Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Is it time to shoot the messenger?

Media Matters - "[Anne Coulter], who has now responded to an inquiry from a columnist at Women's Wear Daily, who wondered if she might still think her comments about The New York Times were funny after that newspaper got sent another envelope full of suspicious powder, which fortunately turned out to be corn starch. Ann Coulter wrote back: 'So glad to hear that The New York Times got my letter.'"

Now, I'm just spit-balling here .... of course. But there does come a point where threats become public enough and precise enough that one should make a point of taking them seriously; if not to the point of preemptive return fire, than certainly to the point of a very, very serious investigation that would ideally involve cavity searches and a great number of blood and syrum tests to determine what sorts of uncommon antibodies (i.e. say, anthrax, smallpox, Ebola) Coulter may have somehow acquired.

While it is now nearly impossible to take Coulter seriously, we do ourself no favors to dismiss how extremely well-connected Coulter is to the power elite; how she can appear in nearly any public forum at any time, when colleagues such as Savage are restricted to their own shows, and perhaps a phone-in to Art Bell on a slow night.

You see, the web has a long memory, especially when it comes to WMD - and in this entire tragicomic shadow-play of a "war on terror," the only weapons of mass destruction deployed could have come from our own arsenals.

Scientists estimate that the letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle originally contained about 2 grams of anthrax, about one-sixteenth of an ounce, or the weight of a dime.

But its extraordinary concentration - in the range of 1 trillion spores per gram - meant that the letter could have contained 200 million times the average dose necessary to kill a person.

Dugway's weapons-grade anthrax has been milled to achieve a similar concentration, according to one person familiar with the program.

While there is enough wiggle room to say that it may not have come directly from Dugway, that is certainly the most plausible explanation. It is almost certain that the person who put the spores in the envelope did it within a Level Three biohazard facility, and they either had to have access to the spores or know how to grow and process them - using a strain identical to the Army Reference Strain.

Oddly enough, it would seem to me that if you were trying to "send a message" that "WE have the keys to this and we WILL use it," it would make sense to use a strain that could be tracked back to the Army. It is also curious how little actual investigation was done, and how little fuss there was about what was an apparent assassination attempt on an extremely important public figure. That causes one to seriously consider the possiblity that the same people who did it were ultimately responsible for the investigation.

Anthrax itself is not that difficult to come by and there are many, floating around and distressingly available. There would be no need to use such a conspicuously identifiable strain unless it was intended to tell Majority Leader Tom Dashchle and Russ Feingold to "shut up and do as we say."

To his credit, Russ has not and for that, I think every American should consider the contrast between a man unbowed by having been really attacked with a weapon of mass destruction and a woman that thinks making threats about using them to be the sine qua none of Conservative wit.

In that summation, I find I agree; it is the sum total of Neoconservative wit! It is no more than bared teeth misrepresented as a smile when it is merely the rictus imposed by an intellectual strain of rabies.

Her words are nothing more and nothing less than a direct attempt to intimidate the press with the implication that that COULD have been anthrax, and if they don't shut up, it will be next time. Is it wises to presume that she's simply making random threats? As a rational paranoid, if someone makes a big hairy deal about telling me how much better I would look with a large smoking hole in my cranium, and then reaches into their pocket, I do not wait to see if it's a gun or a chocolate bar. I shoot back first. I really do not see any other assumption that it would be wise or prudent to make.

But there are many possible responses to acts of attempted terrorism. The most sensible is to not be terrified. Just get quietly vaccinated, hire some mercenary investigators and security people beholden to none but you - and see what transpires.

Let us see if there IS a man behind the curtain - and if there is, whoever it is - drag them into the light of day to be tried and convicted.

But as for Coulter, there is really only one prudent response for an organism carrying rabies and threatening to bite you.

For specifics, consult "Old Yeller."

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