Thursday, 12 June 2008


Another construction crane collapsed here in Manhattan the other day, the second in two months, adding two more deaths to the roster of construction workers felled by the corrupt building business in this still-smells-like-a-mob-town town. A few days later the chief crane inspector was busted for taking bribes, timing reminiscent of the Chinese Communist way of commerce in which you just burrow along producing and palm-greasing away until some shit happens. Then someone gets hauled up for corruption and shot in the town square. Since everyone’s on the take as a condition of being in the game, finding a goose is effortless.

Hard to say if that’s the case in the Big Apple, and it will be fun to watch the reported anti-corruption campaign in the building trades proceed. The winningly nerdy acting commissioner—elevated after his successor took the fall for Accident No. 1—strikes me as too goofy to be actively venial, but of course that’s not necessarily true.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg can rend his garment in shock and awe over the repeated toppling of these steel pterodactyls, but one suspects that in the halls of power they know exactly who cuts what corners to enable the construction boom to proceed apace and which of the established goon squads gets what piece of the trickling-down juice.

We have the advantage, for now, of a fairly active news media ready to pounce on misconduct and incompetence, which provides a modicum of civil monitoring over these guys in which the abused Chinese populace would probably take delight. Instead, their kids get buried in shoddy schools that can’t stand up to an earthquake, and anyone who complains is guilty of anti-socialist agitation, previously a.k.a. capitalist-roading.

But I wonder if any biped system can really stamp out this sort of thing once the amounts of wealth involved grow to such skyscraping heights, especially since half the public will snigger in complicity when the smart guy beats the system and manages not to kill anyone too overtly in the process. We reserve our righteous fury for the one who gets caught and prepare to cast not just the first but many subsequent stones at his exposed noggin.

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