In Case You Missed It, It Isn’t 2009: Pandemics Then and Now

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Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonderandhome.com

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  1. Avatar Doctor Jay
    Ignored
    says:

    Speaking of YouTube (and covid-19), I want as many people to see this as can:

    Report

  2. Avatar Mike Schilling
    Ignored
    says:

    Also, 2009 wasn’t an election year.

    Oh, and the president wasn’t a complete piece of shit.Report

  3. Avatar Swami
    Ignored
    says:

    “…in America we don’t know how this is going to go yet, and are just now starting to really test.”

    I have a question for everyone. What do you predict will happen over the year?

    Here are some specific questions.

    1) Will total flu (all strains) deaths in the US go up or down or stay about the same from the pace of prior years? (Measuring from March to December of 2020 vs the last three year average)
    2) What will the impact be on the US economy in terms of GDP?
    3) What will the impact be on finance in terms of year end stock market? (Let’s say S&P500 and NASDAQ compared to End of Feb)Report

  4. Avatar Chip Daniels
    Ignored
    says:

    Olga Khazan over at The Atlantic has a brief summary of why America is lagging behind the world in testing:
    https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/why-coronavirus-testing-us-so-delayed/607954/

    In short, Trump is not responsible for all of this; Some of it is the lack of cooperation from China in giving out specimens of the virus for analysis, some is lack of equipment, some of it is bureaucratic inertia, and yes, some of it is the national leadership.

    But what seems glaringly obvious is that even something as vague as “bureaucratic inertia” isn’t like some artifact of nature, eternal and unchangeable.

    Even the most massive bureaucracy like the Pentagon is nothing more than individuals, each of whom is empowered to make decisions.
    There isn’t a regulation or rule or protocol that can’t be overruled by someone somewhere, if they so choose.

    There isn’t some iron law that says that large organizations are incapable of speed and effectiveness. We see governments around the world reacting faster than ours, with more effectiveness than ours, with more transparency and success than ours.Report

    • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
      Ignored
      says:

      There isn’t some iron law that says that large organizations are incapable of speed and effectiveness. We see governments around the world reacting faster than ours, with more effectiveness than ours, with more transparency and success than ours.

      The large countries are China, India, Russia, and the EU as a whole.

      None of them are models of speed, effectivenes, transparency, and success.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
        Ignored
        says:

        I was thinking of South Korea and Singapore, where their centralized bureaucracy is currently outperforming ours.

        There, you can get tested for free, get the results in 10 minutes, and they are performing something like 10,000 tests per day.

        Our bureaucracy is performing poorly because the American citizenry has chosen to allow it.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
          Ignored
          says:

          Heck, the American citizenry has chosen to *ENABLE* it.Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
          Ignored
          says:

          Singapore is a city by our standards.
          South Korea is a mono-cultural state.

          Size matters, both in land and population. Diversity matters. The cultural war matters. Race relations and the history there of matters.

          If you want a totally efficient government, then take off the table the idea that one part of the country will use the gov to cram it’s views on how life should be onto another part of the country.

          There is no consensus in the US on what the gov should be doing, what level those services should be provided at, and there probably CAN’T be considering we have too many groups.Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
            Ignored
            says:

            As I said, we Americans have freely chosen to be this way.

            There isn’t any structural or systemic force that compels us to have a crippled public health administration.
            We have plenty of wealth, plenty of expertise.

            It was the American public health bureaucracy that stopped polio in its tracks and helped eradicate smallpox around the world.
            It was our expertise that was the envy of the world for decades, as American medical experts fanned out across the globe to help impoverished nations become healthier and safer.

            Here is a good article discussing how Korea’s public health administration was crippled by religious cults and cynical political actors:

            https://thediplomat.com/2020/03/clandestine-cults-and-cynical-politics-how-south-korea-became-the-new-coronavirus-epicenter/

            “Members of the group were told to refrain from wearing face masks as their belief in Lee and God would shield them from the virus, in some cases they were told to endure disease and attend church services. ”

            While cults can be attributed to the spread of COVID-19, the cynical tactics of conservative politicians can be blamed for stifling the government’s containment policies. Still recovering from the dramatic downfall of their leader, Park Geun-hye, conservatives have desperately waited for an opportunity to exploit a breach in the liberal government’s armor. Conservative politicians have been relentless in criticizing Moon for not imposing a blanket travel-ban on Chinese visitors, a decision which would have had devastating impacts for a country so reliant on Chinese commerce.
            Conservative populists also ignored government warnings against large scale congregations and continued to hold rallies in Seoul. The conservative firebrand, Jun Kwang-hun, falsely mislead his followers – most of which are elderly and susceptible to infection — that the coronavirus outbreak was impossible to contract outdoors. “

            Does any of this sound familiar?

