The Virus Is Winning

I guess it is a gross understatement to say that 2020 has been a miserable year, what with a pandemic already killing more than 100,000 in the USA, peaceful protests and riots gripping many American cities and dominating the news, and a mentally challenged President still trying to govern by tweet from the golf course.

Wonder how many parents who are trying to home school have turned to Sesame Street for help?

images-2

I digress.

Anyway, for as bad as the year has been thus far, can it get any worse? Sure, why not! After all, we haven’t even reached the official kickoff for summer yet.

The legitimate and important discussion about racism and law enforcement will continue and will continue to dominate the news.

And we are only months away from what most likely will be a nasty, contentious election.

Then there is the virus. For months, many like me have been trying to follow the advice of medical experts: stay home as much as possible, social distance, where a mask, wash your hands and yada, yada, yada.

IMG_0005

The advice of medical experts appears to be wearing thin. And in the absence of any real leadership I guess that is understandable. Americans in principle don’t like to be told that we can’t do something or go somewhere. And financially many are hurting, with businesses closing or struggling to survive and unemployment increasing to numbers not seen since the Great Depression.

Still, like most matters these days, how we respond to the virus has become highly partisan, with Trump supporters on one side and those who still have the ability to reason and think on the other.

IMG_0002

So it appears that we are inviting the virus to make a return visit, one with consequences that could exceed the first bout. Maybe there is a lesson here from the movie The Hunger Games.

IMG_0912

Here’s from an article in The Atlantic, “The Virus Will Win“:

A second wave of the coronavirus is on the way. When it arrives, we will lack the will to deal with it. Despite all the sacrifices of the past months, the virus is likely to win—or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it already has.

In absolute terms, the United States has been hit harder than any other country. About a quarter of worldwide deaths have been recorded on these shores. And while the virus is no longer growing at an exponential rate, the threat it poses remains significant: According to a forecasting model by Morgan Stanley, the number of American cases will, if current trends hold, roughly double over the next two months.

But neither the impact of mass protests over police brutality nor the effect of the recent reopening of much of the country—including the casinos in Las Vegas—is reflected in the latest numbers. It can take at least 10 days for people to develop symptoms and seek out a test, and for the results to be aggregated and disseminated by public-health authorities.

Yikes.

And the article continues:

Even so, the disease is slowly starting to recede from the public’s attention. After months of dominating media coverage, COVID-19 has largely disappeared from the front pages of most national newspapers. In recent polls, the number of people who favor “reopening the economy as soon as possible” over “staying home as long as necessary” has increased. And so it is perhaps no surprise that even states where the number of new infections stands at an all-time high are pressing ahead with plans to lift many restrictions on businesses and mass gatherings.

So how did we end up in this mess? The Atlantic’s Yascha Mounk offers an opinion that strikes me as being correct:

In the fullness of time, many books will be written about why a country as rich, powerful, and scientifically advanced as the United States failed quite so badly at coping with a public-health emergency that experts had predicted for many years. As is always the case, competing explanations will quickly emerge. Some will focus on the incompetence of the Trump administration, while others will draw attention to the country’s loss of state capacity; some will argue that the United States is an outlier, while others will put its failure in the context of other countries, such as Brazil and Russia, that are also faring poorly.

I do not intend to offer a first draft of history. We are too close to the events to judge, with a cool head, which factors are most responsible for putting us in our current tragic situation. But I would like to offer a partial list of individuals and institutions who, however central or peripheral their contribution to the ultimate outcome, have helped to get us into this mess:

If the virus wins, it is because the World Health Organization downplayed the threat for far too long.

If the virus wins, it is because Donald Trump was more interested in hushing up bad news that might hurt the economy than in saving American lives.

If the virus wins, it is because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, created to deal with just this kind of emergency, has proved to be too bureaucratic and incompetent to do its job.

If the virus wins, it is because the White House did not even attempt to put a test-and-trace regime into place at the federal level.

Well, it looks to me like the virus is winning now — and wait until the fall when schools attempt to reopen.

images-1

Good grief.

 

Making America Great Again. Well, Not Quite

Okay. I’m no fan of the current occupant of the White House. At best he is just a clown, an embarrassment that will be erased in November. At worst he is a dangerous doofus whose lack of leadership skills has put the entire country in crisis.

IMG_0180

Oh well. Was Trump the lessor of two evils in 2016? Or was it Hillary? I digress.

In any event, Trump promised to Make America Great Again. So how is he doing?

Well let’s see.

As I write this, some 40 million Americans are unemployed, the most since the Great Depression.

The virus that POTUS dismissed a few months ago has now killed more than 100,000 Americans, and the count is going to keep increasing.

