Parasite Attack! Flesh-eating Worms in the United States!


 

A Meta-Bug News Roundup

Screwworms in Florida

The New World screwworm, Cochliomyia homnivorax, isn’t probably something you think about. Fortunately, you don’t have to. The screwworm, a larval form of a fly, has been eradicated in the United States since 1982.

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Unlike maggots, which eat only dead flesh, the screwworm eats live tissue. When I was in Haiti recently, I saw what they are capable of. Any wound, any abrasion, any cut is an invitation for the flies to show up. Then the larvae come out, and work their way not just into the necrotic parts, but the actual live tissue.

Screwworms obviously present a serious danger to livestock. I can even find you a gross story where they went into a woman’s ear. But since the ’50s, researchers began experimenting with the release of sterile male flies, first on the relatively controlled setting of an island, and then on the mainland. By 1982, there were no more screwworms in the US.

Naturally, flies don’t recognize international borders, so in partnership with Mexico and the nations of Central America, the screwworm has been restricted to south of the isthmus of Panama, a bottleneck that is relatively easy to defend. The breeding of sterile males is ongoing in Panama.

Recently, 40 endangered Key Deer had to be euthanized in Florida when it was discovered that they were infested with screwworms. Sterile males were introduced, the Florida Department of Agriculture set up inspection stations in Key Largo for animals leaving the keys, and the outbreak was contained.

 

Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, has died.

“When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called a Religion.”

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Here’s a passage  from Zen  that I always found interesting.

Things are getting worse.

Twittler has proposed huge tax cuts, and naturally they benefit him and those in high income brackets the most. They propose eliminating the inheritance tax, which is probably the best tax we have: WE’RE TAXING DEAD RICH PEOPLE! They’re decomposing, they can’t complain, and if their whiny little offspring think it’s just horrible that they have to be just a tiny bit like the rest of us (which they won’t, they’ll still be stinking rich), well, they can commiserate in their gated communities and in their country clubs, just like they always have. The Great Unwashed will be able to perhaps feed and educate their children a little better. It’s understandable how those at the top don’t really want a level playing field, but keeping the “Paris Hilton” tax–or maybe we should call it the Trump Kids Tax–is a good thing. Just ask Teddy Roosevelt. Whatever you name it, don’t let anyone get away with calling it a “death tax.” It’s not.  It’s a tax on plutocracy and oligarchy.

I can’t write anymore today. A buffoon is fucking up or determined to fuck up so many things at once–relations with Canada and Mexico, military policy, health care, foreign trade– that it’s overwhelming. As I’ve written before, there’s a good chance that the American Experiment has failed, and the wise will at least be keeping an eye open on an exit strategy. While I’m here, I will work to make this a better and safer place, but I do not believe that this is the best place for my children to plan their future in.

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Another Old News Clipping: How We Are Just Not Getting Afghanistan


While we hate to serve as mere aggregators, one of our editors came across this article from 2012, courtesy of The Daily Beast.

I Reenlisted to Return to Afghanistan, Only to Find Myself in Kuwait.

I wanted to do the right thing, to go back to the winding-down war to bring the rest of the guys back home.

by Jonathan Raab

The soldier who wrote the article–five years ago–reenlisted so he could help with the “winding-down” of the war. He was sent to Kuwait instead, and we don’t need to point out that the war shows no sign of winding down.

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Stolen Valor, Gross Capitalism Version: “Our Business Supports the Troops”


more than youI went to rent a car. Because I’m  in the Reserves, I look for military discounts. I don’t feel entitled to them. I volunteered, I get paid for showing up for training, and best of all, I get TSA Pre-Check! so if no one offers me a discount, no big deal.

I would never think that a business that doesn’t give a military discount is against the troops. But conversely, I don’t think that just because a business says that they “support the troops” that it’s actually true.   The phrase “I support the troops” has become an essentially meaningless trope, a sort of verbal lapel-pin (made in China by underpaid workers!) and proof of nothing real, except perhaps the desire to fit in with the ‘right’ folk and show that one adheres to the accepted orthodoxy.

But I get it. I understand the reflexive need for Americans to say they support the troops. Someone else–less then 1% of the families in the US have any skin in the game–is doing all the heavy lifting, and enormous amount of guilt can be assuaged and responsibility shirked merely by uttering the mantra, “I support the troops.”

We all know, of course, that except for those who actually do something —help their neighbors who have a deployed family member, or volunteer in VA hospitals, offer a discount, or engage their elected officials in meaningful discussion (fat chance), etc.– that no one’s really supporting the troops in any significant way. Not that they have to: no one has to support the troops. It is a volunteer army. Morevoer, in a country with a strong First Amendment like ours, it’s anyone’s right to say,  Hey, I’m not supporting people who take part in a system whose basic function seems not to be defending ourselves, but pushing an American agenda on other parts of the world, and is willing to have our own children and the children of others die as a consequence. That doesn’t bother me. Hypocrisy does. It makes sense that if you don’t support war, you wouldn’t support the military-industrial complex. (It’s more complicated than that, but that’s not today’s discussion).

But my point–remember that I did start out this post with one–is that if you say that you support the troops, get off your fucking ass and support the troops. (NB: A discount does validate the claim.)

So when I click on Enterprise’s link to it’s we-love-the-military page, enterprise rent-a-car

and then click on the link to get my “military promo code”, please don’t have it be the same fucking price as I would have gotten anyway.

It’s dishonest.

Epilogue: I called up Enterprise Customer Service, and I told them–politely–what I said here. I didn’t ask for any discount, upgrade, or special service. I just said that if they say they have a military promo then they should actually have a military promo.

When I went to get my rental, I got the ridiculously low weekend rate, which normally would have been useless, except they gave me unlimited miles, making the rental the best deal I’ve had in a long time.

I’m glad they did right by me. They should now do the same for everyone else.

When Is It Time to Fight, and When Is It Time to Realize That You’ve Lost?


As a Jew taking the long view of history, I have come to the conclusion that it’s not wise to fight for something that can’t be saved. Fight where you can, but retreat and regroup when you’ve been outflanked.  If my great-grandparents had gotten the notion in their heads that it was only a matter of time and people fighting for doing the right thing, they would have stayed in Europe, and they would have been killed. They would have lost. Forever. There’s a dignity and nobility in a Last Stand, but making a last stand where you don’t need to is pointless suicide.

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I’m not saying that there is a danger of a Holocaust here. I’m not saying that the problems now single out Jews. However, the lesson of history is that sometimes things don’t get better. Sometimes they do, but it takes lifetimes and generations. But sometimes,  it never happens. Civilizations fall. Societies crumble, and nothing worth living in springs from the ashes. Things go to hell and never come back.

One ray of hope is that Drumpf’s demographic skews older. One old fart funeral at a time, our country is probably getting better. I look at my kids in our and see how much more tolerant and accepting they are than we were at that age. This change is slow and it’s incremental, but it is positive.

But there are plenty of signs that we’re sunk.

There is still the conversion and indoctrination of the young to the selfish and jingoistic mindset of tRump, especially those who are seduced by the idea of American Exceptionalism. (Who wouldn’t want to be exceptional, especially if to be exceptional requires merely the luck to have been born in the right place at the right time?) We are far too militaristic, especially in a country where so few people serve. The pious sanctimony surrounding our armed forces prevents any useful discussion of how they should be used. We are far too religious. Religion as a double-edged sword that too often gets sharpened on only one side. We have denigrated science and research to the point where other countries will equal us and surpass us in the ability to do cutting edge innovation and investigation. This is a race where you can’t make up for lost time. The changes to our environment–caused by those who still subscribe to the antiquated idea that the highest and best good is determined solely by ascertaingin that which brings in the most money–have launched us down a dangerous road, and we can only slow that movement, not turn it back. We have large parts of the population who believe that gun ownership, not debate, not reason, not commitment to each other, is  the most important foundation of a society. The USA is not the Last Best Hope of the World. We can be a leader in the way forward, but not without a commitment to see where we’ve gone off course. Currently, those in power do not have that commitment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lazy Journalism Day: Aggregating stuff you prob’ly read anyway.


 

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Pentatomid bud nymphs aggregating on a plant in Bangalore, India. Photo by L. Shyamal and taken from Wikipedia

I’m occupied with other things today, but there’s always time to make it look like I’m  actually paying attention.

These things seemed worth reading today:

From the NY Times, on feminism’s embrace of anti-Zionism–which although they will scream to the heavens that it isn’t, indeed is actually a form of anti-Semitism–and the bind that it puts Jewish feminists in;

From the Atlantic, on why being poor in Bangladesh might be better than being poor in Mississippi;

This, from Vox.com on the Republicans’ plan to make us get sicker and die faster;

And this, about our increasing military involvement in Iraq and Syria.

 

The Return of the Chicken Hawks


Did they really ever go away?

