Tag Archives: 1918-1919 Spanish influenza

COVID-19: Living with its Reality While Being Brave and Caring While Acknowledging our Fears

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

T.S. Elliot penned these words: “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” 

The sad fact is that Drs. Birx and Fauci have been quietly trying to brace the President and many of us for reality. Despite all the falsehoods and false hopes that emanated from the mouth of the President  between January and the beginning of March they, like them or not, soldiered on when many would have quit. All the President’s  denials, delays, disinformation, claims of fake news, bragging about his success, attacking  political opponents, and demonizing real news agencies, and reporters by name did not keep them from pushing back. I am not sure, but I suspect that Vice President Pence began to trust them helped push the President into accepting reality that the numbers that will die in the United States are far beyond anything that he ever would admit. Today they admitted that 100,000 to 240,000 could die, and that with successful mitigation. The same models predict a million and a half to two and a half million deaths without “successful” mitigation efforts. Who knows what April will bring, but I don’t think most American leaders or their followers are willing to deal with the hard truth that lay before us.

What our states are now beginning to do may be too little and to late to prevent an even higher death toll. Truthfully, based on the deadliness COVID-19 has demonstrated in our country where a lot more people in the 20-50 year old bracket are falling victim than was expect, I think, though I desperately  want to be wrong, and a quarter of a million is a low estimate based on the historical tendency for Americans to not obey the rules, trust science, or the government.

The terrible thing is that now the President would consider a death toll of 100,000 a “victory.” Had the President and  administration prepared for the virus when they were warned, we would have had a chance at minimizing the death toll, like South Korea.

But here we are facing one of the most catastrophic moments in the history of our country. We have to pull together, work together, and fight this together. Political, ideological, and religious animosity has to be chucked over the rails of this ship called America if we are not to sink. As one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence said, “we either hang together or we hang separately.”

Sadly, I have the feeling that many Americans will not believe until they, their family members, and friends start dying. As C.S. Lewis wrote in A Grief Observed:

“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.”

That my friends is the reality that we face. No matter our religion, lack thereof, or ideology may be, we are all human. Unless we are true narcissistic sociopaths, the deaths of friends and loved ones strike the very core of our innate human finiteness. They remind us that we too are mortal, and part of a community. I have friends across the religious and political spectrum, even people who disagree with me vehemently on various matters. But the death of any of them would involve grief that I cannot explain.

So now the latest COVID-19 casualty report. Worldwide there are 858,669 cases, 42,151 deaths, and 178,099 recovered. The get the death rate we do not uses the total infections. John’s Hopkins uses the total number infected, but since that number is always changing it is unreliable. Instead you have to use the total cases completed by either death or recovery, as the denominator. You divide the number of deaths by the number of completed cases. That rate is now 19% worldwide. In the United States there are now 188,530 total cases, 3,889 deaths and  7,251 people who have recovered, a 35% death rate. Of course as the minor infections recover the rate will most likely go down, to between 5 and 10%, not the 1-3% that some estimated just weeks ago. This is a killer virus, much worse than any flu. I’m not a scientist, but a historian. The great Spanish Influenza of 1918-19 killed over 600,000 Americans, and based on the latest estimates nearly 50 million deaths worldwide, and the populations, especially those living in major metropolitan cities, were far less than they are today.

John Barry, author of The Great Influenza: the Story of the Greatest Pandemic in History  wrote:

“overstate to make a point—warned, civilization could have disappeared within a few more weeks. So the final lesson of 1918, a simple one yet one most difficult to execute, is that those who occupy positions of authority must lessen the panic that can alienate all within a society. Society cannot function if it is every man for himself. By definition, civilization cannot survive that. Those in authority must retain  the public’s trust. The way to do that is to distort nothing, to put the best face on nothing, to try to manipulate no one. Lincoln said that first, and best. A leader must make whatever horror exists concrete. Only then will people be able to break it apart.”

The lesson is that truth even in the face of unimaginable disaster and loss of life, must be told. The same is true with how to mitigate the threat. Fear is a natural response, and anyone involved in a war, which this is, is not unreasonable, especially when there is no vaccine, should demonstrate a measure of reasonable fear. General George Patton wrote words that should be absorbed by everyone facing this virus today:

“If we take the generally accepted definition of bravery as a quality which knows no fear, I have never seen a brave man. All men are frightened. The more intelligent they are, the more they are frightened.”

That means that we can be frightened, yet brave. We must continue to life life and care for others even as we use social distancing and other prevention measures.

