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Friday, October 14, 2005


Here are two of the pieces ("comedy bits") heard on KOPT Friday morning.


It's an 884k download. The (hilarious) piece runs 1:57.

Download the MP3 (right click and "save as"):



It's a 312k download. The (gut-wrenchingly humorous) piece runs 0:40.

Download the MP3 (right click and "save as"):


Both are 22k, FM quality stereo.

And don't forget to check out the NEW "Osama on the Loose" clock on the Barking Moonbats dot Org site (click at right). Today marked the 1494th day since 9-11-2001 that we've failed to get Osama bin Laden. By contrast, the length of time from Pearl Harbor to the Japanese Surrender was 1347 days. (http://www.barkingmoonbats.org/)

You very clever web people are encouraged to borrow the script and applet and put it on your websites. (It was originally a freeware Y2K countdown applet I used for four years on my old homepage as the "coundown to the end of Bush." Alas.)

The first winter gale is blowing in here. Time to batten down the hatches..

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Last week, whilst setting up a simile for the contemptuous arrogance displayed in the nomination of unqualified crony Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, I inadvertently stated that Nero had named his horse to the Roman Senate.

In fact, it was Caligula -- probably a better parallel for Dubya. The horse was named "Incitatus."
Some additional information:

Caligula doted on his horse Incitatus most of all. It had a retinue of eighteen servants. Its diet consisted of oats mixed with gold flake, as well as a variety of meats, including mice, squid, mussels, and chicken. Not to mention wine. According to Suetonius, the emperor saw to it that Incitatus lived in perfect luxury: "Besides a stall of marble, a manger of ivory, purple blankets and a collar of precious stones, he even gave this horse a house."
A week or so ago, [Sunday, September 18, 2005] I noted and quoted a photograph showing Bush's misbuttoned shirt during the New Orleans version of the "Mission Accomplished" speech from Jackson Square.

I said that I'd find the attribution for whoever had created the Photoshop diagram superimposed over the Bush closeup that we used. It is (and thanks go to) Kate/A/Blog, http://kateablog.blogspot.com/2005/09/papa-simeus.html, according to CrooksandLiars.com on Friday, September 16, 2005. I also found two other sources that most bloggers were accessing the photograph from:




Turns out, according to the Freepers' stunning logical reasoning, that I may have been incorrect in my metaphor suggesting that the disaster response might well be as slapdash and incompetent as the Usurper's wardrobe malfunction.

First, they noted that I was clearly crazy (or that my IQ is below 65 -- a charge against which I can offer no cogent defense):

Buttongate [all are separate comments, if not separate commentators]

I hate to state the obvious, but anybody with an IQ of 65 can tell the left side is tucked or folded in a bit on itself.

Shirt is fine. He is just leaning to one side making it look funny. If that's all they have they are done.

Liberals are putrid. I also think Bush's button thing is fine. The other side is folded so it gives the appearance of being buttoned wrong. That's how it looks to me anyway.

I don't see anything wrong with the button. The visible button is for the top of the collar.

This from a group of people whose hero wandered around the Oval Office with his pants down.

I hate to disappoint the liberal bloggers, but if you really dissect the picture, Bush did NOT mis-button his shirt. Look at the distance between top button and collar edge. His left-shoulder collar is just riding higher than the right. There is nothing amiss in this picture except the liberals' inherent desire to paint Bush as anything sub-human. His shirt is buttoned just fine. (The caveat to this is, if the fold at his right collar-bone is deeper than it appears, then I would be wrong. His head is also tilted downward moreso on the right side toward his collar-bone, and his left is extended upward. However, the fact that libs are focusing on this as well as the fact that our President ACTUALLY uses the bathroom only proves how desperate they are to disparage him!.. Buttons? Bathroom-breaks? The Left accuses him of thinking he is a Superhero, acting "unilaterally," but when he indicates he needs to exercise a normal human bodily function, it actually makes him un-presidential? As John Stossel would say "Gimme a break!")

[This last comment is a lovely example of the GOP's standard "deny and attack" pro forma debate style. First, there's nothing wrong. Secondly, even IF there were something wrong, it's absurdly trivial and proves that you are a poo-poo face.]

The shirt is perfectly buttoned. I for the life of me don't see what they are talking about. However, it sounds to me like the Liberal Moonbats must be leaning too far to one side and their view of how his shirt is buttoned is distorted.

