Sunday, May 03, 2009

Libertarian Party infected by SARS, spreads fear

We all know about Swine flu but does anyone know about SARS? I mean, Sudden Acute Republican Syndrome. This disease infects the mind of alleged libertarians and suddenly turns them into Acute Republicans. Known carriers are Bob “Typhoid Mary” Barr and Wayne Allen Root.

Some time ago the headquarters of the (formerly) Libertarian Party suffered an epidemic of SARS. This is one reason that party officers used their positions to push the Barr campaign. This infection of SARS is the prime reason that I have severed any and all connections with the Libertarian Party. More importantly I consider the LP to be engaged in a campaign of “brand contamination” which destroys the value of using the word “libertarian” to describe a pro-liberty position.

Like many SARS victims the LP is exhibiting signs of delusionary thinking, most particularly in the form that more government control is a libertarian position and can solve the woes of the world. In a recent press release the LP demanded that Obama “more closely monitor crossings at the United States’ border with Mexico, and keep out persons infected with “swine flu.”

Apparently this “swine flu” has the swine in the LP office very worried. One such swine, Donny Ferguson, who is a paid pimp for the Republican-lites who run the party, says, “Libertarians support control over the entry into our country of foreign nationals who pose a threat to security, health or property.”

The LP demands that the government use its “authority over the border to control entry into our country of foreign nationals who pose a threat to our health by spreading the virus into areas where it does not exist.

Why is it that health professionals have almost all opposed the quarantine solution that the LP wants? Mainly because it is will do virtually nothing to stop the spread of the flu.

Even the LP, with its bout of SARS pushing it to embrace more energetic government once again, only whines about “foreign nationals” infected with the flu. But the main conduit for the flu into the United States has not been foreign nationals but American tourists. The LP, engaging in unsubtle xenophobia wants to prevent foreign nationals, but not US citizens, from coming into the country.

Last I knew the flu could spread from a citizen as easily as from a foreign national. So why single out foreign nationals? It isn’t to stop the spread of the flu since the LP is happy to allow infected Americans to cough inside our borders as much as they want. Amazingly, just as the Republicans are suffering a collapse due to their far Right agenda, which targeted minorities, the LP seems to be embracing a similar strategy. This may be a good thing, the sooner the LP collapses the sooner it will be that libertarians can start using the label libertarian again without being confused with the Republicans who have taken over the LP.

Instead of being a voice for reason and sanity the LP is trying to cash-in on the fear mongering that the media loves. Scary stories about global disasters get air time. But nothing in this outbreak of flu is significantly different than previous outbreaks of flu. Every year about 36,000 Americans die from the flu. Already an estimated 13,000 Americans have died of flu this year, totally unrelated to the current situation. This strain of the flu is no more virulent or deadly than the regular outbreaks of flu that we regularly see, in fact it may well be more mild than many. Yet rarely have we seen calls for increased border security—especially from alleged libertarians—over these routine cases of flu

The only difference I can see is that this outbreak started in Mexico where some children were the first to become infected. But anti-Mexican sentiment among xenophobes and racists is rather high, so they welcome anything that can be used to smear Mexicans or immigrants with open arms. If the flu had originated in Canada would we hear as much about the ethnicity of the first cases? I have my doubts.

What is troubling about this LP press release is that it is really an attempt to pander to the bigots. They want increased border scrutiny at Mexico but only applied to “foreign nationals,” i.e. Mexicans. I assume that the flu virus in Mexicans is clearly more problematic than the same virus carried across the border by American tourists.

Consider the main outbreak of flu in the United States today: New York City. In just a few days over 660 kids at St. Francis Preparatory School were ill—as were two dozen staff members. It spread to family and friends and soon over 1,000 were ill. In a few days the case numbers dropped and the infections seemed to stop. This has health officials baffled. But news reports indicate that a group of high schools, who had gone to Cancun for a vacation, had brought the illness back with them and it spread from there. And while many students got sick, tests indicated that many were ill with a completely different strain of flu altogether. Some didn’t have flu at all.

In other words, the biggest breakout of the flu virus would not have been stopped by the LP’s measure, even if fully implemented. It wasn’t busboys or hotel maids from Mexico infecting school kids. It was American teens who had travelled to Cancun for a vacation. Under the LP recommendation, those kids would still be admitted back to their home country. Imagine the outcry if they weren't.

The Centers for Disease Control say that one-third of all US cases of the flu were in people who contracted the illness while in Mexico. American tourists, not foreign nationals seem to be the main means of transmission of this virus. The CDC says that almost all US cases have been mild and only 13 people have needed hospitalization.

What makes the flu outbreak in Mexico sound so horrifying was the death rate but that death rate simply doesn’t transfer to America. The main reason for this difference is wealth. Mexicans, living on lower incomes, are more reluctant to pay for medical care when they become ill. They may wait longer to seek treatment than they should. The first death in Mexico was a woman who was ill for some time but didn’t want to spend money on health care until she was extremely ill—by then it was too late. While there were some 1,000 suspected cases in New York City none died. In Mexico, it should be noted, only 19 people have died from the disease—this is hardly the Black Death.

The unfortunate, but simple truth, is that the death rate in Mexico is higher because of poverty. The same disease, among wealthier Americans, has only a negligible impact.

