After the last few days’ weather, I’m starting to identify with one of the great lines from a 1933 W.C. Fields movie The Fatal Glass of Beer. Living in a cabin in the Yukon, Fields’ character, Mr. Snavely, opens the front door several times and after getting a blast of snow in the face says, “It ain’t a fit night out for man or beast.”
It certainly ain’t fit for navigating the golf course today, but fortunately, there’s plenty of news to focus and reflect on. For example…
:: How about that Hillary? If it weren’t for the emails, she would be gliding toward victory in November. But isn’t there always an “if” with the Clintons?
When news of her flouting federal rules email practices surfaced about a year ago, I said I was washing my hands of her. But I came back around after seeing the Republicans would not be fielding a credible candidate.
I’ll surely end up voting for her in November, but here are the most recent, galling developments.
First, not only did she never request State Department permission to use a private email server, she refused to be interviewed by Inspector General Steve A. Linick or his staff. Stone-walled him. To me, that’s as damning as defendants who plead not guilty in criminal cases but refuse to take the witness stand.
Second, I was dismayed when she said, before the Kentucky primary, that as president she’d be putting husband Bill in charge of boosting the economy. Holy shit! Hasn’t everybody had enough of that guy? It’s distasteful enough to see news clips of him making speeches here and there and wagging that index finger when he’s not in a seat of power. But for God’s sake he’s the last person I want to be reading about in tandem with Hillary the next eight years.
I’ve said for years I would have much more respect for her if, after Bill’s White House weenie-wagging, she would have divorced Bill and charted her own course politically and personally.
And on the subject of her personal life, conservative columnist David Brooks had an insightful column the other day when he said the key to Hillary’s unpopularity is that people see her as strictly one-dimensional. While we know Barack Obama likes to play golf, watch basketball and vacation in Hawaii, we know very little about Hillary, other than that she dons her political face and lipstick every morning.
As Brooks said: “…(I)t’s hard to think of any non-career or pre-career aspect to her life. Except for a few grandma references, she presents herself as a resume and policy brief.”
With that observation, I think Brooks goes a long way toward explaining people’s reservations about her: Not only is she too slick for her own good but we know very little about here wants and needs, likes and dislikes, other than she wants power and needs public adulation.
:: The Kansas City Fire Department’s unvarnished assessment of the handling of the October fire that took the lives firefighters John Mesh and Larry Leggio struck me as having an indirect parallel to the 1988 explosion off Bruce Watkins Drive that took the lives of six Kansas City firefighters.
Although the new report focuses on mistakes by incident commanders — specifically, taking their time about getting Mesh and Leggio out of the alley off Independence Boulevard — the report also explores the department’s culture of aggressively fighting fires, even when lives are not at stake. The report says, in part, “cultural norms that work against the safety of firefighters are and can potentially be disastrous and should not be tolerated.”
On that fateful, unforgettable morning more than 25 years ago, it was over-aggressiveness that took the lives of firefighters James H. Kilventon Jr., Michael R. Oldham, Robert D. McKarnin, Gerald C. Halloran, Luther Eugene Hurd and Thomas Fry.
The big difference in the 1988 explosion and the October fire on Independence Boulevard was that, in 1988, two fire companies headed by captains were following their own instincts. A battalion chief was on the way but not there when the captains made critical decisions. The companies chose to pour the water on at close range while a trailer full of explosives burned.
The two companies didn’t know for sure that the trailer contained explosives — back then exterior chemical markings were only mandatory while explosive containers were in transit — but dispatchers had warned that explosives were involved. A member of one of the two fire companies even asked the dispatcher to tell the other company to keep its distance. After extinguishing a nearby truck fire, however, that company joined the other company near the trailer.
I remember reading back then that flames coming from the trailer had a bluish hue, rather than the usual bright orange. Several of the firefighters on the scene had received hazmat training and should have recognized the fire as alarmingly unusual, but their adrenalin apparently overrode any reservations they might have had.
The most tragic part, of course, was that as Battalion Chief Marion Germann and his driver pulled up at the scene and saw the spectacle, Germann reached for his radio to tell the companies to pull back. He was seconds too late: Right then, the trailer exploded, gouging a crater at least 80 feet in diameter and 8 feet deep.
…You would think that incredibly painful lesson would have prompted the department to alter its approach to property fires. Maybe the new report will get the job done. As it points out, the firefighters on Independence Boulevard lost track of the fact that only property was at risk; it was just a building.
The most memorable line in the report should be posted on the wall of every fire station in Kansas City:
“When there is little to save, we should risk little.”