Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Ron Silliman's post yesterday on the Katrina disaster is probably the best summation of the underlying socio-political problem I've read, Seth Abramson not withstanding. A number of you have doubtlessly already read this, but as Silliman posts so much and I can't seem to link to a specific date on his blog, I quote here:

...I will say one thing, though, at this early stage. The fault for this disaster doesn’t belong entirely to George W. Bush, even tho he and his thugocracy of a cabinet seem to have blundered for days before they understood that they had a problem. Nor is it entirely those of state and local officials. The levees in New Orleans were built to withstand a level 3 hurricane. Who among us doesn’t believe that every location on the Gulf of Mexico and Southeastern U.S. isn’t going someday to have to deal with a direct hit from a level 5?

Who in San Francisco doesn’t believe that the city will someday be hit with an earthquake every bit as large as the 9.0 that struck southeast Asia last December, setting off the tsunami? Yet there are thousands of San Franciscans living today in brick buildings. In a major earthquake, the mortar between bricks crumbles and the building simply falls on your head, World Trade Center style. That’s another disaster just waiting to happen. Nobody does anything about it because nobody wants to displace the 30,000 or so people who are – let’s face it – the least economically viable people in San Francisco, the least able to cope with that sort of dislocation. Every metropolitan area in the country has some pending disaster on a like level just waiting to happen. On a clear day, you can see the steam plumes from the Limerick nuclear power plant’s cooling towers in our skies here. In case of a meltdown, all the refugees from Pottstown & Phoenixville are supposed to crowd into our high school auditorium. Good fucking luck.

In the 1970s, a very evil man by the name of Howard Jarvis started the tax revolt that has driven the political right’s economic platform from Ronald Reagan – the president who claimed that government was the problem, not the solution – to George W. In between, more than a few others, such as Bill Clinton, have found it convenient to pander to the same general forces. All governmental institutions in the U.S., regardless of level or purpose, are underfunded. We have troops in Iraq buying armor with their own meager funds. We have a space program today that couldn’t safely land a man on the moon if it tried. We have a president who cut flood relief funds for New Orleans by 44 percent. In the 27 years since California put into place Proposition 13, it has seen its education programs – the very state institution on which California’s wealth has been built – nearly starved to extinction.

The disaster in New Orleans was not unforeseeable. But nobody has ever put the resources in place that would be capable of responding to something on this scale, even if it were done correctly. That it was done badly only exacerbates the catastrophe that was lurking all along.

It’s not just the politicians here who are to blame. It’s the fearful, greedy, inner tyrant in every one of us. Every politician – and every voter – who ever voted for a tax cut has blood on their hands this week. Those who have built careers on this may have a little more, as do those who have funded them, but it’s a problem for which we all have to take responsibility. The stench of it is the smell of death rising up from southern Louisiana & Mississippi, rubbing our own noses in our collective handiwork.
Whew! So true. For those who wish to donate, here's a link to the American Red Cross (also courtesy of Ron Silliman's site.)

Vis-a-vis my remarks abouit "not lifting a finger" a couple of posts back: My heart goes out to the victims, whose plight I see on the news every day, so those remarks now pain me more than ever (and they pained me at the time). Money, however, is not exactly lacking south of the border. I continue to believe that my personal $$ contributions, small as they could be, are better sent elsewhere. But I do send daimoku... and this I'd say is rather more than "lifting a finger".

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