One of the puzzlements of post-9/11 politics is that terrorism is a hot issue in the suburbs but not in the city. Before the election, for example, New Jersey voters told any reporter who’d listen, like noted Jersey expert Terry Golway, and even me, that this was because they were being afraid of being blown up, and that they’d vote for Bush as a result. The Bush campaign ran ad after ad reminding voters of 9/11.
Terror was a dominant issue in national politics this year, but has no place in city politics. They’re obsessed in the red states. Here, we never talk about it. A friend notes that part of Mike Bloomberg’s charm is how little he talks about it. The only time terror dominated the local conversation was when the Republicans were in town. It’s not an issue here, where we’re really at risk from nuclear terror. That’s despite the fact that some experts, like Harvard’s Matthew Bunn, argue that a nuclear attack is “likely enough that it significantly reduces the life expectancy of everyone who lives and works in downtown Washington D.C. or New York.”
That may be because the mayor’s rivals see him and Ray Kelly as politically invulnerable on this issue because they’re doing a good job. And catching terrorists involves lots of sneaking around, apparently, so maybe they can’t talk about that.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no policy to argue. This article in the latest edition of City Journal (no, not the one — how many of these has Heather MacDonald written? — about how we need more racial profiling; nor any of the four by a man named Theodore Dalrymple, though you see why they enjoy printing his byline) opens up a huge, scary front.
Peter Huber and Mark Mills say the problem is that the national grid that powers the city and everything else is both highly concentrated in a relatively small number of big power plants and, consequently, based on widely scattered sources. There’s not much local backup, as we learned last August.
They cite a 2002 National Academy of Sciences report, which found that “a coordinated atack on a selected set of key points…could result in a long-term, multistate blackout. While power might be resotred in parts of teh region within a matter of days or weeks, acute shortages could mandate rolling blackouts for as long as several years.”
Years? Wouldn’t that be bad for business? Um, when we get a break from talking about the Olympics, shouldn’t this be an issue? Somebody get Dan Doctoroff on his tri-band cellphone!
Huber and Mills say the solution is diesel generators, and they want to make them easier to site. I’d be interested in their response to the 7 World Trade problem, which is that diesel tanks are themselves explosive. As we headline in our own diesel-tank-madness story today, Kaboom!