Thursday, September 08, 2005

It isn't over yet

As authorities scramble to minimize an exploding public relations failure, the grim work of corpse management is just beginning. With living people still being rescued and evacuated, there is still no effective plan underway to take care of the dead. (There is a plan, I'm sure, but if bodies are still lying in the streets, so far it is not effective.) Paying no attention to official efforts to keep an embarrassing reality as unpublicized as possible, this morning's NY Times has a picture of a body lying in the street with a couple of soldiers and a civilian looking on. The laconic caption says "The sight of corpses has become almost common on the mostly abandoned streets of New Orleans, as rescue and evacuation operations have taken priority over removing the dead."

That a corpse lies on Union Street may not shock; in the wake of last week's hurricane, there are surely hundreds, probably thousands. What is remarkable is that on a downtown street in a major American city, a corpse can decompose for days, like carrion, and that is acceptable. Welcome to New Orleans in the post-apocalypse, half baked and half deluged: pestilent, eerie, unnaturally quiet.
A few days ago the mayor went from pleading to pissed.

National response authorities would say, "It's a disaster. It's hard to get stuff in there. It's hard to fly the helicopters and trucks in there," Pelley tells Nagin. Nagin was unmoved.

"Man, I don't wanna hear any of that. This is a national disaster on U.S. soil. And if we can deploy troops around the world, if we can deploy national guards and in a confined area, this is a - this is a small city. It's about 500,000 people. We're not talking about taking over a country. We're talking about 500,000 people. And with all the resources that this state and this country has, it should've gotten done quicker."

We met Nagin at his headquarters - this shattered downtown hotel with no power -no water. He's a cable TV executive with no political experience - he won a surprise victory in 2003. This week, holed up in darkness, he lashed out on a radio talk show saying politicians bragged about their efforts while his city descended into chaos.

"They don't have a clue what's going on down here," Nagin said on a recent broadcast.
"They flew down here one time two days after the doggone event was over with TV cameras, AP reporters, all kind of goddamn -- excuse my French everybody in America, but I am pissed."

He's not alone. Max Sawicky has concluded that we are seeing the bleak and savage world of Mad Max (the names are a coincidence...I think) moving from the movie theatre to the theatre of war.
Looking forward, I see the blossoming of survivalism. We are so f*cked in the event of a new, serious terrorist attack as long as the Gov is run by people who don't like government. My next house will have a generator. (No space for one now.) Cost about $5K, but fold it into the mortgage, no problem. Solar panels would be nice. Maybe a windmill. A well, if possible. Guns. Teach Little Nell how to handle a Beretta, Barbie edition. The wife can have the Uzi; it's light. I'll man the big gun, like Schwarzenegger. Peace out, y'all!
I sometimes enjoy the comment threads as much as the posts. You can tell a lot about a blog's readership by looking at the comments. (I suppose that's why I don't get many comments. Readership is small and not very outspoken. I don't really mind that. Most of the smart people I have known tend to listen first, then say something. I like to think my readers are more smart than vocal.) Anyway, from the comments...
As you probably know, Mormons keep a year's supply of food in the house.

I know you're not serious, but the best generators are diesel and diesel is about as easy to store as milk. Leave diesel in a tank for a year and it's worthless. Ammunition is the same way. Our only hope in this modern age is good government, and the best thing is for us all to expend our energies in the that direction. No one can plan for his own safety alone -- we have to hang together.

The Bush lunatics have to go. That we are even discussing survival shows how far things have deteriorated in a few months.

What brand generator are you thinking of?

I think that's spot on Max. This is going to do wonders for the survivalist sentiment. Look for a Huge increase in interest in generators, lighting, MRE's etc. Guns & ammo will keep a very long time if stored properly. Ammo stored from WWII & Korea is still being safely used and sold. It's easy to find Vietnam era vitage supplies in that regard. As long as they are stored at room temp & kept high and dry, they should have a very long shelf life. Perhaps longer than almost anything else on the shelf. A supply of your maintence meds. (important for many) might be the limiting factor here, as will water.

I'm waiting for the new eminent domain laws to be able to steal the property of 10's thousands of of displaced families scattered across the US to create that new tourist 'disney land'/ casino playground. We'll see it for as long as the Bush crime family is involved. But under Bush we have seen time and time again, it's every man for himself. Unless you are a crony that is.

But it's pretty dramatic when you watch 20K people drown because the Gov. could'nt be bothered to lift a finger to rescue, feed or supply water to just simple poor folks. It's like the Irish Famine relief. The government wishes you to know that it will not supply any aid, or any timely useful aid, so you really should go elsewhere, or die. And we're not kidding. Then as now, they're not overly concerned about the excess deaths of the under class. It is ever thus. And yes, this is the message many folks take away from the experience.

You might want to check into stockpiling antiviral medication, while you're about it. We are overdue for an infleunza pandemic, and the current strain of avian flu, at this very moment winging its way out of East Asia with wild birds, is very scary. Google Dr. Michael Osterholm for details. (Osterholm used to be the state epidemeologist in Minnesota, back when we had a public health system.) The worst case scenario is appears to be a flu that kills 5% of the population worldwide. Think about the economic consequences of losing one person in twenty!

A generator is not generally a great investment. One big enough to run your house is usually also a fuel hog. It will also make you a target--you have fuel and power. If you do get one, buy one large enough to keep your fridge and freezer going (no larger!) and enough fuel to last as long as the food. This will only be a few days.

Karlsfini: diesel stores very well indeed; this is why the military likes it. Gasoline has a shelf life of weeks.

A small solar system will cost less than a grand and let you run radios and LED lamps. It would also supply enough juice to charge a cellphone, laptop, or satellite phone. A 25-lb propane tank will run a two-burner Coleman stove for a very long time, and won't cost a fortune. Consider a multifuel backpacking stove as well--some will burn almost any liquid hydrocarbon. Don't forget water purification.

Guns. Get a cheap pump shotgun if you really think you'll need one. A basic deer rifle in a military caliber if you really think you'll have to hunt for food. You want a military caliber because you'll be buying 10,000 rounds of ammunition for it, and you can't afford that unless you buy military surplus.

Best advice: carefully evaluate your potential disasters and plan accordingly. There's no point in building some kind of urban fortess if it's going to be underwater or burned to a crisp. People who live in earthquake zones should never be more than ten feet from a pair of shoes they can hike for fifty miles in....because they might have to.

One window PV systems can probably do one room for light and communication (radio and telephone), probably for less than $500 including mount. You probably have to assemble the components yourself - PV panel, charge controller, battery, mount, wiring, and inverter.

Personally, I've been distributing WWII posters because I think we need to get serious. "All Fuel Is Scarce - Prepare for Winter Now" and "We'll [have] plenty of food this winter, won't we Mother" are my current favorites.

After all, we know this heating season is going to be expensive and there ain't nobody gonna come for us.

There is a curious blend of seriousness and levity here. It reflects the gruesome, dark humor that comfortable, middle-class people can afford.

Yesterday I heard someone say she couldn't stand looking at the images on TV. They made her cry. Someone else who was at the DFCS office was so moved by the overwhelming burden that caseworkers were handling that she was planning to go back on her day off and volunteer to help. These are NOT middle-class people. They are the 20M-people that Max referred to in his post. They do not joke or make insensitive remarks about what is happening along the Gulf Coast. They treat what is happening (Got that? still happening...) with the seriousness that it deserves.

As that last quote said, they sense "ain't nobody gonna come for us."

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