Hurricane Irma is battering the north edge of Cuba as a category 5 hurricane as I write this. The only comment I have heard on the news about Cuba vis a vis Irma has been relief expressing that by hitting Cuba first, some of the force may be drained off before she makes landfall in the US.
Here’s how the state of Florida is preparing for Irma: mandatory evacuations from cities along the projected path of the worst of the storm. Repeated announcements that you are on your own to either heed the evacuation notices and get out, or to survive as best you can if you stay. Repeated warnings to potential looters (note: the term “looters” only means desperate people looking for food or shoes or a free TV after their home just got blown away; it does not refer to the bankers, insurers, and real estate speculators who will rape and pillage the entire area for profit after the storm is over. Those guys will not only be encouraged to loot wholesale, they will be given tax breaks for doing so.). Warnings to those who may have criminal charges pending against them that if they seek safety in public shelters, they will be taken to jail because the ID check required as one enters the emergency shelters will expose their status. The gas stations immediately ran out of gas and the roads north immediately filled with congested traffic. The airlines jacked up their prices and started cancelling flights. There were no emergency bus or train services offered, aside from the usual scanty routes already available, because we do not invest in public transportation in the US. All those people heading north in their cars can only hope they don’t run out of gas along the way. And where, exactly, they are going seems to be a mystery, as the hotels are completely booked for several states above Florida. So much for trying to heed those evacuation orders. After the hurricane, you might be able to get a loan to rebuild your house. (Or maybe not. See:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/30/business/harvey-aid-sba-disaster-loans.html)
Congress has approved some emergency funding for the victims of both hurricanes (Harvey in Texas, and Irma in Florida), at the same time that the current administration is making sure the agencies charged with emergencies like these are defunded and understaffed. This is the rugged individualism of the US. You are on your own, although in a somewhat schizophrenic manner, you will be praised for helping your neighbors after the fact, and we all join in with the feel-good sentiment that in an emergency, we “all come together”. If you haven’t noticed, what they mean is that we “come together” and “help one another out” by sharing our own meager scraps of what we have left after paying taxes and jacked-up exorbitant prices for necessities, while the government only considers “helping one another” to be some socialist plot. It’s just kind of a shame that the politicians and the media don’t think that spending US taxpayer money on actual US taxpayers should happen except in the most dire of circumstances, and even then, it is done begrudgingly, and demands will be made that US’ians have to give up social spending elsewhere later to pay for it. Probably not going to get much infrastructure spending in the next budget for the rest of the country, because Congress gave a little something-something to Texas and Florida now, and you may find that Medicare and Social Security get cut to pay for this, as well. Note must be made here that the ‘infrastructure spending plan’, such as it is, is mostly a plan to give the common infrastructure over to private companies to run at a profit anyway, but now Congress may decide to do away with any public ownership or investment altogether. When things are rebuilt in these two states, they will be built in the same way they were built before: defiant of the inexorable demands of nature. If you pave over the swamps and bury hazardous materials under your homes, you get floods because the water has nowhere to go and you get lethal shit released into the air and water when a bad weather event occurs. In Houston, it is estimated (this is an early estimate, sure to be calibrated upwards as the weeks go on) that two million pounds of hazardous chemicals had been released into the air during the flood. Texas took care of the problem by turning off its air monitors in the Houston area during hurricane Harvey. (Can’t worry about what you don’t know, is the theory behind this.) 30,000 gallons of crude oil flowed into the floodwaters that people were wading in when two oil tanks ruptured. The current condition of all the Superfund sites in the flood zone is unknown. [Superfund sites are locations polluted with hazardous and toxic materials that require long-term clean-up responses.] In Florida, there are 54 Superfund sites at risk of flooding and leeching out of containment during heavy rains and storm surges; the EPA claims that all of them have been secured, although reporters found no-one working at any of them in the past week. Nonetheless, no lessons will be learned and nothing will change, as we will insist that our way is the best because we are just that exceptional. This brings to mind the “healthcare” debacle. The US politicians refuse to ask all those other countries how they set up their universal healthcare systems – which apparently work efficiently enough and save enough money that none of them ever want to give them up – and instead simply declare that universal healthcare is “not feasible”. And when the insurance costs skyrocket this winter, as they will due to the shortfalls of the ACA combined with the deliberate efforts of Trump and the Republicans to sabotage the little bit that works, the public will be told it was inevitable and that they must accept something even worse.
In Cuba, as compared to the US emergency system, there has been a network in place for decades where each family, household or neighborhood is paired with one or more of the same on the opposite side of the island. Evacuation transportation, by any and all available means, and emergency routes have been planned in advance to cover any contingency, as part of the networks. Everyone therefore is able to be moved quickly and they already have a place to stay during the emergency. Despite the fact that Cuba is hit fairly frequently with hurricanes, there is very little death toll thanks to this pre-planning based on the public good. Of course, this is an example of Dread Socialism at work, so the media in the US simply doesn’t talk about how Cuba manages hurricane preparedness, nor do they talk about Cuba at all, except as I said above, to crow that by running over Cuba first, Irma will be less dangerous to the US.
To add insult to injury, because there is nothing the US likes more than jabbing sharp sticks in the eyes of small nations everywhere, last night at the same exact time that Irma was making landfall along the northern coast of Cuba, the Trump administration announced that the trade embargo against Cuba is going to be extended for another year, until Sept., 2018. Trump’s presidential memo states that the embargo, which prevents American companies from importing goods from Cuba or exporting goods to the island nation, has been extended under the Trading with the Enemy Act “in the national interest of the United States.”
I guess this presidential memo stands in lieu of any statement of support for, or commonality with, Cuba during an event that is likely to harm both countries severely.
USA, always classy!
Update, 4:30 p.m. 9 Sept., 2018
Earlier today, the weather services announced that they think the track of Irma will run up the west coast of Florida rather than the east coast (which is what they had predicted a couple of days ago). This led to newly-declared mandatory evacuations of some cities on the western side of Fla. These places seem very unprepared, which seems rather odd, given that the hurricane is wider than the entire state. No matter which coast it runs up, the entire state will get hurricane force winds, both coasts will get storm surge, rain and possibly tornadoes. One would think the entire state would have prepared emergency shelters. Anyway, about two hours ago, I saw a bit on one of the news shows wherein the reporter was walking along a line of people who were waiting to be accepting into a stadium that had just been opened as an emergency shelter in one of the west-coast Fla. cities. These were people who had not been under mandatory evacuation orders until around noon today. In other words, they had just been told they had to leave and, gas no longer being available and the storm making landfall by tomorrow morning, they headed for the only place made ready for them as a shelter. Thousands of them were lined up, some with babies in strollers and old people in wheelchairs, some carrying packages of bottled water, and little satchels of clothes. The line wasn’t moving at all. The stadium can hold about 6000 people (without their wheelchairs, strollers and suitcases). Why is the line not moving? As the reporter got to the front of the line, he mentioned that he couldn’t get any officials to talk to him. However, you could see that behind him, the people at the front of the line were filling out multiple sheets of paper clasped on clipboards before they were allowed to present these papers to some official and be let into the stadium. A stunningly bizarre insistence on some byzantine paperwork while moving people into emergency shelter. There is no way in hell they are going to get all those people inside before dark. It will be dark around 7 p.m. here on the east coast of the US, just a few hours from now, and the eye of the storm will make landfall around 8 tomorrow morning. But the eye wall is rather irrelevant, since the outer bands are already over Fla, and the winds are picking up right now. Get the people in and settled, assholes. Asking for papers to be filled out right this minute is just arbitrary bureaucracy.
Something else: last night, in the wee hours, I caught a re-run of some Fox News segment which apparently aired earlier in the evening. I don’t know the reporter’s name or the name of the show, and it’s Fox News, so who gives a fuck anyway? The lady reporter was practically shrieking that the “fake news” outlets were trying to use a hurricane to sell the Fake Idea of fake climate change. Under her angry twisted-up face, there was a banner which read, “Liberal news sites try to promote global warming.” She and her co-hosts were appalled that a hurricane, of all things, was used as an example of climate change. And, they pointed out, the projected path of Irma had been changed, like, a lot over the past week, by the incompetent weather people, all of whom, they insisted, work for the government, which is totally run by liberals and whackaloons, except for the parts run by Trump and the Republicans, but they aren’t the ones to blame for the liberal, fake weather people and their sinister global warming hoaxes, and the altered trajectory of the storm proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that climate change is bullshit. Some people – maybe a lot of people – watch this crap and believe it. So let’s consider climate change for a moment, while we are talking about hurricanes and weather. Imagine you are sitting on your porch on a breezy autumn day. A leaf falls from a tree and gets caught in the wind. It swirls and dances around the yard. Where will it land, you might idly wonder as you watch it flutter about. Thing is, no matter what you predict, you will probably be wrong; there are too many variables at work, from the air temperature to the ground temperature, to the strength of the breeze, to the air pressure, to obstacles in your yard. Weather prediction is hard. It is a science and it is currently enhanced by computers, but it is still hard. The expected path of Irma changed a little within the past twelve hours because it went over Cuba’s landmass, because the temperature of the ocean below it may have changed a bit, because the prevailing winds shifted a tad, but it is still heading for Florida and it is still a huge storm. To claim that this slight alteration means climate change as a whole is therefore false is just ignorant.
There are other theories about why we are having massive droughts some places, record-breaking rainfall in others, hurricanes, flooding and wildfires all over the planet aside from man-caused global warming. You might believe that the weather is always changing and this is just part of a normal cycle of cooling and warming. You might believe that the government is playing with the weather so as to force us to pay higher taxes to alleviate the bad weather they caused on purpose. You might think the power companies are hyping a fake story so they can usher in carbon taxes, where they can collect a shit-ton of money from you on top of whatever they rip you off for in normal circumstances. You might believe that reptile space aliens are screwing with weather patterns as part of their plan to take over the earth. I’m not sure why Americans are so wedded to their simplistic belief systems that they can only believe in binary truths; everything has to be just one thing or it can only be the exact opposite thing. We have no nuance in this country and no ability for complex thought.
I think it is proven that the climate is changing due to the burning of fossil fuels. But it can also, simultaneously, be true that there are normal cycles of the weather in the long term, and the effects of these normal cycles are merely enhanced by our mistaken overuse of coal and oil. It can also be true that politicians and energy companies want to abuse the science to foist financial misery on everyone for their own profit. It can also be true that the US government plays with the weather – hell, they were already doing it during the Vietnam war, and proud of it. Probably the space alien thing isn’t true, though. Point is, it doesn’t have to be all one or the other, and claiming the whole shebang is a hoax is dangerously simpleminded and keeps us from doing what we ought to ameliorate the worst of the effects of climate change. The climate is changing. And that is a fact.
Another fact is that the US military wants to, or already is, using the weather as a weapon against other countries. Don’t take my word for it; read this white paper, written in 1996 as a precis for the Pentagon. This is major fucked-up fuckery, right here:
Title: Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025
Opening disclaimer: “2025 is a study designed to comply with a directive from the chief of staff of the Air Force to examine the concepts, capabilities, and technologies the United States will require to remain the dominant air and space force in the future. Presented on 17 June 1996, this report was produced in the Department of Defense school environment of academic freedom and in the interest of advancing concepts related to national defense. The views expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Air Force, Department of Defense, or the United States government. This publication has been reviewed by security and policy review authorities, is unclassified, and is cleared for public release.”
[This is followed by over 40 pages of how the US can manipulate the weather to create adverse conditions for other countries, to use the weather as a weapon of mass destruction, and to weaponize space for the same purposes.]