Saturday, October 29, 2005
Feeling good. No great worries.
As always, I'm keeping an eye on the horizon. But with my household's crisis preparations in order, I'm comfortable enough with current global, national, local, and personal situations.
On the longer-term radar screen, I've flagged the H5N1 avian flu threat as one to keep an eye on. But again, we're squared away for having on hand what our family would need if the worst happens in that regard, so all we can do is wait to see if anything comes of it ... and if it does, we're about as ready for it as we can be.
Farther down the list of potential threats ... winter is right around the bend here in Minnesota. It's not normally anything to whimper about, but this year we do have some interest in how high heating costs will be. We have some alternatives in that regard at our place so we'll be OK, but of course we're hoping natural gas prices will be lower than projections for the sake of all in the northern climes ... so it doesn't become a back-breaker for too many.
And oh yes ... on a personal level, my dear wife has some issues, as do all employees there, with her longtime employer--Northwest Airlines. I won't start spewing in that direction here. But of course, the economic outlook / personal financial stability is a key focus for most of us. We'll be needing to make some adjustments here one way or the other, but God willing, we'll be fine. I have a few different income streams, but the one that is of most interest and holds my greatest focus is my crisis preparedness business--Safecastle LLC. Preparedness in general out there in the US population is gaining momentum, and it's rewarding to be able to play some tiny part in it.
Is it time for one of your own situational self-assessments?
Stay safe. Be prepared. Enjoy your day!
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Certainly the downwind recovery efforts from any major hurricane are always going to be tough. But the lesson to be learned over and over again is that a little personal preparation can go a long way.
Even "minor" hurricanes demand that folks in affected areas be situated under the assumption that for a few days at least, they will be without power and/or a means of getting food and water.
How much is it to ask of folks to have a few days worth of food and water in their homes? That should be a minimal threshold of readiness for all of us wherever we live, at any given time. But in the crosshairs of a hurricane, it's criminally insane to blow off the logic in getting yourself squared away if you're not already.
Check out this short news article ... Miami: Emergency Supplies are Dwindling.
Governor Jeb Bush said that people waiting in line for hours seeking relief should have done more to prepare for the storm. "People had ample time to prepare. It isn't that hard to get 72 hours worth of food and water."
Emergency-Food-Provider Capabilities are Again (or still) Straining to Respond
Still another lesson for all of us ... how quickly our just-in-time supply lines are emptied of capacity of the most urgently needed items when a surge in demand is realized.
Emergency foods of all makes and models out there in the U.S. have been on backorder since Katrina. Wilma will once again tax our capability to provide buyers of emergency foods what they need in the short term. And if another disaster strikes soon, we'll be heading into a period that I would characterize as a longer-term supply crisis.
If you are in need of bolstering your own emergency food stores, I'd advise you get on someone's waiting list now. Don't wait. It's possible the list will get longer yet before it shrinks back to normal.
Monday, October 24, 2005
Folks who are fairly new to crisis preparedness are susceptible to potential-threat-immersive breakdown. It's not an insignificant danger, as anxiety always takes a toll, and if you fail to manage your exposure and/or learn to cope, you can easily lose control.
This much is a given ... there are ALWAYS many risks and threats to your safety out there to be aware of. The news media and government authorities will often elevate one or more into clear focus at any given time in ways that are necessary to provoke desired (and occasionally unanticipated) reactions in public opinion and in organizational or legislative activity.
Sometimes, Mother Nature plays headline editor, as we have seen this fall with the record hurricane season that is still not finished. Major earthquakes periodically jolt us into being reminded of the seismic activity continuously underfoot. Of course, last year the tsunami in the Asia Pacific region raised our awareness of another natural danger to those living near the planet's coastal shorelines. And let us not ignore the current fearsome threat soaring through the highest echelons--a potential Avian Flu pandemic.
