Saturday, October 25, 2014

Just A Funny Coincidence

SAYS HERE we are hitting the anniversary of the Famine of Mount Lebanon.  This was an especially ugly moment in the Great War, a brutal assault on the population of Syria, just about a hundred years ago.  Out of all the countries -- France, Russia, Germany -- who took it in the teeth in the course of that war, Syria lost a greater proportion of its population than anyone else because of this disease-riddled famine. 

I don't need to tell you what's been going on lately in Syria, do I?  MORE OF THE SAME.

It's just funny how it comes back around again on the guitar, without anyone believing it has anything to do with them...

Today's Smiley Thought

The discussion today on the grapevine is STILL all about Ebola, our unexpected visitor from West Africa, and how to keep the virus out of the country EVEN THOUGH IT IS ALREADY HERE. 

Liberals are talking about the dangers of the infringement of travelers' PERSONAL LIBERTY if you start slapping them in isolation wards because they just got off a plane from, say, Sierra Leone. 

Conservatives are talking about CLOSING THE BORDERS, especially to scary people who may have shared a sandwich or held hands with an EBOLA PATIENT, or someone who touched someone who touched someone who touched someone who knows someone who looked at someone who is an EBOLA PATIENT. 

I have to like the way, in the days before midterm elections, both parties are showing their TRUE COLORS for us for a moment. Enjoy it while you can, dear reader.   The liberals are coming out in favor of the values they share with right-wingnut survivalist nutjobs -- people who want to throw snakes at each other at religious services, marry as many teenaged girls as they can afford and stock their underground bunkers with pineapple grenades -- that's PERSONAL FREEDOM, buddy.  That's PERSONAL LIBERTY.  The very thing conservatives think liberals want to take away from us.

The conservatives?  They're standing on street corners with cardboard signs saying REPENT!  THE END IS NEAR!  They want every healthcare worker who gets off a plane coming from West Africa to be quarantined, if not bundled into clingfilm wrappers and deported on the spot...or just SHOT ON SIGHT.  Well, maybe not shot.  The blood spray can be awfully hazardous.  But does that sound like respect for American freedom?  Or does it sound like drooling panic?  I ask you!

What I like most is the fact that all the frenzied argument is happening because one guy has died of Ebola here.  One guy!  Not a healthcare worker, by the way: a truck driver.  He did infect two other people, both nurses who took care of him before he died in what sounds like a vomit-soaked bloodbath.  Like any responsible people in the health field they watched themselves carefully, turned themselves in to the proper authorities when they got sick and got great care from the experts.  They are all better now.  The outbreak is over, see?

And it's over even though one patient after another has been flown into the country on purpose, sicker than hell with Ebola, so they can get the best possible treatment.  Are we all dead yet? 

Well, NO.

What I also like about this is the fact that when you go to any airport in the country, whether it's LAX or Podunk International in Nowheresville, you are going to find precious few flights coming in from Guinea or Liberia.  Travel routes in and out of Africa just aren't that direct.  Are the fearmongers seriously suggesting tracing the (often REALLY complex) travel histories of everyone who MIGHT have set foot in one of the three affected countries and MIGHT have been exposed while they were there? 

And they are only trying to identify healthcare workers.  What about the guy who does the hospital laundry?  What about the lady who delivers boxes of sandwiches to the Doctors Without Borders team?  They might brush against some infected blood and come to Peoria, too, you know.  Eric Duncan did.  How you really gonna trace all those people?

I love election time.  All that baying at the moon brings me a smile every November.

I also love how well the countries most seriously affected by the epidemic are handling this.  About 10,000 people were infected all over the African continent at last count -- and only 27 people OUTSIDE those countries have gotten sick.  Only 10 of those have died. 

That doesn't sound to me as if it were time to man the panic stations.  That's all I'm saying.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Natives are Getting Restless

In the wake of the far-from-bloodless separation of Novorossiya from Ukraine, all kinds of other groups, worried that they will feel the agony of defeat the way Scotland just did, are heating up their separatist and autonomist movements.

French Guiana is fed up!  The Great Wall of Texas group is starting another bucket drive!  Catalonia's mad as hell and not going to take it any more!  Stay tuned for news of the Bermuda Independence Commission!  The Vermont Independence Party is not going to take it lying down!  The Chiapas Mayans are making real strides towards self-rule as they struggle to throw off the Mexican yoke!  The Inuits are trying to secede from Denmark as I type this!  Montserrat wants liberation, now!

