We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us

 

This year in the USA we’ve had around 35 million cases of influenza with around 35,000 deaths, for a fatality rate of 0.1%.  That’s a pretty typical year, although a couple of years ago we lost 80,000 people one flu season. That was considered to be a bad year, but it barely made the papers. After all, it’s influenza. It happens.

Meanwhile, we’ve had a grand total of 282 deaths from COVID-19 so far and not only has this made the papers, we’ve essentially shut down our society and our economy. This has struck me as odd from the beginning. I’ve had the feeling that I simply must be missing something. So I’ve spent the last few weeks reading all the data I could find on this topic from the World Health Organization, the CDC, and various other data sources. Today I read an outstanding article from Aaron Ginn. I know a lot more about COVID-19 now, but I’m still confused.

Let’s consider three countries and their experiences with COVID-19:

  • Italy has 778 cases per million population, with a fatality rate of 8.5%.
  • South Korea has 172 cases per million population, with a fatality rate of 0.1%.
  • The United States has 67 cases per million population, with a fatality rate of 0.1%.

Italy has essentially locked down its entire country. South Korea has done very little in terms of public policy but has encouraged common-sense personal hygiene practices, like hand washing. The United States is somewhere in between. So suppose you’re a politician and you’re trying to explain the benefit of draconian government actions in response to this virus. How would you present your argument, based on those numbers?

The best controlled study group we have available for this disease is The Diamond Princess. From an infectious disease standpoint, this was close to a worst-case scenario. During its two-week “quarantine,” it turned into essentially a floating petri dish. It had 3,711 people on board, including staff and passengers. It started out with ten COVID-19 cases. Two weeks later, it had 705 cases, and seven of them died. What a fiasco.

But let’s stop and think about that for a moment. First of all, with 705 cases and 7 deaths, that means a fatality rate of 1%. And remember that this is an extremely elderly population, away from their homes, under living conditions that were far from ideal, in a closed environment that was absolutely flooded with the COVID-19 virus. Health care facilities were woefully inadequate. The average age on the Diamond Princess was 58, and 33% of the passengers were over 70. All seven of the deaths were in those over 70.

There were no children on board, to skew the numbers toward the more mild form of COVID-19 that children get. Only old people. Old people who are traveling, tired, away from home, and spending two weeks sitting in their tiny cabins in a floating petri dish being flooded with the COVID-19 virus. And of those 3,711 people, there were 7 deaths.

So of the 3,711 (mostly elderly) people trapped in that worst-case scenario, 0.2% of them died.

Surely we can do much, much better than that 0.2% fatality rate here.

The American population is much younger and healthier than the Diamond Princess passengers, we are not cooped up in a floating petri dish for weeks at a time, we have good health care facilities, and we can respond to problems much more quickly and intelligently than they did.

Plus, huge segments of our population are not seriously threatened by COVID-19. Children, for example.

An article in JAMA from February pointed out that of the 45,000 cases of COVID-19 in China at the time, only 2% were in children, and there were no deaths in children under 10. So far this flu season, we’ve lost 136 children to influenza. But COVID-19 does not seem to threaten kids. On March 8, the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that South Korea had 6,300 cases of COVID-19, but no deaths in anyone under 30.

The World Health Organization has been studying COVID-19 all over the world for months now, and reports: “Even when we looked at households, we did not find a single example of a child bringing the infection into the household and transmitting to the parents. It was the other way around. And the children tend to have a mild disease.”

So children do not seem to act as a vector to give this disease to older family members. And if older family members give the disease to children in the home, children get only a mild form of the disease.

So why are we closing schools? Not due to data or evidence, that’s for sure. “Just to be safe.” Or “out of an abundance of caution – it’s all about the children.”

Ok, but these actions are not without consequences. Much of the hoarding and other unhelpful behaviors we’re seeing right now are not due to fear of the COVID-19 virus, but rather due to fear of ever-increasing government crack-downs on personal liberties.

As Mr. Ginn states, “Infection isn’t our primary risk at this point.”

I’ve spent an enormous amount of time reading, and trying to figure out why we’re responding this way to this virus. I now know a lot more about COVID-19, but I still don’t understand our response.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I think a big part of the problem is that we, as a society, have lost the ability to consider risk-benefit ratios with any semblance of reason or logic. The herd mentality and panic-mongering on social media don’t help. The conventional media earns a living on advertising dollars, so they endlessly repeat the scariest scenarios they can think of, to attract viewers. Politicians, of course, want to exaggerate every problem so they can portray themselves as our indispensable saviors.

There really is no one who is motivated to present a more reasoned perspective. No one.

Plus, people naturally love bad news and are skeptical of good news. A patient can come to me with a headache, I can do a complete history and physical, complete with labs and X-rays, and then finally tell the patient, “You’re fine.  Go home and take some aspirin.” And they’ll respond, “Are you sure?  I think something’s really wrong…”

Or I can have the exact same patient come in, with the exact same headache, and I can just walk in the door and holler from across the room, “You’ve got brain cancer. You’re gonna die.” And the patient will respond, “I knew it. I just knew it.” They don’t even question me. Because people love bad news.

So, in summary, I think we have a serious problem here, which has no clear solution. A very, very serious problem.

And it’s not COVID-19.

It’s us.


