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Web Log - March, 2020

Summary

27-Mar-20 World View -- Coronavirus pandemic threatens 3.5 million people in Syria's Idlib

Syria admits to first cases of coronavirus -- probably from Iran

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Coronavirus pandemic threatens 3.5 million people in Syria's Idlib


White Helmets (Syrian Civil Defense) prepare to disinfect refugee camp in northern Idlib, on border with Turkey (Getty)
White Helmets (Syrian Civil Defense) prepare to disinfect refugee camp in northern Idlib, on border with Turkey (Getty)

As long-time readers are aware, there are now over 3.5 million people in Syria's Idlib province. Two million of them are refugees from Aleppo, Ghouta, Daraa, and other regions of Syria where Syria's Shia/Alawite president Bashar al-Assad, supported by Iran and Russia, has been conducting genocide and ethnic cleansing, targeting his Sunni Muslim political opponents.

In Idlib, about 40,000 of the 3.5 million people are anti-Assad fighters, some being members of al-Qaeda linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). Most of the other 3.5 million people are children. Of the remainder, most are women. Al-Assad's barrel bombs, missiles and chemical weapons have specifically targeted schools, markets and hospitals, in order to kill as many women and children as possible, which I guess is the best way to commit genocide. Just since December, 84 hospitals and healthcare facilities were damaged, and hundreds of healthcare personnel have been attacked in Idlib.

At this time, international humanitarian aid workers in Idlib are in a state of dread and panic because they know that, sooner or later, the Wuhan Coronavirus (Covid-19) will reach the crowded refugee camps, where there's no clean water or soap or medicines or even much food. The virus will sweep through the crowds in the refugee camps and worsen the humanitarian disaster.

The virus outbreak in Idlib will be made much worse because the sociopathic monster Bashar al-Assad, joined with his genocidal pals Russia's president Vladimir Putin and Iran's crazy fanatical leader Ali Khameini, have been bombing hospitals, so there will be few places left where doctors can care for patients.

So the rescue agency White Helmets, along with the aid agencies and NGOs, have been scrambling, trying to plan for the pandemic's arrival, disinfecting camps and trying to work out how to provide medical care and containment strategies where all the hospitals have been destroyed. The objective will be to try to hold back the tidal wave of illness when the pandemic arrives.

Syria admits to first cases of coronavirus -- probably from Iran

On Wednesday, the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria imposed a nationwide curfew from 6 pm each evening until 6 am the next morning. During the curfew, all trade activities and shops must shut completely, and violators will be arrested.

On the same day, Syria admitted to confirming five cases of coronavirus in the capital city Damascus. As in the case of China, Iran and Russia, it's believed that al-Assad is hiding the true extent of the problem in Syria, and that there are many more cases beneath the surface.

Bashar al-Assad depends heavily on Iran to prop up his regime, and so he can't be too critical about the coronavirus infections, since most of them were inherited from Iran. Iran refused for weeks to admit that there were coronavirus infections in Iran, because Iran was importing the disease from China, and didn't want to anger the Chinese. ( "14-Mar-20 World View -- Iran's army to monitor entire population for Wuhan Coronavirus")

So now, al-Assad's regime is importing the disease from Iran, but doesn't want to anger the Iranians. In the meantime, the final virus explosion will be made much worse because al-Assad destroyed dozens of hospitals in Idlib that might have prevented the spread of the disease.

Iran now has 30,000 confirmed cases of the virus, resulting in the death even of numerous government officials, and the number of infections continues to grow. By inviting Iranians to help with his genocide and ethnic cleansing, and by destroying dozens of hospitals that might have helped, Bashar al-Assad is going to get what he deserves. Think of it as Allah's divine retribution.

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the Generational Dynamics World View News thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (27-Mar-2020) Permanent Link
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25-Mar-20 World View -- Trump calls for ending coronavirus lockdowns by Easter, April 12

Pandemic and shutdown surrounded by political controversies

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Trump calls for ending coronavirus lockdowns by Easter, April 12


The 'Coronavirus Curve' showing how far each country is into the pandemic (ZeroHedge)
The 'Coronavirus Curve' showing how far each country is into the pandemic (ZeroHedge)

President Donald Trump and his advisors are saying: "The cure canít be allowed to be worse than the disease." This statement concisely describes the conflict between the twin goals of slowing the pandemic and preventing collapse of the economy.

The "disease," of course, is the Wuhan Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. According to the World Health Organization, the number of cases worldwide surpassed 400,000 on Tuesday, with 18,227 deaths (4.5%). In the United States, there have been almost 50,000 cases. As I wrote in my previous article, the path of Covid-19 is almost identical to the path of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, and millions of Americans will die from the virus during the next two years. ( "22-Mar-20 World View -- Today's Wuhan Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic vs 1918 Spanish Flu")

The "cure" for the disease has been to shut down the entire economy. Factories are closed, restaurants are closed, businesses large and small are closed. People are told to stay in the homes, and not go to work. This is crippling the economy, sending the economy spiraling into a recession, and causing a major selloff in the stock market. The same is true in countries around the world.

The graph at the beginning of this article shows the "Corona Curve," and the position of different countries on that curve. That chart shows that China and South Korea are the farthest along, with a leveling off of the number of new cases, with Italy and Iran in the middle of the time of fastest growth of new cases.

The United States is shown just about to enter the rapid growth period in the next couple of months. This has been widely predicted anyway, as the amount of testing increases, and reveals new infections. The World Health Organzation on Tuesday said that the United States is becoming the new epicenter of the pandemic.

What the chart doesn't show is that different states are at different positions on the curve. New York City, San Francisco and Seattle are well into the "late accumulation" phase, while many parts of the Midwest are still in early development. In New York state there are 21,000 cases on Tuesday, and the number is doubling every three days. New York will soon be totally overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases.

So Donald Trump says that he'd like to end all the lockdowns by Easter, April 12. Few people believe that's possible.

Pandemic and shutdown surrounded by political controversies

The United States, like many countries, is facing a stark choice: death from the virus, or death from economic collapse.

Last week, Trump issued a set of guidelines calling for a national shutdown for 15 days, after which the situation would be reevaluated. The 15 days ends on March 31. He's said that, if possible, he'd like to announce an end to the lockdowns:

"America will again and soon be open for business. We are not going to let it turn into a long-lasting financial problem."

Speaking generally, the medical community would prefer to continue the shutdown. This is adding to a number of political issues and controversies.

Putting the country back to work on April 12

Putting the country back to work is not an on-off switch. When Trump announces new guidelines next week, he'll probably announce a gradual lifting of the national shutdown:

I gave an example of this in a previous article: If a restaurant or bar wants to stay open, then the owner will separate the tables and place screens between them to create compartments, and then sanitize each compartment after the people leave. Many restaurants are already staying open by providing curbside service or at-home deliveries, but the use of screens could permit them to reopen completely.

This may seen like a fairly obscure example, but imagine if restaurants were permitted to open again, provided that the restaurant were made safe by the use of such screens. And now, imagine any other kind of business, and think about how a similar change could be made to allow the business to continue operating. This would result in new regulations that would replace the requirement to shut down. And as I've said before, we can imagine a different world, a new world, but a world that's as busy and bustling as the old world was until recently.

So it's possible that within three or four months, most businesses will be open again, but restricted by new regulations to make them safe. Such regulations might "flatten the curve" enough so that the number of coronavirus deaths can be reduced until a vaccine becomes available, sometime in 2021.

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the Generational Dynamics World View News thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (25-Mar-2020) Permanent Link
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22-Mar-20 World View -- Today's Wuhan Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic vs 1918 Spanish Flu

Why the Covid-19 crisis won't be over by summer

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

The history of the 1918 Spanish flu


 A man wearing a mask uses a pump to spray an unknown 'anti-flu' substance in the United Kingdom, following the Spanish flu pandemic (Getty)
A man wearing a mask uses a pump to spray an unknown 'anti-flu' substance in the United Kingdom, following the Spanish flu pandemic (Getty)

I've now written several articles and almost daily reports, on my web site and in the Generational Dynamics forum, on the Wuhan Coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis, and unfortunately the most pessimistic of the predictions are coming true on a daily basis. In this article, I'm comparing Covid-19 pandemic to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, and showing that there's no material difference between the two pandemics.

Using round numbers, the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 infected about 500 million people worldwide, almost one-third of the world's population. It killed about 2% of the world's population, or 36 million people.

The Spanish flu (which, incidentally, originated in Kansas, not Spain) first appeared in March 1918. American troops carried the virus with them when they went to war in Europe, and it spread quickly to England, France, Spain and Italy. However, it wasn't much more deadly than the ordinary seasonal flu at first.

Cases of flu dropped off in the summer of 1918, and it was hoped that the virus had run its course. However, a second wave of the Spanish flu began in August, and the second wave was far deadlier than the first. The deadliest month was October 1918. Tens of millions of people worldwide were killed during the next few months.

Saving lives with mitigation strategies

The Spanish flu death rate in America was far lower than the death rate for the world as a whole.

The Spanish flu killed about 2% of the world population, but killed only 675,000 Americans, or 0.7% of the American population. Why was the death rate for Americans so much lower?

The reason is that Americans were using the same containment and mitigation strategies that are being recommended today. People wore face masks. WW I victory parades and events were canceled. Schools were closed. Theaters and businesses were closed. There are anecdotal stories about people who were forcibly locked into their homes to prevent them from infecting other people. In these stories, the patient would lower a basket with a rope from a second story window, and his neighbors would fill it with food.

Containment and mitigation strategies are being used today for the same reason. The phrase "social distancing" is on everyone's lips. Tens of millions of Americans are in states that have been "locked down" in the last few days, meaning that they're told to stay in their homes (or "shelter in place"). Those people will not be getting infected with Covid-19, nor will they be infecting other people.

