November 18, 2005
If we don't get hit with another tropical storm in the Gulf, I think we have a good shot at seeing prices come off their highs. ~ Bill O'Grady (petroleum market analyst for A.G. Edwards & Sons), Newsday, 9/7/2005
Fuck. Just. Fuck.
October 24, 2005
All Clear - Wilma Edition
There is no safety in numbers, or in anything else. ~ James Thurber
Primitive audio post ;-) Movable Type Embedding is tricky.
October 19, 2005
The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore ~ Vincent van Gogh
Heard about her the day before yesterday and just KNEW she was going to be a cast iron bitch. Woke up this morning to find out that the bitch is on target directly for me.
In a way, this is a good sign because the odds of it following this exact heading without deviating is unlikely. North or South is good for me, but bad for any number of people I care about.
But you know....FUCK. When did I become the hurricane slut?
Still. I'm not as panicked as everyone apparently thinks I should be.
Ironically, while I am normally the safety girl bullying everyone to take precautions while they roll their eyes and sigh heavily, the roles are suddenly turned. My phone today has been nothing but panic and "get out of there" and frantic energy.
Maybe it's the combination of Andrew and last year, but I just don't panic so easily anymore. Sure, I have a plan (it's a well-oiled machine at this point). I'm making preparations, but there is plenty of time to decide and watch and there are several things that have to happen exactly right for me to be in danger.
First, the storm has to stay strong. The gulf is cooler now than it was during Katrina. I don't see this storm staying as strong as it is now all the way to landfall. I think when it hits it is likely to be a 2 or 3 rather than a 4 or 5. And my shelter of preference (relatives' house) has already handled a ground zero category 3 with no problem.
I also suspect Wilma is going to hit north of where they're predicting now. I'm thinking north of Tampa, and although I hate it for them, it's my best guess. This convergence of systems which is going to make Wilma take this jump to the East is going to have to be a stronger influence to make her take such a sharp turn off her current trajectory. This worries me for all the friends of mine that are currently evacuating out of the Keys and Miami. I hope they're evacuating further north than Tampa.
I am concerned that the eye is so compact. Andrew was like that. Sometimes when an eye is small and tight it can collapse and disappear, but far more often it is the strongest and more enduring type of eye wall.
I'm doing laundry. I'm going through the freezer. I'm getting my little bundle of supplies and precious belongings packed and ready. I'm planning on getting the house shuttered up and I've got multiple evacuation plans that depend on how strong the storm looks when it gets closer.
But I don't think it's time to panic yet. Friday will be the long, nervous day. To see if it holds its power and takes that sharp turn and then I'll still have a full day and a half to calmly evacuate.
No worries. Not yet, anyway.
Yes, gang, please take Wilma seriously, but don't let Katrina trauma whip you into a frenzy of senseless overreacting.
September 08, 2005
For life is quite absurd, and death's the final word...
Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart. ~ Anne Frank
The good news -- the real good news to come out of Katrina is that people, by and large and at their most basic are good. They work together. They have sympathy and compassion for their fellows. There will always be the cold, the indifferent, the looters, the rapists, the occasional stains on the carpet of the world. But when pushed against the wall most line up to help, pool their pennies, offer condolence, grieve and cry and commune.
I learned this during Andrew. And amid all the horrible (and, there is so much horrible) there is STILL evidence of the good.
In this article which will make you angry, frustrated, and ready to bray tears, although the government (local, federal, in all shades and styles) failed the people, the PEOPLE came through for one another.
On a daily basis, we see rampant consumerism and human indifference and we think all's lost, but that's just we the people wrapped in our creature comforts where denial lets us crawl into our hobbitty holes and convince ourselves that even though we feel really bad about that whole environment/foreign dependency thing we really want (and somehow deserve) that SUV. Put on the spot, most Americans (and, I think most people) make the right choices and put things in the proper priority. Sure, we hide and we deny and we cut corners. Life is hard and it's natural to want as easy a path as possible. But that doesn't negate the good. It just hides a bit. Really really well.
I refuse to let this administration swallow my hope and my optimism and the tiny joys I take when I see something good happen. Even if it is in the midst of so much bad.
And it's important to remember the good when you read about how just last year FEMA cut the funding of the company it hired to plan an evacuation of New Orleans in case of a Hurricane -- when you hear the phrase "no one could have foreseen" remember the good people before you start breaking things.
And, before you give up on the government completely, there's even a story that illustrates how at least one government employee has a smidgen of common sense; someone figured out that seized counterfeit goods could be handed out to survivors.
Disasters bring out the best and the worst in people. So far the federal response has obviously been the worst. But I know first-hand that when things get dark individuals do rise to the occasion. Unfortunately, none of them appear to be on Bush, Inc.'s payroll.
In the see-saw of emotions that is this Katrina debacle, it's important to remember the good along with the bad. This is my mantra and I'm trying to stick to it.
I've been talking with my brother about some blank holes in my memory regarding Andrew. In my memory the National Guard was there on the third day following the storm, but my brother insists they didn't get to our neighborhood until the 5th day (a Red Cross group made it to our neighborhood on the third day and he's insisting that's what I'm remembering).
In my mind, the National Guard was a good thing, and I *still* believe that by and large they were. But there were apparently memories I'd tucked away under the good memories that I was reminded of sharply last night. One involved a Guardsman assaulting my brother (shoving him into a table where he banged up his face pretty bad) because he wouldn't listen to my bother explain that he wasn't stealing extra rations, but simply bringing them to neighbors who couldn't handle the walk to the encampment. Another memory is in regards to a group of four guardsman drawing rifles on me, my mother, and my brother because we were sitting in our front yard after curfew and should have been inside. The one that inspires the most anger in my memory is a horrible argument between my mother and a national guardsman who wasn't going to let us back home (after curfew) even though we'd spent six hours with my uncle at his hospital bedside not knowing if his leg was going to be amputated following an accident (he toppled off a weakened roof two weeks after the storm while trying to dry in a house; he landed on the driveway fifteen feet down, crushing one leg and breaking several other parts of his body). This incident ended when my mother (who doesn't normally say "boo" to authority figures) started sobbing, actually threw a bag of my uncle's bloody clothes at the guard and hit the gas pedal. We got home, no shots fired. It was intense, but after surviving the storm, I guess bullies seemed less intimidating.
A handful of other incidents during the time where we were under martial law and being out after dark meant that you were treated like a criminal, even though you were only a survivor of a horrible event, just trying to get some things done.
Please let me be clear. I don't believe these men were representative of the overall experience. I don't think their abuse of power, lack of sympathy, or misconduct negates all the good the Guard did. But I don't know a survivor that doesn't have at least one story like these few I'd buried in my memory. This kind of thing does happen and it's important to believe people when they tell stories of having law enforcement draw guns on them and people displaying flagrant abuses of power in stressful situations.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those nuts who thinks the military uses disasters to conduct horrible acts for no logical reason.
After Andrew, I read stories written by crazies about military cover-ups where people were murdered by servicemen. I was in one of the worst-hit areas and I'm here to tell you, I don't believe any of that conspiracy crap (although I do believe more people died than were reported; it was pretty common knowledge that the "invisible" people like Homestead's huge migrant farm worker population weren't included in the official totals). Still, the nut jobs with their tall tales, shouldn't cast doubt on the smaller stories -- where one authority figure, or one small group of them, effectively terrorized people who are pretty much the walking emotionally and physically wounded.
People who crack like that in extreme situations shouldn't be put back in them. At least not around civilians just trying to survive and rebuild.
I don't believe the Guard is bad or policemen are always assholes, or that anyone in a position of authority will automatically abuse that authority. But there are always individuals in positions of authority who are abusive. There was even an incident where a National Guardsman in Miami murdered two people at FIU after Andrew.
But the answer isn't pretending the bad doesn't exist. It doesn't "demean" the entire bushel to weed out the bad apple. The answer, to my thinking, involves admitting the bad, holding it accountable, trying to put in an effort so that the same mistakes will not be repeated, and then moving on. And all this talk about appropriate timing and focusing on the bad is just a smokescreen put up to put off inquiry in hopes that the public will lose interest.
As we almost always do. Because those hobbity holes have all those creature comforts and draw our attention from the voices of our better angels.
I believe you honor the good men and women who contribute to causes like this by thanking them for their efforts and making sure you illustrate that they are NOT like the bottom feeders and bullies amid their ranks. And then you weed out the rotten so that the good people won't be burdened with them next time around.
Although in this case we can't get rid of all the trash until a new election year rolls in. Or maybe not. Can you recall a President?
*sigh* At some point, gross incompetence really is criminal, no matter what the Supreme Court ruled.
Damn. Where's that mantra?
I believe most people are good and they should be applauded. I believe some people are irresponsible and malevolent and they should be held accountable. I believe that demanding accountability does not mean forgetting to give thanks to those who've earned it. I believe most people are good. I believe most people are good. I believe...
I choose to believe.
For what it's worth.
September 06, 2005
Nor Any Drop To Drink
Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice. ~ Mr. Sideshow (inspired by Arthur C. Clarke)
If you're already starting to get sick to your stomach about the "blame the local officials" game going on regarding Katrina, THIS is an interesting article. It refers directly to THIS PRESS RELEASE issued on the 26th, showing there was a FEDERAL state of emergency called for parts of Louisiana. Curiously absent are the areas most affected. Either the press release which included those areas has been pulled or this one has been altered for some purpose.
