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Friday, September 02, 2005

Am I Being Too Harsh?

So I fly into Charlotte last night about 9:00 and head over to my hotel. On the way, I stop at McDonald's to get the good old number 1 (Big Mac, fries, drink) to go. The young man behind the counter seemed nice enough, although he could have been a whole lot cleaner. And the filthy hat could have been thrown away.

And I wish they'd furnished him gloves.

After having given him a ten, he hands me my change and a bag o' stuff. Then he passes me my empty cup with which I'm supposed to go find the coke dispenser and pour my own drink. Saves on labor costs, I guess.

It was the manner in which he handed me my cup that pissed me off. He held it with his bare, greasy hand by the rim, with four fingers wrapped over the rim and down the inside and his thumb braced against the outside. He set it on the countertop.

There was no way I was touching that cup. He might as well have run his tongue around the rim. I would have had the same reaction. Perhaps.

So I asked - politely - for another cup.

"What?" he asked.

"Your fingers were inside my cup, man. I'm not drinking out of that thing."


He didn't seem to be particularly flustered by my request. In all probability, I wasn't the first person that day that had requested that he not share his germs with his customers. He simply reached for another cup and set it on the counter, at least being careful not to ram his hand down inside this time.

I took my bag o' stuff, filled my cup with Diet Coke, and left for the hotel.

I usually enjoy the occasional Big Mac. But somehow, on this particular night, I was haunted by this recurring thought about ...

An Escalating Sense of Foreboding

The forecasts that came out of the Gulf as Hurricane Katrina came roaring ashore were disconcerting in the extreme. The estimates of potential damage were enough to frighten the most steeled person. And the news footage of chaos and the breakdown of civil order now coming out of New Orleans is shocking. Not only does it seem we are witnessing the struggle of a citizenry to survive, the predictions for the future are not encouraging.

This comes from James Taranto in The Wall Street Journal:

'Will New Orleans Recover?'

City Journal's Nicole Gelinas, a onetime resident of New Orleans, asks the question that's been on our mind the past few days. She isn't optimistic:

"No American city has ever gone through what New Orleans must go through: the complete (if temporary) flight of its most affluent and capable citizens, followed by social breakdown among those left behind, after which must come the total reconstruction of economic and physical infrastructure by a devastated populace.

And the locals and outsiders who try to help New Orleans in the weeks and months to come will do so with no local institutional infrastructure to back them up. New Orleans has no real competent government or civil infrastructure--and no aggressive media or organized citizens' groups to prod public officials in the right direction during what will be, in the best-case scenario, a painstaking path to normalcy."

The New Orleans crime rate during normal times is 10 times the national average, Gelinas writes, and "the city's economy is utterly dependent on tourism. . . . New Orleans has experienced a steady brain drain and fiscal drain for decades, as affluent
corporations and individuals have fled, leaving behind a large population of people dependent on the government. Socially, New Orleans is one of America's last helpless cities--just at the moment when it must do all it can to help itself survive." (

This puts into perspective the scenes coming out of "The Big Easy" depicting a populace sitting amid the wreckage waiting for someone to come to their aid. Though many are unable to flee, the vast majority, if motivated to do so, could, with a modicum of difficulty, pack a bag and walk, swim, or float - crawl - to safety. Instead they wait.

New Orleans will never be the same, say many. If Taranto and Gelinas are right, that may not be a bad thing.

Quote Of The Day

"Last year, when hurricane Charley struck Florida, the complaint was that Bush was too responsive. "Even before the storm hit, the president declared four counties disaster areas to speed federal money to victims," CBS News reported a year ago. "But that quick response fueled suspicion that he is using disaster politics to help his campaign in one of the most critical battleground states."

Some people respond to a horrific natural disaster by taking cheap shots at their political opponents. Others respond by stealing TV sets. The underlying impulse knows no boundaries of social class." James Taranto, Best of the Web, September 2, 2005

Quote of the Day II

James Taranto was on a roll yesterday. I wanted to cite the entry below found in Best of the Web, but in addition I'll encourage you to fork over the necessary cash and get a subscription to The Wall Street Journal. He's that good.
Reuterville Body Count

Under the subheadline MILESTONE LOOMS, Reuters engages in a pointless and ghoulish bit of calculation:

In the nearly 2-1/2 years of the [Iraq] war, the average death toll for U.S. troops has been 2.1 per day. If that pace continues, the U.S. death toll would reach 2,000 in late October. U.S. military deaths still remain far below the total and rate of the Vietnam War, in which 58,000 U.S. troops died.

Also if this pace continues, the Iraq death toll will top Vietnam's in just 73 years, and every American now alive will have been killed in Iraq by the year 389543. (link)
What is with Reuters? What kind of monster sits at a desk and calculates future body counts of American soldiers?