Member Post

 

Normally I would rant on this day about how I hate what this day has become. However today it would be in bad taste. Ireland is completely shut down. No tourists, no drunks, no Mass goers, no fan of any sports. Instead everyone was to remain indoors. The government here has ensured a de facto […]

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Times Like These

 

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

So here we are, in a big pandemic, or depending on who you talk to, pandemic scare. Or we are in between someplace. I fall into that middle camp. What I can say is that America has faced far worse in the past, and I know we will emerge from this as well. We will be different, in some ways good, and in some ways bad.

The quote above was written by a man who watched his young friends die in the trenches of WWI. I’ll take his acceptance of life as it is, married to a quiet faith the good people can make a difference over falling to panic, or falling into scorn over the panic of others.

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”

My Three Grodiest Jobs

 

I’ve always thought that the poor souls in Hell who are forced to wash Satan’s notoriously foul rear end surely have the worst job ever. (I’ve forgotten the Biblical citation for the passage in which these ablutions occur. You’ll have to trust me on this.) Even Satan’s most hard-hearted demons — those who are able to oversee, without breaking into tears, those poor souls who are forced to watch an endless loop of Nancy Pelosi’s speeches — feel compassion for the Rear Enders (their official job classification).

Their job is made worse because Satan is literally the boss from Hell. “You missed three dingleberries!” the Evil One would scream in that irritatingly screechy voice of his. “Use some elbow grease, minions!”

I’ve never had a job quite as bad as the Rear Enders, but I’ve had three that come close.

Setting dynamite. On a summer break from college, my job for a Eugene, OR, explosives company was to drag dynamite, crammed into wooden boxes, into a tunnel that was dug into the side of a hill. (The company was blowing up the hill for its gravel.) I didn’t know it when I signed on, but working around dynamite, especially in closed spaces, gives a person a splitting headache. So there I was, a pampered college student on my hands and knees, dragging heavy boxes of dynamite down a cramped tunnel, all the while suffering from a pounding headache. College life never looked so good when school started back up again.

Setting pins in a bowling alley. For a few years in the 1950s, I set pins, usually in the summers, in a small eight-lane bowling alley in Compton, CA. It was loud back there in the pits, hot as the dickens, and physically demanding. In the course of an eight-hour shift, I would lift approximately 8,400 pounds of pins (at 3.5 lbs a pin) to distribute among the chutes in the rack. I would sometimes go home with bruises on my shins, the result of pins ricocheting off the sides of the pit and into my legs.

Digging a slit trench latrine in the Army. While on bivouac in Germany, my buddy, Richard Marino, and I, both Privates, were “volunteered” by our First Sergeant to dig a 20-foot-long trench for a latrine in hard soil. Ditch-digging beneath a hot sun had an influence on me in one important way: I removed ditch-digging from my list of potential careers.

There was one upside to the task: After we had dug the trench, it was mildly entertaining to watch my fellow soldiers — some of whom had laughed while I was digging the ditch — as they squatted precariously on a horizontal pole suspended out over the ditch, their bums on display before the world. You can be sure that I indulged in some sweet schadenfreude as I contemplated that sight. Until it was my turn.

Have you ever had a job that was tougher and more grody than mine? I didn’t think so, namby pambies.

Helping Others Struggling During the Quarantine

 

I’ve been part of several conversations, now, that touch upon (or pound upon, depending) the deleterious economic effects of measures being taken and/or recommended to limit the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus. Whether or not these measures are too much, too little, or just right — and whether or not we’ll ever know how close we came to hitting the sweet spot — I am both persuaded that Wuhan is a serious threat and very aware of the risk to the economy that the attempt to slow rates of infection is causing. Friends, neighbors, and even my own children are already feeling the effects, and the damage to their financial well-being may take a very long time to repair, if it can be repaired at all.

I’d point out that, for those of us who are relatively less affected, because we’ve got gummint jobs, gobs of money in the bank, or a relatively impervious retirement fund, Wuhan provides an opportunity for charity in the best sense of the word. Here are a few of my ideas — I’d welcome yours as well!

  1. Increase the amount of non-perishable food you give to the food pantry (and maybe throw in a roll or two of the World’s Most Precious Commodity while you’re at it!)
  2. If there are funds set up to relieve the plight of the local unemployed, contribute.
  3. If you’re still going to restaurants, tip very, very generously. That goes for pizza guy, taxi guy, the porter at the hotel you’re risking a visit to, and the person who cuts your hair, paints your toenails, takes care of your kids or otherwise occupies him/herself with the up-close-and-personal services that are so quickly abandoned at times like these.
  4. Use the telephone — remember that instrument? — to  chat with shut-ins, who are more “shut-in” than ever these days. A human voice is a better substitute for in-person contact than a text message.
  5. Offer to pick up groceries for older or frailer neighbors,  and deliver items in single-use kitchen trash bags, not those germy reusable ones!

What else can we do, friends?

Member Post

 

Corona is now a fixable problem. … Chloroquine can prevent and treat coronavirus in primate cells (Figure 1 and Figure 2). According to South Korean and China human treatment guidelines, chloroquine is effective in treating COVID-19. Given chloroquine’s human safety profile and existence, it can be implemented today in the U.S., Europe and the rest […]

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Member Post

 

On Monday evening, Governor Sununu issued an Emergency Order prohibiting, among other things, church services and sporting events, and banning “onsite consumption” at bars and restaurants, until at least April 7. He did so invalidly, without authority, and in clear violation of the constitutions of the United States and New Hampshire. Whether it will be […]

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How Much Does Dr. Fauci Really Care?

 

Dennis Prager spoke the hard truth Monday morning: Dr. Fauci is a lifelong government employee with a salary and benefits package perfectly insulated from the economic consequences of his words. He has absolutely no skin in the game. If Dr. Fauci truly believes it is necessary to put hourly workers, waiters, bartenders, and small businesses out of work, destroying them economically, then let him and the head of the CDC ante up.

Dr. Fauci’s easiest path is completely shutdown of our economy, doing maximum damage to people who were just starting to see real success and a brighter future. He can claim noble motives, even as he seeks to avoid blame for early failures. Words of concern and supposed sympathy tripping off a career bureaucrat’s lips ring hollow and are bitter to those he ruins.

So, President Trump needs to put this to the coronavirus crew immediately, giving them the chance to volunteer giving up their salaries until the federal guidelines no longer limit American jobs. Then, if they push back, he needs to drop it on them in front of the cameras. Let’s all see their real faces and real positions when they are made to live with the real consequences of their words.

