[Marxism] Massive looting spreads; Georgia declares state of emergency

Joaquín Bustelo jbustelo at bellsouth.net
Wed Aug 31 20:17:42 MDT 2005

	Massive looting has spread throughout the Atlanta area and other
parts of the Southeastern United States in the wake of the devastation
of New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina.

	So bad had the situation become by late this afternoon that
Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue declared an official state of emergency,
despite only hours earlier having had a press conference telling people
that the situation wasn't serious and to just grin and bear it and it
would soon go away.

	The looting I'm referring to isn't that featured on Corporate
News Network of Faux News, both of whom obtained on Tuesday 15 seconds
or so of footage shot by a local TV station showing Blacks coming out of
a store carrying mostly what looked like bottled of beverages and the
talking gasbags haven't stopped their denunciations since. 

	"This kind of tragedy brings out the best in people and the
worst in people" sermonized Wolf Blitzer as the "video wall" behind him
repeated, for the 107th time, the same 15 seconds of footage.

	No, the looting I'm referring to is connected to another liquid,
gasoline, which, in the last couple of days, as the major oil companies
and distributors have figured out how extensive the disruption and
damage from Katrina is, has jumped in price a dollar or more. 

	On Monday I filled up for $2.40 a gallon, remarking to friends
it was the first time I'd ever paid more than $20 to fill up the 1993
civic that I drive. 

	Today I scanned the prices at gas stations as I drove home. The
lowest was $2.70 at the Citgo I'd been to on Monday, but they were out
of gas. The rest ranged from $3.40 (at another Citgo) to $4.00 (at a
Shell station). 

	This is exactly the same gasoline these very same gas stations
were selling for $2.40-$2.70 a couple of days earlier, since virtually
all gasoline comes to Atlanta on Continental's monster Houston-New York
pipeline and product stopped moving on that pipeline well before the
storm hit. 

	The point of the state of emergency declaration is that it
brings into effect an anti-price-gouging law which doesn't forbid price
hikes, only "unreasonable" or "egregious" ones. It carries a fine of
$5,000 per person gouged, and $15,000 if that person is a senior

	The good governor also recommended that people stay home this
labor day weekend -- traditionally the gas guzzling 3-day weekend that
marks the end of summer -- and assured everyone that the Colonial
pipeline from Houston that is the state's main source of gasoline (and
indeed, the main source of gasoline for everyone along the eastern
seaboard from Louisiana to New York) would be fully operational by the
weekend, and not to worry, because normally there's about a week to
10-day supply of gasoline just sloshing around Georgia anyways. 

	Which, AFAIK, is true. And there's the rub. Refineries in the
affected states, the offshore oil rigs that feed them, as well as the
Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP), which handles -- or used to -- 10%
of country's crude oil imports, all shut down well ahead of Katrina's
landfall, mostly by last Friday. I don't know when continental shut down
its pipeline, but at the very latest that would have been Sunday. 

	As of this morning, nine major refineries remained shut down, in
Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. Restarting them is a daunting task.
Some are underwater. All are without power. They presumably have enough
feedstock to start production and go for a few days. But their
workforces are scattered to the four winds, and it's hard to imagine how
they will be reassembled, what with people having no place to live and
no water to drink and no food to eat.

	It turns out that this stretch of the Gulf coast could almost be
considered the heart of the circulatory system of fuel in this country.
And we have cardiac arrest. And it isn't just a question of yelling
"clear" and applying a couple of electrodes to get the old ticker
beating again.

	Take, for example, the LOOP, where 10% of imported oil comes
into the USA. *Supposedly* it is undamaged, and supposedly it has its
own power plant and can begin offloading crude from tankers ... just as
long as the pipeline it feeds is ready to take it. 

	But it isn't. A bunch of the relay pumping stations are out,
some just from lack of electricity, but a few also because they went
underwater. Major damage to one pumping station might take many days or
weeks to repair ... and limit the speed of the oil flow north. But if
three stations are out, especially consecutive ones ... there's not
going to be any oil flow until at least a couple get fixed. And this is
where it gets interesting, because it turns out oil refineries in the
midwest get fed by crude oil pipelines from the Gulf Coast. So far, the
"feedstock" they had on hand --supposedly-- has kept them in operation.
That's only likely to be true for a few days. And it's been a few days.

	But it gets more interesting. Oil-fueled electric power plants,
of which I believe there are quite a few along the gulf coast, get fed
directly from branch pipelines. Yes, they have storage facilities that
keep a few days' supply on hand. And to the degree they've been able to
keep generating electricity, they've been burning through that cushion.
But what happens if, by the time that Continental is about to start
refined products flowing down the pipeline again, the electric
generating plant runs out of diesel? We get this sort of situation: we
can't generate because we don't have fuel, and we can't get fuel because
there's no electricity to send it to us.

	Presumably, troubleshooting this is the role of the bourgeois
state. And here is the true heart of darkness. "Homeland Security" has
now assumed control of the catastrophe. And this means that those who
have been affected can log onto their website and register for aid, or
call a toll free 800 number. Operators are standing by.

	I kid you not. That's the press release I saw this afternoon
from the folks who keep our Reich safe. I felt like screaming at my
computer screen, right in the middle of the newsroom, "you are nothing
but the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie -- ACT like it, and for just
this once, I'll mute my complaints." 

	No such luck. 

	The Bushites are applying the same kind of free-market
ideological bloody mindedness to THIS catastrophe as they applied to
their invasion of Iraq. Except Iraq is a primitive hourglass clock
compared to the intricate clockwork machinery of the United States. And
reading about the complexity of this side of it --the pipelines and
terminal facilities and all the rest of it-- the thought crossed my
mind: If we take it over, how are we working people ever going to keep
it running smoothly? Until I reminded myself: We already do.

	I do not know if the Bushites can make as much of a mess of the
handling of this natural disaster as they did of their invasion of Iraq.
But their actions around Katrina so far do not inspire confidence.

	The good news is that within a few weeks, perhaps days, Bush may
make himself the most unpopular president in living memory since Nixon,
or perhaps even including Nixon. The bad news is, there may well be very
good, immediate and direct reasons for the overwhelming majority of the
population to feel that way.


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