While the US election is very important across many dimensions, it’s also worth keeping in mind that the dominant forces which are now shaping economic/market conditions will remain the dominant forces. We see the following conditions as the primary determinants of future economic/market outcomes:
1. The impact of the virus is likely to be big for another year or more on the overall level of spending and income as well as on differences in the level of spending and income across sectors and economies.
2. We will still be in an MP3 world where fiscal policy, supported by monetary policy, will be the primary lever for managing the economy, and the need for wise lever pulling will be substantial. That brings with it the uncertainty of the political decision-making process as well as differences across countries in the ability and willingness to take action over time.
3. The world will be awash in liquidity, with monetary success (i.e., reflation) leading to ever-increasing piles of cash which steadily lose real purchasing value.
4. Abundant liquidity will continue to seek out storeholds of wealth that protect against the risks of those assets most impacted by lower levels of income and spending as well as the devaluation of money resulting from MP3 policies.
5. While these conditions are most prevalent in the West, they are not so prevalent in the East, thus creating a step change in the secular shift of economic power from West to East. We expect global capital to move similarly over time.
Hitler hoped to abolish democracy in a more or less legal fashion, by passing the Enabling Act. The Enabling Act was a special law that gave the Chancellor the power to pass laws by decree, without the involvement of the Reichstag.
This year, if election analysts are right, we know when the trouble is likely to come. Call it the Interregnum: the interval from Election Day to the next president’s swearing-in. It is a temporal no-man’s-land between the presidency of Donald Trump and an uncertain successor—a second term for Trump or a first for Biden. The transfer of power we usually take for granted has several intermediate steps, and they are fragile.
Concessions employ a form of words that linguists call performative speech. The words do not describe or announce an act; the words themselves are the act. “The concession speech, then, is not merely a report of an election result or an admission of defeat,” the political scientist Paul E. Corcoran has written. “It is a constitutive enactment of the new president’s authority.”
The battle space of the Interregnum, if trends hold true, will be shaped by a phenomenon known as the “blue shift.”
Edward Foley, an Ohio State professor of constitutional law and a specialist in election law, pioneered research on the blue shift. He found a previously unremarked-upon pattern in the overtime count—the canvass after Election Night that tallies late-reporting precincts, unprocessed absentee votes, and provisional ballots cast by voters whose eligibility needed to be confirmed.
Two things began to change about 20 years ago. The overtime count got bigger, and it trended more and more blue. In an updated paper this year, Foley and his co-author, Charles Stewart III of MIT, said they could not fully explain why the shift favors Democrats. …
It was Florida, however, that seized Trump’s attention that year. On Election Night, Republicans were leading in tight contests for governor and U.S. senator. As the blue shift took effect, Ron DeSantis watched his lead shrink by 18,416 votes in the governor’s race. Rick Scott’s Senate margin fell by 20,231. By early morning on November 12, six days after Election Day, Trump had seen enough. “The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged,” he tweeted, baselessly. “An honest vote count is no longer possible—ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”
Trump was panicked enough by the blue shift in somebody else’s election to fabricate allegations of fraud. In this election, when his own name is on the ballot, the blue shift could be the largest ever observed. Mail-in votes require more time to count even in a normal year, and this year there will be tens of millions more of them than in any election before. Many states forbid the processing of early-arriving mail ballots before Election Day; some allow late-arriving ballots to be counted.
The Electoral College
Matt’s Note: admittedly, an un-democratic snatch of the electoral delegates feels unlikely to occur, but that is not reason enough to ignore both its (questionable) constitutional legality and the reported planning of such action by the Republican party:
December 8 is known as the “safe harbor” deadline for appointing the 538 men and women who make up the Electoral College. The electors do not meet until six days later, December 14, but each state must appoint them by the safe-harbor date to guarantee that Congress will accept their credentials. The controlling statute says that if “any controversy or contest” remains after that, then Congress will decide which electors, if any, may cast the state’s ballots for president.
We are accustomed to choosing electors by popular vote, but nothing in the Constitution says it has to be that way. Article II provides that each state shall appoint electors “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.
Trump may test this. According to sources in the Republican Party at the state and national levels, the Trump campaign is discussing contingency plans to bypass election results and appoint loyal electors in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority. With a justification based on claims of rampant fraud, Trump would ask state legislators to set aside the popular vote and exercise their power to choose a slate of electors directly
Matt’s note: emphasis my own, and does not reflect the views of or reporting from The Atlantic
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is brushing aside results of last week’s presidential election, saying with a grin that the “transition” to a second Trump term would be “smooth,” before saying the State Department is ready for any eventuality. (Nov. 10)
MIKE POMPEO: There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration. Right, we’re ready. The world is watching what’s taking place. We’re going to count all the votes. When the process is complete, there’ll be electors selected. There’s a process. The Constitution lays it out pretty clearly.
The world should have every confidence that the transition necessary to make sure that the State Department is functional today, successful today, and successful with the president who’s in office on January 20 a minute after noon will also be successful. I went through a transition on the front, and I’ve been on the other side of this. I’m very confident that we will do all the things that are necessary to make sure that the government, the United States government, will continue to perform its national security function as we go forward.
I’m getting calls from all across the world. These people are watching our election. They understand that we have a legal process. They understand that this takes time, right? Took us 37 plus days in an election back in 2000, conducted a successful transition then. I am very confident that we will count, and we must, count every legal vote. We must make sure that any vote that wasn’t lawful ought not be counted. That dilutes your vote if it’s done improperly. Gotta get that right. When we get it right, we’ll get it right. We’re in good shape.
– Any foreign?
MIKE POMPEO: Yeah, any foreign interference.
MIKE POMPEO: So I’m going to I’m going to leave that question to the Department of Homeland Security and to the Justice Department folks who deal with that. But as I think we all said prior to the election, we did an enormous amount of work to reduce the risk that they would have the capacity to have a significant capability to interfere in the elections themselves.
Fascists saw World War I as a revolution that brought massive changes to the nature of war, society, the state, and technology. The advent of total war and the total mass mobilization of society had broken down the distinction between civilians and combatants. A “military citizenship” arose in which all citizens were involved with the military in some manner during the war. The war had resulted in the rise of a powerful state capable of mobilizing millions of people to serve on the front lines and providing economic production and logistics to support them, as well as having unprecedented authority to intervene in the lives of citizens.
Fascists believe that liberal democracy is obsolete and regard the complete mobilization of society under a totalitarianone-party state as necessary to prepare a nation for armed conflict and to respond effectively to economic difficulties.
Fascism rejects assertions that violence is automatically negative in nature and views political violence, war, and imperialism as means that can achieve national rejuvenation.
Fascists believe that liberal democracy is obsolete and regard the complete mobilization of society under a totalitarianone-party state as necessary to prepare a nation for armed conflict and to respond effectively to economic difficulties. Such a state is led by a strong leader—such as a dictator and a martial government composed of the members of the governing fascist party—to forge national unity and maintain a stable and orderly society. Fascism rejects assertions that violence is automatically negative in nature and views political violence, war, and imperialism as means that can achieve national rejuvenation. Fascists advocate a mixed economy, with the principal goal of achieving autarky (national economic self-sufficiency) through protectionist and interventionist economic policies.
The Conspiracy Theories That Fueled the Civil War – The Atlantic
Covid-19 has created a crisis throughout the world. This crisis has produced a test of leadership. With no good options to combat a novel pathogen, countries were forced to make hard choices about how to respond. Here in the United States, our leaders have failed that test. They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy.
The United States came into this crisis with enormous advantages. Along with tremendous manufacturing capacity, we have a biomedical research system that is the envy of the world. We have enormous expertise in public health, health policy, and basic biology and have consistently been able to turn that expertise into new therapies and preventive measures. And much of that national expertise resides in government institutions. Yet our leaders have largely chosen to ignore and even denigrate experts.
