Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti Quake Disaster Fallout – What You Can Expect From the Right

News yesterday evening that the west coast of Haiti was struck by a 7.0 earthquake that was centered at fairly close to the surface 10 miles from its capitol city of Port au Prince gave many of us who have lived through earthquakes the shivers.

The Richter Scale is logarithmic, so when you hear about an earthquake in California of magnitude 7.0, like the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, and it knocks down a buildings, freeways and baseball stadiums and sets off a rash of natural gas leaks, you get an idea of strength. In California, however, fault movement is rather deep-seated so by the time shock waves reach the surface they are dissipated by a widening area. The Haiti quake was centered, I hear, only 5 miles below the surface, and at 7.0, it was stronger than the Loma Prieta quake at the surface because of the proximity of the shock origin to the surface.

I hear that tens of thousands are homeless. Their presidential palace and their national cathedral lie in ruins.

Hospitals cannot take care of the throngs that come for help because of the sheer numbers and the fact that the hospitals themselves have sustained earthquake damage.

A nightmare. These people live in one of the poorest countries in the world and they have now been hit with this.

So how does the political right react to the fact that these people have lost their lives, homes and fortunes?

Not very well, it seems.

Rush Limbaugh has used his bully pulpit to lambaste President Obama for his public statements of support and rendering of aid. Transcribed from the video posted on

“Alright, Haiti. Here is President Obama speaking about Haiti ahhh . . .this morning in Washington at the White House, he held a press conference. Now, I want you to remember that it took him 3 days, 3 days, to respond to the Christmas Day Fruit of Kaboom Bomber… Ah, he comes out here in less than 24 hours to speak about Haiti [statement by Obama]. All this is what he lives for. He lives for serving those in misery. Now don’t misunderstand here folks, see this is . . . I, I, I wonder – I don’t have the whole press conference – but I wonder did he apologize for America before acknowledging that we are the only people on Earth that can possibly help them out down there in any significant way?”

Huh? What? Did I just hear Limbaugh criticize Obama for being too fast to promise humanitarian aid to disaster victims in the western hemisphere (where we live)?

And then we have the Reverend Pat Robertson, you know, the guy who started Regent University, the university that has produced more neoconservative evangelicals than any institution of “higher learning” per capita, weigh in on God’s Plan for the devil worshipers of Haiti.

From HuffingtonPost:

“Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it.They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, we will serve you if you'll get us free from the French. True story. And so, the devil said, ‘okay it's a deal.’”

"Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other."

Contrasting Haiti with its neighbor, the Dominican Republic, Robertson continued.

“That island of Hispaniola is one island. It is cut down the middle; on the one side is Haiti on the other is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island.”

Same island, different ruling deity, apparently.

But Robertson is hopelessly ignorant of earthly things, isn’t he? It took me just a few minutes to divine why Haiti is wracked with seismic events, and The Dominican Republic is relatively free of earthquakes. Same island, different seismicity. From the USGS, here is a map of the seismicity of the Carribbean region:
See Haiti? It is the country on the west side of Hispaniola, near the center of the map. The large island just east of Cuba. See the colors? The Dominican Republic has more seismic events than Haiti.

It, in actual fact, is far more seismically active, historically, than Haiti is. But you know, when you don't have earthquakes very often, as Haiti does, pressures build up, you know, like what occurs along the San Andreas Fault. Pressures build up and then, all of a sudden, all h-e-double hockeysticks breaks loose.

But who are we to trust? The United States Geological Survey with all those elitist arugula-eating snobs? Or Pat Robertson who keeps hearing God shouting in his ear?

Or is that just tinnitus?

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