This video from the USA says about itself:
8 September 2017
Lucky for Rush he can hop on a private jet and save himself at the last minute. Cenk Uygur, John Iadarola, and Mark Thompson, hosts of The Young Turks, discuss.
On Thursday, the conservative radio host announced on his show that he’d be evacuating South Florida, where he lives, and would be off the air for the next couple of days. This comes mere days after he lambasted media stations for their coverage and storm preparers for battening down their hatches.”
Read more here.
HURRICANE IRMA TRACKING UPDATE: ABACO, BAHAMAS 9/9: here.
HURRICANE IRMA UPDATE (2): ABACO, BAHAMAS 9/9: here.
By Jeff Lusanne in the USA:
Why aren’t trains evacuating people from the path of Hurricane Irma?
9 September 2017
As Hurricane Irma threatens Florida with historic destruction, little to nothing is being done to help residents evacuate. On Friday, Florida Governor Rick Scott and FEMA officials warned millions of residents to flee the path of the storm. How to flee has been left up to residents, with no assistance provided.
Over 20 counties are being told to evacuate, in what could be the largest evacuation in American history. It is quickly exposing the abysmal, anarchy-filled state of transportation in America. Those hoping to fly out were confronted with sky-high prices, in the hundreds or thousands of dollars, and now over 4,000 flights have been canceled. Extra flights were added, but operations wound down Friday afternoon, more than a full day before the storm. Many have been left stranded at the airport, with all shelters filled up.
For millions, their only way to flee is by car. Gas shortages have spread across the state, and drivers confront extremely heavy traffic that burns through gas with little progress. From southern Florida, there is only Interstate 95 or Interstate 75 to head north, both of which have had extensive delays for days. On Friday, northbound delays covering hundreds of miles were visible on I-75 and I-95 even into Georgia and South Carolina.
This “fend for yourself” method of evacuation presents an enormous inequality, where working people must spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to head to safety, assuming they even have a car. As a retirement destination, Florida also has many residents over 65 years old. This includes residents in nursing care, or with physical or mental impairments, that make them unable to drive or fly.
Why haven’t passenger trains, which could carry a thousand people a time, been sent to Florida to help? Residents without money or the ability to travel by car or plane could be taken to designated points of shelter and food.
Prior to Hurricane Gustav in 2008, there was a small successful example of this, as some 2,000 residents of New Orleans were taken to Memphis, Tennessee on special trains, as well as buses. A worker who participated in the rail operation noted that “At least 50% of the passengers were elderly, many in wheelchairs, on walkers or canes and generally unable to move very well without some assistance.” On a return trip, many passengers brought more luggage, as they could buy essential supplies in Memphis that would have been out of stock or priced-gouged in New Orleans. With baggage cars and plenty of space, the train accommodated this for free—compared to an airline that would charge $50 per bag.
That operation was minimal compared to what could be done, and yet with Irma, nothing similar has been attempted, despite a far larger forced evacuation. If the state and federal government, FEMA, and corporations cared to, dozens of sets of passenger train equipment could have been sent south during the week and made several trips from South Florida to points farther North. This would require workers trained in advance to conduct the operation, and designated points of shelter established in places like Atlanta, Georgia; Columbia, South Carolina; Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina; and other cities.
As one example, the commuter rail system of Chicago, Metra, has a daily ridership of 295,000 riders. If equipment on that scale was provided to a region at risk of a hurricane, an enormous amount of people could be taken to safe shelter. Instead, all that has happened is that Amtrak ran its regular trains out of Florida up until Friday, which of course were sold out.
The abysmal state of passenger rail and infrastructure in the United States is a contributing factor. Amtrak provides a fraction of the service in Florida that it used to: three trains a day compared to dozens in 1960. One of the Amtrak trains, the Silver Star, has been referred to as the “Silver Starvation” after Amtrak cut its full dining service in 2015, leaving passengers to wait in a long line while a single food service worker prepares snack food on a trip that can take over 24 hours.
When special trains were run in 2008 in New Orleans, they used the minimal amount of spare equipment that Amtrak has. The service has survived on a shoestring budget since its creation in 1971, and most of its coach passenger cars were built in the 1970s and 1980s, most of which have no planned replacement. As one abysmal example, it was announced last week that railcar builder Nippon Sharyo had failed to successfully build an order of 130 passenger cars that was funded in 2009, ordered in 2012, and expected to be delivered in 2015. Now, the contract has passed to another builder.
Nationally, Amtrak has under 1,200 cars that carry passengers. In 1960, the three railroads serving Florida alone had about the same number. Little passenger rail investment in the South has occurred since then, leaving a minimal amount of equipment available for disaster relief.
Florida, like many Sun Belt states, grew massively in the post-war period when billions were poured into the Interstate highway network. Urban areas were expanded in a large and decentralized fashion, partly because extensive investment in roads and highways allowed more decentralized land use. Jacksonville, Florida, for example, has the largest land area of any city in the Continental United States, but is 12th largest in population. It has no commuter rail operation, while that of Miami and Orlando is minimal.
Another severe constraint to a rail evacuation is the private control of the major routes in Florida. CSX Railroad owns routes between Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, and points north, while Florida East Coast Railroad owns a route along the coast from Miami to Jacksonville. All of these routes have been cut back over several decades, with less capacity and fewer maintenance employees. As it is, CSX frequently delays the existing three Amtrak round trips that serve Florida.
CSX was recently taken over by a hedge fund that is instituting even deeper cuts, including over 500 layoffs at its Jacksonville, Florida headquarters. In another cost-cutting move, train dispatchers that control traffic are being taken away from regional locations and consolidated in Jacksonville. Dispatching jobs based in Selkirk, NY, were to be shifted to Jacksonville this September. The move is remarkable, considering that Jacksonville is a city that could be in the path of a hurricane. If weather closed that facility, the entire network covering the east and south would shut down. There is little doubt that dispatchers will be told to risk their lives to come to work, and forced to work extra hours.
In a rational, planned economy, the millions of residents in need of evacuation would be provided with a way out, and organized shelter. As the response to Hurricane Harvey showed, there is no doubt that people would work and volunteer to help provide the service, and aid the elderly and impaired.
Instead, nothing has been done. The response to Hurricane Irma, and to Hurricane Harvey before it, express the reality of American capitalism. Decades of social plunder, rising inequality and decaying infrastructure, combined with the disinterest and contempt of the ruling class for basic issues of public safety, have paved the way for another disaster.
This video says about itself:
Puerto Rico begins clearing up the damage from Hurricane Irma
8 September 2017
Puerto Rico avoided a direct hit from Hurricane Irma, but more than a million people are without power.
By Patrick Martin in the USA:
9 September 2017
The catastrophic impact of Hurricane Harvey in southeast Texas and the unfolding disaster of Hurricane Irma in south Florida are ruthlessly objective tests of the ability of America’s ruling elite to manage the affairs of society. By any reasonable standard, the capitalist class has failed, and failed miserably.
Two weeks after the Texas Gulf Coast was devastated by Harvey, millions of people are seeking to rebuild their lives with minimal social assistance. Hundreds of thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed, one million cars rendered inoperable, countless schools and other public facilities flooded and likely ruined beyond repair. At least twenty-two people are missing, most now presumed dead, on top of the more than 70 deaths officially acknowledged.
To address the costliest natural disaster in American history—at least until the toll of Hurricane Irma is tallied—with damage estimates approaching $200 billion, the Trump administration and Congress have approved a derisory $15 billion in federal assistance, ratified by the House of Representatives Friday.
The bulk of this money goes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which doles out funds limited to $30,000 per family, through a nearly impenetrable bureaucratic process in which the victims of the storm will be treated like criminals or con-men. Other funding is routed through the Small Business Administration, in the form of loans that those driven from their homes by the hurricane will be hard-pressed to repay.
Hurricane Irma is even more powerful than Harvey. The storm has already laid waste to several of the Lesser Antilles and to the Turks and Caicos Islands, as well as battering Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba. Irma began passing the Bahamas on Friday and is scheduled to make landfall somewhere in south Florida on Sunday afternoon.
Hurricane Irma is the most powerful storm ever recorded on this planet, with the most “accumulated cyclone energy,” one measure of overall intensity. It has sustained maximum wind speeds of at least 180 miles per hour for 37 hours, longer than any previous storm. Its size is vast: twice the extent of Hurricane Andrew, which devastated south Florida in 1992. The storm is so large that it is wider than the Florida peninsula itself, raising the possibility of simultaneous storm surges on both the Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Coast, an unheard-of phenomenon.
A lethal threat faces one of the most densely populated areas in the United States. But the response of local, state and federal officials has been to tell the potential victims of Irma: “You’re on your own.” This was the theme of several press conferences and briefings on Friday, as government officials told some six million people in south Florida to leave the region if possible, or else go to hurricane shelters.
These shelters are entirely inadequate—some sizeable cities, like Ft. Myers on the Gulf coast, have none. They are unavailable to many poor and working-class residents. The Coalition for Racial Justice complained that Miami-Dade’s shelters are open only in wealthy areas, a more than 30-minute drive from the city’s poorer neighborhoods.
Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for the Florida Keys, for Miami Beach and much of Miami-Dade, the state’s largest metropolitan area, as well as portions of Broward and Palm Beach counties and much of the southwestern corner of the state as well. Combined, they are the largest mandatory evacuation in US history, leaving all highways north completely jammed with traffic. Most gas stations have run out of supplies, leaving many residents stranded in their cars as the hurricane approaches.
The most basic measures to ensure that people can leave have not been taken, such as a mass coordination of free rail, bus and airplane transportation. Many of those leaving have no idea where they will stay, as hundreds of thousands attempt to find accommodations on the route north. Many are stuck at the airport, with no open flights and all shelters filled.
The Trump administration “prepared” for the one-two punch of Harvey and Irma by proposing to slash spending on FEMA and other relief and disaster management agencies, to say nothing of its war against climate science, waged on behalf of the oil, gas and coal producers and other big industrial polluters.
Even the succession of hurricanes—with Jose and Katia lined up to follow Harvey and Irma, four giant storms in only three weeks, fueled by ocean waters now at an unprecedented temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit—has not produced any rethinking by the know-nothings of the Trump administration. The unending stream of disasters proving the reality of climate change—to which one must add the fires raging on the US West Coast and the floods that have devastated South Asia—demonstrating the inability of the ruling classes of all countries to take any serious measures to address the growing threat.
EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, a notorious global warming denier, denounced any discussion of climate change as “very, very insensitive” to the people of Florida. “To have any kind of focus on the cause and effect of the storm, versus helping people, or actually facing the effect of the storm, is misplaced,” he argued.
By the same logic, any discussion of plate tectonics or seismic faults should be banned during an earthquake, nor should there be any analysis of El Nino wind effects during wildfire season. Nuclear physics would be off-limits during a reactor meltdown. And, we might add, there could be no discussion of the economic laws of capitalism during a meltdown of the financial markets.
There is a distinct class content to this rejection of science, or, indeed, any serious thought. The US ruling elite, at every level, refused to plan seriously for natural disasters which were both predictable and inevitable. Once the disasters unfolded, the representatives of big business could barely conceal their indifference and annoyance at the plight of what one of Trump’s real estate colleagues, Leona Helmsley, sneered at as “the little people”.
Natural disasters have a way of exposing social and political reality. The Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, which destroyed much of the Portuguese city, was a significant event in the development of Enlightenment thought in Europe in the decades that preceded the French Revolution. It was proof, Voltaire noted in his Candide, of the absurdity of the claim of the philosopher Leibniz that “all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.”
Who could follow Leibniz in making such an argument today? American and world capitalism is rotten to the core. The ruling class presides over unprecedented social inequality and unending war, in which resources are dedicated to greed and plunder but the most basic requirements of modern society go unmet and ignored.
Such a society is ripe, indeed overripe, for revolution. The task is to fight unceasingly to develop the political consciousness of the working class, so that it can fulfill its historical mission to become the ruling and directing force.