Fear and Panic in Florida

 

My husband and I must be the only two seniors who embrace sanity over panic. We live in a 55+ community, where many people have pre-existing conditions or simply don’t take care of themselves. To deal with their anxiety regarding the COVID-19, they feel they have to do something. They’ve decided to shop. When we went to do our weekly shopping, you would have thought that a five-force hurricane was offshore bearing down on us. Shelves were cleared of bottled water, milk, and toilet paper. I’m not sure why they’ve gotten toilet paper, but I guess for those of us who are spoiled Westerners, toilet paper is a necessity.

We walked through the store, shaking our heads. I hope those people are feeling more at ease. I doubt it.

The fact is, the mystery and uncertainty of the COVID-19 virus are terrifying to people. They go to their worst-case scenario: we’re all going to die. Dead people will be lying in the streets, and those of us remaining will trip over their corpses. Those frightened people won’t tell you how they feel, but at a subconscious level I’m pretty sure that the fear and panic reaches those extreme levels.

So how are my husband and I experiencing the threat? Well, my husband was diagnosed with a bronchial-lung condition, bronchiectasis, 25 years ago. That means the cilia in his bronchial tubes, those little hairs that keep junk out of his lungs, have disappeared over time. His lungs are damaged and continue to get worse, as he coughs on a regular basis. Yes, he’s one of those seniors with an underlying medical condition. He’s been told that there’s no treatment, no cure, but he won’t die from it. He’ll die from something else. Right.

But we figure we’re homebodies and don’t go out much. Except we do go out to eat occasionally. We were going to a diner that we go to infrequently, then realized people might be worried by his coughing. So, okay, we went to the restaurant in our housing development, where many people will recognize him and know his condition. And then, too, nursing homes are becoming more and more restricted, so I may be barred from seeing my hospice patient soon. And I have two small groups who are scheduled to meet in my home in the next two weeks; I wonder if participants will be willing to come to at least one of them. The other group has only three of us; one said we can sit three feet apart; the other has a challenged immune system.

And then there is the flight planned to Baltimore; I’m going on my own, but I could unintentionally bring home whatever “guest” might hook up with me. We can wait several months to go on a mini-vacation to the Tampa Zoo and the Dali Museum, although we’d hoped to go in April. And the 12-day cruise beginning at the end of May, starting in Israel—who knows what will happen?

The world will not come to an end if all these plans fall through. There are people who are sick with the virus, and some have even died. My concerns are minor compared to theirs.

But we have a lot of uncertainty. Rather than denying those feelings, we are acknowledging them, facing them directly and trying to maintain an attitude of “not knowing,” of curiosity. We may coast through this time, illness-free. We may at some point decide to stay home and enjoy the many interests that we have here. We may feel sad about lost opportunities or pray for those who do become ill. We know that we will die one day; we just hope it is later rather than sooner. We will appreciate life, one day at a time, as best we can.

We’re just not the fear and panic type.

P.S. We received an email last night stating that nearly all the facilities in our development including the gyms will be closed indefinitely. They asked residents not to steal the hand sanitizer equipment and sanitary wipes.

Humans Are Dangerous in Groups

 

Much has been written about the tendency of smartphones to isolate us rather than connect us, as you might expect. You may be sitting with friends in a restaurant, but you can be conversing digitally, and thus more emotionally connected to, someone on Instagram or a blog. Someone you’ve never met, perhaps. While your friend, sitting next to you, is also involved in an emotional exchange with someone else who is not there. While you and your friend largely ignore one another. I can see how this could be interpreted as making people more isolated, but the recent coronavirus fiasco has suggested to me that we are not more isolated, but more connected than ever. And that is a Very Bad Thing.

I like people. I even like people that I don’t like all that much, if that makes any sense. One advantage of being a person as deeply flawed as myself is that I tend to accept others as they are, and I try to avoid criticizing others. So in general, I get along great with basically everybody. I love people.

But I fear mobs. While people tend to be reasonable, intelligent, and pleasant; groups of people, for various reasons, quickly become irrational, passionate, and dangerous. And I would argue that the ubiquitous nature of smartphones has reduced us from a civilization of individuals who, together, can handle extraordinary crises; to a mob which is by definition irrational, passionate, and incapable of developing a carefully reasoned approach to just about anything.

Allow me to preface my argument the way I normally conclude my arguments: I really hope I’m wrong about this.

I mentioned to my wife the other day that I thought that the old media (CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, The New York Times, The Washington Post, etc.) was doing more harm than good by fostering panic in our response to the coronavirus. She said maybe, but that she thought that social media was more damaging than conventional media outlets.

I thought this was a profound observation.

Don’t tell her I said that.

But I think that if the average person read a story in a newspaper, this would be different. By the time you read anything in a newspaper, the information is at least 24 hours old, and probably two-three days old. So the reporter, and his/her editor, has had time to study the issue, attempt to research the facts of the story, and then present a thoughtful summary of what they learned.

No chuckling please – I’m talking best-case scenario here…

So the average person reads that news story, considers the data presented, and thinks to him/herself, “Hmmm… I think I might skip church tomorrow, and I’ll be a bit more conscientious about handwashing.” Which would be an entirely rational response.

But suppose that person gets on Facebook or Instagram, reads the trending articles (which by definition will be the most dramatic and inflammatory interpretations of the topic at hand), then that person starts exchanging comments with others who are similarly panicked about whatever is going on. That person is going to go to Costco and buy 100 rolls of toilet paper. Logic, reason, and contemplation go out the window.

The information age has reduced us — nearly all of us — to a mob. It has reduced our innate skills at reasoning and consideration of risks vs rewards to … um … to a Whack-a-Mole game. And that’s it. Our reason is gone, and our passions are exaggerated. Instead of brains, we now have Whack-a-Mole games. All due to the information age. So in response to a serious threat from a global infectious disease, we neglect typical protocols for managing contagious diseases, and we buy lots and lots of toilet paper. This is unhelpful. This is potentially dangerous.

And this is not what I thought the information age would offer humanity.

There was a brilliant post about this a few years ago. But despite its profound insight, that post did not anticipate the coronavirus.

I acknowledge that this is not all bad. Sometimes, over-reacting to a serious threat is not a bad thing. If you have pneumonia, and you can’t breathe, then whatever dose of antibiotics you’re taking could be described as, “Not enough.”

But there are side effects to over-dosage. Side effects which are not always immediately apparent.

If you’re insufficiently despondent about our response to the coronavirus, ask yourself this: “How would Robespierre have responded to the coronavirus crisis?” What about Saul Alinsky? Or even Bernie Sanders? Or perhaps even Joe Biden facing poor polling numbers?

President Obama once said, “Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.” That sounds nice. President Obama had a gift for making horrible things sound nice. But those things remain horrible, even if they sound nice.

Humans are strange animals. The things we do as individuals tend to be rational and cooperative. But when we join together into cooperative groups, we become a mob. And then the things we choose to do together tend to be irrational and uncooperative. Not always. But often.

The information age, and smartphones, have made us more interconnected than ever before.

God help us.

As a wise man once observed, “I really hope I’m wrong about this…”

Note: Despite my previous righteous rantings against the evils of semicolons, in the third paragraph of this essay, I found myself with little choice but to indulge the natural human temptation to include these infernal forms of punctuation (twice!) into what is otherwise a carefully thought out essay.

Please don’t judge me. If anyone flags this post for COC violations, I will completely understand. I know that this is a family website, and children may be reading.

I will do my very best to see to it that this never happens again.

About the War on Billionaires

 

Robert Heinlein:

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.  This is known as “bad luck.”

Working Through or Worked Over by the Coronavirus?

 

My parents’ generation has some badly needed perspective. My father commented recently, after I told him I was recovering from whooping cough*, that he and his generation went through every disease my generation was inoculated against: mumps, measles, chicken pox, and German measles. Oh, and they had to dodge polio, against which we were inoculated. And there were bad flu seasons.