            There is nothing forcing Fox News from spreading misinformation and ignorance; Nothing that compels evangelicals from indulging people like Jim Bakker from peddling quack medicine.
            The Trump administration disbanded the epidemiology team on its own volition.

            These are choices freely made. These choices weren’t forced upon us by diversity or heterodox culture or city planning or plastic bag bans or millennials eating avocado toast.Report

            • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
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              says:

              So roughly half the country is going to get this virus because of Trump.

              But if a Dem were in the White House, and hadn’t cut that team, then roughly half the country would get the virus in spite of his efforts.

              We have had 20k people die from the flu so far this year. Without this virus we could easily have another 30k die from the flu and it wouldn’t even be news. Instead a lot of those 30k people will die from this instead.

              We are in the middle of serious scaremongering by the media because that’s what they do.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                I guess the conservatives haven’t figured out which party line to cling to:
                That its no big deal, blown out of proportion, or its a big deal but the fault of Obama- Ebola-Open Borders.

                Meanwhile, the adults in the room are concerned:
                https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/investigations/2020/03/13/us-hospitals-overwhlemed-coronavirus-cases-result-in-too-few-beds/5002942002/

                “Unless we are able to implement dramatic isolation measures like some places in China, we’ll be presented with overwhelming numbers of coronavirus patients – two to 10 times as we see at peak influenza times,” said Dr. James Lawler, who researches emerging diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the Global Center for Health Security.
                Lawler added that “no hospital has current capacity to absorb that” without taking crisis care measures, such as postponing elective procedures and reserving finite resources for those coronavirus patients most likely to recover.”Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                Meanwhile, the adults in the room are concerned:

                We lost 650k people to heart disease last year. The big counter for that is excerise, the big way to get lots of bad things is a lack of excerise.

                We’re telling everyone to hide at home. We’re closing health clubs. If the number of people we “save” comes at the cost of a tiny increase in sedentaries’ various diseases and side effects, then we’ll be a net loser.

                And that is ignoring the economic damage we’re inflicting here. People are losing their work because of this panic. That translates into less money and less healthcare (and less everything else we consider “good”).

                “no hospital has current capacity to absorb that” without taking crisis care measures, such as postponing elective procedures and reserving finite resources for those coronavirus patients most likely to recover.”

                Ignoring that this is coming from a fearmongering news source trying to sell eyeballs, yes… and?

                Clearly in other situations we’d have unlimited resources for healthcare? Or is it that the extremely sick 70+ year olds who are at most risk for dying would be in the peak of health with out this situation? Or is it that what is happening is simply cost free?

                These evaluations don’t even attempt to make anything like a cost benefit evaluation.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
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                says:

                You realize you aren’t arguing with me, but almost all significant experts in public health and epidemiology in the world?

                Why retreat into auto-didactics and barstool expertise instead of accepting the authority of people who actually study and know things?Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                Thinking is hard. It’s so much easier to rely on the expertise of Chinese Communist Party officials, who are in their important positions because they know vastly more than ordinary workers.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                Go to an expert surgeon and you discover you need surgery. Go to an expert plumber and you discover you need to hire a plumber. Go to an expert in epidemiology and we discover how to shut down the disease.

                Is shutting down all public events and the rest of the various prices we’re being asked to pay worth it?

                I see nothing that even attempts to address that.Report

          • Avatar Mahesh Paolini-Subramanya in reply to Dark Matter
            Ignored
            says:

            “… occurs because is a monoculture” is just another way of saying “We can’t do… because we’re racist”
            Which is probably true…Report

            • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Mahesh Paolini-Subramanya
              Ignored
              says:

              Picture the EU trying to decide on ONE social net and set of social spending for the entire area.

              Simplying the resulting problems to “racism” is a way avoid dealing with talking about the problems and isn’t useful.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                “Diversity matters. The cultural war matters. Race relations and the history there of matters.”

                “Simplying the resulting problems to “racism” is a way avoid dealing with talking about the problems and isn’t useful.”

                I’m really struggling to grasp the argument here.

                I mean, I can’t even paraphrase it so as to snark on it.

                We are talking about having an effective national response to a viral pandemic threat, and you’re saying that somehow racial diversity is preventing this?Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                We are talking about having an effective national response to a viral pandemic threat, and you’re saying that somehow racial diversity is preventing this?

                If you want to showcase what an effective national gov looks like, then you need to point to something other than a gov the size of a city governing a mono-culture and claim we could totally do what they do.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                The government of the United States circa 1960 comes to mind.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                Back then the states were allowed to come up with their own solutions for various issues and the federal gov did FAR less. Federal spending as a percentage of the GDP was something like 11-12%, the bulk of that military.

                I suppose there’s an argument that various groups threw sand in the gears after they learned that one-size-all solutions could be crammed down on them, but I don’t understand where you’re trying to go with this.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                The federal government, by itself and in coordination with state governments, eradicated polio, built the interstate highway system and the space program.

