It appears that Hurricane Ike will end up being more of a financial catastrophe versus a human one. If there’s a silver lining to be found in the events of the last 24 hours, that’s it. It’s still early, but it appears the worst of the storm surge hit in the more sparsely-populated areas between Houston and Beaumont. A good number of people are still missing… many of them will be accounted for in coming days, but not all. If you’re interested in following up on the storm, Storm2K and the Houston Chronicle sites are good ones.
From what I’ve been reading, there’s been a general run on gasoline in the Southeast, and prices are rising pretty much across the nation. I filled up earlier this week at $3.49 per gallon; today prices are at $3.79 and are expected to continue rising. If you’re curious, here’s a link to a nice visual map of average gas prices by county for the entire USA. Georgians appear to be taking it in the shorts right now compared to the rest of the nation. There are a lot of oil rigs and refineries that Ike ran over… The refineries are shut down and flooded in some cases, but I haven’t heard of any major damage yet. There’s anecdotal evidence that at least two oil rigs are drifting in the Gulf of Mexico… will be interesting to see if there are more as crews start checking things out in the next few days.
A quick search of Google News shows that rationing of gasoline is taking place in different places around the nation. Odds are good the refineries in the Houston area will be offline for a while, so planning on high prices and limited availability might be a good idea. I don’t know that rationing will make it up here in the frozen North, but the high prices definitely will.
In other news, between the internets and 20/20 on ABC last night I got to see a decent amount of the Sarah Palin interview. This is well-covered elsewhere, so I won’t waste anyone’s time breaking down what I saw. The main thing I took away from it is that Palin reminds me of George Bush in her ability to stay on message. She was obviously well-coached for the interview, and she did an excellent job of regurgitating the party line that obviously had been drilled into her brain and rehearsed multiple times. There were several cases where the interviewer tried to pin her down on something or asked for a simple yes or no answer on something, and she still managed to throw out the same BS non-answer two or three times in a row. When she flailed around (like on the ‘Bush Doctrine’ question) she probably gave her handlers an ulcer, but that only happened once or twice.
She has obvious natural political skills, and she’s gotten really damn good at delivering her one stump speech repeatedly. She’s out of her depth in certain areas, and the real test for her will be the debate or a press conference where she does not have the ability to control the subject matter.
I still don’t think Obama has all the answers, and if he is elected, I don’t know that he will be able to bring that much change to the Washington cesspit. That said, the McCain campaign has been irritating the crap out of me with the constant lies and smear tactics. For someone who’s supposed to be an honorable warrior and committed to ethics reform, the Bush-era Rovian tactics are just more proof for me that he’s willing to sell his soul to become president. The GOP does not deserve four more years at the helm, and it is now obvious to me that the reform/change meme being pushed by the McCain camp is nothing but a cynical lie. Andrew Sullivan has nailed this, which is why he’s being excoriated by the rest of the right-wing media. It’s not so much that Obama has all the right answers; it’s that a McCain presidency would be very reckless one that would likely do more harm than good.
Ultimately, we Americans are still being presented with the choice of two candidates, each the current choice of a privately-funded organization that conducts most of it’s business out of sight of the American public. Once upon a time the national party conventions meant something. Often that was the place that presidental and vice-presidential candidates were chosen, and more importantly, that was where the platform of the party was hammered out. Deals were cut and compromises were made in the public spotlight, and the average citizen could at least get an idea of how the political process worked. That was a long time ago… the last time that was the case was probably when I was a small child. Now, the conventions are nothing more than a highly-scripted debutante ball for the party. We know in advance who the choices are and what issues are important to them, so for the average American, the conventions are nothing more than a chance for the senior gasbags to make some speeches and for delegates to cheer on cue and maybe wear funny hats.
Oh, and it’s a great time for local police forces to buy tons of riot gear and get live target practice lobbing tear-gas and flash-bang grenades at protesters… most of whom are simply trying to exercise their legal rights.
Any real change to our political process will probably need to be done outside the two major political parties. They are so flush with cash & power that they really have little incentive to change in my opinion. They will gladly trade off the reins of power to each other as long as they keep other movements from joining the party. It’s my opinion that until another major party starts gaining power, very little will truly change.
I’ve blathered on long enough. I’ll be thinking about and praying for those unfortunate folks who were in the path of Ike this weekend. I hope you do the same.