A writer in City Journal has now spoken that wisdom in “Say Your Prayers and Take Your Chances: Remembering the 1957 Asian flu pandemic:”

For those who grew up in the 1930s and 1940s, there was nothing unusual about finding yourself threatened by contagious disease. Mumps, measles, chicken pox, and German measles swept through entire schools and towns; I had all four. Polio took a heavy annual toll, leaving thousands of people (mostly children) paralyzed or dead. There were no vaccines. Growing up meant running an unavoidable gauntlet of infectious disease. For college students in 1957, the Asian flu was a familiar hurdle on the road to adulthood. For everyone older, the flu was a familiar foe. There was no possibility of working at home. You had to go out and face the danger.

Today, thanks to vaccines, fewer and fewer people remember what it was like to survive a succession of childhood diseases. Is the unfamiliar threat of serious sickness making us more afraid of COVID-19 than we need to be? Does a society that relies more on politics than faith now find itself in an uncomfortable bind, unable to lecture, browbeat, intimidate, or evade the incorrect behavior of a dangerous microbe?

People in the 1940s and 1950s knew germ theory and understood all too well the transmission of disease. Their young people had about the same resilience as 2020 youth. In that context, they chose not to shut down the national economy, nor to put all students into correspondence school mode, nor to suspend college and professional sports for bad influenza outbreaks, even H2N2. The same athletes who are to be protected from COVID-19 have never in their careers reacted to teammates who got the flu by refusing to play.

Let’s be clear: if the latest bug ran through the entire ranks of the NBA, NHL, MLB, and PGA, plus all of the NCAA, we would expect not a single fatality. We would expect more fatalities from transportation accidents involving very expensive vehicles. At most, some players and coaches would be laid up for two weeks, as they are with the flu occasionally. OK, let’s dial that back one notch: there are a few coaches and staff with known heart disease, insulin-dependent diabetes, or suppressed immune systems. The organizations can easily afford to fully compensate and care for each of them in splendid safe isolation until this disease ebbs.

We should be perfectly clear about what we are choosing to do: we believe our nation and the developed world to be so wealthy that we can deliberately crash our economy to reduce the serious risk of the latest respiratory bug to our elderly and our populations of younger people with preexisting conditions that render them susceptible to severe or lethal consequences from respiratory infection. We believe that we will bounce back from this self-inflicted economic harm, recovering enough to be ready to deal with whatever the next national crisis might be.

We are choosing this response over focusing our resources on our vulnerable populations, cordoning senior communities and nursing homes from potential carriers, safely delivering meals and supplies to independent living seniors, and getting serious about imposing basic public health on our cities with large homeless populations turning their streets into third-world communities. I recognize that my parents are now in the prime danger zone. At the same time, almost no college student or professional athlete was ever going to need hospitalization and respiratory support for this or any other respiratory ailment. We know this from the past and from the documented course of this current pandemic.

We chose this course at some point. I do not blame President Trump, who is doing an admirable job of riding the tiger, and might just keep it from eating all of us through his actions, making the best of a bad hand and crooked play by the DNC’s media wing. He certainly did not have legislative allies, let alone cultural elite support to calm panic and get the public behind alternate strategies such as I suggest. Then again, this is the clown car we fill at the ballot box every two years.


* Yes, whooping cough. Of course, I was immunized and stuck again every time the Army said I was due for a booster shot, but that all ended in 2016, and if the shot was near its renewal date then, I was 3.5 years further on when I started dry coughing so hard my ribs hurt. So, two courses of antibiotics later, I’m past the bug being present but can expect a few more months of minor upper respiratory irritation. Mind you, I had to walk into a large lab for a scheduled blood draw, and another lab with a full waiting room for a chest x-ray, so I’ll be thrilled if one or more of my fellow lab customers had COVID-19 or some strain of the flu outside the cocktail shot I took this past fall. Oh, and the cute as a bug’s ear, healthy appearing, and very skilled, young lab tech who drew my blood was not wearing a face mask in February, so whatcha gonna do?

The Math on WuFlu

 

I’m finding myself in a shrinking minority with respect to my view of the WuFlu.  To me, it still appears to be an irrational panic.  Heather MacDonald still seems to be on my side, at least as of yesterday (article here).  But even the Daily Wire guys have been convinced that there is something serious to fear, other than fear itself.  By Monday, MacDonald and I may be the only skeptics left standing.  (I would find her to be good company in such an event.)

I’ve done a bit of digging into the facts, and I still can’t understand the cause for alarm.  I would particularly value the input of our Ricochet docs and other medical professionals, as I certainly realize that I could be wrong.

I.  The Severity of the Symptoms

In round numbers, based on the Chinese experience thus far, it appears that about 80% of WuFlu cases are mild, about 15% are “serious,” and about 5% are “critical.”  The main problem with the WuFlu seems to be pneumonia. My impression is that “serious” cases might require hospitalization and oxygen treatment, while “critical” cases might require ICU treatment such as intubation.  My source is here, from the same Worldometer site that our friend Rodin is relying upon for his daily posts.  These estimates are based on information from China through Feb. 11.

Even these figures seem too high to me.  Rodin’s daily post today (here) generally shows lower rates of serious/critical cases than the 20% combined figure noted above.  In Italy, it is less than 10% (1,518 serious/critical out of 17,750 active).  In South Korea, it is less than 1% (59 serious/critical out of 7,300 active).  In the US, it is less than 0.5% (10 serious/critical out of 2,395 active).

My suspicion is that the rates of serious or critical illness is much lower, and that the rates appear high because very few people have been tested.  This makes sense, as I would expect that initial testing would be limited to people exhibiting WuFlu symptoms.  South Korea seems to have done the most extensive testing to date, and its very low rate of serious/critical cases is consistent with the hypothesis that wider testing will show a higher prevalence of the WuFlu, with the vast majority of cases being so mild as to be almost unnoticeable.

II.  The Math on the Hospital Bed Crisis

I’ve seen news reports that the WuFlu has overwhelmed the health care system, in Italy in particular.  Here is an article from The Atlantic on Wednesday, March 11, stating:

Today, Italy has 10,149 cases of the coronavirus. There are now simply too many patients for each one of them to receive adequate care. Doctors and nurses are unable to tend to everybody. They lack machines to ventilate all those gasping for air.

This NYT article from Thursday, March 12 similarly claims, in its headline:

We don’t have enough ventilators and I.C.U. beds if there’s a significant surge of new cases. As with Italy, the health system could become overwhelmed.

I know that I’m just a country lawyer, though I did once study math through the graduate level, with a focus on probability, statistics, and mathematical modeling.  But it doesn’t take grad-level math to question these figures.  It takes middle-school algebra.

The NYT article linked above says that Italy has 3.2 hospital beds per 1,000 people (and the US has only 2.8 beds per 1,000 people).  Italy has a population of about 60 million, so this implies about 192,000 hospital beds.

As noted above, the number of serious or critical WuFlu cases reported in Italy, according to Rodin’s post today, is 1,518.  That is 0.79% of the number of hospital beds in Italy.

Think about that.  We’re supposed to believe that an influx of about 1,500 new patients has overwhelmed the medical system of a nation that has 192,000 hospital beds.

Put this in perspective.  Let’s round up the Italian number to 1% — that is, assume that the number of serious or critical WuFlu cases in Italy is equal to 1% of the country’s hospital beds.  Imagine that you run a hospital with 200 beds.  This means that you can expect two (2) extra patients as a result of WuFlu.  Are people seriously suggesting that a 200-bed hospital will be “overwhelmed” if it has to take in an additional two patients?

You all can believe anything you like.  I’m staying in the skeptic camp with Heather MacDonald, at least for the moment.

Now let’s apply these figures to the US.  Recall that, according to the NYT article linked above, the US has 2.8 hospital beds per 1,000 people.  With a population of 327 million, that’s about 915,000 beds.

How many serious or critical cases are there in the US?  Ten (10), according to Rodin’s post today.  But let’s assume that the WuFlu spread rapidly in the US over the next month.  How rapidly?  Well, China has had 80,000 cases over several months, so let’s make the extreme assumption that the US has 100,000 new cases over the next month — a vastly faster spread than in China.  And let’s use the Chinese figures for serious and critical cases, rather than the much lower figures from South Korea (more than 20 times lower).

So if the US has 100,000 new cases over the next month, 15% will be serious (15,000) and 5% will be critical (5,000), for a total of 20,000.  This would be about 13 times the number of serious or critical cases currently existing in Italy.

