Spanish Flu ≠ Ebola Virus; Unless We Make It

spanish_flu_newOK, let’s be honest here, Ebola is not anything to panic about. And there’s little reason it should ever be.

But we also all know the phrase, “Never let a crisis go to waste,” don’t we? And that’s the danger here. Because Obama is a statist and a progressive that believes everything should come from the government. Nor is he the first to put his politics ahead of his duty to the country. And for that matter there is a precedent for Ebola getting completely out of hand. Didn’t know that did you? I didn’t either.

But there is, and it’s a horrid story. It goes back to Woodrow Wilson, who may well be the worst man to ever be president, including Obama. Like him, Wilson was a statist, and a progressive, who thought the Constitution was outdated, and wanted to rule by his prerogative, to use the old term. He pretty much did, especially after we got into the Great War.

And as James Jay Carafano says in the linked article, the last time we made an epidemic/pandemic a national security matter, fifty million (50,000,000) people died, worldwide. Think about that for a minute.

Sufficiently revolted? Yeah, me too. Let’s let him tell part of the story.

Progressives like to expropriate the label of national security to help drive their agendas. Statist, centrally managed, with top-down direction, the national-security model is the perfect vehicle for any policy “crusade,” be it fighting global warming or raising taxes. Thus, for example, when the administration got the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to label the “debt the biggest threat to national security,” it had all the cover needed to press for cutting defense and raising taxes—two cornerstones of President Obama’s progressive political agenda.

But playing “national security” progressive politics with public health can bring outright disaster. When the United States entered World War I, Woodrow Wilson played the national-security card early and often. The war effort became an excuse for everything from jailing political opponents to spying on everyday Americans. But, when the president used a global war as an excuse to preempt sound public-health policy, he reaped a global catastrophe.

In 1917, the war to end all wars was well under way. At Camp Funston within the boundaries of Fort Riley, Kansas, sergeants were turning recruits into doughboys. During their training, the soldiers picked up backpacks, rifles, helmets—and a new strain of flu. They carried all these with them as they traveled from the camp to the railroads, the big cities, the ports and, ultimately, overseas. On every step of the way to the trenches in Western Europe, they spread the deadly disease.

When news of the epidemic reached Washington, the White House decided it was a national-security problem. The British and French desperately needed reinforcements to turn the tide of the war; getting our boys over there was far more important than stopping the spread of the flu over here.

I can understand their thinking, I guess, but it’s simply wrong isn’t it? Was delaying the American deployments until the flu was burned out going to cost the war? Doesn’t seem very likely, does it? And starting a pandemic is pretty callous, even for a progressive.

Of course, so is ignoring the problem to fundraise, campaign, and play golf. Although, the president did cancel a fundraiser and a rally yesterday, so he could look like he was doing his job. What I really detest, along that line is that Wilson kept having mass rallies to sell war bonds.

President Wilson took one precaution. He transferred the Public Health Service to military control. Support the military effort, not the public health, became Surgeon General Rupert Blue’s main mission.

In less than a year, the Kansas outbreak had become a global pandemic. It was commonly referred to as the “Spanish flu.” Spain was a nonbelligerent in the First Word War. The government had not imposed press censorship. As a result, widespread news of the disease’s deadly progress appeared first in Spain. Most assumed that was where the problem started.

In the end, more died from the pandemic than from the war.

Stateside, at a military camp outside of Gettysburg, a young post commander named Dwight David Eisenhower ignored Washington’s advice to ignore the disease. Instead, he developed health protocols that broke the back of the disease’s run through the ranks. Impressed with the success of his methods, the Army ordered Eisenhower to dispatch his staff to other camps to train them on how to rein in influenza.

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Likewise, many American cities got the disease under control only by ignoring the federal government and adopting responsible public-health policies.

See the thing is, even then, how to stop an epidemic was conventional knowledge, likely we didn’t know why, until we figured out germ theory, and all that in the late nineteenth century, but we had known that quarantines worked since the Black Death cost Europe one third of its population in the middle ages.

The moral of the story is not that it’s 1918 all over again. Ebola and influenza are two very different contagious diseases. But this cautionary tale from the last century reminds us is that the best way to deal with a disease outbreak is to follow sound public-health policies, not cloud the issue with the trappings of national security.

H/T Moe Lane

Obama’s Great Big Ebola Error | The National Interest.

