Monday, May 4, 2020

Danse Macabre

“The point of civilization is to be civilized; the purpose of action is to perpetuate society, for only in society can philosophy truly take place.”
Iain Pears, The Dream of Scipio


If there was an Olympics of Logical Fallacies, Donald Trump would win gold in the Begging the Question luge.

Hell, he might take home all the medals.

But I digress.

"Interesting? By Congress not wanting the special 5 minute testing apparatus, they are saying that they are not 'essential'. In any event, we have great testing capacity, and have performed 6.5 million tests, which is more than every country in the world, combined!"
-- President Donald Trump, via Tweet, 5/4/20

That was Trump, this morning, in what has become the normal here in America, a president blasting out a daily stream of incoherent rage and self-aggrandizement. This happens every day now, like some horrible side effect of the pandemic. The Bubonic Plague, you got huge infected lymph nodes that swelled to the size of a goose’s egg. With the election of Donald Trump, we have to put up with a rash of swollen, infected tweets filled with pus and madness.

At this point, I’m not sure I even remember what it was like to have leaders who weren’t functionally insane.

There are two...I guess we have to call them thoughts in this non sequitur of a presidential statement.

Let's take them one at a time:

"By Congress not wanting the special 5 minute testing apparatus, they are saying that they are not 'essential'.

No. That's not what Congress said.

“Congress is grateful for the Administration’s generous offer to deploy rapid COVID-19 testing capabilities to Capitol Hill, but we respectfully decline the offer at this time. Our country’s testing capacities are continuing to scale up nationwide and Congress wants to keep directing resources to the front-line facilities where they can do the most good the most quickly."

That was a joint statement issued by the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House on Saturday.

Now, imagine what it took for Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi -- Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi -- to come together in agreement and issue a joint statement.

Even Mitch McConnell thinks all available testing should be prioritized to hospitals and first-responders.

And, yes, given that it's McConnell, that's probably a cold-blooded calculation to appeal to the chumps he needs for reelection, but still.

Congress turned down testing, saying that the first priority should be those on the front lines of the pandemic, the doctors, nurses, first responders, the people who need testing the most.

And Trump went online to mock that idea in front of the world.

This is Trump.

This is how he thinks.

If you put the needs of others above yourself, you must not be important.

That’s Trump.

Because Trump can't imagine valuing anyone more than he values himself.

But, it’s the second bit that really got me.

"In any event, we have great testing capacity, and have performed 6.5 million tests, which is more than every country in the world, combined!"

More than every country in the world combined.  

No matter how many times Trump repeats this bullshit, it's still a lie. It's still not true. Not even close.

As of today, the US has completed 7,249,126 tests.

Russia as completed 4,300,000. Germany, 2,547,052. And Italy 2,191,403.

That's a three-country combined total of 9,038,455.

Which, even if you went to a Betsy DeVos charter school, is still about two million more than the US.

And that's just THREE countries combined.

Three, out of 212.

Yet Trump claims, again, that the US has tested more people than all other countries combined.

And it's worse than that, because Trump and his dimwitted USA! USA! followers seems to think it's the number of tests that matter, as if it were some sort of competition, and not tests per capita.

Trump claimed this morning that 6.5 million test have been completed in the US. That's not even the correct information -- and in this case, you'd think he'd really try to get the right number because the real number is higher: 7.25 million.

But again, what does that actually mean?

Well, it means that 98% of Americans haven’t been tested.

The current population of the United States is 328,000,000.

Seven million tests is 2.1% of the population.

If you tested 2% of 328,000,000, then that means 321,000,000 Americans, give or take, are currently untested.

But it's more complicated than that, because the population of the United States is concentrated in densities that vary widely between various urban centers and the rural countryside, and the infection among those sub-populations is not evenly distributed. Per capita infections in some areas, such as New York City for example, are a higher percentage of the population than in other areas, say, Wasilla, Alaska. But, urban centers are typically far better equipped to deal with disease than rural medical systems, which means the death rate per infection also varies widely.

As, I said, it's more complicated than just simple numbers, and vastly more complicated than, Ha ha, we tested more people than other countries, so we win!

Per capita, that's what matters. In America that's 21,000 people per every 1,000,000 -- or about 2.1% -- that have been tested.

For comparison, the United Arab Emirates has only tested 1.2 million people, compared to the US's 7.25 million.

USA! USA! Right?

No. See, the population of the UAE is only about 9,000,000, so that's 121,300 people tested per 1,000,000 or about 12% of their population.

Meaning they're doing a hell of a lot better job at getting their population tested.

Simple childish comparisons to other countries mean nothing.

Who has the most tests does not matter -- it's not a competition.

He who dies with the most tests, still dies.

The only measurement which matters is the percentage of population tested in relation to the virulence of the disease and your ability to prevent infection.

I was talking to my mom yesterday.

Mom is in her late 80s. She remembers back when she was a kid and had the measles. Now, the measles vaccine wasn't invented until the mid-1960s. So, back in the 1930s, if you had a highly infectious disease, you got quarantined. Mom told me how the Department of Public Health came to the house and put a notice on the front door, quarantined. People inside, stay inside. People outside, stay away. And that's how it was until you recovered.

