The Katrina Syndrome

Every blogger on the planet is writing this morning about Obama’s acceptance speech and McCain’s running mate.

I think Mike Barnacle on "Morning Joke" (MSNBC) just summed up Obama's speech perfectly: "Not grand and soaring, but specific and concrete." If you saw the wonderful Alan Sorkin movie, "The American President," you would have recognized some great lines delivered by the fictional President Andrew Shepherd.

As for McCain’s running mate, frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

Ordinarily, when people have nothing to say, they talk about the weather. But, today, across the Deep South, the weather is the topic du jour.

The governor of Mississippi has declared a state of emergency. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has told residents he will not hestitate to order a mandatory evacuation. MSNBC is hyping Gustav’s threat so they can talk about “split-screen coverage” of a major hurricane and a Republican convention.

Reports on The Weather Channel are much less alarmist.

Friends and family in Mississippi and Louisiana are reporting a near-panic.

The Katrina syndrome.

In their words:

From central Mississippi: “Well, I have been caught totally off guard by the mass grab taking place today of people preparing for the pending hurricane. Which, by the way, could hit anywhere from Texas to Florida. I guess people were SOOO not ready for Katrina that it has caused a panic. Gas here went up 29 cents overnight. People are lined up at the gas pumps and fighting for a place in line. A friend went to two stations before getting gas last night because the stations had sold out. No water on the shelves of any of the stores here, or batteries. I am praying this thing just fizzles out in the Gulf. Wishful thinking, huh? I have some gas in the car and a few groceries. I will not panic until we get a better forecast.”

From a friend getting her master’s online: “I'm busting it trying to get all my homework done early in case this hurricane turns out to be like Katrina and knocks my power out for a week ... been at it every evening. People are freaking out and have bought all the water, gas and batteries, and are standing in line at Home Depot, waiting on generators. I filled up both my cars, and that is about it. I never have food so why start now? Ha. Got no money to run stock up on all this crap anyway. I just need INTERNET service, which I cannot store. And gas, which I’ve gotten alredy.”

From Mississippi: “I will not get crazy about the weather. I think folks around here are stopping nothing short of building a bomb shelter. All I can think that we need is a loaf of bread. If the shelves are bare this weekend, I will bake one. LOL No, seriously, I hope I am right and this is no Katrina or worse yet, Camille.”

The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center:

“Center of TS Gustav moving west of Jamaica … 18.3 N/78.3 W … moving to W/NW at 8 mph … maximum sustained winds at 65 mph with tropical storm force winds extending up to 140 miles outward from center … minimum central pressure at 988 MB/29.18 inches … storm surge at 1 to 3 feet above normal tide … total rainfall accumulations of 6 to 12 inches across Jamaica and the Cayman Islands with maximum amounts of up to 25 inches possible.”

Then this simple cautionary note: “Interests throughout the Gulf of Mexico should monitor the progress of Gustav.”

It’s always best to err on the side of caution and, as the Boy Scouts of America motto goes, “Be prepared,” but with five additional tropical disturbances in the Atlantic, “crying wolf” and creating unnecessary panic can upset life routines as well.

Best to get reports from a source without an alarmist edge. All the latest – and official - news on Gustav (and Hannah) is available at the National Hurricane Center Web site HERE.


An old email

Around midnight on 27 July 2004, I sent out a brief email to all in my address book. I’ve never forgotten its message.

Last night I spent two hours using the fantastic search engine google has provided for locating personal computer files. Finally, after scanning a dozen or so CDs holding my computer documents of nine years, I located the old email and wrote a post around it.

Then, I got an error message: “run-time error,” which zapped the post.

I must preface what follows by explaining that I am totally dependent on Microsoft Word. I can see nothing in my AOL inbox and cannot read emails or even determine who they are from until I copy and paste them into Microsoft Word where the messages open up to me in 18-point bold font, white on a black background. The screen before me is now the only thing on God’s green earth I can see. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy this medium so much.

I opened up a new Microsoft Word file to begin again only to be met with a message box I couldn’t read, headed “File Recovery Something Or Other.” I am the Pearl Pureheart of freaking computer situations. Every time I opened a new Word file, there was that damn box, rendering Word unsusable. Finally, after another two hours of clicking on this or that, the annoying messge box disappeared into the computer’s nether niches.

The occasion of the old email was moments after Barack Obama’s keynote address – “The Audacity of Hope” – at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, once an incubator for an infant nation.

The subject line of the email is: “PREDICTION.”

I wrote:

“Barack Obama. Keep an eye on this guy. His political star will rise. BJ”

I confess I find the meteoric speed unsettling, but the prediction came true, made official last night.

Like all journalists, I thrill at observing history in the making.

Such moments in time are often fraught with tragedy. Many bring injustice. Others are filled with prmise.

A miracle is needed to deliver as much as has been promised.

Time will tell.




From Hillary's viewpoint

" ‘If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there's shouting after you, keep going. Don't ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.’

“And, even in the darkest moments, that is what Americans have done. We have found the faith to keep going.”

As she evoked Harriet Tubman’s rescue of slaves escaping to freedom along the Underground Railroad, it was clear to me that Hillary Rodham Clinton had just described her public life before and during her run for the presidency.

In her address last night to Democrats gathered in Denver, Senator Clinton, with these words, evoked for me so many memories of a pack of media mad dogs at her heels.

Incredulously, the rabid right was joined in the pursuit by Simon Legrees of the left.

No matter what her critics dished out, she maintained her dignity. And, she never let me down.

In my inbox this morning:

Dear B. J.,

Standing on that stage tonight in front of 20,000 Democrats unified behind Senator Obama, I saw a bright future for America. I saw millions of people across the country working as one to elect the next Democratic President. I saw a new President and a new Congress giving a voice to the voiceless. I saw America, the land of endless potential, regaining its role as a leader in the world.

I couldn't be prouder of our party, of our nominee, and of all the work you and I have done together over the course of this campaign on behalf of the American people.

I knew that as I stood in front of that podium, I wasn't alone. I had you, and everyone who has supported me, standing right up there with me. And that means the world to me.

Thank you again for everything you've done. Now, let's get to work helping elect Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and all of our great Democratic candidates!



Many times as a blogger I attempted to extol the merits of this great American only to be met with comments such as:

“Now, for some fun, the next time you see Mrs. Clinton prancing around a stage, wireless microphone in hand, turn down the sound and begin to sing ‘The hills are alive. . .’ "

At the outset of the Democratic primaries, I wrote that my support of Hillary had nothing to do with gender or race, but was a decision made after many years of following this amazing woman’s life choices.

Last night as she exited the convention stage, Hillary passed through a room full of Obama staffers who rose in unison and gave her a standing ovation.

Obama supporters want Hillary’s faithful to come into his camp. I hope, in turn, they will come to realize this woman has something neither money nor votes can buy – class.


That little checkbox

So, who’s paying for those big parties coming up? The ones with all the funny hats, buttons, banners and balloons?

When you check that little box on your tax return - the one asking if you’d like to help with the current political campaign – you aren’t really contributing a penny. Or, are you?

According to a CNN report this morning, your check mark actually gives Congress permission to use everyone’s tax dollars to foot convention bills.

Allocated for the big blowouts: $34 million - $17 million to each party – and an additional $70 million from the Justice Department for security – that’s $70 million to EACH party.

Wanna bet a few more tax bucks are involved?

Next week you can come home from work, collapse into your easy chair, watch ‘em pop the corks and toot the horns secure in the knowledge that all that $174 million in fun you’re watching on the tube just took a bite out of your paycheck.

You might want to wear your “Are we having fun yet?” T-shirt.