We have already seen Dr. Fauci tripped up on his own words today. He pushed for schools to be closed, but then stumbled over himself as a real reporter asked why daycare centers would be open, since the reason for shutting schools applies to daycare. He finally acknowledged the obvious and left the microphone with “we’ll look at that again.”

President Trump can do this in the context of virtuous examples from professional sports, where team owners are promising to keep paying people who work their home venues, to protect them from the consequences of stopping games. This is the way Americans respond to hard times. Rudy Gobert has already pledged over $500,000 to his home arena workers and others. He is the NBA player who was the unlucky first to be found infected. Here in Arizona, one of the two major utility companies just announced they will not shut off anyone’s power or charge interest until this government made economic catastrophe ends. Time for Fauci to put his paycheck where his mouth is.

If Dr. Fauci and the rest of the crew face real economic pain right now, and suddenly have to worry about paying bills in the months ahead, then they will be motivated to truly act in the real public interest. This may not change their recommendations, but it will certainly go a long way towards buying them credibility with a public they lecture and chide about being serious. This is of a piece with governors ordering restaurants and bars closed, while keeping their party’s primary election on schedule for this week. Everyone can see the obvious contradictions. Those governors should lead by example.* Their salaries, along with Dr. Fauci’s should all go to direct economic relief for the smallest businesses and most economically vulnerable workers.


* President Trump was too sharp to fall for a White House press-member asking him to call on governors to postpone elections. This would immediately turn into claims of dictatorship and plans to cancel the November election, when the latest coronavirus might be back.

She’s Different

 

She’s a member of JROTC, is Alpha Company Commander, excelled in statewide competitions, played soccer, was a cheerleader, and is a public speaker.

And she has no arms.

Donavia “Angel” Walker was born with bilateral amelia, an extremely rare condition. She learned early the importance of tenacity and self-reliance; her mother told her when she struggled, “If you’re not going to do it, then it’s not going to get done.” When she decided to join JROTC in her freshman year at Winter Haven High School in Florida, Senior Army Instructor, retired Sgt. Maj. Rudy Carter commented, “When she walked through the door, from day one I’m like, ‘Man, if she stays here I can make a leader out of her.’”

And he has stood by her all the way.

In addition to being a cadet captain, she has repeatedly demonstrated her determination:

Walker has taken part in statewide competitions through her high school career. The large collection of trophies in the school’s JROTC room includes one she earned for second place for — appropriately — female unarmed squad.

Carter now uses Walker as a recruiter for the program. Students who walk the hallway outside the JROTC room will see an oversized, cardboard image of a smiling Walker in her uniform, along with the message, ‘JOIN JROTC! NO ARMS NEEDED!’

Although they have made some accommodations for her, some of those sound more difficult than the regular requirements!

Carter and his assistant, retired Sgt. First Class Ron O’Bryon, employ some modifications for Walker. For example, when other cadets do pushups during drills, she does squats. Walker can carry a rifle holstered over her shoulder, though as a squad commander she marches and gives orders to other cadets.

Walker gives Carter foot taps in lieu of salutes or handshakes.

Last summer, Walker joined cadets from throughout Florida at the JROTC Cadet Leadership Challenge at Camp Flaming Arrow in Lake Wales. She insisted on doing most of the available activities, such as rappelling up a 40-foot tower, doing archery and taking part in Navy SEAL-style training.

‘That was so much fun, rolling around in the dirt,’ she said.

Walker even did pushups, using her head as a balancing point.

For anyone questioning the goals and expectations of JROTC, participants are not required to join the military after high school, nor is it a military preparation class:

‘That is not the mission of JROTC at all; the mission is to prepare children to become better citizens,’ says retired Maj. Trina Tilque, an Army JROTC instructor at Statesville High School in North Carolina.

For a description of JROTC, in the US and all over the world, go here.

Angel Walker has inspired many students by her courage and leadership. She has amazing dexterity and can do almost anything with her feet, from eating, tying her shoes, brushing her teeth, and even driving a car.

Carter made this comment about her as Angel plans to graduate and go to college:

‘It’s sad, but I’ve been very fortunate and blessed that I was a part of it,’ he said. ‘It’s one thing to have a student who transforms the program; it’s another thing to have one who really changes the world.’

In a world when young people crave safe spaces and make their demands known, it’s reassuring to see a diminutive 5’2″ woman not only holding her own but who insists on making a difference.

Sometimes It Takes a Crisis

 

Sometimes it takes a crisis to make a problem obvious. In this case, the COVID-19 testing debacle has made it clear that we have a serious problem with regulatory agencies. Specifically, we’ve allowed those agencies to think that they are in charge of the area that they regulate.

For those who missed it, the New York Times had a very illuminating article last week about the reasons why the US has seen significant delays in testing for the COVID-19 virus. The short version is that the CDC and FDA were the cause of the problem. Existing regulations prevented tests from being developed outside of CDC-approved research labs and without FDA approvals. Regulators refused to allow any exceptions to these regulations, even when it was clear that community transmission of the virus was occurring and we needed to drastically increase the scale of our testing. By the time that the exceptions were finally allowed, the CDC developed test had been shown to be deficient and precious weeks had been lost in the battle against the virus.

The CDC and FDA regulations were created with the best of intentions, and one can argue that under normal circumstances they were not only beneficial but necessary. That the only problem was the failure of the bureaucrats to concede ground in their ongoing turf wars and waive requirements in the face of an emergency. One can argue that, but one would be wrong. Even if it were true that the current regulations work fine in ordinary times and only become overly burdensome in an emergency (it’s not), the delay that inevitably occurs when there is an emergency is reason enough to change the model. We should use the same rules both in and out of emergencies. However beneficial the FDA and CDC (and every other regulatory agency) might be, and however pure their intentions, they base their regulations on the presumption that they are in control of the area they regulate. We need to change that.

Regulatory agencies often require that everyone involved in an activity obtain their approval before proceeding. In this case, labs couldn’t do COVID-19 testing until they proved to the FDA that their test was valid. But that’s exactly backward of how it should work. The burden shouldn’t be on the labs to prove to the FDA that their tests work, the burden should be on the FDA to prove that a lab’s tests don’t work. Labs are free to start testing as soon as they can roll out a valid test. The FDA can then focus their efforts on preventing frauds and charlatans from taking advantage of the crisis instead of wasting time on checking over (and therefore delaying) perfectly good tests.