I could go on and on.  (In fact, I think I just did.)  There are more of these groups out there than you can shake a stick at, seriously.  One rather wonders where it's all headed. 

The Panic Is Spreading Nicely Now...

After the unlucky Texas Ebola victim, Eric Duncan, lost his life to the virus, all heck broke loose:

>> More cases have been found outside Africa.  A nurse in Madrid was exposed to the virus, and her dog has been euthanized, JUST IN CASE.

>> I heard that a police officer trying to serve Eric Duncan with papers was infected.  All he had to do was touch the victim's doorknob and he was toast.  A slice of bloody toast. 

>> The police officer story proved not to be true.

>> Someone who deplaned at LAX, having flown in from Liberia, was rushed to an area hospital, quarantined and is now being roasted over a slow Bunsen burner by anxious medical professionals.  He does not show any symptoms of Ebola and has not tested positive for the virus.  At least they didn't euthanize him, the way they did the dog in Madrid.

>> A Pew survey found that 32 percent of Americans are "worried or very worried" that they or someone close to them will come down with the disease, according to the Washington Post.

>> There have already been over 5,000 Ebola false alarms in U.S. emergency rooms since September 30th -- the start of a new fiscal year for me, and the day Eric Duncan was diagnosed.  Most of these people never touched his doorknob.

>> Racist xenophobes are rallying around a new hashtag, #Obola.  Those people who want to blame every problem on President Obama are happy to think he is responsible for this greatest of all crises that does not exist.  They are painting a picture of infected people -- BLACK infected people -- pouring over the borders into our playgrounds and churches.  Shudder!

>> I feel this one is even more hair-tearing than the Swine Flu panics of 1976 and 2009 because of the racist element.  In 1976, when a gazillion frightened Americans were vaccinated against a deadly strain of flu that never showed up after a panicky multimillion-dollar public-health outlay -- well, it was just another average day for Jerry Ford, egg on his face, situation normal.  At least during that scare, African-Americans didn't have to worry that they were going to be bundled into isolation wards if they presented at a doctor's office with a fever.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

First U.S. Ebola Patient Recovering (Maybe) In Texas Hospital

As Kevin McCarthy said so eloquently in the movie version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers,


Yessirreebob, someone came back from a trip to Africa not realizing he had picked up a case of Ebola.  He keeled over after getting home to Texas.  Right here -- in case you missed it so far -- is the scare potential of the 3-week incubation period of this happytime virus.  It's nothing like the 10 or more years a person can carry HIV without knowing it, but 3 weeks is plenty of time to get on a plane to a bustling city halfway around the world, maybe so you can cavort with hookers or cheat on your wife with a co-worker as the fever and coughing start...And bingo, there you are with a new cluster of cases. 

The papers are full of photos of the front of the perfectly ordinary-looking hospital where the guy is quarantined, as if to say, WHAT'S GOING ON IN THERE?  IS HE BLEEDING ON SOMEONE RIGHT NOW?  IS HIS VICTIM WEARING HAZMAT GEAR?  ARE YOU NEXT???

Some of the conversation I've been overhearing about this is a delight.  People nod sagely and say, "Well, he picked it up on a trip to Africa," as if to say, "That means I'M safe."  You just keep telling yourself that.  My question is this:  where else did you think he was gonna pick it up?

But don't worry about a thing, peeps.  EBOLA UNLIKELY TO SPREAD ONCE IT REACHES U.S.A. I saw it on CNN so it must be true!

Saturday, October 04, 2014

We Have A Confusing Anniversary Coming Up Here...

October 8th is going to be a sad anniversary.  1980 was a terrible year to be a woman in the Detroit Metro area  -- one after another was being stabbed, beaten to death, strangled, shot -- and not nearly enough of these cases were getting cleared up by the police, so nobody knew where the killers were.  Was it just one guy?  Were there a dozen of them?  And the victims were all over the place -- safe, leafy suburbs or truly scary neighborhoods in the cratered zones, it didn't matter where you lived -- you felt in danger.  You WERE in danger. 

One of those killings was the one on October 8th.  Betty Rembert, aged 26, was murdered on that day, stabbed in the neck and bludgeoned over the head.  A young man named David Payton confessed to her killing, along with those of 22-year-old Diane Burks who was hog-tied and strangled on June 14th of that year, and Jeanette Woods, 24, who was raped, beaten up and strangled on April 18th, with her throat slashed for good measure. 


A man named Donald Murphy was arrested on December 18th, 1980, in the deaths of Cecelia Knott and Cynthia Warren, who died of the same sort of causes -- beating, stabbing, strangling -- in the same general area, in October and November.  Murphy apparently sat down with the detectives and told them all about what he'd done.  Great!  But then he explained how he killed Betty, Jeanette and Diane, too.  And funny thing, he knew an awful lot more about those crimes than David Payton did.  Payton explained that he'd had a confession forced out of him...


They sentenced Murphy to concurrent life terms for killing Cynthia and Cecelia.

They sent David Payton home after dismissing all his charges.

They left Betty Rembert, Jeannette Woods and Diane Burks in limbo.  Forever.


While all this was going on, there was definitely one other guy out there killing women in Metro Detroit that we know about.  He was even caught -- his name was Coral Eugene Watts (really Carl, but he liked "Coral" better) -- and he is thought to have killed women in Detroit, Ferndale, Grosse Pointe Farms, Harper Woods, then jaunted across the river a couple of times to try to kill women in Windsor, Ontario, and traveled as far as Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor to kill there as well.  He is also connected, more or less certainly, to dozens of murders in the Houston area and one in Jackson, Tennessee.

How did he kill them?  He would pick someone out, follow her until nobody was around to see, and then kill her with whatever he had ready to hand -- a rope, a bathtub full of water, a knife, a screwdriver.   He didn't care about age or race; they just had to be female.

So Watts wouldn't have been the worst suspect in the world when it came to the murders of Betty, Jeanette and Diane.  And he was a confessor.  He was funny that way.  He confessed to killing that woman in Grosse Pointe (Jeanne Clyne), and the one in Harper Woods (Joyce Bennett), after he was caught at last in Houston.   If you'd asked him if he'd killed Betty Rembert, he probably would have 'fessed right up, along with Don and Dave.

What did they do with all these confessions?

THEY GAVE HIM IMMUNITY, is what.  They do a plea deal with him for getting into a Houston apartment and drowning one of the women living there, while the other escaped to alert the authorities.  The drowned woman was revived, luckily, so he was only charged with aggravated burglary.

Because of the decision by a prosecutor in Houston to give a recreational killer immunity for a string of murders in a different state, the guy was almost released as a non-violent offender in the early 2000s.  That's a long, bizarre story in itself, but for a change of pace, someone recognized it was bizarre and the Michigan Attorney General, Mike Cox, asked the public to come forward with any information they had on Watts that might keep him behind bars -- where he surely belonged.   An eyewitness to one of his crimes, who had been unable for 25 years to get the police interested in the fact that he'd watched Watts kill someone outside his living-room window, called Cox's office and they finally had a case against the dude with no immunity deal attached to it.  He came back to Michigan to be convicted of killing his Ferndale victim -- Helen Dutcher.  Then they got him on the Kalamazoo murder of Gloria Steele.

And almost immediately afterwards, Watts died of cancer. I've heard in some quarters that it was just political showboating that made Michigan authorities bring Watt back to get him on some 30-year-old murders; it was costly (they even televised the Dutcher trial, with Nancy Grace doing the color commentary) and he barely lived past the second guilty verdict.  they should have known he was dying, right? 

But some people get over prostate cancer, you know? 

I know that cutting costs is one of the reasons they decided not to go ahead with prosecuting Murphy for killing Betty, Diane and Jeanette.  But it's funny how it gets too costly to proceed when the victim is an African-American prostitute like poor Betty.  It seems as if money is no object when the victim is a middle-class white gal like Helen Dutcher.

Just allow me to add to the confusion: it's not even October 8th yet.  But when it gets here in 4 days, it will be the anniversary of a murder that was confessed to, by two different guys, and they even figured out which one of them really did it -- but he never got charged with it.

I guess my point here is, if you ever want a glimpse into utter insanity and can't get one because the gang at the state hospital is too heavily medicated to make conversation, my suggestion is that you follow a few court cases.

I tried to find a photo of Betty online, with no luck. I can't even give her that much!