Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine flu pandemic? Oh, really?

Do you have an uneasy sense that someone's trying to pull the wool over your eyes? Does the hullabaloo over a looming swine flu pandemic seem a bit overblown? The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised the pandemic alert level (a 6-point scale) to 4 and is considering moving it to 5 today, with only 7 confirmed deaths worldwide! Keep in mind that seasonal flu kills 40,000 every year in the US alone, so why the sudden grave concern?

I don't claim to understand all the factors at play here, but one thing I do know: I am FAR more concerned that my government will use manufactured fear somehow to my detriment -- likely another lost civil liberty or two and large profits or other benefits to a chosen few -- than I am about contracting the demon swine flu.

A few facts to bolster your immune-to-bullshit system:

--Thus far, only 97 cases of so-called swine flu have been definitively identified worldwide, mostly in Mexico (26 confirmed, 7 deaths) and the U.S. (64 confirmed, no deaths). About 1600 suspected cases, including 159 deaths, are reported in Mexico. Sad as this is, it does not add up to a pandemic swine flu outbreak. We love to make this shit up for some reason. Remember the one million Americans who were supposed to die of swine flu in 1976? WHO has forgotten about them, I suppose, because they refused to become cooperative statistics.

--The virus at issue has nothing to do with swine. In fact, it hasn't been seen in a single animal. And you can't possibly get it from eating pork which I see as an unfortunate truth, because a good reason to stop eating pork would be a welcome silver lining to this "worldwide health crisis."

--No existing vaccines can prevent this new flu strain. So no matter what you hear – even if it comes from your doctor – don't get a regular flu shot. They rarely work against seasonal flu and certainly can't offer protection from a never-before-seen strain.

--Speaking of this strain, it doesn't seem to have come on naturally. According to the World Health Organization, this particular strain has never before been seen in pigs or people. And according to Reuters, the strain is a 'genetic mix' of swine, avian and human flu. Was it created in a lab? We don't know yet, and I doubt we'll find out anytime soon.

--The drug companies are getting excited, and that's never a good thing. According to the Associated Press at least one financial analyst estimates up to $388 million worth of Tamiflu sales in the near future – and that's without a pandemic outbreak. Imagine the payday when everyone begins to flip out!

--Let's not forget that Tamiflu comes with its own problems, including side effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, fatigue, cough -- the very symptoms it purports to relieve! But, oh well, at least the drug company benefits financially from Tamiflu sales. No one benefits if we don't take it, which makes the whole pandemic thing seem like a wasted opportunity.

--Vaccines for this flu strain won't have to jump through all those annoying hurdles like clinical trials for safety and effectiveness (which, if you know anything about the FDA, are usually a waste of time anyway). That won't, however, stop the government from mandating the vaccine for all of us – a very likely scenario. And if the vaccines are actually harmful -- killing people, for example, which they certainly will be -- the vaccine makers will be immune from lawsuits. D'ya suppose they could bottle up some of that fail-safe immunity for the rest of us?

"Swine flu" is endemic to a sick system created by pigs. Your best defense against swine flu – your only real defense in any manufactured health crisis situation – is a bullshit-proof immune system.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

how lovely to be a woman

video
Lara in CMJH's Kids on Broadway. Sweets!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

a pinch of psychedelic

During the kids’ Snow Break last week, we chanced to visit the Denver Art Museum’s Psychedelic Experience exhibit. Dozens of groovy rock posters from the late sixties, mostly advertising shows at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium, were on display, occasionally retro-enhanced by black light. More interesting to the kids, however, was an adjoining exhibit where ancient artifacts were displayed in a seemingly authentic sixties pad. There were LPs (how they laughed!) and record players, a giant console television, magazines from the era (first man on the moon was a big hit), shabby furniture covered in tie-dyed material, and a couple old-fashioned telephone booths with rotary phones. One by one, the kids went into the graffiti-covered booth and closed the door, sat on the bench and tried to figure out how to dial the phone. Seriously, it wasn’t obvious to them.

The terms LSD and psychedelic were ubiquitous throughout the exhibit and the kids asked me their meanings. I think I was able to explain LSD satisfactorily but had a hard time defining psychedelic, although I know psychedelic when I see it. It turns out that today is a birthday of sorts for both LSD and psychedelic, a perfect time to answer my own question!

From Today in Literature:
LSD was first synthesized on this day in 1943 by Albert Hoffman, and the psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond coined the term “psychedelic” on this day in 1956, by way of a poetic exchange with Aldous Huxley. Huxley had enthusiastically volunteered himself as a guinea pig for Osmond’s drug experiments and, after some initial reluctance, Osmond had agreed — he said he didn’t “relish the possibility, however remote, of finding a small but discreditable niche in literary history as the man who drove Aldous Huxley mad.” The two felt that a new word was needed to capture the nature of the new experience; Huxley offered his coinage in rhyme:

To make this trivial world sublime,
Take half a gramme of phanerothyme.


Osmond replied with his improvement, and entered Far Out history:

To fathom hell or soar angelic,
Just take a pinch of psychedelic.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Churchill not guilty of academic misconduct

Literary theorist and legal scholar, Stanley Fish, weighs in on the report of the “committee of faculty peers” that found Ward Churchill guilty of academic misconduct.

