You can't swing a sick chicken these days without hitting a pundit pontificating about bird flu. After nearly two years of sporadic news coverage, the media woke up to the threat in late September when George W. Bush spoke about the potential pandemic; now, the topic is regular fodder on the nightly news, the weekend shows, the daily papers, and the popular newsweeklies.
Everyone is having their say and, unremarkably, everyone seems to view it through their own lenses. Thomas Friedman recently opined on the Don Imus show that bird flu demonstrates the "flat-world" hypothesis of his latest best-selling book. Apocalyptic evangelicals cite it as a sign of the impending End Days. George Bush wants to invoke his administration’s handling of it, post-Katrina, as an example of their competence. Democrats say that Bush’s approach to the problem represents the exact opposite, as Senator Edward Kennedy argued in a Boston Globe op-ed last Sunday.
In fact, the danger of an influenza pandemic is real and serious. It is almost certain that the current H5N1 strain, which has thus far killed more than 60 people, all in Southeast Asia, will spread to poultry in most or all of the world. So far, almost all cases in humans have resulted from contact with live infected birds. And the virus could remain in its current form, which does not seem to spread easily from human to human (as a common cold would). In that case, it will have a massive economic effect, but relatively few fatalities. Or, it may well mutate, as past viruses have, to a person-to-person disease, in which case millions, or tens of millions, will perish.
Even if we luck out with this version of the disease, we are only buying time. The consensus is that the big one is coming; we just don’t know when and how bad it’s going to be.
It is unsurprising that the US and the world in general have been slow to take the threat seriously. Governments are not so different from mainstream media -- only so many things occupy the high-priority bin at any given time, and bird flu hadn’t made it there until just recently. Yes, it should have; the warning signs have been flashing for at least eight years, if not longer. But it has not until just recently.
What is disconcerting -- in addition to the basic problem of infrastructure readiness laid bare by the Gulf Coast hurricanes -- is that the US is facing the threat with a perspective no less slanted than those of Friedman or the apocalyptic preachers.
The above is from David S. Bernstein's "Yes, you should be afraid: As avian flu threatens to kill millions, Bush bets our lives on the free market" (The Boston Phoenix). Leigh Ann e-mailed to note it for our Indymedia roundup. This entry focuses on a variety of issues. The other issue will focus on things having to do with the occupation of Iraq.
Lyle e-mails to note Ted Rall's "Giving Democracy The Bird: Bush asks Congress for martial law" (Boise Weekly):
Soldiers brandishing automatic weapons, a defining characteristic of life in Third World dictatorships, have become commonplace at airports, bus and train stations, government offices and highway checkpoints since 9/11. Now troops are becoming our first responders to situations, such as natural disasters and flu outbreaks, which normally fall under civilian jurisdiction.
Everything's gone topsy-turvy: The National Guard, charged with keeping order here at home and legally under the control of state governors, has been shipped off to Iraq and Afghanistan, shanghaied by the federal government. Here in the United States, whatever comes up, the Bush administration's first reaction is to send in the regular army troops who are supposed to be in Iraq. Whether it's a sinister plot against American democracy or the most sustained large-scale foolishness in history, the Bush administration is tearing down the traditional wall between overseas military action and domestic law enforcement.
Creeping militarism leapt into full view with Bush's October 4 request to Congress to repeal the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which prohibits the use of the military in domestic policing except for the purpose of quelling a revolution. Citing the theoretical possibility that Asian avian flu, now only transmittable from bird to human, could mutate into a human-to-human form, Bush said: "If we had an outbreak somewhere in the United States, do we not then quarantine that part of the country? And who best to be able to effect a quarantine? One option is the use of a military that's able to plan and move. I think it's an important debate for Congress to have."
Overturning Posse Comitatus would allow troops to break into houses and apartments and sweep the streets for flu victims, and forcibly contain them in Guantánamo-style camps. They could seal off cities or whole states. These extreme measures could also be deployed against U.S. citizens after hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, or even election disputes--whenever and wherever a president decides they are necessary.
Think our latter day, online Dylan's the only one pimping GOP spin/"save the country" spin re: Plamegate? Wrong. Ben e-mails to note Brian Morton's "The Plame Game" (Baltimore City Paper):
As I write this column, there's just more than a week left in the term of the grand jury investigating the leak of Valerie Plame’s identity as a covert CIA operative. And much of official Washington, especially the so-called liberal media, is on tenterhooks waiting to see what comes out of it.
