The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘natural disasters’ Category

THE TRUTH ABOUT ZOMBIES

There has been a lot of fascination lately with zombies.  Apparently, the most viewed show on television is “The Walking Dead,” a series devoted to man’s battle against these creatures.  Personally, I can’t get into the show as I accidentally had a brief glance at the opening scene of one episode two weeks ago which began with a number of people kneeling before a trough who were hit on the head with a pipe and whose throats were then slit, their blood pouring out.  This would, in my view, have been something that was in bad taste at any time – and in view of the videos that ISIS so proudly posted on YouTube is simply revolting.  But that’s just my opinion.

While the practice of voodoo has been with mankind long before African slaves were exported to the Caribbean, most Americans knew little about it nor cared much about it and its sister cults until the late 1950’s.  The Kingston Trio which had formed, primarily to perform calypso music, had been thrust into the limelight when their song “Tom Dooley” was an outstanding billboard success in 1958.

When Capitol Records approached them with a boatload of money and told them that they were now “folk singers” – a genre that was becoming increasingly popular – the three young men agreed.  However, keeping with their original motif, the following year they recorded, “Zombie Jamboree,”  a song originally entitled, “Jumbie Jamboree” and attributed to Jamaican, Conrad Eugene Mauge, Jr.  While I was first introduced to this song by them, I do prefer Harry Belafonte’s version which follows:

 

 

“Zombie Jamboree” came and went without having any major impact on our interest in its subject matter.  Until fairly recently.  The interest in zombies has exploded to the point that movies and television programs draw a wide viewership when they portray the living dead and mankind’s ability – or inability – to deal with them.  There seems to be a consensus that the way to stop a threatening zombie is either by shooting it in the head or applying an ax to that same body part with a great deal of force and vigor.

I wonder if that methodology was researched using taxpayer funds.  After all, last year our government gave a grant in the amount of $307,000 to inquire into the behavior of sea monkeys, $50,000 of which was allocated to study synchronized swimming by these tiny shrimp; another $856,00 to study how mountain lions adapted to being on treadmills; and $387,000 to determine whether rabbits who were given Swedish massages benefited from that therapy.  So why not a couple of million or so to determine the best way to defeat our zombie foes, if and when they should actually come into being?

I would attribute the intense interest in zombies to Ebola and stories about other possibly terminal diseases which seem to be erupting throughout parts of the world.  The general theme of how a person is transformed into a zombie usually centers around some new and horrible germ, virus or perhaps manmade chemical weapon.  Of those alternatives, I would give most credence to the third of them.  But the explosion in interest in zombies precedes these events by at least a number of years.

Perhaps my greatest hesitancy for believing in zombies is that they are supposed to be dead, mindless creatures – feasting exclusively on living humans.  In the first place, if they are truly mindless, why wouldn’t they just eat each other?  And have they never heard of Moo Shu or pizza?

On the other hand, if there is evidence that these creatures exist, there is probably no greater proof than that many of them will be voting on Tuesday – with or without state issued ID cards.

TWO BIT INSURANCE

If you’re really old you may have heard the expression, “That’ll cost you two bits.”  Even those who didn’t know the history behind that understood that it meant twenty-five cents – a quarter of a dollar.  This was based on the Spanish real which was the equivalent of our present dollar and was the primary unit of monetary exchange for several centuries in the New World.  The coin was frequently cut into eight pieces, thus two bits was one quarter of a real.

For a moment, let’s consider the underlying reason for insurance of any kind.  Simply put it is intended to protect the purchaser against a specific kind of loss whether that is to a person’s car, home, health or loss of life.  Essentially, in exchange for payment of an agreed on premium paid to a second party, that insurer is assuming the risk to which otherwise the policyholder would be subject.

Perhaps you’ve heard that a compromise is an agreement in which both parties walk away dissatisfied.  The insurance contract is one in which both parties hope for the same outcome.  Both of them hope that an event which would cause a payment under the contract never happens.

The individual who insures his car certainly doesn’t hope to have a crash so that he can make a claim.  The company that insures his car similarly hopes that the insured drives in a safe manner so that no accidents occur and the company can keep the entire premium the insured has paid.

