Oct 022014

Submitted by Logan Albright via Mises Canada,

As the threat of the ebola virus looms large and the Center for Disease Control issues what are undoubtedly hyperbolic projections of over a million casualties to the disease by January, we owe it to ourselves as libertarians to ask a few questions about the ethics of disease control. Is it acceptable to use force to isolate a person with a contagious disease from society, and if so, under what circumstances? How far are we permitted to go in the invasion of another person’s personal liberty in order to secure a safe environment for the rest of us?

We start, as always, with the Non-Aggression Principle, which states that it is impermissible to use force against another except in self-defense against an actual or threatened attack on another’s life or property. The fundamental issue with disease control, then, becomes whether or not exposing others to a disease qualifies as such an attack.

Clearly, the intentional infection of another human being would qualify. Jamming a hypodermic needle into someone’s skin would be an attack even in the absence of any virus. So would mailing someone an envelope filled with anthrax. So would intentional sexual contact while knowingly carrying a sexually transmitted disease. In all these cases, the intent to cause harm is clear, as well as the actual harm caused, and self-defense to prevent this harm would be entirely justified.

But what about the murkier case where a person carries a disease, with no wish to spread it to anyone else, but with the knowledge that going about his day to day life may result in others becoming exposed?

Philosophers typically try to come to grips with these dilemmas by resorting to analogy. One might argue that going about with a dangerous disease is akin carrying a gun which may at any moment randomly fire. Clearly, if a person were to go about with such a gun (suppose it is strapped to his body and cannot be removed) this would constitute a threat to others, and he would be obligated to take precautions to minimize the risk. But this analogy fails because someone would have had to arrange the gun in the first place, and their agency would bear part of the responsibility. Viruses are, after all, simply very small animals that happen to be quite dangerous. There is no one at fault for the affliction, as there would be for the weapon contrived above.

Another analogy might concern a man forced to go about chained to a vicious dog. By entering into society, the man with the dog endangers others, and it would be justified to prevent him from doing so. But again, the analogy fails because keeping a dog or any pet involves an act of conscious choice. We are responsible for the actions of our pets, but not for those of wild animals. If the dog merely chose to follow the man wherever he went, it would hardly seem just to confine him to his house for the safety of others, for he has not violated anyone’s rights. It is not his fault that the wild dog has a particularly strong attraction to him.

This last analogy may come closest to the truth of the virus situation – an uncontrollable organism attaches itself to us against our will, and thereby poses a threat to others.

From a technical standpoint, the afflicted person is not, through any means of his agency, aggressing against anyone else by going out in public with a communicable disease. The disease consists of autonomous creatures who act on their own, and while they lack will in the sense that man has will, they are still capable of acting without being directed, unlike a gun or a knife, or any other traditional instrument of aggression. It is unclear how the mere action of going outside violates anyone else’s rights, or why he should bear responsibility for the organisms temporarily using his body as a host.

Does intent matter? I think it is clear that it does. To return to the sexually transmitted disease example from earlier, this was clearly a violation of a partner’s rights by taking deliberate action to cause an infection, even if the disease may technically operate on its own. Contrast this with the virus sufferer who merely wants to get on with his daily life without harming anyone. Yet in the latter case the necessity for forceful quarantine is taken as given.

Let us examine this topic from another angle. Suppose instead of a disease like ebola, against which most people have little in the way of defenses, we concern ourselves with a mostly benign virus, to which only 1 in 10,000 people have a fatal susceptibility. Now, for residents of large cities, it is difficult to go about one’s daily business without coming into contact with a great number of people, and the odds are high that at least one would exhibit this sensitivity. Does this mean that carriers of this mostly benign virus are in violation of the rights of others by going outside? Should they be compelled to stay in their homes or move to the country? And if so, should the wearers of perfumes and the eaters of peanuts to whom some percentage of citizens have serious allergies be subject to the same treatment? If we were to apply this rule as a broad principle, covering every circumstance, it would be the rare individual indeed who be permitted any sort of independent activity.

To the defenders of the quarantines, then, this question appears to be one of a degrees. It would be wrong to prevent someone with the common cold from getting on a train, but completely justified if the disease were instead smallpox. Both are contagious, and both are capable of killing, but the relative probability of death is what makes the difference. But if the unintentional spread of disease violates the Non-Aggression Principle, why should this not apply to all diseases, even if they are never lethal? After all, it is still assault to hit someone with a wiffle bat, even if there is no chance of killing them.

As one final point, I’d like to address the element of pre-crime inherent in any attempts at forcible quarantine. A person who goes about with a potentially deadly virus, yet who has not yet infected anyone, and who indeed may never do so, for infection is not certain, has violated no one’s rights. Nor is he making any active and explicit threat to do so. To use force on him, therefore, is to punish him for a crime he has not, and may never have, committed. This sort of preemptive strike is usually condemned by the advocates of liberty as unjust.

So where does all this leave us? It seems clear that a broad application of the Non-Aggression Principle to all communicable diseases would paralyze society’s function and result in the forcible and permanent internment of a great many otherwise innocent citizens not consistent with the ethics of liberty. On the other hand, permitting people to go about with extremely deadly diseases seems equally destructive, even if we cannot justify imprisoning them against their will.

I regret that I cannot provide a more definite resolution to these questions, but this remains one of those thorny areas of libertarian thought that, like the issue of children’s rights, requires more debate and discussion. At present I am inclined against the use of coercive force to implement quarantines, as I believe the potential for abuse and government overreach is simply too great to be tolerated.

Oct 022014

Joshua Wong is too young to drive or buy a drink in a bar – let alone vote – yet, as The Guardian reports, has become the face of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and an inspiration to citizens three times his age.



Via The Guardian:

With his floppy hair, baggy shorts and stripy T-shirt, accessorised with a yellow ribbon around each skinny wrist, the only thing distinguishing the 17-year-old from the other teenagers on Wednesday was the bank of television cameras facing him.


Joshua Wong is too young to drive or buy a drink in a bar – let alone vote – yet has become the face of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and an inspiration to citizens three times his age.


The co-founder of Scholarism, the student movement which kickstarted the demonstrations, is already a veteran activist. At 15, he battled against plans to introduce “national education”, which critics attacked as pro-Beijing “brainwashing”. Scholarism’s campaign brought more than 100,000 people on to the streets in protest; the proposals were duly shelved and Wong became something of a celebrity. He is probably the first mass protest leader who has had to call a press conference to discuss his exam results (he met university entrance requirements, though he has said in the past: “Teachers have always said my only strength is talking and that I talk very fast.”)


But his 40-hour detention from Friday, along with others who stormed into the blocked-off government complex at Admiralty, kickstarted large-scale protests and catapulted him to global attention. The arrests galvanised those previously indifferent to last week’s student protests and sparked the wider civil disobedience movement that has paralysed a large part of downtown Hong Kong.


The sudden fascination with Wong’s role is not entirely to his satisfaction. “If a mass movement turns into worshipping a particular person, that’s a great problem,” he warned in 2012, after the campaign against national education. More recently, asked about his own heroes, he stressed: “You don’t need role models to be part of a social movement as long as you care about the issues.”



“He’s so young but so wise that you can’t help but have a lot of time for him … He is every mother’s son – filial, polite, principled, hard-working.”



His greatest success as a campaigner may have been to prove that his role has its limits, because so many more people have been drawn in.


“Many citizens have said to me that ‘Hong Kong relies on you’ and some even called me a hero,” he wrote in an essay posted on his Facebook page on Wednesday.


“I feel uncomfortable and even irritated when I hear this praise. When you were suffering pepper spray and teargas but decided to stay for the protest despite the repression from the government, I was not able to do anything other than stare at a meal box and the blank walls of the detention room and feel powerless.


“The hero of the movement is every single Hong Kong citizen.”



Chinese state media have attacked Scholarism as extremists and a pro-Beijing Hong Kong-based paper claimed that “US forces” had worked to cultivate Wong as a “political superstar” – accusations Wong has dismissed.

*  *  *

Yeah but how good is he at ‘Call of Duty’?

Oct 022014

Submitted by Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse blog,

The day that many of us hoped would never arrive is here.  Ebola has come to America.  Air travel between the United States and the countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone should have been totally shut down except for absolutely essential personnel but it wasn’t.  And now our nation may end up paying a great price as a result.  On Tuesday, the CDC announced that there is a confirmed case of Ebola in Dallas, Texas.  We know that this individual is a male and that he traveled by air from Liberia to Texas on September 19th.  At that time, he was not exhibiting any symptoms.  It is being reported that he started developing symptoms on September 24th and that he sought out treatment two days later.  Incredibly, he was turned away and sent home.  Then on September 28th he went to a hospital again and this time he was admitted for treatment.  That means that he could have potentially been spreading Ebola to others for at least four full days before finally getting treated at a hospital.  Now he is in intensive care at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.  The CDC says that “there is no doubt that we will stop it here” and is promising that “it will not spread widely in this country”.  The CDC better be right on both counts.

