A wise man once told me (no, wait, it was me, talking to myself) that when something bad happens, like a plane crashes, or Congress passes a law, it is usually for one of two reasons: a dark conspiracy by evil people, or rank incompetence. “If there is any doubt about the cause,” he, or I, said, “always assume incompetence. You will almost never be wrong.” The case is being illustrated these days with dismaying frequency.
Ebola in America. Get off a plane from Liberia, go to a hospital in Texas and tell them you’ve just come from West Africa and are desperately ill, they give you an aspirin, send you home and tell you to hug and kiss all your friends and family, it will make you feel much better. (Only that little tiny last part is made up. The rest of it, I wouldn’t dare.) When it becomes obvious that you do in fact have the Ebola virus, they put you in isolation, lock down your family under armed guard in the place where you were sick, then move them and nine days later send a firm called “The Cleaning Guys” to sanitize the place. (BTW, I am aware that most sources are now saying that he “lied” about having come from Liberia, by which they seem to mean he omitted it from a form. However, he did tell the ER nurse about it, on his first visit, and she recorded it on his electronic record. That part of the record apparently was not displayed on the screen displayed for the ER doctor.)
In the face of questions about whether this was the best possible response to a worsening global health emergency, the governor of Texas stepped forward to reassure his people that he was on top of the situation (actually, he was nowhere near the situation, he was in Iowa, site of the earliest events in the 2016 presidential election). This, verbatim, is part of what he said (it might or might not be the most important part, it’s kind of hard to tell):
“Again, uh, I think, uh, we respect the right decisions that have been made, uh, at this particular point in time, and again, uh, to try to second guess them, uh, at this particular point in time, is not particularly, uh, a healthy thing for us to do….” (Think I’m exaggerating? Watch it here.)
Meanwhile in Washington a gaggle of high-ranking bureaucrats take to the media pulpits to announce that everything is under control, and because of our perfect health-care system and our unparalleled technology, Americans have no reason to fear Ebola. I don’t fear Ebola. But I am deathly afraid of these people.
Ebola in Africa. A shipping container stuffed with supplies desperately needed by healthcare workers who have been losing the battle to contain Ebola in West Africa, and losing their lives in the process, has been sitting on the dock in Freetown, Sierra Leone, since August 9th. It’s $140,000 worth of protective clothing, sanitary gloves, mattresses, hospital linens, all desperately needed by the collapsing health care systems of three countries, and it is sitting there because the government won’t pay the $6,400 shipping fee (although the government has been given $40 million in donations to help it fight Ebola) because, it says, the shipment was not properly authorized in advance. (Such authorizations are said to involve the exchange of folding currency.) Two more shipments just like this one are on the docks in New York, waiting for the situation to be resolved.
Since that shipping container was dropped into the bureaucratic muck on August 9, West Africa has seen more than 5,600 cases of Ebola and more than 2,400 deaths from it.
Secret Service. So this guy jumps the fence around the White House and nobody notices him. He runs across the White House lawn, and the dog that is trained to interrupt such runs is not released because, we are told, his handler fears that this superbly trained guard dog might ignore the running, highly stressed perp and attack a senescent guard. The running man reaches the White House door which is supposed to be locked but isn’t. He charges through, which is supposed to set off an alarm but doesn’t (it was going off so often it irritated the staff, so they turned it off). Fortunately, there is a guard inside the door. Unfortunately, the running man “overwhelms” him. That is the word used in every account. I would love to know more about that, and about the future career of the overwhelmee. At length, the caper is stopped, deep in the White House, by an off duty agent who is there by accident. This is not going to be a major motion picture anytime soon.
Look around. Every threat to our continued existence is being dealt with by Keystone Kops who lack motivation and information, who strut upon the stage beating their breasts about American superiority in all things and deny that anything could possibly go wrong here.
Dark conspiracy memes swirl around all these events, of course. The Secret Service is deliberately exposing President Obama because he’s black, Ebola is being used by — well, somebody — just as the British used smallpox-infected blankets in their American Indian wars. But there’s no need to go there.
It’s not the feat, it’s the stupidity.