by Benjamin T. Moore, Jr.
As I write this, we are in the middle of an unfolding natural disaster the likes of which most have never seen. A few hours ago, “Hurricane Sandy” made landfall off the coast of New Jersey. To give you some perspective on the size of this storm, it would take a jet liner 2 hours to fly from one end to the other. As is our custom, some have named it “Frankenstorm.” It is a monster of a storm to be sure. Ironically, this type of storm is predicted and fits perfectly within the oft denied “Global Warming” model of climate scientists. Thus far there are 8.2 million power customers without power.
This is the only light some people have right now.
New York is flooded. Public transportation has been suspended and the Subway’s have been shut down due to the tunnels being full of salt water. Wall Street was closed today and will be closed tomorrow as well. The American marketplace, the engine of our economic system has been suspended while we all listen to a sermon from “Mother Nature.” All our technology, ingenuity and current “know-how,” has been placed in it’s proper perspective by a power greater than ours.
Power Company Truck – Ice Storm
Every State in the path of this monster is experiencing power outages and devastation from high winds and flooding caused by driving rains. It gets worse. A dip in the Jet Stream has allowed a blast of Arctic air from Canada to come down to join the party. Where the moisture meets the cold, you have extremely heavy snowfall and ice formations. Because this storm has hit at a time when leaves are still on the trees, we’re now looking at even more devastation from trees icing up and limbs breaking. The limbs falling on power lines is bound to increase the number of power outages exponentially.
Power Outage and it’s growing
It would be folly at this point to attempt to project the extent of the devastation we’re facing. Thus far at least 48 people are reported as casualties of this storm with more reports coming in. We do know that a hospital’s generators failed. As yet we have no idea what ramifications this may have caused. We are being reminded in the most fundamental way of how truly fragile our technology based society actually is. You turn on the faucet without ever considering that somewhere there is a pump driven by an electric motor, pumping that water into your home. If the power goes down at the pumping station, nothing but a distressing gurgle will flow from your faucet.
We no longer have “ice boxes,” what we have are refrigerator/freezers. Unlike our ancestors who had to spend a good portion of each day, either hunting, gathering or harvesting what they were going to eat each day, we now avail ourselves of supermarkets and grocery stores and buy food for the week. We store it safely in our refrigerators freeing up the hours in our days to pursue careers and other endeavours. When the power goes out, the clock starts ticking and that food we counted on is at risk of being lost. When the power goes out, the most disturbing thing is the absolute silence. You live each day surrounded by that 60Hz hum. You’ve become so accustomed to it, You don’t even notice it. That soft background hum is like the soundtrack to our lives. When it’s gone, the silence is deafening.
The Myth Of Self-Sufficiency
Dave Canterbury of the Pathfinder School. He’s no fool! He teaches survival but it’s a business. He gets paid to teach people how to rough it.
Most evenings, I listen to a radio program called, “Coast to Coast with George Noory.” The show covers a wide range of topics with an ever growing number of guests. There are a few guests who have become “regulars.” Depending on the news du jour, there may be a segment with a guest who’s written a book or has a website dealing with the particular hot topic of the day. Needless to say, tonight there were several guest who are into self-reliance and preparedness.
Survival Lean-to Shelter made from brush. If it comes down to this, you’ve got a lot of problems.
Back in the early 90′s I wrote a piece for a Usenet news group on being a survivalist. It was entitled, “The Realities of Being a Survivalist. (Getting Past the Bug-Out Mentality.)” Much to my surprise it is still around and referred to from time to time. It was written around the time the movie “Red Dawn” was in a lot of people’s minds. Many people had the mindset, that in the event of TEOTWAWKI – The End Of The World As We Know It – the thing to do was grab your “Bug Out Bag,” your guns and head for the hills. Live off the land, hunt and forage for food and survive like a hero from a Mad Max movie.
Sounds exciting, but it’s not very realistic. The gist of my article pointed out many of the fallacies of that type of thinking. For one, I’m not at all interested in running around in the woods with a bunch of other armed people all hunting for that same damn deer. My suggestion was to make your own home your survival retreat. Yes, I preached self-reliance. Food stores, water, a backup generator, certainly the ability to protect yourself and your family, with the added admonition of giving some thought to where you were living and relocate now to a safer, more strategic location. You probably wouldn’t want to be in the heart of a metropolis in the event of a crisis. We’re seeing some of the problems with this unfolding right now.
