What’s More Dangerous Than Ebola??

Question: What’s more dangerous than Ebola? Answer: How about ignorance, racism, hysteria…Not to mention that most of us face an immensely greater chance of dying from flu, guns, automobiles, obesity and other causes about which we don’t panic and against which we don’t even take reasonable precautions.

Ebola is one of those “gifts that keep on giving” for our sensation-loving news media. Like missing blonds in Aruba, media outlets can milk it for endless speculation and sensationalism, and best of all, terrifying the public requires virtually no actual journalism.

I’ve been increasingly annoyed by the hypocrisy and disproportionate coverage, but what really set me off was a recent Huffington Post compilation of crazy. Some of the hysterical pronouncements came from the “usual subjects”–Faux News, Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh, etc. (Donald Trump parades his idiocy at every available opportunity; he tweeted that Americans who go overseas to fight the outbreak should not be allowed to come back.)–but there were others.

I don’t know who Morgan Brittany is, but she evidently suggested that American government officials had “orchestrated” the whole thing.

“Maybe the current administration needs this to happen,” she wondered, “so martial law can be declared, guns can be seized and the populace can be controlled.”

For sure, Morgan. The fact that Obama hasn’t confiscated those guns yet is just part of his clever, nefarious plan to keep you off balance….

Someone named Cyril Broderick went her one better:

Broderick published an article in a Liberian newspaper, titled “Ebola, AIDS Manufactured By Western Pharmaceuticals, US DoD?” Between references to conspiracy theorist websites and “The Hot Zone,” a popular book about Ebola from the 1990s, Broderick implies the virus is a result of bioterrorism experiments carried out by the U.S. government in Africa.

And of course, Indiana embarrassment Todd Rokita had to chime in, claiming that “the real Ebola threat lies with Latin American immigrant children.” Well, Todd, glad to see you are maintaining your own immunity to accurate information.

There were many more, one crazier than the next.

We have an epidemic on our hands, all right, but it isn’t Ebola.


Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

A friend from Wisconsin sometimes sends me clippings from his local papers that he thinks I will find interesting. The most recent was a perfect example of so much that’s wrong with our policymaking today: it told of a researcher at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who had been studying strains of the Ebola virus.

Just as his research was beginning to show promise–just as he and his team had created a potential vaccine– his funding was terminated. As the paper reported

The experiments demonstrated the vaccine, when administered in two doses, is effective even against the most deadly Ebola strains. That’s when the money ran out…Kawaoka could not proceed with tests to determine whether the vaccine regimen might work with humans.

I’m sure that those parceling out the ever-shrinking resources available for such studies figured Ebola was too abstract an issue–that scarce funds needed to be directed to research with more immediate application.


Researchers in all areas, including but certainly not limited to the sciences, have raised concerns over the dwindling of government resources for research and development. This lack of concern for investing in our continued progress, like our disinclination to maintain and improve our basic infrastructure, signals a country on the decline.

Who was it who said “The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit”? Whether that is the meaning of individual lives may be up for debate–but concern for the long term and the willingness to invest in it absolutely must be a central precept for any nation that wishes to be–or remain–great.


Crazy and Scary

Crazy Republicans are making life miserable for the dwindling number of rational party members, and the same phenomenon (often involving the same people) is giving Christians a really bad name.

Loony tunes example number ten zillion:

Several news sites have reported on a rant by Christian Radio Host Rick Wiles, in which he shares his hope that the Ebola epidemic spreads to the US and “wipes out every last atheist and gay person in the country.”

“Now this Ebola epidemic can become a global pandemic and that’s another name for plague. It may be the great attitude adjustment that I believe is coming… Ebola could solve America’s problems with atheism, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, pornography and abortion.”

Leave aside the decidedly “unChristian” desire to see people with whom you don’t agree die in agony (what was that thing about “turning the other cheek”?), what leap of “logic” leads this zealot to believe that a horrific disease will be selective, and that its selectivity would be based upon his version of biblical “truth”?

Talk about creating God in one’s own image…

What’s really terrifying is that it is only a small step from this sort of faith-based delusion to a desire to help “God’s work” along, by bringing a pathogen to the U.S. and unleashing it. If you think that possibility is far-fetched, consider what the KKK, skinheads and other True Believers have been willing to do to protect their own racial or religious hegemony.

It’s time for the good Christians–and the good Republicans–to take their religion and their party back from the lunatics who are currently dominating the public face of both.


Dumb or Mean? You Decide…

I have been appalled by the heartless and ignorant rhetoric from our lawmakers about the refugee children who are in the U.S. seeking safety and asylum. It’s beyond ironic that most of it is being spewed by self-proclaimed pious “Christians.”

It’s bad enough that Indiana’s Governor–presumably playing to the GOP’s hysterically anti-immigrant base–wants these children returned immediately to their families. (Do not pass go, do not collect due process of law….) It’s beyond embarrassing that Republican members of Congress want the Administration to ignore the law, signed by President Bush, that sets out an orderly procedure for determining the children’s status– at the same time they are suing Obama for purportedly ignoring laws.

Now, one of Indiana’s Representatives has joined the reprehensible chorus.

According to the Northwest Indiana Times,

U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., suggested Monday that immigrant children from Central America could be carrying the ebola virus that has killed some 800 people this year in West Africa.

West Africa. Right next door to Central America. You really know your geography, Representative Rokita.  As the newspaper noted,

 No human ebola illness ever has been contracted in the Western Hemisphere and none of the 30,340 unaccompanied minors released this year to relatives or sponsors, including the 245 children placed in Indiana homes, have ebola, according to the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement.

The refugee agency notes on its placement reporting website that all children receive vaccinations and medical screenings before being released to a relative or sponsor and no child is released who has a contagious condition.

Rokita said he doubts that claim and suggested the better course would be to keep all the children together in one place — ignoring the fact that infectious diseases spread fastest among large groups.

The story quoted Rokita as warning that “if more children are released to Hoosier relatives, they’ll soon enroll in school and “ultimately your property taxes are going to go up.”

Because god forbid you’d pay a few cents more in property taxes to shelter and educate a couple of hundred frightened, dislocated children.

Now that I think about it, didn’t Jesus say  “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come unto me–but only if their papers are in order,  they can prove they don’t have ebola, and they won’t cost me any money”?

Yes, after listening to those good Christians Pence and Rokita, I’m sure that was the quote.