This is the paradigm that should be used across all regulatory agencies. The government doesn’t rule over every area it regulates. Agencies aren’t the ultimate authority. All they should do is make sure everyone is playing by the same rules. I can already hear the good government types screaming about anarchy and the wild west. That’s not what I’m advocating. Let the agencies establish some minimum standards that have to be met and consequences for fraud. But the burden still has to be on the agencies to prove that the standards aren’t met. Everyone is free to participate in a market, and the agencies can prosecute those who fail to meet minimum standards.

We have surrendered too much of our freedom to the government. The ongoing crisis should show us the dangers of that and guide us in restoring our liberty. This is not some hypothetical scenario or libertarian fantasy about the damage of over-regulation. This is the real world and real people are going to die because the CDC and FDA regulations prevented us from clearly seeing the dangers of this virus. Too many people, both in and out of government, doubted the severity of the situation and refused to take action until it was too late to save those lives. We need to act now to reform our bureaucracy and return control of our lives to where it belongs – in our own hands.

Working Oneself to Death

 

This little missive provoked a lot of likes in the running commentary we call the PIT at Ricochet.

I was poking fun at the nature of many of my fellow engineers, for whom the uncertainty of a steadfastly predictive universe meets at that boundary of surety. By nature, I would venture to submit that engineers are more comfortable with a Newtonian view of the universe, tolerates when it gets Einsteinian, and go bonkers when Heisenberg starts babbling on about cats in boxes.

I claim that I share that tribal instinct, and during the course of my career, I have witnessed just how far that can go. But it requires a bit of background.

As an upcoming engineer, I was tasked to support the development of a new generation of remote sensing instruments. There was considerable analytic uncertainty, which plagued all academic attempts to model our global climate. NASA was the logical government agency to determine the consensus of what data is needed, and develop orbital sensors to make what eventually boiled down to 17 critical data sets. I’m a mechanical engineer by training and probably also by mindset, with my expertise in thermodynamics and heat transfer, which is space is already a bit of boutique specialization. To be effective I had to understand other disciplines to be effective in my design decisions, and instrument development requires a lot of give-and-take between all of the disciplines to get something to work.

Part of my education (because we are always learning well after the formal college degree, right?) came with learning the nature of imaging things in wavelengths not in the visible spectrum. Lots of interesting physical processes that affect weather and climate occur in the infrared wavelengths, and the physics of photon sensitive materials requires that they be held at cold temperatures. So my job focus became, how do we get those imaging materials cold on orbit. Given that space is cold (the Universe’s background temperature, leftover from the big bang is around 4 degrees Kelvin—in Fahrenheit, a toasty 452 degrees below zero), how hard is it to tap into the infinite sink of cold to chill our detectors?

Water freezes at 273K, and I feel miserable when it is less than 293K (20C or ~70F). Most of the electronics we use operate at shirt-sleeve temperatures, and we need various electrical systems to extract the photons collected on the detector materials which are happy around 80K. Remote sensing is the counting of those photons, turning them into electrons, aligning them in time and space and producing an image of wavelength-specific recordings as the spacecraft carrying all of those instruments circles the earth. The heat from those electronics wants to conductively and radiatively migrate to a cooled detector, because all of these systems (detectors, their optical components, and their counting electronics) need to use minimal power, be packaged tightly, and weigh as little as possible for the trip to orbit.

I was not the first guy to come to this set of requirements, and there are two ways to cool a detector (colloquially called a Focal Plane Assembly, FPA). One is old school, using a radiant cooler (i.e., something that looks at the deep cold of space to exchange its heat) or the second way: more commonly we now use a mechanical refrigerator, which in the 1990s was in its infancy for space flight applications. One of my jobs (should you accept this assignment Mr. Phelps) was to develop an in-depth understanding of this radiant cooler technology and scale it up to the large multi-wavelength FPA’s that were envisioned for doing global measurements. Sounds straightforward and simple right? Well, certain physical aspects work against the idea of scaling up.

Everything that houses the instrument’s FPA radiator, which is pointing at deep space, has its own temperature and is going to be warmer than that radiator, and the design task is shunting unwanted heat away from the cooler’s coldest radiator and the FPA’s. Low earth orbits are needed for global monitoring. This avoids huge systems of optical elements and eliminates multiple heat sources. Beyond the internal instrument heat sources, is the sun (which is why we are warm and there is life on earth), the reflection of the sun off the top of the atmosphere, and the IR radiation from the surface of the earth (everything that has a temperature above absolute zero radiates heat) all heat the outside of the instrument. Most radiant cooler designs have a system of “shields” that keep direct impingement of those environmental sources off the radiator. The shields themselves have a temperature, warmer than the FPA’s radiator, and thus become a source of unwanted heat. A mirror-like shield surface can minimize that heat but it has to near perfect (99.9% specular is great, 99.5% is good, but 98% specular forget it, you’re done, too much returned energy). The FPA’s, and all of the radiant cooler’s shields have to be located and conductively isolated from the rest of the instrument. Isolating mounting materials tend to be exotic, brittle, and have very limited conductive measurement data.

At the time I was learning this technology only a few commercial or governmental sources had successfully developed and demonstrated these devices. In a pre-computer analytical modeling era, designing was done with line-of-sight drawings, hand calculators, and tables to determine the “view factors” for the radiant heat exchange between the various physical elements comprising the radiant cooler.

The typical engineering approach to designing anything new is to build in measures of conservative assumptions to deal with uncertainty. Unfortunately, the standard design approach to orbit thermal design philosophy would mean the radiant cooler could never be demonstrated on paper to work. The very small quantities of heat energy you are designing around are difficult to measure. Most instruments consume tens to perhaps a couple of hundred watts. An entire spacecraft will have perhaps a total budget of 2,000 watts. The radiant cooler is managing a budget of 0.040 to 0.060 watts for an FPA, and then absorbing and rejecting all the parasitic heat leaks from every source of heat outlined above.

Scaling up a radiant cooler increases those radiant heat loads exponentially. The growth in mass of the radiator makes all conductive isolation points get bigger in a non-linear fashion as well. Accurate simulation space on the ground is difficult (as well as expensive) and getting close to impossible when one is looking at demonstrating operational temperatures below 100K. The error bars involved with testing will affect the certainty of a cooler design.

Over the course of a year or two, I was immersed in this educational process while I was working with the engineers at a small firm in Southern California called SBRC. I was thick in the designing of substantial modifications for a design that they had demonstrated with reasonable success on the first few Landsat missions. By the mid-’90s the newer thermal analytic tools we were using gave us some confidence that we could run tighter into the “design box”, and add enhancements from the original radiant cooler they had, but it was seriously frustrating dealing with the physical unknowns.

