Thoughts on economics and liberty

Category: Bad ideas!

George Bush’s exaggerated concerns led to lockdown thinking in USA

Got hold of this piece from here.

The Untold Story of the Birth of Social Distancing

The idea has been around for centuries. But it took a high school science fair, George W. Bush, history lessons and some determined researchers to overcome skepticism and make it federal policy.

By Eric Lipton and Jennifer Steinhauer
April 22, 2020

WASHINGTON — Fourteen years ago, two federal government doctors, Richard Hatchett and Carter Mecher, met with a colleague at a burger joint in suburban Washington for a final review of a proposal they knew would be treated like a piñata: telling Americans to stay home from work and school the next time the country was hit by a deadly pandemic.

When they presented their plan not long after, it was met with skepticism and a degree of ridicule by senior officials, who like others in the United States had grown accustomed to relying on the pharmaceutical industry, with its ever-growing array of new treatments, to confront evolving health challenges.

Drs. Hatchett and Mecher were proposing instead that Americans in some places might have to turn back to an approach, self-isolation, first widely employed in the Middle Ages.

How that idea — born out of a request by President George W. Bush to ensure the nation was better prepared for the next contagious disease outbreak — became the heart of the national playbook for responding to a pandemic is one of the untold stories of the coronavirus crisis.

It required the key proponents — Dr. Mecher, a Department of Veterans Affairs physician, and Dr. Hatchett, an oncologist turned White House adviser — to overcome intense initial opposition.

It brought their work together with that of a Defense Department team assigned to a similar task.

And it had some unexpected detours, including a deep dive into the history of the 1918 Spanish flu and an important discovery kicked off by a high school research project pursued by the daughter of a scientist at the Sandia National Laboratories.

The concept of social distancing is now intimately familiar to almost everyone. But as it first made its way through the federal bureaucracy in 2006 and 2007, it was viewed as impractical, unnecessary and politically infeasible.

“There were two words between ‘shut’ and ‘up’” initially, said Dr. Howard Markel, who directs the University of Michigan’s Center for the History of Medicine and who played a role in shaping the policy as a member of the Pentagon research team. “It was really ugly.”

Dr. Mecher was there when Dr. Hatchett presented government public health experts the plan that the two of them and Dr. Lisa M. Koonin of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had reviewed over burgers and beer.

“People could not believe that the strategy would be effective or even feasible,” Dr. Mecher recalled.

But within the Bush administration, they were encouraged to keep at it and follow the science. And ultimately, their arguments proved persuasive.

In February 2007, the C.D.C. made their approach — bureaucratically called Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions, or NPIs — official U.S. policy.

President George W. Bush had grown concerned about preparedness for a pandemic after the anthrax attacks and a bird flu outbreak. He called for action in 2005 in a speech at the National Institutes of Health.

The effort began in the summer of 2005 when Mr. Bush, already concerned with bioterrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, read a forthcoming book, “The Great Influenza,” by John M. Barry, about the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918.

Mr. Bush’s concern was elevated by a string of new outbreaks caused by infectious diseases transferring from birds and other animals to humans, including an avian flu outbreak that year in Vietnam. Because there was no vaccine for these new threats, they could spread rapidly.

“A pandemic is a lot like a forest fire,” Mr. Bush said in a speech at the National Institutes of Health. “If caught early it might be extinguished with limited damage. If allowed to smolder, undetected, it can grow to an inferno that can spread quickly beyond our ability to control it.”

To develop ideas, the Bush administration enlisted Dr. Hatchett, who had served as a White House biodefense policy adviser, and Dr. Mecher, who was a Veterans Affairs medical officer in Georgia overseeing care in the Southeast.

“‘Someone from the White House is on the phone,’” Dr. Mecher, then 49, recalled his secretary telling him in the fall of 2005, her voice expressing some disbelief.

A blunt-speaking, Chicago-born intensive care physician, Dr. Mecher had almost no pandemic policy expertise. Instead, he was recruited because they needed someone who understood how a hospital actually worked, said Dr. Rajeev Venkayya, who was a special assistant to Mr. Bush for biodefense.

Dr. Koonin, who worked on preparedness planning at the C.D.C., also played a key role.

“Strategic, out-of-the-box thinkers,” is how Dr. Venkayya, who now oversees vaccine production at Takeda, a Japan-based pharmaceutical company, described what he was looking for.

The Social Network

Early on, researchers recognized that schools were a perfect environment for spreading disease. Here, National Guard members disinfecting at the Jewish Community Center of Mid-Westchester in Scarsdale, N.Y.

Given the increased danger from new strains of influenza and the reality that existing antiviral drugs like Tamiflu did not work against all contagious diseases, Drs. Hatchett and Mecher and their team began exploring other ways to combat a large-scale contagion.

It was about that time that Dr. Mecher heard from Robert J. Glass, a senior scientist at Sandia in New Mexico who specialized in building advanced models to explain how complex systems work — and what can cause catastrophic failures.