What is hilarious about all of this is that few people outside "official" Washington realize how small that insular crowd is until some bonehead like Richard Cohen of The Washington Post writes a paragraph like this, like he did Oct. 13:
The best thing [special prosecutor] Patrick Fitzgerald could do for his country is get out of Washington, return to Chicago, and prosecute some real criminals. As it is, all he has done so far is send Judith Miller of The New York Times to jail and repeatedly haul this or that administration high official before a grand jury, investigating a crime that probably wasn’t one in the first place but that now, as is often the case, might have metastasized into some sort of coverup--but, again, of nothing much. Go home, Pat.
It's breathtaking. Here's the "establishment liberal" columnist of the paper of record claiming that exposing an intelligence asset--a woman who worked overseas on issues such as nuclear proliferation as part of a front company called Brewster-Jennings--isn't a crime. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Cohen part of the crowd that tried to hound Bill Clinton out of town over a consensual sex act? The same moralizing Richard Cohen who had an affair with Peter Jennings' wife, causing that couple to separate for five months? I guess it's proof that, just like incest causes retardation, an incestuous media breeds stupidity.
Melinda e-mails to note Jennifer Strom's "Going South: Our president and most media reports say life is improving along Mississippi's Gulf Coast. They should ask the people who have to live there" (Durham's The Independent Weekly):
On Oct. 11, President George W. Bush visited Delisle Elementary School near Pass Christian, Miss. He embraced kindergarteners and spoke in inspirational aphorisms about how hard the federal government has been working to restore order and rebuild the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Katrina roared ashore almost two months ago. Don't believe everything you hear.
Two weeks before Bush posed for his eighth storm-zone photo op, I stood in the parking lot of that same school, warily watching six uniformed cops shove ammunition clips into their automatic weapons. It was just about sunset, a streaky pink and orange sky heralding the end of another exhausting day and the beginning of yet another chaotic night for the folks trying to make sense of their lives in Katrinaville.
We'd best move along, the officers advised, good-naturedly but without question of our obedience. It was almost curfew, and things were about to get a little dicey: They were hunting down a man who'd been threatening to shoot police in the neighborhood.
We were wrapping up a long first day of our animal rescue mission. After traveling mile after mile past flattened buildings, malodorous sewage ponds and razor-wire checkpoints guarded by soldiers in full combat gear, the parking lot of the cheerful little school--the only one left standing in that district--had seemed, just minutes earlier, as benign a place as any to park our RV and crash for the night. But with the arrival of three patrol cars full of exceedingly well-armed cops, our surroundings had suddenly taken on a menacing air. Neighbors began oozing into the residential streets--black and white, homeless and jobless, overtired and overheated. They gathered in tense knots, murmuring.
We moved along.
With all the nonsense of "don't criticize Harrie!" a lot of smarter people are still reluctant to state the obvious: Harrie's not qualified for the Court. Brad's not afraid and e-mails to note Harvey Wasserman's "Will Harriet Miers vote to overturn Bush's conspiracy convication?" (The Free Press):
Congress must now ask: what would Harriet Miers do? She is known only to be fiercely loyal to the persona of George W. Bush and the Republican Party. As David Sirota and others have pointed out, her sole qualification for the Supreme Court seems to be her position as a "de facto member of Bush's immediate family." That may be sufficient for many now in Congress. But what happens when a case involving the Bush family comes to her? Given Bush v. Gore and all else we know about this administration, the answer is obvious: regardless of the law, regardless of two hundreds years of precedent, regardless of what is moral and right, Harriet Miers will do what suits the short-term interests of George W. Bush. As Rehnquist, Thomas, Scalia, Kennedy and O'Connor showed in Bush v. Gore, American jurisprudence at its highest level is now defined by the immediate demands of the Republican Party. Today we hear much hype about how little we know of Harriet Miers’s personal beliefs. But if ever there were a Supreme Court nominee who is a sure bet to put personal and partisan loyalty above the law, it is Harriet Miers. If ever George W. Bush comes in front of her with a case concerning conspiracy or some other violation of the law, we all know how she will vote. That's why Bush chose her. That's why the Senate must reject her.
Seem brief? It is. Members e-mail what's on their mind. This week, the occupation was the focus and that entry offers a little more and the poll Gina and Krista did at the gina & krista round-robin found people wanting less items in the Indymedia roundup. (While still wanting long ones in the Sunday entries on what's being reported outside the US mainstream.) So that's what we're doing, focus on a few key ones.
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