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Thursday: Chrysler, Cytokine Storms and Crowd Control

Eight years of the Bushies have left me paranoid.  I suspect there is a dosier on me in the Department of Homeland Security, I worry about being able to get on planes, and periodically I say “Hi!” to the NSA when I’m on the phone.  It’s hard for me to see myself as a threat to anyone but distrust has become ingrained in many of us since 9-11.  I don’t like to think ill of our government but something feels deeply weird about the recent flu pandemic.

But before I get to that, the big news today is that Chrysler is on the verge of bankruptcy due to the recalcitrance of bondholders to strike a deal with Treasury.  That’s right, banks and hedge funds have been holding out expecting that the government will sweeten the pot instead of forcing the automaker to bankruptcy court where assets will be sold and thousands of jobs lost.  What happens to Chrysler will surely happen to GM and when that happens, I would expect to see a lot of very angry autoworkers who will see their way of life disappear due to the unchecked greed of bank and hedge fund managers. And this is partially due to the gentle handholding that the Bush and Obama administration have been giving the banks since they lost all of our money.  It could get really ugly.  James Kwak at Baseline Scenario has more to say about banks and the government in a Cuban Missile Crisis scenario that will make your blood boil.  Just go read it.

Back to the flu thingy.  Mexico has now issued directives on crowd control due to the “pandemic” swine flu:

The president said a shutdown of a broad range of public services and activities would start Friday and continue through Tuesday, encompassing the long Cinco de Mayo holiday weekend. Most federal offices will be closed; restaurants, schools and museums will remain shuttered; and spectators will be barred from all professional soccer matches.

Churches are expected to be nearly empty on Sunday.

The measures came as the World Health Organization raised its alert level on swine flu to Phase 5 on Wednesday, based on the flu’s continuing spread in the United States and Mexico. Phase 5, the next-to-highest level in the worldwide warning system, has never been declared since the system was introduced in 2005 in response to the avian influenza crisis. Phase 6 means a pandemic is under way.

Worldwide, at least 10 countries have confirmed cases of swine flu.

“All countries should immediately activate their pandemic preparedness plans,” Dr. Margaret Chan, the W.H.O. director general, said at a news conference in Geneva. While she emphasized the need for calm, at times she spoke as if a pandemic had already begun, saying, for instance, “W.H.O. will be tracking the pandemic.”

Now, I’m not a health professional but this seems to me to be a bit of overkill.  I have to assume they know something I don’t but so far there is no evidence that this particular flu triggers a cytokine storm.  A cytokine storm is what killed young healthy adults during our worst flu pandemics in the past.

triggering a cytokine storm

triggering a cytokine storm

It was the reason for half of the deaths from the 1918 Spanish Flu and was also present in the Asian and Hong Kong flus of the recent past.  A cytokine storm is what happens when your immune system takes it up to 11.  The body sort of overreacts to the flu antigen and unleashes an immune system “storm” of macrophages, T-cells and other elements of its defense arsenal.  Usually, there is a feedback mechanism that tells the body to stop before it goes too far and damages itself.  In cytokine storms, the feedback mechanism doesn’t get triggered so the body can’t stop itself.  People with robust immune systems, where all systems are ‘go’ most of the time, tend to fare the worst during these kinds of flu.

But here’s the thing.  As recently as yesterday, the CDC bulletin on Swine flu makes no reference to a cytokine storm.  It just looks like a normal seasonal flu with the expected symptoms.  The people most at risk are the typical populations: kids under 5, senior citizens, people with compromised immune systems.  Nevertheless, Mexico is closing up shop, going on siesta and cancelling tickets to their soccer games.  It seems a bit extreme.  The only thing I can think of that would provoke this kind of reaction is that the vaccine makers didn’t see this one coming and they don’t have a vaccine ready.  So, we’re all kind of vulnerable- to a typical flu.  If you get it, you can expect to be sick and uncomfortable.  You probably won’t be able to take the cheap anti-virals to make it less bad.  And if you fall into one of the high risk groups, it could be serious.  But other than that?  It’s not like 1918. There won’t be body laden carts driven by lackadaisical smartasses crying, “Bring out your dead!”

