Saturday, December 16, 2006

I survived the big blow of ought six
No, I don't mean the election. Last night the Northwest had a windstorm that came out of the North Pacific with torrential rain and near-hurricane force winds. Our friends in the Southeast might laugh at our 60-80 mph winds, just as our friends in Montana laughed at out our three-inch snowstorm a few weeks ago, but imagine the native conditions. That snowstorm hit an urban area of a million people with fewer than a hindered snowplows or sanding trucks. Last night's windstorm hit a dense rainforest that was only used to winds of half that speed. On many hundreds of streets heavy cedar or spruce branches broke loose and fell into the street, onto power lines, or both.

Outside of the city cores, most of the Northwest urban strip is without power a day later. About 1.5 million people are in the dark while the metropolitan and state authorities try to clear the fallen trees from the roads so they can get crews to the wires.

This morning, all of the schools were closed and most businesses were closed. Except mine. I had to go to work, and I had to cross the fjord-like Lake Washington to get there. The closest bridge was closed. At the height of the storm, they opened the draw span on the bridge, to avoid damage, and damaged the draw span doing it. This is not an unusual occurrence, but that is the route that I normally take to work, so I had to take a long, dark detour around the lake to get to work.

When I got there, a co-worker commented, "Well, the city only has so much equipment to deal with this. We'll just have to let them take their time." I responded, "yeah, normally we would call out the National Guard to deal with this, but they're all in Iraq." Normally, I keep my politics to myself, but I don't think anyone is surprised to find out that the gray-bearded hippie-looking guy is, in fact, a gray-bearded hippie.

Today, the pundit classes are all suggesting that President Bush will ignore the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group and and send more troops to Iraq. Sen. John McCain is encouraging this approach. Lieberman is encouraging it. Gen. Peter Schoomaker is encouraging it. No one will say where we will get the troops. Should we take the last of the Nation Guard? Should we call up the oldest of the reserve? Should we revive the draft? Or should we count on the patriotic young college Republicans to step up and fight the war they so strongly support?

Anyone who asks for more troops, without offering a source for getting those troops, is just playing a propaganda game. Or, to use the favorite word of the conservative pundits, they are not serious. It doesn't matter if they are Gen. Schoomaker, Sen. Lieberman, or St. McCain, demanding troops without offering a source for those troops is bullshit, pure and simple. Worse, they are encouraging the alcoholic Bush to play a gambler's game. Don’t give up while you still have something to save, bet the farm on a final roll of the dice in the hopes that one big win will reverse all of your previous losses, and make your folly worthwhile in the end.

If Bush was playing with his own fate, it might be safe to let him play this foolish game. Tragically, he's playing with the lives of thousands of Americans, tens of thousands of Iraqis, and the honor of America for a generation to come. When Bush retires, he will retreat into his bubble of prosperous sycophants and never face the consequences of his actions. Meanwhile, my neighbors and I must live in a world Bush has made measurably worse. When a natural disaster happens, we have no National Guard to help us even though that's what thousands of our fellow citizens volunteered to do and that's what all of us are paying for.

Every extra day we wait for the damage of this storm to be cleared away is as clearly the fault of George W. Bush as is each death in Iraq. My neighbors might not be able to notice every death in a foreign land, but I hope they can notice the impassability of their own streets and the darkness in their own houses.

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