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Week in Review

As our readers on the Eastern Seaboard are well aware, the biggest story of the week was the arrival of Hurricane Sandy and the destruction it caused in New York and New Jersey. At the time, we had this to say:

Hurricane Sandy is many things; one of those things is a symbol. The day is coming for all of us when a storm enters our happy, busy lives and throws them into utter disarray. The job on which everything depends can disappear. That relationship that holds everything together can fall apart. The doctor can call and say the test results are not good. All of these things can happen to anybody; something like this will happen to us all.

Somewhere in the future, each of us has an inescapable appointment with irresistible force. For each one of us, the waters will someday rise, the winds spin out of control, the roof will come off the house and the power will go out for good.

We can protect ourselves from a storm like Sandy by taking proper precautions; at the Mead manor we have candles, firewood and food stocked against the possibility that our power will go out. But one day, dear reader, a storm is coming which neither you nor we can survive. The strongest walls, the sturdiest retirement plans stuffed with stocks and CDs, the best doctors cannot protect us from that final encounter with the force that made and will someday unmake us.

In Sandy’s wake, with pumps working overtime and power yet to be restored in may parts of the city, the discussion has turned to prevention and the possibility of putting flood barriers in New York Harbor. While this idea has its merits, the blue and green politics common to New York City will make any such project extremely difficult to get off the ground:

But blue corruption and red stinginess may not be the biggest problems New York flood protection faces. Green bloodymindedness may well block anything big in the harbor. Veto by lawfare is a powerful tool, especially when it comes to projects as big and environmentally consequential as something like a flood barrier would be. Think of the kind of environmental impact that a serious flood control project is likely to have on the Hudson estuary. Every green group and every neighborhood association is going to file a thousand suits. (In today’s New York Times, Joe Nocera points out how green groups with red lines are already trying to control the discussion.) With three states, the federal government and a major river involved, trench lawfare is going to ensure that it will be many years before anything serious can happen. There are environmental groups that would rather see the five boroughs turned into a salt marsh than see flood barriers built, and our legal system gives them an almost infinite number of opportunities to make construction more expensive and time consuming.

News from the Middle East this week was dominated by reports from Syria, where the conflict continues to draw in combatants from all over the world. Iraqis and Palestinians have taken up arms on both sides of the conflict, and the Obama Administration is having difficulty separating from the good guys from the bad.

In Asia, the conflict between China and Japan over the disputed Senkaku Islands continues to heat up. China began the week by attempting to force Japanese boats out of the seas near the islands, while two nationalist Japanese governors founded a new political party advocating a more bellicose posture towards China. China is also facing troubles at home, as professionals flee the country at an accelerating pace while drug use rises for those that remain. Meanwhile, popular protests continue to frustrate Beijing.

On the home front, the Methodist Church has hitched its wagon to the blue model as its membership declines, Compton and CalPERS are preparing for a legal battle over unpaid pension obligations, and MBAs are passing on Wall Street for better opportunities elsewhere. Elsewhere, city regulators are fighting the jobs of the future in the cab industry, Chris Christie scored a victory in a fight with teachers’ unions, and Hurricane Sandy revealed the perils of nanny state governance.

And with the election only two days away, all eyes are on the presidential race. Obama looks to have a slight lead, but the race remains too close to call.

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