“The verdict did not surprise me because I had read the committee’s report and found it less an indictment of Churchill than an example of a perfectly ordinary squabble about research methods and the handling of evidence.”

“The accusations that fill its pages are the kind scholars regularly hurl at their polemical opponents. It’s part of the game. But in most cases, after you’ve trashed the guy’s work in a book or a review, you don’t get to fire him. Which is good, because if the standards for dismissal adopted by the Churchill committee were generally in force, hardly any of us professors would have jobs.”


In the New York Times column, Fish concludes his Churchill-exonerating analysis by claiming that he doesn’t question the integrity of the committee leading the witch hunt, excusing their dishonesty with “they just got caught up in a circus that should have never come to town.”

Apparently Stanley Fish didn’t see any of the lying douchenozzles on the stand, or read their vomit-inducing 125-page report trashing Ward Churchill’s 30-year stint as polemicist laureate. Still, I appreciate Mr. Fish setting the record straight: Ward Churchill is not guilty of academic misconduct. I hope David Lane, Ward’s wildly fabulous attorney, is gearing up to sue the stuffing out of the next bastard who publicly claims he is.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Churchill juror Newill explains it all

A few interesting things about the Ward Churchill jury came to light today (a sigh of relief from Pirate Ballerina!). The jury thought -- right up until the judge gave them their instructions -- they were to determine whether Ward Churchill was guilty of academic misconduct. When they realized they needed only to decide only whether the 9/11 essay was a substantial motivating factor in his dismissal, they agreed very quickly that it was.

Although apparently the jury took their deliberations seriously, they didn't want to have anything to do with the damages portion of the process. They hoped the judge would do the job for them but when they found out that wasn't permitted, they gave it a half-hearted shot. This from Westword's interview with juror Bethany Newill:

Once Judge Larry Naves reiterated that the jury had to tackle this task, Newill confirms that "the majority of us were in favor of giving him money," but they didn't know how much to award. "We were given a four-page set of rules to determine the amount, and there was also an option that we didn't have to do it. And one of the rules said there needed to be a preponderance of the evidence to show the financial effect it had on Ward Churchill. And there was no real dollar amount other than the loss of wages."

Ultimately, the jurors followed the lead of David Lane, Churchill's attorney. "He said, 'What price can you put on a reputation?'" Newill remembers. "And we all decided that there's not a price you can put on a reputation. And even though this was protected speech, there are still consequences to your actions and your words. When Ward Churchill wrote that essay, he had to think that people would be affected by that, negatively or positively, and that he would need to reap the consequences on his reputation." Still, she emphasizes that "it wasn't a slap in his face or anything like that when we didn't give him any money. It's just that David Lane kept saying this wasn't about the money, and in the end, we took his word for that."

No doubt, a jury of peers! Just not Ward Churchill's peers!

Tim DeChristopher talks Edward Abbey


Tim DeChristopher, a University of Utah disobedient civilian, was interviewed on Democracy Now! today. Amy Goodman asked him what relevance Edward Abbey had to his move to disrupt the bidding process for oil and gas leases in Utah's red rock country.

His answer:
I think that the most powerful relevance of Edward Abbey to what I did was his statement and really his expression of the idea that sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul, because I think that’s what I had seen throughout my work as an environmentalist previous to this, where I had seen this massive crisis and massive challenge that we were facing in climate change, and I saw that my efforts of writing the letter here and there and riding my bike and things like that weren’t really aligning. My actions weren’t aligning with my sentiment of how serious this threat was, and I knew that. And so, I felt that kind of conflict within myself.
And when I stepped it up at this auction and was putting myself out there and winning all these parcels was really the first time I felt like my sentiment—or I felt like my actions were aligning with my sentiment. And I felt this tremendous sense of calm when I started doing that, because for the first time that conflict within me was gone, and I knew that when I was, you know, standing up and risking going to prison, my actions really were aligning with how big of a crisis this is.

A grand jury indicted Tim DeChristopher Wednesday afternoon with two felony counts of violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Act. If convicted, Tim could face up to 10 years in the slammer. This, despite the fact that Ken Salazar cancelled the contested leases because the government failed to follow its own procedures, but more on that later!

For now, tune in to KRCC at 7 to hear Tim (and then Noam Chomsky) on Democracy Now! tonight.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Mr. Churchill, meet Mr. Churchill


Closing arguments will be heard this morning in the Ward Churchill trial and then the case goes to the (very young and earnest) jury.

Winston Churchill said “history is written by the victors” which has been a central thesis in much of Ward Churchill’s work. It’s scrumptiously ironic that when Ward Churchill wins his case against CU, he’ll become a contributor to the “Master Narrative” he so despises. I’m guessing his chapter will be full of tales of brave Indiginists and murdering technocrats, white male regents and the soulless women who love them. Academia will be recast as the valiant protector of the ruling elite and the mighty slayer of free thought and open debate. The jury of young, multiracial, unsophisticates will be consecrated as puissant defenders of justice. A few vindictive ex-wives and some illicit boys’ room puffing may be tossed in to add color.

When Ward Churchill prevails against the esteemed institution that called into question his academic integrity, his reputation as a scholar and a brilliant polemicist will be restored. More importantly, the master narrative will no longer be inscrutable.

The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it,
ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is.

— W. Churchill