And people cooperated.

Yes they did. Because measles, mumps, polio, whooping cough, scarlet fever, etc, killed a hell of a lot of people, or left them blind, sterile, or unable to breath on their own.

We don't remember this stuff nowadays, because enough of us get vaccinated so that there aren't pandemics of these diseases.

Voluntary self-quarantine at government direction isn't anything new. For most of our history as a country, it was the norm. It's only recently that we've suddenly decided that social distancing to protect others and ourselves is OMG! FASCISM!

Did we shut down the entire economy for these outbreaks? Sometimes, at least in local areas, but generally no. Because that was the nature of those diseases. And because people did what was necessary to prevent the spread of infection.

With some diseases, quarantine doesn't work because the transmission vector is contaminated water supplies or infected fleas or it's so damn virulent that it can't be contained. However, that's not what we're talking about here.

For some diseases, even if you don't have a vaccine, there's a threshold where if you can verify enough of the population free of the disease and then keep them away from infection – say by social distancing – then you have a reasonable assurance the population is mostly safe. But that depends on complex factors like population densities, the transmission vectors of the disease, environment, and most especially the ease and availability of testing with high confidence and the willingness of the population to cooperate.

Especially the willingness of the population to cooperate.

If you can't test enough people quickly and as many times as necessary, AND/OR if the population won't cooperate, then even diseases that can be controlled by quarantine will become overwhelming pandemics.

COVID-19 isn't the Black Death, but it's not the flu either.

Just because we've done more testing than Cameroon, doesn't mean the threat isn't real or it's safe to go out in public without precautions.

At the moment, we don't have a vaccine for the Coronavirus, and we don't have enough testing to verify more than 2% of the population free of the infection. So, we are literally no better off in this than our grandparents were 80 years ago -- worse, because they, for the most part, were willing to cooperate with public health for the safety of those around them.

Back when my mom had the measles, the country was in the grip of the Great Depression and the world was teetering the brink of WWII. And yet, people still somehow were able to look out for each other.

And I can’t find a single case of Herbert Hoover or Franklin Delano Roosevelt mocking them for it.

We are supposed to be a nation where government values the citizen over all.

We are supposed to be a community where we value others as much as we value ourselves, if not more – that’s what community is.

The President of the United States mocking elected officials for putting Americans before themselves shows you just how utterly unfit Donald Trump is for any office in this nation. And for Trump to believe testing is some sort of simple dick measuring contest between nations instead of the foundation of a much larger and more complex problem, shows you just how ill-equipped he is intellectually to manage this situation. This isn’t about what China did or didn’t do. This isn’t about how many tests have been completed in relation to other countries. This is about us, about our country, about our government, and about our leaders taking responsibility for their own failures.

If civilization doesn't value people more than it values profit, if our nation cannot or will not protect the vulnerable from the selfish and predatory, then what goddamn good is it?

If our elected leaders don't value the citizen more than they value themselves, then they are unworthy of being our leaders.

The world grows ever more complicated, the threats to civilization ever more dangerous, and if our leaders cannot rise to the challenge of this crisis, any crisis, then we need better leaders.

More than that, if our leaders cannot themselves understand the nature of the threat and are unwilling or unable to then convince the citizens to act in their own best interest, then they are not leaders at all. And if our leaders actively encourage the population to act in a manner that will almost certainly lead to disaster, then they must be removed from office.

Ultimately, it falls to us.

If you want a better nation, you have to be a better citizen.

“The human ripples of pain are still heartbreaking when made visible to us now. Our friend Agnolo the Fat wrote: ‘Father abandoned child, wife husband, one brother another; for this illness seemed to strike through the breath and sight. And so they died. And none could be found to bury the dead for money or friendship…’”
-- Dan Carlin, The End is Always Near: Apocalyptic Moments, from the Bronze Age Collapse to Nuclear Near Misses


  1. My mom's younger sister died in one of the scarlet fever epidemics in 1931. She was 15. By the luck of the draw, my mom was off in college and wasn't infected, or I wouldn't be writing this comment. The people who crab about wearing a mask in public need to read this post and pay attention, not that they will. I wear a mask more to protect you, not to protect myself. That's called being a responsible citizen. If you're infected (but don't know it yet), my mask gives me perhaps a 2:1 reduction in risk. If I'm infected (and don't know it yet), my mask gives you about a 5:1 reduction in risk. If we both wear masks (because neither of us knows whether we're infected), it reduces our combined risk by roughly 10:1 and that is a significant difference. Go back to history and read up on "Typhoid Mary." Different illness, different mode of transmission but she was asymptomatic for typhoid and spread it widely. It's not a made-up story...it's fact, so I'll continue to wear a mask for the foreseeable future.

  2. Thank you, for this. It's a powerful piece. Is it enough to pierce the murk and get out the vote? A girl can live in hope. I'll share accordingly. Speaking of hope, I consider today's post from Brian Bates at Bear Creek Organic Farm (Petoskey MI) a companion piece to your wake up call. Good citizens are all around us. I have to hold on to that. If you're in the market for garlic and honey, they ship. https://www.facebook.com/bearcreekorganicfarm/?__tn__=kC-R&eid=ARCkft02CDo-qPDRVBcHH9k607iia6pHWhGFaT7XI1Veos8gd1aMeno8ecVgxWsold6HURbOtNn3644Y&hc_ref=ARTnPGOC1eNb4fm0ypKWUnIwYRRAQjYmy9Te9_YK-U2khIgixS6J7SLg0IrKNMGCW2I&fref=nf&__xts__[0]=68.ARAam6yj2VP9QEpersy6VHJcXHbWiM4cgi8yIlRzFVH9FqceuG_5WOx6EWCkyzxeNVL1NwjSfRwQXx7EYOe0o1tFLQDZsK5jmPjBZ_eKWd2674ZJ1HNkktFIKptIgjlGuN4ECZQl3FzMHL4UeTWgVqFGtTk1oUjyTb4tSq8KHJz5XibBDghp53auD0zhtLYU4oiNASsVNnGZMMGDTM39RUeRzMMouWJHrelp7jdKzTuZVdmx5lPAOW8SNKRxG5C4MU9oqg3GNHM3tc8w1NQsZJ9ZUxUjzZB0VNzGQRWNMPDntQWyoL--cSGTwrhpBpzBlVE6LxkIOy4dYSSpaYePBquB-A

  3. Another home run, Jim.

    "If civilization doesn't value people more than it values profit, if our nation cannot or will not protect the vulnerable from the selfish and predatory, then what goddamn good is it?"

    Oh, I'm *so* stealing that (with attribution, of course).

  4. I absolutely adore the choice of the luge for Trump's Logical Fallacy Olympics event, because godDAMN, the sewer pipe he uses for a brain is one slippery slope.

  5. I was one of the "polio pioneers", the test group for the Salk vaccine. Even as a kid I remember that catching polio as being the most frightening thing that can happen. I lose my cool when I talk to the "anti-vaxxers" and the "regular flu kills people too" crowd. I watch the daily Governor Cuomo news conferences just to see a level of competence and humanity. His statement about not wearing a mask being a sign of disrespect really resonated with me. It's not that hard to be a good citizen, is it?

    1. My father had polio in 1938. He was left with a decided gait to his walk after over twenty surgeries on his legs but he breathes well and is alive for which I'm eternally grateful since he was 30 when he donated to MY cause! Dad's 1st cousin is literally a card carrying "polio pioneer" because he too was part of the original test groups in south western Missouri. 20 years or so later, I got a sugar cube with a pink dot on it that was the vaccine. It's really hard to see and hear what's going on in our country right now. I vacillate between being really sad and very angry.

  6. This morning I listened to a County council meeting about the virus. Most of the meeting time was taken up by the Public Health Officer explaining cogently understandably and in nuance and detail the states guidelines, the county guidelines, the relevant relationship of state to county. Following his presentation county commissioners asked reasoned questions and actionable items were identified and plans made.
    I mention this because the contrast to what passes for governance at the national level was was startling. These were people engaged in the JOB of government. I don't know, there is certainly little evidence, that Donald John Trump knows that there is a job outside of growing the brand. What's worse and more to Jim's point, is that there is an entire political party who have decided that their POLITICAL futures are more important than our lives. That they will not speak out against the madness because that would jeopardize their primary chances.
    Donald at least has the excuse that he is both stupid and insane.
    The GOP hasn't even that thin veil to hide behind. They have made eyes wide open choices.
    The size of the body pile has led importance than their hegemony on power.
    The only way they will learn a corrective lesson is if we vote them out massively out they wander the political wilderness for a generation.

  7. As always you are spot on Jim!

  8. "We are supposed to be a community where we value others as much as we value ourselves, if not more – that’s what community is."

    Exactly this. Thanks, Jim.

  9. There are so many things that trump refuses to understand about this disease. He isn’t just being stupid, he’s creating his own agenda around what benefits him the most. Numbers up? Must be good. Better than them? Even better. Best, most, greatest, biggest, all words that convince the uneducated (he loves so much) that they should make him president for life because he takes care of them. Little do they realize or want to believe is that trump is actively working against their best interests and their wellbeing while telling them he’s making America great again. Sad thing is, even with overwhelming evidence that he’s destroying America, they refuse to see or understand the truth.

  10. Thanks for this essay. I needed a good dose of Stonekettle Station to combat the "Freedumb Paytreeots" running amok in my world.

    It seems to me as though the current occupant is decompensating right before our eyes. He gets farther and farther out on the edge. I cannot conceive of how this great nation (with all of its underlying warts and blemishes) has merged from "common good" to "all me and only me".

  11. As I write this my adult daughter who has COVID and is high risk, is gradually getting worse. Her oxygen saturation is slowly declining, but not enough for hospitalization.


    Her breathing difficulties and chest pain are slowly getting worse, but not enough for hospitalization.


    Donald Trump rage tweets about hoaxes and conspiracies, his ratings and poll numbers.

    And I just don't want my daughter to die.

    Mitch McConnell calls the Senate back so that he can continue to pack the courts with conservative judges.

    And I just don't want my daughter to die.

    Administration officials sit by as the Liar-in-Chief talks of ingesting disinfectants and shooting UV lasers up one's ass.

    And I just don't want my daughter to die.

    Angry, white, overgrown toddlers with their small-penis-compensatory-devices slung on their shoulders violently demand they be allowed to get their haircut, or to sit down and stuff a cheeseburger in their mouth.

    And I just don't want my daughter to die

    The world is shit, our leaders are self-serving pricks, and our fellow humans deny science, rational thought, and common fucking human decency.

    And I just don't want my daughter to die.

    1. I don't know what your faith affiliation is, if any, but I don't want your daughter to die either. If prayers are meaningful for you, I offer all I have. If not, then please accept at least my good thoughts and hopes for a complete recovery.

    2. I wanted to reach out to you personally, but there is no contact link to send you a message at your blog, so I'm doing that here. This is one of the most powerful, simple, heartbreaking things I've read over the course of this nightmare. I'm the only living parent of an adult child who lives in a very high risk area, and I can't even allow myself to think about what you're actually living through. If I were a person who prayed, I would pray for you. Since I'm not, all I can do is thank you for saying it out loud. I'll be thinking about you and your daughter, following your blog, and hoping every single day this unbearable moment becomes just a memory the two of you share in the years to come.

    3. I wish you and your daughter the best, and my fervent healing purrs. You have put into words what many of us are thinking and hoping. One of my HS classmates had to watch from the outside while his wife (an LPN at a care home) was in ICU on a vent with COVID. He himself is a police officer and we're all in the higher risk categories, one being over 50. So while T was in ICU, A had quarantine at home himself, cut off from their daughters and his grandson. Fortunately, T came out the other side and is now finishing her recuperation back at home.

      There is hope. Fight like hell for your girl. You both need to come out on the other side.

    4. Msybe we should all start praying, whether we are believers or not. It certainly couldn't hurt. God bless us all.

    5. May your daughter live a full and healthy life.

    6. This breaks my heart.

    7. I am so sorry. As stated above, I don't know your religious affiliation but will pray for you and your daughter. The best thoughts your way.

  12. I had the red measles in '54, it damn near killed me. It was even worse because my Mom was in the hospital with Scarlet Fever. It damn near killed her, left her with a heart murmur.

    I guess my point is that this shit is serious. I thank you, and every other rational human that speaks out about it.

    And for the record, Yuma County, AZ (where I live) has tested just over 1000 as of this morning. Less than 1%.

  13. Another keeper. (I also share your essay Bang Bang Sanity widely)
    Thank you for your wisdom and your humanity, and your eloquence in sharing both.

  14. Thank you for this excellent piece. As I started to forward it to my like-minded family and friends I realized that, unfortunately, the ones who could benefit from reading it (i.e. Trump supporters, the G.O.P., antivaxxers etc.) who really need to read it won't. I wish I knew how to hack Fox News and Facebook and put it there on an endless loop.

  15. Jesus Republican Christ! Save me from any calculation which includes more than 2 variables!

  16. Your skill with the use of the word Goddamn is like a Master Chef with some Schezuan peppercorns. Perfect seasoning.

  17. Just one clarification - the fact that we've run 7.25 million tests doesn't mean we've tested 7.25 million people. Most, if not all people who test positive will be retested again later, at least once, to determine when they are free of the virus. And people who are exposed multiple times, like first responders, are likely getting tested multiple times, too. So we haven't even tested 2.1% of the population. That's not really relevant when comparing to other countries, since they have the same issue with the data - but it is relevant when determining whether we're testing enough of the population to really know what the penetration is.

    1. and all those folks in DC are being "tested regularly" as well

  18. Excellent essay. But will you ever reach the bone head supporters in America?

  19. Well said.

    All the (completely proper) focus on the fish rotting from the head shouldn't take our attention away from what's happening to the guts of government as well. Today I heard Rachel Maddow offer a damning report on sudden changes in CDC review and recommendation practices when she compared the written summary reports and remedial recommendations done on April 20 and 22 for two firms, the first in Colorado, the second in Iowa. Every one of us in this country depends on CDC's investigatory and remediation behavior. Maddow's illustrations from the two reports document the two-day shift from "must" to "maybe/if possible" language revealing a completely unacceptable abandonment of previous practice. She said she would stay on it until she can explain what happened and why. Each of us should keep a watch on such things and urge our Congressional officials to press for return to previous practice. Literally, our lives are at stake!

