Letter to Paul J Knox

By John "Birdman" Bryant

A courteous but pointed explanation of why the doctor is 'out' when it comes to knowing anything about the health threats supposedly posed by pigeons


To: The Doctor of Sunset Park [I did not know his name at the time]

Date: October 26, 2000

Dear Doctor:

As a result of our encounter this morning in which you asked me to move my pigeon-feeding to a tree about 30 feet from the one I am currently feeding at in order to spare your three children possible contact with droppings and the diseases they may carry, I thought I would pass on some information that might relieve your mind and correct some misimpressions you seem to have. In particular, you expressed some concern about psittacosis; however, there is no reason to be worried about this disease. Here's why:

According to the article entitled "Psittacosis" on p 374 of the 1971 edition of Beeson & McDermott's Cecil-Loeb Textbook of Medicine, with which I am sure that, as a physician, you are thoroughly familiar, you will find the statement

"Although individuals of both sexes and all ages are susceptible, overt clinical infections in children are uncommon."

Furthermore, while the article says that the microbial agent can cause infection in man, it also says that "To date, [the psittacosis] agents have not been shown to produce human disease." Which sounds a bit contradictory, but in any event suggests that there is no great danger.

Statistical evidence, however, makes plain that there is no danger whatsoever; for according to "Florida Department of Health EPI Update" (The weekly publication by the Bureau of Epidemiology), 3 Dec 1999, (http://www.doh.state.fl.us/disease_ctrl/epi/Epi%20Updates/1999/eu991203.html ) there were no reported cases in 1996 or 1997, only 2 in 1998 and none in 99 as of the publication date. What is more, statistics in the same publication show that one has a greater chance of contracting leprosy or dengue fever than he does of getting psittacosis.

Another point to note, made by "CDC Technical Information on Psittacosis" (http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/psittacosis_t.htm), is that

"Psittacosis infections are not limited to birds. In fact, it has been found that Chlamydia psittaci -- the organism that causes psittacosis -- can infect many vertebrate species, including sheep, cattle, horses, goats, dogs, cats, most rodent species, and even frogs. These infections are not uncommon: until recently, C. psittaci has been documented to be the main cause of "nonspecific pneumonitis" in domestic cats, and it continues to be one of the main causes for spontaneous abortions in sheep."

Which means, in simple language, that your family has a lot more chance of catching psittacosis from the neighborhood dogs and cats and their droppings than from my birds.

In conclusion, I hope that the above information makes it clear that my birds pose less risk to your family than crossing the street. I also hope that it will make you more careful to get your facts straight before you start making accusations.

PS: For the record, let me restate the agreement between us upon which we shook hands this morning: That I would move my bird-feeding to the next tree down the street, and you in exchange would raise no further objections to my feeding activities and cause no further disturbances of any kind to these activities.

PS2: Your statements this morning seemed to suggest that my wife and I were forced to stop feeding birds at St Pete Beach for good cause. This is false, and I have reprinted below an excerpt from a flyer which I distributed to SPB residents, and which will give you some information about the reasons for our forced departure. I have also reprinted an article I wrote several months ago whose subject may interest you.


The Story the Media Suppressed: Beach Commissioners are Dirty Birds

When you hear about it, it just doesn't sound very important -- the St Pete Beach City Commission is about to pass a law against feeding pigeons and other birds in public parks. But the truth is very different. When the government takes upon itself to ban a harmless activity -- and it is harmless, as I'll prove to you in a moment -- then the next time around it may be your favorite activity that becomes illegal. But the situation is really much worse than that, because feeding pigeons in a public park is an activity which is sanctioned by tradition. So when the government feels powerful enough to forbid not just harmless activities, but activities which Americans have always done, you know your freedom is in big trouble. After all, as I told the TV and newspaper reporters after the April 16 City Commission meeting, if you can't feed pigeons in a public park, then exactly what can you do?

Media Suppression?

