Sunday, September 11, 2011

Tropical Storms

Last weekend was 60's cold and rainy -- after having been 97 degrees 3 days before -- as Tropical Storm Lee met a Canadian cold front as it made its way to Ohio. At one point the low pressure cell was sitting over southern Ohio and dropping moisture from the Great Lakes onto us.

Tropical Storm Lee formed in the southern Gulf of Mexico, west of the Yucatan peninsula, and worked its way up the Gulf Coast until it decided to head north when it hit Alabame. Nate is there now. Lee was formed there a couple of weeks ago. At one point the NHC maps showed Lee crossing into northern Florida from the Gulf at the same time as an Atlantic hurricane made landfall in northern Florida. Could they join for a 2x hurricane? Lee decided to head north through Alabama, and the Atlantic hurricane (Katia?) stayed offshore, so we didn't find out. Unfortunately, I'm sure we will find out soon enough :-( I don't remember tropical storms forming in the Gulf like this. Double hurricanes, yeouch.

So I did walk Dexter yesterday morning and bike this morning with pretty much the same results as 2 weekends ago: 1/2 hour of knee pain walking, hours of knee-pain-free bicycling. Biked out Delaney Ferry through Mortonsville to McCowans Ferry. Back in on the west side Versailles bypass to Dry Ridge to Military Pike to Parkers Mill. 2h38m, 1 stop, 36.1 miles, top speed 37.4 mph. I must have been tired on some hilly stretch to let myself go that fast.

Finished reading "Darwin's Bastards", a collection of Canadian science fiction short stories, edited by Zsuzsi Gartner. I think it was a birthday (or solstice) gift from one of my children (Alexis?). Anyway, very interesting stories. A lot of them kind of fragmentary, seeming to stop in the middle of nowhere, missing the normal nice ribbons and bows of clear meaning. Post-modern maybe? Very enjoyable.

Started on "The Name of the Wind", by Patrick Rothfuss. A high fantasy, 1st book of the Kingkiller trilogy, rave reviews on the jacket blurbs. Going OK I guess.

So this is the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Several people have posted that they would turn off their TVs to spare themselves the excesses of the punndits, etc. Not a problem for me as I never watch that kind of stuff. But the newspaper had a bunch of commentary, and several blogs I read did as well.

Clearly the loss of 2800 lives of people from all over the world was a tragedy. And the first responders to the twin towers did what they do for a living: they were heroes, putting the welfare of others above their own. The passengers of the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania did the same thing: they put the welfare of others above their own.

So how does America honor the sacrifice of those who put themselves in harms way, as well as the innocent victims? Aside from flag-waving and meaningless pontification, in my opinion, not so well.

This editorial by Louis Friedman compares how America responded to the Cold War vs the War on Terror. He summarizes:

We used the cold war to reach the moon and spawn new industries. We used 9/11 to create better body scanners and more T.S.A. agents. It will be remembered as one of the greatest lost opportunities of any presidency — ever.
We started 2 wars, and instead of raising taxes as had been done in the past for wars, taxes were lowered. Ask the rest of America to sacrifice to do the right thing? Apparently not. And now that the bill has come due, let's cut Medicare, Medicaid, the EPA, OSHA, and everything else that stands in the way of robber barons in industry and finance. Republican politics at its finest.

And this decade has seen the outsourcing of war-making to private corporations. How much are their lobbyists going to be doing to further world peace? Maybe, not much? Just has the outsourcing of prisons is leading to record incarceration levels as their lobbyists push for stricter and stricter sentencing to "fight crime". But NYC has figured out how to lower crime rates without putting half of your young adult males in prison, as detailed here.

I am an American exceptionalist. I believe that the USA is the greatest country in the world. Why? Because we are the melting pot that accepts the best and brightest from all over the world, and where any entrepreneur can become a billionaire. We've always had a "can-do" attitude, and the knowledge that if we pulled together and maybe sacrificed a little for the common good, that we could accomplish anything.

But, if politicians keep bowing to the ignorant conservative factions in the country over things like teaching evolution (we are the only country in the world where this is an issue), and responding to serious problems with knee-jerk lizard-brain reactions and flag waving, then we are throwing away our potential. Instead of a political discussion based on solving serious problems and promoting the common good, we have nothing but unbridled greed, and every billionaire and corporation for themself. Self-sacrifice? No way, some of these people don't belong to my country club!

This was another good post about 9/11. At the end, he says:

I can’t shake the feeling that, in ways we don’t want to admit, the terrorists have won something. It gave us fear, and the will to attack. It changed our hearts and minds.
So we now have The Bush Doctrine, which says we will attack first if we feel threatened. It used to be a point of national honor that we never struck the first blow. But now, we've become such cowards that if we are feeling threatened or uneasy, out come the cruise missiles. And, Osama Bin Laden said he wanted to bankrupt us. The paper today says that the cost of our 9/11 response is currently at $3.3 trillion. That seems low to me.

I know that the ties of clan, tribe and country are strong. But sometimes we forget that people from over 90 countries died in the World Trade Center towers. After 9/11, we had the entire world on our side, and then we pissed it all away.

We should also remember that the 9/11 terrorists primary justification for attacking us, aside from general dislike for our cultural imperialism, was the placement of US troops in their Holy Land (Saudi Arabia) in the first Gulf War. But do we try to do anything serious to get us off our foreign oil dependency that has led us to 3 mideast wars in the last 20 years? Of course not, not when it might upset the profits of the current energy barons.

So people will today and for years to come stop to remember loved ones lost, or just the fear and uneasiness we all felt on 9/11/2001. I wonder though, if we will ever have maybe 10 seconds of silence for the 150,000 civilian casualties in Iraq, whose blood is on the hands of our reckless leaders of the time -- no, whose blood is on all of our hands.

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