At this point, the CDC is admitting that it is not known if others have been infected by this individual.  The CDC also says that it is tracking down everyone that he has been in contact with.  But over four days in a major U.S. city, you can be “in contact” with a whole lot of people.  And what about all of the people that those people were in contact with?

If I was in charge of this crisis, I would admit that we don’t know the full scope of the problem yet but that we are dealing with it the best that we can.

Instead, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is taking an entirely different approach.  Dr. Thomas Frieden insists that we have absolutely nothing to worry about

“I have no doubt that we will control this case of Ebola, so that it does not spread widely in this country. It is certainly possible that someone who has had contact with this patient could develop Ebola. But there is no doubt in my mind that we will stop it here.”

Frieden better be right about that.

Other “experts” are being even more dogmatic

“There is no cause for concern,” says Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “The Ebola virus is not easily transmitted from person to person, and we have an outstanding infrastructure in place both to contain the virus and trace contacts. There will not be an Ebola epidemic in the United States.”

I have no idea how they can say these things when the outbreak over in Africa is completely and totally out of control.  Despite extreme precautions, hundreds of health workers have gotten the virus, and so far global health officials have not even been able to slow down the exponential growth of the Ebola pandemic in West Africa.

And our health officials should not be so dogmatic about how this virus spreads either.

In a previous article, I discussed a study that was conducted back in 2012 that demonstrated that Ebola could be transmitted through the air between pigs and monkeys that did not have physical contact with one another

When news broke that the Ebola virus had resurfaced in Uganda, investigators in Canada were making headlines of their own with research indicating the deadly virus may spread between species, through the air.


The team, comprised of researchers from the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease, the University of Manitoba, and the Public Health Agency of Canada, observed transmission of Ebola from pigs to monkeys. They first inoculated a number of piglets with the Zaire strain of the Ebola virus. Ebola-Zaire is the deadliest strain, with mortality rates up to 90 percent. The piglets were then placed in a room with four cynomolgus macaques, a species of monkey commonly used in laboratories. The animals were separated by wire cages to prevent direct contact between the species.


Within a few days, the inoculated piglets showed clinical signs of infection indicative of Ebola infection. In pigs, Ebola generally causes respiratory illness and increased temperature. Nine days after infection, all piglets appeared to have recovered from the disease.


Within eight days of exposure, two of the four monkeys showed signs of Ebola infection. Four days later, the remaining two monkeys were sick too. It is possible that the first two monkeys infected the other two, but transmission between non-human primates has never before been observed in a lab setting.

There is much that we don’t understand about this disease.

I can understand the need to keep the public calm, but why don’t these officials just tell us the truth?

At the same time that they are telling us that there is no chance that there will be an Ebola epidemic in the United States, they are also sending out guidelines to funeral homes on how to deal with dead Ebola victims…

CBS46 News has confirmed the Centers for Disease Control has issued guidelines to U.S. funeral homes on how to handle the remains of Ebola patients. If the outbreak of the potentially deadly virus is in West Africa, why are funeral homes in America being given guidelines?


The three-page list of recommendations include instructing funeral workers to wear protective equipment when dealing with the remains since Ebola can be transmitted in postmortem care. It also instructs to avoid autopsies and embalming.

Why are they doing this if there is “no chance” that the disease will spread widely?

Hopefully they isolated this Ebola patient in Dallas in time.

Hopefully he did not infect anyone else.

But we need to be honest about the situation that we are potentially facing.  So far, there have been more than 6,000 cases of Ebola in Africa and more than 3,000 of those have died.  Unfortunately, even WHO officials admit that those official numbers “great underestimate” the scope of this outbreak.  The number of official cases has been doubling approximately every three weeks, and the CDC says that under a “worst case scenario” we could be looking at 1.4 million cases by the end of January 2015.

Right now all of the treatment facilities in Liberia and Sierra Leone are completely full and more than 80 percent of Ebola patients have been turned away and sent home without being treated.  It is an absolute nightmare, and now it has come to America.

And as the virus continues to spread, it is inevitable that more carriers of the disease will get on airplanes headed for America.

Unfortunately for us, according to a recent Defense One article the screening done at airports actually does very little to stop the spread of Ebola…

The bad news is that thermal screenings of the international flying population at airports are not likely to yield much by way of improved safety.


