Heirloom Diseases

August 27, 2010

You’ve probably heard of heirloom vegetables. You know, they’re the ones that have been preserved by passing seeds down from generation to generation. Heirloom varieties are generally at least 50 years old, but many are 100 years or older.

While heirloom vegetables are actually benign–and frequently very tasty–it seems to me that we are currently witnessing an alarming wave of another type of heirloom: diseases. I started thinking about it when I read this post from Gateway Pundit earlier today, about an outbreak of typhoid (yes typhoid) in California and Nevada. Typhoid, once the scourge of many major cities, was nearly eradicated by the advent of clean water technologies in the early part of the twentieth century. Yet typhoid is back, and it’s not the only heirloom disease we’re seeing in America of late.

We’ve probably all seen the reports in the paper, on blogs, and on the nightly news of outbreaks of bedbugs in places like New York City (replete with video that’ll make you think twice before climbing into bed). But it’s not just there. Those little suckers (ha!) are appearing all over the country

You’re no doubt also aware that we’ve been having problems with salmonella. According to the Food Poison Journal, there have been 12 major outbreaks of salmonella across the country this year, none of which seem to be related to the current egg recall.

Leprosy is another heirloom that was once nearly wiped out in this country. But in northwest Arkansas in 2008, there was an outbreak. Sadly, it’s not just in Arkansas, either.

“…[L]eprosy is clearly here in New York, and our clinic at Bellevue Hospital treats more than 500 identified cases of leprosy. While most are Caribbean, Hispanic and Asian immigrants, in recent years we have identified and reported endemic cases in New York City…

Based on the cases we see at the Bellevue leprosy clinic, there are many additional unidentified cases of leprosy in the tristate area and the mid-Atlantic region.”

Another oldie once thought to be under control, scarlet fever is back this year, as well, and in our nation’s capital.

Tuberculosis, another throwback to yesteryear, is also making a come-back. Once thought to be on track to be completely eradicated by this year, evidence suggests that it will not happen.

The U.S. is unlikely to meet its goal for eliminating tuberculosis (TB) by 2010, primarily because of high rates of latent (dormant) TB infection in certain population subgroups, according to a nationwide survey…

Continuing basic TB control measures, as well as targeted evaluation and appropriate treatment of individuals in high-prevalence groups — including immigrants, racial and ethnic minorities, and poor people — “are needed to further TB elimination efforts in the United States,” Navin and colleagues maintain.

Typhoid, leprosy, tuberculosis, scarlet fever, bed bugs. All thought to be afflictions of previous generations, rendered harmless by better sanitation, better technology, better medical treatment. All alive and well here in America. Why?

There are many reasons for the resurgence of these diseases, but I believe one main factor has facilitated this deadly resurgence: open borders, which let in more than just illegal aliens. They also allow in the third-world diseases that some border-crossers carry. Close the borders, and you begin to control the diseases that piggyback in with the illegals.

This seems to be a microcosm of our national outlook–our government is not making the hard decisions, it’s making the politically correct ones. And until we change that, we’d all better get accustomed to bedbugs and the occasional outbreak of a long-forgotten heirloom disease.



Ten Things I Now Know About Roger Ebert

August 25, 2010

Last week, film “critic” Roger Ebert wrote a punchy little article for the Chicago Sun-Times entitled, “Ten things I know about the mosque“. The piece listed in dreary detail the litany of the left regarding the advantages of having a non-mosque not located at Ground Zero, and the bigotry of all who would oppose such a thing.

1. America missed a golden opportunity to showcase its Constitutional freedoms. The instinctive response of Americans should have been the same as President Obama’s: Muslims have every right to build there. Where one religion can build a church, so can all religions.

1. Roger Ebert is an idiot. Most anti-mosque reaction has been precisely in defense of the right to build, with the follow-up of “…But I wish they would show some sensitivity and choose not to.” Even Presdient Obama, while supporting the right to build it, called into question the wisdom of doing so. While there is no constitutional right to be free from stupidity and  insensitivity, there is likewise no right to protect one from the consequences of being stupid or insensitive.

2. The First Amendment comes down to this: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” It does not come down to: “The First Amendment gives me the right to repeat the N-word 11 times on the radio to an inoffensive black woman, and when you attack me for saying it, you are in violation of my First Amendment rights.”

