Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Elmer Gantry stands tall in the HD-age

The papers were full of emotional response to the tragic fire deaths last month. In the aftermath, we learned that the building, a bar with apartments above, hadn't been inspected for over fifteen years. The bar itself had, and an inspection for the apartments was scheduled but the tenant cancelled/rescheduled it. This is a red-tape failure spanning three or four mayors and fire chiefs, but in the tumult of the deaths, politicians DEMANDED answers.

Many problems in the old system. People had/have been working to streamline, improve, and fix the issue for several years, with success. But there are many buildings that fall between the cracks, or haven't yet been completed. We can't barge in to every place, so it takes time to arrange and coordinate inspections.

Two mealymouthed firefighters went to the press to complain that when the MFD re-assumed inspection duties (there's a territorial pissing match or grey area between regulatory services, FD, and fire prevention bureau, which itself hovers between Fire and Reg Serv.) we were given shoddy training. I don't disagree that a three+ hour powerpoint isn't the best training tool, but we were given good info, plus very clear direction for problem solving and references. Most of all, none of us would, or should, claim we can't recognize CLEAR safety violation--missing or damaged smoke detectors, exposed wires, gaping holes in floors/ceilings. But, because the dumb firefighters chose the aftermath of a high-profile tragedy to try to undermine the inspection process (because they are pouty about 'having' to do the inspections), they also gave the media ammunition in the finger-pointing flock shoot.

'Building not inspected for 16 years!' cried several headlines, followed by, 'Fire captains say they weren't trained well, can't do good inspections.' And, from there, a second (or third or fourth) narrative developed: that the fire occured because firefighters didn't do a good job inspecting the building.

How can you do a bad inspection, or not know what to look for, in a building you DID NOT enter because the FPB had not assigned that building yet?

The building was a slovenly mess. Residents all said they accepted that in exchange for cheap rent. No one is prevented from installing or maintaining smoke detectors in their apartments or houses, regardless of whether the fire department or reg services inspects. The fire was likely caused by careless smoking. Without smoke detectors, the fire grew and the smoke killed all six of the people in the apartment. That is horrible and a tragedy.

We live in a culture, or society (since culture seems sorely lacking), in which government officials, bankers, CEOs, and other power people regularly stand before the flat-screen eye of the nation and lie their fucking asses off, but they do so with carefully modulated intonation, so they sound 'honest.' When, or if, anyone bothers to fact-check or call them out on blatant lies, they simply equivocate, deny, or ignore the reality-based facts. And continue on their way. Lance Armstrong will continue to issue his doping dance denials until they nail him to his own cross with his own dirty needles giving him B-test stigmata. Marion Jones/Mark Maguire et al NEVER did steroids until, oh yes, they did (admit to what was clear from the start).

Reality tv has engendered a generation and its followers of vapid fucks. The shows inject threadbare 'dramatic tension' into ... anything: can Bob and Bill get past their differences to make a cake by Friday? Will Khloe and Khimmy quit bickering in time to get their bodies bleached? Isn't Simon mean? NONE of it matters or is even real. My co-worker gets berzerk over it, saying he's glad he went to Iraq so these fucks can eat their own shit in hopes of just two more minutes of cyber 'fame.'

I also work with a religious guy who preps for his weekly sermons by watching/listening to HOURS of televangical television, loudly. It's near impossible to escape the braying invocations, and I cannot shut it out. Much of what these preachers are preaching is utter nonsense--literally: their words have no denotation and seldom a legit connotation. But if they say it in a preacherly fashion, it must be holy and inspired. But it's bullshit. Self-justifying bullshit spewed to keep the flock in the pocket.

Steven Soderbergh's Schizopolis merits rewatching, and widespread discussion.

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