Clean Water, Hot Fire, Lost Cat

Not to mention a chocolate banana

My old gray cat has gone missing, and I blame George W. Bush. My cat has been gone a couple of weeks now. We've scoured and leafleted the neighborhood, checked the animal shelters and such. People have called with a couple of leads, one of them being to point out some tufts of gray fur a block away and speculate that coyotes got my cat.

They've been doing that of late, the coyotes, coming down that little strip of wilderness into the Back Bay and then into my suburban neighborhood, where the pavement has prevailed for half a century. Drought conditions have driven them out of their habitat in search of food, which is really not how my cat preferred to be regarded.

He may just come strolling back in the door any day now, fresh from my having inadvertently mailed him to Des Moines. Even if coyotes got him, they've been foraging in Costa Mesa since 1998. They're Clinton-era coyotes! So why do I blame George W. Bush?

Because he's such a damned awful president. Because Clinton at least recognized global warming was a problem. Because the Republicans in Congress stymied any action on global warming then, so that Bush can now dither, saying maybe it's real, but not as real as businesses' bottom lines, however smudgy the accounting may be.

And meanwhile, have you noticed that global warming is already here? That the words "worst ever" keep cropping up in relation to heat waves, droughts, fires, cold snaps, floods, species die-offs and such? That the western United States, New Jersey, Florida and other areas have become tinderboxes? That glaciers are melting at an alarming rate? That the closest thing to nightlife in some of our towns happens to be roving packs of thirsty coyotes?

Your own personal head will probably be on fire before Bush catches on that global warming is a problem that can't be handled by cooking the books. As America this year headed into its worst fire season on record, do you know what the ever-prescient Bush administration did? In March, it proposed cutting federal firefighting funds by more than $100 million.

Granted, Bush is distracted by terrorism, which is better than him being distracted by dust bunnies, which would probably be the case if there weren't a terrorist threat. But even assessing things from a homeland-security vantage, he's blowing it. In the name of said security, we're presently spending billions upon billions on a missile-defense shield that may never work (the Bushites, incidentally, are doing their best to shield it and other military boondoggles from congressional and taxpayer oversight), and if it did work, it would increase our security not a whit since any prudent terrorist would just ship a nuclear weapon in.

And if you were a terrorist, why should you even bother doing that, when all you need is a book of matches to cause billions of dollars of damage in our dryer states, some of which even voted for Bush? This isn't the time for the White House to willfully ignore the probable causes of the conditions that allow that, or to slash firefighting budgets, or to cynically use fire prevention as a reason to allow loggers to cut old growth trees despite studies showing the older trees help inhibit fire conditions.

In light of Washington running roughshod over solid science and the informed concerns of much of its constituency, it was very reassuring to see the public's will prevail last Wednesday on the local level, when the Orange County Sanitation District finally saw the pootie on the wall and consented to abandon its federal waiver of the Clean Water Act that had allowed them to pump partially treated sewage into the ocean.

This never would have happened without folks like Larry Porter, Joey Racano and others devoting thankless years to the task. Every big change starts small, with a few people taking up a lonely vigil (which reminds me that my pal Mike Mang and others are still out protesting our war in Afghanistan every Friday at 6 p.m. across from South Coast Plaza). However quixotic it may have seemed—who cares about sewage meetings?—eventually lots of people cared.

I went to the meeting prior to this one, and hundreds more people showed up than could even get into the meeting hall. A PA speaker was placed outside for them. While people inside the meeting were admonished not to cheer the anti-waiver speakers' comments, there was this ghostly sound of the distant cheering of the throng locked outside every time a point was made.

It's hard enough for citizens to find time to attend such things, but they really had to jump through hoops at the Sanitation District offices. When I arrived for that meeting, traffic was backed up onto Ellis Avenue, blocking freeway exit lanes and causing a real snarl. It took me 30 minutes to reach a parking spot.

The reason? There was a bottleneck where uniformed Wackenhut security guards were writing down the license plate number and name of everyone driving in. Maybe in these post-Sept. 11 times, you just can't take any chances—"I'm sorry, Mr. President. Who ever expected the terrorists would go after our shit?" But it also made exercising our democratic rights that much harder.

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