Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Covid-19’ Category

SCREAMING AT THE TV

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I watched the Biden/Bernie debate last night. I was literally screaming at the TV at one point. I said to my perplexed housemate, guess now you’re glad I don’t watch the news all the time? Yes, yes he is. It’s likely the neighbor’s are glad too. Apparently it’s genetic, my grandfather was known for flying into a rage watching the news. The item that earned the loudest screams, the debate moderator actually asked “Should China be punished or sanctioned because their initial response to Covid-19 was inadequate?” The Trumpian/neocon implication being that other countries should be punished by the US for doing what the US deems to be bad things? Who the hell made America the world’s policeman? And if we are going to talk about countries causing problems in other countries, the US has turned whole nations into failed states wreaking havoc across entire continents. So yeah, pot calling the kettle black, global style. And the idea that Covid-19 is a created bio-weapon requires layers of special pleading, so not likely. I’m losing my already shredded tolerance for propaganda. It never helps. Propaganda, not tolerance.

Well, if one ever wondered if something like Covid-19 would pull humanity together, the answer is pretty obvious. No, some nations are better than others, but turns out having a planet run on the “armed gang turf” model isn’t a good model for communal national response to a global emergency. Basically think of Covid-19 as an alien invasion, because that’s a pretty damn good analogy. It doesn’t care. And we’re squabbling among each other for the most part. Trump not exactly leading the charge for international cooperation in the face of this crisis.

Writing about this unfolding crisis is weird, thoughts and trends become irrelevant so quickly. I had more thoughts on the Bernie/Biden debate, but it’s already slipping away. Bernie thinks the Covid-19 crisis should force us to look at the problems in society that are making this such a disaster. Great, but it was preaching to the choir. Biden is the Democratic voice of corporate America, IE GOP lite. He sounded good though, he’s not senile yet. And the debate format clearly played to his neocon world view. At this point, who knows. Both could easily die of Covid-19 before the election. Reality bats last.

Yeah, it’s bad and getting worse. Last Friday my small rural Iowa town was mostly pretending everything is fine, in action (bars etc packed) and online. By today the tide was changing. The empty store shelves, Trump and the governor finally saying it’s an emergency. Too little too late I expect, it’s still exploding in Europe, and they were vastly more prepared for this than the USA. Oh, yeah, Biden at one point even said that Italy’s cradle-to-grave health care system had failed to prevent their outbreak, evidence that such wasn’t needed in the US. The “logic” in that is so frighteningly bad that yes, more screaming. We’re going to fare a lot worse than Italy, and our patchwork for-corporate-profit health care system is part of the reason.

Trump rated himself 10 out of 10 on his response to Covid-19, which is divorced from reality, but he believes it. At this point Covid-19 is looking like the worst pandemic since 1918, the worst depression since 1929. With Trump stridently claiming he’s got it under control the whole time, despite all evidence to the contrary. This is going to be like Hurricane Katrina, but national. Some of our friends and family will be dead before Christmas, barring a miracle.

Yes, so normal last week, peeps starting to freak out this week. Empty store shelves, limits on purchases. The first national disruption of my lifetime since the gas crisis of 73. And looking much worse than that already, though at least gas is in good supply. Yeah, fracking. I’m pretty stocked up, and have helped friends and neighbors already, because that’s why I stocked up. We’re all in this together.

In that vein, peace out to everyone I know, in contact with them or not. My estranged siblings, my friends old and new, Lars, Eric, Steve, my family, my readers, everyone. I’m at risk in the coming storm, if I go I want to be at peace with all. Even my mortal enemy, Anna-lisa Smoker. “You haven’t really lived until you’ve had a mortal enemy.” I’m quoting myself. I’ll try to make a near future post about the nuggets of supposed wisdom I’ve uttered or heard in my life. Might be my last chance.

So I had a bunch of links, most stale already. It’s bad people, not a hoax. And Covid-19 is worse because our system has failed the common good. This link is worth reading. And yeah, there’s a storm coming in. Hell of a thing. Take care everyone.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Anonymous Facebook meme. Credit: Riker’s Beard? Used without permission, will gladly attribute or remove upon request as required.)

Written by unitedcats

March 16, 2020 at 6:52 pm

IT BEGINS

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I went to my local Dollar General store today, and was saddened but not surprised that people were buying cartloads of staples, and store shelves were already empty. And I live in rural Iowa, so I can only assume it’s happening elsewhere. Not too surprising, the World Health Organization today declared that Covid-19 is officially a pandemic. Cases outside China increased thirteen fold in the past two weeks, and it has spread to at least 114 countries. Here in the USA, apparently the Trump administration is taking the situation so seriously that they are sticking to their proposal to slash funds for the CDC and the Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund. He honestly seems more concerned with salvaging the stock market. He’s also ordered federal health officials to treat top-level coronavirus meetings as classified, which is hampering their ability to do their jobs. Controlling the narrative and protecting his image is more important than protecting Americans apparently. You can’t make this shit up, the mind, already boggled, careers uncontrollably.

So, ok, here’s a link about why it is so important to slow down Covid-19’s spread by social distancing and other measures. Basically, the slower it spreads, the less stress on the health care system. And the less stress on the health care system, the more people will be treated and survived. If it spreads rapidly, the system gets overwhelmed, and patients die in the hallways. Read it here: Curve mitigation. Hoping Trump’s upcoming address focuses on this.

And here’s a good article about why it is so important for infected people to isolate themselves. Too much has been made about “It’s no big deal, most people will have mild symptoms.” Yes, yes they will. But if they don’t isolate themselves, they will give Covid-19 to people who will die. Anyone with Covid-19 is a Typhoid Mary, this cannot be emphasized too much, and they need to self isolate. Read it here: Stop killing people. And here’s another article about why it’s so important to take drastic steps now.

In other words, this is a global emergency, and immediate and decisive action should be taken by Trump to limit Covid-19’s spread. We can’t prevent it, but we can minimize the harm. Sadly a line of logic that Trump in his back and white thinking seems incapable of. We’ll see, I’m going to listen to his Covid-19 message in 45 minutes, and I can only hope he snaps out of his shit. I expect mealy mouthed crap downplaying the crisis, bragging about how well he is handling it, and partisan attacks thrown in for good measure. It will be all about Trump, not protecting America. I hope I’m wrong.

<Trump’s Covid-19 address>

Oh boy, that was … interesting. Here was my tweet after watching Trump’s first public statement from the Oval Office:

First impression of Trump’s Coronavirus statement: 80% lies, bragging, or irrelevant. 20% on point. Could of been worse.

Yeah, I was not terribly impressed, though not as horrified as I could have been. Watch/read Trump’s message here. I took notes.

A lot of bragging about how great our response has been and how the US is the best prepared nation in the world for facing this pandemic. Pure unadulterated BS. We are terribly unprepared for all sorts of reasons, likely the least prepared developed country. He announced closing flights from Europe; um, dude, Covid-19 is already here. That’s called closing the barn door after the cows are gone. There was also kind of a xenophobic tone to his characterizations of this “foreign” virus, but whatevs. That’s Trump for you.

He announced measures to limit the economic hit to small businesses and workers. Etc. All good I guess, but being the cynical SOB I am, one has to wonder where the money for this will come from. Somehow I doubt the Pentagon or fossil fuel subsidies will take a hit. There was also his schtick about how the economy is the best it’s ever been, which is always scary. No, it’s not, so he either really believes that, or is lying. Neither is reassuring. This was all kind of the irrelevant part, since for most of us, “Is granny going to survive this?” is the more pressing concern.

And Trump did stress the importance of hand washing and social distancing. He’s right there, can’t argue that. I don’t think it went far enough though, he didn’t cancel any rallies or take other measures to limit Covid-19’s spread inside the US. Basically his whole speech could be summed up as: “We got this, just wash your hands.” I think the country needs to take drastic steps to stop the spread of Covid-19, that’s the only thing that will minimize the death toll.

