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(DV) Kurth: For the Birds







For the Birds
by Peter Kurth
November 8, 2005

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On the whole, my sympathies are entirely with the birds. You know, that “flu” thing.

There was a big story not long ago in the local daily about the menace posed by the pigeons that make (or made) their home on the roof of Chittenden Superior Court on Main Street in Burlington. I can’t remember all the details, except that the pigeons were a problem, and that “measures” had to be taken to make sure they didn’t roost there anymore. “Spikes and netting” were mentioned, along with a specific description of pigeons as “undesirables.” At all costs, the story said, they must be gotten rid of, on account of the “mess” they make, the “health hazard” they pose, and the inconvenience that “business” people, going in and out of the building, need to cope with on their way to making $200K a year, at the same time worrying that some pigeon might shit on their padded shoulders.

Wait, it gets worse!  According to the latest reports, the Amazon rain forest is decreasing “two-thirds faster” than we already supposed, which was plenty. The “weather” isn’t what it used to be anywhere in the world. Thanks to the craven acquiescence of Democrats in Congress, Dick Cheney and his gang are about to start drilling for oil in the Alaskan wilderness. And in California, they’re “reassigning” more than three million acres of “critical habitat” that the red-legged frog relies on for its survival.

Why? In order to build a million more junky “homes,” which few can afford, and which will fall into the sea when the place finally collapses. As it will -- make no mistake.  Next year is the centenary of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, when the “insurers” did to San Franciscans what they’re now doing -- exactly -- to the washed-out citizens of New Orleans: “Well, you’ve got earthquake [or, let’s say, “hurricane”] insurance, and we’ll cover you for that. But the fires [or floods] that followed aren’t mentioned in our contract. You’re on your own.” 

As it happens, the “red-legged frog” is the one that Mark Twain wrote about in “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” a classic of American literature that used to be taught in the schools, when they still taught things in schools -- rather than just “testing” children to see if they can turn on a computer and push the right button to get their sports scores. It’s also worth recalling that pigeons used to get the mail delivered on time. Of course, these were “carrier” pigeons.  But imagine that -- the mail being delivered on time, I mean. 

We shouldn’t go back very far into this, because if we do, we’re going to remember a time when the earth worked its own torments into balance without regard to our sensibilities -- that the Earth is, indeed, a living organism, and that its birds and seas and skies are going to defeat us in the end, before we’re through trying to defeat them.  The microbe is where it’s at, children, and it won’t matter how many “vaccines” we come up with -- it will always be the same. Every doctor knows this.

During the last “flu” pandemic of 1918, nearly 50 million people died -- twice as many as had already been killed in World War I, “the War to End Wars,” which amounted to nothing but a lot of shooting from the trenches and led, as we know, to the next war.  And the one after that. Nothing was solved. And still we imagine that we know what we’re doing.

Who decided, anyway, that a man’s life is worth more than a bird’s or a frog’s? I would pose that question to “Christians”, given how much they love the line in the New Testament (Matthew 6:26) about “the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.”

Or maybe you feedeth them. Maybe you actually throw them bread crumbs and popcorn from time to time to keep them from starving. But I doubt it. Mainly, it would make you look like a bag lady, and we can’t have that. Just don’t pull Scripture on me, because I have it all under my belt. Psalm 84:

Yea, the sparrow hath found a house,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young …

I wanted to get through this thing without mentioning George W. Bush, but unfortunately that’s not possible, given the speech he delivered the other day regarding “bird flu” and its threats: “If a super-flu begins spreading here, states and cities will have to ration scarce medications and triage panicked patients to prevent them from overwhelming hospitals and spreading infection inside emergency rooms.”

Nobody asked Ding-Dong to explain “triage” -- again, you’re on your own. Bush is willing to throw $7.1 billion at the bird problem. Where he’ll get it, we don't know. But since he’s the ultimate credit-card president, paying no attention to the bills that will eventually come due, you can be sure that the money will be taken from the funds that allow you to eat and heat your house in the winter.  And then you’ll really know what bird flu means.

Peter Kurth is the author of international bestselling books including: Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson, Isadora: A Sensational Life, and a biography of the anti-fascist journalist Dorothy Thompson, American Cassandra: The Life of Dorothy Thompson. His essays have appeared in Salon, Vanity Fair, New York Times Book Review, and many others. Peter lives in Burlington, Vermont. He can be reached at: Visit his website at:

Other Articles by Peter Kurth

* Bush and God -- The View from Abroad
* Beautiful Minds
* Get a Life, Mr. President
* Bad Taste(s)
* Culture of Death 

* Fruit Flight
* Media Vita In Morte Sumus
* Episode Insane: Revenge of the Pith
* History Lite
* “Jesus Christ!”™
* Freedom on the Lam
* Turkey Trot
* Of Teddies and Twits
* Drink It Up
* Pizza Pie
* Year End Review 2004
* Say Cheese!
* One Question, One Rule
* End of the Road?
* Remembering Dorothy Thompson
* There's Nothing About Mary
* Time to Start Finishing
* Pass the Ammunition!
* Keep Petting That Goat!
* Religion in the News
* Beam Me Up, Mrs. Williams
* Such Emptiness! Such Depth of “Preparedness!”
* Absent on AIDS
* King James and King George
* Beheadings
* F--k this, Dick!
* Reagan Idiosis
* Chickenhawk Chic
* Letter to Mars
* Robbing "Defeat" to Pay "Appall"
* Standing Small
* Bible Time
* One Man's Flip Is Another Man's Flop
* Kee-reist is More Like It
* Star Wars
* The Breast That Ate Pittsburgh
* Monkey See, Monkey Do
* Crank Call
* A Cynic's Guide to the Top Stories of 2003
* Talking Turkey
* Let Them Drink Coke
* The Gang that Couldn’t Talk Straight On Iraq
* Party Rules