Caring Communists

by Russ Roberts on September 23, 2005

in Politics

This is special in the annals of moral relativism, but I’m not even sure that term captures the bizzare argument implicit in an opinion piece by Richard Rhodes and Gwyneth Cravens in the Washington Post where they compare and contrast Katrina and Chernobyl:

RhodescravensIt is not available on the Post’s web site yet.  They tell me that because it’s a chart, they haven’t gotten to it yet.  If that changes, I’ll fix it up.  (Thanks to Dan Rothschild for this scanned version).  What can you say about this?  They should have titled it: At Least the Trains Ran on Time.

Somehow, because two politburo members allegedly rushed to Chernobyl, the Soviets make America’s government at the federal level look inept.  But special mention must go to this incredible comment under "Differences":

Katrina:

Roving gangs of armed criminals, random violence, derelict police officers

Chernobyl:

Unarmed and cooperative population, minimal disorder.

Unarmed and cooperative?  Folks, the Soviet Union was a police state.  That’s what you get with a police state.  The thugs don’t have to rove the streets, they own them.  They have all the guns.  The roving gangs in the Soviet Union were called the KGB,  They killed millions of people in prison camps.  To call the Soviet people "unarmed and cooperative" in the face of Chernobyl would be funny if it weren’t tragic.

It’s a tough competition for second place for the most deceptive, intellectually dishonest moment in this piece.  I’d go with this one describing the Soviet response to Chernobyl as being different from the response to Katrina:

Quick decisions, good coordination, rapid response remove most of surrounding population from harm.

Really?  From the UN web site:

No reports were released until the third day after the Chernobyl explosion. Then, Swedish authorities correlated a map of enhanced radiation levels in Europe with wind direction and announced to the world that a nuclear accident had
       occurred somewhere in the Soviet Union. Before Sweden’s announcement, the Soviet authorities were conducting emergency fire fighting and clean-up operations but had chosen not report to the accident or its scale in full. No established legitimate authority was able to immediately address the situation and provide answers for questions such as: Is it safe to leave the house? Is it safe to drink water? Is it safe to eat local produce? Communicating protective measures early would also have most likely enabled the population to escape exposure to some radionuclides, such as iodine 131, which are known to cause
    thyroid cancer. Early evacuation would have helped people avoid the area when iodine 131 is most dangerous, 8-16 days after release.

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