                I mean, it was effective, really effective at doing these things. We debate today which of these things were better or worse, but no one stood around back then whining “We can’t do it!”

                Its bizarre, almost Soviet, this constant excuse-making for failure to do things which other governments manage to do easily.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                Its bizarre, almost Soviet, this constant excuse-making for failure to do things which other governments manage to do easily.

                Yes, we’ve constructed a Soviet style bureaucracy and done a lot of empire building with the Federal government.

                And yes, we get Soviet style problems with that.

                And yes, if we got the gov out of the business of building these huge bureaucracies the rest of the gov would be a lot more efficient and able to focus.

                The Conservative answer to this is to shrink the government. The Progressive answer to this is… what? I have never observed the party of government even attempt to make it work better.

                The only politician we’ve had who has done more than lip service to making the gov more efficient is Trump.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                You’re just reciting a catechism of faith.

                There isn’t an example of your proposal anywhere in history or the present.

                In every successful campaign of public health, whether combating cholera, typhus, polio or influenza, the machinery of centralized government control was used.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                We argued, a million years ago, whether the FDA was too restrictive.

                It’s weird how every single discussion about how we need to have a more European health care system doesn’t think that the FDA needs to be more like the European equivalent.

                The FDA is too restrictive.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Seriously, this is insane. I read this tweet and I do *NOT* say “Good move, FDA!”, I ask “Why in the hell did the FDA not allow this before?”

                Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                The article I linked by Olga Khazan talked about this at length, that red tape (American red tape) was one of the factors preventing us from effectively testing more people.

                If the argument here is that we need a more effective FDA, then I wholeheartedly support that.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                “More effective”.

                Seems to me that the problem is that it’s too goddamn effective already.

                It needs to be less effective.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Of course, it depends what you mean by “effective.” If effectiveness is evaluating drugs and tests in a timely and accurate manner, then yes, I would very much like a more effective FDA.

                However, there’s always going to be a trade-off between type A and type B errors. If effectiveness is defined as minimizing at all costs the number of applications that the FDA erroneously approves, no matter how many lives are lost due to delayed or erroneously rejected applications, then it’s too effective.

                But I don’t think the latter is a very good definition of effectiveness.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                In every successful campaign of public health, whether combating cholera, typhus, polio or influenza, the machinery of centralized government control was used.

                I’m arguing that a smaller, more focused, less micromanagey gov would be more efficient. That a gov that attempts to be everything to everyone results in armies of paper shufflers who don’t add value.

                You’ve taken that argument and are claiming I’m arguing against any gov at all.

                Claiming you’re in favor of a more efficient gov is a no brainer, but how do you suggest we do that if you’re not in favor of making it smaller, more focused and so forth?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                “Smaller, more focused less micromanagey” government is a bromide.

                It can’t be falsified- (are there people arguing that government should be larger, less focused, and more micromanagey?)

                And what metrics would we use to determine such a goal?

                Like, should we split America up into oh, lets say, 50 different regions called “states”, each with their own government, and then split them up into hundreds more regions, called “counties”, then further divide them into “cities”?

                I’m snarking, but even the most massive federal bureaucracy, from the Dept. of Defense to the FDA to the Customs and Border Patrol is divided up into regions and sub regions and individual agencies and departments which are capable of acting independently. They can be as nimble and responsive and focused as the department chooses to let them be.

                Are they all acting perfectly? Of course not!
                Could any of all of them stand reform and adjustment to their performance? Absolutely!

                But a sweeping statement that they need to be “smaller” is nonsensical.

                And see, there is actually a field of study called “Public Administration” and entire schools of government study which look at this very subject in far more detail than you and I.

                But the same voodoo skepticism of expertise that tells us that the most ignorant person on twitter is equal to the most experienced physician at the CDC, tells us that government should be run by amateurs and show business performers.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                Perhaps it can’t be falsified, but if people were arguing that the FDA was too restrictive years ago and did stuff like pointing out that Europe had 8 epipens to the US’s one or pointed out that Peru is, somehow, able to make affordable insulin despite being Peru, it might be worth looking at whether the whole “too restrictive” thing might, in fact, be keeping the US from having multiple epipens or affordable insulin available.

                The alternative is a weaponized skepticism that says “I don’t know if the FDA is too restrictive AND YOU DON’T EITHER!”Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Yes, and we can point out that South Korea is somehow able to test 15,000 people per day while America somehow is not.

                Is the alternative a weaponized ideology that says the FDA shouldn’t exist?

                Of course not.

                Maybe the response should be a desire for a public health agency with sufficient power and scope to protect our health, which is also effective at measurable metrics?

                We didn’t respond to the loss in Vietnam by deciding to abolish the military; Instead the American military and political establishments, to their credit did a lot of analysis and came up with better metrics for the use of force.