    1. Here in SW KS we also noted that change in language for worker safety in meat packing plants. Were you trying to be subtle? I'm done with subtle, sorry - not sorry. That change, from workstations *must* be 6" apart to *should be 6" apart where feasible" is a death sentence for someone. Fold in the fact that they are so short staffed right now they are offering bonuses to workers who come in 6 days in a row and you have a recipe for sick people incentivized to come in regardless.
      Which might explain why three small towns with a combined population of 90,000 has 1962 cases, and the KC metro area, which is more than 20x larger (literally, I did the math), has 1538.

  20. There is, at the bottom edge of the tiniest corner of my soul, which is where I keep the part of me that still has the most infinitesimal shred of hope for a workable future (in which I and my loved ones are not dead)...in that corner of my soul, I hope that if we can just hold on til November, or rather January, that someone will be put in place who can take the reins of this plunging, plummeting out-of-control stagecoach to Hell; someone who will walk into the Presidency with an actual PLAN, a fully-formed step-by-step guide to how we're going to repair, as far as is possible, the damage wrought by four years of unmitigated idiocy.

    I know that's a naive hope. Most of my fondest hopes generally are. But oh, wouldn't it be nice to have someone come to the podium and say "I know it's been bad. Here's how we're going to make it better." And he (or she) wouldn't overstate his or her competency or knowledge, or understate the danger; instead, he or she would lay out the process by which we would test people who haven't been tested, and track the people who test positive, and protect the vulnerable from the ignorant and the stubborn.

    The thing about it that makes me saddest is that not only do I recognize how naive that hope truly is, but that I remember a time when it wasn't a laughable thought, to be protected by your government. I don't remember a time when it actually HAPPENED, mind--I came into the world a little too late for THAT type of ideal--but I remember when it was still a reasonable thing to expect.

    Now, in 2020, if you dare to say aloud that you believe the government should protect and advance the interests of its citizens--the average people?? People look at you--as well they should--like you've lost your damn rabbit-ass mind.

  21. I have learned that I am not unique. My thoughts, opinions, even my actions are duplicated often. I read this article, every word. I understood it and I agree with its premise, points and conclusions. Because I am not unique, I have hope. Thank you sir, well done.

  22. I live in upstate NY.
    We have been extremely lucky.
    April 1st we were told that testing would be for hospitalized patients and people were being admitted inpatient. There is no drive in testing
    Its May 4th. Still the same criteria.
    Just got off the phone with a friend who lives in NYC.
    No drive in testing. STILL.
    There is not enough test kits.
    Trump and Pence are liars.

  23. I remember standing in line for the Polio vaccine in 1962 with my mother and baby brother. It was a hot day, and the line snaked through the school parking lot to the gym where we were given the sugar cubes. My mother, and many of the other adults, had tears in their eyes. They had had a president with polio. My mother had a boyfriend in High School who had polio; his leg tendons had been surgically removed and used to reinforce his shoulders. The parents hoped to see this scourge, and others like it, eliminated forever. The Tangerine Toad isn't fit to breathe the air of honest men.

    1. That same memory (albeit a bit different) for me in 1962. The long line, the gym and the overall somberness yet knowledge that it was a saving grace.

    2. I stood in one of those lines for my sugar cube. I thought all vaccines should come that way. Much nicer than needles. I also have a smallpox vaccination scar. This is what communities do to protect each other. I've had red measles. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. My kids all got the vaccine.

    3. I had the same experience remembering my mom taking 3 of us to wait in a long line to get the polio sugar cube. My dad asked her to take us as soon as it was available. He had polio as a kid and had to learn to walk again after. One of my elementary teachers had really heavy metal leg braces due to polio. In 1st grade I missed 130 school days getting scarlet fever, chicken pox, the german measles and the mumps.

    4. I'm just a little younger, but my father was a doctor, so I spent a lot of time in hospitals when I was small.
      I remember getting measles.
      I remember getting chickenpox.
      And I remember when the polio wards disappeared.
      Large rooms filled with iron lungs were still a thing when I was five years old, though they were mostly empty even then. They were gone by the time I was eight.
      I remember my grandparents talking about polio, and how the pools would close every summer after the first case. (About one case in every hundred developed into paralytic polio.) And what a godsend the polio vaccine was.
      I remember my grandmother talking about a brother she didn't have because he'd died of diphtheria as a small child, and how she thought the doctor brought and took small children from the house in his little black bag.
      I know how my father is deathly allergic to any sort of mercury or mercury compound because he had impetigo (strep of the skin) as a child, and bichloride of mercury is what they had to treat it. This allergy includes things like tooth fillings, ointments, and public pools which often have mercuric algicides in the parts-per-million and sub-parts-per-million range.
      I remember my grandparents talking about not penicillin, but sulfa, which greatly lowered mortality from childbirth, pneumonia, scarlet fever, and other infectious diseases, well before penicillin arrived in the 1940s.
      Modern medicine has largely allowed the population to forget what scourges these things were. Our "leaders" and many others want to pretend they never happened, and that they can't come back.
      Nature is patient, but it only requires a small crack. Exponential growth -- in bacteria and pandemics -- means the cost of letting down our guard may be very -- may I say "biblically" -- high.