And many American cities are being patrolled by the National Guard these days as protestors are burning and looting in the wake of another unarmed black man being murdered by police.

Wow. That’s a performance review that would have most employees standing in some serious dog-doo.

But not Trump. His supporters still love him for reasons that escape most of us who still have the ability to think.

IMG_0767

Michelle Goldberg opines in the NYT, “America Is a Tinderbox. Scenes From a Country in Freefall”:

The last two and a half months in America have felt like the opening montage in a dystopian film about a nation come undone. First the pandemic hit and hospitals in New York City were overwhelmed. The national economy froze and unemployment soared; one in four American workers has applied for unemployment benefits since March. Lines of cars stretched for miles at food banks. Heavily armed lockdown protesters demonstrated across the country; in Michigan, they forced the Capitol to close and legislators to cancel their session. Nationwide, at least 100,000 people died of a disease almost no one had heard of last year.

Trump apparently is a TV fan. I wonder if he watches the classics?

IMG_0175

 

 

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

I know we are living in difficult and dangerous times, when even going to the grocery store requires an act of courage. So maybe we should adopt the advice of the great American philosopher Bobby McFerrin: Don’t worry, be happy.

In his hit song from a decade or so ago, McFerrin opined:

Here’s a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don’t worry, be happy
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy
Don’t worry, be happy now

Well with the virus taking lives and destroying economies, I guess it is an understatement to say that “we have some trouble.”

Still, I can understand the sentiment of many these days when they proclaim “but when you worry you make it double.”

Well, I remain worried, and I’m taking this situation seriously. Wait a minute. I need to go wash my hands. Oops. I digress.

Anyway, I’m in the age group deemed to be most at risk. And based on last year’s health report card where I battled twice with pneumonia, I’m okay wearing a mask and social distancing. I also can’t imagine eating in a restaurant where servers are wearing masks and instead of napkins you are given clorox wipes. Ugh.

I’m also not sure exactly how to grade the Trump administration’s response to this crisis. I guess it rests somewhere between pathetically inept and catastrophic. But hey. What do I know?

Well, I do know that this has been a terrible hardship on business owners and on people who must work to put food on the table. But I also know that around 100,000 Americans (and counting) have died because of this pandemic.

Given all that, it appears that our national patience to adhere to expert medical advice is wearing thin, and calls — primarily from conservatives and evangelicals — to reopen the country are beginning to carry the day.

IMG_0906

I also discount the increasingly popular belief that this entire health crisis is some kind of government plot to take away our individual freedoms. C’mon folks. Trump and his cronies aren’t that smart. They can’t even get Mexico to pay for a wall across our Southern border. I digress.

So it appears that we are stuck between a rock and a hard place: keep things shut down to slow the virus and protect as many as possible or move as fast as we can to reopen, consequences be damned.

Here’s from an article on CNN:

All 50 states have now partially emerged from coronavirus lockdowns, but with only a handful of states showing significant improvement in infection rates, some experts caution it could be too soon.

On Wednesday, Connecticut became the final state to begin lifting restrictions, allowing retail shops and restaurants to reopen their doors.

Despite the reopening milestone, health officials say, Americans remain at risk of catching the highly transmissible and sometimes deadly virus.

Oh boy.

And we’re not just taking about a handful of people.

New numbers from the Penn Wharton Budget Model show that reopening states could cause positive coronavirus case numbers to tick as high as 5.4 million by July 24.

The model explores various scenarios under which states reopen, include continuing lockdowns, and a partial reopening. The model also forecasts those scenarios if social distancing rules continue to be adhered to or are relaxed.

For the PWBM forecast, the model considers that states reopen on May 18. All totals are cumulative, and include past positive cases and deaths.

If states fully reopen with no social distancing rules in place, as many as 5.4 million people could test positive for coronavirus. And if states reopen while still practicing measures of social distancing, nearly 4.3 million people are projected to be diagnosed with COVID-19 by the third week of July.

Partially reopening the states with social distancing rules in place would result in nearly 3.2 million positive cases.

The forecast represents a large uptick in positive cases in the United States which currently stands at 1.5 million, according to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker.

And according to the PWBM, the number of deaths would also start to rise as states reopen.

Oh well.

Why worry, be happy.

Winter Is Coming

I’ll admit I’m not the biggest fan of the TV saga Game of Thrones. It’s a little too stark and gory for me. Much like shopping at Walmart these days. I digress.

Anyway, one of the themes that resonated throughout the mystical lands of Westernos and Essos was the notion that Winter Is Coming. And when the series reached that point, we all knew that shit was going to hit the fan.

