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Thursday, August 29, 2013

FEMA to Union Beach: It's Not Our Fault We're Turning Our Backs On You, We're Just Following Our Own Policy

A week before his re-election, President Obama had this to say to the people affected by Hurricane Sandy:
"We don't have any patience for bureaucracy. We don't have any patience for red tape."
On April 29, the six month anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, here's what our no non-sense, tough guy governor, Chris Christie, had to say about President Obama's performance in the aftermath of the storm:

"The president has kept every promise he's made. I think he's done a good job. He kept his word."

Demolition of homes in the devastated Borough of Union Beach began in January and the Federal government did reimburse 172 homeowners for the demolition of homes rendered unrepairable by Sandy. In May, FEMA pledged to reimburse all homeowners in the borough for demolition costs.

In August, borough officials received an email from FEMA informing them that the agency would not cover the 92 homes that were still standing but uninhabitable, unless they’re proved to be in imminent danger of collapsing. More than 50 of those homes require asbestos removal.

“They’re all dangerous to live in but I can’t prove that they’re going to fall down tomorrow. So because I can’t prove that, they refuse to pay,” Union Beach Administrator Jennifer Maier said when asked by a reporter from CBS in New York about the situation. (FEMA Rejects Funding for Nearly 100 Union Beach Homes)

FEMA claims its Demolition of Private Structures policy is the reason for its decision. The policy states that funding from the agency “requires certification that homes to be demolished are in imminent danger of full or partial collapse.” FEMA went on to say that borough officials have only sent them certification for 8 homes in imminent danger of collapse.

In short, the bureaucratic red tape that President Obama (D) and Chris Christie (R) both promised would be cut in order to expedite recovery is strangling these homeowners. We are taxed at usury rates in New Jersey, such that homeowners are not able to build their own safety net to protect themselves in the event of catastrophe. The system forces us to rely on the government, yet the government time and time again proves it is unreliable. As I've stated all week, it is the system and the people who feed off of it, that are at fault.

Scores of volunteers have been coming to the borough to help with demolition, and the efforts are ongoing. While government officials points fingers, lies to us, and generally wipes their hands of culpability, people are still helping people put their lives back together.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

If Winds Don't Cause Storm Surges, Where Do Storm Surges Come From? Or, Why I Refuse To Call It 'Superstorm Sandy'

I have recoiled since the media and government began calling Hurricane Sandy 'Superstorm Sandy.' Living in a world controlled by legalese, I waited for the day when insurance companies and the government would walk away from claims because they were prepared to cover damage from a hurricane, not an unprecedented 'super storm.'

Even though what follows is not exactly proof that my fears are warranted, if after reading this piece you still scoff at the idea, you're not paying attention to the world you live in:

* * *

Ten months after Hurricane Sandy destroyed most of Union Beach, and great chunks of the Jersey Shore in general, the owners of Jakeabob's Bay, a popular beachfront restaurant and bar were informed that their insurance carrier had determined the building had sustained $9,657.14 in wind damage.

According to Lloyd's of London, this building sustained $9,657.14 in wind damage.
I took this picture on 11-27-12, 1 month after the storm.

Of course, the game the insurance carrier is playing is to parse 'wind damage' from 'water damage.' It's important to note that the owner's deductible is $10,000, so the adjuster's conclusion means the insurance company owes the people who purchased insurance from them will get absolutely nothing in return. The owner's are responsible for the wind damage, and presumably the rest of the damage. I'm sure they're not concerned about wind or water, they just know their business is destroyed.

There's no word yet on how much under the owner's water damage deductible will be. 

I'm interested in the formula the adjuster used to arrive at the $9657.14 figure. If I was a heartless thief, I might look at this building and say the only (wind) damage I see is a few shingles missing off the roof. Unfortunately for me, I am a human being.

Two Questions

  1. How was the adjuster able to determine what was wind damage and what was solely water damage?
  2. Why is the damage from the water caused by the wind-driven storm surge not considered wind damage? After all, if the wind wasn't blowing like it was, the 14' storm surge wouldn't have piled up and took the building down. 

If you are not feeling a lump of anger in your throat, you're either a government official, government employee, an insurance adjuster, or you have completely stopped thinking.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, people are being screwed in every possible way, every single day, but what Miley Cyrus does on a cable show no one really watches is the only thing we want to talk about.

We have willingly put our lives in the hands of fools who are not capable of keeping their word or doing the right thing. We have allowed a political and corporate system to develop around us that has one purpose: maintaining power at the expense of the people they claim to serve.

