Ready...or Not

by Miles Leicher

I arrive in the Real Time offices Monday morning to find Executive Assistants Natalie Barbrie and Ashley Taylor comparing their lunches; as it turns out, they both brought Spaghetti-O's.  Lest anyone accuse us of violating child labor laws, I should point out that they are both grown-ass women.  My attention is soon diverted, however, when Production Manager TJ Baldino walks by my desk and greets me with a hearty, "Shine my shoes, f**kface!"  I'm sure he meant it in the most respectful way possible.  In any case, you can re-live the discovery of our newest office catchphrase by watching Bill's final New Rule.

As great as Friday's show was, it's tough to remain upbeat in the face of all the sad news coming out of Japan.  The fact that they've had earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear meltdowns and a volcanic eruption all in one weekend leads me to believe that God is either an asshole or Michael Bay.  Maybe both.  But the Japanese people are nothing if not resilient.  They have been subject to all sorts of abuses – soaked with water, starved, left out in the cold – and that's just on their game shows.  All I'm saying is, they're prepared.

And that's the difference between them and us.  By the time most of us heard about the disaster and flipped on the news, the anchors had already run out of actual information and had started asking, "Could it happen here?"  If by "it," they mean a huge earthquake, then yeah, it could.  But reacting calmly and rationally, as numerous videos have shown the Japanese doing?  I sincerely doubt it.  Instead of running to make sure merchandise didn't fall off of shelves during the quake, we would've trampled over each other for the exit faster than you could say, "George Costanza."

We also aren't prepared for the aftermath.  Think about it: the toilet paper shelves at the grocery store are always stripped bare at the slightest sign of crisis.  Why?  Because we suddenly realize that we aren't even the least bit ready to take care of our own asses.

Meanwhile, Republicans are steadfast in their commitment to not take away any sort of lesson from this, much like with drilling after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill or gun control post-Tucson.  House Republicans are currently standing by their proposed cut of $900 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (N.O.A.A.), $126 million of which comes out of the National Weather Service budget.  That's the organization that runs the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii, which, by the way, just experienced the effects of a tsunami.  It didn't receive much coverage from the national media – mainly because the damage was scant compared to the devastation in Japan – and partly because words there are just too darn hard to pronounce.

No lives were lost in Hawaii and millions of dollars worth of property was saved because of the early warning afforded by the National Weather Service.  Having grown up in Kailua-Kona, I know firsthand the value of such a utility and the security provided by the fact that it’s funded and working properly.  It's almost as comforting as knowing that, if a disaster does strike, we'll have a good excuse to eat Spam for every meal.  Not that we need one.

Want to be ready to take care of your own ass?  Read up on the FEMA website.