Disaster

Venezuela

The unrest in Venezuela is one of those slow-motion disasters that no one seems to know how to stop. We are completely disengaged from the affairs of Latin America in this country. There are crises all throughout Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. There's plenty for us to get involved in, and for our State Department to deal with. And yet, we might as well be looking at the other side of the world instead of our own neighborhood.

Beginning on April 1, anti-government demonstrators have staged daily protests across Venezuela that continue to devolve into violent clashes with riot police, leaving thousands arrested, hundreds injured, and 66 dead. Opposition activists are protesting against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, blaming him for a crippling economic crisis that has caused widespread food shortages for years. The head of the Venezuelan military has warned troops not to commit "atrocities" against protesters, while Maduro’s government continues to work toward rewriting the constitution, defying those accusing him of clinging to power.

Our relationship with Venezuela has been poor for decades. If we had an active, engaged diplomatic and business effort to stabilize the country, win back the trust of the people, and if we had the desire to offer real assistance to the people, I'm sure that we would be treated with suspicion. 

Instead, it's more apathy and more disengagement. There was a time when we were trying to find the right footing in the region and now, well, that's just history.

Don't Forget About the People in Louisiana

national-guard-louisiana-ts600.jpg

And don't forget their pets, either:

Between 20 and 30 parishes in southern Louisiana remain in a state of emergency on Wednesday, five days after severe flooding ravaged large portions of the region.

Six of the hardest hit areas last week recorded more than two feet of rainfall. Expertsestimate that from Aug. 12 to Aug. 14, the equivalent of 4 trillion gallons of water — enough to fill more than 6 million Olympic-size pools — fell on southern Louisiana.

Officials estimate the flooding damaged 40,000 homes and displaced more than 30,000 people. As of this writing, 11 people have died, though that number isexpected to rise as rescue efforts continue.

Several roadways were also affected by overflowing waterways. According to a New York Times report, “Parts of major roadways became islands, including a stretch of interstate where hundreds of drivers had been stranded for over 24 hours.”

As of Monday, the Weather Channel reported that 125 vehicles were “still stranded on Interstate 12 between Tangipahoa Parish and Baton Rouge, according to Maj. Doug Cain from the Louisiana State Police.”

President Obama on Sunday declared that “a major disaster exists” in four of the hardest hit parishes — East Baton Rouge, Livingston, St. Helena, and Tangipahoa — allocating federal funds to “grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.”

It is way too easy to ignore rural American in this country. Part of the problem is the infrastructure of modern news gathering. There used to be news bureaus all over America and now there are just people with their phones. This keeps people from really knowing what's going on because reporters are supposed to provide context and scale to their stories. That's not really happening right now.

One helpful thing, though--the presence of the Louisiana National Guard certainly helps. It's a good thing they're not sitting in Iraq right now.

Fort McMurray

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Scott Olson/Getty Images

If this is any indication of how devastating it is going to be for people in Fort McMurray, Alberta to return to their homes, I can only imagine how hard life is going to be in the months ahead. 

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley warns "dramatic images" emerging from Fort McMurray, Alta., may upset evacuees as she and Wood Buffalo Mayor Melissa Blake get their first look at wildfire damage during their tour today.

Fire Chief Darby Allen, as well as a limited number of media personnel, will accompany Notley and Blake on the tour.

The group will be escorted by RCMP and emergency vehicles. A news conference at the regional operations centre will come afterwards.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley became emotional Sunday when talking about the two young people who were killed in a vehicle crash while trying to leave Fort McMurray. (CBC )

Notley warned the stories that result from that tour could upset some evacuees.

"There will be some dramatic images coming from media over the next couple of days," Notley said at a news conference Sunday. "I want to reiterate mental health supports are available for anyone who needs help."

Trigger warnng!

The offer of providing mental health professionals sounds uniquely Canadian to me, and makes total sense. Here in America, we give you a blanket, a cup of water, maybe a trailer, and we move on. How many people were offered mental health counseling after Hurricane Sandy or whichever disaster? I don't remember reading about that, but here is an academic paper about the aftermath:

OBJECTIVE:

To evaluate mental health outcomes among New Jersey shore residents with health impairments and disabilities after Hurricane Sandy.

DESIGN AND SETTING:

Six months following Hurricane Sandy, a cross-sectional survey of 200 adults residing in beach communities directly exposed to the storm located in Monmouth County, NJ, was conducted.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, mental health service use, and medication use.

RESULTS:

The average age of residents surveyed was 59 years (SD = 13.7) and 52.5 percent (95% CI = 45.5-59.4) reported recent hospitalizations, physical limitations, fair to poor health status, multiple chronic health conditions, or physical disabilities. A total of 14.5 percent (95% CI = 10.2-20.1) of residents screened positive for PTSD and 6.0 percent (95% CI = 3.1-10.2) met criteria for depression 6 months after Sandy. In addition, 20.5 percent (95% CI = 15.4-26.7) sought some type of professional counseling after Sandy and 30.5 percent (95% CI = 24.5-37.3) experienced PTSD symptoms, depression, sought professional mental health support, or used psychotropic medications. In multivariate analyses, the best predictors of mental health and service use were having sleep problems, suicidal thoughts, moderate or severe pain, and having high exposure hurricane-related events. Analyses also suggested that noncollege graduates were more likely to receive mental health services (OR = 3.10, p = 0.009), while women were less likely to have depression (OR = 0.12, p = 0.038).

