Making Conservatives Cringe Since 1977

I'm not Liberal, I'm paying attention.

08 October 2005

 

Stand in the place where you are . . .

I’ve written in the past about the prescient nature of a particular Stephen King book. Time to take a look at another. The relevant part of The Stand is in the set up. In a 1991, far, far, away, a super flu is unleashed on the world leaving everything and everyone in chaos. In a dark vision of apocalypse King begins the story at an Army bio-weapons lab in the desert. Invariably there is a contamination breach. A single soldier escapes the lock down of the facility. He knows what is going to happen to him if the government catches him so he gathers his wife and child into the family beater and drives east.
The rest is a story of a chain reaction outbreak that wipes out 90% of the earths population (not as unlikely as it seems if you read this). The National Guard and the rest of the military are called out to enforce quarantines. Citizens that appear to be immune are captured and held against their will in a vain attempt to find an anti-virus. Some of the immune die in their own cells after all their CDC & DOD captors drown in their own phlegm, their necks black and swollen. After a quick look at the news, looks like it might be time to reread it again:
U.S. Ill Prepared for Massive Flu Outbreak: Report By Steven Reinberg HealthDay Reporter

SATURDAY, Oct. 8 (HealthDay News) -- The United States is unprepared for a global flu pandemic, according to a draft of a federal report, which predicts a worst-case scenario that could lead to the deaths of 1.9 million Americans and the hospitalization of 8.5 million more people with costs exceeding $450 billion.

The report, obtained by The New York Times, says a large flu outbreak that began in Asia would probably hit the United States within "a few months or even weeks" due to the ease of modern travel, the newspaper reported Saturday.

If a pandemic, which is a global outbreak of a deadly flu strain, were to occur, U.S. hospitals would be overwhelmed, riots would strike vaccination clinics, and even power and food supplies might be disrupted, according to the plan, the Times reported.

The report, which is 381 pages long, recommends quarantines and travel restrictions but admits such steps "are unlikely to delay introduction of pandemic disease into the U.S. by more than a month or two," the newspaper said.

The report also calls for domestic production of flu vaccine of 600 million doses within six months -- more than 10 times the current capacity, the newspaper said.

Tue 4 Oct 2005 2:48 PM ET
By Charles Aldinger
WASHINGTON, Oct 4 (Reuters) - President George W. Bush asked Congress on Tuesday to consider giving him powers to use the military to enforce quarantines in case of an avian influenza epidemic. He said the military, and perhaps the National Guard, might be needed to take such a role if the feared H5N1 bird flu virus changes enough to cause widespread human infection. "If we had an outbreak somewhere in the United States, do we not then quarantine that part of the country? And how do you, then, enforce a quarantine?" Bush asked at a news conference. "It's one thing to shut down airplanes. It's another thing to prevent people from coming in to get exposed to the avian flu. And who best to be able to effect a quarantine?" Bush added. "One option is the use of a military that's able to plan and move. So that's why I put it on the table. I think it's an important debate for Congress to have." "But Congress needs to take a look at circumstances that may need to vest the capacity of the president to move beyond that debate. And one such catastrophe or one such challenge could be an avian flu outbreak," Bush said. The active duty military is currently forbidden from undertaking law enforcement duties by the federal Posse Comitatus Act. That law, passed in 1878 after the U.S. Civil War, does not prohibit National Guard troops under state control from doing police work. But, unless the law is changed, it would keep them from doing so if they were activated by Washington under federal control. While the law allows the president to order the military to take control and do police work in an extreme emergency, the White House has been traditionally reluctant to usurp state powers. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters he was not aware of any current planning by the military to help respond to a flu pandemic. But he noted that after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf region, Bush had asked Congress to consider giving the military control over initial response in dealing with major natural or other domestic disasters.
Even writing about this I don’t know wether to be scared (is this something like CNN’s summer of sharks 2005 edition?) , or if this would make for a great modern revamp of the Orson Wells broadcast of War of the Worlds. War of the Worlds/The Stand 2005 blog edition. How can I work sharks and child molesters in there? I guess I’ll just leave you with an excerpt from the book and let you think on it a bit.
ot confirmed seems reasonably strain coded 848-ab campion, (w.) sally antigen shift and mutation. high risk/excess mortality and communicability estimated repeat 99.4% . atlanta plague center understands. Top secret blue folder. ends. p-t-222312a
The Stand
By Stephen King (printed without permission)

