Thursday, April 30, 2020

Don't let a pandemic stop the partisanship

Very few people are letting go of partisanship. Some examples: GOP senators want to increase the quarter-trillion dollar small business loan fund because it was exhausted in about 2 weeks. But they don't want to allow Pelosi any of her projects that would help other sectors, like state governments and hospitals. So no deal. Our way or the highway, I guess.

Republican-leaning folks are protesting lockdowns in various states, and getting encouragement from Trump. Are the protesters considering the implications in terms of life and health? Are they asking for a plan? Or are they stomping their feet was though this was all a hoax? Michigan had the biggest protest so far, and here's the view from a Michigander of the divisions within the state. It's the equivalent of 'Let 'em die.'

Election Looming

So let's strip away the dressing and lay it bare. Republicans are desperate to get the economy back on track because it was looking quite good and greatly helped their chances in the upcoming November elections.

But where are the Democrats in this? Some Republicans suspect that the Dems are gleeful over this disaster if it dooms Trump's chance at reelection, and maybe also hands the Senate to the Dems. That's a suspicion, but would any Dems in office actually try to worsen the epidemic or the economy for the electoral advantage? That's pretty bloodthirsty. However, it's clear from many comments I read that it's exactly what some Republicans think. Good luck trying to prove otherwise. It's a nasty accusation that they won't be able to back up, but they throw it to cause the suspicion and to blacken their opponents.

Dems aren't going to be completely honest either. Most aren't giving Trump credit for closing down a lot of the travel from China. They are giving him a hard time for his lack of leadership, but he richly deserves that. There was a lot of time wasted not getting prepared for this epidemic. There were warnings and information coming in to those paying attention that this virus was spreading quickly around the world, starting with areas with more travel.

This is largely a rant, so I'll follow my rules for rants, whatever they might be today. I haven't seen Dems trying to gain political advantage except for pointing out that the economy might be wrecked and the stock market is way down, so Trump can no longer claim successes with them. That's a bit weak on the causation, but fair on the result. Trump can't claim good things about the economy now because we are in a massively different situation, and it's not one caused by the Dems. It's partially caused by this black swan event, and partially by Trump's poor handling of this black swan event.

I've seen Republicans make all kinds of different arguments trying to avoid the obvious. This is fucking terrible for Trump's reelection prospects. One pundit I read has written for years that presidents will tend to get reelected unless there's a major crisis or a war that's not going well. If there's a crisis, well, the president might well be toast. This appears to be crisis beyond Trump's ability to manage. Maybe not, but probably. So Trump is clearly in trouble. I hope that isn't in dispute among the honest.

Not His Fault!

Some of the ludicrous stuff that Trump supporters have been saying: It's no worse than the flu! Trump was being impeached [so that makes it the Dems fault???]. The Chinese lied to us. Dems attacked Trump for blocking flights. Trump did a lot of things to prevent the spread. It's a lie that the National Security pandemic team was dismantled. It's a bunch of fearmongering. Don't panic. Don't buy up all the toilet paper, you idiots. Dems said we'd have a million people dead by now but it hasn't happened, so they're complete liars. Trump did take it seriously. Lockdowns aren't necessary. Lockdowns will ruin the economy just to save a few lives. Dems don't care about people losing their jobs and businesses. Dems love this, that we're all dependent on the government giving us money to survive. The suicide, murder and abuse rates are already shooting up. People aren't going to be able to take this lockdown for very long. Just wash your hands - no need to shut down the economy. It's only bad in dirty places that have Democratic governors and mayors; the rest of us shouldn't have to shut down. It's because of poor Dem hygiene practices. The governors are happy with Trump's leadership. The governors are in mutiny. This death rate isn't higher at all. Lots of deaths are labeled as covid but that's to get extra money... or make the GOP look bad. Go check your hospital and see if it's overwhelmed, or is it just a hoax? <--- And I didn't even get into the arguments about testing or personal protective equipment (PPE).

Yes, I have seen a conservative saying each one of these. I'm not making up any of them.

