Here in the Eastern U.S., we're hunkering down and battening down the hatches as Hurricane Irene barrels up the coast, pounding 50 million people with rain, lashing us with wind, whipping us with surf. It's not only The Perfect Storm -- it's the Storm of the Century! All twelve years of it! Trees will snap like matchsticks, roofs will peel away like sardine can lids.
Now that I have the hackneyed hyperbole out of the way, here are my nominations for best and worst hurricane headlines so far:
Best: "To Flee or Not to Flee?" (New York Daily News)
Worst: "Weak but Strong" (New York Post).
Potential headline in the aftermath: "Obama to New York: Drop Dead! (except FEMA trailers will be set up for Wall Street employees and the National Guard will transport generators to give confidence to the markets and keep those high speed trades humming).
Meanwhile, I am following all the advice. Flashlights and batteries, check. Bread, water, peanut butter, premade cold coffee, check. Fill bathtub with water, check. They never tell you why you should fill the tub, but I am guessing it's so you can flush the toilet once in awhile after three days without electricity. I doubt I'll be up for a luxurious soak in stale tepid water, and the thought of sticking a straw in it for a nice satisfying slurp doesn't thrill me. But we know what Grover Norquist would do: "My goal is to cut government in half in 25 years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."
The way some of the usual conservative suspects are talking, though, we won't have to wait 25 years.... not if Irene destroys the elitist "Acela Corridor", as David Brooks calls it. Ron Paul chose this week to launch into a diatribe against FEMA. "There's no magic about FEMA," he said. "They're a great contribution to deficit financing, but frankly, they don't have a penny in the bank. We should be coordinated, but coordinated voluntarily with the states. A state can decide. We don't need somebody in Washington."
Unbelievably, Paul yearns for the good old days before the Army Corps of Engineers built a seawall in his district (Galveston, Texas) to protect it from hurricanes. The deadliest storm in American history hit Galveston in 1900, killing a documented 6,000 people (including children in an orphanage), with another 2,000 missing and presumed dead.
And Eric Cantor, whining House majority leader: where do I even start? Before the earthquake hit his home district this week, it never dawned on me that he even had a district, or constituents. To me, he was just this weasely little operative who one day magically appeared under the Capitol Dome before the TV cameras. He has always been there and he will never leave. But no! He actually visited the disaster scene and talked to people who apparently voted for him.
Unbelievably, he told the victims that federal disaster aid would only be forthcoming if money can be cut from other areas of the budget (probably from WIC or food stamps), because -- again -- it's not the function of Washington to do stuff that actually helps people. And these same people will presumably elect him again... and again... and again.
But I think we can all count on Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine principles to kick into high gear in Irene's aftermath. Politicians like Cantor will find a way to cash in. Psychopaths will find a million different ways to turn a profit on the suffering of millions of people.... mainly poor people. As Barbara Bush Senior did after Hurricane Katrina, millionaires will ostentatiously give to charity, but only if said charity benefits a friend or family member's business.
Sometimes I take a great notion to jump into the bathtub and drown. (Apologies to Huddy Ledbetter, composer of "Goodnight Irene.") Here is the Willie Nelson version.
Note.... Utility company is telling us to expect power outages to last at least several days, so this will be likely be my last post for awhile. Have a great weekend, everybody, and stay safe.