipment for the people devastated by the storm to even begin a recovery operation, even as the President demeans them and their political officials from the safety of his golf course while imputing to them motives which make him the victim while saying that Puerto Ricans are not doing enough for themselves. From his golf course the President tweeted: “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.” Frankly, they are doing everything they can for themselves, but they don’t have what they need to do it, the island is in ruins, the infrastructure devastated, and supplies in short supply.

The President shows no concern for the millions of people struggling amid the ruins of their community, without much outside help, following a massive natural disaster which hat it hit anywhere on the American East Coast or Gulf Coast would be getting far more attention from the government and the media. The problem for Puerto Rico is that most of its citizens, though Americans, are not White.

Likewise, while this was going on it was revealed that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was communicating directly with North Korea in order to avert a potential nuclear war, to which the President took to twitter to shame his chief diplomat saying that Tillerson was “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man.” And “Save your energy, Rex, we’ll do what has to be done.” Of course this signaling to all that the President either thinks that threats of war will force Kim Jung Un to back down or that he really wants a war with North Korea. Sadly, regardless of whether the President is using the threat of force as a tool to enforce his will on North Korea, or whether he really wants war, the end result will likely be a war that devastates much of the region, causes millions of casualties, including thousands or even tens of thousands American lives, and possibly even the nuclear destruction of American cities.

Sadly, this is the behavior of a sociopath. The President demonstrates on a daily basis the characteristics of a sociopath listed in the DSM-V. The President, a sociopath feels no empathy, no emotion. He is unencumbered by feelings such as fear, anxiety, stress, depression, remorse, guilt, caring, and love. Gustave Gilbert, who served as an U.S. Army Psychologist to the major Nazi War Criminals at Nuremberg noted:

“In my work with the defendants (at the Nuremberg Trails 1945-1949) I was searching for the nature of evil and I now think I have come close to defining it. A lack of empathy. It’s the one characteristic that connects all the defendants, a genuine incapacity to feel with their fellow men. Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.”

Yes, the response of the administration is not merely incompetent, but it is sociopathic, and being directed by a man who exhibits enough of the clinical clinical criteria to be judged the Sociopath in Chief. We can only hope that the Iron Chancellor was right about the providence that protects this country, because if he wasn’t right we are in big trouble.

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under natural disasters, News and current events, Political Commentary

Thoughts on the Sum Total of Life Amid Hurricanes and the Anniversary of 9-11-2001

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

It is hard too believe that in just a couple of weeks that the United States has been impacted by two category four hurricanes, Harvey in southeast Texas and Irma in Florida and Georgia. Of course the remnants of both storms will also end up dumping a lot of rain on much of the American South and in some places causing flooding. The cost of both storms will be in the billions and it will take months to years for the towns, counties, cities, most affected by these killer storms, and most importantly, the people who call those places home to recover.

While these things have been going on it is hard to imagine that the Korean Peninsula sits on the razor’s edge of a potential war, possibly a nuclear, the likes that has not been seen since the Second World War, or imagined since the tense days of the Cold War. Likewise, the fact that today is the 16th anniversary of the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. But I have been thinking about both even as we deal with Harvey and Irma.

I have served on the Korean DMZ, I was there just seven months before the attacks of September 11th 2001, but that was during the reign of Kim Jung Un’s father, Kim Jung Il. In retrospect the elder Kim, while a maniacal despot who starved millions of his own people, didn’t seem to have the same need to prove his manhood by testing missiles and nuclear devices as Chubby Son Number One does. In my view both are bad, but Kim Jung Un seems to be serious bent on provoking our own American wannabe despot into shooting first, but I digress…

But today I will be taking part at a remembrance at our base commemorating the attacks and resembling the victims of the 9-11 attacks. I remember the day well and I will never forget the nondescript memo on the Yahoo News homepage that morning as I logged off my computer to go to the gym at Camp Lejeune that stated “plane crashes into World Trade Center.” I saw that and thought that some dumb ass in a private plane had goofed up or had a medical emergency. Then I heard a radio talk show host screaming “oh my God, an airliner just crashed into the other tower.” I rushed to the gym to see what was on their televisions and saw Marines and Sailors standing and watching the burning towers. I went back to my office, showered, got my uniform on and went to my battalion headquarters. After twenty years in the military my war had begun, and it hasn’t ended yet. In fact I doubt that it will end before I retire, and I think that there is a strong chance that Korean, and maybe the Persian Gulf will blow up before my time of service ends.