Any fool (but apparently not EVERY fool) can clearly see that the President's shirt was not buttoned "wrong" ......

Actually that diagram helps to show that the shirt was buttoned properly...unless leftist shirts only have one inch of space between the top collar button and the next button down. Plus it's hard to put a button through a crease. A hole works much better.

The buttons are fine, the shirt's fine too considering he's wearing a vest beneath it.

Those poor morons..........the law of averages would make a person think they would get something right sooner or later....

Yes, I'm sure he dressed himself and nobody had a chance to check him to see if his shirt was buttoned crooked before he went on Prime Time to give one of the most important speeches of his career. Yes, I'm sure he dressed himself and nobody had a chance to check him to see if his shirt was buttoned crooked before he went on Prime Time to give one of the most important speeches of his career.

[Er, isn't that begging the question?]

That's an optical illusion...the shirt is buttoned correctly. If it were misbuttoned the pocket would be up around his collarbone.

[Now, having proved that I didn't see what I saw, and that I know nothing about photographic analysis, the second wave of the proof turns to the fact that I am, in face, a poo-poo face, and/or Arianna Huffington and/or ALL liberals are hypocrites, so it's OK or something]

They are just trying to take the heat off SUV-hating Arianna Huffington for being photographed in a Chevy Suburban after being keynote speaker at the Sierra Club summit in San Francisco.

[And, of course, never EVER pass up a chance to justify any Bush behavior because of something that Bill Clinton did.]

A lot of liberal bloggers are commenting on this picture. Apparently Bush didn't button the top button of his shirt in the correct position. Is it just me or is it a bit hypocritical for Democrats to be commenting on people's clothes after this:

[blurry photograph of dress, evidently the infamous "blue GAP dress" that Clinton stained with semen. But, because no stains are evident in the bad photo, perhaps it's just because women can wear short skirts and liberals don't complain about that. There is some ambiguity here.]

[Finally, this brilliant exchange]:

It's too late for them to get a life--they wouldn't know what to do with it.

Wrong. They know exactly what they'd do with it. They'd abort it!
Withering Sarcasm, to be sure. So, given their deft, facile and mature arguments, I must correct my mistaken impression that Dubya is so stoopid that he couldn't properly button his own shirt, or else, his entourage is so whipped that no one dared point out that the Emperor's Clothes were awry.

Therefore, I am certain that these news reports from the speech probably aren't true either:
weblog entry from MSNBC reporter Brian Williams:

"I am duty-bound to report the talk of the New Orleans warehouse district last night: there was rejoicing (well, there would have been without the curfew, but the few people I saw on the streets were excited) when the power came back on for blocks on end. Kevin Tibbles was positively jubilant on the live update edition of Nightly News that we fed to the West Coast. The mini-mart, long ago cleaned out by looters, was nonetheless bathed in light, including the empty, roped-off gas pumps. The motorcade route through the district was partially lit no more than 30 minutes before POTUS drove through. And yet last night, no more than an hour after the President departed, the lights went out. The entire area was plunged into total darkness again, to audible groans. It's enough to make some of the folks here who witnessed it... jump to certain conclusions."

Time Magazine:

"...The site of Bush's speech was notably antiseptic and isolated, given the mayhem all along the Gulf coast. Fallen trees had been cut down, and scores of bags of leaves and branches were piled outside the 154-year-old, cast-iron fence that surrounds the square. The government brought in a truck-mounted generator, and Hollywood-style lighting. In the afternoon, fresh liners were put in trash cans. By dusk, soldiers from the 82nd Airborne had been deployed to keep regular citizens several blocks back."
Oh. Another correction: When I referred to Caligula appointing his horse a senator, he did not, in fact, actually appoint the horse. He merely talked about doing it:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Incitatus was the name of Roman emperor Caligula's favored horse. Some have indicated that the horse was attended to by eighteen servants, and was fed oats mixed with gold flake; according to Suetonius, Incitatus had a stable of marble, with an ivory manger, purple blankets and a collar of precious stones. Suetonius wrote also that Caligula supposedly wanted to make his horse a Consul.

The horse would also "invite" dignitaries to dine with him, and had a house with full complement of servants to entertain such guests.

And, while we're correcting that, I should correct the use of the term "plagiarism" with regard to the EUGENE WEEKLY's arrogation of my little 'poem' "The Battle Hymn of the NeoCons." I mean the CRIME of copyright infringement. Oh, wait. I already corrected that.