Dr. Glass’s daughter Laura, then 14, had done a class project in which she built a model of social networks at her Albuquerque high school, and when Dr. Glass looked at it, he was intrigued.

Students are so closely tied together — in social networks and on school buses and in classrooms — that they were a near-perfect vehicle for a contagious disease to spread.

Dr. Glass piggybacked on his daughter’s work to explore with her what effect breaking up these networks would have on knocking down the disease.

The outcome of their research was startling. By closing the schools in a hypothetical town of 10,000 people, only 500 people got sick. If they remained open, half of the population would be infected.

“My God, we could use the same results she has and work from there,” Dr. Glass recalled thinking. He took their preliminary data and built on it by running it through the supercomputers at Sandia, more typically used to engineer nuclear weapons. (His daughter’s project was entered in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in 2006.)

Dr. Carter Mecher, front center, and the team that helped develop social distancing guidelines.

Dr. Mecher received the results at his office in Washington and was amazed.

If cities closed their public schools, the data suggested, the spread of a disease would be significantly slowed, making this move perhaps the most important of all of the social distancing options they were considering.

“Targeted social distancing strategies can be designed to effectively mitigate the local progression of pandemic influenza without the use of vaccine or antiviral drugs,” concluded a study that Dr. Glass published in the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal. Laura, then a high school junior, got a credit.

Drs. Hatchett and Mecher and their team soon found themselves measuring the width of the standard school bus seat and the average classroom size in the United States, calculating how closely spaced students are and agreeing that any plan would have to feature closing schools.

At the same time, they were circling in on another fundamental challenge: If a government was going to rely on the blunt instrument of social distancing to prevent widespread death, how early would it have to act?

A Lesson From the Past

St. Louis in 1918 during the Spanish flu outbreak. Researchers found valuable lessons in the city’s response.

Dr. Markel had spent his career studying contagious disease outbreaks. Recently, he had been working on a related assignment from the Pentagon, which had a narrower but equally urgent concern: the vulnerability of U.S. military personnel to a viral health threat.

Asia was hit in 2005 by a bird flu that crossed over to humans and spread to locations where the United States had forces stationed, including the Philippines. That led Dr. Markel to propose — after consulting a dictionary and thesaurus — what he called “protective sequestration,” like keeping military personnel in mass isolation on docked ships.

The bird flu, while often fatal, did not continue to cross over in large numbers to humans, and the steps he was proposing turned out to be unnecessary. But the work led him to think about the need for a large-scale isolation plan for the United States.

Dr. Markel had published a book, “When Germs Travel,” in 2004 that examined six major epidemics since 1900 and how they had traveled across the United States. He decided to work with Dr. Martin S. Cetron, the director of the C.D.C.’s quarantine division, to look more closely at the lessons of the Spanish flu of 1918.

The research started with St. Louis, which had moved relatively quickly to head off the spread of the flu, and Philadelphia, which waited much longer and suffered far more.

Officials in Philadelphia did not want to let the flu disrupt daily life, so they went ahead in September 1918 with a long planned parade that drew hundreds of thousands of spectators to promote war bonds.

In St. Louis, by contrast, the city health commissioner quickly moved to close schools, churches, theaters, saloons, sporting events and other public gathering spots.

Dr. Markel and his team set out to confirm just how important a role timing had played in reducing deaths. They gathered census records and thousands of other documents detailing the date of the first infection, the first death, the first social distancing policies and how long they were left in place in 43 American cities.

Separately, Dr. Mecher and his team looked at the experience of 17 cities, using newspaper clips and other sources.

Both teams came to the same conclusion and published papers on their findings within months of each other in 2007. Early, aggressive action to limit social interaction using multiple measures like closing schools or shutting down public gatherings was vital to limiting the death toll, they found.

“It’s like treating heart-attack patients,” Dr. Mecher said. “Timing matters.”

A High-Stakes Showdown

Dr. D.A. Henderson, who had been a leader of the international effort to eradicate smallpox, was initially critical of the social distancing plan.

After decades of advances by the nation’s pharmaceutical companies — finding treatments or vaccines for major illnesses, including H.I.V. and smallpox — Americans by the early 21st century had a built-in expectation that no matter what the ailment, there must be some kind of available fix. Locking your family inside your home seemed backward, and encouraging people not to go to work economically disastrous.

The idea of forcibly limiting public assembly or movement had also long been seen as legally and ethically questionable.

So the considerable skepticism among local officials, public health experts and policymakers in Washington was not surprising.

One particularly vociferous critic was Dr. D.A. Henderson, who had been the leader of the international effort to eradicate smallpox and had been named by Mr. Bush to help oversee the nation’s biodefense efforts after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Dr. Henderson was convinced that it made no sense to force schools to close or public gatherings to stop. Teenagers would escape their homes to hang out at the mall. School lunch programs would close, and impoverished children would not have enough to eat. Hospital staffs would have a hard time going to work if their children were at home.