20,000 new cases in the US would represent about 2.2% of the hospital beds in the country.  A hypothetical hospital with 200 beds would have to take in about 4 new patients over the next month.

Is the medical profession seriously maintaining that their capabilities are so marginal, their ability to adapt so limited, as to be unable to cope with an increase in their patient load of about 2%?

I fully understand the graph about the capacity of the health system.  Here is one example:

I do not dispute this graph in theory.  I dispute the dashed red line about the “healthcare system capacity.”  Based on my calculations above, the dashed red line is nowhere near as low as indicated.  It is far, far higher — literally off the chart, in this graph.

As noted above, I don’t just understand mathematical modeling.  I am a lawyer.  I know how to mislead — in my case, I endeavor not to mislead myself, but I am ever vigilant about how my opposition can mislead.  This is precisely the way that one can generate a panic — with a graph that is correct in theory, with just one small misleading element.

I see no evidence whatsoever of any serious danger that the WuFlu will overwhelm our healthcare system capacity, even with no protective measures.

Another way to mislead, incidentally, is to assume that the number of cases will continue to grow exponentially.  The very early stages seem exponential, but the number of cases eventually follows an S-curve.  Continuing to project an exponential growth rate — say for an entire month — is contrary to the facts, and will lead to a vast overestimate of the number of cases that we can expect.

 

III.  Expanding capacity

The calculations above assume that we have no ability to increase our capacity to handle patients needing hospitalization.  Obviously, we have such capacity.  I haven’t looked into the precise figures, but my recollection from the hospitalization of family and friends over the years is that most hospital rooms are either single or double occupancy.  In a crisis, it does not seem, to me, that it would be difficult to add an additional bed in each room.  This would probably increase the availability of hospital beds by 30-40%.

This would be enough to hospitalize every American needing it, even if the number of cases increased to about 900,000, and even assuming the very high, 20% rate of serious or critical cases based on reporting from China, and not the rate of about 1% in South Korea and 10% in Italy.

This suggests that we could handle, without too much trouble, the health care needs of Americans even if the WuFlu spreads 10 or 20 times faster in the US than it has spread in China.

And we haven’t even talked about setting up emergency medical facilities.  You know, schools are closing.  Why not set up temporary hospitals in school gyms or auditoriums?  How hard could it be?  Bring in about 100 beds and some oxygen masks.  Have 4 nurses or orderlies monitor the patients, administering oxygen when necessary.  They could check each patient every 30 minutes or so.  If there aren’t enough pulse oximeters for each patient, have the nurse carry it around.  Patients who need critical care could be sent to a hospital.

As I understand it, even the serious WuFlu cases are essentially moderate-grade pneumonia.  Patients may need an oxygen mask, but they won’t immediately die without it.  They can take the mask off to eat, or to go to the bathroom.  They can basically lie there, in relative comfort with an oxygen mask, and watch TV.  Except that they can’t watch March Madness.

IV.  About That March Madness

Actually, perhaps these hypothetical WuFlu patients will be able to watch March Madness.  Because, it seems to me, the term is being redefined. 

I was expecting to watch March Madness on CBS Sports and ESPN.  It was going to involve a bunch of college basketball players.  Now, I seem to be watching a different kind of March Madness on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News.  It involves a bunch of talking heads, politicians, and medical experts telling me that we’re all going to die unless we shut down the world.  I find this extremely unlikely.

I would appreciate any corrections to my analysis.

If I turn out to be correct, I am going to prepare a huge plate of crow for everyone who disagreed.  :)

 

 

Migrant Crisis and Wuhan Flu?

 

Last week, my husband and I attended a family party in New York. Joking about “social distance,” family members did refrain from hugging as enthusiastically as we might ordinarily have done, and the cousin who had just returned from Milan was mock-shunned and chided for not informing us of his travels before he had intruded into the new, six-foot diameter personal space bubble we’d been told we should maintain around ourselves.

My husband and I got home from New York just as the cancellation cascade commenced and things began to look less ha-ha and more serious. Family e-mails have been arriving daily, offering health updates; one family member has a slight fever, everyone else seems okay, wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands. Had we known then (that is, two weeks ago) what we know now, the party might have been canceled altogether. Certainly, my Milan-visiting cousin would’ve been politely un-invited, or offered the option of virtual attendance via Skype. After all, the focus of the party was my aunt’s 85th birthday. She’s hale and hearty, but … she’s 85.

In other words, my fairly well-fed and generally healthy American family has responded to the Wuhan pandemic by (admittedly retroactively and imaginatively) agreeing to exclude a beloved family member from our midst.

This makes me wonder how the pandemic is going to affect European and American attitudes toward immigrants.

After all, whatever fantasies Joe Biden and Ayanna Pressley offer us, xenophobia is the age-old response to a novel virus for a reason: human beings are what moves a human-threatening virus from one place to another. If my cousin had indeed picked up a little Wuhan in Milan, separating him from my aunt (mask, wall, a dozen city-blocks, or a continent) would keep her safe.

And so, with Wuhan, the No-Walls-No-Borders crowd have been presented with one of the entirely predictable problems associated with the untrammeled movement of people around the planet. Along with our charming cultures and vibrant diversity, we humans carry diseases with us wherever we go, including some nasty ones.

For years, I’ve  found myself pointing out the obvious to well-educated but apparently incurably romantic friends that Europeans aren’t storming barbed-wire barricades to enter Turkey en route to Iraq or Sudan,  any more than Americans in search of free education have been setting off for Cuba on makeshift rafts ever since El Jefe took power. The direction of travel is always the same — away from violence, poverty and oppression and toward safety, a decent standard of living, and (relative) freedom. And, I would argue, migrants are moving toward America and Europe and away from countries with less sanitation, less immunization, less-than-adequate public health systems. Therefore,  both refugees and economic migrants are not only more likely to have pre-existing health problems and thus to be a burden on the healthcare systems of the country that offers them refuge, but are also relatively likely to be carriers of illnesses both old (typhoid, whooping cough, measles, bubonic plague, tuberculosis) and new (woo-hoo Wuhan!)

Iran, to name one example, is overwhelmed with Wuhan; their people are dying in sufficient numbers as to be interred in mass graves. Because Iran is a horrible place to live, Iranians have been among the refugees swarming toward Europe’s border.

How quickly would the virus spread from one infected migrant to the rest in circumstances like those pictured below?

So what effect will this pandemic have on European and American views of immigration? How quickly will fear of contagion curdle the milk of human kindness in European veins, or harden the hearts of those American sanctuary city-dwellers? When immigration doesn’t pose an abstract existential threat to Europeans but a very concrete one, will the old blandishments of Mutti Merkel and Co. (“We can do this!”) come to be seen as a betrayal? Will genuine xenophobes ride the Wuhan express to power? What do you think, dear Ricochetti?

Quote of the Day: Times Like These

 

“In times like these, it is helpful to remember that there have always been times like these.” – Paul Harvey

I have used this quote before, but in view of this last week’s extraordinary events, I thought it worth reusing it.

I have not lived long enough to have seen everything, but I have seen a lot, from the assassination of John Kennedy (which happened when I was in 2nd grade) through the death of my wife (two years ago). Along the way I saw a President resign from office, nearly saw WWIII (with nukes flying) begin three times, watched the fall of Saigon, the Berlin Wall, and the Soviet Union, lived through several stock market crashes, watcedh 9/11, and experienced the loss of the Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia (both while working at Johnson Space Center).

Yet the panic I have been watching over the last week seems unprecedented. Not that I was not expecting some problems. I updated my resume last weekend, because I work for an airline in an overhead position. (Tech writers are always overhead.) Since then, I have watched every city get locked down, watched professional sports cancel their seasons, and panic buying in the supermarkets. (Really people, buying out toilet paper for a respiratory disease? Why are you not buying Kleenex?) And yes, on Thursday I was told next Tuesday is my last day at my current employer’s until airline traffic picks up again. (As I said, it was totally expected.)

And on the news, this mantra is repeated over and over:

When in trouble, fear or doubt,
Run in circles, scream and shout.

(Hat tip, Robert Heinlein.)

Running around in circles shrieking “we’re all gonna die” is not going to change anything. We all are going to die. That is because death is apportioned like birth – one to a customer. But most of us (except maybe those that run out in a blind panic into a busy street shrieking “We’re gonna die!”) are not going to die tomorrow, and likely not of the Wuhan flu. Yes, some of the elderly are at serious risk, but those elderly are always at serious risk.

And taking precautions is wise, if only to slow things down. (Death rates go up when health care gets saturated as it has in Italy. Slowing the rate of transmission means fewer people are sick at one time, spreading the length of that number over a longer period of time. This mitigates saturation.)

But, please, don’t rush out to get toilet paper so that you get some before the hoarders get it first. (Or at least hoard something sensible, like Kleenex.) Listen to the Conservatarian podcast #117. It has good advice.

As for me? I will be busier working than ever. While I won’t be going to the day job, I have a bunch of books I now have time to write. As well as writing more book proposals to get more books to write.

Member Post

 

It hurts to lose a job you’ve had for years.  There are literally millions of people affected by this. If you can’t telecommute you may end up like me.  The hospitality industry is shutting down.ive never needed public assistance, I may need to use it.  It’s sad because we are hard working and pay taxes. […]

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‘Vaccination Has Been Greatly Neglected”: Smallpox in Wartime Mississippi

 

With the Coronavirus on everyone’s mind of late, I thought I would share this article I wrote some years ago concerning the effort to vaccinate Mississippians during the Civil War against one of the 19th century’s worst killers…

During the Civil War, the most lethal killer of Mississippians was not bullets and shells, but the unseen bacteria and viruses that crippled, disfigured and killed thousands of soldiers and civilians. There were numerous diseases that struck during the war years, but none was more feared than smallpox.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smallpox is “A serious, contagious, and sometimes fatal infectious disease. There is no specific treatment for smallpox disease, and the only prevention is vaccination. There are two clinical forms of smallpox. Variola major is the severe and most common form of smallpox, with a more extensive rash and higher fever. There are four types of variola major smallpox: ordinary (the most frequent type, accounting for 90% or more of cases); modified (mild and occurring in previously vaccinated persons); flat; and hemorrhagic (both rare and very severe). Historically, variola major has an overall fatality rate of about 30%; however, flat and hemorrhagic smallpox usually are fatal. Variola minor is a less common presentation of smallpox, and a much less severe disease, with death rates historically of 1% or less.”

For Mississippi soldiers, most of whom were raised on farms or in small towns, the introduction to military life in crowded camps exposed them to many infectious diseases to which they had no immunity. In the first month’s of a new regiment’s service, it was not uncommon for hundreds of men to be struck down by pestilence.

Article from The Vicksburg Weekly Citizen, June 3, 1861, urging that new troops be vaccinated.

Confederate military authorities were aware of the dangers posed to soldiers by communicable diseases, and they did appoint medical officers to fight their spread. One such officer was Doctor William Henry Cumming of Georgia. Appointed a surgeon in the Confederate army in July 1861, Cumming was relieved as medical director at Savannah, Georgia, in March 1862 to oversee the vaccination of soldiers in his home state. By the fall of 1862 the surgeon had been made superintendent of vaccination for the Department of South Carolina and Florida, and he used his post to spread the message on the need for vaccination to other parts of the South. [Compiled Service Record of W.H. Cumming (General and Staff Officers).]

In November 1862, Cumming sent the following letter to Mississippi Governor John J. Pettus, stressing the importance of protecting his citizens from smallpox and proposing a plan to increase vaccinations in the Magnolia State:

Marietta (Ga), Nov. 1st, 1862

Gov. Pettus,

 Sir, Permit me to address you on a subject of great importance to the people of Mississippi at the present time. Living at a distance from the great thoroughfares of travel, in small villages or in widely scattered dwellings, the majority of your people have in former times felt themselves secure from the ravages of small-pox – for this reason, vaccination has been greatly neglected, being usually deemed an unnecessary precaution.

But now their condition is in this respect greatly changed – sick and wounded and disabled soldiers are returning from the camps to towns and villages and hamlets and isolated dwellings – the most secluded log house has given a soldier to the camp – these soldiers, returning from the field, may carry the infection of small-pox to the most remote and obscure abodes – as you are probably aware, this disease has already made its appearance in our army in Virginia, and has in a few cases been brought within the borders of this state.

Allow me to request that you will as Governor give to this subject your serious attention. The Governor of this state has promised me that he will make every exertion to have officers appointed and arrangements made in general accordance with the plan herewith enclosed – the tract on vaccination I consider very important, for the ignorance of the people is a great hindrance to the universal adoption of this protective measure.

I trust that you will not deem me presumptuous in this addressing you – my position as Superintendent of Vaccination for the Confederate troops within this Military Department has enabled me to see the great need of a general vaccination of the people – any aid that I can give will be cheerfully rendered, and trusting that this subject will receive the attention its importance demands,

I remain

Yours Respectfully,

Henry Cumming, Surgeon, P.A.C.S.

Superintendent of Vaccination for Dept. of S.C. & Ga.

Included with Cumming’s letter was his plan for vaccinating the citizens of Mississippi:

Plan for Carrying Out the Preceding Recommendations

1st – An officer should be appointed to superintend the business throughout the State – He should direct and control the subordinate district officers, supplying them with virus and receiving their reports.

2nd – He should prepare and print and distribute a tract on vaccination giving a historical sketch of variola, inoculation and vaccination, the frequency of epidemics of small-pox and the fearful consequent mortality and the results of vaccination in countries where it has been generally adopted – He should add directions for introducing, preserving & transferring vaccine virus, a description of the stages and progress of the vaccine infection and rules for ascertaining the genuineness of vaccination – This tract should be widely distributed throughout the State not only to the Medical practitioners but to the people.

3d – He should furnish (either directly from his Central Office, or through his subordinate district officers) to physicians, planters and other suitable persons, good vaccine virus, and should see to it that every inhabited place is supplied – The officers of County Courts, Postmasters, the Members of the Legislature might all be made agents in this work.

4th – It should be the object of his constant effort to maintain an unfailing supply of reliable virus to be freely distributed to applicants.

5th – In those parts of the state where large plantations are found, the planters might be supplied directly from this office.

6th – He should be furnished with the necessary (clerical and other) assistance for the performance of this work.

7th – He should be required to report the progress, success, hindrances &c &c of his work so that his experience may be useful to others.

8th – It should be the aim of the government to finish this work before the first of June 1863

– John J. Pettus Correspondence, Series 757, Box 943, Folder 1

To increase public awareness on the need for vaccination, Doctor Cumming gave lectures to the general public. On November 28, 1862, the Daily Constitutionalist of Augusta, Georgia, reported on one such talk saying:

Dr. W.H. Cumming addressed the members of the General Assembly and citizens last night, at the Representatives’ Hall, on the importance of immediate and universal vaccination. He urged as an imperative duty, in order to prevent the loathsome disease from infecting every district and neighborhood. He called attention to the fact that while vaccination is almost universal in Europe, and children must be vaccinated before they can enter school, not one in four of our population have adopted this precaution against infection. This negligence, he remarked, results from our scattered and sparse population, which has rendered us comparatively secure against the spread of any infectious disease. He gave a learned and interesting review of the early practice of inoculation…He described the process of vaccination and made it very simple and easily comprehended,

I have to wonder if Governor Pettus listened to the advice given by Doctor Cumming and instituted a program to vaccinate the people of Mississippi. If I can find any additional information regarding vaccination I will be sure to post it!

Member Post

 

Here’s a Scrabble variant: You can make up words, but you have to define them. Here are a few: Nukewurst: Radioactive luncheon meat Teenvoce: Italian rock star Swair: Texan’s oath Fauxy: Describing a woman with a great set of implants Sauda: Arab soft drink Unican: One-hole outhouse Normini: A small French beach Bragony: What parents […]

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Friday Food and Drink Post: Knives Out!

 

This post isn’t an update on the final days of Biden vs. Sanders and the Democrat primary nomination process, one which might be settled on Sunday night (if the proposed meet-up actually happens) in one of those ‘push-up contests’ Joe Biden is so fond of taunting his opponents with. (For some reason, unbidden and unwelcome images of septuagenarian Jack Palance at the 1992 Oscars keep springing to mind.) Nor is it a review of a recent movie, one which I did see, and which I enjoyed. I wasn’t sure about it for the first ten minutes, which jumped around a lot and were talky and a bit confusing, but once it settled down I was quite entertained, and rather charmed by Daniel Craig’s Kentucky Fried Performance as Benoit Blanc, although Craig said he based what passes for his accent on Mississippi historian Shelby Foote’s narration of Ken Burns’s The Civil War.

No. This post is based on last weekend’s Wall Street Journal, in which the lead story in the “Off Duty” section was titled: “Why pay $24,000 For a Kitchen Knife?”

Why indeed? (The full story is behind the paywall, but don’t worry: I’ve got your back.)

The article focuses on the craftsmanship of bladesmith Bob Kramer, whose one-of-a-kind knives regularly auction between $25,000 and $30,000, and one of whose knives, from the estate of the late chef Anthony Bourdain, recently fetched a cool quarter-million. Kramer’s knives demonstrate, the article says, “the elevation of the kitchen knife from primal tool to functional art object,” a move that Peter Hertzmann attributes to the rise of the open kitchen–just as “people displayed their status . . . with carving knives,” now that the lowly kitchen knife is more visible, the purchase of kitchen knives has come to “revolve more around appearance and perceived intrinsic value, rather than function.”

Glory be. The older I get, the more I’m aware that there are some trends in life that have either passed so far above my head, or so far beneath my feet, that I’m blissfully oblivious of them. Demonstrating my “social status” to my dinner guests via the spectacular uniqueness and value of my carving knife, and acquiring outrageously expensive kitchen knives which I can display prominently as some of the very few objets d’art in my humble abode, are just two more to add to the list, I guess.

Once the article has described Kramer’s gorgeous oeuvre, it settles into a run-down of some more affordable (although still pretty pricey) alternatives. There’s a sweet little Silverthorn boning knife with a super-thin and flexible blade (left). It’s very reminiscent of the knives I used to filet fish with in the 1970s, which didn’t start out that way, but which ended up looking pretty much like that after we had worn down both the thickness and width of the blades over the years by sharpening them by hand on a piece of sandstone. They had wooden handles, carbon-steel blades, and could be had at the Fisherman’s Co-Op, next door to the wharf, for about $1.50 (Canadian). The one pictured is a steal at just $185.

Tunnel Mosaic Damascus Chef 200mmOh, here’s a lovely one: An Anger Knives Tunnel Mosaic Chef Knife for $1,850 (right). This one is the creation of self-taught Vermont bladesmith Nick Anger, It is quite beautiful, hand crafted from made-in-house mosaic carbon Damascus, with “razor sharp tip,” and a lovely handle composed of “black-dyed maple, spalted maple, and micarta.” This article from The Take Magazine, is a fascinating overview of Anger, his forge, and his process, and it includes several photos of his beautiful knives.

You can find the Tunnel Mosaic chef knife for sale on this website, but don’t get your hopes up; it’s unavailable at the moment.

Another chef knife; this one a little smaller, the Zwilling Kramer Euroline Damascus Chef (left). This one will lighten your wallet to the tune of $400, and boasts a super-wide blade for the large-knuckled. (I think that’s supposed to stop you bloodying your knuckles on the work surface, rather than being an invitation to hack yourself to bits.) The blade on this one, which is made by skilled Japanese artisans, delivers “scalpel-like sharpness,” in which the blade’s core is protected by a 100-layer chevron Damascus (there’s that word again) pattern, and a “stunning black linen Micarta** handle.

While researching this post, I learned that the term “Damascus steel” nowadays hearkens back to true “Damascus” steel, once the world standard of quality (my ancestors from Sheffield might disagree), and also describes a modern method of production. According to the Damascus Knife Guide:

Modern Damascus steel is made by either forge-welding different types of steel together before twisting and manipulating the metal, or by flattening out and then folding a single type of steel in order to produce layers in the metal. Both these techniques result in the wavy, ‘organic’ pattern that is typical of Damascus steel kitchen knives.

The technique used to make modern Damascus steel is primarily for aesthetic reasons; however, the folding and refolding process does have the benefit of evening out any natural impurities in the metal.

Techniques such as acid etching can also be used to emphasise the unique pattern created by this process.

Ancient Damascus steel is entirely different to modern Damascus steel. The exact knowledge of how to produce ancient Damascus is now lost to history.

A Damascus knife can easily be identified by the wavy pattern that runs throughout the length of the blade. I discovered, when examining my own kitchen knives, that I do have one Damascus knife! It’s a Miyabi 600D Fusion chef knife, and was a gift from my stepson Sam. I also have a set of Henkels, which I bought over time and individually–a large chef knife, a bread knife, a boning knife, a prep knife, and a couple of paring knives. In addition, I have several (really) cheap paring knives, and a serrated utility knife. I sharpen my knives with a steel, sometimes (for old times’ sake) with a stone, and sometimes with this odd-looking thing, (another gift from Sam), which works pretty well.

Would you ever pay $24,000 (or even just $1,850, or $400) for a kitchen knife? What knives have you found best suited to your culinary needs? Do you have a set from one manufacturer, or do you buy the best knife for the purpose? Are kitchen knives a “lifetime commitment” for you, or do you switch brands and try out new ones “as seen on TV!” Have you tried ceramic knives? (I haven’t.) If you have, do they work?

Please share.

**Micarta, according to Wikipedia, is “a brand name for composites of linen, canvas, paper, fiberglass, carbon fiber or other fabric in a thermosetting plastic.” It’s a product that was introduced 1n 1910 by local industrialist George Westinghouse (local if you live near Pittsburgh, as I do), using phenolic resins developed by Leo Baekeland, the Belgian-born chemist who also invented Velox brand photographic paper and Bakelite.

PS: Yes, those are my knives in the photo at the beginning of this post. You can’t see them in the photo, but there’s a pair of kitchen scissors with a pretty interesting story hidden in the block too.

The Cure Is Worse Than the Disease

 

In terms of serious problems being created by COVID-19, the financial and political ramifications of the panic (bankruptcies, lost income, instability in the financial system and the governments misguided attempts to shore it up) are going to be worse than the death toll.

Also, when a more dangerous pandemic comes along (and I believe what I’m told that someday it will) people will be much less likely to take the government’s and the media’s advice seriously. It’s the “boy who cried ‘wolf'” syndrome.

This panicked reaction is doing more harm than good now and sowing the seeds for a bigger disaster in the future.

Learning the Importance of Government

 

It’s hard to know what to make of the Coronavirus pandemic and our response to it. But if I was one of Donald Trump’s advisers (which I wouldn’t be – I’d get fired in about 20 minutes…), I would encourage the President to use this opportunity to explain something to the American public. We’ve had a couple of government shutdowns in recent years, when our ‘leaders’ couldn’t agree on a budget. For the most part, nobody noticed. Life carried on as usual for most of us. Democrats tried closing public parks for a while, hoping that somebody might notice that the government had shut down. But it really didn’t matter all that much.

But now, due to fears of a contagious disease, the private sector has shut down. This is different. When the government stopped spending money, they had to tell us to be sure we knew. But when the private economy stops – when private individuals stop doing business and stop spending money – we, by God, notice. So Trump could just explain, “When we shut down the government, nobody noticed. But when the private economy has a setback, it can be catastrophic to hundreds of millions of people around the world. As long as our private economy is working, everything will be fine. So we should consider cutting anything that limits the private economy. Anything including government. Simple. Let’s use some common sense here.”

Now obviously, it’s more complex than this. Everything has pluses and minuses. For example, empty airports have negatives (the economy has shut down) and positives (nobody is watching CNN anymore). I’m not suggesting that all government is bad and all capitalism is good.

But still, this is a great opportunity to highlight the difference between the importance of government and the importance of capitalism.


A host can live without the parasite, but the parasite cannot live without the host. The private economy, obviously, is the host.

Government is the parasite.

This should be pointed out right now, when it’s particularly obvious.

The negatives of the Coronavirus are horrifying. But perhaps there may be positives, as well. Perhaps we might learn something…

If Saying ‘Wuhan Coronavirus’ Is Racist…

 

…Then what do you say about these diseases:

  1. California Serogroup Viruses / California Encephalitis
  2. Colorado Tick Fever
  3. Coxsackievirus (for the NY town)
  4. Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever
  5. Ebola virus (named for the Ebola River)
  6. Hantavirus (named for the Hantan River)
  7. Japanese Encephalitis
  8. Junin Virus (named for the Argentine city)
  9. Kyasanur Forest Virus
  10. Lassa Fever (named for a village in Nigeria)
  11. Lyme Disease (named for Lyme, CT)
  12. Machupo Virus (named for the Machupo River)
  13. Marburg Virus (named for a German town)
  14. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS – this is also a coronavirus)
  15. Murray Valley Encephalitis (area in Australia)
  16. Nipah Virus (area in Malaysia)
  17. Norwalk Virus, aka norovirus (named for Norwalk, OH)
  18. Omsk Hemorrhagic Fever (named for a Russian city)
  19. Powassan Encephalitis (named for an Ontario city)
  20. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  21. Ross River Virus (river in Australia)
  22. Semliki Forest Virus (in Uganda)
  23. St. Louis Encephalitis
  24. Tularemia (named for Tulare County, CA)
  25. Venezuela Equine Encephalitis
  26. West Nile Virus (de Nile is a river in Egypt)
  27. Zika virus (named for the Zika Forest)

This is just the pathogens off the Pathogen Safety Data Sheets. This is so intensely stupid it leaves me staring in disbelief. Is this OrangeManBad or Chinese cash at work, or are they all just huffing paint?

When This Sick, Ignorance Is No Longer an Option. Or Is It?

 

I suspect this is not going to be about what you think it is. But, please, do continue…

As I continue to press through more wonderful essays by Christopher Hitchens, I came across this little gem in one titled Clive James: The Omnivore from The Atlantic, April 2007 (Page 148):

“In whichever way a democratic system might be sick, terrorism does not heal it; it kills it. Democracy is healed with democracy.” – Virginio Rognoni

As I reflected on the first sentence of that, my mind wandered back to a panel discussion on a weekend Fox Business show hosted by Charles Payne with several (surely very conservative?) guests that I happened to witness in, I believe it was, September 2014. Fortunately, I have access to an unofficial, completely amateur, partial transcript:

Mr. Payne: …Is there a point that you think the government should be able to go to keep us safe?

Guest 1: See, I think I’m different to, when it comes to millennials. I am willing to sacrifice some civil liberties for national security…”

Mr. Payne: What is some?

Guest 1: Well, that’s the thing, though. I like being ignorant to it. I don’t really want to know. I can sleep well at night not knowing all of this stuff. I’d rather not.

Mr. Payne: “What if they know it all? You OK with that?

Guest 1: Yea, but that’s because I’m not doing anything illegal, I’m not doing weird stuff. … I’m really not a threat but if whatever you take from me can help you stop something in the future, fine…

Guest 2: I’m OK with it too. You can look into emails, anything. If I know that when I walk through Times Square every single day to get here that I’m safe, you can look into anything. Is there some embarrassing things in there? Absolutely. But if I’m going to be safe you can do it. And I think millennials need to realize that they’re putting 95% of their stuff freely onto the internet so I think they’re going to be OK with most of it.

Guest 3: Unfortunately, they’re not. I wish they were. It makes me so angry, this issue. We-need-to-be-safe-and-secure. The only way to do it is to have old fashioned spying and now it’s spying with technology

Mr. Payne: Old fashioned spying on ourselves?

Guest 4: Yes, let them spy on us, Charles. Unfortunately, this is the world we live in. Because you are willing to put…and by you I mean whoever…are willing to put your stuff out there you have to be willing to take the risks to be watched because you’re throwing your life on the line by putting it out there. So let them…

Guest 5: I mean listen, I’m not doing anything kooky, go ahead. We all put our information out on Facebook…me not so much…but I know a lot of people. That’s what content generation is all about. So…

Mr. Payne: So the things that you Google…you’re OK. Everything that you put out there…you’re OK with the government…? I think you guys are nuts, a little bit. It’s not about whether you are doing something right or wrong. It’s about liberties that were given to us, particularly in the Constitution. I’m going to tell you, you guys are opening up a door that to something…you’re giving away a right…

Guest 3: Our forefathers, when they wrote that Constitution, didn’t actually know that Al Gore was going to invent the internet, so they didn’t know how to handle it when they wrote the rules. Maybe they would have thought of stuff differently…

Mr. Payne: Well, I think they should check on people that are calling back and forth to Yemen or hot spots in Syria but…I’m worried about this one…

[emphasis added]

Well, at least Mr. Payne appeared to be sane. But clearly, where Mr. Rognoni said “it kills it,” one should read that as, when paired with the proper number of generations deposited from the sphincter of the Comprachicos of the Mind US Department of Education, it induces suicide. Built of ignorance, it becomes a choice.

That brings us to current days and current choices. And, to once again paraphrase Hans Gruber, if you want that choice – life or death of this little experiment in republican democracy – boiled down to the simplest form, “I give you the F-I-S-C.”

Helpful as always, Powerline continues to document the play-by-play in a series titled: We now know: FISA court must go. To great national silence, we are largely missing the story:

…the biggest scandal in American political history. It is a scandal involving a plot to take down a presidential candidate and president. How many FBI and DoJ officials involved in the Russia hoax remain at their desks inside the FBI and the Department of Justice doing their thing? The number should be few, but it would be a service if you would kindly let us know.

So far as we can tell, every one of the four Carter Page FISA warrants relies in substantial part on the Clinton campaign’s Steele Dossier. On their face these warrant applications appear to lack verification of the allegations deriving from the Steele Dossier. Each of the applications is heavily redacted, yet we know that this is the case with respect to the third and fourth applications based on the Horowitz IG report. The first and second applications can’t have been much better. …

Did any of the four judges who signed off on the applications notice? Has the court undertaken a review of its own role in this matter? Again, it would be a service if you would kindly let us know.

…This is not a case in which “mistakes were made,” i’s not dotted and t’s not crossed. The FISA court itself now stands revealed as an accomplice of those involved in the wrongdoing against Carter Page and everyone else whose communications with him were seized under the illegal surveillance authorized by the court. The target was of course Donald J. Trump. What we have here is a theatrical production of the sound and fury variety.

Oh, and did you know that both of your crummy parties are trying to quietly sneak through the reauthorization of this killer of liberty under the smokescreen of virus hysteria? See Rand Paul Is Poised to Scuttle the FISA Law and America Would Be Safer If He Succeeds by Streiff at Red State for details.

While I would have to change the word “significant” to “minor” in the first sentence (I was highly skeptical but generally supportive at the time), I largely agree with his final passages:

I will say this, my opposition to FISA represents a significant walk back of the position I held when it was expanded with the pass of the USA Patriot Act. At that time I could not imagine the Department of Justice and the FBI ever conspiring to directly influence a presidential election. I could not imagine that a federal judge, knowing that the essential liberties of an American citizen were about to be violated, would spend longer reading a McDonald’s menu than reviewing the underlying evidence. In the Army the view most of us held of Military Police officers was “giving a 19-year-old a badge and a gun and telling them to enforce the law is like giving a 3-year-old a can of gas and book of matches.” I should have realized that admonition applied equally to other law enforcement officers who were entrusted with the unbounded authority to investigate whatever the hell they wished to investigate.

This law is too dangerous to the values of the Republic to be allowed to continue in force. We’ve demonstrated that we do not have men and women within Justice, within the FBI, of sufficient character to be given this authority. Rand Paul is right to block its speedy passage. And President Trump would be a fool to not veto it if it should pass.

This deserves more attention. And debate. And a whole lot less of the tried-and-true political process maneuverings of the Ruling Class Managers.

Good Day.

Support for President Trump in the Blue State of Washington

 

The Washington State Primary Election was held Tuesday. Most everyone knows that WA is about as deep blue as it gets. The Secretary of State, a Republican, stated that she would not be voting in the primary, since it required her to declare a party affiliation on the outside of the ballot envelope for everyone to see (gimme a break! She’s a Republican, for crying out loud!).

Ray and I voted our ballots and checked the Republican box. I voted, so President Trump could get an idea of his support out here in the People’s Republic of Washington. I just checked the final election returns, and President Trump garnered 645,000 votes. That’s about the total population of the city of Seattle.