CONCLUSION:

Having physical impairments and health conditions were not directly related to adverse mental health outcomes following Sandy, but having sleep problems, pain, or suicidal thoughts were. Further research is needed to assess the health status of community residents with serious health impairments over time following disasters.

It should be more prominently featured in the coverage of these disasters that receiving mental health assistance is normal and natural. Not everyone has to project the face of resiliency and act all stoic. Many people need help and there's no shame in asking.

I Cannot Win Friends or Influence People

They seem like such nice chaps and I'm interested in America so what could possibly go wrong?

They seem like such nice chaps and I'm interested in America so what could possibly go wrong?

You would think a happy fellow like me could just wander onto some website and start making friends. You would be wrong:

The state of our union can be summed up pretty easily: Democratic policy ideas don’t work, and the Republican Party is melting down. From New York state, where Democratic power brokers are beginning to be herded into prison, where so many of them belong, to Chicago, where a civil war between Democrat-run public unions and the Democratic mayor rages even as the city’s finances fall apart, to the collapsing cities of Detroit and Flint, and on out to the high-speed rail boondoggle in California, the country is covered in the ruins of decades of “progressive” governance. Take Obamacare itself, a “reform” that is already making health care more bureaucratic and less affordable. Even as premiums and deductibles rise and the provider networks shrink, special interests like labor unions, insurance companies and hospital chains seek to rewrite its rules and regulations to achieve windfalls for themselves at the public expense. They will almost certainly succeed, and over time, Obamacare like other programs will become increasingly encrusted by sweetheart deals, carve-outs and other provisions that reduce its positive qualities while making it ever more expensive and bureaucratic.

Inadvertently, I wandered onto a site that would make the John Birch society look like a meeting of the San Francisco Committee on Handing Out Things to the Homeless. Damn, son--why do I keep trying?

"Up until now, at every similar crisis in American history, a wave of religious revival like the colonial-era Great Awakening, the Kentucky Revivals of the early Republic, and a series of successor movements has renewed and refreshed this source of national coherence and strength. Without something like this today, it’s not clear that American culture will continue to support the kind of republic that we’ve come to think of as eternal and unchanging."

So, I said:

This would be the same religious fervor that allowed us to destroy the South and free millions from slavery, right?

Seriously, though--religion is going to cure us of what ails us? Please. What will cure us are more jobs, reducing the deficit, and keeping us out of foreign wars of choice. In other words, another eight years of President Obama. Fools.

And I know I'm not helpful, but you seem like such nice chaps.

All I have to do is shut up and keep moving. And yet, I can't help myself.

America Will Never Be Rid of the Palins


When things like this happen, all you can do is wish the best for the lucky couple and imagine what the next few years are like, what with the death of irony and the elimination of self-respect from American political discourse.

The Palins are forever and you're just living in their world.

Out of My Mind on Dope and Speed


The only way to get a hold of David Cameron, who is the Prime Minister of Great Britain, is to be out of your mind on coke and booze:
The man who claims to be behind the hoax phone calls to David Cameron and to GCHQ has said he was “off [his] face on booze and cocaine” at the time.

The prankster allegedly rang up The Sun newspaper to boast "I've just made monkeys out of GCHQ” minutes after his phone conversation with the Prime Minister.

He told the newspaper the situation was “hilarious” and added: "I'm definitely going to do it again. It was so easy."

The caller, who successfully obtained a private mobile number for director Robert Hannigan from GCHQ, is thought to have contacted their switchboard pretending to be a Downing Street aide
 Isn't this an indication that David Cameron is actually doing his job? When a social engineering effort successfully penetrates the security apparatus of the state, don't you feel better knowing that the man responsible for defending your country is actually the fellow who picks up his phone, ready to do his job?

Rick Scott is the Greatest Politician Ever


I think it is fairly obvious that Florida Governor Rick Scott is going to win his re-election bid, probably by 20 points. Americans love a petulant man-child. They elect them and re-elect them as often as possible now. Clearly, Charlie Crist showed up with a fan that was designed to make the people of Florida mad enough to forget about their problems, and it worked.

Our politics are insane, our country is led by fools, and you couldn't make this up if you tried.

Sadly, I Have a Gift For Pushing Buttons


Michael Brutsch has attempted to give a self-serving interview, and it really speaks to how detached from reality people can get while in an online environment.

Brutsch is an adult; he refuses to "own" his own skills as a troll on the Internet. He's trying to look downcast, thoughtful, and sad because the ramifications of what he has done are costing him his livelihood and a great deal of dignity. He uses the phrase, "Sadly, I have a gift for pushing buttons" as a way of explaining himself. So, in the conflation of talent and ability and an extreme disregard for other human beings that he brings up, there's a requirement that other people should join you lamenting how great you are at making others miserable? I don't think so.

The problem with his apology is that he immediately went to the pathetic excuse that Reddit "encouraged" this sort of behavior. This is no different than being part of a mob on the street, tipping over cop cars and setting buildings on fire. It is not an excuse for anti-social behavior and it is not an excuse for the "creepshots" and the distribution of photos of underaged females.

Truly, he is a character who needs no sympathy
.