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Thursday, December 25, 2003

HOOF and PROOF DISEASE 

As of Christmas 2003, there has been a single US cow identified carrying the strain of bovine encephalitis known commonly as Mad Cow disease. The Department of Agriculture is supposedly tracking the beast’s origins to determine when and where it contracted the malady. The news media, on the other hand, appears desperate to find evidence that this is a broad based infection, epidemic and national disaster that will mean months of coverage. The press appears to be doing its best to agitate the American public into hysteria. Headlines ask, “Is Your Meat Safe? and TV news promos tell you to “Watch the 10 O’clock News to see if your burger is botched.”

The former sounds like a personal question that shouldn't be publicly aired. The latter could be, among others, construed as a foul up on the part of the cook. If I asked for my burger medium and it came to my table looking like a briquet, you're damn right it's botched.

Americans are particularly vulnerable to this brand of chicken-little chatter, in part because tort lawyers have convinced a willing public that life should be risk free or you have the right to sue the pants off anyone who fails to oblige. Today, you can shoot bathroom caulk up your nose with a fire hose and if the package doesn't warn you that clogging your sinus cavities with said product is likely to limit your life expectancy, just sue away!!!! Knowing that some suit is foaming at the mouth (just like the cow) to get his hands on a class action bundle, everything we buy nowadays is qualified with multiple paragraphs of disclaimers and warnings.

To date, not a single burger, steak, rib, roast or meatloaf has shown up with Mad Cow though the meat from the slaughtered animal has been distributed and is now part of a recall. And it’s certainly possible that a wide spread problem might be forthcoming, but current evidence doesn’t point in that direction. But unless salmonella, mercury poisoning and trichinosis have been vanquished from the face of the earth, chicken fish and pork are hardly risk free or the “healthy” alternative that is implied.

Sure, we should do everything reasonable to ensure a safe food supply, but reacting to isolated incidents as if they were epidemic is foolish and costly. Over a decade ago a shipment of Chilean grapes were found to be toxic. The next thing you know we barred fruit shipments from Chile for a week and almost destroyed that country's grape industry over what turned out to be a total screw-up. Hardly necessary if the situation had been handled with less emotion and more reason.


Though they would be hard pressed to admit it, the network and local TV news, newspapers and magazines do a bang up job scaring the daylights out of gullible Americans. If I'm Al Queda, I'm taking notes.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

BEG YOUR PARDON 

Where ever he is, I bet that Lenny Bruce is laughing his ass off over this one; he's probably gasping for air and needing sponges to soak up the tears from laughing so hard. What's that? They killed Lenny!?! The Baastards!!!

The idea of the current Governor of New York bestowing a posthumous pardon on Bruce is delightfully dull witted in a way that only self serving politicians could fail to appreciate. That George Pataki has granted a pre-Christmas pardon to a Jew is even more over the top. Couldn’t he have waited until Good Friday, where’s his sense of history?

Why a pardon? Why not admit that the law in question was Puritanism masquerading as morality, a violation of Bruce’s 1st Amendment rights and its enforcement a complete waste of taxpayer’s money. Pardons are what Bill Clinton handed out to criminals who wrote super-sized get out of jail checks to the Democratic National Committee. Lenny Bruce deserves to have his record exonerated.

It’s doubly hilarious when you stop to remember that Nelson Rockefeller was the chief executive of the Empire State at the time Bruce was convicted of obscenity charges in 1964. Rockefeller, of course, went on to become Vice-President (nice pun) under Gerald Ford and subsequently exited the planet in an embarrassing and untimely fashion while humping his secretary in his New York City office in January of 1979. (In fairness, Rockefeller was, ironically, a very moderate Republican who’s less than strident conservatism cost him his party's presidential nomination). Lenny got screwed by the state and paid the price for it by having both his name and career blackballed. Nelson was screwing someone not named his wife and paid the price for it by having his ticker blow out like a truck tire with 300K miles.

Keep laughing Lenny, things haven’t changed all that much.

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