Diary

Ebola Joins the Perfect Storm

Arlen_Specter_Headquarters_Building_PHIL_7971

There is a perfect storm of untrustworthiness in a multitude of institutions combined with public distrust verging on paranoia in our culture.

The Presidency

We have been trained during the last 100 years to expect our presidents to be on top of every problem or crisis that presents itself.

We do this regardless of whether such vigilance is actually an appropriate responsibility of presidents.

Here’s the toxic principle, which we are seeing work out almost every day now:

  • If you must be vigilant about everything you will actually be vigilant about nothing.

We must decide as a people what we want our presidents focusing on the most and let other people—including, in some cases, ourselves—watch the rest.

This President

Mr. Obama has consistently demonstrated, both before and during his presidency—in my eyes, of course, but I’m not alone—a consistent underestimation of dangers confronting the U.S. My harsh judgment is that he believes evil can be educated and persuaded, rather than opposed and fought against.

Government

Both of the Roosevelts, Hoover, Wilson, Kennedy, and so on, believed that most of the problems of American society could be solved by government, especially by the federal government, if only we would put the best and the brightest in place to act skillfully and dispassionately in behalf of the American people.

So every problem, no matter how basic, becomes a government issue, requiring a government bureaucracy, more dollars, and less accountability.

And, by the way, less and less actual skill and cohesion, as government organizations grow and multiply (my libertarian friends would say metastasize).

It is all well and good to trust this or that particular head of NIH or CDC(and Prevention), but these people sit atop huge bureaucracies filled with people they have never met, never heard of, never read a report from (or about) carrying out functions they’re likely unaware of, and over whom they exercise not even a scintilla of accountability or direction.

And these great leaders and their organizations miss things like living small pox samples in their closets.

Or the possibility that some unknown and infected individual may fly into the country and show up at a big city ER and, therefore, a CDC bulletin to hospitals warning them of such an eventuality and outlining procedures might be a really good idea.

Instead, they miss these things.

Because…

[again]

If you must be vigilant about everything you will actually be vigilant about nothing.

The CDC used to have one, very critical job:

  • Watch for and prevent or isolate outbreaks of deadly diseases.

But now gun violence is a disease.

Childhood obesity is an outbreak.

Heart attacks are a national emergency.

If you must be vigilant about everything you will actually be vigilant about nothing.

Science

I’ve been on a rant about science (or, as I call it, “science”) for years.

Science used to be about research. Now it’s about controlling policy.

For decades federal bureaucracies preached—and enforced rules—from a doctrinal graphic called The Food Pyramid. The Food Pyramid I spent almost my entire adult life with was heavy on carbs and low on fats, even good fats. And America grew heavier and heavier, even as we relied on it for guidance.

The Food Pyramid, by the way, wasn’t designed by nutritionists or scientists.

It was never put to any experimental test.

It was put together by George McGovern and his staff.

Amazingly, the food groups it relied on the most just happened to be a large part of the agribusiness economy in Sen. McGovern’s state.

In all its permutations, the Food Pyramid was guided by the sure hand of politicians and lobbyists.

Even real scientific work (that would be you, climate alarmists) is shoehorned into predetermined societal, economic, and political structures most congruent with the statist worldview.

And then its predictions turn out to be phony.

This is typical of science on the federal level.

And it is killing the credibility of scientists among the American people.

Journalism

Journalists, as a rule, cover what matches up well with their ideologies.

They ignore or minimize anything that inconveniences those ideologies.

Anything.

  • Benghazi, both the incompetency and the shameful cover-up and misdirection.
  • The IRS (at least until they couldn’t avoid it any more).
  • Fast and Furious.
  • Philadelphia New Black Panthers.

I have to stop listing now because there are too many to remember and my head is starting to hurt.

The main complaint I have about journalism today is that it engenders the very cynicism it decries.

I pointed this out on Twitter to a journalist reporting on polling that showed disillusionment on the part of voters. He was shocked and offended and snarked back something or other.

Totally a dynamic everyone else seems to understand: There is no way to report any story about attitudes without influencing the very attitudes you’re reporting.

But cynicism is the medium of currency for journalists today and they can’t stop writing about it.

Cynicism is reflected back by readers and voters.

And then reporters report the cynicism and so on (and so on).

When you add a half century of thriller and action movies describing a universe of renegade generals and CIA operatives (at the highest levels) and Vice Presidents organizing coups…

Implausible plots that, unfortunately, growing numbers of people are conditioned to believe are not only plausible, but likely.

It is expected that government is incompetent and/or evil.

We do not trust because our minds and our culture have left us with nothing but toxic distrust to hold us together.

And we do not trust because those who should have taught us better would rather minimize our fears than educate to discern truth from reality, good from evil, and toxic cynicism from healthy skepticism.

I hope this is a genuine learning time.

And I hope we can all learn at least some of the right lessons, because I don’t want to have us go through this again.

The crisis we’re in was a century in the making. Too bad we don’t have a century in which to fix it.

Update

Glenn Harlan Reynolds expands on the CDC multi-tasking issue: CDC multitasking hurts Ebola fight