Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Four More (Grueling) Years


As predicted here last Friday, it appears that Hurricane Sandy was the "black swan" event that stopped Mittmentum and caused the presidential election to revert back from a dead heat and the possibility of a long drawn out recount battle in one or more battleground states to a relatively easy Obama victory. Thus was the incumbent awarded a second term he most decidedly does NOT deserve. Despite its many discontents, in the end America voted for the status quo because the alternative was even more unthinkable. It ought to go without saying, but this is NOT how a representative democracy is supposed to work.

I could go on and on about how the country is now going to get four more years of the same old shit, but I'm tired of writing about all of that. Instead, I'll just highlight my greatest personal disappointment from this election. Stephenson County, Illinois, my home county and as I have written about numerous times on this blog the setting of Bain Capital's horrendous decision to close down the local Sensata plant and move all of the jobs to China, went comfortably for Romney despite having a front row seat to witness what his brand of vulture capitalism is all about. If seeing your friends, relatives and neighbors stripped of their jobs while enduring the additional humiliation of having to train their Chinese replacements isn't enough to wake people the fuck up, then there is no hope for this country.

On a personal note, I am taking another break from blogging. I'm burned out and just cannot keep writing about this stuff right now. Maybe I'll be back to comment on the impending "fiscal cliff" battle in Washington, though I'll note that just last week the craven Speaker of the House indicated that he's amenable to passing a so-called "bridge" bill during the congressional lame duck session that will push back the looming deadlines into next year. And thus does the can get kicked down the road yet again with no possibility of any real solutions being offered. Just like the last four grueling years.


Bonus: "It's the same old song and dance"

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"Garbage In, Garbage Out"

I'm not voting today. Not exactly an earth shattering pronouncement given my stated views on this blog, I know. If you are thinking about voting today, please do me a favor and watch this first if you haven't seen it before. It was true when George said just over a decade ago, and it is even more true today.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Another Disaster "Saves" Obama


Just how lucky can one smug asshole be? Four years ago, President Hopey-Changey was propelled into office in large measure by the financial market crash, which finally discredited eight grueling years of Bushonomics. Then, after a whole presidential term of repeatedly pissing on the heads of his liberal and progressive base and telling them it was raining, to say nothing of not doing a damn thing to punish the big banks and Wall Street who crashed the economy in the first place, yet another miraculous disaster has appeared and stopped Mittmentum dead in its tracks and, if the way the polls are now swinging is any indication, is likely going to win President Sellout a second term that he most decidedly does NOT deserve.

More amazingly, just last week Obama's people were setting Hurricane Sandy up as a convenient excuse as to why they might lose the election that would deflect blame from their hero's own culpability and complacency. The storm was going to disrupt balloting in key Obama states, so they said, and essentially blow the Republican challenger across the finish line to an undeserved victory. In such a manner, just like after the 2000 debacle with Ralph Nader, do the Democrats try to deflect attention from the fact that it is their me-too, corporatist sellout politics which causes many of the potential voters to stay home on election day, resulting in defeat often being snatched from the jaws of victory.

But something funny happened on the way to the disaster at the polls. Governor 47%-er shot himself in the foot in the worst way by blasting FEMA and threatening to privatize it just in time to see Obama use the agency the way it is supposed to be used to mitigate the disastrous effects of Hurricane Sandy. Because you see, that is the one remaining area where Democrats and Republicans do actually differ. When they get elected president, Democrats tend to appoint technocrats to important positions like the head of FEMA whereas Republicans appoint unqualified cronies like the infamous "Brownie." Just this past weekend, I saw a really stupid online "news" article claiming that Sandy would be "Obama's Katrina." I had to laugh, for as much as I loathe the man the one thing I knew he wouldn't do is hang out at his ranch clearing brush for meaningless photo-ops, leaving the disaster response to the fired head of the Arabian Horse Association while America's most important city drowned in its own hubris.

But what it really comes down to is a simple fact about the American body politic that the Republicans are constantly forgetting to their peril: most everyone says they are against "big government" until they really need it. Heck, even crazy old Ayn Rand went on Social Security during her declining years, the mere fact of which ought to have totally discredited every word she ever wrote for any person who has more than two brain cells to rub together. So buck up, Democrats, Sandy has likely saved your sorry asses so that you can spend four more years slowly legitimizing every horrible policy of the Chimpy Bush years. You win and the country loses, just not as quickly as it would have lost under President Romney.


Bonus: How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn't see?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween's Scariest Number: 76,000,000


It was one year ago today, perversely on Halloween, that it was officially announced that World Population had broken the 7 billion barrier for the first time. So today I thought I would check back exactly one year later to see how many more people have been added since then. According to Worldometers.info, which calculates population growth based upon world wide census data, the total annual increase in population since last Halloween is around 76 million.

We keep hearing in the media that population growth rates are gradually dropping around the world and that the total numbers will cap off at around 9 billion by midcentury. This seems unlikely, for even if the growth rate does continue to incrementally decline enough to keep the increase in raw numbers fairly stable (around 75 million per year) over the next few decades, the world would see its 8 billionth living human in the year 2026 and its 9 billionth by around 2040. By 2050, we would be closing in on the 10 billion mark. If the growth rate itself stabilizes and stops declining at any point in the next few years, 10 billion by midcentury is virtually assured. Sometimes, mathematics can really be a bitch.

Of course, this hypothetical game of playing with the numbers assumes that there will be sufficient energy, water and food resources to sustain several billion additional people. Given that the signs are already there that we are approaching the limits of the total resources the world can produce on an annual basis, and that furthermore the amount of resources produced annually is very likely to go into decline as soon as this current decade, at some point continued population growth is going to slam headlong into the brick wall of natural limits.

I gather that none of this is likely to be news to anyone who reads this blog regularly. It is just something to contemplate the next time some optimistic media report claims that human population growth is going to be curtailed at a sustainable level at some point in the coming decades.


Bonus: "Cause everyday is Halloween...it's everyday"

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Chicago River Flood of 1992 May Give Some Idea of What New York City is Facing



The incredible video above showing a flooded New York City subway station gives at least a little bit of an indicator as to what the city is facing as it struggles to recover from Hurricane Sandy, and also puts the lie to the ridiculous initial media claims that the subway would be up and running "in a few days." So far, most of the media attention has been on the above ground damage the city has suffered, but the flood wall being overtopped last night and a tremendous amount of seawater inundating the subterranean portions of the city is going to have countless damaging effects that will be very costly and likely take a very long time to repair.

For me, it brings back memories of the great underground Chicago flood of 1992, which was not caused by a weather disaster, but human incompetence. I was still living in the city that year when some construction workers managed to pierce an underground wall holding back the Chicago River. As a result, the Loop was completely shut down during the middle of a workday and cleanup took many weeks to complete. I was part of the evacuation that day, and still remember days later walking by buildings that had hoses from water pumps running out into the street dumping the flood waters into the sewer system. It was one of the most surreal events that I've lived through.

Here's Wikipedia with a recap of what Chicago went through:
Effects

The water flooded into the basements of several Loop office buildings and retail stores and an underground shopping district. The city quickly evacuated the Loop and financial district in fear that electrical wires could short out. Electrical power and natural gas went down or were shut off as a precaution in much of the area. Trading at both the Chicago Board of Trade Building and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange ended in mid-morning as water seeped into their basements. At its height, some buildings had 40 feet (12 m) of water in their lower levels. However, at the street level there was no water to be seen, as it was all underground.

At first, the source of the water was unclear. WMAQ reporter Larry Langford, who was that station's overnight crime reporter and was known to cover all overnight police and fire activity for that station, reported that city crews were in the process of shutting down large water mains to see if the flow could be stopped.

Langford was monitoring police scanners and overheard security crews from Chicago's Merchandise Mart report that they had several feet of water in the basement and were seeing fish in the water. Langford drove to the Merchandise Mart, which is located near the Kinzie Street Bridge, and reported on WMAQ that he saw water swirling near a piling in a manner that resembled water going down the drain of a bathtub. The swirl had a generous amount of small debris spinning in it. His exact words on WMAQ were:

"I have found something very interesting in the Chicago River on the east side of the Kinzie Bridge. I see swirling water that looks like a giant drain ... I would say it looks like the source of the water could be the river itself, and I am hearing reports that fish are swimming in the basement of the Mart just feet from the swirl! I do not see any emergency crews near this spinning swirl, but I think they may want to take a look. In fact, I think someone should wake up the Mayor!"

Within minutes of that report hitting the airwaves, a battery of city trucks, police and fire vehicles converged on the bridge. Langford was the first to figure out the source of the leak.[citation needed] Langford retired from WMAQ in 2000 after that station converted to sports radio station WSCR and became the director of media affairs for the Chicago Fire Department.