Having a country on lockdown seems counterproductive to me, especially in a bad economy.  Not all of us can work from home and some of our employers have made that pretty impossible these days anyway.  I suspect that such a directive could make the economic crisis exponentially worse.  But yesterday as I went into work, there were signs posted on the doors telling people to not enter the buildings if they had a runny nose, sore throat, fever or cough.  I considered for a moment whether my scratchy throat was due to spring pollen or some deadly plague and decided that going through the medical review team gauntlet was probably not worth the day off and went in.  But still, you have to wonder why we go to these extremes over a typical flu.  Maybe we’re just covering our asses.  Maybe we just can’t deal with illness these days when everyone expects a quick cure and a shot for everything.  Or maybe it’s just a perfect excuse to keep everyone scared and indoors.

I told you I was paranoid.

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72 Responses

  1. I think it’s a total overreaction, but the conspiracy sites are in ecstacy. They think as soon as the threat level goes to 6, the government will declare martial law, shut down all civil liberties, force people to be vaccinated, and if they refuse–off to the FEMA camps.

    To me it just sounds like a typical flu, but what do I know?

  2. I’ve been wondering if this hyper-reaction has been to hasten Jean Sibelius’ tenous confirmation. Nothing like the threat of imminent death to make one overlook such pesky details as tax evasion and Medicaid fraud investigations.

  3. I have to say, the flu has taken torture out of the headlines….

  4. Fantastic chart, RD, and no, you are not paranoid. Aside from the cluster in Mexico, and the one child who died in Texas after being brought there from Mexico, the death rate has been zero. More important, the hospitalization rate had been low. So for now, we can be grateful that this appears to be a weaker descendant of H1N1.
    Myself, I think all the hysteria is that Obamaland has already had one Katrina moment with the economy and knows it cannot afford another. The administration is hysterical, not the public, because the administration has visions of those poor people drowning on the roofs burned into its brain. (Didn’t stop the flyover, though!). They can’t afford another big mistake and they know it. So they get the media shills to hype this thing and make sure we know they are not Bush/Cheney, they are paying attention. Wow! I’m impressed!. They are going to make sure we live another day to continue our economic serfdom.

  5. cinie, it’s been a hundred days…im sorry the same tv channels and news outlet that made you paranoid of the bush sydrome also bought and paid for the obama
    election, so olet it go…it’s obama’s turf on these auto industries…they can fire and hire ceo’s havent you heard.

  6. by the way, obama is all for firing teachers who just dont cut it, can we apply that to presidents and congress folks who just dont cut it, hell no, we have wait 4 freaking years

  7. http://www.foxnews.com/video2/video08.html?maven_referralObject=4728114&maven_referralPlaylistId=&sRevUrl=http://www.foxnews.com/

    dick morris let’s us know the media never allowed Bill Clinton prime time, he had three prime time speeches
    in his first 4 years and one was the state of the union address

    • Morris would know cause he was brought in the Clinton White House to fix exactly that. His solution was for Bill to start buying TV time in ’95 for ’96 campaign ads talking about all the administration achievements since the news would absolutely not cover them….and much to the media’s fury, thos move did help Bill in the ’96 campaign .

      What the Clinton’s and Morris big falling out was I don’t know. But I do know that if you worked for the Clintons and you want a good career in the beltway, ( the parties etc. ) you have to stab the Clintons in the back .That is your golden ticket. Morris bring an unmatched enthusiasm to the job.

  8. I remember President Ford and the Swine flu panic. Rumsfeld was involved in i remember correctly. After all was said and done, they couldn’t really even confirm if the Swine flu was real, but the vaccine sure crippled some people.

    • Even worse, there were a number of people, including a friend’s father, who developed rapidly progressive cardiomyopathy from that vaccine.

    • Rumsfeld was involved

      Then I’m guessing the faulty vaccine everyone had to take was made by a company he had ties to….just a guess

  9. yes they are using this flu there futher there agenda
    as bush took civil libertys away & fear an. terrorism as there reson to take them away berry & his 0-scum are going to use the pig flue

    • i mean in not really worried & i live in texas .. this dose seem a bit 2 much

    • My thoughts exactly — scare tactics as diversion, Pres 0 to the rescue. When I started getting *scared* of catching the pig flue, then I start to reassess those fears. It doesn’t seem much like the other flus we have that last year’s vaccine can be used for.

      RD’s post couldn’t have been more timely.

      • Boogie, I saw the other day that you were referring to an Obot in the area … were you referring to me?

  10. Maybe there isn’t a plan to shut the country down and bring in the black helicopters. And I have no idea how the WHO might be co- opted into some conspiracy. I think that kind of thing is a remote possibility. But there is definitely an overreaction going on here and there’s got to be an explanation other than getting Obama’s appointments confirmed before 100 days are up. If that’s all this is about, it’s stupidly irresponsible and means they are just as capable as the Bushies to use fear to get their way.

    • Like buzzing Manhattan with big, scary jets?

    • I hope that is not the case, because they will lose much of the goodwill of people that put endless hours for others safety and that would be a great loss of confidence. I am taking them at their word, because I just can’t think anyone would do that to their people and their country.

    • For several months after Katrina, I had uparmed Hummers with patrols of combat uniformed military people and HUGE HUGE machine guns patrolling my neighborhood.

      Try that for a surreal (is this Amerika?) moment.

      • During Katrina one of my family members was in charge of a group on patrol in your area and it is interesting to get first hand accounts of what went on there.

        They had one local policeman that was injured (Army had to have a local official in charge) and set up their main post next to a family that owned a pizza restaurant and I did see some of the photos of the signs with the curfews on them. I also saw some of the photos of the people getting out of hand at one airport, but he has a booming voice and he is very tall and got it under control.

        In the end, I guess we really are all interconnected.

        • My neighborhood was patrolled by the National Guard of the state of Washington … they were really nice kids. When they finally starting giving them some off time (around six weeks), they’d show up at the bars and we feed them and buy them beers. Then I’d get to hear their wild stories. It was a very strange time.

    • This group used “r@cist” to get things done in the same way as Bush used “unpatriotic”. They are synonyms for “you are in my way”.

  11. As recently as yesterday, the CDC bulletin on Swine flu makes no reference to a cytokine storm.


    In my area they were speaking of cytokine storm days ago and an Emergency was declared and since I am one of those people who has to activate the ’emergency’ response where I work and in one other place I went into overdrive.

    When NPR said that the business community would be implementing their emergency contingency plans, I knew, that is code for supplies will be short and you will have to work with what we have. Many organizations removed the complimentary masks because they too went to the suppliers and found that everything is on back order. They are also checking to see if you are a previous customer (not a shumuck trying to horde to make money off an emergency).

    I got four hundred and fifty masks shipped overnight, the main shipment will arrived in 2-3 days, but for now we are covered.

    In short I found that in my area many people were asking ‘why the masks’ in areas where ‘sick’ people were coming in? The next day, bango, confirmation that it was in the area. So, when I saw the news last night and it was of a company busy making masks, I knew that it is simply a case, where we ‘are prepared’ but just ‘not that prepared’ for something that could really test all the systems in place.

    When I handed out the temporary supplies to the employees, including those for their families (yup, because I know it is not good to share and it shows you care about them), they were relieved. I also, didn’t want them getting into their 72 hour kits (those things everyone talks about but no one gets ready) and taking those masks out. At work I gave them options of more comfy ones for work, as I know it will be hard keeping them on. I also ordered small ones for the children and they were very appreciative for that too.

    So, I guess NERT/ERT (disaster planning folks) do come in handy after all and those volunteer activities were not for not.

    As to the government having a file, they have photos of me, going back to BUSH II as he had them go back and click because he so liked out protest signs, but as it turned out, he really did read them as he did attempt to put in (better than nothing though), the medicare medication plan. So, some times they take photos because they do care on some level (albeit not with their handlers around…those are really the wicked ones) and I just about fell off my chair during the debate when he said almost word for word what our signs said about seniors and medications.

    So, hang in there, it will work out, the government in the end turns out to be people you know, because, we are the government in the end, because during emergencies (shhhh) they can’t do it alone.

    Americans are strong, resilient people and we will pull together and help each other out. I could be driving a fine car, but instead I have just about all the supplies I will need, and will hope for the best and try to deal with the worst if it does come.

  12. I feel any time my local news has a movie sound track intro to a story ,I’m looking at hype. The same people must be pumping out the 100 days music too.
    For Mexican officials, a lock down would help in the social unrest…. This started in Oaxaca, a hot bed of unrest, but lord knows.

    • I’ll take what you said. I’ve been trying to find info that says definitively it is worse than the regular flu but no luck yet. Is there anything that says it’s infecting more people? Or killing more of these infected people than a regular flu?

      If this is just hype – to crack down on dissent (on violence in Mexico and give Junior Junior Bush a sock to stuff down his “Mission Accomplished”), then we have larger problems than I thought.

      And I already thought we were facked.

  13. I remember reading “The Great Influenza” by John Barry. It was fabulous read. One of the things that I took away from the book was the unwillingness of the government to admint that there was a problem, not believe that the flu could be transmitted so quickly and lie to the public about how dangerous it was. The way they are handling things in Mexico may be overkill but at least the government may not understand everything about this flu but they are taking it seriously and they aren’t telling their countrymen that there isn’t a problem. After this thing is all over we’ll know what the correct response should have been but for now, seeing how fast this thing has spread, I think that erring on the side of caution isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

  14. RD –Hi . — I find it so ironic that yesterday it was all “go to the doctor” when few have insurance — or “wash your hands” but — I researched yesterday. Cloned Pigs? For human transplant? I’m not a scientist — but?

    This is a flu that crosses the species line? I have the links up.
    Could cloning do this? Maybe some science people can weigh in.

    What a world has been wrought.

    Hugs and I hope all are well. I see this like the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing in a way. I used to trust the government — I did. But right now, I wonder which party is best anymore?
    What with the defector over to the Dem side — and the Dems not being Dems?


    • I found it interesting that Biden said that parents would need to stay home with any children sent home from a school that had seen an outbreak ….. and that, he hoped employers would be accommodating. So basically, people are being told to see their doctors, even if they can’t afford it, as well as to stay home with their children (can’t send them to daycare) even if it means they’ll get fired.

  15. I think If I have paranoia, it extends to instances where we include Dick Morris in the conversation.

    • lol!

    • lol. I still find what Dick said about Clinton and the media coverage as another shred of proof that the mainstream media is a shill for Obama. There are too many prime time conferences in a presidency that is so young. Soon when he actually has something of importance to contribute, no one will listen.

  16. Is this how we catch swine flu?

  17. Another one bites the dust.

  18. It’s not like 1918. There won’t be body laden carts driven by lackadaisical smartasses crying, “Bring out your dead!”

    lol! I love that Python scene. Apparently, Biden is telling people to stay off subways and buses too. Oh, that’ll help the NY economy. Thanks Joe.

    Found this tidbit from The Nation. It sources the deregulation to Clinton, but the article focuses mostly on Geithner’s consistent coddling of his banking buddies. They are still not willing to blame Obama–there is just a plaintive wail: “Where has the magical Obie we voted for gone?”

    The Clinton Bubble
    By Robert Scheer

    Geithner has been in the forefront of coddling the banks in the hopes that welfare for the rich will trickle down to suffering homeowners, but that has not happened.

    As the New York Times revealed this week in a devastating exposé of Geithner’s record: “An examination of Mr. Geithner’s five years as president of the New York Fed, an era of unbridled and ultimately disastrous risk-taking by the financial industry, shows that he forged unusually close relationships with executives of Wall Street’s giant financial institutions. His actions, as a regulator and later a bailout king, often aligned with the industry’s interests and desires, according to interviews with financiers, regulators and analysts and a review of Federal Reserve records.”

    The record is clear that from the first year of the Clinton reign, the new class of super-rich, including many Wall Streeters, benefited as much as the other 99 percent of the nation’s population did from the policies that Clinton put in place and George W. Bush accelerated.


  19. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-sci-swine-reality30-2009apr30,0,3821888.story?page=1&track=rss

    “Scientists see this flu strain as relatively mild
    Genetic data indicate this outbreak won’t be as deadly as that of 1918, or even the average winter.”


    This is an odd situation, I wonder if as the end of the article states, the government is just worried about the mild form lasting all summer and then mutating into something stronger.

  20. I think people are just jumpy. If this had popped up right before the odometer rolled from 1999 to 2000, there would have been the same hysteria. Of course, the govt is using it for all its worth, but they’d do that with anything.

    We are all so fucing traumatized as a people anymore that we cringe and run in circles at any goddamned thing. The only solution? SWITCH OFF YOUR GODDAMNED TV. FOR GOOD.