Since POTUS is a big TV fan, perhaps he can place the Winter Is Coming warning into the context of the current virus crisis.

After all, that was kind of the message that Rick Bright gave to Congress this week. Bright, until being ousted from his position, was charged with developing measures to fight infectious diseases.

Here’s from CNN:

Rick Bright, the ousted director of a crucial federal office charged with developing countermeasures to infectious diseases, testified before Congress on Thursday that the US will face an even worse crisis without additional preparations to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our window of opportunity is closing,” Bright said. “Without better planning, 2020 could be the darkest winter in modern history.”

The “darkest winter in modern history.” Say what?

POTUS, are you listening?

Bright criticized the Trump administration for failing to implement a “standard, centralized, coordinated plan” to combat the virus and questioned its timeline for a vaccine. His testimony came a week after filing a whistleblower complaint alleging he was fired from his job leading the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority for opposing the use of a drug frequently touted by President Donald Trump as a potential coronavirus treatment.
About an hour before Bright’s hearing, Trump tweeted that he had “never met” or “even heard of” Bright, but considers the NIH senior adviser a “disgruntled employee, not liked or respected by people I spoke to and who, with his attitude, should no longer be working for our government!”

And more:

Bright claimed that the administration missed “early warning signals” to prevent the spread of the virus. He said that he would “never forget” an email from Mike Bowen, the hearing’s other witness and the vice president of the medical supply company Prestige Ameritech, indicating that the US supply of N95, the respirator masks used by health care professionals, was at a perilous level.

“He said, ‘We’re in deep shit,'” testified Bright. “‘The world is.'”

Hmm. “We’re in deep shit.”

Hard to argue with that assessment.

And it’s certainly enough to send a chill up and down the spine of this citizen journalist.

So it appears that Winter Is Coming.

Wonder if POTUS can require Jon Snow, Lord Commander of the Knight’s Watch, to wear a face mask?

images-1

 

 

Hillary: Warming Up In The Bullpen?

To quote the Beatles: “I read the news today, oh, boy!”

And the news, dominated as it is by the virus pandemic, ain’t all that good these days. But if you go beyond that crisis and examine other items, there is a story making the rounds on the Internet that points to something that could be even more devastating.

It appears that Hillary Clinton is preparing to jump into the presidential race if Joe Biden face plants between now and November.

Arrrgh.

Here’s from an article from The Hill, a fairly reputable publication for Inside-the-Beltway folks. Liz Peek opines that “As Biden struggles, Hillary waits for the call“:

Hillary Clinton continues to hover in the wings, ready to step forward should Joe Biden fail.

Don’t look now, but Joe is failing. Not only has his campaign been rocked by sexual assault allegations from onetime staffer Tara Reade, but the public is beginning to give up on the former vice president. A new Emerson College poll showed 57 percent of likely voters think President Trump will win reelection in November.

Remember, establishment Democrats put forward Uncle Joe because he was the “safe” candidate, bound to defeat Trump. Oops.

Oops, indeed.

I’m okay with Uncle Joe. He wasn’t my first choice. But he certainly is a step up from the doofus currently sucking the air out of the Oval Office.

But Hillary? C’mon!

Back to Liz Peek:

Democrats’ obstacle to pushing Biden aside is Sanders. The Independent Vermont senator was the runner-up in the primaries and continues to hold on to his delegates. Democratic leaders do not want to see Sanders resurgent; they are convinced he is unelectable. But they also know that if they move to replace Biden at the top of the ticket and don’t elevate Sanders, the Bernie Bros would revolt.

Indeed, it seems clear that party officials are so worried Sanders might stage another run that they canceled the 224-delegate rich New York state primary. They claimed the vote would have been dangerous in the epicenter of COVID-19, but since they still plan to host a primary for state and local officials, that excuse seems weak.

As the primaries roll forward, especially with officials’ thumbs on the scales, Biden will almost certainly win the candidacy. In the absence of a brokered convention, how could Democrats replace their standard-bearer?

One idea has been to convince Biden to step aside in favor of the very popular Michelle Obama, seen as a sure bet to beat Trump. So far, though, the former first lady has reportedly rebuffed all invitations to enter the fray.

That leaves Clinton. Biden could choose Clinton as his running mate and then step down before the election and allow Hillary to run in his place.

Clinton is the only VP candidate who would be able to pull off such a last-minute switch. She has the team, the resources and the experience to be the nominee; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), former Georgia state Rep. Stacey Abrams and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) do not.

Clinton is ready and eager. She is desperate to avenge her 2016 loss (which she still blames on Putin) and has pumped up her public profile to keep herself in consideration. In past months, she has conducted endless interviews, promoted the uber-flattering four-part Hulu film about herself, made headlines by attacking Sanders and Mark Zuckerberg, and fired unending broadsides against Trump.

Unfortunately, Hillary still carries more baggage than a porter on a transcontinental railroad.

images

Oh, well.

What’s the saying?

Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.

Passing The Torch

John F. Kennedy said it best. During his inauguration address in 1961, JFK talked about the passing of the torch to a new generation of Americans.

We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom—symbolizing an end as well as a beginning—signifying renewal as well as change… Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.

Wow. A President who can actually string a few complete sentences together. I guess that was in the days before we turned elections into reality TV shows. I digress.

Clearly, the time has come in this country for a new generation to once again pick up the torch. And that generation had a leader in Bernie.

Okay. I know. Electing a Democratic Socialist in the USA in the year 2020 was a fools errand. Although I’m not sure exactly why. During this virus crisis when it takes an act of courage to leave home to search for toilet paper, just about everything that Bernie and his cadre of followers argued for has become a national priority. Toping the list: federal government financial protection for workers and small businesses and massive government intervention in the healthcare system and economy in general.

And to put it into a historical perspective, while we are subjected almost daily now to the incompetence of Doofus-in-Chief, another president took a different approach.

IMG_0898

So it goes.

At least I had the opportunity to vote for Bernie in 2016 and again this year. Not that it did any good. I guess it was akin to a kamikaze pilot surviving one crash only to jump into the next available plane. Oh well.

But I’m convinced that in the not-to-distant future the policies that Bernie has advanced throughout his career will be mainstream in this country.

Unfortunately, that isn’t going to happen as long as the corrupt corporate national political parties — Democratic and Republican — continue to serve up candidates like Biden and Trump.

It’s time to pass the torch to a new generation.

The Clorox Cocktail

Okay. I know these past few months have been tough. Being required to stay at home is no fun, even for someone like me who liked to practice social distancing long before it became fashionable.

And I guess for lack of anything better to do sales and consumption of beer, alcohol and wine are trending up. That’s understandable and even reasonable given the circumstances. I haven’t as yet heard any of the gasbags on MSNBC and elsewhere opine as to whether two fingers (or more) or Jameson served neat could serve as an antibody to protect against the virus. Oh well. I digress.

But as usual, perhaps I’m missing the big picture and not considering all the possibilities. Yesterday during his daily update/campaign rally, the bartender-in-chief, POTUS, added a new cocktail to the mix.

The Prez suggested that ingesting a disinfectant, like Clorox, could provide some relief to what ails many of us these days.

Folks, no matter how hard you try you can’t make this shit up.

Here’s from the BBC:

What did President Trump say?
During Thursday’s White House coronavirus task force briefing, an official presented the results of US government research that indicated coronavirus appeared to weaken faster when exposed to sunlight and heat.
The study also showed bleach could kill the virus in saliva or respiratory fluids within five minutes, and isopropyl alcohol could kill it even more quickly.
Mr Trump then hypothesised about the possibility of using a “tremendous ultraviolet” or “just very powerful light” on or even inside the body as a potential treatment.

“And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute,” he said. “And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?
“Because you see it gets in the lungs and does a tremendous number on them, so it’d be interesting to check that,” he said.

Oh boy. I’ll have mine over ice please.

But wait. Manufacturers, health care professionals and others with a still functioning brain say not so fast.

Reckitt Benckiser, which owns Lysol and Dettol, said “under no circumstance” should its products be injected or ingested.
On Friday, Mr Trump said he had made the comments “sarcastically”.
Disinfectants are hazardous substances and can be poisonous if ingested.
Even external exposure can be dangerous to the skin, eyes and respiratory system.

Mr Trump’s comments have been heavily criticised by doctors and have generated a huge online response. They have provoked hundreds of thousands of comments and caused well-known cleaning brands to trend on social media.
Reckitt Benckiser, which also owns the brands Vanish and Cillit Bang, said its products should not be administered “through injection, ingestion or any other route”.
“Our disinfectant and hygiene products should only be used as intended and in line with usage guidelines. Please read the label and safety information,” the company said in a statement.

Hmmm. Maybe history does repeat itself. Remember 20 years ago when we could still buy toilet paper? At that time people had to be encouraged not to squeeze the Charmin.

Mr-Whipple-Please-dont-squeeze-the-Charmin-2-735x490

Since I suspect that many Trump supporters will take his advice, it might be time to call Mr. Whipple out of retirement and add him to the Coronavirus Task Force. He could stand near Dr. Fauci and convey this simple message:

Please don’t drink the Clorox.