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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wow. This Year Sucked. A Look Back At 2012.

Normally I'd do my end of the year piece on Christmas Eve, but since the world is ending tomorrow and Christmas is on a Tuesday this year, I decided to go for it today.

In years past, I devoted the whole week before Christmas to a year in review kind of thing were I pontificated on whatever came to mind. This has been such an unbelievably crappy year that I couldn't bear the thought of reviewing it for more than one column. I try to keep the review piece a little lighthearted and I'll do the same this year, but please know that the tragedy in Newtown, CT, and the suffering caused by Hurricane Sandy still pretty much color every emotion I write with. My prayers for peace and a respite from suffering go out to everyone who was touched by the Newton murders and Hurricane Sandy, as well as the Aurora, CO, shootings and all of the other depraved acts and natural disasters we witnessed this year.

With that all in mind, let us take a look at the absolutely crappy year of 2012:


Worst Presidential Candidate: Mitt Romney. Seriously, Mitt? The country is in the crapper and you couldn't beat a guy with a track record of abysmal failure. Dammit Mitt, you made every half-baked left-wing dingbat in America feel like they actually know something.

Worst President in History: That still goes to Richard Nixon who gave country club Republicans the idea that failure is manifest. Jimmy Carter is still second, but Barack Obama is ready to back the car out of the ditch and pass him.

Mayor Who Follows the Most Racist Race Baiters on Twitter: Cory Booker. Sure everyone loves him because he uses Twitter and rushes into burning buildings to rescue people and then eats only food stamps as a reward, but a common thread with every moron Twitter troll that has called me a racist or thrown some nasty racist attack my way this past year is that Cory Booker follows them. Booker doesn't follow me on Twitter, probably because I criticize him, but he did tell me to "chill out" when I asked him to repudiate the repugnant racist words of one person he followed on Twitter. Booker also admits to getting manis and pedis, but so far he has not been spied wearing meggings whilst out and about the Ironbound section.

Best Twitter Parody Account Of A Failing and Foolish Mayor of a Major City: @MiguelBloomito. For those of you lucky enough to live outside the horrible, Democrat-controlled New York metropolitan area, Mike makes statements in English, then repeats them in Spanish. Horrible, pigeon-Spanish that makes him seem even more foolish than his regular English words do. The best sample is Mayor Bloombito's statement about the end of the world:
"Yo signingo un orderador executivo declaringo that esta okay to opeño giftos de Navidad earlyo por que el mundo endo mañana. #CincoDeMayan"
Least Sexy Democrat Icon of the Year: This award has gone to Hillary Clinton since 1991, but this year Sandra Fluke wins it! Not because she is a soulless political opportunist who allowed herself to be used by the Obama Administration, but because in spite of her complete and total lack of appeal she still needs other people to pay for her birth control while other people pay for her law degree. A Democrat through and through!


Movie of the Year: The hands down winner is The Hobbit because it was the only move I saw this year. I went to the AMC Dine-In theater in Edison, NJ, to see it. If you get a chance to take a movie in at a Dine-In theater you should do it. Drinking Margaritas and eating dinner in a giant reclining chair actually made me forget how much I hate going to movies and dealing with all of the other "people" there.

Album of the Year: Joe Jackson The Duke. Jackson is a musical genius, so him playing the songs of an American treasure who just happened to have been a musical genius made for one helluva a great album. Joe also moved out of New York City because of Mayor Bloomberg's smoking ban, so whether you're a smoker or not, you have to admire Joe's desire to protect his own freedom of choice.

Television Show of the Year: I'm picking this one just to piss off all of you haters who visit this site. By far the best show on television is Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld. It's obnoxious, edgy, makes fun of dopey liberals and Democrats and has cool guests. Plus it's on at 3:00 AM.

Best Television Ads Making Fun of  Hipster Doofuses: Have you ever been to an Apple store? Right? How annoying can a shopping experience be? Nothing is worse than some way-too-serious, ultra-condescending emo-boy trying to explain things to me that I've been working on for 30 years. I hate Apple. Not because of its products but because of its stunningly insipid corporate identity.

This ad completely sums up what people should be thinking about the Apple hipster-doofus culture:

Most Childish Way To Be An Adult: Sharing every possible moment of your life on Facebook. Including sending dozens of pictures a day with snappy comments written by someone else in a desperate attempt to make you seem clever except for taking pictures of every embarrassing thing that happens to you or your family and posting them for all to see. Especially the children! Definitely photograph everything the children do so when they grow up they will need to get ear gauges, neck tattoos and be bronies to make up for all the humiliation you caused them. Remember friends, the Internet is forever.

Most Embarassing Human Beings Everrrr: Bronies. For those of you who aren't as down with pop culture as I am, a brony is a male fan of the cartoon show My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. The average age of a brony is 21, but bronies have been known to be anywhere from 14 to 57 years old. If you are the parent of a person (gay or straight) who picks a brony as a mate please have your offspring committed for their own personal well-being, or at the very least disown them and then gouge your oen personal eyes at as penance for the horrible parenting job you did.


Fashion Statement So Disturbing I Was Hesitant To Post A Picture Of It: Ear gauges.

Nothing says, "Mom? Dad? Why
didn't you love me," like ear gauges.

Most Embarrassing Thing A Male Has Ever Put On Their Legs Everrr: Meggings. Meggings make the idiots who wear skinng jeans look like friggin' lumberjacks for crying out loud. If you buy your 20-something meggings because he asked for them, you are the root cause of all the trouble in the world.

Look at these idiots and tell me you respect them.

Things That Used To Make You Look Like A Badass, But Now Just Make You Look Like A Tired Emo Cliche Who Should Be On 24 Hour Watch In Case You Feel Like Cutting Yourself: Neck tattoos.

At 20 years old: "Honey, that is one sexy dragon
you have on your neck."
At 35 years old: "Hey  lady, you should get that blue splotch
on your neck checked out. My Grandma had one and it was

Nothing says "I beat up women" like
a neck tattoo.

So there you have it, thirteen of 2012's most memorable moments. Reality-based Libertarianism and Other Stuff has grown tremendously this year. It's read over a thousand times a week in 94 countries, and I'm most proud that I have readers in Iran and Syria, two places in the world where information from the outside is closely controlled. I'd like to thank everyone for the support they show just by clicking on the site: It makes it easier to come up with content knowing that people are out there. I've pissed off a lot of people, but I've also received some tremendously kind words from people who thanked me for giving them information they wouldn't normally have had. Twice this year I had people tell me they were of a different political persuasion than me, but reading R-BL&OS made them reconsider their positions. I take the responsibility seriously and I am humbled and flattered that my little slice of cyber-space is reaching people.

Thank you!

I'll be back with more reality-based libertarianism (small 'l') and other stuff on January 7, 2013. I don't care how awesome 2012 was for you, I sincerely hope 2013 is better, and to all of the wonderful people I've met while doing hurricane relief stuff in the past 7 weeks, I'll just end the year by saying "Summer's Coming!"

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

ESPN's Rob Parker Really Hates Black People Who Don't Think Exactly Like He Does About White People

What happened to America? While I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, people of all racial make-up fought against racial stereotypes and discrimination. I'm proud of my generation's strides against prejudice and the stupidity of racism. We didn't win the war completely, but we changed America's thinking in the arts, sports, politics and culture. It breaks my heart when I realize those efforts were for naught.

The generations that have followed us have turned out to be just as racially prejudiced and ignorant as the Democrats who turned their national convention over to the Ku Klux Klan in 1924.

Seriously, what is wrong with you people?

RGIII - a great person making football relevant again in
our nation's capital. Unfortunately, racists in the
media, like Rob Parker, don't like him because
he doesn't bow to them. 
Rob Parker is a black man, and a sports pundit on ESPN. Based on his views about blacks who interact with whites in this country, Rob Parker is also obviously a proponent of racial apartheid.

