Thursday, September 01, 2005

Where is Jonathan Swift when we need him?

That may explain why they are calling it "Lake George"--New Orleans looks like a scene from a disaster movie. Thousands may have died but we don’t know the real number because much of the area is covered with a fetid, poisonous sea, in effect, the world’s largest toxic waste dump, filled with chemicals, excrement, dead animals and humans, gasoline and oil and a huge collection of bacteria and viruses. It may take half a year to drain. The economies of three of America’s poorest states are now almost non-existent or at least severely hobbled, and one of the world’s most interesting and beautiful cities in uninhabitable and will have to be evacuated--if, however, roaming bands of looters and gangs of armed thieves can be subdued. Water levels in the city are now equal to the water level in Lake Pontchartrain because the city has, in essence, become part of the lake. Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless, most of them without food or water. This is not Bangladesh or Sri Lanka, it’s here. Both the regional and federal government was unprepared for a disaster this size although everyone knew one was inevitable. It is what happens when the Yahoos take over.

Knew it was inevitable you say? In 2004 and earlier this year, the New Orleans Times-Picayune [by all means click here] printed a series of stories warning this would happen because federal spending on disaster relief and flood control was cut, largely to fund the Iraq war. You are invited to see Will Bunch’s piece in Editor and Publisher here. Much of the federal dollars for protection against this kind of thing went to the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project but that money was essentially cut off by the Bush administration, the newspaper said, and the Army Corps of Engineers was never shy in giving the war and funding for homeland security as reasons. We might also add the tax cuts. We wouldn’t want the transfer of wealth to the very rich get interrupted. The Times-Picayune, publishing now only on its website because it had to abandon its print facilities, can now add: “No one can say they didn’t see it coming... Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation.” Maybe. As John Stewart said the other night, President Bush owes his great health to regular exercise and a total disengagement from reality.

Which brings up global warming, a phenomenon that the Yahoos insisted was not real and when finally forced to acknowledge it might be a problem, insisted nothing be done about it. The number and ferocity of hurricanes--which have both increased in recent years--may in fact be attributable to changes in the climate. Keay Davidson, points out in the San Francisco Chronicle that as bad as Katrina may have been, it won’t be the last of the season and the Gulf Coast could be in for an extended period of gigantic storms. The generator, according to some experts: global warming. But the Bush administration has refused to sign the Kyoto agreement or to acknowledge it is serious. That battle continues as the Know-nothings in Congress continue their warfare against scientists who warn against climate shift. See Irene Sege’s story in the Boston Globe about what is happening to a professor at UMass who keeps insisting the climate is warming.

And of course, it is not just the hurricane. At the FDA, the scientist in charge of women’s health issues quit this week because the FDA, putting politics before science, has again delayed approval of the morning-after pill without prescription. The agency’s own scientists and an outside advisory board both concluded that the pill, Plan B, was safe, but the FDA, now run by the Yahoos, despite the promise to make a decision by today, delayed it again. Susan F. Wood, a woman of honor, did the honorable thing and resigned publicly. What is interesting about this argument is that opposition to the pill comes from antiabortionists even though the pill--which does not kill a fetus--actually would reduce the number of abortions.

Where is Jonathan Swift when we need him?

By what I could discover, the YAHOOS appear to be the most unteachable of all animals: their capacity never reaching higher than to draw or carry burdens. Yet I am of opinion, this defect arises chiefly from a perverse, restive disposition; for they are cunning, malicious, treacherous, and revengeful. They are strong and hardy, but of a cowardly spirit, and, by consequence, insolent, abject, and cruel.

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