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October 7, 2005

“Social unrest occurs,” the plan states.
Posted by Patrick at 10:35 PM *

It just might, at that.

Comments on "Social unrest occurs," the plan states.:
#1 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2005, 11:55 PM:

It is amazing how quickly the Avian Flu meme has spread.

It isn't all Bush's doing, but that speech sure as hell poured on the accelerant. Or greased the chute, or whatever it is you do to memes that makes them go faster.

So far -- so far -- the response seems a lot more level-headed than I'd have expected. There's a lot of healthy skepticism about the Troops in the Streets thing, and fires being lit about vaccine supply and emergency measures.

* * *

You know, I'm wondering if the sudden interest in Avian Flu is a handy way of giving Bush an excuse to start bringing home the troops . . . specifically, the National Guard, who if you have to have troops maintaining civil order would be the ones you'd want doing it.

On the other hand, we've been tut-tutting over the administration's lack of response. Shouldn't we welcome this interest, even if it started off with a hair-raising suggestion about revising the posse comitatus laws?

#2 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 12:05 AM:

I thought it was, well, interesting that law enforcement and military are way down the list of People Who Get Flu Shots. I would have thought that if they were going to be used for running quarantine zones that they'd be much higher priority, along with medical and (I would hope) the morgue and burial people. Unless some of the people setting up the plan really want chaos and major messes, of course.

#3 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 12:30 AM:

That tweaked my curiosity too.

Possibility: They're figuring the flu will spread so quickly that vaccination to prevent spread is less important than vaccination to prevent death.

Put another way: If you believe that quarantine won't work, and assume a lot of people will get sick, the logical thing to do is to vaccinate the people who, if they do get the flu, will suffer the most.

Not only would you keep the most vulnerable from dying, you'd reduce the number of people who would end up in hospitals.

#4 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 01:11 AM:

The flu epidemic of 1918 hit the USA with soldiers coming back from Europe. The first place struck was Ft Devens, which in travel time was the shortest distance from the trenches.

There was an NPR program interviewing someone who'd written a book about the flu epidemic, he said that the original source seemed to be from around Ft Riley, Kansas, where it was a mild outbreak of flu, soldiers infected went over to Europe and it mutated into virulence there.

#5 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 01:42 AM:

Paula, I'm guessing that was this book, by John Barry. I haven't read it, but Gina Kolata of the NYT wrote one a couple of years ago which I have read. Kolata's book was as much about the medical detective work as about the flu's consequences. Barry's looks to be more about the latter.

I suspect quarantine is going to be deemed impossible, given the time it takes for the virus to become virulent and the speed and distance the population travels.

#6 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 02:32 AM:

'Not only would you keep the most vulnerable from dying, you'd reduce the number of people who would end up in hospitals.'

and you believe this is Bush administration reasoning on what grounds?

#7 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 03:55 AM:

No, the Bush Administration-Style Response would be more like:

1) Ignore it until it becomes a problem.

2) Lie about it until it becomes a crisis.

3) Contract out the actual response to a Halliburton subsidiary.

4) Attack the patriotism of anyone who asks what happened to all that money, and why isn't the vaccine available yet.

5) Invade somewhere. Anywhere. Just so long as it has nothing to do with the problem.

#8 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 06:09 AM:

What's being skipped over lightly in a lot of the coverage and apparently in this plan as well, is that currently there is no vaccine for avian flu. Identifying it with the 1918 flu pandemic will probably help some, but let's not forget there's a reason other than shelf life that we don't stockpile flu vaccine from year to year--it mutates fast.

This plan, as a first draft, doesn't sound nearly as bad as I'd expect from the Bush administration, except for the fact that it's criminally late for them to be working on first drafts. Unfortunately, I have no expectation that they will either do the necessary work to revised it properly, unless the heat is kept on them, or that they will actually implement this or any other sensible plan in an honest and competent way. Instead, most likely, they'll give the contracts to Halliburton and other buddies, and treat it all as an opportunity to rake more public money into the private bank accounts of themselves and their friends.

And if the social fabric completely collapses, they'll wonder why no first world country wants them.

#9 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 08:02 AM:

One wonders why the virus has been recovered, and is being studied in live mice, under less than the highest standard of biological containment, at a US Government funded centre. (CDC Atlanta)

#10 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 08:24 AM:

BTW, The Great Influenza was one of three books Bush's PR folks claimed he intended to read over his vacation.

#11 ::: Andrew Gray ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 08:37 AM:

Stefan: For what it's worth, routine in the UK (I don't know how other places do it) seems to be to annually offer flu shots to the elderly and other vulnerable groups. The reasoning behind this is that flu is endemic every year, it will burn straight through the population and occur everywhere, so you selectively look after the demographic groups in the most danger - I can shrug off the annual flu with a week in bed, but my grandmother would have more trouble. (It's not the best solution, but it's a start).

Okay, this version is going to be more virulent, and harder to shrug off - but it still puts my grandmother or my hypothetical pregnant sister in comparatively more danger of keeling over, and if x% of people are going to get it it would be better to be the healthy x, all other things equal (for a start, they're less likely to get complications and secondary infections). If you're going to conclude that any outbreak will spread quickly - like the normal winter recurrences - then it may be wise to forget quarantine on a national scale, and work with, basically, stronger versions of normal procedures for dealing with a general endemic infection. People travel, people fly, people get all over the place now, even with medical quarantines - vaccination against spread seems pure optimism (heck, we can't manage to have firebreaks for diseases in cattle, and they don't get on planes). So putting lots of your resources into trying to arrange quarantine... well, it's the terrorism thing over again. You can invest a lot in protecting specific places, or you can fund the general emergency-response system for when it happens anyway.

Note that the military and police are still on the list (and in practice I suspect some limited groups of them will be higher) - still above the general population. Some fiddling of the numbers suggest that the at-risk groups quoted may run to fifty million people, and the numbers quoted suggest that, currently, you'd need six months to make that many - you can see why they want to increase that capacity!

(In an unrelated note, I just got my first two phishing emails "from the Red Cross". Vultures.)

#12 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 08:43 AM:

Lis Carey has hit the nail on the head. "...it's criminally late for them to be working on first drafts. Unfortunately, I have no expectation that they will either do the necessary work to revised it properly, unless the heat is kept on them..." That's the stereotypical behavior of C students. Sometimes less intelligent students make up for lack of brains with hard work, but of course Bush is lazy as well as stupid.

