Saturday, September 10, 2005


This post is not about blame in connection with the tragedy at New Orleans. Let us look forward and work to prepare for future catastrophes. There are dams all over the country. There are nuclear plants, chemical plants, and other sites that could be turned into a catastrophe if modern technology were applied by terrorists.

Locally, we have Cochiti Dam. We also have something, which most of us are vaguely aware of, but do not know and understand, here at Sandia Base and Kirtland Air Force Base and in the Manzanos. We have an obviously vulnerable Big I.

Whether these devastations occur by act of God, by negligence of our own people, or by intentional acts of suicidal terrorists, we need to be prepared. The people are ready; they are compassionate, generous, and with some few exceptions are honest and willing to help each other. Do we have plans? Is there a plan for what to do if Cochiti Dam lets go? When we say plan, we must mean plan and arrangements to implement the plan. Group I does this; Group II does this; other groups are ready, in reserve, and able to act; and through an ever widening circle of groups, we contain and help.

The first question is, does government have a role in these matters, preventing catastrophes and helping when there are catastrophes? Most would say, of course, obviously, the question is ridiculous. But then why do we praise all of the individual contributions, from unaffected communities, to the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and Habitats for Humanity [is this not a token, feel-good, help organization, using and abusing the name of our best living president, Jimmy Carter]?

The next question is, should the people pitch in and contribute money or foodstuffs, or other supplies? Of course, among themselves, the victims. But why should people in New York and Alaska and New Mexico contribute money for the relief of deserving victims of a catastrophe in Louisiana? Is not this a matter that should be handled by the government? This is a government matter, or it is a matter to be handled by individuals, voluntarily, through private charitable work. We could leave this out of the government sector, but we do not recommend that.

We, the people, want to help at these times. That is good, but our help should be to fill in the nooks and crannies. The government [taxpayers, the parties to the social contract] should carry the burden in general.

Next question. If we agree that the government should take this responsibility, which government? City, state, or federal? Historically, the settlement (local village where you were born) had the responsibility. That is the origin of the rule that when you have to go there, they have to take you in. Later, alms houses were the responsibility of the counties. Then the states; and now, why not the United States? The paupers can travel from state to state, and when the pauper [for example, a quadriplegic who is broke] ends up in Santa Fe, who should pony up? The United States is the right answer.

We believe that it is the government, the federal government, with the resources of the federal taxpayers, that should be prepared to prevent, if possible, and to help, rescue, alleviate and work to minimize the effects of the catastrophe.