Here's what Parker had to say about Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III on his ESPN show First Take last Thursday:
"But my question, which is just a straight, honest question, is: Is he a brother or is he a cornball brother?
 "He's not real. OK, he's black, he kind of does the thing, but he's not really down with the cause. He's not one of us. He's kind of black but he's not really, like, the guy you want to hang out with because he's off to something else.
"Well because that's just how I want to find out about him. I don't know because I keep hearing these things. We all know he has a white fiancée. There was all this talk about how he's a Republican, which, I don't really care, there's no information at all. I'm just trying to dig deeper into why he has an issue. Because we did find out with Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods was like, I've got black skin but don't call me black."

Luckily, Stephan A. Smith, the hardest of hardcore New Yawkas who also happens to be black, brought some sense and intellectual maturity to the conversation by saying:
"I'm uncomfortable with where we just went," he said. "RGIII, the ethnicity or the color of his fiancée is none of our business, it's irrelevant, he can live his life in whatever way he chooses. The braids that he has in his hair, that's his business, that's his life, he can live his life."
ESPN's Rob Parker doesn't like it when people he shares
skin color with don't share his narrow-minded and
destructive view of race relations.
Even though ESPN obviously knew Parker's mindset about race when they hired him, the network suspended him "until further notice."

Rob Parker is a racist fool. He is no better than the fools who thought blacks needed to drink from different water fountains than whites. He is no better than the morons who thought blacks needed to eat at different lunch counters than whites.

Rob Parker is also dangerous because he has the power of the media to spout his ridiculous racial views to an admiring public.

Make no mistake, Rob Parker does not want black people marrying white people, lest he wouldn't have an issue with the color of Robert Griffin's finacee's skin.

Make no mistake, Rob Parker does not want black people being Republicans, for whatever misguided, idiotic reason he has. The bottom line is, according to Rob Parker, if you are black you'd better tow the racial line politically or you will be ostracized.

Rob Parker believes that being black means you need to be down with the "cause," which leaves me wondering just what the "cause" Parker is referring to is. Is the "cause" attempting to separate blacks from whites? Is the "cause" a way to ostracize blacks who fraternize with whites? I can't for the life of me figure out what the "cause" is, but then again I'm white, so I am defined by my race first and not my intellect by the likes of ESPN's Rob Parker.

On Thursday, December 19, a full week after Parker was outed as a racist, he offered this apology:
I blew it and I’m sincerely sorry. I completely understand how the issue of race in sports is a sensitive one and needs to be handled with great care. This past Thursday I failed to do that. I believe the intended topic is a worthy one. Robert’s thoughts about being an African-American quarterback and the impact of his phenomenal success have been discussed in other media outlets, as well as among sports fans, particularly those in the African-American community. The failure was in how I chose to discuss it on First Take, and in doing so, turned a productive conversation into a negative one. I regrettably introduced some points that I never should have and I completely understand the strong response to them, including ESPN’s reaction. Perhaps most importantly, the attention my words have brought to one of the best and brightest stars in all of sports is an unintended and troubling result. Robert Griffin III is a talented athlete who not only can do great things on the field, but off the field handles himself in a way we are all taught – with dignity, respect and pride. I’ve contacted his agent with hopes of apologizing to Robert directly. As I reflect on this and move forward, I will take the time to consider how I can continue to tackle difficult, important topics in a much more thoughtful manner.
The issue of race in sports is a sensitive one to idiots in the media who need it to be sensitive in order to keep collecting a paycheck. Out here in the real world, I can guarantee you that what Redskins' fans care about is how many wins Griffin brings them, not the color of his skin. I can also guarantee you that fans of the teams (count me among them) that Griffin has dissected during his tremendous first year in the NFL aren't happy with Griffin's talent and ability to win games. The beauty of sports in the modern era is that it transcends race. Skin color doesn't enter the picture except for racist fools like Rob Parker.

The rest of Parker's apology is pure pablum meant to smooth the feathers of his bosses at ESPN. Do you people actually think Parker didn't mean what he said? Apologies are nice, but I for one am not going to be tricked into believing that Rob Parker is anything but a race-baiting fool and a profound racist.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It's Natural To Think Our Times Are the Most Evil. It's Necessary To Understand They Are Not.

Please note: As disgusting as the murders of innocents in Newtown, CT, was, I personally find the media coverage and gratuitous interviewing and speculating to be disgusting in its own right. Witrh that thought in mind, I publish this piece today not to jump on the bandwagon of gore the American media has so gleefully jumped upon, but rather to offer some perspective. It's natural to think of our generation and times as the most evil in history, and certainly the reporting of current disasters would support that belief, but it's important for us to look beyond the tiny portal of information we get on our television screens in order to understand the broader dangers of evil.

I offer this piece today without political opinion, but with hope that facts will help us bring about a broader dialogue of evil.

New school building in Bath, MI, 1927

New York Times, May 19, 1927:
BATH, Mich., May 18. - The insane revenge of a man maddened by financial worries brought death to at least thirty-three children today when the Consolidated School in this little village of 300 souls, eight miles north-east of Lansing, was dynamited just after the morning bell had called the classes together.  
Forty-one dead have been identified and one is still unknown.
The north end of the school collapsed, and undoubtedly there are bodies buried in the debris.  From eighty-five to ninety-five were injured.  
Andrew Kehoe, Treasurer of the village School Board, was the man who placed in the basement of the school the dynamite that wrecked one wing of the bullding and brought death and injury to children and teachers.  Kehoe's house and barn, a mile or so out of town, were destroyed in another explosion and fire caused by himself a little before the blast in the school.
Kehoe himself was killed, together with Emory E. Huyck, Superintendent of the school, in a third explosion, this one in Kehoe's car as it stood in front of the demolished sohool a half hour after the disaster there.
A mortgage on Kehoe's farm was foreclosed last week.  He was heard to complain that the high school taxes made it impossible for him to lift the mortgage. It is believed Kehoe's mad act was caused by his desire for revenge on the School Board.
One teacher was killed and three seriously injured.  The village postmaster was injured and later died.
Hunt for Bodies by Searchlight
Under the lurid glare of searchlights, playing on a tangled bed of ruins, State Police and volunteer workers continued the search tonight for missing children.  The list of dead was placed at forty-two late tonight by Prosecuting Attorney Kelly Searl of Clinton County, who is directing the rescue work.
Forty-four of the seriously injured were in Lansing hospitals and between forty and fifty, with minor injuries were in their homes here.
Witnesses say that Kehoe sat in his automobile in front of the school and gloated as he watched the bodies of the children hurled into the air by his diabolical plot.  Then, as the ruins of the wrecked building settled on the dead and dying children, he fired the dynamite in his own automobile killing himself, Huyck, Glenn Smith, postmaster, and Smith's father-in-law, Nelson McFarren.
RDB note: incorrect that Kehoe was there at the time of the explosion.

Bath schoolhouse after explosion that killed 37 children
and 6 adults on May 18, 1927.

I have read other reports that speculated that Kehoe was also angry and seeking revenge after a loss in a local school board election, but I was not able to verify that speculation. Kehoe planted dynamite in the school for months planning to take the entire school out, and only a failure of his detonation system prevented the entire school from being leveled.

The following is the obituary for one child killed in the bombing:
Arnold Victor Bauerle, born in Dewitt township, February 15, 1919, was in the third grade.  Even at that age he had a great head for figures.
He asked to be given numbers which often ran into the millions.
His father often told him he would never be a farmer because he ate so slow.
He was always busy at something.  If not in school, he was playing baseball.
Arnold wanted to go to Lansing with his parents on the day he was killed, but he had had whooping cough and had been out of school so much that they thought he ought not stay out of school any more.  They were in Lansing at the time of the blast at the school.
He is survived by his father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Bauerle, one brother and one sister.
Interment was in the Dewitt cemetery. 