<text> My name is John Bryant, and you have probably seen some of the many stories about the pigeon feeding done by myself and my wife which have appeared in the newspapers (both the Times and Tribune, plus others), on TV newscasts (Channels 8, 10, 28 & 44) and on the radio (WFLA and WHPT). But the problem with the media stories is that they mostly missed the important points, or at least they played them down so no one would really notice. The most important point the media missed is that our story is not so much one about pigeon-feeding as it is one about intrusive government. It's a story we hear all too frequently today -- IRS, Waco, Ruby Ridge, midnight drug busts, property "forfeitures" without due process, police snoops on the Internet, and you name it. But the funny thing about all this is that if people stood up and fought every time the government intruded on their freedom, the government would find its resources quickly exhausted. Which  means the government would have to stop its intrusions. But the other side of the coin is that, when people don't fight, then government agents get the idea that they can just roll over anybody who comes along, which makes it harder for everybody. The second important point the media missed was the fact that my activities are harmless. But I'm not just saying that -- I can prove it. For one thing, two of the commissioners (Mariner and Friszolowski) admitted to me over the phone that no evidence had ever been presented to the Commission to show that anything I did resulted in harm. That is, pigeons are in the area anyway -- just as they are in every urban area -- so if they are damaging something, they will do it whether I feed them or not. But the real proof that the feeding is harmless is that, if I were creating  a nuisance, SPB could cite me under an already-existing nuisance law -- but  they haven't, altho they explicitly considered doing so.

Why Are They After Me?

But if what I am doing is harmless, why is the SPB Commission making a fuss over it? The answer is strictly political -- some of the residents at the Silver Sands condominium, which is next to the feeding area, have been complaining because they (ignorantly) believe that the feeding somehow causes pigeons to do certain things which they find objectionable (details in a moment). And because the Sands residents are politically important (they represent a big block of votes and an important source of political contributions), the commissioners are obviously eager to please them, no matter how wrong-headed they are. Or to put it another way, the real interest of Commissioners is in getting votes, contributions and other forms of support, and not in preserving political freedom. Which is why I need you to tell the commissioners that freedom is important to you. Because if there are enough people who protest, that will make the commissioners think twice about what they are doing. But if what I am doing is harmless, why do the people at the Sands want my scalp? The explanation is partly misinformation, partly simplemindedness, partly scapegoating, partly hatred of people who are a little different, and partly a hatred of "outsiders" (that's the term former mayor Horan used to describe me because I live across the bridge in South Pasadena), tho hatred of outsiders seems rather peculiar in view of the fact that the entire SPB economy is dependent on "outsiders" (tourists). In fact, my wife and I are actually a tourist attraction -- tourists are always dropping by to take our picture, and even Commissioner Mariner had relatives who sent him a picture of us taken by a tourist which appeared in one of the major Chicago dailies. It would seem that SPB residents would be a little more friendly to the industry that supports their economy.

Oh Can they Whine!

The complaints about me from the Sands began about 3 years ago when the manager complained to me that pigeons were getting in the air conditioners (I pointed out to him that, since pigeons inhabit every urban area, the problem was the Sands' fault for not screening the air conditioners properly.) The next complaint against me was that pigeons were nesting on the Sands' balconies, but the problem turned out to be that snowbirds were going back to New Yawk for the summer without screening their balconies, so what did they expect in an urban area? The next complaint was droppings on residents' cars, but as I found out from TV news reports, all the "pigeon droppings" that Sands residents were complaining about were actually gull droppings (people from New Yawk don't seem to know too much about beach wildlife). Next, the complaint became droppings on balconies, but this again was a bogus objection because that's just what happens in an urban area. The most recent complaint has been "pigeons carry disease", which is cited in the new ordinance as its "justification". The only problem is that this complaint is just as bogus as the rest. Specifically, the ordinance mentions four diseases: encephalitis (according to the CDC, there were no deaths and only eight cases in the entire state of Florida for 1993, the most recent year for which statistics are available), toxoplasmosis (According to the Cecil-Loeb Textbook of Medicine, this disease is not  transmitted by pigeon feces), histoplasmosis (not a single case recorded in the US in 1993, as far as we can determine), and salmonella (man almost always acquires this disease by the oral route, and does the Commission and the Sands' residents eat you-know-what?) I could spend time refuting the remaining bogus objections, but I think you get the point. And by the way, neither I nor my wife have even had a a cold or been to a doctor since we started feeding pigeons 7 years ago, which at my age (52) might just suggest that pigeons are actually good for the health, no?