    5. 75 years ago I contracted polio and spent a time in hospitals, Although I was very young at the time, I can close my eyes and recall the pain of a spinal tap, the crowded isolation ward and the inability to walk. I was one of the lucky ones. It only affected one leg, and I experienced a "full recovery", thanks to the March of Dimes and Sister Kenney. Full enough to be able to spend six years in the Navy. However, in my late forties, I began to have a problem with that leg. After many tests, CAT scans, MRI's, etc, I was diagnosed with "Post Polio Syndrome". It's basically polio all over again, but without most of the pain, just a lot of discomfort when walking. I also had measles, mumps, chicken pox, rubella, and whooping cough, so when my kids' pediatrician said "Vaccinate", we were at the head of the line. We will be at the head of the line for the corona vaccine, too.

      I truly despise all those "freedom-lover" pinheads waving their AR-15 dicks, and those antivaxxer dimwits, and that useless waste of flesh currently occupying the White House.

      Thank you Mr Wright, for frequently saying out loud and in public, all the things I want to say, but you beat me to it, AND with a wider audience.

  24. I'm younger than your mon (70 at the end of November) and I remember quarantines. My family got quarantined when my oldest brother got scarlet fever in the 50s. My dad went nuts because he couldn't to to work. I think it must have happened in the summer because I don't remember being kept out of school.

    But my brothers and I were born during the last years of "You get your immunity to diseases by catching them." The only vaccine we had was for polio, and my brothers and I all got the shots. Measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox... we caught those (although I think only my oldest brother got the mumps). You can bet my kids got vaccinated for everything.

    I do not understand the MAGA mindset. Sure, we had "hard hats" in the 60s but they didn't seem as relentlessly, incorrigibly ignorant as their ideological descendants today. Maybe I'm just remembering a kinder, gentler yesterday than what really was.

  25. Ironic that Trump would proudly claim testing to be a success of some sort when it is the utter failure of his 3 year old administration to have tests available prior to the spread of the virus that has made this as bad as it is. Ten percent of our total population has filed for unemployment, and in many cases, the jobs they had may not be there once things stabilize, as many businesses will fail due to this cluster fox trot of a response.

    1. There were no tests because this virus was not known until last year. Don't blame Trump for that. Blame him for not doing anything for months, after learning about the crisis.

  26. Jim?

    Kickass commentary and excellent descriptions of the sad standard of fuckery we have come to accept as the current norm. It’s pretty simple to me. None of us that haven’t been sick enough to be hospitalized for treatment for Covid19 should just wear a mask. I’ll be wearing mine in support of all front line workers and their families. I have MS but skipped the meds that would have compromised my immune system even further. That being said, I saw a well written first person account of the disastrous state of affairs from an NYC ICU nurse. In her thoughts she shared a line of thought I hadn’t given deep enough though to. She was great about describing in vivid detail the stark realities of life and death in her unit and hospital. But her reflection about how many of the people that are acting out are doing so as a manifestation of their grief. We suck as a country and in our current social structures about teaching and acceptance of grieving tools, processes, and awareness.

    Here’s a couple of other thoughts along these lines. The tests are still not great in their current structures. Whether the percentages of false positives/negatives are still high enough to be concerning, or if the tests are still widely unavailable. Either way, masks while annoying still help keep things a little more in check.

    Thank you again for another great post!


    PS - or unable to breath on their own. Needs an E at the end of breath. Feel free to delete this as needed.

  27. Thank you for your essay (very powerful), and your updates. I have reached the point that the very sound of Trumps voice makes me nauseous, so your daily updates help a great deal. Our household has quarantined, because all three of us are in the vulnerable category--hard as it is for my husband and I to believe that of ourselves... Particularly, we are careful because we are his mother's caregivers, and she is very fragile now at 93. Anyway, thank you again, for your "daily dose".

  28. Both my mother and my wife's mother came down with polio as teenagers. My mother sufficiently recovered she was able to enter the US Navy in 1958. I never met my mother-in-law; she was confined to a wheelchair her whole life and died before I met my wife, from post-polio syndrome. My mother suffers from post-polio syndrome now.

    A local newspaper here ran an article interviewing a woman who'd had polio and survived; her brother, a high school athlete, died as a teenager.

    The reason they interviewed her was to get her take on social distancing rules and such now. She pointed out that happened then too, and families were shunned even after a polio case resolved through recovery or death.

    Moreover, contagious diseases don't necessarily confer lifetime immunity. I had chickenpox, scarlet fever, measles, and mumps as a small child. I came down with chickenpox a second time when I was in the Navy in 1993, and mumps a second time in 2012 (thanks to an anti-vaxxer's kid but that's another story). Each time I was quarantined, because that's what you do.

    The nonsense from the Astroturfed protestors on the right is just like the Anti-Mask League from 1918's flu pandemic (except with guns). Conservatism doesn't change much, and seems to consist of "you can't tell me what to do."

  29. I wonder why it has taken so long for some fence sitting friends and relations of mine to see this disaster of a human being for what he is. I'm glad they have.