#13 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 08:44 AM:

I don't think that the health services are going to be quite as unprepared as people are assuming. After 9/11 they started going over epidemic procedures for smallpox.

They created plans for pushing out limited numbers of smallpox vaccines, and how to handle quarranitine.

So plans for dealing with a deadly contagious disease have already been considered in detail for many hospitals.

But although the Flu of 1918 was deadly, it didn't shut things down--you can find pictures of basball games where everyone (inluding players) is wearing masks.

As to why it's become such a hot item recently? I believe it's to take national attention off other problems.

Avian flu has been spreading from person to person for the past couple years now. It's also been in the journals since 1997. Is this the year that it's going to shift and spread easily from person to person? I don't think anyone knows that, although liklihood has been increasing for the past several years, with each person-to-person transmission. The time for planning and worry was after the second person to person transmission, not a couple of years down the line.

#14 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 09:04 AM:

Michelle K:
Except that avian flu is not smallpox. For one thing, there's no vaccine, and never has been. Nor can smallpox be spread the same way avian flu can.

Stefan Jones:
The CNN clip (mind you, I only caught the tail end of it, so I could be mistaken about context) I saw had Bush trying to convince Congress to give him the authority to call out the military in case of an outbreak, because, you know, there might be riots and stuff. It did not sound to me like he planned to bring troops home, but instead to declare martial law and use the ones still here.

#15 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 09:07 AM:

Is anyone else getting caught in a loop of referred pages when they try to access the NYT links on this site? I thought it was just the link above, but it's also happening with something in Sidelights. (I'm using Safari.)

#16 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 09:33 AM:

Whoops. Stefan Jones, in my above post, that would be Posse Comitatus, not martial law, I think.

I'm pulling my hair out trying to remember whether or not a president can be impeached during a time of martial law. I know that elections can be suspended during a time of war, that the Chief Justice presides over presidential impeachments, and that martial law can't be declared while civilian courts are in operation, and in my very tired state these seem relevant somehow. Will some merciful and knowledgable person help me, please?

#17 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 09:42 AM:

'I don't think that the health services are going to be quite as unprepared as people are assuming. After 9/11 they started going over epidemic procedures for smallpox.'

Good point, I also rather expect that after 9/11 responses to any natural disasters will be especially competent, given the similarity in needed responses for the otherwise dissimilar events.

#18 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 09:51 AM:

Except that avian flu is not smallpox. For one thing, there's no vaccine, and never has been.

I believe that's why they went to the trouble of recreating the 1918 virus: they really want to know what it was, and have a sample for use in developing a vaccine, even if it isn't ideal (and, Dave, it's under as much security as they could manage: they do know how dangerous it is).

No, quarantine in a period with jet travel is pretty useless (think someone coming in form Europe or Asia, and then taking Southwest three or four hops across country).

I can see medical personnel being vaccinated: someone has to take care of those who are really sick. I didn't see food distribution people on that list; surely they're not assuming that everyone will have a month's worth of food in storage? If you make people go through the sort of bureaucratic maze they're still getting from FEMA, then you can expect riots after about six hours.

#19 ::: jayann ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 10:55 AM:

Andrew, the vaccine plans for avian flu differ somewhat, I believe, from the usual ones; antivirals will play a greater part. (The Government's ordered, or the NHS has, enough antivirals for a quarter of the population.) There will be quarantine here, in the initial stages, anyway.
(I was "quarantined" during an outbreak of smallpox in South Wales. There was a total quarantine at the hospital where the outbreak occurred -- if it began there, I suppose no-one can be sure); we were all vaccinated, rapidly; and a voluntary quarantine covered the whole of South Wales. But that was relatively easy to implement.)

#20 ::: Andrew Gray ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 11:16 AM:

jayann: yeah, the fact that there won't be a vaccine in the short term does foul up this comparison somewhat. I guess it depends on how long between "outbreak in X" and "outbreak here" as much as anything else.

(The BBC describes a 1962 Wales outbreak - was this the one? If so, the origin was apparently a traveller coming from Pakistan.)

Quarantine on the local scale is a lot more practical than on the national, and - as I understand it - is largely to stop specific groups being infected than to, say, "stop it getting north of the Humber". And a general voluntary quarantine is likely to be encouraged, anyway...

(am, as usual, speaking from a position of ignorance, mind)

#21 ::: Michael Falcon-Gates ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 11:48 AM:

So, how many people have had the thought that a widespread epidemic, plus one or two carefully-placed "vaccine riots," would be a wonderful reason to impose nationwide martial law?

#22 ::: Andr ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 12:30 PM:

"Good point, I also rather expect that after 9/11 responses to any natural disasters will be especially competent, given the similarity in needed responses for the otherwise dissimilar events."
Bryan, you are just waiting for someone to bite on that comment, aren't you? I'm actually willing to believe that outbreak responces have been improved. BUt then, like everyone's been saying, avian flu is not smallpox, so maybe any prep training wont matter in the least.

#23 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 12:33 PM:

While there's very little I'd put past the Bush Admin, I do have my doubts that BushCo is actually planning on using a flu pandemic as an excuse to declare martial law.

Look, the Bushies are plutocrats, not totalitarians. They want to enjoy their vast wealth and make believe they're aristocrats. They want a lot of stuff and some adoring masses. They don't want the "hard work" of actually having to run the country. Serious totalitarian rule requires lots of OT and attention to detail.

Letting an epidemic turn the country into a chaotic graveyard and using that as an excuse to declare martial law would, number one, utterly (and I mean utterly) destroy our consumption-based economy, in terms of distribution as well as production.

How can you be an aristocrat with lots and lots of Nice Stuff if the stores selling it vanish and the ships transporting it don't come to the US anymore? How can you lord it over the Unwashed Masses when the Unwashed Masses are mostly dead or in quarantine? Imagine New Orleans immediately post-Katrina. Now imagine most of the country in that condition. Where's the fun in ruling that?

Number two, we're already seen that Bush's base is slowly turning against him. Declaring martial law would be the final trigger on all those "libertarian" fantasies of taking up arms against the government.

Number three, I think the military itself is within spitting distance of a wholesale mutiny. I think it would mutiny if Bush decided to invade Iran; I therefore think it much likelier to do so if Bush decides, in effect, to invade the US.