Today's Wuhan Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic vs 1918 Spanish Flu

It's always tempting to believe that we're so far advanced and so sophisticated today, that anything older than yesterday is ancient and out of date and only of interest to historians and Boomers.

But in fact, it's very hard to see any material difference between the 1918 Spanish Flu and today's Wuhan Coronavirus, except that today we have some electronic devices like ventilators for treatment.

However, everything else is the same:

So not only are the containment and mitigation strategies the same as in 1918, even the same anti-malarial drug is being used.

So far, today's Covid-19 pandemic appears to be materially the same as the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. The two won't really diverge until a vaccine becomes available, and that's not expected until late in 2021.

Alternative strategies: 'Burn Through' and 'Herd Immunity'

I described the containment and mediation strategies in earlier articles, and their purpose in "flattening the curve." ( "17-Mar-20 World View -- Stock market plunges 13% on Monday, as investors begin to accept reality")

In the containment strategy, the country tracks and tests people and uses contact tracing to identify infected people, and isolate them. When that fails, the mitigation strategy is used, where schools and stores are closed, and large gatherings are illegal, in order to reduce the number of infections.

I'm using the phrase "burn through" to describe a strategy where no mitigation is done, and the infections are allowed to take their course. A variation of this strategy that I've described in the past is the "Herd Immunity" strategy, where all the old people and people with existing health conditions are first locked up for safety, and then the infection is allowed to spread through the population, after which the old people can be let out.

There are a number of people on TV and on the internet who say that the mitigation strategies we're using -- closing all the schools, businesses and restaurants, for example -- are panic reactions that are worse than the disease. Many of these people say that they would like to see the "burn through" strategy used, believing that it would only kill elderly people who, as one person wrote to me, "they are going to die anyway."

Some people in the Generational Dynamics forum expressed the same view. One wrote:

"I think shutting down the economy to keep drug addicts and elderly people alive who will all be dead within five years anyway is stupid. I'm an older person (70) and I am willing to take my chances if it means my grandchildren won't have to live in abject poverty for the rest of their lives."

Another person agreed:

"I think that in general terms you are quite right. We are doing an inordinate amount of damage to our economies in order to save a very small percentage of the population. ...

We cannot cover the cost of intensive care needed for say 5% of the population. That would be about 15 million people in the US in ICU for a couple of weeks.

Panic is causing drastic measures that we just cannot afford."

This is the kind of policy that might be possible today in China or Russia, but there's no chance that any Western democracy today would adopt a policy of letting one group of people die, even old people, any more than it would adopt a policy of allowing all blacks or all Jews to die.

But it's more than that. The mitigation strategies are not just trying "to save a very small percentage of the population."

If we look at the Spanish flu figures, we can see the difference. Most of the world in 1918 used the "burn through" strategy, and 2% of the world population died. But in America, only 0.7% of the population died, and that can be attributed to the mitigation strategies.

Using round numbers, 45 million Americans get the seasonal flu each year. 200,000 are hospitalized, and the number of deaths is roughly 0.1% x 45 million = 45,000.

If we use the "burn through" strategy with Covid-19, and just let it spread without taking any remediation steps, then there will be roughly 200 million infections. The number of people hospitalized will be roughly 20% x 200 million = 40 million. The number of deaths will be 2% x 200 million or 4 million.

So just leading Covid-19 spread without mitigation would be a lot worse than just letting a few old people die. At the very least, hospitals and funeral homes would be overwhelmed by a factor of ten, and there would be dead bodies in the streets and in dump sites. This is the not the direction that America or any Western country wants to go.

That's not to say that remediation is an easy out. If we assume the 0.7% figure from the Spanish flu, and apply it to the American population of 300+ million, we still get over two million deaths. This is a speculative figure, and with curve flattening, the number of deaths would be spread over a long period of time.

Why the Covid-19 crisis won't be over by summer

A lot of people would like to believe that the Covid-19 crisis will be over by summer, or even earlier, in April or May. This is a total fantasy. Let's take a look at some of the reasons why this crisis will last well into next year.

Some of these issues are more speculative than others, but the belief that the virus crisis will end this summer is the most speculative assumption of all.

The most dangerous problem: Crowding and poverty

There is one more issue, and this is perhaps the most dangerous issue at all.

There are deeply overcrowded refugee camps in Bangladesh, Greece, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela and other countries. Sooner or later, there will be a Covid-19 outbreak in each of these camps. People in these camps are crowded together, living in filth. There's almost no water at all, and certainly no clean water. If there's a Covid-19 outbreak in one of these camps, then it will quickly burn through the entire camp, and fleeing refugees will spread it to other countries.

In fact, any place where crowding and poverty are so great that containment and mitigation strategies will not work represent a risk to an entire region. If someone lives in a small home with a large family, and must go to work every day to feed his family that day or they'll starve, then "self-isolation" and "self-quarantine" don't even make sense. He'll go to work anyway, and risk contaminating the entire neighborhood. This is true in many "supercities," from Mumbai to Lagos to Mexico City.

