Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Bird Flu Hype: Maybe We Should Worry

With limited time available for blogging, it is hard to decide what to write about these days. Part of me is tempted to ruminate about the forthcoming Plamegate bombshells. Another part of me wants to keep hammering (apologies to Tom DeLay, whose scandal would normally be juicy but seems overshadowed these days) at Bush's morally outrageous opposition to banning torture by the U.S. (Can we be seriously debating this?) And then there's the recent polls showing greater support for Bush's potential impeachment than for Clinton on the eve of his actual impeachment. And the Supreme Court Part II (I already wrote about that). And the appalling way that the Katrina aftermath is unfolding. And then there's the earthquake in Pakistan. And, of course, the lingering issue of global climate change and its potentially catastrophic impact on people all over the world, which is looking more and more ominous all the time. And the list just goes on and on.

But I've decided not to link to websites on any of those issues, important as they all are. (Any reader can undoubtedly find good material on all that stuff by doing a google search, or looking at The Nation, or What I want to use my blog entry for today is the Bird Flu Hype. People here in Europe are starting to get worried that it is showing up in Turkey and Romania. (My fellow bloggers overseas: Do people in China talk about this issue a lot?) I've been trying to figure out if the hype is justified, and I'm starting to get the sense that it is. Just after I spent some time trying to learn more on the internet, I got one of's periodic e-mail missives, arguing that we should replace the political hack that Bush has placed in charge of public health emergency preparation (FEMA redux, I guess). Charmed by this coincidence, I followed the source links from there and explored beyond them and the best place I found to summarize the latest developments on Bird Flu is another blogspot blog,

Despite the political hack angle (and my outrage at Bush's ludicrous and ominous suggestion the other day that military quarantine is the best way to prepare), this issue seems lot less juicy than some of the other things going on. But I want to ponder for a minute how insignificant some of the Bush scandals might seem if this thing really does start to get out of control. (I'm not saying the scandals are at all insignificant, but just that a flu pandemic might be like a Hurricane Katrina that hits the whole world, immediately dwarfing everything else.) I really am scared that Bush is President when this whole thing might erupt, given his evident incompetence at dealing with anything and everything that really counts. And I want to raise some questions: How can we prepare to respond to an influenza pandemic? How can we sort out real solutions from Bush's inept or nefarious schemes? Is there anything we can do? I'm thinking here more from the social action rather than the individual preparedness side. How can we advocate for justice issues and ferret out the Administration's likely duplicity if the pandemic hits and widespread public fear along with it? I'm not saying that nobody in the Administration has any actual good ideas, but I am skeptical (given our experience with 9/11) about how we will handle the aftermath if a true crisis hits.

Sorry for the long and rambling post...I'm trying to sort out some of this in my own head, and I'm hoping that by raising the issue, perhaps others may have some wisdom to add in.


Ambivalent_Maybe said...

I've not heard anything about bird flu here in China, but all I can read is the English-language China Daily, so my sources are rather limited. Reading coverage of Pandemic Flu Awareness Week in the US, however, it seemed to me to be mostly hype--and of the Bush administration quickly turned it into an opportunity to push for what seems to be Bush's new little obsession when faced with actual or pending domestic disaster: calling for a greater role for the military in what used to be strictly police and national guard affairs. Bush is perhaps just trying to use the good reputation of our military (deserved or not) for competence in a crisis to deflect blame from his administration for the Katrina mess, but his attachment to the Pentagon also fits a pattern of authoritarianism. It's also possible that Iraq has taught Bush and his pals how military contracts awarded with little oversight during an emergency can flood their bank accounts with federal dollars, and that they are eager to repeat the process as many times as possible before leaving the White House.

Tess said...

The bird flu is definitely being hyped in the U.S. I hope someone has a good plan besides hiding in the basement (which is the best I could come up with).