Desperately Needed Food Supplies
There are a lot of people in New York. In a day or so, they’re going to need access to food and fresh water. With transportation shut down and limited, bringing supplies to that many people is going to present a problem the likes of which may rival or surpass the problems caused by Hurricane Katrina. One thing in favor of the denizens of New York, the administration of President Obama is much more competent than that of George Bush. Nevertheless, it may be weeks or even months before New York and the rest of our eastern seaboard is back to normal.
Nobody ever thinks about toilet paper. How much do you have stored up?
Yes, self-sufficiency is good. Having supplies on hand is a great idea and everybody ought to have enough on hand to last at least 72 hours without assistance. A week or two would be even better. However, let’s be realistic. We cannot maintain our quality of life on our own. “No man is an island.” Even if you have a generator, eventually it is going to run out of gas. With the power out, if you can make it to a gas station, those pumps will not be working. How much food can you store? Toilet paper? How long can you stay or would you want to stay if you could not flush your toilets? Is it winter? How long do you think it will take for your apartment or home to reach the same temperature as it is outside? Is it summer? How long can you go without air conditioning? Excessive heat can be just as dangerous as freezing cold.
Ayn Rand High Priestess of the Virtue of Selfishness. Darling of Paul Ryan and Guru of the Republican philosophy
The Republican ideology of the virtue of selfishness begins to fall short when faced with the reality of the survival of a society. For years now the Republican mantra has been, “Government is the problem.” They’re right! Bad government is the problem. They fail to make this distinction. There is a reason human beings invented government. We exist today and have achieved what we’ve been able to achieve, even with all the setbacks and missteps, because we learned that working together in a coordinated fashion increased our chances for survival.
It was a hard and rugged life out on the frontier. There was nothing glamorous about it.
Species who’s survival strategy focused purely on distinct individual achievement are no longer here. They’ve gone extinct. Wolves hunt in packs, whales swim in pods, fish swim in schools, bees, ants and other insects have hives and colonies. The coordinated efforts of a group increases efficiency and effectiveness. In our recent history, early 1800′s, the era of the self-reliant outdoors-man, frontiersman, the average lifespan was just 40 years old. Think about that for a moment. You reached 40 years of age and died of the natural cause of old age. Why? Life was hard. It was brutal. It was dangerous. Your caloric intake was low. You suffered from malnutrition. You died.
The things we enjoy today and take for granted come to us because we’ve learned to work together much more efficiently than at any other time in our recorded history. We have become a society of specialists. We make the education of all our children mandatory. Not just the aristocrats or plutocrats. Allour children. Why? Because genius and innovation are not the exclusive province of the privileged and wealthy. We develop all minds both male and female.
We realize that you cannot be a productive, contributing member or society if you’re tethered to your home, armed to the teeth to repel thieves, robbers and invaders. Thus, we have professional police officers and if need be a military. You do not have to rely on folk medicine and remedies handed down by your family traditions. We have hospitals, emergency care facilities and emergency response personnel. They are specifically trained to quickly and efficiently respond to all medical emergencies.
Gas main exploding in a residential neighborhood.
Should some disaster strike, or your home or business catch fire, we have professional firemen and first responders. In times past, should your home or business catch fire, or some natural disaster befall you, you were largely on your own. To be sure, some of your neighbors may have come to help after they saw to their own needs, but professionals with equipment they were not! Because of our combined efforts - coordinated by Government - to care for and meet the needs of everyone in our society, we have experienced progress heretofore unknown in recorded human history.
Climate Change Anyone?
Notice a trend?
The Lunacy in the way the Republicans and the so called conservative movement, have dealt with the issue of “Global Warming” has been simply appalling. They have treated this issue as though the planet is sick and you can go shop for a doctor until you find one that will give you the opinion you want to hear. Scientist after scientist has sounded the warning. “We’re in serious trouble if we don’t do something now.” “We’re nearly at the tipping point.” I’m sure you’ve probably heard all the warnings. They haven’t exactly been keeping things a secret. The prescription has not been that severe. Reduce our use of fossil fuels. Invest in more wind and solar. Incorporate hydro-electric wherever possible. Develop wave powered tidal generators. Increase batter efficiency. Increase fuel efficiency standards in automobiles to bridge us over.
What the Republicans did was turn to their own scientist – most on the payrolls of the energy industry – who say, “Global Warming” needs to be studied more. Or, “we’re not sure how much of this is caused by man.” Really? You’re kidding me right? It’s like that commercial that says, “4 out of 5 dentist agree…” and they turn to that 5th dentist for advice. We simply cannot afford this.Too much is at stake. Remember the GOP convention where they were chanting “Drill Baby Drill” as though it were some Buddhist Mantra? I want you to hold that in your mind and hear it as you look at the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy.
