Robert Downes 8/3/09
Back at my first newspaper job in 1979, there was a woman in the graphic
design department who often worked until midnight on deadline, typing our
junk into long strips of plasticized paper which were then waxed and
pasted on sheets to send to the printer.
The paychecks often bounced at that newspaper, and Stacey didnt look like
she was doing too well, even if that wasnt the case. She was poor, and
looked it. One evening, I commented on how hard she worked at a tough job.
Yes, and its even worse because my husband is on disability and we
barely get by, she said.
He used to be a baker and we were doing fine with our own business. But
then he got the swine flu vaccine and had a reaction. Hes been almost
paralyzed ever since and cant work. He can barely even walk.
Apparently, her husband had suffered an autoimmune reaction to the vaccine
pushed by President Gerald Fords administration in the great swine flu
scare of 1976.
Approximately 40 million people were given swine flue vaccinations in
1976, and a rare side effect called Guillian-Barre syndrome occurred in
some 500 cases. Staceys husband was one of that unfortunate handful.
Guillian-Barre syndrome (GBS) is a neuro-muscular disorder with various
manifestations, but is characterized by extreme lethargy.
The syndrome is often misdiagnosed: I know a person who had a sinus
infection that affected him the same way as GBS - it slammed him for a
year. You can also reportedly flatline your immune system by going too
far with extreme levels of exercise over an extended period and develop
symptoms similar to GBS. Victims of Gulf War Syndrome have reported the
same kind of symptoms, including flu-like sickness and extreme weakness.
But the upshot of the 1976 swine flu debacle, as it is limply called,
was that millions of Americans became suspicious of vaccinations -- an
anti-vax movement that increased after vaccinations were linked to autism
The director of the federal Centers for Disease Control was forced out of
his job as a result of the scandal in the 70s. Since that time, medical
scientists have done much to correct problems in vaccines relating to the
chemical media in which they are suspended.
But the controversy continues and were on the brink of the flu season
this fall. Something like 140 million doses of swine flu vaccine have
been prepared to protect those who are most at risk in the new pandemic
that could sweep the world. That group is largely made up of young people
between the ages of six months and 24.
Some parents who are wary of vaccination may feel they are playing a game
of Russian Roulette with their kids this fall, wondering whether to go
with the new vaccine or risk the swine flu. Prepare yourselves by reading
up on the subject at the Centers for Disease Control website, www.cdc.gov
Personally, I dont have any reservations about taking the vaccine and am
a strong supporter of vaccination as a public health measure. I am, in
fact, probably one of the most vaccinated individuals in Northern
Michigan, as a result of an interest in travel in the tropics.
But I have to admit, the memory of Staceys husband brushes my thoughts
every time I feel the prick of a needle with a new vaccine, along with the
question: What if?
An Unwelcome Dip
The other day a friend joked that Governor Granholm should start pumping
up the Michigan National Guard in order to defend the Great Lakes from
There hasnt been a war yet over water, but its coming, he said. And
with a big drought in Texas, soon other states will be looking at our
As I say, a joke. Its highly unlikely that well ever need the National
Guard to link up with the militias of other Great Lakes states and Canada
to defend our water, because the bandits in Congress will simply
appropriate it, if and when diversion becomes a matter of national
On that score, the numbers are not in Michigans favor. We presently have
15 U.S. Representatives in our state, but Michigan is likely to lose
several congressmen after the results of the 2010 census are revealed.
Thats one of the primary reasons we Americans have a census every 10
years: to divvy up the 435 allotted seats in the U.S. House of
Michigan had a high of 19 Congressmen when our states population was on a
roll throughout the 60s and 70s. But since then, our clout in
Washington has dwindled by four seats, starting with the Rust Belt
out-migration of the early 80s.
As of our 2000 census, Michigan had 9,955,829 citizens, but as a
consequence of losing an estimated one million jobs this decade, were
losing tens of thousands of citizens each year -- 46,000 during 2007
Meanwhile, according to The Detroit News, the states with the biggest
population increases this decade were Utah, Arizona, Texas, North Carolina
and Colorado, at least three of which are thirsty, drought-stricken
regions living on borrowed time, with their aquifers and rivers drying up.
Where will those legislative-heavy states look for their water 10 years
from now when the well runs dry?
Jerry Dennis, author of The Living Great Lakes, which has been selected as
the TC Reads book this summer, notes that our lakes stretch for nearly
800 miles and includes a drainage basin of 200,000 square miles, an area
almost as big as France.
Thats a lot of fresh water in a thirsty world. And in the American West,
where scarce water is pumped into golf courses in the desert and an
anti-environmental spirit burns like a forest fire, our water is going
to look mighty tempting sooner than later.
This week, the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council will be hosting two Lake
Michigan Summits in Harbor Springs (Aug. 3) and Charlevoix (Aug. 10) to
discuss issues such as invasive species, untreated sewage and toxic
pollution. The good news is that we have manageable solutions to these
problems, the organization notes in a release.
It makes you wonder though, if theres not an even larger threat to the
Great Lakes in the form of population loss, global warming, and the
shifting tectonics of political power in our country in favor of those in
the Southwest who are drought-stricken and many in numbers.
We have iron-clad agreements with Canada and all of the Great Lakes states
to protect this resource into perpetuity, but as we‘ve seen with calls for
oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and off the coast of
America over the past few years, nothing is sacred when politics come into