See, the Bushies are not "serious" people when it comes to anything except self-enrichment and self-aggrandizement. We already know they're incompetent at actually running anything, whether it's war or disaster relief. They don't like to have to think things through past their own short-term gratification.

I just don't see those kinds of people being able to pull off martial law for any great length of time. If they did try it, they would totally screw it up, as they've totally screwed up everything else. And just imagine the whirlwind they'd be reaping...

#24 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 12:42 PM:

Except that avian flu is not smallpox. For one thing, there's no vaccine, and never has been. Nor can smallpox be spread the same way avian flu can.

No, however my point (I guess I wasn't clear) is that medical facilities (at least the ones around here) have been planning for what will happen if we have an outbreak of a contagious disease against which the majority of the population has little or no immunity.

I believe that's why they went to the trouble of recreating the 1918 virus: they really want to know what it was, and have a sample for use in developing a vaccine, even if it isn't ideal

I may be wrong, but my understanding is that the current avian flu isn't the same as the flu of 1918. So we can't make a vaccine from the OLD flu for the new one--it wouldn't be effective. (I thought the new flu was H6 type--something new, and the newness is why we have no immunity to this strain of flu.

The yearly flu strains are typically variations on a theme. However the avian flu is coming straight from birds and so it is nothing our immune systems have seen before, and so we have no defense against it. (The birds are important because typically flu strains cannot move from birds to humans and instead go through an intermediary such as pigs.)

And we already know a good deal about the 1918 flu. We've had samples of it for awhile. Some from lung samples kept in parafin, others from bodies buried in the permafrost.

#25 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 12:45 PM:

The "Bush declares martial law to foster right wing coup" meme may be pleasing to the paranoid conspiracy theorist in us, but I'm not particularly worried about it, because employing it would totally tick off a large part of what's left of the administration's base:

Martial law would be really, really, bad for business.

I'm actually more worried about people needlessly dying because the government doesn't do enough stepping on the toes of big business.

If nationalizing pharmaceutical companies and posting troops at the factories is what it takes to get them producing vaccine 24/7, I'm all for it. Putting motels on notice that they might get turned into make-shift hospitals sounds like a good idea for me. Ditto letting medical supply places know that their inventory of oxygen tanks and respirators will be seized to stock those hotels.

#26 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 01:11 PM:

Look! Over there! Tom DeLay is (still) under indictment!

Honestly, I thought the Happy Dancing over the DeLay thing was a little overdone, but it was such a pleasant change from "We're all gonna die!!!!!"

#27 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 01:38 PM:

CaseyL: You're assuming that Schmuck and his fellow scum grok Cause and Effect. They don't, they have Belief in Jesus. Plastic Jesus on the dashboard is more scientific analysis than they're capable of analyzing. It's the Misadministration that placed a quack in the position of Surgeon General who believes that women should pray to God to get relief from menstrual cramps, who rewrite reports with data and conclusions they don't like, who claim global warming is a left wing phantasy, who say things like "Who would have believed there were that many [ancient artifacts] in the world?" [Cheney or Rumsfeld's comment when told of the level of looting in Iraq, despite the fact that a delegation of archaeologists went to DC to try to plead with the Misadmninistration for protection of archeological sites and museums and libraries etc. in Iraq], who didn't consider it the slightest bit relevant to provide any policing in Iraq to prevent looting and arson and rape and murder and sabotage and vandalism when the Iraqi civil infrastructure including police had evaporated totally (compare that against looking at New York and in New Orleans which still had governments and police in the wake of 9/11 and the Katrina flooding and which had lots of looting going on...).

While competent and concerned and dedicated public health workers might have ideas of what to do, it's extremely difficult to carry out reasonable plans, it's extremely difficult to make plans, and it's nearly impossible to have materiel and personnel and procedures in place when the people with "Purchase Authority" and other Authorities are the sorts of gorfs and hacks and cronies of the quality and achievements and accomplishments and competencies of Michael Brown and Mr Safavarian [spelling] and former Tyco lawyers and such.

Add in the particular Causes and Values of the carajou rightwing Apocalytics and their associates, and the only "preparations" likely to occur are ones for converting people over to Evangelical Christianity before they're dead, or -after-. (The federally mandated body retrieval procedures in New Orleans including mandated Christian prayer over corpsed being collected... AHEM! I'm reminded of the story of a Jewish cantor-turned-opera-singer, who during one performance when he was supposed to be a Dead Body on the stage, jumped up and yelled,
"Not over my dead body, you don't!" when a character playing a priest waved a cross over the "dead body.")

#28 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 01:55 PM:

From the New England Journal of Medicine review of Barry's book:

Dr. Wilmer Krusen, a political appointee who was the director of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and Charities, deliberately ignored warnings against allowing a Liberty Loan parade to proceed, even though influenza had devastated the local Navy Yard and begun to spread into the civilian population.

Plus ša change...

#29 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 03:33 PM:

Michelle K,
according to what I have read and heard, the significance of the re-creation of bits of the 1918 flu virus and of genetically sequencing more bits of it*, is that they established that the most recently decoded bit of it is avian in origin. In other words, it was not a conventional (swine/human) flu virus that mutated out of hand, it was one adapted to avian immune systems that abruptly mutated in a few, key, small ways that made it deadly to humans.

You had written:
And we already know a good deal about the 1918 flu. We've had samples of it for awhile. Some from lung samples kept in parafin, others from bodies buried in the permafrost.

You are absolutely right. People have been working on this for a long time now. My limited understanding of the research is that the "new thing" is that they decoded the part of the virus that makes it "more deadly", and the hope is that with a detailed understanding of that, it may one day be possible to design a dead-virus vaccine that would be proof vs. that one charcteristic.

*yeah, technically they don't have a genome. But you know what I mean.

-R

#30 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 03:49 PM:

Elsewhere on a mailing list, Bush's failing approval ratings among his base brought this comment:

"Basically, this means Bush has fucked up fucking up the country."

Ouch!

#32 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 04:37 PM:

rhandir,
according to what I have read and heard, the significance of the re-creation of bits of the 1918 flu virus and of genetically sequencing more bits of it*, is that they established that the most recently decoded bit of it is avian in origin. In other words, it was not a conventional (swine/human) flu virus that mutated out of hand

Okay, this is strange because I am certain that I *knew* this (as in read it somewhere in a scientific paper) several years ago. Maybe it was just a well grounded theory that I translated into a truth.

