Bird Brains

The beast that evicted Hurricane Katrina victims from their homes and herded them onto buses at gunpoint wants to take another stab at compassion and caring. This time Leviathan will prey on folks stricken with avian flu. Presumably, that will leave them too weak to fight off the federal flunkies as they hustle them into quarantine and wring confessions about their contacts and their whereabouts from them. Wanna bet the bureaucrats bustling around these wards make Nurse Ratched look like Florence Nightingale?

Bird flu seems about as remote a threat as terrorism at this point. Which is not to say that either should be dismissed: both are weapons of mass delusion in the government’s hands. Terrorism has nigh destroyed the country, not through murderous mayhem but through the state’s fearmongering and tyranny. Bird flu looks to finish the job. Leviathan is already huffing about quarantines and nationalizing industry, informants and military responses.

In reality, Americans are as likely to die from bird flu as they are from terrorism. Only a couple hundred people worldwide have contracted it during the last three years. The mortality rate runs a high 50%, but that’s offset by the lack of contagion: the bug burrows into its host’s lungs rather than perching in the nose or throat before catapulting on a cough. It could mutate, of course, allowing us to spread it to each other, and the prognosis then becomes more menacing. It’s estimated a pandemic would knock 40% of the workforce out of commission. But a far graver and more realistic threat comes from Leviathan. In 232 pages released this week, the critter outlined its ideas for grabbing power during such a crisis.

Both the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza: Implementation Plan and the mainstream reporting on it stun with their absolute faith in government. Americans are apparently even more helpless than we suspected, unable to hie themselves to drugstores or doctors when flu hits and too stupid to stay home in bed unless held there by martial law (p. 19 of the Plan). Pharmaceutical companies, those geniuses who keep aspirin flowing onto store shelves and cancer patients alive for decades, need government’s guidance, too. Mere entrepreneurs certainly couldn’t marshal the resources to "improve a flu laboratory in Singapore and encourag[e] new cell-based vaccine-making technology in this country." One thing the state won’t encourage, however, is supply and demand. That system may stock American stores to capacity, improving, lengthening and saving lives, but it can’t be trusted to cure bird flu. No, for that we need "officials" who will "decide who should get limited supplies of vaccine and antiviral drugs" and "whether the government would dip into those domestic supplies to help contain a foreign outbreak." Comforting to know that bureaucrats who dole out patronage to friends will be doling out medicine, too. It’s a far more personal approach than all that heartless profiteering with its treatment of anyone and everyone willing to pay.

Airline passengers obsess this Administration, and its Plan focuses the usual attention on them. You might suppose the Feds would weary of tormenting folks after four years of long lines, stocking feet, and checkpoints, but no. Apparently, warrantless searches and illegal “detainment” were only a dry run.

Page 14 of the Plan contains these chilling words:

Quarantine and Isolation of Travelers

Current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for managing air passengers who may be infected with an influenza virus with pandemic potential include isolation of ill persons, quarantine of all non-ill travelers (and crew), and targeted treatment and prophylaxis with antiviral medications. The Federal Government will develop criteria and protocols for isolation and quarantine of travelers early in a pandemic, prior to significant spread of the virus in the United States.

Our Rulers have actually been discussing this for a while. USA Today reports that only "eighteen airports with heavy international traffic have small federal quarantine stations. They must rely on airlines and state and local authorities to help identify sick travelers and, if needed, quarantine other passengers." [Emphasis added throughout.] Looks like you’ll be explaining your sneezes to a cop: “Well, Officer, I’ve had hay fever since, hmmm, I guess I was 13, and — and — achoo! Oh, gee, sorry. There’s a Kleenex in my pocket, if you’d just take these cuffs off me.”

In the end, logistics may save us: "Most major airports — Logan in Boston, Dulles outside Washington, Seattle’s SeaTac, Miami and New York’s JFK among them — haven’t found facilities they can seal off to house a large number of potentially exposed passengers for several days." Or maybe not: "If passengers on a jumbo jet needed to be quarantined, u2018I don’t know what we would do except leave them on the plane while we scramble, and that’s not a good answer,’ says Jeff Fitch, SeaTac’s public safety director." Hey, no problem, Jeff. The Transportation Security Administration has already set precedent for you there.

Astonishingly, sheeple who don’t object to screeners’ groping them and who blither such idiocy as “Basically you’re glad [the screeners are] there. How do you be antagonistic toward those guys?” are rebelling against Leviathan’s prescription for aviators with avian flu. The Feds want flight crews to spy on passengers and report anyone who’s coughing or sneezing. Actually, that’s already the law, though most crews, lacking Leviathan’s arrogance and also lacking medical training to diagnose flu, are understandably reluctant to rat out customers. But bureaucrats rise to the challenge, according to USA Today: "Robert Tapia, chief of the CDC [Centers for Disease Control] quarantine station here [in Honolulu], pressured airlines to make sure flight crews report sick patients as required by law. If a flight routinely fails to report illness, u2018I’ll go to the jetway and meet the plane myself,’ Tapia says. u2018You only have to do that once or twice and they get the message.'” Indeed.

Also objecting to the Plan, though for their usual wrong reasons, are Congressional Democrats. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) suppressed his hiccups long enough to allege that “Other nations have been implementing their plans for years, but we’re reading ours for the first time now. These needless delays have put Americans at risk.” Not as much as driving across a bridge with the Senator at the wheel. He also complained that the document “still leaves us without a coherent overall national plan.”

Let’s hope so.