Well, at least they are trying

The Occupy Democrats are some of the most toxic and race-obsessed people on the web, as I have had occasion to note in the past; but they actually tried their best to produce a positive meme for once.

White and black rescuers

The problem, of course, that instantly strikes anybody who is not in the Occupy Democrat fold, is that very obviously they DID notice the difference, or else they would not have created the meme. In absolutely any situation in which two pictures are even vaguely similar, and one of them has a black person while the other has a white person in an analogous position, if you show them to the Occupy Democrats staff the first and possibly only thing they will notice, is the racial difference. They’re just psychologically crippled that way, which is sad.

But at least they are trying, here; so I give them very sincere points for effort. Perhaps one day they will actually reach the point at which they could look at those two pictures and not notice the skin color of the people involved. It would take a miracle, of course; but sometimes miracles do happen.

(The other irony, of course, is that there are tens of millions of people in this country who WOULD notice the race right away, and who WOULD think the race was significant enough to matter — and 99% of those people vote Democratic. I posted the top picture on this very blog a couple of days ago and it never crossed my mind to point out the guy was white and the woman and baby were Asian, even though I am a redneck who has been known to wear baseball caps and camouflage and my wife is Chinese…but the Occupy Democrats people are unshakably certain that it’s the people like me who are racist. People are very, very fascinating once you rid yourself of the expectation that their ordinary mode of mental functioning is be honest with themselves. As long as you DO have that sadly unrealistic expectation, they are insanely frustrating, of course. As always, the secret to being in charity with your neighbor: low expectations.)

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On the advisability of hurricane evacuation

I gather that people who don’t live in Houston (such as “Instapundit” Glenn Reynolds) are bashing Houston authorities for not calling for evacuation ahead of Harvey, and are drawing analogies with Mayor Nagin’s gross negligence ahead of Katrina. Now this is silliness, but I don’t really blame the critics that much because it’s mostly ignorance on their part.

Most of us here in Houston understand that a mass evacuation of the Gulf Coast would have been a horrific nightmare, because most of us here know about, and very in many cases personally experienced, Ike and Rita. But that makes us highly unusual. Generally speaking very few people, unless they have had military training, have any comprehension of logistics; it clearly hasn’t occurred to Reynolds to ask, for example, “And where will these six million people all buy gasoline at the same time?” Military people obsess over logistics because wars are pretty much by definition extreme situations and they are won and lost by logistics as much as anything (the Normandy invasion, for example, was at least 95% a logistical problem); so military people completely understand that huge movements of people and goods take immense organization and a big head start — but hurricanes are so unpredictable that big head starts simply are not available. By the time Harvey gave any sign that it could jump even to a Level 3 hurricane it was too late to start evacuating all of Houston. If you have gone through an extreme logistics challenge — that is, you have been in the military or lived through something like Ike or Rita — then you completely get it. Otherwise you probably simply cannot imagine the chaos that would ensue from, “Everybody on the Texas Gulf Coast, go to Dallas right now.”

A very funny example of the uncertainty problem comes from Ike. I was working at BP at the time, and the projected path showed Ike slamming straight into Houston. So the entire BP trading operation packed up and moved to the Disaster Recovery facility in Longview in order to escape Ike. (I was systems support and didn’t have to go, which turned out well for me.) As soon as they got there, Ike changed paths, bypassed Houston, and slammed straight into Longview, flooding the just-relocated trading operation into near-oblivion. Now imagine if instead of moving the five or so hundred people on the BP trading desk, you had moved six million Houstonians…

People don’t realize that Katrina was a very special case. The reason Nagin should have issued a New Orleans evacuation order is that Katrina went big several days in advance, and New Orleans was uniquely vulnerable, in ways that the surrounding area simply was not: it was much more densely populated and already known to be utterly incapable of sustaining a direct hit from a Category Five. Furthermore the population of New Orleans lives in a quite small (relatively speaking) geographical area and therefore large numbers of people could effectively be shipped out en masse (by bus fleet, for example) in an efficiently short period of time. That New Orleans had all these advantages, and through stupidity and bull-headedness refused to take advantage of them, was frustrating, certainly.

But on the Texas coast there is too wide an area that could require evacuation, too many people to get in each others’ way, too much dispersion of population to facilitate mass evacuation by bus or other public conveyance rather than by private car, and too much uncertainty about the path and intensity of the storm, to be able to issue an evacuation order with confidence until it is too late to execute the evacuation. WeTexans have learned (through bitter experience) to evacuate only highly targeted areas, to evacuate them only at the last minute when we know for sure exactly who it is that has to get out, and to keep everybody else in place so that when we actually know exactly who has to evacuate, the roads will be clear and the gasoline will not have run out.

The Texas authorities handled it precisely correctly. The armchair critics are merely exposing their ignorance and lack of experience. Not that these are, of course, serious faults.

Houston’s Dunkirk

An analogy I like well enough to repeat in its own post: Houston this weekend was basically Dunkirk, except that the enemy was Harvey rather than Hitler. When the public officials simply didn’t have enough resources to meet the need, untold numbers of lives were saved by an ad-hoc navy of private boats all going out over and over to rescue as many people as they could.

Harvey Wednesday update

Long day, but I got to my daughters, and on the way back was able to stop in the Medical Center area to take two Chinese families to Chinatown to replenish their groceries (good practice in 普通话 for me since Helen wasn’t with me), and then once home sent the girls off with the spare car in confidence that they would arrive safely. Ken and Grace have been able to go home because a 56-foot Brazos won’t overtop their levees and the water has gone down on their street enough for them to be able to drive their van in and out very slowly. So it’s 4:30 and I think we are pretty much back to normal here…which means I get Kai to brew me up a big cup of coffee and I start desperately trying to make up for lost time on the project at work whose deadline hasn’t moved at all since Mexico has not been flooded and the delivery dates on the shipments are still the same as they were a week ago…

Of course for tens of thousands of Houstonians, including many of our friends whose houses had four or five or seven feet of water, it will be a long time until their lives are back to normal. We know at least one family whose house isn’t going to be liveable for a while and who may come spend some time with us because they might be rotating among friends so as not to feel too guilty about burdening any one set of friends too long. Other families all over Houston who don’t have friends with large houses will be in shelters for a long time, or will have to go to relatives in other cities. A lot of people who moved here from N’Arlins after Katrina because they had lost everything there, may find themselves headed back to relatives in Louisiana because they have now lost everything here — except that their relatives in Louisiana may not be able to take them in because Harvey hit Louisiana hard too. If you’re looking for things and people to pray for, Houston will be able to keep you well supplied for a long time to come.

I will specifically mention our daughter Merry Trinity Pierce’s friend Rachel, who is a sort of honorary Pierce daughter at this point. Her family bought a single-storey house up in the Spring area about a year ago. Two weeks after they bought it they got hit with flooding; two feet of water in the house. They got it cleaned up, got everything fixed up…two days ago, seven feet of water in the house, with water rising so fast the family was rescued by boat with little or no time to move belongings to the attic or even to high shelves. Practically all of Rachel’s belongings are stored there (she is off at college); she doesn’t yet know what, if anything, can be salvaged. If you need a specific name to pray for in Houston, pray for Rachel and her family.

(And if you want to know why so few people died in such catastrophic flooding, note that her family, who had no upper storey to flee to and who were prime candidates for drowning, were I believe rescued by people with private boats who rushed to flooded areas and went searching for people to save. Houston this weekend was a sort of Dunkirk, only with Mother Nature as the enemy rather than the Third Reich.)