The measures embraced by Drs. Mecher and Hatchett would “result in significant disruption of the social functioning of communities and result in possibly serious economic problems,” Dr. Henderson wrote in his own academic paper responding to their ideas.

The answer, he insisted, was to tough it out: Let the pandemic spread, treat people who get sick and work quickly to develop a vaccine to prevent it from coming back.

Caught in the middle, C.D.C. leaders decided to conduct more research and survey community leaders around the country.

The administration ultimately sided with the proponents of social distancing and shutdowns — though their victory was little noticed outside of public health circles. Their policy would become the basis for government planning and would be used extensively in simulations used to prepare for pandemics, and in a limited way in 2009 during an outbreak of the influenza called H1N1.

Then the coronavirus came, and the plan was put to work across the country for the first time.

Dr. Mecher was a key voice on the “Red Dawn” email chain of public health experts in raising early warnings this year about the coronavirus outbreak and Mr. Trump’s reluctance to embrace shutdowns and social distancing. The shutdown this year is much bigger than Dr. Mecher and others imagined would be necessary or practical. Testing has been limited and some states issued social distancing orders even before confirming the coronavirus was spreading within their borders.

Dr. Markel called it “very gratifying to see our work used to help save lives.” But, he added, “it is also horrifying.”

“We always knew this would be applied in worst-case scenarios,” he said. “Even when you are working on dystopian concepts, you always hope it will never be used.”

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Fascism and communism/socialism are woven from the same thread

I’ve explained this many times earlier, e.g.

Hitler’s socialist views were exactly like Nehru’s or AAP’s Prashant Bhushan’s

Further proof that Hitler was socialist.

More on Hitler’s socialist (collectivist) worldview

Why did Hitler hate communism? Because he was a GREATER communist than the communists.

Mussolini made as clear as humanly possible:


Further, Peter Hitchens has been waging a war against those who falsely classify fasicsm as an ideology of the “right”, e.g.




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In 1802, the Annals of Medicine reported the vast exaggerations re: influenza

Jason Gavrilis has located this wonderfully old but evocative piece:

I’ve cleaned out the Old English spellings for the first few paras and have annotated in colour.

We can CLEARLY recognise the echoes of covid hysteria in this!



Since the publication of our last volume, no disease has claimed more attention from medical practitioners than the Influenza, which has raged very generally in many different parts of Europe, but particularly in Paris, in London, and in Edinburgh. We need hardly mention, that in newspaper paragraphs, and in vague conversations, many groundless and absurd stories have been circulated respecting it. Thus, among other particulars, it has been currently reported, that in the city of Edinburgh in one day, about the beginning of April, no less than an hundred patients were buried, all of whom died of the influenza; and that in one day about the end of March, one gentleman, in extensive practice, had been called to no less than one thousand patients labouring under this disease. But although our readers will readily conclude, that in these reports there has been a wonderful degree of exaggeration, and we can assure them from good authority, that, the present period, the greatest number of deaths from all diseases put together in Edinburgh, has never exceeded a hundred in any one week; yet it is an undoubted fact, that since the beginning of March, the influenza has been both a frequent and sometimes a fatal disease in Edinburgh.

But if exaggerated accounts have been given respecting the frequency and fatality of this complaint, no less groundless and wonderful stories have been propagated by ignorant or designing men respecting its nature and peculiarities. It has been represented by some, who ought to know better, as a new and most tremendous disease, which, unless happily remedied by a peculiar mode of treatment, will prove certainly fatal. But we need not observe to the candid reader, that such reports have no other foundation but the weakest credulity, or the lowest artifice.

The Influenza, as it has appeared in Edinburgh, in 1803, is precisely the same disease which has extended itself at different periods for near a thousand years past over almost the whole of Europe. We may refer those who wish for the most particular account of the authors who have described it, as appearing at different periods, to the Nosologia Methodica of Dr Cullen, under the genus Catarrhus. But we shall here present our readers with a short view of these Authors, in chronological order, as giving descriptions of different epidemics.

And so on…

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Fauci the Lying King

Anthony Fauci is a legendary liar. (Don’t miss these memes)


It’s also worth noting the very relevant history of Dr. Fauci in regard to AIDS. He created headlines in New York Times, UPI, and AP articles for his alarmist speculations in his 1983 JAMA editorial that AIDS could be transmitted by “routine close contact, as within a family household.” It had already been known that transmission was via fluids through blood or sexual contact. Less than two months later, on June 26 in the Baltimore Sun, Fauci publicly contradicted his own explosive claim. “It is absolutely preposterous to suggest that AIDS can be contracted through normal social contact like being in the same room with someone or sitting on a bus with them. The poor gays have received a very raw deal on this.” That seemed like quite a flip-flop, with no new evidence or explanation given—more reminiscent of a politician than a reliable scientist.





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