Three white guys in suits looking important

I woke up every morning last week to the sounds of Sonny & Cher. I also woke up to news of a Supreme Court nominee’s history of sexual harassment and the ceaseless conservative support for him. Then there was the natural (more like man-made) disaster tearing the southern coast to shreds as well as a government official in hot water for misusing government funds and resources. And, naturally, the pathetic and vacuous legislative work of our “elected” representatives.

The news cycle is just the same garbage day in, day out, year in, year out. We are struggling to break away from the vicious cycle of our government always doing everything but serving the people.

As feared, Hurricane Florence slammed into the Carolina coast killing dozens of people, drowning millions of animals, and wiping out homes and businesses. The present estimates for damage hover around $20 billion and the lives lost are priceless. There were far too many selfish pricks who ignored the mandatory evacuation orders and either perished or forced strained recovery teams to put themselves in added danger. The loss of 44 lives was largely unavoidable, however, once the hurricane had already materialized. Sadly, the death toll is still expected to rise.

Of those fortunate enough to survive, millions were left without power and queues for generators or fuel were, in some areas, 8 hours long. Drinking water was at a premium and food and medicines were scant. Roads and rail lines were completely cut off, making the quest for critical supplies nigh on impossible. As I said last week, I was expecting to hammer the government for a lackluster response. Thankfully, there isn’t any evidence to suggest problems on the scale of the Hurricane Katrina aftermath. Resources and manpower cannot be placed directly in the path of a hurricane, and it is not FEMA’s fault that depots are inaccessible. As far as I can gather, the recovery process is going about as well as one could realistically hope right now.

One unforeseen issue has been North Carolina being flooded by animal feces. No joke, the state is literally swimming in pig shit. There are approximately 2,000 industrial-sized hog farms in North Carolina and the animals interred there all have to excrete. The feces and urine of those thousands upon thousands of pigs must go somewhere and the geniuses who factory farm natural creatures decided on open-air lagoons. Giant pits are dug into the ground then filled to the brim with colossal amounts of urine and feces. The lagoons do not have perimeters like Mississippi levees, nor are they located away from towns, waterways, other farms, etc.

Numerous (and successful) lawsuits have been filed against hog farmers for leaks and stenches, so they’re a huge problem long before a hurricane arrives. Then, as happened with Florence, heavy rains and storm surges cause lagoons to overflow as others are damaged in various ways, letting go of some seven million gallons of waste.

First, the stench and consistency of the flood “waters” are enough to ruin homes and degrade quality of life. Then bacteria and diseases pose risks for the local people and animals. To make matters worse, the crops that may have made it through the hurricane cannot be sold or eaten because they are now tainted. A year (or more) of livelihood is wiped out and local sources of food disappear.

Hurricanes occur when warm ocean water moves up into the atmosphere. The energy from the movement of water creates the swirling winds that are a hurricane’s most recognizable feature. The winds twist and gather speed as they head toward land, picking more and more water along the way. That alone can cause considerable damage. The winds will tear roofs off buildings and pick up and throw vehicles to where they really shouldn’t be. The immense amount of water gets dropped and overfills rivers and reservoirs while also overwhelming drainage systems and poorly-made infrastructure. Yet the worst part is what morning news anchors mention but never explain: the storm surge. Falling atmospheric pressure causes water levels to rise. Immediately, low-lying coastal areas are at risk of being inundated. This rising water is then churned and pushed by the strong winds, creating huge waves that further increase the ocean’s reach inland. The water can rise so much and so quickly (and, to a degree, unpredictably) that people may not have enough time to evacuate or, when they do, they are caught somewhere previously thought to be a safe haven. Also, no-one can safeguard their home against the crush of multiple feet of fast-flowing ocean water.

The rising global temperature means more water making it into the atmosphere and more water being held in clouds. That in turn means we are looking at heavier rainfalls and more/larger hurricanes accompanied by more intense storm surges. Once we understand the science, the remedy stares us in our soot-covered, acid rain-damaged faces: cease all activities that contribute to climate change.

Our “elected” representatives need to act like leaders instead of paid puppets and take a “no stone unturned” approach to protecting the health of our planet. What they can, and certainly should, do includes:

  • Construction of solar and wind power infrastructure.
  • Investment in green energy storage and electric vehicles.
  • A ban on mountaintop coal removal.
  • A moratorium on all fossil fuel imports and exports.
  • Training programs for coal miners, oil drillers, and frackers to become green energy engineers.
  • A ban on fracking and all related technologies.
  • A new Civilian Conservation Corps to plant billions of trees and wildflowers.
  • A reduction in the number of hunting licenses and strict limits on fishing.
  • A ban on factory farms.
  • Substantial taxes on every individual and corporation that profits from fossil fuels.

In addition to the horrors of Hurricane Florence, the political silence is very dismaying. Environmental protections have not been made a campaign issue and no green energy legislation has been introduced. The fight for the Supreme Court understandably demands a lot of attention but man-made institutions are small potatoes next to the question of our extinction. Florence will not have a silver lining. Just like Sandy Hook and the 2000 election, a golden opportunity for progress is being squandered. We need a new Congress, but we also need to step up our individual efforts in protecting our planet.

One possible hindrance to the ongoing Hurricane Florence cleanup is FEMA administrator Brock Long’s new scandal. He has been misusing government vehicles for personal trips from DC to North Carolina to visit his family. The trips were on his own time, so he should have traveled on his own expense using either a private vehicle or public transportation. Long said he will reimburse the taxpayer for the “mistakes” but how many mistakes are this administration’s officials going to make? We’ve already seen this exact sort of thing from other oxygen thieves like Tom Price, Scott Pruitt, Elaine Chao, Ben Carson. They’ve all pissed away the people’s hard-earned tax dollars on needless crap from a dining table to military flights to that inexplicable (and rarely used) soundproof phone booth for which only Dick Nixon would find the need.

FEMA exists solely to prepare for and clean up after disasters. It’s a monumental undertaking, especially when America is experiencing an increasing number with each passing year. The last thing the country needs is the agency’s leader to be distracted with an inspector general investigation. Every time Long must answer questions or release statements or write a check, he is not focused on distributing medicine or pulling poor people out of floods. That kind of distraction would never happen with an official who does nothing but his or her job. A Washington DC job is not a self-enrichment opportunity, it is an honor that must be used to serve the people. Regrettably, no-one in a very long time has understood that.

The most intense political story of the past few days centers around Brett Kavanaugh. As I’m sure my wonderful readers remember he is the abhorrent judge nominated for the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. Every one of his political and judicial positions is unforgivable and his Republican handlers are trying to force him through a quickie confirmation process. Just when we thought the spawn of Mr. Burns, Nurse Ratched, and Newman from Seinfeld had no business being on the court, we found out he is an attempted rapist and a serial sexual harasser.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward to detail a high school party she attended when she was 15 and Kavanaugh was 17. An alcohol-fueled Kavanaugh forced her down onto a bed and attempted to tear off her clothes. When she cried out, he held his hand over her mouth. She only escaped the rape when Kavanaugh’s equally scummy pal, Mark Judge, jumped on them and she ran away as they fell to the floor. Dr. Ford first revealed her traumatic experience to the Senate in a letter to Dianne Feinstein nearly two months ago. She requested that the letter be kept confidential, so she is not seeking notoriety and is not timing her story to derail a nominee on the cusp of confirmation. She accurately described the layout of the house where Kavanaugh tried to rape her and many high school and college classmates say the man they knew was absolutely capable of the crime.

Mark Judge has written two books about the debauched behavior at their high school. It supports Dr. Ford’s information and shows what kind of crowd Kavanaugh was fraternizing with as a teenager. The books were published 13 and 21 years ago so have no political components and can be used objectively by any and all investigators. Judge is refusing to testify because that’s what innocent people do.

Kavanaugh’s public past and present also make Dr. Ford’s story believable. Early in his career, he clerked for Circuit Court judge, Alex Kozinski. Kozinski retired late last year during an investigation into his 35 years of sexual harassment and abusive behavior, and he clerked for Anthony Kennedy who gave up his seat for Kavanaugh. Both Kozinski and Kavanaugh are well-known for hiring female clerks “with a certain look.”

Another sexual predator Kavanaugh has surrounded himself with is Bill Shine, a former Fox “News” co-president and the current White House Communications Director. He left Fox after being caught enabling Roger Ailes’s sexual misconduct and murmurs of his own harassment began. Shine is prepping Kavanaugh for media appearances and Senate testimony in the wake of Dr. Ford telling the world about the attempted rape.

So we have a sexual predator president nominating a sexual predator for the Supreme Court. The sexual predator nominee started his judicial career with a sexual predator judge and is preparing for his confirmation with a sexual predator TV executive.

What made me (and millions of other normal human beings) feel worse is that none of it was a great surprise; the country has already been there, done that, and gotten the “SCOTUS loves male predators” t-shirt. In 1991, Anita Hill told the world about then-nominee Clarence Thomas’s campaign of sexual harassment. It stemmed from his time at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Thomas working there is dripping with irony even Sheldon Cooper could identify). Hill, like Dr. Ford, tried to remain anonymous and let the information speak for itself. However, she too was forced to go public and be put through the wringer even though she was the victim. Thomas was confirmed anyway and has been trying to ruin the country ever since.

In that case, women were told they didn’t matter and men were told that not only would they get away with sex crimes, they would be rewarded for them. The Republicans have vowed to move ahead with the confirmation vote and have denounced the claims against Kavanaugh as smears from Democrats looking to score a few political points before the midterms. Dr. Ford is scheduled to testify on Thursday, so we will have to wait and see if another sex criminal serves on the Supreme Court of the United States.

To reward you for your patience and humanity sticking through this article about global destruction and attempted rape, I will keep the next section brief.

The Senate Homeland Security committee is considering a bill that bans members of Congress from lobbying after leaving office. Such a ban should lower the amount of official corruption and weaken the power of lobbying firms that currently control almost everything the government does. Only politicians who care about nothing but their bank accounts will vote against the bill.

H.R. 6839 renames a VA clinic. When veterans are dying on the streets, when VA hospitals are covered in filth and disease, all that anyone is willing to do is change the name of a single clinic. I have no problem with that honor being bestowed, I just think it can wait until the VA department is solvent, fully staffed, and takes total care of all veterans.

Other glorious highlights include the designation of National Estuaries Week, recognizing suicide as a mental health problem, and a resolution forcing the post office to establish new zip codes.

National politics is stuck in a maddening cycle and seemingly no matter what we do, we still can’t get back to Pittsburgh. Climate Change is being left unchecked, every powerful man has risen to his position on the backs of abused women, and the people’s employees are being paid to make zip codes. Learning to speak French or play jazz piano won’t help, but the cycle can be broken. A new Congress will be a start, but the real shift will come from environmental and women’s rights activists growing in number and strength. The most impactful social and economic changes did not come from politicians suddenly having the idea over martinis in their offices; they came from millions of voices screaming out for justice and starting essential progress through their determination and hard work. If more people stop laying down and letting the government off for every crime, we may just be able to one day wake up to “Almost Like Being in Love.”