Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Gimme Shelter

The Times ran an obit back in February about the death of Steuart Pittman (“Steuart Pittman, Head of Fallout Shelter Program, Dies at 93” NYT 2/20/13). “Mr. Pittman,” according to the Times, “appointed assistant secretary of defense for civil defense, had one mission only: to give 180 million Americans access to shelters stocked with enough food, water and medical supplies to get them through the first week or two after a nuclear attack, when exposure to radioactive fallout was most perilous.” Pittman was a Kennedy appointee and the Times obit goes on to describe the difficulties Pittman had with the Senate and House “which balked at the estimated 3 billion cost to the federal government. State and local officials cringed at the matching $3 billion they were expected to provide.” Voltaire’s famous  “we must cultivate our own garden” comes to mind. The Times obit describes how “after the defeat of a $190 million budget appropriation to subsidize construction of shelters in hospitals, schools and other non-profit institutions,” Pittman left the job and “he and his wife decided to build a fallout shelter at their home in Georgetown.” "Dreams die hard," as the saying goes. “We started, it anyway,” his wife told the Times, “But after a half day’s digging, we gave it up.” Pittman’s crusade should give pause to those who complain about the expense of Obamacare. We’ve progressed. The war on terror might be raging ahead, but it’s not the cold war in which Russian and the United States pointed real WMD’s at each other. Healthcare is expensive. However, the costs, one would wager, of nuclear Armageddon are higher.

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