The latest development in the administration’s program to crack down on the basic freedoms of ordinary law-abiding citizens, while doing nothing to make us more secure, is this plan to require ID on outgoing mail.
This is supposedly a response to the anthrax scare. It isn’t. The government’s investigation of that scare has been—“less than thorough”, would be one way to put it. It doesn’t seem to hold their interest. Meanwhile, there are all kinds of genuinely security-oriented things they could be doing, starting with basic procedures for what you do if you open an envelope and find odd white powder in it.
They haven’t done it. It’s a simple thing. Let’s do it now:
Here’s a good site for basic information about anthrax, put up by Health Canada, which is the Canadian equivalent of the Department of Health. Here’s a very good one on how to handle anthrax and other biological agent threats. It’s from Pryme Safety Services, a private company.And here’s the basic deal: Say you open an envelope and find weird powder in it. What do you do? You start by knowing that anthrax spores are heavier than air, and that anthrax is not the easiest infection in the world to catch. It’s just relatively easy to prepare usable powdered anthrax for use as a weapon. That’s lucky for you. (You may also be aware that anthrax-bits tend to be electrostatically active, so watch out for that.) Now:
1. Don’t gasp. Don’t hyperventilate. Ideally, don’t inhale at all. If you can just quietly stop breathing until you’re out of the room, do so.There. Learn that, and you’ll have done the biggest single thing we can do towards protecting ourselves from anthrax.
2. Don’t wave the envelope around. Don’t open it further and peer into it. Don’t turn it upside-down and dump its contents out on your desk. Just set it down very quietly.
3. If you have a plastic bag, some plastic wrap, another larger envelope, or other means of containment directly to hand, slide the envelope into that. Otherwise, lay the envelope down and put something—a sheet of paper, a jacket, anything—down on top of it.
4. If there are other people in the room, tell them calmly and quietly to leave. Shut the door behind yourselves. If there’s no door, put tape across the doorway.5. Immediately go wash your hands and face with soap and water, then dial 911. Get everybody else out of the office—calmly! You don’t want to stir up the air, or breathe in more of it than necessary—and have them all wash up immediately as well.
This has been a public service announcement.
Now let’s consider the question of how one puts ID on outgoing mail. Any system rigorous enough to actually stop terrorists is going to be incredibly burdensome. Anything less rigorous will be meaningless when it comes to stopping terror. Furthermore, why should a government that doesn’t hand out basic anthrax information come up with a big complicated expensive plan to require ID on all outgoing mail? The obvious answer is: So they can track it. Mail is the most anonymous means of communication we have. It’s incredibly pervasive. It’s low tech. It’s powerful. It goes to all kinds of people who don’t hang out online. The Founding Fathers knew perfectly well why mail is important. They’d used it themselves when they made their revolution.
I haven’t written about every instance where the administration could be doing something real about security and isn’t, nor about every instance where terrorism and the need for increased security are being used to justify new laws and regulations that don’t make us any more secure, but are just the thing if you want to suppress dissent. There have been a lot of them. Way, way too many of them. Stories about them sit in my queue of half-written weblog posts, and I don’t have the heart to finish them. I can get this one out because it’s such a small instance, relatively speaking.
Ever since the attack on the ballot count in Florida, I’ve been assuming that Bush and his fellow brigands don’t expect they’re ever going to go out of power.
You don’t attack a ballot recount at a federal office building, using “rioters” who are actually known political staffers and campaign workers who’ve come in from out of state, having planned and conspired to do so in advance, and having had their expenses paid out of moneys traceable to the core Republican organization, if you think there’s any chance you’re ever going to be called to account for it. There are just too many potential criminal charges that arise from it. But that’s what they did; and there was no great effort made to cover up the money trail.
So. I think they’re planning to systematically rig the coming election. As we saw during the last presidential election, you don’t have to rig an election well enough for it to pass muster during later investigations. You just have to rig it long enough for the general public to perceive that the election is now over. The citizenry doesn’t know what to do at that point.
I think that after the election, they’ll really start tightening the thumbscrews.
I’m not an excitable conspiracy theorist, or a wild-eyed lefty radical. I’m a despairing centrist who had a solid conservative upbringing. And I can’t believe how many supposed conservatives out there are willing to sell their birthright for a mess of nonsensical tough talk. When you’re old, you won’t be proud of having listened to Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.
Addendum: Meanwhile, that little rodent Byron York at NR has the shameless mendacity to suggest that Democrats don’t really care about terrorism. He is without honor.