Chapter 20 ========================== In Duluth a man in Khaki shorts and sandals walked up and down Piedmont Avenue with a large smear of ash on his forehead and a hand-lettered sandwich board hanging over his scrawny shoulders. The front read: THE TIME OF THE DISAPPEARANCE IS HERE CHRIST THE LORD RETURNETH SOON PREPARE TO MEET YOUR GOD! The back read: BEHOLD THE HEARTS OF THE SINNERS WERE BROKEN THE GREAT SHALL BE ABASED AND THE ABASED MADE GREAT THE EVIL DAYS ARE AT HAND WOE TO THEE O ZION Four men in motorcycle jackets, all of them with bad coughs and runny noses, set upon the man in the khaki shorts and beat him unconscious with his own sandwich board. Then they fled, one of them calling back hysterically over his shoulder: “Teach you to scare people! Teach you to scare people, you half-baked freak!” The highest-rated morning program in Springfield, Missouri, was KLFT’s morning phone-in show, “Speak Your Piece,” with Ray Flowers. He had six phone lines into his studio booth, and on the morning of June 26, he was the only KLFT employee to show up for work. He was aware of what was going on in the world outside and it scared him. In the last week or so, it seemed to Ray that everyone he knew had come down sick. There were no troops in Springfield, but he had heard that the National Guard had been called into K.C. and St. Louis to “stop the spread of panic” and “prevent looting.” Ray Flowers himself felt fine. He looked thoughtfully at his equipment–phones, time delay device, racks of commercials on cassettes (“If your toilet overflows/ And you don’t know just what goes/ Call for the man with the big steel hose/ Call your Kleen-Owt Man!”), and of course, the mike. He lit a cigarette, went to the studio door and locked it. Went into his booth and locked that. He turned off the canned music that had been playing from a tape reel, turned off his own theme music, and then settled in at his microphone. “Hi, y’all,” he said, “this is Ray Flowers on ‘Speak Your Piece,’ and this morning I guess there’s only one thing to call about, isn’t there? You can call it tube-neck or superflu or Captain Trips, but it all means the same thing. I’ve heard some horror stories about the army clamping down on everything, and if you want to talk about that, I’m ready to listen. It’s still a free country, right? And since I’m here by myself this morning, we’re going to do things just a little bit differently. I’ve got the time-delay turned off, and I think we can dispense with the commercials. If the Springfield you’re seeing is anything like the one I’m seeing from the KLFT windows, no one feels much about shopping, anyway. “So if you’re so’s to be up and around, as my mother used to say, let’s get going. Our toll-free numbers are 656-8600 and 656-8601. If you get a busy, just be patient. Remember I’m doing it all myself.” There was an army unit in Carthage, fifty miles from Springfield, and a twenty-man patrol was dispatched to take care of Ray Flowers. Two men refused the order. They were shot on the spot. In the hour it took them to get to Springfield, Ray Flowers took calls from: a doctor who said people were dying like flies and who thought the government was lying through its teeth about a vaccine; a hospital nurse who confirmed that bodies were being removed from Kansas City hospitals by the truckload; a delirious women who claimed it was flying saucers from outer space; a farmer who said that an army squad with two payloaders had just finished digging a hell of a long ditch in a field near Route 71 south of Kansas City; half a dozen others with their own stories to tell. Then there was a crashing sound on the outer studio door. -------------------------------------------------- “Open up!” a muffled voice cried. “Open up in the name of the United States!” Ray looked at his watch. Quarter of twelve. “Well,” he said, “it looks like the Marines have landed. But we’ll just keep taking calls, shall w—” There was a rattle of automatic rifle fire, and the knob of the studio door fell on the rug. Blue smoke drifted out of the ragged hole. The door was shouldered inward and half a dozen soldiers, wearing respirators and full battle-dress, burst in. “Several soldiers have just broken into the outer office,” Ray said. “They’re fully armed . . .they look like they’re ready to start a mop-up operation in France forty-one years ago. Except for the respirators on their faces . . .” “Shut it down!” a heavy-set man with sergeant’s stripes on his sleeves yelled. He loomed outside the broadcast booth’s glass walls and gestured with his rifle. “I think not,” Ray called back. He felt very cold, and when he fumbled his cigarette out of his ashtray he saw that his fingers were trembling. “This station is licensed by the FCC and I’m—” “I’m revokin ya fuckin license! Now shut down! “I think not,” Ray said again, and turned back to his microphone. “Ladies and gentlemen, I have been ordered to shut down and I have refused the order, quite properly, I think. These men are acting like Nazis, not American soldiers. I am not—” “Last chance!” The sergeant brought his gun up. “Sergeant,” one of the soldiers by the door said, “I don’t think you can just—” “If that man says anything else, waste him,” the sergeant said. “I think they’re going to shoot me,” Ray Flowers said, and the next moment the glass of his broadcast booth blew inward and he fell over his control panel. From somewhere there came a terrific feed back whine that spiraled up and up. The sergeant fired his entire clip into the control panel and the feedback cut off. The lights on the switchboard continued to blink. “Okay,” the sergeant said, turning around. “I want to get back to Carthage by one o’clock and I don’t—” Three of his men fired simultaneously, one of them with a recoilless rifle that fired seventy gas-tipped slugs per second. The sergeant did a jigging, shuffling death-dance and then fell backward through the shattered remains of the broadcast booth’s glass wall. One leg spasmed and his combat boot kicked shards of glass from the frame. A pfc, pimples standing out in stark relief on his whey-colored face, burst into tears. The others only stood in stunned disbelief. The smell of cordite was heavy and sickening in the air. “We scragged him!” the pfc cried hysterically. “Holy God, we done scragged Sergeant Buchan!” No one replied. Their faces were still dazed and uncomprehending, although later they would only wish they had done it sooner. All of this was some deadly game, but it wasn’t their game. The phone, which Ray Flowers had put in the amplifier cradle just before he died, gave out a series of squawks. “Ray? You there Ray?” The voice was tired, nasal. “I listen to your program all the time, me and my husband both, and we just wanted to say keep up th good work and don’t let them bully you. Okay, Ray? Ray? . . . Ray? . . .” -------------------------------------------------- In Boulder, Colorado, a rumor that the U.S. Meteorological Air Testing Center was really a biological warfare installation began to spread. The rumor was repeated on the air by a semi-delirious Denver FM disc jockey. By 11 P.M. on the night of June 26, a vast, lemming-like exodus from Boulder had begun. A company of soldiers was sent out from Denver-Arvada to stop them, but it was like sending a man with a whisk-broom to clean out the Augean stables. Better than eleven thousand civilians–sick, scared, and with no other thought but to put as many miles between themselves and the Air Testing Center as possible–rolled over them. Thousands of other Boulderites fled to other points of the compass. At a quarter past eleven a shattering explosion lit the night at the Air Testing Center’s location on Broadway. A young radical named Desmond Ramage had planted better than sixteen pounds of plastique, originally earmarked for various mid-western courthouses and state legislatures, in the ATC lobby. The explosive was great; the timer was cruddy. Ramage was vaporized along with all sorts of harmless weather equipment and particle-for-particle pollution-measuring gadgets. Meanwhile, the exodus from Boulder went on.

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