The Blue Raccoon

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Storm And Stress
Gustav, Republicans and Palin, Oh My

When reading his post, let the vid run, and crank the volume loud as you can. This is Gustav Mahler, and Mahler and quiet don't mesh. The tumultuous music, from the Fourth Movement of Mahler's First Symphony, is appropriate for current national and world conditions. I think the strings in the early measures resemble the hysteria of television and the InterTubes.

Déja-Vú, All Over Again

Gustav slams into Jamaica and the Caymans... (via BBC/AP)

Mayor Ray Nagin didn't mince words: "Get your butts out of New Orleans." He then referred to Gustav as "the storm of the century" when we're not even a decade in...though if New Orleans levees fail, this storm and floods might eclipse the city's history. (via BBC/AP)

Not good signs of things to come. Gustav is in the Gulf of Mexico, stoking its hurricane engines with fresh warm air fuel to crank up to Category 4, and as the newscasters are hyperventilating to tell us, the winds must exceed 155 miles per hour to slide over into Cat 5 class. But--it is hoped--Gustav will have braked down to Cat 3 when it makes landfall (how gracious a phrase) in what appears to be a hit on Southern Louisiana just west of NOLA. That means the Crescent City will get Gustav's backhand, its most forceful winds and greatest rain. (via BBC/AP)

Contessa Brewer is Charotte York as a pony-tailed storm tracker...

The teevee news is delighting in the use of split screens or boxes to indicate the inexorable and unstoppable progress of Gustav while interviewing grave-faced Republicans who are converging in Minneapolis-St. Paul to meet in their version of the Globco Corporate Center. This is the third anniversary of Katrina-Rita (Karita, as Dr. John says) and everybody has seen this movie before. The story does not end well.

I enjoyed seeing MSNBC's Contessa Brewer, her dark hair pulled into a pig-tail, and in a pretty, colorful summer wrap dress, wandering around in the northbound traffic and interviewing a guy with his puffy white pooch fleeing the city. And while undertaking this important story, she looks all the world like Kristin Davis' Charlotte York. That'd be an interesting twist to the Sex And The City storyline...Charlotte becomes a Storm Chaser for the Weather Channel with Stephanie Abrams and Jim that would be appointment television.

One hurricane. One Stephanie Abrams. Any questions? Via devildogdailynews.

Slippery News

One aspect that I don't think is understood well enough is the extent that the U.S. domestic oil and natural gas production is involved with the Gulf Coast. There are some 13 refineries in the region to be affected. According to Bloomberg, "The Gulf accounts for about 14 percent of U.S. gas output. The coast along Louisiana and Texas is home to 42 percent of U.S. refining capacity."

The Bloomberg report goes on to describe how in August and September 2005 that U.S. crude oil and fuel production tanked, " and prices rose to records when hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf Coast. Katrina closed 95 percent of offshore output in the region. Almost 19 percent of U.S. refining capacity was idled because of damage and blackouts caused by the storms."

To further cause the billion-eyed audience to corduroy its collective brow and say, "H'mm" grok this post from the Naples (Fla.) Daily News from Ironside

"Speaking of oil spills, SkyTruth images revealed significant spills covering a large area of the northern Gulf of Mexico in the wake of Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. At the time, nobody was talking about what had happened to the 4,000 offshore oil platforms - and 34,000 miles of pipeline on the seafloor - when Katrina ripped through the Gulf as a Cat 5 storm, followed a few weeks later by Hurricane Rita. Attention was rightly focused on the unfolding human tragedy, as well as the 7-9 million gallons of oil spilled from damaged pipelines, refineries and storage tanks onshore. (More facts and images here.)

But for months after the storms, officials from government and industry repeatedly claimed that there were no "significant" spills in the Gulf. That line is still heard even now. Yet in May 2006, the U.S. Minerals Management Service published their offshore damage assessment: 113 platforms totally destroyed, and - more importantly - 457 pipelines damaged, 101 of those major lines with 10" or larger diameter. At least 741,000 gallons were spilled from 124 reported sources (the Coast Guard calls anything over 100,000 gallons a "major" spill).

Wells and platforms were shut down before the storm, so leakage from those facilities was minimal. Pipelines were shut down too. But what the officials failed to mention is they don't require industry to "purge" pipelines before a severe storm - so they were probably still loaded with oil, gas or liquid gas condensate. Any section of pipeline that was breached leaked all of that product into the Gulf within hours of the storm. That's what we think accounts for the widespread slicks seen on the imagery from September 1 and 2, covering hundreds of square miles and obviously emanating from many points of origin. These slicks dispersed after several days of high winds offshore, as shown by our followup imagery taken on September 12, but a few problems remained as evidenced by ongoing leaks from wrecked platforms."

And as POC remarks on the Naples site:

In the winter gas prices go up, because of home heating oil.

