Hurricane Sandy, NWS, FEMA, Climate Change — and Mitt Romney

Hurricane Sandy

This photo of Hurricane Sandy was taken at about noon Eastern Time today, October 28, 2012.

Hurricane Sandy satellite photo 10-28

This is a good time BOTH to head for higher ground and to consider the role of government in our lives.

An online friend of mine, posting in Daily Kos, has this to say today:

There are only three times in my life I remember well-respected, seasoned meteorologists issuing such dire warnings about an impending storm:

1) The 1999 Oklahoma City, OK tornado, where Gary England said “you will die if you are not underground during this tornado.”

2) “The Bulletin,” issued by NWS New Orleans during Katrina.

3) This morning’s personal plea by NWS Mount Holly meteorologist Gary Szatkowski:



That post — it just reeks of personal decency, doesn’t it?  The National Weather Service (“NWS”) is filled with caring scientists — public employees, by the way, who both receive benefits and pensions and do some very good work.  They’re pulling out all of the stops on this one, too.  They provide the sort of collective investment — like, say, the water infrastructure in our cities — that people would neither be willing or able to do individually.

It’s worth remembering at these moments that Republicans, led by runner-up for their Presidential nomination Rick Santorum, pushed a decade or so ago for the NWS reports to be privatized, because what it was giving people for free was taking away potential profits from private companies like Accu-Weather, who wanted to be able to sell them.

That’s one model of government.  It’s a legitimate, cogent model — and I consider it hateful.


The Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) was notoriously effective during the Presidency of Bill Clinton, when it was led by his Arkansas friend James Lee Witt.  It was even elevated to Cabinet rank in 1996.  President George W. Bush undid that — it was folded into the Department of Homeland Security.  Bush also appointed horse event attorney Michael Brown to manage the agency — and noted after Hurricane Katrina that he has done a “heckuva job.”  Many people disagreed with that assessment.  For the past 3-1/2 years, FEMA has been led by Craig Fugate, who had been the emergency manager for the State of Florida — and who by all reports has done a great job.  (It’s good to have someone like him in charge as FEMA faces one of its greatest tests over the next week.)

Some people don’t like FEMA.  They have argued that government provision of disaster prevention services just makes it easier for people to live in unsafe areas and that they should be covered by private insurers (as unregulated and unsupported by government as possible) and even private emergency management services — those who could afford whatever premium Accu-Weather might charge during an emergency, I suppose.

That’s one model of government.  It’s a legitimate, cogent model — and I consider it hateful.

Climate Change

We can’t say that Hurricane Sandy is due to global warming — for pretty much the exact same reason that we can’t say that a particular case of lung cancer isn’t due to cigarette smoking.  Causality doesn’t work that way.  Maybe this confluence of summer and winter storms would have happened even if our atmospheric energy levels were as they were a hundred years ago.  We can’t say for sure — we can just say that this is consistent with the model of the kinds of storms that we should expect to become more frequent as carbon dioxide and other gases trap more heat in the biosphere, leading to storms having more energy around them to turn from heat into force.  (Warmer waters means stronger hurricanes.  I wonder how many Americans don’t even know that.)

The subject of climate change, notoriously, did not come up in any of the Presidential debates.  (I presume that our brainy President will have the good sense to mention it now, when he will everyone’s attention.)  Republicans — not all, just many and I think most of them in the federal and state legislatures, but I’d love for that not to be true — have denied the science of climate change, rejecting the urgent need for strong efforts to convert our country away from fossil fuels.  Proposals to take serious action against climate change get slammed as “over-regulation” and “nanny state”-ism and — of course — “socialism.”  And so we haven’t done nearly what we could — and we’re letting other countries (like China and Germany) wrestle away the leadership in alternative energy technologies that should by all reasonable measures belong to us.  After all, we have a combination of more wind, more sun, more geothermal, and more funds (if we want to spend them) than anywhere else.

We also have an anti-government ideology that says that the free-market will handle things and a sizable religious contingent that rejects the dictum that we are to be stewards of the Earth and instead suggest that the end days are coming, so there’s no need to worry about the distant future and what is left for our descendants just in case the next millennium is like the last couple (which has also been rife with “end times are nigh” predictions.)

That’s one model of government (and religion.)  It’s a legitimate, cogent model — and I consider it hateful.

Mitt Romney

It doesn’t take a crystal ball to know what Mitt Romney’s going to be saying in the week between Sandy’s landfall and election day.  Almost certainly, Sandy will cause substantial injuries, kill more people, and destroy enormous amounts of property — perhaps enough to tax our home insurance and re-insurance system.  And whatever the damage, Mitt Romney is going to blame Barack Obama specifically and Democrats generally, and will say that he “knows what it takes” to do a better job of emergency services.

It will all be, as President Obama acknowledged our children can realize, a bunch of bullshit.  What Mitt Romney has stood for has been the sorts of policies that would decimate the National Weather Service and FEMA and that would fail to stem — and indeed even exacerbate — climate change.

Mitt Romney has a model of government in mind — a legitimate, cogent model — and he’s about to lie about it to try to get elected.  I consider it — both the belief system and the tactic of lying — hateful.

UPDATE 10/28 7:20 pm:

Ack!  I vaguely remembered that some prominent Republican had wanted to privatize FEMA, but I wasn’t reminded until now that it was … MITT ROMNEY!

KING: Governor Romney? You’ve been a chief executive of a state. I was just in Joplin, Missouri. I’ve been in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee and other communities dealing with whether it’s the tornadoes, the flooding, and worse. FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role. How do you deal with something like that?

ROMNEY: Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.

Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut — we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do? And those things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in. We cannot…

KING: Including disaster relief, though?

ROMNEY: We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.

The Think Progress article from which I took this report also says:

From its founding, the federal government has served the Constitutional goals of domestic tranquility and general welfare of the American people by aiding the victims of climate disasters. Romney’s extremist stance in favor of corporate “disaster vultures” would leave the United States in ruin, with only rich and well-connected people like the Romneys assured of getting food, water, shelter, and protection when disaster strikes.

Egads. What a total selfish ass. I hope that lots of people see this video over the next few days.

UPDATE, 9 a.m. Monday: Skies over New York City. Beautiful and terrible. Photograph by Scott Kuo, via FB.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)