The problem with the current avian flu is the government reaction to it. Gina Kolata wrote in 1999, "Yet if, against all odds, a bird flu virus was infecting people, it would have hemagglutinin and neuramindase proteins that had never been seen before by a human being. No human would be immune to such a virus. The whole world was at risk."

That's precisely what we've been seeing for the past several years, yet from where I've been watching, the government has been largely ignoring the problem.

#33 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 05:42 PM:

Ah, thanks Michelle!
Yes, it seems to be a primary function of government to ignore these things.

In my groggy afternoon-nappy state, I am attempting back of the envelope calculations for the amount of dried black beans and rice* necessary for living in isolation for two weeks. any takers on that one?

-R
*you know, combined for your amino-acid needs, and whatnot. Hmm. Should I assume the presence of clean water and power...?

#34 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 05:49 PM:

"Basically, this means Bush has fucked up fucking up the country."

so wait, he could possibly be worse?

#35 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 08:59 PM:

Martial law would be really, really, bad for business.

Stefan, I wish I were confident that the Bush Administration knew how to run a business...

Bush himself can't, and the best Cheney can do is suckle the public teat -- and that pretty much goes for the rest of'em, too. Management, to these jerks, is something left to underlings; real men just make their own reality.

Bush's reality is that he's king and he should damn well be able to force the country to comply with his orders. Sure, we all know martial law would take what's left of America's strength and crush it into oblivion, but do they get it?

No.

#36 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 09:08 PM:

rhandir: Should I assume the presence of clean water and power...?

I don't, though I'm more worried about an earthquake. That's why my emergency food consists of Tasty Bite Indian food in boil-in bags. It's fully cooked, shelf stable, and nutritionally sensible. And it's eminently portable.

#37 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 09:23 PM:

Rhandir --

No, you shouldn't.

As Charlie has been noting recently, just-in-time scheduling makes lots of stuff really fragile.

Figure you need a kilo and a half of food per day. (Very rough 'typical' figure.)

If you're going to do that with rice and beans and canned fruit for, let's say, 20 days (margin! never calculate survival requirements without adding margin!), that's thirty kilos.

That's really rough, though, and eating rice and beans every meal for two weeks isn't the best way to maintain psychological balance, either.

I'd want to make sure that there was variety in the canned fruit, and that I had some source of fat -- olive oil, or other cooking oil, at the very least; nuts are also good for this.

Also some multivitamins, and enough of any medication that you need to take to cover that period of time.


#38 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 09:25 PM:

Larry: Tasty Bite Indian food? That sounds marvelous! I will definitely look that up. Thank you! Anyone else know of such shelf-stable food?

Point well taken. Power and water probably isn't a good assumption. (It was only a few summers ago that my part of the midwest sat in the dark for a few days. I can clearly remember the stench of every one of our neighbor's gas generators drifting over our subdivision the next morning.*)

-R
*that is to say, (almost) every one of them had a generator, and ran it, loudly, all night. There was no breeze that night.

#39 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 09:30 PM:

Yep - Tasty Bite. I get it a Trader Joe's, although I don't think they have stores in the, er, flyover states.

The stuff's actually made in India, and the inner package is printed in a variety of languages. It's a little bit more than $2 each. It's not the best Inidan food you'll ever have, but for a convenience food, it's pretty good.

#40 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 09:38 PM:

You know, thanks to an odd confluence of fantasy lit and NPR, I'd been interested in following the avian flu story for a long time now (perhaps since 1999). Needless to say, Katrina recalibrated my sense of the likelihood of disaster.

But the fantasy part, well, thanks to an account told from the point of view of one of Barbara Hambly's heroines...

...She remembered the smell from her days with the VAD, and later, during the influenza, from the endless day of drifting in and out of delirium alone, smelling death in her parent's room next door and wondering with what strength was left to her if she, too, would die before anyone came to see how they were doing.

From Bride of the Rat God, 1994.

#41 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 10:40 PM:

eating rice and beans every meal for two weeks isn't the best way to maintain psychological balance, either

Those tuna-in-a-bag tuna-salad-and-cracker kits are handy for variety. You'd need to rotate them through, I don't think their shelf life is more than 6 months, but they aren't very expensive and they're really handy for quick single servings. Costco has had them in 5-packs.

Peanut butter has about a one-year shelf life, in the standard form. Honey will last for far longer than that, if it's free of added water and you don't mind it probably becoming crunching (the sugars will crystallize; heat it gently, like on a mug warmer, to get rid of them).

#42 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 10:49 PM:

Graydon, you'd said:
eating rice and beans every meal for two weeks isn't the best way to maintain psychological balance, either
I must confess, I did laugh out loud at that one. Truly, you all, are enLightened ones.

Larry, PJ, Graydon, thank you!
-R

#43 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 10:59 PM:

That's why my emergency food consists of Tasty Bite Indian food in boil-in bags. It's fully cooked, shelf stable, and nutritionally sensible. And it's eminently portable.

And it's even vegan and kosher! Some of them are dairy, some aren't.

They do have expiration dates on them.

I don;t know what the shelf-life for e.g. dried fruit is.

Stuff like most rice is effectively dehydrated, and so weighs less than when prepared. There's then the issue of getting clean water, but there are tablets sold by some US company that can convert -extremely- polluted water into water that's safe to drink, the stuff in the tablet precipitates out the crud in something like 20 minutes.

#44 ::: Greg Horn ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 11:10 PM:

A lovely bit of information from the WHO.

By the way, your adaptive immune system will only recognize pathogens it has seen before on a molecular level. The immune system will mount a strong and quick response the second time it sees the same molecules, that's why vaccinations work. For example, you get the flu (just plain old human influenza A) from someone at work, the strain has different antigens that the immune system recognizes, and you are sick because your body hasn't seen that flu before. The seasonal flu vaccine is a cocktail of a few different flu strain vaccines that are determined to be the most likely to go around during flu season. The seasonal flu vaccine shot you had the month before did not work because the flu you were infected with was not be the strain you were vaccinated for. Only those exposed to the H5N1 strain thus far and have survived will have a strong secondary response to another exposure.

The good news: recent trials show excellent progress in developing an avian influenza A/H5N1 vaccine. There may be one available beforehand should a pandemic occur (see link above).

The bad news: world production capabilities for flu vaccine production is about 300 million doses per year.