  30. I live in Arizona....home of every man woman and child for them self

    1. True. I didn't do my due diligence before moving here.

  31. We might not even be at 2.1%, to be honest. How many of those tests are duplicate tests, either to verify that an individual is now coronvirus-free, or for people who have had multiple exposures over time, like health care workers? And a test for someone that was done a month ago doesn't mean squat now, unless they've been pretty thoroughly quarantined in the interim, because a test tells you IF YOU HAD CORONAVIRUS WHEN THE TEST WAS DONE. It's not a vaccine. If someone got tested and as they walked out of the clinic door a coronavirus patient coughed in their face, well, guess what, now they're infected even though the test will come back negative. Another reason why we need large-scale testing that can handle a LOT of people at once.

    1. Some of the tests are antibody tests, which tell you if you've had Covid-19. (The other type of test is a PCR test, which indicates that you're shedding virus or your body hasn't cleaned up all the bits of virus left over from your infection.)
      Unfortunately both of these types of tests have both false positives and false negatives.

    2. Right now, the US is around 90 percent negative tests, i. e., 9 out of ten tests done come back "no COVID". Note that a number of states only report *positive* tests without reporting total number of tests.
      That rate, incidentally, is significantly lower than the UK, the ROK and the PRC, among others. Which tells me the US is still not testing enough people often enough.

  32. I am troubled by many things that Trump says, and I agree that he is not a good man. But Biden is not ideologically pure. Plus the hair and the whatever. So I am not going to vote for Biden. Because I am morally more pure than Biden. /S

    VOTE, people, register, vote, and get Trump out of the White House! No third party, no sitting on the sidelines miffed about Bernie... vote for the Democrat. The only viable alternative is not the best, but the not worst is better always than the worst.

  33. Thank you, Jim. Well written as always, and so well put together. You, are my (writing) hero.

  34. Today I woke at 4 am expecting to read the news, the same nonsense, trash and vitriol, as yesterday, the day before and endless days before that. But wait! A ray of light! An action that bodes well for November and several years to follow! A 'Committee to Draft Michelle Obama for Vice President' has been formed. Even more good news: the yeo hour video documentary of Ms. Obama on her recent book tour will air Wednesday night on Netflix. Can you smell a whiff of victory in the air? Biden/Obama, an unbeatable ticket. I believe that Ms. Obama will surrender her personal life for the good, the actual salvation of our country. Barak, please see the need for this personal sacrifice, encourage her to accept. The Senate, the House, and Biden/Obama. A doable dream. A must. The current administration, full of incompetents and toadies, gone, to be replaced by seasoned, experienced appointees who will act for the people, not just themselves and their cronies. I have seen a future and it is ours. For all of us, not just the few.

  35. The relevance of the total number of tests is also affected by the size of the outbreak and it's control. Initially, South Korea did a lot of testing, but thanks to testing and contact tracing, South Korea has the virus under control. They can test as many people as necessary, but don't need high testing rates to control the outbreak. Meanwhile, the virus runs roughshod across the US, so it will take enormous numbers of tests to provide meaningful information.

    Great essay. One of your best.

  36. Another great post, as if there's ever a bad one.

    Tpyo Patrol: "If you put put the needs of others above yourself, you must not be important."

    There's either and extra "put", (or they both need an another "t" at the end, although mini-golf seems off topic).

  37. We are supposed to care enough to elect good leaders. Let's do better!

  38. Trump is Trump. He is beyond hopeless, and I have bitterly moved on

    What I am dismayed by are the people still supporting him. There were very few ways to argue for him on so many prior topics. Children in cages. Impeachment. Sexual assault. Illegal campaign contributions. Emoluments Clause violations.

    This? Well, every time Trump rails for practices that take lives is a case for manslaughter. He is responsible for his actions, and those actions have caused preventable deaths. Manslaughter.

    And many fellow citizens not only fail to act, they fail to see the need to act. That is the real tragedy in this. Not Trump, but we the citizenry as a whole. We are supposed to be better than this.

  39. and punishment creates a class of punishers whose lives are wasted and their characters depraved so that as citizens they become almost as undesirable as the criminals they torture. death penalty essay sample

  40. "At this point, I’m not sure I even remember what it was like to have leaders who weren’t functionally insane."

    You see it. I see it. Everyone who isn't a member of the Trump Death Cult sees it.

    So someone please explain to me how any member of the GOP who has more than a single brain cell is willing to let insanity reign.

    What is the payoff? Do they truly believe Trump's going to usher in the End Days & all those self-righteous bastards are going to nakedly ascend to the Heavens? Is that the payoff?

    1. For a number of them, yes. I recommend Fred "Slacktivist" Clark's analysis of the Left Behind books, if you really want to delve into that rabbit hole at minimal cost to your sanity.
      For others, it's hate. The mechanism is best explored in Bartov's work, particularly Hitler's Army; it is a sad fact of the human condition that we tolerate hardships easier, if we can inflict even more hardship on others.
      Also, don't underestimate the value of propaganda. A significant percentage of Americans get all of their news from Fox or the equally problematic Sinclair Broadcasting Company. A lot of the US media landscape is about as diverse as that of the Soviet Union, albeit for different reasons - although it is worth noting that Murdoch, at least, always was after the power to affect politics as much as he was after money.

