Friday, December 09, 2005

Pompeii on the Mississippi

We had to know this was coming. Anybody in the government remember "Katrina?" Ring a bell?

[Of course, since when does knowing in advance that a particular event or decision would turn out badly count for anything in this country? (front pages from Newseum)]

THREE MONTHS after the epic flood, we are specimens of congressional torture. Network celebrities who swept through for disaster backdrops are gone. The suffering in the Superdome and Convention Center is old footage. Torturing a city is tougher coverage for soft newsbodies.
Apathy toward the dying neighborhoods stains the Social Darwinists who run Congress. They wear the masks of prolife Christians. As Nero fiddled while Rome burned, these Jesus-lovers yawn at a city on the rack, their pensions safe in the mammoth debt furnished by the worst US president ever.
President Bush came to Jackson Square in September and promised a sweeping recovery. His backers in Congress recoiled from the cost.
The leadership vacuum from the White House to Baton Rouge to City Hall is frightening. There is no other word for it. Bush makes nebulous remarks about helping ''the people down in Katrina" (we are a new geography), but his priority is counterattacking critics of the Iraq war.

Another article calls for New Orleans to be completely abandoned, simply because the author doesn't forsee Bush ever giving enough of a crap about it to ensure that it is sufficiently protected.
But while encouraging city residents to return home and declaring for the media audience that "we will do whatever it takes" to save the city, the President earlier this month formally refused the one thing New Orleans simply cannot live without: A restored network of barrier islands and coastal wetlands.
How could this administration, found totally unprepared for the first Katrina, not see the obvious action needed to prevent the next one? My theory is that Bush hears "wetlands" and retreats to a blind, ideological aversion to all things "environmental." Which perhaps explains why in multiple speeches given during six photo-op trips to the Gulf since Katrina hit, the President has not one time mentioned the words barrier islands or wetlands. Not once.
"Either they don't get it or they just don't care," said Mark Davis, director of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. "But the results are the same: more disaster."
So stop the repairs; put the brooms and chain saws away. Close the few businesses that have re-opened. Leave the levees in their tattered state and get out. Right now. Everybody. It's utterly unsafe to live there.
To encourage people to return to New Orleans, as Bush is doing, without funding the only plan that can save the city from the next Big One, is to commit an act of mass homicide. If, after all the human suffering and expense of this national ordeal, the federal government can't be bothered to spend the cost of a tunnel from Logan Airport to downtown Boston, then the game is truly over.

While I don't agree with any solution that calls for surrendering an entire American city (in this case, a particularly important American city) due to Bush's monumental incompetence, the point is well taken.

As unthinkable as it was that Bush could have done something worse after his illegal war... the Katrina response is the worst crime of the Bush presidency.

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