Michael Rivero

The Mississippi Gambler was the title of one of the first screenplays I ever wrote, a bit of Americana based on the highly romanticized autobiography of George H. Devol.

Gambling is as old as civilization itself. All races gamble. Entire cities are built to the games. Most gamblers only gamble with their own property. A few have to steal other people's wealth to gamble. But in the end, despite the wishful thinking, the good luck charms, and even the closeness of the odds, many if not most gamblers wind up losing everything through an event known as gambler's ruin. This is where a gambler can keep on playing no matter how much he wins, but once he loses all his stake, he must stop playing in that impoverished condition. Gamblers who are addicted to gambling (and most are, through a psychological process called intermittent reinforcement) will always play until they hit gambler's ruin.

Gambling isn't always bad. To succeed in life some gambling is needed. Everyone who starts a business is rolling the dice.

George Bush is a gambler. But unlike the Vegas tourist, Bush is gambling with property that is not his. Bush bet the entire City of New Orleans on his war in Iraq. And because the city of New Orleans is the gateway to the Mississippi River and the central states, Bush was gambling with the entire river system and the economy of the great plains.

You see, Bush has this little war going on. Nobody really knows what the purpose of this war is, but Bush bet that he could swindle the American people into the war with a few lies. and for a time, he won that bet. But like the gambling addict Bush kept playing the same game over and over until his luck ran out and he hit Gambler's ruin. Now the entire world knows Bush lied to start that war.

In order to pay for that war in Iraq, while at the same time giving huge tax cuts to wealthy supporters, Bush started slashing the budgets on domestic programs to free up cash. Many of those programs were Louisiana Flood Control and Hurricane preparedness projects. In one notable case, funding was cut for repair of a levee while the levee was in a weakened condition; the dirt piled up not not compacted, not planted to stabilize it, and without the required erosion proof lining. Not only money, but supplies such as sandbags were sent off to Bush's war, along with most of the Louisiana National Guard. Bush gambled that the levees would hold up while he spent the money on his war. He lost that bet, and lost New Orleans, and commerce on the Mississippi for weeks to come.

Bush is the 21st Century Mississippi gambler, gambling on a scale George Devol could never have dreamed of. Bush bet the actual Mississippi River. And lost.

So here is the real question to ask. It is highly unlikely that chance would bring the hurricane to bear on the one place where Bush had left the domestic infrastructure gutted. More than likely, Bush has been betting with domestic programs all across the nation, betting that they won't be needed while he siphons off funding to feed his war.

Funding to flood control in New Orleans was cut. Disaster resulted. Has Bush cut funding for Hurricane protection along the Atlantic seaboard? Has he gambled away the funds for Earthquake preparedness for the West Coast, of equipment and funds to deal with a volcano in the Cascades or Yellowstone? How about funding for bridge inspections? Maintaining the rail system? Wildfire prevention? The National Guard has been stripped all across the nation. Why assume that only New Orleans suffered cuts to needed funding.

As our roads crumble beneath our wheels, and our schools starve for cash for books and supplies, we need to look at how Bush gambled and lost New Orleans and wonder just how wide spread the risk is? Has Bush bet other cities on his war? Has he bet the entire nation?

Is there a gambler's ruin waiting for all of us?

See also: New Orleans: Destroyed by Presidential Negligence

What Really Happened