As Captain Jean Luc Picard in Star Trek the Next Generation said: “the first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth, whether it’s scientific truth, historical truth or personnel truth…”

Our leaders regardless if the are political, scientific, media, military, religious, or medical leaders must tell the truth, and then do the hard things in order to survive without becoming the dystopia of a world like the Mad Max films, novels like 1984, or so many examples from history and fiction.

We need leaders who tell the truth, and we need to act, despite our fears to defeat this threat. As Winston Churchill said in Britain’s darkest hour, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat,” our leaders regardless of party or ideology have to stop offering meaningless but comforting words, and tell the truth. If they don’t we will experience worse than we could imagine. As the English comedian Rowan Atkinson uttered in the BBC comedy series, Black Adder: “a fate worse than a fate worse than death.”

100,000 to 2400,000 preventable deaths is not a victory, it is a needless sacrifice of human life. Each of the dead is more than a number or name, they are human beings who leave behind parents, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, grandchildren, friends, and coworkers. Each death leaves a hole in the heart of someone who loved and cared for them, that cannot be filled by empty words.

Until tomorrow, and with hope for the future. Please be careful out there,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

 

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Very, Very, Very Dreadful: COVID-19 and Our Future


At Kroger Today 
Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Albert Marrin wrote in his book Very, Very, Very, Dreadful: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918: 

“No other disease, no war, no natural disaster, no famine comes close to the great pandemic. In the space of eighteen months in 1918–1919, about 500 million people, one-third of the human race at the time, came down with influenza. The exact total of lives lost will never be known. An early estimate, made in 1920, claimed 21.5 million died worldwide. Since then, researchers have been continually raising the number as they find new information. Today, the best estimate of flu deaths in 1918–1919 is between 50 million and 100 million worldwide, and probably closer to the latter figure.”

The current novel Coronavirus pandemic may not kill as many people as the Great Influenza pandemic did, but the numbers that it will kill will be catastrophic, not only in the number of lives lost, but in the unrest it causes in so many nations will lead to civil wars, usurpation of powers by authoritarian regimes of various ideologies, and subsequent wars that it helps spawn in the coming years. And frankly, after 75 years of relatively small wars, which admittedly have and tragically killed millions of people, the global order has remained relatively stable, until now.

The instability in the global markets, rising unemployment, shortages of so many items that we have come to rely upon, is just the beginning, and the virus has just begun. If it follows the course of the 1918-1919 pandemic, which most scientists believe that it will this is just the first phase. The second will be a slight lessening of infections and deaths in the summer followed by an explosion of it in the fall and winter, and the third wave will be far deadlier than today’s. It may even mutate into a far deadlier strain, as of now we know of two strains of it, and who knows how many there will be in the fall and winter? I cannot say, but I would put money on at least two or three, which even if we can produce a vaccine for the current ones, in record time, the mutations may be immune to it.

We were completely unprepared for this despite knowing that we were due for a pandemic. While industry can produce record numbers of ventilators and PPE, in a relatively short period of time, even which may not be deployed soon enough for this first phase of the pandemic; they cannot produce qualified ICU doctors, nurses and technicians that fast.

Even when we get the beds and ventilators, as well as additional rooms, we will have to staff them with doctors and nurses without or with minimal ICU experience, most gained during their medical or surgical residencies, or rotations through them during nursing school. It takes a special breed of physician or nurse to work in critical care, just as it does to be a cancer specialist, Emergency Medicine Doctor or nurse, or name the medical field. The fact is that you cannot make such specialists in a limited amount of time, and thanks to our managed care, for profit, system we don’t produce enough of them anyway. They are much more valuable than the equipment they have to use.

If the hospitals of the First World are being overwhelmed, just imagine what will happen when the virus begins to explode in the Third World, where a lack of basic medical care is standard, and critical care physicians and nurses are at the university and government run medical centers in major cities, most often the national capitals. The virus will spread through the major cities with a vengeance, and then to the hinterlands. Millions will die, simply because they live in countries too poor, and often politically unstable to deal with it.

As of tonight the numbers continue to explode. As of this moment there are 722,916 cases of the COVID-19 Virus worldwide, and 33,976 deaths. This is up from 532,362 cases of COVID-19 and 24,090 deaths Friday.  Today 536,454 of the cases are still active. Of the closed cases 151,756 have recovered and 33,976 have died for a 18% death rate, up from 16% less than 48 hours ago. That is a increase in infections of 190,553 cases and an increase of 9,886 deaths in just 48 hours. Say what you want, but the numbers don’t lie.