In each of these cases, attempts will be made to blockade these cities and refugee camps, to trap people inside and keep them from leaving. But this will be unsuccessful, if only because the virus will create a massive humanitarian disaster, and outside world will demand some kind of relief.

These situations probably will trigger regional wars, and this may be the scenario that leads to World War III.

Finally, another major problem area is that many prisons, even in Western countries, are overcrowded, and the spread of virus could kill many inmates. As a result, there are calls to release large numbers of prisoners. This is already a major political issue in many countries, including the United States.

The search for a vaccine

It seems that hundreds of companies around the world are working to create a Covid-19 vaccine. There are new developments almost every day, and a couple of new candidates have already gone into first phase testing.

But every expert that I've heard says the same thing: these vaccines will have to go through multiple test phases to make sure that they're safe and effective. You don't want to be saved from Covid-19 by a vaccine that kills you anyway. Every expert I've heard says that it will be well into 2021 before any vaccine can be widely deployed.

In this article, I've compared the Covid-19 pandemic to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, and I've shown that there's really no difference at all. The remediation techniques are the same, the medicines are the same, and there's even no vaccine for now. Covid-19 is being handled in the same low-tech way as the Spanish flu. So those who want to understand how Covid-19 will affect the world should study the history of the Spanish flu.

Sources:

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the Generational Dynamics World View News thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (22-Mar-2020) Permanent Link
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17-Mar-20 World View -- Stock market plunges 13% on Monday, as investors begin to accept reality

Some possible good news: The Real Economy

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Stock market plunges 13% on Monday, as investors begin to accept reality


DJIA falls 2997 points on Monday
DJIA falls 2997 points on Monday

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) fell 12.9% or 2,997 points, which was one of the sharpest declines in history.

The index had already fallen around 2000 when president Donald Trump gave his coronavirus press conference on Monday afternoon. As usual, he was trying to be realistic while, at the same time, being as optimistic as possible, when he made a remark that he expected the coronavirus crisis to "wash out" in July or August. He added that "it could be August, could be July, could be longer than that."

The background is that earlier in the day, I was watching one analyst after another on tv talk about the virus crisis ending in April or May, after which there would be a "V-shaped recovery." As I watched these so-called "experts," I couldn't get over the feeling that I was watching a Donald Duck cartoon show, with each "expert" quacking the same nonsense.

So when Trump made his remark, investors began to freak out because their April-May assumption was apparently wrong, and a July-August assumption meant that their V-shaped hopes were dashed. By the way, as I've said several times in the past, I don't expect the crisis to be over until a vaccine can be deployed, sometime in 2021. I'll discuss this more below.

As long-time Generational Dynamics readers are very well aware, the stock market is in a huge bubble that will have to implode at some point, and that could occur at any time.

The Federal Reserve made several major moves to pour money liquidity into banks on Sunday and Monday. Many commentators are complaining that it didn't help the stock market, but that wasn't the intention anyway. The problem being addressed was a "broken" bond market, with a "credit crunch" similar to the one in 2007-08. The Federal Reserve move helped the bond market, but not the stock market.

There's a conflict between governmental economic policy versus coronavirus policy. Economic policy -- monetary and fiscal -- has the goal of putting money in people's pockets so that they'll spend it and the economy will grow. But coronavirus policy is that people shouldn't be out shopping or attending events or traveling, but should be staying quietly at home to limit spreading of Covid-19. This is a conflict that shows how complicated the situation is.

The most pessimistic of the predictions that I've been posting since the beginning of February, in articles and in daily reports on the Generational Dynamics forum, are continuing to occur. We're still waiting for an event that hasn't occurred yet but must occur, as predicted by Generational Dynamics: A full-scale generational panic leading to a global financial crisis. It might occur soon, or it might not occur for weeks or months. But it will occur. ( "2-Mar-20 World View -- Coronavirus updates -- infections spread across the world")

Price/Earnings ratios - Trailing and Forward earnings

This is truly a remarkable time. I heard an analyst complain that stock prices have become "completely untethered" from earnings, because the only thing affecting stock prices now is the latest news headline.

In fact, stock prices have been "untethered" from earnings for a long time. As readers know, I focus on price/earnings ratio, to keep things simple. Prior to the 1990s, the core value of a stock was considered to be "tethered" to the P/E ratio, what today we would call P/E based on "trailing earnings." This means that the "earnings" are actual reported earnings for the previous year, also called "one year trailing earnings."

Starting with the 1990s tech bubble, that P/E ratio was producing results that stock salesmen disliked, so they started using "forward earnings" or "operating earnings." But unlike trailing earnings, which are solid values backed up by audited financial statements, forward and operating earnings are fantasy earnings, not backed by financial statements, but backed by wishful thinking from public relations departments.

An example of the fantasy is something that I hear frequently. Someone will say that stock X has a P/E ratio of 80, and stock Y has a P/E ratio of 40, and therefore stock Y is better. This is total nonsense, since both the 40 and 80 numbers are totally meaningless.

This has given rise to complete doublespeak. Analysts will talk about a historic average P/E ratio of 14, and say that if a stock's P/E ratio is less than 20, then it's close to the historic average. Actually, 14 is the historic average P/E ratio with trailing earnings. I've estimated that the historic average P/E ratio with forward earnings is around 8. So a stock with a P/E ratio of 20 is astronomically overpriced.

So stock prices have been untethered to trailing earnings since the 1990s, since analysts never talked about anything but their fantasy forward earnings, and ignored trailing earnings. Under the forward earning doublespeak, the stock market bubble has been growing to a huge size.

So the analyst complaint that stock prices have become "completely untethered" from earnings is particularly ironic, since they've been untethered from trailing earnings for years. What's ironic is that, in the last few months, stock prices have even become untethered to fantasy forward earnings. We might also say that they've become untethered to sanity.

Why experts are calling for 'Flattening the Curve'

Almost every news report these days contains the phrase "Flattening the curve." This refers to postponing Covid-19 infections for as long as possible, using such techniques as closing schools and stores, locking down cities and making everyone stay at home.

The idea is that if everyone gets sick at once, then hospitals will be overwhelmed. But if the infection rate can be slowed down, then hospitals will be able to keep up.

Here's a graph that illustrates the concept:


The first curve shows what happens if everyone gets sick at once.  The flattened curve shows how infections can be spread out over time (medium.com)
The first curve shows what happens if everyone gets sick at once. The flattened curve shows how infections can be spread out over time (medium.com)

The above graph illustrates the concept. If everyone gets sick at once, then the "Healthcare system capacity" will be exceeded, and hospitals will be overwhelmed. But if the same number of cases is spread over time, and the curve is flattened, then according to this graph, the healthcare system will be able to handle them.

It's worth mentioning that the entire concept is fantasy. There's no way to flatten the curve except through unacceptable draconian measures (as in China), and even then, the flattened curve will have to be years long.

The 'Herd Immunity' strategy

The two different curves in the chart above actually represent two different strategies that a government might use to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.

The first curve is associated with a strategy known as "Herd Immunity."

This strategy is being proposed by some officials in the UK: Let the entire population of a town become infected, and then the town is immune.

This strategy would seem to have a great deal of appeal, especially to young people who typically do not become seriously sick. Once you're over it, you can stop worrying about touching your face and washing your hands, and just get on with life. Even for old people like myself, it's tempting to get it over with one way or the other.

According to psychologist Dr David Halpern, this herd immunity strategy may become necessary, as more and more people become infected:

"Thereís going to be a point, assuming the epidemic flows and grows, as we think it probably will do, where youíll want to cocoon, youíll want to protect those at-risk groups so that they basically donít catch the disease and by the time they come out of their cocooning, herd immunityís been achieved in the rest of the population."

So according to Halpern, the Herd Immunity strategy works as follows: Isolate the old people somewhere, let all the young people get infected, and after they recover, let all the old people out.

Can you be reinfected with Wuhan Coronavirus?

The herd immunity strategy is based on one huge assumption: If you get sick from coronavirus and recover, then you'll be immune from reinfection.

This assumption has not been proven, and it's being debated. It seems likely that a patient is immune from reinfection immediately after recovery. But how long does that immunity last? It might be years, but it might be only months or weeks or just days. Also, even if you remain immune, then there might be new strains to which you aren't immune. According to Anthony Costello, a pediatrician and former World Health Organization director:

Does coronavirus cause strong herd immunity or is it like [ordinary seasonal] flu where new strains emerge each year needing repeat vaccines? We have much to learn about Co-V immune response."

So the "herd immunity" debate is interesting and ongoing, and as Covid-19 continues to spread exponentially, a lot of places will have to use the herd immunity strategy whether they want to or not.

Containment and mitigation strategies

Referring to the graph above, the "politically correct" strategy is represented by the second curve, the flattened curve. The curve is flattened by means of containment and mitigation strategies, as I've described in a previous article. In the containment strategy, the country tracks and tests people and uses contact tracing, to identify infected people, and isolate them. When that fails, the mitigation strategy is used, where schools and stores are closed, and large gatherings are illegal, in order to reduce the number of infections. ( "2-Mar-20 World View -- Coronavirus updates -- infections spread across the world")

Both of those strategies should be quite familiar to almost everyone at this time. They're being implemented throughout Europe and the United States, as well as in many other countries. Cities, towns and provinces are being locked down, stores and schools are being closed, and borders are being closed.

Just to take one of many possible examples, France on Monday made it against the law for many people to leave their homes. In Africa, 20 countries now have coronavirus infections, but most people are too poor to be able to stop working and self-isolate, so mitigation will fail and the virus will continue to spread exponentially.

