Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Levee Town

I watched lots of stats marshalling on my CBS TV last night, mostly about approval/dis of that Oval Office guy (oval like a cowboy hat they tell me -- so like how many gallons?). In this skit I imagine, some pollster's on the phone: "so whaddya think of the job our prez is doin'?" Ten minutes later, phone rings again: "so how 'bout now?"

It's those levees that've got my attention. Like, I wouldn't move back or invest if I thought The Flintstones were still in charge. Ol' Hurricane Harry of 2010 might obliterate my casino again. And what about those pumps? They tell me one of the last to croak was this 1929 jobber. True? Makes a good story anyway. And some giant screw of Archimedes by Leonardo himself, was still turning at 10 feet under (!) -- not that this helped much.

I recall some dinner conversation in Portland, many months before Katrina, where I soaked up some talk about those levees. New Orleans was a disaster waiting to happen, was the gist of it. I listened, wide eyed, incredulous, as if to some episode of Believe It or Not. Little did I realize how soon would come my chance to believe.

And at that St. Helen's viewing center north of here, they show this movie about Mt. Rainier having a bad hair day, shuffing off a glacier or two (no big eruption or anything, just a hiccup, or a sigh), and what that might be like. Picture a sudden river/tsunami smashing through used car lots, playgrounds, Burger Kings. Did the people evacuate in time?

And that IMAX movie: there's this pattern of earthquakes, marching rather predictably it seems, with Istanbul (or some suburb thereof) in the cross-hairs. The older mosques have already weathered a few and are still standing. It's the speculators who throw up the cheap apartments, cut corners against code, play dice with the lives of Allah's children.

Bottom line: many disasters have been queued by Mother Nature, a few of which we're even half expecting. God to humans: "you'll need to stay alert." Humans: (lost in some soap) "upgrading those levees will just have to wait Mr. Almighty Sir, we've gotta keep winning against those godless communists!" Satan snickers. Remember the story: angels were deeply jealous God had found this new love, these wingless humans, and the meaner ones (Satan the meanest) just love it when we goof up big time.

Another skit: journalists break into the Pentagon, inner sanctum, expecting to find all these maps of the Middle East, but it turns out everyone's focused on levees, earthworks, evacuation plans, other civil engineering. "We haven't been into war planning for years," some general confides sheepishly, "that's more a big business thing." Cutaway to Raytheon or other beltway bandit hide-out: now here's a real war room (very reassuring) and yep, a war with Iran might mean selling a few hundred cruise missiles through Congress (kaching!).

And hey, speaking of cruise missiles, did anyone even ask if the word "tomahawk" might be copyrighted? I bet they owe billions and won't pay. Them forked tongue lawyers never pay -- the Injuns learned that early -- far cheaper to just change the law.

Rrrring. "So how 'bout now?"