Lots of Yalies tuned in to watch President Obama address Congress this Tuesday, but I was more interested in what happened afterward.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was scheduled to give the Republican rebuttal, and he’s widely regarded as a rising star in the GOP. It’s not hard to see why. Jindal is a decisive leader who stands up for his principles, like he did when he boldly announced he would decline $98 million in unemployment aid for Louisiana, or one-40th of the federal aid being offered to his state under the Obama stimulus package.
The pundits had harsh reviews for Jindal’s speech, calling it “whiny,” “condescending” and “a flop,” but I loved it.
I can always count on Jindal to say something that gets my blood moving, and Tuesday was no exception. During his response to Obama’s speech, Jindal attacked the proposed $800 billion stimulus package for including “$140 million for something called ‘volcano monitoring.’ ” My initial reaction to this accusation, which I imagine was shared by most Americans, was outrage. I wanted answers. What the hell is a volcano, and why does the federal government need to spend a whopping 0.0175 percent of the total stimulus package to “monitor” it?
Naturally, I went to Wikipedia, and when I ran a search for “volcano,” I was greeted with a shocking result. “A volcano,” said the online encyclopedia, “is an opening or rupture in a planet’s surface or crust, which allows hot, molten rock, ash and gases to escape from below the surface.” I scrolled down to read the rest of the entry, which included a multitude of pictures showing fire and ash spewing out from the very ground on which we walk.
I had to laugh. There is no way that volcanoes can actually exist, I said to myself. I’ve never seen one before in my entire life! Sure, there were the images, but I’d learned the hard way that you can do all sorts of things with Photoshop, and I wasn’t going to get fooled again.
So I refreshed the page, imagining that the entire entry was a hoax, and that it would soon be wiped away by Wikipedia’s diligent editorial staff. To my surprise, the article was still there, so I refreshed again. After two or three hours of continuous refreshing, I realized that I was looking at a genuine article. Volcanoes are real! I began to hyperventilate.
After forcing myself to lie down for a couple minutes, I resumed my research. To my relief, I found that even though volcanoes exist, they aren’t nearly as dangerous to our national security as the Democrats would like us to believe. According to worldmapper.org, volcanoes have only killed an average of 3.46 people a year in the United States since 1975.
A brief study of the Internet reveals the following list of things that kill more Americans than this so-called threat: tornadoes, lightning strikes, anthrax, dehydration, overhydration (also known as “water intoxication”), earthquakes, dog attacks, overexertion, autoerotic asphyxiation and fireworks. One cause of death that does claim fewer American lives than volcanoes is “fatal hilarity,” a rare but real phenomenon Wikipedia defines as “death resulting from the physiological effect of laughter.”
The low death rate from volcanoes comes no thanks to the U.S. volcano monitoring service, which merely “watches” volcanoes and doesn’t do a single thing to actually prevent them. On face, then, this whole budget appropriation seems like a ploy, a typical liberal scare tactic aimed at coercing voters into buying shiny new toys for Obama’s buddies at the United States Geological Survey. But this is a waste of our hard-earned taxpayer dollars. After all, if monitoring volcanoes were cost-effective, then the private sector would have taken care of it a long time ago.
Clearly, Jindal was right. But I do have one criticism of his analysis: He didn’t offer a realistic alternative for what should be done with this extra $140 million we have lying around. “Instead of monitoring volcanoes,” he suggested, “what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington.” This is quite possibly true, but I am not sure that voters would be able to get behind the allocation of $140 million to “monitor the eruption of spending in Washington.” Way too ironic.
Fortunately, I’ve thought of a bipartisan solution that will please both the patriotic, responsible citizens on the Right, and the volcano-fanatics on the Left. What if, instead of obsessing about the safety of a handful of Americans, we instead harness the power of volcanoes to develop a weapon that makes every American safer? I call my plan the “Volcano Weaponization Program.”
Although volcanoes are no match for quick-witted Americans, they really can cause quite a lot of havoc in other countries. In 1985, the Nevado del Ruiz volcano killed 22,000 people in Colombia. Volcanoes are the perfect weapon: They are deadly; they are terrifying; they cause shock and awe. I suspect that the terrorists will be much inclined to change their tunes when they see a river of molten hot lava speeding toward them.
I have already drawn up some preliminary sketches, and I am willing to meet with the Department of Defense at its earliest possible convenience.
Michael Zink is a senior in Saybrook College.