One of the worst everpresent dangers out there is mankind itself. Among such consequences of living together in a progressive society, we deal with the specter of technological/industrial accidents, terrorism, ethnic and cultural strife, international arms proliferation, and growing gang-related crime, to name just a few.
No Telling WHAT Could Ruin Your Whole Day
Of course those are just some of the big-picture disasters one might be concerned with. There are a whole range of personal-level eventualities that could one day touch our lives and cause grief or hardship.
The thing is, it's quite possible that one who is vulnerable to anxiety (isn't that really all of us?) can easily be sucked into the vortex of fear, as the latest elements of danger swirl about our consciousness, to then be added to the growing pile of worries accumulating at our feet.
Voracious newshounds are particularly vulnerable--the news industry is all about bad news. If there isn't a terrifying story happening, then there's always one to be manufactured about what COULD happen.
It's not easy to walk the line of being aware and prepared while keeping it all from becoming an internal driver in your life that will one day eat you from the inside out. You need to be able to erect a wall within that will allow you to keep an eye on the world, and make responsible, informed decisions that can mitigate your household's future risk ... while isolating it all from your emotional center of being.
Ideally, it should be like business. Business is business, preparedness is preparedness. Nothing personal, but we want to simply do what needs to be done, then go home at the end of the day to our real life--the one that is already in motion, occuring all around us in real time.
For many of us, crisis preparedness is a necessary evil. We know bad things happen and it's actually an effective therapy to have adequate gear, knowledge, and plans in the backroom should they ever be needed. But just like many other "feel-good" choices out there, it can be overdone and can potentially take control of our lives.
We don't want to live in the backroom with our gear and our fear. Keep it in its place and then go do what you've always done before--enjoy life.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
You ever wake-up to one of those "aha" revelations that suddenly put things into a whole new perspective for you?
This morning was one of those moments for me, though admittedly at the time, it seemed a bit more clarifying than it does now. Still, it is worth addressing here. I figure this personal realization was largely the result of two things that I had been exposed to in the previous 24 hours, somehow bringing about a bit of a subconscious convergence of information ...
First--I had read (or at least scanned) the current Time magazine issue's, "The Road Ahead," one of those panel-of-geniuses-discussing-future-trends kinds of articles. I found it particularly obtuse and unsatisfying. But nonetheless, it got me once again stewing over our global direction.
Second--last night I was able to watch much of a PBS program, "Three Presidents, East of the Blue Ridge" on how Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe, "enlightened" Virginia neighbors and friends, had become core founding fathers to ideas that changed the course of history. Interesting points addressed included the fact that they embraced the newest technologies of the time to run their plantations. So also, they together actively endeavored to combine classical insights with the latest range of knowledge, creating a degree of higher awareness that brought about the birth of a new nation.
As much as many of us would like to believe that we can hold fast to the ideals that over 230 years ago created the United States of America, time itself proves otherwise. I mean to emphasize that we are no longer a nation in and of ourselves ... and popular ideas and practices are not the same as what they were 20 years ago, let alone what they were over 200 years ago.
We are today inextricably interconnected among global cultures everywhere via commercial technologies. Of course, most significantly it is the global economy that is spreading and solidifying that connectivity more everyday (for an excellent look at where we stand today, see "The Pentagon's New Map").
Personally, I've never been a fan of globalization, but by now there's no turning back. To deny that we are global citizens on the fast track to erasing all types of nationalistic boundaries is to put oneself at a serious disadvantage in dealing with reality. It's not coming; it's here, and we're getting in deeper as we speak.
A World Without Borders?
International boundaries will remain on our maps for a while. Maybe for a long while. But the reasons for their being there are diminishing and their practicality will one day be universally challenged.
Perhaps we can still prevent the United Nations from becoming anymore of an albatross to our existence than it already is, but one way or the other, we're finding our way into a whole 'nother understanding of our time and place. (Heck, you need look no further today than how wars are not even about nations at odds with each other anymore. Assymetetrical warfare of the 21st century is about enemies confronting each other over ideas via economic and cultural tactics, confrontations in neighborhoods some of them share, and attacks in cyberspace.)