All accounts say that Ebola isn’t anywhere near as contagious as the (Spanish) flu. But that is no reason to screw around and generate another pandemic, while playing politics.

Sunday at the Duke’s

They say the Duke of Wellington, after he retired, pretty much chose to not talk about politics. I’ve heard that, anyway, that doesn’t make it true. But I think it makes sense, politics gets old, doesn’t it, and eventually one wants to talk about important things instead.

What are important things? Well, whoever they are, they say that for the Iron Duke it was horses, guns, hunting, and pretty Tory women. Sounds pretty sensible to me.

Well, I don’t know much about horses, other than how to lose money on them, guns, well we can, but we do that pretty regular, and hunting leaves me kind of blah, at the moment. But a history video might be good. And while I have no idea if she’s a Tory, I’m pretty confident that Susannah Lipscholm’s looks would please the Duke (and the rest of us). The fact that she is in fact a brilliant historian is even more pleasing to me, and I hope the Duke would agree. Probably he would, after all Tories, like our conservatives are supposed to be the smart party. (Somebody please tell Dave Cameron!)

Media Companies Spin Off Newspapers, to Uncertain Futures – NYTimes.com

English: Headline of the New York Times June-2...

English: Headline of the New York Times June-29-1914 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is quite interesting, in a ‘I told you so’ sort of way. It seems that the big media companies are finding it quite difficult to make a profit printing newspapers. from the New York Times

A year ago last week, it seemed as if print newspapers might be on the verge of a comeback, or at least on the brink of, well, survival.

Jeff Bezos, an avatar of digital innovation as the founder of Amazon, came out of nowhere and plunked down $250 million for The Washington Post. His vote of confidence in the future of print and serious news was seen by some — including me — as a sign that an era of “optimism or potential” for the industry was getting underway.
Turns out, not so much — quite the opposite, really. The Washington Post seems fine, but recently, in just over a week, three of the biggest players in American newspapers — Gannett, Tribune Company and E. W. Scripps, companies built on print franchises that expanded into television — dumped those properties like yesterday’s news in a series of spinoffs.
The recent flurry of divestitures scanned as one of those movies about global warming where icebergs calve huge chunks into churning waters.
The persistent financial demands of Wall Street have trumped the informational needs of Main Street. For decades, investors wanted newspaper companies to become bigger and diversify, so they bought more newspapers and developed television divisions. Now print is too much of a drag on earnings, so media companies are dividing back up and print is

being kicked to the curb.

Media Companies Spin Off Newspapers, to Uncertain Futures – NYTimes.com.

Well, yeah, I don’t doubt much of what he says here, and American companies are far too focused on the quarterly bottom line. But they brought the problems on themselves, in large measure.

First, their product is horrendously overpriced-even the Wall Street Journal, which I grew up reading has priced itself out of what I think it to be worth, and it was always a premium product. The main problem is that the print media has become the twenty-first century version of the buggy whip–they’ve been rendered obsolete, mostly by the internet, and its various news service. Not entirely, of course, when I travel, I’ll often buy a print version of the Journal, if I don’t have wi-fi available. I’m glad it’s there but I won’t mourn when it too goes away. Progress, you know.

It also strikes me that if a paper was to provide something other than a conventional liberal slant (on the news pages) it might do better. I, and I suspect others, would spend the time to read the news, as opposed to the Democratic Party propaganda line of the day. To lend point to that, how many of us now read the online Daily Telegraph, or should I say The Torygraph, in preference to all domestic papers? Yeah, that’s what I thought. There’s that funny old term that conservative rant about, and have ever since Adam Smith wrote the book called the market.

Competition–It’s what’s for dinner

In addition, the media’s relentless pursuit of progressive education is starting to bite it on the backside, if people can’t read effectively, they’re unlikely to buy a newspaper, unless, I suppose, they need a lining for their birdcage.

And so, to use terms the NYT is familiar with, “Nothing to see here, move along”.

Creative destruction at its finest

Computer Programming in the Curriculum? K-12? Really?

flath-departmentThis is interesting, apparently starting next fall every student in Great Britain, from K through 12 will start to learn coding. I see the point, of course, but I think this may well be misguided.

There is no question that Britain like the States needs many, many people who know how to craft code, as you’ll note in one of the linked articles, coding is mostly developing into a trade, like being a practical nurse, or hitting close to home, an electrician. And that’s why I think this level of instruction is exactly wrong. You see, not everybody coding needs a CompuSci degree, that is serious overkill, in the same way that requiring an electrical engineering degree is for being an electrician.