Here's the problem with the containment and mitigation strategies: They require stores and schools to be closed, and people to be isolated, for many months until the crisis ends. As long as people believe that the crisis will end in April or May, the restrictions may be tolerable. But when it becomes clear that the crisis will continue for many more months, then people will no longer tolerate the restrictions.

That's why, in my opinion, until a vaccine is deployed some time in 2021, the virus is going to continue to spread, until everyone is exposed to it sooner or later.

The China enigma

To my knowledge, there's only one country where the leaders claim that the mitigation strategy has been successful: China.

China is claiming that they've conquered the Wuhan coronavirus by means of extremely severe harsh mandatory mitigation measures. (They also claim that Wuhan coronavirus was a bioweapon installed in Wuhan by the US Army under the noses of the incompetent Chinese army, which is typical of the crap that comes from the CCP.)

Since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) lies about everything, including enslaving Muslim Uighurs and annexing the South China Sea, there is no reason to believe any of their claims. Furthermore, the CCP is harshly censoring media, and punishing anyone who dares to describe what's actually going on. So if an outbreak of caronavirus breaks out in a rural area, a regional manager who reported the outbreak to Beijing could be harshly punished, so has no motivation to report it. So it seems quite likely that infections and outbreaks are being hidden, or reported as other kinds of illnesses.

Here's one analysis from Thailand:

"Doctors in provinces like Helionjang, Xinjiang, Henan and Shanxi are telling a different story. According to a stringer,there is an ever increasing amount of patients coming in with respiratory symptoms but doctors have been given guidelines as to what medications to prescribe and to admit them if serious but not to conduct any diagnostic tests directly involved with Covid-19! A check with hospitals in 4 provinces also showed that Covid-19 test kits are not available in any of these hospitals.

Health authorities and medical entities have been given strict warnings not to talk to the media and foreign entities while local media have been prohibited from reporting on any local health issues except official releases sent out to them." (Thailand Medical News)

So this means that the mitigation strategy isn't working in China either, and that many outbreaks are being covered up. Any one of these outbreaks could explode at any time.

Some possible good news: The Real Economy

There might be some good news. In analyzing how the crisis will unfold in the next few months, there are three related issues that everyone is conflating, but which are really quite separate:

Let's focus on the real economy. These are ordinary businesses, often private businesses completely unaffected by the stock market, that are scrambling to do everything possible to stay in business.

To show what I mean, here's what happened between 1929-33:

The GNP represents what I'm calling the "real economy." Owners of the businesses in the real economy take whatever steps are necessary to stay in business, irrespective of virus or stock market disasters.

If a restaurant or bar wants to stay open, then the owner will separate the tables and place screens between them to create compartments, and then sanitize each compartment after the people leave.

If a factory wants to stay open, and it depends on supply chains originating from one country whose factories can't supply them, then the owner will look for new suppliers in other countries.

Here are some examples of businesses that are likely to do well in the next few months:

Even in the worst case scenario, we can imagine a world that's as busy and bustling as it was until recently, but now people are protected by special clothing or compartmentalization or special safe modes of transportation. These are all technically within reach -- and in fact are really quite simple to implement -- but they just haven't been necessary until now.

I believe that the real economy is going to do a lot better than most people think, and possibly a lot better than the stock market, as it did during the Great Depression. In fact, there may actually be a "V-shaped recovery" in the real economy long before there's a recovery in the stock market.

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14-Mar-20 World View -- Iran's army to monitor entire population for Wuhan Coronavirus

Iran and China call Wuhan Coronavirus a US Army bioweapon

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Wuhan Coronavirus spreads rapidly through Iran, with Qom as epicenter


New large burial trenches in Qom visible from space.  Inset photo shows a man carrying a coffin to burial trench (Vox)
New large burial trenches in Qom visible from space. Inset photo shows a man carrying a coffin to burial trench (Vox)

We're now halfway through March and the most pessimistic of the predictions that I've been posting since the beginning of February, in articles and in daily reports on the Generational Dynamics forum, are coming to pass. America has declared a national emergency. Europe is now the epicenter of the Wuhan Coronavirus epidemic according to the World Health Organization. European countries are closing their borders to each other, locking down the worst hit cities, and restricting travel to and from their countries. Many countries outside Europe, including America and countries in Africa and Asia, are restricting travel from European countries.

As of Thursday, Iran had confirmed about 10,000 cases of coronavirus, with widespread suspicions that there were a lot more. Then, on Friday, Iran reported over 1,000 new cases in the preceding 24 hours, bringing the total number of infections to 11,364, with 85 more deaths, bringing the total to 514.

The suspicions have been buttressed by satellite photos of the city of Qom that show that long trenches have been dug apparently to serve as mass graves for hundreds of bodies, coronavirus victims.

