Elvis Has Left The Building

30 08 2011

As promised- and even on schedule- I have returned to regale all and sundry with Our Adventures In Evacuation.

Background: Way back in the depths of time, we decided not to Bug Out when hurricane Isabel was bearing down on us. We were without power for the better part of five days, but we were fairly well prepared for the ordeal by virtue of possessing open minds and modest amounts of ingenuity. We jury-rigged a barbecue set-up out of an old gas-station display rack and a couple of cheap aluminum turkey pans, so we had hot water and some method of cooking the food in our freezer before it went bad. We pulled the car up close to the apartment we lived in at the time and used it to power our internet and TV; collected and chopped up fallen limbs to keep the fire fed; and relied upon oil lamps and lanterns for lighting after dark. Basically, while we were living in the 18th century, just about everyone around us was living in the 1st. Bear in mind that Isabel was only a Tropical Storm by the time she reached us here in the Shallow South.

As we watched Irene chugging toward us with evident malice aforethought, we decided that our trigger date was about 72 hours before she hit our area. This would give us plenty of time to change our minds if she weakened or changed course while still allowing us to avoid the bulk of the dain bramaged imbeciles infesting the area who cannot drive on calm, sunny days. This proved to be a good choice- traffic wise- because the mass exodus on Friday immediately clogged every available highway, interstate, street, and cattle trail leading out of the area. While the region’s Jethros were feverishly stampeding into massive traffic gridlock, we were already safely ensconced in a nice hotel suite in a modest metropolis in Hither Carolina which we had estimated would be at least fifty miles outside the hurricane’s widest possible reach. As a result, we got to watch the talking empty heads on TV gibber and panic and throw their feces about as the MOST HORRIBLE NATURAL DISASTER EVER™ rapidly consumed the nation’s airwaves. In other words, I caught up on some reading and watched a lot of Showtime on the hotel’s cable system.

The hotel had a pool and an exercise room, which turned out to be useful. Our suite had a small kitchen (complete with cookware and cutlery) and a 42in flat-screen TV. My only real hardship was the lack of internet access. We did some shopping, lounged about a lot, and generally had a good time wondering whether or not we’d have a house to return to.

Monday morning, we checked out and started driving home through what passes for civilization in Hither Carolina. Not long after we crossed the border into the Shallow South, we quickly found ourselves driving through a post-apocalyptic, dystopian wasteland populated by extras from Road Warrior- but with fewer teeth. Whenever we stopped to scrounge up some fuel, I could swear I heard banjos playing faintly in the distance. This was all the encouragement we needed to keep moving.

To our considerable surprise, the roads heading homeward were all unobstructed by downed trees, a significant departure from the swath of devastation caused by Isabel a few years earlier. There were lots of downed trees visible, mind you, but the DOT crews had apparently been working non-stop to keep the roads open. We saw huge piles of downed trees which had been cut into manageable segments and hauled off the roadway throughout the last hundred miles or so of our trip. The power company crews had also been doing yeoman’s work. Most of the towns and villages and squalid encampments we passed still had electricity, and several dozen work crews were seen laboring to restore power to the remaining areas. This was also a stark contrast from our experience with Isabel, where DOT and the power company had been basically overwhelmed by the scope of the damage. Apparently, even bureaucracies can learn from their past mistakes.

Arriving home Monday afternoon- less than 36 hours after Irene had buzz-sawed through the region- we were overjoyed to discover that the house was still standing. We hadn’t even lost any shingles, which stunned me. Our pecan tree out back had lost a few branches- as well as every single pecan it was growing- but they hadn’t injured anything more than the grass. Our porch lights were still on, and so was the AC. It’s hard to describe our emotions- a strange mixture of happiness and let-down. Tropical Storm Isabel had been vastly more damaging than Hurricane Irene. Aside from the roughly 30mph wind-speed difference, the only other major variable was the fact that we had decided to evacuate this time in lieu of riding it out. I’ve been telling the neighbors that our absence is the reason Irene did so little damage in our area. If we had stayed, the hurricane would have doubtless plowed through the region like a 400-mile-wide bulldozer. I probably ought to think about charging a fee to bug out in the event of natural disasters. Our absence is obviously the major deciding factor in how much damage the area suffers.

Lessons learned: We’re still gonna bug out when a storm predicted to be Cat III or larger gets within 72 hours of us. The few items we had neglected to take with us this time have been added to our Bug-Out Kit (basically a large Tupperware tub with a lid and wheels crammed full of survival necessities), and we’ll use the same destination in Hither Carolina. We enjoyed our little sojourn away from the Jethros so much, we may do it again when non-natural disasters loom on the horizon- such as Congress going back into session.