Let's face it--technologies, maps, cultures, and governments are historically ever-changing. Today, technologies are enabling an exponential acceleration in our societal evolution, and ultimately national boundaries are obstacles that will be fully overwhelmed and erased. Most people in America today still get bogged down in the nationalistic aspect of globalization, as there ARE supremely important issues of self preservation and self determination at stake. But unfortunately, denial is not an adequate strategy or defense.
United "States of Awareness"
This is where my light bulb was illuminated. Maybe the following new context for life has already been obvious to others, but to me, it's become an imminent possibility that opens up a whole different way of anticipating what our tomorrows may be like--or at least our children's tomorrows. And given current realities, I do see it as being a very real revolution.
Let's assume that life goes on for a few years uninterrupted by any MAJOR international conflict, or by a global pandemic that totally reshuffles the deck, or by a major asteroid strike, or a deep economic depression, etc. Corporate interests and investor profits continue to dominate governmental agendas. The economy and the environment make periodic demands of us to make adjustments in how we deal with day-to-day life. We as people are motivated by self-serving causes.
In other words, "the business of big business" continues to fuel the global economy, while the people of the planet buy into all the latest technological marvels. Apart from occasional limited-attention-span diversions, the global population becomes more and more self-absorbed, often enabled by the technologies out there that they can plug into.
In a sense, consumerism and technological advances often centered on the entertainment industries become unifying experiences for the peoples of the world. Inevitably, as they already have been, traditional cultural barriers continue to blur. "Crossover" relationships between people of various backgrounds are increasingly enabled by the internet and similar connections, and markets and constituencies become less about geography and more about common interests.
Think about that. It's already evident that one of the most powerful results coming about out of the internet's discussion forum and blogging cultures is that people of similar beliefs and interests find each other, sometimes magnifying their individual power to accomplish things by more than a factor of two, just by virtue of the connection between them. When larger groups bound by a shared passion come together online, potential for dynamic action becomes significant, even across artificial borders.
But while there are obvious unifying possibilities in technology, so too are there possibilites, even tendencies, for inflating the inevitable clashes ... with the chance for conflicts of epic proportions.
Bottom line, I'm talking about influence over the hearts and minds of people everywhere. Are we susceptible to purposeful mind control through our media? Yes. Unquestionably, that will always be a risk. But we may be most vulnerable to our own viewpoints, if that makes any sense.
Wars of Words and Ideas
I suspect that a reasonable conclusion is that this coming together of minds from around the world will not result in a single homogenized perspective. Indeed, I believe the greater potential is toward a proliferation of fervent special interests and a subsequent empowerment and enflamed wars of words and ideas ... wars that can erupt anywhere and everywhere, flashing across traditional borders.
It's a human trait ... we naturally are attracted to other people who think much like we do. We tend to congregate and reinforce those common viewpoints, often to the exclusion of strong counterpoints, or at least straining our capacity to tolerate them.
Talk politics or religion or ethnicity or even money and taxes--these are the kinds of topics that can spell trouble. Interest groups of this ilk naturally find inspired passions among participants. It doesn't take much to stoke the fires of discontent within a like-minded group if there is adequate fuel to pour.
Does it matter if the group is not a physically gathered mob? I believe there are many folks who can draw energy from online associations, for good or for bad. In the right situations, if a cause is justifiable in the minds of those who support it, the power of online suggestion and reinforcement can be considerable. The end result? Potentially, widely scattered unrest that can, if prevalent enough and focused enough, quickly bring about system failures throughout society and perhaps even pockets of anarchy. I suspect the greatest danger from something like this would come about as a follow-on to some other event that previously weakens the society's infrastructure.
Unify or Divide?
My main point is that as physical, geographic boundaries become less relevant, and national loyalties fade away, people will find common bonds with others who share interests and passions and viewpoints. As they develop those personalized bonds, they naturally become more exposed to emotional manipulation on various levels.
