Saturday, August 27, 2011

All Irene, All the Time

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.


Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Waiting for Irene:

Be safe, everyone!

John in Lafayette said...

Notes from a hurricane hotbed:

Not that you can do these things now, but a generator costing only a couple of hundred dollars can keep an air conditioner or space heater going along with your refirgerator and some lights in the event of future hurricanes or - at least in your case - ice storms.

Keep plenty of canned goods and bottled water on hand, and a camp stove using propane isn't a bad idea if you want hot food (don't use it indoors, of course).

If you have shutters on your windows, close them.

Above all, stay indoors, especially in a place like New York, where tree branches and overhead power lines could easily fall on you.

Stay safe. And please let us all know, as soon as you can, that you've weathered this storm in good health.

Karen Garcia said...

Nice pic of you at your site!
Thanks for the tips. They don't allow generators at my complex, but my son works at the power company and he can bring me plenty of dry ice if we need it. It's more dangerous up here when we lose power in winter. No heat. And with summer almost over the days and nights are already getting cooler and can live without the AC.

Valerie said...

Yes, Karen, we are all concerned for your safety and that of your family. I, also, hope your home doesn't get too battered. It is like worrying about a relative!

Too bad Wall Street doesn't get destroyed and the insurance companies find a loophole to get out of paying. Yep! I am dreaming! Too bad the hurricane doesn't knock off a few of those private jets

Oh, and by the way, these strange weather conditions have nothing to do with global warming! (ha!) For once, nature has cooperated and is retaliating on the country that has committed the most egregious harm. What goes around comes around.

I realise that it isn't fair to decent people like you, Karen, who shop locally and have a small carbon footprint but for years I have seen poor African countries get the bad repercussions of global warming while the polluting countries get a free ride.

Valerie said...

Just thought I would comment about something that has been on my mind. I have just read Nocera's column about Steve Jobs. Yep, he seems super creative and has a good sense of what the public wants to buy before even they know they want to buy it. I also give him credit for producing a quality product.

But there is a lot to not like about the guy. He sounds like a dictator who doesn't hesitate to berate those working under him. I am concerned that his success will "inspire" other managers and bosses to emulate his nasty style. Basically, if you see yourself as brilliant - which pretty much encompasses all the people who make money these days - you can treat others around you with contempt. I also am really disgusted that with all his money, he doesn't give to charity. I would bet that most of us reading this blog give as much as we possibly can to help our fellow man - yet Jobs with all his wealth seems to feel no shame or no obligation to spare a few bucks (that he doesn't need) to leave the world a little nicer.

Last, despite the higher cost of an Apple product, Jobs makes no apologies for off-shoring factory work to China. With all its profit, couldn't Apple do a little something for the economy here at home? It never ceases to amaze me how people who count on selling a product to the Middle Class population in the U.S., feel no obligation to support their customers by creating jobs.

I also read that article in the NY Times about Dollar Stores. What struck me most were that the lion's share of the comments came down on two sides: Those who shunned them because of the cheap quality products (They preferred to buy high quality) and those who saw themselves as practical and frugal and shopped at dollar stores because they didn't mind the cheap quality stuff that when it broke was cheap to replace.

What saddened me was that hardly anyone brought up the fact that in order to make a cheap plastic products finite resources are used (plastic is a petroleum product), pollution controls must be completely lacking, the people working in the factory making the products must be paid starvation wages with no benefits or protections whatsoever and then more fossil fuels must be used to transport the cheap one dollar product back to the U.S. for sale. How much of that product that will end up in a landfill? How much of that dollar product was used to pay the person making it? Why aren’t people concerned about the hidden environmental costs that we all pay eventually?

You know what else I found really sad? The fact that dollar stores are taking business away from WalMart. That is how shockingly depleted our “lower Middle Class” is. They can’t even afford to shop at WalMart anymore. It is all such a race to the bottom.