Trump didn’t look good either, though at least his message was blessedly brief. Being president is a stressful job at the best of times, and this is the worst of times. 1918 all over again. Some of the people I know are likely to die before this is over. My own chances aren’t the greatest. We need to learn from history, and sadly history teaches us that people are in denial until too late. A topic for a blog post itself.

Stay safe everyone, protect your elders.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image:  Empty store shelves. Credit: Public domain image obtained from Snappygoat.)

Written by unitedcats

March 11, 2020 at 7:48 pm

REALITY VS SPIN

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The main reason I find the Covid-19 outbreak so compelling is that it transcends spin. What do I mean by that? A bit of background. The mainstream media in the US is infotainment, a product designed for a targeted demographic. Fox News blazed the trail, but all the rest have followed suit. So now when people watch the mainstream news, congruence with reality is a coincidence. Yes, it’s more nuanced than that, and there’s a whole spectrum of incongruity with reality, but for the most part what people see on Fox or MSNBC can be safely believed without any risk of their daily reality contradicting it. Covid-19 is rapidly going past that, people will notice empty store shelves and dead friends and relatives. Reality bats last. Could get interesting in other words. And not the good kind of interesting.

Hell, it already is. I’m ready. I ordered an electron microscope on Amazon. That way if a virus with my name on it shows up, I have a chance of spotting it. Does that qualify as a dad joke? Does it even qualify as a joke? I’m going to depend on morbid humour to get through this. That, and a pile of soap and alcohol. Rubbing alcohol, for sterilizing surfaces. Just in case that needed clarification. In any event, some random weird reactions followed by a summary of sorts. The Covid-19 files:

In expected news, from high to low special interests are trying to cash in on this.  A banking industry group has called for the markets to be deregulated in order to fight the Covid-19 epidemic. How exactly is giving the banks what they want to turn Wall Street into an even more wild west fixed gambling casino for the rich isn’t really explained. Jeremy Krass of the University of Michigan School of Business condemned  the recommendations as incoherent and “transparently opportunistic.”  Ain’t unfettered capitalism grand? Unfettered by even a shred of human decency and ethics in this case.

It gets worse. Rick Santelli suggested maybe we should just get it over with and give everyone in the country Covid-19 to spare the economy. He’s the guy who started the Tea Party movement, a movement in search of a mission. He later apologized and said his remarks were insensitive and inappropriate. They were also shockingly stupid Mr Santelli. First of all, worst case scenario only 40-70% of the population will get the virus, I guess he thinks people will feel left out if they don’t get Covid-19? Secondly, millions would die and one out of five would require hospitalisation. How, exactly, is that going to spare the economy? Did he just invest in coffin manufacturing company stock? Sadly, pretty sure this won’t be the last blast of stupid about Covid-19. Hell, here’s a guy denying Covid-19 exists. (Sorry it’s on a tendiciously liberal site, but the facts seem real.)

On the plus side, Coronavirus porn is now a thing. Yes, it’s real. Humans are just shaved monkeys, and anyone who has visited a monkey house knows what goes on there. When they are not throwing excrement at visitors. So no surprise. Granted I don’t see the appeal, but the link apparently has links to NSFW coronavirus porn for those so inclined. I’ll stick to my mermaid smurf porn, I’m not some sort of weirdo thank you.

Still hearing people downplay Covid-19 by comparing it to the annual flu. It’s a deceptive comparison. Yes, the annual flu kills enormous numbers of people compared to Covid-19, and we aren’t freaking out about the flu? So Covid-19 is no big deal, right? Well, wrong. Yes, as it now stands, the flu is worse. However, if Covid-19 infects as many people as the flu does, or even a significant fraction of that, it will be vastly worse than the flu. It will kill and seriously sicken vastly more people than the flu does. That’s what the big deal is, public health officials desperately want to prevent Covid-19 from becoming as ubiquitous as the flu. And any rational person should be able to understand that.