                But those reforms were, themselves, measurable in whether they were effective.
                And subsequently were reformed again after 9-11 in ways which are still debated.

                One of the things that often gets overlooked in discussing bureaucracies is that their cumbersome red tape and rules are just words on paper, which can be waived with a stroke of a pen or a phone call, if those in power choose to do so.

                We see a lot of discussion over at LGM about how the structure of the Constitution hobbles democratic action by empowering Mitch McConnell to blockade the will of the people.

                Which may be true but it also overlooks how Mitch is not acting alone; He has the full support of 53 Senators, who in turn have the full support of 40% of Americans;

                With a simple choice on the part of 3 Senators, the government could behave very differently.

                Turning every question into a theological argument over the structure and organization of government makes the individual actors into mere passive instruments without agency.

                This is why I keep coming back to the American people and our choices. The FDA could be as nimble and effective as we want it to be, provided we made it a priority.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                “Yes, and we can point out that South Korea is somehow able to test 15,000 people per day while America somehow is not.”

                Yeah, we pointed out how the FDA forbade independent labs from coming up with their own tests.

                “One of the things that often gets overlooked in discussing bureaucracies is that their cumbersome red tape and rules are just words on paper, which can be waived with a stroke of a pen or a phone call, if those in power choose to do so.”

                I don’t understand why this is considered so much more reasonable than that red tape not being there. Like, to the point where it’s not even questioned.

                “The FDA could be as nimble and effective as we want it to be, provided we made it a priority.”

                Remember when you and I discussed epipens?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                The FDA could be as nimble and effective as we want it to be, provided we made it a priority.

                George and Dark come at this from a different angle than I do, but what you wrote up there is naive to the point of being willfully ignorant. Institutions are comprised of people (as you say) but *even moreso* they are determined (read: constrained) by a type of decision-making which both reinforces the continued viability of the institution while (hopefully) achieving that institutions putative goals. One thing more or less precluded a priori (hah!) from institutional decision-making is that its agents – ie., people playing the role of representing and promoting the institution – will willingly reduce that institutions scope or power, since doing so, given the institutions internal logic, constitutes reducing the likelihood of achieving the institutions (putative) goals. ERGO!, there is no “we can do whatever we want with the FDA” precisely because the FDA is an (existing) institution with a mission and (putative) goals which individuals achieve by playing a specific role within it. That’s a lot of (institutional) inertia to overcome before anyone can meaninglfully say “we can do whatever we want” with it.

                There’s a great book on this, written in the 50s I think. I’ll see if I can track it down.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                {{I looked for the book, couldn’t find it – but I will eventually! – but really no one would read it anyway… 🙂 }}Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Stillwater
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                says:

                Right, but almost every agency has emergency protocols allowing the suspension of rules and order.

                Especially agencies like the military, National Guard, first responders, and public health agencies.

                Its almost like these agencies have thought about things like pandemics and hurricanes and earthquakes, and made plans ahead of time for how to react to them!

                These triggers- Declarations of public health emergency, declarations of national emergency, decisions to allow or not allow this or that testing protocol; These are willful acts by executives of the various agencies.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                That doesn’t address anything I wrote. In fact, it appears to concede everything I wrote by doing a “yeah but”.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                “We’ll just take our chances”
                “Oh, you WILL take your chances, Lafleur!”
                “That’s what I just said.”
                “And that’s what I’m saying to you!”
                “I don’t know where you’re going with this.”

                *pause*

                “TOUCHE!”Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                Pretty simple, really. You said “The FDA could be as nimble and effective as we want it to be, provided we made it a priority”, and I said no, it couldn’t. Then you said yeahbut.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                We have yet to figure out how to deal with the agent problem.

                Get an expert, put him in charge, and somehow what is needed to be done magically matches up with what is good for the expert and his field.

                We can see this most clearly with how the messages from the God of Good match up with what is good for the Priests.

                Change the God to “Public Health” and while the reality of the source changes, the agency problem does not.

                It can’t be falsified- (are there people arguing that government should be larger, less focused, and more micromanagey?)

                You mean other than you?

                Right this minute we’re dealing with a public health emergency and the “experts” who run the FDA have managed to prevent the existence of tests to tell us who is sick. Them serving as gate keepers and power seeking was more important than the overall public good.

                I’ve pointed out that maybe they shouldn’t be uber gate keepers, you’ve equivilated that to getting rid of the government all together.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                If I said, “The government should be made larger” a natural question for you to ask is:

                “Larger in what way, Chip? Which agencies should be made larger? All of them? One in particular?” What sort of goals would we be trying to do with making them larger?”

                Those are all perfectly reasonable questions.

                Which should be asked when someone says “The government should be made smaller”.

