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We will discuss the problem using IT bureaucracies as example, just because this is the area the author knows best. Introduction was converted to a separate article due to increased volume. See Note on Fundamental Absurdity of IT Management. Earlier research of absurdity of bureaucracies was limited to military bureaucracies. Classic early example here is immortal novel The Good Soldier Svejk.Please understand that epic technical incompetence of higher level management is more common then you would think. One warning signs is over-reliance on consultants (who mercilessly fleece those jerks), technical fads, promotion of cronies and fighting for territory (territorial games). All of those are just different manifestations of two core problems that is immanent in large corporations -- incompetence and absurdity.
There is also another side of technical incompetence -- the systemic rise of various types of authoritarians (especially double high authoritarians) and psychopath (especially female sociopaths) in management ranks. And authoritarians do not directly belong to the category of psychopaths they are no less, if not more, destructive. They are also much more numerous (approximately 4% of psychopaths vs. approximately 20% of authoritarians by some estimates). See
Please understand that death and life question of working in large corporate IT now is: How do we deal with incompetent leadership?
More complex question is about value of working in large corporations, including large corporate IT departments. Here my message is mixed. There are some unique opportunities within large corporations IT departments that you can't find elsewhere (so please don't assume that I am a simplistic nihilist), but you need to know quite a lot about authoritarian organizations to survive and prosper in such an environment. Social skills that are typically severely underdeveloped in many talented programmer and sysadmins are of crucial importance.
Learning them is also "life and death" issue, if you intend to survive in a large corporate IT environment. Platitudes about authoritarianism and absurdity aren't enough.
Like in military bureaucracy, the absurdity of IT management in large organizations is not anomaly, it is a fundamental feature due to tremendous and underappreciated complexity of the system and the way selection of managers works. And absurdity does not necessary matters complete inefficiency at the bottom level. Often rank-and-file employees do useful, competent job despite incompetence and absurd decisions and initiatives of higher management. This phenomenon was well researched in studies of the USSR and military bureaucracies. For example, sometimes army unit which were put in untenable doomed position because of incompetence of their higher command, managed to snatch the victory from the teeth of defeat.
There are three factor complex interplay between which guarantee the result:
In other words a typical middle level corporate IT manager is not the epic hero we once imagined. In most cases he/she is a despicable sucker. Now we know: typically he was never as smart or as right as we had hoped before promotions. And he deteriorated in his technical acumen since it. His teeth aren't perfect either. But let's not go overboard: he's also not an epic sociopath (or let's say he is not always a sociopath ;-). Most probably he is an authoritarian, though.
More commonly he is a person with good organizational and political skills (at least of "kiss up, kick down variety), who was able better then others to navigate his way in IT hierarchy. The tragedy of IT managers is that the field is fast changing and due to this fast pace of technical change, the job requires high level of technical competence. And this particular quality is very rare and due to this is often lacking. Tales of incredible, grotesque incompetence of key players in IT management in large corporations are abundant. I would mention several of my own:
But it is important to understand that despite inner absurdity, IT performs its tasks and it performs them well enough to keep a typical corporation profitable. So this is a "good enough" way as Parkinson and Peter understood long ago. Incredibly absurd, but good enough. This happens all the time. If you are a sysadmin, you are just a minor actor in this drama, a trench solder, so the best way is to enjoy the show and not take it too personally or seriously if somebody tells you that soon all your Linux systems will be running on VMware because they can. It is not necessary that he/she has relatives among VMware brass. Most often this is plain vanilla institutional stupidity.
Meetings mania. This is side effect of both responsibility avoidance and lack of trust between members of the organization but it has life of its own and became independent phenomena. When it strikes most managers spend good time of their day attending some kid of meetings. In extreme cases meetings are called because a particular manager just feels lonely...
Apr 05, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org
bevin , Apr 2 2020 16:32 utc | 8Philip Giraldi knows who to blame:
"...the intelligence agencies were warning about information derived from medical sources in China that suggested viruses were developing that might become a pandemic, but the politicians, most particularly those in the White House, chose to take no action. He writes that " the Trump administration has cumulatively failed, both in taking seriously the specific, repeated intelligence community warnings about a coronavirus outbreak and in vigorously pursuing the nationwide response initiatives commensurate with the predicted threat. The federal government alone has the resources and authorities to lead the relevant public and private stakeholders to confront the foreseeable harms posed by the virus. Unfortunately, Trump officials made a series of judgments (minimizing the hazards of COVID-19) and decisions (refusing to act with the urgency required) that have needlessly made Americans far less safe."
"The article cites evidence that the intelligence community was collecting disturbing information on possibly developing pathogens in China and was, as early as January, preparing analytical reports that detailed just what was happening while also providing insights into how devastating the global proliferation of a highly contagious and potential lethal virus might be. One might say that the intel guys called it right, but were ignored by the White House, which, per Zenko, acted with "unprecedented indifference, even willful negligence...."
c1ue , Apr 2 2020 18:32 utc | 36@bevin #8
In January? Really? Seems like the highly paid and budgeted intelligence agencies should be able to do a better job of predicting the nCOV threat before China instituted a shutdown on January 23 due to its view that nCOV was a problem.
Frankly, seems more like intel agency ass covering than anything else.
Apr 05, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org
JC , Apr 2 2020 20:17 utc | 65The KN95 mask is a Chinese alternative to the scarce N95 mask, but the FDA refuses to allow it into the country.
Anyone know why KN95 banned?
A.L. , Apr 2 2020 20:49 utc | 78A.L. , Apr 2 2020 20:30 utc | 73
Additional comments regarding Chinese KN95 and why it's banned in 'murica
Getting type approval means paying for certification so a lot of domestic chinese brands won't bother going for EN or NIOSH as those markets are stitched up by big names like 3M.
Some lesser brands or importers OEM them from China but will pay for certification for US NIOSH for example, they would have their branding on it and probably contractual limitation on market exclusivity, even though they're probably pumped off the same production line.
and because they're made by suppliers serving the domestic market in China, they're about 30% - 40% cheaper than N95
so it begs the question, in times like these why wouldn't you allow a temporary standards equivalency recognition?
The only motivation I can see beyond red tape is the KN95 masks generally will have Chinese printing on them (brand, model, certification etc) and how would the US narrative go when everyone is wearing Chinese masks on the streets?@JC 65William Gruff , Apr 2 2020 21:07 utc | 82
mask standards comparison
they're pretty much the same.You can still order KN95 masks from AliExpress .
Apr 04, 2020 | www.youtube.com
The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms .
Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don't need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing.
Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply.
Masks don't replace hand washing and social distancing.
Apr 04, 2020 | wallstreetonparade.com
Unmasking the Truth on Masks to Protect Against Coronavirus: Fire the Surgeon General
By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: April 3, 2020 ~
On March 23 we wrote this: " For want of a mask the largest economy in the world has been gutted, with Goldman Sachs now projecting that U.S. GDP could contract by as much as 24 percent in the second quarter." Now, in the past two weeks, 10 million Americans have filed claims for unemployment. Let that sink in, 10 million of our fellow citizens have lost their jobs in just a two-week period.
In the same article linked above, we showed a photo dated March 4 from the Associated Press of people packed together on a subway in New York City with almost no one wearing a mask. And then we explained why:
"On February 29, the Surgeon General Tweeted that the public should stop buying masks – despite scientific agreement that the virus is spread by sneezing, coughing and talking. The Surgeon General's advice may have made sense for people living on a 10 acre farm in New Hampshire but it was dangerous advice for people who can't afford taxis and are forced to ride a packed subway to work each day in Manhattan."
Because there were simply not enough masks to go around, the Surgeon General effectively lied to the American people.
Now, New York City is the global epicenter of the coronavirus with more deaths than anywhere else in the country. As of this morning, the New York Times is reporting a total of 51,810 cases and 1,562 deaths in New York City – which is 25 percent of the deaths in the entire United States, despite New York City representing just 2.6 percent of the U.S. population.
This past Monday, March 30, MSNBC news host, Chris Hayes, told his viewers this:
"At the beginning of this crisis, the World Health Organization and the CDC came out and basically said that if you're healthy, you just don't need to wear a mask around public to protect yourself or others from Coronavirus.
"Now, over the weekend, there was a rumbling the CDC was about to change its guidance to suggest Americans should wear protective masks, and while the CDC is now denying that reporting, and saying it is not updating its guidance, it is very hard to ignore the fact that the countries where masks are most prevalent, particularly in East Asia, are the ones doing the best job of battling the virus . [Italics added.]
"A prominent Chinese doctor was recently asked by Science magazine what mistakes are other countries making, quote, 'the big mistake in the U.S. and Europe in my opinion is that people aren't wearing masks.' "
Yesterday, April 2, the Washington Post published an OpEd by Joseph G. Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings Program at Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The title of the OpEd was this: " You Need to Wear a Mask. Here's How ." Allen wrote this:
"The debate is over. You should be wearing a mask when you go out
"First, masks of any type help prevent the user from infecting others by acting as a physical barrier that will block large droplets from coughs and sneezes. These droplets can travel up to 20 feet with a powerful sneeze, so six feet of social distancing is not always enough. And wearing masks is not just a good thing for those who are actively sick: Any one of us might be harboring this virus asymptomatically and could transmit it to others, cascading into a thousand new infections."
Allen also correctly pointed out that "Wearing a mask does not replace other important public health control measures such as hand-washing, social distancing, covering your cough and cleaning surfaces."
Allen critically noted that while N95 masks must be reserved for front-line health care workers, people can and should be making their own masks. Unfortunately, Allen suggested using a 100 percent cotton t-shirt, which this tutorial on the proper way to make a mask recommends against . A T-shirt is knit, thus making it subject to stretching. The tutorial recommends using a double layer of high-thread-count 100 percent cotton from sheets or pillow cases made out of Percale or a list of other fabrics.
According to the CDC, the 1918 flu pandemic, known as the "Spanish Flu," resulted in the death of 50 million people globally and an estimated 675,000 people in the United States. The photograph above likely explains one of the numerous reasons that the Spanish Flu was not contained in the U.S. Red Cross volunteers were using highly porous gauze to make masks.
Yesterday, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio said this: "We're advising New Yorkers to wear a face covering when you go outside and will be near other people. Let's be clear, this is a face covering. It could be a scarf, it could be a bandana, something you create yourself."
NBC News is reporting this morning that "The White House is expected to urge Americans who live in areas of high coronavirus transmission to wear cloth face coverings to prevent the spread of the virus, a senior administration official told NBC News on Thursday night." Clearly, the whole country should be wearing properly-made, home-made masks so that their town doesn't become the next heavily impacted area.
It didn't need to take this long and the loss of this many lives and the U.S. economy to figure out the obvious. The Surgeon General's negligent Tweet on February 29 should have told Americans to stop buying N95 masks needed desperately by health care professionals and advised them on how to properly make their own masks. The Surgeon General should be held accountable and lose his own job along with the other 10 million Americans who didn't give out dangerously bad advice.Bookmark the permalink . ← Fed's Balance Sheet Blasts to $5.8 Trillion; Suggests Fed Is Back to Bailing Out Foreign Banks along with Wall Street
Apr 04, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org
vk , Apr 3 2020 22:53 utc | 90With the mask fiasco comes the relief fund fiasco:
Long-term customers shocked as Bank of America restricts coronavirus bailout loans to businesses who've borrowed before
The USA is struggling to alocate its resources.
Apr 03, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org
Trailer Trash , Apr 2 2020 19:09 utc | 46Nope, sorry, not gossip, just bad searching by me. Please accept my apologies, Taffyboy.
Anthony Fauci says coronavirus 'might keep coming back' year after year -- 'the ultimate game changer in this will be a vaccine'
'If we get to the part of the curve where it goes down to essentially no new cases, no deaths for a period of time, I think it makes sense that you have to relax social distancing'
"The one thing we hope to have in place, and I believe we will have in place, is a much more robust system to be able to identify someone who is infected, isolate them, and then do contact tracing."
Sounds like someday they might set up a real test, treat, and trace program, but no specifics. I learned a decade ago that when an NIH official says, "We hope to have in place", they really mean, "Not an F'ing Chance In Hell Will We Do It".
Someone really needs to investigate Fauci's connections to the drug industry, patent royalties, and NIH "public-private partnerships". Something here stinks to high heaven, and it's not just yesterday's fish.
Apr 03, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org
Noirette , Apr 2 2020 17:32 utc | 26Some of the underlying 'causes' of the mega-disaster to unfold in USA.
Geography, huge, with Federation pol. structure.
It appears the Fed. authorities are weak and disorganised, etc. Ex. the CDC seems to play little role, not a consequent one. States put in place their own policies, which vary from quite strict to almost none at all re. preventing contact (1, just an ex., not much good) and generally, coordination is lacking - a patchwork of policies absent strictly enforced borders will produce crap results.
Exceptionalism and individualism. Americans are used to feeling 'exceptional', i.e. free to do as they please or what they *think* is fit (individualim, in fact the scope for action for citizens is very narrow), righteous and protected (exeptionalism..), and I mean this not in the sense that ppl will resist constraints / orders / appeals, advice, etc. but that the society is too dependent on opinions, tribes, cult-like groups, as all is OK (identity politics, cultish religions, wacky opinions, not to mention cabals, monopolistic groups, etc.) and is reflected, taken on board, by authorities - see some of b's exs.
Oligarchy and crony capitalism.
Health care, public health are For Profit Enterprises. Such a system is incapable of taking care of the population on the ground, it isn't designed for that, and can't take on the task. The MIC (medical industrial complex, Big Pharma the no. 1 actor, med. machinery no. 2.) is geared to extracting profit where it can be found.
This implies billing those who can pay (privatising health care > the rich have access but the poor not), and giving a lot of room to 'middle men' (e.g. insurance cos) who can extract from the middles and plebs what they can 'bear' or 'pay' outside of any illness or need for health care. Scam on scam, institutionalised.
It also ensures that treatment, procedures, medications, and more will be based on 'what can be sold' to a gullible public or 'what can be made mandatory / heavily advised' thru lobbying, i.e. in accord with the corrupted stooge Gvmt. -- completely divorced from any public health criteria.
So this won't end well....(not that other countries are so much better, but other topic.)
Apr 02, 2020 | thehill.com
Donny Lied Americans Died • 10 hours agoTesting is everything. And, the U.S. has seen a criminal shortage of tests that continues to this day
Apr 01, 2020 | www.theamericanconservative.com
Notfor Yu • 2 days agoFauci is a doctor by training but a bureaucrat by occupation, he has been Director of NIAID for 26 years. Thats a bureaucrat job.Argon Notfor Yu • 2 days ago
Actual scientists don't repeatedly go in front of the media to back up politicians.Notfor Yu Argon • a day agoActual scientists don't repeatedly go in front of the media to back up politicians.
You do if that's what is necessary to save people and minimize a crisis. He may not be in the lab anymore but Fauci does keep up with the latest science. That's a necessary prerequisite for directing a critical scientific institute.So far in the 2019-2020 flu season, 54,000,000 people have had the flu, 24,000 to 64,000 people have died. Its a range because many patients had more than one illness and its difficult to place blame on a single illness. Flu mortality this year is 0.12 This year is not even a bad flu year.
The CDC projections for covid is mortality at 0.2-0.5 and most likely about 0.3
Does Fauci try to put covid in context? No, he hypes it just like the rest of the politicians.
NIAID is a huge organization, a budget of $5.9B, many employees all over the country, activities in foreign nations. The director of such a huge (and political) organization is a bureaucrat, thats just the fact of life.
Apr 01, 2020 | off-guardian.org
The situation with masks is really horrible. Especially if you think about one trillion military budget. If you've been the Head Guy for Infectious Diseases for 35 years – like Dr Fauci – since 1984, serving under 6 Presidents . and you still are NOT prepared for a Pandemic which is still in the beginning stages – which has so far infected LESS THAN 1% of all Americans, and you don't even have basic things such as Gloves or Face Masks stored up in a Government warehouse
Greg Bacon ,If you've been the Head Guy for Infectious Diseases for 35 years–like Dr Fauci–since 1984, and you have served under 6 Presidents . and you still are NOT prepared for a Pandemic which is still in the beginning stages – which has so far infected LESS THAN 1% of all Americans, and you don't even have basic things such as Gloves or Face Masks stored up in a Government warehouse .. and don't even have basic plans or schematics to build a basic piece of equipment like a ventilator . then you are the biggest failure to ever serve in Government.
He only had 1 job, to deal with Infectious Diseases, he only had 35 years to prepare, he only had a budget of $Tens of Billions, and he failed severely within a few weeks of the USA being struck by a virus – right out of the gate he failed, wasn't prepared in the least.
In the real world, you'd get fired and maybe charged with manslaughter, but in the world of DC, this clown will probably get a raise and a medal.
Fauci is either the biggest doctor in clown world or this COVID hysteria is part of a plan.
Gary Weglarz ,Greg – "Fauci is either the biggest doctor in clown world or this COVID hysteria is part of a plan" – perhaps both are true simultaneously.
Here is Fauci from a just published peer reviewed article in the New England Journal of Medicine. Cognitive dissonance anyone?
"If one assumes that the number of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic cases is several times as high as the number of reported cases, the case fatality rate may be considerably less than 1%. This suggests that the overall clinical consequences of Covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) . . "
Cicatriz ," then you are the biggest failure to ever serve in Government"
I still think there's competition.
Apr 01, 2020 | www.bloomberg.com
Andrew Rehder, manager of 3M Co. 's respirator mask factory in Aberdeen, S.D., got the call from headquarters on Tuesday, Jan. 21. He gathered about 20 managers and supervisors into a conference room, where they sat, unworried, less than 6 feet apart. Rehder told them that a new virus was spreading rapidly in China and that 3M was expecting demand for protective gear to jump.
The Aberdeen plant had already ramped up production of respirator masks in response to demand from first responders battling wildfires in Australia and contending with a volcano in the Philippines. Now, Rehder told his charges, Aberdeen would shift to "surge capacity." Idle machinery installed for precisely this purpose would be activated, and many of the plant's 650 employees would immediately start working overtime. "We knew it wouldn't be a two-week blip, it would be longer," Rehder says. "But I had no idea."
This is 3M's moment, one for which the staid, 118-year-old Minnesota manufacturing giant -- the maker of Post-its, Scotch tape, touchscreen displays, and scores of other products -- has been preparing for almost two decades. Coming out of the SARS epidemic of 2002-03, the company realized it wasn't fully equipped to handle unexpected explosions of demand in the event of a crisis, or what it calls an "X factor." It decided to build surge capacity into its respirator factories around the world.
Over the years, with X factors such as the Ebola panic and the H1N1 flu virus generating flash floods of demand, the company kept refining its emergency response. When the world started clamoring for respirator masks to help confront coronavirus, 3M was ready.
People everywhere are scrambling for ventilators, Covid-19 test kits, bleach, and toilet paper. But almost no item is as scarce -- and as vital to addressing this medical emergency -- as the N95 respirator masks made by 3M, Honeywell, Medicom, and a smattering of other companies. Without respirators, doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel are at increased risk of contracting the affliction they're treating.
China, where this coronavirus originated, also happens to produce half the world's respirators. As the outbreak spread , the Chinese government halted mask exports and demanded that all in-country manufacturers, including 3M, crank up production. Shortages swiftly developed as Covid-19 cases appeared in Asia, Europe, and the U.S., forcing health-care workers to reuse old respirators and cobble together ersatz masks from materials bought at craft stores. In America, states are bidding against one another for masks priced as much as 10 times the usual cost of 60¢ to 80¢ apiece.
3M can't save the day on its own, but it's promising a remarkably large contribution. The company has in two months doubled global production of N95 masks to about 100 million a month, and it's planning to invest in new equipment to push annual mask production to 2 billion within 12 months. On March 22, Chief Executive Officer Mike Roman said in a news release that 3M had sent 500,000 respirators to hard-hit Seattle and New York City, and that it was ramping up production of hand sanitizers and disinfectants as well. Two days later, Roman said 3M would work with Ford Motor Co. to produce powered air purifying respirators, waist-mounted devices that blow air into helmets that shield wearers. Honeywell is also increasing N95 production, saying it will hire at least 500 people to expand capacity at a facility in Rhode Island.
Although businesses globally have emptied out, more than half of 3M's 96,000 employees are still showing up for work in its factories and warehouses. "It's been amazing," says Rehder, who's in the Aberdeen plant seven days a week, usually walking the floor, which is now marked with yellow tape to keep workers from violating the imaginary 6-foot infection barrier. "People are very proud to work in a place that's making respirators, especially with the need that's out there now."
Apr 01, 2020 | www.unz.com
Jus' Sayin'... , says: Show Comment March 31, 2020 at 4:15 pm GMT@Anon Agree! As I just wrote in an email to some friends:
I've argued for several weeks that we are in a "fog of war" situation, i.e., critical decisions MUST be made but there is insufficient information upon which to make these decisions. On the one hand, if estimates of SARS-COV-19's infectiousness and lethality are as great as some think then, without extreme public health` interventions, including some that take a wrecking ball to the economy and the Bill of Rights, we face death rates not seen since the 1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic. On the other hand, if the estimates of SARS-COV-19's infectiousness and lethality are much too high or, even more frightening, there is no "herd immunity" and the pandemic recurs each year, then we may wind up destroying our economy and creating nation-destroying levels of social unrest, while ultimately not affecting the course of the current pandemic in any meaningful way. After stupid and ill-advised complacency during the early stages of the current pandemic, our ruling elite and their policy makers seem to have panicked, assumed the worst, and adopted the first option.
My personal feeling is that this was a serious mistake. Far less stringent public health measures would have been the best option, e.g., encouraging the wearing of face masks in public (which the CDC has evidently just begun doing after discouraging the practice for nearly two months), banning large gatherings, and quarantining those who are obviously ill. This would have moderated pandemic deaths while not wrecking the economy and generating social disorder. It's too late for that now. We've already shattered the economy ( http://endoftheamericandream.com/archives/supplies-are-starting-to-get-really-tight-nationwide-as-food-distribution-systems-break-down ). Social disorder on a massive scale is almost certain to follow.
The saddest part of all this is that even if SARS-COV-19's infectiousness and lethality are as high as the more extreme estimates suggest, we might have been better off with a restrained public health policy. The results would have been ugly, something like the 1918 Pandemic with the medical system overwhelmed and bodies piling up in the streets. The political parties in charge would be damaged beyond repair as a result of their apparent malfeasance. But when the dust settled, the country would recover quickly. The economy would still be intact, or at least not much worse than before. In fact, a significant amount of economic and demographic deadwood and drags on the economy , e.g., unproductive pensioners like me, disabled persons, the "homeless", etc., might be effortlessly removed from this vale of tears, society and the economy. From a purely utilitarian standpoint this would be a net benefit to the country.
After disruptions like those I'm envisioning, as the inevitable result of current public health policies, the only way the ruling elite and establishment can retain control is with a catastrophic distraction, e.g., a national coup d'etat or phony revolution, or an international war of WW I proportions. I'm expecting that very bad things will follow in the wake of this pandemic and the ruling elites' responses.
Apr 01, 2020 | www.zerohedge.com
Authored by Mac Slavo via SHTFplan.com,
This is irony at its finest.
The United States Surgeon General used twitter to tell the public to NOT use face masks to protect against the coronavirus because they don't work, they only work for health care workers. Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering a recommendation that people wear masks when in public.
Mar 30, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org
dltravers , Mar 29 2020 20:02 utc | 45The U.S. Tried to Build a New Fleet of Ventilators. The Mission Failed.
Apparently a low cost ventilator was constructed years ago by direction of the Federal government. The company was bought out by another company that produced higher costs ventilators and the project died.
Mar 30, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org
Trailer Trash , Mar 29 2020 20:25 utc | 51Looks to me like Dr Francis Collins, director of the US National Institute of Health
He is no longer AWOL? You have seen or read a recent interview? For at least a month or two, it has been Fauci, Fauci, Fauci, and not a hint of his boss Collins. Perhaps Collins has been too busy handing out guitar picks.
At the outset of his... presentation..., NIH director Dr. Francis Collins described new guitar pick-shaped lapel pins ... popping up around NIH and even on Capitol Hill that tout "Hope at NIH." These arose not only out of Collins' reputation as a musician, but also as "insignia that we believe in what we are doing," said Collins. "You want to pick NIH and you want to pick hope," he said, inviting the group to wear the symbols with pride.
Who needs research or effective planning when we've got "Hope at NIH"?
In 2017 he was been busy promoting Mind/Music/Magic pseudo-science. Maybe he got lost backstage.
"Music and the Mind," on the intersection of music and science. There will be performances, presentations, and discussions by Dr. Collins, Ms. Fleming, the National Symphony Orchestra, neuroscientists, music therapists, and others. Some events are free, open to the public, and will be streamed online
Too bad he is too busy to run his $35 billion agency. Good thing he has Fauci to do it for him.
Mar 28, 2020 | www.unz.com
Turk 152 , says: Show Comment March 27, 2020 at 3:04 pm GMTThe shortage could also be a matter of the medical bureaucracy at play. A primary driver in physicians actions is whether or not they will be sued. If they prescribe malaria medication for covid-19, a use that has not gone through clinical trials and FDA approval, could they be sued if someone dies? They may expect it to work, which is why they are hoarding for themselves and their family. But, if someone dies while being treated by ventilator, they have no exposure because it is currently within medical guidelines.
In contrast, Chinese doctors can and are solving the problem through trial and error. One doctor tries a medication on a patient and if the patient recovers he can communicate to other doctors to try the medication. They dont have a system in which an attorney looking for cash shows up if an already dying patient dies anyway.
This is a big problem for the US that is going to lead to many unnecessary deaths.
Mar 28, 2020 | www.unz.com
Agent76 , says: Show Comment March 27, 2020 at 8:31 pm GMTMar 27, 2020 Dr. Fauci and COVID-19 Priorities: Therapeutics Now or Vaccines Later?
There is a raging debate in our government. How should America respond to the Coronavirus crisis? With therapeutic drugs? Or with a vaccine?
Mar 27, 2020 | www.theamericanconservative.com
Not Just China: U.S. Reliance on Foreign Medical Supplies is Staggering
The government's own numbers tell a frightening tale of how this happened, and when.Virus pandemic having exposed scary domestic shortages of critical medical goods ranging from safety masks to ventilators, along with potential shortages of pharmaceuticals, political leaders across the spectrum are finally regretting having allowed so much output of these products to migrate offshore.
China's role in global supply chains has understandably sparked much of the alarm, since its government has all but threatened to withhold supplies of medicines whenever it wishes. But all told, at least 38 countries (including the 27-member European Union) have curbed exports of anti-pandemic products at some point since the CCP Virus began dominating headlines.
So potential foreign chokeholds in the nation's health care-related supply chains appear global in scope. The federal government's best data make clear just how widespread the problem has become, and how steadily it's been growing.
The figures come from the government's statistics on industry-by-industry manufacturing output and on exports and imports. (The output data can be accessed through databases created by the Census Bureau for its Annual Survey of Manufactures that are located at this link . The trade numbers can be retrieved at an interactive database maintained by the U.S. International Trade Commission that's located at this link .)
Put together, they reveal how big a share of the American markets for drugs, medical devices, and protective gear is controlled by goods made overseas. The big takeaway is that the nation could be in big enough trouble if supply disruptions were to occur in normal times (say, due to natural disasters in manufacturing centers abroad). During a high-mortality pandemic like the CCP Virus, these levels of foreign dependency are high enough to guarantee significant numbers of needless deaths.
These statistics aren't problem-free. Principally, because the manufacturing output figures are so granular, and therefore take so long to compile, import penetration rates for these (and other manufactures) can be calculated only through 2016. Yet the more timely import numbers can provide a reasonable indication of whether vulnerabilities are worsening or shrinking. At the same time, the government's main trade data aren't nearly as detailed as the production numbers. As a result, it's not possible to know the percentage of, say, safety masks used in the United States that are produced abroad. But it's easy to come up with this number for the category in which masks (and other protective gear) are grouped -- surgical appliances and supplies.
And in fact, the import penetration trends for these products exemplify the nation's health care security weaknesses. In 2002 -- a good baseline, since that's the first year China was a member of the World Trade Organization -- imports overall accounted for 16.7 percent of all surgical appliances and supplies used in the United States (measured by value, not numbers of masks or pairs of gloves). During the first full year of the Great Recession, 2008, this share totaled 28.08 percent.
Notably, these imports from China were a tiny 1.5 percent in 2002, and had actually dropped to 0.49 percent by 2008. By 2016, they accounted for a seemingly modest 6.54 percent of American consumption. But here's where another weakness in the data emerges: they say nothing about the origin of the materials, parts, and components of the final goods.
Keeping this qualification in mind, overall, 32.41 percent of surgical appliances and supplies were imported from other countries by 2011, according to these figures. In 2016, that number reached 41.81 percent of a $33.71 billion U.S. market. It may well be higher these days, as between then and last year, U.S. overseas purchases jumped by more than 29 percent. (Interestingly, in light of domestic shortages, U.S. exports in appliances and supplies actually rose by more than 13 percent during this period!)
Ventilators, sadly, have been in the news, too; they and related products like oxygen tents and bronchoscopes and inhalators and suction equipment are found in a big goods category called surgical and medical instruments. In 2002, imports from all corners of the world represented 22.04 percent of American consumption. By 2016, this figure stood at 35.91 percent of a $37.5 billion national market, and over the next three years, imports grew nearly 31 percent. (Exports expanded at a relatively slow 11.84 percent.)
Again, the China figures are small beans -- the import penetration rate for 2016 was a mere 2.35 percent. But these products often contain lots of electronics parts, and half the world's printed circuit boards, for example, are made in the People's Republic. In other words, lots of existing global surge capacity throughout the sector is ultimately controlled by Beijing.
Thanks to the work of researchers like the Hastings Center's Rosemary Gibson and independent journalist Katherine Eban, heavy and sometimes exclusive U.S. reliance on China for the chemical ingredients of numerous medicines has now become a major federal government concern. Indeed, the Food and Drug Administration is keeping an especially close eye on the availability of no fewer than 20 pharmaceutical products that use Chinese raw materials. (Unfortunately, the FDA won't say what they are, which calls for some Freedom of Information Act requests, pronto.)
But the import penetration figures make clear that supply disruptions could also originate elsewhere. Between 2002 and 2016, drugs produced overseas more than doubled their share of America's consumption (which stood at nearly $200 billion three years ago), from 17.23 percent to 38.51 percent. As of 2019, moreover, U.S. drugs imports were 20.34 percent higher than in 2016.
The main foreign suppliers to the American pharmaceuticals market as of last year look encouragingly diversified and encouragingly friendly. For example, Ireland was number one, with 22.15 percent of such shipments, followed by Switzerland with 14.05 percent. But third and fourth, with 8.87 percent and 8.39 percent of imports, were Germany and India, respectively, both of which have limited or embargoed their medical exports this year. And number five, at 7.38 percent, was Italy -- whose current CCP Virus devastation could easily bring about export restrictions.
Nor is this pattern restricted to pharmaceuticals. Last year, America's leading foreign supplier of surgical and medical instruments (the ventilators category) was Mexico, which sold U.S. customers 28.58 percent of the $17.62 billion of total imports. But export-curber Germany was number three, at 9.43 percent, and China was sixth, at 6.93 percent.
For surgical appliances and supplies (the masks and protective gear category), Ireland topped the 2019 foreign supplier list, selling the United States 24.09 percent of its $18.21 billion of total imports. But China was second, at 15.29 percent, and in third place, at 9.68 percent, stood Malaysia, which banned mask exports on March 20.
Purely domestic policy steps, like mandating more stockpiling or new recycling and re-use strategies, undoubtedly can add to national medical products supplies. But even these general import penetration figures, along with the shortage reports that keep pouring in, make clear that enduring national health care security can't be restored without a major ramping up of domestic output. And since export-heavy economies like China's and Germany's will undoubtedly work overtime to keep their American health care customers -- including with all manner of predatory economic practices -- it's similarly clear that big, lasting U.S. departures from standard free trade policies will be unavoidable.
Alan Tonelson is the founder of RealityChek, a public policy blog focusing on economics and national security, and the author of The Race to the Bottom .
Mar 27, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org
vk , Mar 27 2020 14:24 utc | 199USG is squabbling with the private sector to purchase ventilators more cheaply:
After Considering $1 Billion Price Tag for Ventilators, White House Has Second Thoughts
Mar 27, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org
Allen , Mar 27 2020 1:57 utc | 113The money-driven institutions long ago hijacked America's health agencies–the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), FDA, Health and Human Services (HHS), National Institutes of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), National Institutes of Mental Health, and the USDA– authentic scientific inquiry of any sort is virtually impossible in this climate.
During the past two decades the lines dividing the pharmaceutical industry and the federal health agencies has become increasingly blurred to put it kindly. The revolving door between private interests and top government employees at these agencies is well documented. One example is former CDC director Julie Gerberding who left government to become president of Merck's vaccine division, a move that earned her upwards of $3 million in stock options.
Keep in mind that CDC members own more than 50 patents connected to vaccinations.
Each of the 12 members of the CDC's ACIP Committee has a significant influence on the health of nearly every member of the American population. These are the people who are responsible for adding to and/or altering the national vaccine schedule. Does anyone believe for a second that given that these CDC members have a direct financial interest in this matter that they can remain objective and unbiased in creating vaccine policy, for example.
A significant number of ACIP committee members receive direct financial returns when more vaccinations are added to the current schedule. Many own vaccination related patents.
Some examples of patents owned or shared by members of the CDC and/or ACIP committee are;
1) Nucleic acid vaccines for prevention of flavivirus infection"
2) Various vaccination testing methods
3) Adjuvant patents
4) Assays that assist vaccine development
5) Vaccine quality control
Members of the CDC also own stock shares of the pharmaceutical companies responsible for supplying new vaccines to the public. Others receive research grant money, funding for their academic departments, or payments for the oversight of vaccine safety trials.
In 2007 the WHO changed it's definition of what qualifies as a pandemic. That needs to considered in the context of how the WHO changing it's funding mechanisms in 2005- meaning they went from a member states funded entity to a "private/public" partnership (PPP's).
As you might imagine the pharmaceuticals became primary donors and began to influence and now control policy decisions that come down from the WHO. Let's also keep in mind that when a "global pandemic" (again this is now defined by a decision-making body tied to large Pharma companies) is officially declared, certain powers now become "legal" for governments.
One of THE main outcomes in these PPP's is that virtually all funding for medical research gets funneled into certain spheres- meaning towards research that is ultimately going to benefit those companies funding it- Big Pharma.
Mar 25, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org
Pft , Mar 24 2020 23:40 utc | 104US has actually performed over 150,000 tests. The problem is too much testing.
PCR detects DNA or RNA of both live and dead organisms, positive test results may be achieved even if the infection has been controlled
Also, one must know the tests specificity and disease prevalence. If specificity is 99.5% and disease prevalence is 0.5%, testing everyone regardless of symptoms or risk will yield 50% false positives (half the positives are false).
The tests on the market are self validated. FDA does not review manufacturers data. No tort liability for covid 19 tests or vaccines
China did very little testing the first 2 months the disease wa spreading. We now know retrospectively the first case was November 17, and expanded testing did not begin until Jan 18 after 16 consecutive days of no new cases. Lockdown did not begin until Jan 23. Its impossible for the virus to have been contained in Hubei as we are led to believe from data reported from other provinces
Likewise I would not trust data from anywhere given the nature of the tests. At the end of the day we will need to look for any bump in total deaths from all causes, population reduction and age data to estimate the impact
There is obviously a lot of profit incentive for making people believe there is a threat, which is why our trusted and reliable MSM play it up. But for some reason the so called evils of capitalism and fake news MSM are ignored by the most faithful opponents of both in support of the Pandemic Vaccine Industrial Complex
Mar 25, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org
jayc , Mar 24 2020 18:10 utc | 27It's incredible that the Director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was a participant in the Gates Foundation Event 201, essentially gaming out the same kind of pandemic which arose just a few months later.
To say the CDC messed up is an gross understatement.
Their policies of denying testing, pushing a flawed test which had to be withdrawn, and acting without urgency as their own directives allowed major population centers in Pacific Northwest, New York and California to become infected beyond control expose a decided lack of preparedness or response.
A major focus of Event 201 was the integration of private sector, or corporate, interests into the pandemic response architecture.
The Preparedness and Response people were in effect corporate lobbyists, not public health experts. Hiding this sad fact is motivating the furious effort to lay all blame at feet of Chinese government.
Mar 24, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org
abierno , Mar 24 2020 0:46 utc | 120Re Cyril @10
I think the CDC numbers of 160 to 200 million infected are inflated (remember they are projections, estimations, as are the German numbers)
From other internet sources: China total 81,093 or 56 total cases per million; death 3,270 recovered 72,703
US total 43,651 or 132 total cases per million; death 545
Given that a University of Washington public health researcher identified Covid19 in the general population in February, we have been harboring this virus for at least two months if not longer; patient zero from Snohomish Wa was not the first and clearly, person to person transmission was evident in February.
When she reported this to the CDC she was told to stand down immediately. Again, Why? Why bankrupt our working classes with 9 to 12 week lockdowns rather than getting hospitals, clinics, and families the safety products they need to move around the community (e.g. to work) - gloves, masks, sanitizer, gowns, etc. The lockdown appears to be a drastic move to compensate for a public health catastrophe as regards preparedness, and is ongoing insofar as the aforementioned products are not available to the public. Also Gilead has paused provision of their HIV drug and supplies of chloroquinine, once readily available are now hard to find. Again, why? And, not surprisingly, access to tests is limited even for our exceptional frontline medical staffs. Furthermore, no statistics are available regarding the reliability or validity of the existing tests - major numbers of false positives or negatives can have drastic consequences. Why?
Allen , Mar 24 2020 1:29 utc | 127Many doctors have started to connect the dots.
Not only case correlation with coronavirus is not causation of their deaths but also as mentioned all the tests are made not among random population as they should to eliminate methodological data bias but among those who are symptomatic or been in proximity of those diagnosed or symptomatic of Coronavirus.
And hence numbers derived from such sample are likely questionable as I will elaborate later.
There is another aspect of likely misclassification of early cases starting in December 2019 and January 2020 as a flu while may indicate mortality rate of SARS-Cov2 similar to that of 2019-2020 seasonal flu pandemic we are still under. Here is excerpt from congressional testimony as reported by Counterpunch :
Congressman Harley Rouda asked him this: "So, we could have people in the United States dying for what appears to be influenza, when in fact it could be the coronavirus or COVID-19? Redfield replied that, "Some cases have been actually diagnosed that way in the United States to date."
The revelation passed without further questioning. The U.S. media paid no attention. News services in China pounced on the statement.
Epidemiologists ought to have been interested in the timing of the epidemic's onset in the United States. Vagueness on the matter, as suggested by Redfield's testimony, betrays a remarkable lack of scientific curiosity.
What the public knows is that the first case of imported Coronavirus showed up on January 21. The first cases of possible community-acquired coronavirus appeared on February 26. On February 14 the CDC indicated persons with influenza-like symptoms would be tested for COVID 19 in various U.S. cities.
The results of any testing weren't made public, although Redfield's testimony may allude to them.
The possibility emerges that U.S. people were being infected in January, not long after Chinese authorities on December 31, 2019 informed the World Health Organization of an outbreak of a new form of coronavirus infection. Suspicion prevails in China that the epidemic may have manifested first in someplace other than China.
This lack of curiosity smells rather like political cover-up as other numerous reports suggest.
Another mystery is inability by Chinese scientists to find patient Number One who supposedly contracted SARS-Cov2 from yet to be identified and found animal in which organism supposed fusion happen of two old and known viruses from Betabatcoronavirus group one of them was original SARS-Cov of epidemic of 2002-2004 in China and 29 other countries.
Comparative genomic analyses have shown that SARS-CoV-2 belongs to the group of Betacoronaviruses and that it is very close to SARS-CoV, responsible for an epidemic of acute pneumonia which appeared in November 2002 in the Chinese province of Guangdong and then spread to 29 countries in 2003. A total of 8,098 cases were recorded, including 774 deaths. It is known that bats of the genus Rhinolophus (potentially several cave species) were the reservoir of this virus and that a small carnivore, the palm civet (Paguma larvata), may have served as an intermediate host between bats and the first human cases...
The source of the virus is actually not known. The patient number 1, the person who first carried the virus, has not been found. The Wuhan wet market where exotic animals are sold was not the source of the outbreak:
The paper, written by a large group of Chinese researchers from several institutions, offers details about the first 41 hospitalized patients who had confirmed infections with what has been dubbed 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). In the earliest case, the patient became ill on 1 December 2019 and had no reported link to the seafood market, the authors report.
"No epidemiological link was found between the first patient and later cases," they state. Their data also show that, in total, 13 of the 41 cases had no link to the marketplace. "That's a big number, 13, with no link," says Daniel Lucey, an infectious disease specialist at Georgetown University.
Another issue is so called "excess mortality" due to pandemic and here over 3000 deaths in China in last about 5 months barely registers on mortality gauge as it is moderated among other factors by deaths attributed to flu which in China averaged at least 60,000-100,000 a year increasing as population is aging.
In US alone Flu pandemic is still in full swing with about 30,000 dead already in 2019-2020 season to end in two months.
The same lack of evident excess mortality is showing in Europe in the midst of coronavirus pandemic.
Here is website that tracks EU deaths based of government death records.
Some doctors as well as former public heath officials like Dr. Wolfgang Wodarg from Schleswig-Holstein in Germany staring questioning lethality of the SARS-Cov2 and methodology of calculating mortality rates not based on scientific principle of random testing following distribution of age and locales of population at large and acquiring sample of minimum 7% (22 millions tested in US ) of entire population a week to be a representative sample of pandemic development and population response to it including infection rates, recovery and death rates.
Such or similar statistical modeling of flu pandemic produces average mortality rate of 0.1% while locally and within old age groups it can be much higher even near 1% similar to current numbers for Coronavirus calculated using not random sample but mostly volunteer, higher probability of infection sample groups in hospitals or aware of being potentially exposed to virus in US, in the range only of about 50,000 total to date, far less than anything that would scientifically provide mortality rate with any meaningful statistical confidence.
Glasgow scientists study between 2013-2017 found between 7% and 14% percent admitted to hospitals with respiratory problems had been infected with coronavirus among many other identified viruses like flu, rhino and unidentified viruses.
Additional points were raised about what turned out to be internal research purposed Coronavirus test frantically adopted by WHO.
The test itself coming from Berlin's Charite hospital that was targeting original SARS-Cov of 2002-2004 epidemic (not SARS-Cov2 ) to see if contagion was spread in Germany.
And hence it is not entirely clear how many false positive results are coming from the fact that original SARS-Cov already spread around the world (documented in 29 countries) and exists in many communities controlled but not completely eradicated by newly acquired immunity to SARS-Cov.
CDC and corporate labs in US are allowed using their own tests often classified or patented making correct interpretation of those tests by doctors and public likely incompatible, extremely difficult sometimes nearly impossible to interpret adding to confusion.
All of those serious questions combined with utter lack of desperately needed funding for medical research and remediation is scandalous and under circumstances uncalled for and detrimental to society while the $3 trillion corporate bailout in itself questions entire pandemic narrative as supposedly calamitous of biblical proportions supposedly justifying complete shutting down of economy and society under authoritarian extra constitutional rules.
People must be rational by scientifically analyzing hard data and apply analysis of scientific material whatever outcome and not succumb to anxiety or panic based on fate in judgments or predictions of corrupted fraudulent authorities including corporate medical authorities who serve only class interests- they surely ain't the working class interests and have no concern for public health.
Mar 24, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org
kiwiklown , Mar 24 2020 3:51 utc | 160Posted by: occupatio | Mar 23 2020 18:33 utc | 12
"No, China didn't cover up the Covid-19 outbreak: An analysis"
Thanks. I've saved the article for when it is memory-holed.
Crisis reveals character... the nature of people.
When shown to be incompetent, US leadership lies.
Russia says the US leadership is not "agreement-capable".
Less politely, I say they are dishonourable, shameless, ghouls who have lost their souls.
What does it profit a leader when the world's TV cameras shine on you, but you have lost your soul?
SharonM , Mar 24 2020 1:41 utc | 129@97 Richard Steven Hackted01 , Mar 24 2020 3:41 utc | 159
"The number of idiots everywhere on the Internet proclaiming the following:
1) The virus won't prove to be any more dangerous than ordinary flu..."
Yeah sure, we should have just shut up and believed...
Russia interfered in the election
Russia invaded Crimea
Russia invaded Georgia
Iran is making nuclear bombs
The Skripals were poisoned by Russian agents
Assad is using chemical weapons
Saddam has weapons of mass destruction
"etc, etc., ad nauseum.
I could go on and on. The number of people who just *have to have an opinion* is staggering. And they'll argue that they're right until the cows come home."
@99 Michael Weddington
"The virus deniers here remind me of the global warming deniers."
Why not holocaust deniers? In fact, since you didn't say holocaust deniers you must be an antisemite holocaust denier nazi, right? It's not like you two are at CNN's website, you're in the alternative media, where we actually questions things instead of just having blind faith.SharonM @129kiwiklown , Mar 24 2020 4:21 utc | 164
Nailed it Sharon.
Suddenly the corporate mainstream media have become the epitome of truth, honesty and integrity.jackrabbit @33 -- "Coronavirus Drives the U.S. and China Deeper Into Global Power Struggle"
I would rephrase that to "US uses coronavirus to deepen global power struggle against China"
NYT -- "These officials warn that a fast-growing China, under Mr. Xi's increasingly authoritarian rule, seeks military, economic and technological domination over the United States and its allies."
What weasel-speak! Repeating a big enough lie often enough, and you get distracted citizens to fall in line behind you for when you launch a sneak attack on China. This is nothing but a case of projection by parties who are themselves seeking to dominate the world, the better to eat other people's lunches.
Mar 24, 2020 | www.zerohedge.com
By CNN's count, at least 13 states and 13 municipalities in the US have ordered 144,522,931 people to stay home as a result of the pandemic, according to data compiled by CNN using US Census population estimates.Update (1324ET): President Trump on Tuesday once again tried to deny that his administration dropped the ball on the coronavirus response, while saying he would like to see the country re-open by Easter.
Of course, the CDC's botched handling of the tests has been well-documented, and the fact that nobody in the administration acting to overule the CDC and start stockpiling tests from elsewhere might be remembered as one of the administration's biggest screwups in handling the crisis.
Trump: "We did not screw up."
This is specifically about coronavirus testing. In fact, CDC very much screwed up -- its test had a contaminated assay, the negative control, which made it unusable.
World Health Organization offered us test it had been using in China.
We refused.-- Alexander Nazaryan (@alexnazaryan) March 24, 2020
Mar 24, 2020 | www.theamericanconservative.com| The truth is always less glamorous than the perception. And the truth about 9/11 is that it was first and foremost a failure of bureaucracy.
As early as spring 2000, the CIA had learned that two of the future hijackers had traveled to Malaysia for an al-Qaeda summit. Both men had U.S. visas yet the information was never acted on. In California, the pair roomed with an undercover FBI agent. In Oklahoma, one of them was pulled over for speeding . Mere days before the attacks, they were hunkered down in Laurel, Maryland, not far from the National Security Agency's headquarters.
They were never stopped, nor were several of the other soon-to-be hijackers who were cited for traffic violations and raised eyebrows at flight schools, more Rocky and Mugsy than SPECTRE. After 9/11, a congressional investigation found that the attacks could have been prevented were it not for FBI and CIA ineptitude. According to that and subsequent reports, the agencies had failed to share information with each other, gotten bogged down in turf wars, and lacked outside-the-box thinking.
They did this because this is how bureaucracies work. The state isn't some enchanted repository of our national priorities; it's a sprawling network of individuals, who, like the rest of us, tend to place their own interests before the common good, show reluctance in the face of innovation, cling to rote procedure even under extraordinary circumstances, abuse their power. And just as the predictable failures of the security bureaucracy allowed 9/11 to happen, so too are the predictable failures of the medical bureaucracy enabling the coronavirus to spread.
Start with the feds' delayed reaction to the virus's outbreak in Washington State. There, the first case of COVID-19 in America was confirmed all the way back in January, and an infectious disease expert in Seattle, Dr. Helen Chu, had an idea. According to the New York Times , her lab had been using nasal swabs to research the flu; were they to repurpose the tests, they could check for the coronavirus. The team quickly sought the approval of the CDC, which kicked them over to the FDA. The FDA then denied their request, citing both privacy concerns over the swab results and the fact that the labs were not certified for clinical purposes. After weeks of the agency refusing to budge, the team decided to do that most American of things: ignore the government. They tested for coronavirus and found a positive. The bureaucrats promptly told the team to stop; they later relented but only in part.
Those FDA rules may be in place for good reason -- patient privacy must be protected, labs must be classified correctly -- but such rationales should quickly fall to the floor when an epidemic is raging. Because they didn't, Chu's team was forced to waste valuable time. And even those laboratories approved for clinical work were having a tough go of it. They still had to apply with the feds for emergency approval to develop their own tests, and were being stymied. "This virus is faster than the FDA," grumbled one researcher to the Times . So are turtles with polio. It's worth pointing out that all this transpired well after the government had declared the coronavirus a public health emergency.
The root of the problem seems to be that the bureaucracy underestimated just how widely the coronavirus would spread. Initial tests were limited to those who had just returned from China. Warnings from local officials that the virus was proliferating were ignored. The CDC, meanwhile, developed its own test, but the kits were quickly determined to be faulty and retracted. Precious weeks slipped by. Had measures been implemented, had people started social distancing earlier and the infected been identified and quarantined faster, the coronavirus could have been better contained. Instead the FDA tried to control the process, only to find that it couldn't. Private labs were brought in too late and struggled to meet demand, forcing them to ration tests. It wasn't until last week that the FDA started permitting companies to market tests without federal blessing, though they still must get the agency's approval within two weeks.
The process remains hamstrung by that most bureaucratic of problems: lack of coordination. Only whereas prior to 9/11 it was agencies failing to coordinate with each other, now it's the government failing to coordinate the supply chain. The labs, the medical providers, the supply manufacturers -- all need to be in harmony in order to develop tests and distribute badly needed equipment. Instead hospitals warn of ventilator shortages . Masks are running dangerously low, with Vice President Mike Pence announcing only last weekend that the government had at last placed an order for hundreds of millions more. A run on supplies following the FDA's belated easing of restrictions on private labs caused shortages, according to the Wall Street Journal . Tom Rogan at the Washington Examiner reports that pallets of medical equipment are sitting unused in warehouses because the FDA hasn't loosened its inspection protocols .
Contrast all this with South Korea, which streamlined its medical bureaucracy following the MERS outbreak in 2015. There, officials sounded the alarm in January and one week later a private lab had developed a test. Today, about 10,000 South Koreans are tested daily , many of them at drive-through diagnosis centers, compared to just a small fraction of that number in the United States.
Yes, the fish rots from the head down. Donald Trump's complacent reaction to the virus set a terrible example. His pronouncement that the outbreak was "like a miracle, it will disappear" now sounds insane. Yet the president can also only reach so far down into the bureaucracy; some of those gears need to align on their own. And they clearly failed to do so. This also can't be blamed on a lack of funding, given that Trump's supposed cuts to the medical bureaucracy never actually happened . Amid a massive federal budget and trillion-dollar deficits, we're paying more than enough to expect the government to do better than this.
I know we've convinced ourselves that the country would run better if only the damned libertarians would get out of the way, but it may be that the real problems are less trite than that. And one of them is clearly that the government has mummified itself in its own red tape. This happened despite the bright minds running its departments, human genome pioneer Francis Collins at the NIH and the oncologist Stephen Hahn at the FDA. So now the bureaucracy is taking a more deregulatory approach, lifting roadblocks to private labs, easing restrictions on trucking, lifting barriers to telehealth. They're about two months too late. Those early weeks were critical and the feds spent them methodically tripping over their own banana peels.
After 9/11, the nation consoled itself by establishing a new government agency with a fancy name, the Department of Homeland Security. Anyone who's ever talked to a DHS employee knows the confusion and bureaucratic jostling that reigned there for years. Instead of doing the same, once the coronavirus has passed, Congress should take a cue from another post-September 11 authority: the 9/11 Commission. Establish a body to investigate the government's blunders. Mimic South Korea and clear away the clutter. Because this time the costs of bureaucracy aren't just abstract notions of productivity and GDP; they're human lives. about the author Matt Purple is the managing editor of The American Conservative . email leave a comment
Mar 23, 2020 | asia-review.com
On the morning of March 11, US author Kurt Eichenwald tweeted
As I said, @ GOPLeader – and other GOPrs – were told in a political consultants memo to start using name "Chinese Virus" as part of some stupid political strategy.
Everyone: Go to McCarthy's twitter feed and ask "How can we trust GOP when you dont even know the disease's name?-- Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) March 11, 2020
And just as expected, over the next few days government officials and politicians, including the respected President of the United States, started using the term "Chinese Virus".
This usage is against the new naming convention released by the WHO in 2015.
Dr Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General for Health Security at WHO said in 2015 regarding the new naming convention, "We've seen certain disease names provoke a backlash against members of particular religious or ethnic communities, create unjustified barriers to travel, commerce and trade, and trigger needless slaughtering of food animals. This can have serious consequences for peoples' lives and livelihoods."
Unfortunately, the political strategy has succeeded. Instead of talking about how absolutely incompetent the US response has been, the talking point has been shifted to Americans fighting over whether its right to call it Chinese Virus, with one side saying it stigmatises innocent Asians and instigates hate crime, and the other claiming its a liberal PC agenda.
This, coupled with the spread of fake news regarding how China "covered it up for weeks", (which I wrote about here ) has successfully diverted anger away from the US government and shifted the blame to China.
For good measure, a short recap of the US's incompetence:
Censorship and misinformation (which Americans claim China is doing)
Trump calling it a hoax https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/29/joe-biden-trump-coronavirus-hoax-claim
News station host calling it a hoax https://twitter.com/atrupar/status/1240640020714848257
The Trump administration barred a top US disease expert from speaking freely to the public
Lawmaker Condemns 'Unacceptable' CDC Decision to Stop Disclosing Number of Coronavirus Tests
Official: White House didn't want to tell seniors not to fly
Trump tried to stall intelligence report by DNI, cut funding for pandemic preparedness, CDC
Seattle lab uncovered Washington's coronavirus outbreak only after defying federal regulators
Coronavirus: Sheriff Chitwood reveals 20 potential Volusia cases
CDC wanted to recommend all over 60 to remain inside their homes, but was instructed not to by government officials https://twitter.com/LACaldwellDC/status/1238870221672386563
Downplaying the virus all the way from the start until March 16 https://twitter.com/therecount/status/1240043597434687489?s=20
Incompetence in testing
Manufacturing defects leading to days of delays https://www.wsj.com/articles/manufacturing-defect-in-some-early-cdc-test-kits-being-probed-11583119414
Testing 400 people in 40 days while the world has tests hundreds of thousands https://fortune.com/2020/03/03/coronavirus-us-test/
A Pennsylvania state laboratory is now able to handle about six tests per day
As of March 3rd, New York City has only tested 17 people for coronavirus
CDC Tested Just 77 People For Coronavirus This Week (article dated 13 Mar) https://www.huffpost.com/entry/coronavirus-cdc-tested-77-people-this-week_n_5e6b06c1c5b6dda30fc6424d?ncid=engmodushpmg00000004
Sick People Across the U.S. Say They Are Being Denied the Coronavirus Test https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/12/us/coronavirus-testing-challenges.html
The entire state of Indiana has 100 tests https://www.southbendtribune.com/news/local/coronavirus-testing-picks-up-pace-in-south-bend-region-and/article_52bdcb0e-63e9-11ea-a23f-736dca0c8273.html
Oklahoma governor urges residents to join him at crowded food hall https://www.readfrontier.org/stories/despite-coronavirus-spread-governor-visits-packed-food-hall-urges-oklahomans-to-join-him/
Florida governor refuses to shut down beaches amid spread of coronavirus https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/florida-governor-refuses-shut-down-beaches-amid-spread-coronavirus-n1162226
Mar 22, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org
Jackrabbit , Mar 22 2020 6:40 utc | 102@101
I raised the same issues a couple of days ago:The real danger was always in the possibility that the healthcare system is overwhelmed. Then you get large numbers of unnecessary deaths.
So a country needs to flatten the curve. The best way to do that is to close the schools as soon as community spread is detected. In the West, this should've been done in early February - it wasn't.
By mid-February, it was clear that certain drugs and anti-virals were effective. It was important to have widespread tests so that these drugs could be administered early, especially to vulnerable populations. Yet weeks later, the West (especially USA) was still unprepared to test.
There didn't need to be a crisis or a panic. But a CRISIS! is something that is politically useful: to direct hate against China; to provide extraordinary support to favored interests like Banks and Wall Street and Boeing.
The Empire Games Covid-19
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In addition, it seems that USA/Trump was hoping that remdesivir, developed by Gilead Sciences, would be the (expensive) drug of choice to treat Covid-19.
Mar 22, 2020 | moneymaven.io
Please play this.Anthony Scaramucci ✔ @Scaramucci23.6K people are talking about this
I hope this is played everyday everywhere until Nov 8. Unless @ realDonaldTrump resigns as he should immediately.
35.6K 8:54 AM - Mar 20, 2020 Twitter Ads info and privacy
20 hours ago Here is a 1 minute 22 second video timeline of Trump's amazing handling of the coronavirus.
Please play this.
It will take less than two minutes of your time.
One missing key quote is a statement Trump made bragging about having natural talent coupled with a proclamation that he could have been a scientist instead of president.
- And where are the tests? The ventilators?
- Who at the CDC or in the administration insisted the US needs to develop its own test instead of using an accurate test the rest of the world was already using?
- What about Trump increasing sanction pressure on Iran in the midst of the biggest global humanitarian crisis since world war II?
- And what about Trump's rating his administration's handling of this as "excellent".
Mike "Mish" Shedlock
njbr 20 hrs
The dumb-asses in DC still don't get it. "Top" leaders crowding around a single microphone in a stage no larger than a public restroom. Working toward a 1 time $1200 check that probably wont be issued/delivered for another couple weeks. What about the weeks after that--are they going to spend the next couple weeks going around about the next check?? Has the production of ventilators actually been accelerated-who could tell from what has been said? Why are nurses and doctors in my area asking the public for donations of PPE at the very beginning of the serious phase? What happens when the doctors and nurses start tipping over? Two partially ready hospital ships may help in one spot each on the coast, but what about everywhere else? Has anyone even checked on the production capacity for the maybe helpful malaria medicine--has anyone been directed to begin proactive super-production of this product? On and on.
DeeDee3 20 hrs
hard to prove deliberate neglect when you eliminate all of the evidence. No testing means "no virus" and sadly supported the hoax theory.
Another doc died in the city today. ER's are unprotected. what conclusion can we draw from all of this?
Zardoz 20 hrs
Thousands will die because of his incompetence... and his followers will blame the Chinese
egilkinc 20 hrs
There should be a tracker of the number of cases [among medical personnle] in the US along with this
Sechel 20 hrs
Oh my g-d. This is excellent! I think Trump has learned some bad lessons from Goebbels. Repeat the lie and repeat it often and people will take your version of events. This really serves to correct the record! Good work!
PecuniaNonOlet 20 hrs
And yet there will be an avalanche of Trump supporters defending the idiot. It is truly beyond me.
michiganmoon 20 hrs
Actually, Trump should resign and give the GOP a chance this November.
Had Trump not downplayed this and had tests ready, he could have played on a loop Biden on January 31st saying travel restrictions from Wuhan were racist and xenophobic.
thesaint0013 20 hrs
Ok. Let me start by stating that I am not a "staunch" Trump supporter. However, I just really despise the constant visceral negative, hatred towards our Country's President.
As I am sure you are aware, it is a tremendously difficult job, especially in today's crisis. I would think it would be better serve of your time and efforts to be constructive and optimistic, and hopeful. Rather than pinpointed every single steps and missteps he makes. He is certainly no perfect - but his goal is the same as all of ours: to defeat this virus in the best manner possible with the resources available.
To criticize previous tweets, interviews, and depict his flaws and errors does not help the common goal. The nature of some of the questions posed to him during the press conferences should be a bit more respectful and again, it doesn't serve any positive outcome to try and "catch" him in a lie, and how he may have said something that was not factual or false.
Again, he's not perfect and neither are anyone of us. However he is our President and we should support his and all of our common goal to defeat this virus.
Russell J 20 hrs
Not making excuses for Trump at all but he/we have people who are specialists and are responsible for being ready at all times for something like this and are responsible for being on the look out for this. Somebody should have came forward, even as a whistleblower. I've been aware for about 2 months now.
Thank you WWW.PEAKPROSPERITY.COM, MISH and WWW.ZEROHEDGE.COM
This was an epic failure of Trump, his administration and America in general.
ghoffa 20 hrs
I wanted to sincerely thank you MISH from my whole extended family. I have been reading you since 2007 when Ron Paul removed the scales from my eyes on the Fed and govt., Jekyll Island book, the "financial markets" (all modern day money changers). Every picture I see of Fed chairpersons, their eyes look dead black sharks eyes (to quote a famous book which I subscribe, the eyes are the windows to the soul).
In addition our mob style duolopoly govt and for the most part complicit MSM (all with significant influencing billionaire ownership to control the news - easily searched). I've learned so much from this blog and the many commentors in this space ( a personal fav is @Stuki ) . Nothing short of brilliant and reminds me of my fav news source Zerohedge and it's articles and commentors.
A special thanks for pointing us to Chris Martenson (peakprosperity.com) as my wife and I have watched every day his free daily videos since JAN @24th and our extended family is as prepared as we can be. God help us all with what's coming.
For those who haven't watched it, Dr. Martenson has a great 3 min video on exponential growth on YTube. Search his name and exponential. It will help you prepare for what our govt knows is coming in enourmous exponential growth in fatalities. Even knowing, it will be an emotional thing to prepare for. Prepping home supplies is one thing, prepping emotionally is also important per Dr. Martenson. HCWs be damned.
As this impacts people personally, I expect insider leaks to come from many fronts. We're working with neighbors to get prepared as we're all on our own now as the money changers (evil) bail out the money changers (evil) amidst a system that is so debt leveraged it can't likely be bailed out. "everything's a nail and the Fed has a hammer".
Lastly this brings a famous quote to mind as the people rise up against corrupt govt, corp bailouts after stock buy backs, etc. Let alone the monsters upon monsters creating lab viruses (regardless of the source of this virus), and unregulated GMOs changing the fabric of life.....
"All it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing". Margaret Mead
QE2Infinity 20 hrs
Come on! First off, anyone can be made to look bad by taking snippets out of context and stringing them together. That said, Trump does tend towards braggadocio. If that is off putting to you, he can be annoying. I much prefer a transparent fool to the more sly variety that plays the part well while sticking a knife in your back.
But let's be honest here. The president can do very little. The bureaucracy of the government is a jobs program for the less ambitious and politically inclined. It's staffed with incompetent bureaucrats that show up, surf the web and may get around to an hour or two of honest work. Public unions guarantee they can't be fired.
Obama converted the CDC into a PC jobs program for lefties, just like he converted NASA into a Muslim outreach program.
May one ask: why is a self proclaimed libertarian screaming for more government action? Wouldn't it be great if one of the outcomes of this crisis is that local communities became more self reliant and more self sufficient!
Sechel 20 hrs
that's from a website called therecount.com looks interesting.
Greggg 20 hrs
For the entire Trump Presidency it was all about the stock market. So, here we are.
numike 20 hrs
while we all point fingers lets look at a useful guide regarding the mess we are ALL in now https://www.seriouseats.com/2020/03/food-safety-and-coronavirus-a-comprehensive-guide.html
Food Safety and Coronavirus: A Comprehensive Guide Questions about COVID-19 and food safety, answered. www.seriouseats.com
Tengen 20 hrs
The graphic at the end of the video already looks out of date and shows how rapid the spread has been. For March 2020 it shows 5,002 cases in the US (and counting) but right now I'm seeing 24,137 cases.
So much for "in a couple of days the 15 is going to be down close to zero".
njbr 20 hrs
What can the President do?
Force and organize the production of necessary goods.
- Act as impartial hub for the distribution of new and stocked items.
- Force/fund the emergency super-production of even possibly helpful items such as the malarial drug.
- Turn every possible research dollar onto the research into the disease, it's treatments and vaccines.
- Fund and distribute tests. Make a way to track the progress of the disease, as opposed to waiting for regional medical systems collapse under load.
- Activate whatever resources are possible to pre-position and set-up field hospitals now.
- Develop uniform best-practices for quarantine and treatment.
- Prepare the population for the realistic probability of multiple months of the crisis.
Mish Editor 19 hrs
May one ask: why is a self proclaimed libertarian screaming for more government action? Wouldn't it be great if one of the outcomes of this crisis is that local communities became more self reliant and more self sufficient!
- I said what I would do
- I would remove tariffs. I would not have had them in the first place.
- I would expect our president to act to increase supplies not insist on Made in America.
- I would expect our president to behave like an emphatic human being, not a total moron
Mish Editor 19 hrs
Trump did not Drain the Swamp. He IS the swamp
Mish Editor 19 hrs
Anyone who still supports this President's actions is a TDS-inflicted fool.
Jim Bob 19 hrs
I've followed Mish for ~ 12 years online and on the radio for brilliant economic analysis. Lately his work has been undermined by irrational political opinion. Mish has turned into Krugman. I won't be back.
abend237-04 19 hrs
The Donald is obviously afflicted with the same narcissistic megalomania prerequisite for a successful run at any elective office above County Coroner, anywhere in this country.
That said, he can apparently read a graph, and he's right: The two drug combination of Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin are working to treat this damn thing, BUT:
It is, indeed, not a Covid-19 preventative.
If you get it, and you dink around at home too long waiting for improvement, arriving at ICU needing ventilation leaves you with roughly the odds of Russian roulette of surviving, especially if you're older.
Lacking testing, the only remaining means available to knock the transmission rate down quickly is social distancing/lockdown. But, enough of that prevention can leave us wishing we were dead anyway.
Unfortunately, all the college kids jamming the bars and beaches is setting the stage for continued exponential growth by hordes of asymptomatic spreaders.
The march of folly continues.
I like what I'm seeing of Cuomo. He'd be a good guy to have in the room in a serious fight; This qualifies.
DBG8489 19 hrs
As someone who hates all politicians, there is zero love lost between Trump and myself. I had hopes when he was elected that he would make a difference but it was clear based on how he looked after his private meeting with Obama on inauguration day that he was in over his head.
Having said that, I will say this:
From at least the "major" state level up, it would appear that not one single elected official or the top advisors and bureaucrats who work for them have shown anything but complete and utter failure in their handling of this emergency.
You have senators selling off piles of stock while either saying nothing or telling the rest of us that it was bullshit. And trust me - they were not the only ones. If anyone cares to investigate, they will likely find this problem rampant. Elected officials should not even be allowed to trade stocks when they control the entire economy - not even through alleged "blind trusts" - it's bullshit. But that's a conversation for another time.
You have congressional reps and senators blaming each other and/or the other party and passing laws and bailouts without even reading the bills they are passing.
You have the Treasury and the Fed printing money and throwing it at every hole that opens up without the slightest regard for what the unintended consequences of those actions may entail.
You have governments of the "major" states (CA, NY, NJ...etc) who know they can't simply print money being exposed using any extra money they had (along with taxes based on tourism that have now disappeared) to fund God knows what now demanding that everyone else pony up to pay for their failure to plan...
The lack of leadership in the major states and at the Federal level is abysmal ACROSS THE BOARD.
And that includes members of BOTH parties and nearly every single bureaucratic agency involved.
You can single Trump out if you want, but he's not alone. He's just an easy target because 49% of the population hated him before this started.
njbr 18 hrs
....Top health officials first learned of the virus's spread in China on January 3, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Friday. Throughout January and February, intelligence officials' warnings became more and more urgent, according to the Post -- and by early February, much of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA's intelligence reports were dedicated to warnings about Covid-19.
All the while, Trump downplayed the virus publicly, telling the public the coronavirus "is very well under control in our country," and suggesting warm weather would neutralize the threat the virus poses....
...The administration did begin taking some limited action about a month after Azar says the administration first began receiving warnings, blocking non-citizens who had been to China in the last two weeks from entering the country on February 3 -- a move public experts have argued at best bought the US time to ramp up its testing capabilities, which it did not use, and at worst had no beneficial effects at all.
Trump finally assembled a task force to address the virus, putting Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the effort on February 26, and declared a national emergency on March 13. And, just this week -- nearly three months after first receiving warnings from his intelligence officials -- the president's public tone about the crisis shifted: "I've always known this is a real -- this is a pandemic," he said Tuesday as he admitted, "[the virus is] not under control for any place in the world."....
Realist 18 hrs
I have been watching political leaders in my own country get on television daily. They have all done a great job of informing the public about the dangers of this virus. They have all relied on the experts to relay information to the public about what the government is doing, and what individuals should be doing. This is true at the national, regional, and local levels.
In addition businesses have been sending out emails, radio announcements and tv messages explaining what they are doing in regard to this pandemic.
In fact, I am amazed at what a good job everyone is doing.
I am also watching what is happening in the US. Every US state governor and city mayor I have seen on tv has done a wonderful job of presenting the facts to the public and provided instructions as to what they are doing and what the public should be doing.
Then there is the gong show that is Trump. I could not imagine that anyone could be as bad as he is; months of lies, denials, suppression of the truth, and a complete and utter lack of preparation for something he was warned about many times. Denying one day that the virus was a pandemic; only to claim the very next day that he had known it was a pandemic for months; and then the very next day say that no one could have seen this coming; and finally saying that his response to the virus rates a 10 out of 10.
Worst President ever. Sadly, many, many Americans are going to suffer and die because America had this moron in charge.
Mish keeps referring to worldometer to get stats from. Their numbers seem to match up with numbers I see in my own country and in the US.
Disturbingly, today, the mortality rate for closed cases ticked up 1% to 12%. 12978 deaths and 94674 recovered. That is not the direction I expected it to go.
daveyp 17 hrs
You get what you vote for. To have such a malignant narcissist of such profoundly limited intellectual honesty and capacity "leading" your nation through this is truly tragic for your country. Even the hideously vile ultimate Washington insider Hilary would have done a better job.
truthseeker 17 hrs
Mish I agree with much of the criticism of Trump, yet had he done everything you and others suggest, there is this implied assumption that everything would have worked out perfectly. You know I am impressed the way the country seems to be uniting to such a great degree, that I think there is at least some hope for our country's future though there are huge challenges that lay ahead absolutely!
abend237-04 17 hrs
I will now proceed, once again, to bitch about the root cause of our current pandemic, which is causing many to experience cosmic scale frustration with The Donald, which I share:
Civilization has now been hit squarely in the head with three killer coronavirus outbreaks in 18 years, yet still has no unified global new viral antigen detection system. We could have if our world "leaders" would make it happen.
Local supercomputers, however massive, will never crack this nut, but the billions of powerful, web-accessible smartphones could if linked and used by a parallelized, intelligent scheduler to raise the alarm when a new antibody/pathogen is discovered in human blood anywhere.
Such a system could have lifted the burden from a lonely doctor struggling to raise the alarm in Wuhan, before Covid-19 killed him, and placed it squarely in front of disease control experts, worldwide. It can be done; We must do it.
Sars cov-3/4/5/6/7/8/9/n could kill us all if we don't.
Mar 22, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org
Jackrabbit , Mar 21 2020 23:10 utc | 54Caitlin Johnstone also sees the response being manipulated to focus hate on China: Liberal NPCs Hate Russia, Conservative NPCs Hate China
But she sees this China-bashing as mostly a political reaction:In reality these people are rallying behind the campaign to blame China for the health crisis they're now facing because they understand that otherwise the blame will land squarely on the shoulders of their president, who's running for re-election this year.instead of a deliberate Deep-State strategy (which is my view).
We can argue who created the virus (I'm still looking for any rebuttal to the Chinese claim that USA must be the source because it has all five strains of the virus), but the Empire's gaming of the virus outbreak seems very clear to me.
Mar 21, 2020 | www.washingtonpost.comAs cases spike, health officials are saying the battle to contain the virus is lost and are hunkering down for an onslaught, directing scarce resources where they are needed most to save lives.
Mar 16, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
By Jenny Gold and Anna Maria Barry-Jester . Originally published at California Healthline , a service of the California Health Care Foundation
Public health officials in California's state capital region announced this week they have stopped tracing the contacts of patients diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. They've also ceased recommending quarantines for residents exposed to people confirmed to have the virus.
It was a grim recognition of the virus' infiltration -- and is yet another sign of the detrimental effects of a lack of capability in the U.S. to test people for the deadly coronavirus as it continues to spread.
"The reason we have to move on is because testing did not occur. We're still able to do about 20 tests a day," said Dr. Peter Beilenson, director of Sacramento County's Department of Health Services. "If you really wanted to quarantine and contain the situation, you would have wanted to know who was positive and quarantine them. Because we never had the tests, it's kind of a moot point, and the horse is out of the barn."
Sacramento County -- which as of Friday had 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including one death -- instead has begun advising residents to use so-called social distancing measures as a primary response. That includes asking people and businesses to cancel large gatherings, warning older people and those with chronic conditions to avoid crowds, and begging the general public to practice good hygiene.
The move is part of a shift from containment -- where the goal is to track every case of the disease and end its spread -- to mitigation, which focuses on protecting the most vulnerable from the effects of a disease that is already widespread throughout the community. County residents with any sort of illness are being asked to self-isolate until several days after symptoms resolve.
"Our goal is to be much more surgical in our approach to prevent the spread to seniors," Beilenson said.
Sacramento County's difficult decision to change course comes even as the director-general of the World Health Organization has said that it's "wrong and dangerous" for countries to shift from containment to mitigation at this point in the pandemic. "Countries that decide to give up on fundamental public health measures may end up with a larger problem, and a heavier burden on the health system that requires more severe measures to control," said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The U.S. has not made that shift as a whole, but experts say it's concerning that some areas of the country have had to move away from the basic public health protocols of contact tracing and quarantine in response to the federal government's botched rollout of coronavirus test kits.
"Every tool should still be on the table," said Dr. Ashish Jha, a professor of global health at Harvard University. "We should not give up on containment. It's a very big challenge ahead, but I feel like we are starting to make progress as a country, and if we do an all-of-the-above strategy, there's a pretty good chance we're going to get through this without too much harm to our population."
King County in Washington state, which has been an early epicenter for the virus in the U.S., shifted from contact tracing as well, but still requires a 14-day quarantine for people who were exposed to someone with the virus. Yolo and Placer counties in California also have shifted to a mitigation approach, though the details vary.
The nation's response to COVID-19 has been hampered by a range of problems with the federal government's tests. Kits designed and released by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initially didn't work; a narrow testing protocol meant it likely took weeks for some communities to know that the virus was circulating locally; commercial labs began testing only this week, and it can take more than four days for those results to come back.
President Donald Trump promised again Friday that the U.S. is ramping up efforts to partner with private companies on test production. But access to testing remains sharply limited, and varies widely from state to state and county to county. As of Friday, the number of U.S. residents tested stood in the thousands. By contrast, South Korea has been testing 10,000 people a day for weeks.
The limited testing capacity in California is a pressing concern, Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a news conference Thursday. The number of test kits is inadequate, the state faces a shortage of reagents needed to run the tests, and many counties can't yet run their own tests. He said the state will contract with commercial labs to deal with anticipated backlogs.
Even vulnerable people who had contact with people known to have the virus can't get immediate testing. Two days after a resident at a Carlton Senior Living facility became Sacramento County's first COVID-19 death, Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of California's Health and Human Services Agency, said that all residents were being monitored. But they hadn't all been tested for the virus. "We are working to make sure that those who need testing, that we have it available," he told reporters, "and are working with the facility to determine who will get tested very soon."
Containment requires both testing to find out who has the virus, and the manpower to follow up on the results -- and state and local public health departments lack sufficient resources for both, said Dr. Cyrus Shahpar, former team lead of the global rapid response team at the CDC.
In Wuhan, China, for example, 1,800 teams of epidemiologists, each made of up of five people, traced tens of thousands of contacts each day. "We would never be able to do that. Contact tracing is very resource-intensive," said Shahpar. "It's not like public health departments have 50 standby teams to do this."
The federal government last week allocated $8 billion in emergency funding for the coronavirus response, but the move came nearly two months after the threat emerged, and long after early testing would have helped contain the virus. "A lot of parts of the country have already had community transmission. It's late," Shahpar said.
Without the ability to test, it's hard to know if we're abandoning containment strategies too soon, said Alan Melnick, health officer for Clark County, Washington. During a measles outbreak in 2019, his county was able to muster the resources to monitor more than 800 people. But during that epidemic, they could pull in resources from the outside. Today, few places have resources to spare. Decades of stagnant budgets have left public health departments trying to do more with less.
"When you're fighting a war with bubble gum and shoestrings, you're forced to make difficult decisions," said Alex Briscoe, a principal at California Children's Trust and former director of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency. "The burden we are placing on an underfunded public health infrastructure is unreasonable and unacceptable."
The Rev Kev , March 14, 2020 at 6:53 am
Just to underline the incompetency of neoliberalism, the Jack Ma Foundation has just donated 500,000 testing kits and 1 million masks to America. One guy on twitter said-
'Many will welcome this. Some will see it as an insult. The real insult is that the richest country in the world has waged war on science and as a result is finding itself helpless..'
The real tragedy is this. Iran has been covering up the large number of their Coronavirus deaths in the past few weeks until satellite images showed mass burial sites outside their cities. Through gross negligence, the US has also been covering up the infiltration of Coronavirus in America and trying to cover it all up in the same manner.
So in a few months time, will the Russian and Chinese be releasing images of mass burial sites on the American mainland that the Trump government will seek to hide?
Joe Well , March 14, 2020 at 9:48 am
Waging war on science. Ha!
Waging war on the bottom 99% and using the war on science as a distraction.
Ahinsa , March 14, 2020 at 10:17 am
Many hospitals in SE Kentucky do not have a stock of N95 respirators so doctors and nurses are being forced to wear regular masks to treat patients. CDC in its infinite wisdom (?learned helplessness) has approved this measure and the hospitals are telling the nurses they will be fine! I guess they will, as will the other patients they treat, until the nurses and doctors start becoming vectors and victims!
HotFlash , March 14, 2020 at 5:34 pm
Every time I encounter a story like this, of vital social services starved for resources and leadership in the name of markets, I think of E. F. Schumacher's book, "Economics as if People Mattered".
Harvey , March 14, 2020 at 6:05 pm
The other book that explains the US predicament is "Phishing For Phools" by Schiller and Akerloff.
In short, organisations start by building a good reputation through providing quality goods/services. But then they slowly substitute cheap components while still charging for high quality. At the end the quality is so poor that everyone wakes up and stops buying. Then the organisation is cooked but the owners have made a fortune and walk away.
So it is in the US, which was once great but now has third world services for its citizens. It is well on the way to utter failure. This is why the US mega-rich are bolting to their bunkers in New Zealand and other countries. They know the real situation because they dun it.
Matthew , March 14, 2020 at 3:21 pm
Apparently Wuhan closed their last temporary hospital yesterday, after only finding 15 cases within the last week. Encouraging news, if only we had the capacity or political will to follow their example.
Lina , March 14, 2020 at 7:12 am
So our local school district cancelled our K-12 schools effective Monday (I had already made the decision to pull my child out the night before the announcement came out).
In the message, the superintendent said that the decision was made on the advice of our school district's pediatrician (who happens to be my daughter's doctor and I know him well, having experienced 2 years of bronchitis, pneumonia and upper respiratory issues with my daughter – hence my decision to pull her from school in the midst of this). There hasn't been any confirmed cases where we live (the closest is Boston about 60 miles away). Anyway, the doctor said that given that there are NO TESTS being done in our area, we don't know the full extent of the situation here and thus, we need to act with extra caution. Because of this, his recommendation is to close the schools. The email went on to say: It is important to note that the Governor, Commissioner of Education, and DPH have not recommended school closure .
She also said to practice quarantine measures during this time – no play dates, people!
Anyway, my point is government is clueless and for the first time I am pleasantly pleased to see a decision made based on science. Maybe there is some hope?
On a another note, I experienced 9/11 first hand (lived in the city and was at work a block away) and I thought I used up my quota of crappy situations to have to experience. I guess I was wrong!
Jack , March 14, 2020 at 9:20 am
Its interesting to read this about pulling kids from schools. Yet, the CDC now recommends against closing schools. They issued this advisory; https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/considerations-for-school-closure.pdf . Its just amazing to me (criminal actually) how inept and confused our government has handled this. One good thing coming out of this mess as it is exposing all of the cracks (more accurately fissures) in our "exceptional" country.
Lina , March 14, 2020 at 9:42 am
Exactly. As my school announced this, the front page of the Boston Globe had quotes from the Governor saying, closing the schools across the state is not recommended at this time. Hours later, Boston Public Schools closed.
In a similar vein – my company, instead of issuing a whole work from home initiative, is "rotating" employees in/out of the office. That makes no sense to me. It's a big company in NYC. Do it or don't do – what's this half are measure?
It's a mess. Make the right decisions for you and your family. You can't depend on "leaders" now. They are utterly incompetent (though we all knew this, didn't we?).
Sophy , March 14, 2020 at 11:43 am
Everything the CDC has been doing has been shocking. As a health care provider I just don't want to even look at their recommendations anymore: their information is months old and not based in science, let alone current research on COVID-19.
Local colleges have been shutting down but forcing instructors to go to the schools – that's not social distancing. And many are still having students in EMT, nursing, psychology, physical therapy, and other health sciences, go to their clinicals, where they will be exposed without adequate personal protection equipment. This is because of the CDC. And admin's greed for money.
Mar 14, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org
ptb , Mar 13 2020 23:17 utc | 146@81 vk
"Private healthcare systems can only be overrun if they want to....." that is exactly right.
In the US, the first reaction in crisis for the govt is to write a big check to the favored contractor in any given industry. This habit is going to have to change fast, I don't know if it can.
@various people, wondering whether it is a biological weapon, or more realistically, the possibility that it is a research project that escaped from a lab (at an institution that was, perhaps, constructed with the purpose of studying biological weapons)... While this is a fascinating question, I would say there are more immediate concerns, no?
Locally: NY State has still apparently not completed tests for suspected people who don't have serious symptoms. NY City number confirmed cases up 50% today (to about 150). I believe that figure reflects the events of 4-6 days ago. The current wave of panic shopping becomes another transmission point....
Mar 14, 2020 | twitter.com
"THREAD: Last Thursday I was admitted to the ER w/ #coronavirus symptoms, including chronic cough, shortness of breath & lung pain. I was given a #COVID19 test and told I'd have the results within 48 hrs. Nearly a week later, I still don't have the results. 1/N #covid19purgatory"
Posted by: Peter AU1 | Mar 14 2020 7:17 utc | 221
Mar 13, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Jeff N , March 12, 2020 at 2:54 pm
I was reading yesterday about a difference between a *screening* test (no symptoms required for a test) and a *diagnostic* test (must have symptoms; "yes infected" means yes infected, but "not infected" could actually be infected)
all we have for COVID so far is diagnostic test.
Mar 13, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org
Tom_LX , Mar 13 2020 20:10 utc | 104Here come the excuses,
HealthThe 4 Key Reasons the U.S. Is So Behind on Coronavirus Testing
Bureaucracy, equipment shortages, an unwillingness to share, and failed leadership doomed the American response to COVID-19.
Excuses via ATLANTIC
Mar 11, 2020 | turcopolier.typepad.com
Jack , 11 March 2020 at 03:02 PM'As of Sunday, 1,707 Americans had been tested for the novel coronavirus, according to the CDC. South Korea, by contrast, has tested more than 189,000 people. The two countries announced their first coronavirus cases on the same day.'
Are large budgets indicative of effectiveness?
Mar 11, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
allan , March 11, 2020 at 7:50 am
U.S. coronavirus testing threatened by shortage of critical lab materials [Politico]
A looming shortage in lab materials is threatening to delay coronavirus test results and cause officials to undercount the number of Americans with the virus.
CDC Director Robert Redfield told POLITICO on Tuesday that he is not confident that U.S. labs have an adequate stock of the supplies used to extract genetic material from any virus in a patient's sample -- a critical step in coronavirus testing.
"The availability of those reagents is obviously being looked at," he said, referring to the chemicals used for preparing samples. "I'm confident of the actual test that we have, but as people begin to operationalize the test, they realize there's other things they need to do the test."
The growing scarcity of these "RNA extraction" kits is the latest trouble for U.S. labs, which have struggled to implement widespread coronavirus testing in the seven weeks since the country diagnosed its first case.
Nigeria with nukes.
Mar 10, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org
casey , Mar 10 2020 13:19 utc | 129For Pete's sake: "last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu" No. Last year, in the US, that number of people died of combined pneumonia and possible flu (the vast majority of flu diagnoses are never checked against a lab culture, so huge quantities of flu-like illness are lumped in as flu) because the CDC lumps the categories together in order to promote the CDC's income-generating flu shots. Every person who dies of pneumonia in US, whether they have flu or not, is categorized as a flu death. CDC statistics, like all statistics out of the US federal system, are not just useless, they are fictional.
Mar 10, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
New Wafer Army , March 9, 2020 at 5:29 am
The glue appears at the start of the article:
"the US is particularly poorly set up to cope, thanks to our fragmented public health system and overpriced, privatized and less than comprehensive health care. That bad situation is made worse by the CDC being short on resources and hamstrung further by the Trump Administration's PR imperatives."
Basically, it is expected that Europe manages the crisis less badly.
Eustache de Saint Pierre , March 9, 2020 at 12:18 pm
It has been interesting watching Dr. John Campbell's growing realisation & some shock that everything is not well with the US healthcare system & he has received some abuse but also support from Americans for his growing criticism.
His listing as requested of his 2 degrees & Phd, never mind his long front line experience & his books I think shut some up for perhaps thinking that he was only a nurse, but perhaps he shouda gone to NakedCapitalism.
Mar 10, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org
Tom_LX , Mar 9 2020 19:35 utc | 23Posted by: charliechan | Mar 9 2020 19:30 utc | 20
Charli Chan ask right question.charlie cha wonders how US counts the sick when CDC test kits are unreliable.
and unavailable in quantities necessary !!!!
Mar 07, 2020 | theamericanconservative.com
The figures we gathered suggest that the American response to the coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, has been shockingly sluggish, especially compared with that of other developed countries.
The CDC confirmed eight days ago that the virus was in community transmission in the United States -- that it was infecting Americans who had neither traveled abroad nor were in contact with others who had. In South Korea, more than 66,650 people were tested within a week of its first case of community transmission, and it quickly became able to test 10,000 people a day. The United Kingdom, which has only 115 positive cases, has so far tested 18,083 people for the virus. The figures we gathered suggest that the American response to the coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, has been shockingly sluggish, especially compared with that of other developed countries.
Here is a March 5 statement from a quarantined nurse in northern California:As a nurse, I'm very concerned that not enough is being done to stop the spread of the coronavirus. I know because I am currently sick and in quarantine after caring for a patient who tested positive. I'm awaiting "permission" from the federal government to allow for my testing, even after my physician and county health professional ordered it. I volunteered to be on the care team for this patient, who we knew was positive. I did this because I had all the recommended protective gear and training from my employer. I did this assuming that if something happened to me, of course I too would be cared for. Then, what was a small concern after a few days of caring for this patient, became my reality: I started getting sick. When employee health told me that my fever and other symptoms fit the criteria for potential coronavirus, I was put on a 14-day self-quarantine.As my colleague Daniel Larison writes :
ince the criteria was met, the testing would be done. My doctor ordered the test through the county. The public county officer called me and verified my symptoms and agreed with testing. But the National CDC would not initiate testing.
They said they would not test me because if I were wearing the recommended protective equipment, then I wouldn't have the coronavirus.
What kind of science-based answer is that? What a ridiculous and uneducated response from the department that is in charge of our health in this country. Later, they called back, and now it's an issue with something called the "identifier number." They claim they prioritize running samples by illness severity and that there are only so many to give out each day. So I have to wait in line to find out the results. This is not the ticket dispenser at the deli counter; it's a public health emergency! I am a registered nurse, and I need to know if I am positive before going back to caring for patients. I am appalled at the level of bureaucracy that's preventing nurses from getting tested. That is a health care decision my doctor and my county health department agree with. Delaying this test puts the whole community at risk. I have the backing of my union. Nurses aren't going to stand by and let this testing delay continue; we are going to stand together to make sure we can protect our patients -- by being protected ourselves.
As a nurse, I'm very concerned that not enough is being done to stop the spread of the coronavirus. I know because I am currently sick and in quarantine after caring for a patient who tested positive. I'm awaiting "permission" from the federal government to allow for my testing, even after my physician and county health professional ordered it. I volunteered to be on the care team for this patient, who we knew was positive. I did this because I had all the recommended protective gear and training from my employer. I did this assuming that if something happened to me, of course I too would be cared for. Then, what was a small concern after a few days of caring for this patient, became my reality: I started getting sick.
When employee health told me that my fever and other symptoms fit the criteria for potential coronavirus, I was put on a 14-day self-quarantine.
Since the criteria was met, the testing would be done. My doctor ordered the test through the county. The public county officer called me and verified my symptoms and agreed with testing. But the National CDC would not initiate testing. They said they would not test me because if I were wearing the recommended protective equipment, then I wouldn't have the coronavirus.
What kind of science-based answer is that? What a ridiculous and uneducated response from the department that is in charge of our health in this country.
Later, they called back, and now it's an issue with something called the "identifier number." They claim they prioritize running samples by illness severity and that there are only so many to give out each day. So I have to wait in line to find out the results.
This is not the ticket dispenser at the deli counter; it's a public health emergency! I am a registered nurse, and I need to know if I am positive before going back to caring for patients.
am appalled at the level of bureaucracy that's preventing nurses from getting tested. That is a health care decision my doctor and my county health department agree with. Delaying this test puts the whole community at risk. I have the backing of my union. Nurses aren't going to stand by and let this testing delay continue; we are going to stand together to make sure we can protect our patients -- by being protected ourselves.
I volunteered to be on the care team for this patient, who we knew was positive. I did this because I had all the recommended protective gear and training from my employer.There is a quote from the miniseries Chernobyl that seems appropriate to cite here: "When the truth offends, we lie and lie until we can no longer remember that it is even there, but it is still there. Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid."
MarkVA • 19 hours agoA global post mortem of this crisis will eventually take place, as it is normal and prudent to want to know what really happened, what worked, and what did not. Governments and healthcare systems will be compared under a strong light and magnification. At that point PR and propaganda will be of no help;
Our own patchwork, MBA infused health care delivery system is already showing signs of stress, when the full force of this storm has not even arrived yet:
Health insurance tied to employment, high deductibles, lack of health insurance, a system attracted to profit making, reports of widespread sidelining of doctors and nurses (this is truly incredible!) from decision making, and a highly outsourced supply system don't inspire confidence. I hope the civic minded doctors and nurses regain control of the system, with others adapting to supporting roles. Otherwise, I predict we are in deep shit;
I don't know how it will shake out for the various health care delivery systems we have on our little planet. I suspect strong differences will emerge, and rewards and fallouts will follow. The fallouts will be acute, because lives, and not mere financial portfolios, were at stake. There will be winners and losers. But the worst outcome would be to not learn the lessons.
Mar 06, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org
Trailer Trash , Mar 6 2020 19:41 utc | 11> trusted scientists at the CDC and NIH
Yes there are some trusted scientists at CDC and NIH, but none in the leadership. They are as corrupt and useless as any other important federal agency. They have public relations programs that include research, rather than the other way around. Even their public service announcement videos are crude - the average junior high student could do better. But that is what happens when everything is contracted out to the private sector - just like the Pentagon!
Unfortunately it is a long and very complicated story that interests only the affected patients and their small circles of friends. Perhaps the impending medical disaster will spur a few people to look a little closer at these agencies run as slush funds for selected important research institutions.
As an example, NIH currently spends about $2.5 Billion per year on Alzheimers - close to 10% of the budget. It has thrown huge sums at the problem for years and years, and still there is not one effective treatment and nothing on the horizon.
Current theories result in failure after failure, but they are incapable of developing new ideas or directions, and there is little reason to expect this to change anytime soon. Just one more example of the New Dark Ages...
Mar 08, 2020 | nymag.com
Governor Andrew Cuomo attacked the CDC on Sunday after announcing another 16 confirmed coronavirus cases in New York. But as Cuomo explained, that number is too low because the state still hasn't been able to do enough testing to identify more cases. Seven labs in the state were ready to start testing as of Sunday, but couldn't because they are still waiting for federal approval, Cuomo said.
The governor held his press conference at one those facilities, Northwell Health Labs at the Center for Advanced Medicine, a private laboratory in North New Hyde. He said that it was "outrageous and ludicrous" that the lab was still waiting for CDC authorization: "C.D.C., wake up, let the states test, let private labs test, let's increase as quickly as possible our testing capacity so we can identify the positives, and not using this lab and other private labs makes no sense."
... ... ...
On Saturday, 23,000 test kits arrived at the city's public health laboratory, according to a HHS spokesperson . As of Saturday, roughly 120 people have been tested in the city, and on Thursday, a Department of Health official warned that the city only had enough tests left for about 1,000 people. The situation prompted city officials to send a letter to the CDC pleading for more tests. Officials explained that "slow federal action" was holding back testing capacity, and as a result, the city's ability to respond to the outbreak.
Mar 09, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.
I was chatting on Facebook the other day about the topic de jour – protecting friends, family, and myself from coronavirus – with Dr. Sarah Borwein, an old friend and travel buddy from my Oxford days. Sarah's a Canadian- trained doctor who has practiced family medicine for more than 15 years in Hong Kong. She co-founded the Central Health Group.
I recently attended Sarah's wedding in that city in early January – and got out just in time to avoid some of the more draconian travel restrictions that have since been imposed as a result of the outbreak of the #COVID-19 coronavirus.. At least for now. And just before Hong Kong imposed drastic restrictions that have allowed it to weather the coronavirus crisis while recording only three deaths, so far.
She has an extensive professional history of dealing with infectious diseases in Asia. Prior to commencing her practice in Hong Kong, she successfully ran the Infection Control program for the only expatriate hospital in Beijing during the SARS period, also serving as liaison with the World Health Organization. For a fuller account of her career and her thoughts on the current crisis, see this interview in AD MediLink, Exclusive Interview on COVID-19 with SARS Veteran Dr. Sarah Borwein .
I thought readers might be interested in some of the things Hong Kong is doing to combat the virus.
The city has been in partial lockdown from the middle of January, with schools and universities, shut, employees encouraged to work from home, sports facilities and museums closed down, and people told to avoid crowds according to the Financial Times, Hong Kong's coronavirus response leads to sharp drop in flu cases . Hong Kong residents have accepted these restrictions, since:
Hongkongers are particularly compliant with public health measures because the 2002-2003 Sars outbreak, which claimed almost 300 lives in the territory, is still fresh in many people's minds.
The partial lockdown is neither easy nor cost-free, but it largely seems to have controlled incidence of the disease, without paralysing Hong Kong. The city is close to mainland China and has extensive economic and other ties. But so far, it has recorded only three deaths, according to the South China Morning Post, Coronavirus: Hong Kong records third death as five more cases confirmed, bringing total to 114 . And this for a city with population of roughly 7.5 million people.
There has been extensive texting for the coronavirus in Hong Kong – which is free. This allows public health austhories to track the spread of the disease, and see that victims get treated properly and promptly.
This record stands in contrast to the US, which has not yet managed to distribute tests widely – let alone, as far as I can see, determine who will pay for testing.
The disease seems to have taken hold in In U.S., with cases exceeding 500 and deaths so far recorded of 22, with 19 in Washington state, according to the New York Times, Cases of Coronavirus Cross 500, and Deaths Rise to 22 .
New York declared a state of emergency on Saturday. Governor Andrew Cuomo has complained about the lack of testing kits (see Coronavirus in N.Y.: Cuomo Attacks C.D.C. Over Delays in Testing ).
The inability to test means that it's not possible to track the progress of the disease properly, is as to determine from where a patient may have caught it. Nationwide in the US, a fraction of people who are symptomatic or who may have been exposed to the virus have been tested. Even India, which has so far managed to limit exposure of its population to foreign sources of infection, has tested many more people – and is doing comprehensive screening at its airports.
Which makes a lot of sense, as foreigners – tourists – are principal source of the infection, Others are Indians returning from foreign climes, carrying with them the disease. So far, India has reported 39 cases, a large cluster of which is an Italian tour group that visited Rajasthan. Five other recent cases are non-resident Indians (NRIs), who returned to India from Venice. We can only help as the temperature slowly rises as we approach the Indian summer, that increase in temperature slows spread of the virus (see Coronavirus cases rise to 39 as 5 found infected in Kerala ). Whether this will prove to be the case is as yet unknown, but as Sarah discussed in her MediLink interview:
It is true that some viruses that are spread by respiratory droplets, as COVID-19 is believed to, spread more easily when the air is cold and dry. In warm, humid conditions, they fall to the ground more easily and that makes transmission harder.
But there is still a lot we don't know about exactly how COVID-19 is spread and the effects climate may have on it. We do see it spreading in Singapore, which is warm and humid, so who knows?
I should mention that there have been dark musing about the NRIs returning to the state of Kerala from Venice – as they concealed their travel history and exposure. Kerala Health Minister K.K. Shailaja has said these victims will be treated, but that this type of behavior -- the deception – should be considered to be a crime.
Hong Kong has made it a criminal offence to lie to a health care provider about one's travel or exposure history, according to Sarah; I wonder whether the US will attempt to do the same?
There have been numerous complaints about the lack screening at US airports, including JFK, for people coming from Italy, which has locked down 16 million people in Lombardy and the north (see ' Absolutely Chilling': Reports From Frontlines of Coronavirus Outbreak Reveal Roadblocks to Testing, Lack of Safety Protocols .)
How to Protect Yourself From Infection
Most of us have heard the advice for avoiding infection. I'm going to repeat this advice. Those who know it all already, feel free to skip ahead. Those who've not seen such advice, pay attention.
Wash your hands, with soap, properly and frequently. I posted this video last week, but some readers may not have seen it:
WHO handwashing technique. Notice the attention to between the fingers, back of fingers, and nails:
Hand sanitiser can be used as a stopgap until you can wash your hands, but the World Health Organization says that only those that are 60% alcohol killl the virus. And hand washing is an absolute must for hands that are visibly dirty.
Maintain social distance. Avoid crowds.
Cough or sneeze into a tissue, and dispose of it promptly and properly (I'm tossing mine into my toilet, and flushing them away.).
Pay attention to your overall health. Eat well. Including plenty of fruits and vegetables. Stay properly hydrated.
Get a 'flu shot if you haven't already. Although this won't protect you from coronavirus, 'flu can be a nasty disease in its own right, and catching it can land you in hospital or quarantine. Not to mention getting sick with the 'flu overburdens health systems when resources are needed elsewhere.
The procedures Hong Kong has put in place to control coronavirus have also led to a drastic decline in 'flu cases,. In fact, its winter influenza season has ended more than a month earlier than usual. 'Flu cases also dropped during the ARS crisis, according to the FT:
Data provided by the government's Centre for Health Protection show the incidence of infection with influenza had fallen to less than 1 per cent by the end of February, marking an end to the winter flu season, which normally extends to the end of March or into April.
"A similar pattern happened in 2003 during Sars. All respiratory infection diseases were down between March to September compared to 2002," said David Hui, a respiratory disease expert from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
"Influenza spread is one of the markers [of the coronavirus containment] as the same principles of avoiding droplets and social contacts apply."
Ho Pak-leung, a leading microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong, said data showed the flu season had shortened from an average of 98.7 days to 34 days this year.
Use of Masks?
Masks are not very useful, and many places are out of stock anyway, but Sarah says these can prevent you from passing along any infection you might have to others. She says the advice to avoid masks outright is wrong. There is a place for them, they're just not a panacea, and in any case, if used improperly, they may actually increase your risk.
From her Medilink interview:
The shortage of masks has many people feeling quite anxious and unprotected. But masks are NOT very effective at preventing transmission of viral infections, particularly when worn by healthy people. They are by no means the most important measure you can take to protect your health. In fact, if you wear a mask incorrectly, touch or adjust it frequently, re-use it, or fail to wash your hands before putting it on and after taking it off, you may actually increase your risk.
Who should wear a mask:
– People who are sick, to prevent them spreading their viral droplets when they cough or sneeze.
– People caring for sick people at close quarters.
– In a health-care setting.
– People whose occupation requires them to have close contact with clients.
As it has become socially unacceptable in Hong Kong to NOT wear a mask, there may be situations in which you might choose to wear a mask simply to make other people feel comfortable. But in general, healthy people do not need to wear masks, except when they need to be in crowded places, or with possibly sick people.
Infection Control Protocol?
This to me was the most striking thing I learned from our conversation. I don't think anything like this infection control protocol is yet in place – certainly not throughout the US, nor even in high-risk areas. And it it should be.
From a text from Sarah:
We have triage at the door. People with high-risk travel history can't be seen, have to go directly to government hospital if symptomatic; or if just for routine care, wait 14 days after return (all of which must be healthy). Low risk people with symptoms we isolate immediately; they never enter the main clinic. And we wear PPE [i.e., personal protective equipment] to see them.
In Hong Kong, people are being told to get tested if you think you have been exposed, and/or are symptomatic. Anyone with a fever or respiratory symptoms is tested as a matter of course, upon recommendation of a doctor.
To be fair, I should mention that Hong Kong did not initially test so extensively. Sarah texted me:
Testing has been ramped up gradually. Initially they just added testing of all pneumonia patients, regarless of epidemiological link. The testing of all mildly symptomatic patients with no epidemiologic link is relatively new. A few weeks ago they started offering it in the public hospital A&E's and public outpatient clinics. Then last week they extended that to private sentinel clinics (of which we are one) and this week have extended it to all private clinics
But in the US, even if your doctor wants to test you, no testing kit may be available to conduct the test. This is simply insane, so many weeks, after the disease has taken root in so many places, and after the World Health Organization made accurate tests available months ago.
Hong Kong has also made it easier for patients to test themselves, without involving a health care provider. From a message from Sarah:
They also pioneered a test that patients could do themselves – ie they self-collect a "deep throat saliva" sample at home. That reduces risk of exposure to healthcare workers, as taking nasopharyngeal swabs is "aerosol generating"
So there is considerable scope for United States to learn from Hong Kong's experience and ramp up its testing – without appreciably increasing risk to its health care providers.
One thing talking to Sarah has driven home to me is how poor the comparative US infrastructure for dealing with such a disease is – although she didn't say so in so many words. These are my words, but I don't think she would dispute the conclusion.
Contrast that to Hong Kong. From her MediLink interview:
The situation is much less serious in Hong Kong than in mainland China, especially Wuhan and Hubei. We are quite exposed here, because of our close ties with the mainland, but we have a very strong public health system, good resources, and deep experience in managing epidemics. After SARS, Hong Kong set up the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) , which is our version of the CDC in the United States . When COVID-19 emerged, there was already an epidemic management plan in place that just had to be activated. The four best prepared places in Asia are probably Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and South Korea.
Her MediLink interview is upbeat in some ways. Perhaps a better description would be measured. She points out that COVID-19 is less lethal than SARS. But because of that fact, it's much easier to spread:
COVID-19 and SARS do share some common features: they belong to the same family of viruses, they both seem to have jumped from animals to humans, they both originated in China and both can cause severe pneumonia.
But there are some important differences. SARS was more lethal than COVID-19, but less easily transmitted. It went straight for the lungs, and caused severe pneumonia which became transmissible only when patients were quite severely ill and usually by then in hospital. About 10% died .
COVID-19, on the other hand, seems to be more likely to replicate in the upper respiratory tract and it seems like individuals might produce a lot of virus when they are only mildly symptomatic. It's not known how many people with COVID-19 develop pneumonia, but of the ones who do, about 20% get severely ill and fewer than 2% die. Overall death rates are still not known for sure, but are probably less than 1%.
So COVID-19 is a lot less lethal than SARS, but harder to control because it spreads more easily and by people with milder symptoms. That's why, despite being considerably less likely to kill you than SARS was, COVID-19 has still in total killed more people in 6 weeks than SARS did in eight months.
We should recognise considerable advances in infection control have been made since that time. Alas, many countries seem not to have absorbed these lessons – including the United States. Or if they did, that knowledge has failed to translate into effective responses. From MediLink:
Another important difference is that medical science has advanced considerably in the 17 years since SARS. In 2003, it took months to identify the virus and develop a test. For COVID-19 that happened within a couple of weeks. That has made identifying patients a great deal easier. In addition, there are newer treatments and some vaccine prospects already in the works.
Epidemic control is something that has confounded the US political system. The relevant public health officials may know what needs to be done, they're not doing it. That may simply be, at least in part, because resources are simply not available. It's also due to the way we divide authority for such problems, with responsibility largelylodged at the state and local level. And the reflexive reliance on neoliberal, market-based solutions is also at fault. There are some things government is uniquely positioned to provide, but many are no longer capable of recognising that simple fact.
Over to Sarah's MediLink interview again:
The most important thing we learned from SARS was that infectious diseases do not respect borders or government edicts, and cannot be hidden. It requires international cooperation, transparency and sharing of information to control an epidemic.
We also learned the importance of providing good, balanced, reliable information to the public. In any epidemic, there is the outbreak of disease and then there is the epidemic of panic. And nowadays, there is also what the WHO has termed the Infodemic , the explosion of information about the epidemic. Some of it is good information, but some of it is rumour, myth, speculation and conspiracy theory, and those things feed the anxiety. It can be hard to sort out which information to believe, so it is important to choose trustworthy sources. Panic and misinformation make controlling the outbreak more difficult.
On a day when markets are melting down, and people are succumbing to panic,I can only say, keep calm. And to remind everyone: wash your hands!
Eustache de Saint Pierre , March 9, 2020 at 12:07 pm
The only query I would have with that is in reference to masks, is that people who appear healthy can be asymptomatic so are therefore spreading the disease, which I believe that masks would help prevent.
Ignacio , March 9, 2020 at 1:02 pm
The problem is that there are no masks for everybody so these should be available for those who need them the most . This is a F*c*n*gly problematic issue and that is why there must be a campaign against massive mask usage.
It has to be repeated 100 1000 1000000s times but we f*c**gl* avoid to understand this necessity.
Ignacio , March 9, 2020 at 12:56 pm
Today has been a day of overreaction indeed. I would point as an addition to Sarah remarks on disease spreading that regarding weather, temperature and humidity as important or even more important than virus air transmission or fomites-led transmission is our susceptibility to infection.
A healthy mucosal epithelium contains non-specific barriers to virus and other pathogens including our normal microbiota, enzymes and various types of fibers acting as a physico-chemical barrier for virus entry. In winter, these barriers are less efficient.
The same virus load will not have the same effect in winter or in summer in the nasopharyngeal tract. In this sense HK and NY are not comparable. Regarding the lessons of SARS epidemics, if one of them is to keep calm that is a goos lesson. If another lessons is to identify the sites that need stronger protection, that is another good lesson. A third good lesson would be awareness on precautions to be taken personally. Anyway given differences between SARS1 and 2 in virulence and epidemiology there are not many more lessons to learn. Again comparing Singapore or HK with NY in terms of potential fatalities is not spot on for weather reasons.
The main failure in Italy first, or in Spain now, has IMO been on lack of awareness. No overreaction is needed but good reaction would have made things better if the objective is to reduce fatalities and avoid HC services being overwhelmed. Focus on safety in hospitals is a must. Focusing on safety in residences for the elder is a second must (this has been noticed too late for many).
This evening I will have a discussion with my son that wants to go to a concert next saturday in a closed ambient. I think that the government will come to my rescue and forbid this class of events.
carl , March 9, 2020 at 1:09 pmThe tide has now gone out, and has revealed that the US is swimming naked.
Mar 07, 2020 | www.theamericanconservative.com
The AP reports on more of the Trump White House's bungling of the coronavirus response:
The White House overruled health officials who wanted to recommend that elderly and physically fragile Americans be advised not to fly on commercial airlines because of the new coronavirus, a federal official told The Associated Press.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention submitted the plan this week as a way of trying to control the virus, but White House officials ordered the air travel recommendation be removed, said the official who had direct knowledge of the plan. Trump administration officials have since suggested certain people should consider not traveling, but they have stopped short of the stronger guidance sought by the CDC.
There is no good reason for the White House to prevent this recommendation from being made public. This is another example of how the president and his top officials are trying to keep up the pretense that the outbreak is much less dangerous than it actually is, and in doing so they are helping to make the outbreak worse than it has to be.
For the last several weeks, we have seen the president and top administration officials presenting the public with misleading and outright false information in an effort to conceal the magnitude of the problem and the extent of their initial failures. The president has been unwilling to tell the public the truth about the situation because he evidently cares more about the short-term political implications than he does about protecting the public:
Even as the government's scientists and leading health experts raised the alarm early and pushed for aggressive action, they faced resistance and doubt at the White House -- especially from the president -- about spooking financial markets and inciting panic.
"It's going to all work out," Mr. Trump said as recently as Thursday night. "Everybody has to be calm. It's going to work out."
Justin Fox comments on the president's terrible messaging:
The biggest problem, though, is simply the way that the president talks about the disease. His instinct at every turn is to downplay its danger and significance.
Minimizing the danger and significance of the outbreak ensured that the government's response was less urgent and focused than it could have been. It encouraged people to take it less seriously and thus made it more likely that the virus would spread. Then when the severity of the problem became undeniable, the earlier discredited happy talk makes it easier for people to disbelieve what the government tells them in the future.
The administration had time to prepare a more effective response, but as I said last week the administration frittered away the time they had. They were still preoccupied with keeping the virus out rather than trying to manage its spread once it arrived here, as it was inevitably going to do:
"We have contained this. I won't say airtight but pretty close to airtight," White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said in a television interview on Feb. 25, echoing Trump's tweeted declaration that the virus was "very much under control" in the United States.
But it wasn't, and the administration's rosy messaging was fundamentally at odds with a growing cacophony of alarm bells inside and outside the U.S. government. Since January, epidemiologists, former U.S. public health officials and experts have been warning, publicly and privately, that the administration's insistence that containment was -- and should remain -- the primary way to confront an emerging infectious disease was a grave mistake.
The initial response and the stubborn refusal to adapt to new developments have meant that the U.S. is in a much worse position in handling this outbreak than many other countries. Max Nisen comments on the lack of testing in the U.S.:
Don't cheer just yet. The lower case count doesn't mean Americans are doing a better job of containing the virus; rather, it reflects the fact that the U.S. is badly behind in its ability to test people. The Centers for Disease Control stopped disclosing how many people it has tested as of Monday, but an analysis by The Atlantic could only confirm 1,895 tests. Switzerland, a country with fewer residents than New Jersey, has tested nearly twice as many people. The U.K., which has far fewer cases, has tested over 20,000. This gap is particularly worrisome given evidence of community spread in a number of different states and a high death count, both of which suggest the number of cases will jump as more tests are conducted.
Capacity is finally ramping up, but only after weeks of delays prompted by unforced errors and botched early test kits from the CDC. The continuing inability to test broadly is leading to missed cases, more infections, and an outbreak that will be bigger than it needed to be.
The administration not only bungled their initial response, but they have also been extremely resistant to admitting error. Trump's appointees are reluctant to contradict the president when he spouts nonsense about the outbreak, and that in turn makes it more difficult for them to communicate clearly and consistently with the public. All of this serves to undermine public trust in the government's response, and it prevents health officials from being able to do their jobs without political interference. The federal government's response has been hampered by a president who wants to make people think that the problem isn't that bad and is already being dealt with successfully:
At the White House, Trump and many of his aides were initially skeptical of just how serious the coronavirus threat was, while the president often seemed uninterested as long as the virus was abroad. At first, when he began to engage, he downplayed the threat -- "The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA," he tweeted in late February -- and became a font of misinformation and confusion, further muddling his administration's response.
On Friday, visiting the CDC in Atlanta, the president spewed more falsehoods when he claimed, incorrectly: "Anybody that needs a test, gets a test. They're there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful."
When the president lies about such a serious matter, he is causing unnecessary confusion and he is sending exactly the wrong message that remedying earlier failures is not an urgent priority. Because Trump's primary concern is making himself look good in the short term, he is willing to risk a worse outbreak. During his visit to the CDC, the president went on in an even more bizarre vein to praise the tests by comparing them to his "perfect call" with the Ukrainian president last summer that led to his impeachment:
In an attempt to express confidence in the CDC's coronavirus test (the agency's second attempt after the first one it developed failed), Trump offered an unorthodox comparison from the last enormous crisis to swamp his presidency. The tests are just like his impeachment-causing attempt to pressure a foreign government to help him get reelected. "The tests are all perfect like the letter was perfect. The transcription was perfect. Right? This was not as perfect as that but pretty good," Trump told reporters after falsely stating, again, that anyone who needed a test right now could get one.
This morning the president was back at it this morning with more self-serving misinformation:
We have a perfectly coordinated and fine tuned plan at the White House for our attack on CoronaVirus. We moved VERY early to close borders to certain areas, which was a Godsend. V.P. is doing a great job. The Fake News Media is doing everything possible to make us look bad. Sad!
-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 8, 2020
The president needs people to think that everything he does is perfect, so he is incapable of acknowledging his failures and prefers to vilify accurate reporting about those failures. He cannot help but mismanage the government response because he cannot put the national interest ahead of his own selfishness. An untold number of Americans will be paying a steep price for the president's unfitness for office in the weeks and months to come.− +
Englewood • 12 hours ago"An untold number of Americans will be paying a steep price for the president's unfitness for office in the weeks and months to come."SFBay1949 Englewood • 6 hours ago • edited
We've been paying it for a while. It's just more obvious now. I wish I never voted for him.I wish you had thought a bit into the future before you voted him. Did you really think things wouldn't turn out EXACTLY the way they have? Honestly, it's to rime tell the truth here.Englewood SFBay1949 • 5 hours agoIt's the Democrats who should have thought a bit into the future. It was the identity and known character and policies of Trump's opponent that tipped my vote to Trump. And no, obviously I didn't think things would turn out "exactly" this way. I thought if I put up with his repulsive manner I'd get maybe a third of his main campaign promises and that the GOP establishment would get the hiding it deserves. Boy, was I wrong.SFBay1949 Englewood • 3 hours agoI take you believe Hillary Clinton was worse than Trump. Fair enough, but do you still think our country would be in the state it is now? In what way could she possibly be worse than what we have now with Trump?Brandon Falusi SFBay1949 • 4 hours agoIt's better for Trumpism to have burst like a zit onto the mirror, no matter how disgusting, because it was all there anyway under Bush and Cheney, it was there alongside "Barack the magic... birth certificate!" You can fairly easily wash off the stain of Bush and Rumsfeld, you can sort of start to forget their sublime horror, the exact same level of lies and utter mismanagement, but you can't wash off a man like Trump, ever. His portrait will be in the White House so future Americans can see what we're capable of, and hopefully be more vigilant about the subtle and polished lies and civilized outrages. We needed this barbaric display to get some clarity.King George • 12 hours ago"The president has been about the situation because he evidently cares more about the
short-term political implications than he does about protecting the public"
It's no different from the first two years of his presidency. He already betrayed those of us who voted for the America First promises on immigration and ending the wars. He spent most of his doing favors for Wall Street, Israel, and Saudi Arabia instead. Now he's going to betray the many vulnerable elders who voted for him, risking their illness and even death by his selfish evasions and lies. He's a con artist. A fake.
Mar 09, 2020 | craigmurray.org.uk
Vivian O'Bliviion , March 7, 2020 at 14:55
The American CDC rejected the notion of replicating the WHO approved Coronavirus test, in favour of developing its own test (resulting in a delayed launch date and continued lag in delivery).
The CDC test is being billed at $1,200 (for those lucky enough to have sufficient insurance). In S. Korea testing is free if a prospective patient is running a temperature. If the subject is not running a temperature the test is billed at $120 (presumably this is an approximation of cost price). Some folks in America are going to make a whole pile of money out of the situation
Reliable figures for infection and mortality rates should arrive before the Presidential election. It will be interesting if there is an appreciable differential between mortality rates in countries where healthcare is allocated according to medical need and countries where healthcare is allocated according to private insurance cover.
If America does experience heightened mortality rates to other industrialised countries, will this impact on the outcome of the election?
I suspect not.
Mar 09, 2020 | www.bloomberg.com
Testing around the U.S. was hampered when local officials reported flaws in the kits the CDC sent. Replacements didn't come until weeks later, which left most hospitals and clinics short of tests. Shifting guidelines for who should get the few tests available also confused hospitals, Diaz said.
At the time, there had still been just the single case reported in Seattle. Trevor Bedford, a Harvard-trained researcher and viral genome expert at the city's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, wondered why. He had spent weeks analyzing genomes of patients from around the world, tracing minor mutations to deduce how Covid-19 emerged and spread.
The early work found that infections were doubling roughly every six days, and that for every three to four rounds of transmission -- or once every 20 to 30 days -- one minor mutation was occurring, Bedford said in a Feb. 13 interview. "We are watching very carefully for more local transmission," he said at the time.
They soon found it: a teenager with mild symptoms who attended a high school about 15 miles from where the first case was identified -- someone who wouldn't have been tested because he or she didn't meet the criteria. But the results showed up in the Seattle Flu Study, a project on which Bedford is a lead scientist.
The new case, announced Feb. 28, was genetically identical to the original except for three minor mutations in the virus. And it contained a key genetic variant that was present only in two of 59 viral samples from China. This type of circumstantial evidence stops just short of proving a chain of transmission. It's possible the Washington cluster didn't derive from the known Patient Zero, but another case that came into Washington the same time and went undetected. Still, Bedford calculated a 97 percent probability the new case was a direct descendant -- one that hadn't been spotted because of the narrow testing at that time, Bedford wrote in a March 2 post.
"This lack of testing was a critical error and allowed an outbreak in Snohomish County and surroundings to grow to a sizable problem before it was even detected," he wrote.
... ... ...All told, 31 Kirkland firefighters -- almost a third of the department -- in addition to 10 from other communities as well as some relatives have been quarantined, adding to the stress on emergency teams.
Bedford, the genome expert, is working with University of Washington researchers to understand the extent of the spread. Last week, the university started using its own virus test, a modified version of one created by the World Health Organization. When a positive result is found in a sample, the researchers perform a second round of tests to sequence the viral genome.
Pavitra Roychoudhury, a university researcher in charge of sequencing, said technicians have been working late into the night to complete as many samples and sequences as possible. She puts her toddler to bed and then logs back into her computer.
On a call with reporters on Monday, Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, called Bedford's theory "an interesting hypothesis" but said other possibilities have not been ruled out. "There are alternate explanations of the same findings," she said. There may have been a "secondary seeding" in the community, she said, as more recent cases in Washington match viral sequences posted in China.
So far, Bedford has reported, sequencing still suggests the transmission is related to the original patient -- and the number of active infections could reach 1,100 by March 10 and 2,000 by March 15.
What's more, the state's early cases may have seeded infections now exploding on the cruise ship Grand Princess off California's coast, he tweeted this week. Researchers from the University of California at San Francisco have said the viral strain from a patient infected on the ship is similar to the cluster circulating in Washington state. -- With assistance by Emma Court and Michelle Fay Cortez
Mar 09, 2020 | www.counterpunch.org
As COVID-19 begins its inevitable "community transmission" phase around the United States, the purveyors of the conventional wisdom are largely focused on President Trump's (and by extension, prayerful Vice President Pence's) incompetence and his self-serving, empathy-free approach to the coronavirus. And it is true that, as with all things Trump, it seems that all he really cares about is the stock market and its effect on his reelection bid. But Trump's narcissism obscures something both far more pernicious and far more permanent than his oft-televised obsession with himself and that's the fact that he's been busily making Milton Friedman's "Supply Side/The Bottom Line Is The Only Line" dream an intractable reality.
It was a dream that first took flight when Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980. The dream was often made manifest by the neoliberal lurch and deregulatory impulses of President Bill Clinton. But it is Trump who's come closest to fully realizing the dream of ending responsive government. It should come as no surprise, though. Trump lifted, among other things , his " Make America Great Again " slogan from the Gipper. He's also taken Reagan's anti-FDR pitch about the dangers of government (see "The Deep State") and, with the help of a motley crew of Tea Partiers, Evangelicals and corporate Republicans, transformed it into, as Steve Bannon calls it, a " War on the Administrative State ."
Since taking office and taking complete control of the news-cycle, Trump has been systematically starving Federal agencies of resources, personnel and attention. He has, through the sycophants and lobbyists he's installed around the Executive Branch, been pushing out career professionals and barely replacing them with also-rans. And he is dismantling every aspect of government he cannot use to reward his corporate clients or punish political apostates.
The idea is to cripple the Federal government from within instead of doing the hard legislative work of changing the laws that legally compel government action. As a result, many of the regulations on the books are becoming functionally irrelevant . Some laws are being rewritten by the lobbyists who used to lobby against 'em, but mostly the Executive Branch is being systematically emaciated by the political equivalent of chronic wasting disease.
It's an approach first pioneered by Reagan devotee Grover Norquist, who advocated " starving the beast " of government down to a manageable size before "drowning it" in a bathtub. It's an idea currently being implemented with wide-ranging effect by Trump, who, like Reagan before him , is accelerating the bankrupting of the already debt-laden treasury with a combo of tax cuts and massive spending on a world-dwarfing defense industry. Eventually, the theory goes, the "safety net," a.k.a. "entitlements," and other "common good" spending will collapse under the weight of the financial limitations generated by profuse borrowing to fund market-distorting tax cuts and to dole out subsidies and tax gifts to cronies and key corporations. All the while, the ever-less regulated chemical, oil, defense, agricultural and (most importantly of all) financial industries will continue to hoard assets through the rinsing and repeating of the supply side boom-and-bust scheme, a.k.a. the business cycle.
Frankly, this all looks like the endgame of a long plan to undo the demand side economy created by the New Deal. Along with the seemingly (but not) contradictory spike in Unitary Executive power (which is about protecting rackets, shielding enforcers from prosecution and about enforcing political compliance), this is a transformation decades in the making and Trump is the perfect salesman for this final episode even better than Reagan or Clinton because his "flood the zone" narcissism is the ultimate, 24/7 distraction for a people addicted to binge watching, inured to scripted reality shows and motivated by belligerent infotainment.
Reagan was the first actor to hit his marks on a stage set for him by the interlocking forces of Big Oil, Big Defense and Wall Street. Not coincidentally, this same Venn Diagram of power has profited mightily from Trump's Presidency. Rather than an actor, though, Trump is the barking emcee of the final season of the American Dream Gameshow a program that was initially cancelled in 1980, but somehow kept running in syndication on one of the two crappy channels a "free" people have been given to chose from. But now, the final credits are closer to rolling that ever before.
As such, Trump is the omega to Reagan's alpha. And any coronavirus-related "incompetence" you see being reported is a feature, not a bug, of this Re-Great'd America. And that's because Trump is not an outlier. He is a culmination.
This article first appeared NewVandal .
JP Sottile is a freelance journalist, published historian, radio co-host and documentary filmmaker (The Warning, 2008). His credits include a stint on the Newshour news desk, C-SPAN, and as newsmagazine producer for ABC affiliate WJLA in Washington. His weekly show, Inside the Headlines w/ The Newsvandal, co-hosted by James Moore, airs every Friday on KRUU-FM in Fairfield, Iowa. He blogs under the pseudonym " the Newsvandal ".
Mar 08, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org
Jen , Mar 6 2020 20:01 utc | 13Likklemore @ 6:
The White House should not have needed to look very far to China to prepare for a coronavirus epidemic within the US.
During the 2019-2020 influenza season, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 15 million people came down with flu, of whom 140,000 required hospitalisation. 8,200 deaths were recorded. Over a 4-month period, that averages to 2,050 deaths per month. This is in a country with 1/4 of the population of China's.
If the White House failed to recognise a major health crisis already simmering on its own doorstep, what hope can be held for when the coronavirus epidemic starts sweeping through the inland US, taking out the elderly, the poor and the homeless?
For the next 20 years I would go on from war zone to war zone as a foreign correspondent immersed in military culture. Repetitive rote learning and an insistence on blind obedience-similar to the approach used to train a dog-work on the battlefield. The military exerts nearly total control over the lives of its members. Its long-established hierarchy ensures that those who embrace the approved modes of behavior rise and those who do not are belittled, insulted and hazed. Many of the marks of civilian life are stripped away. Personal modes of dress, hairstyle, speech and behavior are heavily regulated. Individuality is physically and then psychologically crushed. Aggressiveness is rewarded. Compassion is demeaned. Violence is the favorite form of communication. These qualities are an asset in war; they are a disaster in civil society.
Homer in "The Iliad" showed his understanding of war. His heroes are not pleasant men. They are vain, imperial, filled with rage and violent. And Homer's central character in "The Odyssey," Odysseus, in his journey home from war must learn to shed his "hero's heart," to strip from himself the military attributes that served him in war but threaten to doom him off the battlefield. The qualities that serve us in war defeat us in peace.
Most institutions have a propensity to promote mediocrities, those whose primary strengths are knowing where power lies, being subservient and obsequious to the centers of power and never letting morality get in the way of one's career. The military is the worst in this respect.
In the military, whether at the Paris Island boot camp or West Point, you are trained not to think but to obey. What amazes me about the military is how stupid and bovine its senior officers are. Those with brains and the willingness to use them seem to be pushed out long before they can rise to the senior-officer ranks.
The many Army generals I met over the years not only lacked the most rudimentary creativity and independence of thought but nearly always saw the press, as well as an informed public, as impinging on their love of order, regimentation, unwavering obedience to authority and single-minded use of force to solve complex problems.
... ... ...
...Peace is for the weak. War is for the strong. Hypermasculinity has triumphed over empathy. We Americans speak to the world exclusively in the language of force. And those who oversee our massive security and surveillance state seek to speak to us in the same demented language. All other viewpoints are to be shut out. "In the absence of contrasting views, the very highest form of propaganda warfare can be fought: the propaganda for a definition of reality within which only certain limited viewpoints are possible," C. Wright Mills wrote. "What is being promulgated and reinforced is the military metaphysics-the cast of mind that defines international reality as basically military."
Sturmtruppen's success spurred two cinema adaptations. The first one, Sturmtruppen (1976), was co-written by Bonvicini and directed by Salvatore Samperi. In 1982 a sequel, Sturmtruppen II, was released, again directed by Samperi and featuring Renato Pozzetto, Massimo Boldi and Teo Teocoli.
Bonvi had a small part as a German officer. The quality of the two movies was uneven, albeit some ideas and situations (such as the Captain abusing a life-size plush toy with Karl Marx features -- only to be assaulted and bitten by it -- or the Pope offering a poisoned wafer to the angelic soldier who came from heaven to usher in a new age of Peace) are very biting and sarcastic, on par with the best strips.
On August 16, 2006, Miramax moved forward with plans to create a live-action movie based on Sturmtruppen. It is not known if a script has been written, or who is slated to direct the movie.
WikipediaMany writers have addressed the Absurd, each with his or her own interpretation of what the Absurd is and what comprises its importance. For example, Sartre recognizes the absurdity of individual experience, while Kierkegaard explains that the absurdity of certain religious truths prevent us from reaching God rationally. Camus regretted the continued reference to himself as a "philosopher of the absurd". He showed less interest in the Absurd shortly after publishing Le Mythe de Sisyphe (The Myth of Sisyphus). To distinguish his ideas, scholars sometimes refer to the Paradox of the Absurd, when referring to "Camus' Absurd".
His early thoughts appeared in his first collection of essays, L'Envers et l'endroit (The Two Sides Of The Coin) in 1937. Absurd themes were expressed with more sophistication in his second collection of essays, Noces (Nuptials), in 1938. In these essays Camus reflects on the experience of the Absurd. In 1942 he published the story of a man living an absurd life as L'Étranger (The Stranger). In the same year he released Le Mythe de Sisyphe (The Myth of Sisyphus), a literary essay on the Absurd. He also wrote a play about Caligula, a Roman Emperor, pursuing an absurd logic. The play was not performed until 1945.
The turning point in Camus' attitude to the Absurd occurs in a collection of four letters to an anonymous German friend, written between July 1943 and July 1944. The first was published in the Revue Libre in 1943, the second in the Cahiers de Libération in 1944, and the third in the newspaper Libertés, in 1945. The four letters were published as Lettres à un ami allemand (Letters to a German Friend) in 1945, and were included in the collection Resistance, Rebellion, and Death.
Ideas on the Absurd
In his essays Camus presented the reader with dualisms: happiness and sadness, dark and light, life and death, etc. His aim was to emphasize the fact that happiness is fleeting and that the human condition is one of mortality. He did this not to be morbid, but to reflect a greater appreciation for life and happiness. In Le Mythe, this dualism becomes a paradox: We value our lives and existence so greatly, but at the same time we know we will eventually die, and ultimately our endeavours are meaningless.
While we can live with a dualism (I can accept periods of unhappiness, because I know I will also experience happiness to come), we cannot live with the paradox (I think my life is of great importance, but I also think it is meaningless).
In Le Mythe, Camus was interested in how we experience the Absurd and how we live with it. Our life must have meaning for us to value it. If we accept that life has no meaning and therefore no value, should we kill ourselves?
In Le Mythe, Camus suggests that 'creation of meaning', would entail a logical leap or a kind of philosophical suicide in order to find psychological comfort. But Camus wants to know if he can live with what logic and lucidity has uncovered – if one can build a foundation on what one knows and nothing more. Creation of meaning is not a viable alternative but a logical leap and an evasion of the problem. He gives examples of how others would seem to make this kind of leap. The alternative option, namely suicide, would entail another kind of leap, where one attempts to kill absurdity by destroying one of its terms (the human being). Camus points out, however, that there is no more meaning in death than there is in life, and that it simply evades the problem yet again. Camus concludes, that we must instead 'entertain' both death and the absurd, while never agreeing to its terms.
Meursault, the absurdist hero of L'Étranger, has killed a man and is scheduled to be executed. Caligula ends up admitting his absurd logic was wrong and is killed by an assassination he has deliberately brought about. However, while Camus possibly suggests that Caligula's absurd reasoning is wrong, the play's anti-hero does get the last word, as the author similarly exalts Meursault's final moments.
Camus made a significant contribution to a viewpoint of the Absurd, and always rejected nihilism as a valid response.
"If nothing had any meaning, you would be right. But there is something that still has a meaning." Second Letter to a German Friend, December 1943.
Camus' understanding of the Absurd promotes public debate; his various offerings entice us to think about the Absurd and offer our own contribution. Concepts such as cooperation, joint effort and solidarity are of key importance to Camus, though they are most likely sources of 'relative' versus 'absolute' meaning.
Religious beliefs and Absurdism
While writing his thesis on Plotinus and Saint Augustine of Hippo, Camus became very strongly influenced by their works, especially that of St. Augustine. In his work, Confessions (consisting of 13 books), Augustine promotes the idea of a connection between God and the rest of the world. Camus identified with the idea that a personal experience could become a reference point for his philosophical and literary writings.
Although he considered himself an atheist, Camus later came to tout the idea that the absence of religious belief can simultaneously be accompanied by a longing for "salvation and meaning". This line of thinking presented an ostensible paradox and became a major thread in defining the idea of absurdism in Camus' writings.
Opposition to totalitarianism
Throughout his life, Camus spoke out against and actively opposed totalitarianism in its many forms. Early on, Camus was active within the French Resistance to the German occupation of France during World War II, even directing the famous Resistance journal, Combat. On the French collaboration with Nazi occupiers he wrote:
- Now the only moral value is courage, which is useful here for judging the puppets and chatterboxes who pretend to speak in the name of the people.
Camus' well-known falling out with Sartre is linked to this opposition to totalitarianism.
Camus detected a reflexive totalitarianism in the mass politics espoused by Sartre in the name of radical Marxism. This was apparent in his work L'Homme Révolté (The Rebel) which not only was an assault on the Soviet police state, but also questioned the very nature of mass revolutionary politics.
Camus continued to speak out against the atrocities of the Soviet Union, a sentiment captured in his 1957 speech, The Blood of the Hungarians, commemorating the anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, an uprising crushed in a bloody assault by the Red Army.
Magnificent., June 3, 2007
By M. Harris (New Zealand) - See all my reviews
`On the psychology of military incompetence' is officially on the list of books that Army personnel aren't allowed to read, but since I was given this was a retired general, reading it seemed like the thing to do. I'm pleased I did.
To be frank, non-military personnel might not admire its sheer brilliant powers of deductive observation. As soon as I had read it I started to panic as I saw the caricatures played out around me. I then started to spot them in myself, and began to panic harder. I suspect this book is designed to give oneself (if you happen to be in the military) a bit of a fright, and to encourage introspection.
Anyway, it's a brilliant book that's simply chock-full of theories, explanations and uncomfortable questions. I think the uncomfortable questions are the most valuable, but you have to read for yourself to discover if you think the same. And you should read it - it should be required reading for Officer Cadets right up to Generals, and civilians should read it as well - after all, you're the ones ultimately in charge of us gun-slinging types, yes?
A serious look at a deadly problem, March 19, 2007
By In the Middle of the Road (Connecticut)
For most people, including most of today's amateur theorists on the events of the day, war is something akin to moving toy soldiers around. What they know of military matters is all too akin to cheering for a sports team. They want someone with a can do spirit and the willingness to charge into stiff resistance. Take that hill no matter what the cost. Fight to the death. A lot of horse manure.
War is a deadly business and there is probably no war in which incompetence was not afoot, whether in losing or in winning. Mix incompetence and a failure to understand the technology of war and you have WWI. The reality is that incompetence is as pervasive in the military as it is in the corporate world. And if we must fight wars, we should have a reasonable expectation tht the people who direct that effort have some idea of waht they are about. Dixon is concerned primarily with generalship.
I first read this when it was first published in the UK at least a couple of decades ago. It filled an important gap in the range of serious reading on both the military and organization behavior. As another reader notes, this is just organization behavior mil101.Most corporations are still organizing along military lines and that cuts through titles like team leader and associate. It is hard business to make it work right and too many times in the military, there is a failure of competence.
The fields o fhte world are littled with the remains of those who died through bad generals. Dixon reflects some of his own military experience in the British Army, including WWII, before he entered the Psychology field. There is a British emphasis, but the approach is generally and applies broadly to any military. And the examples he cites are among those that are studied deeply for implications. He covers the field from the intellectual capability of generals to a chapter that for the sake of review rules must be labeled as Bull droppings.
How do we deal with incompetent leadership? That is one of the questions Dixon addresses. It probably should be extended to political leaders given their power over warmaking.
In our day, we are assaulted with people who accuse their opponents of micromanaging war in Iraq. A decade or two from now, it may be somewhere else. But what we began doing in Vietnam was executive branch micromanaging and that was greatly expanded during the Iraq fiasco to the point that many left senior ranks. We look closely at our generals, but can we afford to go to war without understanding the competence gap that we might have in political leadership..
