Holding a Politician’s Feet to the Lava
Nearly every word uttered by every politician is a cynical ploy to jockey for position in the electorate’s esteem. The impact of every phrase is focus-grouped, polled, and otherwise calculated to within 4 decimal places. Enduring torrents of allegedly appealing bullshit is the price we pay for creating a class of leaders for whom popularity is synonymous with job security. It beats monarchy, but barely.
Rather than serving as a bulwark against the nonsense, our media is a clearinghouse collecting noise from politicians and distributing it to us still unfiltered for truth. That’s not to say it’s entirely unfiltered, but anyone who needs commentary from Frank Rich or Pat Buchanan to decide how to vote shouldn’t be voting in the first place. I don’t need the media for polemics -I’m good enough at that myself- I just want a little “Full of Shit” sign to appear any time a politician’s truthiness wavers. Or when he’s just plain full of shit.
As of Monday, Iceland’s sub-glacial Eyjafjallajokull volcano had grounded 95,000 flights in Europe. The interruption in commerce is estimated to have cost the United States economy about $130 million a day. European economies have lost billions of dollars and millions of people were left stranded. In Iceland, 700 people were evacuated from their homes. In addition to damage caused by toxic and abrasive smoke, lava, and falling rocks, the melted glacial ice continues to cause severe flooding. Volcanic eruptions are dangerous and costly events.
Recall that after Barack Obama’s 2009 State of the Union address, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal gave the Republican response. In sing-song cadences, he told us that the President’s policies would lead to economic ruin (one wonders about Jindal’s silence during the Bush presidency), and that the stimulus package was a wasteful burden on taxpayers. One of his specific grievances stuck with me for over a year: Jindal lamented that the 140 million dollars designated for “something called volcano monitoring” was an example of wasteful spending and the government not trusting us to know what to do with our own money.
Jindal’s anti-scientific nonsense actually got worse. He went on to say that “instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending.” Get it? Eruption! How clever! How cute! This speech, this dangerously stupid speech, was the product of very careful consideration and vetting. In the judgment of Jindal and his handlers, volcano monitoring is not worthwhile.
In the judgment of anyone whose head is not up his ass, anything as potentially dangerous and economically disruptive as a volcano should be carefully studied, but the volcano is not the issue. What I can’t stand is that our media lets Jindal get away with his comments. He made a very specific claim in front of a national audience. One simple piece of data proved his foolishness, but soundbites are ephemera and so no one cares to revisit that particular plume of nonsense. Get it? Plume!