and the Democratic party
The blister beetle or Spanish fly is a marvelous creature. It secretes a substance called cantharidin which causes chemical burns and blisters. They can be extremely painful. The substance is secreted by the male and gifted to the female, who uses it to coat her eggs. When it was discovered in the 18th century, it was considered one of the strongest poisons, on par with strychnine. But the poisonous cantharidin has important medical applications: it kills warts.
Last year, my 11-year old daughter developed a painful case of plantar warts. These are caused by the HPV virus and they are extremely difficult to treat. Mika had two removed surgically, but as long as the virus is present, they can keep coming back. For that reason, when she developed a third one, the doctor finally recommended trying cantharidin.
The application itself wasn’t too bad but within hours it started acting out. Even though Mika had taken a pain killer, the pain in her foot was excruciating. She begged me to stop it, but it was inside her, so there was nothing we could do.
The cantharidin was forming a blister underneath the wart, killing both the skin and the wart. Interestingly, the surface of the skin never blistered much. We didn’t go back to the doctor to have the wart removed either – Mika didn’t want to have anything to do with doctors anymore -, but eventually the pain stopped and the wart was gone. It’s been many months, and she’s wart-free so far.
I thought about blister beetles and cantharidin when I read a quote from an anonymous colleague of mine at the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee (ACDCC) calling me “poisonous”. Sometimes political bodies, just like organisms, can get a virus and develop a wart. In the case of the ACDCC, it has to do with conflicts-of-interest and a lack of commitment to transparency. I can only hope that my “poison” will be as effective here, as beetle poison was for my daughter.