The response of our nation’s leaders has been consistently inadequate. The federal government has largely abandoned disease control to the states. Governors have varied in their responses, not so much by party as by competence. But whatever their competence, governors do not have the tools that Washington controls. Instead of using those tools, the federal government has undermined them. … Our current leaders have undercut trust in science and in government,4 causing damage that will certainly outlast them. Instead of relying on expertise, the administration has turned to uninformed “opinion leaders” and charlatans who obscure the truth and facilitate the promulgation of outright lies.
Anyone else who recklessly squandered lives and money in this way would be suffering legal consequences. Our leaders have largely claimed immunity for their actions. But this election gives us the power to render judgment. Reasonable people will certainly disagree about the many political positions taken by candidates. But truth is neither liberal nor conservative. When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.
There are two reasons that Covid-19 is such a threat. First, it can kill healthy adults in addition to elderly people with existing health problems. The data so far suggest that the virus has a case fatality risk around 1%; this rate would make it many times more severe than typical seasonal influenza, putting it somewhere between the 1957 influenza pandemic (0.6%) and the 1918 influenza pandemic (2%).2
Second, Covid-19 is transmitted quite efficiently. The average infected person spreads the disease to two or three others — an exponential rate of increase. There is also strong evidence that it can be transmitted by people who are just mildly ill or even presymptomatic.3 That means Covid-19 will be much harder to contain than the Middle East respiratory syndrome or severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which were spread much less efficiently and only by symptomatic people. In fact, Covid-19 has already caused 10 times as many cases as SARS in a quarter of the time.
Blue lips. Blackened skin. Blood leaking from noses and mouths. Coughing fits so intense they ripped muscles. Crippling headaches and body pains that felt like torture. These were the symptoms of a disease that was first recorded in Haskell County, Kansas, one hundred years ago this week, in January 1918. From Kansas the illness spread quickly: not only throughout the U.S. but across the world. Eventually (if misleadingly) it became known as Spanish flu. And while its effects on the body were awful, the mortality rate was truly terrifying.
During a pandemic that lasted two years from its outbreak in the U.S., between 50 million and 100 million people across the globe died. Spanish flu killed more people than any pandemic disease before or since, including the sixth-century Plague of Justinian, the medieval Black Death, the AIDS epidemic or Ebola.
The First World War, which was ending just as the flu took hold, killed barely a third as many people with bullets and bombs as the H1N1 strain of influenza did with coughs and shivers.
Housing was so scarce [in Philadelphia] that Boy Scouts canvassed the area seeking rooms for newly arrived women with war jobs. Two, three, and four entire families would cram themselves into a single two-or three-room appartment, with children and teenagers sharing a bed. In rooming houses laborers shared not just rooms but beds, often sleeping in shifts just as they worked in shifts. In those same tenements, the city’s own health department had conceded that during the winter of 1917-18 ‘the death rate’ has gone up owing to the high cost of living and scarcity of coal.
The winter of 1917-18 was the coldest on record east of the Rocky Mountains, barracks were jam-packed, and hundereds of thousands of men were still living in tents. Camp hospitals and other medical facilities had not yet been finished. An army report conceded the failure to provide warm clothing or even heat. But most dangerous was the overcrowding.
In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, we have built out our framework for understanding economic policy going forward: what we call Monetary Policy 3. In short, with interest rates around the world at zero and traditional methods of monetary stimulus now ineffective, policy makers have been forced to turn to coordinated monetary and fiscal policy in order to engineer any hope for a sustained recovery. Senior Portfolio Strategist Jim Haskel sits down with Co-CIO Greg Jensen and senior investor Jason Rotenberg to discuss how we’re tracking MP3 implementation around the world, the divergences we’re seeing between countries, and the challenges policy makers are facing.
August 6, 2020 By Greg Jensen, Jason Rotenberg, Jim Haskel
Although the flat Phillips curve puzzles central banks as much as anyone, they may be partly responsible for it. The curve is supposed to slope downwards (when inflation or unemployment is high, the other is low). But central banks’ policies tilt the other way. When inflation looks set to rise, they typically tighten their stance, generating a little more unemployment. When inflation is poised to fall, they do the opposite. The result is that unemployment edges up before inflation can, and goes down before inflation falls. Unemployment moves so that inflation will not.
