We're approaching the 100th day of President Barack Obama's tenure, which sometimes feels to me like 10 days and others like 1,000. On such latter days, I have to remind myself how fanciful his election seemed two years ago this time, and how tense things were at times throughout much of 2008, when the W Gang were still in office and the GOP really brought the crazy with the McCain-Palin ticket. (I also realize on such days that having had him as one of my almost-Senators for 4 years, I got very used to thinking of him in office, though serving in the US Senate is of a different order than being President of the United States.) I intend to write a brief titled "One Hundreds Days of Obamatude" soon, once I'm out of the new thicket of university tasks, he's been as good a leader as I imagined, in some cases far better (signing the Ledbetter law and the stem cell ban right away, appointing some true progressives like Hilda Solís, Harold Koh, and Dawn Johnsen, the Cuba overtures), and in a few far worse (that horrid financial team of his, the continuing drone attacks in Pakistan, the coddling of the Bush Crime Syndicate's state secret claims and treatment of prisoners). But on balance, he's been quite good. I was expecting a more liberal Clinton 2.0 or Eisenhower, but we're much closer to FDR+, which what we desperately need right now.
I didn't believe it was possible, but the St. Louis Cardinals are in first place in the National League Central and are tied for the best record in the NL with a 14-6 showing so far. Although they always have a trump card in future Hall of Fame first baseman Albert Pujols (at right, AP), they did little over the winter to boost the team compared to a number of other squads in both the AL and NL. Yet so far, despite the loss of their best pitcher, Chris Carpenter, to an oblique strain/tear, they have cobbled together decent performances from their starters, especially Joel Pineiro (now 5-0 as of tonight), and decreased bullpen meltdowns, while the heavily farm-team stocked lineup has provided enough runs to put them ahead. They even ran the board with 9 straight at home just recently, including 3 straight over the New York Mets. One pressing weakness is the high number of errors so far: they have 20 errors in 20 games, a rate they'll have to lower if they want to stay in the lead. Pujols, sterling in every other regard, with 7 home runs, 20 runs (for 1000 in his career), and 25 runs batted in thus far, has made 4 all by himself. In the rest of the league, only the Los Angeles Dodgers are having a breakout year so far. The project NL leaders, including last year's World Series winner Philadelphia, the Mets, the Cubs, and the hot-for-a-minute Florida Marlins, have played middling ball at best. Can the Cardinals sustain their success? I for one hope so.
Pujols after hitting his grand slam against the Chicago Cubs, Sunday, April 25, 2009
Here's another take on the swine flu epidemic, by Mike Davis in the Guardian Online. He lays the blame for what we're facing at several different doorsteps, including that of the industrial food complex--the industrial pig farming industry in particular--Big Pharma, and wealthy nations that seek to erect a pharmacological and public health moat around themselves. As the last few weeks have shown, pathogens can travel as easily as human beings, across every possible border. (Why am I sneezing as I type this?) But neoliberal ideology is also under indictment here. After you read the following quote (and the article, I hope), ask yourself, have you heard any of the people on TV or in our papers of record here advancing any of the discussion that Davis is broaching here?
But what caused this acceleration of swine flu evolution? Virologists have long believed that the intensive agricultural system of southern China is the principal engine of influenza mutation: both seasonal "drift" and episodic genomic "shift". But the corporate industrialisation of livestock production has broken China's natural monopoly on influenza evolution. Animal husbandry in recent decades has been transformed into something that more closely resembles the petrochemical industry than the happy family farm depicted in school readers.
In 1965, for instance, there were 53m US hogs on more than 1m farms; today, 65m hogs are concentrated in 65,000 facilities. This has been a transition from old-fashioned pig pens to vast excremental hells, containing tens of thousands of animals with weakened immune systems suffocating in heat and manure while exchanging pathogens at blinding velocity with their fellow inmates.
Last year a commission convened by the Pew Research Center issued a report on "industrial farm animal production" that underscored the acute danger that "the continual cycling of viruses … in large herds or flocks [will] increase opportunities for the generation of novel virus through mutation or recombinant events that could result in more efficient human to human transmission." The commission also warned that promiscuous antibiotic use in hog factories (cheaper than humane environments) was sponsoring the rise of resistant staph infections, while sewage spills were producing outbreaks of E coli and pfiesteria (the protozoan that has killed 1bn fish in Carolina estuaries and made ill dozens of fishermen). [H/t to my cousin, Lowell Denny]