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How Did I Miss That? Frank-O-Lantern; Ebola Fearmongering

The New York Times reported about a farmer from Fillmore, California, Tony Dighera, who has sold his entire pumpkin crop for $75 each. The big orange squash are expected to fetch $100 and up retail, because they are grown in plastic molds making the head of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster. The pumpkins are not “Frankenfood,” because Dighera calls his farm Cinagro, which is “organic” spelled backwards. My cousin Ray Sixkiller thought the price was a little steep but he had to admit a pre-carved jack-o-lantern would be handy.

This week offers contrasting ideas of “to protect and to serve.”

HuffPost reported that unidentified police officers in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina pepper sprayed DeShawn Currie, 18, in his own living room because a neighbor had called in a burglary, not knowing a black child was being fostered by a white family for the last year.

The Detroit Free Press reported that Officer Ben Hall, 31, stopped a car based on a complaint that a 5-year-old was aboard without a booster seat. The mother explained that her car had been repossessed with the child’s booster seat inside and she had not been able to put together the money to get a booster seat for the borrowed car because she was only working part time. Officer Hall did not write a ticket, but ordered her to follow him to Wal-Mart, where he fronted $55 for a booster seat.

The New Jersey Star-Ledger reported the cancellation of the Sayreville War Memorial High School football season over allegations of hazing by upperclassmen that included sexual assaults and has resulted in seven arrests. In an unrelated incident, a coach at the same school resigned after his arrest for possession of steroids. Parents packed the next school board meeting to protest not the hazing, not the steroids, but the cancellation, and the victims and their parents were concealing their identities, fearing retaliation. “Assaults and steroids,” Cousin Ray mused, “sounds like those kids are preparing to play in the NFL and the parents are on board.”

Foreign Policy reported that U.S. forces destroyed an ISIL pickup truck costing, at the outside, $30,000, for only half a million. A CentCom press release bragged about an airstrike destroying “an ISIL guard shack, an armed vehicle, and a bunker.” One TV commentator ridiculed an F-15 engaging a motorcycle. Many of the vehicles we are destroying came from us in the first place. Cousin Ray suggested that we put aside a quota of Humvees at the factory matching the percentage ISIL would seize and destroy them ourselves. “Cutting out the middlemen would be cheaper for our taxpayers and safer for our airmen.”

Al Jazeera reported that Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, nominated to be Yemeni prime minister under a UN-brokered peace deal, turned down the office after some rebels disagreed. “I can’t imagine,” Cousin Ray said, rolling his eyes, “why the guy wouldn’t jump at the chance to be part of the government in Yemen. The concession in broken military hardware alone is worth more than the average Yemeni makes in a year.”

Many sources carried a story created by a U.S. Airways flight attendant who refused to hang up the dress jacket belonging to a combat decorated GI because the closets “are for first class only.” Several first class passengers offered their seats to First Sergeant Albert Marle, who politely declined and stayed in coach. Another first class passenger hung the jacket at his own seat. “First class,” Cousin Ray observed, “means different things to different people.”

The latest Obama scandal alleges that a college student volunteer, a 25-year-old unmarried law student, employed a prostitute in a city where prostitution is legal. Two years ago. According to a Secret Service leak. “The Secret Service,” Cousin Ray reminded me, “is supposed to keep the president from getting shot. Throwing him under the bus is different.”

A blog named after the late fact-challenged right-wing hero, Breitbart Texas, ran a story about the first Ebola case in Texas with the helpful title, “Naïve Liberal Texas Judge Enters Ebola Apartment Without Protection.” Judge Clay Jenkins, about whose politics I’m not informed but he seems to be a publicly professing Christian, had indeed gone to the apartment twice, once to check on the family’s welfare and again when he persuaded personal friends to offer them shelter. He drove them to the undisclosed location himself.

This would be at a time when the patient had been gone long enough that any of the virus from him was dead and everyone quarantined in the apartment has been checked daily and had no symptoms, without which Ebola is not contagious. Besides stoking unnecessary fear, The Texas Observer reported that an anonymous Breitbart Texas reader used the blog as a basis for a complaint against Judge Jenkins to Child Protective Services, based on the cockamamie idea that the judge going home to his daughter without changing clothes might expose her to Ebola.

The late Andy Breitbart, remembered for twin triumphs of fakery over fact—getting Shirley Sherrod fired by making her anti-racism speech appear racist and pushing reports on the selectively edited video that destroyed ACORN—would be proud.

The Washington Post reported that the Ebola outbreak is outrunning the response to it. When the “reproduction number” of new cases traceable to each patient, falls below one, the good guys are winning. Reporting is haphazard in the three nations affected so far, but the best estimates of the reproduction number put it between 1.5 and 2. The New York Times reported that health officials in Sierra Leone have admitted “defeat” in attempting to catch up to the virus and started distributing “home treatment” kits. The number of patients in Sierra Leone is doubling every month.

The New York Times reported that the Antonov Company, maker of award-winning aircraft in the Soviet Union days, is still a state-run enterprise in Ukraine. Last year, it sold four airplanes, three to Cuba and one to North Korea. So far this year, it has sold one to Cuba. Boeing and Airbus are not kept up at night worrying about the competition.

National Geographic made a video report on robotics, featuring robot bees to prove “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” The uses for robotic bees sounded pretty speculative, but Cousin Ray suggested they would be worth developing “if you could just teach them to pollinate plants like real bees.”

CNN reported that a man was killed after disturbing a hive of approximately 800,000 bees. He was stung about 100 times. Cousin Ray thought that was a terrible overreaction to the news about robot bees.

Tesla has unveiled a new dual motor version of the Model S that goes 0 to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds. Tesla can also offer “autopilot,” but CBS quoted Tesla founder Elon Musk "we're not gonna enable that except at low speeds on private property." Cousin Ray complained, “Every time I think about owning a Tesla, my bank account goes to zero on autopilot.”

The Coast Guard encountered Reza Baluchi off the coast of Florida, running inside a giant inflatable hamster wheel. He said he was on his way to Bermuda. The Coast Guard advised him that he did not have enough supplies and offered him a lift, which he declined. Three days later, Baluchi activated his locator beacon and admitted to exhaustion. A Coast Guard spokesman told CNN, "The chances of muscling out of the Gulf Stream were pretty low."

Attorney Michael McCann published a report in Sports Illustrated suggesting that Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston may want to drop out of school and prepare for the NFL draft rather than face a university disciplinary hearing into allegations of sexual assault. McCann points out that prosecutors could subpoena documents from the hearing and the statute of limitations on criminal prosecution does not run until 2017. This set me to wondering how good Winston could be that the NFL would draft him after the year they have had with bad conduct toward women?

NPR reported on a study conducted by Christian Grose and Matthew Mendez, where the researchers sent emails to 1,871 state legislators in 14 states asking in identical terms about what kind of documents are needed to vote. The only difference in the emails was that some were from “Jacob Smith” and some from “Santiago Rodriguez.”

They were not surprised that more Democratic legislators responded to the Latino name than Republicans, but the more interesting result required drilling down a bit. It turns out there was 40 percentage points difference between Republicans who had sponsored voter ID legislation and Republicans who had not and that difference drug down the GOP numbers generally because it is so large.

My Republican cousin Ray was uncharacteristically quiet. I thought he would be happy, because he’s against voter ID and this shows he’s not alone in the GOP. His comment: “I was wondering what if the state had been Oklahoma and the name had been Ray Sixkiller?”