Potential for the development of countless, interspersed "nations" of special interests mainlining specialized information designed to incite discord creates a dynamic for the future that is worth thinking about.
Is it farfetched? I think not.
Saturday, October 15, 2005
Indeed, it's a fair question that all of us ought to periodically give some attention to because I think it just might help some folks regain a more balanced footing in their approach to preparedness.
Survivalist Caricature Issues
I tend to avoid use of the word "survivalist" because in the group mind of the general public, it conjures images of extremist behavior and attitudes. I even hate using the word "extremist" because it too carries unfair connotations which, in some cases at least, do good people serious injustice.
Still, on a sidenote--today our world IS all about imagery, reputation, and popular acceptance. Not that everyone admits that or gives in to play by those rules. But if any person, product, movement, or viewpoint is going to get any traction out there today, they're going to need some positive media coverage, a well-organized lobby or PR campaign, and maybe an advertising budget.
The closest thing to any of that the crisis preparedness or survivalist movement has had going for it has probably been the NRA. And obviously, the guns and hunting rights movement is at best a second cousin, twice-removed, from the far wider ranging issues that relate to disaster readiness.
So it's no wonder that up until recently, positive press for "survivalism" has been non-existent. If I would cast any blame for that it would be toward liberal media and education-policy powers who seized the initiative back in the '80s when racist militia groups were an easy target for left-wing anti-gun movements. Since then, the rap largely stuck and even expanded and became more deeply rooted. As an example, Marxist-based factions have gone so far as to become strongly focused on destroying one of the great original preparedness organizations--the Boy Scouts of America.
Like many other traditional, conservative targets out there, crisis-preparedness adherents passively endured (or not, as certainly many shied away from being part of anything controversial) the cheap shots.
But now, recent catastrophes have unavoidably shown the uncommon wisdom in being ready for hell or high water. And at last, we have none other than Uncle Sam footing the bill for disaster readiness PR campaigns. The times they are a changin'.
Some of those in recent years who have maintained the readiness way of life have often, unfortunately, fit the bill in terms of reflecting the image the press has portrayed us all with. You know the stereotype--right-wing, "fundamentalist Christian," white male, reclusive gun-toting conspiracy nut living for the day when society collapses so they can at long last shake their fists and cry "I told you so."
Yes, there are many such characters out there, though I'd have to say that a strong majority of those integrating preparedness into their lives today are NONE of the above.
Thankfully, most folks are able to maintain a healthy balance in their approach to readiness and not go off the deep end. They "blend." They are the guy or girl next door. They are you.
Back to the Question
Why would most people who are striving to be ready for a disaster want to survive it? Seems like a dumb question, but it really is a core issue for many.
Some would say they are survivors. They are tough and bound to fight through whatever life dishes out.
Many do it for love of family.
Others hope to show themselves as being ahead of the curve, somehow smarter than most people, and are ready and anxious to show those others up.
A few quite simply are afraid to die or suffer, and see terrible risks out there all around.
There are a lot of reasons for wanting to survive whatever is coming down the pike. I want to suggest that folks periodically truly look at their own reasons and determine whether they are comfortable with them.
For instance ...
Do you secretly look forward to a collapse of the system, when the slate will be wiped clean and you'll get a fresh start?
Do you trust no one and fearfully guard your mindset and your preparations so that you will not ever have to share of what you believe or the supplies you have stored?
Have you become fearful or suspicious of any type of authority to the point of coming close to filling someone's definition of being a closet anarchist?
Ninety percent of the folks out there will not even have gotten to this point in this blog post before moving on because this all is so far off their reality screen. And that's good. But for the few who feel a twinge--of anger or confusion or sadness--give it some more thought.
My point is that preparing for crisis should not be about selfishness. Or vindictiveness. Or even about fear.
