Instapundit provides a link to Jeff Jarvis?s post on his blog Buzz Machine about the decades of idiotic “deinstitutionalization” policy for the mentally ill that led to the New York City subway-tunnel fire Sunday that caused so much damage that officials say it could be five years before service on two entire underground lines returns to normal.

Seems that some homeless guy who was obviously a couple kabobs short of a shawarma decided to keep warm through the Northeast’s weekend blizzard by camping out underground in Lower Manhattan’s Chambers Street station and setting fire to the refuse in his shopping cart in order to raise the ambient temperature. Nice move–the cart happened to be next to a closet full of switching equipment. Now the some 600,000 New Yorkers who use the crucial A and C lines daily to commute uptown and downtown to homes and jobs will have to do something else. For years on end.

Jarvis writes:

“[T]he real issue isn’t homelessness. It’s insanity. The laws in this country make it impossible to commit and help even the obviously and often the dangerously insane.

“I say that One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is as much at fault as any politician, for it made the institution frightening and the people who run it bad guys.

“The fact that people are living in the subways of New York is, in the end, a dereliction of our duty to these people.”

Myself, I loved the New York Times’s gooey take on the fire in Monday’s paper:

“[T]he unidentified homeless person battled the cold….”

Meanwhile, the more tough-minded New York Post weighs in today with what is apparently the only iota of sanity within a 10-mile radius of the Chambers Street station:

“Here’s a blueprint that shouldn’t take long to implement: Clear the subway system ‘ platforms, trains, tunnels, stairways and corridors ‘ of vagrants.

“Every last one of them.

“They may not always be a danger to themselves, though plainly many are. But their presence underground poses a clear danger to an astonishingly fragile mass-transit system. That much became abundantly clear Sunday.

“To be sure, sweeping the subways clean of vagrants won’t make them secure all by itself. But clearing all unauthorized folk out of the system is a necessary ‘ and modest ‘ first step toward avoiding another disastrous fire.

“How many vagrants are there underground? One year-old survey put the number in Manhattan and Brooklyn at nearly 600.

“Citywide, say NYPD records, cops had 4,882 ‘contacts’ with homeless individuals in subway stations, trains and tunnels last year ‘ 357 at Chambers Street alone. From those contacts, 2,776 agreed to go to a shelter, 878 were arrested and 1,279 were left to their own devices.

“Whether those devices included setting fires near switching stations isn’t clear.”

Yes, thanks to the efforts of civil-liberties groups, the demented homeless–and estimates are that the majority of them would been in mental hospitals years ago–a guy with a shopping cart full of tinder in subfreezing weather has to “agree” to be taken to a shelter before he can be moved. Jarvis quotes this earlier Post editorial:

“New York City spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year to feed, clothe, shelter and provide all manner of services to needy street folk.

“When they resist help, their self-appointed  ‘advocates’ rise to defend their ‘rights’ to do so.

What do these ‘advocates’ say now, when millions will have to suffer, likely for years, so that the ‘rights’ of a single lunatic could be preserved?”

Actually, as far as I can tell the self-appointed advocates seem to be trying to pretend that the fire never happened. The home page of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which has for years championed living on the streets as an alternative lifestyle, has not a word to say about the subway blaze but plenty of blather about capital punishment, same-sex marriage, and abuse of Iraqi prisoners. even though when I last looked, the Abu Graib prison was not located on the island of Manhattan.

As Instapundit notes:

“Not all the homeless are mentally ill, of course, but a lot are — and they’re usually the ones who have, and cause, the most serious problems.”