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Nagin was elected to replace the abysmally corrupt and inefficient Morial administration (I think I still have a pending housing complaint filed under Morial's regime, dating to 1996; I'm still awaiting the telephone call). I liked the guy, but he's wasn't exactly the right one for the job. And besides, I'm no longer there or DC, another famously corrupt and inefficient city. I'm in Pittsburgh! No corruption, duplication of services or profound inefficiency or incompetence here!Anyway, yes, every major American city has a disaster plan for full-scale evacuation. Pittsburgh not only has one, but there's another regional plan confected under the auspices of DHS and NRC (in case Shippingport ever melts down).Pittsburgh's plan is considered completely unreliable, however, a rose-glasses document that cost taxpayers a great deal of money to create. It will collapse the second it's dusted off.In reality, all emergency services will be immediately transferred to Allegheny County EMA, where Bob Full -- one of the most competent, able servants to come out of W PA (which means nobody knows who he is) -- will orchestrate a multi-teamed approach to mitigating the unfolding disaster.He led operations at the Bloomfield rail disaster during the 1980s, famously standing on the overturned railcar as acid ate through the nickel top. A captain going down with his ship, so to speak.Brave and smart. No wonder he's not a politician.Blame certainly can go to federal authorities since the 1970s for the inadequate levee system around NO. But please remember that a local department of city government there was responsible for testing, fixing and otherwise maintaining the levees, the same ones that failed.Do I blame them? No, because it was lake water that backsurged over and cut under the supports, leaving the cement bulwarks to collapse on themselves.I do, however, very much blame NO government for failing to clean up corruption and incompetence in the police department. Eventually, one is going to hear about this as a primary cause of the mass desertion of officers during the hurricane, which helped spiral the city into collapse.Cowards ill-trained and ill-equipped to fighting crime in everyday life are no match for armed gangs of cut throats and brigands during a natural disaster. They simply left their posts.One can't imagine this happening, say, in Manhattan on 9-11, or in Carnegie during Ivan last year.Welcome to New Orleans! We're so proud.As the commander of the LA National Guard said this morning, they were delayed from exerting control over the city because in their plans no one had accounted for the mass desertion of NO police from the stations.Since he's African-American (and creole, which counts for something that's hard to explain up here), he might dodge the charge of racism that would normally affix to such a statement.Regardless, my aunt and cousins likely are dead, as are many of my friends and lovers. I don't blame Bush or Clinton or FDR or Nagin or Morial for this.
I was talking to a friend today, a Bush supporter, and we mulled over what seems to be a widening abdication of responsibility at all levels of government and throughout our communities. He views Bush's tepid response to the disaster as emblamatic of a broader social problem, and he may be onto something.At some point blame and anger become exhausting and futile. I'll keep your family and friends in my prayers.
It all comes back to bowling alleys, right?My problem, as a liberal, is that Bush poses a real conundrum. He's willing to invade Iraq to rid the world of one of its great evils (and I don't mean that lightly; I've seen the rape rooms), but he's so incompetent that it falls apart under his watch, with him fulminating about "freedom."He's willing to expend great treasure to help the poor, but only through the conduit of church groups that should be kept at arm's length from public finances. It's not really good for the church or the federal government, although I consider myself to be a man of faith.He immediately went to Florida to hand out water last summer (albeit an election summer, but still), and this time has to be jogged off the Crawford hammock to sign an authorization bill from Congress.There seems to be the will to do good in the world and at home, but a complete incompetence when it comes to making it so. While I share in your fear that society as a whole is devolving into a big, heaving slop of ME, I'm equally concerned that we're becoming a nation of can't do incompetents, ruled by dunces.Of course, this fear is likely nothing new:"Here the business of getting a living ... is enormously easier than it is in any other Christian land—so easy, in fact, that an educated and forehanded man who fails at it must actually make deliberate efforts to that end. Here the general average of intelligence, of knowledge, of competence, of integrity, of self-respect, of honor is so low that any man who knows his trade, does not fear ghosts, has read fifty good books, and practices the common decencies stands out as brilliantly as a wart on a bald head, and is thrown willy-nilly into a meager and exclusive aristocracy. And here, more than anywhere else I know of or have heard of, the daily panorama of human existence, of private and communal folly—the unending procession of governmental extortions and chicaneries, of commercial brigandages and throat-slittings, of theological buffooneries, of aesthetic ribaldries, of legal swindles and harlotries, of miscellaneous rogueries, villainies, imbecilities, grotesqueries and extravagances—is so inordinately gross and preposterous, so perfectly brought up to the highest conceivable amperage, so steadily enriched with an almost fabulous daring and originality, that only the man who was born with a petrified diaphragm can fail to laugh himself to sleep every night, and to awake every morning with all the eager, unflagging expectation of a Sunday-school superintendent touring the Paris peep-shows."Mencken.
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I'm a Pittsburgher. I'm a PR guy. These opinions are solely my own. What else do you need to know?
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