The same is true in the United States the numbers are not encouraging because we are so far behind the testing and preparation stage. As of now there 142,178 cases, and 2,484 deaths, and 4,559 recoveries a death rate among the closed cases of But at this same time on 27 March there were 85,984 total reported infections with 1,300 deaths and 1868 recoveries. Currently 135,135 of these cases are active. The mortality rate among the closed cases is 35%. Sadly we are nowhere close to the peak, which despite efforts to mitigate the spread in some states, others are refusing to make take any precautions, including those bordering some of the hot spots where the virus is now exploding.

Thankfully, despite his many lies, obfuscations, and refusal to take responsibility for anything, while blaming state governments and even health care providers for the growth of the virus, has at least admitted that many more lives may be lost and expanded his restrictions on gatherings to at least April 30th. I expect that he will have to push it further back.

But Americans, especially his supporters hate this, and are likely in states they control will ease restrictions as early as next week.

However, it is late and I have to get ready to go to bed so I can get to work in the morning.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

 

 

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An Exponential Increase in People Killed or Infected by COVID-19


Erring on the Side of Caution 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

In early January a dread came over me when I first read about the novel Coronavirus in China, and the head that the first case in the U.S. had been diagnosed in Washington State. I knew then that things would get much worse before they ever got better. But for fear of being labeled a fear monger or crazy person. At that time the threat was being downplayed except by intelligence agencies whose warnings we not heeded.

I guess it was in the fall of 2008 when I had a troubling dream. In it saw our city’s Town Center, still being built up, completely empty, shops and restaurants closed, construction sites abandoned, and trash blowing through the streets. That was in the 2008 crash with the H1N1 flu pandemic just beginning. I chalked them up to my horrible depression and PTSD, and tried to downplay them, and we did recover. But now it seems that that dream, was a portent of what is going on today. I certainly do not claim to be a prophet, nor a son of the Prophet, but now the restaurants and most shops there are closed. Construction projects appear to look like they are being prepared to shut down. Now I feel like I am living in that nightmarish dream as the novel Coronavirus 19 sweeps the world and the United States. The virus is exploding at an exponential rate and the worst is yet to come, not just the infections and deaths, but the complete disruption, and maybe collapse of an old order not seen since the end of the First World War.

Barbara Tuchman wrote something most relevant to the Trump Administration’s response to the COVID 19 threat, decades before it ever happened. However, she was writing about the men who brought Europe to destruction in 1914 and continued to work to destabilize new democracies, and even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic seek to protect their interests above all, including that of their nations and people. Tuchman wrote:

“Wooden-headedness, the source of self-deception, is a factor that plays a remarkably large role in government. It consists in assessing a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs. It is acting according to wish while not allowing oneself to be deflected by the facts.” 

If nothing else that is an indictment of our President, and his enablers in his party, cabinet, Congress, propaganda network, and his devoted cultists who could not tell the truth from a lie if you told them a pie shell filled with shit was an award winning chocolate pie. But on to the current situation and a bit of background.

On December 31st the Chinese Government reported the first death from nouveau Coronavirus 19, or COVID 19. By the end of January there were over 12,000 cases and 259 deaths. The first infected American arrived from China in the middle of January. When I saw that, I knew without immediate intervention by the Federal Government that the spread of the virus would eventually be exponential and devastating, not just in the illnesses and deaths, but to the worldwide economy, and eventually war. If we look at the history of the 1920s-1930s the First World War was followed by economic, political, and the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu pandemic. Of course there were the civil wars and unstable governments caused by icily wars between the extremists of the Bolshevik and Fascist extremes, both seeking to destroy the political center to gain power, the brief economic upsurge brought about in the 1920s, the the Wall Street Crash of 1928 that brought about a worldwide economic depression, and a Second World War.

But now we have the Coronavirus which is sweeping across the world at a now breathtaking pace. It is growing at an exponential rate, and it seems that all the king’s horses, and all the king’s men will find it hard to put it together again.

When the COVIS-19 pandemic hit our shoes,  the American Government led by the Trump Administration paid little attention to it or downplayed its significance. It did that until the bottom began falling out of the stock markets, bond markets, and the oil market, the latter was not completely due to due to Coronavirus but the productions and price oil war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

The Trump Administration finally labeled the situation a health emergency at the end of January, but did nothing to prepare.  Belatedly, it began to organize a response led by Vice President Pence at the end of February, but even sill the President in his speeches and tweets continued to downplay the situation as members of his political, religious, and media cult amplified his message, until a week ago.

The day I wrote my first article about Coronavirus, March 8th,  there had been almost 110,000 cases and nearly 3800 deaths. That was an increase of 98,000 cases and over 3500 deaths in just 38 daysI wrote me second article on it ten days later. By that time were nearly 198,500 cases and just shy of 8,000 deaths, 7,987 to be exact.