The worse news: "The H5N1 virus currently infecting birds in Asia that has caused human illness and death is resistant to amantadine and rimantadine, two antiviral medications commonly used for influenza. Two other antiviral medications, oseltamavir and zanamavir, would probably work to treat flu caused by the H5N1 virus, though studies still need to be done to prove that they work." (From the CDC)

#45 ::: Greg Horn ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 11:13 PM:

The missing CDC link for the last post

#46 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 11:21 PM:

Here's a practical question:

I have a little camp stove and a mantle lantern and a couple of cylinders of gas.

How long does a cylinder of propane last for lighting and cooking chores? I'm talking the kind a bit shorter than a 2-liter bottle.

If that's enough to supply (say) two hours of light a night for four days, boil eight cupfulls of water (for coffee), and heat up eight half-can portions of canned food (veggies and chili, say) I'm set for a half-week of trouble.

* * *

I'm in the habit of buying canned food -- vegetables, chili, noodle dinners -- when I see them at loss-leader prices. (Canned peas for $.25? Hell yeah!) They stay in the pantry until around Xmas and then go to the local food pantry via the collection barrels at work.

And thanks to a wonderfully diverse Dollar Store, I also have a ludicrously large stock of fancy food like canned hummous and pad thai dinner kits and canned baby corn and water chestnuts.

#47 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 03:55 AM:

The reason the current avian flu is resistant to all the affordable antivirals:

The Chinese government has been allowing farmers to use amantadine on their ducks for the last 5 or 10 years. They only admitted it this past year. If you want a good example of what an administration that's even more criminally corrupt and stupid than ours looks like, take a good close look at the PRC.

#48 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 06:35 AM:

There's a lot of fuss made by some people about the use of antibiotics in agriculture, chiefly as an additive to livestock feed. What they don't seem to realise is that the antibiotics used have no medical use. They're "antibiotic" because they kill some bacteria (and thus affect the mix of bacteria in the bovine digestive system), not because they're something a Doctor would ever think of using.

In the UK, at least, there's also some fairly careful regulation of this use, as well as the more disease-related use of antibiotics in veterinary medicine.

#49 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 07:18 AM:

I don't think the "quarantine yourself for two weeks" solution is very workable -- at least, for those of us who live in cities.

As for laying in propane stoves and ration packs ... well, I'm just going to have to hope that the gas and power mains here survive, and plan on driving out if they don't. A generator in the garden is not feasible -- it's a small garden shared with ten other apartments in this Close. The flat used to use open fireplaces for heating -- it was built in the 1880s -- but over the decades all but one have been blocked off and the survivor has been replaced by a charming "natural flame" gas fire that's as much use as tits on a Tyrannosaur when it comes to emergency use. It may not even be possible to retrofit an old coal-burning fireplace, depending on the state of the chimney stack. And winter's coming on. It's not simply the temperature that's the problem; at midwinter, the sun rises around 10am and sets around 3:30pm hereabouts. That's a whole lot of darkness. Stockpiling to see yourself through a few weeks of it may be practical in a log cabin in Alaska, but it sure as hell isn't in a over-modernized apartment in the center of Edinburgh.

Guess I'm going to have to whistle past the graveyard (and stock up on filter masks and gloves for going out in public in event that the worst happens). Modern living is brittle.

#50 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 11:39 AM:

I'm catching up on a couple of days' reading/commenting here:

No, the Bush Administration-Style Response would be more like: ... 2) Lie about it until it becomes a crisis.

I've found they don't really lie about it. They seriously misdirect. As a (made up) example, when asked about the safely of the levys in NO, the reply would be "I care very deeply about the people in NO." It's a true statement, just not relevant to the problem at hand. (Yes, there are some out-and-out untruths, but most are misdirection and/or irrelevant responses. As in "they didn't really answer the question, did they?")

Good point, I also rather expect that after 9/11 responses to any natural disasters will be especially competent

In my neck of the woods, Los Angeles, I'm encountering many small groups of people who are stockpiling seriously for the first time, who are taking Red Cross classes for the first time, who are doing all those things the 1994 Northridge quake did not get them to do. Why? Because it's occurred to them (and me) that we may not get any help, or that help will not be allowed in, in a useful amount of time. The statement "I don't need to worry. The Red Cross/some authority will be there right away" is not a statement some people have faith in right now.

-----
When accumulating dehydrated foods, avoid peanut butter. Even the boy scouts avoid it.

And the contents of a number ten can will fit neatly in a number three Modular Mate square from Tupperware.

#51 ::: Eric ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 11:54 AM:

Despite all the concern over smallpox, we're not ready. For anything, really. See Effect Measure's article on tularemia (via Aetiology):

As reported elsewhere, the "biodefense" sensors for tularemia went off in Washington, DC during the anti-war rally a few weekends ago. These sensors are prone to false-positives from naturally occurring organisms and such alarms have happened before. In this case it is reported that half a dozen sensors went off, so if you are going to bother to have a system like this, you would think someone would pay attention to it.

Reading the various articles, it's pretty obvious that the CDC isn't much better off than FEMA or DHS.

If you're interested in the avian flu, there's an excellent series of articles on Aetiology.

#52 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 01:31 PM:

'the reply would be "I care very deeply about the people in NO." It's a true statement, just not relevant to the problem at hand.'

whatever would cause you to believe it was a true statement?!?

#53 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 01:32 PM:

Stefan --

Fuel duration is a tricky creature. It has to do with the efficiency (= design + cleanliness) of the burner, the heat conductivity and thermal mass of the cooking vessel, and both the volume and shape of what you're attempting to heat. (Tall, narrow pots boil water more efficiently than low, wide pots, where wide is defined as 'wider than the heat plume off the burner'.)

Given appropriate (thin metal, tall&narrow, between 1 litre and 2 litres) pots, one litre of white gas will boil 49 litres of water. Kerosene gets you 57 liters of water boiled and diesel gets you 63 liters of water boiled.

I don't have numbers for propane handy, but I'd generally expect it to be somewhere between white gas and kerosene.

#54 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 02:23 PM:

Charlie - I hadn't really thought about issues of climate/habitability, which probably stems from having lived on the Pacific coast of the US for the past six years. Cold? Just put on another layer of fleece. Fleece (the polartec/synthetic kind) is compulsory here in Seattle. If you fail the annual Fleece Inventory Assessment, you get banished to Fresno. ;-)

Oh, I should add that my apartment does have a functional fireplace - an odd artifact of living in a 70's era building. I suppose it's there in response to the energy crisis, though to my mind it messes up a wall I'd rather put my sofa against.