Another correction, regarding the horse Incitatus, as it turns out, I'm again in error. The incident probably never took place, but was invented by a writer many years after Caligula's untimely assassination. (Or timely, depending on your view of Civilization):

Several of the ancient sources make mention of Caligula's favorite horse, Incitatus, and how the emperor pampered it with a marble stable, an ivory manger, a jeweled collar, and invitations to banquets. Though not mentioned in the 1979 film, there is a persistent belief that Caligula made the horse a consul. Even the Encyclopedia Britannica once repeated this claim as fact, but has since retracted it. There is no basis in the sources to support the idea that the horse was ever actually elevated to the position. Dio and Suetonius do claim he promised to make the horse consul but died before he could fulfill his plan. Among the modern fictional works surveyed, only The Robe has Caligula actually elevating the horse to a consulship. I, Claudius has him make the horse a senator and nominate him for the consulship. If there is anything more than baseless rumor behind the idea that he promised to make the horse a consul, modern historians are inclined to treat it as a joke on Caligula's part rather than a serious vow.
Still, it is surprising how many "authorities" soberly quote the one Roman historian, when no other source reports this event, and, worse, how many "authorities" soberly report that Caligula DID, in fact, appoint his jewel-encrusted, marble-stalled, own-house'd, dinner-guest-inviting steed to the Roman Senate.

I mean, it's ONE thing to pull this stuff off of the top of your head while blogging, but quite another to be in a position of historical authority -- that is, an authority on history, and NOT an authority IN history. I would shudder at the state of American education, but this would undoubtedly ignite a cascading series of corrections. So, that's a topic for another day.

And, speaking of cascading corrections, that makes a fine segue to cascading CFs.

I had reported on the actual Iraq war photos appearing on a website, after years of Pentagon censorship and press self-censorship. And I had reported, incorrectly, I guess, that the gruesome pictures were not a requirement, and that there was no "war porn" for "amateur porn" swap going on. According to UK's THE TELEGRAPH, I was wrong:
Website 'swapped war photos for porn'
By Catherine Elsworth in Los Angeles
(Filed: 11/10/2005)

The operator of a website which allegedly allowed American soldiers to post gruesome photos of Iraqi war casualties for access to pornography has been arrested on obscenity charges.

Christopher Wilson faces more than 300 charges relating to the distribution of obscene material.

The charges are not connected to the grisly war pictures which appeared on the site, only its sexual context.

A military investigation of the site was launched after complaints from groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which wrote to Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary.

Several of the photos showed men wearing what appeared to be US uniforms, standing over charred corpses and mutilated bodies.

Wilson, 27, who is being held in jail in Polk County, Florida, defended the soldiers' images as "an unedited look at the war from their point of view… to me, it is just a more real look at what's going on".

He asked for pictures from soldiers proving they were in a war zone and in return offered free access to his site, which carries amateur pornographic images of users' girlfriends and wives.
Oh. Whoops. They DO correct themselves at the end of the tale.

Which brings us to some interesting facts about the arrest. If it's only for the "porn" and NOT for the war pictures, then they would pretty much behave towards Wilson like anyone else, right? Right?

On Tuesday (and having been arrested on Columbus Day weekend, to make sure that he would spend a three-day weekend in jail, his local paper, the Lakeland Florida Ledger reported:
Web Site Owner Remains In Jail
Chris Wilson has a hard time posting bail for hundreds of obscenity charges.

By Dana Willhoit
The Ledger

LAKELAND -- Chris Wilson, the owner of an amateur porn Web site that stirred international controversy with its pictures allegedly portraying dead Iraqi insurgents, is having trouble making bail.

Wilson has been held at the Polk County Jail since Friday night. His lawyer said Polk authorities piled on charges -- 300 misdemeanors and one felony -- and that has made it more difficult for Wilson to arrange his release from jail.

"I think it's inappropriate. It's an additional, pre-conviction punishment," said Larry Walters, a First Amendment lawyer based in Orlando.

The charges against Wilson, a former Eagle Lake police officer, all are related to allegedly obscene content on the Web site he operates out of his Lakeland apartment.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said filing so many misdemeanor charges is standard procedure.

"The law is quite clear that each photograph or each video or each image is a count," Judd said. "And certainly, had we gone through his entire Web page, we probably could have made several thousand more charges."