Last night I watch Bridge on the River Kwai. In it, Sir Alec Guinness, playing Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson, the commander of a battalion surrendered at Singapore, in a reflective moment looking at the bridge that his soldiers built, tells his Japanese, captor, Colonel Saito, played by Sessue Hayakawa:

I’ve been thinking. Tomorrow it will be 28 years to the day that I’ve been in the service. 28 years in peace and war. I don’t suppose I’ve been at home more than 10 months in all that time. Still, it’s been a good life. I loved India. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. But there are times when suddenly you realize you’re nearer the end than the beginning. And you wonder, you ask yourself, what the sum total of your life represents. What difference your being there at any time made to anything. Hardly made any difference at all, really, particularly in comparison with other men’s careers. I don’t know whether that kind of thinking’s very healthy, but I must admit I’ve had some thoughts on those lines from time to time. But tonight… tonight!

Regardless of what happens over the remaining part of my now 36 year long military career, the fact is I am nearer to the end than the beginning of it, and I over the past few years I have asked myself the same questions that Nicholson poses to Saito.

So here I am, after 36 years my career is stalled and I believe that I am serving in my last billet before I retire. There are certainly others who have gone father than me, but I think I’ve had great career, and truthfully I am happy and regardless of what the last few years of my career bring, I hope that those who have served alongside of me in peace and war will be able to say that I made a difference. I don’t think that is for me to decide what the sum total of my life will represent, that is for others, their memory of me, and history.

But even so, as I finish this article and schedule it to post, my thoughts and prayers are with the people in Florida and elsewhere, especially my friends whose pieces are being disrupted by Irma, and those who are trying to recover their lives in Texas.

So until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Loose thoughts and musings, Military, News and current events, War on Terrorism

Irma Strikes

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

As I write this article before going to bed I am watching Hurricane Irma begin her journey of destruction through Florida after having traced a path of devastation across the Antilles and the Bahamas. Irma is massive and no-matter where she makes landfall the entire state of Florida will see some impact before she is done.

Irma has decreased a bit in strength having spent a little more time over Cuba than expected but will gain at least some of that strength back before she his the mainland. Winds in Key West were already gusting to hurricane force shortly after 11:00 last night. I have a friend who has remained in Key West to help those who cannot get out, even though he could have evacuated on Wednesday. He is now on some of the highest ground on the island in a cinder block house waiting for the storm to pass to begin his work. I have numerous other friends, mostly people who I have served with or taught who have evacuated to other locations from south and central Florida. I am quite anxious for them.

As I have watched Irma move across the Atlantic I have been mesmerized by her fearful symmetry, the large and well defined eye and the massive bands of rain. The radar and satellite images of Irma almost remind me of a beautiful yet deadly Great White Shark, beautiful to behold yet deadly.

My thoughts and prayers are with those in the path of Irma.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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A Retirement and a Mini-Reunion

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today just a few loose thoughts and musings and a number of subjects that while unconnected coalesced to be part of my day yesterday. I will probably write about some of in more detail later but I expect to be pretty busy as Judy and I get ready to fly out to Munich for our religious pilgrimage to the Oktoberfest Friday.

Found from my mom that a friend from 4th grade who lived next to my grandparents died of brain cancer, my age, that really sucks. Very concerned for my friends who are going to be impacted by Irma in Florida. Many have evacuated and know that in some cases when they return there will be nothing to return to. Some cannot evacuate, and one, my friend Mark Ebenhoch, a retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant, as well as LGBTQ and human rights activist has decided to stay in Key West in order to help those who cannot evacuate, even though he could have left Wednesday. But he is a Marine who cares for for others and puts others first. Then there was a blog troll who refused to go away even after I told him to, and a friend and colleague who voiced his support for keeping the Confederate statues by dismissing arguments against them as “historian’s fallacies.” That was a new one to me. But of course in order of importance I am most concerned for my friends in South Florida.

That being said, yesterday I had the honor of being a participant in my friend Vince Miller’s retirement ceremony at Norfolk. It was really nice to see how he organized it and how it focused not so much on him, but on service to others. This was the first retirement ceremony where I have seen an officer have special guest speakers who were of lesser rank than him, including the first time I have seen an enlisted man be one of the speakers at a ceremony for an officer. I appreciated that because it got me to thinking who I might want to speak when I eventually retire from the military with somewhere around forty years combined service between the Army and the Navy. I had the honor of passing the flag of the United States to Vince at the close of the ceremony. Today we’ll got to his post-retirement party.