Hypocrisy and Much More

It is of interest that the ordinance under consideration does not forbid pigeon-feeding as such, but rather the feeding of "wild birds" on "public property". This, of course, is a monumental act of hypocrisy, since it could not possibly be enforced against anyone except regular feeders (can you imagine a police car screaming along the beach in time to catch a tourist feeding gulls?), and there are only one or two other regular feeders in SPB. And of course it will not affect feeders on private property (of which there are many), supposedly because a ban would be "unenforceable", but in reality because it would cause such anger among people with bird feeders in their yards that the Commission dare not pass such a law. Hypocrisy to the Nth power! But hypocrisy is only one of several character flaws of the people pushing the ordinance. For example, I have been slandered an uncountable number of times both by the commissioners themselves and by residents of the Sands, particularly Robert Seyler, who claimed I wasn't "taking responsibility" for my actions, but then wouldn't take responsibility for his slander by returning my phone calls. One woman from the Sands -- so fat she can barely waddle up to the podium, and with an accent as thick as her waistline (an outsider, perhaps?) -- has been particularly obnoxious (tho also greatly comical). Her manners are so bad that she even barged into the midst of a TV interview I was giving, yelling "Vy doan yu feed de  chilren?" Maybe she should "feed de chilren" rather than feeding her fat face so much, no? Objectionable behavior has also been a hallmark of the commissioners in this affair. City manager Danny ("L'il Danny") Walker exhibited the telephone manners of a rattlesnake, and Mayor Finch wasn't much better. In addition, Finch keeps making false statements such as "Pigeons are unnatural for our area", repeating falsehoods about where the birds I feed came from (as if it mattered), and keeps attempting to impugn my character by citing a long-ago-settled dispute I had with my condo (If these are the worst charges he can make, it is obvious he has nothing of substance to say.) Former (thank goodness) mayor Horan was also quite obnoxious on several occasions, and Commissioner "Keep it wild" Falkenstein (who made the formal motion for adopting the ordinance), tho a great animal lover, nonetheless spends a large amount of time -- in spite of his good intentions -- damaging the sea turtle population by trying to return genetically-inferior stock to breeding status (How about keeping it wild, Commissioner?) His apparent response to this criticism at the April 16 meeting -- a criticism which I had made earlier in a letter to him and the other commissioners -- amounted to saying, "Gee, guys, I do a heck of a lot less damage than I used to. Ain't that wunnerful?"

The Little Hitlers

My original plan to resist the tyranny of the little Hitlers who reign supreme in the SPB City Commission was to violate the pending ordinance and obtain a jury trial, with the hope that the jury would nullify the law by refusing to convict me. (It is a little-known but long-established legal fact that juries have the power in both law and fact to judge both the guilt of the defendant and the morality of the law (and to set the defendant free if they deem the law immoral or otherwise improper), but judges do not wish jurors to know this, because it keeps the judge from controlling the jury thru his "interpretation" of the law. Indeed, there have been many recent instances of judges attempting to imprison people who try to inform jurors of their right to nullify the law. The Fully Informed Jury Association is an organization devoted to bringing this information to citizens (Their literature is fascinating. Write FIJA at PO Box 59, Helmville MT 59843).) A lawyer has informed me, however, that I would be unlikely to ever get a jury trial because of the small size of the fine attached to the offense.


