Catastrophes are like a political x-ray machine. They reveal the true condition of civic institutions.

Following the earthquake in Sichuan, China:

Among the developments to watch in coming days is growing public anger over the shoddy construction of schools in rural China. Among the dead are a massive number of children. Many parents are already asking: Why did the schools collapse when other government buildings remained standing?

Following Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar:

In the wealthy neighborhoods where the generals and diplomats live, groups of soldiers are clearing away debris and workers are perched on rooftops replacing tiles. But in the poorer neighborhoods, “there are no soldiers at all,” said one resident.

Following Hurricane Karina in New Orleans, USA:

Hurricane Katrina exposed the U.S. government’s failure to learn the lessons of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as leaders from President Bush down disregarded ample warnings of the threat to New Orleans and did not execute emergency plans or share information that would have saved lives, according to a blistering report by House investigators.