The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Catastrophic Covid Crisis in India

I follow a fair bit of Indian media, as a lot of it is English language, and the last few days in India have unveiled a Covid situation far worse than the stats suggested. People are scrambling for oxygen in particular, with patients in hospitals dying because of its lack. There isn’t enough medicine and bodies of Covid victims are being burned in vast numbers.

At the start of the Covid crisis, I figured that India, with its vast population, inadequate health infrastructure, corruption and idiotic leadership in the form of Modi would be a fiasco. It seemed like it wasn’t so bad, and I couldn’t figure out why, but decided that since I haven’t been  there in decades there was a factor I was missing.

Turns out the main factor was probably under-counting Covid cases.

Meanwhile, where I live in Ontario, Canada, the situation is also dire, though not as bad as in India, with ICUs in the largest metropolitan center so full, they’ve had to move patients in large numbers out.

Worse, the Premier had non-ICU Covid patients moved to long-term care homes — exactly the move that New York governor Cuomo made that caused New York’s LTC disaster and which amounted to him committing mass manslaughter, for which he should go to prison.

Again, Ontario is a place where, at the start of the pandemic, I figured it would be a catastrophe because Doug Ford, the Premier, is a noted incompetent who’s also probably a sociopath or psychopath. In his youth, he was a drug dealer who allegedly enjoyed beating people  up.

But Covid seemed to be going better than I expected, until it wasn’t.

It turns out that bad leadership (Cuomo is also a psychopathic incompetent) is a good predictor for who did catastrophically bad with Covid.

In India, Modi is the fool who demonitized India, getting rid of large bills in an effort to crush corruption, but instead massively damaging the informal cash economy which most Indians live in. Any idiot knew that India, of all countries in the world, was one of the least candidates to move hard towards more e-cash, but Modi is an idiot’s idiot, enamoured both with right-wing Hindutva religious ideology and with neoliberalism, because Indian socialism didn’t work well, so the solution is obviously to do the opposite form of stupdity.

I don’t really have a moral here, except the obvious: that leadership does matter, and that one’s initial impression of competence is usually right. Modi’s incompetent. Cuomo’s incompetent. Trump was incompetent. Ford is incompetent. All of them are also malign: They don’t care about what happens to other people. Ford famously stole money from his brother’s widow, so he isn’t even in the Biden class of at least being good to his own family.

Probably, electing evil, incompetent people is a bad idea, and we should do less of it.

If I wind up dead from Covid, feel free to blame Ford, with a sidecar of blame for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has refused to treat Canada as a country and take charge of Covid efforts in provinces, where the Premiers are incompetent.

As for India, the Indians have my deepest sympathies, and if you don’t care about them, remember that India has the world’s largest vaccine industry, and those vaccines will not be leaving India until Covid is under control there, which means catastrophe in India will hurt many countries, allow even more variants to be created, and kill a hell of a lot more people, far from India.

Turns out that electing an evil moron like Modi effects countries far from India, just as electing Trump, Obama, or Bush effected countries far from the US. Leaders of powerful countries, and India is powerful, matter beyond their borders.

Good luck to everyone led by shitty leaders, Indian, Canadian, and other. In the future, let us remember that mean assholes are usually also incompetent, and to stop electing them.

(All the content here is free but food and rent aren’t, so subscriptions and donations do help.)


The Ugly Reality of America’s Powerful


Open Thread


  1. Plague Species

    At the start of the Covid crisis I figured that India, with its vast population, inadequate health infrastructure, corruption and idiotic leadership in the form of Modi would be a fiasco. It seemed like it wasn’t so bad, and I couldn’t figure out why, but decided that since I haven’t been there in decades there was a factor I was missing.

    I thought the same thing, Ian. It begs the question, what other countries are undercounting? My guess is, India is not alone.

  2. bruce wilder

    I have only visited India briefly but like many am fascinated. I never thought India could manage COVID even remotely well.

    Covid, as a force of nature, has proven implacable to half-measures and mutual adjustment, ritual and superstition, which is to say all the tools of incompetent leadership that promises magic and practices sleight of hand.

  3. Hugh

    Ian, best of luck on getting your shots. There were runarounds when I signed up for my first shot, but getting it, everything ran smoothly. For my second, all the kinks were out of the system. Fewer people were coming to get vaccinated. It went really fast.

    Sorry to hear about Canada. Vaccination in Europe also started out screwed up. I was surprised that India seemed to be coping for as long as it was. A population of 1.4 billion, a corrupt and divisive government were a recipe for disaster.

