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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Where COVID Goes, the Economy Will Follow

The Daily Escape:

Hetch Hetchy, Yosemite, CA – 2020 photo by sfo2phx. This reservoir was created by damming the Tuolumne River in the Hetch Hetchy valley in 1923. The project remains controversial, since the valley was thought to be as beautiful as Yosemite.

Where is America going? It’s clear that wherever our economy is going mostly depends on where our Covid-19 pandemic goes.

Congress passed the CARES act to provide us with a financial bridge until August, when the Coronavirus was expected to be under control, and life would be able to return to something like normal. But the pandemic is now worse than we imagined in March. From the WaPo:

“Sunday marked the 41st straight day that the seven-day average for new daily coronavirus infections in the United States trended upward. Six months after the novel coronavirus reached America, more than 3.7 million cases have been detected, and at least 137,000 people have died.

Kentucky, Louisiana, Oregon and South Carolina all set new single-day records on Sunday….Idaho, Nebraska, Iowa and five other states have seen their seven-day average for daily new fatalities rise by more than 40% in the past week. More than 100 Florida hospitals have run out of ICU beds for adults.”

We’ve spent $ trillions, but we’re no better off than when the pandemic started. And we’re got a lot to think about as these programs start to end. Bloomberg prepared this timeline of what financial benefits are ending, and the likely impact on America:

These looming cutoff dates come amid signs the labor-market recovery has stalled. While the Senate is willing to send new financial bridging legislation to Trump, Republicans and Democrats disagree on number of issues, and Trump has his own demands. The WaPo reports: (emphasis and brackets by Wrongo)

“Senate Republicans were seeking to allocate $25 billion for states to conduct testing and contact tracing, but certain administration officials want to zero out the testing and tracing money entirely…. [the administration] is also trying to block billions of dollars that GOP senators want to allocate for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and billions more for the Pentagon and State Department to address the pandemic at home and abroad…”

Trump wants the states to own the responsibility for testing. The Coronavirus spending bill Congress approved in April included $25 billion to increase testing and also required HHS to release a strategic testing plan. The agency did so in May, but the plan simply asserted the administration’s insistence that states, not the federal government, should take the lead on testing.

Another sticking point is that Trump wants the legislation to include another payroll tax cut. The payroll tax is used to fund Social Security and Medicare, so cutting it is a stealth way to cut Social Security in a time of crisis. Trump is also trying to fund a new FBI building.

In May, the House approved a $3.5 trillion relief bill. Pelosi’s bill funnels $100 billion to help schools to safely reopen and calls for $1 trillion to be sent to cash-strapped states to pay essential workers and prevent layoffs. The impact of shortfalls in sales, income, hotel, and gas taxes are already biting.

The White House has said the final package shouldn’t exceed $1 trillion, showing how far apart the Parties are.

Axios has it right: (brackets by Wrongo)

  • We blew it on testing…America hasn’t built the infrastructure necessary to process [tests] and trace the results….
  • We blew it on schools. Congress allocated $150 billion for state and local governments as part of the CARES Act. [But] there was no money earmarked for schools to buy new safety equipment, or to hire additional teachers for [adding many] smaller classes.
  • We blew public health….Had we all been directed to wear them [face masks] in March — and done so…you might not be reading this post.
  • We blew goodwill. Millions of Americans sheltered in place, pausing their social lives for the common good. But many millions of other Americans didn’t. Some were essential workers….Some just didn’t care, or didn’t believe the threat.
  • All of this was complicated by mixed messages from federal and state leaders. Top of that list was President Trump, who claimed to adopt a wartime footing without clearly asking Americans to make sacrifices necessary to defeat the enemy.

That was the same mistake that GW Bush made with America after 9/11.

Michelle Goldberg in the NYT said this:

“Lawrence O. Gostin, professor of global health law at Georgetown, told me he doesn’t expect American life to feel truly normal before summer 2022. Two years of our lives, stolen by Donald Trump.”

We’ve lost more than two years. We may have lost the enonomy.

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Our COVID Data Is Inaccurate, And It’s Going to be Spun

The Daily Escape:

Sand Harbor State Park, Lake Tahoe, CA – 2020 photo by debarnec

Happy belated tax day! Two disturbing articles about both the accuracy and reliability of COVID-19 data were in the NYT yesterday.