New York Times, May 20, 1927:

Charred Body of Mrs. Kehoe Is Found In Ruins at Home That Michigan Maniac Blew Up.
Said to Have Mania for Killing, He Is Believed to Have Planned School Destruction for Weeks.
Bath Villagers, Stunned by Awful Deed Console One Another as They Prepare to Bury Little Ones.

BATH, Mich., May 19. - Still stunned by the deed of the madman Andrew Kehoe, who yesterday killed his wife and then blew up the consolidated school here and his own automobile causing the death of forty-three persons, including himself, this little community today was groping its way through tears trying to meet the awful consequences of the tragedy.
Sad-faced parents of the thirty-seven children killed in the school came to console one another in their grief, but funeral arrangements were left until tomorrow.
Governor Fred W. Green Issued a proclamation appealing to the people of Michigan to raise funds with which to rebuild the school and to provide relief in cases where families were deprived of support by the catastrophe.
John W. Ferrer and Richard H. Scott of Lansing and Schuyler Marshall of St. Johns were named the committee to receive and dispose of the funds. The little village of 300 inhabitants is virtually bankrupt as a result of the disaster.
The deaths of Mrs. Blanche Hart, 30, a teacher, and of Oleo Clayton, 8, a pupil, in a Lansing hospital, today brought the total dead to forty-four.
Kehoe's Wife Slain and Burned.     
The finding of the body of Kehoe's wife this morning by deputy sheriffs was not entirely unexpected.  State troopers had combed the State for her last night, following clues that she was in a sanatorium.  When this inquiry failed, attention was directed to the ruins of the home, which Kehoe blew up yesterday before he set off the blast at the school.
Though charred beyond recognition, the body was found in plain sight on a milk cart, near a hen coop, the only building on the farm that was not destroyed.  Dynamite was found buried under some straw in it.
It is the belief of Prosecuting Attorney William C. Searl that Kehoe either cut his wife's throat or beat in her skull and then tied her to the cart and set it afire.  Piled around the cart were silverware, jewels and a metal cash box.  Through a slit in the cash box could be seen the ashes of several bank notes.
Officers were unable to account the burning during the night of a davenport, a small table and three chairs that members of a Consumers Power road crew had taken out of the burning house yesterday morning.  All this was intact last night, but in ashes this morning.
O.H. Buck, foreman of the road crew, and several of his assistants unknowingly risked their lives in the explosion and fire at the Kehoe farm yesterday morning and again at the school.
Narrow Escape From Death.     
Buck gave the following account of what happened:
"Arriving near the Kehoe place we saw that the buildings were afire and speeded up.  The south side of the house was in flames when we got there. We run around to the north windows and two of us crawled in.  We shoved out a davenport, a table and some chairs.
"Then, in a corner of the room, I found a pile of dynamite.  Without thinking much about what I was doing, I picked up an armful and handed it to one of the men. The room was filled with smoke, so we got out.
"Then I heard a woman across the road yelling that the school had been blown up. We started for our car and had just arrived there when a terrific blast let go in the house behind us.  I was slammed against the car.
"We got in and drove rapidly to Bath.  A tragic scene confronted us at the school.  The north half of the building was a jumble of debris.  Several men were digging into the wreckage.  We could hear the voices of the imprisoned children calling for help.  I ran across the lawn and began helping.
"I had no more than started when I was bowled over by an explosion at the roadside.  I got up and looked around.  A great cloud of black smoke was rolling up.  Under it, I saw the tangled remains of a car.  Part of a human body was caught in the steering wheel.  Three or four other bodies were lying on the ground near by.
Seemed Like End of the World.     
"I began to feel as though the world was coming to an end.  I guess I was a hit hazy.  Anyway, the next thing I remember I was out on the street. One of our men was binding up the wounds of Glenn Smith, the postmaster. His leg had been blown off.  I went back to the building and helped with the rescue work until we were ordered to stop while a search was made for dynamite."
The placard "criminals are made, not born", found wired to a fence on the Kehoe farm, may give an inkling to the psychology of the man who with measured deliberation, it is believed, attempted to wreak vengeance on this community for what he felt was the high tax imposed on him and other financial troubles.
Evidence disclosed today indicates that he mapped out his plans months ago. He was notified last June that the mortgage on his farm would be foreclosed, and that may have been the circumstance that started the clockwork of anarchy and madness in his brain.
M.W. Keys, Superintendent of the School Board, said Kehoe appeared to have a tax mania and fought the expenditure or money for the most necessary equipment.  
Chance to Prepare for Dynamiting.
"I have no doubt that he made his plans last Fall to blow up the school", Keyes declared.  He was an experienced electrician and the board employed him in November to make some repairs on the school lighting system.  He had ample opportunity then to plant the explosives and lay the wires for touching it off."
Prosecutor Searl revealed that a shattered alarm clock had been found in the basement of the school and that it was connected with a battery and wires leading to various caches of dynamite and gunpowder.  The face of the clock was intact.  The hands pointed to 8:45. 
Bernice Sterling, first grade teacher, who escaped injury, said she telephoned Kehoe yesterday morning and asked permission to use his grove for a picnic for her class.  He told her that if she "wanted a picnic she would better have it at once."
Evidence that Kehoe was plannlng his scheme early in April was brought out at the inquiry before State Fire Marshal Charles V. Lane and the Clinton County Prosecutor today.  Neighbors testified that he was wiring the buildings at his farm about that time and that he evaded questions regarding his purpose.
Numerous witnesses declared that Kehoe had an ungovernable temper and that he developed a mania for killing things.  He beat one of his horses to death last Spring, it was stated.         
The man was known through the countryside as a "dynamite farmer".  Neighbors detailed how he was continually setting off blasts on his farm, blowing up stumps and rocks.
Pyrotol Found in School Debris  
The wiring for the explosions in Kehoe's house and outbuildings was complicated. A timing apparatus was found in the chicken coop.  Wires were found leading to the house and barns from the telephone lines passing on the road in front of the house.  Kehoe evidently intended to tap the telephone lines for current to set off the dynamite.  The explosion destroyed only the small part of the house; fire did the rest. 
One of the rescue workers digging in the debris of the school found a quantity of pyrotol, a war salvage explosive distributed to farmers by the Federal Government, between a floor and a ceiling above the coal bin in the the part of the building left standing.  About two bushels of sticks were removed.
In the basement State troopers found a small container filled with gasoline, so fitted that the natural expansion of the gas would force the inflammable vapor through a tube to a spark gap.  When this point had been reached the gas could have been exploded by one pressing an electric button, and burning gasoline would have been scattered throughout the basement.
It is the belief of investigators that Kehoe meant to burn the building if the dynamiting failed.

Special thank you to Ronald D. Bauerle, great-nephew of Arnold Bauerle, who was killed at eight years-old in the bombing. Baurele's work is quite extensive and is the best resource for information regarding the Bath bombing and mass-murder I have found om the Internet. Click to see entire research page.  

It is natural to think we are living in times that produce a special level of evil, but its important to understand that evil exists and cannot be willed away by good thoughts and intentions. Hard work, vigilance and a true understanding of the reality of our world is our only protection against evil.

Emotionalism does not solve problems, intellectual, honest discussion does.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Can A Nation of Simpletons and Dullards Solve Complex Problems Like School Shootings and Mass Murder?

As the horror of what happened in Newtown, Connecticut, begins to implant itself into our intellectual minds after having gained control of our emotional minds for the past 72 hours, we can begin to look at the reality of what actually happened.

As with anything in this country today, politics has inserted itself into the deaths of 20 innocent babies and the  6 adults who gave their lives caring for them. As much as I would like to believe that this tragedy will unite the country in a quest to solve a growing problem, initial reaction from people across the country says otherwise.

Friday afternoon, before we had any details about the shooting, the clarion call from the Left was for gun control. Their simple argument was that if the killer didn't have access to guns no one would have died.

This line of reasoning was countered by the people on the hard-Right claiming that the root cause of this tragedy was the fact that God and prayer has been outlawed from schools and that we live in a Godless country.

Maybe senseless violence can be eradicated by simply never letting any person other than the government and military have weapons. Maybe senseless violence can be eradicated by making sure every person in the country prays.

Maybe not.

If you make sure you don't think too deeply about the problem of senseless violence you can reasonably deduce that both of these arguments are correct. However, adults don't solve problems by spouting emotional soundbites and sharing silly pictures on Facebook. Adults solve problems by examining them and thinking about them. Neither of which seem to happen anymore. We've all settled into our little camps, foolishly believing our simplistic approaches will supply the answers to the difficult problems we are being confronted with.

To say that removing God from the classroom caused the murders of these children is profoundly juvenile. If the children had opened the morning with the Lord's Prayer do you honestly think they would have been saved? An argument can be made that if the killer had religion in his life he might not have committed his heinous acts, but lack of prayer in school is meaningless if there is a lack of prayer at home. Either way, I have my doubts that religion is a panacea for evil fed by defect.

To say that gun control is the answer is to completely ignore reality. I had one seemingly intelligent person tell me over the weekend that the 2nd Amendment was intended for people to protect themselves against bears. Sadly, to explain about being forced to house soldiers against your will and to have those soldiers be from a government entity that treats you as a sub-human subject would be fruitless in the face of such enormous ignorance. The simplicity and silliness of this statement knows no bounds, yet this is emblematic of the adults we produce in this country. Britain has gun control and has a higher violent crime rate than South Africa. (UK Daily Mail Online - December 17, 2012). Is access to extremely powerful weaponry an issue by extremely unstable people an issue? Of course it is. But stripping an entire country of its rights to protect us from a dozen lunatics is just silly. I'm a strict Constitutionalist but I understand we are facing issues the Founder's didn't. Do I believe that if madmen with assault rifles were confronted by armed people these crimes would end? Absolutely, but the problem is deeper than just giving every person in the country a concealed carry permit or putting an armed guard at the entrance to every elementary school in the country.

I reject the gun control and prayer in school arguments on the grounds that there are no easy answers to difficult problems. We live in a country that allows a predominant political party to cheapen life by insisting that abortion is a viable alternative to responsibility. We also invite murder and carnage into our homes on a nightly basis under the guise of "entertainment." A quick look at CBS's prime-time programming this week shows that of the 21 hours of prime-time shows CBS is airing, 12 hours contain shows about murder, kidnapping or rape, with an additional 3 hours containing shows that are usually about murder but contain no press details. That means that potentially 71% of one network's shows will bring murder, violence, kidnapping and rape into our homes this week. There are 4 other broadcast networks and hundreds of hours of alternative programming I didn't look at, but I think you get my point. We need to look at what we invite into our homes and into our brains. Add the sheer violence and mayhem of the video games many of our young men spend their formative years with, and we have to conclude that gun control and God are not going to solve our problems. Simplistic political pandering is exactly what we don't need today. Sorry America, but we've made murder commonplace and entertaining, so stop whining about that which you allow.

Let's look at he facts as we know them right now:
  • The killer was a twenty year old male
  • The killer had social problems and other mental issues
  • The killer had easy access to guns quite possibly because of an irresponsible gun owner 
  • The killer's family knew of his issues and were seemingly unable to help or get help for him
There is a trend that needs to be examined before we fool ourselves into thinking our knee-jerk and emotional responses to everything will ever solve anything. 

Wouldn't a country that was actually concerned about protecting the lives of innocent children be asking questions about the facts as we know them rather than spouting silly half-baked ideas about gun control and God?

We need to stop lying to ourselves about the societal rot that is infecting the minds of the marginalized and the mainstream.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

12.12.12. Concert for Sandy Relief. From the Perspective of 12.13.12

The ever-cheeky Jagger had two feet of water in his NYC
apartment after Hurricane Sandy. I also think he is
wearing a rug.
I'm going to be a bit of a voice in the wilderness here about the 12.12.12. Concert For Sandy Relief, so bear with me.

As I write this I'm still struggling with my point-of-view. I see news reports of the promises of funds to local charities raised from last night's show at New York City's Madison Square Garden, and think that my take on the show and the surrounding hype is inaccurate. Yet I still question the ethos.

Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of people who need help, and if people want to donate to help them, then far be it for me to rain on their parade. If you need to see Roger Waters prance around while Eddie Vedder sings before you donate money to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy, then more power to Roger Waters, but how good should we really fell about that? I have seen firsthand on an almost-daily basis how much relief is needed just in the two counties in New Jersey that I have worked in, so as far as I'm concerned, the more money that can be raised the better. But I have to ask: Springsteen singing My City In Ruins may be emotionally cathartic for a few minutes, but where does that leave people whose homes have been destroyed after the show is over? And who cares after the donation lines have been unplugged?

I actually attended the Katrina Benefit in 2005 (forget the NBC nonsense with Kanye West, I'm talking the actual benefit concert), and other than Bette Midler's obnoxious political idiocy about George Bush and the standing ovation Bill Clinton got just for walking out on the stage, the show was pretty good. New Orleans--a town that I have great affection for and history with--had been crushed and the MSG benefit felt like the right thing to do at the time.

I thought the 9/11 Benefit concert in 2001 served an important purpose to bring us together after we were bombed by Islamofascists using our own naivete as weapons. Cops and firefighters took a beating unlike any beating we could have imagined, and a concert to show them how much other people cared about them was the right thing to do.

So with all of this background, I was kind of surprised at the nagging feeling that the 12.12.12 Concert for Sandy Relief was, if not a sham, than an ill-conceived and misguided attempt to make unaffected people feel good about something so they could then move on to the next issue that needs their help.

I watched a bit of the show last night, and I guess some of it was good. Judging from my Twitter and Facebook feeds, the rest of the world thought it was the most awesome thing that ever have happened. I'm used to being at odds with the predominate feelings of the world, so this was no surprise, yet the feeling still nagged me.

Then I heard Mick Jagger say this...
"This has got to be the largest collection of old English musicians ever assembled in Madison Square Garden, but I've got to say, if it rains in London, you've got to come and help us, okay?"
Then I saw this...

Lots of people, particularly people from England, are condescendingly pointing out that it was a joke and that Americans have gotten too sensitive about everything, so we should just stop whining about Mick's words. Okay. I get it. It was a joke. A bad one that wasn't really very funny, but hey, English people have been trying to convince me for years that seriously unfunny things are in reality actually funny (Monty Python's television series, okay?) so I'll refrain from pointing out how callous the joke actually was.

Mick Jagger sang two songs. If it ever rains in London we owe him some
help. This house in Union Beach was crushed under the weight of the
Hurricane Sandy storm surge. Raritan Bay is 1000 feet to the left.

Has anything changed this morning for the affected? Sadly, no. The dolts on the Today Show crowed about how the people who survived the storm couldn't watch the first benefit concert, but they were be able to watch this one. As if watching some musicians and comedians talk about what they were actually living through was important. NBC should be told that in parts of Staten Island, people still don't have power..

I won't go into my personal belief that these concerts are nothing more than a way for coddled media darlings to feel good about themselves for helping without actually doing anything other than getting other people to send their money to middleman who will supposedly disburse that money to other people who need the help. Rock stars as middlemen in the disaster relief industrial complex is just unsavory to me, and the self-importance and arrogance of a person who thinks that all they have to do is sing a song and the problem du jour will be fixed is appalling. Sorry.

I won't complain about how obnoxious and unfunny Stephen Colbert and Chris Rock were. I will commend Jimmy Fallon and Jon Stewart for their sincerity.

I won't comment on how I'll wait to cheer any of these people until they prove the money they asked for went to the people who need it--without strings, without middlemen, without all the typical non-sense that destroys the good intentions of good people.

