The PJ Tatler

Salon Blames Budget Cuts For Oklahoma Disaster, Slate's Wiegel Disagrees

As Moore, Oklahoma comes together, grieves, and assess the damage done by a major tornado, America’s left-wing is blaming global warming and budget cuts for the disaster.  Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-CT) blamed Republicans for the disaster on the Senate floor last week.

So, you may have a question for me,” Whitehouse said. “Why do you care? Why do you, Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, care if we Republicans run off the climate cliff like a bunch of proverbial lemmings and disgrace ourselves? I’ll tell you why. We’re stuck in this together. We are stuck in this together. When cyclones tear up Oklahoma and hurricanes swamp Alabama and wildfires scorch Texas, you come to us, the rest of the country, for billions of dollars to recover. And the damage that your polluters and deniers are doing doesn’t just hit Oklahoma and Alabama and Texas. It hits Rhode Island with floods and storms. It hits Oregon with acidified seas, it hits Montana with dying forests. So, like it or not, we’re in this together.”

Leslie Eastman’s May 21 post on Legal Insurrection aptly noted that:

There is a fairly long list of tornado outbreaks that have impacted this country over its history.  They include time periods before the use of fossil fuels and the Republican Party (e.g., The Great Natchez Tornado of 1840).

More dead than injured
Today, most government agencies — the National Water Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency and others — put the death toll at 317 and 109 injured, the only tornado where the dead outnumber the injured…The tornado’s destruction on land and water was estimated at $1,269,000 in 1840 dollars. That would translate today into about $21 million.

How strong was it?
So destructive was the storm that a piece of a steamboat window was reportedly carried 30 miles. Government weather agencies have no idea where on the Fujita scale of F1 to F6 the tornado would rank, though it seems likely that its devastation would certainly equal an F5, the highest ever recorded, which carries winds of 207-260 mph

It would be very refreshing to see a Democratic representative refrain from using children’s deaths to deride Republicans for a change.

Sen. Whitehouse has since invoked the Sgt. Schultz protocol, saying he didn’t know the tornado was destroying Moore when he gave the speech.  Nevertheless, David Sirota of Salon, who hoped the Boston bomber was a white guy, wrote an equally stupid commentary last Tuesday stating that sequestration is to blame for the disaster.

One thing, however, that shouldn’t be up for debate is whether or not we should be as prepared as possible for inevitable weather events like tornadoes. We obviously should be — but there’s an increasing chance that we will not be, thanks to the manufactured crisis known as sequestration.

As the Federal Times recently reported, sequestration includes an 8.2 percent cut to the National Weather Service. According to the organization representing weather service employees, that means there is “no way for the agency to maintain around-the-clock operations at its 122 forecasting offices” and also means “people are going to be overworked, they’re going to be tired, they’re going to miss warnings.”


Perhaps, though, the devastation in Oklahoma City will serve as a reminder of why that’s the wrong path. After all, the wreckage is an explicit commentary on how bad things can be even when our weather forecasting system works — and, thus, an implicit reminder of how much worse things could be if it doesn’t. It is also a reminder that we shouldn’t think of weather forecasting as the insignificant television arena of dim-witted Brick Tamlands, but instead as an integral part of homeland security infrastructure.

When the ideology of austerity and Congress’s manufactured crises like the sequestration collectively jeopardize that infrastructure, we are needlessly inviting unnecessary and tragic consequences.

First, sequestration was a White House initiative.  Second, how would  more money invested into the systems that track and warn us about twisters save Moore?  It wouldn’t have saved Moore.  The city would still have been destroyed. Luckily, Slate’s Dave Weigel decided – on the same day – to clear up this whole debate concerning sequestration.

There are currently no furloughs in place at the National Weather Service—or anywhere within NOAA,” said Ciaran Clayton, a spokesman for the agency, via email. “We are still in good faith negotiations with our unions on our proposal—which is for four furlough days across NOAA—some 12,000 employees (due to sequestration, the NWS was facing up to 10 days of furloughs, and other offices within NOAA were facing up to 20—in order to mitigate that on our employees and operations, we have proposed 4 furlough days across the organization). Employees are entitled to a 30-day furlough notice as well—and as of today those have not been issued.”



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