  21. Captain Gaffe-tastic strikes again. From Politico:

    Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that he would not recommend taking any commercial flight or riding in a subway car “at this point” because swine flu virus can spread “in confined places.” A little more than one hour later, Biden rushed out a statement backing off.

    “I would tell members of my family — and I have — I wouldn’t go anywhere in confined places now,” Biden said on NBC’s “Today” show.. “It’s not that it’s going to Mexico. It’s [that] you’re in a confined aircraft. When one person sneezes, it goes all the way through the aircraft. That’s me. …

    “So, from my perspective, what it relates to is mitigation. If you’re out in the middle of a field when someone sneezes, that’s one thing. If you’re in a closed aircraft or closed container or closed car or closed classroom, it’s a different thing.”

    That contradicted more restrained advice from President Barack Obama and the federal government — and the last thing the White House wants to do right now is shut down the airline industry and big-city subways out of mass panic.

    The White House quickly arranged for Biden to make this statement through a spokesperson.

    • The ‘pick’ had let it slip out, because he knows Level 6 is only days away. He forgets what is ‘classified’ and what is public. He is back tracking so as not to panic people who will think it is already a PANDEMIC.

  22. Check out http://www.bythefault.com for background on the rise of huge pig farms and virus incubators. There is a real concern, but the media is more into the drama than calmly pointing the finger where it belongs [corporate pig farms] and explaining the concern of this type of virus.

  23. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124105320874371313.html

    “Mexico’s top government epidemiologist said Wednesday that it is “highly improbable” that a farm in the Mexican state of Veracruz operated by Smithfield Foods Inc. is responsible for the nation’s swine-flu outbreak.

    Miguel Ángel Lezana, the government’s chief epidemiologist, said in an interview that pigs at the farm are from North America, while the genetic material in the virus is from Europe and Asia.”


    Overall, I don’t believe it’s ever a good idea to raise 300,000 or so pigs in one area (my guess is that a farm that produces one million hogs per year would generally have about 300,000 hogs at a time), but now I’m not sure if the initial reports abouts the flu’s origins are correct.

    It’s unfortunate that these super sized mega farms have put so many small family farms out of business, while possibly putting our health at risk along the way. I also can’t help but wonder if the pig waste from the lagoons gets converted to fertilizer for the crops we import.

    • I live in Central California and I can testify that in many cases the big corporate agribusinesses buy the family farms (at “fire sale” prices) and the owners are replaced with employees.

      But that’s the free market at work.

      Walmart replaced many small family-owned stores (Wally mart is a huge family-owned business) but consumers get better prices.

  24. Clearly, industrial pig farms are “too big to fail” and the response to the “pandemic” should be to have as many $$$ as possible funneled to virus-incubating pig farms.

  25. http://www.k-state.edu/media/newsreleases/april09/swineflu43009.html

    “Thursday, April 30, 2009


    Now this seems to be an odd coincidence. I wonder how long ago this study was conducted?

    • From wiki:

      The 1918 flu pandemic (commonly referred to as the Spanish flu) was an influenza pandemic that spread to nearly every part of the world. It was caused by an unusually virulent and deadly Influenza A virus strain of subtype H1N1. Historical and epidemiological data are inadequate to identify the geographic origin of the virus. Most of its victims were healthy young adults, in contrast to most influenza outbreaks which predominantly affect juvenile, elderly, or otherwise weakened patients. The pandemic lasted from March 1918 to June 1920, spreading even to the Arctic and remote Pacific islands. It is estimated that anywhere from 20 to 100 million people were killed worldwide, or the approximate equivalent of one third of the population of Europe, more than double the number killed in World War I.

  26. On Chrysler: I am not surprised at the Chrysler situation. It looked to me like a rube golberg machine anyway. Many people, including everyday people like me, buy bonds and the deal for bondholders made at both Chrysler and GM look to me to be an invitation to go for bankruptcy. At GM bondholders are to get 10% stake while putting up 40% of the funding while unions through their health and welfare funds would get a much larger percentage of the company for a much smaller amount of capital. Same is true for the US government. According to reports the gov said 10% max to bondholders. I imagine most bh would rather take their chances before a bankruptcy judge. I think what is really going to be interesting is how it works out for GM and Ford. I can’t think GM bh will go for what they are being offered. I wonder how F is going to fare. The reality is we have too many car manufacturers in today’s world. The consolidation looks like it may be brutal.

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