2. Roger Ebert is disingenuous. He deliberately implies that Dr. Laura suddenly hurled racial invective at a hapless caller–this is called taking things out of context. He then castigates her for taking full responsibility for what she said, responsibility which included quitting her show.  What this has to do with the non-mosque not at Ground Zero, I don’t know.

3. The choice of location shows flawed judgment on the part of its imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf. He undoubtedly knows that now, and I expect his project to be relocated. The imam would be prudent to chose another location, because the far right wing has seized on the issue as an occasion for fanning hatred against Muslims…

3. Roger Ebert is willfully naive if he expects the mosque to be relocated at all, or at least without many cries of racism and islamophobia.

4. One buried motive for the attacks on Park51 is exploitation of the insane belief of 20% of Americans that President Obama is a Muslim. Zealots like Glenn Beck, with his almost daily insinuations about the Muslim grandfather Obama never knew and the father he met only once, are encouraging this mistaken belief.

4. Roger Ebert is a conspiracy theorist. Roger, if you word the poll questions correctly, you can get at least 20% of Americans to say they believe in anything. Heck, it wasn’t all that long ago that 42% of Democrats believed that President Bush was behind the attacks of September 11, 2001.

5. The Bill of Rights has a parallel with pregnancy. You can’t be a little pregnant, and you can’t be a little free. Nor can you serve yourself from it cafeteria style.

5. Roger Ebert is a hypocrite. So you’re good with the people’s right to keep and bear arms, Roger?

6. Somewhere on the Right is an anonymous genius at creating memes. Sarah Palin floats a suspicious number of them: Death Panels, Ground Zero Mosque, 9/11 Mosque, Terror Babies. Her tweets are mine fields of coded words; for her, “patriot” is defined as, “those who agree with me.” When she says “Americans,” it is not inclusive…

6. Roger Ebert channels Maureen Dowd. He finds “buried motives” and “coded words” lurking behind innocuous expressions. No-one has actually defined these codes yet, but our betters can hear it hanging in the air just out of earshot, just like MoDo’s famous, “you lie… boy.”

7. Many Americans and a great many politicians have either never taken a civics class or disagree with what they should have learned there. The major opinion sources in America that seem to devote the most attention to the Bill of Rights are Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, all distorting it as an everyday practice. Bill O’Reilly, to his credit, doesn’t indulge in this.

7. Roger Ebert is a blowhard. Roger, I sure would love for you to give some examples of Fox News, Limbaugh, or Beck distorting the Bill of Rights. Until you do, I’m going to presume that this paragraph was just a gratuitous piece of puffery.

8. A meme is infecting our society that Muslims are terrorists and hate America; they are the enemy. It is a cliche to say, “the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful,” but is true. When Muslim nations are bombed by America, can those nations be expected to applaud? In Iran after 9/11 there were candlelight marches in sympathy with the United States.

8. Roger Ebert has a selective memory. I guess he forgot about all those people dancing with joy in the streets on 9/11. I’ll make this as simple as possible. Muslim terrorists are the enemy; they hate America and the freedom it stands for; that freedom is completely antithetical to what they believe.

And yes, the vast majority of Muslims probably are peaceful. But when your “small minority” of violent jihadists numbers in the millions, and has proved its bona fides all over the world, I think it’s fair to classify that very large minority as “the enemy.”

9. I find hope in the words of two American strippers interviewed by the Wall Street Journal. Cassandra, who works at New York Dolls, just around the corner from the proposed community center, said she worried that calls to prayer might wake up the neighbors. The WSJ writes: “But when she was told that the organizers aren’t planning loudspeakers, she said she didn’t have a problem with the project: ‘I don’t know what the big deal is. It’s freedom of religion, you know?'”

Chris works in the Pussycat Lounge, even closer to the site. When the airplanes struck the World Trade Center, Chris became a Red Cross volunteer working with survivors. The WSJ writes she “sat on a barstool in a tiny, shiny red dress and defended Park51. ‘They’re not building a mosque in the World Trade Center. It’s all good. You have your synagogues and your churches. And you have a mosque…'”

Cassandra and Chris reflect American values more instinctively and correctly on this issue, let it be said, than Sarah Palin, Howard Dean, Newt Gingrich, Harry Reid and Rudy Giuliani, who should know better.

