Thursday, March 02, 2006


Our modern-day Nero

Emperor Nero was a teenager when he ascended to the Roman throne in 54 A.D., the beneficiary of the poisoning of the emperor Claudius by his wife, and Nero’s mother, Agrippina. Nero quickly got involved in nastiness, arranging for the murder of his wife and Agrippina (talk about ungrateful sons!), and then cavorted on the stage and participated in sports, cementing his dissolute reputation. But we remember Nero for fiddling while Rome burned in 62 A.D. The fiddling is, of course, just a myth; violins wouldn’t appear for centuries. But some contemporary accounts – dubiously regarded – accuse Nero of setting the fires himself. What isn’t in doubt, however, is that after the fire, Nero promoted the construction of private structures over public reconstruction. A few years later an irate Roman public watched with satisfaction as Nero was murdered and replaced by a council of four of his assassins. And now we have a new Nero. It turns out that Bush was warned about the possibility of the New Orleans levees breaking before the storm hit. And there’s a video of the warning. I admit I was shocked by this news, and that’s no mean feat. The Bush administration and GOP have been involved in so much dirt and incompetence it must be a concerted strategy to wear down our tolerance for scandal. Until now I thought Katrina was an example of Bush’s incompetence. Head of FEMA, Mike Brown, was an political crony, a friend of a friend with no practical experience – the appointment typical of an administration that values friends over competence. Bush’s non-reaction, I thought, typical of a man who doesn’t keep up on current events. He’s out of the loop. A dimwit disinterested in the hard, practical matters that belong to his office. Boy, was I wrong. It turns out that Bush just doesn’t give a sh*t about the citizens of the U.S. You know, the average joes who don’t have several billion dollars itching for an investment. He knew how severe the damage could be...and he went on vacation! And when reports started coming in that the levees did break, he did...nothing. When finally his office pushed him into action, he lied. He claimed no one could anticipated the levees would break. Responding to disaster is part of a president’s job! Does anyone doubt any other president would have done better with Katrina? Does anyone doubt that anyone could have done a better job? I suspect if we pulled a raving, homeless lunatic off the street corner, gave him a pint of Wild Turkey and put him behind the Oval Office desk, and said, “hey, there’s a hurricane headed towards New Orleans, it’s bad, and it might break the levees,” don’t you think even that madman drunk would have said something like – I dunno – “send in the Guard!” It all makes sense now. The Iraq war. The slashing of benefits of veterans. Bush avoiding military funerals. The tax cuts for the rich. The slashing of student loans. The illegal wiretapping. The no-bid contracts for coroprate cronies. Seen through the prism of Katrina, it all makes sense. He's a rich, sheltered patrician who feels contempt for 99% of Americans. He'll send us off to get shot, he'll drown us, he'll take prescription drugs from seniors, he'll throw us in jail without a trial, and he won't bat an eye. If this is the GOP's "compassionate" conservative, protect us from the uncompassionate ones!
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