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August 10, 2010

A Smoky Warning To All Those Anti-Government Folks Out There

Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters
Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

Given the power of denial, it’s easy to look at the terrifying photos coming out of Russia right now and think that the threat is unique to them.  According to the caption:

A newly married couple walks along Red Square amidst heavy smog, caused by peat fires in nearby forests, with the mausoleum of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin in the background, in central Moscow August 7, 2010. Dense clouds of acrid smoke from peat and forest fires choked Russia’s capital on Friday, seeping into homes and offices, diverting planes and prompting exhausted Muscovites to wear surgical masks to filter the foul air.

On the other hand, what the NYT article accompanying the photo below implies — as does Paul Krugman’s column yesterday (“America Goes Dark“) — is that the threat is not that unique. If the photos of “Russia on fire” makes it primarily seem like an ecological story (which it now is), the crisis occurred from the lack of resources at the local level to protect citizens from basic threats — like fire spinning out of control.

Dana Romanoff for The New York Times

This photo from The Times shows a local resident in Colorado Springs who fought to have this street lamp turned on again on after one-third of the city’s lights were shut off due to budget cuts.  (This followed a five-year campaign by the resident to have the light installed in the first place after crime took hold of the neighborhood.)

What’s the link? When you combine the homeland threat of anti-government reactionaries with the decimation of state and local coffers, the newlyweds up top could as easily be navigating downtown L.A., or Denver, or Atlanta … after desperate towns and ‘burbs have burned though the budget for firefighters and firetrucks.

NYT cutbacks slideshow.

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