First, the collection and reporting of data is increasingly reliant on outdated technology to deliver test results:

“Health departments track the virus’s spread with a distinctly American patchwork: a reporting system in which some test results arrive via smooth data feeds but others come by phone, email, physical mail or fax, a technology retained because it complies with digital privacy standards for health information.”

The problems are compounded by human error:

“These reports often come in duplicate, go to the wrong health department, or are missing crucial information such as a patient’s phone number or address.”

Before the pandemic, nearly 90% of laboratory test results for diseases tracked by public health departments were transmitted digitally. But the need for substantially greater Coronavirus testing has brought many more players into the public health arena, including companies that usually run employment screening tests, and small clinics that usually test for diseases like the flu and strep throat.

This has increased the share of lab tests coming to public health departments via fax and phone.

The result is unreliable information. The Times quotes Janet Hamilton, executive director of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Nationally, about 80% percent of coronavirus test results are missing demographic information, and half do not have addresses…”

Hard to trace an infected person without an address. America’s health system is a jumble of old and new technology that make it difficult to track what’s really going on with the COVID pandemic.

Also, the Trump administration’s guidelines on demographic data haven’t taken effect yet. In June, they required laboratories to report a patients’ age, race and ethnicity, so public health officials could better understand the demographics of the Coronavirus pandemic. But, those rules won’t take effect until August, and they only state that laboratories “should” provide patients’ addresses and phone numbers. They do not mandate it.

Dr. Frieden, former CDC director says:

 “You’ve got hundreds of laboratories and thousands of tests. Nothing is interoperable because they haven’t been mandated to do that.”

Other countries have a unique number identifier for each patient, something that Congress refuses to provide in the US. Instead, data often come to public health authorities using only the information that laboratories need to track the record, not the details that public health officials need to help manage the disease.

Anyone who has healthcare knows that patients routinely fill out the same information on multiple forms in multiple offices. The need for doctors and testing services to use fax machines betrays the fundamental lack of modern technology in some health care settings.

And remember, it’s not for lack of money: There’s plenty of money in the US health care system.

The second item regarding COVID data is more troubling. The NYT reports that: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“The Trump administration has ordered hospitals to bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and, beginning on Wednesday, send all coronavirus patient information to a central database in Washington — a move that has alarmed public health experts who fear the data will be distorted for political gain.”

From now on, HHS, and not the CDC, will collect daily reports about the patients that each hospital is treating, how many beds and ventilators are available, and other information vital to tracking the pandemic.

This is seen as an inherently political move by outside public health experts. The NYT quotes Nicole Lurie, who served as assistant secretary for preparedness and response under former President Obama:

“Centralizing control of all data under the umbrella of an inherently political apparatus is dangerous and breeds distrust….It appears to cut off the ability of agencies like C.D.C. to do its basic job.”

This is more disturbing than finding out that the data are terrible. Alex Azar, who runs HHS, is a Trump crony and has clearly used his position to be helpful to Trump’s re-election campaign.

If there ever was any hope for a dispassionate, reasoned, and scientific FEDERAL response from Trump, it is certain that these two problems, one with the quality of the data, and the second with how it will be spun as it is reported, show we’re doomed.

How many health care workers will have to die? How many people living in states run by Trump’s personal bootlickers will get the treatment that they need?

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What’s Behind Refusing to Wear a Mask?

The Daily Escape:

Hideaway Beach, Kauai, HI – photo by alohabaltimore

The message from health officials and local governments seems simple enough: Wear a mask in public to help control the spread of the Coronavirus; and the majority of Americans do. But a recent Pew survey showed that 15% only wear masks sometimes, while 20% said they don’t wear masks at all.

When the virus hit, we scared everybody into staying home. Then, we worried about the impact on the economy, so we pushed our governments to reopen too early. Finally, we decided that wearing masks would protect us from the virus after saying they weren’t that effective.

Most people want to do the right thing, but far from everyone. We’re no longer a “can do” country. Now we’ve become more like: “won’t do”.

Mask wearing has become a tribal badge. Trump mocked mask wearers for appearing weak. He’s said wearing a mask is a political statement against him, so it’s no surprise that mask refusers are more likely to be politically conservative. That’s an ominous trend when new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are increasing steeply in some red states, the very states where mask-wearing mandates are least likely to be adopted.

The mask refusers have also allied with the anti-vaxx’ers in a “you’re not the boss of me” stance versus the government.  As Kris Kristofferson said, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”, but with Coronavirus, that freedom to not mask up gives you plenty to lose.

And it gives the country plenty to lose as well. Wrongo wears masks in accordance with his state’s laws. Apparently, that makes Wrongo a liberal.

This story from Oregon shows the depth of the problem. A trooper of the Oregon State Police refused to wear a mask while patronizing a coffee shop, despite a mandatory order by the state’s governor, Kate Brown, that masks were to be worn in all public indoor spaces throughout Oregon.

The shop’s assistant manager told the trooper that he needed to wear a mask. The Statesman Journal reports that the trooper said:

 “Governor Brown has no authority to take our civil liberties. We aren’t going to wear masks.”

The manager recalled that the trooper then placed his order, offering this foul-mouthed retort to the governor’s mandate:

“He said, F— Kate Brown”.

This story carries a lot of baggage. First, the trooper is one of America’s anointed class of cops, for whom there is little consequence for bad behavior. Second, the trooper is a man. Men are more likely to opt out of wearing masks, even though men are at higher risk than women of dying from coronavirus infection. Third, Governor Brown is a Democrat, and a bisexual woman, so it’s unlikely that the trooper was a fan.

FWIW, the trooper was fired.

Most people understand that a mask protects you while offering real protection to other people. The message seems to have gotten across that masks are mainly about protecting others, but those troopers in Oregon, and many other people across America, are simply choosing not to participate in their own, or in your protection.

The recent increases in confirmed Coronavirus cases across the US South and West are being driven by young people who are not social distancing. The young are also least likely to wear masks.

We compel all sorts of behaviors. Seat belts while driving. No smoking in restaurants. No t-shirts with inappropriate text in high schools. But compelling mask-wearing for safety? That’s a bridge too far.

Here’s the thing: Encouraging people to wear masks hasn’t worked. Shaming people who won’t wear masks hasn’t worked. Reassuring people that masks are not a political statement hasn’t worked. Informing people about the serious health consequences of COVID-19 hasn’t worked. Reminding people they aren’t invincible, that the Coronavirus has killed young, healthy people hasn’t worked.

Begging people to wear masks, if not to protect themselves, then to protect others, hasn’t worked.

If we can’t convince anti-maskers to care about their own health, then we certainly won’t convince them to care about other people. It didn’t have to be this way: Pandemic, death, and depression. Things getting worse because we argue and won’t work together.

People are saying, we quarantined for three months, that’s enough. If your boat capsized, and you swam for three minutes, would you say that’s enough, you’ll stop swimming and drown, even though you can see the shore?

The solution isn’t elusive, but it requires more social cohesion and less faux grievance about freedom.

You want kids back in schools? You want the economy to restart? Wear a mask!

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Pandemic Is Getting Worse

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, Green County WI – June 2020 photo by Keith D. Leman

Last Tuesday, VP Pence rejected the idea that the country was seeing a second spike in coronavirus cases as the pandemic continued. He wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal, entitled “There Isn’t a Coronavirus ‘Second Wave’”.  

Maybe he thinks that’s the case.

The US and the EU have comparable populations, but the current state of their respective COVID-19 outbreaks are vastly different. New data released by the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention show that there are around 3,000 new COVID cases in the EU each day.

In America, we’re now recording about 30,000 new cases of the virus each day, ten times higher than Europe. And while some US politicians in the US say the difference is due to discrepancies in testing, the US and the EU are conducting roughly the same number of tests per million people.

And new cases are growing in the US. Here’s a look at the seven-day rolling average of new COVID cases in the EU and the US since March:

It looks like a second US wave is on its way, regardless of what Pence or Trump says. Everything out of the White House on the pandemic has been bullshít. The pandemic has revealed that we have no leadership, no self-control, and no willingness to sacrifice for the common good.

The federal government’s response to the virus has been misguided. We could have undertaken a national effort to produce N95 masks for every person. With those masks, which reduce the chances of inhaling the virus by 95%, along with proper instructions on how to wear and handle them, the country could have remained open, and people remained safe. Of course, that assumes mask wearing isn’t considered an affront to our freedoms.

Now, the country has opened back up. We are almost as ill-prepared as when the pandemic started. Many of us have gone back to our former ways, pretending the virus is gone. Yes, we can go back to work, but we need the protection of high-quality masks.

Here’s Calvin with some truth:

America is doomed.

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Could Trump’s Anti Vote-by-Mail Stance Cost Him the Election?

The Daily Escape:

Genesee River, Letchworth State Park, 60 miles southeast of Buffalo NY – photo by Donnelly585

Trump’s crusade against Vote by Mail is hard to explain. He of course, votes by mail. And, there’s every reason to believe that in the battleground states, he might benefit from it. From the Washington Monthly: (brackets by Wrongo)

“According to the Florida Department of State’s Division of Elections, [in 2016] 1,080,808 Republicans cast their votes by mail compared to 1,053,254 Democrats– a net advantage of 27,554.”

Trump ultimately won Florida by about 113,000 votes, not a truly significant margin going into 2020.

Trump world is taking what their leader says about vote by mail very seriously. The Detroit News reported that this happened last Friday:

“People burned letters informing them that they can vote by absentee ballot in future elections during a protest near Grand Rapids. The applications were burned…during an event called Operation Incinerator….Many people had flags, shirts and signs showing support for President Donald Trump and Republicans.”

The protestors were offended that Michigan’s Secretary of State mailed absentee ballot applications to all registered voters. They may have been misled by Trump’s false claim that actual ballots were mailed instead of what was mailed: applications for ballots.

But, it’s widely believed on the Right that making voting easier benefits Democrats.

Many Republicans also believe it will make it easy for the Democrats to commit voter fraud. This belief has also been stoked by Trump. And yet, Pennsylvania voters got mailers from the Republican National Committee encouraging them to apply to vote by mail. The flyers described the option as “convenient and secure.”

At stake for both Parties is what an expansion of mail-in voting this summer means for the November election. If more people vote by mail now, they will likely prefer to vote the same way in the fall. Trump has said:

“Mail ballots, they cheat. People cheat.… Mail ballots are a very dangerous thing for this country because they’re cheaters.”

Nonpartisan voting experts have found that states that conduct entirely mail-in ballot elections report very little fraud.

Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania are all vital to Trump’s reelection, and he is sabotaging himself in each of them. It’s important to remember that Trump won those states by a total of just 77,000 votes. Those states all have subsequently amended their election laws to be more permissive for absentee ballots.

Floridians may be less influenced because so many there are already used to voting by mail.

It seems to be an article of faith on the Right that voter suppression is a key to victory, but that seems to have backfired in Georgia. Urban polling stations were subject to serious problems. So you’d think that making urban voters wait several hours to vote would discourage them, that many would give up and leave.

But it didn’t work out that way: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Democratic turnout in Georgia’s primaries skyrocketed — with three times as many votes cast in the Senate primary as in 2016. With 91 percent of the vote in as of Friday, nearly 960,000 voters had cast ballots in the Democratic Senate primary race won by Jon Ossoff, compared to 310,000 who voted in the Senate primary in 2016.”

It appears that for every Georgia vote the Republicans tried to suppress through active and passive means, they somehow created several more actual votes! This result doesn’t make their tactics any less odious, but it calls into question whether as constituted, they actually will work in November.

Still, Republicans are spending $10 million this year on legal battles against attempts to expand voter access in Michigan, Florida, Arizona, and Minnesota.

It’s hard to see a scenario where Trump’s campaign against vote-by-mail won’t make it harder for him to win, particularly since he seems at cross-purposes with many local Republican organizations.

If his lying messaging helps to limit him to one term, please proceed Mr. Trump.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – May 24, 2020

From the Atlantic’s article, How Could the CDC Make That Mistake?: (brackets and emphasis by Wrongo)

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is conflating the results of two different types of coronavirus tests, distorting several important metrics and providing the country with an inaccurate picture of the state of the pandemic.

The agency confirmed to The Atlantic…that it is mixing the results of viral and antibody tests, even though the two tests reveal different information and are used for different reasons. This is not merely a technical error.

States have set quantitative guidelines for reopening their economies based on these flawed data points….Viral tests, taken by nose swab or saliva sample, look for direct evidence of a [current] coronavirus infection.…Antibody tests, by contrast, use blood samples to look for biological signals that a person has been exposed to the virus in the past.

A negative test result means something different for each test. If somebody tests negative on a viral test, a doctor can be relatively confident that they are not sick right now; if somebody tests negative on an antibody test, they have probably never been infected with or exposed to the coronavirus….The problem is that the CDC is clumping negative results from both tests together in its public reporting.”

The CDC stopped publishing a complete database of daily test results on February 29. When it resumed publishing test data, the website explaining its new COVID Data Tracker said that only viral tests were included in its figures:

“These data represent only viral tests. Antibody tests are not currently captured in these data,”

On May 19, that language was changed. All reference to disaggregating the two different types of tests disappeared.

The change has made the CDC’s testing data look more favorable. Last Monday, a page on the agency’s website reported that 10.2 million viral tests had been conducted nationwide since the pandemic began, with 15% coming back positive. But on Wednesday, after the CDC changed its terms, the same page said that 10.8 million tests of any type had been conducted nationwide, and the rate of positive tests had dropped by one percent.

Blending viral and antibody tests will drive down the rate of positive tests dramatically. It makes it look safer to reopen the economy. On to cartoons.

Reopen the economy. What could go wrong?

America needs a better role model:

Social cohesion used to be a thing:

Trump demands churches reopen. Where will he be on Sunday?

After WFH ends, will there be regrets?

Biden’s doing great by doing nothing:

We shouldn’t get cocky. Remember that Trump “won” in 2016 when just 25.5% of eligible American voters voted for him.

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Saturday Soother – May 23, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Sand Dunes NP, Colorado – NPS photo by Patrick Myers. The animals are elk.

Happy Saturday, fellow disease vectors! And welcome to Memorial Day Weekend.

Trump isn’t alone in peddling conspiracy theories. The WaPo reports that conspiracy theories and political smear campaigns are as old as American politics. From the WaPo:

“As far back as the campaign of 1800 — the first contested presidential race in US history — pamphlets circulated that accused John Adams of possessing “a hideous hermaphroditical character,” which was a suggestion that he had the sex organs of both a man and a woman.”

WaPo lists some others:

  • In 1828, a newspaper reported that Andrew Jackson’s mother was “a common prostitute” brought to this country by British soldiers, who married a mulatto man with whom she had several children. Actually, Elizabeth and Andrew Jackson Sr. married in Ireland, and then came to America to escape religious persecution.
  • In 2004, a right-wing group, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth made up lies about Democratic nominee John F. Kerry’s military service in Vietnam. Kerry had piloted a swift boat, and the group’s tarnishing of Kerry’s war service came to be known as “swiftboating”. A shorthand for an outrageous kind of smear.
  • Bill Clinton’s presidency brought many crazy stories, including claims that Bill and Hillary Clinton had been involved in drug-running and murder in Arkansas. Or, accusing them of murdering Vince Foster, an aide who committed suicide. Or, the convoluted theme of the “Clinton Body Count” conspiracy theory, promulgated by Newsmax publisher Christopher Ruddy among others, which says the Clintons are responsible for as many as 50 deaths.

While these tactics aren’t new, social media amplifies and spreads disinformation more efficiently than ever before. In 2020, the real force behind it is Trump, who has both a knack for branding along with zero capacity for shame.

Trump’s constant hammering on birthergate, accusing Obama of being foreign-born, built Trump a big following among people with “white grievance” by trafficking in lies about Obama’s birthplace.

With the 2020 presidential campaign about to get active, Trump has now come up with Obamagate! Something he calls “the biggest political crime in American history, by far!” It’s a hazy set of accusations that Trump and the GOP are trying to plant in the public consciousness.

The gist is this: After Trump was elected in 2016, senior Obama administration officials, including Obama and Joe Biden, tried to entrap his incoming National Security Adviser, Gen. Michael Flynn, in the then-emerging scandal about Russian election interference. There will be Benghazi-style Obamagate hearings by the GOP-controlled Senate. It must be true, since the term contains the word “gate”.

But can Obama be guilty of something he did as POTUS, when Trump claims that POTUS has ‘absolute immunity’ for everything?

He clearly hasn’t thought that one through.

It’s time for our Saturday Soother, and we need to move past these petty conspiracies and talk about a real conspiracy. The trees on the fields of Wrong are attempting to have sex. All. The. Time.

That means tree pollen is covering everything, including those of us of the non-tree persuasion.

But much yard work still needs to be completed, so this beautiful weekend in Connecticut must include a sinus spray. Yard work is a form of Saturday Soother, it lets you escape from all of the problems and issues of the day, and focus on the great weed conspiracy that our main stream media refuses to cover.

But before grabbing your work gloves, take a moment in a comfortable and socially distant space to listen to “The President’s Own” US Marine Band play Gustav Holst’s “Chaconne” from his Suite No. 1 in E-flat, Opus 28, No. 1. Here it is played by 34 US Marine Band Musicians, all social distancing:

Holst apparently wrote it as the “1st Suite for Military Band Op. 28A” in 1909, but there is no record of a performance until 1920. Holst was one of England’s most prominent twentieth-century composers. He composed hundreds of works, the most famous of which was his orchestral suite, “The Planets” (1922).

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Monday Wake Up Call – April 27, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Harvest Moon over Bisti Badlands, south of Farmington, NM – 2019 photo by navidj.

Question: How many Americans have died from COVID-19? A: 54,024 as of Sunday.

Question: How many Americans died in the Vietnam War? A: 58,220.

Barring a miracle, we will pass that Vietnam milestone this week. By then, there will be more than one million confirmed cases, and 60,000 deaths in the US. Can we take a minute, and try to place the Coronavirus in the context of the dead and broken bodies from Vietnam?

Vietnam took ten years to reach that horrible number, while COVID-19 has met it in less than three months. Wrongo served during the Vietnam War. It was a trying time for all Americans. We were disunited at home, at much at war with each other, as with the Viet Cong. It scarred at least a generation, and there are still victims of both the domestic and foreign fights among us.

Today’s fight against the Coronavirus may become the current generation of 20-something’s Vietnam. Jobs won’t come back quickly, friends and family are dying, and the lack of testing and a vaccine will make life scarier for young people than for any other group.

Like Vietnam did to the boomers, Coronavirus could scar young people for years to come.

As we head into month four of the outbreak, we know that we are undercounting deaths. The Economist reported on one aspect of the undercount early in April, comparing cardiac arrest deaths in NYC to the historical average:

Are the increased rate of cardiac arrest deaths really COVID-19 deaths? A strong case can be made that they are. Back to the Economist, who says that the outbreak will be worse in the South: (emphasis and parenthesis by Wrongo)

“Places with older residents and more diabetes, heart disease and smoking have higher CFRs (case-to-fatality rates)…..Counties with lots of poor or black people tend to have more health problems, less social distancing and fewer ICU beds. Yet CFRs in such areas are even higher than you would expect from these factors alone.

Together, these variables leave a geographic footprint….the highest death rates will probably…be…in poor, rural parts of the South and Appalachia with high rates of heart disease and diabetes. Worryingly, the three states that announced plans this week to relax their lockdowns (Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina) are all in this region.”

It didn’t have to be like this. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but in the end, the single most important factor in America’s disaster of a response was the lack of early testing. That will be a greater disaster if we fail to keep growing testing as the lockdowns end.

One thing that’s difficult to comprehend is the lack of empathy for the dead and their families and friends by some Americans. Most can rouse themselves to celebrate the first responders, health care workers, and “essential” workers, but not all can.

The WaPo has analyzed all of Trump’s Coronavirus briefings, and found this:

“The president has spoken for more than 28 hours in the 35 briefings held since March 16, eating up 60% of the time that officials spoke….Over the past three weeks, the tally comes to more than 13 hours of Trump — including two hours spent on attacks and 45 minutes praising himself and his administration, but just 4½ minutes expressing condolences for coronavirus victims.”

Trump has not even ordered American flags lowered in tribute to the dead, while some governors have. New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy and New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo both did in April. As Susan B. Glasser said in the New Yorker:

“Trump, who has in the past personally asked for the flags to be lowered after a shooting or a politician’s death, can’t even bring himself to do this much for victims of the coronavirus.”

Time to wake up, America! We must tread carefully for the next few months, because we truly know very little about the virus. For example, there’s no evidence that Coronavirus antibodies prevent reinfection.

To help you wake up, listen to “Road to Nowhere” written by David Byrne for the 1985 Talking Heads album “Little Creatures”. Here, it’s performed in 2012 by David Byrne and St. Vincent, live in Paris with a brass band:

Sample Lyric:

Well, we know where we’re going
But we don’t know where we’ve been
And we know what we’re knowing
But we can’t say what we’ve seen

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – April 12, 2020

It was supposed to be all over by Easter. But this weekend, the time that we were supposed to get back to work, brings us 2000 COVID-19 deaths on a single day, and a mass grave on NYC’s Hart Island. One thing we’ve learned is that Trump isn’t a clairvoyant:

When you leave late, you get there late:

It takes a team:

Wearing a red hat doesn’t make America great. What DOES make our country great is the dedication and drive to serve that’s demonstrated by so many of us. The American spirit doesn’t require fondling the flag, or bloviating in front of the media. Our first responders and our service workers make us proud to be Americans.

Vote by mail should be the answer:

In Washington State when you vote by mail, you retain a paper copy. The state can call the voter and ask them what their vote was, if necessary. You get a few weeks to decide on the issues and which candidate you prefer.

It’s not socialism if it helps you. If your check was passed by Republicans, it’s a STIMULUS:

Real life has become a scary movie:

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Saturday Soother – Back to Work Edition, April 11, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Great Sand Dunes NP, CO – photo by AddisonTract

Welcome to the 85th Saturday in April, fellow disease vectors! Here are the updated COVID numbers (as of 4/9):

  • There’s good news today. New infections are down dramatically as is the rate of new deaths.
  • The percentage of deaths to total cases has stabilized, at least for the moment.
  • Daily testing increased by 159,130. That’s helpful, but the growth in new tests still lags the growth in new infections.

America and the world are fighting a two-front war, one with the COIVID-19 pandemic, and another with our self-imposed, slow-rolling financial meltdown. Many think, like Trump, that the damage to the economy is worse than the loss of 50,000-100,000 American lives.

The irony is that it is the US governors that have precipitated the economic crisis while trying to moderate the public health crisis. And it has been the Trump administration that is trying to moderate the economic crisis by attempting to prematurely end the Coronavirus crisis.

A tenth of the work force has applied for unemployment benefits, while millions more are not working. In addition, small businesses are going under. So the GOP is pressuring Trump to declare victory and re-open the economy, and he’s looking for a plan to get people back to work.

But it isn’t just a plan. Attorney General Barr strongly suggested in a FOX TV interview that states don’t have the right to shut down businesses and schools during a public health emergency, and hints that the Trump administration could take action against states that don’t rescind shelter-at-home orders next month:

“When this period of time, at the end of April, expires, I think we have to allow people to adapt more than we have, and not just tell people to go home and hide under their bed, but allow them to use other ways — social distancing and other means — to protect themselves,”

Apparently, Barr is focused on what happens after the CDC’s guidelines on social distancing expire at the end of April. This is a clear sign that, while Barr is willing to allow states to do what they are doing now, his and the administration’s patience will expire when the CDC’s guidelines expire.

The WaPo reports that Trump is about to announce the creation of a second Coronavirus task force aimed at combating the economic consequences of the virus:

“The task force is expected to be led by Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and include Larry Kudlow, the president’s chief economic adviser, and Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, along with outside business leaders. Others expected to play a role are Kevin Hassett…and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner…”

One of the lynchpins of reopening the economy is supposed to be universal testing for the virus. But NPR reports the government is ending its funding for testing:

“…the federal government will end funding for coronavirus testing sites this Friday. In a few places those sites will close as a result.”

Reopening the economy without adequate testing is just like walking blindly in a minefield. And we know that testing remains generally unavailable.

The job of the administration should be to make the “5-minute” test kits cheap enough that every urgent care, every pharmacy, every clinic, can have two or three, and be running tests. Not just the current 10 -15 per state, but tens of thousands, so that widespread testing can be easily available.

Trump gave his game away yesterday when CNN’s Jim Acosta asked him:

“How can the administration discuss the possibility of reopening the country when the administration does not have an adequate nationwide testing system for this virus? Don’t you need a nationwide testing system for the virus before you reopen?”

TRUMP: “No.” pic.twitter.com/JokZYfy97T

What could go wrong? Plenty of things could go badly wrong.

If/when they do, Trump will blame the states, especially those with Democratic governors. Believe it or not, he will then campaign as the man who stopped the epidemic, and at least 40% of voters will say he accomplished it.

Let’s focus on relaxing for a few minutes with a new Saturday Soother. Wrongo hopes that you are staying healthy, productive, and in good spirits. If your income stream has been disrupted by the pandemic, Wrongo hopes you use the time constructively: Do something you’ve wanted to do for a long time.

Today we continue in the English pastoral idiom that we started last week.

Here is British composer Gerald Finzi’sIntroit for Solo Violin & Small Orchestra Op. 6”.  Played by the Northern Sinfonia with Lesley Hatfield on solo violin. It is conducted by Howard Griffiths. This is music that leads to private thoughts, something we all need right now:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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