  41. I remarked to an acquaintance last night (perhaps to harshly) that the typical American voter is perfectly represented by whatever asshat he sends to Washington. George Carlin's routine on politicians is a classic (though he was dead wrong on his stance on voting). Short version:

    If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you are going to have selfish, ignorant leaders. Jim is exactly right on how to build a better nation. It starts with us, fellow citizens.

  42. The only reason why there aren't massive riots in DC right now is because the sensible among us are staying at home. That is to say that the majority of people are sensible and make good choices. As for the rest, they could literally be the death of us, and El Presidente Trump is as counterproductive as they come.

  43. Jim, I had a terrifying thought today. What if COVID had originated here. No advance warning, no one to blame,. The whole world would've been screwed by the ineptness of this administration!

  44. Hi Jim,
    I used to think the agenda of the republicans was to get revenge for watergate. However, the latest iteration of the party seems to me to be out to destroy the federal government and foment a second civil war. That is the only explanation I can come up with for their behaviour for the last decade. I sincerely hope I'm wrong.

  45. One thing I really love about your essays is that, as American as they are, they're also often universal, and a beautiful example of idealism tempered by pragmatism. This one, but for the references to Mr Trump, is an excellent case in point.
    It is also a reason to hope that the planet has enough people like you on it that we'll get through this, and climate change, and all the other problems . . . eventually.

    I hope you and yours are, and remain, well, for as long as possible.

  46. Oh stop it Jim. Come April the warm weather will make this thing go away.

  47. Assuming we are still alive, we gcet to vote in November. So remember: Voting is like driving, to go forward, choose "D." To go backwards, choose "R."

  48. "Even Mitch McConnell thinks all available testing should be prioritized to hospitals and first-responders. "

    There's no way that he hasn't been tested. He's just smart enough to keep the special VIP testing quiet.


  49. martin gleespen mdMay 18, 2020 at 11:08 AM

    The rapid Abbott Labs test used by the White House gives a false negative rate of 20-48% based on published data. People with the infection are told they don't have it up to half the time. The test would have never been approved for use if the FDA wasn't handing out Emergency Use Authorizations like candy to anyone who claims to have a test. I'm not surprised that Congress doesn't want to use this inaccurate test. what we need to be doing is ramping up the tests and supplies needed for the accurate in-lab PCR assays that are the most sensitive and specific for the infection. That would require a competent national commitment to testing which we'll never see with this administration

  50. My definition of a Covidiot:

    CoVidiot. Noun

    1). A person, generally from Florida and perhaps in state government, who denies epidemiological science, the warnings of public health experts and is devoid of common sense. A person who is hard wired to support not the Constitution of the US but a former realty show star and real estate mogul with record bankruptcies at any and all lengths despite scientific evidence or practical health care advisories.

    2). Description of a person who never considers knowledge, wisdom, data, evidence, facts, acquaintance, awareness, familiarity, literacy erudition, learning, scholarship, erudition, scholarship, lowdown, know-how, expertise or experience in drawing conclusions about CoVid-19.

    Related: CoVidiocy, CoVidocrit, CoVidenier, CoVidish(ly)

    Synonyms for CoVidiot:
    airheaded, birdbrained, bonehead, boneheaded, brain-dead, brainless, bubbleheaded, chuckleheaded, dense, dim, dim-witted, doltish, dopey (also dopy), dorky [slang], dull, dumb, dunderheaded, empty-headed, fatuous, gormless [chiefly British], half-witted, knuckleheaded, lamebrain (or lamebrained), lunkheaded, mindless, oafish, obtuse, opaque, pinheaded, senseless, simple, slow, slow-witted, soft, softheaded, thick, thickheaded, thick-witted, unintelligent, unsmart, vacuous, weak-minded, witless

  51. Brilliant as always. Just like the commenter above, I got the polio and smallpox vaccines as a kid, but had to suffer through measles and chicken pox because the vaccines hadn't been invented. Came out OK, but not pleasant. IQ45 is just a nasty, inhuman nutjob.

  52. Four of the people who brought me up remember Pearl Harbor. Two more, now gone, predated home radios, penicillin and the sinking of the Titanic. They're all pretty disgusted with me on a general basis, guess I'm doing my "job" as a good Gen X'er.
    But I'll always be grateful to them for raising me with the idea that the public good, and acting for the public good, is not a dirty concept. In my home town, which is small, split down the line between centrist liberals, Trumpers and progressives in Western MA, it took until the end of April until the number of fellow white women I saw wearing masks in public outpaced the number of black bears I was within 20 feet of.
    The bears did not wear masks but they obliged us by demonstrating that yes, they sh&t in the woods.
    I'm a progressive, and a grumpy old Druid, and poor and bitter. But I really appreciated this post. Thank you.


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