It's time to restructure the political and corporate system. It's time for us to rediscover our principles and to live our lives by them. It's past time for us all to understand that bad things don't just happen to 'them' anymore, they are happening to 'us' on a regular basis.

To me, Hurricane Sandy has become symbolic of the struggle this country faces as it tries to preserve its core values and personal independence. If we struggle through this storm and find ourselves unchanged as the sun breaks out, well then, shame on us.

So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn't get in, and walk through it, step by step. There's no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That's the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine. 
And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You'll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.
And once the storm is over you won't remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won't even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won't be the same person who walked in. That's what this storm's all about." - Haruki Murakami, Kafka On the Shore

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

FEMA: Shows Up Late, Does Nothing, Complains, Leaves Early...

just another day working for the Federal government.

Black or White, FEMA Doesn't Like You Very Much

When George Bush was in charge of FEMA, it was widely claimed that people of a certain color were ignored by the hapless agency after Katrina hit New Orleans.

Now that Barack Obama is in charge, I can state with certitude that FEMA does not discriminate: They treat everyone, regardless of skin color or political affiliation, like crap (more on that later this week).

So it's nice to know that now that George W. is out of office, the races are treated equally by Barack Obama. We're all serfs who can count on being treated poorly by our government while our government lies to us and tells us what a great job it's doing.

Here's How FEMA Helped A Charity I Was Involved In

Back in May, I had the extreme privilege of working with about 2,000 motorcyclists to raise over $36,000 for Hurricane Sandy relief. I co-founded and was part of a team of dedicated people who ran a charity called Roar to Restore the Shore, which consisted of a motorcycle run through most of the Shore towns that were hit by the hurricane with a rally a the end with food and music.

At the rally, we invited vendors who came and sold food, or whatever. They paid an entrance fee and most of them also donated good chunks of their proceeds afterward.

Except FEMA.

The kindly folks from FEMA refused to pay the vendor fee, because they were "a government agency."

We waived the fee for them (and them only), figuring maybe they could help some people get some questions answered. I also would have had no problem if attendees at the rally had decided to vent a little to them, but people obviously couldn't be bothered wasting their time with them.

Here's How FEMA Helped On the Day of the Rally:
  1. The two FEMA representatives showed up about 45 minutes past the time we requested vendors to arrive. You know, with 2000 motorcycles coming we needed to control traffic in and out of the event.
  2. It was a cold and misty New Jersey spring day; the FEMA agents pretty much sat in their car they parked behind their table (against our regulations). They interacted with absolutely zero people during the entire event, based on multiple observations and the FEMA agents' own words. Not one person approached them, and they put no effort into approaching anyone.
  3. FEMA was not happy that we did not provide them with a tent and tables, and they weren't thrilled about the location of their booth. The two booths on either side were constantly busy all day.
  4. They left about an hour early, driving their car through the middle of the fairgrounds, in spite of the fact that 2500 people were milling about trying to enjoy themselves. No matter, FEMA was cold and it wanted to go home.

Here's the Letter We Got From FEMA, Congratulating Themselves On a Job Well Done

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Federal Emergency Management Agency
Joint Field Office FEMA-4086-DR-NJ
307 Middletown-Lincroft Road
Lincroft, NJ 07738

August 19, 2013

Dear Jeannette and Roar to Restore the Shore

On behalf of the Community Education and Outreach Program and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) we thank you for your commitment to the recovery of the citizens of New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy.  On October 30, 2012 when President Obama signed the Federal Disaster Declaration for New Jersey we knew the “Jersey Strong” citizens would begin their recovery immediately.

By opening your doors to the Hazard Mitigation Outreach Teams we were able to provide information to survivors on how to repair and rebuild stronger, safer, and smarter.  Our team members discussed and distributed information on retrofitting homes, elevating utilities, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), how to clean up mold safely, and where survivors could receive additional help on disaster related questions.  Survivors armed with this knowledge were empowered to repair and rebuild their homes to reduce their future risk.

The survivors helped us as well.  During the course of our interactions we were able to collect valuable information about the community.  Any issues, concerns, or trends we identified were forwarded to our External Affairs Team who then developed Fact Sheets, Flyers, and News Releases to address these items for the whole community.  Again, thank you for the opportunity to help us provide a very successful outreach during a very critical time.

Many thanks,

Melva D. Guzman-Cabrera
(CEO) Community Education and Outreach Specialist

Kathleen Rhodes
CEO Group Supervisor

Again, they didn't speak with one single person the entire day. And frankly, every single person I've spoken to in the past 10 months resents being called a "victim." You will notice that I will not ever refer to one person in this state who was affected by Sandy as a "victim." 

If FEMA would like to kindly send me a register of the people they spoke to on May 18, 2013 at the Roar to Restore the Shore Rally in Brick, NJ, and then present me with the"Fact Sheets, Flyers, and News Releases" they developed after meeting with people at the Rally, I'll publicly apologize.
But until then, I'll stick with what I know: These people work for you, and they're ripping you off.

Monday, August 26, 2013

FEMA and NJ: A Tale of Pretty Much Nothing, Part I - A Libertarian Primer

To those of you new to RBL&OS I am from New Jersey, which is odd considering I am a minarchist libertarian who believes in individual rights and personal responsibility, because based on their voting history for the past 50 years, New Jerseyans obviously feel they need people who are incapable of employment in the private sector (politicians) to wipe their butts for them.
It is also sad.
But anyway, this week we're going to talk about Hurricane Sandy, FEMA, insurance, and why we still talk about Katrina eight years later, but Hurricane Sandy is no longer interesting to the rest of America.

Before we start on all of that, we need to refresh ourselves on the minarchist libertarian view of people, property rights and what our relationship to our government is supposed to be.
Let's assume that all of you people believe America grants you the right to own property.

Ownership is defined as the "right, act, or state of possessing something."

Now let's assume that you all are not farmers (even if you are) and that you don't live on a farm (even if you do.

Let's introduce our characters:
Bessie is the cow you would like to buy so you
can start giving extremely fresh milk to your kids.
The role of Bessie will be played by Bessie.
The role of "the government" will be played by
a black white guy with no real world or job
experience who has duped millions of people
into believing he is special.
The role of "property" will be played by your house. Find it on Google Earth, like the rest of the world does when they want to look at your house.
The role of "you" will be played, convincingly I might add, by you. Come on, you told all of your Facebook friends what you ate for lunch today, so stop being so shy.
The Story
Now, go buy Bessie and tie her up in your yard, somewhere between the swimming pool you needed a permit for and the deck you needed a permit for. Don't worry about tying a good knot because ol' Bessie will be safe behind the fence you needed a permit to install.
Oh wait. Silly us! You can't just go buy a cow and put her in your backyard. There are laws and regulations against livestock ownership if you don't live on a farm.
You don't own your property. The government does. You are merely a serf to the government, a sharecropper that lives on the government's land at their pleasure. You are just like all of the generations before you who handed over their freedom to be protected by people who are no better at protecting you than you are.
The Moral
The system is wrong, and we continue to allow it to be wrong.
How This Connects To Hurricane Sandy
I believe you should be able to build your house wherever you want, as long as you own the property. I also believe that if you build your house in a city that is below sea level, or in a place that is subject to sea level when a storm comes and makes sea level be your living room, then that's your problem, not mine. With less regulation, more companies would offer better, cheaper, insurance for those of you who insist on living where I can't afford to live, so shut up about insurance companies, (and anyway, we'll harangue them later this week).
The problem with my worldview is we have developed a system that forces us into servitude to our government through excessive taxation and over-regulation in return for the government's promise that if we have a problem (like sea level in our living room) the government will fix it for us. The problem is we have been conditioned into believing this pile of lies in spite of constant evidence to the contrary.
I also believe you should not be compelled to wear a seat belt, but that if you wreck your car and bounce around inside of it like a pinball, that is also your problem (I wear a seatbelt as a result of several real-life experiences with bouncing around inside a car). But again, the system has evolved into one of safety nets held up by noodniks who claim they know what's best for us while they insist on getting a full taxpayer-funded pension after 20 years on the job.
Lest you think I am a heartless bastard, I've spent the past 10 months working to raise money and help my neighbors who were affected by Hurricane Sandy (explaining the lack of content here lately). Not because the government told me to, but because it's the right thing to dobeing a willing participant in "society" I am obligated to help make "society" better, in spite of the roadblocks thrown in my way by an ever over-reaching government.
The problem, as we shall see this week, is we have handed our lives over to an inept, uncaring, ineffectual government with no intention of keeping its promise to take care of us, that has also left us too broke to fend for ourselves.
That my friends is why I am a minarchist libertarian, and why I have such intellectual pity for those of you who are too afraid to step out of the shadow of government and live your lives as nature, or God, or whatever, intended.
Tomorrow: I share a letter I received from FEMA that directly contradicts my personal experience with them.