                Maybe there are plenty of rules within the FDA which need to be temporarily overridden; Or maybe abolished altogether. Or maybe revised with more exceptions, or with different stakeholders.

                Those are perfectly reasonable suggestions.

                In one sense its unfair of me to demand you come up with a point by point analysis of how the FDA functions and a bullet pointed list of how it should be improved.

                But its unfair for precisely the reason that you and I are laypeople, unable to really speak with expertise on how public health agencies should be designed.

                There are in fact experts on public health, who have written articles and offered public commentary.

                People like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who is advising Americans on how to cope with the pandemic;

                Or the former director of the CDC who is calling for an investigation into what went wrong:
                https://news.yahoo.com/former-director-cdc-calling-investigation-231900018.html

                So yeah, maybe after listening to people who know what they are talking about, we as citizens will change the scope and structure of the FDA and CDC to be more effective in the next pandemic.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                Other than FDR thinking he had polio and founding a charity to fight it, what did the government have to do with its eradication? Salk didn’t work for the government, he worked for a private charity which raised money from the public, kind of like a “Go Fund Me.” Once the vaccine was ready, testing was run by millions of volunteers.

                Of course the government did build the space program – by by relying on Nazi scientists, but that was a side effect of developing faster and surer ways to vaporize Soviet cities.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Dark Matter
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                says:

                He’s wanting a repeat of the Hong Kong flu pandemic of 1968? I had that, by the way.

                Interestingly, our widespread flu vaccination programs are quite recent, and oddly enough don’t seem to affect the death rate, which is the same it was back in the 50’s and 60’s, per capita.

                The flu fatality rate has dropped significantly from the rate prior to the 1940’s, and it’s thought that perhaps better overall personal health and better care for severe cases might be the reason for that.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Dark Matter
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                says:

                That’s a graph of the flu’s mortality rate over the years.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Chip Daniels
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      says:

      There isn’t some iron law that says that large organizations are incapable of speed and effectiveness.

      Actually, there is. The Iron Law of Institutions:

      The Iron Law of Institutions is: the people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself. Thus, they would rather the institution “fail” while they remain in power within the institution than for the institution to “succeed” if that requires them to lose power within the institution.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Stillwater
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        says:

        I used the term deliberately with that in mind.

        The Iron Law is a really really terrific excuse for failure by almost any institution in any event.

        Because really, it wasn’t that the wrong people were in power; Because no matter who was in power hey, its the structure that prevents good results!

        Child abuse in the Church or Boy Scouts?

        Well, see the Iron Law states that these institutions are large and the people in them only care about their own power, so really, there isn’t anything that can be done, outside of disbanding the institution.

        A military failure? A losing football season? A poor product launch? Iron Law, baby!

        The Law isn’t wrong. It’s very correct.

        But its like Econ 101 or the law of gravity; Its one descriptor of a very complicated field.

        You know that leadership is a very extensively studied field, right? That since the time of Alexander, military organizations have grappled with how to be both large and nimble, how to have centralized decisionmaking, and yet local autonomy.

        How to have a top down command structure which is also flexible and open enough to allow transmission of new ideas and dissent.

        The failure at the FDA isn’t novel or sui generis; Its a common occurrence and is treatable with better leadership and a citizenry that demands better.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Chip Daniels
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          says:

          The Iron Law is a really really terrific excuse for failure by almost any institution in any event.

          It’s not an excuse for anything. It’s a description of human behavior within an institutional structure, and either true or false.

          The Law isn’t wrong. It’s very correct.

          Then why are you arguing that it isn’t?Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
          Ignored
          says:

          Because really, it wasn’t that the wrong people were in power; Because no matter who was in power hey, its the structure that prevents good results!

          Child abuse in the Church or Boy Scouts?

          If you need perfect people to run your organization, then that’s a problem that should be faced right on.

          For Child Abuse, we’ve seen this story often enough that the solution CAN NOT be to replace one guy who used to wear a halo with someone else who currently does and expect different results.

          The institutional solution is to hand out 9 and 10 digit fines until leadership understands that “successful leadership” includes dealing with this issue and not ignoring it.

          As far as the FDA is concerned, the epi pen and various other issues happened on Obama’s watch, this test was on Trump’s.

          Maybe “reform” should include giving the FDA less power and less authority and not think Trump can find a perfect person to run it while Obama couldn’t?Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
            Ignored
            says:

            Isn’t the customary response of businesses which suffer large fines, to replace their leaders until they find one who is able to fix things?
            Wasn’t that Lincoln’s approach to the Civil War losses?

            Sure, I’m not claiming that individual behavior is the miracle fixall; nothing is.

            But individual leadership skill matters every bit as much as proper structure.Report

            • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels
              Ignored
              says:

              We have seen this dance often enough to understand that the core problem is the leadership, institutionally, doesn’t think fixing that problem is part of their job.

