Thursday, August 23, 2007

London Bridge--It's not what's falling down...

After the agony of waiting to find out the fate of the trapped Utah miners comes word that mine management may have been cutting corners when it comes to getting coal out of the ground. (Gives new meaning to the environmentalist slogan, "Coal is the enemy of the human race.")

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In a disaster of a different kind, the aftermath of the earthquake in Peru brought on the unfortunate, yet predictable scourge of looting. No wonder--most of Peru is extremely poor to begin with, and the quake made a bad situation worse. The hand wringing over the pilfering brings to mind the kerfluffle over the looting that resulted from Hurricane Katrina's unwanted visit.

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The next wave...

In addition to the widespread havoc and suffering caused in the Caribbean by Hurricane Dean, as the maelstrom slams into Mexico, some of the Gulf of Mexico's oil platforms have been shut down temporarily. This could mean another breathtaking, nausea-inducing ride on the petroleum price roller coaster!

A few weeks back, as a result of a stroll to the used-book emporium, Second Story Books, I happened upon a practical guide called Apocalypse Chow, which purports to be a cookbook for "How to Eat Well When the Power Goes Out," but it's chock full of emergency preparedness tips, as the authors, Jon and Robin Robertson, are veterans of four (count 'em!) major hurricanes. However, they caution that their book is intended for "...survivors who merely have to struggle without electrical power for days or weeks. It's for people whose houses are still safe to live in or those who have fled to the safety of a distant motel." For most of us, there are enough safety tips within to help in case of such an emergency, but of course, it's best to browse this book before a storm actually hits!

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A lack of funding, which state and federal governments are now scrambling to uncover--and even Governor Pawlenty of Minnesota, who vetoed two generous transportation bills, has now had a change of heart. Hmm...this would amount to how much per body?

Adding to the general disgraceful state of the infrastructure is the American penchant for the new over the true, our addiction to the flashy and shiny, but not to borrrrrrrring upkeep... Senator Charles Schumer, recently quoted in the New York Times, aptly said, "...routine but important things like maintenance always get shortchanged because it's nice for somebody to cut a ribbon for a new structure." Of course, this affliction affects how we choose to fund transportation projects.

However, I've also wondered about the wisdom of allowing a bridge to remain open while it's under construction. Sadly, I have my answer with the Minnesota bridge collapse, so I'll quit complaining about the temporary closure of the Douglass Bridge in DC.

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Another type of infrastructure has gained increasing attention of late--the increasing unnetted high-wire act known as the American health care "system."

The latest casualties of this crazy quilt are young adults, the largest single group of the uninsured in America, according to the Commonwealth Fund. The excuses that insurers offer is that young people feel they don't need insurance because they think they're invincible. This is nonsense, because in every other industrialized nation, everyone is covered, regardless of age--coverage is mandatory in those countries. (at least for for people under certain income brackets, such as in Germany).

When will the excuses about not providing universal health coverage in America come to an end?

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