    It shows that the response to covid should have been all out and international from the start. Get rid of the patents and maximize vaccine production, PPE, oxygen. It is another case where we knew what to do and didn’t do it.

  4. Mary Bennett

    different clue: About other sources of inspiration: I am no expert, but I think the place to start is the American System of political economy. Look up the articles by Matthew Ehret at Strategic Culture (ignore his technological triumphalism–scientists will Think Of Something), the rest of what he has to say is pretty good and easy to understand.

    Democratic syndicalism seems to be alive and well here, if still a small part of the economy. DS is worker owned AND managed factories and businesses. King Arthur Flour, a product far superior to either Gold Medal or Pillsbury, is a worker owned company.

    Did you know that when Wallace was a boy, he was taught and mentored by Dr. George Washington Carver, no less?

  5. Guest

    Not just obviously “evil” and incompetent cuomo, modi and Ford.
    Check out wimpy LGBT Oregon governor Kate Browns statements over the last month.
    By April 1 it was obvious we were at the start of another surge, after 13 months of doing relatively well for the US, mostly because schools stayed closed. (Holiday travel gave us a surge in dec and Jan, but by March the numbers had dropped precipitously)
    Three weeks ago schools opened for the first time in a year and she made statements that they would not be closed again for covid, that enough people were vaccinated that we were much safer (not that many were vaccinated and we were one of the least vaccinated states) that she said even if there was a surge she would not consider the most extreme lock down measures again and less extreme ones would only happen if the hospitals filled up to near capacity.
    Just last week she made statements that her guiding principle was “balance”. The last lockdown in January worked fairly well but to her the economic losses were too unacceptable to do again. So she’s balancing our lives and health agains a bunch of crappy low wage restaurant and bar jobs. She patronizingly said it was up to us as citizens to know and do what was right.
    Three weeks after opening schools Oregon now has the fastest growing case count in the whole country. Just a week ago we were in the middle of the pack after 13 months of being near the back.
    She couldn’t even wait another 6 or 10 weeks for everyone who wants to be vaccinated to have a fair chance to do so.
    I’m sure Biden was also on her ass about opening schools, although why he cares I don’t know.
    So 13 months of effort just got thrown in the shitter right in the home stretch.
    These fucking “moderate” centrists are worse than trump or Ford.
    And now here we are in even worse shape earlier than even I predicted and she’s talking about serious shutdown measures again. So many people will die from her month of reckless incompetence.
    How many times in the last year have we seen this scenario play out, and then they say oh this time will be different? because we have a few people vaccinated and we can’t possibly wait to June or July when it might actually be safe.
    There was a local right wing politician here who was saying that Oregon’s previous low case rates were proof that the shut down efforts here were not needed. Many of us were very confused by that logic and someone had to explain it to us. For right wingers and centrists it is foolish to take precautions against something that *might* happen. If it doesn’t happen the wasted effort is worse than the actual thing you want to prevent. And if the efforts protect you but you can’t prove it, that’s just as bad.

  6. Guest

    “For right wingers and centrists it is foolish to take precautions against something that *might* happen. If it doesn’t happen the wasted effort is worse than the actual thing you want to prevent. And if the efforts protect you but you can’t prove it, that’s just as bad.”

    Of course, with right wingers there are no principles, everything is situational. The above statement obvsly does not apply to police or military spending,. Or maybe it does, since they are always looking for new heads to crack with their expensive toys.

  7. Gurst

    From today’s news
    “Oregon’s seen the biggest percentage increase in COVID-19 cases of any state in the country over the past two weeks. Cases have jumped 58% in that time period, putting Oregon just ahead of Kansas and behind territories Guam and Puerto Rico.

    “A few weeks ago, I came before you to say that we were concerned we would have a fourth surge of COVID-19 in Oregon,” Gov. Kate Brown said at a Friday press conference. “Unfortunately, today, that surge is here.”

    Notice how this weasel tries to make it sound like she warned us. The only “warning” we got was her assurances that she wasn’t going to do shit if there was another surge and we would be on our own.

  8. different clue

    Perhaps the Oregon Governor was afraid of violent ( hails of gunfire) responses to any further lockdowns.

    That fear has certainly restrained Governor Whitmer here in Michigan from resuming lockdowns against our latest coronavid rise.

    If tens of thousands of liberals are not prepared to exchange hundreds of thousands of shots “fired in anger” with tens of thousands of conservatives over the issue of “lockdown”, tens of thousands of liberals should not expect any “lockdown” in the current social atmosphere.

    Is that good? Is that bad? One thing for sure, it really “is” the prevailing reality at this time.
    Coronavid-cautious people should shelter-in-place as best they can. Avoid the Typhoid Milling Crowd. Take other personal and group precautions.

    Perhaps look into the immune-system buildup methods that Metamars and others have brought here to build up your immune system somewhat against further onslaughts of further Coronavid variants yet to come.

  9. Systems Crash Go

    Just a minor quibble – Modi is not incompetent, he is evil. He is not merely “enamored” with Hindu Nationalism, he is going all out to convert it into a theocratic authoritarian state on the lines of the Nazi State with a Secret Police, Preventive Detention, “Night and Fog” arrests, Neighborhood Watch Committees to report “anti national” behavior by dissidents and anti national (aka the thought police).

    As far his economic policy, this is not some blundering fool, but a man who purposively wants to hand over all the common national assets to 1 or 2 men (Adani and Ambani with a dash of Tata), destroy the living environment, and withdraw the government completely from providing any form of healthcare, education or any other of the socialized, cheap public utilities and services.

    As far as Indian Socialism goes, yes, it was slow, people were incompetent, distribution of services was lethargic, but boy, healthcare was cheap and available, we crushed small pox and polio, vaccination policies saved millions of lives, and the State tried to be on the “Welfare” side of things.

    Now the middle class is being crushed, public services have vanished and been purposely sabotaged to favor the private sector, and the last vestiges of humanity have vanished.

  10. RobotPliers

    While there has very likely been undercounting in India all along, I have the impression that things have gotten markedly worse in the last month or two compared to earlier, and that India actually did have some success, for whatever reasons, versus expectations up until the present catastrophe. If it had been horrible all along, I’d have expected more stories like those appearing now to have gotten out. Am I not thinking about this clearly, or just missing some important information?

    On a related note, with the variants and their possible increased infectiousness and lethality, I’m thinking that covid19 might have the potential to approach the lethality of the Spanish Flu in countries with more elderly populations, absent the vaccines. The story of the Spanish Flu is that it got worse before it got better and more or less disappeared. The story of covid19 may be similar in that its getting worse, but I have trouble imagining it just disappearing or hiding out in some animal reservoir and leaving us alone after a few years, even with the vaccines. My concern is that the summation of covid mortality and disability over the coming decades may be much greater than anyone is prepared for, and that the relatively short, sharp Spanish Flu is not a good model.

    But I’m also over a year of staying home with very young hyperactive kids, almost no social contacts, and little sleep, so I might not be thinking too clearly anymore!

  11. Guest

    “Perhaps the Oregon Governor was afraid of violent ( hails of gunfire) responses to any further lockdowns.”

    No I don’t think Oregon is comparable to Michigan. Most of those trouble maker proud boys and patriot prayer guyswere from out of state or way out in the empty areas. They would come here because they knew kids here would fight back, which they can’t stand. The next largest towns are the capitol only 40 miles south, and two big college towns (big colleges, not big towns)

    Although east of the mountains WA and OR are more like Idaho, also parts in the south like Roseburg and grants pass. Most of the state lives in greater Portland. Every politician is owned outright by Phil Knight/Nike, so he may have made the call.

    As for the lock downs, there was no enforcement. Liberals followed the rules, mostly. Conservatives did whatever they wanted to the extent businesses were ok with it.. So those empty parts of the state managed to have 4 or more times the rate of infections than the state as a whole. The big change with this surge was the schools. Now I see kids everywhere with masks on, but otherwise it’s like there is no epidemic. Playing full contact games and sports. No distancing. Big groups. Organized sports…

  12. Ian Welsh

    As we joked back in the Bush years, “evil or stupid? Why not both!”

  13. Ven

    It occurred to me that the problem with India, and I suppose that this is reflected in South Africa too, is that Gandhi effected a peaceful transition of power. Consequently the elites that were benefitting from British colonial rule, simply stepped into their shoes when the British left. And thereafter the story is familiar – elites will only look to their own benefit, and do nothing for the mass of the people.

    Perhaps Nehru enacted some form of socialism at the time, but this was in the context of social safety nets across most western countries, for fear of communism taking root. But he was part of the elite, and the subsequent nepotism of his family demonstrates that they served the elites well.

    Moral of the story – you need to throw out the elites if you are going to have any chance of success.

    Democracy doesn’t really give us a choice – and that’s obviously by design. However, people are also stupid, and prefer to go with the crowd, rather doing any logical, coherent thinking. So when there is a chance – an accidental once in a lifetime opportunity- for something better – like a Corbyn – we vote against him and for a blatant buffoon, because he’s not patriotic enough, etc.

