Sunday, June 12, 2011

I'm to Curse Sarah Palin, But Can Only Bless Her

In the Book of Numbers in the Old Testament is a funny story of a false prophet named Balaam who is hired by the king of Moab to curse Israel. Three times Balaam attempts to make pronouncement upon the Israelis but under the direction of God he can only bless them. Balak, king of Moab, gets frustrated big-time.

I was reminded of the Balaam story while watching a clip of a CNN report on the sifting through of 24,000 pages of Sarah Palin’s gubernatorial e-mails. Posted by, the CNN piece features Drew Griffin of the CNN Special Investigation Unit discussing the findings to date in the Palin e-mails. He says the e-mails show Palin to have been a hard-working governor dealing with Alaska policy, taxes, budget cuts and mundane items. Griffin says the e-mails reflect Palin’s evolution as a politician. He, in effect, defends her against criticisms of being secretive because leaks, according to the e-mails, prompt her to have fewer people in the loop while “thinking out loud.”

Of course, this doesn’t seem to sit well with CNN anchor T.J. Holmes – after all, we can’t have a witch hunt if we can’t find the witch. As a result, Holmes prods Griffin, asking about allegations of Palin being thin-skinned with the media and he inquires about the whole issue of “Troopergate” involving her ex-brother-in-law. Holmes, by his questions, seems to be seeking a curse on Palin. Griffin gives a blessing instead, saying there is nothing about Troopergate uncovered so far and there were no cheap shots against the press. If anything, upon hearing criticism of her staff on a radio talk show, Griffin says Palin wrote that she wished the criticisms were directed at her instead of her staff.

On another issue, perhaps one might think Palin may be showing a sharpness when she writes about something as being “unacceptable.” What is unacceptable? It’s that she has not been getting timely information about the times of troop deployments from Alaska nor funerals of Alaskans killed in the wars. As a result, Palin complained that she had not been able to attend the funerals, nor see the troops off. “I do want to get to those,” she wrote.

So there it was: the Big Report on Sarah Palin from the CNN Special Investigation Unit. The whole thing, of course, was designed to curse Sarah Palin. But Drew Griffin could only bless. I wonder if anchor T. J. Holmes was thinking what Balak, king of Moab, said after his encounters with Baalam: “I called you to curse my enemies and, behold, you have altogether blessed them these three times.”

Friday, June 3, 2011

Joplin. Again.

Second trip to Joplin with a group from our church. Teamed up with my friend Byron Morgan and about eight other guys to remove downed trees. Operated out of Calvary Baptist Church near Joplin, whose facilities have become a warehouse: classrooms filled with food, paper goods, bottled water, etc. Eight semi trailers in the parking lot being unloaded with supplies.
Our team went to an address where we were supposed to remove a tree that had fallen against a house but couldn’t help there: found we needed aerial equipment and professional skills to do the job without causing more damage. Cruised the streets a bit to see if anyone needed tree removal – those that did declined our help because they were waiting for insurance adjusters to view damage. Came upon a family in distinctive Mennonite or Amish dress and assisted them in their efforts to clean up someone’s residential property: cutting up and removing damaged garage walls, removing debris from yard. About 20-25% of the roof of the house was gone and contents of the kitchen and probably more had been sucked up through the hole. Despite the destruction of his property, the homeowner repeatedly said others in the city were much worse off. Tough Ozarkers…
In the afternoon we went to what was left of an apartment complex in the real ground zero of the tornado path. We were supposed to help a woman by lifting walls so she could find personal items. If you think it’s hard to find the right unit in an unfamiliar apartment complex, try doing it when the complex is rubble. Finally found the place and waded through debris, unstable boards, nails, and trash to get to where we could cut and lift the walls. There was little for the former resident to find: a few kitchen items, a child’s toy. But she was positive, thanked us for our help and said she would continue working through the heat and dust to find what she could. Meanwhile, in the same apartment complex we tried to remove some debris so an old gentleman could retrieve a buried file cabinet but he said we would probably need heavy equipment to do the job. He was right – dangerous situation on the second floor of what was left of the building. However, one of our guys managed to rescue some military medals from under the debris.
Sights around Joplin:
--Although the scene is becoming more familiar, it is impossible to adjust to it. One cannot get used to such destruction.
--Got close to St. John’s hospital. Like others have said, it looks like an internal bomb had gone off. Hanging on the side of the building, however, is a giant American flag. There are flags flying throughout the tornado’s path and on one block someone had placed tiny American flags in front of each heavily damaged home.
--Plywood sheets in front of destroyed homes are spray-painted with messages like “All OK,” or “We’re OK.”
--Some homes look like the backs of doll houses: a wall is ripped away and one can see rooms inside, including one residence where items on kitchen cabinets are visible, although jumbled.
A Boston Globe column by Kevin Cullen quoted FEMA Deputy Administrator Richie Serino saying he had never seen anything like what he has seen in Joplin. And that’s from a guy who is a self-described former “street medic” to tough areas of Boston. Yet Serino was amazed by the resilience of people and how a family who had lost everything, including a great-grandmother, told him to go help other people because they were hurting more.

That’s the spirit of tough Ozarkers: thanks for the help but others are worse off.


Went with a group from our church to do disaster relief in Joplin today. The scene is unbelievable. Unbelievable. Photos do not do it justice. Looks like Nagasaki and Hiroshima following the atomic bombs. Or the old photos of World War I forests decimated by artillery fire – same thing in Joplin except with toothpicks (lumber) scattered around the bases of the stripped trees.
Random scenes:
Looking onto a valley and a hillside: destruction as far as the eye can see.
A Burger King leveled except for the playground in the front which was still standing.
The landscape flattened except for a few stripped trees and utility bucket cranes attempting to put power lines back together.
Demolished shopping centers. How many survivors now without work at this intersection? Hundreds? A thousand?
The sheer length of the path of total destruction – miles and miles.
Helping a family move out of their condemned house. On their block was typical tornado damage: torn roofs, broken windows, downed trees. But stand in the street and look two blocks away: a sea of lumber and a few naked trees, the Nagasaki and Hiroshima of Joplin. I’ve seen tornado havoc but nothing like this.
We’re stopped in traffic and I gaze at a pile of debris by the roadside. I spot what looks like a commercial grade sink in the mess. And a large roof fan. And classic old wooden white chairs mixed in the rubble. Was this a restaurant? Somebody’s nice old time family-style restaurant?
A boarded up house has “Thanks 4 the help” spray painted on one of the sheets of plywood. And it flies an American flag. Another pile of rubble has a Texas flag draped on it.
Food, supplies pouring in from everywhere. Calvary Baptist Church, our base of operations, hosted a Tyson’s semi truck which unloaded chicken to be grilled in the church parking lot then distributed throughout the community.
Lots of volunteers, many from Northwest Arkansas. Lots of college-age and high school age people pitching in.
My wife, a nurse, talked with another local nurse or two: horrifying stories of how the tornado sucked nurses and patients out of St. Johns Hospital. Local radio station running ongoing coverage: people calling in looking for missing loved ones.
A big need for Joplin: cash.
And prayer.