Great. Another $54 billion for the military-industrial complex. Not so strangely, no discussion of a draft. I’m sick of hearing how everyone loves the military, yet it seems no one has a problem using them like insensate tools.generalissimo-trump Until everyone has skin in the game, please shut the fuck up with your saber rattling.

 

Do You Know What Your Elected Officials Think About a Draft? No? Well, Neither Do They.


Today I called up the offices of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) and Congressman Seth Moulton (D-MA).

Our current administration seems to be heading us towards more armed conflict rather than less. In order to have any fair discussion about the use of the military, the country needs to have a fair discussion about making everyone pay the price for using it.

So I called some legislators in my state

From Elizabeth Warren’s office: The kind person on the other end of the phone had no idea what Ms. Warren’s position was. She said they would get back to me.

From Edward Markey’s office:  The kind person on the other end of the phone had no idea what Mr. Markey’s position was, but maybe I should check the website. I said I had and had not been able to find a policy statement.  She said they would get back to me.

From Seth Moulton’s  office (Mr. Moulton is a veteran): The polite person on the other end of the phone said that she was an intern and could not give out policy positions. She did not offer to get back to me. I asked her to do so, and  I left my phone number and email address.

 

 

 

Meta-Bug readers like cute doggie stories, less motivated by calls for the Trumplets (Ivanky, Ericky, and Donny Jry) to join the military.


So few people read this virtual rag that statistics are probably useless. However, we did go over 100 views for ENTIRE WEEK! I realize that more millions more people than that will watch a cute cat video in the time it takes to read this paragraph. I can live with that.

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I am too smart to eat chocolate cake. I am cat.

 

And I’m glad that you’re interested in the thrilling story about Genius Mutt defying death after eating a chocolate cake.

But people! In all of this political talk flying around, NO ONE is talking about the proper use of the military. It would be nice to have this discussion before we get stuck in another stupid quagmire that costs the lives and health of those willing to sign on that line.

It is the unanimous view of the Meta-Bug editorial staff that the draft needs to be reinstated. We don’t like the draft. We don’t like the fact that having a large standing army tends to get overused. We wouldn’t like the increased military spending that would accompany a universal draft. We don’t like the possible militarization of society that could occur with a universal draft. We don’t like having permanent military bases in places where they are not wanted or not necessary. We think that young Americans should be supported in becoming the adults they want to be, and that it should be done through education, that the money would be better used paying for universities and trade schools rather than uniforms, food supplied by contractors, and weapons.

Above all, I don’t want my children in the military.

But we are in love with our military might. For a large number of Americans, being big and powerful is part and parcel of our patriotism. We stand astride the globe, ready to go anywhere at a moment’s notice (damn the exit strategies!).

If that is going to be the case, everyone needs to take part. Senators’ sons. Kids of Congressmen. The President’s Progeny. Especially the President’s Progeny. And they shouldn’t be dragged off to the draft board kicking and screaming. They should be at the recruiter’s office, waiting at the door ten minutes before opening time. (On time in the military is 10 minutes early.)

Will they answer the call?

 

Dear Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Jr.: Join the Army or the Marines; lead by example and show your patriotism by your willingness to sacrifice.


We now have ample evidence that the United States–even in the absence of declared wars, state-to-state conflicts, and serious threats from an invading army–will continue to be a heavily armed country that relies on the use of military advantage to push our agenda in the world.

Call it what you want, but the reality is that we are going to enforce a Pax Americana and whatever the Republican-majority Congress and the Commander-in-Chief feel is an American view of the world. We will do it as much and as far as we are able. We are the modern version of Rome, by design or default.

What we are not–for better or worse–is Sparta. We engage in pieties to assuage our guilt over our “all-volunteer” armed forces. We use them without really thinking about the consequences of sending them into harm’s way. Fewer than 1% of American families have any skin in the game, and as I’ve so often heard, “Well, they signed up for it.” The last time there was a draft, the country was in the street. The idealist in me would like to say that it was over an unjust and unjustified war. The cynic in me says that the only reason anyone cared was because it was their own lives on the line that time.

tRump is pushing an agenda that could easily lead us into war. He is backing both the US and Iran into a corner. If he’s  a tenth of the man he says he is, and if his offspring are not just fleas on those 10% coattails, he will encourage them to join the Armed Forces. Not the Air Force (too cushy) or the Navy, but boots-on-the-ground expeditionary forces, either the Marines or the Army infantry.

Let’s see how patriotic these plutocrats are.

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