Personally, I think it’s wonderful! I hope it convinces President Trump to give another rally here in Western Washington, and if he does, we’re going!

Oh, and I admit I was wrong — Bernie did not win the Dem primary, Biden did.

Day 54: COVID-19 Pandemic

 

149 countries and counting. Europe is now the epicenter of the virus, replacing China.

News updates at Worldometer.com.

Let’s take a look at some good news:

Here are South Korea’s charts —

Our hope (and expectation) is that the US charts will eventually look like this. The only question is where the peaks will be. If you look at the last column on the main chart for South Korea the cases/million is ~160 when the flattening out is occurring. The US is currently at 7.5 case/million. If our path follows S. Korea then we can expect to have over 50,000 confirmed cases before we get flattening. If S. Korea is flattening then I am calculating their death rate is 1.7% of confirmed cases (current deaths (72) plus daily rate of 5 deaths for next 14 (70) days divided by current reported cases (8,086)). If we can flatten at the 50,000 case point with a 1.7% death rate we will suffer ~850 deaths before the number of cases and daily deaths begin to recede. I don’t know whether any public health official will adopt this line because there are too many variables between what S. Korea and the US can or will do. But S. Korea has the drive thru testing that the President announced yesterday, so we are getting ready to mobilize a response more in line with S. Korea and hopefully will get a similar epidemic pattern (scaled for population) and restore confidence that this is nationally survivable although personal tragedies will occur.

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

The President’s Phenomenal Press Conference on Coronavirus

 

I write this moments after watching the President’s press conference announcing not only a National Emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak and much more far-reaching, in my view, the creation of a Public-Private coalition in order to fight this extremely serious epidemic.

I am writing this now as I am most interested in seeing just how far the Democrat-Media complex will go to try to twist what I just saw with my own eyes into the sadly inevitable next moment when the “walls are closing in” on the President and “he just lost any hope of re-election” in November.

I also write it at this moment immediately after the conclusion of both the press conference and the questions from the press corps to record my, and My Lady’s, impression that it was, in the true sense of the word, a phenomenally successful session in which much-needed positive messages were sent to the American people, not only by the President and Vice President, but by the very impressive Government agency officers such as Dr. Fauci and Ms. Birx but also by the CEOs of major corporations enlisted to help in this critically important effort.

I also use the word phenomenal in another sense, as we both kept remarking at the dramatic improvement in the stock market as the press conference unfolded– sure enough, it turned out to be the largest single-day increase in the stock market in history. We saw, from the time we started watching the press conference to the time it ended, an increase of about 6-7 points in the amount of increase in the numbers. Truly, pardon the repetition, phenomenal!

I am sure we will immediately be hearing from the various Anti-Never-Never-Never Trump outlets why what I just saw with my own eyes was an unmitigated disaster for our President. I, like many of you, I am sure, know that’s coming, like the night follows day, and do not care.

I would, however, be most interested in what you saw and what you thought of it– positive, negative or in between?

God Bless America!

Member Post

 

137 countries now reporting cases, so we a running out of new places for COVID-19 to appear. The screen grab above is from Worldometers.com. I have been copy/pasting in the news updates from that site. But the size has been getting larger and larger as countries and cases increase. So I am rethinking how best […]

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What If Your Favorite Song Didn’t Exist?

 

No, I’m not talking about the plot of that English movie about the Beatles, or the lack thereof. What if you found yourself singing a song from your youth, but no one else remembered it? One day you google to see if your recollection of the lyrics was correct. And the google has nothing.  In fact, the panopticon of the internet has nothing on this song. But you’re convinced it existed.

It’s smart, honest, funny, and as this episode shows, will go above and beyond what any other podcast would do to answer a listener’s query. Minor language warning, but when one of the hosts drops the effenheimer, it’s hard not to agree.

A Child Finds Out About Santa Claus

 

My ten-year-old son figured it out this week. The Easter Bunny too. At our house, we do family Christmas presents on Christmas Eve, then Santa delivers overnight. And on Easter Sunday, the Easter Bunny hides a basket for each kid. That Bunny is sneaky too – I think last Easter it took about 30 minutes of looking before one of the kids found theirs.

He’s been suspicious for a while, but we’ve held him off by saying, “C’mon, do you really think Dad would spend that much on Christmas presents?” – which is a pretty convincing argument in our house.

But my wife was driving him to school the other day, and the following conversation took place:

Jason was talking about us buying him an oboe and said that we bought Michael a sax. I said, “No we rent the Sax. We bought Michael a guitar.” Jason’s eyes got really big, and he sucked in his breath and said “You’re Santa Claus!”
We were both silent for awhile and I said “Would we buy you a 60-gallon fish tank?” and he said “probably not.”

And then this morning:

This morning in the car we had a conversation about Santa, and the Easter Bunny,  and he figured out that both of them are us. About 10 mins go by and he yells…”You knew where the Easter baskets were?!”

So, childhood ends.

I’m a little sad and a little relieved. It was a real pain getting that 60-gallon aquarium up out of the basement Christmas Eve without waking the kids.

Working Up a Playlist for Social Distancing and Self-Quarantine

 

Just to be helpful, and because there was white space in the monthly theme calendar, I give you my first cut at the Social Distancing and Self Quarantine Playlist.

Let’s start off nice and easy, with a tune from those quintessential boys of summer:

Hunkering down in our house? Here’s a bit of silliness from the early 1980s:

Whether home or rolling down the road, you’ll tap your toes:

Dedicated to the Americans trying to get home from Europe, hoping they all are properly screened and properly treated:

Home as a part of us:

Bon Jovi says “this house is not for sale:”

This is still the place we all call home:

From the early 1960s, and the composing team of Gerry Goffin and the incomparable Carole King, a social distancing song:

Now let’s kick up the performance level, with the divine voice of Dionne Warwick on a Burt Bacharach and Hal David number. Just walk on by:

Mr. George Thorogood and the Destroyers are the obvious clean-up hitters:

.

Quote of the Day: The Closing of the American Mind

 

“In looking at [a teen-ager leaving home for the first time] we are forced to reflect on what he should learn if he is to be called educated; we must speculate on what the human potential to be fulfilled is. In the specialties we can avoid such speculation, and the avoidance of them is one of specialization’s charms. But here it is a simple duty. What are we to teach this person? The answer may not be evident, but to attempt to answer the question is already to philosophize and to begin to educate….

“The University has to stand for something. The practical effects of unwillingness to think positively about the contents of a liberal education are, on the one hand, to ensure that all the vulgarities of the world outside the university will flourish within it, and, on the other, to impose a much harsher and more illiberal necessity on the student– the one given by the imperial and imperious demands of the specialized disciplines unfiltered by unifying thought….

“The Cornell plan for dealing with the problem of liberal education was to suppress the students’ longing for liberal education by encouraging their professionalism and their avarice, providing money and all the prestige that the university had available to make careerism the centerpiece of the university….

“It is becoming all too evident that liberal education–which is what the small band of prestigious institutions are supposed to provide, in contrast to the big state schools, which are thought simply to prepare specialists to meet the practical demands of a complex society–has no content, that a certain kind of fraud is being perpetrated.”

— Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students (1987)

I have planned for weeks to quote some passage from Bloom’s phenomenal book, without having decided on which part of the book to focus. Now that universities across the US are shutting down for the foreseeable future or the entire spring semester, I think it’s worth asking what students will lose by taking their courses online. Just the other day Elon Musk was quoted for noting that “you don’t need college to learn stuff.” The online availability of knowledge is free in many cases or can be accessed for relatively little expense compared to a college degree. So what is the purpose of college and what does it mean to be educated? Can universities deliver the kind of education that happens on campus and in classrooms through online learning at a distance? It seems that there must be an undeniable benefit from living among other students and interacting personally with professors because families and students are still spending exorbitant prices for spots at top colleges and universities.

More importantly, are universities actually delivering a worthy education, whatever the method? When I attended a liberal arts university, only a few years after The Closing of the American Mind was published, I was required to take certain courses in the “core” curriculum, as well as two classes in each of the major academic disciplines (Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences). I was not required to take a history course, and I had already fulfilled my language and math requirements with high school AP classes. I recall the experience of reading through the course catalog, thinking that everything sounded interesting. And yet, I did not know what was necessary. As an English major, I took many classes in esoteric areas of literature such as “Literature of Medieval Women,” “Blasphemy” and of course, “Critical Theory.” This was not my mother’s English major, and it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that I followed up my undergraduate degree with a Master’s and later a J.D. I wouldn’t call the pursuit of professional knowledge useless, but it certainly was expensive and time-consuming.

In comparison to my mother’s education, at a big state school, I think mine falls short. With the assistance of Bloom’s insights, I understand that a major shift occurred in the late 1960s. That my parents never quite understand my criticism of my experience stems from the fact that they were fully formed, married adults by 1969. They attended college before the new theories took hold. As those theories have continued to seep into the academy, the purpose of a university education seems increasingly to be navel-gazing rather than pursuit of truth or knowledge. Many students surely take refuge in professional tracks and scientific majors, but what about those students left unmoored in the subjects of the humanities? These appear to be dividing rapidly instead of unifying around our commonalities.

Also, will coronavirus school closures have the unintended result of reducing the negative effects of university attendance, such as alcoholism, depression, micro-aggression-motivated protests, hate crime hoaxes, and the supposed campus rape epidemic? I’ll be interested to see the data when everyone goes back to campus.

For more reflections on Bloom’s book, see Paul A. Rahe’s post on its 30th anniversary, and the symposium at The Public Discourse.

Governor Cuomo Calls Out the Guard: President Trump Should Alert Federal Forces

 

On Tuesday, March 10, Governor Cuomo called out the Guard to combat coronavirus. He did so to provide skilled manpower to disinfect public areas and to deliver meals to people who have been quarantined in their homes in the New Rochelle hot spot.

The deployment comes as experts debate how long the virus can live on solid surfaces, Cuomo said.

“So cleaning those surfaces is very important with the right material and the National Guard will be helpful on that,” Cuomo said.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many troops had been deployed, though some were already on the ground Tuesday afternoon.

New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson said the sight of National Guard troops on his city’s streets is not cause for alarm.

The Guard is being brought in to help with tasks the city can’t do on its own, like distribute food to hundreds of people under quarantine.

While I understand that President Trump might have wisely not included an alert order to the federal reserve and full-time forces in his address to the nation, I remain convinced that he needs to do so publicly and soonest. An alert order is not a mobilization order, rather it is a “start planning and be prepared” order.

Why alert federal military forces? Just in case the National Guard is overwhelmed, either by scope or by duration, where people start getting less effective after so many days in a row of duty. It costs nothing to provide that extra level of manpower assurance to the people of every state. Indeed, President Trump should push his Department of Defense and Public Health Service leaders hard to immediately prepare to move in and impose basic sanitation and public health in Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco. The homeless population is an enormous target of every infectious disease. Everyone knows this and keeps just walking past it. The buck stops at the president’s desk. He has a decades-long passion for making our major cities better, a deep dismay that we accept squaller next to opulence. 

President Trump should announce the alert along with congratulating the DNC on its no-live-audience call for the next debate, which will now be held in the CNN New York studio and not in Arizona, thus eliminating travel exposure.* He should praise the NBA, NCAA, and NHL, and MLB for looking out for the health of their players and fans, while noting the reasonable difference in circumstances for the Professional Golf Association. He should praise universities choosing to go for on-line instruction for at least the first two weeks following Spring Break. Naturally, that praise should be followed by the announcement that he will suspend large scale live rallies until May, consulting our nation’s medical experts before resuming the rallies. He should point forward to a celebration of our nation beating this disease.

As President Trump hinted in his 11 March Oval Office address, China is showing signs of turning the corner. Paul Mirengoff calls our attention to reporting from Asia Times marking movement by China back towards full business activity. Mirengoff concludes:

This may be an overly optimistic assessment, but there is little doubt that China is rebounding faster than one would have predicted a few weeks ago.

This is good news for the American economy and bad news for those Democrats hoping for a recession that will enable them to regain the White House.

The ball now is in America’s court, not China’s. It’s up to America — the administration, state and local officials, private associations, and citizens — to make decisions that will prevent our country from experiencing this epidemic on a massive scale.

The move to stop travel from Europe, along with the economic moves, make good sense, as to a whole series of loosened regulatory restrictions. Now President Trump needs to stretch past his advisers with a couple of eye-catching moves designed to reassure Americans while setting conditions for the very best possible response, limiting casualties and speeding national recovery. He can do so without fear of popular backlash, as John Hinderaker suggests in “Self-Quarantining? Sounds Familiar.”

I think many people are using coronavirus as an excuse for not doing things they didn’t want to do in the first place.

People who may have been exposed to the virus are being urged to self-quarantine, which means staying home and interacting with other people only virtually, or failing that to strive for “social distance,” which means not getting into close physical proximity with others. A great many people are self-quarantining, in part because they have been liberated by their employers to do so. But isn’t staying home and interacting with other people only virtually pretty much where we have been headed for the last 20 years?

Why go out? You can save a lot of money cooking at home, you’ve got a giant flat-screen TV (or several), there is beer in the fridge, you would rather spend time with your wife and kids than attend boring business or social events. So why not stay home? To the extent you want to keep in touch with other people, you can do it via email and text. You can post photos on Instagram to let them know what you are up to (i.e., staying home). You can Face Time, Tic Tok, or whatever. “Social distance” is much what most of us are increasingly used to. Why risk personal contact?

President Trump should praise the gig economy and our amazing ability to deliver anything and everything to people at home. He should ensure the Task Force gives specific guidance to delivery services for customers who are self-quarantining. Get the big delivery service players, including Amazon, on a teleconference to get violent agreement on the best practices.


* Of course, if the coronavirus doesn’t get you, a rabid coyote might! The same local source reporting the change in debate location featured this story on the sidebar:

Arizona Game and Fish is reporting a resident of Sun City in Oro Valley was bitten on the leg by a suspected rabid coyote on the afternoon of Thursday, March 12.

AZ Game and Fish says a man was working on his car at his home when the incident happened. He was later treated at a local hospital.

The suspected coyote (pictured above) can be described as mangy, in poor condition and is likely still in the area according to AZ Game and Fish.

Keep your head on a swivel, be aware of your environment.

If You’re a Cop You Have to Tell Me

 

An inability to reliably sleep has made me very familiar with late-night television. Most of it is junk, but I’ve kinda gotten into the true crime genre. I like reading mysteries but when you’re trying to fall asleep you don’t want to ward off the urge for slumber by noting that the chapter you are reading only has seven more pages. I end up fending off sleeping to find a good bookmark point. I can fall asleep mid-“Forensic Files” and not think twice about it. Insomnia’s best friend is a good book. I’ll take the idiot box.

I’ve recently developed an affinity for a show called “Homicide Hunter.” It streams on Discovery ID and there are a lot of episodes so it’s an easy and, at this point reflexive, effort to tune in in the wee hours. The host or star is a fellow from Colorado Springs named Lt. Joe Kenda. He’s pleasant to listen to, kind of what I would imagine Jay Nordlinger to be like if he was jaundiced by spending his days dealing with crime scenes, dead bodies, and people who make all manner of horrid decisions.

Watching these shows, I am continually struck by something. The police, in mufti, show up at people’s doors, identify themselves by showing a badge, and then are allowed entry into the home. I don’t know about you, but I’ve no idea what my local police department’s, or any of the surrounding department’s actually, badges look like.

If someone comes to my door wearing a relatively inexpensive suit, claims to be a detective, and flashes a badge, am I within my rights to say hold on until I verify that you are what you say you are? I wouldn’t know a Birmingham or FBI badge from a Homewood badge from a novelty toy that came in a box of Captain Crunch in the late eighties.

I don’t know what a warrant looks like either. In the absence of a patrol car parked on the curb, I wouldn’t want to let a stranger into my house without knowing that they are who they say they are.

Obviously a Manafort style raid lets you know that the cops are here, but do I have to answer personal questions from a plainclothes guy at my doorstep because he possesses unfamiliar credentials?

In my mind, I should be able to say “Fine. I don’t doubt that you are who you say you are but I feel like I should be able to make a phone call confirming your identity before I start providing you with information.”

If there are any police officers that read the site I’d like to know your thoughts and your probable reactions.