Posts tagged ‘swine flu’


Somehow I am on a couple of Minutemen / anti-immigration email lists  (I suppose I was put there by a staffer that did not read my site very carefully).  Anyway, I got this from some such group called the ALIPAC:

While hyper political correctness tries to hold sway in America as not to offend or disrupt trade with our Mexican neighbors to the south, the official name of the new flu pandemic is Mexican Flu and not the PC terms 'Swine Flu' or 'H1N1'.

Swine Flu and H1N1 are terms that describe large volumes of flu like viruses and not the specific strain at hand. Traditionally, pandemic flu strains are named after their points of origin. The point of origin for the new H1N1 pandemic flu, with swine flu DNA components is Mexico.

"It's a sad day in America, when you can't even call this pandemic strain by it's proper name 'Mexican Flu'," said William Gheen. "We are calling on all members of the media and citizens alike to refer to this pandemic virus as the Mexican Flu."

The World Health Organization (WHO) and several nations are now referring to the new H1N1 pandemic strain from Mexico as the 'Mexican Flu' which is now the official name.

The last three global pandemic flu viruses were named the Hong Kong Flu (1968), the Asian Flu (1957), and the Spanish Flu (1918).

Yeah, I am just sure these guys would have issued this same press release had the virus originated in Canada.  The attempt here to try to tar an entire ethnic group by hanging this flu around their necks is so transparent that I can't believe someone actually had the guts to issue this press release.  And I find it hilarious that a strongly Conservative group suddenly is looking piously to a UN organization (the WHO) for "official" guidance.  That had me laughing out loud.

I am glad he mentions the Spanish Flu, because it both 1) proves the author is historically illiterate and 2) shows the danger of trying to hang blame for a pandemic on one particular country.

First, it is pretty clear that the Spanish Flu did not begin in Spain.  As I understand it, as the world's governments clamped down on the media and suppressed news of the pandemic, the Spanish media was (relatively) unregulated.  The world therefore had a lot of its first reports about the flu from Spain, even though the first cases were not there, so people got in the habit of referring to the Spanish flu.

In fact, America firsters at the ALIPAC need to be really careful on this naming thing.  One of the leading theories of the Spanish flu's origins was that it began in the US (possibly Kansas or Boston) or at least that the mutation to its more deadly form occurred in the US, and then was brought to Europe by American soldiers.   I suppose if the ALIPAC is willing to call the 1919 flu the American Army flu, then I will call the current one the Mexican flu.

By the way, we as Americans should be very, very careful trying to demonize and wall off Mexico over this flu.  Because it might feel good here, but around the rest of the world most nations are lumping the US and Mexico together as the source, so any worldwide calls for closing borders and isolation are likely to backfire against the US.

Incentives Matter

Right now, local, state and federal governments are closing schools and curtailing civil liberties in what will likely turn out to be a vain attempt to curb the spread of swine flu.  For those, like me, who are shaking their heads at some of the unbelievable over-reaction going on in government in response to swine flu, we should not be surprised.

We have trained government officials, just like Pavlov's dogs, to over-react to hypothetical crises.  Just as one example -- the Homeland Security department has a history, in disasters, of being both grossly ineffective and for wasting billions of dollars.  Which do they get punished for?  Sure, there are a few stories about Katrina waste, but the enduring legacy is the sense that the Bush Administration moved too slowly and did too little.

As a result, we see a massive multi-trillion dollar government waste-fest in response to a deep but not unprecedented recession.  We saw civil liberties thrown out the window in reaction to 9/11.  And we see the government issuing orders left and right to be seen as "doing something" about the impending flu epidemic.  Because politicians currently fear the charge of inaction far more than the charge of wasting a trillion dollars or curbing civil liberties.

Global warming alarmists lament that Americans don't understand the precautionary principle.  I would say just the opposite -- the whole government is run by the precautionary principle -- that near infinite prophylactic spending is justified by even minuscule risks of something really bad happening.  This is the recipe for bankruptcy.

Update:  And, right on queau, a precautionary principle link between global warming and flu from arch-alarmist Steven Scneider:

Stephen Schneider of Stanford University who paints a worst case scenario for global warming in a commentary in the journal, said the studies make it seem like scientists know where there's a solid danger line for emissions, when they don't. The papers acknowledge there is a 25 percent chance the limit should be lower. Schneider said that's a pretty big risk when the consequences of being wrong are severe. "If you had a 25 percent chance that walking into a room would give you serious flu, would you?" Schneider asked.

Here is the problem with this an all similar analogies -- they ignore cost, both in terms of dollars and individual rights.  Better examples would be:

  • Would you walk out of a prison cell into freedom if there was a 25% chance of catching the flu when you rentered society?
  • Would you walk into a room if there was a million dollars sitting on the floor for the taking but there was a 25% chance you might get the flu by picking up the money?

By the way, Steven Schneider is the hero of hard science who said this:

We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.

More on this kind of post-modernism in the sciences here.