Items filtered by date: Thursday, 13 September 2018
Thursday, 13 September 2018 20:12

Hurricane Florence arrives

Hurricane Florence begins its long assault on the Georgia, Carolina(s) coastline. My understanding of Florence is that it is an anomaly amongst storms, the main reason being - it’s both wide and slow. Florence is much wider than a typical hurricane and is only travelling at about 2-3 miles per hour. Which isn’t even as fast as a regular person can walk.

 

What this means is that the force of the storm will linger twice or three times as long as a typical hurricane. And, perhaps obviously - the longer your area is battered with 100 mile an hour winds, the more damage the storm will potentially inflict.

 

Now, it’s true that in the last several days the storm has dropped from a Category 4 to a Category 3 and now hits the shores as a Category 2. (Go here for a breakdown on the differences between categories of hurricanes) But just because Florence has been downgraded to a C2 doesn’t mean that everyone can now breathe a sigh of relief. The danger is far from over. A C2 hurricane can and will cause significant damage. Again, because the storm is slow it will affect your area much, much longer than a typical storm.

 

Plus, one hundred mile an hour winds aside, there will still be 30 to 40 inches of rain in a large part of the Carolinas and the coastline is expected to have massive flooding of - get this - anywhere from 6-13 feet of water.

 

If you can’t imagine what 100 mph wind feels like, think of this - Hurricane Floyd, which also hit the Carolinas in 1999 brought 60 hours of rain (in some areas), massive flooding, caused 74 deaths and approx. $6 billion in damage. And since $100 in 1999 is equal to $147 today (adjusted for inflation) - that would be approx. $9 billion in damage today.

 

Okay. But Florence is so wide and so damn slow - it’s possible that some areas can expect to be affected by the hurricane twice or three times as long as what happened in Floyd. Imagine that - 120-180 hours of rain! That’s six to seven and a half days of pouring rain!

 

But that’s not all! Meteorologists have tracked waves 20 feet high and up to 80 feet long heading toward the coastline. Earlier reports suggested the waves were 80 feet high but weathermen (and women)  around the country quickly corrected them. I mean, an 80 foot tall wave is 2004 Indonesia Tsunami high and that wiped out entire cities and swept a quarter of a million people into the ocean. Thankfully, Florence does not have 8o foot high waves.

 

But still, an 80 foot long wave has tremendous force and once it hits the shore will push inland for a very long time. That, coupled with the rain means - massive flooding. Probably, unlike the Carolinas (and Georgia) have ever experienced.

 

Florence is expected to be full force from late Thursday until early Sunday. Approx. 36 hours of hurricane gale hitting affected areas. And then - additional rain (for days). I certainly hope most folks heeded their Governor’s warnings to evacuate the area.

 

Of course, I say that and I am not trying to sound glib. There are plenty of reasons where one might not evacuate. Living in poverty with nowhere else to go comes to mind. I understand there are people who might not be able to evacuate and there are always folks who chose to stay for various reasons. I understand.

 

But man, if I had the means I would be so out of there.

 

So, what happens after the storm? Well, as usual the best way that you or I can help is to donate to the American Red Cross. From the Fed side of things there is the Disaster Relief Fund. Of course, President Trump has recently made news because - during the height of Hurricane Florence worry - the President transferred almost $10 million from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement).

 

Now, thankfully, the money President Trump transferred out of FEMA wasn’t part of the Disaster Relief Fund as some have reported. Of course, as reported by Vox.com, this still complicates things. From their Is Trump Using Hurricane Relief Money to fund ICE? Not exactly:

 

“The Trump administration points out that the $9.8 million transferred from FEMA didn’t come out of the Disaster Relief Fund that is specifically appropriated for major disasters. Instead, it came out of the agency’s “operations and support” fund. DHS (Dept. Homeland Security) characterizes that fund as used for administrative expenses: Examples listed by a DHS official included “employee travel expenses, training, basic purchase cards, office supplies, HQ overhead support.”

 

What complicates this slightly is that one of the things funded by FEMA “operations and support” is the agency’s Office of Response and Recovery, which organizes the agency’s emergency operations and rebuilding efforts. About $2.5 million of the transferred funds came out of the response and recovery budgets.”

 

Lovely! So the exact office that organizes the Disaster Relief Fund just had a budget cut of $2.5 million - all during the Florence build up! Think about it this way - what happens in your office when you suddenly lose a significant percentage of your work force and / or work support? You know what happens. Suddenly lots of people double up on jobs that they don’t have any experience in and things are more expensive to process and take twice as long to figure out! Which, is totally what we want to happen when people need the Disaster Relief Fund, right? We all want to make it as hard as possible for people to receive assistance! Right? (Please, note the sarcasm).

 

*sigh* It’s almost like we have a President who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about people.

 

Anyway, all that being said. I wish the best for the folks of the Carolinas and Georgia.

 

 

This is an updating story. We will publish more about disaster relief, where to find it and how best to help, ASAP.

 

Published in U.S.

In the poker game of American life, the white man is on tilt, bleeding chips like he’s giving them away—because that’s exactly what the white, American man has been doing for 150 years. White, American men started comfortable and stayed comfortable. Some got lazy, and now the chip leader in the poker game of American life senses his chip stack dwindling at the poker table that is American capitalism.

Income inequality grew in 2017 to the largest income gap ever recorded, but for roughly 200 years the white man was the only person at the poker table that is American capitalism. His chips were safe and regularly augmented along with a glass of lemonade by a slave who did the work responsible for the chip stack while his master played solitaire alone.

But when the white man’s first challenger arrived in the 1820s, he felt immediately threatened despite his massive chip stack and perceived mental and physical advantage over his opponent. White men were threatened by women entering the workplace because they’d work for less and advanced machinery made factory jobs easier for them to do. So when a white, American woman approached the poker table with her modest chip stack in hand, the white man went to work, teaching the white woman about American capitalism by using his superior stack of money to take hers. The white man didn’t take the white woman lightly, but he enjoyed her company and gave her enough time and just enough money to learn the game—opportunities not afforded his male opponents. When civil war broke out in the states the white woman’s chip stack grew considerably, and when slavery was abolished, more new players sat at the poker table that is American capitalism.

When a black, American man brought his meager chip stack to the poker table in 1865, the white man might have lost his means of subsidizing his stack, but he knew he could still steal chips from the black man as he did the white woman. And he did and continues to do so, but less often and at an ever-decreasing rate of success.

In 1910, the Mexican Revolution sparked a wave of immigration in the United States, but the first successful labor movement of immigrants in America took place in 1903, when Mexican and Japanese farm workers unionized. It was the first union to win a strike against the giant, California agriculture industry. Then the first wave of Asian immigration to the United States during the California Gold Rush in the 1950s brought more players to the table, each with a larger chip stack than the last. The white man gained another opponent to bully each player who dared sit at the poker table of American capitalism, but that window of opportunity grew shorter with each new player. 

When your chip stack is bigger than everyone else’s, you don’t actually have to play poker, or any game for that matter, including the game that is the American economy. You just have to use your money to repeatedly force the poor to decide whether they’re ready to lose everything they have, and they seldom are regardless of the amount. That’s not poker; it’s old-fashioned bullying. The haves lean on the have-nots until they break, at which point the white man borrows them money to buy back into the game, with interest, of course.

The rules of both a poker game and a capitalistic economy cease to govern the gameplay when the majority of wealth is controlled by an extreme minority of players. The game has never been fair and still isn’t, but white, American men are scared anyway. While their chip stack hasn’t decreased significantly, there are more players at the table, and the white man fears there will be more coming for his ill-gotten gains. They can sense the table turning, which is why they’re expressing their anger more boisterously than in the past. They didn’t have much reason to complain while they were buying pots with busted, gutshot straight draws and suited connectors that found no similar suits nor connections amongst the community cards. The white, American man was probably only called and forced to show his cards once every few years in the poker game of American life.

The wealth gap between white and black households in America persists, as does the gap between white and black men. And the wealth gap between white and Hispanic-American men is expected to widen until 2020. But that’s not the case for white and black women. While women have and continue to make less than their male counterparts, white women do not make considerably more than black women raised in similar households. So while white and black women aren’t winning pots as big as the white or black men, they are winning similarly-sized pots relative to each other.

The white man has managed to avoid losing chips to the black man, but the white and black women at the table have charmed the chips right out of the hands of the white man. And he’s enjoyed losing to the women so much the white man has only just realized the growing chip stacks of his other opponents at the table, like the Hispanic- and Asian-Americans. Worse yet, the white and black women at the table are starting to call the white (and brown) on their attempts at getting more than just a handful of chips from the ladies. 

Instead of observing the tendencies of his opponents and acting on them, the white man has resorted to bullying the rest of the table with his chip stack, over-betting the pot and forcing his opponents to either risk all their chips or fold. But it’s harder to buy pots with a dwindling chip stack, and the rest of the table has him figured now. The white man doesn’t have the chips to bluff with garbage cards anymore, and while he thinks he’s on a frozen wave of cards you read about, he’s really just scared of all the new action at the table. More players means more cards are out, too, so with every new player at the table, every hand becomes less and less valuable. But that doesn't make immigrants a threat; they can actually pad the chip stack of white, American men, too

"Meat packing plants and lumber mills that rely on refugee employees need many more. Manufacturing and other industries across the country are looking to hire refugees." —Sasha Chanoff, USA Today

Immigrants work the jobs American men and women won't do, and they pay income taxes for doing them, and spend their income in the American economy, creating more jobs and more wealth for everyone. More players means more action, which means bigger pots and bigger swings of fortune. That worries the white man, as it should, because he's the only one who hasn't been playing poker these last 150 years or so.

White, American men have always been unreasonably angry, but how can you be mad after enjoying an economic advantage built on the backs of slave labor for over 150 years? White, American men tilted the economic playing field so much with slavery and ensuing racial discrimination that their advantage persists to this day. But they sense that advantage dissipating with every immigrant that arrives at the poker table of American capitalism, and that pisses them off, but not rightfully so. Simply being entitled to earning more money isn’t reason enough to be angry about that entitlement decreasing ever so slightly. Being the reason for providing that entitlement against your will, as black Americans were and continue to be (as well as women), is reason enough to be angry, and to be angry for however long the table is tilted in the white man’s favor.

Published in Opinion
Thursday, 13 September 2018 17:00

In defense of "dumb" country lawyers.

I have a confession to make. And President Trump is not going to like it. I’m a southern country lawyer. Darn proud of it. In the President’s words, I may be a “dumb southern country lawyer.”  I just hope the President does not have a sneering contempt for all of us Louisiana lawyers who cut our teeth practicing law in the rural areas of the Bayou State.

If you are unaware of the President’s supposed pot shots at those of us who ply our trade in the more pastoral boroughs of the state, The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward has out a new “tell all” book entitled “Fear: Trump in the White House.” Woodward you recall was the reporter who dropped the bombshell on the Nixon White House back in 1972, and was portrayed by Robert Redford in the film, “All the President’s Men.”

Woodward writes of many revelations claiming he received insider information from current White House operatives who listen to the President on a daily basis.  And, according to the book, Donald Trump makes it clear there is no love lost between him and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He is quoted as saying that: “This guy is mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner. . . . He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer.”

Now I’m reading this to mean that “a one-person country lawyer” is about as simple and elementary as you can get if legal guidance is required.  No real talent or expertise required.  Just a little folksy off the shoulder opinion will do.

Do you have to be an Ivy League barrister to have the knowledge and expertise to make sound and compelling legal decisions? It’s a fact that all the current members of the U.S. Supreme Court attended either Harvard or Yale. But maybe that’s part of the problem with a number of questionable high court decisions. As Alabama law professor Ronald Krotoszynski wrote recently, “Are an attorney’s perspectives and capabilities “defined by the three years he or she spent in law school? Shouldn’t professional experience and judgment matter too? “

I graduated from Tulane Law School back in 1966 and moved to the rural town of Ferriday, Louisiana with a population of 5000. There were a few other lawyers in the surrounding parishes, most of who graduated from LSU. No specialized legalese in these rural courthouses.  Lawyers had to know a good bit about all phases of the law, both criminal and civil.

I handled civil cases ranging from divorces and small claims and stood toe to toe with big shot eastern attorneys representing General Motors and a number of major oil companies. On the criminal side, I was often appointed by the local judge to represent a cross section of those accused of robberies right up to capital cases. Many readers will remember the notorious Jim Leslie murder case that happened in Baton Rouge back in the 1970s.  Leslie’s killer was gunned down in Concordia Parish and I was appointed to defend this killer. I can tell you the whole sorted story.

Here’s my point. Country lawyers, particularly in the South, rarely take a narrowly defined career path. Sure, an attorney has to know the law. But there also is a need to comprehend the practicalities of how the law should be applied and how such application affects and impacts the average citizen.

I’ve come across a number of outstanding lawyers who graduated from Tulane, LSU and Southern law schools. They often have both solid legal aptitude and a good bit of plain old common sense.  Our judges, by and large, stack up with barristers anywhere in the country, and we certainly have the legal talent that is qualified to stand shoulder to shoulder with any justice presently on the U.S. Supreme Court.

So give us a break Mr. President.  We might surprise you down here in the deepest of the deep southern states. Yes, some up north may call us dumb southern country lawyers. But I have worked with many Louisiana attorneys, particularly in smaller towns, that can go eyeball to eyeball with any Ivy Leaguer. Simply put Mr. President, we wear our southern country lawyer title proudly.

 

Peace and Justice

 

Jim Brown

 

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Jim Brown is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. His column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show, Common Sense, each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Communication Network.

 

 

Published in Opinion