So in ten days there were around 100,000 new cases, and close to 4200 new deaths. As of that evening there were a total of 218,721 cases, of which 125,392 were currently active. 93,329 are closed, meaning either recovery or death. Of the closed cases, 8,983 or 10% had died. This means there were over 20,000 new cases and almost 1,000 deaths in a single night. Italy was hit hardest in the past day, over 4,200 new cases and 475 deaths.  In other European countries the numbers are spiking, and are about a week or two behind Italy in the progression of the disease.

We are now 15 days since my first article and five after my second. Since my last post the numbers have grown exponentially at a rate far faster than even last week. As of this moment in time there are 338,724 total cases of which 225,034 are active. Of the closed cases 14,687 are dead, and 99,003 have recovered. That is a 13% death rate. Since yesterday the number of cases went up by 32,440 with 1631 new deaths. See https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

The sad thing, that even where local, state or provincial, and national governments have taken steps to mitigate the the spread of the virus, only the most draconian measures have succeeded in flattening the infection and death curve. South Korea is not far behind, but more to proactive testing, and mitigation efforts. But the United States remains far behind in testing, the availability of test kits, and haphazard quarantine and social distancing and isolation measures, primarily because the Trump Administration has refused to take the leadership, and responsibility to ensure that states get the resources they need when they need them, while failing to provide  overarching policy guidance rather than by shifting blame to experts, journalists, and truth tellers, and of course China by labeling it by the xenophobic and racist term, the China Virus instead of its actual name.

Likewise the President has proclaimed that he is a wartime President but refuses to treat this as a war. He has correctly called it an unseen enemy but has refused to do the things that a real wartime President would to to stop the losses and win the war. He still, dithers, obfuscates, and blames. Instead of saying “the Buck stops here” as Harry Truman did, he passes the responsibility and deflects the blame to everyone but himself, because he claims no responsibility for anything, and makes himself the victim of others, even former allies, friends, and appointees. He is Captain Queeg on steroids, but in defense of the fictional Queeg, he had been exposed to arduous combat duties before he took command of the USS Caine. Queeg cracked under pressure and his officers failed to help him. That is not the case with President Trump, he got rid of the apolitical professionals and surrounded himself with yes men and his family. Queeg should have been so lucky.

Tomorrows numbers will be worse, and the Trump Administration ignored warnings about COVID 19 by intelligence experts as early as January. Until the stock, bond, and oil markets began to collapse at the beginning of March, they did nothing, except deny, deflect, and minimize what would happen. Once the economy began to crash the Administration began to take actions, most not really effective in stopping the spread of the virus, but actions. Sadly, the President could give a serious and even Presidential Statement, and then go back to undercut everything he said with his Un constrained Tweets.

Bank of America has already stated that the United States is now in a recession. Other economists say that we are headed for an economic depression. Depressions are not good, not just for the economy, but for national security, in the midst of the Great Depression, Japan invade Manchuria in 1931, and China in 1936. Italy attack and conquered Ethiopia in 1935-1936, even as Hitler’s Germany began a startling number of bloodless conquests in the 1930s , without much reaction from from democracies mired in economic crisis and political divisions were unable to respond.

We have now reached that kind of watershed in our time. This will get far worse, in so many ways before it gets better. So until this is over, please err on the sid e of caution. Don’t take unnecessary risks, knowing that asymptotic carriers of the virus can spread it without you knowing it, and demand that our elected leaders at all levels of government take real actions to slow and eventually stop the advance of the virus, take action to help all of our population, but especially the millions losing their jobs in the service industries, And the small business and restaurant chains that are being forced to close due to the virus. This is a time for bold actions, not to bail out the corporate elites and oligarchs, but to help our citizens and the companies that they work for survive.

For me this isn’t about politics or the latest money, but for the survival of us as a people and nation who still hold to the belief of the Founders in the Declaration “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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The World Series: Cliff Lee was Amazing and the Yankees come back, the Influenza Outbreak, a Visit Home, and Honors to the Fallen by the President

“The only thing that matters is what happens on the little hump out in the middle of the field.” Earl Weaver

large_2aj-burnett415A. J. Burnett dominated the Phillies in Game 2

Last night we were treated to one of the best pitching performances in the history of the World Series.  Phillies start Cliff Lee who has had an incredible playoff run.  In four games he has pitched 33.1 innings, winning 3 games, two of which were complete games.  In those games he pitched 30 strikeouts and on 3 walks and only given up 2 earned runs.  His ERA through game one of the World Series is a minuscule 0.54.  Last night was a fantastic demonstration of pitching as Lee controlled the game from start to finish defeating his former teammate C.C. Sabathia who was good but not good enough giving up 2 solo home runs to Chase Utley before being pulled after the 7th.  One can compare his performance against the best hitting team in the Majors to the greats Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson and Don Larson.  I remember seeing Gibson’s game back in 1968 on TV and I am forever amazed at his intensity as hit mowed down batter after batter.  On the other hand Lee was the epitome of the “just another day at work” that was so evidenced in his lackadaisical catch of a pop up to the pitcher’s mound and his quick behind the back grab of a pitch hit behind him.