Aftermath

It took three days before the flood was cleaned up enough to allow business to begin to resume and cost the city an estimated $1.95 billion. Some buildings remained closed for a few weeks. Parking was banned downtown during the cleanup and some subway routes were temporarily closed or rerouted.
And remember, Chicago was dealing with no above ground infrastructure damage and the water from the river was freshwater, not the far more corrosive seawater that has flooded Manhattan. Also note that the cost of the cleanup was nearly $2 billion. Extrapolate that number out and the initial media reports that Hurricane Sandy's damage will cost around $20 billion to repair look pretty laughable. Instead, it's likely to be many times that amount in New York City alone.

The Atlantic Wire's Mocking of Hurricane Sandy Warnings Comes Back to Bite Them


I've taken my shots at dipshit Atlantic Wire blogger Jen Doll before, but she really outdid herself in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. This morning, as New York City was awakened to the grim spectacle of severe damage from the storm, including flooded subways, collapsed building facades, crippled construction cranes, an evacuated hospital, exploded transmitters, a spectacular waterfront fire and at least a dozen casualties, Ms. Doll decided to focus on what was really important: New Yorkers who won't be denied their Starbucks under any circumstances:
Before the store closed Monday afternoon, there was a "daylong stream of customers that packed the store, standing shoulder to shoulder and waiting at least 10 minutes to order." One self-described Starbucks fanatic walked 20 blocks to find an open store. Another had her driver bring her to the shop. The threat of all of the Starbucks closing was, to some, more terrifying than the threat of Sandy:

“I didn’t know they were all going to close. I started panicking,” Hernandez said with a chuckle.

“It was scary not having Starbucks,” said Owings, who orders tea, not coffee.
Said another: “I’m really happy these guys are open. I can’t get a pumpkin spice latte anywhere else."

Some people really need to, um, buy a coffeemaker.
But wait, if you think that was bad, consider Ms. Doll's snarky last sentence in light of her long post last Thursday mocking Hurricane Sandy preparations called, I shit you not, "How to Feel About Snoreastercane." This is just a snippet of the sheer stupidity:
Batten down the hatches, have you heard? There's a weather situation a'brewing, one with the best of all possible weather situation names. (Disclaimer: Should Snor'eastercane Sandy actually hurt people, which we really hope she doesn't, we will disavow any and everything in this post. Her name is Sandy! She's a snor'eastercane. What could she have to hate about?) But what's a snor'eastercane, you ask? Allow us to tell you everything we know about Snor'eastercane Sandy, including how you should feel about her possible presence in the East Coast just in time for Halloween. Remember how much fun Snowtober Saul was? (I'm still holding a grudge that we didn't go with Snoctober.)

Snor'eastercane Sandy, so dubbed by the Wall Street Journal ("Sandy," of course, comes from those folks who name storms) is an "unlikely meteorological scenario: a hurricane blending with an inland snowstorm just in time for Halloween." Hurricane Sandy, a hurricane not yet a snor'easter, is currently approaching the Bahamas. Don't worry, weather in New York City and the East Coast will be pretty great for the rest of the week. "For next week, however, it’s starting to seem like not a question of if but where this giant 'snor’eastercane' might strike," writes Eric Holthaus. "Regardless of the exact landfall location on the East Coast, impacts will be felt from Florida to Maine." He gives "two-out-of-three odds that Greater New York experiences significant impacts from this storm"—by that he means primarily "storm surge, wind and heavy rains" (and maybe snow). She could cost billions. Keep a watch on her here; via the AP's Seth Borenstein, scientists predict a 70 percent chance she'll hit the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic (otherwise, she might just snor'eastercane herself out at sea). There will also be a full moon, meaning TIDES and WEREWOLVES. Keep an eye out.

There are as many feelings about Sandy and her snor'easterncane status as one might have about various types of pie, mincemeat (gross) to pumpkin (yes, please) to pecan (good, but so bad for you) to meat (terrifying, maybe delicious?). In hopes of heightening your sense of preparedness for his weather situation, we have analyzed the various types of ways in which you may prepare, mentally, physically, emotionally, and otherwise for this upcoming gambit with Ole Man/Lady Weather.
And I'm sorry, but her lame disclaimer doesn't get her off the hook. And what's up with using the first person plural "we" to describer herself, anyway? Doesn't she know that Any Rand wrote an entire novel (Anthem) in which the characters all referred to themselves in the plural in order to mock collectivism?

