The extraordinarily powerful magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in Japan were truly terrible — many lives were lost and there was great destruction.
President Obama’s heart went out to the people of Japan and he did his presidential best: “during this enormous tragedy, please know that America will always stand by one of its greatest allies during their time of need.” We know that’s true because he wrote it and because he told us, compassionately, to assist the Japanese while filling out brackets for the NCAA basketball tournaments:
One of the things I wanted to do on the show was, as people are filling out their brackets — this is obviously a national pastime; we all have a great time, it’s a great diversion. But I know a lot of people are thinking how can they help the Japanese people during this time of need. If you go to usaid.gov — usaid.gov — that will list all the nonprofits, the charities that are helping out there. It would be wonderful for people to maybe offer a little help to the Japanese people at this time — as they’re filling out their brackets. It’s not going to take a lot of time. That’s usaid.gov. It could be really helpful.
As White House press secretary Jay Carney stated, it was
“entirely appropriate for the president to be addressing a crisis of this gravity as he’s standing before a whiteboard talking about the basketball tournament [.] There are crises all the time,” he said, “for every president.”
“And again, this one is happening halfway around the world, and it is severe, and it is important, and it is the focus of a great deal of the president’s attention, as are the events in the Middle East, as are the agenda items that he is pursuing to grow the economy,” Carney said.
“It’s a hard job, it requires a lot,” Carney said. He also noted that Obama took a moment on ESPN to urge Americans, while they are doing their brackets, to go to usaid.gov and make a donation for earthquake victims.
Having done so much, President Obama and his delightful family were off to Rio, where they substantially improved the image of the United States while giving other great world leaders amusement. They needed it and were appropriately grateful. Some have been critical of the timing of the visit, but these criticisms are unjustified. As President Obama’s communications director said, “You can’t allow what’s happening in the world to consume the presidency. You have to be able to walk, chew gum and juggle at the same time.” President Obama excels at all three, albeit not necessarily at the same time.
We can do little more than to help Japan, as best we can, to mitigate the damage as best they can. We also have our own serious problems with which to deal; flying into fits of self-recrimination and searching for scapegoats will do neither the Japanese nor us any good. Recognizing, however, that it is certain to happen, here are some modest proposals.
1. Unfortunately, we do not yet know with certainty how massively, or even which, human activities cause earthquakes or, therefore, how to prevent them. Well-funded academic research must now begin so that answers to these perplexing questions can soon be found. In the meantime, to whatever extent earthquakes are not caused by man-made climate change, former Governor Palin, former President Bush, or other Republicans, little can be done to prevent them. Trying harder to appease Gaia might help; it is possible that sacrificing virgins or goats would as well. Unfortunately, reputable scientific experts in the relevant fields of study have been unable to reach a consensus, probably due to lack of critically needed federal funding.