Honestly I was surprised but not disappointed.  I do not have a dog in the fight so to speak since the Giants, Orioles, A’s or Angels are not in the series.  However I appreciate a great performance even when it cuts down my well thought out statistic based prediction. Lee was until last night a career 4-4 against the Yankees but had, again until last night a whopping 5.02 against them.  I predicted that it would be a close game but that I thought it would be Lee who gave up the key hits or have mistakes committed behind him which would in turn bring on the bullpen which the Yankees would demolish.  Instead it was 180 degrees out as Sabathia gave up the key hits and the Yankee bullpen melted down.  To top it off the Yankees were completely baffled and shut down by Lee almost being shut out save a Jimmy Rollins throw into the bullpen which allowed Derek Jeter to score the Yankees only run of the game with one out in the bottom of the 9th. I’m watching another pitcher’s duel tonight, at least through 7 innings between Pedro “I’m the most influential player to play in Yankee Stadium” and A.J. Burnett. Burnett dominated the Phillies big guns and Pedro has like Sabathia last night given up 2 solo home runs to Mark Teixeira and Hideki Matsui and was pulled with 2 on and no out in the bottom of the 7th.  Mariano Rivera came on to get a six out save and the Yankees won 3-1.  The amazing thing to me is the dominance of pitching so far.  The fact that Ryan Howard stuck out 4 times tonight and Alex Rodriguez 3 times last night shows just how dominant the pitchers have been. Both were having an amazing playoff run and at least the first two games have had their fires extinguished.

mariano-riveraMariano Rivera got a 6 out Save

The first two games give me some hope. I would prefer a 7 game series that is a well played drama filled classic for the ages.  That is my hope anyway as they are the best teams in baseball and it would be fitting for the series to live up to that status.

I just got over a bout with a stomach bug yesterday, on Monday I was doubled over in pain and the stuff lingered a couple of days.  Turns out that this is going around and a lot of folks are going down with it as well as Influenza A, B and H1N1, the Swine Flu.  I personally know several people who have been hammered by the Swine flu and am seeing a lot more influenza related cases in our ICU including a number of young people on ventilators.  A cursory look around the news shows a lot of kids getting sick and so far at least 100 schools being closed due to influenza outbreaks and it is only October.  Look for a long and difficult flu season. This may not be as bad as 1918 but anyone is a fool to make light of it or efforts to keep people from getting it.  I think such people are damned fools who jeopardize their lives as well as the lives of their families, friends and co-workers, from what I see in my little corner of the world this will not be fun.

Speaking of not fun I am going home to go assist my mom and brother with some of my dad’s affairs. He remains in the nursing home and continues his slow downward trend defying the doctors who said that he would be dead months ago.  The emotional cost on my mom, brother and to a lesser extent I because I don’t have to deal with this up close every day has been exacting. It is painful.  I received a e-mail from an old friend this week who described what his family went through as his dad wasted away in mind and body before their eyes.  I will be glad to see everyone and will spend as much time with dad as I can, hopefully I will have him with me for at least a few minutes.  I am not looking forward to having to go through belongings or some of the administrative or banking tasks that will need to be done.

APTOPIX Obama Fallen SoldiersPresident Obama Honoring the Fallen at Dover

Late last night President Obama did something that earned my admiration.  I know some will see his action as cynical or opportunistic but as a career officer and Iraq Veteran who has served under five Presidents I saw it differently.  I think it is the first time that a President has greeted and rendered honors to the fallen at Dover in my career.  I could be wrong but I don’t think that any of the President’s that I have served under have ever met an aircraft bearing 18 fallen Americans.  He didn’t have to do it, but it is my opinion that any wartime leader who has not experienced the enormity of the loss of Americans that he has sent into combat has not fully assumed the mantle of leadership.  Part of that mantle is to be there in the times of suffering. One source close to the President told ABC News reporter Jake Tapper that  meeting with the families at Dover and seeing the return of the fallen was was “one of the most profound experiences of Mr. Obama’s young presidency.”

