Monday, September 05, 2005

Katrina, Price Gouging & Labor Day

Labor Day weekend, so far at least for me, has been a good one. Given the price of gas skyrocketing and the gas retailers seeing a windfall to seemingly take advantage of, we decided to stick close to home for the weekend.

Friday night was dancing; Saturday we saw a Louis Malle movie (Zazie in the Metro) and an exhibition of Ansel Adams' work at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts followed by dinner at Bob's Southern Bistro in the South End. On Sunday we cleaned out the cars, walked in the late afternoon sunshine under beautiful blue skies; and, Dixie even got a bath and a haircut.

Not so good for the folks in New Orleans and along the coast east from the Big Easy all the way over to Fla., though. It was hard, this past week, to read and watch the news, see the devastation and feel the pain of the people who were unable, or unwilling, to get out of the path of Katrina.

It's been interesting to read the perspectives of the various people, directly and in-directly, involved. The mayor of New Orleans implying, as the columnist for the Boston Globe, Adrian Walker, so blatantly put it, that those not immediately evacuated were almost deemed to not be worthy enough for the Bush Administration to care about. It seemed as though that it wasn't until after his administration came under fire and there was an outpouring of help being offered from the international community, did Bush come forth with aid. As another article in the Boston Globe stated: better late than never. Now, had the upper and middle class white and black folks not been able to leave New Orleans in time, would the rush to help have been different?

It's ironic to think that Homeland Security can't deal with a natural disaster, only with a terrorist act. What were they thinking? A hurricane destroys a city; a terrorist does the same by blowing up levees and a variety of buildings. What's the difference?

It also struck me that newscasters were calling the affected people "refugees." The news people kept saying it was like a war zone out there. The references were really strange, although I understand the sensationalism the press needs to use in order to sell their product. But calling people who have lost their homes due to a natural disaster "refugees" and describing it as a war zone is a bit much. It almost seemed like the news people were trying to turn a natural disaster into an un-natural one.

If Bush hadn't gotten us unnecessarily involved in Iraq, America's military and financial resources would have been able to take care of this issue. We would have been able to show the world that we can take care of ourselves. Instead, America came off as inept. Hmnn.

It's interesting to me that our Gov., Mitt Romney, has been so bold as to take 2,500 "refugees" and put them up on a military base on Cape Cod that has been slated to close. It makes you wonder just what his motivations are, given that he wants (maybe) to be the next Republican He-ro President. Moving these folks more than a thousand miles north, (temporarily?) and giving them housing, clothing, a financial stipend, and job training is very admirable. I think two things, however. One is that the relocated people, while grateful for some stability and help, probably will want to move back home as soon as they're able to.

The other thing I think is that Mass. has a glut of under-educated people trying to find jobs now in a state where housing is vastly over-priced and so where are these people going to find jobs and an affordable place to live? On top of that, in sixty days, when the weather starts to dip down well below freezing on a regular basis, the last place people born and raised in a much warmer climate will want to be, after a summer's hurricane, is in a New England snowstorm.

I have to wonder - if a democratic administration were in power would there have have been so much willingness to open up the state to the affected people. Please don't mis-understand me, I don't resent what's been done, I think it is noble, certainly needed and reflects the generosity of New Englanders; I just have to question the motivation behind the action. What type of political gain might be sought from seemingly so noble an act.

All during the week we watched the price of gas go up. At the moment the cheapest price I've seen for regular is $3.09. My daughter, Beth, told me that down where she lives, in Emerald Isle, NC, the discount gas stations have closed for lack of supplies. My sister, in Baltimore, told me that there was panic buying going on based on a "rumor" that gas was in short supply. Up here in Mass., the attorney general's office is monitoring the gas retailers to see if any price gouging is going on. It makes you wonder: is it capitalism or is it just plain greed? On the one hand, Americans extend a hand to help the less fortunate; on the other hand, Business is ready to cash in by taking advantage of another's plight.

This past Friday night, when Julie and I went dancing, we wanted to blow off some steam from the week and to try to forget about Katrina and it's effects for a while. The dance was DJ'ed this night and, I guess in tribute, all the music was New Orleans jazz. Some of it was barely dance-able music. We left early.

Today, Labor Day, it's a beautiful day outside. Big blue sky with nary a cloud. A nice breeze and a warm sun. It's a day to put aside one's labors and rejoice at just being alive. Earlier in the day we were out taking a walk and basking in the glory of the day. Later on we may take another walk.

After all, tomorrow it's back to work. Let us all hope and pray, in our own way, that people all over the world who are affected by the events of terror, by natural disaster and by the hand of oppressors, may find relief and a way to take back control of their lives. May we all, regardless of our place or station in life, come to love each other - now and forever.