In yesterday evening's GOP response to what may have been the most impressive first major speech by a president I've had the pleasure to witness, Louisiana's Governor, uh, blew it. In Alaska, we were perturbed by his suggestion that volcano monitoring is a wasteful activity. We have hundreds of them. 31 are active right now. They sometimes kill people.
Although the unpredictable eruptor, Rep. Don Young, Alaska's most volcanic national legislator, wasn't at President Obama's speech, both GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Democratic Party Sen. Mark Begich (a firedoglake Blue America participant), were in the audience. Young's office claims he was "busy," but some suspect he was still down in Puerto Rico, a destination he shares a fondness for with convicted, imprisoned lobbyist, Jack Abramoff.
Sen. Murkowski hasn't yet criticized Gov. Jindal. Nor, apparently, has Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who somehow was passed over for the job of GOP first responder.
Here's the section of Jindal's address that includes the volcano monitoring section:
But Democratic leaders in Congress -- they rejected this approach. Instead of trusting us to make wise decisions with our own money, they passed the largest government spending bill in history, with a price tag of more than $1 trillion with interest. While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation 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" line 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.
Here is Sen. Begich's reply (not yet publicly distributed):
The Honorable Bobby Jindal
Governor of Louisiana
Baton Rouge, LA 70804
Via fax: (225) 342-7099
Dear Governor Jindal:
I write to take issue with your comments on national television last night following
President Obama's speech regarding federal spending on volcano monitoring.
Specifically, you listed "volcano monitoring" in a series of projects you consider
Volcano monitoring is a matter of life and death in Alaska. The science of volcano
monitoring and the money needed to fund it is incredibly important in our state and could affect the economic well-being of other states and countries because of Alaska's key role in international commerce.
In December 1989, Alaska's Mount Redoubt had a serious eruption that caused a Boeing 747 to lose power in all four engines with hundreds of passengers on board. Fortunately, the aircraft was able to restart and land safely, but damage to the airliner exceeded $80 million. Obviously, had the aircraft not been able to restart its engines, the result would have been catastrophic.
Alaska's largest international airport in Anchorage is one ofthe world's busiest cargo airports, with more than 600 wide-body cargo jets delivering millions of dollars of goods between Asia, North America and Europe each week. Any interruption of that traffic by a volcanic eruption could be felt in Tokyo, New York or even Baton Rouge.
Currently, the Alaska Volcano Observatory monitors 31 active Alaskan volcanoes and works closely with other federal, state and municipal agencies to ensure public safety and minimize disruptions. Eruptions often spew curtains of ash miles into the air that impact communities hundreds of miles downwind, causing severe health consequences for our citizens. When there is a significant eruption, those with respiratory challenges must stay indoors.
For Alaska and our country, monitoring volcanoes is important business. The more we know about what might happen, the better our citizens and industries can plan for the potential hazard. Feel free to contact my office so we can provide you with further information regarding this important subject.
I should note here that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's press office was active today. The three soldiers killed in Iraq on Monday were stationed at Alaska's Ft. Wainright. They are not from the same unit in which her older son is currently serving, but it is understandable why she might not be ready today to criticize one of her chief rivals, even in the scarce oxygen at the top of GOP politics.