It was a sobering reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices that our young men and women in uniform are engaging in every single day, not only our troops but their families as well,” Obama said later Thursday, hours after his return to the White House. “The burden that both our troops and their families bear in any wartime situation is going to bear on how I see these conflicts, and it is something that I think about each and every day.”

I do appreciate all that President Bush did in visiting the wounded and caring for the families of the fallen, there is no disrespect intended by me toward the former President as he had to make many tough and often unpopular decisions during his presidency including the surge in Iraq that along with the Anbar Awakening that helped turn the course of events in that unfortunate land.  He took heavy criticism from the Left and parts of the Right for that decision as well as scaling back efforts in Afghanistan. I do hope and pray that the President’s decision, whatever it ends up being will bear success and help the security of the region and peace to Afghanistan and I certainly do not want him to be like Lyndon Johnson in Vietnam and commit us deeper into to a war without counting the cost ahead of time.  That is a tall order, but for the sake of our troops is something that we should be able to pray will happen.  To quote one commentator: “No matter what your political views are or your position on the wars, we should never forget those making the ultimate sacrifice.”  Thank you Mr. President for remembering these men,  Ten men were lost in the crash of an MH-47, 7 Army Soldiers and 3 DEA agents and 8 soldiers killed when an IED destroyed their Stryker Light Armored Vehicle.  I close with their names:

Killed:

1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Washington

Staff Sgt. Luis M. Gonzalez, 27, of South Ozone Park, N.Y.

Sgt. Fernando Delarosa, 24, of Alamo, Texas.

Sgt. Dale R. Griffin, 29, of Terre Haute, Ind.

Sgt. Issac B. Jackson, 27, of Plattsburg, Mo.

Sgt. Patrick O. Williamson, 24, of Broussard, La.

Spc. Jared D. Stanker, 22, of Evergreen Park, Ill.

Pfc. Christopher I. Walz, 25, of Vancouver, Wash.

From the 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Regiment (Airborne), Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia

Chief Warrant Officer Michael P. Montgomery, 36, of Savannah, Ga.

Chief Warrant Officer Niall Lyons, 40, of Spokane, Wash.

Staff Sgt. Shawn H. McNabb, 24, of Terrell, Texas.

Sgt. Josue E. Hernandez Chavez, 23, of Reno, Nev.

Sgt. Nikolas A. Mueller, 26, of Little Chute, Wisc.

From the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, North Carolina

Sgt. 1st Class David E. Metzger, of San Diego Ca

Staff Sgt. Keith R. Bishop, 28, of Medford, N.Y.

From the Drug Enforcement Agency

Special Agent Forrest N. Leamon, Woodbridge Va.

Special Agent Chad L. Michael, Quantico Va

Special Agent Michael E. Weston, Washington DC

Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord; and let light perpetual shine upon them

May their souls, and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen

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How Pro-Life People Make Themselves Look Like Idiots

Note: This post will likely cause me grief but it has to be said. To preface this I am pro-life and anti-abortion. I fully support my Church’s stand on abortion. At the same time I am becoming more and more appalled by the less than informed, often illogical and many times  uncharitable comments made by those who claim to be pro-life on subjects other than abortion that they no little or nothing about. This post may come across as harsh but I mean it that way with no apology.

Recently I have seen some conversations and blogs by “pro-life” individuals lately that make me shake my head in bewilderment.  I am beginning to wonder if some people in the “pro-life” movement have lost all sense of reality.  I also am beginning to wonder if pro-life people are becoming the greatest threat to the pro-life movement.

What I saw today was a conversation by some in the pro-life movement about government’s efforts to ensure that the Swine Flu does not reach epidemic or pandemic status.  What I saw was to put it mildly, idiotic, unethical and un-Christian.  In fact I would view it as an argument that as a minimum seriously calls into question the judgment of these people.  At worst such actions and statements make me seriously if they are truly “pro-life” at all, and not just simply anti-abortion and the hell with everything else concerning life, especially if it deals with already living and breathing people.

The basic argument of these people, who I assume are well meaning, is that they object and find unreasonable government efforts to respond to the Swine Flu outbreak.  They called this into question because the “government supports abortion which kills millions of pre-born babies every year.”   Another commentator,  who obviously knows nothing about influenza or other infectious diseases, made very uninformed comments about the Spanish Flu of 1918-1919.  This idiot attempted to minimize it talking about the fact that medicine has advanced and there is better sanitation. Others were spouting inane comments like “woord!” I have to assume this is something like the Marine “oorah!”

