New Jersey Is Not a Third-World Country

Maybe it’s me, but I think Mitt’s little “disaster relief” stunt in Ohio today was not just pathetic and silly; it was insulting. He’s collecting canned goods to distribute in New Jersey? Like there aren’t already canned goods in New Jersey? And what good is a can of food to someone who doesn’t have electricity or a kitchen?

The Red Cross does’t want canned goods, because they’ve got their own procurement and logistics processes in place and don’t want to have to figure out what to do with random cans of whatever. It would be interesting to find out exactly what happens to the stuff Romney packed up on trucks to send to New Jersey and how it is being distributed. The east coast Mormons might have a network in place for distributing stuff like that, but I can’t think of who else would do it.

IMO the photos of Mitt collecting little boxes of Pasta Salad (which has to be cooked to eat, I believe) and what not just makes him look silly, given the magnitude of the crisis. If he’d diverted some of his campaign money to the Red Cross it would have been more impressive.

See also “When Mitt Met Sandy.”

Update: Most of the neighborhood is still dark, which is making me feel very indulgent that I just cooked myself a hot dinner in my well-lit kitchen and am watching Rachel Maddow while being on the Internet. I do wish I had heat and hot water, but maybe tomorrow.

Buddha Loves Me

I have come to realize that most of my building is without power. One neighbor has partial power, others don’t have any. So far today all my electrical stuff has worked just fine. Apparently there’s one power line servicing the building that wasn’t damaged, and it’s the one that goes to my apartment.

I rule.

Today’s Romney Kvetch

I’m sure by now most of you have seen this video of Mittens calling to abolish FEMA, but here it is again —

The plan is for the federal government to shift responsibility and cost for disaster relief to the states, who will then turn it over to the private sector. Has anyone worked out the business plan for making a profit at disaster relief?

This is not to say that private business can’t respond to disasters, when it wants to. After 9/11, power and phone service was restored quickly to the financial district without Rudy Giuliani even having to ask. You might remember there was less interest in rebuilding New Orleans after Katrina.

Not everything that’s worth doing will make money, especially short term. There are some things that are just cost. Recovery from disaster is a prime example. I suppose the hard-core libertarians will argue that if rebuilding thir or that can’t be done at a profit, then let’s not do it. This is an argument for letting the nation fall into rot, sooner or later.

Effective disaster relief, especially on a large multi-state scale, requires management by people with experience at disaster relief. It makes sense to have a federal agency dedicated to responding to disasters, because such an agency can be staffed by people who are experts at disaster relief and who can coordinate work and resources across state lines.

Ideally, such an agency would not be subject to political machinations. The biggest reason FEMA failed to respond to Katrina is that so many of the pros had quit during the Bush Administration and been replaced by political cronies, and the massive loss of institutional memory and experience rendered FEMA into a bumbling mess.

But that’s why states can’t be expected to do disaster relief on their own, because so many disasters are once-in-a-lifetime phenomena. A state that hasn’t had a really massive flood, fire or storm in the past 20 years can’t be expected to put together an effective disaster management team on the fly.

This seems to obvious to me that I have to wonder about the basic intelligence of anyone who would suggest turning disaster relief entirely over to states, never mind trusting the tender mercies of private business. Of course, today Romney is saying he wouldn’t abolish FEMA. He might as well be wearing a T-shirt that says “total bullshit.” He has no convictions; he just makes stuff up as he goes along.

See also Matt Yglesias.

OK From Here

No apparent storm damage here in lower Westchester County, just north of the Bronx. I have not lost power, and the only damage I can see from my windows is to the shrubbery. There’s no traffic on the Cross County Parkway, which makes me wonder if it has been closed. I am too far from either the Hudson River or Long Island Sound to know how much flooding damage there has been.

Well, I spoke too soon — the heat and hot water are out. I hadn’t noticed there was no heat because the apartment is comfortable, but the no hot water thing is a more immediate concern. Well, could be worse.