To mitigate the risks, we built an engineering model which included our modification ideas, but did not include everything once the cooler was integrated into the instrument. Our test was fairly close to the modeling results we predicted, even a tad better than expected. However, when this engineering model was integrated with an FPA and installed into the engineering model of the whole instrument it failed… big time.

This became an intense situation. The engineer who was leading up the internal radiant cooler design work left the company after the engineering model test because a corporate merge would have relocated his young family to Los Angeles–not acceptable to him. I was left trying to explain to his management how to determine what our issues were, but it would take a few weeks of valuable (and expensive) thermal vacuum tank time. The Project Manager, an old Air Force veteran, did not like this bit of reality: The physics limitations of his instrument’s performance. He declared this was unacceptable and dressed me down for “playing research in his chamber”. I offered to bow out and let his team resolve this, which given the size and scope of this company was not possible. At this point, in front of the remaining mechanical engineers responsible for the radiant cooler, he dressed me down in four-letter words typical of certain military situations and stormed from the room. The poor souls whose professional lives would be miserable if I left asked me if I was serious about leaving. I said no, but I saw no other way to find out what changes were introduced from installing the radiant cooler into the instrument that substantially increase the unexpected heat energy. They quietly agreed to run my tests without informing the PM, as long as I did not pull a “Dana.”

What is a Dana?

Dana was the young, single engineer who originally designed the cooler we were modifying. He faced long hours over the course of a couple of years, all of the uncertainty I described with this class of thermal devices, and without the analysis tools we had to further limit our uncertainties. One night after instrument-level thermal vacuum testing, the ambiguity of the whole process and his personal investment in making this work was too much. He did not want to wait and see how it would perform when it reached orbit and the possible failure of his efforts. So after a late night at the office, he was driving to his home in the San Ynez Valley, stopped at the bridge over the Cold Spring Creek in the San Ynez mountains and jumped. The uncertainly literally ate away his ability to reason rationally.

As agitated as I was between not knowing what was happening to “My Cooler” which per the PM I inherited earlier that day, and the boiling pot of this instrument being behind schedule, as well as heading to over budget territory, I did not think I was going to pull the plug. Eventually, between some in-situ tests, and some forensics of what parts were introduced since the earlier successful assembly-level test, I was able to figure out what other folks introduced that increased the heat loads.

Six months later after the instrument was done and delivered, I was back in my pen at GSFC. My branch head asked me to sit in on a meeting with the corporate heads of A.D. Little, one of our vendor sources, who also builds the occasional radiant cooler. At the meeting, the VP and head of engineering wanted to know if we had any prospective business for their radiant cooler products. Given the nature of how we contract, and until a program has a need, we could not give any assurance, nor guarantee they would be selected.

They then informed us that it was a product line they were going to discontinue since their only thermal engineer who picked up the radiant cooler design mantle from the original designers from the 1960s hung himself in his living room. Seems the work dynamics of his specialty, and possibly some home issues, made him pull his plug.

There are probably fewer than ten active engineers in the US over the last twenty-five years who have design and development experience with this class of thermal device. Two out of less than a dozen seems a bit high for a self-inflicted mortality rate.

There is an air of gallows humor with those who come into this orbit when contemplating incorporating a radiant cooler into their instrument design. We need to remind ourselves not to focus on only the uncertainty the universe has for our prescriptive natures, and to chance a look at the cat that is in that box, and cross our fingers he is still alive.

Member Post

 

Though @GaryRobbins may have parroted this, proposed as it was by Joe Biden, let’s hope we do not need the military’s aid in our response to the COVID 19 pandemic. If it comes to that, a catastrophic result shall certainly have already occurred. But we have not yet reached such a catastrophe and are in […]

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Hospital Beds Are Not the Only Good!

 

Allowing a single priority to trump all others is a recipe for craziness. Health is important, but if we prioritize any one thing to the exclusion of all others then the results can be quite destructive. Imagine, for example, if we decided that auto accidents must be stopped at all costs, which we can do by banning all use of cars. The consequences of such an approach would end civilization as we know it.

Nobody wants our hospitals to be overwhelmed. But that is hardly the only “good” that we should be trying to maximize. Poverty also kills, and closing all schools and many businesses is a sure way to hammer people for whom food and heat and medicine are luxuries.

We must balance the goods to the extent that we can. If we do not, then the murders, suicides, poverty-related deaths, and numerous other woes that come from shutting down society will cause far, far more damage than Corona.

In hindsight, this crisis will make the Tulip Mania seem sane. It is proof that smart people are not necessarily any wiser than your average toadstool.

Suddenly, Hope

 

When Moses led his people from Egypt and across desert, the miracles that freed them felt so distant when thirst lingered under the hot desert sun

Here, then, in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “Why then did you bring us up out of Egypt? To have us die of thirst with our children and our livestock?”

So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? A little more and they will stone me! 

The people had grown so desperate and intemperate that Moses feared them. 

[….] Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink. Moses did this, in the sight of the elders of Israel.

The place was named Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled there and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD in our midst or not?”

They longed for water, but there was none to be found. Suddenly, from nothing, water sprang and hope was restored. The people’s salvation was not in sight, but in faith. 

The Lord accomplishes much through the regular and mundane actions of people. Our societies are rightly bustling with activity to defend against and conquer the virus. But hope begins with prayer, remembering He who brings life from nothing. If we must suffer long before the remedy, it is a familiar trial. 

My parish has initiated 24-hour adoration (prayer beside the tabernacle) for the foreseeable future. I’m sure ours is not the only renewal of dedication.

 

Comparative Coronavirus Case Growth

 

Yesterday morning, our friend Kozak posted a comment about Coronavirus case growth by country. It included a chart showing case growth in a number of Western nations (Italy, Germany, France, US, Switzerland, UK, and Japan), but not including S. Korea. His impression was that “[w]e are on the exact same trajectory as Italy,” and noted that “Korea quickly moved to identify and isolate cases and do aggressive contact tracing to limit the spread of the disease. As a result, they kept their medical system from being overwhelmed.”

I was skeptical of this, so I did a bit of data analysis on my own. I will copy the graph from Kozak’s comment later on, but I don’t want to bias your impression. My contention is that, at present, it is not possible to tell whether we are on the (somewhat troubling) path of Italy or the (much more reassuring) path of S. Korea.