Note: I thank Aaron Ginn for his outstanding article.  Please read the whole thing.  Some of my writing above was based on (or in a couple of cases, shamelessly plagiarized from) his work.  He covers a lot of topics that I skipped, he does a good job citing his sources, and he explains his logic clearly.  It’s very long, and I was afraid that most would not read it, so I compiled the above summary. But please read Mr. Ginn’s article. It’s worth your time.

Kenny Rogers Breaks Even

 

Kenny Rogers has died. He had been in ill-health for a couple of years and was 81 when he died. It was not unexpected. He had received his three-score and ten, with more than a little change back.

Still, it is sad. He was one of my favorites when I was young, and the master of the storytelling ballad. My title for this borrows from one of his most famous ballads, “The Gambler.”

I present it without further comment:

Farewell, Kenny Rogers.

Member Post

 

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Is Our Response too Draconian?

 

What have we done?  I live near Charleston, South Carolina.  It is a beautiful tourist destination. The biggest industry here is tourism — hotels, restaurants, carriage tours, walking tours, shopping, cabs, and rickshaws. My wife and I went downtown tonight to walk. It was an absolute ghost town. Nearly deserted.

I am not questioning the motives of government officials. No one wants lots of people to get sick or die. But this seems like madness to me. How are people going to pay for groceries, rent, mortgages, car payments, water and electric bills?  Will mailing checks to people save us? Where will that money come from?

It seems to me that we have to weigh risks against costs. Heather Mac Donald wrote an article recently reminding us that no one would drive if we looked at driving the way we are looking at the Coronavirus.

What if there is another virus right after this? What then?

What are we afraid of? Couldn’t we quarantine the most at-risk people and get on with life? What we are doing seems unwise to me.

I’ve heard both sides of this. Again, I don’t want to impugn the motives of those who are cheering on this policy — but I have, I think, noticed something.  Those who can work at home or who don’t have pressing financial need seem to be very much in favor of draconian “distancing” policies. I wonder what the people who have lost their jobs or been laid-off think of it.

Live From Seongnam, South Korea, It’s Saturday Night

 

Hello America, from the land of novelty socks, and XXX-sized surplus “A Prairie Home Companion” t-shirts. I’m Andrew, long-time listener, first-time caller. I finally decided to join Ricochet today, partly because I wanted to clear up some things I am hearing in the US media, even on Ricochet.

I have been living in Seongnam, South Korea, on and off for the last six years, give or take. It’s a “satellite city” south of Seoul, part of the metro, but still with a million people living close together. It’s always hopping, there’s rarely a seat on the subway, and jostling is the national pastime.

In Oklahoma, I was a classical music public radio announcer, but in Korea, I am an English teacher in corporate offices and private institutes. In Korea, I suppose teaching English may be the last refuge of a scoundrel, but there’s not much use for me here in radio, as my Korean skills are semi-pro. A woman led me here, so for now, let’s place the blame squarely on her shoulders.

Having seen the beginning of this Wuhan Virus™️ in Korea, I want to tell you what it looked like here. First of all, the perception that Korea was ever “shut down” is wrong. The third-largest city, Daegu, was the site of an outbreak inadvertently spread by Shincheonji cult members. Even during that time, lines for protective masks stretched around the block, and life, to some extent, went on. Here in Seongnam, Seoul, Busan, and Incheon, public school and university starting dates were delayed, but other institutes and businesses opened or closed as they saw fit. In my six-day work week, I lost two days in January and four days in February. Two of those lost days were due to a client canceling. Four were because of an institute closing.

My friend, a female boss of an electronics company with over 100 employees in two cities has not closed for one day during this outbreak. Other associates who work for SK Telecom, Samsung and LG all telecommuted at times, but otherwise went to work on schedule.

In this country of 51 million people, there has been no mass curfew, release of prisoners, overrun hospitals, or mandated self-quarantine. The stores have remained open, there have been no empty shelves, no panic buying, and no people pummeling each other over peanut butter. Plenty of toilet paper available too!

So, it makes me wonder what’s going on in the Home of the Brave™️. Just wondering.

Sorry for the long post. Nice to meet y’all.

Friday Food and Drink Post: “I Want To Be Alone” Edition

 

So, Ricochetti: What are you doing to eat your way through the CoronApocalypse? Here at Chez She, in the very armpit of Southwestern PA, we’re going big for soup, and have worked our way through beef vegetable, mushroom barley, and (most recently) chicken noodle. We’re too far from town for meal deliveries. I’m trying not to go into town myself if I can avoid it, and, anyway, most of the little places we do like to eat are closed because they’re small businesses and it’s become too complicated and expensive for them to stay open just for take-out.

Pennsylvania seems to be well on its way to the same draconian lifestyle restrictions as California (the list of what’s allowed and what isn’t can be found here**), and it’s a good thing I’ve got the world’s finest yarn stash and (at least) several hundred sets of knitting needles, otherwise, I’d be going stir-crazy by now.

Here are the recipes for our recent Soupapalooza: Beef Vegetable, Mushroom Barley, Chicken Noodle.

On the Beef Vegetable: I used beef “Better than Bouillon” added to water in place of the called-for beef stock. Otherwise, I made it as the recipe instructs. It was delicious.

