Friday Open Thread ~ "What are you reading?" edition. Volume 9

John Barry: The 1918 ‘Spanish Flu’ Was a U.S. Export, But Don’t Call It the Kansas Virus

"The final lesson of 1918, a simple one yet one most difficult to execute, is 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."

Don’t say we weren’t warned. As President Trump’s subversion of science wreaks havoc with American society, the reappearance on bestseller lists of John Barry’s 2004 classic work, “The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History,” is a reminder that presidential irrationality is not unprecedented. On this week’s installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” Barry joins host Robert Scheer to compare the two pandemics and the United States’ response to each.

Back in 1918, Woodrow Wilson was deprived of the jingoism card played by Trump in labeling the current worldwide scourge “the China virus” because the first wave of massive fatalities was exported from a huge military base in Kansas. Wilson relied on the patriotic fervor of war to play down the health risk in dispatching huge numbers of likely infected US troops to Europe and on to the rest of the world, leading to the death of between 50 to 100 million people, far exceeding the direct human cost of the “Great War” itself. The name “Spanish flu” derived from the first news of the global influenza pandemic being reported by the media in Spain.

“I think that it was clear that in 1918, people died, and in many cases their society began to fray–in some cases, worse than that–because the government was lying,” Barry tells Scheer. “Now, the motivation in 1918 was entirely different than it is today. We were, of course, at war. And going into the war, [Woodrow] Wilson had some legitimate reasons to be concerned about what would happen […]so he created an infrastructure to intensify patriotism, more so than at any other time in our history.

“Because of that context,” the historian continues, “because there was this feeling that anything negative would detract from the war effort, the national government, largely echoed by local governments and echoed by the media […] distorted the truth and in some cases told outright lies about the disease, with very, very horrendous consequences. This time around, it’s more for the political self-interest of the White House that these things are happening.”

There’s no question that The Great Influenza, John Barry’s book, is now recognized as the classic book, and so forth. However, when it first came out–and I want to refer to the New York Times review. You’ve written op-ed pieces for the New York Times, they’ve singled your book out as notable in every respect, and so forth. But at the time, while they said it’s a great telling of the story, great science reporting, there was a caveat. And what the reviewer said, “Barry feels no compunction about pausing to offer little op-ed digressions on such matters as free speech and the dangers of government repression.”

Listen to the full conversation between Barry and Scheer as the two discuss the patriotic jingoism that was at play during both pandemics as well as other subjects on which the historian is an expert, such as the separation of church and state.

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QMS's picture

A leader must make whatever horror exists concrete. Only then will people be able to break it apart.

That is if the leaders trust the people.

Thanks for the OT philly Smile

My book report:
Just finished a series of stories by Philip K. Dick during his early days. Descriptive of the world he interpreted in the 50's. With some sci-fi spins. An interesting study of his developing voice.

Now onto a space opera by Michael Underwood. Lighter stuff.

Ha, funny how the propagandists call today 'Patriots Day'. The 911 truth commission is still trying to expose the criminal enterprise thru the courts. It was an inside job perpetrated by the 'intelligence' wing of our exceptional empire, IMHO. Good luck with that. Making it concrete is not in the best interest of the PTB. We can't be trusted with the truth.

Anyway, make the best of our options.

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magiamma's picture

Interesting interview with Barry

The other really significant difference between the two viruses is duration. Everything from the incubation period to how long you’re sick, how long you’re infectious, and so forth and so on, is much, much, much longer with coronavirus than with influenza. And that means that the time frame for everything is stretched out. And then on top of that, when we intervene to save people’s lives–intervene to interrupt transmission, to save people’s lives–that stretches things out even longer, which puts enormous economic stress on the society, which did not happen in 1918. At least not in the–there was plenty of economic stress, but it was compressed into a much, much shorter period.

Thanks for this. Be well.

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Stop Climate Change Silence - Start the Conversation

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Anja Geitz's picture

Overnight, two @LACoFDPIO Firehawks and one Angeles NF night-flying helicopters kept the fire "in-check" on the southern edge of the fire. Entire area here is engulfed in smoke and ash. Air quality is so bad, animals and humans are staying indoors as much as possible. I keep a close watch, but so far I still cannot see the flames on the crest of the mountains bordering Altadena.