I did not find daily data for Switzerland, but I was able to easily find it at the Worldometer site (here) for other relevant countries. My methodology was to start data reporting on the first day in which each country reported over 200 cases. The countries, and dates on which they exceeded 200 cases, are as follows:

  • S. Korea — 209 total cases on Feb. 21
  • Italy — 229 total cases on Feb. 24
  • Germany — 203 total cases on Mar. 3
  • France — 212 total cases on Mar. 3
  • Spain — 228 total cases on Mar. 4
  • US — 221 total cases on Mar. 5
  • UK — 209 total cases on Mar. 7

Here is the graph, by country, for the first 10 days.  Note that this graph uses a logarithmic scale, as did the one posted by Kozak (still to come).

Notice that all six countries follow a very similar pattern. There is little difference, over this period, between S. Korea (medium blue) and Italy (orange), and the US (green) is quite similar to both.

The US is only 9 days into this analysis, with 3,110 reported cases. At 9 days in, S. Korea was at 3,736 reported cases, and Italy was at 3,089.

Accordingly, I contend that based on reported cases to date, it is not possible to determine whether the US is following the trajectory of Italy or the trajectory of S. Korea.

Kozak is correct to note the difference between the experience of Italy and S. Korea.  Here is the full graph, through the latest case reports for yesterday (Mar. 14), though I’m switching to a linear scale for this graph:

In S. Korea, there are 22 days of information since it first passed 200 reported cases on Feb. 21, while in Italy, there are 19 days of information since it passed 200 reported cases on Feb. 24.

Note that the linear scale properly displays the significant rate of growth in total cases, especially in Italy.  It has the disadvantage of stretching the vertical scale, making it more difficult to distinguish between the various countries at the early stages of the spread of the WuFlu.

Notice the rapid rise of WuFlu in Spain (light blue).  Spain appears to be on a trajectory significantly higher than any of the other countries included in this graph.  If this trend continues, it would not be surprising if the focus of news coverage switches from Italy to Spain in the next few days.

Based on my (admittedly limited) research in the area, epidemiologists generally expect the number of cases to follow an “S-curve.”  The S. Korean figures follow this curve — an initial, rapid increase that appears to show exponential growth, but reaches an inflection point, after which the rate of increase declines and approaches an asymptote.  For many such S-curves, the inflection point appears to occur at about half the level of the asymptote.

For S. Korea in particular, the inflection point appears to have occurred around Day 11 or 12 (Mar. 3 or 4), when the total number of cases were 5,186 and 5,621, respectively.  This suggests that S. Korea’s asymptote will be around 10,000 to 11,000.

With this explanation, here is the graph posted by our friend Kozak yesterday (here, comment #21).  Again, I emphasize that this is not Kozak’s graph, but is (presumably) something that he found online:

I have several criticisms of this graph.  First, notice that it does not include S. Korea, but does include Japan.  Inclusion of S. Korea — as shown in my initial graph above — demonstrates that the other countries are on a trajectory that cannot be distinguished from that of Italy or S. Korea.  However, the inclusion of Japan gives an inaccurate impression that the progression of the WuFlu in Europe is significantly different than in Asia.  This impression would have been eliminated by the inclusion of S.Korea in the graph.

Second, note the inclusion of a “33% daily increase” line.  This line is characteristic of exponential growth.  Notice that it appears to be a straight line on this graph, because of the logarithmic scale.

Third, note that this graph includes data only through Mar. 9.  This is not inherently deceptive.  To the contrary, I assume that the graph was prepared around Mar. 10 or 11, with the latest data available.

However, the design of the graph above gives the inaccurate impression that ongoing, 33% daily growth is what we should expect from WuFlu.

This is not true even of Italy — though through Mar. 9, and especially if we use a logarithmic scale, it appears to be pretty accurate, as shown by the graph on the right.

I have calculated the daily growth rates for reported WuFlu cases in Italy, over the past 22 days, with the following averages:

  • Feb. 24-Feb. 29 (5 days): Daily increase 37.5%
  • Feb. 29-Mar. 5 (5 days):  Daily increase 27.9%
  • Mar. 5-Mar. 10 (5 days): Daily increase 21.3%
  • Mar. 10-Mar. 14 (4 days): Daily increase 20.2%

Note the decline in the percentage rate of increase, which is what we would expect from an S-curve, but not what we would expect from an exponential curve.

If you’ve read this far, I thank you for your attention.  The big reveal is coming.

Looking at the last couple of graphs: the one from Kozak’s comment, and mine, both seeming to show that a 33% daily increase is a reasonable projection for the growth of WuFlu in Italy — and, by extension, for the US and other countries.  But here is how the 33% daily increase graph compares with the actual number of reported cases in Italy through yesterday, Mar. 14, using a linear scale:

See the problem?

An estimated growth rate that seemed perfectly reasonable just 5 days earlier, particularly when viewed on a logarithmic scale, is revealed to be completely wrong.

The estimate for Mar. 14 for Italy, using the 33% daily growth model, is 51,644 cases.  The actual number of reported cases in Italy, as of Mar. 14, was 21,157.

Thus, the 33% daily growth model, suggested by the graph posted just yesterday by Kozak, is already overstating cases in Italy by 144%, just 5 days later.

I want to emphasize, again, that my goal is not to pick on Kozak.  We have very poor information about what is going on, and this seems true even for medical providers.

I have very little idea how the WuFlu is going to progress.  I am quite confident that it will not progress with ongoing 33% daily increases, as shown in the graph on the left.

Just eyeballing this graph, and assuming that the number of cases is going to follow an S-curve, it appears that Italy is probably pretty close to its inflection point.  If today is the inflection point, we’d expect a total of about 40,000-45,000 cases.  Perhaps it will be a bit higher, both in Italy and elsewhere.

As noted previously, I’m particularly concerned about Spain, if its present trend continues.

It would be helpful if the authorities would release some sort of reasonable projections.  What we are getting are “worst-case scenario” projections — like this from Dr. James Lawler at an American Hospital Association webinar on Feb. 27, projecting 96 million cases and 480,000 deaths in the US, or this reporting yesterday on a CDC projection of 160-214 million cases over the next year in the US, and 200,000 to 1,700,000 deaths.

What I worry about is that these projections are like the 33% increase projection debunked above with respect to Italy.

Time will tell, I suppose.  God bless, everyone, and fear no darkness.

Finding Something Positive in the Pandemic

 

Not everything associated with the COVID-19 panic is bad. In fact, some aspects of our reaction to this virus are excellent and a long time in coming.