Qom is Iran's religious capital, about two hours from Tehran, with several Shia seminaries run by leading Shia Muslim clerics. Within Iran, Qom became the epicenter of the epidemic because pilgrims from so many other Muslim countries visited Qom to pray and to study. According to some reports, the virus was spread in Qom by a merchant who travelled back and forth between Qom and Wuhan, the city in China where Wuhan Coronavirus originated.

The Qom clerics did not want to restrict travel to or from Qom, but instead entered a delusional state of total denial of what was going on. The result was a major outbreak of coronavirus in Qom that visitors spread to many other countries, including Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Canada, Georgia, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates.

Iran's army to clear the streets, and monitor the population

One Iranian MP, Fatemeh Rahbar, a close advisor to the supreme leader Khamenei, has already died of coronavirus, and several others have been infected. Iranians have been asked to voluntarily remain at home as much as possible, but they are ignoring these requests. The streets and stores have been filled with shoppers, especially in preparation for the Persian New Year, or Nowruz, that falls on Friday, March 20.

On Thursday evening Khameini sent a letter to the head of Iran's army, major general Mohammad Bagheri, instructing him to take control of the situation.

On Friday, Bagheri announced that, within 24 hours, he will begin using the military to limit crowds, and to clear people off the streets, and out of shopping centers, shopping malls, grocery stores and bazaars.

Furthermore, he announced that all citizens will be monitored and checked for coronavirus. According to Bagheri, "During the next 10 days, the entire Iranian nation will be monitored once through cyberspace, by phone and, if necessary, in person, and those suspected of being ill will be fully identified."

You know, this is very serious stuff, but you can't help but laugh at this delusional nonsense. Iran has a population of 81 million, and it would take many months to perform this task. In the meantime, the virus will continue spreading exponentially while this "monitoring" is going on.

So we'll have to watch this unfold during the next couple of weeks. It should be interesting.

Iran and China call Wuhan Coronavirus a US Army bioweapon

Government media in Iran, Russia and China have been publishing accusations that the Wuhan Coronavirus was actually developed and launched by the United States, specifically by the US Army, as a bioweapon.

There have been numerous accusations of that type in China's social media. On Thursday, Zhao Lijian, a foreign ministry spokesman, posted the following on Twitter:

"CDC was caught on the spot. When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!"

This is completely ridiculous on many levels, but deliciously delusional because Zhao is accusing China's army of total incompetence.

If the US Army brought the virus to Wuhan, then they completely fooled the Chinese army (PLA). If what Zhao said is true, then Chinese army soldiers were too busy screwing their mistresses and shooting up drugs to notice that some US Army soldiers waltzed into Wuhan and deposited the coronavirus bioweapon in the raw meat market where it spread to the population. That's what totally incompetent losers China's army would have to be, if you believe Zhao.

But it's worse than that. Zhao's accusations are so ridiculous that no one outside of China takes them seriously. But apparently the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) thugs are so delusional that they take the accusations seriously. That means that the CCP thugs have no idea what's going on in PLA. They apparently believe that the PLA is so completely incompetent that US soldiers, if they wanted to, could make fools of the Chinese soldiers by planting a bioweapon right under their noses.

Based on Zhao's delusional accusations of the incompetence of China's army, it's no wonder that the Chinese army was clobbered by the Japanese army in World War II, and had to be saved by the American army. The Japanese army will probably do it again in the next war, and if they don't, then the Taiwanese army will clobber the Chinese army. The Chinese army soldiers, shooting up drugs with their mistresses, won't even know what's going on.

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the Generational Dynamics World View News thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (14-Mar-2020) Permanent Link
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6-Mar-20 World View -- Turkey's Erdogan travels to Moscow to beg Russia's Putin for Idlib ceasefire deal

European Union reaction to Idlib crisis

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Turkey's Erdogan travels to Moscow to beg Russia's Putin for Idlib ceasefire deal


Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday.  Erdogan is the lamb being led to slaughter.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday. Erdogan is the lamb being led to slaughter.

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled to Moscow today to meet with Russia's president Vladimir Putin. At the end of their meeting, they announced a ceasefire agreement for Syria's Idlib province.

Before going into the terms of the agreement, let's take a look at what each of the protagonists wants.

I heard a video clip from Syria's president Bashar al-Assad on tv. I don't have the exact words, but it was something like the following:

"Why does Turkey have troops in Idlib? Syria has never done anything to Turkey. Turkey should withdraw its troops from Idlib. They have no business being in Syria." (paraphrase)

This statement made me laugh because it's so completely honest and so completely typical of al-Assad's sociopathic, murderous, bloody personality. Al-Assad has repeatedly made it clear that he wants to take full control of Idlib province and get rid of the 4 million Sunni Arabs living there, most of whom are children, and most of the rest of whom are women. Al-Assad would like to push all four million of them into Turkey, which would require Turkey to open its border to them, which would be an economic disaster for Turkey -- and for Europe as well, because they would continue traveling to the EU.