Surviving just to continue breathing seems like such a pointless exercise if we plan on doing it to the exclusion or expense of others. In fact, I have to believe it still means a lot to be an American. We are Americans together, not apart.
So much better it would be on the other side, wouldn't it, if we are able to have done what was needed for all we are in a position to help, while maintaining a high order of principle, just allegiance, personal honor, and faithful conscience?
Thursday, October 13, 2005
In mid-June of this year, a panel discussion sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations was conducted involving some of the topmost medical minds on the planet. These folks are responsible for bringing the flu front and center on global agendas, and they are making it happen with an urgency that speaks volumes.
Take the time to read this transcript, top to bottom, and you will know just about as much about the risks and dangers we face from a global pandemic as anybody out there who is fighting on the front lines to make sure the world does its best to get prepared for it.
Bottom line ... we need time ... several years in fact before the worst-case pandemic occurs if we are to have any chance of allowing our way of life to emerge unchanged. Failing that, all bets are off.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
The danger in this approaching storm, according to Osterholm, is that one simply cannot imagine a force with a capability of doing more damage to modern society than what a worst-case pandemic could unleash upon us.
The destructive power of the H5N1 supercell bearing down on us is potentially immense--and we're not just talking in terms of human lives lost.
Yes, there's still room for prayer and realistic hope that this "bird flu" virus will not make the final genetic adaptations to allow for rapid human to human communicability ... or that even if it does, it will lose some of it's lethality, which right now is off the charts in terms of being over 50% fatal to those infected, even with the best medical care available.
Dr. Osterholm has been warning of a viral storm sweeping across the planet that not only kills, but just as callously collapses the economic pillars of society in its wake.
Some folks HAVE been watching the stormcells approaching, since even before H5N1 first appeared on the radar screens in 1997 in Asia. We've been due and now overdue for the next great global flu pandemic, and this particular flu strain is looking very much like it is about to assume that mantle. It is possible it will become the most deadly flu strain to strike mankind in history, unless it suddenly, somehow, weakens as it mutates into the human scourge it seems destined to become.
Presidential Mention Draws Public Attention
At President Bush's October 4 press conference, he spoke at some length about the "important" topic of how we must plan and be proactive in anticipation of the H5N1 virus now. Subsequently, the media has embraced the subject with the usual fervent stampede afforded any "story of the hour" more relevant than, say, a Brittney Spears brassiere auction or a Michael Jackson facial suction.
For once, the public attention being drawn to H5N1 is warranted in my view, and not at all overdone as a few pundits are now moaning. Of course, in short order, the media WILL shift en masse and move viewers' attention away to whatever is next on the playbill. But folks will be well-advised to accept that this flu story will not disappear until one way or the other, the virus is rendered a "has-been."
So can we overreact to the threat? I suppose we can--particularly as individuals if we allow ourselves to become too focused on the pandemic possibility, at the expense of giving proper due to our normal day-to-day obligations and to our loved ones. Balance and calm is always key.
I need to be clear--there certainly are things we should all be doing now to prepare our households for a pandemic (see previous posts), should it actually occur. Moreover, governmental (federal, state, and especially local) and corporate authorities should be swarming all over this for as long as it takes to be fully prepared ... and we would all be wise to make sure they know about their constituents' expectations in this area. Lastly, the major media need to do the responsible thing and keep the heat on this story to make sure everything IS done that CAN be done to minimize risks before all we are left with is forced reactive measures that are never going to be as effective as they could have been.
Are YOU Overreacting?
It seems that even with the media's saturation/infatuation with the glorious gloom and doom of H5N1 for over a week now, there are still relatively few naysayers among them standing up. That is another indicator of how preparedness in general is becoming more widely accepted. Yes, there are plenty of efforts underway to try to properly downgrade the doom factor, and that's understandable since no one wants the scare to prematurely deflate the already shaky economy ... which by the way will ultimately be the most significant and impactful victim of a deadly pandemic--possibly killing as many in the end with its collapse as the virus would accomplish all by itself.