Dems are bashing Trump regularly, and not completely honestly either. They don't say that any leader, GOP or Dem, would be facing very difficult circumstances. Decisions have to be made with imperfect information, and not all of them will be right. So the impulse to attack everything Trump does is wrong, but many Dems are still doing that, just today bashing Trump for putting a hold on immigration. If lockdowns make sense, so does a hold on immigration, duh!

So there is reasonable cricism of Trump, and a lot of it, and there is stupid criticism of him.

Anti-News, Anti-Science

A big problem is that a lot of people won't believe information that doesn't come to them except from their stilted media. So if Fox News isn't telling them this pandemic is real, they aren't going to believe it even with the availability of reports from Lombardy, Spain, New York City, Seattle, and New Orleans. It gets even worse than that. They won't believe anyone who says something similar to MSM or experts. They are very effectively vaccinated against believing anything from anyone remotely associated with the suspect media and politicians. So they will never be convinced short of nearly dying or having someone in their family nearly die.

This total resistance to anything from experts or MSM media means that there will always be a cadre who can mutually reinforce each other. They will also fight the most sensible, well-supported information. They will attack good idea, good arguments, and good people simply because they are always on the offense, and think anyone with different ideas is brainwashed. I'm seeing so much of this.

I see Trump supporters who think that anyone who criticizes Trump over his handling of covid-19 is gleeful that people are dying by the thousands. Many people are feeling vindicated that Trump is so clearly out of his depth. I'm among those who thought that Trump would be a disaster if he ever had to handle a major crisis, and now that's exactly what he has to do, and he is handling it as poorly as we always suspected he would. There is no 'rising to the challenge' from him.

Covid flips the campaigns

Sadly, we're in this situation as the US presidential campaign heats up, so the stakes are very high. Prior to this pandemic, it looked like Trump had a very good chance of being reelected based on the economy if nothing else. But this huge crisis and the economic toll, his chances are diminished a lot, and his supporters know this. Trump and his supporters are desperate to reverse the economic losses, which accounts for their push to reduce stay-at-home orders and reopen states as soon as possible, whether it is safe or not, whether there are good plans in place or not. Reopen Now!! is what a lot are saying, and they aren't interested in evaluating the risks and rewards. Are Dems desperately trying to prevent this for electoral advantage? Not that I know of, but GOPers accuse them of this. This is also playing out in the issue of vote-by-mail.

Planning for how to handle a pandemic wouldn't generally be easy, but this one is harder than the last. This virus spreads more easily, kills somewhat more people, is mutating (not unusual), affects several organ systems, is a type of virus that isn't conducive to a vaccine, and perhaps not to immunity through antibodies either. This might be a long slog, like it was with HIV, except that this can affect many more people, but luckily our technology is much more advanced.

Advanced or not, we are in some uncharted territory. We haven't had a pandemic like this in a hundred years, and our expectations have risen very high in terms of the safety we expect. What would it be like, being on the team that has to plan the reopening of a state or country, knowing that there is no cure, no certain prevention, and more danger of death that we're accustomed to?


Extras. A program for small businesses to continue to pay workers ran out of money in just two weeks. The parties in Congress took several extra days to sort out how to provide more funds, partly because Dems wanted to fund other groups and GOPers wanted to limit it. Both stances are based on constituencies. GOPers only want to support businesses, and Dems want to support hospitals, states, and businesses that are very small. Dems were holding the money for business ransom, trying to force Republicans to help broader groups. The GOP mostly won this time. Dems were only able to get aid earmarked for the very small businesses.

Some examples of conservative media and what they are saying about Dems reveling in this pandemic. Most are from Rush Limbaugh  (archive  here). Time series: Limbaugh1, Limbaugh2, Limbaugh3, Limbaugh4, Limbaugh5, Limbaugh6, Limbaugh7. This started with Limbaugh saying it was nothing but Dems hope it will be something  (CHECK), then it's well under control but Dems are going try to spin that Trump lied about it being under control, it's something that isn't in control but it's being weaponized against Trump. It's not just Limbaugh, it's also Townhall. Columbia Journalism Review looks at this.

Aid to red states - Good. Aid to blue states - waste. Same as with hurricane relief.

Opinions about which drug is most effective against covid are based on partisanship. That makes no sense because it should be based on test data, right? But there's the chloroquine and the remdesivir camp, and data be damned!

