Sunday, June 15, 2008

Bird Flu

He's back. Perot. Ross Perot. The guy who elected clinton to the presidency, twice. Yeah, he siphoned almost 20 million votes away from the two main candidates, most of which would have gone to Bush/Dole. clinton was elected both times with less than 50% of the vote. So there's that. clinton was not a disaster as a president. As a man, yes. But he was just so slimy that it actually sort of worked to our benefit. He wasn't an ideologue, which in the case of a liberal is a very good thing. Upshot is, he worked with the Republican congress which forced him to be not-evil. What's this got to do with Perot?

Remember those infomercials, with those charts? As I say, he's back. Specifically, here. Thirty five charts, looking at the economy. And he's right, as far as I can tell. Frankly, I expected the news to be much worse. Non-discretionary spending is up -- mandatory things like Social Security and Medicare, and interest payments. But I was surprised. Interest payments on the national debt seem to be nine percent of total spending. That's way too much to be flushing down the toilet, especially given that the government makes, actually MAKES money. You'd think they'd find some way of not fattening up the bankers. Maybe that's the point, though. Even so, 9% doesn't sound like a number that would burst a bloodvein in your eyeball.

The danger is in the future. Predictions and projections can make it seem ominous. But I'm a bit sceptical. Yes, be prudent. Of course. Take measures. On the other hand, there is no such thing as the future. It doesn't exist. It's in the process of being made. Things that are not yet made do not exist. See? So while there are trends, and even seemingly inevitable outcomes -- like predictions about gravity -- that is of a different category.

The major two mandatory outlays of revenue are Social Security and Medicare. See? Old people. And projections have the ratio of old people growing geometrically. It's like they're breeding. If we could find some way to dump all these old folks, our problems would be solved. Heh heh. Which brings me to my point.

The great Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918 and 1919. Up to half the world's population was infected. Up to 100 million dead, worldwide. It killed almost three percent of the population of India. Eight million died in Spain in one month. An average mortality rate of 2.5%; death came sometimes within hours of infection. Twenty-eight percent of all Americans were infected; up to 850,000 died. Half of all American WWI deaths were to the flu. Life-expectancy statistics dropped in the US by ten years. Some patients would drown in the bloody froth that gushed from nose and mouth. Researchers have reconstructed the virus from frozen cadavers. When monkey subjects were infected, all the fatal symptoms appeared.

Usually flu is most deadly to infants and the elderly. Spanish flu was most fatal to those in their prime. The healthiest immune systems were most vulnerable. How very ironic.

Perhaps you think you're safe? That's just because you haven't been noticed yet. If you are an Evolutionist, you will suppose that mutations can be beneficial. Such is never the case. They always represent damage. What are thought of as beneficial mutations tend to be mere expressions of formerly unexpressed genes, or else non-adaptive changes that disappear from the wider breeding population when they are exposed to real-world conditions. Four-eyed flies last only in the laboratory. The world quickly weeds them out. So, yes, mutations happen, a lot, it seems, in bacteria and viruses. But that seems to be the function of bacteria and viruses. Time's hammer is poised to strike, and it never builds anything, randomly. Time is a demolition artist.

All this is good news, though, for the long-term budget projections. The fact that the 1918 influenza attacked the hardy is a general fluke. Usually it's the very young and the very old. You know, economic drains. Yes, yes, it's a shame and all that, about how so many people are always dying. Such a pity. If only no one ever had to suffer. But books have a way of balancing, eh? Sometimes viruses get involved in fiscal policy.

The much-vaunted bird flu of several years ago seems to have been another Y2K or Anthropogenic Global Warming. You know, another phony madeup pseudocrisis. But the Spanish flu, of which we've just been hearing, was a bird flu. The fact that this latest bird flu was a big nothing, so far, is no cause for reassurance. We tend to think of flu as just a sort of cold. Our grandparents and great-grandparents were filled with dread at the thought of it.

As I say, the future is entirely theoretical. Something we have a lot of ideas about, maybe some testing, mostly speculation. Who would have dreamed that clinton coincided with a responsible budget? Who would dare to suppose that the excesses of our current social trending might be corrected by the harsh and impersonal vagaries of nature slightly skewed?

Gay marriage? All it takes is another plague, and the pendulum turns into an ax. If only there were such a thing as moderation within sensible limits.


No comments: