Priorities, In One Easy Sentence

Australia burns as seen from the NASA MODIS Aqua satellite

NASA Caption: October 17, 2013, will go down as one of the worst fire days New South Wales has seen in recent years. By 6:30 p.m. local time, 90 wildfires burned, 36 of them out of control and threatening communities near Sydney, Australia. Dry vegetation, high temperatures (above 34° Celsius or 93° Fahrenheit), and erratic winds gusting to 90 kilometers (56 miles) per hour combined to create extremely dangerous fire conditions. Image credit: Jeff Schmaltz, Holli Riebeek/NASA

Generally speaking, you don’t expect to hear a public official expressing his priorities in clear, concise, and easy to understand language. In times of stress and danger, though, that can change. Like Churchill before the Battle Of Britain, they can manage a clarity that we can all seek to emulate. So it was with the assistant police commissioner Alan Clarke for New South Wales, Australia yesterday, discussing the issues his emergency services face during this brush fire season:

“At the end of the day we hope we have buildings standing, but if we don’t have buildings standing we don’t want bodies in them.”

Australia declares emergency over bushfires

It might not rise to the level of Churchill at Whitehall, but it’s a lot clearer than I’m used to.

Afterword: The photo is from the NASA Earth Observatory, one of the many things our government does that are worth every penny we pay for them. To download the full size image, or read the rest of the text, follow the image credit link. Click on the image to see the reduced size image I embedded in this article at its full size.

While working in the federal government for more than twenty years has given me some sympathy for people who worry about government getting too large and too wasteful, what this recent shutdown should have reminded us is how much our government does, and how much of that it does pretty well.