Opinions on masks could be based on partisanship. <Eye roll> More of that proud animosity to those wimpy scientists, liberals, and SJWs.

April 28, over 59K deaths, and someone is still declaring this a hoax.

Covid-19 resources

A helpful set of links.

I follow mostly through worldometer.

Visualize the trends highlighting a country or state and compared to others.

New York Times compares which countries have flattened the curve.

New York Times resource per county in the US.

New York Times again showing how deaths surged in the city. Definitely worse than the flu (you idiotic deniers).

A detailed article about Italy.

Possibly a good news source from experts in the field.

Where do people normally die? I wonder how many are in hospitals versus elsewhere. Here are some answers.

A source for Massachusetts deaths and their demographics. The state gateway to info.

When will states reopen?

New York Times shows five models and their predictions for the US. Having watched Italy, I don't agree with any of them. Italy shows a plateau of two weeks and a long, slow decline that is taking longer than 3 weeks. The US, as of 4/24/20, is still in the plateau phase. I don't think any of them have the plateau long enough or the decline slow enough.

A timeline for an interesting source. Lots of data and charts from a writer who was very influential in lockdowns.

Is this an indication that social distancing and lockdowns worked: slowdown in Seattle before anywhere else.

Brief summary of two covid-related autopsies.


When the crisis abates, there should be a commission to investigate what happened and what measures should have been taken to avoid what was avoidable in this disaster. The 9/11 commission did a candid job, but what are the chances that a covid commission will be at liberty to be as candid with Trump as president?

New York City deaths per week (several years)

Wednesday, April 29, 2020


Well, after all those quickly executed shutdowns and lockdowns, it was inevitable that we would need to have reopenings, but hopefully they would be orderly and well-planned. I first asked myself about this on 3/29/20, and I'm glad I did. Since we luckily avoided having everywhere in crisis, every state had some spare capacity to start planning reopening. Now some of those plans are being released and going forward. This is something to celebrate, though in a sober manner with good social distancing and hygiene practices. Yes, we dodged a bullet, and didn't have the level of outbreak that northern Italy had. Congrats to us and the people who urged wise steps.

So here are a somewhat random assortment of reopening plans. The first one out of the gate was Georgia. Not well organized, but instead managed like a political football. Trump was encouraging opening (LIBERATE!) as soon as possible, and under threat from mass protests, though the mass protests didn't actually happen. In that atmosphere, Georgia went big and bold, which means foolhardy. Trump then reversed his support and mildly criticized the plan, which I think is going ahead anyway.

Texas is being more cautious than Georgia with a phased plan to open stores, restaurants, libraries, museums, and theatres at 25% capacity starting on May 1. The second phase starts on May 18. Counties with 5 or fewer cases can open at 50% capacity.

Mike DeWine, governor of Ohio and a leader in taking charge and not waiting for Trump, sets out some conditions based on hygiene and social distancing. However, he backed down on face coverings 'cuz Merrikans don't like them. Also, the plan was to coordinate with other regional governors, but Michigan's governor hadn't put together a plan in time.

The leadership by the federal government is minimal, as it generally has been, except when it comes to underwriting programs (mostly for businesses). The federal guidelines expect the states to set up testing, tracing (sure!), supplies of protective equipment, etc. Well, if states have all that responsbility, the federal government can shove their guidelines where the sun don't shine.

Well, interesting times. Stay tuned for sure!



Extras. How New Mexico avoided disaster. New Mexico again, but the epidemic is heavy in Gallup and the Navajo lands, with good video. A critique of how New Jersey handled its shutdown--Hoboken did it early and provides evidence of the doubling time being around 3 days.  New Zealand (yes, I know, not a state in the US) did great. Hokkaido (northern Japanese island) opened to soon and too aggressively and had to close again.

Views of workers in the US about safety and other issues.

Still new cases, still new hospitalizations. Why is this happening during the shutdown? Answer: Many are essential workers.

Florida has plans for major theme parks to reopen, but their management doesn't seem quite so eager.

Surge of covid cases in Texas, located in the panhandle. How will this go? On 6/26/20, the governor had to close bars back down. Also no elective surgery in the most populous counties. Very typical epidemiological measures.

A region in China sees about a dozen new cases, and they lock it down.