9. Roger Ebert is a movie critic.  Only a movie critic would dare to pull in the “stripper with a heart of gold” meme.  Two strippers, in fact.  And if anyone on the Right had ventured to suggest that one set of American values was more correct than another, s/he would have been pilloried high and low in the dinosaur media.

10. I wonder how many Americans realize the community center is not intended for Ground Zero. What will be constructed there includes a 55,000 square foot retail mall. This mall will be deep enough to connect with subway lines — deep enough, that is, to theoretically be embedded in the ashes of some of the 9/11 victims.

10. Roger Ebert is an idiot. (Sorry, I just can’t distill it down any more.) Oh Roger, of course it was intended for Ground Zero. Even the Wall Street Journal understands that:

“When Khan’s organization found a vacant property on Park Place, the former site of a Burlington Coat Factory that had been damaged by airplane debris on September 11, 2001, the potent symbolism of the site also became a compelling rationale for the project.”

And yes, there is a mosque included. I also wonder how the families of victims of 9/11 feel about this non-mosque not at Ground Zero mingling with the ashes of their loved ones? I guess you’d better not trumpet that one too loudly, or you’ll get more reactions from the racists like Rudy Giuliani, Rima Fakih, Akbar Ahmed, and Abdul Cader Asmal.

What the heck, maybe the whole of Roger’s list is all just liberal code words for “redneck Islamophobic bigots”.


How Much Is Too Much?

August 23, 2010


I don’t begrudge any President down time. I know it’s a gruelling job that occupies almost every waking moment. But.

Obama spent nearly four years trying to convince the public that he not only was qualified for the job, but that he actually wanted it. And enough people bought into his hope and change to give it to him.

So honestly, I think this really is a bit much.

I’m just sayin’.


Ain’t No Cure for the Summertime Blues…

August 19, 2010


Blue states, that is. Having learned a hard lesson last summer (i.e., don’t mess with your constituents), Congressmen and women in blue states have taken the craven way out and, rather than engaging the people of their districts, are actively avoiding their voters this summer, attempting to spin the story by holding “invitation only” events and “telephone town hall meetings” where irate citizens can be more easily controlled, or oops! accidentally cut off, with far less likelihood of heated exchanges going viral on YouTube. Even the New York Times took notice:

The reception that Representative Frank Kratovil Jr., a Democrat, received here one night last week as he faced a small group of constituents was far more pleasant than his encounters during a Congressional recess last summer.

Then, he was hanged in effigy by protesters. This time, a round of applause was followed by a glass of chilled wine, a plate of crackers and crudités as he mingled with an invitation-only audience at the Point Breeze Credit Union, a vastly different scene than last year’s wide-open televised free-for-alls.

The sentiment that fueled the rage during those Congressional forums is still alive in the electorate. But the opportunities for voters to openly express their displeasure, or angrily vent as video cameras roll, have been harder to come by in this election year.

If the time-honored tradition of the political meeting is not quite dead, it seems to be teetering closer to extinction. Of the 255 Democrats who make up the majority in the House, only a handful held town-hall-style forums as legislators spent last week at home in their districts.

It was no scheduling accident…

No indeed, it wasn’t, and isn’t. It is a deliberate ploy by many elected representatives to duck their Congressional duties by avoiding most of those who voted for them. And it won’t work.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, red-staters are meeting their reps in droves. Under the aegis of the “America Speaking Out” tour, many Republican Congress critters are doing the traditional meet-and-greet without any of the fancy footwork of pre-screening that their Dem counterparts are relying on to protect themselves from their oh-so-dangerous constituents.

The dichotomy between the two parties couldn’t be clearer during this August recess. The party in power fears the wrath of the voters, while the minority party is proposing ideas, glad-handing the folks, and making their presence felt in their districts. And therein lies the difference between Red and Blue.

Clearly, the cure for these summertime Blues is to vote ’em out of office.

Remember in November.


How Do We Choose What To Write About Now?

August 17, 2010

You may have noticed that we have only two posts during the past week. Worse, this is after a two-week hiatus. You may be asking yourselves, “Why so little content when so much is happening?” That’s just the point. Where to begin?

If you think it’s easy choosing a topic to write about here at Grand Rants, think again. No, seriously. We have to think again and again ourselves. And it’s only getting more difficult because of the sheer volume of potential rants that occur every day.

