The Commerce News
August 1, 2001
Have Missed Something About West Nile Virus
America's newest imported threat to health and happiness is the
West Nile virus, which is killing crows, hawks and other birds
throughout the southeast.
That the virus is arriving at the same time as the federal tax
rebate checks is a bothersome coincidence that, to me, suggests
that the Democrats are up to no good again.
My medical expertise is somewhat less than my knowledge of quasars
and black holes, which is to say I know that beer is of great
use in flushing kidney stones. But the medical community seems
to be telling us that the appropriate response to the West Nile
virus is to panic, and the sooner the better.
Why else would the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
want to know whenever a bird dies? God, the Scriptures say, knows
when a sparrow falls, but now the CDC wants that same level of
knowledge and the bodies too, apparently.
This level of panic has not been evidenced since threats of the
great Y2K computer disaster sent millions of healthy computers
to premature death. And why is this?
Quoting from the Associated Press, "West Nile virus appears
first as a flu-like illness. But for patients most at risk
primarily the elderly and people with weak immune systems
it can cause deadly encephalitis, or swelling of the brain."
I must be missing something. Flu can and does kill the elderly
and people with weak immune systems. Come to think of it, so
can and do cars. No, the case-by-case reporting of West Nile
virus in wildlife is unprecedented, especially given the fact
that the same AP story quoting the CDC claims that "health
hazards to humans are minimal, with most healthy individuals
infected by the virus suffering no more than flu-like symptoms,
including high fever, headache, sore throat and fatigue."
If that is true, what is the big deal?
The virus is spread by mosquitoes. Get this advice from the CDC:
"The best advice I have is not to get the mosquito bite
in the first place."
That's akin to saying that the best way to avoid osteoporosis
is to die young. You can't avoid mosquitoes if you go outside.
True, you can keep some of them from being born. I noticed squirming
mosquito larvae in my dog's water dish recently, but with this
year of (finally) normal rainfall, somehow I suspect that emptying
the dish did not significantly reduce the mosquito population.
Fly over Jackson County and you'll understand that emptying water
dishes and bird baths regularly is not a substantial mosquito
To avoid mosquito bites, one would have to stay indoors. Woe
unto him who dares visit the golf course, go camping or even
fishing, or who grills supper on the barbie without bathing first
If it's not the Democrats, it's a plot by the chemical industry,
which sees an opportunity. My Florida home town used to spend
a lot of money spraying for mosquitoes during the summer, sending
trucks out to put out a noxious fog that killed mosquitoes and
probably more birds than the West Nile virus could ever kill.
There's profit in panic. Someone's going to make money on the
West Nile virus.
Next week: death from gerbils.
The Jackson Herald
August 1, 2001
When local public schools open their doors Thursday morning,
so too will thousands of hopes and dreams be opened. Parents
have hopes of academic or athletic success for their children
while the kids have dreams about everything from straight A's
to a date for the prom. Teachers and administrators have hopes
of higher test scores and more funding.
Indeed, there is something refreshing about the dawn of a new
school year. Anticipation seasoned by the bright and shining
faces of kids gives new meaning to the phrase, "Hope springs
And so it is with this sense of hope that many in this community
will once again puts their focus on public education and on what
the local schools are doing to prepare our youth for the future.
That may seem like a simple task, but in reality, it is daunting.
There is no simple way to set standards for public schools and
no simple method to measure what standards do exist.
It has been our experience that, for the most part, local educators
do the best they can given the inherent limitations of public
schools. Saddled by hundreds of federal and state mandates, local
school administrators and teachers sometimes walk a tenuous line
between doing what is best for a student, or violating some obscure
mandate handed down from on high.
Compounding those problems is the huge transition taking place
within our local public schools. The growth in numbers, as reported
elsewhere in this newspaper, is just one part of the picture.
But perhaps even more challenging for school leaders is the growth
in expectations of students and their parents.
When this county was smaller and mostly agricultural, there was
a more homogenous student population whose expectations, while
not identical, were generally within the same sphere. And since
many of the students were sons and daughters of alumni, expectations
were often limited.
Today, that is changing dramatically. Students from a huge range
of social and economic backgrounds are brought together in the
classroom. That diversity of needs and expectations is bringing
new pressure on school leaders which goes far beyond the need
to build new classrooms.
Those changes may be unsettling to some whose experience with
other schools has been limited. There is, unfortunately, a sense
of complacency among some parents and school leaders who see
little need to change the way education services are delivered.
But we embrace many of those changes, not because what was done
in the past was wrong, but rather because our community cannot
afford to be educationally stagnant in a world where competition
We have high hopes for the future of these boys and girls and
we have high expectations that this county will make the changes
needed to meet their needs.
We should settle for nothing less.
Jackson County Opinion Index
The Jackson Herald
August 1, 2001
other items before car phones
The "brain" scientists are at it again. In a new study,
scientists have concluded that people can't do two things at
a time, like drive a car and talk on a cell phone.