There's a longstanding cliche in this country that people hate the so-called "New York Media" because it's so liberal. Personally, I think it is more because a lot of people who work in the media capital of the world are fucking blithering idiots.


Bonus: Dedicated to Atlantic Wire blogger Jen Doll

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Truth About Climate Change? It's All in a Name


The power is still on here in my little corner of NOVA. If we make it through the night, we might just be among the lucky ones. The DC area as a whole has fared quite well as "only" a couple of hundred thousand people have lost electricity to this point with the worst of the winds expected to start to die down in a few hours. I guess the power companies around here actually learned something from last summer's massive derecho.

Anyway, in between being glued to the incredible updates coming out of NYC and surrounding areas tonight, I idly checked the National Hurricane Center's list of retired Atlantic basin hurricane names in the assumption that Sandy will be soon joining it. In looking at the list, something suddenly struck me. As you know, the annual hurricane names list goes in alphabetical order, so the further down the alphabet, the later the number of that year's storm. The list began in 1954, but prior to 1995, Hurricane Janet, a "J" storm, was the furthest down the alphabet to be retired.

Amazingly, since 1995, by my count Sandy will be the 17th storm to be retired whose name begins with a letter later than "J," including notorious blowouts like Katrina, Rita and Wilma. That means that not only are their more total hurricanes and more destructive hurricanes than there used to be, but they are coming later in the season than ever before. And yet I will bet you right now that the giant black eye Sandy just delivered to DC, NYC and most points in between still won't be enough to break the total political inertia on combatting climate change.


Bonus: "Rock you like a hurricane"

The New York Stock Exchange is Reportedly Under Three Feet of Water


The good news for me is that I haven't lost power yet. The silver lining news is that according to The Weather Channel's live blog, the New York Stock Exchange has been inundated with floodwaters.

From other reports, New York City sounds like it is in chaos. Sandy actually turned out to be WORSE than expected. Tomorrow is going to be interesting.

Update: Disregard. TWC is now saying that the first report about the NYSE was erroneous. As usual, the little people suffer while Wall Street gets off the hook.


Bonus: "New York City's killing me"





Hurricane Sandy NOVA Update


Well, the power just flickered on and off here and the winds are really picking up. If the electricity goes out as I expect I'll be offline for an indefinite period. I took a quick drive around the area about an hour ago while it was still light enough to see any potential road hazards. No flooding here yet and not much in the way of downed trees. I imagine that will change overnight.

Good luck to everyone who is riding this thing out. Hopefully, property will be the only loss. It can be replaced, after all.

Bonus: By reader request



But if you want to go retro and cheesy



No Gas in NOVA


The worst of Sandy is supposed to strike us here in Northern Virginia within the next 12 hours. So far, we've had steady rain since about midnight and right now it's a bit breezy. Apparently, the storm strengthened overnight, with the pressure dropping even further. Pretty much the whole area is shut down mode.

Interestingly, my wife got caught in an actual gas line yesterday evening when going to top off one of our cars. The station was one of the few that was still open around here and had gasoline to sell. Most of the others were out of fuel and closed. And that was with the worst of the storm nearly 24 hours away.

No matter how this plays out, it does appear that most people in the region are taking the storm seriously. More updates later, if the power stays on. Be safe everyone.


Bonus: Pressure drop

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Storm Warning


During the next 72 hours or so, the DC area is expected to get hit by Hurricane Sandy, a storm of unprecedented strength, fury and duration. As for me, I'm not terribly worried. I don't live near the coast, nor in any kind of a flood zone. I figure the worst that will happen is we lose power for a few days again, but that wouldn't be the first time that's happened even this year.

Because I don't expect it to affect me that much, my interest in this storm is more academic. I've been living in the national capital region for just over two decades now, which, of course, is also the home of most of the folks who have the power to actually do something to address the building crisis that is climate change. Amazingly, the DC-area has experienced more extreme weather events in the past three years than it did in my first 17 years of living here:
1). In February 2010, the area was hit by two massive Nor'easters in rapid succession which coupled with a third such storm the previous December to set a seasonal snowfall record. The three massive snow storms in just two months' time matched the total of three such storms to hit this area between 1993 and 2009.

2). In August 2011, Hurricane Irene struck the region before moving on to create catastrophic damage in Vermont and upstate New York.

3). In September 2011, Northern Virginia was hit with a record breaking one day rainstorm that caused a 1000-year flash flood in some areas.

4). In October 2011, almost exactly one year ago, the area was struck by the same massive Nor'easter that dumped over two feet of snow on portions of New England, though it was mostly rain here.

