Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Catastrophe and Continuation

Dr. David Ozonoff, a professor of environmental health at the Boston University School of Public Health who originally supported the new laboratory but now opposes it, argues that biodefense spending has shifted money away from “bread-and-butter public health concerns.” Given the diversion of resources and the potential for germs to leak or be diverted, he said, “I believe the lab will make us less safe.”

So says this article in the New York Times. It’s worth reading, as a discussion of bioterrorism and the funding around it. But perhaps more importantly, its worth reading as an analysis of the costs of a war on terror. Its worth reading as we look at how the government is making tradeoffs: Building new national labs, versus dealing with ongoing problems. Are we making the right tradeoffs as we drive people away from aircraft? Fingerprint visitors from our allied countries? (On the way in, but not out)? Accept a little bit of torture to try to avert an attack, while losing sight of the moral dimension of conflict?

I believe that we need to align our government to defeat the radical Islamic terror threat, but the way to do that isn’t new labs, its the everyday things. For example, consider a fire, apparently set by a homeless fellow in a subway switching station. It may take the New York Subway system 3 to 5 years to recover.