              Large fines is an effort to point out to the institution that, yes, it is. It’s how you convert a “successful” leadership history into an unsuccessful one… because “successful leadership” means “did this person make money for the institution.

              That’s why the head of Michigan State could step down and STILL be congradulated and celibrated for her successful multi-decade leadership, even if she did let a child rapest do his thing for years.

              So then, what kind of “large fine” can we drop on the FDA to convince it that various things are problems?

              Replacing the leadership isn’t going to do it by itself, just like having that University President step down isn’t enough. We need to convince the institution that this behavior is unacceptable. Since we can’t “fine” a gov body, the only solution I see is simply restricting their ability to misuse that power.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter
                Ignored
                says:

                Absolutely, just replacing heads isn’t going to do the trick by itself, just as restructuring by itself won’t do it.

                But both tools really demand the same thing of citizens, which is to hold the executive (in this case the President) and the management board which establishes the structure (In this case the various heads of the FDA) and even the body which establishes the basic scope (In this case Congress).

                So really, in order to do as you say, restrict their power, we have to fire and re-appoint better Presidents, FDA heads, and Congresspeople.

                Which is really how the republican system works, isn’t it, where we hire people to create the structure of government.

                Our entire power as citizens is the power to hire and fire people. So we should probably work on making better hiring choices.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                And yet your nominees to replace Trump make him look like Albert Einstein. Joe Biden had a disastrous town hall, so bad that they pulled the plug on it. At times he’d doesn’t seem to know what office he’s even running for.

                Bernie is just as bad, and the empty shelves at Costco are a preview of what normalcy under Bernie would be like. He doesn’t even think we need more than one toilet paper manufacturer.

                One of the reasons Trump was elected was that a large swath of the public realized that the country’s leadership class was staggeringly incompetent. Everything since just confirms that opinion, so running two senile candidates in their 70’s who’ve been in Washington for a combined total of 80 years isn’t going to sway anybody.Report

              • Avatar Douglas Hayden in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                “Heckuva job, Brownie” was far more Bush’s epitaph than anything he did in Iraq. The people can and will come together to demand better.

                Now, granted, it may not be a perfect change, but sometimes you gotta take your Ted Strickland over your Ken Blackwell.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Chip Daniels
      Ignored
      says:

      “we should just TELL the FDA what to do, and MAKE them do it, and if they still don’t want to then FIRE PEOPLE until they DO”, says the guy who I’m quite sure thinks that Donald Trump is an authoritarian dictator who believes his word is God’s law and throws tantrums when he doesn’t get his way.Report

  5. Avatar Pinky
    Ignored
    says:

    The comparison I keep going back to is Ebola.

    I can understand people who freaked out about both. I have a lot of respect for people who think of them differently based on expertise. But I’m having trouble with the people who overreacted to one of them and made fun of people who overreacted to the other one, simply based on the sitting president. That’s shamanism.Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Pinky
      Ignored
      says:

      I agree with the general sentiment… I did some research on the “coronavirus emergency bill” and the double speak on where the points of contention were was distressing.

      But, the problem with coronavirus is that it doesn’t actually present like a plague or Ebola, it presents with a huge lag and a spike that requires collective action *before* any of us can see a need. That’s really counter-intuitive.

      By comparison, here’s how the WHO describes Ebola spread:

      The incubation period, that is, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms, is from 2 to 21 days. A person infected with Ebola cannot spread the disease until they develop symptoms.

      From a response point of view, this makes a massive difference. Which isn’t so much to disagree with you as to point out that Ebola response is driven by 25% – 90% mortality plus a disease that presents starkly and only becomes infectious when it does.

      So, a good Ebola response is a bad Coronavirus response.Report

  6. Avatar Kristin Devine
    Ignored
    says:

    Great piece!! Very insightful and I enjoyed it a lot!Report

  7. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m vaguely wondering if the virus is a chimera (that is, touched by humans beforehand) and, if it is, if that’s something that we will ever be allowed to find out.Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      The short answer is no, we won’t be allowed.

      There’s no upside to acknowledging that it was humanly manipulated since the simplest (and ealiest) reports were that it was an “accidental” release from a research lab which is legitimately working on SARS research. Thus the rational calculus will be that there’s nothing to be gained by publicizing such a mistake, since it is already understood that mistakes like that simply cannot be made. So what’s the point of pointing out the mistakes? That would be seen as a huge mistake.

      And, if it was simply a naturally occurring mutation and cross-species jump… then there’s nothing to report. Either way, we just have to accept it as an act of God.Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Marchmaine
        Ignored
        says:

        Thus the rational calculus will be that there’s nothing to be gained by publicizing such a mistake…

        Rational Calculus for the group as a whole is different from “I become famous if I step forward”.