Boil-in-bag Indian doesn't do you much good if it's frozen. Then again, how often does it actually freeze in Edinburgh? I know it's cold and wet, but I've been under the impression that, while miserable, it's less than brutal most winters, although there are astounding exceptions.

In a major public health crisis, I might be concerned about others trying to get at my supplies, but it's not as if I've gone out and bought a gun or anything.

As far as fleeing the city - where would I go? It's not as if I have deep connections to anyone in any sort of rural area, not just in the Pacific Northwest, but pretty much anywhere. I've got a friend who owns a house (where his stepmother lives) in Columbia County, NY, and another friend whose entire family lives on the outskirts of Asheville, NC but that's about it.

For me, unless the building burns down, I'm probably better off staying put than living out of my car in the middle of potentially hostile territory.

#55 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 04:58 PM:

"The Chinese government has been allowing farmers to use amantadine on their ducks for the last 5 or 10 years."

Ahhhh.

So it is the Invisible Hand of the Market that has made Avian Flu so deadly!

The only rational choice is to let it have its way, folks. To suggest otherwise is a strong indicator of Socialist leanings.

Breath deep those free enterprize sanctioned sneeze-droplets, and know you're doing what Adam Smith would want.

#56 ::: Mina W ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 11:20 PM:

living on beans and rice for two weeks

I once lived for two weeks on split pea soup and homemade whole wheat bread and black coffee. That's what I had ingredients for. Short term poor. [Since then I've stocked up on canned tuna and such on sale] The psychological hardship was not having milk for the coffee.

But at the end of two weeks, when I knew I'd have money the next day, what I bought with my last hoarded 75cents was not milk, but a cabbage for cole slaw. So I'd say that vitamin C and other fresh fruit&veggie nutrients were what I was lacking. This time of year one could keep winter squash and keeping apples on hand, and cycle through them. And in the summer, maybe windowbox chard.

#57 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 11:31 PM:

(Tall, narrow pots boil water more efficiently than low, wide pots, where wide is defined as 'wider than the heat plume off the burner'.)

Bearing in mind that the heat plume off a burner is significantly wider than the visible flame.

#58 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 12:14 AM:

Here's a question for those of you who are wise in the ways of survival.

A mailing list I'm on has been having some intense discussions lately about the Red Cross. About half a dozen members have been on the receiving end of the Red Cross at some point, and they are all adamantly negative.

They were all required to pay for everything the Red Cross provided, from coffee on up. In at least one case, this created a severe financial hardship. Some of the members have military connections, and tell us the most military despise the Red Cross, because of the payment required (and some other things that made no sense to me, a lifelong civilian). Others were put off by the financial mismanagement after 9/11, and the fact that the Red Cross Board is very, very, very well paid. (Mark Evanier linked recently to an editorial by the president of Operation USA which also politely raised financial issues.) Others said that the Red Cross was criminally negligent in handling the blood donations, which led to HIV and hepatitus in the blood supply.

On the other side, one person who has actually done emergency work said that what the Red Cross excells at is providing trained volunteers. There are always well-meaning-but-gormless volunteers who are more trouble than they are worth, but Red Cross volunteers know exactly what to do, jump in and start doing it, and commit to staying for weeks at a time, at their own expense. She says that kind of thing doesn't show up on a balance sheet, but is beyond any price in a crisis. Others pointed out that all those who should know (Public Service Announcements, Clinton, etc.) always say to donate to the Red Cross.

So, what is the collective wisdom of Making Light on the Red Cross?

#59 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 09:24 AM:

Well I only really have an opinion on the payment rate of the board which I think is a non-issue. They are the board of a large international organization, as such I expect that they are well renumerated, at the same time as they are the board of a large charitable organization I suppose that they get paid quite a bit less than for profit organizations at the same level of scale and operation. From what I have seen both suppositions are correct.

I wonder though if everyone is expected to pay for what they receive, maybe only actually relatively well off people, people that after losing a house are realistically speaking still pretty well to do in comparison to much of the world's population? I ask this because I have sort of a sneaking suspicion that most americans maybe whine a bit too much and are apt to feel somewhat more entitled than they actually are, and that this feeling increases with social class. A suspicion formed from living in the U.S for about 15 years.

#60 ::: Andrew Gray ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 10:47 AM:

For what it's worth - I just assume for granted that five-ten percent of any charity's intake goes to administrative overhead. If they feel they need to hire very well-paid administrators, it's fine by me - the Red Cross is not exactly run on a shoestring. If they want to cut overheads down, good on them, but it's not like it's going into drug-running or something - just a trivial amount of wastage. For context, the International Red Cross gets its own footnotes in international law, is bordering on being a sovereign entity, and has an operating budget of about $700m. The American Red Cross, who I assume are the ones the reimbursement fuss is over, employ thirty thousand people and handle half the blood products in the US. In comparison to that, the salary of the board members is a drop in the bucket - yes, it would be nice if it were lower, but it's not worth making a fuss over.

(There is a bit of a double standard here - if the head of a small charity were making that much, yes, it would be a Major Problem. It's a scale thing)

Incidentally, it seems they announced that they expect about 9% of the donations for Katrina to go to adminstrative costs; they seem to have a handle on most of the more remarkable fuckups that happened after 9/11, so management should be better this time.

I don't have knowledge of the charging issues, but Snopes says plainly: "The [American] Red Cross does not solicit payment for services rendered from the folks it is called upon to assist during times of emergency"; they note that a lot of the "charging for items" stories seem to originate from Red Cross run canteens in WWII, which charged by Army request. I don't know how this gels with stories of having to pay for services recently - I'd not encountered them before.

I wonder if it's confusion with Red Cross (or similar agencies) operating mobile canteens and the like, which often aren't targeted directly at the affected population but are there to feed the support services? If one branch of the agency is handing out food and blankets and another charging for cups of coffee, on the same site, I can see where confusion would arise - and why people would be angry at being charged for something they expected was free.

#61 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 12:52 PM:

As far as the Red Cross: I have heard a few ugly stories- possible urban legends. I'd rather find someone else to donate to.

#1: Vietnam War. Source: marine who was there, told 30 years later. The Red Cross offered to ship Christmas presents over to soldiers, and then someone [I don't know if it was official policy or personal greed] tried to charge the soldiers for their presents. Nobody got shot but apparently it was kind of close there. Might be a Friend-of-a-Friend story; source may not be entirely reliable.

#2: Blood. (Sources: reading and research done by an anarchist librarian friend and I, 2001.) The Red Cross sells blood to hospitals, and it shows up as "sold at cost" in their books. Their prices are significantly higher than other people's prices for blood. They are supposedly rolling a lot of overhead into "cost".

#3: Blood part 2. They allegedly tightened standards at one point and tried to force everyone else to do so. As a personal point, they registered a false positive for Hepatitis C on a pint of my blood and, despite blood tests [...grr...] I am considered a bad source of blood and have not donated since.

Apparently I could go to another hospital or state or something and donate without being caught. . . I don't know if it's pride or ethics that's stopping me, but I'm not going to lie and hide when I'm doing them a favor.

#62 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 01:34 AM:

I think it was the late Bill Bowers years ago in his fanzine Outworlds who had some very negative things to say about the Red Cross. If my memory is correct on that, the particular issues of the publication exist with his discussion explaining what and why.

#63 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 08:23 AM:

The Red Cross did indeed screw up during the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis, but so did a lot of other people. They weren't the best of the bunch, or the worst, as Randy Shilts told it--and that's about the limit of my knowledge there.

#64 ::: Ken ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 10:25 AM:

"If nationalizing pharmaceutical companies and posting troops at the factories is what it takes to get them producing vaccine 24/7, I'm all for it."

What about if dropping price controls and government bulk purchases were what it took to get them producing vaccine 24/7?

"Putting motels on notice that they might get turned into make-shift hospitals sounds like a good idea for me. Ditto letting medical supply places know that their inventory of oxygen tanks and respirators will be seized to stock those hotels."

Or we could drop restrictions, let ordinary people buy oxygen tanks and respirators and other such goodies, let production scale up to meet the increased demand, and have more of the things already in existence when bad things happen on a large scale. Does "whatever it takes" extend to dropping restrictions, or only to tightening them?

"Also some multivitamins, and enough of any medication that you need to take to cover that period of time."

Yeah, it would be great if the powers-that-be actually let you stock up on any medicine that you might need.

"In my neck of the woods, Los Angeles, I'm encountering many small groups of people who are stockpiling seriously for the first time, who are taking Red Cross classes for the first time, who are doing all those things the 1994 Northridge quake did not get them to do. Why? Because it's occurred to them (and me) that we may not get any help, or that help will not be allowed in, in a useful amount of time. The statement "I don't need to worry. The Red Cross/some authority will be there right away" is not a statement some people have faith in right now."

Good. "Some authority will be there right away" is not a healthy attitude in any event. Even if individual preparation doesn't solve the whole problem, it does lessen the scope of it.

And, of course, individual preparation is absolutely indispensable if you live in Louisiana, where state and local officials have been known to do things like forbid the delivery of relief supplies and forget about their own fleets of vehicles while accusing the Feds of letting people starve and depriving them of transportation.

Actually "stay the hell away from Louisiana" is a recipe for success on several levels, but is particularly important in the event of a disaster.

#65 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 10:38 AM:

'What about if dropping price controls and government bulk purchases were what it took to get them producing vaccine 24/7?'

followed by

'Actually "stay the hell away from Louisiana" is a recipe for success on several levels, but is particularly important in the event of a disaster.'

would don't have a federal government that lets people starve and then blames it on the locals be one the things not to do. just as long as we're all up on our respective high horses here.

#66 ::: Ken ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 11:14 AM:

"would don't have a federal government that lets people starve and then blames it on the locals be one the things not to do."

Well, unless the locals are doing things like blocking food shipments. In that case, blaming the locals seems like an eminently sensible thing to do.

#67 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 01:04 PM:

The invisible hand has strings attached, and the one tied to the middle finger gets pulled a lot.

#68 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2005, 03:56 PM:

Hi CaseyL

While I agree with most of the specifics of what you're saying (in your Oct. 8th post, partially quoted below), I'm afraid I must disagree with the overall message. The Bush boys likely are too dumb to do much damage in and of themselves, but they are the figurehead for an organization that makes me more than slightly nervous.

While there's very little I'd put past the Bush Admin, I do have my doubts that BushCo is actually planning on using a flu pandemic as an excuse to declare martial law.

Agreed. I think it unlikely that either the Bush administration or the political machine for which they are the current figurehead have any immediate plans to implement martial law.

However, I would argue that they have displayed a pattern of utilizing the period of semi-panic that follows disasters--natural or otherwise--to undermine long-standing legal protections which they find inconvenient. Two examples:

1. Patriot act implemented in hysteria following 9/11.

2. Proposal to rethink Posse Comitatus act in response to the hysteria following hurricane Katrina.

Look, the Bushies are plutocrats, not totalitarians. They want to enjoy their vast wealth and make believe they're aristocrats. They want a lot of stuff and some adoring masses. They don't want the "hard work" of actually having to run the country. Serious totalitarian rule requires lots of OT and attention to detail.

I completely agree. Bush Sr. showed signs of brains, competence and initiative--I didn't like him, but I could at least sort of respect him for things like having the balls to get shot down in WWII and clawing his way to the presidency. His kids, on the other hand, are pampered, dunderheaded lunks who were elected to positions of power due largely to an accident of history. W & Jeb are, in and of themselves, of no consequence. I have no doubt that when their 15 minutes are up they'll go back to the ranch and play with their toys and be no trouble to anyone.

What I find concerning is the agenda for which they being used in the meantime.

The Republican party does not magically reinvent itself every four years--it is an ongoing organization which retains its identity regardless of what figurehead is currently in or out of power. Read Lou Cannon's biographies of Ronald Reagan--a striking number of the behind-the-scenes players in the Reagan administration are also behind-the-scenes players in the W administration.

Taking the verifiable assertion that the organization has an ongoing identity as a given, I don't think it's particularly paranoid to assume that it has some sort of ongoing agenda as well.

For clarity's sake, let me emphasize that when I say 'agenda' I'm not talking about social issues like abortion and gay marriage. I sort of doubt that the core members of the party legitimately care about abortion per se. I would argue that the social issues traditionally associated with the Republican party are cynical ploys used to drive rank-and-file voters to the polls. My mother, for instance, doesn't care one way or another about corporate tax structure, but the idea of two guys kissing makes her blood boil.

If you're prepared to assume both an ongoing identity and a well thought out agenda, I would submit that the recent legislative changes pushed through in the periods of panic following the natural disasters were almost certainly elements of that agenda.

How can you be an aristocrat with lots and lots of Nice Stuff if the stores selling it vanish and the ships transporting it don't come to the US anymore? How can you lord it over the Unwashed Masses when the Unwashed Masses are mostly dead or in quarantine? Imagine New Orleans immediately post-Katrina. Now imagine most of the country in that condition. Where's the fun in ruling that?

I don't necessarily think that follows. Consider Saudi Arabia: the entire country the personal property of the house of Saud. The extended family lives in almost unimaginable opulence while almost everyone else lives in abject poverty. (As an illustration of the phrase "unimaginable opulence", let's consider the solid gold toilet seats and leopard skin wallpaper found on the Trump Princess, a private yacht that Donald Trump purchased from Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi (sp?) in the 80s.) It's an example of how bone-grinding poverty for the masses is not inconsistent with staggering wealth for a few.

As far as 'fun', imagine that your government is seen as the only source of safety and stability in legitimately dangerous times. Very few Americans have ever known anything approaching true poverty or hunger, much less war. I would argue that at the first sign of real trouble most of my neighbors would go belly-up to whoever promised the illusion of safety, no matter what the cost.

Under such circumstances, the power of the political elite would be nearly limitless. I've never personally enjoyed great wealth, but my understanding is that after a few years buying outlandish stuff can get a trifle boring for some. But if history is any guide, the process of humiliating and subjugating your fellow man never loses its charm.

Number two, we're already seen that Bush's base is slowly turning against him. Declaring martial law would be the final trigger on all those "libertarian" fantasies of taking up arms against the government.

This is sort of a side issue, but I would argue that a good bit of the damage thus far has stemmed from the perceived betrayal of conservative principles implicit in the nominations of Miers & Roberts to the supreme court. I strongly suspect that the conservatives grass-roots will reverse their positions on this after the first supreme court session in which Roberts & Miers both participate.

Number three, I think the military itself is within spitting distance of a wholesale mutiny. I think it would mutiny if Bush decided to invade Iran; I therefore think it much likelier to do so if Bush decides, in effect, to invade the US.

On this point I must respectfully disagree. I think the U.S. military is about as far from open revolt as any military organization in the history of humanity. I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but it would take years or decades of groundwork.

See, the Bushies are not "serious" people when it comes to anything except self-enrichment and self-aggrandizement. We already know they're incompetent at actually running anything, whether it's war or disaster relief. They don't like to have to think things through past their own short-term gratification.

Certainly that's true of the actual Bush family per se--W, and our next president, Jeb. But I would argue that the political machine for whom they front is frighteningly competent at achieving its goals.

I just don't see those kinds of people being able to pull off martial law for any great length of time. If they did try it, they would totally screw it up, as they've totally screwed up everything else. And just imagine the whirlwind they'd be reaping...

I agree--I kind of doubt that they want actual martial law. Actually, I kind of doubt that any of the Bush boys can spell it correctly. But their organization has already expressed a desire to increase police powers, increase the political power associated with the office of president, and do away with some very fundamental legal protections.

I wouldn't presume to guess where they're going with all this, but I sort of doubt I'll like it when they get there.

One final point in support of the Sinister Agenda Theory:

Recall that in 1987--the height of the Reagan era--the FCC repealed the so-called "Fairness Doctrine." This was a rule that forced broadcast stations to provide balanced coverage of political viewpoints.

The argument at the time was that it was no longer necessary because there were so many small cable stations with national exposure.

In practice, this change paved the way for the rise of Fox news. Fox news has been peddling its oh-so-entertaining right-wing propaganda for close to two decades now with undeniable effect on the opinions of that vast mass of people who feel disenfranchised and not particularly sympathetic to the liberal viewpoint. Public opinion has been sliding slowly but inexoribly to the right ever since.


#69 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2005, 04:13 PM:

Recall that in 1987--the height of the Reagan era--the FCC repealed the so-called "Fairness Doctrine." This was a rule that forced broadcast stations to provide balanced coverage of political viewpoints.

I recall a Lubbock TV station doing a 'news' story on political advertising in the mid-90s, in the course of which they ran at least three political ads, two or more for Republicans and only one for a Democrat. IIRC, it was an ABC affiliate, but I didn't think it was a fair or balanced story in its presentation. (It probably was a fair representation of the local views, in an area where some people hesitated to vote for Reagan because he had a liberal running mate.)

I think the GOP agenda is close to 'If This Goes On - ' in some ways.

#70 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2005, 11:28 PM:

Fairness doctrine required equal time nothing to do with balance - nor have the broadcast media ever been balanced - everything to do with access. Further a no access policy for anybody was defined as equal and so some paid access was denied to people willing to pay on the ground that free access would be mandated for their opponents - not exactly open access there for anybody.

Jack Valenti LBJ's man suggested long ago that we were entering a period in which elections would be decided by clever use of the broadcast media rather than by substantive debate carried by the media and so Valenti among other Democrats proposed limiting use of the media. Lots of issues.

Given today's access in fact there is no reason to enforce a fairness doctrine that was justified by reference to public airways. In a land of cablevision and cable modem nobody lacks access and public airways are going by the wayside.

I'm a free speech absolutist myself and so would oppose any process for defining balanced coverage but assuming angels to enforce it how would anyone possibly define balanced coverage?

#71 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2005, 09:50 AM:

Certainly the practice of enforcing the concept of 'balanced coverage' left a lot to be desired--no argument there.

But I'd argue that when the Fairness Doctrine was repealed it made it possible to shove blatant propaganda masquerading as news down the throat of the public to a degree that was not previously possible.

#72 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2005, 01:34 PM:

One of the results of the current politics in the USA, and the carry-ons by politicians in the UK, is that I'm looking at the rules we have here, which don't have to meet anything like US free speech principles, and I wonder who on earth we can trust.

We have a whole new level of liars who are running things. Politicians get caught, they sometimes resign, and then they come back in the nect cabinet re-shuffle.

Their predecessors may have lied and cheated their way to public office, and been as crooked as the current generation, but they had the grace to stay bought and stay caught.

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