There are certain types of insurance that are almost pure money makers for the insurance company.  Most companies that offer life insurance also mention that for a “small additional premium” the person taking out the contract can add a provision for death that results from an accident which would double the face amount of the policy.  That sounds like a good deal to the uninformed.  The fact is that ninety-eight percent of the premium collected is pure profit to the insurance companies because the number of accidental insured deaths is extremely small.  But are there any forms of insurance which provide a terrific return for a small premium?  There is at least one with which I’m familiar.

What if a potential catastrophe, far beyond Hurricane Katrina or Mt. St. Helens had a reasonable likelihood of happening.  Unlike these localized natural disasters, this catastrophe would effect everyone and everything in the country.  Food and water would be scarce if available at all.  There would be no energy either to heat our homes or provide light or cooling.  Society as we know it would end with mobs looting houses for any scraps of food they could find and the authorities would be overwhelmed trying to deal with the mobs that far outnumbered them.  If civil authority even survived, it would take at least one year, possibly longer, to restore the basic services which we expect when we flip on the light switch or turn on the tap.  But before that happened, as much as ninety percent of the American populace would be dead.

Given the scenario I just described, would you be willing to pay $100 a month to make sure that we could avoid the problem?  Perhaps your budget doesn’t have that much wiggle room, so how about $50?  Still too high?  Would you be able to find $10 a month to stave off disaster?

On April 16, 2013 a Pacific Gas & Electric sub-station was attacked by what authorities now believe was a terrorist assault.  While no lights went out which is part of the reason this story has gained very little attention, it took the utility 27 days to repair the damage to the cut telephone lines and repair the 17 transformers which were disabled.  Some experts think that this was a trial balloon for a larger and more devastating future attack.

There is no question that our electric grid is vulnerable.  One of the most significant worries is that a massive EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse) occurs, knocking out our entire grid.  It could take years before the damage caused by such an event could be repaired.  Such an event could be caused by terrorists.  There is no lack of maniacs on a mission in our world.  Or it could be a natural phenomenon – a massive EMP sent out by our sun.  That happens every 150 years or so and is now a few years overdue.  The last one occurred in 1859.

The good news is that we know how to prevent the devestation which might occur if such an event happened – and we don’t have to develop new technology to implement.  We have the technology today.  So what would it cost us to safeguard all of us from societal collapse, starvation and the end of civilization.  The answer is less than two bits per person per month!  The total cost would run about $6 Billion.

There is a bill known as the SHIELD Act which was introduced in Congress in June, 2013 which would require the federal government and local utilities to develop and implement effective standards to protect against an EMP pulse.  The bill is the work of Rep. Trent Franks (R – AZ) but so far has garnered little attention and not a great deal of support.  In part that is because local utilities are concerned about handing over too much oversight to the Federal government.  I understand that concern.

But no matter your political view, there are occasions, albeit infrequently, when something is of such importance and so extraordinary that it falls outside the realm of theoretical philosophy.  Then even the most ardent partisan, in the interest of true public safety, should agree to a compromise however distasteful it might be.  They can argue their philosophy later – but will have no ability to do so if they are one of the victims of an avoidable disaster.

And that may not be two bits worth of information – but it is my two cents worth.

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CRISIS

As a child, my parents and my teachers encouraged me to read.  Some of those books were pre-selected by them.  But my folks also took me to a wonderful local book store on Lexington Avenue in NYC that had started a children’s book and discussion club.

It was a warm and inviting place and to a child all the wonderful books with their hard covers, nestled in their assigned places, looked like a vast universe of story telling that were waiting to be discovered and devoured.  I loved the Worthington Book Store and Mrs. Bramley who owned the shop.  Somehow, she just seemed to be the exactly right person to own this wonderful place.

I think that it was a combination of her gray hair rolled into a bun and fastened with bobby pins and the beautiful but simple home made sweaters that she had knitted and wore in the store that conveyed that impression most strongly.  And she had a wonderful smile that welcomed all of us little visitors to join her in the quest for knowledge.

In 1956, Robert Heinlein’s science fiction novel, “Time For The Stars” was published.  On one of my Saturday visits I happened to see it among the stacks of books in the fiction section.  Science fiction was pretty much in its infancy at that time, despite the earlier contributions of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells.

The dust cover caught my eye.  There was a picture of one of the “torchships” that Heinlein described in his novel.  I’m not sure why but somehow I knew I had to read that book.  I’m glad that I did, finishing it in two sessions.  That book started me on a lifelong interest in both astronomy and science fiction.

