Where’s McDonald’s When You Need Them?

On the subject of the Iran earthquake, Glenn Reynolds linked to this piece by David Aaronovitch in the Guardian, but it’s too good to pass up:
“[Iran's President Mohammad] Khamenei had words of dubious comfort for survivors when he told them that ‘we will rebuild Bam stronger than before’. Given the collapse of 80% of the buildings, from the old fortress to the new hospitals, the Iranian government could hardly make the new Bam as weak as the old one.
“Some will see this as simply a natural disaster of the kind to which Iran, according to Khatami, is ‘prone’. Four days earlier, however, there had been another earthquake of about the same intensity, this time in California. In which about 0.000001% of the buildings suffered serious structural damage and two people were killed when an old clocktower collapsed. So why the polar disparity between Bam and Paso Robles?
“This is not a silly question. True, the Californians are much richer than the Iranians. But if you believed everything you read in the works of M Moore and others, you would anticipate a culture of corporate greed in which safety and regulation came way behind the desire to turn the quick buck. Instead you discover a society in which the protection of citizens from falling masonry seems to be regarded as enormously important.
“Whereas in Iran – for all its spiritual solidarity – the authorities don’t appear to give a toss. The report in this paper from Teheran yesterday was revealing. It was one thing for the old, mud-walled citadel to fall down, but why the new hospitals? An accountant waiting to give blood at a clinic in the capital told our correspondent that it was a ‘disgrace that a rich country like ours with all the revenue from oil and other natural resources is not prepared to deal with an earthquake’.
“[A]fter a quarter of a century, Iran is still being ruled by a useless, incompetent semi-theocracy, which is fatalistic, complacent, unresponsive and often brutal. And such a system does not deliver to its citizens one fraction of what the Great Satan, for all its manifest faults, manages to guarantee to ordinary Americans.
“What, I wonder, has Arundhati Roy to say now about the superiority of traditional building methods over globalised ones? Some Iranians might think that it’s a shame there wasn’t a McDonald’s in Bam. It would have been the safest place in town.”

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