Look, and insure, before building in disaster-prone area
I began thinking in this manner shortly after Hurricane Katrina, and it seems we have had no shortage of similar natural disaster situations nearly every year since. While New Orleans has long been one of my favorite U.S. cities, you don’t have to be a cartographer to understand that the devastation thrust upon that city was only a matter of time.
How long would you expect a city so prone to hurricane activity and that sits 49 percent below sea level to remain viable? Well, eight years later, it still is. Enter the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] and our tax dollars.
If I asked you to, would you choose to build your house below sea level and next to a massive body of water, say a gulf or an ocean? Yet, the city of New Orleans did. And when that idea failed in 2005, everyone felt that it was FEMA’s responsibility as the responsive government agency to react and provide.
Consider this — traditionally speaking, FEMA’s primary responsibility was to rebuild roads and infrastructure so we could get to the task of reconstruction. Somewhere along the way, FEMA also began to distribute rice, water and tarps for shelter (which were manufactured here in Schenectady for years), and fund the rebuild.
Fast-forward through the next eight years. Tornadoes in Jasper, Tuscaloosa, and Moore; Tropical storms/Hurricanes Irene, Lee and Sandy all destroyed towns, homes and lives. Today, in fact, we are dealing with the dramatic long-term weather event of a rainy June in Fort Plain and Herkimer. Sad, tragic, certainly. But unpredictable? I don’t think so.
In fact, this is the second Fort Plain area flood I recall seeing in my less than 40 years — and this was caused simply by repetitive rain. So what do we think about the people who build on the flood plain, in tornado alley, on the hurricane coastline, or simply in a river or large creek valley?
I usually choose to donate money to various relief organizations to pay for the immediate needs of survival, comfort and cleanup. Why is it that my tax dollars are also expected to pay for the damage and not the respective insurance company? I didn’t build my home in these areas I’ve mentioned or that area below sea level I inquired about earlier. The answer is apparent on television in interview after interview — “We didn’t have insurance.”
What happened to the responsibility of the homeowner carrying the proper insurance to ensure that disaster would be met by self-sustained relief? If you were to lose everything you had today, wouldn’t you want to control your own recovery, rather than depending on the state and federal government to give your life back the way they see fit?
Take personal responsibility. You should be screaming for your insurance agent instead of the state and federal government. Twenty years ago, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
Despite uncertainty on fracking, we must decide
Sometimes you need to stay till the end of the movie to decide if you enjoyed it or not.
Right now, I don’t think we can honestly determine the risks and problems this fracking holds for people and the environment.
Studies, as always, support the positions of those who sponsor them. And some have the bias of statistical content, while others focus their efforts on the emotional effects. Neither appear to provide a good way to help us determine what the best course is.
We certainly have enough evidence that some things can go horribly wrong and cause great pain and costs when they do. The oil spill in the Gulf, Chernobyl, acid rain that has devastated forests and lakes in the Northeast, health issues from the smog in major population areas around the world, etc.
Maybe we shouldn’t have approved using nuclear power to produce electricity, or created levees to channel major waterways like the Mississippi, erected huge windmills to produce electrical power, dammed major rivers. All of these things have or could cause significant damage to people and the environment.
So when do we have enough information to make the wise decision, knowing that we aren’t able to always make the right ones? Most all of the ones I’ve listed have done much to improve the lots and lives of our people, albeit with costs to the environment. The case for producing more natural gas, to replace the coal-burning factories used to produce power, is fairly compelling.
Although we can’t really weigh one against the other, because we really can’t gauge the environmental and health problems fracking may cause, we need to decide, recognizing that we may be right, or wrong, again.
GE still recovering from Welch’s failed strategy
The July 20 Daily Gazette reported that GE shares rose to the highest level since the September 2008 financial crisis, when its financial services, insurance and banking operations nearly bankrupted GE. The stock price is still 15 percent below it was when the crisis hit.
“GE is dramatically shrinking its banking division — the giant financial services arm,” acquisitions that were part of Jack Welch’s strategy to turn GE away from industrial manufacturing to financial services. Welch even negotiated with Siemens to buy the Schenectady plant before Siemens acquired Westinghouse’s power generation business instead.
An analyst at Barclays is quoted, “A GE back to its core roots” and “this is the GE we grew up with.”
GE’s business school in Crotonville was renamed the John F. Welch Leadership Development Center when Welch retired. The name should be removed from the center because it symbolizes a failed and very costly strategy. In addition, a Jack Welch Management Institute [JWMI] exists as part of Strayer University, a Virginia-based for-profit college. Welch is a founder and holds the title of “Distinguished Professor” at the school.
The website of the JWMI quotes the distinguished professor, “we don’t teach theory; we teach winning.” Winning for Welch means financial engineering to raise the stock price at any cost, including shortsighted acquisitions that jeopardize the future of a company.
The writer is a GE retiree.
Pols’ peccadillos are hardly a private matter
If I may, I wish to add my opinion regarding Eliot Spitzer and peccadillos to the conversation.
It concerns me that some people view the promiscuous behavior of numerous politicians as a private matter, and the “what’s-to-worry?” and “Vive la France” attitude. Those people who view this behavior as “no problem” don’t seem to realize what a danger it can bring to a government and its citizens.
Foreign governments use the age-old practice of supplying “ladies of the evening” to an unsuspecting political figure in order to gain secret information that could jeopardize the security of a country. Also, an individual uses this ploy to gain information, extort money or job opportunities by threatening blackmail.
Blatant examples are President John Kennedy and his numerous dalliances while conducting his duties as president; President Clinton discussing government issues with Monica Lewinsky in his presence; and, not to leave men out of the picture, former Gov. James McGreevey and his hiring of his alleged [male] lover from Israel to the position of New Jersey homeland security adviser.
As for Eliot Spitzer (the sheriff of Wall Street) taking on Wall Street’s abuses, it had been reported that his main reason for going after certain abusers was that they were adversaries of his father. Otherwise, Mr. Spitzer went after the “little guy.” It was (and still is) Mr. Spitzer’s good fortune to have friends in high places (including the media), who play him up as some sort of hero.
Furthermore, I take issue with the July 11 Gazette editorial, which suggests that Spitzer’s opponent “is less intelligent and experienced.” As a former resident of New York City, I worked on numerous campaigns and other functions with Scott Stringer, and got to know him quite well. I feel that through his years in the political arena, he has gained important knowledge, has the background qualifications, and is as qualified (if not more-so) as Mr. Spitzer for the position of New York City comptroller.
Being familiar with voters of New York City, I will not be surprised if they hand the win to Mr. Spitzer. However, I would be quite satisfied to see the likes of politicians like Spitzer and [Anthony] Weiner go the way of former New York City Comptroller/New York state Comptroller Alan Hevesi and stay away from public service.
Flora L. Ramonowski
Temperature’s rising whether we feel it or not
During the recent heat wave, I was reminded of the joke going around of the frog in a pot of slowly boiling water who doesn’t know what’s happening until it’s too late.
If, as some say, the heat wave was a product of global warming, at least we got a hint of what is happening. But is it too late?
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