It is said that the Roman Emperor Nero played his Lyre as his city was engulfed by flames. This seems unlikely, and there are no credible witnesses. Nero does deserves some of the blame. Rome in 64 AD was a tinder box of wooden buildings and narrow, crowded streets and alleyways. A modern day fire marshal would have shut it down long before 64 and ordered some changes. No doubt Nero was also concerned about this, as the historian Tacitus informs us that the public thought Nero wanted to build a new city to name after himself. This is why he stands today accused by many of starting the fires that consumed much of the ancient Roman capitol. Whatever his skills as the ruler of a ruthless empire, he probably knew the city was susceptible to just such a fire.
I’m guessing that Nero was prevented from making any reforms that would have alleviated the danger by the entrenched political and economic interests of the day. No one wanted to give up their shops, homes, or storehouses in the name of creating a Rome safe from conflagration. It was more likely that it is these politicians who should be accused of “fiddling” while the city burned. I find it very unlikely that these elected officials knew nothing of the risk, but considered only the risk to their power if they attempted to do anything about it that might cause pain to their constituencies. Perhaps Nero deserves a pass on this one charge.
Our current President will not be judged so kindly by history. A recent e-mail, released by the White House under threat of subpoena, will explain why. Here are the bullet points of that December 5th memo outlining what the EPA determined to be facts. I hope your sitting down when you read this; here goes:
· “The Administrator believes that there is compelling and robust evidence that observed climate change can be attributed to the heating effect caused by global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
· “Based on the evidence before him, the Administrator believes it is reasonable to conclude current and future emissions of greenhouse gases will contribute to future climate change.
· “The Administrator is aware that the range of potential impacts that can result from climate change spans many elements of the global environment, and that all regions of the U.S. will be affected in some way.
· “The U.S. has a long and populous coastline. Sea level rise will continue, and exacerbate storm surge flooding and shoreline erosion.
“In areas where heat waves already occur, they are expected to be more intense, more frequent, and longer lasting.
· “Wildfires and the wildfire season are already increasing and climate change is expected to continue to worsen the conditions that facilitate wildfires.
· “Where water resources are already scarce and over-allocated in the Western U.S., climate change is expected to put additional strain on these water management issues for municipal, agricultural, energy and industrial uses.
· “Climate change also introduces additional stress on ecosystems which are already affected by development, habitat fragmentation, and broken ecological dynamics.
· “In sum, the Administrator is proposing to find that elevated levels of [greenhouse gas] concentrations may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public welfare.”
George W Bush refused to let anyone in the White House even open the e-mail file that contained this statement. Undoubtedly, he’d knew every one of the points by this time, yet not only did he take no action, he suppressed the information.
Friends, it was torture that convinced me that the Bush/Chaney regime had no regard for the rule of law. One could be generous and say that in using torture they had our best interests in mind, protecting us from those who would and have done us harm, but that does not remove the stain criminality from the use of water boarding. But there is simply no way to construe from this EPA memo any effort to protect the public from a known danger.
It is a crime to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater. What is the crime of not shouting fire in that theater? What is the crime of muzzling those who do? Bush has muzzled the Fire Marshall and assisted in the arson that has killed many and will surely kill millions more.
I suggest that the new President hold off on closing the Guantanamo Prison. There is a place for criminals like these, and there is no greater form of justice than locking up despots in a prison of their own making. No need here for torture, just some time to think, to reflect and perhaps to repent.