I won't comment on the thousands of volunteers who have spent thousands of hours actually working to help people rebuild their lives, without urging from Beyonce.

I won't comment on the thousands of people across the country who have made a difference over the past month and half without even a song from Bon Jovi.

I won't comment on how this concert was really just a chance to make people feel good about themselves for being entertained.

Sure Jimmy Fallon had tears in his eyes as he introduced the Stones, and sure Chelsea Clinton used her political capital to extol the virtues of being as good a person as she is. Kanye West wore a skirt and failed to mention FEMA and the Red Cross's abysmal failures in the aftermath of Sandy, but we all know the government doesn't deserve criticism--or even critiquing--because Obama cares.

I'm sure Bruce and most of the rest had wonderful intentions by performing and making people feel good about donating to a worthy cause through a charity that you simply can't find legitimate, substantial criticisms of (the CEO of the Robin Hood Foundation made $504,000 + in 2010, and they use gimmicks to claim "100% donations" against "0% overhead, but other than that you can't find anything about the Robin Hood Foundation, including a detailed and independently verified list of who the recipients of their grants are).

But Jagger's comment simply sums it up for me...this was just another gig. A bother. A trifle. A way to plug his band. Sensitive or not, you'll have  hard time convincing yourself that Jagger actually understood why he was there last night.

For many who watched, the concert gave hope that help was on the way or that things were now suddenly better. For others is was a little bit of a respite from the pain. Regardless of why you watched, don't mistake a crowd of people at a concert in New York cheering 70 year old rock stars singing 40 year old songs for anything other than a fun way to distract ourselves from reality for a few hours. The problem is, the people being distracted were by and large not the people who need the distraction. Temporary diversions from pain--including great rock and roll--are only temporary, and I wonder if that now that the show is over people outside the area will consider their work done.

I don't hold out much hope that the money raised is going to be distributed at the street level without strings attached to the people who are most in need of it. Another concern I have is how long it will take before the money is disbursed. Were people elevated with hope last night that they would be receiving thousands of dollars to help them rebuild their lives only to find that the help will only arrive in the distant future or that they are not eligible for it?

In 1985, Live Aid money went to buy grain that was left rotting on docks and stolen by warlords. But lots of people (myself included) donated time and money to the cause, so we all felt good about helping others--even if others weren't necessarily helped.

The show is over, but the reality goes on. I struggle with criticizing those whose intentions were good, but I reserve the right to wonder just how much good all of this do-gooding will do.

Friday, December 7, 2012

An Appeal To Save Yourself: "Every Generation Needs A Revolution" (Thomas Jefferson)

Note: This piece is directed at people born after 1980. If you were born before 1980, scram, you've screwed the country up and you've really screwed people born after 1980. Go stick your statist nose somewhere else. 

Let's pretend you are going sailing. You don't know how long you'll be sailing, or even where you are going, but you know one thing: You have no choice but to go sailing. The only problem with your voyage is you've inherited a boat from people who are older than you and they've royally @#$%^&* the boat up. It leaks, the sails don't work, there's not enough food or water, the maps and charts are outdated, there are NO life preservers, and the sailing lessons you took from them utterly sucked...because the people you inherited your boat from were morons when it came to sailing your boat.

“If once the people become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, Judges and Governors, shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions.” T. Jefferson

Good luck on you voyage.

This is you now. Life is awesome!
The future is wide open!
Courtesy MSN Fitbie
You're young, you're invincible, but your parents and teachers have failed to tell you how brief and fast life is. It's okay, it happens to all of us. You're hearing mumbling of rough seas ahead, but seriously, that's someone else's problem your brain tell you.

Your brain is wrong. In years past that may have been true, but that was during a time when American developed adults, and from those adults bloomed leaders. America doesn't develop adults anymore, so therefore it doesn't develop leaders either.

You have been handed the awesome responsibility of taking care of the fools ahead of you, yourselves, and your children. It's happened to other generations in the history of mankind, and now its happening to you.

Let's look at who you have to look to for guidance:

  • pre-Baby Boomers (1930-1945): They're so caught up in making sure they get their Medicare and Social Security they don't give a rat's ass about you. AARP has got this age group so addled with handouts and group-think mentality that their impending mortality renders any concern for you moot.
  • Baby Boomers (1945-1960): The biggest, most wasteful, most selfish, generation ever born. They spent their entire lives whining and complaining because they had to grow up and turn Captain Kangaroo off so they forgot the part about growing up. The hippies of the 60s are now the assholes of the twenty-teens. Look around at who's in charge, yup, pretty much all Baby Boomers and look at the shape of your future. Thanks Boomers, you screwed all of us. (In the interest of full disclosure, I was born in the last month of the post-war baby boom, so yeah, I suck too. At least I'm honest about it) The Baby Boom has produced zero leaders and very few adults.
  • Generation X (1961-1979): They were so jealous of the Baby Boomers that they forgot to forge their own identity, but luckily they saw how annoying the Baby Boomers were and were able to develop a few adults and even fewer leaders. Paul Ryan, Marco Rudio is one, Rand Paul is one, but then again so is Barack Obama.
Got my point yet? You've been sold a bill of bogus goods. The leaders you are electing are not leading. The Democrat Party has been rotted from the outside in by socialist experimentalists, statists, and financial idiots who have decided to cast their fortunes with the hot air bloviating from Washington, DC.

“Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms (of government) those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny” - T. Jefferson

Remember that sailing trip from the beginning of this piece?
This is where all the stuff you inherited is going to end
you up. Yahoo.UK
The Republican Party is filled with country club wanna-be's and old people who were never popular in high school and now all they care about is that everybody likes them. 

Republicans and Democrats have not produced a leader in thirty years (read: Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill), so if you're waiting around for the "adults" in the room to clean up after themselves, it ain't gonna happen.

So listen up young persons who have been left quite the mess to clean up for the fools who came before you: You've been handed the responsibility, decline it at your own peril.

Don't listen to people who tell you the Democrats and Barack Obama are doing things with your best interest at heart. They're not, they're playing politics with your futures and anything you are told to the contrary is a lie.

Don't listen to people who tell you that the current fools in charge of the GOP have your best interests at heart. They don't, because if they did they wouldn't have squandered the responsibility we gave them in 2010.

“The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive.” T. Jefferson

Think for yourself. Look at the world around you and the people in it and then judge for yourself what you think. Don't let the media lull you into ignorance so they can sell soap.

Learn about what made this country great, learn about the mistakes it made and the steps it took to correct them. You are the progeny of a country with a fabulous history that has temporarily blinded itself with foolishness. Figure out your own future, because try as they might, the fools currently in charge cannot take your futures away from you. 

Socialism does not work. I am confident that you cannot show me a case in history where it has been successful. The only thing that works is human beings taking care of their own futures while maintaining a shared sense of civic responsibility. This is what America was founded on.

Take over you local political parties. Hit the streets. Tell people you want a future that does not involve handouts and being treated like dogs to the state. Don't whine, live your life, make your future.  

The current crop of leaders have proven that they are incapable of doing the simplest government function of budgeting its income. Do you actually think its a good idea to put your futures in their hands?

Take the country over. I trust in your desire to be free from the capricious whims of politicians and scoundrels.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Quick! We Need a Sno-Cone Machine To Fill Ice Packs In the Event Of An Emergency, And, You Never Know When Islamofacists Are Going To Infiltrate the Pumpkin Festival!

While the brain-addled fools we sent to Washington are playing chicken with your back accounts, your children's futures and your ability to provide for yourself, I thought I might take a few moments of your time to illustrate how concerned the government is about terrorism and your safety.