Also according to THIS ST. PETERSBURG TIMES ARTICLE Bush was on a video conference with the Director of the National Hurricane Center. So this "no one could have foreseen" line isn't going to play.
If you can stomach it, you need to read THIS ARTICLE FROM THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE that shows how our nation's emergency crews have been squandered during this crisis.
If you haven't seen THIS BBC NEWS VIDEO then take a deep breath first. It will break your heart into pieces. If someone told you these were people in America more than a week after the disastrous events, would you have believed it before now? I thought that I couldn't get anymore physically upset after watching Aaron Broussard on Meet the Press. I was wrong.
And finally, just to emphasize how malevolent the clusterfuck currently known as FEMA is, give THIS SALON ARTICLE a glance and ponder how fast Bush's ass would have been down to the Big Easy if this was an election year.
Oh, and hurricane victims in the midst of rebuilding their lives had better keep track of their accounting. Remember all those hefty FEMA checks that went to Florida victims of Ivan during that tight election year? Well, once that election was over, quite a few of those victims were asked to GIVE MONEY BACK.
September 03, 2005
Helping 101: Money Now, Supplies Later
If the mortality rate seems high we must realize that Nature is a ruthless teacher. There are no second chances in Mother Nature's Survival Course. ~ William S. Burroughs
So, I'm going to try and keep this as brief as I'm able. There's a lot of emotion wrapped up in what's going on for me, but this isn't my grief to co-opt. I can't personalize this event, I can only draw parallells to how it relates to a somewhat similar event in my personal history. But as horrible as being at ground zero during Andrew was, Andrew was nothing like Katrina. I've had a lot of people say to me "well, you probably understand better than I do..." but the truth is I don't. Not really. In some ways it is harder for me to wrap my head around this tragedy than the average person. I endured something horrific; to conceive of something more horrific leaves me in a disorienting confusion between numb and emotionally wide-open. I'm in a constant state of sympathy and trying to pull myself away from that sympathy. It's the emotional equal of dragging yourself up a surf leash to help get to the surface after a wipe out while the current continues dragging you down. It gets exhausting fighting the pull of the weight of the world.
Andrew did manage to give me a sort of overflow valve for this kind of thing. I can only feel so much, listen to so much, read so much and then I shut off. I wish I could make everyone shut off a little now and then. Watching TV making yourself heartsick isn't productive. If you aren't going to volunteer, then make sure you take time to watch a movie, eat a good dinner, read a book, jerk off. The disaster will be there when you get back.
I'm planning for this to be my only entry about Katrina. It pisses me off when people offer cursory grief and polite "donate" blurbs within inappropriate forums. This is a sex blog. No one is coming here to learn about charity. If the images on television and the stories on the radio aren't convincing, nothing I say here will inspire someone to donate or volunteer. There are appropriate places for grief and my blog just isn't one of them. It doesn't mean I don't care; it means I have a certain sense of proper place and appropriate time.
The main reason I'm writing this, actually, has more to do with my surprise concerning a particular sentiment I've been hearing over and over these last few days from people who should, frankly, know better.
"How do I help?" / "What can I do?"
I'm drawn back to 9/11 when a president opted to tell Americans to shop instead of taking advantage of the opportunity to channel our nation's grief energy into positive, productive action.
Is the average American really so distanced from charity and community service that they're left completely impotent in the face of things like this? Well, that needs to stop. When I graduated high school you had to have 20 hours of community service to get a diploma. If that's not a national standard then it fucking needs to be.
Fist things first. If you want to help, if you can help, here's your priority list:
Right now, it's what they need. It may feel too casual, like coping out and giving a gift certificate in place of a real gift, but your $25, $50, $100, $500 donations are going to do a lot more than you think. Right now donating $1 gets the water where it needs to be, instead of that gallon jug you donate getting stockpiled in your local charity's storehouse.
If you can volunteer, do it. If you have the individual freedom to get in the middle of things, then call your local Red Cross and ask for orders. Where to go, who to report to, what to bring with you. Don't just head down there and get in the way. Be smart, be safe, be productive. People's lives are on the line. And don't think ground zero is the only place you can physically volunteer. Call or just show up at your local Red Cross and let them put you to work. Even if what you're doing isn't directly related to Hurricane Katrina, it's going to be necessary. Small everyday disasters don't take a break because a bigger disaster is going on somewhere else. If you show up and are able to help a local family who just suffered a house fire, then you're helping keep the home front functioning so the links in the chain don't break down.
Go to human resources at your place of work and ask who's in charge of setting up payroll deductions. Sometimes people can't part with $100 all at once, but $2 per paycheck can really add up. You might even get your company to match employee donations. If you're a church-goer, or have a book club, or are den mother for little Suzi's cupcake club, then organize food drives, clothes drives, donation drives. Get the cute little kids all dressed up and go door to door collecting checks made out to the Red Cross and giving a cupcake as thanks. Raise funds to sponsor a family's hotel bills or relocation. You'd be surprised how easy it is to actually do things.
Don't think you have to be physically carrying sandbags to help. Get in touch with an organization and ask what phone calls you can make from home, who you can solicit on their behalf. Offer to be a relay between supply and demand, between survivors and their families.
You can get out the phone book and start calling numbers asking people to make donations. Give them the number/website/address to make a Red Cross donation. Just say "My name is Bob and we're asking people to make donations to the Red Cross in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Can I provide you with an address, phone number, or website where you can send a contribution?" You can call companies you frequent and tell them you expect they'll be making donations of money or supply to the cause. You'd be surprised how a few phone calls to the customer service line of major corporations will make them see the PR consequences of not contributing. Just call up and say "I've been a Wal-Mart shopper for 10 years and I'd like to know what your company is doing to aid in disaster relief following Hurricane Katrina" or "I'm a frequent traveler and member of Hyatt's Frequent Guest program. I'd like to know if you're offering free or discounted shelter to victims." Better yet, tell them you're writing a freelance article for a local newspaper, seeking to report on how local companies are contributing to relief efforts. It wouldn't hurt to think about writing such an article, either. If a list of who helped and who didn't appears in the paper, companies will think twice the next time a call for help is issued.
Don't help circulate inaccurate information. Rumors in this case can be deadly, or have terrible emotional consequences. People get insane in the face of grief. This isn't the time for conspiracy theories. There will be plenty of time for that later. I still read bullshit accounts of the military murdering people in the chaos of Andrew. On the other hand, if you can help circulate helpful and accurate information, then do it.
7. Secondary Supply.
The above mentioned clothes and food drives aren't going to be needed for a couple of weeks. Right now it's search and rescue and immediate need. You're not going to get anything through there before the emergency crews do. But, later on there will be people with nothing who can use clothes and food and almost anything else you want to send. Start a box of items now. Every time you go to the store buy things on sale that will be easily shipped. Make plans with your friends to go yard sale hopping and pick up clothes and shoes. Eventually there will be plenty of places to send these items. Only don't overload your local Red Cross with it now. They have limited storage space and they won't be shipping anything in that direction from local branches for a while.
Educate yourself, your friends, and your family about the realities of disasters in your local area. Make plans. What would you do in the case of a disaster in your area? How would you keep your loved ones notified. What supplies do you have ready to toss in the car. Are your important papers accessible so that you can simply grab a folder and have your insurance papers at hand? Make a list of priority items you'd want to take with you in a worst-case evacuation scenario. The best way you can help in the midst of disaster is to not become a victim in need of rescue. Find out how up to date your local government facilities are and how viable their procedures are.
You know this anger and sickness you feel? Don't forget it and don't displace it. Don't let it be re-branded and redistributed later on. Be angry at the right people and hold them accountable. After we were lectured to about the necessity for the rights stripped from us in the Patriot Act are we any safer in the face of disaster? Are you as likely to be the victim of a terrorist as you are a hurricane or earthquake? This is what government is for; aid in the aftermath of disaster is basic government obligation. WHY wasn't it there immediately? And don't just remember those who fucked up. Remember those who didn't step up. Why isn't Congress holding hands and singing on the steps this time? Where are OUR LEADERS on any side of the political landscape? In the next political primary let the question be "where the fuck were you after Katrina?"
I don't want to get all liberal touchy-feely here, but the fact is that you need to practice being just a little nicer to people for a spell. The person you're screaming at because your bank statement is fucked up could be under a great deal of stress wondering if a family member is alive or dead. The guy who just cut you off in traffic could be out of his mind with grief from media overdose and just as ready to ram into a pylon as take his next breath. It doesn't cost you anything to swallow one extra time and let things pass. Just imagine every person you're dealing with is feeling as stressed, angry, and emotionally spent as you are. If you need to vent the poisonous feelings, vent them in the right direction. Write your congressperson, your white house, your local paper with an editorial. Don't threaten to blow up anything. Do promise to remember next election who did nothing and who stood up and took action.
This is not an official list. This is based on my experience and my personal feelings right now off the top of my head. Take it for what it's worth. So long as you use common sense and think before rushing in, no effort is wasted effort.
Some Good Links To Have
August 26, 2005
...Perhaps there is a little bit of witch in you, Katrina. ~ Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane (via the pen of Andrew Kevin Walker)