Some classroom theory is good, I think, and lots of practical experience, which is why electricians have an apprenticeship. Yes, that also has problems that we’ve never solved, but that’s a whole other series of articles. The best electricians will collect a fair knowledge of the theory and practice of the work, but in the main, most will do what the print says, in many ways, that’s the difference between an electrician like me, who mostly works as a control technician, a heavily computerized field, and the electrician that does residential wiring.

But taking an hour a day out of every school day from kindergarten through high school wouldn’t have made me any better (or worse). It’s all about the interest. In truth, I can do the work of almost any traditional electrical engineer, I just can’t sign off on it, nor do I get paid as well. That’s fine, that was my choice.

Coding is, I think, similar, some one has to lay out the system and choose how to accomplish the mission, others, usually with quite a lot less experience can do the job, and the senior can solve problems along the way, and check out the final project. That’s how physical construction works, and building software is similar.

But the real problem with what the Brits are talking about is this. Software changes fast. So fast, that it’s likely that what you learn as a junior will be obsolete by the time you graduate. So what use is what you learned in 1st grade? That is not to say that some exposure to something in the field in the primary grades is not a good idea, it’s a trade but, it’s also a language (actually many languages). we all know that it is easier to learn languages when you are quite young, so maybe the right way to do this would be to teach something very common, that has been around for a while, say ‘C’ or HTML in about second and/ or third grade.

Then because this all comes down to ‘1’ and ‘0’; ‘yes’ and ‘no'; IF ‘A’ THEN ‘B’ and so forth, in about junior high teach a very robust course in logic. And then in high school make these types of topical courses available.

This is not a basic curriculum necessity like English, or Math, or History that all students need a good grounding in. Some will be interested and willing to do the work, many will not. And while the special pleaders will say that one cannot live a life in the twenty-first century without being able to code-that is simply nonsense. You perhaps need to be able to logically lay out a block diagram of what you need a program to tell you, like you want the exhaust fan in the bathroom to operate with the light-or to operate separately, both are fine but they are different. Susie Homemaker doesn’t necessarily have to know how to wire it, that’s the electrician’s job.

But even as an electrician, the job has changed drastically over the last twenty years, what I learned say thirty years ago is not particularly useful or valid, except for some non-obvious and forensic purposes. What I learned ten years ago for controlling industrial machinery is useful only in service work now, everything has changed in new ones.

And this happens faster and faster. Schools are bureaucratic systems, even the good ones are. if they implement this, this fall with bleeding edge programs, they will be four years behind in five years. I don’t think it can be helped. Where schools are at their best is in teaching the basics we need to function in society. You know, ‘readin’ ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmatic’ and a few more, like science, music (whose importance is much underrated), civics, basic economics, and team sports (which are also underrated).

And this, of course,

Computer Programming Is a Trade; Lets Act Like It – WSJ. [Behind the Journal's permeable paywall]

More on Computer Programming: Starting Kids Early

All Gone

At 08:15:15L on 06 August 1945, the Enola Gay, dropped Little Boy on Hiroshima, and many things changed. Strangely, other than being the first use of an atomic weapon in war, there was actually little new about it. It wasn’t the deadliest raid of the war, that likely was the Tokyo fire raid, or perhaps the joint USAAF/RAF raids on Dresden, nor was it the first time an atomic weapon went off, that was Trinity, we spoke of that the other day. It was likely the most efficient, for whatever that is worth.

What Hiroshima did (along with Nagasaki, a few days later) was shock Japan, and perhaps give the Emperor the excuse he needed to end the war. Whatever the cause, the war did end, without the invasion of Japan that was reckoned would cost one million American casualties, at least.

But the reason I mention this today is that the crew of Enola Gay is all gone now. Theodore “Dutch” van Cleef, the crew’s Navigator, died the other day, and so BGEN Tibbetts’ crew have all passed now.

