I’ve been digging through the memory hole lately and was reminded of Focus On The Family’s Stuart Shepard, who in 2008 asked the faithful to pray for rain of Biblical proportions — torrential, “umbrella-ain’t-gonna-help-you” rain — to drown out Barack Obama’s DNC nomination speech. He literally was asking for a deluge of rain. “Urban and small stream flood advisory rain!” — those were his words.
What an ass. So, fast forward four years and Colorado Springs, home of Focus on the Family, is engulfed in flames. Tens of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate, homes have been burned to the ground, etc. etc.
Meanwhile Tampa, FL, where the Republican National Convention will meet later this summer, is flooding. Yes, Tropical Storm Debby has spawned those torrential, “urban and small stream flood advisory rains” Shepard prayed for. Woopsies.
One might say God has a sense of humor. A sick one, at that.
I’ve wondered how the Christian, libertarian paradise of Colorado Springs is handling this disaster. Remember, this is the town that voted against a property tax increase, instead opting to severely cut city services. Trash pick-up, police protection and bus service was slashed; even streetlights were deactivated.
Anti-government zealots hailed it as a model for the future; Michelle Malkin, who lives in Colorado Springs, gushed:
“Self-reliance. Privatization. Thrift. Fiscal accountability. The liberals in Denver and Washington could learn something from our Mountain West spirit if they could just get over their Colorado Springs Derangement Syndrome.”
So now that the place is on fire, how are they doing? As with any disaster, there have been remarkable stories of neighbors helping neighbors, people pitching in to lend a hand and pooling emergency donations in the face of disaster. This is as it should be: crisis brings out the best in humanity. We saw it here in Nashville during our floods. So, yay people.
And then we have finger-pointing from the usual quarters. Michelle Malkin, no longer cheering “our Mountain West spirit,” is blaming President Obama for the firefighting fleet’s declining numbers — from 44 a decade ago to just nine today. She carps:
The Obama administration’s neglect of the federal government’s aerial tanker fleet raises acrid questions about its core public safety priorities.
But she conveniently ignores the “free hand of the market” reasons for the fleet’s decline, as explained in the New York Times last week:
The contractor-owned planes, refurbished from military use and leased by the United States Forest Service, have been hobbled by accidents and mechanical problems, leading to growing safety concerns and calls for a major overhaul. A decade ago, the government had 44 large tanker planes at its command. Now, with fires raging from California to Colorado to Wyoming, the regular fleet is down to nine.
Modern airplanes are available, some able to skim up a bellyful of water from a lake without even stopping to land and thus to conduct dozens of drops a day, but these are too expensive for the private contractors who fly the forest missions. Even the supply of younger military hand-me-downs has dried up. “There are no lightweight bombers being surplused anymore,” said Vincent Ambrosia, a forest fire expert at NASA.
Wait, what? The fleet is operated by private contractors, not Uncle Sam? But conservatives are always telling us that privatization is the answer to all of our problems! So the Free Hand Of The Market has failed? Not possible!
Meanwhile, this guy blames Obama for shrinking the fleet (linking to Malkin) and blames environmentalists for fighting the use of slurry — which, despite his claims, they seem to be using, as Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn tried to take credit for the arrival of federal slurry bombers before Tuesday’s GOP primary. Of course he did.
As for the charge about environmentalists and slurry, here’s what the New York Times piece said:
But the best way to use firefighting planes is not even clear. Although firefighting planes have been used for about 50 years, experts question whether it is better to use fire retardant instead of plain old water. Should the drop be made on a fire, or in a spot in advance of where the fire has reached?
Next month, the Forest Service will begin a study to see what technique works best. A sensor-equipped aircraft will fly 10 to 15 minutes behind the water bomber, to perform the forest equivalent of a bombing damage assessment.
I have no doubt that environmentalists are worried about the use of slurry, but it doesn’t sound like such concerns have made their way into any actual policy yet. What the Times piece tells us is that firefighters are trying to determine the most effective means of fighting the super-hot, climate-change related fires we’re seeing now. These aren’t your grandpa’s forest fires.
This reminds me an awful lot of Louisiana’s argument over “berms” after the BP oil spill. Blaming environmentalists was easy and fun for the Republicans — hippie punching always is with this crowd — but the question wasn’t, are they more damaging than an oil spill? The question was always, does it work? The answer in the case of the sand berms was a definitive no. But Gov. Bobby Jindal got to look defiant and resolute and the Fox News crowd got to swoon, never mind the time and money wasted.
Same as it ever was.