Thursday, June 19, 2008

Katrina Hits Home

By: Harry Waisbren

The Midwest flooding does not compare to Katrina in terms of level of catastrophe, but they have been very emblematic of some of the endemic problems in our society. First and foremost, the blatantly racist reaction following Hurricane Katrina in which our government and media spent more time worrying about how to prevent the coming Lord of the Flies level race riots as opposed to working to solve the problem has not been seen during this latest catastrophe. In fact, Rush Limbaugh has gone so far as to attack the black Katrina victims while praising the white Midwestern flood victims. I must admit, before Digby started chronicling this despicable state of affairs in the lead up and aftermath of Katrina, I did not fathom this being the case. However, as the racist id of the Republican party becomes increasingly unhinged in light of the prospect of a black President, it is becoming more and more apparent.

Quite unfortunately, the non-minority status of Midwest residents has proven to be little solace in light of the frightening degree of government malfeasance. This goes so far as FEMA blatantly lying to residents about their flood risks:

Around the country, thousands of residents who relied on risk maps from the Federal Emergency Management Agency may unknowingly face similar dangers.

"People put all their hopes in those levees, and when they do fail, the damage is catastrophic," said Paul Osman, the National Flood Insurance Program coordinator for Illinois. "New Orleans is the epitome; a lot of those people didn't even realize they were in a floodplain until the water was up to their roofs."

Even worse, as I discussed earlier this week, the global warming nature of this catastrophe has not only gone unreported, but warnings of climate change's effect on the likelihood for such floodings went completely unheeded (via Wonk Room):

The extreme storms and record-breaking floods that have devastated the Midwest, killing dozens, disrupting the nation’s infrastructure, causing billions of dollars in damage, and sending food prices skyrocketing, are consistent with the effects of global warming on the region predicted eight years ago.

In 2000, the National Assessment Synthesis Team of the US Global Change Research Program published “The Climate Change Impacts on the United States: The Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change,” with regional overviews of possible and likely changes due to global warming.

In the Midwest overview, the authors noted the effects of climate change that were already evident in the region:

Annual precipitation has increased, with many of the changes quite substantial, including as much as 10 to 20% increases over the 20th century. Much of the precipitation has resulted from an increased rise in the number of days with heavy and very heavy precipitation events. There have been moderate to very large increases in the number of days with excessive moisture in the eastern portion of the basin.

The Midwest, models predicted, would suffer from both extreme precipitation and increased drought, as the region warms

Depressingly, we should come to expect nothing less from Republican led governance and conglomerate controlled media, as the Wonk Room also emphasized how "unfortunately, just as with the Iraq debacle, Katrina, housing bubble, and September 11 attacks, experts warned against this type of disaster — but they have been ignored by the press and blackballed by this administration."

However, very fortunately, there has been a deep contrast between Barack Obama's reaction to the flooding and our president who gave us his best Mr. Mackey impression. Watch Keith Olbermann emphasizing and chronicling the depressing yet hopeful nature of this contrast:

This whole episode should remind us all of the importance of government that is responsive to the people. It also should remind us of what John McCain was doing while New Orleans drowned, and why this election really is that important.

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