Therein lies the problem for Wilson. Because of the large number of charges, Wilson's family is having a hard time finding a bail bondsman who will write that number of bonds, according to Walters.

Also, it makes bailing him out considerably more expensive.

Bail for each misdemeanor charge is set at $500 each, and the felony charge is $1,000. His total bail is $151,000.

Normally, a defendant can post one bail for 10 percent of the total amount -- about $15,000 in Wilson's case ... Walters said Wilson's family had asked the State Attorney's Office in Bartow to combine all the counts into one charge for the purposes of the bail, but the State Attorney's Office refused. ...
Well, I guess it's just a coincidence, then. The Sheriff, when not stating how "disgusting" Wilson's web site was, was explaining that while Wilson was in jail, they were going through his apartment and computers. Anything they found, said the moral crusading sheriff, would be "shared" with the Pentagon.

Which is odd, considering that the Pentagon called off their investigation of who, in the Iraq theater, was posting on the website nowthatsfuckedup.com.

Today, Wilson made bail:

Published Wednesday, October 12, 2005
War Porn Site Owner Is Released From Jail

By Dana Willhoit
The Ledger

BARTOW -- Chris Wilson, the operator of a controversial porn Web site, was released from the Polk County Jail after his parents put up $30,100 to arrange his bail.

His lawyer, Lawrence Walters of Orlando, said Wilson's parents arranged their son's release Monday but he wasn't let out of jail until Tuesday afternoon because it took so long to process the 301 bonds -- one for each of the 300 misdemeanor counts and one felony count filed against Wilson.

A Sheriff's Office employee at the jail said that it took all day to process the 301 bonds.

Wilson's bail had been set at a total of $151,000 for the charges. His parents made arrangements with a bail bond agency to put up the bail and paid the agency a fee of $30,100.

The family had struggled to make bail over the weekend, because Wilson was charged with so many individual obscenity counts.

His lawyer asked the State Attorney's Office to combine all the charges for the purposes of posting bail, which would have meant his parents would have paid $15,100 -- 10 percent of the total bail -- to the bond company. The State Attorney's Office refused, which required the parents to pay $30,100 because state law requires that the minimum paid for each charge be set at no less than $100.


Wilson was arrested on charges relating to the amateur pornography section of his Web site, not the dead body pictures.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said that the pornography on the site "shocks the conscience of the community."
Here's a typical story about the initial arrest: Christopher Michael Wilson, 27, of Lakeland was charged by Polk County officials for alleged sexual content on his website, described by Polk County judge Grady Judd as the "most horrific, vile, perverted sexual conduct ... as we've ever investigated".

The charges are unrelated to the war scene images posted by soldiers.
(from the 11 Oct. 2005 edition of the NORTH COUNTRY GAZETTE - New York State)

Now, do any of us believe that the charges are "unrelated to the war scene images"? And do we believe that the Pentagon ISN'T going to use whatever information that they can get from Wilson's computers to discipline (or threaten to) soldiers who obtained access to the website?

If you are a cynic, then we can move on. If, however, you believe the sugar-coated, non-related story about the Sheriff just happening across the website and shocked, SHOCKED at this horrible (Dutch-hosted) pornography destroying the moral fiber of Polk County, Florida, well, we do have corroborating evidence for your point of view.

The tooth fairy is preparing the packets, which will be individually delivered to each and every one of you by the Easter bunny. (Don't worry. He knows who you are.)

I suppose that I should fill you in a little on Caligula, courtesy of rotten.com (ibid. from the beginning):
Fittingly [Caligula is] the subject of the most lavish pornographic film in history, produced by Penthouse magazine publisher Bob Guccione.

31 Aug 12AD Caligula born.
28 Mar 37AD Becomes the third emperor of Rome.
24 Jan 41AD Assassinated by Praetorian Guard.
But this should not end on such a dour and depressing note -- a mad and murderous ruler so disgusting his subjects that he was murdered by his own bodyguards within four years of taking office. No. That would be impossibly sad and depressing.