Later I joined the Science Fiction Book Club.  They offered an introductory membership for ten cents.  In return they would send me any five books listed in their extensive catalog.  The synopsis of each book also made mention of the number of pages the volume contained.  So I chose the five longest books that they had listed.  I was determined to get my money’s worth.  That was a great investment.

As the genre grew a following, Hollywood got involved.  Science fiction movies began to proliferate.  At first, movies were made of the classics.  “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea”; “The Time Machine”; and “The War Of The Worlds,” were among the first, but certainly not the last.

Perhaps it’s a reflection off our way of looking at ourselves and the universe, but in most books or movies in which mankind makes contact with other species, the aliens are almost always portrayed as hostile invaders, bent on the destruction of humanity.  So for purposes of conversation, let’s assume that should actually happen.

Well, as one would imagine, suddenly our petty spats which we politely call wars would cease as we focused our attention on the greater threat of total annihilation by the invaders.  And, the United States, with our certain military superiority would lead the effort to save mankind.  That’s a frightening concept.

In making that statement I do not refer to the invasion but to America’s ability to respond should we encounter those invaders while President Obama is at the helm.  Consider how this administration has conducted business over the last five years.

Prior to the 2012 campaign, I asked a slue of Obama supporters why they were going to vote to retain him in office, based on what he and his administration had done in his first term.  While most of the answers avoided citing a specific achievement, the few people who came up with an answer considered Obamacare as a great accomplishment.  That was their reason for voting for a second term.

So today we have ten days worth of Obamacare under our belts with the rollout of the exchanges and the initial enrollment in the health insurance portion of the law.  I realize that any new computer program is likely to have some “glitches”.  That is normal – but minimizing those is usually done in beta testing before the product is released.

The initial bill for building this system was $57 Million.  However, in excess of $637 Million actually was spent.  A reasonable person would think that with all those extra dollars being thrown at this (those dollars belonging to you and me), the result would be spectacular.  And it has been – a spectacular disaster.  Even the administration is admitting that there are some “minor problems”.  For a group of people who seem to specialize in rhetorical hyperbole, that statement seems to be a bit understated.

This “signature piece of legislation” is proving in its implementation to be nothing short of a total disaster.  Considering the fact that the financial and healthcare assumptions made in writing this law are unrealistic, with such a bad start it is encouraging that there are a few dedicated members of Congress who have made it their mission to get it off the books.

But while this is the most threatening law ever enacted to restrict personal liberty, it is merely the outgrowth of an administration filled with cronyism, scandals, a CIC who is both petty and whose ego is inflated by hubris.  Our President is a man who has demonstrated a total lack of leadership.  With someone such as Obama as head of the ship of state, one can only hope that should the skies suddenly fill with hostile UFO’s, the Pentagon has stocked a large supply of white flags.

Even in my most imaginative moments, I don’t really expect us to be contacted by alien civilizations.  Why would they bother with us as we are little evolved from our primitive forebears?  And I’m sure there are other spots in the universe that are every bit as interesting as Miami or Laguna Beach.

If we as humans face a truly serious crisis, it is less likely to be launched by visitors from another planet than it is either by ourselves or by Mother Nature.  Tsunamis, epidemics, terrorists – these are not science fiction but historical fact.  And it seems that as we further devolve into our more primitive nature those that are going to be inflicted by men on his fellow man are likely to increase both in frequency and virulence.

Let’s postulate for a moment, that a serious viral or bacterial outbreak occurred which affected the food or water supply or both.  Whether it was a function of something that nature brought on us or whether terrorists were responsible is immaterial.  How much confidence should any American have in the Obama administration to handle this situation effectively?

Setting aside partisan politics and merely looking at Obama’s track record, I have to say that my confidence level in his skills suggests that if I am not prepared to try to cope with that sort of situation by taking my own steps to safeguard myself and family, I am doomed to be one of the many victims who will fall by the wayside.

And what will become of those who have entrusted themselves and their lives, given up their personal responsibility to take care of and fend for themselves to what they believe is a beneficent government?  As they lay dying, they will wonder why no one is answering their 911 call on their free, government provided cell phones.

APOCALYPSE

SIX MONTHS TO GO AND COUNTING DOWN:

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