Another Friday

Well, it’s been a while since I listed things I was looking at or getting into. So, here it goes:

Book I’ve been reading: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. I’d seen the Sean Connery film years ago, then devoted some time to its early chapters sitting in a Barnes & Noble circa 2003-2004. I didn’t buy the book, and at the time didn’t seem to fully grasp it. Now I’m giving it another chance.

What I’ve been listening to: Evita, the revival featuring Elena Roger and Ricky Martin. I’m a swing for a production of Evita right now (opening night is tonight) and I’ve been brushing up on my Argentinian.

What I’ve been watching: Lost Girl. It’s on Netflix, and had been sitting in the queue for some time (years? Hard to tell.). I do remember seeing ads for it on SyFy at some point. It’s good. A little formulaic, but I had actually been looking at differences in seelie/unseelie over the past two weeks, so starting this kind of came at a perfect time. (It’s a show about a bisexual succubus learning that there are courts of Fae in the world, and she must navigate the unique environments of faerie life.) Stars Anna Silk as Bo and Ksenia Solo as Kenzi (who was also on Turn: Washington’s Spies).

Other things of note:
Dorian almost came across Florida. Everyone knows that, but here’s a little bit of why forecasting hurricanes is hard.
Seth Godin writes an interesting post about what we own.
How to cook in a Donabe – the Japanese ceramic wonder pot.

Storms and stuff

There’s a hurricane peering down my coast. That almost sounds dirty.

Dorian, likely a Category 4 when it makes landfall in just over 24 hours. I’ve seen a lot of hurricanes. Thrown (or been to) a lot of hurricane parties. They don’t quite get me like they used to.

I like the rain. I like the seclusion. There’s a degree of simplicity when power’s lost, and all that can be done is by day or by candlelight; grill or camp fire.

Do I hope that it passes us by? Yes.

Do I mind roughing it for a few days if we lose power? Not at all.

Rebuilding

Following natural disasters, how does the government respond? Where does the money come from, and aren’t there ways that we can be better prepared?

Early estimates are that the total cost of Harvey and Irma are $150-$250B. In perspective, the cost of Katrina was $160B. How do we pay for that? What are other economic factors that need to be considered?

The United States annual budget is roughly $3.8 trillion. So, those two hurricanes comprise approximately 5% of the annual budget.

When I worked in municipal government, I dealt with the Office of Management and Budget from time to time. Check how much overall was left for the office until the end of the fiscal year. Request transfers from one category to another. Those kind of things.

I’m neither an expert on budgets nor on government expenditures.

That being said, it seems that the Nation has a problem. Debt is required to make up the deficit in the budget (already), and more debt will be needed to pay for the damage.

Following Hurricane Katrina, John W. Schoen had this to say when asked who’d foot the bill: “The simplest answer: our children and grandchildren will get stuck with the bill. They’re the ones who will ultimately have to pay off the debt Congress has authorized to keep spending on the war in Iraq and now the rebuilding of damage caused by back-to-back hurricanes. In the short-term, the cash is coming from the sale of Treasury bonds, which will have to be paid back decades from now.”

I’d say great, but I’ll probably be alive to see my taxes increase for that. Probably won’t have Social Security benefits either.

Regardless, the question of handling national disasters comes down to the matter of handling the National Budget. And given that the Country was created partially through the borrowing of money (to finance the Revolutionary War), we have always been a people of debt.

The American Dream was founded on debt.

Is it sustainable? Probably not. Are we going to suddenly have to become a Chinese State? Highly doubtful. Still, planning for the budget deficit in responsible ways has become even more important in recent years.

The Treasury Department was cerated to handle the Country’s finances (thank you Alexander Hamilton – I’m a theatre guy, please keep that in mind).

From a website showing US Government Spending, we get these charts:

usgs_chart4p01

“When charted in dollars the total accumulation of federal debt looks huge. Looking back over the last century, the debt back in 1900 doesn’t really register.”

usgs_chart4p02

“But by charting accumulated debt as a percent of gross domestic product (GDP), you get a look at government debt compared to the size of the economy at the time.” This looks like a more reasonable time comparison, though having debt at 100% of the GDP is certainly not a desirable method of running the Nation’s finances.

So where does that leave us? Raise taxes? Cut spending? That’s the crux of the Democrat-Republican debate!

But in the short term it unfortunately doesn’t matter which side is right, if either side can actually be right. The cost of repair when destruction hits needs to be paid.

 

Eye of the storm

In the eye of a hurricane there is quiet for just a moment, a yellow sky. 

Hurricane, from Hamilton the Musical

When it’s time to prepare for a possible hurricane strike, it’s inevitably nearly too late. Irma was not much of a factor on the East coast of Florida, and honestly, I never thought she would be, though I couldn’t tell you why. I had hoped she would turn out to sea, rather than swipe the Gulf Coast, but here on the Atlantic side of Central Florida it was mostly rain and light winds. And, as with all natural disasters, concern and rushing about.

Hurricanes give us the feeling that humanity is no closer to mastering nature than early man was, coming out of the caves. The raw destructive power of storm systems can undo decades of civil engineering and community building. Flooding, wind damage, downed power lines and exploding transformers. And nature will keep coming.

As I sit in relative darkness, writing by some candlelight on an iPad with attached keypad, I wonder at early civilizations. Save the sound of nearby gas-fueld generators, this powerless state is something that would be typical merely a century ago. Quiet. Alone with thoughts, the sounds of nature (sans fuel-combustion), and seemingly few concerns. 

The television is off. It must be, with no power. I listened to some public radio via the phone, but not much. And I sit here, thinking. Considering what tomorrow will bring, when the power is sure to be reinstated.