Two huge lies. The first is, that the global supply of oil determines your price at the pump. The price per barrel is set by oil speculators who are trading oil futures like Day Traders trade “penny stocks” on the Stock Market. It’s pump and dump. They don’t give a damn about consumers, they’re in for he quick kill and you pay for their profits.
Coming to a National Park Near You?
Lie number two: We can drill our way to lower energy costs. The United States has a little over 2% of the World’s proven oil reserves. We consume roughly 20% of the World’s oil. Do you see a problem? I do. Simply put, if we were at peak capacity we’re not able to produce as much oil as we consume. It’s like being behind on your mortgage and coming up with the brilliant idea that going through you couch cushions looking for change, will solve your problems. The humor is muted by the tragic reality. You’re going to lose your home. If you were lamenting to me that you were facing foreclosure and I asked you if you’d checked your couch cushions for change, I’m pretty certain you’d have to suppress an impulse to bust me in my eye. Hell! I wouldn’t blame you if you did! I have the same impulse whenever I see or hear a Republican talking about “drill baby drill.”
The reality is, our planet is heating up. How many “100 year storms” have we had in the past decade? They’re coming almost every two years now aren’t they? Coincidence? I don’t think so. To those who lamely try to make the argument that “Man” is not involved, look at it this way. If you were coming down a mountain and you tapped your brakes and they went all the way to the floorboard, what would you do? Would you throw your hands in the air and say, “oh well, there’s nothing I can do. Might as well floor it and go out in a blaze of glory?” Or would you down shift and try the emergency brake? Would you look for a place to drag your car along the side of the mountain to slow and stop it?
The Republican Lie
Republicans have as one of their confessions of faith, “Government is the problem.” “We want Government so small you can drown it in a bathtub.” What about now? When disasters strike like Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, Mt. St. Helens erupts, Earthquakes, God forbid, Yellowstone’s super Caldera lets loose, you’re going to want Government there with all the resources necessary to return our lives to some semblance of normalcy. this is why we pay taxes. This is why whom we elect is so critically important!Everybody complains about taxes… until their home is under 6′ of water or on fire. When your child gets lost in a National Park while you’re out on a picnic, you couldn’t afford the cost of the search and rescue effort that the government – we the tax payers – will mount to reunite you with your child.
Irony – It’s a Bitch isn’t it?
If your home is on fire, you don’t want the fire department to show up with a clipboard and ask you, “will this be cash, check or charge?” Same thing if you were having a heart attack. These things we take for granted, are the very services that cause people to want to live in our country. No matter whom you are. No matter what you’ve done. If you’re in trouble, society will come together to save your life and help you get back on your feet. We call it “Our Social Contract.” It is what makes us Americans. There is a cost associated with this contract and we cover this cost by paying taxes.
Ever hear the phrase,”all roads lead to Rome?” There is a reason for that expression. The Romans knew that to build and maintain an empire, they needed to be able to quickly move and supply their armies to any location within their empire. Thus they built roads. These roads made marching easier and faster. They made it possible for wagons with supplies to accompany their armies. People spend a lot of time talking about the Roman phalanx, armament and use of the short sword to explain their military success. True their tactics and use of equipment played a large part, however the most important part in my opinion were the roads they built that increased their logistic efficiency and made it possible for reinforcements to quickly arrive on the scene of a conflict.
Collapse of a bridge in Minneapolis in 2007
At one time, we knew this. At least we acted as though we did. We spared no expense to connect our country, first with rail lines and with the invention of the automobile, our interstate highway system. Our roads made commerce possible and caused towns and cities to spring up and grow along these thoroughfares. Power lines, roads, rail systems, bridges all these things make up parts of our infrastructure. If we do not maintain them, they will crumble and fail. It always costs more to rebuild something than it does to maintain it. Don’t like paying taxes? Think about this the next time you’re crossing a bridge. Saving money can be expensive.
When Katrina struck, the Levees broke.
How expensive? Hurricane Katrina really wasn’t all that bad by the time it came ashore. It had greatly weakened. The problem was the levees. They knew there was a problem with the levees and in fact money had been set aside to address this problem. However, instead of that money going to fix the levees, because of decreased revenue caused by cutting taxes, that money went to take care of other things. A levee is sort of like a parachute. You can fly 1,000 times and never need one. However, when you do, you need it to work. Again, infrastructure like those Roman roads, gets ignored until it crumbles or is no longer there.