48011D7C-BFC2-4F8B-9DBA-C3216735B6E4.jpeg

Which is more than I can say for my neighbors in Monrovia who are only 10 miles away. My heart and concern go out to them right now. We are still on alert and in the evacuation warning stage but many in the area have decided to voluntarily evacuate. When this is my view, I will probably do the same.

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

magiamma's picture

@Anja Geitz
My thoughts are with you anja. They have evacuated more people near Portland as well. Hoping granma is safe. I have not heard from my friends there. Terrifying. I feel so helpless. No way to help. So many now.

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Anja Geitz's picture

@magiamma

That about covers it. Would you believe I have a 12 pm appointment today with a client? She’s coming here to check on my first week of composting so I can write about it for her. We emailed each other last night trying to decide if we were going to go ahead with it and decided, yes, let’s do it. I’m actually glad for it. Takes my mind away from the fact that the sky looks overcast right now except for a bright orange sun lurking above that looks more like the planet mars than what it really is. A sun engulfed in smoke. Don’t know what else to do but wait and watch.

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

magiamma's picture

@Anja Geitz
Toothbrush and laptops in hand. She is going to call. So relieved. Carrying on is really all one can do. Though the threat is like the cloud of smoke- all hanging overhead with a heavy reminder. Our sky is less gold but the air is filled with more smoke.

Are you working on writing about microbes? Could send links.

Has anyone heard from granma?

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Anja Geitz's picture

@magiamma

It's tough not knowing what's going on in areas you know you have friends and family. Not to mention that information in emergency situations can get confusing. What area do they live in?

Last I heard from granma was in a reply she made in your Hot Air thread. At the time she was in an evacuation warning area, was getting ready to pack and said she'd go to her son's house if the evacuation order was called.

I am working with microbes. Would appreciate any links you could send me. Thanks for thinking of me Smile

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

magiamma's picture

@Anja Geitz
Great intro with pics. Click on the book for a pdf. I has a bibliography in the back with refernces.
https://www.pointblue.org/science_blog/life-belowground-on-the-range/

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/qvgzjq/the-ocean-is-screwed-if-we-don...

One of the most devastating pressures on the ocean is the shrinking of the cryosphere, which is the biome undergoing the most rapid transformation due to climate change. The IPCC report found that ice melt from Greenland, Antarctica, and mountain glaciers are the dominant force behind global sea level rise.

https://ens-newswire.com/2019/01/23/climate-tipping-point-could-occur-so...

If soil moisture continues to reduce NBP [net biome productivity] at the current rate, and the rate of carbon uptake by the land starts to decrease by the middle of this century – as we found in the models – we could potentially see a large increase in the concentration of atmospheric CO2 and a corresponding rise in the effects of global warming and climate change.

This is what I can find for starters. Let me know if I am going in the right direction.

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Granma's picture

@magiamma My town was moved to a higher evacuation level, so I am packed up ready. Lots of people including many neighbors left yesterday afternoon and evening. Some of them were panicked. The roads were all jammed with traffic, and there were very long lines at gas stations, and almost fist fights in stores over ice and water the local news says.

I decided to stay home unless, or until, I really need to leave. I do have a place to go and am thankful for that. The air quality in my neighborhood was very good last night and I sat outside and enjoyed it for a bit. Don't worry about me. I will be fine. I hope that will be true for Anja as well.

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magiamma's picture

@Granma
stay safe and let me know if there is anything I can do.

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@Granma All my positive thoughts are coming atcha.

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Granma's picture

@on the cusp

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Anja Geitz's picture

@Granma

You've been on my mind. You also reminded me to get the gas tank filled up now. Luckily for me, I have a connection (via a friend) with the fire department so we will get notice if anything changes before it's made public. At that point, I'll get in my car which is already packed, head down to the Pasadena Humane Society where I have already made arrangements for the cats, and then make the drive out to the coast, dip my feet in the ocean, and say a prayer that I'll have a home when this is all over.

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

Granma's picture

@Anja Geitz It is hard for me to believe whole metropolitan areas will burn. But a lot of 2020 happenings have surprised me.

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Shahryar's picture

@Granma

and if the wind is shifting we should be ok. I'm worried about the more rural areas near Mt. Hood.