So are we overreacting?
No, not as a nation or as communities within that nation. A pandemic of the magnitude that is potentially on the doorstep is a bonafide threat to our way of life. And to this point, we are woefully unprepared to endure it. It would be very difficult to imagine how we could collectively overreact to the threat (although the folks who gleefully accused Y2K preventive efforts as being a "cry wolf" boondoggle would no doubt be quick to point fingers if this disaster is averted).
Individually, we need to keep a close eye on things and be sure we are taking the prudent steps to give our families a fighting chance should the virus make that fateful leap into the human population. But realize, just as with most other threats worth taking steps to mitigate, a pandemic is not at all a sure thing yet. And we are each best-served if we remind ourselves that we are limited in how much control we can ever actually exert over our futures.
Live today, prepare for tomorrow, but never obsess over what MIGHT be down the road.
If you can do no more than to simply embrace life and love today, then you are ahead of the game.
Sunday, October 09, 2005
For those who may be at a loss for what to do in the face of such an ominous threat, read it (see link below), print it out, and start a systematic approach to preparing your family--today.
(Important note: there are a few things I would add or change in the plan, but the most urgent point would be to try now to acquire Tamiflu from an international pharmacy while it is still available. Be advised that some professionals are now saying 16 capsules per person may be necessary for H5N1--not the 10 most flus require.)
The article was compiled/authored by "Shaman", (firstname.lastname@example.org), and originally made available by request in August 2005, on the "WorldChanging" blog.
It can now be seen in it's fully formatted version at http://www.geftakysassembly.com/Articles/NewDirections/Pandemic.htm
ASSUME A PANDEMIC WILL OCCUR IN THE NEAR FUTURE
The time to begin planning is NOW. Conditions are right for H5N1 to emerge as a pandemic, and the spread of this virus among humans could begin at any time. Waiting for the World Health Organization to announce the pandemic has begun may not leave you enough time to accomplish many of the items outlined in this plan. When people do begin to take the threat seriously, there is apt to be panic and frenzied buying as worried individuals rush to stores to begin their own stockpile purchases. Avoid panicked crowds and stockpile necessities NOW. Additionally, once the virus does reach America, standing in a grocery line with dozens of other people increases your risk of potentially coming into close contact with infected individuals.
Friday, October 07, 2005
He has for years been leading the battle for public awareness of the imminent pandemic.
Dr. Osterholm has many times been quoted as saying that a pandemic could result in a collapse of the global economy and absolutely devastate our modern way of life. He estimates one to three years of preparations on governmental and organizational levels will be required to weather the storm. His learned warnings are quoted on media sites everywhere and one need only search "Osterholm, pandemic" to quickly amass more than enough insight into the situation the world is faced with.
"Preparing for the Next Pandemic" is one recent essay of his that is a particularly insightful look at how things could suddenly go south around the globe ...
Executive Summary: If an influenza pandemic struck today, borders would close, the global economy would shut down, international vaccine supplies and health-care systems would be overwhelmed, and panic would reign. To limit the fallout, the industrialized world must create a detailed response strategy involving the public and private sectors.
For the complete eye-opening essay by Dr. Osterholm, see it here, published late this summer in Foreign Affairs.
Do It Now
Needless to say, households are as needy for such preparedness levels as organizations, if not more so.
Please consider the immediate need to assess your family's ability to survive a collapse of "the system" --a collapse that could very well be of unimaginable historical proportions. The world is suddenly sitting up and taking notice--you need to do the same.
Three initial, main steps you need to take, among many others that should follow:
1. Acquire some Tamiflu for your family--find an online source now and pay the money. It will soon not be available at any price. Also, stock up on Sambucol. These represent our best bets at this point to survive an H5N1 pandemic.
2. Have on hand enough stored food (and the ability to provide your family with drinking water) to be able to survive at least a year. According to Dr. Osterholm, THREE years might be the prudent baseline. Here is an excellent Food Storage Calculator that can help you assess what you need to sustain your household for up to 36 months (Thank you to "Doctor Fungcool" for the link).