So why the fear mongering by the LP? Why are they sounding like paranoid Republicans about gays or the crazed Left screaming about global warming? Using the politics of fear is an old tactic but usually one shunned by sane libertarians. Fear is simply not conducive to liberty. And this call is proof of it. The LP, when it was actually libertarian, tended to avoid fear campaigns because fear is always the tool of tyranny. Now, with Republican-lite leadership the LP is simply a Right-wing party with statist tendencies. For the most part those tendencies are less than what is found in the GOP but this LP press release shows they are willing to go head-to-head with the worst fear-mongers in the Religious Right.

Ask yourself exactly how border agents, who are not qualified in the medical sciences, are going to enforce the LP’s call for stepped up scrutiny. Harry Browne used to warn people that just because they think a government program is good, it doesn’t mean the government will run the program the way they want. Look at the crude, rude and often violent methods of the Travel Nazis who now police our airports. Consider how the Homeland Security thugs beat up a Baptist minister for mentioning his Constitutional rights.

We have elements of the government inclined to use violence at a drop of a hat. I could just imagine someone getting beat up because they sneezed near a border thug—it was for the good of the country and the person appeared to have assaulted the officer with a deadly weapon—his sneeze. Fanciful, but the government has killed people for less and then exonerated the thugs who did it. Do we want the same violence-prone thugs to be empowered to make on-the-spot medical evaluations and then take the necessary action to prevent "infections?" Why trust these thugs to get that right when they routinely get other things so very wrong?

But the LP now wants these same thuggish elements to have the power to conduct medical evaluations. You better suppress that cough at the airport lest the newly empowered thugs pull you aside as a threat to American health. These people are already getting their jollies frisking people and poking around their bodies, under the pretext of stopping suicide terrorists. They are already empowered to do strip searches merely on the hunch that it may be necessary. So the LP wants them to be able to justify such measures simply because of a sneeze, a cough or a sniffle. You may be tired from an international flight but the instant doctor at the border thinks you look sick so you are whisked off for further evaluations and scrutiny. And the LP call itself the party of “smaller government!” Jesus, they sound more like George W. Bush every day. And that’s no compliment.

We shouldn’t forget what happened the last time we allowed “swine flu” to panic us into demanding that government take action. Dr. Kevin Cahill, a top specialist in infectious diseases, warned “that in the last swine flu outbreak in the U.S. in 1976, more people died from taking the vaccination for the flu than the flu itself.” Yes, government often is literally the “cure” that is worse than the “disease.”

Consider what Dr. Marc Siegel, at Fox News said, “When all is said and done, it is looking more and more like H1N1 (a designation which describes two proteins on the surface of the flu virus which help it spread) will end up being a mild, over-hyped virus despite the fact that it is new.” Has the LP sunk so low that it is even more hysterical than voices at Fox News?

Siegel is the author of False Alarm: the Truth About the Epidemic of Fear. He says:
In 1976, when a swine flu virus appeared to kill a military recruit and then be present in the blood of 500 others (who never got sick) this led to a massive hysteria and vaccination program for a pandemic that never occurred. Forty million Americas were vaccinated and ascending paralysis (also known as Guillain Barre Syndrome) was associated with recipients in close to 1,000 patients.

Back in 1976 the prevailing theory was that pigs had been the source of the 1918 Spanish Flu, which was later disproven but served as an impetus for the hysteria at the time. In 2005, the knowledge that the 1918 scary virus was “bird-like” led the fear mongers to point a finger at an equally scary H5N1 virus that was killing millions of birds. But lost in the panic was the knowledge that human pandemics had likely never been caused by an H5 virus before.
In the current swine flu scare the virus is assumed to be a more powerful human killer than it actually is. In reality it appears to losing virulence as it spreads human to human and is not that transmissible, and is NOT becoming widespread.
Siegel sanely warns his readers that “H1N1 is another pandemic mostly of fear—something that is stronger and more infectious than any virus.” It is a crying shame that the (formerly) Libertarian Party has turned itself into an engine for deceptive fear mongering, demanding more vigorous government control. When the Libertarian Party, instead of debunking fear campaigns, begins to employ them for their own publicity it is time for the party to close up shop. They are spreading something infectious themselves, something which, long term, will do more damage than the flu. They are spreading the virus of big government while destroying the brand name of libertarianism.

More troubling for the LP's hysteria is the story that epidemiologists are investigating the earliest cases of this flu in the United States, cases that predate the outbreak in Mexico!
Michael Shaw, associate director for laboratory science for the influenza division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the flu theoretically could have appeared first in California, but he cautioned against drawing any conclusions since the strain also exhibited genetic characteristics traceable to Eurasia.

The first case discovered in California was a 10-year-old boy in San Diego County, who fell ill with a fever March 30.
So, there is some possibility that the disease was first manifested in the United States and spread to Mexico from here. If this were the case, what would the LP be suggesting then? Would they demand that US border agents use force to prevent Americans they suspect of being ill from leaving the country? If Californians first got sick would we have government agents preventing ill-looking residents from visiting any of the other 49 states? If not, then why not? Based on the premises the LP used in their press release the logical conclusion would be that we need government also preventing Americans from moving around the world, and their own country, merely on the suspicion that they might have the flu.

Somehow, though, I suspect that the LP wouldn't be calling for border agents to prevent Californians, who sneeze, from visiting Mexico. The reason for that is relatively simple: there is no organized anti-Californian movement to pander to.

Below is a film of some of the government propaganda from 1976 urging people to get inoculated from swine flu. Remember the inoculations were more deadly than the flu.

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