On the Mushroom Barley: My mushroom barley soup has no vegetables in it other than onions and mushrooms. So skip the carrots, celery, and peas, and add about three cups of sliced mushrooms with the onions when it calls for you to add the veg. (I generally use cremini mushrooms.) Substitute beef “Better than Bouillon” mixture for the beef broth. (There are 7-1/2 cups of liquid in the recipe. I used 2 tablespoons of BthanB.) Use real pearl barley. (Not the “quick” stuff, which I always think gives the effect of flakes of oatmeal floating around in your soup. I add a little more than it calls for, maybe about 1/2 cup barley total.) I know I’m telling you to change or ignore most of the recipe. Roll with it. “Worse things happen at sea,” as my sister is fond of saying. It’ll be fine. Very good, in fact.

On the Chicken Noodle: Yes, I used chicken “Better than Bouillon” for the chicken broth. (If you’re sensing a pattern here, that’s ok. They don’t pay me for the promotional shout-outs; their stuff is good, and it’s easy. There are several product lines, including a low(er)-sodium. They’re all fine, although I like the “roasted” best.) I had boneless chicken breasts, about 2 lbs. It’s ok to substitute half as much dried herbs for the parsley and the dill (better if you have the fresh, but I did not). Also, my noodles, although egg and flat, were not as wide as those shown in the recipe, and they were rather too long, so before I put them in the soup I crushed them, to make them shorter. It’s ok, people. You’re in charge. You can do it! You’re the boss. Noodles are not. That’s pretty much how I feel about all recipes. I’m in charge. Pettifogging specifications about particular ingredients are not. If all else fails, just wing it. (Do keep in mind, however, that there are elements of science and chemistry that work together in cooking to make food edible, and, at times, even delicious. Years ago, we had a dear neighbor, Alice, who either didn’t “get” this, or who thought the rules didn’t apply to her, and she’d freelance with every recipe at will.  I’ll never forget a Grange (Patrons of Husbandry) meeting, at which we were discussing what to have for our Washington’s Birthday Dinner. I volunteered a cherry pie for dessert. Alice’s husband, Walter (a German engineer) raised a dyspeptic eyebrow, and remarked: “You know what Alice makes for Lincoln’s Birthday?”  “No,” we said.  “What does she make?”  “Log pie,” he answered.  Poor guy.)

For all the recipes: I’ve found over the years that the meat in soups is a lot more tender if I don’t boil it to death. Barely a simmer, and don’t overdo it. I never add additional salt, because there’s enough in the bouillon. I add freshly-ground black pepper if I think it needs it.

What to eat with a delicious bowl of soup? Do you have flour? Yeast? Salt? That’s all you knead.

Today, I am going to bake cookies. Probably chocolate chip. Perhaps with nuts. Because I have some. Not because I am.

What are you doing to muddle through? Please share, and keep me from losing my ever-loving marbles here. (Full disclosure: I’ve just watched about 24 hours straight of the Animal Planet’s 94-Hour Marathon “Puppies and Kittens” Coronavirus Quarantine Programming. It’s super-cute. But mind-numbing.)

Bless. And stay safe and well, please.

** Still trying to decipher the esteemed Governor Wolf’s multi-page list telling me who in Pennsylvania is permitted to do what, and where I’m permitted to go. The last line appears to state that “Private Households” are not a “life-sustaining business” and should be shut down. Not sure how else to read it. And they say that Trump is jumbly and incoherent. Crimenutely.

What I Got Out of the Ricochet Zoom Session with Rob, Peter, and Dr. Savage

 

I was online Friday afternoon for the conversation with Dr. Savage. I wasn’t expecting to be able to, as I was supposed to be at work. Well, everyone got sent home at 7 a.m., so I was able to log on. (I go to work at 6 a.m.)

Thanks to Mr. Blue Yeti for working the boards; he did a yeoman’s job. The main thing I got out of the conversation was that, in my opinion, Rob Long appeared to be in a state of full-blown panic. He looked rumpled, and was speaking a mile a minute throughout the whole thing. Peter, on the other hand, was calm and collected, even if he was in his “pajama top” under his jacket. The Zoom format worked well and made me feel like I was back at work (we have been having multiple Zoom meetings, as most of our people are working from home).

Rico members asked good questions, and Dr. Savage gave as good answers as he could, given the lack of knowledge for most of us. I got to see what some of the members look like (Here’s looking at you, @Instugator!) and hear voices of those without cameras. I was “outed,” since the box where my face would have been contained my real name and not my Ricochet handle. Not that anyone noticed or cared.

Those who bought Zoom stock at or close to its IPO this year have been amply rewarded — their business is really benefiting from the coronavirus epidemic.

I’d participate in another one, if we have one, as long as I’m available.

Farm Life and the American Work Ethic

 

If you pay attention to the trends in agriculture in rural America, you are probably aware that the number of farms in the country, which consolidated sharply between 1950 and 1970 and declined markedly in the 1980s, has been steadily declining since 2000, hovering around 2 million but slowly declining after a significant uptick in 2007. Two million farms are feeding a nation of 300 million and indeed the world. We are the top exporter of all agricultural products worldwide, far ahead of #2 (the Netherlands) and #3 (Germany), and doing it with an astonishingly tiny farm workforce. You might think that this means those few people work like, well, workhorses.