I need to go to the store, running out of items but the sky is a bit orange-y, mixed with grey. I don't think it's overcast. Mt. Tabor is a 640 ft hill, really. It's about a half mile away and I can see it out my window. Or at least I can make out the outline of the top of it.

That smoke is from the fires that are outside of the city. We haven't packed but we do have a short list of what we'll take if we have to go. Maybe I'm being stupidly optimistic but I believe the wind shift plus the expected rain on Tuesday will get us through this.

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Granma's picture

@Shahryar The air quality is forecast to get much worse. I hope what I read About it was wrong. But in case, it is better to go today.

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@Granma In Eugene today, the PM2.5 levels were in the 400's and PM10 almost 600. I've used a plain cloth or paper mask for covid shopping, but switched to the N95 this week because of the smoke and ash. Ash falling like snow at times a few days has now mostly eased up. I'm beginning to understand the native's feeling about rain. I've lived here over 25 years now, my spouse grew up here and I always kid her when she gets nervous this time of year waiting on the rain to return. Not anymore.

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enhydra lutris's picture

let alone read it. News to me about Kansas too, funny that, in a way.

be well and have a good one.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

Just dealing with the aftermath of rebuilding my office after it caught fire is simply a nightmare!
I wouldn't wish it on anybody.
Since pandemic-induced breaks in various supply chains, wood costs have gone through the roof. Everything you need to rebuild is on back order. Lumber yard employees are few and far between. Contractors are only bidding the Big Build with Big Money.
You would be surprised how many carpenters are meth heads.
Oh, well, no people are animals were injured in the fire. That is my ultimate wish for my c99ers in the fires. ,

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Anja Geitz's picture

FYI, Trader Joe's headquarters are in Monrovia...

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

Anja Geitz's picture

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

snoopydawg's picture

As Fires Engulf West, Democrats Not Running on Trump Climate Failures Called 'Political Malpractice'

Hey Jessica, democrats don't have a leg to stand on after Obama failed to do anything about climate change or the damage that drilling has on the country. Did you forget after the BP Blowout Obama opened up the coasts to more drilling? And that he became the best president to make us the biggest oil and gas exporter ever?

Magaret Kimberly:

“You wouldn’t always know it, but it went up every year I was president. That whole, suddenly America’s like the biggest oil producer and the biggest gas that was me, people.”
- Barack Obama

Biden's campaign website claims he "believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face," and some activists and advocacy groups welcomed the $2 trillion clean energy plan he unveiled in July as a "major step forward."

Julian Brave NoiseCat of the progressive think tank Data for Progress wrote in The Guardian that Biden's green energy and environmental justice plans "are a Green New Deal in all but name. If you set aside the most attention-grabbing left-wing programs included in New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's 2019 Green New Deal resolution, like Medicare for All and a federal job guarantee, Biden's plans broadly align with an approach advocated by the left-wing of the Democratic Party."

Newsom has ok'd more drilling and fracking permits every year of his tenure even though his state has been hit with the catastrophic fires. As did Jerry Brown.

Let's get rid of the tribalism and partisanship and see that both parties are complicit in ignoring climate change.

BTW Jess, Biden is refusing to implement any of the Green New Deal while the western states are on fire and there have been more climate change events across the country this year. Two hurricanes hitting the Gulf Coast at once? But in your mind Trump alone is responsible for everything that is happening this year? Sure republicans have been denying climate change, but democrats only give lip service to it.

I like to remind people that history didn't start when Trump became president. This has been decades long in the making and put the blame where it properly belongs.

I have twice as many limbs down from the 2nd night of hurricane strength winds and still need to find someone to help remove them. Poor Charlie gets lost in the limbs and leaves as she tries to pick her way through the debris.

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In a free country civil liberties are not only for certain groups.
So this is how liberty dies . . . with thunderous applause.
The donor class doesn’t want it, and Americans elect the bribed. So suck it up.

FBF.jpeg

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The earth is a multibillion-year-old sphere.
The Nazis killed millions of Jews.
On 9/11/01 a Boeing 757 (AA77) flew into the Pentagon.
AGCC is happening.
If you cannot accept these facts, I cannot fake an interest in any of your opinions.