So, where are we today? Up to about 100,000 confirmed cases in over 80 countries. It’s doubled in about three weeks. Italy has quarantined 16 million people. It’s in numerous states in the US, likely all of them by now. I’m guessing the next three weeks is the key. If it doubles again, or less, might still be under control. If it’s more than doubled, we’re in deep le doo doo deep. We would be talking millions of cases by summer, with enormous economic costs as parts of the globe shut down to try and prevent it spreading further and faster.

Here in the US, still spreading, Trump still getting mixed reviews on his performance. He’s said a number of, well, factually challenged things. Suggesting people sickened by Covid-19 should just go to work. Basically still downplaying it, still making it all very partisan. He’s basically BSing his way through it, and because he and his core followers believe in his BS, they still think he’s great. The man actually believes he’s this brilliant individual, and so do his followers. That won’t help in the response to Covid-19, so Trump might well turn into the Herbert Hoover of his day. He was the Republican president who had the misfortune of having the stock market crash and onset of the Great Depression during his time in office.

Basically the Covid-19 epidemic is real, and no amount of dancing and prancing and finger pointing on Trump’s part will change that. As one expert said: “The spread of the coronavirus outbreak in the US could push the healthcare system to its limits. In a February webinar presentation hosted by the American Hospital Association, an expert laid out “best guess” estimates about how many Americans could be impacted. He projected that there could be as many as 96 million cases in the US, 4.8 million hospitalizations, and 480,000 deaths associated with the novel coronavirus.”

Have a great week everyone.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Facebook meme. Credit: Unknown, used without permission. I will happily attribute or remove it should the copyright holder come to light.)

Written by unitedcats

March 8, 2020 at 4:51 pm

DARK DAYS

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Number three abortive Covid-19 post. I notice it’s not making a huge amount of news, I think some attempt is being made to avoid panic. A good thing, panic rarely helps. As the CDC says, keep calm and wash your hands. At this point, still thinking Covid-19 is the cold from hell. The 1918 flu of our time. 40-70% of the world’s population will catch it, millions will die. The US will be particularly hard hit because of the dismal state of our public health care system, among other factors I previously blogged about.

Economic disruption is almost a certainty at this point. Just the closing of factories in China is going to result in empty store shelves here. Those of us who remember the 1973 gas crisis know what it will be like. Except there will be shortages of all sorts of things, not just gas. A little preparation now goes a long ways, I’m stocking up on items I know I will use eventually no matter what.

Going after Trump a waste of time, he’s made things worse and his response to this crisis is questionable, but the USA’s horrific public health system long preceded Trump. Turns out a health care system that prioritizes corporate profit over public health is poorly equipped to cope with a pandemic. Who would have guessed? I actually kinda feel sorry for Trump, he actually believes he’s this smart and competent leader. And now that he’s facing a real crisis, not an imaginary crisis or a crisis of his own making, he’s out of his depth. He’s like this guy, it’s painful to watch.

Watch for scammers. Facebook and Amazon have already pulled millions of ads for products claiming they will cure or prevent Covid-19, or price gouging on things like masks. (Masks are of little value anywise, they can certainly help prevent sick people from spreading disease, but they are of little use in protecting from it.) It goes without saying that getting Covid-19 advice from the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow or Jim Bakker is a bad idea. Hoping and praying are of zero medical benefit. Here’s the CDC guide for preparing for it, real advice from real experts. Yeah, I’m old fashioned that way.

Some of the rumours flying are ridiculous. Read a post by a guy claiming Covid-19 reached the US by way of Chinese balloon bombs, modelled after the Japanese balloon bombs of WW2. Yes, that’s what comes from mixing poor logic, a limited understanding of history, and racism. There’s so many things wrong with the idea I don’t even know where to start. And as expected, since Covid-19 originated in China, racists are crawling out from under their rocks. Hopefully most people have more sense, but people often react badly to scary times.

