Monday, August 29, 2005

Heads in the Sand, Asses Underwater 

I feel for the people of New Orleans today, I really do. (Not so much the people of Mississippi; living proof that god is not on the Red States's sides). But... on the other hand, I do have to say that what has happened to New Orleans should not have been unexpected. And therin lies the lesson.

First, a quick recap. New Orleans is a city that's built in a big punchbowl, ten to twenty feet below sea-level, with the Mississippi River on one side and Lake Ponchatrain on the other. All that protects it from the rushing waters and the Gulf of Mexico are a series of levees and manmade dams, and the ever-shrinking delta at the mouth of the Ol' Miss. For at least the last two decades, the latter has been further decaying, endangering the city. And, indeed, I remember reading an article in National Geographic a year or two back explaining that, simply, given the current state of the delta, one good hurricane could destroy New Orleans forever.

Now, add that to W's unwillingness to spend money for hurricane preparedness. That, and sending the National Guard off to Iraq. There wasn't much left to protect the Big Easy. Finally, factor in the increase in large hurricanes to make North American landfall in the last two years, and this was a disaster waiting to happen.

In the end, the only thing that saved NO from total destruction was the hurricane's choice to veer slightly east and drop to a 4 in the final moments. Still, the devastation was widespread and even the Superdome, one of the shelter locations set up for those who could not afford to flee, was ravaged by the storm.

None of this would have happened if our current administration had chosen to listen to people who pay attention to the state of the planet. Sure, it would have been expensive, but nowhere near as expensive as the insurance hits that Wall Street is going to eat. Improve the levees, restore the Delta, stop turning the mouth of the Mississippi into a dumping ground for all the shit dropped upstream.

And we could have done all that, had W not decided instead to give all his rich friends tax cuts and start an expensive war in a place not at all involved with terrorism.

Elsewhere, I have a much longer post on the same idea, but in short it's like this. There are certain foreseeable problems that can be prevented by a little action now. New Orleans is going to get hit by a hurricane. The midwest is going to be hit by a major earthquake within the next century, tops. The Pacific Northwest will see another big volcanic eruption within two decades. The east coast will face a devastating tsunami within a century, depending on how stable La Palma Island choses to be. The west will suffer forest fires and a major earthquake within the next decade.

And any one of those events will kill and displace more people than any terrorist attack on the US can or will. Hell, the evacuation of New Orleans displaced at least half a million people. Osama could only dream of coming so close. How long was New York shut down after 9/11, a week? Hah. The Big Easy will be out of commission for months. They'll be lucky if they're back in shape for next year's Mardi Gras, really.

Not to belittle either event, but my point is this. Terrorism is easily preventable at small cost, and with little disruption of the lives of ordinary people. Natural disasters, on the other hand, are not predictable, and the impact they have are orders of magnitude greater than even the most heinous of terrorist acts.

If W and company really want to protect the homeland, they'll stop wasting money on useless wars and bureaucracies designed to harass the innocent and, instead, they'll look at the potential problems that await us and apply preventative measures now. Up the building codes in the midwest, fix the delta and levees, implement a tsunami warning system on both coasts, create an evacuation plan for the Northwest. And, above all, stop living like every today is today and it's all fine. Stop living for the present and look to the future.

Oh, sorry. Forgot about whom I was talking. The asshats in charge only care about one thing. Themselves, right now. Their attitude is fuck tomorrow, fuck the future. Then again, Bush and company can hide in their hardened bunkers or get Air Force One to shuttle them all over the planet like scared bunnies (or pet goats) when danger lurks. And to hell with the rest of us.

I wonder how long it'll take W to get his ass down to New Orleans to view the disaster site. (At the moment, he's in San Diego, trying to duck the protesters.) After all, that's one of those traditional things that presidents do. But I wouldn't hold my breath. I mean, after 9/11, for example, Bill Clinton, who was in Australia, tried to hold back and get there later, since he was "only" an ex-president and all. He intentionally took his time and yet, he still got to New York before Bush did, even though, in theory, Bush was a two hour plane ride away.

But, that's right. Bush doesn't give a flying fuck about the people. Me and you and everyone we know. He only cares about his donors, the big money folk, and he's so alienated from reality that he cannot see nor hear the approbation being heaped on him now. I'd be damn surprised if he even manages to drag his ass down to the disaster area. I mean, why mess up a perfectly good vacation/fund-raiser, right? He'll probably heap aid on Mississippi, to help the good ol' boys, and try to blame the fate of New Orleans on all those boobies on display every February. Or he'll get Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell to do it for him, then try to deny.

Well, I'm sick of it. Our Feckless Leader does not deserve the power he's been given. He only deserves to be impeached, and then tried and convicted for his many, many crimes against humanity.

I'm an atheist, but I have to wonder -- why have those red states been hit by so many devastating storms ever since W. took office? It's the kind of thing that could almost make one believe in signs from the heavens. Hm. W's brother in power in Florida, more hurricanes make landfall there in the last year than in the last decade...

If a major ice storm hits DC this winter, I just might -- might -- start to question my lack of faith...

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