The relationship between labour-market buoyancy and inflation still exists, according to this view. And central banks can still make some use of it. But precisely because they do, it does not appear in the data. “Who killed the Phillips curve?” asked Jim Bullard, an American central banker, at a conference of his peers in 2018. “The suspects are in this room.”
But what happens when the killers run out of ammunition? To keep the Phillips curve flat, central banks have to be able to cut interest rates whenever inflation threatens to fall. Yet they can run out of room to do so. They cannot lower interest rates much below zero, because people will take their money out of banks and hold onto cash instead.
When Mr Bullard spoke, the Federal Reserve expected the economy to continue strengthening, allowing it to keep raising interest rates. But that proved impossible. The Fed was able to raise interest rates no higher than 2.5% before it had to pause (in January 2019) then reverse course. The neutral interest rate proved to be lower than it thought. That left it little room to cut interest rates further when covid-19 struck.
What do changes in the Fed’s longer-run goals and monetary strategy statement mean?
On such a polar topic as this, I believe reading many sources of different political leanings (especially the ones you disagree with) is important.
Also, you want to know what the quickest way to loose support for a movement is?
No clearly defined, obtainable objectives
No formal organizational movement or administration
Set fire to police buildings and commit violence, or respond to it in kind
Shame. Shame for those who squander the legacy of what civil rights leaders have worked for decades to establish.
Shame for those who forget Dr. King’s long march to freedom
Shame for those who forget the bravery and foresight of those who chose to march. To march for their vote, to march in the most bigoted parts of the deep south, and yet still choose nonviolent activism: to stand and get beaten and bloody for all the nation to see on television:
It’s finally time to defund the drug war
In the wake of George Floyd’s killing, the public has demanded policies like chokehold bans, access to police department’s personnel files, and an end to the idea of qualified immunity. Politicians have countered with talk of body cams, anti-bias training and a harder look at municipal budgets.
Most of these efforts are well-intentioned. Many are worthwhile. But despite the recent flurry of policing and criminal justice-related reforms, there’s been virtually no discussion around one of the biggest drivers of over-policing and racial injustice in America: our five-decade long War on Drugs.
“there’s been virtually no discussion around one of the biggest drivers of over-policing and racial injustice in America: our five-decade long War on Drugs.”
“If we’re serious about making real change in the US then it’s time we started talking about defunding the drug war.“
If we’re serious about making real change in the US then it’s time we started talking about defunding the drug war.
Even the rhetoric has changed. Gone are the Reagan-era invocations of “public enemy number one”. They’ve been replaced by the compassionate — though deceptive — language of drug courts, dependency issue, a public-health crisis.
But make no mistake: despite its diminished presence in our public and political consciousness, the war’s still very much on. Every year, our elected officials funnel tens of billions of dollars and destroy countless lives in order to prop up America’s discriminatory and counterproductive drug policies.
Predictably, Black people are generally the ones who pay most dearly, and as recent events sadly demonstrate, oftentimes the price is their life.
It’s no coincidence that a responding officer taunted the crowd by saying “this is why you don’t do drugs, kids”
Their deaths are visceral reminders of our country’s long, sordid history of using drug use — real or imagined — to control, criminalize, and brutalize minority communities.
There’s a direct throughline from our drug war policies to the botched no-knock arrest that killed Breonna Taylor. It’s no coincidence that a responding officer taunted the crowd by saying “this is why you don’t do drugs, kids” as Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck. Their deaths are visceral reminders of our country’s long, sordid history of using drug use — real or imagined — to control, criminalize, and brutalize minority communities.
As headline after headline and data point after data point demonstrate, in both its inception and its enforcement, the War on Drugs—and the carceral state it has helped to create—has really always been a War on People.
And more specifically, a war on Black and brown people.
How policy can help
The racialized reality of American drug enforcement isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. From the very beginning, the explicit goal of our country’s drug policies were to criminalize members of what Harry Anslinger — the grandfather of American drug enforcement—believed to be “the degenerate races“.
