In a spirit of genuine nonpartisan comity, I did listen intently, and with an open mind, to what Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal offered as the Republican response to President Obama’s February 24 speech to a joint meeting of Congress and to the American public.
First off, after the previous eight years, it was refreshing to know that a Republican leader can deliver complete sentences without making up words. However, almost as immediately as that epiphany raised my spirits, it became manifest that that was the highlight of his near 15-minute oratory. Rather, it seemed a spiraling surrealistic déjà vu theme park roller coaster ride through Alice’s looking glass.
Governor Jindal told the nation that a handful of Louisiana fishermen, in their 15-foot outboards, were — and would be — more effective than the “heckova job” Bush/Republican federal government led agencies, when it came to apocalyptic natural disasters. Over and over the governor told us that was because “Americans can do anything.” I could barely restrain myself from adding “better than Republicans.”
He then went directly to the current economic crisis, condemning the Democratic president and congress for rejecting the present GOP plans that were, by the way, the very same schemes that got us and the world into the mess.
As evidence of the terrible waste within the $797 billion rescue package, Jindal cited the proposal to purchase $300 million worth of new cars for the federal government. I haven’t done the math: $300 million divided by $797 BILLION, but I’ve no doubt that Jindal is probably correct, that the percentage is stunning.
The governor’s cited evidence did prompt me to ponder a few possibly relevant questions. Like, were the vehicles to be purchased replacing older, less fuel efficient, less polluting than those they’d replace? Were those they were replacing going to be replaced in the near future anyway? And, were these new vehicles going to be manufactured and assembled in American plants, by Americans, and wasn’t that the point of the whole thing — putting Americans to work?
Also included in the presentation of evidence was the cited planned appropriation of $8 billion on high-speed rail projects. A few points: First, the way he jammed it together, in a single sentence, “. . . including” — which I kinda think no one was supposed to actually hear, sort of akin to super fine print warnings — “a magnetic levitation line from Las Vegas” (OHHHH, the SIN!!!) to Disneyland” (OHHHH, it’s all such a “small” [silly] “world after all.”).
It’s here that I feel impelled to bring some perhaps perspective-changing facts to the discussion. It seems that Governor Jindal wanted his audience to slide right past them, the way state troopers hidden in the median brush want speeding motorists to do.
1.) The United States lags sorely behind the majority of industrialized countries when it comes to non- or low-polluting, energy efficient, high-speed transportation. As every motorist must by now be frustratingly aware, we spend endless hours every day, sitting in parking lots that are misnamed freeways, watching untold dollars spew in fumes out our tailpipes. Cough, cough, cough.
2.) The route noted is among the most heavily traveled. Regardless how the governor sought to insert notions of bawdry sin and frivolousness with “Las Vegas” and “Disneyland,” the route between LA and Las Vegas will not be made less congested thereby.
3.) Whether it’s via I-210 to I-15, or I-10 to I-15, motorists still have to pass through one of the deadliest in the country west and north of San Bernardino. That it is one of the deadliest is not attributable to either the design of the road nor necessarily the carelessness of motorists. The problem owes to the need to get from the LA basin to the high desert. That transition, from one climate zone to another, makes the route perhaps the most dramatically scenic of all metropolitan cores in the United States. You climb, and climb, and climb, and climb around broad sweeping curves that are subject to wind gusts that can exceed 50 miles per hour and sudden blinding fog and sudden blinding dust.
4.) The project has been “shovel ready” for years.
5.) The project, as with all others contained in the package, will put AMERICANS to work, which most agree, is the point.
Without the parenthesis, a parenthetical observation is in order. I’ve traveled I-10, from Florida to California a number of times. I swear, or affirm, to all that the very most miserable section of that 3,000 mile Interstate is in Governor Jindal’s state of Louisiana. It’s horrible, mind wrenching, fatiguing mile after mile after mile after god-forsaken, unending miles of bumpity-bump, bumpity-bump, bumpity-bump, bumpity-bump, bumpity-bump as the car passes over the elevated sections of concrete that cross through the bayous. Then, heaping additional misery to the trek, motoring the route from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm over the two very narrow lanes each direction. . . Road-kill moves more rapidly. Governor, I have an idea: How about an elevated, magnetic levitation line between the Big Easy and Baton Rouge and Lafayette?
Included in Governor Jindal’s presentation of evidence, supporting his assertion the package was loaded with unnecessary, useless pork, was the $140 million allocated to monitor volcanoes. (Actually, it’s for volcanoes and other seismic phenomena.) Why did Mt. St. Helens spring to mind, when you raised the issue? And what about Hawaii? I mean, if I were a resident of those areas, or a visitor, I’d be interested in forecasts that might forewarn me of the possible risk of being killed by volcanic eruptions. Really, I would.
But, and this is a real kicker, how many can name what is potentially the very most lethal natural disaster confronting the US?