Or else, al-Assad would simply like to kill all four million Sunni Arabs. When al-Assad says that Turkey should not interfere, he means that he wants a free hand to slaughter all four million of them, by any means possible, leaving their dead bodies strewn across Idlib, to have their bodies and belongings to be picked over by those lucky Syrian troops. And he's telling Turkey to just sit there and watch all this go on.

None of this is really surprising. Al-Assad has said for years that he wants control of Idlib and the removal of all the Syrian Arabs, all of whom he considers to be cockroaches to be extinguished.

Putin's objectives in Syria

Vladimir Putin is the most dishonest of the participants in that everything he says is a lie. So we can only infer his objectives:

Erdogan's objectives in Syria

Turkey is facing an existential crisis, with four million Syrian civilians crowded along its border. If al-Assad is allowed to kill four million civilians, it will be a social and political disaster for Turkey for not stopping it. If al-Assad is allowed to drive four million civilians into Turkey, that would be an economic disaster for Turkey.

So that's Erdogan's major objective in meeting with Putin: Please, please, please stop al-Assad's attack on the four million civilians in Idlib.

Last week, Russian and Syrian warplanes killed 30-50 Turkish soldiers in Idlib who were there as observers. This left Erdogan with no choice. Turkey has now sent thousands of troops into Idlib to repel the Syrian regime army.

On Tuesday, there was a fistfight in Turkey's parliament between Erdogan supporters and opponents. According to one report, the disagreement was whether Erdogan should be sending troops into Syria. According to another report, the disagreement was whether Erdogan should be meeting with Putin, since it was Putin's warplanes that killed the Turkish soldiers in Idlib.

So on Thursday Erdogan and Putin did agree to a temporary ceasefire.

But anyone can see that this ceasefire agreement is a joke. Al-Assad is bloodthirsty, and won't stop killing civilians in Idlib. Russia sees support for Syria as being the way to be recognized as a powerful player in the Mideast.

There are powerful generational forces at play here. Nothing is going to deter al-Assad for long. Nothing will stop Putin from fully supporting al-Assad.

In my personal opinion, Erdogan will be forced to full-scale war with the Syrian regime army. That would lead to war between Turkey and Russia.

Turkey and Russia have both made it clear that neither wants war with the other, and yet they've fought major many generational crisis wars with each other. ( "25-Nov-15 World View -- Turkey shoots down Russian warplane, evoking memories of many Crimean wars")

There are various "compromise" agreements being discussed. These compromises have to do with setting up buffer zones or ceasefire zones, where Idlib civilians can hide out from Syrian and Russian warplanes. We've had "de-escalation" zones before, but they're always a hoax, since Putin uses them to cover up Russian atrocities, and al-Assad simply ignores them.

European Union reaction to Idlib crisis

Erdogan has been begging European Union officials to provide help with the potential humanitarian crisis in Idlib. In order to pressure the EU, Turkey has encouraged tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to cross the border into Europe. These are not refugees from Idlib. These are from the 3.5 million Syrian refugees that are already in Turkey.

Thousands of these migrants and refugees are trapped on Turkey's side of the border with Greece and Bulgaria. Along the Edirne river, which serves as a border between Greece and Turkey, there have been clashes between the migrants and Greek police. Turkey has accused Greece of using live ammunition against the migrants, a charge that Greece has denied.

On Thursday, Turkey deployed 1,000 police officers on its border with Greece. Formerly, these police were used to prevent migrants from trying to cross into Greece. But now they have a different purpose: Their job is to stop the Greek police from pushing the migrants back into Turkey.

All this is on top of millennia of wars between Greece and Turkey, dating back at least to the days of the Trojan Horse, culminating most recently in the conflict over Cyprus.

So Turkey is facing a new conflict with the EU, is close to war with the Syrian regime in Idlib, and that may expand to war with Russia. In this generational Crisis era, there are powerful generational forces pushing these conflicts and potential conflicts forward. It's hard to see what might stop them, if anything can.

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the Generational Dynamics World View News thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (6-Mar-2020) Permanent Link
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2-Mar-20 World View -- Coronavirus updates -- infections spread across the world

Wuhan Coronavirus (Covid-19) observations

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Coronavirus updates -- infections spread across the world


Medical staff with the coffin containing the body of Assunta Pastore, 87, who died at the Garden hotel in Laigueglia, north-west Italy, on Sunday. (AP)
Medical staff with the coffin containing the body of Assunta Pastore, 87, who died at the Garden hotel in Laigueglia, north-west Italy, on Sunday. (AP)

On Sunday, the United States, Australia and Thailand reported first deaths from coronavirus, while the Italy death toll rose to 34, and Dominican Republic reported its first case.

Wuhan Coronavirus (Covid-19) observations

It's now the first week of March, and the shape of the coronavirus crisis is becoming clearer. I've read or listened to literally hundreds of reports, and these are my personal conclusions:

General advice from the experts: Wash your hands, cough into your sleeve, and don't touch your face.

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the Generational Dynamics World View News thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (2-Mar-2020) Permanent Link
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