Don't Lose a Way of Life

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I want to commend you for your intelligent, courageous editorial ("Losing a Way of Life," DM News, Aug. 14), which you must have written at the height of the recent "liquid bomb" hysteria.

The government's response to stories like these is definitely a business issue. Quality of life and civil liberties aside, government hysteria not only is gravely injuring U.S. industries like travel and tourism, it's also reducing our competitiveness as a nation and saddling us with debt of practically incomprehensible proportions.

Sixty-five years ago, this country was engaged in a two-front war against enemies whose highly trained and well-equipped armies and navies numbered in the tens of millions. Our entire cash outlay for World War II was $288 billion.

In contrast, in the past five years, we have already spent more than $430 billion on the "War on Terror," and that doesn't include the war in Iraq, which currently comes in at over $300 billion with, according to our president, no end in sight.

Yes, there has been inflation, but it should be clear to anyone that we are being taken to the cleaners.

I don't know how many of your readers have had the opportunity to trace what's happened to recent "terror threat" scares after they disappear from the headlines. Here are just two recent examples:

Two months ago, we were told that a "homegrown" terror group - the Miami Seven - was caught planning to bring down the Sears Tower. A few weeks later, buried deep in the fine print, we learned they had no weapons, no bomb-making materials and no clue. They were a pathetic group of mentally challenged homeless men who'd been suckered into some kind of a whacko cult.

A few weeks ago, three men were arrested with cash and an inventory of cell phones in their van. Somehow that was turned into a threat to blow up a bridge in Michigan. It's been revealed that these men have no known connections to any terror group and they were most likely doing exactly what they said they were doing: buying disposable cell phones cheap at Wal-Mart and reselling at a small profit to low-income people with limited transportation options who can't afford normal cell phone service.

In other words, free enterprise.

What happened in New York City on Sept. 11 was a horror of epic proportions. But let's not forget, there are grave doubts as to the details of exactly how what happened that day happened.

For example, the Pentagon recently admitted that it "misstated" numerous points of fact in its narrative to Congress about what happened that day. The reason: poor record keeping caused by constrained resources. You or I would be fired on the spot for giving an answer like that to a client or employer, but for some reason, we as citizens and taxpayers have to accept the answer.

These are inconvenient facts, but they are facts nonetheless, and as the late, great investigative journalist and newsletter publisher George Seldes put it: "Even the gods can't change history."

We as business people in America better get a handle on what's going on in this country if we expect to have an environment we'll want to do business in in the years and decades to come.

Ken McCarthy, Internet commercialization pioneer. Tivoli, NY


It's also bad news for the duty-free and travel retail industry. Airport shops can't sell much of anything anymore - no cosmetics, no electronic gadgets, no perfume, no liquor and no books. How can you sit through a long flight without a book?

On a more sober note, I worry about the effect on civil liberties. It seems we are heading slowly toward a "1984"-style state in which Big Brother is constantly watching.

"As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness."

- Justice William O. Douglas

I'm afraid we're entering the twilight phase. I hope we can avoid the darkness.

Jodi Kaplan, Principal, KaplanCopy, New York


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