The Microbe-Hunting Establishment's Slow-Virus Infection

Excerpted from Birdman's Weekly Letter #82

Note: AIDS dissidence -- disagreement with the medical establishment's theory of AIDS, and in particular disagreement with the theory that HIV is the cause of AIDS -- has been led from the beginning by Peter Duesberg, a UC Berkeley microbiologist. The first important book about AIDS dissidence was Why We Will Never Win the War on AIDS, by Brian J Ellison and Peter Duesberg (Ellison was a doctoral student at Berkeley and Duesberg's assistant). Unfortunately, Ellison and Duesberg had a falling- out over the book, and Duesberg successfully sued -- in an action which left some doubts in my mind about the morality of Duesberg's acts -- to keep further copies from being sold, and in particular to keep it from competing with Duesberg's newer and longer book, Inventing the Aids Virus. Duesberg's book was read out loud to me when I was sick, and I don't remember it very well, except that I liked it, but Ellison's book is an absolute blockbuster. The following essay is based primarily on Ellison's book. The story of modern 'orthodox' medicine, or 'allopathic' medicine, begins with Pasteur, who in the latter half of the 19th century founded the germ theory of disease by showing that microorganisms were the cause of certain important diseases (eg, rabies), and were at the root of certain natural processes (eg, fermentation). Pasteur's work was brilliant -- so brilliant that it eclipsed all others -- but it was deficient because it caused the sidelining of other approaches to disease -- approaches which are now being rediscovered and classified under such rubrics as 'natural medicine' and '(w)holistic medicine'. But for all its deficiencies it did inspire the great works of the microbe hunters such as Koch (discoverer of the anthrax and tuberculosis bacilli), Erlich (syphilis), Reed (yellow fever) and others. The downside of the germ theory was to make medical researchers think only in terms of microbes in seeking the cause of diseases, and to seek only antimicrobial agents in looking for cures -- a situation which has been reinforced by the drug companies who stand to make millions every time a new patent medicine emerges from the bowels of their research facilities. For the great contagious epidemics, microbe-hunting was an excellent approach, but by the early part of the 20th century it began to run medicine into the mud. In fact, the microbial mindset was responsible for modern medicine's inability to deal with a number of major diseases, including beriberi (B1 deficiency), pellagra (B3 deficiency), SMON (a disease caused by a Japanese prescription medicine), and -- most important of all -- the fact that properly-prescribed prescription medicines kill over 100,000 people per year in hospitals. The microbial mindset has been so firmly implanted in the medical community that it has led it to embrace the bizarre theory of 'slow-acting microbes', in which these entities are said to somehow remain 'dormant' in the body and cause disease at some time much later than their original infection, and under conditions in which the microbes are present only in such small amounts -- or even only in disjointed snippets of DNA -- that they would never satisfy the standard criteria for determining whether a microbe causes a disease (the so-called Koch postulates). The first such slow- acting microbe was postulated in syphilis, where it was said to cause 'tertiary syphilis' -- a disease which could involve one or more of numerous parts of the body, but especially the brain (the much-feared neurosyphilis, or tabes dorsalis) -- many years following initial infection. (Because neurosyphilis is now rare-to-nonexistent, it is believed by some of those not infected by the microbial point of view to have been caused by the effect of mercury or arsenic, which was used as a cure for syphilis until penicillin became widely available in the 30s.) The theory of slow-acting microbes remained dormant for many years, but broke out again in the investigations of Gajdusek, whose work in New Guinea supposedly discovered the disease called kuru, presumed to be spread by cannibalistic brain-eating. Gajdusek was never able to find a microbe responsible for the condition, and others have questioned whether kuru -- or cannibalism among the New Guinea natives -- even existed; but he was able to produce symptoms resembling kuru in monkeys by injecting brain tissue from kuru victims directly into their brains, altho the disease 'took' in only a few of the injectees. This, however, was enuf to make Gajdusek a hero to all the microbe hunters who, following the conquest of polio, had worked themselves out of a job, and for whom no task remained except -- as the Peter Principle describes it -- to rise to their own level of incompetence. Thus Gajdusek was embraced not only for the slow-acting kuru virus which he never discovered, but also the slow-acting Creutzfelt- Jacob virus, which he also never discovered, plus the microbial cause of a whole laundry-list of other nerve and brain disorders, including scrapie, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimers and others, whose cause he only proposed, and certainly never discovered. For his non-work, Gajduesk was awarded the 1976 Nobel prize. (He was also later awarded a jail term for pedophilia.) Since Gajdusek, the slow-acting microbe hypothesis has morphed into one of the most amazing and bizare hypotheses of science -- government-sponsored science, that is, which many (including myself) regard not as science, but as grant-seeking. That hypothesis is the prion theory of Stanley Prusiner, who argued that the definition of virus should be changed to incorporate the possibility that the infective agent might actually be a protein normally found in its host, but having a mutant, or chemically- altered form. The results of Prusiner's work -- supposedly explaining scrapie, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE, or 'mad cow disease', now called Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy) and Gajdusek's laundry list of diseases -- was, in Ellison's phrase, 'dismal', but this -- in the context of the well-funded microbe-hunting establishment -- was quite sufficient to win Prusiner a Nobel prize. The HIV-causes-AIDS-theory is only the latest slow-virus hypothesis. Maybe when it fails (officially, that is), the next theory of the microbe- hunting establishment will involve prions. And lots of Nobels, no doubt.


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