Current status: Relieved

Current music: I Hate California by Jonathan Coulton

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Quick and Dirty

25 08 2011

Hurricane Irene is forecast to hit this area dead-on, so we’re bugging out tonight. I’ll be off-line until Tuesday- possibly longer.

Assuming the house is still standing when I get back, I’ll post an update.





Arrogance

22 08 2011

The sacrifices of the last six months are finally coming to fruition for the anti-government forces in Libya. Using a fairly clever maneuver, the rebels surged into Tripoli from the sea and the west, and joined with their fellow anti-government fighters already within the city. Savage fighting ensued as the poorly-disciplined rebels closed with the better trained and better equipped government forces in Tripoli. Many of Qaddafi’s troops have either surrendered or merely slipped away into the city, but the “Brother Leader” still has a significant cadre of troops armed with heavy weapons throughout the city, and combat in urban areas is the most unpredictable and bloody form an already-unpredictable and bloody enterprise can take.

The National Transitional Council (NTC) in Benghazi have been cautioning their people that the war is not yet over, and the NTC leadership seems to be aware of the fact that digging Qaddafi out of his fortresses in Tripoli will most likely be a matter of weeks, but the people in the NTC-held regions are rejoicing anyway. After a long series of lightning attacks followed by undignified routs, the people of Libya are eager to get down to the business of re-building their country- which will probably be much harder than wresting it away from their despot has been.

Amid all the celebrations- in Libya and elsewhere- a truly ugly dialogue has sprung up in the US. Instead of celebrating the courage, dedication, and sacrifices by the people of Libya, a large number of people in this country have been jockeying for position to take “credit” for a victory which does not yet exist. This shameful activity can be easily found on the bread-and-circuses crap which pretends to be the mainstream media in the US, but is most evident in online forums and chat rooms. People from both sides of the American political divide are eagerly claiming this not-yet-existent victory for their favorite political party. To all of these arrogant shitbags, I have only one thing to say:

“THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU!”

The people of Libya have stood up to be counted and pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to overthrow a tyrant. Far too many Libyans have died in their attempt to make Libya free, and many more will doubtless make the ultimate sacrifice before they achieve this noble goal. At the start of the uprising, those who demonstrated against Qaddafi literally risked their lives to speak out, but they did so anyway- by the thousands. Even Qaddafi turning anti-aircraft guns on the protesters in the streets of Benghazi and Tripoli didn’t stop the people of Libya from speaking out against him. The sort of courage and dedication the people of Libya demonstrated in the face of torture and death deserves better than a bunch of lard-assed Americans claiming that the “victory” was the result of any particular political philosophy on another continent. While Libyans were dying in the streets, Americans were getting distracted by such ephemera as the football strike/lockout. Unless you travelled to Libya and put your one-and-only tender skin in harms’ way, all of you democratic and republican partisan hacks need to shut the fuck up.

Not quite as loathsome, but still repellent, are the talking heads on some “news” channels whose only interest in the Libyan uprising are what it will do to the price of oil. Here’s a clue chit for those creatures- what is happening in Libya is more important than oil. It’s more important than the state of the Dow. It’s more important than any quarterly earnings statement ever written. The Libyan uprising is a truly popular rebellion against a ruthless dictator, just as were the earlier uprisings against Arab strongmen in Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen. The political repercussions of this “Arab Spring” are already being felt throughout the lands of Islam, where other rulers are growing worried about their previously-quiescent people. Despots like Assad in Syria, the ruthless Imams in Tehran, and the House of Saud are finally forced to face up to the fact that keeping their people poor and ignorant no longer works in an era where any teenager with a smart phone can outwit government censors with impunity.

There are those in the US and Europe who are wary of this “Arab Spring”, fearful that the newly self-liberated lands will become havens for Islamic extremism. Too fucking bad. The people in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and Libya have chosen to write their own futures, and this is as it should be. Their countries. Their rules. Their decisions. In lieu of poking our noses into the internal affairs of other nations, why can’t we- as a culture- just try to deal with each country on its own terms? If the people of Tunisia want to elect an Islamist government, that is their choice. If the NTC in Libya abruptly decides they don’t want to sell oil to kaffir anymore, too bad. It’s their oil. If the Yemenis decide to grow closer with China or Iran, that’s their business. If we in the west want to do business with the new governments across North Africa and the Middle East, we need to accept that we must do so on their terms. Trying to manipulate or dictate policy to these new nations will be merely repeating the mistakes of the past. Let’s try learning from those mistakes.

For a change.