The Sign of the Peace suspended: When the Catholic Church adopted its Vatican II changes to make the Sunday Mass more friendly and inclusive, they introduced the entire Christian world to the “sign of the peace.” Wannabe protestant sects like the Methodists and Congregationalists followed suit and soon nearly every church, Episcopals, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and even some Baptists, had set aside a few minutes during each Sunday service so people could roam around the sanctuary seeking another’s hand to shake. In the more progressive churches, like the United Church of Christ or their cousins, the Unitarians, a handshake was often not enough. For them, the “Sign of the Peace” time soon devolved into an all-out, half-hour, hug-fest.

If this were not bad enough, (Do I dare mention this? Of course!) older, or shall we say, seasoned women, who demographically make up the majority of churchgoers, seem to have a problem with dry hands, among other age-related issues. To remedy this problem, they must continuously apply various lotions and cremes, all of which are reinforced with strong olfactory agents, essences of lavender and lilac mainly, but other similar odorants. As a man of a certain age who is not too terrible to look at, these women seek me out like vultures on carrion to pass on their greetings, thereby transferring their hand treatments and rendering my once clean and perfectly normal hands, into a conglomeration of cremes and smelling of the perfume counter at Macy’s. Once outside the church, I attract bees. I am no longer capable of opening a bottle of pickles or even, a screw-top container of say, San Pellegrino. (OK, I’ve never actually opened a bottle of San Pellegrino.) Only a generous Lava soap treatment, or maybe two, and a scrubbing worthy of a day of mechanic work, can remove this odiferous slime from my person.

I’m so done with the Sign of the Peace. I seek no conflict, but I hope that this confounded tradition is now gone forever. Think of what I’ll save on Lava Soap!

The Man Hug out of fashion: When I was a kid, public hugging was an activity that men, often reluctantly, could participate in only if a female was involved. Grandmothers required hugs, which were always OK. Mom might need a hug from time to time, which was also OK if no male friends were present. Hugging sisters was never OK past the age of two. And hugging other old, female relatives, while often mandatory, caused issues similar to the Sign of the Peace problem, exposing one to toilet water fumes mixed with the odors associated with the keeping of a once-weekly bathing schedule and with maintaining old lady hair in a color otherwise not found in nature and in a form equivalent to a modern football helmet (and equally resistant to bed head.)

Male-to-male hugging was only allowed among participants of sporting events, and even then, only within very specific parameters, for example, scoring a late, tie-breaking goal in hockey, catching a winning touchdown pass in football or winning a baseball (playoffs only) game with a walk-off home run. Hugging was never allowed in sports where skimpy uniforms were the norm: swimming, track, and for the most part, soccer. A soccer goal, despite what Europeans might believe, could never justify a man to man hug. A tie-breaking goal late in the second half of a World Cup title game might justify hugs, but there would be risk involved. If the hugging team lost the game, the hugs would be forfeit. Further, there could be no hugs in rugby or lacrosse.

Something happened, a wimpification, and hugs among men became common. I believe that this swept across the country like, well, a virus. Now men hug in greeting and after the most mundane accomplishment. They hug men and women alike with impunity. The acknowledging nod and the old standby, the firm handshake, have been supplanted as customary male greetings with a series of gestures of varying degrees of importance – the nod, the fist bump, the forearm bump, the slap or high five, the chest bump and finally, the hug. Sometimes these gestures are combined in a kind of dance. It is all very unnerving.

Alas, the COVID-19 pandemic threat has sent all this man hugging to the ash heap and it could not come sooner. I fear we were about to import the European man to man double air kiss. If that ever happens, I’m moving to Montana, the only state amazingly resistant to wimpification. New Hampshire used to be resistant, however as Vermont has proven, every state, even those inhabited largely by mountain men, is vulnerable. In the 1960s Vermont was a mountain man state. It’s since seen an infiltration of metrosexuals, which unfortunately has led to the mountain-sexual hybrid. Mountain-sexuals have spread to New Hampshire, Maine, Colorado, and even Wyoming. If you think you may have encountered a mountain-sexual, look for sparse beards, Subarus, and mountain bikes as secondary, confirming, evidence. If you spy one, move to the side of the road or trail and remain still, they will usually pass without incident.

So there you have it, COVID-19’s positive effects, suspension of the sign of the peace and the man-hug, proof one can find good anywhere, even in a pandemic. Let’s hope these changes stick.

Book Review: ‘Last Train’ Details Fascination with Railroads

 

Railroading was the great romantic adventure of the 19th century. By the 20th, although every boy seemed to go through a phase where railroading was mesmerizing, trains soon lost their place to aircraft, automobiles and spacecraft. Yet some boys kept their enchantment with railroads, and railroads remain a critical artery to our 21st-century economy.

“Last Train to Texas: My Personal Railroad Odyssey,” by Fred W. Frailey, illustrates both. Frailey was obsessed with railroads as a child and maintains that interest to this day.

He turned his obsession into a career, without ever working for a railroad, transforming a journalism career into one focusing on railroading. He documented the modern railroad industry’s impact on the nation over the last half-century in the business press and Trains magazine.

“Last Train to Texas” collects his Trains magazine essays. The result is fascinating. Frailey started writing about railroads in the late 1960s, when the industry, especially passenger service, was in collapse. He followed it through its transformation into a 21st-century industry, one that moves more cargo at greater speeds than it did in the past.

Frailey’s essays capture the problems railroads faced in the 1970s. He highlights the industry’s largely anonymous captains over this period. He shows how Tom Carter restored the Kansas Southern Lines to profitability after years of mismanagement. He describes David Fink’s (the man you never wanted to cross) transformation of two faltering Maine railroads into today’s Pan Am Railroad.

Other essays depict the breadth of today’s railroad industry. One presents the competition between railroads to carry coal out of the Powder River Basin. A second is about the battles between the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe and the Union Pacific. Another shows the frustration in keeping passenger cars used for New York commuter traffic running.

He also highlights passenger traffic throughout the world and talks about a miniature, yet profitable Effingham Railroad; transcontinental modal trains in Canada; and every aspect of modern railroading.

“Last Train to Texas” depicts modern railroading, warts and all, though a fascinating amalgam of stories. Readers finish understanding Frailey’s love of railroading because of the breadth of his narratives.

“Last Train to Texas: My Personal Railroad Odyssey,” by Fred W. Frailey, Indiana University Press, 2020, 232 pages, $32.00

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.

Panicky Grocery Shoppers Rediscover Canned Foods – That’s Good!

 

Rich Zeoli is a popular morning radio talk show host in Philadelphia. On Saturday morning, he tweeted out a photo of nearly empty canned soup shelves at his southern New Jersey grocery store. It was something I thought I’d never see again – depleted soup shelves.