    Conclusion: you get what you vote for.

  14. I heard about a burgeoning epidemic in India, and was wondering why things are going south. My biggest fear is that some variant strain is making irrelevant previously effective measures, such as early use of hydroxychloroquine; and, in some Indian states, hydroxychloroquine was dropped in favor of ivermectin. Having said that, I don’t know the extent of use of prophylactics. Plus, I am skeptical about the thoroughness of the rest of the “test, trace and treat” strategy, mostly due to the large number of poor in India, plus no comments about the availability of tests, which was described by youtuber Kim Iversen. (This video of hers was subsequently deleted by her, probably due to threats by youtube.)

    A more horrifying speculation is that vaccines are largely to blame, though I like to think that the odds of this are considerably lower than variant strains. In spite of reports of 10’s of thousands of issues from vaccines, including death, there’s over a million vaccines being administered in the US, alone, per day, so the percentage of complications is low, at least over a short term basis.

    Alas, there’s basically nothing in this diary which gives me confidence that ‘we’ have even 50% of an answer. “Undercounting ” is claimed, with no reference, even…..

    Since March we’ve known that covid death rates are 10x higher in countries where most of the population is obese. So, is it possible that a poor nation like India shares in this fate? They have zillions of poor people, but, IIRC, their middle class is bigger than ours, also.

    From “obesity in India” @ ahealz dot com

    India stands in the third position of obese people and first place is occupied by the USA. Now the obesity in India current scenario is changing in India because research says 1 out of 5 adults suffers from obesity.

    I assume they mean 3rd in “total obese”, not “per capita obese”

    What is India’s capacity to treat patients in hospitals? Apparently last, in the world. If we go by 2017 data, the wikipedia page “List of countries by hospital beds” says that India had .53 beds per 100,000. Even Bangla Desh has .87 beds per 100K. Compared to, say, the US with 2.77 beds per 100K in 2016 (no 2017 data for the US).

    So, one thing that a serious analysis of data should look at is if prophylactics don’t work well, for the obese, over a long period of time. Hopefully, that’s not the case, and we’re simply looking at what happens when you fail to execute your “test, trace and treat” strategy for, say, 1/2 your population, and you have less hospital capacity, per capita, than any other country in the world.

    Also, looking at the worldometer page for India, it’s clear that this is their 2nd wave. Like many European countries, India’s 2nd wave is bigger than it’s first.

  15. rangoon78

    China controlled the pandemic in a way that makes it clear that the response under capitalism was and is mass-murder; but mass murder in the pursuit of profit has always been in the plan.
    China’s successful control of COVID-19 – The Lancet Infectious Diseases
    “The speed of China’s response was the crucial factor”, explains Gregory Poland, director of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota, USA). “They moved very quickly to stop transmission. Other countries, even though they had much longer to prepare for the arrival of the virus, delayed their response and that meant they lost control”.

    The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 90,541, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,636.

    Retrospective studies indicate the virus was silently circulating abroad before Wuhan doctors first detected it, including in France by Nov.ember 16 and in Italy by December 18.

  16. Astrid

    It appears that this wave is disproportionately impacting the wealthy urbanites. The timing suggests to me that spread in air conditioned work and home environments might be the major factor, since pre-monsoon months are the hottest months of the year.

    Terrible for people living through it, but hoisted by their own petard does come to mind given the class dynamics and hell, they did collective elect Modi and supported Hindutvan. Of course, this and the situation in Brazil, and vaccine resistance in US/Europe will guarantees new variants.

    Last year at this time, there’s constant talk that because SARS and MERS didn’t have a lot of variants, we shouldn’t expect Covid variants to impeded herd immunity. Nevermind that those coronaviruses had a total infected population of maybe 10,000 and they were preparing for billions to get infected with COVID19. There was also talk that even if there are variants, they would be selected for lower lethality, which made no sense to me when were talking about something with potentially a long asymptomatic infectious period ( based on reporting from the cruise ships, stories about asymptomatic virus shedders, and the initial spread in Italy).

    All the journalists and public health tongue waggers totally ignores that the second wave of the”Spanish flu” was far deadlier than the first wave.

    But congrats to big pharma. They managed to make an infectious disease into a chronic condition, and will be able to extract rent on this in perpetuity, unless China or Russia can come up with a vaccine with sterilizing immunity and gets enough of the world to take it at the same time. Cui bono certainly suggest that even if big pharma didn’t create COVID19, they sound the narrative against zero tolerance quarantine to ensure this new perpetual revenue stream for themselves.