In the spring gas prices go up, to reformulate gasoline for the summer blend.

In the summer gas prices go up, to meet summer time demand.

In the fall gas prices go down, because there are elections.

On Oil drilling in the Gulf: 25 miles or 50 miles off our coast?

Hard Blows and Blow Hards

Because down-scaled news divisions cannot cover more than two and a half major stories at one time, the flood devastation in Nepal has rated barely a blip. More than a million people are homeless and more displaced, and health conditions are deteriorating. The BBC reports that this on-going disaster began on 18 August when a dam burst on the Saptakoshi river in Nepal. The Saptakoshi, which becomes the Kosi when it enters India, subsequently broke its banks in Bihar. And with the axiomatic finality of an ice tray filling one compartment at a time, the flood waters have devastated villages. See here. Image from BBC/AP.

No matter what happens on the Gulf Coast, it will not come close to the horrendous death and damage caused from the the cyclone that hit Burma earlier this year--causing some 77,000 deaths (here), or the tsunamis of recent years (here). Of course, when such a thing is happening to you, and you are uprooted from your home and everything you know, perspective is difficult to maintain and to understand that, yes, things almost always can be worse.

Between the storm and the Republicans, practically all other news got blown off screen, though there is something going on with that whole Russia-Georgia discussion, into which other European nations are entering into with some mis-matched rhetoric.

Meanwhile, the Palin Predicament is blossoming on the InterTube. Witness this image that popped up on Facebook, with Palin posed in this "Gentlemen, start your engines" number...

At a quick glance, fools the eye at this size, but, well, it's a fake. Somebody already called a flag on the play when realizing this faux Palin's head is a taken from this Flickr image:

So there you go; this is how the rumor mill gets propelled through the cyber-aether. Palin has this Ashleigh Banfield/Tina Fey/librarian/hot soccer/hockey mom thang going on that befuddles some people.

The reaction reminds me of the tin-foil Royal Air Force bombers dropped during raids over Germany. The German radar picked up the foil bundles and mistook them for aircraft.

What should disturb people more than anything else is that Palin was once a local sports news anchor. You can witness it here. That's right, reporting the basketball and hockey game scores. Well, everybody is entitled to a good job at a good wage. But..did you ever see Nicole Kidman in 1995's To Die For? (here and here) This was back before Nicole got herself botoxed into almost unrecognizable condition.

Unlike the lethally ambitious character played by Kidman, though, Palin's dream of going on to ESPN was deferred when she chose not to leave her home and family to do so. But that ambition had to go somewhere, and thus she went a into politics.

Besides that television newscaster background, has anybody noticed this? Palin (left) and former reporter Ashleigh Banfield, who made a name for herself covering the 9/11 attacks live from the streets of Manhattan, went to Iraq, then she ended up on Court TV.

Her entering the political sphere, from being in the PTA and hockey mom, to town councilman and mayor to Governor, kind of reminds me of that wonderful scene in the film Dave in which Ben Kingsley, as Vice-President Gary Nance, reminisces about how he got into politics. He was, like Truman, a haberdasher. And if I recall, it was his wife who said: Look, you're complaining all the time about how things are in this town, why don't you run for office? And I think his first position was as a town councilman, and one thing led to another, and as I recall, the scene was an ode to the value of public service, Sorkin-esque, but written by Gary Ross.

In the entertainment-distraction complex dominated nation we have, would serve us right to have Palin as a former talking head to ascend to the vice-presidency. There's a certain symmetry to the whole trajectory. We have had no lack of former actors and entertainers entering electoral politics since Ronald Reagan took to the national spotlight.

I bet you some producer in Hollywood right now is thinking what a great reality television program Palin's settling in to the v-p office would make...five kids, the working man husband,'s Northern Exposure meets Commander-in-Chief. Dick Cheney she is--and we should give thanks for this--not.

Then there's this rumor going on about Palin and her fifth child and, you know, rather than .. here, go to Digg. Seems to me like John Edwards payback and wishful thinking rather than real, but.

As one poster to Digg put the issue, perhaps uttering the most true statement on the Internet today: "America's politics is ridiculous. Instead of focusing on the actual policies, it's a competition of who can make the most mud stick. I've lived in UK for almost 10 years now and I have never seen such behaviour."

But nothing is new in U.S. politics, despite what our Brit observer says. President Grover Cleveland was dogged by persistent rumors that he had fathered an "illegitimate child" (such a quaint term now). There was a doggerel song that went with the accusation: Ma, Ma, Where's my Pa?, Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha! The Cleveland camp responded with this jab at opponent James G. Blaine: "Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, The Continental Liar from the State of Maine."

Ah, those were the days.

Meanwhile, U.S. politics continues its descent into irrelevancy, corporatist control and pornographic proportions.

And a big, big storm is coming.

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