5). In March 2012, at the tail end of a record breaking warm winter, the DC area experienced the same freaky early summer type weather that blanketed much of the Midwest.

6). In June 2012, towards the end of one of the hottest Junes on record, the DC area was struck with a powerful derecho that knocked out power to over 3.7 million homes.
And yet climate change has been hardly mentioned at all during the presidential campaign and Congress will not even seriously consider any legislation that might be aimed at attempting to address it. If I were of a religious bent, I would almost be inclined to say that God is punishing the nation's capital for its sins of inaction. I know that may sound silly, but what the fuck, wingnut conservatives are always dragging His name into their political arguments so why can't I?

If nothing else, this storm is going to serve as a massive distraction from the horrible presidential election for a few days. Who said I don't know how to find silver linings?


Bonus: "Sandy, the angels have lost their desire for us...I spoke to 'em just last night and they said they won't set themselves on fire for us anymore"




Saturday, October 27, 2012

Might We See a Replay of Election 2000?


Sorry I didn’t post at all this past week, but I’ve been having a very difficult time coming up with anything new to say and I didn’t really start this blog just so I could repeat myself endlessly ad naseum. I did start to write a couple of posts, but ended up discarding them in frustration. The whole world, and the American political landscape in particular, seems stuck in an unfunny version of the movie, Groundhog Day, and we observers from the reality based community are like Bill Murray, forced to wake up each morning to the same cheesy classic pop song knowing that this day will be exactly the same as countless days before it. In other words, our civilization remains completely fucked but absolutely everyone in a position to do anything about it will continue to not only foil the consideration of any possible solutions, but will continue to refuse to acknowledge that the problem even exists.

Anyway, I got inspired to write this post by a couple of articles that Dave Cohen linked to over at Decline of the Empire yesterday fretting over the possibility that we might see a replay of Election 2000, which wasn’t decided by the Supreme Court in favor of Chimpy Bush until almost Christmastime that year. Here is the money quote that actually comes from New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd:
While I was watching Mitt Romney make up fantasy positions in the foreign policy debate, I had a fantasy of my own. And given the electoral isthmus the two men are wrestling on, it doesn't seem like such a wild one. There is growing buzz that the dead heat could slide into a deadlock.

If Mr. Romney does suspend voter disbelief enough to tie President Barack Obama, with each getting 269 Electoral College votes, the Republican-controlled House would determine the president — and give it to Mitt. And the (presumably) Democratic-controlled Senate would determine the vice president — and give it to Joe Biden.
Personally, I think it is more likely that we’d see a “too close to call” scenario play out in Ohio and possibly other states and a resulting replay of the excruciating Florida recount fiasco from 12 years ago. And all I can say about that possibility is I sure as fuck HOPE so.

Consider what this nation’s “leaders” are facing between Election Day and the end of the year even if the presidential race is decided cleanly. I’m talking of course about the so called fiscal cliff, which just to recap includes:
1). The need raise the federal government’s debt ceiling yet again.

2). Sequestration, which is an automatic 10% cut in most federal programs, unless Congress and the President agree to an alternative deficit reduction plan.

3). The (long overdue) expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

4). The expiration of Obama’s insane payroll tax holiday that is gutting the finances of Social Security.
Even in “normal” times, any one of these four issues would tie official Washington up in knots for weeks if not months. Instead, it will all play out in about seven weeks with a lame duck Congress and a possibly lame duck president, or if we are really lucky, ON TOP of the same post-election chaos involving the presidency that we saw back in 2000.

Get your popcorn, folks, because this is going to be the most entertaining spectacle to hit DC since “the bitch” set up former Mayor Marion Barry. Oh, and if we are all REALLY, REALLY lucky, it will take place amidst a region struggling to overcome a devastating blow to its infrastructure from Hurricane Sandy.

If I seem a little glib about all of this, it’s because after so many years of watching our "leaders" get crazier and more detached from reality, while the citizens of the country sit around passively with their thumbs up their asses in a teevee benumbed stupor, I’ve decided that what this Spoiled Rotten Nation really needs is a two-by-four smashed across the forehead. Sadly, even that will likely not wake most of the idiots up, but maybe if the economy takes a big enough hit there might start to be some dawning realization that business as usual, circa 2007, is dead as a doornail and is never coming back. If as a result, for example, even one high school senior decides NOT to mortgage his or her future getting an entirely worthless college education, it will have been worth it.


Bonus: The storm's a coming