First let's take care of some business:
  1. If you voted for Obama and our offended that I called him a "brain-addled fool" get over it. He's more interested in beating Republicans than he is in providing an environment in which you can thrive. If you are still offended you are a brain-addled fool as well. America doesn't get better until you get off your knees and stop worshiping Barack Obama.
  2. If you voted a Republican into Congress, (that's the House and/or Senate for those of you with a public school education) you sent brain-addled fools there thinking they were going to do your bidding for you when in reality all they are interested in is beating Democrats. If you are still offended you are a brain-addled fool as well. America doesn't get better until you clean the GOP's house and put in people who care about America and not their political positions.
Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) is one of the few people in Washington who actually cares about how dysfunctional and corrupt the Federal government has become. I've taken him to task on some things that I disagree with him on, especially regarding private property rights, but he's spot on about the Department of Homeland Security. He's put a nice little report together about waste and fraud in the DHS and the grants they give out to pretty anyone who asks for one--regardless of the reason. 

From the Coburn report:
It has been noted that police departments are arming themselves with military assets often reserved for war zones. One California resident observed as much when officials in Carlsbad—a city with one of the state’s lowest crime rates—expressed interest in using DHS funds to buy a BearCat: “What we're really talking about here is a tank, and if we’re at the point where every small community needs a tank for protection, we’re in a lot more trouble as a state than I thought.”

Without any further adieu let's take a look at some highlights of your local governments stealing from your Federal government using your money. (Did you notice that the common denominator in all that theft is you?)

  • The West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission purchased of 13 sno-cone machines with $6,200 in homeland security grant money. Defending the purchase, FEMA asserted it was, in fact, an allowable expense under its guidelines. FEMA explained that it approved the sno-cone machines because the grantee characterized them as a dual purpose investment that could be used to fill ice packs in an emergency as well as to help attract volunteers at community outreach events. Local officials also defended the sno-cone purchases saying the machines were needed to treat heat-related emergencies. Yet, while the officials could easily account for how many times the machine had been used at community outreach events, they “did not know” how many heat related medical emergencies the area had experienced in the past that would justify the purchase.
  • Buffalo, New York, officials attempted to charge $934,000 to UASI for personnel costs for a police chief, captain, and local fire department employees deployed to conduct routine patrols during an orange heightened alert period. The city would have incurred these costs regardless of the heightened alert level. The bill ended up being paid by a state funded accounts.  
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma officials spent $150,000 of DHS grant money on cameras and security barriers at the Tulsa County jail. In the official grant documentation, officials stated that this purchase was responsive to DHS’ goal of protecting critical infrastructure and key resources as a preparedness investment.
  • Columbus, Ohio recently purchased an “underwater robot” using a $98,000 UASI grant. Known also as a “remotely operated underwater vehicle,” the robot is mounted with a video camera providing full-color display to a vehicle on shore.  Officials on the Columbus City Council went so far as to declare the purchase an “emergency,” not because of security needs, but because of “federal grant deadlines.” If the money was not spent quickly, it would have been lost. The Columbus dive team, however, is responsible only for underwater search and recovery missions – not for rescue missions that may happen during a terror attack. One of the team’s higher profile missions in recent years was the recovery of a $2 million “sunken treasure” in the Scioto River.
  • Reports found that Fargo, North Dakota, received more than $8 million in homeland security grants, which is significant considering its local crime record. Fargo, a town which “has averaged fewer than 2 homicides per year since 2005” bought a “new $256,643 armored truck, complete with a rotating [gun] turret” using homeland security funds. Fargo Police Lieutenant Ross Renner acknowledges that Fargo “[does not] have every-day threats here when it comes to terrorism.” It is for this reason perhaps that as of December 2011 the vehicle was only used for “training runs and appearances at the annual Fargo picnic, where it’s been displayed near a children’s bounce house.”
  • Olathe Fire Department outside Kansas City. Olathe used a $151,000 UASI grant to purchase a bomb detection robot despite already having two. Local officials let one of the broken robots sit largely unused for four years, but brought the robot back online after two high schoolers were asked to repair it, which they did for only $5. Two months later, the city decided to purchase a new state-ofthe-art Remotec Andros F6B anyway with its funding from DHS. Bomb squad commander, Capt. Cody Henning, explained that the old robot was still functional, but was “on part-time status now.”  The new robot, nicknamed “Tin Man,” made its public debut recently when concern over a suspicious package shut down a significant portion of The Great Mall of the Great Plains. News outlets gathered to record the Tin Man as it made its way in to inspect the item. It turned out to be a “stained cardboard box filled with paper booklets.”
  • In Keene, New Hampshire residents revolted against the town’s plan to acquire a BearCat, developing their own motto – “thanks, but no tanks.” Residents viewed the vehicle as an unnecessary purchase even though it is being paid for though a DHS grant worth $285,933.Although the town has had just two murders in the past 15 years, Keene Police Captain Brian Costa argued that “when this grant opportunity came up, it made a whole bunch of geographic sense,” since none of the five armored vehicles already in the state are not located in southwestern New Hampshire where Keene is located. He further stated that the vehicle would have been useful during the 2005 floods where the police department lost a cruiser.  The grant application for the BearCat cited the 2004 Pumpkin Festival and the 2007 Red Sox Riots, when the Red Sox won the World Series as examples of incidents when the BearCat could be used.  The Pumpkin Festival is an annual event with 70,000 visitors, many who come to Keene in hopes of breaking the world record of lighting the most Jack’o’Lanterns. The current world record holder is Boston with 30,128 lit pumpkins. Local law enforcement considers the festival a possible target for terrorists. “Do I think al-Qaeda is going to target Pumpkin Fest? No, but are there fringe groups that want to make a statement? Yes,” said Kenneth Meola, Keene Police Chief.
  • Indianapolis approved $5,000 to spend on office supplies to sustain its training and exercise program.
  • Indianapolis also spent more than $69,000 in 2007 to purchase a new Neoteric hovercraft for water-based search and rescue operations. This latter purchase raised the eyebrows of even one local official who noted, “Homeland security money is not just for taking care of your, "everyday needs that you have for public safety. First and foremost, it’s there for protection and prevention in terrorism.”
  • Indianapolis officials also set aside nearly $19,000 to purchase 10 digital cameras and related accessories to assist in arson investigations and $25,000 for “travel and training” outside of the “UASI Area.” In 2008, officials also budgeted $42,000 for an “access control system,” and $74,500 for “Portable Barriers,” for the Indiana Stadium and Convention Building Authority.
  • Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, officials sought to spend nearly $45,000 for license plate readers that have been used not to stop terrorists, but to catch thieves.
  • Livingston, Louisiana, officials spent $10,000 for a flight course to train search and rescue pilots on normal and emergency flight procedures which officials described as “essential to responder safety and health” so that the project fit neatly into one of DHS’s pre-approved criteria.
  • Arizona officials spent over $90,000 in UASI grants to install bollards and a video surveillance system to monitor the main stadium, clubhouses, and training fields at the Peoria Sports Complex, which is used for spring training by the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners and also hosts concerts and car shows. Officials described the facility as a revenue generator for the City of Peoria, yet did not provide any of its own funding for the security equipment.
  • Officials in Indiana authorized over $250,000 for security enhancements at Lucas Oil Stadium—home of the Super Bowl XLVI in 2012—including $9,000 for signage.
  • The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) was reimbursed for costs to backfill for certain positions in the fire department based on estimated rather than actual hours worked. The DHS IG found that FDNY claimed $143,437 in backfill expenses for employees who worked overtime to perform duties of other employees who were attending training.  However, the amounts claimed were based on a model that computed estimated backfill personnel expenses rather than actual time charges on payroll records.  Additionally, New York City’s 2011 budget included plans to spend over $24 million in federal homeland security grants to pay overtime to its police department. Overtime and backfill are allowable expenses under DHS’ grant programs, which DHS makes clear.
  • Hamilton County, Indiana, officials set aside $100,000 for television, radio and other media advertising (including billboards and transit ads) for public outreach campaigns and volunteer recruitment.
  • Officials in Ascension Parish, Louisiana spent over $2,700 to purchase a teleprompter which officials characterized as meeting the national priority to expand regional collaboration.
  • Plaquemines, Louisiana spent $2,400 for a lapel microphone.
  • The Kansas City Metropolitan Emergency Managers Committee spent a portion of a recent grant to produce a new online video series called “A Tale of Disaster and Preparedness” The series features characters of the same name and its first episode urges people to develop emergency plans in their homes in the event of a natural disaster or terror attack. Most of the advice offered in the film is little more than common sense suggestions like “have an emergency plan” and “know the potential threats.” The message of the video, however, is presented as a steady stream of jokes, like the one pictured below warning people to prepare for a “terror attack.” Among its non-specific tips included keeping an eye on people of “average or above average intelligence” or who appear to display “conspicuous adaptation to western culture and values.” Other signs that someone might be up to no good were: “increased frequency of prayer or religious behavior,” being “alone or nervous,” or “mumbling prayers.”
  • The Fairfax County Police Department in Virginia, part of the National Capital Region around 
  • Washington, D.C., spent nearly $12 million to upgrade its automated fingerprinting system called NOVARIS and purchased mobile devices for use by officers in the field. Digital fingerprinting had been in place for Fairfax police since the early 1980’s, but the county applied for, and won, UASI funds to purchase a new state-of-the-art system, that would also help it coordinate with neighboring counties. “Since it was due for an upgrade, we took the opportunity to use the UASI grant funds to refresh the system,” explained Alan Hanson with the department.
  • A review of Arizona’s UASI grant awards shows that several police departments and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office used UASI grants to purchase armored vehicles. In 2011, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office used two armored vehicles and a SWAT team to conduct a raid of the residence of a man suspected to be involved in cockfighting.  The actor Steven Seagal, who was then filming his television show ‘Lawman,” participated in the raid and rode in one of the armored vehicles.
  • Local police departments used $90,000 in UASI and other DHS funds to purchase “Long-Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD)” machines. LRAD machines were originally developed for use by the ilitary as a nonlethal way to repel adversaries, including Iraqi insurgents or pirates, by making a loud and intense sound that is capable of damaging hearing. Law enforcement agencies have purchased LRAD machines for purposes that include crowd control and issuing message and alerts across vast distances, though its use in terror-related preparedness is questionable.  

So here you go, just a few more examples of why I have no interest in giving another nickel to the bastards. Any of them. If you can actually rationalize any of this, give me a shout, I'd like to hear what you have to say.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Saturday In Union Beach, NJ: Hope and a Red Cross Team Not Really Sure Where the Disaster Is

The following is just a relaying of my experience working in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to help residents who were affected rebuild from the storm. I am only one of thousands of individual people who are doing recovery work on their own, without recognition and without a support infrastructure. I write this to get information out to those outside the storm area that New Jersey is still straining under the weight of the storm and its aftermath.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend my wife and I put out a social media appeal for gift cards in $25 amounts to Home Depot and Lowe's to distribute to the people who are rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy. We had given out $500 worth of cards the week before and were overwhelmed by the fact that $500 was just a tiny drop in a very large ocean of despair.

We were able to collect $1450 in gift cards in 5 days. When added to the $500 in cards (that incidentally came from just two donors), our total in two weeks is $1950 and I will be collecting and distributing another $300 to $400 more to distribute this weekend. In total, between monetary donations, and clothing, food, and toiletry donations, my wife and daughter and I have distributed approximately $8,000 in items since the Wednesday after Sandy hit. Bear in mind that we are merely one family in a community of thousands who are doing this work, and you get the idea of how New Jersey works.

Home in Union Beach, NJ, moved off its foundation by the
storm surge in the Raritan Bay. Copyright Jack Sharkey.
We have concentrated on Union Beach, Keansburg, and Port Monmouth in Monmouth County. The areas that were hard hit in Ocean County (about 40 miles south) have the sexiness and romance of the boardwalks to help them keep their plights in the public eye; the communities I mention here have been pretty much forgotten by the local and national news machines.

The progress from Saturday to Saturday was heartening to see. The local municipal governments are doing yeoman's work cleaning the streets and trying to get the municipal infrastructures back to normal. Here are a couple of things we took away from our work on December 1:

  • Church group volunteers are out in force. We saw at least 150-200 volunteers in Union Beach alone doing everything from raking lawns to ripping up sub-flooring
  • Its less the act of donating $25 than it is the fact that people care enough to try to help. When we are asked where we're from and who we are, we simply reply we're just people and that the card is from other people around the country who care. The emotion these people carry as they try to rebuild their homes is kept walled up until some kindness crosses their paths
  • When we first started doing this, we were distributing almost a card every 5 minutes, but as people try to fight off the spiritual and physical fatigue of what they're faced with, we are finding that what people really want to do is talk, so in some cases we are only able to distribute one card every thirty minutes. The interaction is actually of greater help
  • High school kids who are volunteering make up a large percentage of the volunteers doing the absolutely horrific job of emptying homes of their water-logged and now moldy contents
  • Occupy Wall Streeters lived in tents for about a month and worked from a beat-up U-Haul truck delivering hot meals to residents
  • Corporate donations of mattresses, sheet rock and other basic housing items are helping speed the recovery efforts while also keeping rebuilding affordable for people
Anyone who reads this blog knows its main viewpoint is that government exists because of people and that people do not exist because of government. While first responders and local government agencies are doing great work, anything above the state level is too mired in red tape and bureaucracy to do much good for people. 

Union Beach, NJ. Copyright 2012 Jack Sharkey

I have also been reminded why large corporate "charities" like the Red Cross are impotent to do anything other than raise  money. When it comes to distributing aid they fail like large government entities always do.

People in these parts won't have much good to say about the Red Cross, and quite frankly, we all would have been just fine without them--keep that in mind the next time you want to donate money to aid people whose lives have been torn apart by disaster. The aid that comes from small, non-governmental agencies is the aid that gets in the hands of the people who need it most.  

As the sun began Saturday, to set we found ourselves in a lightly damaged area of Keansburg. Some areas of the borough were devastated by dune breaches, while just blocks away it looked as if nothing happened on October 29. We still had a few cards left to distribute and on the empty street we were on we saw a Red Cross "Disaster Relief" truck with Oklahoma tags slowly coming our way. I flagged the truck down, explained what we were doing and asked if the driver knew where we should go with the cards we still had. My assumption was a simple one: that the Red Cross would be far more plugged in to what was needed and where it was needed than I would be.

The kindly older lady said, "I don't know, we've been driving around all day trying to hand things out and nobody needs anything."

They were handing out personal toiletry kits with toothbrushes and tooth paste, mouthwash and the like. Keep in mind, this was 33 days after the storm, and they were in an area that hadn't been hit hard. 

"Do you know where people might need some things?" she asked.

"Have you been to Union Beach?"

"Where is that?"

I gave her directions and she thanked me and drove off. You'd think with all of the money Bruce Springsteen helped them raise they could buy an atlas and some newspapers. Maybe the Red Cross could even cut down on the CEO's salary  and pay for a dispatcher to help the Red Cross go where it is needed instead of having their volunteers just aimlessly drive around with beatific smiles on their inefficient faces.

From the Red Cross website:
“The best way to help a disaster victim is through a financial donation to the American Red Cross. Financial contributions allow the Red Cross to purchase exactly what is needed for the disaster relief operation. Monetary donations also enable the Red Cross to purchase relief supplies close to the disaster site which avoids delays and transportation costs in getting basic necessities to disaster victims.”
Red Cross CEO Marsha J. Evans' salary was almost $952,000 last year, plus expenses.

I disagree with the Red Cross about the best way to help a disaster victim.