While I was there I had the chance to see mutual friends, some who I haven’t seen in a few years. It really is amazing the tangled web of friends whose lives seem intersect our lives at different points of time, and for me that is a blessing. Friends matter, and it is wonderful to run across old friends that you have served with at other times who nonetheless are also important to other friends that you had no idea that they knew. I saw quite a few of those mutual friends yesterday, some who I have known for nearly a quarter of a century.

It was a very good day and I wish all of you the same today.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Of Hubris, Hurricanes, Hydrogen Bombs, and Harder Alternatives

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I got five mile walk in with my dogs Minnie and Izzy along the Potomac River and has a good amount of time to enjoy them, to take in the woods and wildlife, and to do some thinking. As I walked in the quiet with my girls I thought about what I wrote yesterday about the blessings of solitude. Going out with them meant that I had time to think and ponder a number of crises that have the possibility of impacting all of our lives in major ways and the hubris, arrogance, ignorance, and incompetence of the so called leader of the free world. Max Hastings description of Kaiser Wilhelm II is frighteningly descriptive of President Trump: “a brittle personality whose yearning for respect caused him to intersperse blandishments and threats in ill-judged succession.”

First, there was the catastrophe of Hurricane Harvey with the massive destruction to Houston and much of East Texas to which despite two visits to the region the President still seems emotionally untouched by. Then, after North Korea tested a missile that could hit the United States I conducted a test of its largest nuclear weapon to which after he made his obligatory angry tweets to North Korea, President Trump then both threatened and scolded South Korea.

Now there is the real possibility of another natural disaster as Hurricane Irma bears down of the Southeastern or Gulf Coast of the United States as a major, possibly category four or five storm capable of massive destruction and loss of life, and the realization that we have a President that only seems to see these crises in the light of self-promotion and how they make him appear, and the realization that most people do not prepare themselves for worst case scenarios.

This is nothing new, Barbara Tuchman wrote of an earlier generation “One constant among the elements of 1914—as of any era—was the disposition of everyone on all sides not to prepare for the harder alternative, not to act upon what they suspected to be true.”

Likewise over the weekend I have been doing a lot of reading. I finished Max Hastings book about the opening months of the First First World War, Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War, Bradley Gottfried’s annotated atlas of the Battle of Antietam, The Maps of Antietam, which was helpful as I walked the battlefield on Thursday, Meg Groeling’s The Aftermath of Battle: The Burial,of the Civil War Dead, and Breaking Point of the French Army: the Nivelle Offensive of 1917 by David Murphy. All three books to some extent dealt with the hubris of leaders and the human cost of war. Likewise, my walk of the Antietam battlefield was a good way for me to put both hubris and the human cost of war into perspective.

While natural disasters cannot be avoided they can certainly be mitigated if leaders and people are willing to do the hard thing prepare for worst case scenarios. What happened with Hurricane Harvey is going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars to repair and even for the region to partially recover. Houston will rebuild, and recover but many of the poorer small towns down the Gulf Coast of Texas will not. As I write this the potential damage and loss of life to whatever section of the East Coast or the Gulf Coast that Irma hits will be substantial.

As for North Korea, it seems that the President is determined to provoke the already tense situation on the Korean Peninsula by not only threatening North Korea, but our ally South Korea as well. I don’t know about you but my training as a young officer on the Fulda Gap during the peak of the Cold War taught me to prepare for the worst and I don’t see the leaders of our country or for that matter most people planning, or even thinking about how bad this could get. My motto is that of Hannah Arendt “Prepare for the worst; expect the best; and take what comes,” to which I would add be flexible.

My hope is that Irma will turn away from land and head into the vast reaches of the North Atlantic, but with every new update I see the possibility that as with Harvey, millions of real people are going to have their lives upended. The same is true if the situation on the Korean Peninsula comes to war. It’s just the way I think, and I would rather be ready and have done my best to prepare for the worst case scenario hoping that it never comes to pass, than through a lack of planning, inaction, and careless words or gestures make things exponentially worse.

So anyway, until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, national security, natural disasters, News and current events, Political Commentary