3. Give some long, serious thought to whatever other specifics your family would need to endure three years of what might be something akin to isolation at best, and at worst, basic subsistence in a world much more dangerous and unstructured than it is now.
This is not about losing one's sense of balance. Quite the opposite. This is right now an opportunity to take advantage of a loud warning we are being given, though it is still somewhat muted due to the need to prevent widespread chaos and panic. The time WILL come when anarchy becomes the rule, if this pandemic comes calling. Your goal should be to avoid that mess by doing the necessary legwork right now.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
My hat's off to him for helping to bring this to the fore while folks still have some time to prepare.
Below are his comments with regard to the danger of H5N1 breaking out into the human population. The full transcript can be read at the washingtonpost.com.
QUESTION: Mr. President, you've been thinking a lot about pandemic flu and the risks in the United States if that should occur. I was wondering, Secretary Leavitt has said that first responders in the states and local governments are not prepared for something like that. To what extent are you concerned about that after Katrina and Rita? And is that one of the reasons you're interested in the idea of using defense assets to respond to something as broad and long-lasting as a flu might be?
BUSH: Yes. Thank you for the question. I am concerned about avian flu. I'm concerned about what an avian flu outbreak could mean for the United States and the world.
I have thought through the scenarios of what an avian flu outbreak could mean. I tried to get a better handle on what the decision-making process would be by reading Mr. Barry's book on the influenza outbreak in 1918. I would recommend it.
The policy decisions for a president in dealing with an avian flu outbreak are difficult.
One example: If we had an outbreak somewhere in the United States, do we not then quarantine that part of the country? And how do you, then, enforce a quarantine?
It's one thing to shut down airplanes. It's another thing to prevent people from coming in to get exposed to the avian flu.
And who best to be able to effect a quarantine? One option is the use of a military that's able to plan and move. So that's why I put it on the table. I think it's an important debate for Congress to have.
I noticed the other day, evidently, some governors didn't like it. I understand that. I was the commander in chief of the National Guard and proudly so. And, frankly, I didn't want the president telling me how to be the commander in chief of the Texas Guard.
But Congress needs to take a look at circumstances that may need to vest the capacity of the president to move beyond that debate. And one such catastrophe or one such challenge could be an avian flu outbreak.
BUSH: Wait a minute, this is an important subject.
Secondly, during my meetings at the United Nations, not only did I speak about it publicly, I spoke about it privately to as many leaders as I could find, about the need for there to be awareness, one, of the issue and two, reporting -- rapid reporting to WHO, so that we can deal with a potential pandemic.
The reporting needs to be not only on the birds that have fallen ill, but also on tracing the capacity of the virus to go from bird to person to person. That's when it gets dangerous: when it goes bird, person, person.
And we need to know on a real-time basis as quickly as possible the facts so that the world scientific community can analyze the facts and begin to deal with it. Obviously, the best way to deal with a pandemic is to isolate it and keep it isolated in the region in which it begins.
As you know, there's been a lot of reporting of different flocks that have fallen ill with the H5N1 virus. And we've also got some cases of the virus being transmitted to a person, and we're watching very carefully.
Thirdly, the development of a vaccine. I've spent time with Tony Fauci on the subject.
Obviously, it would be helpful if we had a breakthrough in the capacity to develop a vaccine that would enable us to feel comfortable here at home, that not only would first responders be able to be vaccinated, but as many Americans as possible, and people around the world.
But, unfortunately, we're just not that far down the manufacturing process. And there's a spray, as you know, that can maybe help arrest the spread of the disease, which is in relatively limited supply.
So one of the issues is how do we encourage the manufacturing capacity of the country, and maybe the world, to be prepared to deal with the outbreak of a pandemic?
In other words, can we surge enough production to be able to help deal with the issue?
I take this issue very seriously, and I appreciate you bringing it to our attention.