Amidst the fears that were spread this week about Coronavirus (COVID-19), including governments shutting down schools, public parks, and demands for the closure of “non-essential” businesses – even state-owned liquor stores here in Pennsylvania — Americans flooded neighborhood retail food shops to stockpile whatever would fit in their grocery carts. The dusty, sometimes-forgotten “center store,” where the shelf-stable “processed” foods have sometimes languished was rediscovered.

And it’s about time.

During my two decades in the food industry, I witnessed the slow but unmistakable long-term decline of canned food consumption. So-called “food journalists” and trendy bloggers urged Americans to ditch “processed” foods. The Organic industry, with a lot of help from Congress and the Clinton Administration, advocated, created and launched a taxpayer-funded Organic certification program, complete with a National Organic Standards Board. With the government’s imprimatur, over time, it became de rigueur to embrace fresh, minimally processed, and locally grown foods. Witness the explosion of “farm to table” restaurants and the meteoric growth of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, among others. No shortage of so-called “foodies,” like the blogger “Food Babe,” made sport of promoting fresh over processed products, even creating food scares (“bromated vegetable oil is a fire retardant!” she screamed, but I guess water is OK) about ingredients and growing methods.

As a result, frozen and especially canned foods became increasingly unfashionable. The industry’s inability to stem the tide with effective marketing programs and more attractive labeling – even with the Food and Drug Administration declaring that canned and frozen fruits and vegetables were just as nutritious as fresh – allowed misperceptions about the safety, nutrition, and value of such foods to gain traction. Sales began their inexorable slide, with occasional upticks during economic recessions or natural disasters.

Then here comes Coronavirus.

Hunkering down and preparing to work or school from home (if they can) with all favorite activities canceled, Americans are restocking their pantries. Canned and frozen foods have been rediscovered. Companies like Campbell Soup, General Mills, and ConAgra have ramped up production to meet this new-found demand. Food makers and retailers are struggling to keep their shelves stocked and supply chains are working overtime.

This is good news. Americans can rest assured that these packaged foods are not only safe but nutritious and able to last up to two years with no degradation in quality or safety. Cans and other forms of rigid packaging are recyclable. And most manufacturers, especially of multi-ingredient products (like soup or frozen lasagna), employ outstanding chefs who are always working to make their foods tasty and nutritious, with “cleaner” labels (fewer if any ingredients whose names you can’t pronounce). Campbell Soup’s “Well, YES” soups fit that trend perfectly. Canned other packaged foods are among the easiest to prepare and among the safety elements of the food supply. They are also more affordable and, in some cases, more nutritious than those slowing oxidizing fresh veggies and fruits sitting in your fridge.

Can makers also improved their products by replacing epoxy linings that protect food from the metal cans. Newer cans no longer contain trace amounts of bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone disrupter, and have been replaced with new linings that are “BPA free.” Everything in a package that touches food must be evaluated and approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a “food contact substance.” Not that there is anything wrong with BPA, another victim of food scares. BPA, at levels found in foods and food packages, have long been declared safe by the FDA and other respected food safety authorities around the world. Many cans are now easier to open. And to the surprise of some, they contain the same real ingredients that you obtain in the produce section of your grocery store, including freshly harvested potatoes, carrots, and quick-frozen chicken and beef.

Having visited farms and followed freshly harvested tomatoes, corn, and peaches from farms in California and Illinois to processing facilities, these wholesome, real ingredients make their way from farm to package in about four hours. How long have those carrots, organic endive or broccolini been sitting your fridge?

And if you do come down with a cold, the flu, or that dreaded Coronavirus, eating broth-based soups (like Chicken Noodle soup) do, in fact, relieve symptoms and help you keep hydrated.

So, as you hunker down and or self-quarantine, rediscover the value, safety, nutrition, taste and convenience of processed foods. And, if you wind up having over-purchased, your local food bank will be glad to take some of those shelf-stable foods off your hands. Oh, and you’re creating LOTS or new jobs in rural midwestern and other states, including northwest Ohio, Missouri, Pennsylvania, northeast Texas, and the Carolinas.

Kelly Johnston spent 23 years in the food industry as a communications professional and policy advocate. The views expressed are his own.

Member Post

 

I had a contractor try to avoid coming to work. Our in-person work environment is very small. He is about 30 years old, and fit. He freely admitted that he is not really at risk. And he said that everyone will get COVID eventually anyway. But he still said that the risks were just too […]

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Don’t Do It to Save Me: Lessons and an Opportunity

 

My granddaughter expressed some concern that the COVID-19 bug might get me because of my advanced age. Of course, from her perspective, anyone over 40 is ancient and probably met Abraham Lincoln in person. I thought her concern touching and a little funny.  It bothers me, however, that she is overly worried about a relatively remote risk that is way down the list of possible bad things out there. I am in undeservedly good health, a descendant of many very long-lived persons across several generations and I do almost everything I am told by my GP. I don’t smoke, stopped drinking almost 30 years ago, and think very hard and often about what it would be like to exercise more regularly.

If there has to be a quarantine, then home-quarantine us high-risk old people (represent, my peeps!), arrange work-at-home technology and federally-funded free delivered meals — unless that gives Nancy Pelosi a chance to sneak in a billion dollars for abortionists and other Democratic Party adjuncts, in which case, I will happily prepare my own meals. And if I must choose between preserving a few hundredths of a percentage point on my survival odds and not having March Madness to watch, I will happily assume the risk.

The larger risk, as I understand it, is not so much the COVID-19 deaths for us elderly persons, at least some of whom probably would have tapped out this year from regular flu anyway, but the danger of overwhelming existing medical providers, ICUs, and related equipment, which has a cascade effect that consumes needed resources across the board.

Why we have no capacity to tool up for emergencies, medical and otherwise, is a much bigger issue.

As little faith as I have in the feds to do something like this, we still have to make the effort. This bug is not a more contagious form of ebola. It is not a nuclear hit on a large city or an asteroid strike. It is not a volcano or a major earthquake. If we can’t tool up for this comparatively modest crisis, how can we expect to deal with the larger threats that seem inevitable even if not immediate?

My lack of faith in federal preparedness is colored by my time in the Army many years ago. As a medical tech, I had to participate in badly planned and executed war games and drills in which we would set up an under-equipped field hospital from scratch and handle the mock casualties sent from the war games.  Most of the time these exercises were a complete waste of time.

My mock-hospital colleague and barracks roommate, a corpsman (no “e,” silent “s,” President Obama) who returned from Vietnam with a delightfully poor attitude, handled triage by himself because our assigned docs and nurses were late arriving allegedly because of non-fictitious patient needs. As each putative casualty came in with a tag describing his fictitious wounds, my colleague would pronounce him DOA, make a short but moving speech about the tragedy of war and send them me to be seated in a fictitious morgue. Someone higher up in the wargame hierarchy eventually objected to our fatality rate and made us reprocess our casualties. But it was too late to change my opinion regarding our collective readiness and the competence of those in command.

We appear to have learned nothing from previous flu epidemics. Our preparedness is non-existent. Our CDC indulges in politically correct nonsense and wastes millions but flubs its core mission. South Korea can test 10,000 people a day. We can’t seem to do even a thousand, mostly because of the command-and-control mentality of federal bureaucrats and the fact that we have outsourced the manufacture of necessary technology and ingredients overseas.

Left-wing media (is that almost redundant?) is screaming that the CDC fiasco is Trump’s fault (without the slightest recognition that these are precisely the same types of people they want to run and own all US healthcare) which is technically fair — the President is responsible for what is or is not done. But the deep and abiding bureaucratic drift in key agencies is not.

President Trump should decry the lack of readiness in the existing emergency and not let this crisis go to waste. He should push for a distinct, large-scale project to prepare for the very worst. (And why don’t we spend more to detect and somehow deflect big space rocks?)

The CDC is all set for a few isolated cases of a novel bad bug. FEMA has teams ready to write checks to state governors and has the Red Cross on speed-dial. But we are clearly not ready in any serious way to deal with a serious crisis on a large scale. This time we should learn and get ready. There is a need and an opening for some serious leadership with legacy consequences.

Presstitution in Russia and the US

 

In the old Soviet Union, there were two television channels: Channel One and Channel Two. If viewers in the Socialist Worker’s Paradise tried switching to Channel Two for a different view of life in Russia a message would appear on the viewer’s screen informing them to return to Channel One.

In Putin’s Russian Federation, Channel One is still State Television, and according to some Russians it is the “Shame of Russia.” There are more television stations available in Russia today, but they are closely controlled by Putin’s acolytes.

“Thousands of Russians marched in Moscow on February 29, 2020, to mark the five years since the murder of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov. A reporter for state-run Channel One tried to conduct interviews but was repeatedly shouted down by opposition supporters calling the TV network Kremlin propaganda.” — Radio Free Europe

Our comrades in Russia are not alone in this world with the dissemination of lies by commission, or omission by broadcasters or the print media. The mainstream media in the United States is just as talented as Russian media in distorting the truth. This is not a new problem. G.K. Chesterton noted the problem in the days before television that proves that all change is not necessarily progress.

“Modern man is staggering and losing his balance because he is being pelted with little pieces of alleged fact which are native to the newspapers; and, if they turn out not to be facts, that is still more native to newspapers.” — Illustrated London News, April 7, 1923

So, to our Russian comrades, we share your pain, and you are in my thoughts as I soak in the Glorious Hot Tub of the Peoples Revolution.

.

While I’m At It; Get Off My Lawn!

 

Watching the Sunday political shows this morning was infuriating. They are in “promote panic” mode. The Russia hoax failed to bring down Trump. Ukraine/impeachment failed to bring down Trump. (Seems like a million years ago now doesn’t it?) The media are hoping the COVID-19 crisis evolves into Trump’s Katrina, and they are doing everything they can to make it happen, public welfare be damned.

On a separate but related topic, what is going on with this bill making its way through Congress with the administration’s support to bail out airlines, bail out the travel industry, bail out small businesses, and bankroll paid medical leave to individuals. Didn’t we learn from the last financial disaster that major policy changes rushed through in times of crisis yield terrible long-term results?

Whatever happened to businesses setting aside resources for emergencies? Whatever happened to businesses sucking up their losses in tough times just like they suck up their profits when times are good? When did the federal government become the guarantor of private business in every crisis? When did Joe Taxpayer become an insurance company to the entire private sector? By the time they’re done, Bernie will look a fiscal conservative.

Oh, and while I’m at it, get off my lawn!

Coronavirus Coverage Is What’s Making Me Sick

 

The coverage of the coronavirus panic is making me sicker than if I had the virus itself. It’s almost worse than the Mueller investigation or the impeachment trial. Our local newspaper is now reporting every time someone gets tested for the virus, much less having it.

When the pizza delivery guy came yesterday (it was Pi Day, but that news was blown from the headlines by you-know-what), I asked him if anyone came out to get their pizzas wearing a mask. He laughed and said no, then said it must suck to have pizza with no sports to watch. I agreed (my wife and I watched Girl on a Train instead). Turns out he was a Trump supporter, thinks the Prez is doing the best he can, and is looking forward to this whole thing blowing over.

So am I. However, this manufactured panic won’t blow over as long as the Dems and the MSM think they’re making Trump look bad (spoiler alert – they’re not).

View from a Desert Southwest Street

 

Sitting outside in sunny downtown Mesa, Arizona. I’m following doctor’s orders, getting a ration of sunshine for Vitamin D. So, I sip an iced coffee from Jarrod’s Tea, Coffee, and Gallery.

The Mesa Brew Fest was cancelled, but lots of people are walking and sitting outdoors drinking in each establishment’s designated drinking area, patio, beer garden. Inside, people from teens to 70ish, I estimate, are filling Jarrod’s with needed business. You see, he just knocked a hole in one wall and doubled his floor space. So, he is doing the small business high wire act in a historically tough for business downtown.

I walked around the corner, noting the bustling Chupacabra Tap Room. Their theme developed for this beer fest was “pie” for 3/14. They had multiple pie flavored beers and ciders. So, I enjoyed a raspberry cider from Cider Corps, a US Marine combat-veterans owned cidery half a block away. Can’t get much more local.

This place is packed inside, maybe 40 people cheek to cheek with loud, friendly conversation competing with the streamed music. The beer garden also pretty full, people at every table. I’m at the top of the age distribution. I step back outside and the fenced-in patio is also pretty full, around 20 people at the tables.

A woman around 60 with a Chihuahua greets me, saying she needed a t-shirt like mine, from the El Paso minor league baseball team, the Chihuahuas. She is annoyed by the stupid cancellation of the street fair beer fest: “Wash your damn hands and wear a mask if you are so worried!”

A half-hour later, the place has completely gone to the dogs. Five of them are now here: one medium, the rest Chihuahua-size but different breeds. Now a sheepdog showed up. So, we have a Chihuahua, miniature Australian Shepherd, small dachshund, small long-haired dachshund, plus an all-white boxer, and full-size sheepdog.

All those dogs and their people are enjoying the day and getting along famously. ‘Merica!