  17. Hugh

    China didn’t pay any attention to urbanization in new areas, the dangers of raising various kinds of wildlife, or their sale in markets like the one in Wuhan. When Chinese doctors began identifying covid cases they were harassed by officials and the public was deliberately kept in the dark. Eventually Chinese officialdom decided covid could not be ignored and at that point large scale efforts were made to contain it. While China’s response was much better than that of the US (Trump) and India, nobody believes Chinese official numbers about much of anything. So after having blown the initial response to covid and let the cat out of the bag so to speak, its subsequent domestic response was good even if we can’t be sure about the exact numbers.

  18. Astrid

    Yup, definitely China’s fault. Undoubtedly genocidal intentions behind their vicious failure to curtail their public health crisis as quickly as Hugh sagely advised. Any problems with the US response to Covid is definitely some combination of China and Trump, and definitely has nothing to do with bipartisan lack of support for people affected by Covid, Dr Fauci’s lies and victim blaming across seven US president adminstration, Andrew Cuomo sending Covid patients to long term care facilities, and preemptively legally immunizing pharma companies from all adverse side effects of their vaccines.

    Yup, definitely genocidal China at fault here.

    (Yeesh, I don’t even like the Chinese government, especially Xi’s clique. But liberal interventionists like Hugh really deserve to burn in Hell. They know nothing but their own righteousness, and damn facts or history or lives of others.)

  19. Hugh

    Astrid, the pro-China troll. Like the Trumpist right, it is conclusions first, make up story to fit conclusions, forget about facts or logic. They just get in the way. The point with them is not to understand the world but satisfy their prejudices.

  20. Astrid

    Hugh, what you say of others you are yourself. Plenty of evidence have been provided to you, the only ones I see regularly making up stories are you, plague species, and that hasbara troll. metamar might be highly biased but he doesn’t stoop to calling people troll just for expressing opinions that differ, you do and for even small departures from your demented fairytale version of reality.

    I don’t think the unbiased observer would even say I’m particularly pro-China (I made some rather critical statements about it, ones that I would not share with Chinese people I know). I simply see it as a country that deserves to secure it’s borders and attend to its security without the intrusions from the chaos merchants of the United States. Ditto Russia, ditto Venezuela, ditto all of Latin America, several of which are suffering horribly under US imposed right wing governments, ditto Iran and Iraq and Afghanistan and so many others. The sins of this evil country that I belong too sickens me.

    You’re the Neoliberal version of a climate change denier, no amount of evidence would change your mind. Your comments about Uighurs, Russians, and Hong Kongers have been debunked many times, yet you return to the same baseless smears without ever responding to your debunkers. You are scum.

  21. B.O.B.

    Play stupid games (elect Modi) and win stupid prizes (Covid devastation). No empathy for Indians at all. They dump their dead into rivers and they take dumps in the street and they wonder why their society is so pathetic.

  22. Soredemos

    What’s happening in India seems to be largely an infrastructure problem. The variants may be more infectious and/or more deadly, but fundamentally what’s killing so many people is lack of oxygen.

    If anyone remembers, way back in the mists of time, when covid first started there was lots of fear in the US of ventilator shortages. What’s currently happening in India is a related problem. A lot of the people dying would have survived if only they could have been put on life support to artificially keep them alive until their immune systems killed the virus.

    British media (even Sky News) has actually decided to do its job for once and has a bunch of good coverage of events in India, but here’s a good one from actual Indians themselves:

    Also, B.O.B. is a racist asshole.

  23. Dan Alba

    Those who think Modi is incompetent should watch this video.

    For all his evilness, he has acted like a true populist to deliver the goods to his lower class supporters. He may talk neoliberalism in English, but he is throwing money at the poor like there’s no tomorrow. Even as the economy contracted, he has done a massive wealth transfer from the rich to the poor by slashing interest rates on middle class savings, and by massively taxing goods mainly consumed by the affluent (SUVs, Luxury hotels, private jets, etc) while levying zero tax on essential goods. No wonder they elected him another time.

    This second wave in india has hit the urban affluent rich and middle class, who thought they are above all this because they could work remotely and order in. They also turned vaccine skeptics and did not get the shot. Now they are paying the price. Modi has steadfastly refused to impose a lockdown. And he has doled out food assistance to the poor.

    The poor must be watching with schadenfreude as their once smug overlords gasp for breath. He is undoubtedly evil, but far from incompetent. So don’t count on him getting voted out anytime soon.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén