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“Rule one: Never allow a crisis to go to waste. They are opportunities to do big things.” 
–Rahm Emanuel, Obama White House Chief of Staff

FlyingPig Lately, some friends have helpfully passed along information about how to protect myself against swine flu. Information on how to avoid colds is pretty easy to find, and I rarely get them. Nevertheless, I appreciate my friends’ concern for my family’s well-being, and for that of humanity in general. However, what we really need in situations like this is information on how to avoid fear mongering propaganda.

I am deeply suspicious of the trustworthiness of my government and its ability, or even its desire, to protect me. My skepticism is based on the unquestionable fact that the government lies to us all the time. With that skepticism in mind, I’m also suspicious of why such a hoopla is being made of the “pandemic” of swine flu.

A major clue that the “crisis” is really a power grab is the involvement of the Department of Homeland Security. How did they get in the health care business? They are experts at keeping airplanes free of styling mousse and feeling up our womenfolk. But the DHS is the last outfit you would charge with protecting your health or containing a communicable disease.

However, when you look at the agency’s unstated purpose, it becomes obvious why it would be involved in the swine flu “pandemic.” The main job of the Department of Homeland Security is to keep us scared and obedient. A pandemic is a near perfect crisis for promoting that objective.

People thinking for themselves evaluate their risks and the cost involved in avoiding them. Government agencies like DHS don’t need to make such evaluations, because they aren’t paying the costs. And the risks, no matter how remote, are what they use to scare us into thinking they are protecting us. It is only governmental thinking that can so widely separate risk and the cost of avoiding it that we find ourselves in a near panic over catching colds.

Everyone except the government must evaluate risk and cost in making decisions, therefore, to help my loyal readers do just that, it’s time for one of O’Boyle’s Big Statistical Oversimplifications (OBSO).

Simply looking at the numbers, we’ve already wasted more time on the first five paragraphs of this column than the dangers of swine flu would justify.

The world is full of things more dangerous than swine flu, not the least of which is the United States government itself, which at this very moment has over a million non-violent citizens locked up for consuming harmless herbs.

The statistical probability of contracting swine flu shouldn’t be keeping you awake at night. As of this morning, the number of cases in the U.S. is 286. Nobody has died, except the baby who came in from Mexico to Texas early on in the show.

There are over 300,000,000 people in the United States. So far, your odds of contracting swine flu are 286 divided by 300,000,000. Roughly one in a million.

World wide, your chances of staying healthy improve. With 6.5 billion people on this rock and 1000 confirmed cases, your odds are about one in 6.5 million. With 25 confirmed deaths, your chance of death by swine flu are one in 260 million.

For comparison, here are some unlikely ways of kicking the bucket, which are all much more likely than succumbing to swine flu. The numbers are from a website of questionable authority, but are probably at least as reliable as a major news network or the CDC.

For the benchmark long-shot death, wrath-of-God lightning strike, your lifetime chance is 1 in 5000; in any given year, it’s 1 in 700,000. Probably worse if you golf.

Your odds of being murdered are 1 in 18,000 and increase dramatically for careless answers to questions like “Honey, does this outfit make my butt look big?”  Your chance of dying of any kind of injury are 1 in 1,820.

Or how about these: Death by falling, 1 in 20,666; drowning, 1 in 76,000; in a fire, 1 in 81,000. All many times more likely than death by swine flu.

Using world statistics, you are twice as likely to be executed than to die of swine flu. We are many thousands of times more likely to die of spoiled tacos, drunk drivers, stray bullets, or angry Rottweilers.

Swine flu is, however, statistically more dangerous than falling airplane parts or death by combustion of nightwear. I’m sure that last one varies considerably depending on the company you keep and the hobbies you have.

I just can’t work myself into the state of terror the media and the politicos are looking for. It makes me wonder what the agenda really is.

World wide there were nearly 2 million deaths in 2007 from tuberculosis, a highly contagious disease. Somehow the CDC decided not to go to their level 6 emergency response against TB or to declare it a “pandemic.” The Department of Homeland Security has somehow overlooked the TB crisis. Nobody is wearing face masks to keep from getting a communicable disease that annually kills more than 2,000 times as many people as have yet even contracted swine flu.

The slogan of governments and this one in particular is “Never waste a good crisis.” And all crisis is good. Emergencies of all kinds are opportunities to expand power and influence.  Nothing illustrates that fact better than the arrival of the undie-pawing drones from Homeland Security to save us from the sniffles. What most astonishes me is that anyone who has ever been through an airport checkpoint would think Homeland Security could possibly be of any help.

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