Ross Mackenzie

In an hour of seemingly all Iraq all the time, some comments on other happenings of greater or lesser note:

The Army Corps of Engineers has taken the rap for the August inundation of New Orleans as a consequence of Hurricane Katrina. A $20-million, 6,000-page study concluded the Corps used dated data to build levees. There’s this too, said the report: The Corps is dysfunctional. Oh — and separately, geologic faults underlie New Orleans, causing things like buildings, bridges, and levees to sink.

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The human anguish and property loss in New Orleans are beyond calculation and comprehension. What to do? Here’s an idea: Conclude that it makes no sense to build in coastal areas at or below sea level. Indeed, localities and lenders should not authorize construction in flood zones without certificates of insurance, and the federal government emphatically should not be in the insurance business. If private insurers will not insure, then no construction. Regarding New Orleans, e.g., that would mean rebuilding the city elsewhere — on higher, unleveed, insurable ground.

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Dan Rather, who at 74 continues to insist, “My best work is still ahead of me,” evidently will not have his CBS contract renewed when it expires in November. And CBS is not giving him many gigs in his final venue, “60 Minutes.” It’s a fitting sundown for Rather, who still has not publicly apologized to President Bush for impugning him and his National Guard service during his 2004 re-election campaign.

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A recent poll for the Council for Excellence in Government finds that the military, by far, is the most trusted component of the federal government. A stunning 71 percent said they had “a great deal/quite a lot” of confidence in the military. The next closest component: the Supreme Court (43 percent), civil servants or government workers (31 percent), the President and Cabinet officials (25 percent), and Congress (16 percent). Among all federal entities, the 600 survey respondents said the military works best and gets the job done.

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That respect may be in for a quick change on the part of the military toward a key military agency. Seems a career data analyst for the Veterans Administration (VA), without authorization, took home a laptop with the personal data (names, addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers, health data, etc.) of nearly 30 million veterans and active-duty personnel. The analyst’s home was burglarized and the laptop with the data stolen.


Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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