The people of the country ought to rest assured that we're doing everything we can. We're watching it. We're careful. We're in communications with the world.
I'm not predicting an outbreak. I'm just suggesting to you that we better be thinking about it. And we are. And we're more than thinking about it, we're trying to put plans in place.
And one of the plans -- back to where your original question came -- was, you know, if we need to take some significant action, how best to do so. And I think the president ought to have all options on the table to understand what the consequences are -- all assets on the table, not options -- assets on the table to be able to deal with something this significant.
Monday, October 03, 2005
So is it possible that more tough lessons are around the corner? LiveScience.com has a fascinating countdown of the top 10 U.S. natural disaster threats posted on their site.
A quick rundown with links to their applicable explanations ...
10. Pacific Northwest Megathrust Earthquake (think BIG earthquake, huge tsunami)
9. New York City Hurricane (only a few hours to evacuate the city?)
8. Asteroid impact (ouch)
7. Los Angeles Tsunami (Katrina, but with no time to evacuate)
6. Supervolcano (Yellowstone caldera)
5. Midwest Earthquake (New Madrid devastation)
4. Heat Waves (danger is extreme but underrated)
3. East Coast Tsunami (remember "Deep Impact?")
2. Gulf Coast Tsunami (maybe mountaintop property is undervalued?)
1. Total Destruction of Earth (a whole 'nother top 10 list of how to destroy the planet!)
So if this list doesn't keep you up at night, perhaps it's at least a brain-goosing menu for your next screenplay disaster (as opposed to disaster screenplay ... wink-wink).
Personally, I'm waiting for the manmade disaster list (anybody have one?). Either way ...
Sunday, October 02, 2005
Still, as time passes, we must fight the urge to grow complacent and overconfident in the United States. After all, our borders remain relatively unguarded and it is quite clear that any foreign national with the commitment to do so can enter the U.S. and find haven from suspicion almost anywhere there are related ethnic groups. It is a certainty that there are cells of terror operatives here and they are biding their time toward whatever their ultimate purpose.
Ramadan Attack Fears
The annual muslim Ramadan observance is now imminent. This holy month for adherents throughout the world will run for about a month starting on or about October 4.
The Jewish celebration Rosh Hashannah begins at approximately the same time.
Thus, this is a period of the year when observers are aware that the risk for teror is increased. Indeed, Al Qaeda has already been linked to last night's Bali bomb blasts that killed dozens, including many westerners. There's a real possibility it was simply the opening salvo to a series of attacks this season.
To mitigate your own risks here or abroad, avoid large crowds as often as possible. Be aware of your surroundings and watch for suspicious activity or behavior by those around you. Be particularly cognizant of unnatural bulges around the midsection that might indicate the presence of a bomb belt.
Beyond such common-sense approaches, there is not a lot one can do, short of giving in to unreasonable, paralyzing fear. Find the prudent middle ground between compacency and fear, and you'll be where you should be.
Nuclear Attack Rumors
There are some rumors circulating on the internet about an Al Qaeda offensive called an "American Hiroshima," said to be planned for seven American cities in the month of October. The main source for these stories is Journalist Paul Williams who, in the last couple of years, has written a couple of books on the Al Qaeda threat and has been on the book-signing trails ever since.
No doubt, Al Qaeda has been actively seeking nuclear weapons for years. The unknown is whether they have to any extent succeeded in acquiring any functional warheads or the technology to build their own. If they have, they would clearly attempt to bring the bombs into this country. However, there are a number of reasons to remain skeptical and unconvinced of the imminent danger.
After all, if you were to take this nuclear-terror development as a matter of faith, what would that mean to you and how you would go forward? There's only so much you can do, and once you've done it, you do need to carry on with your life ... until the danger becomes manifest.
J.R. Nyquist is a scholar and analyst worthy of immense respect. He has posted a fair and even-handed treatment of this nuclear terror issue that is well-worth reading: