Tuesday, March 31, 2020

That's One

Well, that's one 9/11 on Trump's watch.  And now the White House is projecting another 30 to 80 9/11's (100K to 240K deaths) before this is over.

Under Bush, the President's Daily Brief was titled "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US" 36 days before 9/11.  I'd like to know what those briefs said 36 days before covid-19 hit big-time.

With a 3-day doubling rate and a 15 to 30 day delay at the start, I'm thinking the delay increased cases and mortality by a factor of 30 to 1000.

Washington Post, 20 March 2020:
Intelligence agencies "have been warning on this since January," said a U.S. official who had access to intelligence reporting that was disseminated to members of Congress and their staffs as well as to officials in the Trump administration, and who, along with others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive information.

"Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were -- they just couldn't get him to do anything about it," this official said. "The system was blinking red."

Monday, March 30, 2020

Unlawful Assembly

Because of the reckless disregard of public safety and after repeated requests and warnings, I worked with our state attorney, Andrew Warren, to obtain a warrant for unlawful assembly and violation of public health emergency rules, both of which are second degree misdemeanors.  Our goal here is not to stop anyone from worshiping, but the safety and well-being of our community must always come first.

-- Hillsborough, FL Sheriff Chad Chronister at a news conference announcing charges against megachurch pastor Rodney Howard-Browne of the River at Tampa Bay Church for holding Sunday services in violation of county orders, Tampa Bay Times, 30 March 2020

Friday, March 27, 2020

Medically-Induced Coma

I don't think there's any question that we're going to have something that meets the technical definition of a recession.  But I am not sure that a recession is the best framework for thinking about this from a policy perspective or from understanding the economy.  Right, this is not a case where some part of the economy got out of control and, you know, we kind of needed it to reset itself in some way, you know we didn't have a housing bubble or a dot-com bubble or anything like that.  And it's not a situation again where we need people to rush out and spend to try to get the economy going again.  Somebody described it to me yesterday as a need to put the economy in a medically-induced coma, you know, we need to calm things for a period, so that then it can pick back up quickly, and hopefully be in the best shape possible once we come back.  That's a very different circumstance from kind of what we traditionally think of in a recession.

--  Economics reporter Ben Casselman on the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, "COVID-19 Broke The Jobless Claims Chart" @11:39, 26 March 2020

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Holding Their Breath

It's like Mad Max.  It's kind of weird.  It's like everybody's holding their breath, waiting for either society to collapse or society to get back to normal.

-- Joey Camp, the first person in Georgia to be quarantined at a special site after being diagnosed with COVID-19, Los Angeles Times, 26 March 2020

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Healthy Tension

I believe in striving for excellence.  I sweat the big and the small stuff!  I do not apologize for this.  One of the by-products of being a perfectionist and constantly trying to improve myself are sobering feelings of low-grade anxiety and a nagging sense of inadequacy.  But this is not anxiety without a purpose.  No, this anxiety keeps me humble.  It creates a healthy tension that serves as the catalyst that drives me to fulfill my limited potential.

This has made me a better physician and scientist.  Without this tension, I wouldn't be as focused.

I have accepted that I will never know or understand as much as I want.  This is what keeps the quest for knowledge exciting!  And it is one of the reasons I would do my job even if I did not get paid to come to work every day.

-- Dr Anthony Fauci talking about his work on HIV/AIDS in the 1980s, as heard on All Things Considered, 25 July 2005, replayed on the This I Believe podcast, 25 March 2020

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Tokyo 2020ish

The unprecedented and unpredictable spread of the outbreak has seen the situation in the rest of the world deteriorating.  Yesterday, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that the COVID-19 pandemic is "accelerating".  There are more than 375,000 cases now recorded worldwide and in nearly every country, and their number is growing by the hour.

In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO today, the IOC President and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.

The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present.  Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan.  It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.

-- Joint statement from the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, 24 March 2020

Monday, March 23, 2020

Didn't Fit The Criteria

The nature of Covid-19 put me -- and us all -- in a Catch-22 situation.  I didn't fit the criteria for testing or quarantine.  I had no symptoms and no specific encounter with a Covid-19 positive person.

For those who want to criticize me for lack of quarantine, realize that if the rules on testing had been followed to a tee, I would never have been tested and would still be walking around the halls of the Capitol.  The current guidelines would not have called for me to get tested nor quarantined.  It was my extra precaution, out of concern for my damaged lung, that led me to get tested.

-- Senator Randal Howard Paul (R-KY) (7 January 1963 -), American politician and physician serving as the junior US Senator from Kentucky since 2011, as quoted in the New York Times (23 March 2020) responding to criticism that he actively worked at the Capitol for 5 days while awaiting a positive covid-19 test result, exemplifying the dangers inherent in current limited testing criteria

Friday, March 20, 2020

Visual Muzak

You can, after all, reduce the reasons for watching TV to but two: to be lulled, and to be stimulated.  Some people do one sometimes, the other sometimes.  Some people do all of one or all of the other.  (Am I going to be arrested here for stating the obvious?)

Fred Allen called TV chewing gum for the eyes.  Although many people write me after a show and thank me for educating and stimulating them, my guess is that a larger number of people want TV to be a visual Muzak, a mind deadener.  More of the masses are in search of an opiate than in search of a stimulant.

-- Richard Alva Cavett (born 19 November 1936) is a television talk show host known for his conversational style of in-depth discussion on often serious issues, Cavett, co-authored with Christopher Porterfield (1974), excerpted in New York magazine 22 July 1974

Thursday, March 19, 2020


You don't think progress goes in a straight line, do you?  Do you recognize that it is an ascending, accelerating, maybe even exponential curve?  It takes hell's own time to get started, but when it goes it goes like a bomb.

-- Frederik George Pohl, Jr. (1919 - 2013), award-winning science fiction writer and editor, with a career spanning over seventy-five years, Day Million (p. 441)

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Stages Of Pandemic

We're at what I call the "I've heard of celebrities who have it" stage, e.g. Idris Elba, Tom Hanks, Kevin Durant, the wife of the prime minister of Canada.

Next I anticipate a stage with a mix of "Did you hear about the celebrity who died?" paired with "I'm acquainted/related to someone who has it."

After that, likely the "It has hit my friends / family / self" stage, in a sort-of "it seems to be everywhere" kind of way.

And that is where I hope it ends. Better that it seems to be everywhere, than that it actually is everywhere. The next couple of stages would be more pessimistic, so I'll forbear speculation concerning their names.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Model Chess Players

One of the most important events in chess starts today in Russia. 8 players from the US, China, France, Russia, and the Netherlands convene for a three-week chess marathon to determine who will challenge the incumbent World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen. The only thing -- the tournament takes place amid the unprecedented coronavirus scare in the country where all international sporting events are put on hold.

[T]o supplement the event's coverage without putting the players at risk: Ken and Barbie-like models of the players are prepared and will be available for photography and filming while the players can be safe during the event.

5-inch players' replicas, wearing suits as ties as per FIDE regulations, sitting at the chess tables, can be photographed shaking opponents hands, while the real players will avoid doing that based on the recent health advisory.

Images will be available for all media and chess fans alike to use with Creative Commons license; the dropbox folder will be updated every round: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ehsa8fuog3sn1cr/AADeS5E-bgcLWAFQ5G4jezjPa?dl=0

-- From an email from the World Chess Press Office, 17 March 2020

Monday, March 16, 2020

At All Times

To be positive at all times is to ignore all that is important, sacred or valuable.  To be negative at all times is to be threatened by ridiculousness and instant discredibility.

-- Kurt Donald Cobain (1967 - 1994), lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist of the American grunge band, Nirvana, Journals p. 18 (2002)

Friday, March 13, 2020

Good Bones

Good Bones

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I've shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I'll keep from my children.  The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that's a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake.  Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children.  I am trying
to sell them the world.  Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right?  You could make this place beautiful.

-- by Maggie Smith, published in Waxwing magazine (Issue IX, Summer 2016)

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Lily Pads

There's an old brain teaser that goes like this: You have a pond of a certain size, and upon that pond, a single lilypad.  This particular species of lily pad reproduces once a day, so that on day two, you have two lily pads.  On day three, you have four, and so on.

Now the teaser. "If it takes the lily pads 48 days to cover the pond completely, how long will it take for the pond to be covered halfway?"

The answer is 47 days.  Moreover, at day 40, you'll barely know the lily pads are there.

-- Megan McArdle, Washington Post, "When a danger is growing exponentially, everything looks fine until it doesn't", 10 March 2020

Wednesday, March 11, 2020


WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.

We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.

Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly.  It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.

Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO's assessment of the threat posed by this virus.  It doesn't change what WHO is doing, and it doesn't change what countries should do.

We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus.  This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus.

And we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled, at the same time.

-- World Health Organization Directory-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaking at today's COVID-19 media briefing, 11 March 2020

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Holy Land

And then, the Earth being small, mankind will migrate into space, and will cross the airless Saharas which separate planet from planet and sun from sun.  The Earth will become a Holy Land which will be visited by pilgrims from all the quarters of the Universe.  Finally, men will master the forces of Nature; they will become themselves architects of systems, manufacturers of worlds.

-- William Winwood Reade (1838 - 1875), Scottish philosopher, historian, anthropologist, and explorer; his best-known book, The Martyrdom of Man, was a controversial freethinking study of world history, The Martyrdom of Man (1872), Chapter IV, "Intellect"

Monday, March 09, 2020

Right Or Wrong

The Senator from Wisconsin cannot frighten me by exclaiming, "My country, right or wrong." In one sense I say so too.  My country; and my country is the great American Republic.  My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.

-- Carl Schurz (1829 - 1906), German revolutionist, American statesman and reformer, and Union Army general in the American Civil War, Remarks in the Senate (29 February 1872), here responding to the famous slogan derived from a statement of Stephen Decatur: "Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong."

Friday, March 06, 2020

Just My Hunch

Now, this is just my hunch, and -- but based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this, because a lot of people will have this, and it's very mild.  They will get better very rapidly.  They don't even see a doctor.  They don't even call a doctor.  You never hear about those people.  So, you can't put them down in the category of the overall population in terms of this corona flu and -- or virus.  So you just can't do that.  So, if we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work -- some of them go to work, but they get better.  And then, when you do have a death, like you have had in the state of Washington, like you had one in California -- I believe you had one in New York -- you know, all of a sudden, it seems like 3 or 4%, which is a very high number, as opposed to -- as opposed to a fraction of 1%.

-- President Donald Trump in a telephone interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity, 4 March 2020

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Trap Question

Gender in this race, you know, that is the trap question for every woman.  If you say, "Yeah, there was sexism in this race," everyone says, "Whiner!"  And if you say, "No, there was no sexism," about a bazillion women think, "What planet do you live on?"  I promise you this: I'll have a lot more to say on that subject later on.

-- Senator and former Democratic presidential primary candidate Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), in remarks to the press after suspending her campaign, 5 March 2020

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

More Than They Produce

There must therefore be a considerable class of persons who have both the will and power to consume more material wealth than they produce, or the mercantile classes could not continue profitably to produce so much more than they consume.

-- Thomas Robert Malthus (1766 - 1834), English demographer and political economist best known for his pessimistic but highly influential views on population growth, Principles of Political Economy (Second Edition 1836), Book II, Chapter I, On the Progress of Wealth, Section IX, p. 400

Tuesday, March 03, 2020


Persuasion, indeed, is a kind of force.  It consists in showing a person the consequences of his actions.  It is, in a word, force applied through the mind.

-- Sir James Fitzjames Stephen (3 March 1829 - 11 March 1894), English lawyer, judge, and philosopher, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (1873-1874) Ch. 3 : The Distinction Between the Temporal and Spiritual Power

Monday, March 02, 2020

Not Proprietary

Truth is not proprietary.  If something is true, those manifestations, you'll see in all kinds of different ways.

-- Marc MacYoung, on the Managing Violence Podcast, February 2020