Storm’s Aftermath

Our power is back on, about 24 hours after the storm pulverized parts of the central Ohio power grid and cast us into darkness.  Good job, AEP — and thanks for putting some light back in our lives.

Walking and driving around town, we saw signs of the storm’s aftermath everywhere.  Gates knocked off their hinges, tree limbs everywhere, and debris in roadway — it will be good to get back to normal.

Advertisements

Powerless

When awful news happens, and bad news strikes again and again, and events are buffeting the little world around you, you feel powerless. Now Mother Nature has decided to take that figurative feeling and turn it into literal reality.

A huge and violent thunderstorm cell blew through Columbus last night, and it has knocked out the power grid for wide swaths of the area. The storm blew down trees and branches and felled power lines, and we’ve now been without power since 5 p.m. last night.

This period of powerlessness is unheard of — and it also shows how spoiled we’ve become. A few hours sweltering in a hot house on a summer’s day, and you’d think from the complaining that we’d been asked to endure the unendurable. We’ll have some spoiled food, and some time without Internet access, and earlier bedtimes than normal. No big deal, really.

Still, I must confess that when I entered an air-conditioned room this afternoon I did breathe an audible sigh of satisfaction.

An Election About Something Concrete And Fundamental

I haven’t yet read the Supreme Court opinions issued on the constitutionality of the “health care reform” act.  From news reports, I understand that the 5-4 majority characterized the individual mandate as a tax and therefore within Congress’ constitutional power.

Because I haven’t read the opinions, I can’t comment on their merits.  One result of the Court’s action, however, is that the stakes for the upcoming election will be both heightened and sharpened.  Almost immediately after the ruling, I received emails from the Democratic Party and its candidates lauding the decision and the act it upheld.  From the Republican side of the aisle came commitments to repeal the statute and expressions of concern about the increasing role of government.

Since the days of the Revolutionary War, American history is full of debates about fundamental questions that were resolved through the political process and at the ballot box.  I’d rather have the focus of this year’s election be on the role of the federal government and the merits of the “health care reform” statute than on ginned-up issues like the investments made by Bain Capital when Mitt Romney worked there.

Voters now know far more about the “health care reform” statute than we did when it was being pushed through Congress in a process characterized by hastily written language, backroom deals, and votes cast by members who hadn’t even read the bill before them.  We’ve seen actual actions taken by the federal government pursuant to the statute — including the regulations that have upset the Catholic church and other religious groups — and we know the funding mechanism for the statute is properly viewed as a broad tax.

As a result, the debate to come will be far more concrete than the debate that occurred several years ago — and the voters will decide who wins that debate.  That is a good thing.

Hitting The Triple Digits

Today the outdoor temperature in Columbus hit the triple digits.  According to the outside thermometer in my car, we got as high as 101 degrees, Fahrenheit.

I was feeling kind of sorry for myself and the rest of the overcooked residents of Ohio’s capital city until I talked to some folks in St. Louis and learned that, there, it was supposed to hit 106 degrees today and 109 degrees tomorrow.  109 degrees!  It sounds like part of a recipe, the setting on a sextant, or a section of the instructions on how to locate a distant galaxy in the evening sky, rather than part of the daily weather report.

I normally don’t really mind hot weather, but when the mercury hits 100 or more the nature of the heat seems to assume an almost physical dimension.  When I stepped out of my car at a gas station this afternoon, the wall of heat hit me like a fist.  When I drove home tonight at about 8:45, with the sun hanging low on the horizon, it was still 95 degrees.  I can’t imagine trying to sleep tonight in a room that isn’t air-conditioned — I don’t care how many fans might be running.

LIFE AND LOVE CAN BE HARD

On Tuesday I witnessed the bravest, hardest, kindest and most loving of decisions be made.  I spent the day with my friend at the local hospital where his wife of 48 years had been admitted in the morning and was with him in the afternoon when he told the doctor to take her off the machines that were keeping her (technically) alive.  She survived only a few minutes afterwards. God bless them both.

No Cause For Optimism In The Real World

The latest Conference Board measurement of consumer confidence is out.  It recorded another decline, marking the fourth straight month the index fell, and surprised experts who’d predicted a smaller drop in consumer confidence.

I’m skeptical about efforts to measure consumer confidence in a country as large and diverse as America.  I wasn’t consulted.  Were any of our readers?  (How about a show of hands?)  And the only surprising thing, really, is that economic experts would be surprised about their inability to  forecast something as unpredictable as consumer sentiment.  Economists are almost always wrong in their predictions.  Why do you think Thomas Carlyle called economics “the dismal science”?  The weather forecast on my iPhone AccuWeather forecast is far more reliable than the musings of out-of-touch economists.

No one in the real world is surprised that consumer confidence is slipping.  Economists do things like measure whether rates of decline in one month are smaller than the rates of decline in the prior month, and conclude that things are getting better.  People in the real world don’t think that way — we just see that decline is continuing.  Where’s the cause for optimism that significant job creation will finally start in this recession that has lingered for almost four years now?