Since the inception of “GR” two years ago, the intention of the writers has been to focus on our motto of “Our World Discussed.”  By that, we meant current events, politics, social issues, society in general etc.

Hard work has borne fruit as Grand Rants’ readership quickly exceeded our expectations.  And we’ve been proud of that, even if some of our work would have been better left on the editing room floor.

But as the weeks and months unfolded,  our focus gradually morphed into mostly following the exploits (and exploitation) of the Obama administration as their actions pretty much took over current events, politics, social issues, society in general etc. Acorn. Van Jones. Czar after Czar, avoiding any possible vetting by Congressional approval process. Stimulus packages.  Never in the history of this country has one administration done so much to so many, so quickly as to “fundamentally change” America.

But not for the better.

And it’s not just the Obama administration. It’s our society as well. We seem to have arrived on the corner of Chaos Street and Anarchy Drive because  not only do we suffer from a dearth of quality leaders in the politico who “lead (positively) by (good) example”  but, as a society, we seem to have lost our moral compass. As for our leaders, all they give us are examples of how to rid yourself of any shame for any wrongdoing. Congress (and not just the Democrats) has become Gordon Gecko on steroids. And make no mistake: The American public have been good students.

So then: What DO we write about now? The list is so long… But then, like clockwork, just when I think I”ll have to spend half the day trying to determine which topic is the most urgent, good ol’ Barry Sotero (aka POTUS) says or does something to negate my need to prioritize.

We have a POTUS who has done his best to be all things to all people on both sides of the fence. Apparently, he didn’t get the memo that stated you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

This was most vividly illustrated over the last few days beginning with a White House dinner, celebrating the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. 

In his speech at that dinner, he defended the rights of Muslims to build a mosque within several blocks of Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. By all measures, using carefully worded phrases and emphasis, it appeared he was giving the building of the mosque his blessing, scoring points for himself amongst the Muslims gathered to feast in the White House.

But he followed this a day later by insisting he wasn’t endorsing the project at all. Just the right to build it. The target audience hearing the back-spin was of course, NOT the Muslims who had attended the dinner the night before, but an outraged America.

All things to all people. 

And the President has the chutzpah to think he can still pull it off – or, perhaps, the ego to simply not care.

Mr. President:  You’ve already had you shot at fooling most of the people some of the time: You got elected President.  But you’re not fooling anyone anymore with the exception of those who want to be fooled,  and those too gullible to know the difference.

Perhaps the bigger issue for Obama is how this is unraveling the Democratic Party. On Monday a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader (and tourist sniffing hound) Harry Reid broke ranks with the White House saying the Senator thinks the Mosque should be built elsewhere.

It’s all ’bout them polls, isn’t, Harry?  As the mid-term elections grow closer, look for more Democrats to abandon the Obama Express in favor of saving their own careers.

Rumor has it that Nancy Pelosi is even looking for a new word and it doesn’t rhyme with Obama.

I hope people will see through these self-serving gestures and simply look at the voting records of each of these self-serving turncoats. There, you will find the truth: They HAVE supported virtually every step Obama has taken. And they are largely responsible for the state of the country being where we are today.

The best we can do is remember our values, and hold on to them. And I hope each of you will “remember in November” just who put us where we are.

In the meantime, what would YOU like to see in Grand Rants? More political coverage? Less? More coverage on other day-to-day issues and human interest? 

See? It’s not so easy to narrow down that list, now, is it?

Let us know…

Gerry Ashley

Unfettered by Humility

August 11, 2010


I was skipping around the blogosphere last night when I came across a startling article by an HR professional, entitled “Don’t Believe Your Own Press!” The blogger, China Gorman, has put her finger on one of the huge problems we face in today’s political arena:

“Not that I haven’t accomplished some pretty terrific things in my leadership career.  I have.  But.  I didn’t accomplish any of them in a vacuum.  I always had a team of exceptional colleagues who worked with me and alongside me to accomplish great things.  It’s called being a leader.  And I think that – especially today – successful leaders need equal doses of healthy egos and equally healthy humility.  The healthy ego part is the part that makes us think we can be leaders.  That we do know where to go and how to get there.  The healthy humility part is the part that makes us human; that makes us authentic; that enables us to engage our teams in the work and vision for the future.  And keeps us grounded in the knowledge that we’re not terribly unique and can be replaced at any time [emphasis mine]

“It seems to me that too many leaders… start to believe their own press and then start to believe that they’re so special/so effective/so beloved/so famous that the rules don’t apply to them.  Humility is subsumed by ego and the ability to lead evaporates. “

First off: “subsumed“? Wow! I’m not even going to try to top that one.

