Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

"This is our Tsunami"

So spoke Biloxi Mayor A. J. Holloway upon witnessing the devastation Hurricane Katrina visited on Mississippi and Louisiana. As Americans open their checkbooks and pour millions of dollars in private donations--and surely billions soon in public funds--to aid the victims of what may turn out to be the greatest natural disaster in U.S. history, we must do more than answer the cries of grief.

We must also listen to the warning. Because this catastrophe has more in commmon with the 2004 Christmas tsunami than just the scenes of coastal devastation; like the tsunami, it was also preventable.

No, the earthquake which caused the tsuanmi could not have been stopped by modern technology, nor can we control the weather. But just as the Indian Ocean could have been equipped with tsunami warning systems, so we could have built better dams and levees in Louisiana. Are such things expensive? Yes.

But it's not like we don't have the money. We have now spent $192 billion on a certain Middle Eastern military venture. And we regularly spend half a trillion a year on "national defense." What could we do with money on that scale--even just a fraction of it--to defend our nation from what really threatens us?

We could have built dams and levees that withstood Hurricane Katrina--a few billion a year buys a lot of sandbags. We could have built a lot of tsunami warning systems. It's time we look at "Homeland Security" in this broader sense. It's time to make investments in national defense that we know will pay off. It's time to invest in the protection and preservation of our climate and our planet. It's time to aggressively protect our citizens.

Mount Ranier in Washington State is a ticking bomb. It is widely expected to erupt before this century ends. Heck, it could be tomorrow. California will experience "The Big One" before 2100 (many predict much sooner.) There will be regular hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and tornadoes in the Midwest. And then there's the best-predicted, most-watched, oncoming world-wide flood in history: global climate change. Coming to a coastline near you sometime this century.

When the ocean levels rise and coastal cities everywhere--Miami, Washington D.C., New York, Boston--join the ranks of the drowned; when the Mississippi delta looks like the Ganges and every year brings hurricanes worse than Katrina... what will they say? Will they wring their hands and say, "how could we know?" Will they say, "there was nothing we could have done?" Oh yes. They will try. The conservative elite will wave their hands and try to make us forget that it was all preventable.

But the truth is we all can see it coming and it just costs more than they are willing to spend. So instead of taking reasonable precautions to prevent a global cataclysm, we sit like a stubborn old Victorian lady having her tea in the middle of the highway, dismissing all those who try to warn her of an oncoming convoy, saying, "I've already got everything set up just the way I like it! You can't be certain one of them will hit me. I just can't be bothered to move."

So when you send your money to the Red Cross, send a note to your Senators to remind them an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And when you send your thoughts and prayers to the families devastated by this hurricane, spare a thought also to the global tsunami to come.


Anonymous said...

I, too, am angry that a city below sea level had no go-to plan for what to do if the whole place were flooded. The Gulf Coast is not only a poor area, but an area with political allergies to taxes and public spending. As usual, the federal government will help out (with blue state money, of course).

Dr. Strangelove is also correct about California's danger, but I think by contrast CA has done quite a bit to ameliorate any future disaster. Building codes and new technologies have made dramatic changes.  

// posted by Law Talking Guy

Anonymous said...

There's a great song I know, by the way, about a pregnant teenager in a midwest floodplain who knows she can't afford the kid or anything else that's become part of her bleak life. Got pregnant, guy ran out on her, etc. These are genuine calamities, and nobody offers any help. By contrast, floods happen regularly, "but they always find money for floods."

It is worth asking why the same people who won't give a hand up to people in need scream for FEMA if their business is threatened by a natural disaster they knew could happen. 

// posted by Law Talking Guy

Anonymous said...

Not to be insensitive, but we will also pay in higher insurance premiums and at the gas pump. The Gulf Coast has some of the biggest ports in the country (which makes you wonder where all the profit from those ports goes).

And I'd like you all to notice that the CNN coverage isn't showing that many white people in trouble. I am not sure what the racial ratios of New Orleans are, but the victims sure look poor and black. And that takes me to something I heard on NPR on Monday. They were interviewing a local teacher about his plans for evacuation. He said he was planning on taking his family to the Super Dome. When asked why he wasn't leaving town with his family, he said that to leave town you needed two things, money and a car. I guess unlike California, not everyone in New Orleans has a car. He mentioned that he had given money to some of the families of his students for gas. I totally didn't get it at the time. But yes, it is a poor place. And $40 for a tank of gas is a lot of money.

Someone on CNN said, "my it looks like a 3rd world country. Did you ever thing you would see such a thing in a major American city? Well, gee, there is a reason it looks like a 3rd world country. There are parts of this country that are 3rd world! Tells you something about who is doing the reporting and how often they get out.

There was also denial. On Monday, the reporter on NPR raised the possibility of the levy breaking and was told that was a long shot. And when he pointed out that Katrina was a Level 4-5 hurricane and that the levy was built to handle a Level 3 at best, the response was flippant. It was like, "oh well, we can't imagine it happening. So it won't. And if it does, we'll deal with it then."

And then, you don't have national guard or troops because they are all deployed in Iraq trying to bring power and water to Baghdad. Watch how nervous Bush gets now. Iraq is off the front page, but what the government does at home is suddenly the focus of attention. No one wants "big government" nor do they want to pay taxes. But at the first chance, they run to the federal government for the money.

And while all of this was going on, there were some major news events elsewhere. The F.D.A.'s head of the office of women's health resigned in protest over a decision to delay approving over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill. Let's not forget that news nugget.  

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

By the way, I'm not sending a dime to the Red Cross and neither should anyone else. In 9/11, you remember, they took all these donations then pocketed them. There has been no promise to spend every dime on New Orleans this time.

We have donated to two national religious-based charities, both of whom have solid track records, low overhead, and boots on the ground now. (American Friends Service Cmte and Episcopal Relief Fund). There are plenty of others (secular too, of course) worth donating to. 

// posted by LTG

Dr. Strangelove said...

I know there were some problems with the Red Cross' handling of 9/11 donations, but I thought they addressed that and returned all the funds. The Red Cross is--I believe--currently mounting its biggest relief effort ever. I disagree, LTG: sending money to the Red Cross is fine. But there are many other worthy charities (perhaps also with lower administrative overhead) that we should consider, such as the ones LTG mentioned. For me, Habitat for Humanity comes to mind.

Anonymous said...

Forgive me for not trusting them. They didn't return any funds, by the way. I didn't get mine back. They said they were going to put it into relief efforts for 9/11 and be more up front next time that they have long-term needs. I doubt they have a segregated Katrina fund. Their website does not indicate this. 

// posted by Law Talking Guy

Anonymous said...

The red cross thing is a red herring. The most important issue brought up in this thread is RACE. African Americans are going to see this Hurricane as proof positive that White Americans in general and the Bush administration in particular don't care about them. Frankly, I wouldn't blame them a bit for believing it. Given the enormous amount of emperical evidence before us, I'd say they would be correct. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

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