Here’s why: fever can be a sign of a lot of different illnesses, not just Ebola. And thermal scanning proved to be a poor method of catching bird flu carriers in 2009 as well. So presenting with an elevated temperature at an airport checkpoint does not indicate clearly enough that the fevered person is carrying the deadly virus. More importantly, the incubation period for Ebola is two days. As many as 20 days can pass before symptoms show up. That means that an individual could be carrying the virus for two weeks or longer and not even know it, much less have it show up via thermal scan. So what good are these scanners?

When I first started writing about Ebola, a few people accused me of “spreading fear”.

Well, now that Ebola has arrived in the United States, perhaps they will take a second look at some of my recent articles…

-“The Pure Hell At The Heart Of The Ebola Pandemic In Africa Could Soon Be Coming To America

-“Computer Models Tell Us That This Ebola Pandemic Could Soon Kill Millions

-“16 Apocalyptic Quotes From Global Health Officials About This Horrific Ebola Epidemic

-“Ebola Among Health Workers: More Than 240 Sick, More Than 120 Dead

-“It Is Becoming Clear – We Are NOT Prepared For An Ebola Pandemic

Let us pray that this is just one isolated case and that there will not be a major outbreak in this nation.

Because if cases do start popping up around the country, fear will spread like wildfire and we could potentially be facing the greatest health crisis that any of us have ever seen.

One of the individuals that successfully survived this disease was Dr. Kent Brantly.  I think that the following quote from him really does a great job of summarizing what we are potentially facing…

“Many have used the analogy of a fire burning out of control to describe this unprecedented Ebola outbreak,” Brantly said. “Indeed it is a fire—it is a fire straight from the pit of hell. We cannot fool ourselves into thinking that the vast moat of the Atlantic Ocean will protect us from the flames of this fire. Instead, we must mobilize the resources … to keep entire nations from being reduced to ashes.”

A virus like this could change everything if it starts circulating widely.

Like I have said so many times before, let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.

Oct 022014

Just days after President Obama infuriated some in the intelligence and defense communities with comments that “they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” The Government Accountability Institute, a watchdog non-profit organization, found that as of Sept. 29, the President had attended only 42.4% of Presidential Daily Briefs (PDB) during his first term and 41.3% during his second term. As one former official blasted, either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bullshitting.”


As RT reports,

?US President Barack Obama has attended only 42 percent of his daily intelligence briefings since assuming office more than five and a half years ago, according to a new study.


The Government Accountability Institute, a watchdog non-profit organization, calculated the number of times Obama has received daily oral intelligence briefings, or the Presidential Daily Brief (PDB). The group found that as of Sept. 29, the President had attended 42.4 percent of PDBs during his first term and 41.3 percent during his second term.


The report came days after Obama told 60 Minutes that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has “underestimated” the strength of Islamic State, the militant group currently the target of US-led airstrikes on its holdings in Syria and Iraq.


“I think our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” Obama said.


The statement infuriated some in the intelligence and defense communities. One anonymous former senior Pentagon official told the Daily Beast that Obama is surely getting valuable information about Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, from intelligence reports.


“Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bullshitting,” said the former official who is familiar with jihadist actions in Syria and Iraq.



“It’s pretty well-known that the president hasn’t taken in-person intelligence briefings with any regularity since the early days of 2009,” an Obama national security staffer told the Daily Mail on Monday. “He gets them in writing.”


The staffer added that Obama has been warned of Islamic State for years.


“Unless someone very senior has been shredding the president’s daily briefings and telling him that the dog ate them, highly accurate predictions about ISIL have been showing up in the Oval Office since before the 2012 election,” the security staffer said.

*  *  *
And that’s the guy in charge of the strategy…


Source: Investors

Oct 022014

As PMI manufacturing surveys are released around the world, we get an early read on the state of glkobal manufacturing. As the below table shows, out of the 25 countries that have reported so far, 8 reported improvements in their manufacturing sectors in September, while 15 recorded a weakening, and 2 remained unchanged.

A reading above 50 reflects expansion, while below 50 indicates contraction.


As BofA notes,

There were 8 countries in negative territory and 17 in positive. In particular, Austria, Germany, Greece, Korea, and Norway moved from contraction to expansion, while Italy and South Africa did the reverse.


Our China economist note that, thanks in part to the easing measures implemented in the past month, the China PMI was stabilized, but is yet to rebound.


Our Europe economist notes that weakness in the Euro Area was mostly driven by Germany. Moreover, he highlighted that Euro Area PMIs (as well as German PMIs) are consistent with moderate expansion in 3Q.


Lastly, our UK Economist noted that the decline in the UK PMI was attributed primarily to slower exports growth to the Euro Area, and the index is at the lowest since May 2013.