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Pearls Before Republican Swine

The Republicans are in imminent danger of having another Katrina-disaster, in this case in the form of a swine flu epidemic and its effect on the economy. The swine flu has already killed over 100 people in Mexico and has spread to the US, causing the closing of schools and other public facilities in US cities. And the AP reports today that “World stock markets fell Monday as investors worried that a deadly outbreak of swine flu in Mexico could go global and derail any global economic recovery.”

So what does this have to do with the Republicans? Let me count the ways…

First, the Republicans in the Senate are still blocking Obama’s cabinet appointment of Kathleen Sebelius to head the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in a cheap political play to their base because of Sebelius’ support for reproductive rights. In the meantime, the department is being run temporarily by a Bush appointee who spent most of his career working as an accountant (I’m sure he’ll do a “heckuva job”). Not only that, but we don’t have anyone running the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) because they need to be appointed by the head of HHS. Meanwhile, the Republicans continue their delays, placing politics ahead of the safety of the American people.

Second, Republicans made a huge show of stripping $900 million in funding for pandemic preparation from the economic stimulus bill, ridiculing the spending as pork that had nothing to do with economic recovery. Just a few weeks later, the world economy is taking a turn for the worse because of fears of a pandemic. The website of Republican Senator Susan Collins even brags about her removing the money for pandemic flu preparedness. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, “If swine flu morphs into a pandemic, it’s the last thing the world economy needs, as it’s already on its knees.”

Finally, and on a slightly humorous note, Governor Rick Perry of Texas, who made headlines recently because of his comments about Texas seceding from the union, formally requested help from the CDC to deal with the possible swine flu pandemic. I guess he needs the federal government after all. Of course, without a director at the CDC (because of the Republicans) who knows when they will be able to respond.

UPDATE: This might be unrelated, but I couldn’t resist. An Israeli official says that in deference to Muslim and Jewish sensitivities to pig references, the “swine flu” should be renamed. His suggestion? “Mexican flu”, which might say more about the Israeli official’s attitude towards Mexicans than about his religion. So much for sensitivity. US scientists say that there is nothing “Mexican” about the swine flu (it was first identified in the US).
Daryl Cagle
© Daryl Cagle

UPDATE 2: An excellent rant about this is in Seeing The Forest blog.

So as you worry about this possible flu pandemic, think about why your governement is not yet fully up and running to do its part and protect us. As we saw when hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, government-hating Republicans destroyed our ability to respond to emergencies, and instead set up a system where contracts were awarded to cronies who collected the cash but never delivered the services.

In addition, the blog points out that Karl Rove also made fun of the money being allocated to pandemic flu preparations.

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8 Comments

  1. Sammy wrote:

    Honestly, how many years are we going to hear about the NEXT GREAT PANDEMIC that never materializes before we just ignore it? Ya know what the symptoms of swine flu are? Same as regular flu. Twenty cases in the US pales in comparison to regular flu, which by the way, is basically the same thing as swine flu, but with a different source.

    Sorry Iron Knee, I can’t get with you in this one. I’m still waiting for SARS and bird flu to wipe out the population.

    Monday, April 27, 2009 at 10:52 am | Permalink
  2. Iron Knee wrote:

    I actually agree with you that risks need to be assessed calmly and appropriately, but that doesn’t mean that risks should be ignored just because they haven’t killed tons of people… yet. After all, many people poo-pooed the risk to New Orleans from hurricanes before Katrina struck.

    Have you considered that maybe (just maybe) the reason why SARS and bird flu didn’t kill more people is because we responded to them quickly? Or would you rather go back to the good old days of the bubonic plague? :-)

    Monday, April 27, 2009 at 11:23 am | Permalink
  3. Sammy wrote:

    Well, of course not! The reason why Mexico has had a larger death rate is because they lack the medical response we do.

    The number one killer worldwide is simple diarrhea/dehydration, so I get the money issue.

    I’m just tired of the Chicken Little cries every year of the new “pandemic”.

    Monday, April 27, 2009 at 11:34 am | Permalink
  4. Brandon wrote:

    “ridiculing the spending as pork”

    There’s a pun in there somewhere.

    Monday, April 27, 2009 at 11:48 am | Permalink
  5. Iron Knee wrote:

    Yeah, but is it a good pun?

    “The Pork Strikes Back” didn’t quite do it for me.

    “One flu over the poo-poo nest”?

    And Sammy, I think the Chicken Little cries are mainly the media trying to sell newspapers.

    Monday, April 27, 2009 at 11:57 am | Permalink
  6. starluna wrote:

    Sammy,

    The deaths to swine flu in Mexico have largely happened in Mexico City, which has a first class medical response system and universal health care access. More importantly, the people who have died are 21-45 year olds, which is the last age group that you would expect to be dying from a flu virus.

    I just returned from a briefing about my state’s swine flu response. Should we be lucky to not have an epidemic it will be because of the public health response and the media reports that encourage people to stay home if they are sick. Those of us trained in public health try to be careful about the balance between properly informing the public and causing panic and it is not an easy task, especially because newspapers need a reason to sell. This particular flu virus has many disturbing characteristics, which is why we need to pay attention and take precautions.

    Monday, April 27, 2009 at 2:29 pm | Permalink
  7. As Starluna mentions, the concern is that the mortality rate of healthy adults could be the result of cytokine storms: if so, this flu would have ramifications more like the 1918 pandemic than later ones. Here’s the link to cytokine storms: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cytokine_storm

    By the way, the MSM really are playing this up, but so are such amusement sites as fark.com. And if you haven’t played Pandemic 2, good luck getting Madagascar: http://www.crazymonkeygames.com/jkf6Tr/pandemic2.swf

    Monday, April 27, 2009 at 4:15 pm | Permalink
  8. Sammy wrote:

    Starluna, I think there are those who would disagree with your assessment of Mexico City’s “first class medical response system”. Also, Mexicans tend to be mistrustful (if that’s a word) of their government and may not have heeded warnings of a possible flu issue.

    I don’t imagine that Mexico should be held up as a bastion of health and clean air/water/food quality.

    Twenty sick (no deaths) in the U.S. and 0.00014% of the Mexican population dying is reason for concern but c’mon, pandemic? I love me some exaggeration, but can we hold off pressing the panic button for just a little longer?

    Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 10:29 am | Permalink

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