Tuesday, August 30, 2005

commentary after katrina

Some post-hurricane observations...

Stop the Presses! Bush Not On Vacation!
Wha??? De facto President Bush cancelling the last couple of days of his epic vacation to do something about the hurricane? I love this quote from Bush: "We have a lot of work to do." All he's gonna do is chair a meeting. In any case, doesn't this flight from Sheehanville I mean Crawford undermine the whole "this is a working vacation" meme that the White House has been promulgating for the entire last month? I mean, if he was WORKING there he could've supervised the relief operations just as well from Texas as DC, right?

God and the Hurricane
One tourist from Nashville who was stranded in a New Orleans hotel said, "We prayed and sang and read the Word -- and God was with us." I'm glad the lady is OK, but I don't quite understand this whole "God was with us" thing. Couldn't He have helped this lady and a bunch more by sparing the entire Gulf Coast from this hurricane? In any case, God must have missed some prayers since the levee has broken and New Orleans is flooding pretty badly. Unpleasant quote of the day from the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin: "The city of New Orleans is in a state of devastation. We probably have 80 percent of our city under water."

We're Making Things Worse, part 1
In any case, human activity is making this sort of natural disaster even worse. Global warming is putting more energy into the weather system, making extreme weather events such as hurricanes AND blizzards more powerful and more frequent. And coastal erosion, caused by our re-routing of the Mississippi away from its natural meandering tendency, has weakened New Orleans' defense against hurricanes by eroding the Mississippi River delta; Louisiana loses 25 square miles of coastal land a year.

We're Making Things Worse, part 2
Like the Louisiana shoreline, our ability to respond to disasters like Hurricane Katrina continues to be eroded -- not just by the fact that thousands of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama National Guardsmen who could be used to respond are in Iraq, but by the downgrading of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the removal of disaster preparedness/response from its purview by the Bush Administration. As this writer, the director for emergency management in King County, Washington State said, we MIGHT be hit again by terrorists, but we WILL be hit by hurricanes and earthquakes and landslides and blizzards and maybe tsunamis and flu epidemics, too.

Bush, in a speech he made today about the end of World War II, assured the people in the stricken states that the federal government will be there to help them. Too bad it's a part of the federal government that doesn't cater to corporate interests and has therefore been starved and neglected. Message: you can't leave everything to the private sector. Remember that when you support politicians who want to reduce the size of government, you are really supporting people who want to starve emergency response and disaster assistance and job training and public schools and student loans and medical care for the poor and old.