Friday, September 30, 2005

Braindead take notice

My Flu Wiki partner-in-crime DemFromCT (The Next Hurrah) has an excellent rundown at DailyKos of the belated signs of life among our braindead politicans who are dimly seeing that maybe bird flu is the next Katrina. Their vestigial ganglions firing a few neurons, both party leaders have issued reasonable statements and the Democrats offered an amendment to an unrelated Defense appropriations bill (more money for Iraq) to provide $3.08 billion to increase the vaccine and antiviral stockpiles (never mind there is no vaccine for bird flu yet or available antivirals for the stockpile), beef up global surveillance and provide assistance to the states for emergency preparedness (haven't I heard this before?). So a few of these airheads are onboard (typically too late), but all.

The bill's floor leader, Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska (the state whose pork-barrel bridges to nowhere are the poster child for misspent money), is a real treat. Thursday he complained the Democratic proposal was a waste of money:
"To compare the money we have in this bill to fund them (U.S. troops in Iraq) with funding a proposal to deal with virus ... that has not yet become a threat to human beings I think is wrong," Stevens said.

"We ought to wait for the scientists to tell us what needs to be done," Stevens added. (Reuters)
Hello - oh - ho. The Bush Administration? Listen to the scientists?

Like the bioterrorist infusion for public health, this money will likely be wasted, and anyway, by the time it gets to the end of the pipeline (if it ever does) it may be too late. The Bush Administration can't even finalize a Draft Pandemic Plan that is months overdue, even by their own tardy timetable. And the neutered and compliant CDC isn't even in the room any more, much less at the table. Until federal health authorities signal, but clear and urgent public statements that it is time to start moving with utmost speed, state and local health departments hard pressed by Republican budget cuts (often with Democrat collusion) won't divert their scarce resources from daily unmet vital public health needs to prepare for a pandemic of uncertain timing and severity. Thus it is up to local communities to mobilize their considerable resources to prepare on their own.

I'm glad the Democrats are finally showing signs of life. But it is too late to address this by the kind of stale solutions that haven't worked before and are not likely to work now. As in any crisis, this one will come down to neighbor helping neighbor. In a bad pandemic many things will go wrong, systems will fail and we will need to improvise workarounds. It isn't the apocalypse, any more than Ktrina was the end of the world. If we think ahead we will do much better when the time comes. The Flu Wiki is an attempt to organize the vast reservoir of wisdom and experience we already have in ways helpful to local community leaders, activists and citizens.

DemFromCT reports the amendment passed the Senate by unanimous consent last night. But it is likely to face a difficult time in the House and Stevens is said to be gunning for it in Conference committee. These are incompetent, shortsighted and greedy people. Stevens and his ilk will undoubtedly get their Tamiflu because they are "essential" government officials. And the rest of us? I guess we'll just have to do as he says and listen to the scientists.

And what the scientists are saying is that Senator Stevens is full of shit and he has put the rest of us in it.