….pushed it through Congress with fabricated evidence and testimony that “reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”
A cursory look at our militarized law enforcement agencies, prejudicial penal code, over-policed minority neighborhoods, and distended criminal justice system, demonstrates the countless ways the drug war has served to animate and exacerbate many of the racial injustices and social inequities we’re grappling with today. And to add insult to injury, this unyielding crusade has done virtually nothing to curb American drug consumption.
As our politicians pay lip service to ideas around decriminalization and drug courts, American police departments are still making over a million drug possession arrests each year. And unfortunately, the few drug-related reforms that have been prioritized (eliminating crack and powder cocaine sentencing disparities, drug courts, etc.) betray a superficial understanding of both the law and our criminal justice system. Marijuana decriminalization efforts, for example, barely make a dent in the number of — or racial disparities related to — weed-related arrests.
Even if one were to just focus on our policy of federal cannabis prohibition, we’re still talking about millions of stop-and-frisks, traffic stops, summonses, arrests and probation violations each year. In fact, American law enforcement agencies make more arrests for marijuana possession than all ‘violent’ crimes combined.
Unsurprisingly, most of these cannabis-related encounters are overwhelmingly centered in African-American communities. Despite virtually identical rates of consumption Black people are almost four times as likely as their white peers to be arrested on marijuana charges.
And while it’s true that fewer people are serving long prison sentences for weed than they were a decade ago, our draconian and ever-expanding system of collateral consequences means that a marijuana-related encounter can easily result in eviction, student loan ineligibility, and the impossibility of ever being able to access gainful employment.
Marijuana isn’t a gateway drug—at least not in the sense most people imagine. However, it is a gateway for Black people to arrests, incarceration, and death and defamation at the hands of the state.
The good news is, the vast majority of Americans agree that the War on Drugs has been an abject, spectacular failure. And though these highly polarized times mean it’s rare to find an issue that brings together people of different political persuasions, when it comes to dismantling the drug war… well, there’s an angle for everyone.
Libertarians can focus on the conflict’s role in the expansion of civil asset forfeiture . Conservative commentators should speak up about the civil liberties violations associated with racially biased and pre-textural stops.
Good governance groups should look into claims that the Department of Justice is devoting most of its resources to advancing Bill Barr’s personal drug-related vendetta. Criminal justice-minded reformers can focus on claims that cities have ceased arrest quotas and “stops and frisks”. After all, police departments continue to collect billions in taxpayer dollars that are directly tied to the number of drug-related arrests.
Even the most dispassionate observer should be concerned about tanks — given to police departments by the Department of Defense for counternarcotics operations— parading down small town streets.
And for those who cite the ‘will of the people” to justify their inaction? 91% of American adults are fed up with our current approach to drug policy.
To be clear, drug policy reform will not end the over-policing of Black communities or eliminate the racial inequities embedded in American society. It alone will not eliminate state-sanctioned violence. Nor will it reverse the devastating and disproportionate harms of the War on Drugs.
But—if done thoughtfully, with a focus on public health—a more humane and equitable approach to drug policy will pull millions of people out of a penal system that marks them for life. It will help people get the help they need, while simultaneously reducing the unnecessary and unjust harassment of (predominantly Black and brown) communities.
…a more humane and equitable approach to drug policy will pull millions of people out of a penal system that marks them for life.
It will help change a culture that for too long has looked to drug use to justify mass incarceration, police violence, and death at the hands of the state.
It will help change a culture that for too long has looked to drug use to justify mass incarceration, police violence, and death at the hands of the state. It’s not a panacea, but it is a worthwhile start.
Natalie Papillion is the Founder and Executive Director of The Equity Organization, a national not-for-profit organization working towards a more just, effective and equitable approach to drug policy and criminal justice. She is also the author of the forthcoming ”Reefer Madness: The Roots of Drug Prohibition in America,” a history of drug policy in the early twentieth century.
This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).
The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.
Matt’s note: some have cast doubts on the broad generalizations that Ehrlichman makes in this quote, but personally I believe it is an interesting look into the American psyche and the political considerations that may have unjustly founded the war on drugs.
Protection theory searches for analytical links between the absence of state-involvement and the emergence and behaviour of criminal groups. For instance, explaining violence as a means to protect stolen or illegal assets or to ensure criminal agreements in general
So are too-big-to-fail banks really safer? The latest stress tests conducted by the Federal Reserve suggest the answer in America is “yes”
In a pessimistic “U-shape” scenario, in which the economy faces prolonged social distancing and repeated outbreaks of the virus, the Fed reckons that banks would face total losses of over $700n on their collective loan book.
Happily, the Fed concludes, in this U-shape scenario the banking system’s total core-capital ratio would fall from the present 12% to a still-passable 8%
This is certainly good news. I do not know enough about banking or finance however to comment if the dirth of unseen systemic issues this time around could still pose a greater risk than anticipated, as it did in ’08 (not the “known knowns”, but the “known unknowns”). The premise of this article from The Atlantic is still somewhat troubling to me.
There is another reason for the popularity of fake news on the political right (“Return of the paranoid style”, June 6th). It is the double standards found in most of the media’s reporting. This conservative complaint is not entirely a myth. Take covid-19. Widespread demonstrations in early May by right-wing anti-lockdown protesters were depicted by the media as selfish and menacing acts that would result in the virus being spread. Yet the protests that erupted over George Floyd’s horrific death just a few weeks later were praised by the same media. The same Democratic governors who supported lockdown and prevented businesses from reopening even participated in the marches.
One group of experts on infectious diseases, whom I presume supported the lockdowns, penned a letter with over 1,200 signatures stating that the protests were necessary to fight “white supremacy”. It is hard to imagine that these experts would support street demonstrations by conservatives in the middle of a pandemic. Commentators on the right had a field day pointing out the hypocrisy. A politicised scientific and medical community is deeply worrying because it boosts the argument on the far right that supposedly unbiased science and scholarship are a sham.
Matt’s Note: Unbiased science and scholarship are indeed important. While I do my best to be objective in my analyses, I can readily admit I’m somewhat biased and that comes out in my writing.
Please seek out other resources (they do a much better job and have a much better idea of what they’re talking about than I, anyways) if this is important to you.
The COVID-19 pandemic pushed economies into a Great Lockdown, which helped contain the virus and save lives, but also triggered the worst recession since the Great Depression. Over 75 percent of countries are now reopening at the same time as the pandemic is intensifying in many emerging market and developing economies. Several countries have started to recover. However, in the absence of a medical solution, the strength of the recovery is highly uncertain and the impact on sectors and countries uneven.
We are now projecting a deeper recession in 2020 and a slower recovery in 2021.
Compared to our April World Economic Outlook forecast, we are now projecting a deeper recession in 2020 and a slower recovery in 2021. Global output is projected to decline by -4.9 percent in 2020, 1.9 percentage points below our April forecast, followed by a partial recovery, with growth at 5.4 percent in 2021.
I am not a doctor. Please follow the advice of your country’s public health officials (or, if they are being subverted and are hampered in their data collection and dissemination of information to the public due to idiotic political pressure, please also consult the WHO and reputable public institutions)
With certain states loosening restrictions — and others partially in lockdown — there’s a lot of widespread confusion about COVID-19 risks. We talk with University of Minnesota epidemiologist Michael Osterholm about the safety concerns in terms of protests, indoor gatherings, touching surfaces, and why the antibody test is so flawed.
I think right now, most of the world — not just the United States, but most of the world — is quite confused about what to do or why to do it. And what I mean by that is, is that already I think we’ve seen pandemic fatigue set in, in the United States. Right around Memorial Day, the country was ready to say, ”We’re done with this. We’re unlocking. We’re going to no longer do the kind of physical distancing that’s been recommended. We should reopen the economy. Let’s let the cards fall where they may.” And I think to myself, wow, that’s what’s happened after 5% of the population has been infected. How might we ever get a population to do what it needs to do to reduce transmission to hopefully get to that vaccine before the disease gets us to that 60 or 70% level.
And I think to myself, wow, that’s what’s happened after 5% of the population has been infected. How might we ever get a population to do what it needs to do to reduce transmission to hopefully get to that vaccine before the disease gets us to that 60 or 70% level.
That’s going to be months and months. This is not what is going to last for a few more weeks. And if you look at influenza pandemics, they all did last for years, not for just a couple of months. And so I think that that’s the challenge we have today is helping people understand: We’ve got to figure out how to live with this virus as much as we’ve had to painfully understand how to die with this virus.
July 7th, 2020
Spanish antibody study casts doubt on possibility of achieving a safe ‘herd immunity’
…without “accepting the collateral damage of many deaths in the susceptible population and overburdening of health systems”:
Lewis was correct. In 1918 an influenza virus emerged—probably in the United States—that would spread around the world, and one of its earli- est appearances in lethal form came in Philadelphia. Before that world- wide pandemic faded away in 1920, it would kill more people than any other outbreak of disease in human history. Plague in the 1300s killed a far larger proportion of the population—more than one-quarter of Europe— but in raw numbers influenza killed more than plague then, more than AIDS today. The lowest estimate of the pandemic’s worldwide death toll is twenty- one million, in a world with a population less than one-third today’s. That estimate comes from a contemporary study of the disease and newspapers have often cited it since, but it is almost certainly wrong. Epi- demiologists today estimate that influenza likely caused at least fifty mil- lion deaths worldwide, and possibly as many as one hundred million. Yet even that number understates the horror of the disease, a horror contained in other data. Normally influenza chiefly kills the elderly and infants, but in the 1918 pandemic roughly half of those who died were young men and women in the prime of their life, in their twenties and thirties. Harvey Cushing, then a brilliant young surgeon who would go on to great fame—and who himself fell desperately ill with influenza and never fully recovered from what was likely a complication—would call these victims “doubly dead in that they died so young.”
One cannot know with certainty, but if the upper estimate of the death toll is true, as many as 8 to 10 percent of all young adults then living may have been killed by the virus.
…perhaps two-thirds of the deaths occurred in a period of twenty-four weeks, and more than half of those deaths occurred in even less time, from mid-September to early December 1918.
Influenza killed more people in a year than the Black Death of the Middle Ages killed in a century; it killed more people in twenty-four weeks than AIDS has killed in twenty-four years.
One cannot know with certainty, but if the upper estimate of the death toll is true as many as 8 to 10 percent of all young adults then liv- ing may have been killed by the virus. And they died with extraordinary ferocity and speed. Although the influenza pandemic stretched over two years, perhaps two-thirds of the deaths occurred in a period of twenty-four weeks, and more than half of those deaths occurred in even less time, from mid-September to early December 1918. Influenza killed more people in a year than the Black Death of the Middle Ages killed in a century; it killed more people in twenty-four weeks than AIDS has killed in twenty-four years. The influenza pandemic resembled both of those scourges in other ways also. Like AIDS, it killed those with the most to live for. And as priests had done in the bubonic plague, in 1918, even in Philadelphia, as modern a city as existed in the world, priests would drive horse-drawn wagons down the streets, calling upon those behind doors shut tight in terror to bring out their dead.
Yet the story of the 1918 influenza virus is not simply one of havoc, death, and desolation, of a society fighting a war against nature superimposed on a war against another human society. It is also a story of science, of discovery, of how one thinks, and of how one changes the way one thinks, of how amidst near-utter chaos a few men sought the coolness of contemplation, the utter calm that precedes not philosophizing but grim, determined action. For the influenza pandemic that erupted in 1918 was the first great collision between nature and modern science. It was the first great colli- sion between a natural force and a society that included individuals who refused either to submit to that force or to simply call upon divine inter- vention to save themselves from it, individuals who instead were deter- mined to confront this force directly, with a developing technology and with their minds. In the United States, the story is particularly one of a handful of extraordinary people, of whom Paul Lewis is one. These were men and some very few women who, far from being backward, had already devel- oped the fundamental science upon which much of today’s medicine is based. They had already developed vaccines and antitoxins and tech- niques still in use. They had already pushed, in some cases, close to the edge of knowledge today.
