Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Threats to national health, security

We've been away without really being away for a day or so, having had a dozen or so "must do" projects to clear, but we've been keeping up on the news and have a couple of items that sparked our commentative interests.

Bird flu reports: Looks like it's going to stick around for the spring and summer, increasing by who knows what odds the chance that it'll mutate into a human-friendly bug that will give us more than the sniffles. Or at least that's the appearance as you skim through the news wires. This morning's "shocker" is that a cat in "the north of Germany" has contracted the disease (we would guess from chewing on an infected bird). Drudge has the emergency lights flashing, but the story doesn't necessarily mean anything. After all, 90 people have died from bird flu already, so it's not as if we can be surprised that mammals are not exempt!

The story isn't even the numbers of humans infected, either. Fewer than 200 known human cases with 90 deaths, out of 6 billion people, isn't exactly harbinger of doom odds. The story is the lethality of the disease when it does hit, with a mortality rate of over 50 percent.

It is just a matter of time before bird flu arrives on a duck pond near you. Our advice: stay calm, feed the ducks with a bun, but don't pet them.

It's all too beautiful.

The Port Controversy: Drones on and on. Our view is relatively uncomplicated. The White House is to be faulted for an extremely poor job of sales, or making its case that the UAE company can do its job just as well as the British firm it aspires to replace. Frankly, arguments that we should not be allowing foreign companies to operate port facilities would be a lot stronger if foreign companies already weren't doing most of the loading and unloading (and employing real American workers in the process). And let's face facts: with our brain-dead rules against profiling and tendency not to properly 'vette anyone's background until after something terrible has already happened, it would be a piece of cake for terrorists to infiltrate a) British port firms and b) domestic labor pools.

This is not an argument for the status quo. Changing the rules so that ports and air terminals use American companies and American labor exclusively, with a strict regimen of background checks, doesn't sound like a bad idea at all. In fact, it sounds almost as sensible as finally enforcing our borders, both north and south.

But damn it's hard to listen to Chuckie Schumer, Hillary, Olympia, et al wax on-and-on about how tough we need to get against terrorist infiltrators. The same soggy bottom crew that gave us the "Great Wall of Separation" and "Strictly No Profiling" are now trying to convince us that they give a damn about port security, and just in time for the mid-term elections. We believe that they have already given us a term for the kind of person it takes to make such arguments. What is it? Hmmm ... Chicken Hawk! Yes, they surely do sound like Chicken Hawks.

Did we say uncomplicated? The Oklahomilist finally comes down to realize that there should be "A Pox on Both Their Houses" for general incompetence and political gamesmanship. America needs defending. If excluding foreign companies helps accomplish that, then exclude them all. If what we really need is more rigorous container inspections, then let's do it.

The second issue is whether our rejection of the Dubai plan is going to adversely affect our national security in ways that cannot be predicted. Already reaction in the Mideast is negative. And let's face it, unless the Arabs and Chinese can find creative ways to reinvest the billions of American dollars that they are accumulating from the imbalance of trade, they may as well use them as housing insulation. (We're reasonable sure that they would work quite well. We are also reasonably sure that before they would crumple up Dollar One and drop it between the outer wall and the sheetrock, they would use them to buy harder currency, like gold and silver. This would further shred the value of the dollar, drive up the cost of precious metals, and play hell with life as we know it here in the heartland.)

In macroeconomic circles, this is what is technically known as being "between the devil and the deep blue sea."

Between the two problems - bird flu and dollar dumping - we'll take bird flu.

Now go and enjoy YOUR day!


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