Dept. Of Bad Timing

Oops:

When House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey, the Wisconsin Democrat who has long championed investment in pandemic preparation, included roughly $900 million for that purpose in this year’s emergency stimulus bill, he was ridiculed by conservative operatives and congressional Republicans.

Obey and other advocates for the spending argued, correctly, that a pandemic hitting in the midst of an economic downturn could turn a recession into something far worse — with workers ordered to remain in their homes, workplaces shuttered to avoid the spread of disease, transportation systems grinding to a halt and demand for emergency services and public health interventions skyrocketing. Indeed, they suggested, pandemic preparation was essential to any responsible plan for renewing the U.S. economy.

Maybe standing athwart history shouting “Porkulus” might have been a bad idea.

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58 replies
  1. 1
    MikeJ says:

    Republicans decry volcano monitoring: Alaskan volcano erupts
    Republicans decry pandemic preparation: possible pandemic

    I propose $1 billion to protect republicans from, i dunno, very small meteors. Something small enough to take them out, not big enough to hurt the rest of us. Then we sit back and wait for them to bitch, and the universe will then run its course.

  2. 2
    bago says:

    I went through the last Redoubt eruption. Fortunately I did not have to pay for the new windshield.

  3. 3
    JDM says:

    The Obamco program on flu is pretty much the Bushco program on flu:

    http://www.superlaugh.com/1/behappy.htm

    For the time being, HHS is being led by Acting Secretary Charles Johnson, a Bush-appointee from Utah who spent most of his career working as an accountant.

    from http://sobeale.blogspot.com/

  4. 4
    Cat Lady says:

    a pandemic hitting in the midst of an economic downturn could turn a recession into something far worse

    For Republicans, a feature, not a bug.

  5. 5
    jenniebee says:

    But only the people who haven’t Gone Galt need to worry about pandemics! So we brought it on our own socialist parasite non-producer selves by, um, you know, living in cities and not giving the big fuck-you-all-taking-my-toys-and-going-home to everyone else. Of course, if we all went Galt, we’d all be just as vulnerable to pandemics as we ever were – more so, actually, because one imagines that sanitation in the Gulch would get problematic pretty fast (especially with that every-man-for-himself-and-don’t-tell-me-what-to-do approach applied to sewage treatment). Plus, there’s still that whole volcano monitoring thing…

    Carry on.

  6. 6
    aimai says:

    I know, unbelievable. If it weren’t for bad luck the republicans would have no luck at all.

    aimai

  7. 7
    Ash says:

    What is that you say? Republicans having no clue what the fuck they’re doing and looking like assholes along the way? Well I never!

  8. 8
    dmv says:

    Maybe standing athwart history shouting “Porkulus” might have been a bad idea.

    Maybe Republicans ever making use of their vocal chords might be a bad idea.

  9. 9
    Karen says:

    After trying to deny any help from the US government for the unemployed & the like, Rick Perry (R. Texas) is now asking for the same government he was trying to get away from to send the needed vaccine to his state.

    The answer should be something along the lines of “Who wants what from whom?”

  10. 10
    sgwhiteinfla says:

    The question is the MSM will look forward and not back?

    I think we all know the answer to that.

  11. 11
    hat's the says:

    @JDM:

    That’s why blocking the funds was so silly, and purely political.

    The total funds for pandemic were already allocated in 2005. This was essentially a scheduled payment on that plan. They put it in the stimulus package because they were going to spend the money anyway, and it made sense to get it out the door.

    It wasn’t Obama’s program. It was Bush’s. Republicans backed it when it was Bush’s. Same program.

    Nancy Pelosi and her pork barrel projects!

  12. 12
    MattF says:

    Once upon a time Republicans supported spending for stuff like science and public health– and even supported the social safety net– e.g., Bill Cohen (Clinton’s Sec Def) used to say that “Government is the enemy until you need a friend”. But that was then.

  13. 13
    Mr. Stuck says:

    Republicans decry volcano monitoring: Alaskan volcano erupts
    Republicans decry pandemic preparation: possible pandemic

    Republicans decry circus, become clowns/

  14. 14
    dmsilev says:

    It’s OK. The staff at the Republican Science And Medicine Institute will be releasing a report today showing that daily teabagging will ward off the swine flu.

    -dms

  15. 15
    chopper says:

    so preparing for pandemic swine flu was an example of pork-barrel politics. you can’t make this shit up.

  16. 16
    par4 says:

    Swine flu was a crock of shit in’76 and it’s a crock of shit now.

  17. 17
    Ash Can says:

    @MikeJ: Hell, I propose $36 to duct-tape their goddamned mouths shut.

    @par4: I have a son in grade school and an elderly mother in assisted living. NO epidemic is a crock of shit to me.

  18. 18
    Foobar says:

    @par4. “Swine flu was a crock of shit in’76 and it’s a crock of shit now.”

    103 dead in Mexico City is a crock of shit? Seriously, what is wrong with you?

  19. 19
    Dennis-SGMM says:

    This might be a good time for Senate Republicans to drop their opposition to Kathleen Sebelius’ nomination for HHS Secretary. It’s definitely a good time for Democrats to remind Americans why we don’t already have an HHS Secretary in place.

  20. 20
    KCinDC says:

    For the time being, HHS is being led by Acting Secretary Charles Johnson, a Bush-appointee from Utah who spent most of his career working as an accountant.

    I knew conservative blogs had too much influence, but I didn’t realize Little Green Footballs had that much power.

  21. 21
    Kirk Spencer says:

    @par4: We don’t know yet whether it is or isn’t.

    In Mexico, it’s got an estimated 2% fatality rate. ~1000 infected, ~20 dead. The same disease has popped up in a bunch of other places, but there are (so far) only a handful of infections.

    The deaths in Mexico included what are normally considered low-risk people. That is, teenage to middle age, middle and upper class. In other words, people with strong normal resistances and at least potential access to medical treatment.

    On the other hand, there have been no deaths anywhere else.

    CDC says it’s too late to quarantine, so we have to hope that it is either as null as the 1970s outbreak OR that the deaths were from factors that don’t apply for most of the rest of us – environment, or a minor genetic mutation, or secondary infection. Something, anyway.

    We also have the advantage of knowing both Tamiflu and Relenza can affect the virus.

    It’s too early to say it’s a crock, again. Hopefully you’re right.

  22. 22
    NonyNony says:

    @Kirk Spencer:

    In Mexico, it’s got an estimated 2% fatality rate. ~1000 infected, ~20 dead.

    Did they finally figure out how to get infection numbers from Mexico? As of yesterday when I was listening to reporting on the radio they didn’t have a clue as to whether those 20 dead were out of a population of 10,000, 1000, or 100 infected. That was part of why the red flag was being raised. Plus there were something like another hundred “suspected” deaths in Mexico that weren’t confirmed as being from the flu or not.

    It really sounded like the Mexican government wasn’t going to be able to get those numbers either. If things have changed between yesterday and today that would be a really good thing.

  23. 23
    Kirk Spencer says:

    @NonyNony: No, they haven’t gotten certain infection numbers from Mexico. The ~1000 is the current number being given by the Mexican Health Department. They caution there may be more of both infections and deaths, and both WHO and the CDC have sent people to help determine more accurate numbers.

    So when all is said and done the numbers may be a lot better – or a lot worse. Nonetheless, it caused deaths, is (apparently) human to human transmittable, and is atypical. That’s why it’s got all the official response agencies concerned. That the numbers SO FAR indicate a 2% fatality rate is just icing on the cake.

  24. 24
    Violet says:

    Heard briefly that part of the reason it seems to be killing people in Mexico is that the infected people didn’t seek help immediately upon becoming ill. Apparently people in other countries are going to the doctor sooner and thus it can be treated sooner. Left untreated, who knows what might happen.

    Should we start blaming Republicans for these kinds of things happening? What else have they refused to fund? That’ll be the area where the next disaster occurs, apparently.

  25. 25
    Persia says:

    It may be the only reason the last ‘crock’ fizzled out was that we were aware of the potential consequences. I certainly think canceling school in Mexico City was the right thing to do.

    Google Maps has an interesting perspective on the whole thing.

  26. 26
    Stephen1947 says:

    I’m glad to see that commenters here can connect the dots between this latest Publican stupidity and what’s going on in the Senate – add this together with the fact that Publican Senate Minority Leader McConnell is currently filibustering Gov. Sebelius’ appointment to head of HHS, and we have yet another area in which that party of apparent traitors would rather see America suffer than have the other party succeed.

  27. 27
    demimondian says:

    @Kirk Spencer: I suspect selection bias in reporting. As you say, those who have died are those who had access to medical care — and thus are likely to be those who *sought* medical care. The poor won’t have sought it, and the elderly may well have died too quickly for the root cause to be isolated. If so, then the death rate is simply unquantifiable, as the censored cases won’t have been missing at random (MAR), and we’ll need data which probably don’t exist to estimate the actual rates.

  28. 28
    Kirk Spencer says:

    I think I’ll add some info.

    First, Mexico has reported ~1300 cases of ‘Influenza Like Illness (ILI)’ as of this morning. HOWEVER, laboratories have only confirmed 18 cases as Swine Flu as of Sunday. The rest are either pending tests or identified as something else – and those numbers are not yet available.

    Second, there have been 59 deaths from pneumonia-like effects subsequent to ILI. These are also undergoing tests to see if they’re Swine Flu. I’m having trouble parsing whether any have been laboratory confirmed as such, though it appears some have been. What has been confirmed is that these 59 are not normal curve – that is, instead of mostly being very young and elderly, they’re the group that’s normally healthy.

    WHO is giving regular updates for anyone who cares to follow along.

  29. 29
    Kirk Spencer says:

    @demimondian: I’m sure there is selection bias. That’s a major reason why WHO is being so cautious in its reporting. On the other hand the core deal exists: there is an atypical death rate in conjunction with a flu (or flu-like infection), and testing has shown that at least some of the ‘flu’ is swine flu.

  30. 30
    D. Mason says:

    So when all is said and done the numbers may be a lot better – or a lot worse.

    So in other words the numbers are vague, speculative and ultimately meaningless. Just as i suspected as soon as I heard the moniker – its just the normal pandemic boogeyman that strolls down the pike every 4-7 years, like bird flu and SARS. Remember when the fearmongers that be were seriously speculating that bird flu might affect billions, to the point where stadiums would be turned into hospitals? How did that work out? Oh yeah

    I laugh heartily at the idiots I work with who have a little freakout about every sneeze or cough in the office. I can’t wait to see how they’re all acting today.

    Oh yea. Make a Brute.

  31. 31
    demimondian says:

    @D. Mason: Um, no.

    H5N1 *will* eventually trigger a pandemic; it’s only a matter of time. The only question is when.

  32. 32
    Evinfuilt says:

    Pandemics happen, thankfully not every time. I don’t see why we shouldn’t be prepared. But I see the mentality that the last couple didn’t effect us here, so we have nothing to worry about. Of course that’s when it usually will be a problem (since not enough people will be vaccinated.)

  33. 33
    D. Mason says:

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t be prepared (though I do think that re-evaluating the way we handle livestock would do a lot more than most of the things already being done). I’m only saying that all of the nail biting is unnecessary.

  34. 34
    Blue Raven says:

    So, any wingnuts trying to claim this is more proof we re-elected Carter yet, or are they too busy to remember what they said six months ago?

  35. 35
    Cat hair everywhere says:

    Didn’t Texas secede? I don’t think we should share our vaccines with other countries. Sorry Governor Perry!

  36. 36
    Comrade Kevin says:

    @Foobar:

    103 dead in Mexico City is a crock of shit? Seriously, what is wrong with you?

    They’re Mexicans, DUH. That’s what’s wrong with him.

  37. 37
    demimondian says:

    @D. Mason: Um…yeah.

    I suppose that we could be rid of swine flu by not eating pigs. And of bird flu by exterminating all birds. (You do realize that there’s a large resevoir of feral birds infected with H5N1, right?)

  38. 38
    D. Mason says:

    @demimondian: I say we should re-evaluate how we handle livestock and you read that as stop eating pigs. Try again.

  39. 39
    Kirk Spencer says:

    @D. Mason:

    I’m only saying that all of the nail biting is unnecessary.

    Ah. Respectfully, I disagree, though I somewhat see your point. You’re saying we don’t need a bunch of chicken littles running about grabbing huge stockpiles of, well, everything. On that, I agree.

    Sadly, that’s going to happen pretty much anytime a serious potential incident occurs. Around where I live (north Georgia) we get stores emptying shelves anytime there’s a forecast of snow.

    The problem is that what we’ve got is analogous to a tornado warning. Some people go straight to shelter in such a situation, others wait till a twister is actually rolling toward them to do anything.

    The conditions are right for something to happen – the disease has crossed a few tripwires. We might not get anything. We might get a small ‘twister’ that plows some farmland but other than that is insignificant. Or we might be in for a quadruple F5 on par with that of 1918. Right now we don’t know.

    But condescension at folk taking a moment to make sure the batteries in the radio and flashlight are good and the door to the shelter is unlocked does not make anyone superior.

  40. 40
    demimondian says:

    @D. Mason: Um — you really don’t get it, do you?

    There are pathogens which are made more virulent by the administration of antibiotics. Influenza *isn’t* one of them yet. If you want to avoid animal-human transmission of influenza, you have *exactly* one way to do it: isolate humans from animals.

    That would mean, among other things, not keeping pigs for food.

  41. 41
    Interrobang says:

    Maybe standing athwart history shouting “Porkulus” might have been a bad idea.

    Hell, it was a bad idea to begin with, if only because “Porkulus” is the most asinine neologism since “webinar.”

    I’m with demimondian on H5N1, being as I’ve been watching it for several years now. It’s really good at killing humans. The saving graces are that it’s not really good at infecting humans yet, nor is it really good at spreading from human to human. Should its infectivity and transmissibility between humans improve without a concomitant lowering in its case fatality rate, we’re in big trouble. Meantime, watch and wait…

  42. 42
    demimondian says:

    @Interrobang: Actually, H5N1 *isn’t* all that good a killing humans, and for all my snark, it’s very important to keep that in mind. This isn’t Ebola or one of the truly hideous forms of Dengue fever. It’s not even anthrax. Like all forms of the flu, H5N1 is, at worst, pretty good at killing people, but it’s really, really good at making them sick.

    The reason it’s particularly scary is that it afflicts domestic fowl, and that it spreads like wildfire in contained flocks…and it can be transmitted to humans. It’s only a matter of time before a strain emerges which can be transmitted from one human to another. At that point, the virus will have become self-supporting in two populations, one avian and the other human. The question then will be how communicable that strain is — and that’s a random event.

    But, of course, what *that* means is that it’s only a matter of time before a strain which is both virulent and easily transmissible between humans arises. That strain will spread on the wings of migratory fowl, and will quickly become pandemic.

  43. 43
    Seanly says:

    Killing all birds swine is not going to stop these diseases. The diseases have already made the jump to humans. An eradication plan would be an environmental disaster with consequences far beyond an attempt at disease containment. Plus I would have my doubts about the ability to wipe out all birds or swine (yes, I know man’s penchant for causing extinctions, but when it might help is when we would likely fail).

    Nothing wrong with following the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared. I live in Columbia, SC. We’re a couple of hours inland so hurricanes are a distant threat. The underlying geology is different than the deep sands & clays of coastal SC (see Charleston, 1886) so earthquakes are also not a big concern. However, we keep a couple of cases of bottled water and have an emergency radio & flashlights. Not so much in the way of canned food, but we need to lose some weight anyway…

  44. 44
    Zuzu's Petals says:

    I’m seriously reconsidering my cross-country train trip.

    Somehow the idea of being cooped up with a couple of hundred strangers for a few hours on a plane seems a little less worrisome than being cooped up with a couple of hundred strangers for several days on a train.

  45. 45

    Zuzu’s Petals,

    Planes are notorious for spreading germs, because the air is recycled.

    Safer to go on the train.

  46. 46
    Zuzu's Petals says:

    @joe from Lowell:

    I think the air is recycled on a train, too.

    Also, the CDC is advising care in touching surfaces that may have the germs on them…which seems more likely in a train than a plane.

  47. 47
    Zuzu's Petals says:

    @joe from Lowell:

    I just checked…both airliners and Amtrak superliners refresh with outside air every five minutes or so.

  48. 48
    evilpenguin says:

    You might look up the 1918 “Spanish Flu” if you need a refresher on why this is news.

    In the world of viruses that infect us and jump species, rabies probably wins on mortality (with no known survival in untreated cases), but mortality isn’t the only thing that determines the potential for pandemic infection. Nope morbidity (the rate of infection) is very important. Rabies has a nearly 100% mortality rate, but a very low (<1%) morbidity rate. Influenza has incredibly high morbidity rates (often in excess of 50%). Most strains have very low mortality rates (<0.5%), but the “Spanish Flu” had mortality rates as high as 5% in some populations.

    BTW, people here are referring to H5N1, but the current outbreak of concern is an outbreak of the H1N1 type (the same family as the 1918 Spanish Flu, but by no means the same virus).

    The Centers for Disease Control have a regular weekly publication called MMWR the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, which reports on what is killing Americans each week. The current issue has an article on the outbreak.

    I would agree that it is easy tog et hysterical about these things, but an event like the 1918 pandemic will happen again. And it was be a global catastrophe. And it will be something Americans haven’t seen in generations. I’m 42 years old. I have a smallpox vaccination scar. Very few people younger than me have one. My mother couldn’t go to the circus in her small Minnesota town out of her parent’s fear of polio. An influenza pandemic will not be the end of the world, but it will be a bad thing.

    The 1918 epidemic is estimated to have killed between 2.5% and 5% of the people living at the time globally. If you have a 50% morbidity rate with a 5% mortality rate, at today’s population you are talking about 150 million deaths today. These deaths would all occur within about 6 months if it followed historical patterns, with most of them occurring in the first 24 weeks. That is a staggering figure. It certainly seems to me that money for surveillance and improved vaccine production methods would be money well spent.

  49. 49
    TLCESQ says:

    @Karen: I have to steal this; it is just too darn funny!

  50. 50
    Sue says:

    I’m looking forward to seeing Glenn Beck pulling an Earth Day and encouraging everyone to sneeze in their hands and paw at each other.

  51. 51
    Comrade Darkness says:

    @demimondian: Not living with them under your house, as it is in large swaths of the world, is a good start. This is, if nothing else, an argument toward factory farming where a small handful of humans interact with the live animals. I’m not an advocate of factory farming . . . normally . . . but it does have that advantage. People who are already sick with the flu should not be allowed near animals. That’s how these superbugs breed when two different viruses infect the same cell inside a human.

  52. 52
    Zuzu's Petals says:

    @Sue:

    FTW

  53. 53

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t be prepared (though I do think that re-evaluating the way we handle livestock would do a lot more than most of the things already being done). I’m only saying that all of the nail biting is unnecessary.

    In 1918-19, the influenza epidemic killed more people than WWI – 20-40 million worldwide. 675,000 Americans died of the flu.

  54. 54
    Mnemosyne says:

    PBS did an episode about the 1918 flu on “The American Experience” a few years ago. I’m guessing they’ll be re-running it on your local station soon. Assuming they can take the time away from Suze Ormond infomercials, that is.

  55. 55
    chrome agnomen says:

    i propose a bill to prevent the previous administration from being tortured.

  56. 56
    lawtalkinguy says:

    All I know is that if the Republicans come out and oppose money for Rapture Prevention I’m going to become a born again.

  57. 57
    Grumpy Code Monkey says:

    @demimondian:

    There are pathogens which are made more virulent by the administration of antibiotics. Influenza isn’t one of them yet.

    And it never will be. Influenza is a viral infection, which is unaffected by antibiotics. It’s shit like MRSA that’s the result of agressive antibiotic use.

    Now, if your point is that we’ve put ourselves in a bad state when these nastier bugs attack an already flu-weakened immune system, then yeah, you’re right. But we’re not making influenza any more virulent by overusing antibiotics.

  58. 58
    Bender says:

    Dirty Stinking Republicans saying that Disease Prevention is pork, not economic stimulus? What a bunch of rightwing bible-thumping idiots who don’t know dick about dick.

    “All those little porky things that the House put in, the money for the [National] Mall or the sexually transmitted diseases or the flu pandemic, they’re all out,” Schumer said.

    Schumer? Is there a ReThugliKKKan named Schumer? No? Oh…

    Nevermind.

    LOLOLOL! Leave it to the BJers to get it all wrong. Gotta keep their 100% record intact.

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