Mad at Cow
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – A friend and I shared a steak the other night. It was a very good steak. Rare. Juicy. Black on the outside and a nice, deep pink in the center, with a crunchy crust of fat around the edges. No, wait a minute. That wasn't the steak. That was my brain after eating the steak.

Okay, perhaps my gray matter hasn't gone completely spongiform. Not yet. But I have to tell you, right after I ate that T-bone, I could feel the nuclei in my noggin start to go a little soft. In fact, both my dinner companion and I felt a little squishy. We're going to have to watch each other for the next 40 years or so to find out whether we should have had the foie gras instead. I've asked her to shoot me if I start drooling more than I usually do.

Who should be blamed for this annoying development? Finger pointing after the fact, or even during it, is a healthy exercise, particularly when you're trying to forget about all those nasty prions attacking your central nervous system. I can feel them now! Help! No. Better to extend the long finger of shame and blame. So ... j'accuse!

You, Canada! Phooey on you, just in general. Wasn't it you who caused the big blackout last summer? No? Dummies in Ohio, you say? Well, we don't care. It's my understanding that the bad mad cow discovered a few weeks ago in Washington State spent some time up there eating tainted slop. I like blaming Canada. Here in America, we don't have problems like the rest of the world. We have challenges. That's why we don't have to worry about global warming either. You guys in Canada had better watch your step, though. We're getting sick of your exporting your blackouts, terrorists, and mad cows to us.

Beyond that, it's easy to blame the beef industry, of course. They've known for a long time that making cannibals out of cows wasn't a good thing to do. As you know, cows that eat the spinal columns and brains of other cows may go mad. If you were forced to do the same, you'd get ticked off too. When people in the South Seas ate the deceased's brain at funeral rituals, they turned spongy between the ears and expired. So the jury for people and cattle has been in for quite some time. Many other nations, some just as greedy and mercantile as we, have taken steps to eliminate the grosser forms of bovine cannibalism. Not our guys. So phooey on them!

They could never have gotten away with it if not for the people in Washington, D.C., though. Take Ann Veneman, who is Secretary of Agriculture. Like all the President's big regulators, she used to be on the industry side, fighting regulators who never really understood the fine points of the business. And that's as it should be! Huzzah!

Be that as it may. Ms. Veneman, as well as her spokesperson, Alisa Harrison (who used to hold the same role for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association), has been doing everything possible to assuage the public while fighting efforts to test cattle. That is what the yutzes in England did when mad cows were discovered, until actual human beings started keeling over. Now they test.

We, however, are still in the part of the movie where the mayor tells the townspeople it's safe to go swimming, even though the shark has been eating folks for almost half the picture. Since the opening moo of the crisis, everybody at Agriculture has made it quite clear that it's beef, beef, beef every night on their tables--big, juicy chops and steaks, yum--and that yes, Virginia, the beef supply is safe. I saw one of the news conferences and immediately went out to Burger King. One good whopper deserves another.

Before we pile too heavy a freight of guilt on our own, however, consider the international implications. Isn't it just possible that some part of the Axis of Evil was involved in this insidious attack on our food supply, sending crazy cows into the world's last great superpower through, yes, Canada, the same way terrorists--excuse me, militants--got into Seattle last year?

It will be hard to nail Saddam Hussein on this one, because he's having his molars removed on Al-Jazeera right now. But that Korean dude with the funny hair is another matter altogether. I'd look at him closely, and if he doesn't shape up, I'd drop a couple of thousand mad cows right on his fuzzy little head. That would be fun, you know, even if it didn't solve anything. Wars are good at providing such distractions, except, perhaps, for those who have to fight them.

In the end, if none of those targets are wholly satisfactory, I guess we have to take a long look at the one party that makes the most sense: cows. They're the ones who got it first. They're giving it to us. They're mad as hell, and I'm not going to eat them anymore. It's that simple.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go out and punch a sockeye salmon.