And you’d be right. I had the pleasure, no, the advantage of growing up on a dairy farm that had survived that consolidation between the ’50s and ’70s that I mentioned above. We mostly kept that iconic breed of American dairy cow, the Holstein, with some Brown Swiss, some Jerseys, and some Guernseys to keep the gene pool healthy.

Milking them every day meant, in the months that were not winter, getting up at 4 (if not earlier) to drive them in from the field to the milking yard. This usually entailed finding them. Now, some of them were cooperative and would spend the night in the field not far from the feed yard where we parked the forage wagons they ate from, but some would seek out the farthest reaches of the rectangular 80-acre summer pasture, and some would even try to get through the fence into the woods.

Finding them all — and you had to, because they had to be milked — could take 90 minutes. Then came the milking, which took about four and a half to five hours, then clean up, which including removing always gigantic amounts of manure from the milking stalls (this was an ongoing process while we milked in truth), spreading manure, refilling feed chutes, prepping the tanks for the extraction by the milk tanker truck that came every day, feeding the calves, moving the calves occasionally — from stalls for the little ones to the larger yard for the “teenage cows” — and various tractor maintenance tasks, along with mixing the feed (corn had to be ground up and mixed with mineral supplement in our GEHL feed grinder — terrific piece of machinery), and that was just the bare minimum before noon on a day when absolutely nothing out of the ordinary happened.

In the summer and fall, we would add baling hay to this set of activities. How that usually went is that dad would mow (he never let me mow hay) on one day, while our hand, Mark, and I would finish milking and, if drying weather was right, I would rake it the next morning while he and Mark milked. That afternoon, if drying weather was right, we (my dad, Mark, his nephews, my brother and anyone else who was available to help) would bale it.

These were the old-style bales: rectangular, bound with twine, and weighing 70 to 120 pounds each. Schlepping them across hay wagons, stacking them, unloading them and stacking them in the hay mow was a sure-fire prescription for weight loss and muscle building and it was also a prescription for terrific calluses on your hands. Leather gloves? After a while, they’re built-in. Getting all of these tasks accomplished with the manpower we had (sometimes there were only four of us) meant that in the warm — or let’s say not dark and freezing cold — months, our workday was sometimes 18 hours long. The end effect of it all was that it produced physical toughness and hammered home the importance of doing one’s work well and until it was done.

Now, ours was a small-ish farm and dairy operation – with only a few hundred acres and at most about 81 cows being milked at a time, usually only between 60 and 70, sometimes as few as 50. It was not at all atypical of dairy farms in the Midwest in the ’70s and ’80s. Growing up meant working there from the time I was old enough to carry a milk bucket, which meant about age 8, and being steeped in a domestic culture of constant, meaningful work.

You were constantly expected to pull your weight and more and constantly looking for ways to do that if you had any self-respect or wanted respect from others. The harshest insults that could get thrown at a farmer or farmhand when I lived this life were that you were “lazy” or “a whiner,” usually expressed in what you’d call earthier language.

Farm life inculcated an unkillable work ethic in people who sought to live it right and I have heard from many who come from my kind of background that employers who know their hawks from handsaws consider mention of “farming background” to be a decisive plus in potential hires.

Now, I am not going to argue that the decline in the percentage of farmers in our society means that we are going to raise a generation of indolent, soft characters with a poor work ethic … though I am sorely tempted to. There are other ways of life that develop a strong work ethic. Military life for one and any kind of family business that involves a skilled trade.

Farm life, though, carried with it something of a connection to nature and work that most of these ways of life don’t. There’s a reason a great share of our treasury of metaphors and images comes from the agrarian life. It’s not just a vague romanticism, but a deep realization, I think, that this lifestyle ties people to the elemental foundations of life quite directly, and demands much of those that maintain them.

Note: This was supposed to appear back on the 9th as my contribution for the March Group Writing Project. Alas, work, of all things, kept me occupied writing for Euros from sunrise to well after sunset until tonight. 

Avoiding Risk Is Risky

 

The great Thomas Sowell observed, “There are no solutions, there are only trade-offs.” Thus, when I hear someone say, “You just can’t be too careful.” I generally respond, “Oh yes you can…” For example, here in Hilton Head, when they evacuate for a possible hurricane, that involves evacuating our local hospital as well. And I point out that you simply cannot take a hospital full of very sick people, transport them all hundreds of miles over crowded interstates, move them into another hospital which is suddenly overcrowded and understaffed, then transport all those very sick people right back to where they started from, without killing at least some people. Not to mention traffic accidents on packed highways, COPD patients trying to get their home O2 to work in hotel rooms, people who evacuate and forget their heart meds, and so on. Hard to say who, or how many, but when you evacuate, you know you’re killing some people.

The idea, of course, is that you’re saving the lives of other people. Hopefully, a lot more people are saved than killed, of course. But the number of people saved is uncertain – it depends on if a catastrophic hurricane actually hits or not. So you never know. But you do know that you’re killing at least some people. That’s a given, and it must be considered in making decisions like this. So the risk-reward calculation has a built-in risk, but only a possible reward. And I’m starting to suspect that, as a society, we are having more and more trouble considering such risk-reward decisions.

As we become more wealthy, we predictably become more concerned with security. Those who are well-off naturally become more risk-averse. They fear any disturbance in the status quo. This is not a criticism. It’s only natural.

But now, rather than thinking, “I think this small risk is worth the large benefit,” we now say, “You just can’t be too careful.” And before you know it, we respond to a respiratory virus by buying toilet paper.

I’m not criticizing our government’s response to the Coronavirus. These are difficult decisions, with lots of unknowns. Hard to know what to proper course of action is. I don’t envy those who are making these decisions.

But I think they may be trying so hard to avoid risk, and taking such draconian steps to mitigate possible future events, that they are causing enormous damage now. By essentially quarantining the entire country, the damage they are causing is real, obvious, enormous, and unavoidable.

This quarantine is undoubtedly killing people. For example, I have an 82-year-old diabetic patient who had some burning with urination last week, but didn’t call in because she was afraid to come to my office. Her urinary tract infection went untreated, got worse, and now she is in the ICU with urosepsis. A couple of days ago, I was pretty sure she was going to die. Then she got a little better. But this morning she had a pulmonary embolus (not an unusual complication in a hospital). And now she’s in renal failure. So she’s in dire straits again. Will she survive? I’m not sure. But this could have been treated with $5 worth of antibiotics last week.

If she dies, it will be the Coronavirus that killed her. Or rather, it will be our response to the Coronavirus that killed her. As Thomas Sowell might say, our effort to avoid risk was not without risk.

But her death won’t show up in the Coronavirus statistics. Because she died of urosepsis.

My Uncle Fred might describe this as the seen vs. the unseen.

She could have called in for a prescription, but she didn’t. She could have made it out of the hospital without a pulmonary embolus or renal failure, but that’s not how it worked out.

Again, though, none of this would have happened without the terrifying news coverage and the widespread closures of just about everything. She acted appropriately, she thought, under the circumstances. But her actions may prove fatal.

And that’s just one lady in South Carolina. This sort of thing is undoubtedly happening all over the country. People are losing their livelihoods and losing their lives.

Which may be acceptable, of course, if there is an upside to our response to this virus.

But there had better be an upside. And the worse things get, one can’t help but think that there had better be an absolutely enormous upside.

And there may be.

But we’re talking about a virus which has been spreading across the world for the past four months and has killed around 11,000 people so far. On a planet of 7.5 billion people, there have been 11,000 deaths. Mostly in countries whose response was much less robust than ours. Remember, we have around 35,000 deaths a year from influenza in the United States. And Coronavirus has killed less than a third of that so far, on the entire planet.

So far, we’ve had 235 deaths from the Coronavirus in the United States. How many more deaths would we have had if our response had been less robust? Probably some. It’s impossible to say, of course. And perhaps the benefit over the next month or two could be even greater. Perhaps. I’m not sure.

But how many people have we killed in the meantime, to get that possible benefit? I’m not sure. But probably a lot more than you might expect. And they won’t show up on the lists of deaths from Coronavirus, because they died of urosepsis or something. But they are definitely dead. And the possible benefit is, well, it’s possible. We’ll see.

Not to mention the human costs. Missing weddings and funerals, missing basketball tournaments, missing college graduations, plus all the bankruptcies and other agonies being suffered by those whose finances are being gradually or rapidly destroyed. All that counts. Or at least, it should.

Remember that this is a virus with several treatments that seem to be working well. Tuberculosis drugs, malaria drugs, immunosuppressive drugs, and even Z-packs seem to work to one degree or another. We have several vaccines in development that seem to work well.

Again, there may be a large potential reward for our response to this virus. But in our desperate attempts to avoid risk, we have done real damage which is so huge it’s essentially impossible to calculate. So now, the worse the damage gets, day by day, it would seem that the benefit had better be absolutely enormous.

And from what we’ve seen so far, um, I don’t know…

Is It Just Me?

 

There seem to be two basic kinds of people out there today:

Those that are positive and hopeful in the face of this COVID-19 stuff. I am one of these. I am pretty well convinced we are overreacting a bit to all of this, but I still think that good will come of it in the long run. I’m hopeful about the drug that might cure the disease. I am hopeful that the spread will slow. I am hopeful that the long-term effects will be minimal.

Those that are negative, filled with doom and gloom. These people believe the worst is going to happen. That the cure will be worse than the disease. That we must put everyone on complete lockdown. That we must stockpile food, ammo, and potable water.

It feels to me, and I may be wrong, that the people in the first camp are generally conservative, while the people in the second camp are mostly progressives.

Am I wrong?

Ingenuity to Beat the Ban

 

If any young reporters wish to prove their mettle, opportunities abound to explain the challenges businesses face in general quarantine. Even large corporations are already discussing layoffs and cancellation of projects that would otherwise enable more hiring.

Restaurants are struggling with the ban. But one local eatery has found a way to attract customers who cannot dine inside. As reported by Jacob Rascon at KPRC Channel 2 Houston:

When the owners of Butler House in Spring transformed the parking lot next door into a drive-in movie theater, they had “no idea” if anyone would show up. [….]

The movies are free, and the Butler House delivers food orders to your windows. Two movies — Sherlock Gnomes and Ferris Bueller’s Day — were shown Wednesday night.

How are businesses in your area adapting to endure this disruption?

Safer at Home

 

And there you have it.

As of Thursday night, only essential businesses can remain open. Gas stations, grocery stores, anything to do with healthcare, delivery people exempted.

Any gathering of 10-plus people are now illegal. Gatherings of up to nine must honor the six-foot “safe distance.” There’s either going to be a baby boom nine months from now or every wife now has a perfect excuse. (I hope it’s the former.)

All I can say that had this happened years ago when my house was smaller? Four small children and a husband trying to work from home? “Safer At Home” might have been a title but not a description.

This Is Completely Unacceptable

 

The government of the United Kingdom identified a critical need: the NHS was critically short of respirators. They put out what isn’t exactly a Request for Quote. It is more like a Plea for Help.

Into the fray plunged the design team at storied Gtech. What’s that? You never before heard of Gtech? Neither had I, but Brother @jamesdelingpole amended my ignorance.

Nick Grey, Owner of Gtech began working on the project after being contacted by Gareth Rhys Williams, Government Chief Commercial Officer, in the early hours of Sunday morning.

“At first I thought it was a hoax – being asked if I could assist in making up to 30,000 medical ventilators in as little as two weeks,” said Nick.

“When I realised that this was a genuine need I felt compelled to help”.

Nick spent Sunday learning how ventilators worked and on Monday tasked Gtech’s engineering and model making team to tackle the challenge. He also bought a ventilator off eBay and arranged for it to be collected first thing Monday morning.

Step 1: Blow, don’t suck. See? We’re halfway there already!

Gtech is well on the way to answering a desperate need.

But…

Notice anything unseemly about what I take to be the design team?

Not exactly a shining example of diversity, are they? I mean, one or more of them could be gay, I suppose, but do any of them dress gay? I think not!

Surely this kind of thing cannot be allowed in this day and age. How can you expect to get by on “getting the job done” without at least one hermaphroditic two-spirited little-person of color (or that should be “colour” I guess) on staff.

I think an investigation is in order.

Almost Heaven

 

My more attractive, talented partner in marriage and myself were sitting around discussing what today’s social distancing hath wrought. And what to do about it. I had a stack of once-watched DVD’s on the table with Amadeus and Lawrence of Arabia on top — great films notable for their length. We both agreed that, in times of panic, go for the Directors’ Cuts.

But it just didn’t work. Is that all there is? So we arrived at the best (only?) solution for fearless, devil-may-care Americans. Road Trip!

(Cue Willie and “On the Road Again.”)

Off to Western Maryland, down to West Virginia and Winchester, VA (home of Patsy Cline), and back home. About 225 miles, three states, six hours with stops, and many breaths of fresh air.

We traveled through the extraordinary Cumberland Gap — a historic piece of American geography — and spent a lot of time saluting the people of West Virginia, now at the bottom of US states with … well, you know. We saw houses with the wealthy. We saw houses with the poor. We saw strip malls — some of which had people in them — and we saw a lot of Dollar General Stores — all of which had people in them.

So life after the big C-19 doesn’t have to be about visiting your inner couch potato or that $2,000 treadmill, and it doesn’t have to be irresponsible. There’s a world out there. Take advantage of it.

End the Fear: There Is a Treatment for Coronavirus

 

As I wrote before, in “Cue the Congas, Chloroquine Cures Corona,” there is now an effective treatment (and preventative!) for COVID-19. The story is now getting coverage and more press, which is very important so we can lift all this “shelter in place” nonsense. Woo-hoo!

On Thursday, Donald Trump announced that the FDA has now formally allowed prescribing chloroquine for Covid-19. You can read the papers here.

There’s also new study in the prestigious journal Nature, “Remdesivir and chloroquine effectively inhibit the recently emerged novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in vitro.” The excerpt:

Chloroquine, a widely-used anti-malarial and autoimmune disease drug, has recently been reported as a potential broad-spectrum antiviral drug. Chloroquine is known to block virus infection by increasing endosomal pH required for virus/cell fusion, as well as interfering with the glycosylation of cellular receptors of SARS-CoV. Our time-of-addition assay demonstrated that chloroquine functioned at both entry, and at post-entry stages of the 2019-nCoV infection in Vero E6 cells (Fig. 1c, d). Besides its antiviral activity, chloroquine has an immune-modulating activity, which may synergistically enhance its antiviral effect in vivo. Chloroquine is widely distributed in the whole body, including lung, after oral administration. The EC90 value of chloroquine against the 2019-nCoV in Vero E6 cells was 6.90 μM, which can be clinically achievable as demonstrated in the plasma of rheumatoid arthritis patients who received 500 mg administration.11 Chloroquine is a cheap and a safe drug that has been used for more than 70 years and, therefore, it is potentially clinically applicable against the 2019-nCoV.

Let’s stop all this nonsense and get everyone’s lives back on track!

Member Post

 

I’ve written three posts since 2012 complaining that presidential campaigns completely bypass rural south central Florida. But this week we are soooooo happy to live in the forgotten Florida Heartland. As of this morning there are no COVID-19 cases in Highlands, Hardee, DeSoto, Okeechobee, Glades, or Hendry counties, though apparently a few tests are still […]

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Member Post

 

Bayer Donates 3 Million Chloroquine Tablets in Fight Against Coronavirus German pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG announced Thursday that it donated 3 million tablets of the malaria drug Resochin to the United States amid testimonies that it could potentially treat individuals with the deadly Chinese coronavirus. Resochin, which is made of chloroquine phosphate, is presently not […]

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Delenda est.

 

When the crisis unleashed by the Corona 19 China virus ends, America and the rest of the world must never forget who is responsible for it. I’m not of course talking about God or nature or the people of good will of China, but of course the Chinese communist party.

It was their reckless cover-up, censoring of the good Chinese people who wanted to tell the truth about the virus, and then the murderous nature of the communist regime with its indifference to truth or human dignity that has caused the world-wide tragedy. I am so far lucky, I’ve only lost my job. Many others have are now sick. Including in my village. Others have lost their lives.

In a brilliant post by Axios today documents the initial stages of the virus to the full blown crisis it became, we learn the horrible truth about the Corona 19 terror. A study published in March indicated that if Chinese authorities had acted three weeks earlier than they did, the number of coronavirus cases could have been reduced by 95% and its geographic spread limited. Essentially almost all the deaths in Europe and America are down to the communist party’s criminal bungling of the situation.

I used the headline “delenda est” because it comes to mind in the last few minutes, as it does to anyone who thinks a lot about the classical age. Being a history teacher with a lot of spare time on my hands it has a lot lately. The great orator of the Roman Republic Cato the Elder ended every speech in the Senate regardless of the topic with the line “Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam“. It was a call for war with the Carthaginian kingdom which had repeatedly threatened Rome. Eventually, Cato got his way and war was declared.

I am in no way calling for violence against the Chinese communist regime. But as long as it rules China there will inevitably be another pandemic. It’s not a matter of if, it’s when. How many Americans and Europeans want to allow China to continue to play the dealer in our lives? If that means economic sanctions against China, so be it. Lives are worth more than money.

Wuhan2K

 

Prediction: Due to the precautions taken, the number of infections and deaths in the U.S. will turn out to be much lower than most models predict. Because the precautions are so disruptive to the economy, and our everyday lives, it will be remembered as a foolish freak-out over just another periodic flu outbreak. (Which is far better than it being remembered as the national tragedy that killed millions.) This is the Y2K bug, but more disruptive and with some actual deaths involved.

Twenty years on, the popular mythology tells us the Y2K scare was just tha: a scare. A panic. A mass hysteria, but without the witch-burning. A small fortune (or, probably, several large fortunes) was spent on changing line after line of computer coding so that our computers wouldn’t think it was 1900, and then turn upon us, rending their masters limb from limb. Or something like that.

Few pause to consider that maybe the Y2K roll-over was no big deal because we “over-reacted,” and mitigated the disaster before it could occur. In the same way, I predict that people in late 2020 (us) will mock those idiots (us) who hoarded toilet paper* and canceled sportsball. Even though we idiots are saving (some of) their lives. Let’s hope so.

And I hope all of us will be there to join in the mockery.

*I’m pretty sure the toilet paper thing really is stupid and will save no lives, though.

Introduction

 

Hello! I’m new here and you can blame @Spin for that. (Can I tag people with the @ symbol? I don’t know…as I said, I’m new here.) Anyways, I’ve spent the last decade and change wearing my county’s cloth as a Naval Flight Officer. Aviators aren’t generally known for their bookishness, so my long surname was replaced by the callsign “D12”. Facebook is my only social media outlet (Twitter is a sewer, and don’t get me started on the instaporn apps). I’m hoping to find rigorous and respectful discussions with passionately reasonable people. To paraphrase Dennis Prager, I don’t care much for consensus, but clarity is priceless. See you in the comment section!

Day 59: COVID-19 “Shelter-in-Place”

 

177 countries and territories currently reporting cases of COVID-19. My guess is that every national leader today of a truly democratic country is questioning the timing of their own personal rise to power. Today is a day for Churchillian resolve to take a beating but nonetheless prevail.

First, a note of caution: If you obsess over the tables on Worldometer.com (as I have a tendency to do) you will note anomalies in tabulations, for example the US total on the all countries table and the US total on the USA states table do not always correspond. That may be a database update issue. But also note the Vatican City with 1 case is also displaying 1,248 cases per million population on the table. This may be a residual from the malicious hacking the other day. All of this means that snapshots are not gospel.

As I survey the reporting and the commentary it is difficult to understand what is signal and what is noise. Momentous decisions are being made over individual lives. Mrs Rodin, her mother, and I are just fine sheltering in place. Before COVID-19 by our own predilections “social distancing” was pretty much the default except for most days eating out once a day and the various medical, nail and hair appointments. Yesterday a local eatery we frequent delivered meals to our house, the day before I did take out at another restaurant where we would normally dine. Today I will check further on the small circle of local eating that we frequent. The freezer is pretty full but our meal preparation “muscles” have gone flat from disuse over time. The biggest threat to date was the panic grocery buying occurring locally that deprived us of ready eggs, fruit and milk for a couple of days. Thankfully I had a small reserve, so it was only the lack of ability to replenish and the implied threat if this behavior continued.

People are confused. Seven counties in the Bay Area have issued shelter in place orders. My residence is closer to the seat of the next county over, the jurisdictional boundary about a mile away, than to the population centers of my county. That next county over is not sheltering in place. But it may be required to by the Governor in days to come. My sister-in law in Southern California, living in a place with similar numbers of cases to my county, has different rules as well.

As a nation we have shifted over time from a fundamental understanding of the necessity of patience in the pursuit of every day life. The great achievement of humanity was deferred gratification, that we could have more later if we used less now. It helped us build civilization, a civilization that now measures time not in minutes or even seconds, but milliseconds, refresh rates, and “on demand’ entertainment. To wait for the beneficial effects of the sacrifices we are making now for a healthier future is excruciating. To wait for the data to tell us how things are trending, to help us understand what progress is being made, exercises muscles now much in disuse. Our society has profited off of impatience. We sell consumers products that shorten the gratification cycle. Haven’t saved enough money to buy? Borrow! Want to find out what’s going on in the sporting events while watching “Love, Actually”? Press a button on your remote and see both displayed on your large TV. Can’t sit and read a book? Listen to its audio version on your phone through earphones while you do something else. Need to cash out of those home mortgages whose income stream you own? Bundle them and securitize them and sell fractional interests to institutional investors.

But COVID-19 takes its sweet time. Replicating when it finds a vulnerable host, lying in wait on surfaces until either a host is found or its RNA decays or is destroyed by disinfectant. Time matters not, happenstance determines its existence. It is a simple and unreasoning enemy. Is it fundamentally transforming us?

[Note: Links to all my COVID-19 posts can be found here.]

Member Post

 

I really don’t care how my credit card companies are dealing with the Coronavirus. I also don’t care how my electric and gas companies, my cable provider, my wireless carrier, my bank(s), and my condo HOA are dealing with it. I wish they would all stop sending me e-mails telling me how concerned they are […]

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On the Ages of Politicians

 

The current crop of Democratic challengers tend to be pretty old people. Somehow they’ve even managed to beat Donald Trump in that regard, even though he’s no spring chicken himself. There’s a reason for that, but we’re not starting there. We’re starting back in the old Soviet Union, and not even as a Bernie Sanders joke. Let’s go down a quick list, shall we, of the various Soviets post Lenin.

  • Joseph Stalin: Born 1878, died 1953, 75 years old*. 28 years in office.
  • Nikita Khrushchev: Born 1894, died 1971, 77 years old. 11 years in office.
  • Leonid Brezhnev: Born 1906, died 1982, 76 years old. 18 years in office.
  • Yuri Andropov: Born 1914, died 1984, 70 years old. 2 years in office.
  • Konstantin Chernenko: Born 1911, died 1985, 74 years old. 1 year in office.
  • Gorbachev: Born 1931, still alive according to Wikipedia.

After ol’ Joe kicked the bucket (Thanks @amyschley!) you get a series of four commies with similar birth years (17 years difference between Khrushchev and Andropov). They collectively ran the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1985, a period of 32 years. Lenin and Stalin were born in the 1870s, these guys were born about 30 years after that**, then Gorbachev and Yeltsin were born in the 1930s. These Soviet leaders were all selected from the same age cohort until they got so decrepit that they were dying off after a few months in office.

“How am I supposed to get anyplace with the Russians if they keep dying on me?”

— Ronald Reagan, on being informed of the death of Chernenko, 1985

(And thanks @Percival for looking that up for me).

Now let’s look at one more table, this is the age of presidential candidates for the past 30 years. Including also-rans, but not all the weirdos who show up in primaries.

  • George Bush Senior: Born 1924, ran 1988, 1992, at age 64, and 68 respectively.
  • Bill Clinton: Born 1946, ran in 1992 and 1996, at age 46 and 50 respectively.
  • Ross Perot: Born 1930, ran in 1992 and 1996, at age 62 and 66 respectively.
  • George W Bush: Born 1946, ran in 2000 and 2004, at age 54 and 58 respectively.
  • Al Gore: Born 1948, ran in 2000, at age 52.
  • John Kerry: Born in 1943, ran in 2004, at age 61
  • Barack Obama: Born in 1961, ran in 2008 and 2012, at age 47 and 51 respectively.
  • John McCain: Born in 1942, ran in 2008, at age 64.
  • Mitt Romney: Born in 1947, ran in 2012, at age 65.
  • Hillary Clinton: Born in 1947, ran in 2016, at age 69.
  • Donald Trump: Born in 1946, ran in 2016 and 2020, at age 70 and 74 respectively.
  • Joe Biden: Born in 1942, running in 2020, at age 78.
  • Bernie Sanders: Born in 1941, running it 2020, at age 79.

This is a much clearer pattern. Bush Senior and Perot come from an older cohort. Barack Obama is an outlier. All ten of the other folks on that list were born between 1941 to 1948. The people ruling and almost-ruling*** this country for the past 28 years were born in a seven-year span.

If it seems like our politicians are getting older and older it’s because we’re selecting them from the same group of people. I offer no explanation as to why. Quick and easy ones such as “OK Boomer” don’t cover it. All I’m saying is that noticing the pattern helps you to understand how we’ve got senility out there stumping.

On the plus side, this is the sort of problem that goes away if you ignore it long enough.


*Calculations are done by subtracting years only. That may explain discrepancies in years. Or I might have screwed up the arithmetic.

**If you average their birth years you get 1906. Whether that number means anything I leave up to you.

***Fine. “Presiding and almost-presiding” if you must.