Sorry about the brevity of this post. I have reached the age where various parts of my body are saying: “You thought that was bad? Watch this!” This being Bursitis. Sigh. Have a great week everyone. Wash your hands! Comments and shares appreciated.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: CDC flyer, inspired by this. Credit: CDC, used legally under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

March 2, 2020 at 12:58 pm

TRUMP, COVID-19, AND PERFORMANCE ART

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This may be the beginnings of the 1918 Flu epidemic of our time, so what else is there to write about? I’ve lived through two “big events” in my life, for want of a better word. I lived in Berkeley when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit, and 9/11, the “Pearl Harbor” of my life. The first was a local disaster, the second a national disaster. There was stuff during the 60s, the JFK and MLK assassinations, but I was a kid and insulated from it. This could be number three, a global disaster this time. I hope not, but here we are.

At this point, the end of February 2020, the Coronavirus (Covid-19) has spread to two dozen plus countries, some of which don’t have the medical infrastructure to cope with an epidemic. Covid-19 appears to be less lethal than the 1918 global flu pandemic, but an order of magnitude more lethal than the annual flu season. If it becomes a pandemic, millions may well die. For the record, an epidemic is a contagious disease that affects a local region. A pandemic is an infectious disease that spreads worldwide. There have been four pandemics the past century:

(Credit: CDC. Used legally.)

The dividing line between epidemic and pandemic is a bit fuzzy, but at this juncture no one is calling Covid-19 a pandemic, but it sure seems headed that way. The ugly truth is that diseases jump from animals to humans fairly regularly, and diseases can mutate, so sooner or later another pandemic was inevitable. This is why sensible countries prepare for them. China  learned a lot from the SARS epidemic nearly 20 years ago, and their response to this one has been pretty massive. That China still couldn’t contain Covid-19 bodes ill for the world.

In America, Wednesday night Trump held a press conference to talk about Covid-19. It was not reassuring. I mean, he tried, at least he didn’t encourage panic. He basically said Covid-19 may not get here, and that the USA was super prepared for it. He suggested hand washing, never a bad idea. He randomly bragged about questionable achievments, saying his Muslim ban was part of preparations for this. He claimed the Stock Market collapsing was because of the Democratic debate. I’d say he can’t be serious, but I think he is. He pooh poohed the fact that he had cut funds and fired all sorts of public health officials, saying we can just hire good ones back. Which is the equivalent of saying “We don’t need an army, if we need one we’ll just hire a bunch of people.” It doesn’t work that way, dealing with natural disasters is 90% preparation, so bragging about winging it was pretty weird. And then he appointed Vice President Pence as the Coronavirus coordinator, a science denying ideological extremist with a record of making an epidemic worse. Did I mention I was not reassured? So far looks like Trump is going to try and spin and BS his way through this. We’ll see, I wish Trump resounding success in dealing with this crisis.

My current theory is that Trump really does think he’s this great leader and he’s on top of things. The fact that tens of millions of people wildly agree … doesn’t actually make it so. What he is doing is more akin to performance art than leadership. He’s like a pro-wrestler who thinks it’s all real. All well and good if all he has to do is pro wrestling. Wrestling is over, barring a miracle, Covid-19 is going to kill a lot of Americans during the next year. Hundreds of thousands is not out of the question. More Americans died of the flu in October of 1918 than died in all of America’s wars until then. It was a big deal, it might be happening again.

And beyond the virus, global economic disruption is a near certainty. Today (Thursday 27 February 2020) was the biggest one day stock market drop by one measure. Yikes. So, today’s reasonable speculation. Just like 2008, the economy takes a huge dump, especially the economy of the rich. I mean that’s what a dropping stock market means, the rich are losing money. Trump and the GOP will lose the election to some hopey-changey Democrat. And when said Democrat gets in office, just like Obama, they  make it their mission to make sure the rich get all their money back from the taxpayers. They will call his (or her) program ‘qualitative pleasing’ or some such. And when all is said and done the rich in America will be richer than ever, and the rest of us will be scraping by in a gig economy at best. <ducks>

Weird days. Odd writing about an unfolding event that might just kill me. I’ll be able to devote a blog to that. I hope. Have a great weekend everyone, stock up before the hoarders get there.

(Image: The Tower of Babel, painting. Inspired to post after watching Trump’s press conference. Credit: Pieter Bruegel the Elder  (1526/1530–1569))

Written by unitedcats

February 28, 2020 at 9:06 am