Buildings can be rebuilt. The jury is out on how long before the lives are.
Copyright 2012 Jack Sharkey

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Twelve Things I Learned In the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

Even though people are still suffering mightily, the story of Hurricane Sandy has been removed from the national daily conscience by the manufactured crisis of the "fiscal cliff." Now that I have that bit of editorializing out of the way, here's a few things I learned over the past month:
Union Beach, NJ, 11-27-12

  1. Government can function as government should function. Police and firefighters (paid firefighters in some areas, substantially volunteer in most affected areas in New Jersey) are truly the hardworking, dedicated heroes we would all like them to be. The compassion and concern in the face of their own lives having been turned upside-down was in every instance of my experience beyond what could be expected. (Well, maybe the one cop at one gas station the morning after the big snowstorm who didn't get my joke about the guy that just yelled at him could've used an adjustment to his sense of humor, but what the heck, he was tired) I was privy to the private pictures of one State Trooper who was on the barrier islands of New Jersey before the tide had receded. My psyche was bent like a pretzel looking at the pictures on his iPhone. He worked 9 straight 15 hour days, took a day off and went back to duty. National Guard troops are living in huts made from debris on the beach in Bay Head. 
  2. Not in my backyard, dammit, unless of course they're pumping gas when I need it. Speaking of gas stations, the forward-thinking residents of my wonderful town strenuously opposed Quik-Chek's plans to build a gas station/convenience store in a semi-rural area down the road from me. Lucky for them, they lost their fight to squash any and all development in town (except of course for their McMansions they grandfathered in to their abject hatred of progress). I didn't hear a single complaint from anyone about the new Quik-Chek when it turned out to be the only working gas station within a 10 mile radius for five days. You go Jackson, NJ! Just keep on complaining about those high property taxes and keep those business ratables somewhere else!
  3. I did see one FEMA office trailer on Wednesday, November 7, but it was closed because of the bad weather. In my 30 days of relief/recovery work I encounter exactly zero Red Cross or FEMA personnel. I'm not saying they weren't there, I'm saying I didn't see them, which kind of surprises me because I was pretty much all over the state. And yes, FEMA closed its offices a week after the hurricane because of the nor'easter we got hit with. Luckily, the regular people doing the real work kept right on working during the storm.
  4. "Go outside and wait in your car while I do your paperwork, I can't do this if you're going to keep talking to me." That statement was relayed to me by a person who was treated with utter disdain while she tried to explain the damage and her needs after her house was filled with three feet of water. Sometimes, people just want to talk about what they have gone through, and well, we all know bureaucrats aren't good at going off script. FEMA has gotten a pretty bad reputation around these parts because of their complete and total arrogance when dealing with people whose homes have been destroyed. Apparently most Federal FEMA employees don't like American citizens much. FEMA is so caught up in the red tape President Obama promised Governor Christie he would cut that to say they've been nearly impotent during the storm recovery phase would be an understatement. Just because the media isn't whining about FEMA's poor performance doesn't mean it wasn't poor. 
  5. "We're FEMA and you have to do what we tell you to do." A manager of a big box retailer who gave me a hefty discount on $200 worth of school supplies my wife and I purchased (with donated money) for displaced school kids on the barrier islands relayed his experience with FEMA: "They came in with their crisp clean uniforms and demanded I give them employees to gather items and load them into their cars." According to the store manager (who incidentally manages a store rich liberal people hate and make fun of and poor people rely on to fulfill their needs) after he was told he had to obey the FEMA workers and do what they wanted, he decided no more discounts to the government. He gave us an awesome discount. Go Store That Liberals Hate And Make Fun Of!
  6. Excuse me, I'll just live in this tent while you two figure out what the hell happened to me. Several people have told me that they are not receiving insurance money to start the rebuilding of their homes because the private insurance companies are fighting with the Federal flood insurance people over whether their homes were destroyed by "storm damage" or "flood damage." 
  7. Scroungy looking hippies serve one hell of a good tortellini from the back of a U-Haul truck. In Union Beach, many people lost their cars to the storm surge, making them rely largely on food and supplies brought in to them. The Red Cross was not working in the area, yet a rented U-Haul decorated with neon vinyl tape and operated by three or four young guys most of us regular people would cross the street to avoid, were making thrice daily trips throughout the borough to deliver hot meals. The food was for the most part donated by restaurants and relief kitchens in the area, but we shouldn't ignore the fact that it was people helping people while the government did the talking and not much else, (yes, I consider the Red Cross a quasi-governmental agency because of their complete dominance of relief efforts in this country). 
  8. "You stay on that side of the wall. People who belong here are only allowed on this side of the wall." That's what the lovely lady who had decided to be in charge said to my daughter and I as we returned empty cardboard boxes to the staging area at a local ad-hoc food relief center. We had just returned from delivering 30 meals to people in a nearly completely destroyed section of town. I worked with this relief center three times and all three times I was lucky enough to be told what to do in the most arrogant of ways by the same middle-aged woman whose severe power trip had completely taken over any good work she was trying to accomplish. As this relief coalition housed in a local sports league building grew, so did the unwieldy nature of the organization, thus the tyrannical actions of this one frustrated middle-manager. The only point to this (at the end of the day the group did in fact do good work), is to further bolster my firm belief that its not large organizations that do the best work, its individuals. As individual efforts get subsumed into group efforts the purity and efficiency of the effort gets diluted, sometimes to the point of wanting to tell otherwise kindly-hearted volunteers to go #$%^& themselves. Too strong? I think not.
  9. There are an amazing amount of really good people in the world. Through Facebook and Twitter, my family was able to secure almost $5,000 in donations from across the country, ranging from clothing to food to toiletries to home improvement gift cards. I had no plan when I started the efforts, but with tons of help from around the country we were able to get a lot of supplies to a lot of people. To date, we have received donations from New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, Florida, Louisiana, California, Illinois, Washington, Virginia and Maryland.
  10. That's not to say there aren't a lot of people who want to help but can't without help from someone. These are the kind of people that give people like the lady in #8 a reason to live. I've gotten dozens of requests from people to give them ways to get involved or go volunteer. These requests kind of make me vacillate between being really mad and kind of sad. People have become so used to waiting to be told what to do before they just go do that they've become paralyzed by the illusion of personal helplessness. I like to act first and apologize to over-zealous middle-aged women who think they're in charge second.
  11. If you need to buy a tee-shirt or have Bruce Springsteen sing you a song before you donate money to people whose homes have been destroyed and who have lost everything they owned, you might want to re-think your priorities. Telethons are just ways to make people feel good who otherwise have no interest in the disaster at hand. I'm not talking about the people who donate, I'm talking about the cultural elite who call in a minimum effort on a television show and call it a day. I'm cynical, with reason. Show me where the money went and who it helped and I'll retract my antipathy toward you. And you people sitting across the country: You weren't going to donate to help until you heard Jersey Girl? That's nice. Through the Katrina telethon we learned George Bush didn't like black people, through the Sandy hurricane did we get an opinion on Obama's feelings toward white people?
  12. Some people delude themselves into thinking the government will take care of everything.  I was amazed to hear from more than one person that charity work is a waste of time because the government will help these people. This is not the kind of country I'm interested in living in, and since everywhere else is worse, you Big Government types are going to have to deal with me until you figure reality out. On the Saturday after the hurricane, I shuttled clothing from a storm relief center in Brick to a state run psychiatric hospital in Monmouth County. Let me repeat that for you in case you weren't paying attention: After the hurricane, a state run facility 15 miles from the coast needed clothing and other supplies for its patients. I should also note that the woman I dealt with there specifically asked if we had men's sneakers in size 10 for one teenage patient. So yeah, tell me again how great the government takes care of people it's put in charge of.
Union Beach, NJ, 11-27-12

Hurricane Sandy has reminded all of us that society does not flow from the government to the people, it flows from person-to-person. Government is just the thing we invented to keep the people who try to disrupt that flow in line.

Union Beach, NJ, 11-27-12

Go help someone in your area who may need it. Live your politics.