You can’t make this stuff up

Arkansas is nicknamed “The Natural State.”  We have deer and fox (and possums, raccoons, eagles, buzzards, etc.) who walk or fly by our home nearly every day.  But the state of our state is most unnatural on this, the second day of 2011, especially after reading today’s local newspaper.  Consider, for example, these two AP stories which appeared in the “State briefs” section on page 2 of the Sentinel Record:

Dead fish cover 20-mile section of Arkansas River

OZARK — An Arkansas Game and Fish Commission spokesman says dead drum fish now cover a 20-mile section of the Arkansas River near Ozark.

Seven teams from the state agency visited the affected portion of the river Friday. Commission spokesman Keith Stephens says an official estimate of how many fish have died is expected on Monday, but he tells the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the number is likely in the hundreds of thousands.

The commission determined the fish died in the river from a dam near Ozark to a bridge along State Highway 109 near Clarksville.

Stephens says some of the live drum fish were sick and will be sent to a lab at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff for testing.

Drum fish are bottom feeders that eat other fish and insects.

More than 1,000 dead birds fall from sky

BEEBE — The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said Saturday more than 1,000 dead black birds fell from the sky in Beebe.

The agency said its enforcement officers began receiving reports about the dead birds about 11:30 p.m. Friday. The birds fell over a one-mile area of the city, and an aerial survey indicated that no other dead birds were found outside of that area, officials said.

Robby King, a wildlife officer for the agency, collected about 65 dead birds, which will be sent for testing to the state Livestock and Poultry Commission lab and the National Wildlife Health Center lab in Madison, Wis.

Commission ornithologist Karen Rowe said that similar events have occurred elsewhere and that test results “usually were inconclusive.”

The birds showed physical trauma, said Rowe, who surmised that “the flock could have been hit by lightning or high-altitude hail.”

The agency also said another possibility is that New Year’s Eve revelers shooting off fireworks in the area could have startled the birds from their roost and caused them to die from stress.

It’s doubtful the birds were poisoned, Rowe said, “since it only involved a flock of black birds and only involved them falling out of the sky.” She said a necropsy is the only way to determine if the birds were poisoned.

The city of Beebe hired U.S. Environmental Services to clean up and dispose of the dead birds.

Then there was the following, from the conclusion of a letter in today’s paper by Alan Clark, chairman of the Republican Party of Garland County:

…conservatives are always appreciated under our big tent. Whether you be religious zealots, tea partiers, heartless businessmen, pro-life maniacs, tobacco chewin’ gun totin’ NRAers, Bambi killers, war glorifying military servicemen and retirees, money grubbing professionals, Uncle Toms, “ignorant” blue collar workers, Fox News watchers, (gas guzzling) SUV driving soccer moms, selfish retirees, or just plain ol’ dumb hillbilly Southerners, you are welcome in the Republican Party. The line forms on the right.

From a letter to the editor in today’s Sentinel Record, page 20.

And that, in a nutshell, is your local grandiose old party, still basking in the afterglow of having routed the long-established opposition.  Not sure why their ringmaster felt it was necessary to provide details of who’s under his circus tent; it’s common knowledge for all who have stepped out of tent-shadows into the sunlight of reason.  Anyway, following that bit of silliness, there was this letter by Dan Lewin (one of the regular circus ranters), apparently demanding to know why America is not yet a theocracy:

Find for me the phrase “separation of church and state.”  Or if that fails, find the individual word “separation,” “church” or “state” in any of the founding documents.  Anyone with as much education as you all have should have no problem finding that for me.

From a letter to the editor in today’s Sentinel Record, page 20.

Three pages later, finally, there was this small glimmer, an article about President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who broke barriers by becoming Brazil’s first working-class president.  He has just left office as the nation’s most popular president, with an approval rating that hit 87% in his last week:

His social programs and wealth redistribution helped pull 20 million people out of poverty.  Once on the brink of a sovereign default in 2002, the nation now lends money to the International Monetary Fund.  Unemployment is at a record low, and the currency has more than doubled against the U.S. dollar.  Brazil will host the 2014 World Cup and is expected to be the world’s fifth-largest economy by the time the 2016 Olympics come to the nation.

From an AP article by Bradley Brooks in today’s Sentinel Record, page 23.

Social programs and wealth redistribution?  And in the (soon to be) fifth-largest economy?  What manner of witchcraft is this?  Hmmm…  196 million people (in 2008) with an active military of 287 thousand.  That same year, the population of the United States was almost 304 million (1.6 times larger) and its active military was 1.4 million “strong” (4.9 times larger).  America’s defense budget is more than 20 times larger than Brazil’s (these statistics come from  But then, as far as I know, Brazil’s military isn’t deployed in more than 100 countries around the planet.  Maybe Brazil hasn’t discovered perpetual gold in the hills of “fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.”

Still fighting over here,

Monsieur d’Nalgar

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