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05/21/2003 Archived Entry: "Hysteria"

The US seems to be awash in waves of hysteria, with the government and people wildly over-reacting to extraordinarily remote, vague threats and, yet, at the same time, virtually ignoring the in-your-face daily realities that threaten to devastate the lives of average Americans.

Some of the nebulous threats:
--chatter about terrorism caused the Homeland Security Department to raise the alert level to "high" orange on Tuesday, where it has remained. Simultaneously, the FBI issued a bulletin warning that last week's terror attacks in Saudi Arabia and Morocco "may be a prelude to another attack in the United States." The FBI "emphasized it had no specific information about a planned attack or target." without any real evidence, the feds are forcing the public, cities and states to absorb the huge financial cost, disruption of business and inconvenience of going orange. KRON4 reports, "California, like other states, is looking to the federal government for some help with the costs of again moving to threat level orange. Governor Gray Davis says the state has 15 (m) million dollars of federal money for homeland security. Eighty percent of that will be passed on to cities and counties, as needs arise. But Davis says even counting additional money promised by the federal government, California and its cities have been reimbursed only about "30 cents on the dollar." The governor estimates anti-terrorism activities since nine-eleven have cost California and its counties and cities 700 (m) million dollars." Meanwhile, "a strong opening surge on Wall St faded overnight as investors reacted to a raised terror alert in the US."
--US secretary for health Tommy G. Thompson is warning that the SARS virus is likely to kill people "in all the continents, or a lot of the continents" and could get worse later in the year. His comment came even though outbreaks of SARS have subsided in most places except hard-hit Taiwan, and despite the WHO's optimism that SARS can be wiped out completely. Thompson must be well aware of the huge negative impact such statements based on no evidence have upon areas like Toronto. An Edmonton Journal article entitled "The Worst Hysteria I've Ever Seen" comments, "Even though the last new SARS case in Toronto was reported April 19, many people continue to avoid the city and there are fears the tourism sector will take years to recover."
--one Canadian cow that did not reach the food chain is diagnosed with madcow disease and the US bans all Canadian cattle, sheep, and goat imports pending investigation even tho' Canadian food products are generally acknowledged to be among the safest in the world. "News of the mad cow case sent shock waves through the North American food industry and commodity markets. Shares in major hamburger chains like McDonald's Corp. and big beef processor Tyson Foods Inc. fell on Tuesday... Shares of McDonald's sank $1.21, or nearly 7 percent, to close at $16.95 on New York Stock Exchange trading, making the stock the top loser in the Dow Jones Industrial Average . Tyson Foods fell 46 cents or nearly 5 percent to $9.01."

Just based on statistics, the likelihood of anyone in North America dying from a terrorist attack is miniscule. The likelihood of anyone dying from SARS or mad cow disease is less. Being hit by lightning is a far more common cause of death than the latter two, with an average of 93 people being killed each year from lightning. You are far more likely to die from the economic impact of the hysteria being created....that is, from the consequences of poverty and stress.

And, yet, as hysteria rolls over the continent, the real threats to individual well-being are downplayed by authorities. The threats impact the daily lives of every single human being in the US and -- by inevitable slop-over -- in Canada. They are 1) the economy and 2) the extraordinary nickel-and-diming being conducted by cities, states, and the feds. A brief sampling of the threats people should be crying out against:
--the US dollar is sinking in value. And government plans could make the situation much worse. A commentator in Florida Today writes, "Already, the value of the U.S. dollar is plunging, cutting American buying power. Another huge reduction after last year's $1.35 trillion tax cut could trigger rising interest rates that would choke off any recovery." The Seattle Times reports, "The euro has gained 27 percent against the dollar over the past 12 months, and the dollar has lost 9.5 percent of its value against the Japanese yen, but [Treasury Secretary John] Snow said the dollar's recent slide 'really is a fairly modest realignment in currencies'."
--the US deficit will exceed $300 billion this year "mainly due to growing defense spending and a limp economy....According to the budget analysis, the federal deficit has reached an estimated $202 billion for the first seven months of the government's budget year, which began last Oct. 1. For the same six months last year, the deficit was $65 billion."
--the individual states are having to pass along the cost of increased defense and other spending to the average guy and gal on the street, many of whom are already hurting from what Snow calls a "soggy" economy. For example, Washington state has just increased its gas tax by a nickle. The Seattle Post Intelligencer reports, The gas tax, along with a 15 percent boost in trucking fees and a 0.03 cent sales tax surcharge on new and used vehicles, will take effect July 1.
--the money-grab by cities is even worse, with new fees, reduced services, higher ticket-quotas for police...you name the method...if it is a way to make someone part with a buck, the cities are enforcing it. How ridiculous can it become? Judge from the following story from the New York Post. "A lot of New Yorkers have outrageous stories about how the city is milking them dry with ridiculous fines - but Jesse Taveras has them all beat. The 19-year-old Bronx man got a summons Sunday - for simply sitting on a milk crate on the Grand Concourse. 'I don't believe this,' Taveras said he told the cop who handed him the ticket, citing him for 'unauthorized use of a milk crate.' ''Don't blame me,' Taveras said the cop told him. "'Blame [New York mayor] Bloomberg.' The summons didn't say how much Taveras would have to pay for planting his bottom on the crate, which bore the imprint of Sunnydale Farms and a warning: "Use by anyone but registered owner is liable to prosecution, article 17A, General Business Law." Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Joan Carey said a judge would decide the amount of the fine. But Carey conceded she was stumped by the case of the sitting man. "I've never heard of this [violation] before," she said. "But I learned something new today." She did note that an ages-old provision of the general business law deals with abandoned milk cans. It involves a $50 fine. And a 1988 law calls for fines of up to $100 for stealing milk crates - but doesn't address the legality of sitting on them. The summons from hell came days after the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association charged that beat cops are under pressure to write tickets and meet illegal quotas to help pump money into city coffers. City officials strongly deny those charges."

Again, you are far more likely to die from the results of being taxed and chiseled into poverty than from terrorism, SARS or mad cow disease. If you must choose between buying medicine or paying a frivolous fine, if you must pare down the family food budget to pay a "quota" parking ticket, if you have to work harder at a stressful job to make up the increased amount of your tax bill...all these circumstances -- and many more -- threaten your health. The hysteria -- along with the run-away spending and "soggy" economy it generates-- endanger your life.

The hysteria is being created and used (in part) to impose a social control that is far over and above anything a freedom-oriented society can sustain. We are becoming a police state through panicking over the wrong things. Perhaps the most radical stance a freedom-loving people can take right now is to stay calm and to calm down everyone around them.

Best to all,

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