Irreverent, superbly written, interdisciplinary, enlightenin, September 29, 1998
By A Customer
Dixon is a former artillery officer, Sandhurst graduate, and self-described authoritarian personality, who left the Army and became a clinical psychologist. He uses both sets of experiences to analyze why officers in armies throughout history--mostly British, but the principles are generally applicable--have fallen into a stereotypical pattern of incompetence specific to senior military leaders. Much of the reason, he believes, derives from personality development, but the book is refreshingly devoid of psychobabble and is written in an astonishingly clear style. A real eye-opener, after which military history will not be quite the same to the reader again.
February 28, 2012 | Blind Bat News
"The direct causes of the nuclear accident were the unpreparedness of Tokyo Electric Power…and the government's lack of a sense of responsibility."-Koichi Kitazawa, lead investigator
A Japanese government sanctioned independent investigation has revealed gross incompetence in the wake of the March, 2011, nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi. It also says that Tokyo Electric made the situation worse!
Six investigators interviewed more than 300 people, including Japanese and U.S. government officials. However, officials at Tokyo Electric refused to co-operate with the investigators! They have just published their findings, February 28, 2012.
The report calls government response "off the cuff", and "too late" (as I was posting last year)! The nuclear power plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCo), was ill prepared for a nuclear disaster, despite decades of telling locals they were prepared (as I posted last year). The Japanese government, especially the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, failed to ensure the proper training for nuclear disaster response (as I posted last year). The report also blames Japan's complicated system of delegating authority and responsibility. No one knew who was supposed to do what regarding the disaster; from top national government officials down to sub-contractors working for TEPCo (again, as I posted last year).Things were so bad that local governments have been taking the initiative to try and deal with things like relocating residents, and decontamination efforts, with little help from the national government (again, I posted).Also, many of the discoveries of radiation contamination came as a result of individuals and private groups, who took it upon themselves to pay for testing things like dirt, water, and even food, like beef, sold in grocery stores (again, I). It was local governments who discovered farm crops to be contaminated (posted last year). The report also says that information coming from the private sector to government officials was insufficient to make proper decisions. TEPCo officials simply dragged their feet when it came to dealing with specific issues, like cooling systems being shut down, and vents not being opened. Not only did TEPCo drag their feet, but the investigators found that there was a back up cooling system that was functional, but TEPCo never used it!!! Although Japan's government has a crisis management policy, the investigators said it is totally useless!
For additional background, it's helpful to look at the 2006 National Audit Office report (emphasis added below):
The single payment scheme is not a large grant scheme compared to some government programmes, but the complexity of the EU Regulations, the complex way in which the Department planned to implement them in England, combined with the deadlines required to implement the scheme for 2005, made it a high risk project. By choosing to integrate the scheme into a wider business change programme, the Agency added to its already considerable challenges.
Many of the Agency's difficulties arose, however, from:
- underestimating the scale of the work needed to implement the scheme;
- over optimistic progress reporting; and
- governance structures which, in practice, proved overly complex, and the absence of clear metrics, arising from the lack of appropriate management information that would have allowed the oversight boards to measure progress objectively.
By the end of March 2006 implementation of the single payment scheme had cost £46.5 million more than the Agency had anticipated in its November 2003 business case. The implementation of the single payment scheme and the wider business change programme had cost £258.3 million, will not achieve the level of savings forecast, and there is risk of substantial costs for disallowance by the European Commission. The farming industry has also incurred additional costs, 20 per cent of farmers have experienced stress and anxiety as a result, and five per cent of respondents to our survey said they have considered leaving farming.
The level of RPA mismanagement can hardly be over-estimated. As a small example, representing a broader pattern, see this House of Commons testimony (section EV8), by Johnston McNeill, former RPA boss, during an inquiry into the SPS debacle (emphasis added below):
Had we known that there was going to be that [level of claimant and land registration] volume, we could have looked at the volumes that the system could handle; whereas we could only look at the normal requirements. When we specified this system in 20034, when we were talking to Accenture, we had had a lengthy contract procurement and specification. We were specifying without any understanding of SPS requirements. We were specifying on our normal business requirements.
Although government incompetence has played a role, Accenture's involvement in this mess should not be ignored. Commenting on Accenture, a House of Commons investigating committee stated on page 5 (emphasis added below):
Accenture witnesses appeared to have been well schooled in not venturing comment on matters which they deemed were beyond their contractual observations. This attitude denied the Committee an important perspective on the way the SPS project was being run from the standpoint of a company at the heart of the venture. We regard this as an unacceptable attitude from a company of international repute and which may still aspire to work with UK government in other areas.
In evidence submitted to the House of Commons, Accenture denied responsibility for the problems, saying that (emphasis added below):
As has been widely acknowledged by numerous commentators and experts, significant IT enabled business change programmes can be difficult to manage. There have been many examples of problem projects in the public and private sectors in recent years with difficulties attributed to poorly defined requirements, changing business needs and lack of business involvement and preparedness that can lead to delivery difficulties.
To address the issues, the National Audit Office offers these suggestions:
We recommend that the Agency:
- recovers high value overpayments to farmers (such as those over £25,000) as soon as practicable;
- brings its key offline databases into the single payment scheme IT system to make its forecasts more accurate and reliable;
- in the event that the European Union makes policy changes to the scheme, explores whether its existing IT systems would be able to accommodate such changes without the need for major redesign of the application. If the system is unlikely to be able to accommodate such changes, the Agency should notify its Management Board and the Department of the risks accordingly and update farmers once a revised timetable can be defined;
- draws on the good practices we identified from the IT systems supporting the German model of the single payment scheme on how to keep claimants informed about the progress of their claims, and the online processes already available to German farmers to transfer entitlements; and
- learns lessons from implementation of this IT system, to take account of best practice. In particular, the Agency should:
- use appropriate off the shelf rather than bespoke software whenever practicable, after considering business needs and scheme complexity, because bespoke software is costly to develop, needs to be thoroughly tested, and takes more time to implement;
- avoid offline systems, on which the main IT system depends;
- align the system to business needs, rather than the business to the system needs, applying caution to any significant movement away from tried and trusted business methods to accommodate the IT system; and
- ensure the system specifications retain a realistic level of flexibility to cope with future changes.
The National Audit Office recommendations listed above illustrate the extent to which basic IT best practices were not followed. Consider this as well:
- RPA developed custom software, rather than use off-the-shelf products. What was Accenture's role in this decision? It's precisely the kind of issue I addressed in a blog post called Consulting's dirty little secret, which explained how consulting companies can gain financial benefit when a project becomes larger and more complex than expected.
- RPA created databases in which data was stored in computers disconnected from the main system, despite the fact the main system depended on that data to function properly. Such issues force questions around who designed this system, from both technical and business perspectives, and how experienced these folks actually were.
- In general, the entire situation represents poor planning and project management taken to new heights of incompetence. Despite complexities in aligning UK practices with EU policies, both RPA and Accenture designed and executed a system based on poor practices, lack of experience, and world-class levels of bad planning.
IMPACT ON VICTIMS
This situation is different from many government IT failures, where money is wasted but innocent victims don't suffer personal injury. In this case, delayed and incorrect payments have directly affected farmers depending on subsidies to maintain their operations. In the words of Roger Williams, Liberal Democrat from Wales:
Farmers have found it difficult to accommodate problems with cash flow. Mention has been made of paying bills, but at the end of this week interest payments will be due on most accounts. That money will be taken out of the farmers' accounts. They will not have to make a conscious decision about it; the money will be removed from their accounts. That may take them above the level that they have agreed with their banks, and they will suffer the financial consequences-not just additional interest, but the other costs involved.
The BBC further reports on the damage caused to farmers:
Farmers in the East are being forced to the brink of bankruptcy by the Government's failure to pay their subsidies.
Many are struggling to survive while awaiting money from the Single Payment Scheme (SPS).
Johnston McNeill, former head of the RPA, eventually apologized for his agency's role in the disastrous situation:
"I deeply regret that we in the RPA and I as chief executive were not able to make payments to farmers in the targeted timetable". He said he was "saddened by the consequences".
Unfortunately, apologies coming from a man who earned £250,000 per year (about US$500,000), while inflicting such damage on his constituency, leave only a bereft and hollow sound.
May 4, 1997
DILBERT MEANS BUSINESS. The (anti-)hero of one of the most successful comic strips of our time is an icon for office workers everywhere - the only character property that speaks to business through multiple media outlets including the daily comic-strip, an award-winning web site and a best-selling publishing program.
Anybody who works in an office or deals with bureaucracy relates to Dilbert's plight. Created by Scott Adams, Dilbert addresses issues ranging from office-envy/challenges to new technology - and the mayhem they produce. Dilbert features a rich cast of characters, including his sidekick Dogbert, his inept Boss, and his co-workers Wally and Alice. Primary target group for the property is adults 18-49 years old - affluent, educated and technology savvy.The Dilbert daily comic strip appears in 2.000 newspapers in 65 countries worldwide in 25 different languages. More than 20 million Dilbert books and calendars have been sold in North America alone; several titles cumulatively spending over one year on The New York Times Best Seller List. The Dilbert Principle is categorically the best selling business book of all time.
Dilbert was also the first syndicated comic strip character to officially go online, and the strip was the first to contain its creator's e-mail address. The award-winning web site The Dilbert Zone attracts millions of visitors each month. A Dilbert television series premiered in 1999, with Scott Adams and Larry Charles (Mad About You, Seinfeld) as executive producers.
Working as a computer engineer, Scott Adams started drawing Dilbert doodles to "enliven boring staff meetings". The character soon became so popular that other people at the company started using the character in their presentations. A "name-the-nerd" contest soon followed, and Dilbert was the obvious winner. After a few years, a contract was made with United Media, and Dilbert - "a composite of my co-workers during the years", Adams says - went from doodles to dailies.
Since then, Scott Adams has been awarded several prestigious prizes, including the National Cartoonist Society's Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year and Best Newspaper Comic Strip (1997); Prix d'Excellence for Dogbert's Top Secret Management Handbook from the Maxim Business Club, Paris (1998), and the prize for Best International Comic Strip at the International Comic-Salon, Erlangen, Germany (1998).
Says Emmy Award winning Larry Charles, writer/producer of the Dilbert TV series: "Dilbert is a big Kafkaesque story of a little, logical man in a big, illogical world". In an environment where all bosses and many co-workers are heartless and stupid parasites, Dilbert stands out as the engineer with an active imagination and a His true love? Technology. Dilbert loves technology for the sake of technology; In fact, he loves technology more than people – he'd rather surf the Internet than Waikiki.
Dilbert's dog Dogbert is no man's best friend. His not-so secret ambition is to conquer the world and enslave all humans - whom he feels have been placed on this earth to amuse him. Dig deep enough below his fur, and you'll find a cynical, arrogant conniving little mutt with his paw on the pulse of the absurdity of corporate culture.
Years ago in Cleveland I saw the musical "How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," mail clerk J. Pierpont Finch's hilarious romp up the corporate ladder. I remember using that experience as a take-off point for a sermon on business ethics - with the president and vice-president of the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce in the congregation. I was young and foolhardy then. Now I am old and foolhardy -- as once again I attempt to enter a world in which I have had little experience, but about which I have many opinions.
Cartoonist Scott Adams in his strip Dilbert has updated "how to succeed" and created a primer on how not to succeed in business and in life. The Dilbert Principle is that "the most ineffective people are moved to the place where they can do the least amount of damage: management."
In Gilbert on Dilbert I suggest instead the Gilbert Principle - that our most important real life task is management - the management of meaning in our lives.
I am convinced that good cartoonists, as few others, have their pulse on the Zeitgeist - the spirit of the times.
Scott Adams' cartoon critique of management has become the talk of the town. Dilbert's boss comes in for most abuse. For example, Adams parodies a management buzz word, reengineering, about which the boss says, "Everybody's doing it. We'd better jump under the bandwagon before the train leaves the station." Mixed metaphors are always dangerous.
Have you ever written a mission statement? Been there, done that. In another strip he satirizes the omnipresent mission statement, which he defines as "a long awkward sentence that demonstrates management's inability to think clearly."
The Boss says, "I took a crack at writing a 'mission statement' for our group.
'We enhance stockholder value through strategic business initiatives by empowered employees working new team paradigms.'"
Dilbert: "Do you ever just marvel at the fact we get paid to do this?"
The Boss: "Did anybody bring donuts?"
One of Adams' E-mail correspondents demonstrated the observation that Dilbert is more documentary than satire. "My boss actually said to me 'Let's bubble back up to the surface and smell the numbers.' I had no idea what it meant." As Adams says, "No matter how absurd I try to make the comic strip, I can't stay ahead of what people are experiencing in the workplace."
Though he was fired from his job in corporate America, Adams personally thinks that corporate downsizing often does make the workplace more efficient - fewer workers means less time to waste on idiotic pursuits like vision statements, meetings and reorganizations - he nonetheless makes that phenomenon the target of many of his barbs.
One strip begins with a boss announcing he will be using humor to ease tensions caused by trimming the work force.
'I've decided to use humor in the workplace. Experts say humor eases tension which is important in times when the workforce is being trimmed. "Knock, knock," says the boss.
"Who's there?" asks a hapless worker.
"Not you anymore," responds the grinning boss.
But Adams' cynicism about human nature does not stop with the boss. Co-workers also seem to be caught up in this absurd work culture. A group of workers gather around another's desk.
"We're sorry to hear you're getting laid off, Bruce. We calculated that if ten of your friends here took ten percent pay cuts, then the company can keep you."
Bruce: "Gosh! You'd do that for me?"
"No, we're here to look at your office furniture."
What is the gospel according to Dilbert? There are times when Scott Adams becomes a prophet, skewering perceived injustice, mocking dehumanizing practices that are too close to reality for comfort. He writes about a familiar corporate mantra: "'Employees are our most valuable asset.' On the surface this statement seems to be at odds with the fact that companies are treating their "most valuable assets" the same way a leaf blower treats leaves. How can this apparent contradiction be explained?"
He treats this issue in a cartoon in which the boss admits he was mistaken that "employees are our most valuable asset." Actually, he explains, "they're ninth." "Eighth place?" someone asks. "Carbon paper," says the boss.
After a particular "downsizing" there were unused work cubicles which the company decided to hire Dogbert Construction to retrofit them and rent them out to the state as a prison.
Dilbert: "I don't think it's fair to put convicts in our spare cubicles."
Dogbert: "Don't be such a bigot. These people have made one little mistake. Otherwise, they're just like employees."
Dilbert: "I think there are a few differences."
Dogbert: "Yeah, their health care is better."
How are we to assess Adams? Is he prophet or embittered employee getting back at his former bosses? I think Adams is no prophet but a social critic. He has a totally cynical view of human nature. His characters are not suffering from paranoia, people are out to get them -- from the boss to the stockholders to their fellow-workers. These characters are totally self-interested, with no discernible trace of altruism.
One reporter asked him, "Are you as cynical as you seem?" "Yes. I don't think what I'm doing is based on rage, but I'm terribly amused by the absurd.
The absurdity stands out more in a business setting because there's an expectation that people will act rationally. But people aren't rational."
Whether or not Dilbert is true to life, it is close enough that millions of people read it daily. In one survey of workers indicate that 87% say their workplace is a "pleasant environment," but Adams responds, "If you're in an absurd situation and you're not changing it, then you define it as being OK."
And it is true that more than 70% of workers report stress on the job, suggesting that there may well be a kind of suppressed rage in America's workplaces. Dilbert's problem is that he is totally dehumanized by his work environment. Certainly my conversations with many of you indicate that working isn't what it used to be - that work has become an ordeal - that it is robbing people not only of their time, but also of their human dignity.
For such people Dilbert is a pleasant catharsis. But Adams has been roundly criticized by more radical cartoonists as being "on the side of the ruling class," betraying "millions of insecure and beleaguered office workers" who consider him their champion. It is "not very radical commentary to say 'Boy, aren't bosses dumb.' There's no analysis, even in a goofy way, of why bosses act the way they do.
It's 'Boy is my boss dumb,' but not 'Boy, is this huge company stupid for doing this merger and laying off half its employees and devastating the local economy and shipping the jobs to Mexico or Indonesia.' Criticizing stupid bosses without putting them in context is like complaining because it gets dark at night without understanding that the earth revolves around the sun. It's a really limited view. It doesn't go anywhere. It's just a safety valve."
I confess I am somewhat suspicious of Adams' credentials as the prophet of the workplace. I withhold that status from anyone who in critiquing the corporation has become one, anyone who proudly admits he has always wanted "to make as much money as I could....If you can write on it, if it will hold a label, it's a prime target for licensing. You can't get to overexposure without getting to filthy rich first."
What is disturbing in Dilbert is the relative equanimity with which the office workers accept their plight. Passivity is their chief character trait. They seem to be automatons who do not so much live in, as simply respond to, their environment.
One wonders if painting this humorous picture of their ineptitude, their shallowness of life, their willingness to go along with absurdity, is a step on the way to ending the insanity. Or does it simply help them deal with it by laughing at it?
After all, CEO's and management consultants post the cartoons on their office bulletin boards - how penetrating can this critique be if the targets simply divert the satirical arrows with a laugh? Adams says they always think he's pointing the finger at somebody else. Does Dilbert merely co-opt workers who ought to be struggling to humanize their work environment instead of making the best of their dehumanization?
Adams seems to be ambivalent on his role. On the one hand he defends himself by saying "anything which can be mocked will not last...." but who is to say it won't last? And, on the other, he says, "My goal is not to change the world. My goal is to make a few bucks and hope you laugh in the process." He is hoisted on the petard of his own cynicism.
What is going to stop our thoughtless, dangerous, headlong dash into the 21st century in which work once more becomes drudgery - albeit a high tech one - a drudgery which increasingly consumes our lives.
In the mid-1990's the Apple Macintosh development team wore T shirts proclaiming "90 hours a week and loving it!" Is that the kind of brave new world we want? We seem caught up in a momentum about which many of us complain, but about which we seem to be able to do little or nothing. We accept the new oppression with nary a critical word - so fearful are we for our jobs.
Now the cartoonist, of course, is not really supposed to be a social revolutionary, but is Adams helping sustain a workplace environment which so often saps the human spirit by merely encouraging us to laugh at it?
Or is he launching a long-overdue conversation about the place of work in human life? Is Adams helping or hindering our headlong dash into the brave new world where we live faster and faster, with more and more, for less and less meaning?
In 1987 social critic Jeremy Rifkin uttered these prophetic words:
"We have quickened the pace of life only to become less patient. We have become more organized but less spontaneous, less joyful. We are better prepared to act on the future but less able to enjoy the present and reflect on the past."
Is that to be the culmination of our evolution as spiritual creatures? That our work will suck the life force from us, as it did for Scott Adams. Are you happy in your work? Does it add meaning to your life? If so, good. If not, what are you, what can you, do about it?
The Dilbert solution of supine acquiescence in absurdity is a spiritually fatal position. It is a study in how not to succeed in the business of life. Adams offers us no hope. The Gilbert principle is that we need to manage the meaning of our lives in the workplace - for it is there, increasingly, that humanity's fate is being decided. It would not be not enough for me to endure the absurdity of the workplace, to find a humorous "haven in a heartless world." It is our task to make that world less heartless.
Business Week, 5/27/96, 46.
U.S. News and World Report, 4/22/96, 77.
Fortune, 5/13/96, pp. 99-110.
Newsweek, 8/12/96, pp. 52-57.
Windows, 5/95, reprinted in Utne Reader, 7-8/95, 88-9.
Salon - on line
USA Weekend, 7/26-28/96, 10, and 3/21-23/97, 18.
Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, 2/23/97, 1E.
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The Last but not Least Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand ~Archibald Putt. Ph.D
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