Lessons from Ebola. Let’s hope we learn.

Summary: Our behavior in a crisis provides a mirror in which we see our true selves. The Ebola crisis, however brief so far, has provided rich lessons on our character — showing what we need do in order to again become a great people.

Ebola: it’s coming for you!


  1. Why hasn’t our President-Daddy fixed Ebola?
  2. Why don’t we have greater levels of protection?
  3. Not a single American should fall
  4. Nonsense from the fringes
  5. Other posts about Ebola
  6. An episode of “SuperPresident”


Fifteen days since the first Ebola infection in America. Two cases so far (both nurses); one death. Time for panic!

We run our usual script. After years of tax cuts, fighting calls for massive cuts in  government spending (small government is good government), we demand massive fast high-quality response to even rare events. No matter what we pay, we want the best. Not a single citizen must fall (while thousands die in Africa). Anything less is “incompetence” (the standard we demand our customers, coworkers, and family apply to our own actions). And our national Daddy must take personal action — applying magic leadership skills to improve the performance of technical experts in large organizations.

This is not the behavior of a great nation, but of a nation of rich children seeking a degree of security not found in this world. We can do better. Let’s hold each other to higher standards, rather than criticizing experts doing the best they can with the resources we’ve given them.

(1)  Why hasn’t our President-Daddy fixed Ebola?

We judge our national Daddy by hindsight. Why didn’t he do the things few (or no) experts recommended? Why doesn’t he do the things everybody says he should (which are in fact being started, except for those that experts say will be ineffective)? Why doesn’t he employ the national Green Lantern to fix our ills and make us confident, which will help in some way that the critics seldom state (especially the critics working the hardest to undermine confidence).

In U.S., an Ebola crisis of confidence“, editorial in the LA Times, 16 October 2014 — “The United States does not remotely have an Ebola crisis, but it is beginning to have a crisis of confidence in the Obama administration’s handling of the matter.” It’s a typical thumb-sucking editorial. As usual, the conservative media go full bonkers, yearning for a strongman to make us safe — as in these stories from the Washington Times (all propaganda, all the time):

  1. Op-ed: “President Obama, Ebola and the total collapse of credibility. Americans are no longer inclined to trust their government.“, Monica Crowley, 15 October 2015 — “Less than two weeks ago, the government told us that the Ebola virus couldn’t spread here.” No, they didn’t say that.
  2. News: “Leisure-prone Obama gets belatedly serious on Ebola“, 16 October 2014
  3. Op-ed: “The deadly virus in the electorate“, Wesley Pruden, 16 October 2014

Here’s the opening of #3, by Pruden. It’s quite daft. Are we all suffering from Ebola? Should Obama grab a gun and personally fight ISIS?

“Sometimes incompetence gets its due reward. No one has to accuse Barack Obama of spreading the Ebola virus. The incompetence of this administration is there for everyone to see, and suffer. Leading from behind works no better against a deadly virus than it has against evil in the Middle East and greedy ambition in Ukraine.”

These people watched too many episodes of “SuperPresident” (cartoon show, 1967-1968, go to the last section to see one).

(2)  Why don’t we have far greater levels of protection?

Obama administration failed to implement all of the CDC’s advice to prevent an Ebola outbreak“, Washington Times, October 2015 — As if the GOP majority in the House was eager to build overseas health care facilities; they don’t even want to build them in America’s inner cities (or even pay to maintain our current infrastructure).



The Centers for Disease Control told the incoming Obama administration in 2008 that it should establish 18 regional disease detection centers around the world to adequately safeguard the U.S. from emerging health threats like Ebola, according to an agency memo. But 6 years later, as the government struggles to contain the fallout from a deadly Ebola outbreak at home and abroad, the CDC still has only 10 centers — and none of them operates in the western Africa region hardest hit by the deadly virus.

(3) Not a single America must fall during the crisis, no matter what the cost

Tens of thousands die every year from workplace accidents (especially fishing, forestry, and construction), traffic accidents, and gun deaths — plus contagious diseases. But unlike those, deaths from Ebola result from “incompetence” and must be prevented at any cost. Cost-benefit analysis, or comparison with other vital needs, is inappropriate for Americans.

CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden, Press briefing on 14 October 2014:

“A single infection in a health care worker is unacceptable. And what we’re doing at this point is looking at everything we can do to minimize that risk so those who are caring for her do that safely and effectively. “

Health workers need optimal respiratory protection for Ebola“, Lisa M Brosseau and Rachael Jones (national experts on respiratory protection and infectious disease transmission), posted at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy of the U of Minnesota, 17 September 2014 — Excerpt:

We believe there is scientific and epidemiologic evidence that Ebola virus has the potential to be transmitted via infectious aerosol particles both near and at a distance from infected patients, which means that healthcare workers should be wearing respirators, not facemasks…. Most scientific and medical personnel, along with public health organizations, have been unequivocal in their statements that Ebola can be transmitted only by direct contact with virus-laden fluids2,3 and that the only modes of transmission we should be concerned with are those termed “droplet” and “contact.”

… The minimum level of protection in high-risk settings should be a respirator with an assigned protection factor greater than 10.  … We strongly urge the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to seek funds for the purchase and transport of PAPRs {powered air-purifying respirators} to all healthcare workers currently fighting the battle against Ebola throughout Africa — and beyond.

… Although there are some important barriers to the use of respirators, especially PAPRs, in developing countries, healthcare workers everywhere deserve and should be afforded the same best-practice types of protection, regardless of costs and resources.


(4)  Nonsense from the fringes

Rare is the madness is so great in America that it gets condemned by the speaker’s own political tribe. My favorite Ebola example to date: Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI): ISIS Using Ebola Is A “Real And Present Danger”, Buzzfeed. For links to more weirdness see

  1. Inside the Bizarre Right-Wing Panic over Ebola Virus Coming to the US“, Amanda Marcotte, Amanda Marcotte, AlterNet, 7 October 2014 — “The conservative mindset is tailor-made for opportunities for paranoia and isolation.”
  2. Ebola: Frustrating clash between leadership and nonsense“, op-ed in the Chicago Tribune, 10 October 2014.

(5)  Other posts about Ebola

  1. What you need to know about Ebola. Debunking the myths.
  2. An epidemic afflicting America: fear about Ebola. Avoid the carriers. Facts are the antidote.
  3. While Americans panic at shadows, Ebola strikes hard at Africa
  4. Lessons from Ebola. Let’s hope we learn.
  5. DoD shows its strength, mobilizing to protect us from Ebola (a sad story about America).
  6. We awake from fears of an Ebola pandemic in America. Now let’s ask who’s responsible…, 21 October 2014
  7. Good news about Ebola and its terrifying mortality rate, 5 November 2014

Much of the hysteria results from our loss of confidence in experts; see posts about this problem here.

(6) An episode of “SuperPresident”




8 thoughts on “Lessons from Ebola. Let’s hope we learn.”

  1. As a geographically isolated nation (aside from the other countries of the Americas, obviously, none of which were threats most of the time), we’ve always been hypersensitive about invasions, it seems to me. This shows up in other facets of our society; the focus of medicine in America is on infections, invaders from outside the sacred boundaries of our body if you will, where German medicine focuses on exercise, tonics, etc., giving the machinery a good tuneup.
    Ebola hits this button twice; an infection, invading America from the Dark Continent!!! Thus the furor among the more paranoid; it’s being carried in by illegal immigrants from Latin America! It’s part of the Kenyan President’s Mau-Mau Master Plan! etc.

  2. Mr Maximus, I think the Daddy reference is quite appropriate, and evidenced in many facets of American politics (“Why hasn’t Obama fixed the economy yet?”)

    I think a good indicator of the point at which someone becomes an adult, is when they realize the world is a big and complicated place, and they take responsibility for their place in it.
    By that measure, we are indeed a nation of spoiled children.

    1. Winston,

      It’s nice that this person is getting 15 minutes of fame, and that Adrianna Huffington has found more free material to fill the space between the advertisements.

      That said, people relying on these kind of sources for information is one reason that the information superhighway is making us ignorant.

  3. Here is the guy who named the vius:

    Ebola is no longer an epidemic ‘it’s a humanitarian crisis that may not be over until we find a vaccine’, says scientist who discovered the virus
    Professor Peter Piot said ‘in theory Ebola is very easy to control’
    But he said this outbreak has got ‘completely out of hand’
    He was a part of the team who discovered the virus in Zaire in 1976
    WHO figures show Ebola has killed almost 4,000 people, infecting more than 8,000 since the start of this outbreak in December 2013
    Professor Piot said international response has been woeful but is being brought up to speed thanks to the US and UK
    He said the rest of Europe’s response has been ‘abysmal’
    Warned it might not be over until a vaccine has is developed
    He is optimistic the results from the first trials will be ready by Christmas


    Interview with Ebola Discoverer Peter Piot: ‘It Is What People Call a Perfect Storm’

  4. America, a nation of 300 million spoiled infantile rich kids. What’s hilarious is how this nation of spoiled brats cluelessly demands utterly contradictory and impossible policies. On the one hand Americans insist on roaring around suburbs in their huge gas-guzzling SUVS…yet on the other hand, Americans demand that we avoid wars in the middle east. Americans screech like 3-year-olds throwing a tantrum for smaller government…yet at the same time Americans for instant massive response to the slightest danger. Americans shriek like a little child banging his spoon on his highchair whenever a few people get killed or blown up gun-toting crazies…and yet we insist with punitive hysteria on open-carry gun laws and in making semiautomatic military-grade assault rifles available to anyone with a few bucks.


    1. That’s what really hits me as a cognitive impairment; the ability to believe two absolutely contradictory things at once. Which relates to the refusal to believe that whatever you want and/or get comes with its particular cost. Which relates to the inability to make choices. Which is symptomatic of immaturity.

      I identify the arrival of this attitude as a serious player on the political scene with the Carter/Reagan contest; Carter the sober Dad who tells us no, we can’t afford every appetite and we should restrict ourselves to our real needs and turn the thermometer down, dammit, petroleum doesn’t grow on trees; and Reagan, the jovial uncle who assures us that whatever we want we can have, and we’ll deal with the bills when and if they come in, and it’s silly to limit ourselves by worrying about these things. And the American voters made their choice known decisively.

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