But mainly: she’s right. While she’s discussing the corporate world, it’s equally true — perhaps even more so — in the world of politics. Surely it takes a robust ego for anyone to think she’s got the stuff it takes to lead a  school committee or town, much less a state or even the entire nation: and not just lead it, but take it in the right direction, all the while avoiding the dizzying emoluments of the culture of greed, graft, bribery, quid-pro-quo, and you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours.

Not only that, but you’ve got to have the apparently not-so-common sense to understand that, as China so eloquently put it, you’re “not terribly unique and can be replaced at any time.” And of course, that’s where the problems start. Most of our current crop of politicians walk right into the job trumpeting the healthy ego and fitness for leadership part, having convinced their constituents of this. And I’d be willing to bet that many if not most really do go into public service to do just that: serve the public. Sadly, once in office, most lose that sense of humility without which one is simply a hack, a liar, or a crook.

China ends her blog post with the question: “[W]hy do so many powerful and effective leaders start to believe their own press when the consequences are so clear? ”

I believe at least part of the reason is that in politics, as in business, the consequences aren’t really all that bad. Our culture has lost its sense of shame, so that yesterday’s disgraced leaders are magically transformed into today’s elder statesmen. There are very few people like China, who can achieve success in leadership and still remain grounded in reality. And in this day and age, that is truly a gift.


(Full disclosure: I’m proud to say that China Gorman is my sister.)

Michelle Obama: The New Marie Antoinette?

August 9, 2010

It’s been quite a week for FLOTUS (First Lady Of The United States) Michelle Obama and the youngest of the first couple’s daughters, Sasha. But more on that in a moment.

First, it’s good to be back. The two-week hiatus was a good opportunity to veg out and try to ignore the reality of our country’s abysmal economy, the unrelenting unemployment, the runaway train-ride towards being overwhelmed by illegal aliens while the federal government sues anyone who wants to enforce existing laws designed to combat the problem.  Ah yes, how nice it’s been to ignore it all. Kind of like, you know… being President.

AP Photo/Sergio Torres

As for the first lady, I’m so happy that Michelle had a chance to get away from the drudgery of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. And Spain is such a great place to spread the wealth around, isn’t it?

Uh, perhaps for them but not, apparently, for us minions:

In July, Michelle Obama showed us all how concerned she was with the desperation of businesses in the Gulf states who are losing hundreds of millions of tourism dollars due to the BP Oil Spill. In a warm show of community unity, she traveled to the Florida Panhandle, hit hard by the oil spill and boldly stated that families who are “looking for things to do with their kids this summer… this is a wonderful place to visit.” And she sounded so sincere, didn’t she?

Then she went back to Washington to pack for a week-end trip in Maine. You may remember that was the trip where the family dog got his own chartered plane to join the family.

Last week, in true Marie Antoinette fashion, she jetted off on the Vice-President’s 757 Jumbo Jet with youngest daughter Sasha, a few dozen of her closest  friends, a complete staff of secret service  and attendants and spent the last 5 days in a luxury vacation area on the Mediterranean Sea in southern Spain…

But she’s back home now and all is well. If she hurries, she’s got just enough time to do a new PSA (Public Service Announcement) encouraging us minions to vacation in the Gulf of Mexico before she has to jump aboard Air Force One with the entire family for yet another vacation, this one on Martha’s Vinyard. I wonder if the dog will have his own jetski.

Of course, she’s entitled to a vacation, and all first families have taken them. My point is simply this:  Adding up hotel suites, private cottages by the sea, meals and transportation while there probably added roughly several million dollars to the coffers of Spain. It could have been the coffers of the businesses in the Gulf of Mexico.  And it would have prevented the inevitable comparison to Marie Antoinette.

But that would be an unfair comparison… While Michelle wants to put OUR kids on a strict diet, at least Marie Antoinette is purported to have said “Let ’em eat cake.”

Pass the twinkies…

Gerry Ashley