Unfortunately there is a severe moral and ethical disconnect in the argument.  The problem with this whole line of reasoning says that we will fight like hell for the unborn but the hell with the “Post-born” simply because we are angry at the governments policy against the unborn.  Sorry, if you are truly pro-life they all count the same. Just because the “pro-life” movement has fixated on abortion doesn’t mean that people who are already born don’t count.  In this line of reasoning the unfortunate “Post-born” who have the misfortune of contracting the disease, well, their lives don’t matter.  Screw them because we disagree with government policy on abortion.  The claim by some that the government is  hypocritical because it puts money into trying to stop what history has show to be a really really nasty disease.   Remember H1N1 in 1918-1919 alone killed 50-100 million people worldwide. Admittedly, this was in a time when medical care for such problems was much less capable than current medical technology.  At the same time what took weeks or months to get around the world happens in hours. This  gives governments and other responders no room for error.  Likewise the population of the United States is about double what it was back then and unlike the 1918 we are a more urban and closely packed society. We are utterly dependent on interconnected transportation and logistics networks to maintain the supply of food, medicine and other essentials. These are delivered as they are needed versus stockpiled. A pandemic would seriously disrupt this network and cause chaos.  You think that the economy sucks now, it will be sucking like a Hoover if this happens.

Swine Flu or H1N1 targets young healthy people, the age 20-40 crowd. The writers of these posts will have great fun if this becomes and epidemic or pandemic.  I am sure that most of them are Flu Virgins.  In other words they won’t have the anti-bodies to fight this off if they get it.  This will really suck.  They get to die if this gets really bad, or best they will suffer greatly.  Over half the fatalities in 1918 were in this age group.  Just wait until decisions have to be made about who gets treatment and who dies in a pandemic.  You can bet that most if not all of these people will advocate for themselves and their families at the expense of others that they deem unworthy of life. It’s easy to be pro-life when your life isn’t the one in the balance.

So with this being the case, the logical person has to assume that these folks are not genuinely pro-life, but rather simply anti-abortion.  Unfortunately I am cursed with being a logical, rational and analytical I cannot limit my pro-life beliefs to simply protecting the pre-born.  That is a worthy mission but we also have to stand up for the right to life of the “post-born” too.

Conversations and arguments of the nature presented by the people I read today makes pro-lifers look heartless, cruel and hypercritical.  By making these comments they subvert their own efforts to protect the lives of the unborn.   The idiocy of these people’s conversation was absolutely mind numbing.  I almost wonder if the verse out of Romans can be applied to these folks.  “Claiming to be wise they became fools…”   Of course I applied that verse out of context, but no less so than I have seen others in the “pro-life” movement do.

I’m not going to re-hash last night’s post here, no will I go deeper in the weeds on the subject.  If people are actually interested in the Swine Flu they can read John Barry’s The Great Influenza” Alfred Crosby’s America’s Forgotten Pandemic and Pete Davies’ The Devil’s Flu. Additionally they can go and visit the evil government Centers for Disease Control at  http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/ or the really super evil UN sponsored World Health Orgnaization at http://www.who.int/csr/don/2009_04_24/en/index.html.  Unfortunately I fear that my words will fall on stoney ground. People who think this way haven’t a logical cell in their brain.

My point is that people who claim to be “pro-life” cannot allow themselves to submerge themselves into stupidity by making comments that are really anti-life. If followed to their logical conclusion the inane ideas spouted by these knuckleheads would allow millions of people to die in the event of a Swine Flu or Avian Flu pandemic.  If an unborn baby’s life is worth going to jail for in a protest, what is the value of the already born?  Oh wait according to the logic applied by the people that I saw today, absolutely nothing.  To protect the unborn they have become “anti-life.” That’s just sad.

This is painful to watch.  What ever happened to any theological, philosophical, ethical or personal reflection on the value of life?  What ever happened to the “pro-life” movement?

Peace,  Steve+

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Don’t Mess With the Pig- The Swine Flu is no Joking Matter

I am not an alarmist by any means.  I am a realist and a historian.  If we know anything from human history there have been great plagues as well as epidemics and pandemics of various types.  Our world is rich in life and beauty but it is also full of really really nasty diseases that on occasion get loose and act really really bad.   Influenza, which normally kills about 30-40,000 people annually in the United States is one of those ugly nasty diseases.    Even mild cases can make you want to die and this is the easy stuff.  I’m not smart enough to make a prediction that the Swine Flu will be the next big pandemic, but it has potential and that potential needs to be addressed to ensure the safety of everyone, even lawyers.