Current status: Disgusted

Current music: Time of Your Life by Green Day





End of the Beginning

15 08 2011

Sorry (again) for the long gap. I had a flat tire, my mother died, the cat was sick, I had to have emergency surgery, and I took a vow of silence.

Ok, maybe not. Would you believe my computer suddenly decided that it was a good day to die? A day or two after I wrote my last post, my formerly state-of-the-art six-year-old beep box achieved sentience and ran amok- assuming you substitute “frying the motherboard because the cooling fan on the video card gave up the ghost” for everything before this. After several attempts to replace various components to resurrect the computer failed expensively, I tossed the bloody thing and bought a new desktop. I generally dislike purchasing systems from big-box stores, but a cow-orker clued me in on a sweet system at the local Worst Purchase. To make a short story long, I got a system enormously better in every way than my old one for about $150 less, and all I had to do was take it home and plug it in.

Sadly, the antiquated wireless router I’d been using without trouble with the old box was not compatible with the new operating system, which fact I only discovered after wasting considerable time speaking with profoundly unhelpful tech support people in Bangladesh. At my wits end, I dug through the operating system and found a couple of clues which led to to  yet another evening trip to Least Vend for a router from this decade. After loading the appropriate files from the various storage media to which they’d fortunately been transferred before the old computer became an ex-computer, I have finally returned to the etherwebs.

Thrilling tale, eh?

On to more substantial things. Remember Libya? Largish country in north Africa, known for its malevolent despots, a metric butt-load of interesting ancient history, and something else … oh, yeah! A particularly uncivil war.

Most of the US appears to have lost interest, since more “important” news have long since eclipsed the matter from the headlines. Oh, there will be the odd mention in an off-hand, afterthought sort of way on one or two media outlets once a week or so, but such things as missing white girls, redneck stripper fugitives, and the nefarious antics of our political class are apparently much more important to the average American.

The rebels have managed to get recognized as the legitimate government of Libya by a significant number of countries (the US among ’em) while continuing to demonstrate a profound unwillingness to learn from their military mistakes. Mind you, this recognition is a major advance diplomatically, but it has very little effect where it matters most- on the ground in Libya. In this area, Ghaddafi is still managing to stay on top … for a given value of “on top”. Despite the Brother Leader’s monopoly on trained military personnel with more-or-less modern equipment, he has been unable to use this enormous asset to his advantage because anything that looks even remotely like heavy military equipment keeps getting smithereened by modern aircraft operated by professional military personnel. In my opinion, about the only thing keeping the rebels from giving the entire Ghaddafi family the Benny the Moose treatment is the rebels themselves.

Even after several months of learning the hard way that enthusiasm and a Kalashnikov aren’t enough to successfully tangle with well-trained and equipped troops, the Libyan rebels keep repeating the same mistakes. They’ll make a series of advances against government forces and capture/liberate towns, villages, and other strategic points with little strategic planning beyond, “We’re going to Tripoli“. Ghaddafi’s troops give the rebels attackers a bloody nose and fall back to prepared positions. When the brave and enthusiastic rebel fighters charge bravely and enthusiastically after the retreating government forces, they get bravely and enthusiastically stalled out in the open by trained soldiers behind fortifications, and then they get bravely and enthusiastically shredded by artillery. The rebels haven’t yet managed to develop the unit discipline necessary to cope with these vanilla-simple tactics, so the survivors retreat. The government troops then re-take the ground they had just lost. Some of those strategic points have been captured and liberated a half-dozen times by both sides.

The tide may actually be turning, however. The rebels have recently started trying to operate strategically. In lieu of merely charging headlong at any government forces they happen to locate, rebel forces have begun taking (and holding) real estate of actual strategic value- cutting Ghaddafi off from key roads and oil-producing areas. Either someone on the rebel side has been paying attention, or some “advisory personnel” from one of the countries friendly to the rebels have been giving some rational advice which is actually being listened to.

Assuming the rebels can develop some discipline and retain control of strategic points for long enough, Uncle Muamar and his flunkies may be in for a short drop to the end of a rope. Presumably, his military leaders can see where this is heading. I wonder how long it will take for one or more senior military personnel among the government forces start negotiating with the rebels to be allowed to go into exile in exchange for Ghaddafi’s corpse.

It isn’t the beginning of the end, but it might be the end of the beginning. I hope so, anyway. It will probably take a couple of generations for Libya to recover from this revolution. If the rebels manage to get rid of their loonie Leader, their sacrifices so far might not have been in vain. There’s been entirely too much death and destruction already.

Current status: I have returned!

Current music: In a Big Country by Big Country