All gone: The crew of the Enola Gay is debriefed in Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands after returning from their mission over Hiroshima, Japan. At foreground left, seated at the corner of the table, is Capt. Theodore Van Kirk, navigaton. He died Monday at 93 Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2710104/Last-crew-member-Enola-Gay-dies-Georgia.html#ixzz399MlAZCz Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

One of the things that I always recall about these men, who remained friends, and got together all their lives, was just how committed they were to doing it right. Tibbets reportedly, for the rest of his life, gave van Cleef grief because they dropped the bomb 15 seconds late. On a mission of thousands of miles over open, enemy held, ocean. That was how the war was won, discipline, duty, and attention to detail. We succeed in great measure according to how well we learn that lesson. We also need to learn, as they knew, that the crew is greater than the sum of its parts, as well. There are other lessons from them as well.

But for the moment let’s just remember, and commemorate the passing, of a man who helped to save millions of lives. Although I do note that he, like many others, wished we could put this particular genie, back into the bottle. I honor that as well.

Dodging Bullets

While dodging bullets is not a recommended practice, it is considered far superior to not dodging bullets. What is he talking about?, I hear. This, apparently we got lucky last month, and missed getting hit by a good sized Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). NASA seems to think that if it had happened a week earlier, it would have made a direct hit. Could be, it has before.

Back in 1859, there was the Carrington Event, a series of powerful CMEs that were powerful enough to set off telegraph instruments all over the world, even causing them to spark and set some telegraph offices on fire. It also caused the Northern Lights as far south as Tahiti. Now the thing is, in 1859 the telegraph was about as high tech as it got, and electric/electronics technology is the most susceptible to plasma events; steam locomotives don’t care, computer controlled diesel -electric ones do.

And that’s why it matters now. In 1859 we could afford to rebuild an occasional telegraph office. Now our entire world is tied up in it. Let’s think about this a bit. The backbone of the internet may, repeat may, be somewhat resistant, given that it is fiber optic, but most of us have metallic links, either telephonic, or cable to that backbone. Satellites depend, the plasma may take them apart, (I can see a couple of ways, but don’ know enough in the field).

But the biggie here is the power grid. If you are old enough, you may remember the New York Blackout in 1965. Here is a bit from Wikipedia about it

The cause of the failure was human error that happened days before the blackout. Maintenance personnel incorrectly set a protective relay on one of the transmission lines between the Niagara generating station Sir Adam Beck Station No. 2 in Queenston, Ontario. The safety relay, which was to trip if the current exceeded the capacity of the transmission line, was set too low.

As was common on a cold November evening, power for heating, lighting and cooking was pushing the electrical system to near its peak capacity. Transmission lines heading into Southern Ontario were heavily loaded. At 5:16 p.m. Eastern Time a small surge of power coming from the Robert Moses generating plant in Lewiston, New York caused the improperly set relay to trip at far below the line’s rated capacity, disabling a main power line heading into Southern Ontario. Instantly, the power that was flowing on the tripped line transferred to the other lines, causing them to become overloaded. Their protective relays, which are designed to protect the line from overload, tripped, isolating Beck Station from all of Southern Ontario.

With no place else to go, the excess power from Beck Station then switched direction and headed east over the interconnected lines into New York State, overloading them as well and isolating the power generated in the Niagara region from the rest of the interconnected grid. The Beck generators, with no outlet for their power, were automatically shut down to prevent damage. The Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant continued to generate power, which supplied Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation customers in the metropolitan areas

But the thing is the grid in 1965 was a mechanical beast, it could cascade tripping out like it did, but men had to go around and reset many of those devices, find enough power to flash generators and sundry other tasks, that’s why it took as long as it did to get everybody back on. [...]

But now, we have the super-duper computerized grid, that we can control all those protective devices from our power control centers. It is an incredible accomplishment, but nothing is perfect. I suspect that a plasma event will set up surges in these lines that will trip out overload devices, over much more territory than the northeast, because we are much more connected now. If that’s all it does, it’ll take a bit but our power will be back in a few hours or days, no big deal.

But power lines collect stray energy like nothing else, men have been killed by a lightning strike on a line a hundred miles away. What happens if that plasma event get into electronics that control the grid, or for that matter the office you work at, your house, our world really. What then? All those computers installed in your appliances are built in computer controlled factories. The food you eat comes to you on railroads and in trucks. Both are controlled by computers. So are our cars. they are all more, or less liable to damage from a surge. And a CME is the great grand-father of surges.

How long do you think it will to replace all this stuff to the level of say 1980? I’d say it will be measured in years, not months. I would also say that if you are not prepared both mentally and at least to some extent physically, you likely will not see it.

You know, we have talked about EMP attacks occasionally, this is an EMP attack on the entire world.

Or not. No one really knows.

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