Instead, let me assure you that Incitatus (who, according to classical scholar Dr. Peter Jones, writing in the December 20, 2004 Times of London):
... Not that [the commentator] was right to say that Caligula demonstrated this by making his horse Incitatus ("Flyer") a senator. Caligula, Suetonius tells us, was said to have considered making Incitatus a consul, but this was clearly a joke, since the horse already had a marble stable, ivory stall and jewel-encrusted harness.
And, following the death of his master, old "Flyer" did all right by himself (having a life expectancy far in excess of Caligula's four year reign):

Fast Facts
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, September 26, 2005

Emperor Caligula's favorite consul and coregent of Rome, Incitatus, who was accorded honor at every turn, was a horse. Caligula's successor, Claudius, did not invite Incitatus in to dine, as had Caligula, but the horse still was decently treated, in his ivory manger, with a golden drinking goblet for partaking of wine.
Sorry to have misled you. And, since there's nothing like a drunken horse to end a column of corrections on, we'll bid you, Gentle Reader, a fond adieu.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

On June 19, 2003 the following little letter of mine appeared in the Eugene REGISTER-GUARD:
A question of war crimes

After 80 days, it's time Americans confronted a grave question: If no weapons of mass destruction are found, then members of the Bush administration are guilty of war crimes.

The U.S.-sponsored United Nations Charter, Chapter 1, Article 2, states: "The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its members." And "All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered."

Saddam Hussein was evil, but we had no lawful right to depose him. These are our American values.

In the 1945 Nuremberg Trials, there were four counts, and one, if not two, are applicable here. Count one: conspiracy to wage aggressive war, and count two: waging aggressive war, or "crimes against peace." When it was argued that the court had no jurisdiction, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, lead prosecutor, rejoined, "The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant and so devastating that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored because it cannot survive their being repeated."

Remember that in the near year of spin leading up to this war the term "regime change" was never used until 48 hours before the war began: because such a war would have been unlawful.

If war crimes have been committed (thousands are dead), those who screamed about the "rule of law" in 1999 better step up to the plate, else there is no such "rule."

Today, afterdowningstreet.org released the results of an independent poll on whether or not this 'president' should be impeached:
Poll: Americans Favor Bush's Impeachment If He Lied about Iraq

By a margin of 50% to 44%, Americans want Congress to consider impeaching President Bush if (like there's any doubt!) he lied about the war in Iraq, according to a new poll commissioned by AfterDowningStreet.org and conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, the highly-regarded non-partisan polling company.

Glad to see that the American people are finally catching up with me. A couple of years late (two and one third years, to be precise), but better late than never.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

As I noted last week, the bird or avian flu is now unleashed on the media, as the infection spread like a juicy rumor through a high school girls' bathroom at halftime.

Among the 414 related stories today was this report:

Turkey, Romania begin slaughtering fowl
San Jose Mercury News, United States - 28 minutes ago
ISTANBUL, Turkey - The slaughter of thousands of domestic fowl in Turkey and Romania began Sunday as a precaution against the spread of bird flu after both ... (from GOOGLE)
There is a well-known and ofttimes more frightening corollary to plague, and that is panic. As a result, a century of public health medicine stresses the importance of allaying fears and avoiding panic.

One of the nice things about GOOGLE is that it represents (in cases where search engine boosting companies aren't involved) a fairly democratic sampling of the Collective Obnoxious of humanity -- or, as in the case of mono-lingual cretins, such as your humble correspondent, of English-speaking humanity.

Bush has been consciously pushing the "avian flu" angle, and while it may, in fact, be a legitimate concern, and even presage the worst public health crisis since the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic, the use of "terror" as a political tool by this administration is as shameful as it is clear.

Alas, that George and Karl both flunked their Aesop, or else were as inattentive to the stories of childhood as they are to the needs of the American people: this is "The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf."

You might recall, in the stunning denouement to the old nursery story, the wolf ate the sheep and the boy, because he'd worn out the patience of the community.

And that is the current terror. Has the endless use of "terror" and "terrorist threats" and "terrorism" inured us to real emergencies? Of course it has. Just look at New York City. The cacophany of public gossip has shown quite a stunning consensus: wasn't it a convenient coincidence that the terror alert came on the same day as George's Iraq speech on the "ideology" of the "terrorists"?

The sniggering and derisive laughter was a palpable thing.

And, of course, the new danger of Romanian roosters and Turkish turkeys will only fan the flames of hysteria -- which is precisely what we know NOT to do in cases of plague.

So, it is a doubly damned policy, this exploitation of fear to push fraud.

Now, let's take a look at the deadly turkeys of Transylvania:

Continent on avian flu alert after bird deaths
By Stephen Castle, in Brussels
The Independent (UK), 10 October 2005

Europe was put on a continental alert for avian flu yesterday as Turkey and Romania culled hundreds of birds and quarantined villages after reported outbreaks in both countries.

Health officials across the continent increased surveillance for a strain of the disease that could mutate into one which spreads easily among humans. The so-called Spanish flu outbreak of 1918, which has been linked to the current strain, killed between 20 and 40 million people.

Romania has suffered suspicious bird deaths in seven locations and has slaughtered more than 1,000 animals. Turkey culled 2,000 chickens and turkeys after reporting its first outbreak of avian flu, which is commonly spread by migratory birds, on a farm near the Aegean Sea.

So far there have been no confirmed cases in Europe of the H5N1 strain of the virus, which has killed 65 people and millions of birds in Asia since 2003. Romania is still conducting tests, and the European Commission said that no cases of avian flu had yet been formally confirmed there.

Two years ago, an outbreak in the Netherlands led to the cull of 30 million birds. Health officials there have only recently lifted the most draconian restrictions designed to prevent contact with migrating birds.
Note that the panic is not entirely justified. Certainly it's a good idea to put the Continental region affected on alert. And educating the public is a good idea. But, clearly, the outbreak in the Netherlands was dealt with, and there is no rational reason for the panic that undergirds the loins of this story. And the 413 related stories, one might note. Look at the headlines:

Bird flu strikes Turkey
TVNZ, New Zealand - 1 hour ago

Europe on high alert over avian flu
Guardian Unlimited, UK - 1 hour ago

Continent on alert after bird flu hits three states
Independent, UK - 2 hours ago

Bird flu outbreaks reported in Romania, Turkey
Japan Today, Japan - 2 hours ago

1st cases of bird flu in Europe confirmed
Science Daily (press release) - 3 hours ago

Hungary bans Romanian meat on bird flu fears-agency
Reuters AlertNet, UK - 5 hours ago

Turkey Culls Poultry to Check Spread of Bird Flu
Voice of America - 7 hours ago

Bird flu tests 'negative'
Scotsman, United Kingdom - 9 hours ago

New Cases of Avian Flu Are Reported
New York Times, United States - 10 hours ago

Turkey, Romania kill poultry to stop bird flu spread
Reuters - 10 hours ago

WRAPUP 1-Turkey, Romania kill poultry to stop bird flu spread
Reuters AlertNet, UK - 11 hours ago

Turkey culls birds to stem virus
BBC News, UK - 11 hours ago

Britain sends bird flu team to Romania for tests
Reuters AlertNet, UK - 12 hours ago

Romania culls birds, says flu could be weaker strain
Reuters AlertNet, UK - 13 hours ago

Turkey culls poultry to stem spread of bird flu-TV
Reuters AlertNet, UK - 14 hours ago

Romania bird flu could be less harmful than feared
Reuters AlertNet, UK - 15 hours ago

Bird flu outbreak discovered in western Turkey
People's Daily Online, China - 16 hours ago

Turkey reports first bird flu cases
Scotsman, United Kingdom - 17 hours ago

Romania reports new bird flu cases in Danube delta
Ha'aretz (subscription), Israel - 20 hours ago

Special Broadcasting Service, Australia - Oct 8, 2005

Deaths of 2,000 birds in Turkey heighten flu fears
Scotsman, United Kingdom - Oct 8, 2005
Looking at the various headlines, it would seem that the slaughtered birds are not the only ones acting like chickens with their heads cut off.

So, should we panic? And, more the point, should George have been pushing Avian Flu fears as a means of gaining greater power to use the armed forces domestically?

I leave the latter conclusion entirely to the reader.

Meanwhile, some facts have emerged. It turns out, in a bad borscht belt kind of irony that it was, in fact, Turkish turkeys at the root of the latest scare:

October 9, 2005
New Cases of Avian Flu Are Reported in Europe
International Herald Tribune (via the NY TIMES)

The authorities were taking the extra precaution of vaccinating local residents who might have had contact with sick birds against conventional influenza, said Dr. Adrian Streinu-Cercel, a prominent infectious disease specialist in Bucharest, as is suggested by the World Health Organization.