The Great War had brought Paul Lewis into the navy in 1918 as a lieutenant commander, but he never seemed quite at ease when in his uniform. It never seemed to fit quite right, or to sit quite right, and he was often flustered and failed to respond properly when sailors saluted him. Yet he was every bit a warrior, and he hunted death. When he found it he confronted it, challenged it, tried to pin it in place like a lepidopterist pinning down a butterfly, so he could then dis- sect it piece by piece, analyze it, and find a way to confound it. He did so often enough that the risks he took became routine. Still, death had never appeared to him as it did now, in mid-September 1918. Row after row of men confronted him in the hospital ward, many of them bloody and dying in some new and awful way.
Most of the blood had come from nosebleeds. A few sailors had coughed the blood up. Others had bled from their ears. Some coughed so hard that autopsies would later show they had torn apart abdominal muscles and rib cartilage. And many of the men writhed in agony or delirium; nearly all those able to communicate complained of headache, as if someone were hammering a wedge into their skulls just behind the eyes, and body aches so intense they felt like bones breaking. A few were vomiting. Finally the skin of some of the sailors had turned unusual colors; some showed just a tinge of blue around their lips or finger- tips, but a few looked so dark one could not tell easily if they were Caucasian or Negro. They looked almost black.
The clinicians now looked to him to explain the violent symptoms these sailors presented. The blood that covered so many of them did not come from wounds, at least not from steel or explosives that had torn away limbs. Most of the blood had come from nosebleeds. A few sailors had coughed the blood up. Others had bled from their ears. Some coughed so hard that autopsies would later show they had torn apart abdominal muscles and rib cartilage. And many of the men writhed in agony or delirium; nearly all those able to communicate complained of headache, as if someone were hammering a wedge into their skulls just behind the eyes, and body aches so intense they felt like bones breaking. A few were vomiting. Finally the skin of some of the sailors had turned unusual colors; some showed just a tinge of blue around their lips or finger- tips, but a few looked so dark one could not tell easily if they were Cau- casian or Negro. They looked almost black. Only once had Lewis seen a disease that in any way resembled this. Two months earlier, members of the crew of a British ship had been taken by ambulance from a sealed dock to another Philadelphia hospital and placed in isolation. There many of that crew had died. At autopsy their lungs had resembled those of men who had died from poison gas or pneumonic plague, a more virulent form of bubonic plague. Whatever those crewmen had had, it had not spread. No one else had gotten sick. But the men in the wards now not only puzzled Lewis. They had to have chilled him with fear also, fear both for himself and and for what this disease could do. For whatever was attacking these sailors was not only spreading, it was spreading explosively.
For whatever was attacking these sailors was not only spreading, it was spreading explosively.
And it was spreading despite a well-planned, concerted effort to contain it.
And it was spreading despite a well-planned, concerted effort to contain it. This same disease had erupted ten days earlier at a navy facility in Boston. Lieutenant Commander Milton Rosenau at the Chelsea Naval Hospital there had certainly communicated to Lewis, whom he knew well, about it. Rosenau too was a scientist who had chosen to leave a Har- vard professorship for the navy when the United States entered the war, and his textbook on public health was called “The Bible” by both army and navy military doctors. Philadelphia navy authorities had taken Rosenau’s warnings seriously, especially since a detachment of sailors had just arrived from Boston, and they had made preparations to isolate any ill sailors should an outbreak occur. They had been confident that isolation would control it. Yet four days after that Boston detachment arrived, nineteen sailors in Philadelphia were hospitalized with what looked like the same disease. Despite their immediate isolation and that of everyone with whom they had had contact, eighty-seven sailors were hospitalized the next day. They and their contacts were again isolated. But two days later, six hun- dred men were hospitalized with this strange disease. The hospital ran out of empty beds, and hospital staff began falling ill. The navy then be- gan sending hundreds more sick sailors to a civilian hospital. And sailors and civilian workers were moving constantly between the city and navy facilities, as they had in Boston. Meanwhile, personnel from Boston, and now Philadelphia, had been and were being sent throughout the country as well.