Privatizing Profits, Socializing Costs
David Cay Johnston – Author of “The Fine Print.”
In his book “The Fine Print,” David Cay Johnston lays out how we’ve arrived at our sorry state of affairs. We have deified the private sector to the point we damn near worship corporations as gods. We have allowed such aphorisms as, “the business of America is business,” or “what’s good for business is good for America,” to filter into our collective psyche. We accept these pronouncements as divine truth. We do not question them or actually analyze them. Perhaps we should. First of all, the government of the United States is not nor should it be considered a business. When the Constitution speaks about “promoting general welfare,” it is not talking about corporations or business interests. It is talking about the welfare of the citizens. Quite often what is best for corporations is terrible for citizens.
To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, “the game is afoot!” It has been afoot for quite awhile now. Step one in the game plan? Promote the idea that taxes are bad and that they’re too high. This part is easy. When you tell people they’re paying too much, who is going to disagree? Everybody has been convinced that paying more for something than you have to is a sign of a mental defect.
Step two in the game plan? Convince the State that the “private sector” can provide the same services cheaper and more efficiently. Has anyone ever studied this leap of faith? Yet, because you’ve got the citizens up in arms over paying taxes, this suddenly looks like an attractive alternative. Utilities which used to be owned by the commonwealth have been turned over to private companies. Of course, they’re going to need some assistance and incentives in the way of tax abatements, but hey! It’s off the State’s books. Did you catch that? “tax abatements?” What that means is these companies won’t be paying State income taxes. Thus, the revenue of the State has just been decreased. The State also has lost control over vital parts of our infrastructure.
Here’s what this means. One of the reasons Hurricane Sandy has caused over 8 million people to be without power, is because, power lines have been knocked down by the high winds of the storm. There is a really simple solution to this. Bury the damn lines!Because power companies are now privatized, they’re not interested in incurring the cost of burying the power lines. What’s in it for them? If they cannot justify the cost – translation: make a profitburying the lines – it’s not going to happen. Had the power lines been underground where they should be, our power grid would have been largely unaffected by Hurricane Sandy.
Isn’t it interesting that Mitt Romney wants to get rid of FEMA? Right now when people’s lives and the restoration of their property hangs in the balance with FEMA standing between them and total unrecoverable loss, Governor Romney wants to get rid of FEMA. Hear him in his own words.
Just as he showed abysmal judgement when it came to – in his words - “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt!” Drawing from the same arid well of wisdom, he has prescribed doing away with FEMA. I don’t know how to say this any other way… but the man is a dangerous idiot!
Hurricane Sandy Destroys Republican Ideology
I am not a religious man, but it seems that some form of divine intervention may have occurred. “October Surprise?” This one may have come from higher up than we’d like to consider. For the past four years, Republicans have been trying to paint President Obama as divisive, partisan and refusing to work with Republicans. The reason they’ve been so successful in selling this nonsense is that their base only watches FAUX News. In point of fact, President Obama has alienated his own progressive base by reaching out to Republicans.
The Affordable Care Act called “Obama Care,” went before the U.S. Supreme Court over one issue. That issue was “the individual mandate.” The “individual mandate” was a Republican idea. Republicans have added “poison pills” to Bills and proposed them. When President Obama has said, “okay, we’ll do it your way,” they then turn and vote against the very Bills they’ve written and proposed.
President Obama with an extremely grateful Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey
The devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy has made it necessary for Republican ideologues such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to have to put aside partisan politics and seek Federal Aid from the President of these United States. Right about now, Chris Christie is damn glad that Barack Hussein Obama is the President of these United States. He has been effusive in his praise of our President. One can only imagine how things might have been had the Republicans acted like grown-ups from day one and participated in governing instead of collecting tax payer checks for doing nothing?
The Monk, Monastery, Basket and Rope
A traveller visiting an ancient monastery was surprised to discover that the only access was by an elevator up the side of the cliff in a basket pulled up by a rope. As he rode up he noticed that the rope was frayed. He turned to the old Monk and asked how often they replaced the rope? The Monk replied, “each time it breaks.” This describes the way we currently handle business.
Rather than raise taxes and spend the money maintaining, repairing and improving our infrastructure, we will wait until it breaks. Had the levees in New Orleans been fixed and maintained as they should have been, the flooding from Katrina would have been minimal. The loss of life would have been greatly decreased. If our power lines were buried underground as they should be, we’d have very few power outages.
Had the Republicans extended their hands in a willingness to work with our President, instead of coming to him in their time of need, imagine what things would be like today.