        If it’s man made, too many people would need to keep it’s secret. Ergo it’s not man made.Report

  8. Avatar gabriel conroy
    Ignored
    says:

    Well, on January , 2009, I had a first date with a beautiful lady. She’s n ow my wife. So I have pretty fond memories of 2009.Report

  9. Avatar Douglas Hayden
    Ignored
    says:

    “Social media means we are not just watching the story, but can be part of it, and no one wants to be left out.”

    As the song goes, “Everybody’s a dreamer, everybody’s a star…”Report

  10. Avatar Fish
    Ignored
    says:

    Great piece, Andrew.

    I went shopping after work and I caught an insight on the “toilet paper rush.” Seeing all those empty shelves (but a full produce section??) kind of freaked me out, and I found myself making a mental inventory of “stuff that I should really pick up while I have the chance before it’s all gone.” I quickly realized what I was doing, collected the stuff on my list, checked out, and went home. What a strange experience.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Fish
      Ignored
      says:

      (but a full produce section??)

      This. No toilet paper (or diapers), but the produce section looked just like it always does. Similarly for the frozen vegetables section.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Michael Cain
        Ignored
        says:

        Fresh vegetables generally don’t keep, so there’s not much reason to stockpile them, and people are already out of freezer space. Besides, it’s a national emergency, so who the heck is still eating vegetables?

        I saw an amusing picture of bare shelves beside the still fully stocked vegan section, so maybe this is a real thing.

        Imagine you were part of a group that was escaping from an apocalypse that hit your city. As you finally settle down to make camp, each of you shows what critical items you managed to bring: MRE’s, dehydrated foods, bottled water, canned meats, weapons, ammunition, radio gear, a crossbow, and some whisky and C-4 (keep an eye on that guy). Then Chad grins and says “I brought fresh carrots!” and waves them around with their tops still attached, and Karen chimes in and says “I brought Swiss Chard!” In the back of their minds, everybody knows it’ll end badly for them. Don’t be Chad and Karen.Report

  11. Avatar Murali
    Ignored
    says:

    I don’t understand the need to horde toilet paper. It’s not like covid gives people diarrhoea. (Plus there’s also water)Report

  12. Brandon Allen Brandon Allen
    Ignored
    says:

    “No wonder you get folks who spend every waking minute on presidential politics immediately filtering a health scare through the ongoing election.”

    There’s a reason people are freaked out about this. And like you said, it IS because we have a different president. But it’s not for the nefarious reasons you suggest (an evil media, a crazy social media platform). Have you listened to the president’s response to this? Does he make you feel better about any of this? Did you see him in the Rose Garden yesterday?

    I was 26 during the swine flu, and I remember it well. I do not think this is comparable because we were testing on a much wider scale. Swine flu was a variation on the old one. There was a vaccine by the end of the year. As you noted, we’re still in the dark about how many people have the virus, as well as how many have died as a result.

    We have a “different president” and a “different media” doesn’t make up for how inadequately prepared we are. Seems to me that “President Trump Closed The Pandemic Office” would be something to reference in an article about how folks are treating swine flu and coronavirus differently. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/nsc-pandemic-office-trump-closed/2020/03/13/a70de09c-6491-11ea-acca-80c22bbee96f_story.htmlReport

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to Brandon Allen
      Ignored
      says:

      Why did the NSC have a “pandemic office” and what did it ever do? We handled the latest Ebola outbreak without it, and the office probably didn’t exist until halfway through the prior Ebola outbreak, when Obama put idiots and political hacks in charge. Remember Ron Kain, the Ebola Czar who was Obama’s “health expert”? His qualifications were being Al Gore’s lead lawyer in the 2000 recount saga. Yeah, that guy was head of Obama’s pandemic response, and he later went on to be the debate-prep expert for Hillary in 2016 and now for Joe Biden.

      To run things the way Obama did, Trump would have to put either George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, or Roger Stone in charge of the pandemic response team.Report

    • Avatar Andrew Donaldson in reply to Brandon Allen
      Ignored
      says:

      I purposefully steered away from the president’s actions in this current outbreak for a couple of reasons; I wanted to focus more on the general population since focus has been predominantly on the president/government, it’s ongoing and changing, and the politics involved are what they are. I have plenty of criticism for the presidents handling, and the points you bring up are fair just setting that aside for a different discussion from the point I was making here, and the thing that is more controllable than the president, our perceptions and reactions to things.

