The Militant Libertarian

I'm pissed off and I'm a libertarian. What else you wanna know?

Friday, October 14, 2005

Flu Fear For the Birds



ONE my patients got in touch last week to ask if she should keep stores of Tamiflu, an anti-flu drug, on hand at all times. Since we're at least four months from flu season, I understood she was concerned about bird flu. "Forget it," I advised. "There isn't a single case here."

Unfortunately, that fact doesn't stop Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Disease, from overinflated talk of "total preparedness."

This is a potential health threat, not an actual one. The bird flu has to mutate before it can affect humans — and historically it only makes that jump about once every 50 years.

By describing the problem as if it were already occurring, public-health authorities do a real disservice. The more vivid the description, the more a reaction on a grand scale seems indicated. Instead of worrying about heart disease or stroke, our true killers, we obsess on a remote risk.

Some "experts" use the once-in-50-years statistic to argue that a new pandemic like the one that killed more than 50 million people in 1918 is inevitable. Yet that scourge occurred in the wake of a devastating war, with the poorest of hygiene and living conditions. Today's technology, by contrast, could produce vaccine and anti-virals and cordon off large areas in a hurry.

And there is no way of knowing when such a mutation will occur. The current bird flu can't pass easily from human to human, a fact often obscured by the snowballing attention.

Remember SARS? We obsessed on the way that new killer cold virus flew around a hotel in Toronto infecting people. Some worried about getting infected by touching an elevator button. Sillier still, dread spread against everything and everyone Asian — with some New Yorkers even avoiding Chinese restaurants.

The real virus was fear.

A year later, scientists discovered that SARS actually doesn't transmit at all readily. The worry was ill-founded. That fact didn't get quite the same top-of-the-news coverage as the original alarms — a void that left many too ready to engage our hysteria the time around.

A proper perspective on the latest bug du jour is difficult to acquire while the news is trumpeting the supposed imminence of the threat. But it's not just a media problem.

The current plan to make enough bird-flu vaccine to protect most of the U.S. population is not good health. Two million doses have been prepared so far, with many more on the way at a great cost to the government and a strain on the resources of our vaccine makers.

Vaccines are perishable; they don't work beyond a few years and have to be discarded. And if a bird flu did mutate to human form over the next few years, the current vaccine probably wouldn't work well because it would be a different bug.

Yes, this or some other bird flu may one day transform into a ravenous societal killer. But we already have such killers now: obesity, heart disease, cancer and stroke. We shouldn't be diverting resources away from them — or from the battles against AIDS, tuberculosis and common influenza.

Marc Siegel's new book is "False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear."

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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

George Carlin on New Orleans

I got this via email today. I don't know if it's actually from George Carlin (it's probably not), but who cares? It's the truth.

"Been sitting here with my ass in a wad, wanting to speak out about the
bullshit going on in New Orleans. For the people of New Orleans... First we
would like to say, Sorry for your loss. With that said, Let's go through a
few hurricane rules: (Unlike an earthquake, we know it's coming)

#1. A mandatory evacuation means just that...Get the hell out. Don't blame
the Government after they tell you to go. If they hadn't said anything, I
can see the argument. They said get out... if you didn't, it's your fault,
not theirs. (We don't want to hear it, even if you don't have a car, you
can get out.)

#2. If there is an emergency, stock up on water and non-perishables. If you
didn't do this, it's not the Government's fault you're starving.

#2a. If you run out of food and water, find a store that has some.
(Remember, shoes, TV's, DVD's and CD's are not edible. Leave them alone.)

#2b. If the local store has been looted of food or water, leave your
neighbor's TV and stereo alone. (See #2a) They worked hard to get their
stuff. Just because they were smart enough to leave during a mandatory
evacuation, doesn't give you the right to take their's theirs,
not yours.

#3. If someone comes in to help you, don't shoot at them and then complain
no one is helping you. I'm not getting shot to help save some dumbass who
didn't leave when told to do so.

#4. If you are in your house that is completely under water, your belongings
are probably too far gone for anyone to want them. If someone does want
them, let them have them and hopefully they'll die in the filth. Just
leave! (It's New Orleans, find a voodoo warrior and put a curse on them.)

#5. My tax money should not pay to rebuild a 2 million dollar house, a
sports stadium or a floating casino. Also, my tax money shouldn't go to
rebuild a city that is under sea level. You wouldn't build your house on
quicksand would you? You want to live below sea-level, do your country some
good and join the Navy.

#6. Regardless of what the Poverty Pimps Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton want
you to believe, The US Government didn't create the Hurricane as a way to
eradicate the black people of New Orleans; (Neither did Russia as a way to
destroy America). The US Government didn't cause global warming that caused
the hurricane (We've been coming out of an ice age for over a million

#7. The government isn't responsible for giving you anything. This is the
land of the free and the home of the brave, but you gotta work for what you
want. McDonalds and Wal-Mart are always hiring, get a damn job and stop
spooning off the people who are actually working for a living. President
Kennedy said it best..."Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what
you can do for your country."

Thank you for allowing me to rant.

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Monday, October 10, 2005

Blatant Marketing

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