The Avian and Swine variations of the flu are like normal flu on steroids.  They kill if they are not contained quickly.  The last scare we had with the Swine flu was back in the 1970s.  I remember getting the vaccine for it.  Hopefully those anti-bodies as well as all the ones from every other flu bug that I have been vaccinated for or exposed to will keep me safe with good preventive measures. That bug was contained and it did not become an epidemic.  Because it didn’t the pharmaceutical companies that produced the vaccine were beaten down.  A small minority of people had side effects from the vaccine.  The pharmaceutical companies, for all their faults, got hosed on this.  They had their asses sued off and were not protected.  Maybe we should pray, like Henry IV that if this Flu becomes a pandemic that it kills all the lawyers first.  People, especially we Americans then developed the attitude that this is not a threat.  This attitude could cost us big if we are slow to react.

The fact is there will be another epidemic or pandemic.  The really big one was the Great Influenza or the “Spanish Flu of 1918-1919.  This was nasty a virulent strain of Influenza A subtype H1N1, the same subtype as the current Swine Flu. It killed people by the millions worldwide, most of whom were the young and able bodied.  Thousands of US Soldiers in France and Stateside Camps got sick and died with the first outbreak in the US coming at Ft Riley Kansas.  Back then there was no mechanical ventilation nor antibiotics. So if you were blue from lack of oxygen you were put in the “you’re going to die line.”  Back then the mortality was about 2.5-5% with anywhere from current estimates 50-100 million deaths world wide.  In the United States it is estimated that 28% of the population was effected with between 500,000 and 675,000 fatalities.    More than half the fatalities were in 20-40 age group.These were the “Flu virgins.”  Regular Flu kills the elderly and young children, this Flu was different, it ate up the young and otherwise healthy people with no immunity.

With supportive care in the United States and other first world countries that will be significantly lower but still catastrophic.  Estimates range to 2 million dead in the United States alone.  Because we are a much more fluid society in the event of a real pandemic the government will have to take draconian measures.  These will have to ensure that public safety limiting movement, deciding who gets vaccines first and who gets treated the most acutely with the coresponding reality that in a pandemic there will be people for whom the best you can do is palliative care. This will offend sensitivities of religious people, good hearted “secular” humanitarians as well as various political factions.  Civil Libertarians will be outraged.  Media goons and talk show hosts will rant against the government.  Conspiracy theorists will come out in droves.  Unfortunately if this outbreak becomes a epidemic or even a pandemic drastic actions may be required until the emergency passes.   Marital Law may be an option.  I’m not a big fan but if this gets really ugly it may have to happen.

I am an ICU chaplain.  Really bad Pneumonia’s are a pain in the ass to treat for Intensivists and quite often exacerbate or cause cause problems in other organ systems.  This flu and the Avian flu produce pneumonia’s in spades both viral and bacterial. In the Spanish Influenza it was the bacterial pneumonia’s that killed the most people.  Through in ARDS, pulmonary edema and hemorrhages in the lungs.   If you have ever been in an intensive care unit and seen a young person on a vent battling a pneumonia and barely hanging on to life then grab your seat.  Lot’s of young people will die.  Likewise there will not be enough ICU beds and ventilators to go around should this reach the pandemic stage.  Resources will be short and physicians and government officials will have only bad and worse choices.  Those in the front lines of the battle, young physicians, nurses and technicians will be among the casualties.

I am not privy to any plans of the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense or CDC.   However, I am graduate of the USMC Command and Staff College.  I am sure that both departments have been preparing for such case since the Avian flu started showing up in the 1990s, as well as the threat of terrorists using biological weapons post 9-11.  Unfortunately there are some who would see what these agencies are doing to plan for a worst case scenario as some diabolical plot, a conspiracy theory to make the government more powerful.  If fact there are some of the Keepers Of Odd Knowledge that are alleging a government plot to engineer such a virus.   I have seen this from both left and right wing bloggers and I’m sure that their message will get out and cause people to act stupidly and jeopardize public health.  In other words, they will damn everyone else, and do what I want even if it means that they spread a virus that will kill those around them.  Sorry this is selfish, irresponsible and just plain idiotic.  Prudence is the watchword.

On my way to the ball park I heard a radio talk show host talking about the “Napolitano Flu.”  He was taking a shot at the Secretary of Homeland Security.  Unfortunately for the millions of listeners this man and others like him will not take the threat seriously.  I’m not going to say that there will be a pandemic with this outbreak.  However, a pandemic is bound to happen and when, not if,  it happens the blood of these people’s listeners will be on their hands.  Ignorance and idiocy in encouraging stupidity is not a virtue even if you have valid criticisms of the way the government is handling the situation.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on this.  I hope it goes away.  I don’t want any of this to happen.  Anyone with half a brain doesn’t want it to happen. However it will someday and maybe even with this strain.  God I hope not.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under healthcare, History, Military, Political Commentary