Journalism in the Public Interest


Volcanos and the Levitating Train to Disneyland

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal delivers the Republican Party's official response to President Barack Obama's address to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 24, 2009. (APTN Pool/AP Photo)Viewers who tuned in to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s response to President Obama’s pseudo-State of the Union on Tuesday night might be wondering about what volcanoes and a levitating train to Disneyland have to do with the economic stimulus package.

The Republican governor, who some say could challenge President Obama in 2012, said the plan is “larded with wasteful spending.”

“It includes $300 million to buy new cars for the government, $8 billion for high-speed rail projects such as a magnetic levitation train from Las Vegas to Disneyland and $140 million for something called volcano monitoring. Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C.”

Oh snap!

So what does the bill actually say?

The $300 million would go to buy energy-efficient government vehicles, such as hybrid and electric cars. During the campaign, President Obama pledged to transform the federal fleet into an example of environmental conscience.

The $8 billion is for high-speed rail corridors that would connect far-flung cities. Suspicion has swirled around this provision after funding was dramatically increased from the original House and Senate bills during final negotiations. Republicans have targeted Sen. Harry Reid, R-Nev., who was in those negotiations and has advocated in the past for a high-speed rail between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The train isn’t in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but it could be one of several projects seeking a piece of the pie. Even so $8 billion isn’t enough to pay for even a single bullet train, according to The New York Times. Here’s their map of designated high-speed rail corridors.

The $140 million goes to the U.S. Geological Survey for a series of construction and repair projects that includes “stream gages and seismic and volcano monitoring systems, national map activities and other critical deferred maintenance,” according to the legislation. and Politifact break it down in more detail.

Ironic that the governor of a state that regularly falls victim to one natural disaster (hurricanes) is so unwilling to fund monitoring of another type (volcanic eruptions).  Volcanoes sound about as exotic in Louisiana as hurricanes do in Washington state.  Does Gov. Jindal remember how Mt. St. Helens’ 1980 eruption in Washington blew ash east past Montana?  Has he read in the news about Mt. Redoubt’s (Alaska) about-to-erupt status?  Is he about to request the Feds stop “monitoring” for hurricanes (weather tracking and forecasting)?

FYI- new cars for Gov’t officials will get the lines working again.Thus increasing incomes of Auto workers who can then spend more stimulating their local economies - Not to mention their mortgages, loans and taxes.
Second a High Speed Rail will generate jobs around the country- Steel,Iron, plastics, fabrics. Jobs in Engineering, Tool and Die, casting plants…Not to mention jobs in clearing the path, the construction, maintenence and services (Drivers,various Station personnel).
Third Volcano research- Considering the Recent eruptions in S. America (Peru?), the Prediction that the Volcano in AK (Redoubt?) is close to blowing and the History of Mount St Helens ,a worthy project to save lives and property with Early warning and evacutions. Something NOLA’s citizens were not truely afforded.
Mr. Jindal, and the rest of the Repugs….‘Better to be silent and thought a fool than open your mouth and dispell all Doubt’ an adage you might want to heed.

I think the Republican party, the party of old rich white men and angry rednecks, is just desperate to try to connect with young people, minorities, and women, and that is why they are pushing the soft-spoken and ethnic looking Jindal as their new spokesman. Not that there’s anything wrong with soft spoken ethnics; I just feel that using him to attract people to a party that oppresses poor people and women and gays and foreigners is less than genuine and respectable.

As for high speed trains, they are more eco-friendly, safer, and lower maintenance than airplanes, so the more airplane flights we can replace with train rides the better. Also, it will stimulate the economy with production of parts and the jobs that come with the building, operation, and maintenance of the trains. Europe and Japan are way ahead of us in this area!

And I can’t believe that Jindal is speaking against monitoring volcanoes. The Republicans already look bad for their handling of Hurricane Katrina during the last administration, with Bush canceling funding of levee construction beforehand and then FEMA mishandling the situation. How can any rational human being not think that preemptive actions to prevent disasters are not worth spending money on?

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