Missouri and Maryland had packed venues during Memorial Day weekend. Will we be seeing the consequences in a month or two? Bars in Texas were allowed to reopen, and the mayor of Houston is worried.

California has had a rather tight lockdown, but cases haven't slowed. What to do next?

The governor of N. Carolina (a dem) has slowed down the reopening and is telling people to damn-well wear a mask.

An article focusing on psychological reactions and why liberals and conservatives aren't responding the same to covid-19.

A lot of southern states are seeing surges in covid cases. How will this affect the presidential election? This includes Texas. When medicine and politics clash, some politicians are going to prioritize their candidates and their parties.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Finally, too embarrassing even for Trump

This covid pandemic has been a  humbling time for Trump, and this is not a person who abides any humbling. His braggadocio in February and early March was undone by those nasty little critters. He couldn't follow his instincts because they were leading to disaster, and his course changes showed his lack of leadership.

Then he started enjoying his daily show-off opportunities, otherwise known as the daily covid taskforce briefings. One of the first shows was horribly embarrassing, with Trump touting how intuitive he was about the medical issues, and his medical advisers looking very uncomfortable as they agreed. So Trump toned it down, introducing people, thanking them, complimenting his team, and generally trying to play the benevolent leader. (One major exception: when he was asked gotcha questions from reporters he dislikes. In those cases, he sharply attacked, but not at length.)

Who would have predicted that a moment at one of these briefings would finally tip the scales? It appears to have happended. Trump had just had a briefing on ways to disinfect surfaces. So he mused during the public portion of the briefing on some of his ideas and asked the medical experts to look into them:
So I asked Bill a question some of you are thinking of if you're into that world, which I find to be pretty interesting. So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether its ultraviolet or just very powerful light, and I think you said, that hasn't been checked but you're gonna test it. And then I said, supposing it brought the light inside the body, which you can either do either through the skin or some other way, and I think you said you're gonna test that too, sounds interesting. And I then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute, and is there a way you can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it'd be interesting to check that.
This isn't the first time Trump has injected his opinion into medical discussions as though it carried some weight. He made optimistic (and dubious) claims about how soon we'd have a vaccine and about chloroquine as a therapy.

Somehow, his blather on April 23 was too much, and brought a storm of ridicule down on him. His defenders among the laymen were many, but lame. He didn't really suggest injecting disinfectants... no, actually, a lot of treatments are injecting disinfectants... there's a company that announced intralung UV equipment so that's not crazy... chemo drugs are injected poisons, and people take them...  he was just free-associating as is his habit... come on, it was sarcasm, etc.

I can't point to exactly why Trump didn't get away with this one, but he didn't. He was subdued at the briefing on the next day, and over the weekend moped on Twitter that he wouldn't do them anymore:
What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately. They get record ratings, & the American people get nothing but Fake News. Not worth the time & effort!
So now Trump has lost his podium, and he'll be sidelined until he figures out some way to refocus attention on himself. I'm a little scared as to what that might be.

Bad--Could Be Worse

Sincerely, Trump is a very scary leader to have during a crisis. But so far he hasn't made any uniquely bad decisions that no other national leader has made in another country. He was very slow to see the danger, but so were many others. It's not a good excuse for a US president, but at least he didn't actively make things worse. Now, however, Trump could, through his anger or impulsiveness or lack of judgment, make a whopper of an error. He almost did that already with his statement that the country could open back up and churches be full on Easter. He backed away from that, but what if he doesn't next time?

His lack of seriousness throughout this crisis should be costing him support, but it hasn't necessarily been that way. Some people blindly follow him thinking he's a great leader and only liars disagree. I think a lot of people see him as a uneducated blowhard, though to some that isn't a disqualification if they generally like his policies. Maybe to those people he still seems a better choice than giving Dems more power. Sad to say, but I can understand that. I don't have much confidence in Democrats either. This pandemic is going to be hard on us to a certain extent since we missed the window of handling it with minimal damage. And chance is still not done with us--the virus could mutate into something even worse. The damage we do to ourselves with poor choices isn't too great yet, but there is still plenty of time for that to get worse too. Fun times!


Sunday, April 19, 2020

Trump craves attention but avoids real leadership

As I've written before, Trump loves to have media and public attention on himself, but he doesn't generally know how to lead. So he'll say things like he has a wonderful healthcare plan when he doesn't even have an inkling of a plan. The words, soundbites, and coverage matter to him, not reality like an actual plan.

When it came to responding to the covid pandemic, Trump was true to his stunted form. He had no plan. But when governors started taking action, Trump jumped into the fray to grab the attention yet again. Now Trump is trying to monopolize the attention on an reopening plan. He probably barely has a clue on what it should be, but that matters less to him than the attention. So he claims that his 'authority is total' on Monday, and walks it back a bit on Tuesday. He tweets about 'Mutiny on the Bounty' regarding governors on Tuesday, and then it drops. He says he'll adjourn Congress on Wednesday, but that's more fluff. He may not remember a particular Supreme Court ruling, but I do.

(By the way, pushback from Fox on Trump's claim of total authority: minimal.)

The federal government is putting together a plan. Some of it leaked to the Washington Post, and it's rather bare bones. Information campaign through May 1, then focus on increasing manufacturing of testing kits and protective equipment through May 15, then phased start to reopening schools and childcare. I can't say I agree with that last one. I'd reopen adult venues first. They are easier to close if infections spike and cause less disruption to fewer people. Schools should be later in the reopening, in my opinion. I haven't seen any scientific reasoning to open schools earlier. The reasoning behind opening schools was to have childcare for workers who'd be getting back to work. But I'm concerned about schools being vectors for transmitting the virus.


Extras. Covid virus moves more readily in the air, up to 13 feet. And it coats lots of surfaces, like door knobs and the soles of people's shoes. It's all over hospitals, even in the pharmacy where no patients are. Trump of course continued his strategy of capturing the newscycle, often through outrageous tweets.

Update 4/29/20. What was Trump doing before he got serious about the epidemic? Leaving it to Jared Kushner, who is another person to make decisions based on instinct instead of information. Also, a political strategist says not to defend Trump over the covid issues, just bash China

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Details and loose ends of the covid disaster

This is a mishmash of links related to covid-19. Like this one, zerohedge declare that Bill Gates planned this hoax. The virus is real, but the warning of carnage are hype meant to control the populace.

3M is exporting masks when the US doesn't have enough. Terrible but with a good explanation. It may be the main or only supplier to other countries that need masks too.

The conservative site Washington Examiner says that Trump is right to focus on reopening the economy. Maybe, but they also claim that he was thwarted from this task by 'collusion of the public health network, both political parties, and the media.' Clueless! Tin-foil hat theories of collusion with no realistic understanding of this disease's spread. This is a more serious report about the goal of the Trump administration to reopen. Trump may feel that it's necessary to his prospect of winning that the economy is in good shape again, but the virus may ruin those plans, and Trump won't be able to get around that.

A cogent analysis of Trump's attempts to grab the headlines. That's still the most important outcome to Trump, the huge egotist. And unable to handle criticism. Hopefully this is the last addition to this short list of people criticizing Trump for his egotism during this crisis. This time it's mild criticism from other Republicans. For a broader view of how Trump handled the beginnings of this crisis, see this article and this one.

What happens when non-experts drown out the experts: we have Trump touting a drug (based on an adviser's beliefs), that then gets bought up and creates shortages for the people who need it.

Slices from the crisis in New York. The field hospital set up at the Javits Center, the hospital ship, and protective clothing and masks being manufactured right in the vicinity. One sick person pushes another sick person, causing a fall and subsequent death. Not unforeseeable in crowded, chaotic conditions. Perhaps New York is over the hump of admissions, but the death toll drops much later.

Another concern. Covid is striking minority communities harder. Why?

Fallout from Wisconsin being unable to delay it primary due to inaction on the part of Republican legislators: many mail-in ballots won't be counted. Yes, the Republicans are looking like power-hungry charlatans, but that's what some people want. Lip service to fairness is ok, but the GOP needs to maintain its power (my interpretation). The country will need to consider how to run elections if this pandemic continues, but the GOP will be keeping an eye on what helps them electorally.

I intensely dislike that lying jerk Alex Jones and his conspiracy factory. He is at it again, this time with a mouthwash that protects you from covid-19. More ugh from a Florida police chief who connected a covid-19 death of a deputy to homosexuality in a long rant to other deputies.

A brouhaha over Dr. Fauci stating the obvious--that earlier distancing measures would have saves lives. Trump got petulant and retweeted someone who called for #FireFauci. But that could have been partly to stir the pot and capture eyeballs yet again. Scientists also warn that cheap easy immunity tests may not be coming soon. That's bad news for workers

Close to my home. The Soldiers Home in Holyoke had a growing problem with covid-19 and a director who didn't do anything about it, and didn't seek help. It spread through the workforce and the residents. Who knows how many will be dead when it's all done? So far about 20 residents but there's no reason to think that will be all. More local news.


Extras and updates added free-form. It's worth seeing how CNN fact-checks Trump. How fair are they?

A nursing home in New Jersey handled its outbreak by stacking the bodies in its morgue and not telling state authorities. A short-term solution, not long-term.

Nurses suspended from their jobs for refusing to care for covid patients if they weren't given safety equipment. For workplaces have a safety first ethos where you're not supposed to put yourself into harm's way. I support that.

Important picture. Bodies laid out in a refrigerated trailer in New York City.



South Dakota has a large cluster based around a large meat processing plant. Because there was a partial voluntary social distancing, the state government thinks it's in good shape to handle the cluster. Other meat processing operations are also having problems. Also other food processing operations.

Bus drivers are dying at higher rates, though not everywhere.

Lots of elderly are dying in Sweden. It seems like it was planned not to provide protective equipment to workers in elder care facilities. Or at least the lack of equipment didn't change in response to all the information blasting around the world.

In the US, longterm care facilities are sitting ducks. They don't have enough protective equipment, the right kinds of protective equipment, the extra personnel or time for gowning, and a population in close quarters that is ideal for spread. Lots of older people are dying in nursing homes (see New Jersey item above), including in my state, Massachusetts. Here's a report from Illinois, but it's going to be the same everywhere. There is at least one law firm ready to sue if Grandma died. Never mind that this is very tough to protect residents from. A reasonable list of precautions from a different law firm, but based on my experience, it's not enough. I'm very worried that the court cases after this epidemic are going to be a clusterfuck. And... New York fucks over nursing homes by requiring them to take covid patients. Yes, recovering covid patients need rehab, which nursing homes normally do. However, they are ill equipped to do the necessary separation, so separate facilities should have been set up. Cuomo screwed this one up. Let me emphasize that: SEPARATE FACILITIES. A long article about many facilities and the problems with staffing that they faced even before the virus hit. Reference materials for Massachusetts and the US as a whole.

Related: The lieutenant governor of Texas defends his view that grandparents would happily die to keep the economy going. I disagree that the choice was that clear or easy. Many people 50 and younger are getting sick too, and that's very disruptive to workplaces.

Also related: Another long term institution with crowding and vulnerable people: prisons. I support somewhat early release for those nearing the end of their sentences, but not releases in general. Criminals are imprisoned for the reason that they are a possible danger to society, and also because they are sserving time earned by their criminal actions. Those issues don't disappear because there's an epidemic.

Covid-19 is a weird virus with unexpected behavior, including causing clots and strokes in youthful adults.

One of the important turning points was when Trump started talking about potential deaths in a serious way. The first estimates that the administration released (when they got serious) was 100-200K deaths. That was revised down to 60K deaths by Aug. 4. Instead we passed the 60K mark on April 29.

A shooting/killing with racial overtones happened in February, but complications and covid has delayed the investigation and arrests. Also perhaps because it as a white-on-black shooting with a connection to law enforcement. Video has energized the issue, but it shows the very worrisome effects of covid-19 on fair and reasonable application of the laws. I hope this won't be an opening for backsliding in bad old habits of discrimination. (Not that discrimination in law enforcement has been eliminated.)

No, Bill Gates, don't give China a pass on what they did wrong, especially the coverups and misinformation.

Rats are suffering and getting desperate since restaurant garbage isn't available.

A church that defied social distancing norms was burned down in an arson incident. Congregants had been aggressive, even staging a mass gathering at a Walmart.