      We are much of an age, I was 29 during the H1N1, but was living in Germany at the time where the death toll was like 30 compared to the 3K some odd in the states. I watched that from afar, so perhaps that viewpoint skews how I view this time as well.Report

  13. Avatar Brandon Berg
    Ignored
    says:

    If you do the math, the H1N1 fatality rate of about 0.02% (12,000 deaths of out of 60 million cases) is well below that of the normal seasonal flu. The key difference, for those who are wondering, is that about 85% of deaths in the US occurred in people under the age of 65, resulting in a higher number of life-years lost despite an ostensibly lower mortality rate.Report

  14. Avatar LeeEsq
    Ignored
    says:

    https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2020/03/what-if-being-governed-by-incompetent-racist-authoritarians-is-bad

    https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2020/03/when-a-death-cult-is-in-power-during-a-pandemic

    Moe people then necessary are going to get sick, suffer, and die because the current administration is composed of incompetent assholes who just can’t resist using the pandemic to spread their xenophobic agenda rather than doing the right thing. Likewise, the Senate is dominated by a Death Cult rather than a political party. They are delaying a vote on a relief bill negotiated by the Democratic House and the White House simply because they can. It wouldn’t surprise me if Moscow Mitch just shelves the bill.

    I’m just completely furious at this freaking administration and all their bloody enablers down to the lowest one. They just come up with excuse after excuse on why we simply need to mess up this entire thing and everything else. Anybody who doesn’t vote Democratic in November 2020 should just be regarded as grossly immoral. They either belong to the repulsive fascist Death Cult or are so wielded to something that won’t ever get power in the United States that they would rather everything die.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to LeeEsq
      Ignored
      says:

      To review, in a situation in which every day legislation is delayed means more sick and dead people, McConnell is delaying the passing of legislation Republicans have agreed to, contrary to the political self-interest of his own party, solely because he can.

      As explained in this excerpt, that’s rather puzzling behavior. I’m curious as to what the explanation is. Scott Lemieux, it seems, is not. “Mitch McConnell is a cartoon villain who leads a death cult” does not strike me as a reasonable conclusion to jump to without further investigation.

      I remember a media meme from the early 2000s, where, because there are roughly five people in the news media capable of coming up with original ideas, everybody was saying that that George W. Bush was “uncurious.” That’s the word that comes to mind here.Report

  15. Avatar Chip Daniels
    Ignored
    says:

    This definitely ISN’T 2009, because the current occupant of the Oval Office is doing shit like this:

    Trump offers ‘large sums’ for exclusive access to coronavirus vaccine
    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/mar/15/trump-offers-large-sums-for-exclusive-access-to-coronavirus-vaccine

    According to an anonymous source quoted in the newspaper, Trump was doing everything to secure a vaccine against the coronavirus for the US, “but for the US only”.Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels
      Ignored
      says:

      You have to read past the reporter’s blindness on such stories.

      If they make the vaccine “for the whole world” it likely means they’ll produce it in small quantities and ship and let the usual UN committees controlled by Cuba, Iran, China, and North Korea decide how to distribute it. Most of the people who get vaccinated will be dictators and their internal security forces.

      If the US gains control of it (thus the word “exclusive”) we’ll let everyone mass produce the living daylights out of it.Report

  16. Avatar Chip Daniels
    Ignored
    says:

    Ouch:

    https://www.rawstory.com/2020/03/norwegian-university-tells-students-in-us-to-return-home-due-to-poorly-developed-health-services-report/

    In a post on Facebook, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology advised some international students students to return home.
    “This applies especially if you are staying in a country with poorly developed health services and infrastructure, for example the USA,” the post said, according to reports.

    They didn’t actually say “shithole country” but still…Report

    • Avatar Ozzzy! in reply to Chip Daniels
      Ignored
      says:

      you lost me at “In a post on facebook…”Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels
      Ignored
      says:

      Nobody should return to Norway. They have 20 times as many virus cases per capita as the US, almost as many as Italy and Switzerland, and worse than South Korea, even though the virus likely arrived there much later. Currently they rank #3 in the entire world on the list of bad places to be in this outbreak.

      Perhaps their idiotic Facebook snark from a major university explains why.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to George Turner
        Ignored
        says:

        No one knows how many cases America has.Report

        • Avatar George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels
          Ignored
          says:

          If Biden or Bernie had been in charge, we’d probably be up over 100,000 because neither would have stopped flights from Wuhan. Biden’s corona plan still doesn’t stop flights from China. The Democrats are still ranting about xenophobia and demanding that we tear down the wall. Amusingly, Mexico is going to love that wall because they’re going to bar entry from the US so they don’t get infected.

          Almost half of all Chinese tourists visit either the US or Australia and New Zealand (25% and 20% of total). Australia and New Zealand immediately followed Trump’s lead on barring entry to anyone who’d been to China in the previous two weeks. As a result, even though the three countries get far more Chinese tourists than Europe (37.6% of Chinese tourists), the US, Australia, and New Zealand have less than 4,000 cases while Europe has over 55,000 cases.

          Had China’s socialist government not kept the outbreak a secret for two months (from November 17th till mid January), it’s quite possible that it wouldn’t have even spread much in Wuhan, much less gone on to become a global pandemic.Report

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