Friday, July 1, 2016

Zika Explained. It's the Republicans Fault of Course.

Political Incorrectness Warning.  If you have a low tolerance for same just look briefly at this adorable monkey picture and move on.

Oh, for cute as my old Scandinavian grandmother was wont to say.

It's no secret that our politics have gotten strange lately but last week a headline caught my eye that I thought just had to be a typo: "White House Threatens Veto of Zika Funding Bill".


It is hard to imagine why a veto would be threatened when Congress wants to designate $1.1 billion dollars to fight a disease.  But, you see, the Administration wanted $1.9 billion.

Now, it matters not one bit that there is little to no chance of another $800,000,000 being just found lying around somewhere.  This is an Election Year Disease and things are not what they seem.

First of all the Administration wanted "all new money".  Or to be more precise, since we are in deficit spending mode, all new debt. How irresponsible to use money "left over" from a fairly successful fight against the last Election Year Disease - Ebola - and from funding designated to set up Obama Care exchanges in U.S. Territories which will actually happen several geological ages after pigs learn to fly.  

Also, Paul Ryan and the House Republicans had the nerve to put this to a vote when most Democratic Representatives were staging a "sit in" thus depriving them of a chance to gripe about how stingy and inadequate over a billion dollars really was to fight this new, SCARY disease.

Zika has been around forever and was first discovered in 1947 in a rhesus macaque monkey in Uganda. Yep, that's one at the top of the article.  It is a moderately unpleasant illness to have although almost everyone survives it and seems to have life long immunity.  The mosquitoes that help it get around have been spreading around the world, with the global economy, the warming planet and the banning of DDT all contributing.  Of late it has been associated with sexual transmission and with birth defects in children.

Naturally there is great interest in doing something about it and many companies and institutions around the world are working - independent of US funding - on a vaccine. It is estimated that finding one will take two years and getting it past regulators will take....another six.

Zika is not the first disease to become an Election Year Disease.  But it has pretty much all the required criteria for a good one.  Interesting Name, check.  Foreign Origins, check.  Connection with sex, check.  Association with Man Damaged Rain Forest, check.

Although Election Year Diseases are a fairly new phenomena I think they are here to stay, courtesy of CSI type shows where all scientific problems can be solved in under an hour by wise cracking genius nerds typing on computers.  Let's review, shall we:

1976 Swine Flu.  Republican's fault because Gerald Ford did too much.
2014 Ebola  Republican's fault for questioning CDC policy on quarantine.
2016 Zika  Republican's fault for only finding a measly billion dollars.                                     

Of course all these diseases are also Republican's fault because everyone knows they don't much like foreigners, sex or Mother Nature.  

It is all so tedious and silly.  The CDC should take the billion dollars, say "Thanks, we'll get back to you if we need more".  It would buy a whole bunch of public service announcements telling people to get rid of old tires that mosquitoes breed in.   It would not of course allow for any Republican notions like draining swamp lands or liberally applying swell insecticides.  Nor would it have any influence on the slow process of regulatory approval of a vaccine.  Any children born in the interim with birth defects are the fault of Republicans for not giving more money to Planned Parenthood.

You will note that on the list of Election Year Diseases I have not included AIDS, even though it was an actively discussed issue in several election cycles.  That's because to be a really silly political issue you can have Ominous Threat but not significant numbers of Americans actually dying of an illness.

Across the political spectrum Americans are much, much better than the chumps who lead us. We know how to recognize real tragedy and step up in response.

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