Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. A Big Old Goofy World


My stepdaughter sent me a text yesterday to let me know that 73-year old singer-songwriter John Prine, a favorite of ours for decades, has been hospitalized in critical condition with coronavirus symptoms. He’s been in poor health for some time, surviving a bout with cancer in the late 1990s, and has had several subsequent surgeries, so he is in more than one high-risk group for Covid-19.

He’s one of the very few contemporary entertainers I’ve admired enough that I actually roused myself to see him in a live performance, catching him at an outdoor concert at Pittsburgh’s Hartwood Acres several years ago. It was sweet. As are so many of his songs. Although he never really hit “big time” commercial success, Prine’s fans are loyal and legion, and those who cite him as an influencer for, and inspiration to, their own music include such luminaries as Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello, and Kris Kristofferson (who “discovered” Prine in the early 70s when Prine was working during the day as a mailman, and singing his songs in nightclubs at night).


Toby reveals that he’s every man the PM is – he’s sick as a dog, too. He may not make it to next week but he still wants the lockdown to end, especially in light of the way the local constabularies have reacted to the government’s directives.

What’s the direction out of this thing?


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Words Matter: Social or Physical Distance?


Words have meaning. Should we “socially distance” ourselves from others? Last Friday, March 20, Wil Addison joined Alexander Hamilton III on his radio show and podcast, The Hamilton Corner. He was on to discuss maintaining a Christian witness in the time of the Chinese coronavirus. One comment, in particular, caught my ear.

Wil Addison said that we are using the wrong word. We should not be putting social distance between ourselves. Instead, we should be maintaining a physical distance. Indeed, if you listen closely to the recommendations, you are being advised to maintain six feet of separation, to engage in or refrain from physical acts. So, we should absolutely be protecting each other with physical distancing.


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Covid-19 in TN: A Spike in Suicides


I understand that Covid-19 is a deadly virus, and we need to take it very seriously. However, the blunt approach of shutting the entire country down is deadly as well, and that fact has to be recognized. To illustrate what I mean in real time, I point to Knox County in Eastern Tennessee where all the students have been sent home from University of Tennesse, and the world has essentially been shut down like everywhere else outside of the business that still buzzes inside various Walmarts and Krogers.

This is not the epicenter of Covid-19 in the Volunteer State. That is Nashville, a city that clearly annoyed Mother Nature in some way because she started gut-punching the poor capital way back when this virus still had something to do with Wuhan. The vast majority of the state’s almost 2,000 Covid-positive patients live in or around Nashville, which has never had time to recover from the slashes made to its belly by tornadoes.


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. You Have The Right To Remain Silent; So Shut-Up!


If the title of the post wasn’t enough; Trigger warning! This post contains sarcasm, and acerbic humor.

Unlike some police shows on TV, my empathy quotient was not wasted on those who rationalized their criminal behavior. I was compassionate when I could be, and I could fight, and take someone down to the pavement when I needed to. I compare it to being a Golden Retriever that turns into a Belgian Malinois, and then back again.


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Housekeeping in a Time of Viral Chaos


My pastor is encouraging us to try to live ordered lives in this age of Chinese flu: Set an alarm to get up at the same time every day; pray; enjoy your caffeinated, warm beverage of choice; pray some more; bathe and dress for the day; attend daily Mass via the web; did I mention “pray?” There is no remedy for anxiety quite like spending time with the Great Consoler and, yet, it’s commonly the first practice to fall away in times of distress. I know this from the last six years’ personal experience of family chaos and trauma brought on by our daughters’ serious medical crises, and I still struggle to maintain the habit. Be better than I am.

But, having a child go through meningitis and chemotherapy and being concerned about infection has given us some advantages in the current crisis. We have masks and gloves and alcohol wipes. Not a lot, but some leftovers and a few extra to donate to medical providers. We keep a supply of rubbing alcohol, Clorox wipes, bleach, and TSP. If you don’t have all these readily available, hold that thought. I have other ideas.


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Coronavirus Update Through 3-28-2020


I have an update on COVID-19 reported cases and deaths for the US and Western Europe, through yesterday (March 28). These graphs focus on population-adjusted figures and growth rates.

Italy and Spain remain the hardest-hit countries on a per capita basis, by a wide margin. Spain actually surpassed Italy in reported cases per million yesterday, though Italy remains highest in reported deaths per million. On a per capita basis, the US has only 4-5% as many deaths reported as Italy and Spain.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Duration: Death by Parsley


I am lucky to be married to a good chef. She doesn’t get to cook very often, since her work extracts nearly every molecule of energy. She comes home frayed, and I hand her a beverage and wave to the meal that awaits. Her ability to feign delight is an ongoing theatrical production rivaled only by Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” in London, and I appreciate the subterfuge. Long marriages require many small sweet deceits.  

The first weekend of the lockdown she decided to make fish stew. This betrayed a somewhat different approach to life in The Duration.


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. How Did We Become So Weak?


Can you believe that 75 years ago–beginning on February 21, 1945–60,000 US Marines attacked the small Japanese island of Iwo Jima? It wasn’t very safe. In fact, about 26,000 of the young men were killed, wounded, or missing by the time the battle ended on March 26, 1945 (that’s 43.33% casualties). 6800 of the young Marines were killed (11.33%).

The motto of New Hampshire is “Live Free or Die.”


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Luffing to Cuba: Michael Henry’s First “Non-Fiction” Book


I am not often at a loss for words, but in reading Michael Henry’s Luffing to Cuba, I find myself somewhat confounded. Part of that may be the Coda with which he finishes the book. Part is also the extreme changes to life we have experienced in the year since his adventure.

Michael Henry is a writer of many parts. Here on Ricochet he has often shared humorous fiction based on politics. They tend to be very light pieces. His fictional novels are mostly legal thrillers. They are serious in content, although there is often light banter between characters and light moments within the novels. I have commented before that his Willie Mitchell Banks character muddles through the stories rather than being the lantern-jawed tough guy who knows all the answers. Luffing to Cuba falls somewhere between the two while also being mostly non-fiction. Or perhaps I should say that it is non-fiction with flights of fancy interjected throughout. While in a way being of a piece and on the spectrum of his other writing, it has a very different feel, since the people and events are real.


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Day 69: COVID-19 Who/What Do You Trust?


This morning’s data sort is by “Recoveries” as I am trying to “look up” a little even as I ask the question: Who/what do you trust? Yesterday I posted a link to a University of Washington affiliated think tank that put out some wonderful graphics attempting to make predictions, state by state (and aggregated nationally) about the bell curve for this epidemic. Or as New York Governor Cuomo said the other day, they were saving stored ventilators for the “apex” of their epidemic. The Washington think tank purported to give an answer as to when that apex might be. Within hours a number of the predictions were falsified which calls the model into question. Not just that the predicted number was wrong, but that the range was wrong as well.


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. How Dare You!


For a number of years, I have told people that while I might think people on the left are wrong in their beliefs, those same people treat my beliefs as illegitimate; that I have no right to hold different views than they. I believe that it peaked in the current gender wars, mostly because their views became less and less logical under even the gentlest scrutiny.

Now, the virus epidemic gives those people a whole new slew of issues on which, rather than make a cogent argument, it’s considered good form to simply say “how dare you!” That an intellectual adolescent the likes of Greta Thunberg was invited to the UN and literally made that argument foretold how bleak our future looks for any exchange of ideas.


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Milton Friedman on the FDA: Risk Avoidance


Put yourself in the position of an FDA official charged with approving or disapproving a new drug. You can make two very different kinds of serious mistakes:

1. Approve a drug that turns out to have unanticipated side effects resulting in death or serious impairment of a sizable number of persons.


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. So, Hey, How Y’all Doing?


[Ricochet is not an airport, so arrivals and departures need not be announced, but here I am anyway. If you’re not a fan of such posts, this one probably isn’t for you. I’m sure the PIT (is that even still a thing?) is hopping if you need an alternative.]

Just reactivated my Coolidge membership on a whim to follow James Lileks’ dialogues from what he’s calling the Duration, which he’s also documenting over on the Bleat. It’s — comforting, maybe? — to read that the bizarre circumstances of 2020 thus far are happening to everybody. I’m also leveraging my membership by watching the live GLoP podcast at the moment and laughing a bit, even though Sanctimonious Mode Jonah makes my teeth itch in ways no dentist can treat. Also, if I spend any more time on Facebook reading misinformation, indignation, and Trump-bashing (as though this isn’t happening to the entire world), I might start acting out the memorable bits of The Shining; I’m really hoping sanity is still the rule at Ricochet.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Luffing to Cuba: Racing with ASBO


To combat your isolation in these trying times while satisfying my unquenchable need for attention, I have published the captioned ebook on Amazon Kindle free (for the next couple of days) at this link.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. My Daily Coronavirus Diary


I haven’t done a good job lately of telling Ricochet what I’m writing about and where to find it. I’ve resolved to change this. Sign up here for my free newsletter, which I’m now sending out every day (because I’m stuck in my apartment and I can’t go out to work).

These days, I’ve been writing about—what else—the pandemic. France is about ten days behind Italy and ten days ahead of the United States. So recently I’ve been writing about what Americans should expect, ten days from now, and unfortunately, this has proven very accurate.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. WWKD: What Would Krauthammer Do?


I think it’s good to have heroes, people you can look up to and admire for the virtues they epitomize. I haven’t had many, a handful of iconic thinkers from my formative years, none who really stand out now as I look back on them. My father, still living, towers above the rest, a man of endless decency, generosity, and integrity: if I had to name a hero it would be him. And if I felt compelled to ask advice, it’s his I’d seek for anything within the scope of his formidable common sense and practical wisdom.

But today we find ourselves faced with strategic choices of historic weight, the outcomes determined by issues of epidemiology and biology that have even the experts at odds with each other. Whom do we trust, as we negotiate this treacherous ground between soaring pathology and spiraling economic collapse?


Katie Harris is an expert on languages and a YouTube star. You will find her in “Easy Italian” videos. You will also find her at Jay talks about one of his favorite subjects – languages – with a master, and a delightful one at that.


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Are Ventilators the Wrong Metric?


According to a recent report by a doctor in New Orleans, 86% of the patients on ventilators don’t make it. Which means that ventilators are not the thing we are trying to maximize. By the time the patient is on the ventilator, the battle has almost certainly already been lost.

We must intercept the virus before it gets that bad. Hence the suggestions by other doctors to prescribe chloroquine for those with any symptoms, but not waiting until it gets bad enough for hospitalization.


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. On Crises, and the Wasting Thereof


First, I will admit that I have, perhaps, not been paying as much attention to the coronavirus (or as I like to call it, the ‘Rona) as maybe I should. But crass as it may be, it also seems that there are opportunities here.

I’ve been thinking about the quote by Rahm Emanuel, “never let a crisis go to waste.” When it came out, it was much maligned by conservatives, and rightly so, for many reasons, foremost of which, as seen most recently with Nancy Pelosi, is that it isn’t a great look to be seen to attempt to advance political goals when in the midst of said crisis.


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. ‘We’re Just One-Half of One-Third of Government…’


That was former Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner‘s favorite excuse for his inability to advance Republican ideas and stop then-President Barack Obama.

“Republicans just control the House; there’s only so much we can do here.” In 2011, with Obama in the White House and Harry Reid running the senate, there were certainly grains of truth in Boehner’s whine, but controlling just the House sure doesn’t seem to hinder Nancy Pelosi!


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Role of Children in the Wuhan Epidemic


In a terrific interview during the most recent Ricochet Podcast, Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford Medical School describes two possible models for the Wuhan virus epidemic. In one model, the virus has a high fatality rate but spreads slowly. In the other, the virus spreads quickly and has already infected a large number of people, which make the current fatality count a small fraction of the total population and hence the true fatality rate for the virus relatively low. (Dr. Bhattacharya, while cautioning that there is a wide divergence of opinion among smart and capable medical professionals, cautiously subscribes to the second view.)

I would like to believe that the virus has been in the population longer than the we generally think, and that many people have been exposed and have already recovered. We don’t have enough information to inform that belief, which is why antibody/serum testing is of paramount importance in understanding this epidemic and tailoring a response to it.


Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. For What It’s Worth (Pt. 1): Happy Vietnam Veterans Day


I’m not sure how many Vietnam veterans might be out there in Ricochet Land. Perhaps a few; perhaps none. Our numbers are dwindling; we’re beginning to die out for one reason or another. Just yesterday, my VFW post provided the Honor Guard for another burial.

With each burial, it’s difficult for me to not think about my own approaching mortality. And, it’s equally difficult for me to not think about the path that took me nearly 9,000 miles from my home.


Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. My Virgin Experience: Pizza Delivery


We’ve never had food delivered to our home. It always seemed so extravagant. So when we’ve had a craving for pizza, ordinarily we’d just eat at our favorite pizza place, LeMay’s. But those plans were not in the offing, given the annoying virus situation.

So we were going to call in a pick-up order, and I would go into the shop to pick it up. But the idea of standing in a crowded pick-up area, handing over a credit card, and wondering how many people had touched my pizza and the box—well, it was just too much for me. We figured there would be much less exposure and touching of pizza-related items if we requested delivery, even for a five-dollar delivery fee plus tip.