Wednesday, February 15, 2006


(Blogger's note: much has been written, and many jokes are being told about the accidental shooting by VP Cheney. This is an unfortunate accident, and I, for one, would like to see and hear more concern about the shooting victim - I hope he recovers without any long-lasting effects. With this said, below is my contribution to the pile-on!)

A.P. (Avian Press) - New York. While the main-stream media focus on the handling of Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting accident by the White House, an important part of the story remains untold. Using information obtained from confidential sources, this reporter has uncovered the tip of a growing controversy that threatens the civil liberties - of wildlife.

VP Cheney's office has focused the story of the shooting on the accidental nature of the event, and the process of making the news public. This deliberate strategy has led reporters and the public away from the real story, a bird's-eye view of the unbridled power of the Executive Branch of the US government.

What we have uncovered so far are these facts: 1) VP Cheney's shot hit Mr. Harry Whittington, a prominent Texas attorney and Republican; 2) the intended victim, who we'll call Mr. Quail because his real name has not been revealed, was not injured by the shotgun blast; 3) Mr. Quail was, however, taken into custody by the Secret Service and his whereabouts remain unknown.

The ACLU (Avian Civil Liberties Union) has assigned a prominant left-wing lawyer, John Covey, to investigate the disappearance of Mr. Quail. There are indications that Mr. Quail has been deemed to be an enemy combatant, and has been flown to a secret facility that is disguised as a restaurant kitchen, for "de-briefing." "We know that "de-briefing" is a code word for interrogation by torture" stated Mr. Covey, who went on to explain that this type of interrogation typically involves plucking out the victims feathers, marination in strong spices, trussing, and applying intense heat to the body. "If the victim doesn't sing in a short time, his goose will be cooked" Covey said.

This reporter has also determined that the search for Mr. Quail by VP Cheney was part of an on-going covert operation being run from the Vice President's office, without oversight by any of the intelligence agencies. This is the reason that the Vice President did not have the required hunting tag from the State of Texas, he did not want public attention drawn to the covert operation. The covert operation is designed to infiltrate and kill the members of small cells of left-wing operatives known to exist under-cover (mostly under, we hate to say, bushes).

Based on the official story, it appears that Mr. Whittington was collateral damage in the Cheney War on Quail.* However, many questions remain unanswered. Is there a connection between the shooting of a right-wing lawyer and the capture of a left-wing operative? Was the shooting a cheap shot or a cheep shot? What is the relationship between bird flu and bird flew? Is it a coincidence that a Vice President under a Bush President attempted to kill someone with the same name as a Vice President under a previous Bush President? And why are individuals like the intended victim always found under bushes, anyway? These questions aren't just for the birds!

We hope to answer the above, and related questions, as our investigation continues.

* this line is credited to a letter-to-the-editor in The Oregonian

Sunday, February 12, 2006


We've watched with great interest and trepidation the slow advance of avian flu in Asia and now Europe. Recently, the New York Times ran an article about the migratory patterns of birds, which included a map showing the major bird migration pathways on Earth (see URL at end). One point of the article was that the major migration patterns are north-south, and therefore transmittal of avian flu to North America from Asia and Europe is not highly likely. This article, however, brought a forgotten memory flooding into my thoughts.

In the early 1970's, as a graduate student of ecology at the University of California, Irvine, I helped organize a symposium series for the department. The United States had recently bombed Cambodia as part of the war in Viet Nam, and many of us were very active in the anti-war movement. I was aware that the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), one of the oldest and most prestigious professional science organizations in the United States, had been lobbying the government to look at the ecological and health impacts of herbicide spraying (Agent Orange and others) in Viet Nam. A very outspoken member of the AAAS on this issue was Professor E. W. "Bert" Pfeiffer, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Montana. I arranged for Dr. Pfeiffer to present at our symposium series.

Bert looked like a typical academic when I picked him up at the airport, with his tweed sport coat and tie. His presentation to the assembled students and faculty began by recounting how the AAAS had urged the government to look at herbicide effects, and how he and another AAAS members had finally traveled to Viet Nam to gather information. As his talk continued, he grew more agitated and empassioned, describing the magnitude of aerial spraying and the resulting damage to crops and forests (the U.S. had a massive defoliation campaign attempting to deny food to the enemy, as well as remove forest cover so enemy movements could be seen from the air). Bert also talked about the use of nerve gas and other chemical agents by the U.S., and finished his talk by calling for the indictment of President Nixon, Secretary of War MacNamara and others as war criminals.

Following the presentation, we had a reception for Dr. Pfeiffer, and a chance for questions and discussions. At one point, the discussion settled on the relationship between academia and the government, particularly whether or not academics should question the purpose of federal research grants from the Department of Defense. Dr. Pfeiffer told the following story:

Bert and other progressive academics obtained unclassified information about research grants awarded by the Department of Defense. They primarily had a long list of research project names, principal investigators and their institutions, and sometimes brief descriptions of the research. Bert said that the list was long and the research topics extremely varied. Many projects seemed not to have much relevence to national defense, but some chilling scenarios could be put together from the lists.

Although the relationships between research projects at different institutions could only be imagined, the very existance of the funded research raised interesting questions and implications. For example, the DoD grant lists had research projects concerning: influenza viruses, insect parasites of birds, insect vectors of viruses, and songbird migration patterns. Each project was at a different academic or government institution and had no apparent relationship to the others. But why, Bert asked, would the Department of Defense be funding these disparite projects? One could imagine, he explained, that certain insect parasites of birds could be infected with a virulent strain of influenza virus, and the parasites introduced into a population of song birds that migrates to a region of central China - the result, we could start a flu epidemic in China (or elsewhere) and nobody would know where it came from!

Now, I'm generally not a conspiracy theorist, but I have learned not to trust governments just because they tell us we should. The scenario described above sounds far-fetched, but on the other hand.....

I googled E.W. Pfeiffer today, and learned that he died in 2004 at the age of 88. The 2004 obituary on the U. of Montana web site read, in part:

Pfeiffer was a longtime faculty member who was known internationally for his studies on the environmental consequences of weapons of war, including the radioactive fallout from nuclear testing and the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam.

His obituary in the Washington Post last April read, in part: "Dr. Pfeiffer tirelessly warned about dangers associated with radioactive fallout from nuclear testing, long before most scientists considered it an issue. He also studied miliary use of chemical defoliants on the environment and warned the 'Winter Soldier Investigation' of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War in 1971 about their dangers."

NY Times article: