[Masthead] Fair ~ 69°F  
High: 80°F ~ Low: 62°F
Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ross Rambles: Thoughts from under the desk

Friday, June 16, 2006

Do you remember when those darned Russians first figured out how to build an atomic bomb?

Do you remember those school drills, where you got under your desk and covered your head to protect yourself from an atomic bomb that those diabolical Rooskies might drop at any minute, presumably on the principal's office?

Actually, you probably don't. Even I, as ancient as I am, do not have memories that go back that far. However, my oldest sister does remember a strong fear of attack from the Communists, if not actually getting under a desk for protection from an atomic blast.

She wanted our parents to invest in a bomb shelter. I suppose many children wanted their families to have a bomb shelter but hardly any were built.

Perhaps adults weren't as afraid of atomic bombs as children back then or perhaps adults thought survival of a nuclear war was either impossible or undesirable.

Do you remember those daily, color-coded alerts about terrorist attacks? Do you remember when you were supposed to adjust your level of fear in accordance to the level of danger indicated by one of the five colors on the terrorist alert scale?

Wait a minute. That's still going on. As of this writing on Thursday, the terror alert level is elevated, the middle level of the five - severe, high, elevated, guarded and low.

What did you do on Thursday differently because the terror alert level was elevated rather than guarded or low? What would you have done differently had the alert level been high or severe?

Chances are you didn't even know what the terror alert level was on Thursday. People place more significance on their daily horoscope than on the terror alert level.

After some time of hearing daily postings of the color of the day, it occurred to many people to question what they were supposed to do with this information. Nobody knew what to do with this alert level information - not law enforcement officers, not fire department personnel, not ambulance crews, not hospital staff, not even newspaper columnists.

This daily alert level was an idea that resulted from the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. After a crisis, many subscribe to the philosophy that it is better to do something, anything, even if it is stupid, than to do nothing at all.

Personally, I subscribe to the philosophy that it is better to do nothing at all than to do something stupid, just an eccentricity of mine. Furthermore, I subscribe to the philosophy that once you start doing something stupid, it is better to stop than to continue doing it, another eccentricity.

Although the terrorist alert level warnings are something of an embarrassment to the government, ending them would be more of an embarrassment, in effect admitting that they never served a purpose.

Establishing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was another "do something" response to 9/11. Think how much of an embarrassment it would be to eliminate an entire cabinet level federal department.

It seemed to me that the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice were already responsible for taking care of the functions implied by the title 'Homeland Security'. (Doesn't 'Homeland' sound like an Orwellian euphemism for the United States?)

At the time of the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, advocates explained that numerous semi-autonomous agencies would be brought under one umbrella, increasing cooperation and eliminating duplication of services.

Maybe creating the department improved efficiency in government but I doubt it. It is more likely that creating an entirely new cabinet level department would increase bureaucracy rather than reduce it.

In its first years of existence, the Department of Homeland Security has spread around some federal funds to local governments for preparation to deal with terrorist acts. Local governments (certainly Cherokee County) have used these funds for equipment and training that would serve to not only prepare for terrorist acts but also to prepare for the more likely possibilities of natural disasters, industrial accidents or chemical spills.

Creation of the Department of Homeland Security did nothing to prepare the country for the next major calamity it faced - Hurricane Katrina. Perhaps we need a Department of Motherland Storm Response (or the less sexist Department of Parentland Storm Response).

If somebody can explain why we needed a new cabinet level department after 9/11, I would appreciate being told.

I'm not hard to find. I spend most of my time now hiding under my desk.