[R-P] Neoliberalismo y estupidez ante una emergencia

Nestor Gorojovsky nestorgoro en fibertel.com.ar
Vie Sep 23 14:03:55 MDT 2005


Message: 18
Date: Fri, 23 Sep 2005 09:10:49 -0400
From: Joaqu?n Bustelo <jbustelo en bellsouth.net>
Subject: [Marxism] U.S. emergency plans: a disaster waiting to happen
To: "'Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition'"
	<marxism en lists.econ.utah.edu>
Message-ID: <20050923130952.PGVS27562.ibm59aec.bellsouth.net en athlon>
Content-Type: text/plain;	charset="iso-8859-1"

	A couple of days ago there was an exchange onlist about how Bush
this time (Rita) would make sure the disaster preps went okay given 
what
happened last time (Katrina).

	I  spent much of yesterday looking at feeds of helicopter cams
focused on highways turned into parking lots. I don't need to wait 
for
tomorrow morning's hurricane strike to declare the emergency plans by
the authorities to have been themselves a disaster. 

	If there is one thing to avoid in running an evacuation of THIS
type, it is a traffic jam.

	You tell everyone to just get out of town, now, and the result
is inevitable -- a huge traffic jam which *clogs the process of
evacuation* slowing it down to a crawl.

	Imagine that, if instead of slightly weakening and slowing down,
Katrina at full intensity had just speeded up. Tens, probably 
hundreds
of thousands of people would have been caught, vulnerable and 
exposed,
by the full fury of the hurricane while stuck in traffic on the road. 

	
	This result was easily foreseeable. Traffic engineers will tell
you that a highway with so many lanes only has so much capacity at a
given speed, a number of vehicles per hour.

	Traffic jams can happen because the carrying capacity of the
road is exceeded. This leads to a slowing down of traffic, and once 
that
happens then the problem cascades. Because if you originally had a 
road
that could take, say, 10,000 vehicles/hour at 60 MPH, all of a sudden
your average velocity drops, and it becomes several thousand less. 
And
what began as a slowdown becomes gridlock, as the carrying capacity 
of
the highway becomes just how many cars can physically park there and 
the
vehicles/hour flow approaches zero as a limit.

	In the case of major American cities, the Interstate Highways
are typically many lanes, 4, 6 or more in each direction. But a few
miles from the city, it starts dropping, eventually becoming just two
lanes in each direction.

	In these sorts of emergencies, "counterflow" is instituted, so
that the four total lanes all become outbound lanes, no incoming 
traffic
is allowed in those lanes. Even then, this becomes a bottleneck as 
part
of the traffic in the normal lanes is diverted to the counterflow 
lanes.

	The obvious thing to do is to ration the use of the highway.
There are many possible ways to do this. One would be even-odd,
depending on the tag number. Another would be by neighborhood. You 
have
a series of rolling roadblocks in access to the highway to limit the
number of cars getting on it, knowing that, if you let the highway
become full with 4 or 6 lanes of outbound traffic, when the highway
narrows you'll get cascading gridlock all the way back to city 
streets
and as a result much less throughput. Ideally, at least a rough 
schedule
of which neighborhood is evacuated  when would be published and
continuously updated over the radio and television.

	Because of the United States's individualist capitalist
ideology, it seems like the authorities are unable to take such 
steps.

	To be effective, an evacuation plan needs to have not just when
a neighborhood evacuates, but where those people wind up. Because
otherwise without a safe destination, there will be a mad scramble
anyways to get on the highway as quickly as possible so that you beat
everyone else to some sort of lodging at the other end.

	This means at a certain point in putting into motion disaster
plans, schools and churches need to be opened to accept refugees and
there must be provisioning on those destinations and personnel 
assigned
to operate them. This in theory would be the job of the national 
guard,
except, of course, its hard to run a school as a refugee center if 
the
local guard unit is instead taking incoming from the mujahedin in a
desert camp somewhere outside Tal Afar in Iraq.

	The individualistic, "everyone for themselves" U.S.-style
free-for-all evacuation has, in the case of the Gulf Coast, another
perfectly foreseeable result. Which is a HUGE spike in the 
consumption
of gasoline. The highway-as-parking-lot phenomenon tremendously
compounds this issue.
There have been reports of hundreds of cars that have run out of gas 
in
the huge traffic jams out of Galveston and Houston.

	Moreover, the traffic jam itself keeps gas stations from being
resupplied, so they run out of gas, so even more people run out of 
gas
on the highway.

	This will have downstream repercussions, because what you're
tending to do is deplete the local stocks of gasoline. And although 
the
entire coast is covered by refineries, so you'd think there would be
little concern about anything more than spot shortages, all those
refineries in the path of the storm shut down. So you've gone ahead 
and
maximized consumption, way above the extraordinary demand just for 
the
road travel, by a huge amount of unnecessary, wasteful consumption
sitting in traffic. So you're setting up a post-storm situation where
there will tend to be shortages of gasoline, and this will be felt
everywhere from Texas to New York, since the entire area is tied
together by huge pipelines for refined petroleum products.

	Atlanta is the place to watch after the storm. Typically,
Atlanta gasoline is one of the cheapest in the country because this 
is a
major nexus in the gas distribution pipelines, and extra supplies 
from
the gulf that aren't immediately needed further north tend to get 
sold
here on the spot market. So a significant percentage of local gas 
here
tends to be surplus remaindered gas. But with operations disrupted, 
that
source of supply dries up immediately. Local gasoline wholesalers and
even many retailers understand this, which is why post-Katrina some 
of
the most outrageous gouging was going on in the Atlanta area, with
prices in some gas stations above $5/gallon, and prices generally at 
$4
or more a gallon at the peak of the panic.

	It is not (or not just) that U.S. emergency planners are idiots,
but that their whole ideological and political outlook has them focus 
on
the idea of helping hundreds of thousands of atomized individuals or
families cope with the emergency, rather than planning emergency
operations on a community basis, viewing it as a community as a whole
coming together to cope with this situation, and the government as 
the
organized expression of the community as a whole. In reality, the
government officials in the U.S. view themselves not as guardians of 
the
welfare of the community and each one of its members, but rather as
referees in the free-for-all war of everyone against everyone else 
that
is capitalism. 

	Moreover, whether they are conscious of it or not, they are
completely one-sided in the refereeing, always favoring the 
capitalists
and their interests.

	Thus when, for example, $2.29 a gallon gas all of a sudden
becomes $4.59 a gallon gas, they tend not to send a swat squad to 
arrest
the miscreant gas station owner or wholesale supplier, and organize 
the
line of cars to get gasoline at its normal price, but instead have 
press
conferences explaining that it was a "shortage" or a "panic" that 
raised
the price of gasoline -- ghosts that haunt the capitalist economy at
such times and do all sorts of things that otherwise people would 
tend
to blame the capitalists for.

	It is important to understand this, that disastrous "disaster
planning" by U.S. authorities is, at bottom, not just and not even
mainly a result of incompetence, but of ideological bloody-
mindedness,
of the free-market religion. It isn't that for such contingencies a
capitalist government couldn't plan rationally, for handling the 
thing
collectively, because there are example of this in history in dealing
with wars and other catastrophes. But the plain fact is that at least
the ones in  the United States today have an outlook that makes their
emergency plans a disaster waiting to happen.

Joaquín


Este correo lo ha enviado
Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
nestorgoro en fibertel.com.ar
[No necesariamente es su autor]
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"La patria tiene que ser la dignidad arriba y el regocijo abajo".
Aparicio Saravia
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