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Sunday, December 28, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 2/15/2003

Can tape hold off terrorism?

Duct tape? Plastic sheeting?

Is it just me, or is our latest notion of “national security'' a bit rickety?

Here we are, living under Code Orange conditions again, and once more our President asks us to do that which will most benefit our country: Go shopping. This time our willingness to sacrifice for the national good requires a trip to the hardware store.

I'm confused.

If I want the latest instructions from my government, should I be watching CNN or HGTV?

Truth to tell, HGTV is considerably more soothing lately. Tune in to cable news outlets, and all you see are doomsday crawls and rainbow charts of alert designations - although, really, who could blame the TV news people?

Well, Laura Bush, for one.

In New York City this week, she took advantage of an appearance on a morning news show to scold the media. With the myriad broadcast choices out there now, she said, “all the many, many channels ... and cable television are looking for viewers, and they do whatever they can to try to entice viewers.''

The First Lady talked about going out for dinner in the city and feeling perfectly safe. She mentioned dropping in on the New York Public Library and feeling safe there too. I don't believe, however, that she mentioned the umpteen Secret Service agents who guard her and surely help create this overwhelming sensation of safety she so enjoys.

Meanwhile, New York City's public transportation systems are crawling with armed guards and bioterrorism “sensors.''

What Code Orange really means, it seems, is that we enter a time of mixed messages from our government.

Stock up on duct tape! Gather three days' worth of food and water! Devise a family disaster plan! Report all suspicious activity! But, hey, don't get PARANOID or anything, OK? We're your government, and we've got it under control!

No, it hardly seems fair to blame broadcasters alone for trumpeting impending disaster.

Here in Toledo, where we are entitled to perverse pride for our routine failure to keep current with the times, I'm wondering just how many people can find that 1950s-era civil defense bomb shelter that remains deep in their backyard.

Come on, you just know someone here still has one.

The very idea that a plastic, shrink-wrapped room would spare us from biochemical or radiological attack is, on its face, every bit as farcical as the duck-and-cover drills from my Atomic Age childhood.

I mean, consider this: If you want to create a moisture barrier in your crawl space, for God's sakes, the instructions will invariably tell you to use polyethylene sheeting that is anywhere from 6 to 8 mils thick (0.0006 to 0.0008 inches). This is just to keep moisture out of your house, OK?

But when our government advises us on how to block deadly agents of bioterrorism, it gets no more specific than this: “Hey, a little plastic sheeting and some duct tape - that oughta hold ya.''

I'm glad I can't take this advisory too seriously.

Hey, I'm still trying to figure out how to use the hot-glue gun I once received as a gift; I can't get all arts-and-crafty with large sheets of plastic, too.



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