"The brain appears to have a finite amount of space for
tasks requiring attention," said an article about the study,
which used MRI images of the brain to track how people were thinking
while doing two tasks at once. The report is being used to back
efforts by state legislatures to ban talking on a cell phone
Now I'm not one to quibble with MRI brain images, but you have
to wonder if this is just another attack by urbanites on the
suburbs where cell phones are as ubiquitous as SUVs and soccer
First, urban elitists wanted to take our SUVs because they guzzle
gas and don't look as good as a ragged-out 1976 Toyota covered
with "Save the Whales" bumper stickers.
Next, the urbanites wanted to stop building highways in the suburbs
so we would be forced to move to high-density housing in the
city. It seems suburban land use is aesthetically unappealing
to women who don't shave their legs or armpits.
Those ideas didn't work, of course, because suburban dwellers
are too busy going to soccer games and talking on cell phones
to care what city slickers think.
But this new effort to ban car phones might just stir up an otherwise
docile suburban populace. Can't you see the following bumper
sticker on every white minivan in the suburbs: "They'll
Take My Cell Phone From My Cold Dead Hands!"
I don't doubt, of course, the scientific validity of the study.
I've long suspected that humans aren't designed to do two things
at once, such as listening to one's wife while watching a Braves
But before we ban car phones, shouldn't we ban other distractions
in the car first? Here's my list of activities that should be
banned while driving:
· Putting on makeup. This is a no-brainer to anyone who
has witnessed the millions of women who put on their makeup while
driving to work in the mornings. It is not possible to apply
eyeliner and lipstick while operating a 2,500 lb. chunk of steel
in traffic and drive with your knee.
· Reading a book. I'm always amazed by the large number
of people who read books while cruising down the Interstate.
Most look to be middle-aged salesmen who are traveling from one
state to another and have nothing better to do than read. Haven't
these guys heard about audio tapes?
· Listening to music. I'd like to see the MRI of a brain
listening to some of today's music, especially the thump-thump-thump
from a car you hear coming five blocks away. I swear my heart
stopped beating once from the pressure wave of one of those mobile
· Talking to children in the back seat. OK, those who
have children know what I'm talking about. It's impossible to
keep a car on the road when you're turning around to yank a knot
in a child who just hit his brother because he stole a toy Lego
that was sitting in the middle of the back seat....well, you
get the drift.
· Having sex. This being a family newspaper, I won't go
into details, but some of my sources swear people actually do
this while driving 80 mph down the road. That idea gives a new
meaning to wearing clean underwear in case you have a wreck.
· Eating food. Now, I'm as guilty of this as anyone else.
But if we can't talk and drive, then how can we eat and drive?
Don't both use the same jaw muscles?
· Argue with your spouse. I know this is a rare event
in most relationships, but if we can't talk on a cell phone and
drive without distraction, how can we have a reasonable difference
of opinion over the last wrong turn? Anyway, what would spouses
do in a vehicle if they weren't second-guessing both the driving
style of their mate and the overall direction of travel?
· Read a map. It just makes sense that if you can't talk
and drive, you shouldn't consult a map to see if you're lost
while driving. Leave Rand McNally at home and make a WAG as to
where you are.
According to my list, before we ban cell phones from cars, we
should ban makeup, books, music, children, sex, food, spouses
Hmm. Maybe I'll just move to the city and live in a high-rise,
sell my car and take public transportation everywhere I go.
I'll call you on the cell phone and let you know how that all
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Commerce News
August 1, 2001
One More Try With Bad Idea
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a resolution calling
for an amendment to protect the American flag from desecration.
It will take the U.S. Senate to either make the resolution a
potential amendment or to kill the silliness for the time being.
As Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, observed, such an amendment
"elevates a symbol of freedom over freedom itself."
Most people say they abhor seeing the flag desecrated, but passage
of only the 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution will not
stop the worst desecration of our flag. It would provide a means
of stopping the rare but highly publicized cases in which flags
are burned or defiled by citizens protesting some American action,
thus putting some limits on the first and most important constitutional
amendment, which is the right to free speech.
The greater desecration to the American flag occurs every day
and is done by many who would love to jail someone who burns
a flag. The flag is desecrated every time a politician wears
a tie or other article of clothing containing the stars and stripes.
It is desecrated whenever a business uses it for advertising.
It is desecrated by people who hoist a flag and leave it in all
kinds of weather so it becomes faded and torn.
These forms of desecration happen 365 days a year in every community
all over the nation and nobody cares; the burning of a flag in
protest takes place only occasionally. But if H.J. Resolution
36 were to become law, only the people desecrating the flag in
protest would be prosecuted, whereas those desecrating it for
profit or politics would be ignored.
The amendment is bad law and careless politics. It would diminish
the most important freedom Americans enjoy while ignoring the
most common and harmful kinds of abuse to the flag.