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Tuesday, Jan 31, 2023
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Pollyannaish Amid Terror

Pollyannaish Amid Terror

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by Mark Lacter

It’s early morning, there’s nobody around, and as I pull into my parking spot in our office building’s underground lot, all I can think of is this: If a suicide bomber walked into the building lobby and tried to bring down this place, I’d be history.

Now I recognize that the odds of this happening are not high. There are lots of office buildings in the United States and it’s not as if this is any historic landmark. And yet there are several media organizations headquartered in our complex and a few of them cover a favorite target of Osama-type nutburgers the entertainment industry. So who knows?

Nine months after Sept. 11, we’re stuck with a lot of “who knows?” This week, I could be using this space to consider last week’s decision to put Valley secession on the November ballot, or Gray Davis trying to wriggle out of a $25 billion deficit, or the Merrill Lynch settlement. All important stuff.

Instead, I’m fixated on a deserted parking lot.

My newfound fears didn’t just happen. They have been egged on by a series of events coming out of Washington. First came media reports about the feds worrying a lot more last summer about a terrorist attack than they were letting on. Then came the Democrats implying that the White House should have acted on those warnings, followed by the White House whining about the second-guessing and then several days of fear-mongering by Cheney, Rumsfeld and other Bush honchos about how another attack is inevitable and how it could be even worse and how we need to be prepared, blah, blah, blah. All of which a few Democrats claim is just a way to deflect the criticism.

Whatever. All I know is that for any ordinary Joe just trying to get through the day in one piece, there’s absolutely no way to untangle the maze of finger pointing.

The first impulse is to conclude that the feds are clueless and that we’re all pretty much on our own. But I suspect that’s not true. It flies in the face of the gazillions spent on satellite picture and telephone intercepts as well as the millions of hours investigating those scumbags just dying (literally) to get a place in their perverted sun. No, there’s a decent chance that the bad guys are at bay probably not all of them and certainly not forever, but enough for us to feel reasonably secure that we can shop at malls and live to pay off the bills.

As for the recent warnings, it’s obvious that the White House, in its most calculatedly cover-your-backside way, prefers limited public disclosure. Even in a post-Sept. 11 world, anything approaching full disclosure is out of the question. Maybe I’ve seen too many Tom Clancy movies, but there are certain things in life that you don’t want to know much about. Making sausage is one. Intelligence gathering is another. As any newspaper editor will tell you, the problem is not much getting the information, but knowing what it all means. And those claiming to know what it all means have agendas that go beyond the public’s interest.

I keep telling myself that in due course all this will get sorted out. Agencies will coordinate with each other and a preparedness equilibrium will be established. It’s good to keep thinking those thoughts because, frankly, the alternative is too horrible to contemplate.

Meantime, my plan is to keep parking in our underground lot. I’ll just look around a lot.

Mark Lacter is editor of the Business Journal.

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