That vaccine does nothing to protect against the bird flu. Instead, the goal of the shots is to try to prevent a human who may be at risk for bird flu because of close contact with birds from becoming infected with normal seasonal flu at the same time.
Scientists have warned that such co-infection with the two types of virus was the most likely route for the bird flu virus to acquire the ability to pass readily from human to human, since conventional flu is highly contagious. In the same body - as in a laboratory -- flu viruses often exchange genes, creating new, more deadly pathogens.

In Turkey, Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker confirmed that an outbreak of bird flu had occurred among turkeys on a farm in the western part of the country, according to the Anatolia New Agency. The village was put under quarantine and all birds and street dogs were being killed as a precaution, the report said.
When I was a kid, more than a toddler and less than a teen, my grandmother sent me a copy of Sterling North's RASCAL, which was later made into a movie that I've never had the slightest interest in seeing.

I knew in advance that it would feature the obligatory animal-trashing-kitchen cliche that Disney finds so endearing. And it would cut the bittersweet intimations of mortality and philosophy from the story for a dumb "cute animal" bit of cinematic schmaltz.

No: RASCAL was, and remains, a masterpiece of its form, and it resonates deeply across the years. If you haven't read it, and only seen the movie, do yourself a favor and read it.

It tells the story of a boy and a wild raccoon that he adopted, or who adopted him; a paean to the loss of childhood as the grim realities of adulthood overtake the narrator (North himself, as I recall). To my mind, it was the "heavy" version of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' THE YEARLING, or the light version of John Knowles' A SEPARATE PEACE, take your pick.

But RASCAL also recounted the story of the year that the Spanish Influenza devastated his town. North tells of the fear, of the isolation, of the dark grip of death on an innocent town, and for years thereafter, I tried to find out more about the Spanish Influenza.

And, for years, I could find almost nothing at all.

It was as though it had never happened.

Being a good reader, I first went to the Carnagie Public Library, and pored through American history tomes that ought to have recounted it. I knew that I was looking for "Spanish Influenza" and 1918, and that was it.

According to North, it was pretty horrific. Not quite the Black Death of the Middle Ages, but in that same league. A fair chunk of North's townsfolk, and people you'd met earlier in that happy little story of a boy and his raccoon were suddenly dead, and a vast pall had been thrown over the halcyon days of childhood.

But I couldn't find anything at the public library (the internet of the pre-computer days). So I went to the Coe Library on the university campus, and, while they had an extensive medical library, and a public health section (I started with "Typhoid Mary" and looked for books with references to her, figuring that the Influenza pandemic was related closely enough that I ought to get some "hits.")

No dice.

Later, I'd try the Santa Fe Public Library, and even the Mary Couts Burnett Library (Burnett was a tragic story in her own right http://libnt4.lib.tcu.edu/www/policies/mary.shtm ). But no luck.

Finally, in the late 1980s or 1990s, I finally ran across the story in literature, and, when I married in 1993, my father-in-law, who lives with us, has told stories of living through the Spanish Influenza, and having to take care of both his parents when he was a child (born 1907) They lived. Many didn't.
The pandemic affected everyone. With one-quarter of the US and one-fifth of the world infected with the influenza, it was impossible to escape from the illness. Even President Woodrow Wilson suffered from the flu in early 1919 while negotiating the crucial treaty of Versailles to end the World War (Tice). Those who were lucky enough to avoid infection had to deal with the public health ordinances to restrain the spread of the disease. The public health departments distributed gauze masks to be worn in public. Stores could not hold sales, funerals were limited to 15 minutes. Some towns required a signed certificate to enter and railroads would not accept passengers without them. Those who ignored the flu ordinances had to pay steep fines enforced by extra officers (Deseret News). Bodies pilled up as the massive deaths of the epidemic ensued. Besides the lack of health care workers and medical supplies, there was a shortage of coffins, morticians and gravediggers (Knox). The conditions in 1918 were not so far removed from the Black Death in the era of the bubonic plague of the Middle Ages.
"The Influenza Pandemic of 1918," by Molly Billings

So, were I contemplating such a real crisis, I would not be casually tossing panic around. Driving under the influenza is exactly criminal in the face of any sort of repeat; an arrogation comparable in intent and amorality to grave robbery.

I'm beginning to think the god that talks to George is Anubis.


Here's the piece heard on KOPT Friday morning.

It's an 835k download. The (hilarious) piece runs 1:47.

Download the MP3 (right click and "save as"):


Now I'm ready for some football.

hart williams
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