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    • April 3rd US Covid-19 Data
      From our benefactor. Slight reduction in speed of increase of cases. Death rate continues to increase.  I think we still have some serious undercounting going on, and in particular I think it’s a good idea to keep an eye on Florida. The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food […]
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Ok, now, don’t get your hopes up but…

It looks like the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has a potential vaccine against Covid-19:

UPMC and scientists from Pitt Health Sciences announced a potential vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a press release, “when tested in mice, the vaccine, delivered through a fingertip-sized patch, produces antibodies specific to SARS-CoV-2 at quantities thought to be sufficient for neutralizing the virus.”<<

There are a lot of tests ahead of us but if it works and this goes like the Salk vaccine, Pittsburgh will get a first crack at it.

We’ll, uh, let you know how it goes.

Lean On Me: Bill Withers.

Bill Withers died today from heart complications. He was 81.

He left us a theme song for this time in our lives:

Crew vs Trump

Yesterday, the Captain of the nuclear powered air craft carrier USS Teddy Roosevelt was relieved of his duties. His error was in thinking that he could get sick sailors off his ship before they infected everyone else. Navy ships are tight spaces. There isn’t 6ft to spare in the berths area.

My guess is that he tried repeatedly to go thru his chain of command to get the crew the treatment it needed and ran into bureaucratic red tape. Who knows how far up the chain his request went. At some point, he probably got obstructed by someone who was terrified of rocking the boat with a cabinet secretary or Trump himself. So he went public. That was his mistake.

My first hand experience with narcissists is they value obedience. That makes sense when you think about it. A narcissist has a worldview that centers on him or her. To keep that worldview, he has to be able to order things his way. People are more like objects. They exist, if you can call it that, to serve the narcissist. Narcissists are the ultimate control freaks. So, when Captain Crozier wrote his letter, his sudden animation got the narcissist’s attention. Things were not in order. Somebody didn’t ask permission or got frustrated with the inaction on a urgent matter. The letter was disobedient because the worldview was upset and the image of complete control slipped. Not good.

That’s why he had to go. It had nothing to do with whether his actions were right for his ship or crew.

And it also doesn’t appear to be related to the sentiments of his sailors who gave him a rousing send off.

Let this be a warning to those of you out there lurking who think the military is on your side. Some of them are but many of them are from underserved communities for whom Trump has shown very little love or attention.

He might be surprised to find that they’re not as obedient as he thinks. That is, they might not be willing to break the law for him.

I know. Shocking.

I don’t get it.

In the midst of our collapse, we are starting to ponder why it is that so many people are fighting the inevitable reality. What exactly is making them dig in their heels and resist with all their might, alienating friends and families to stick up for Donald Trump. It seems incomprehensible.

Let’s look at this from another angle. Jonathan Last at The Bulwark wrote a piece called The Malicious Irresponsibility of Rush Limbaugh detailing chronologically each one of Rush’s arguments for ignoring the seriousness of the virus and defending Trump against his perceived enemies. Forget for a moment that many Trump defenders have voluntarily disarmed their brains for him. What makes a smart guy like Rush, especially Rush who is dying of advanced lung cancer, carry the message for Trump?

Let’s assume his lung cancer has been miraculously halted by chemotherapy and his oncologists tell him he can definitely live another 10 years. It’s unlikely but let’s consider it. That doesn’t mean that Covid-19 is going to adhere to any commands to stop being less like a cold or flu. It doesn’t prevent Covid-19 from having an R0 of 2.3. Rush and Trump can’t prevent it from arriving in the US or hitching a ride with unsuspecting asymptomatic people. The message does not prevent any deaths. It can’t suggest a solution that will work better than social distancing.

All Rush did was convince millions of people to not take any of this seriously and to excuse Trump from not proactively doing what he could to produce PPE and ventilators and to strongly encourage ALL governors to implement shelter in place. In other words, Trump had sufficient time to flatten the curve beginning when Rush started his “it’s just a cold” campaign.

He had to have known this. You don’t need to be a rocket surgeon to look at what was happening in China and South Korea and say, “hmmm… This doesn’t look like a cold. Not if you have to quarantine a city of 11 million people. Gee, maybe I should use my megaphone to zap Trump into action.” But he didn’t do that.

I can’t figure out why since Covid-19 was not going to spare the USA and he had to have known that the disruption and deaths were definitely going to get here. It was just a matter of control and mitigation. There was no way around it. It was unstoppable the minute it got out of China. The WHO predicted that.

What was the purpose of letting it run wild in the US while lulling so many people into a state of complacency? Not just complacency but genuine hostility for anyone who was pulling the alarm? What was the point of delaying a response when so many of Rush’s audience are going to die from this virus?

It can’t be ratings. Rush has a loyal audience.

It can’t be money. He’s got plenty of that and not much more time to spend it.

I can believe that his malice has a sociopathic bent and he appeals to people who get a thrill out of getting away with stuff. But time is not on Rush’s side. And time is not on Trump’s side. In another week or two, there will be full blown panic and anger about how this is going down.

Trump tried to blame China. We’re done with that.

Then he tried to blame cruise ships for inflating his numbers. That stopped working.

Then he tried to blame governors like Cuomo for not being prepared. That’s not working either given that the national stockpile of PPE and ventilators is now empty.

Now Trump is blaming the healthcare professionals for using too many masks and gloves.

Soon, his blame will fall on the victims. He’ll get angry with all the people who are asking him why their grandparents and parents had to die. He’ll say they weren’t following stay home orders or they were unhygienic or too poor to know better or they were old anyway. It’s coming. I can almost hear his thought bubble now.

I’m waiting until he has a meltdown. Well, I’ve been expecting that for 3.5 years now. He isn’t up to the job. But for all that time, things were kind of lurching forward without his input. He could spend most of his “executive time” tweeting or bribing other countries or causing misery for people who don’t vote. It was infuriating but we all thought we could wait it out until November.

Then this came along and his incompetence, venality and callousness is really dangerous. To be fair, any president would have trouble staying on top of a natural disaster of this magnitude. Some would have done better than others and made the economic collapse a little less severe and lessened the loss of lives. But no president would have come out of it unaffected.

We just have the great misfortune to be stuck with the one person in the world who absolutely should not be in charge right now. He isn’t going to get better. He won’t become presidential. He doesn’t have the problem solving abilities to work his way out of it. And each day that he is in power with two competing task forces doing god knows what makes it harder for us to deal with this fiasco.

A guy like Rush had to have known that the day of reckoning was coming. So, why carry on with it when he could do nothing to stop it and his audience was eventually going to catch on? Is there something we aren’t seeing here?

I don’t get it.

Change in Tone

I know that it’s been a long time (3 years) but this is a reminder that there is nothing normal or presidential about this tone:

Now, some voters may have believed that it was time to give an unorthodox, irreverent, non-politician the office as a way to shake up Washington. We can address later whether it was a good idea to choose one who is so completely devoid of character.

Unfortunately, this is not the time for unorthodox, irreverent, characterless non-politicians.

Right now, we need an FDR who can navigate both the economy and war. This is not the person who is in charge. And the sooner we realize that not having an FDR in charge is trending us towards disaster, the better.

Acceptance is the first step.

Covid-19 and the Irish Potato Famine.

Today we found out that we are shipping PPE to Thailand and Trump administration officials said they didn’t know about it. Also, FEMA is taking a hands off approach to companies selling PPE supplies to other countries who bid higher.

Day by day, the grip on the situation deteriorates. I have a certain degree of schadenfreude for people who are relying on “scientists” to save us. We’ve been undermining and underfunding science for two decades now all in the cause to privatize absolutely everything. Scientists are indeed amazing people. But they aren’t Superman. They have to follow the dictates of their profession. This means a cure is not on the horizon any time soon. It takes time and rigor to get the right results. I feel for the frontline lab rats who have to do the testing and the high throughput screening on compound libraries. They are little islands of sanity and dedication but they can’t save the world on their own. It takes a concerted effort from our government officials.

I think what most people are forgetting is we have been subjected to a relentless campaign to undermine the federal government for 40 years now. Have we forgotten about states being able to set their own rules and laws without the intervention of DC elites? How about shareholder value to the exclusion of anything else. It’s almost illegal to prevent the private market from making excessive profits at our expense. We’ve deregulated and fired whole pieces of governmental infrastructure. We haven’t made it better. It’s just gone. Does anyone recall the CPA authority in Iraq that squandered billions of dollars to turn that country into an experiment in unfettered free market capitalism? Not just plain old capitalism with some rules in place to keep people from being screwed unfairly. No, we are talking about whatever the market will bear capitalism whether it has any long term advantage or not.

None of the ideological agenda of the ruling party benefits the average American right now. We are in the hands of a disorganized bunch of speculators and ruthless predators right now. It would be entirely appropriate to say to the GOP that they need to set aside their incredible greed, opportunism, and lust for power for just a moment in order to save the country from devolving by degrees into a lawless, poverty wracked place.

Instead, we get “journalists” desperately trying to get Trump to take this moment seriously by praising his change in tone. Word to journalists: narcissists do not change. They do not see the world like you do. You are objects in the narcissists world. You either please him or you suffer the consequences. It may take awhile for many of you to get the narcissists point of view. But once you do, you will not be able to look at the situation we’re in the same way ever again.

The closest historical event I can think of where a natural disaster combined with ideological and inept government policy lead to societal catastrophe is the Irish Potato Famine of 1846-1849. All the usual suspects are there. The laissez faire capitalists, the shipment of resources away from those in need only to have them return at greatly inflated prices, the cruelty of landlords, the paucity of the social safety net, the callousness of the politicians and wealthy towards the starving who were accused of “laziness and ingratitude”.

It lead to years of misery, starvation, death and mass emigration. It so scarred the Irish that whenever and wherever there is a famine in the world, the Irish NGOs are on it.

Our country has been subject to exploitative profit mining for decades now. Some of us accepted the consensus reality that the federal government was the problem. Some of us see the federal government as the one entity we have that can coordinate a mass effort, assist in the relief of suffering and stop unconscionable speculation. The former believers, a minority government, now has the power to do whatever misguided and selfish thing it wants to us.

I don’t know if we can wait until November. Anyone who has read about the famine knows what inhumanity is coming.

I got that helpless feeling. Oh, wait, no I don’t. No 3

As if it’s not bad enough that Covid-19 is lurking on surfaces out there waiting to force itself up our noses into our respiratory tracts, we could run out of vegetables and fruits. Yeah, we import a lot from other countries as well as grow our own stuff. But what happens when the farmers and migrant pickers get sick? Packers and shippers? Expect to see shortages and higher prices.

I started watching prepper videos a couple of years ago. Maybe it was the whole idea of Trump that freaked me out a little bit in the back of my mind. I don’t take it as seriously as some of the people on youtube. I wish I had thought a little farther ahead. But it’s still not too late to put in a garden if you have room. Fortunately, I have room. I almost can’t believe it because I bought this house as a refuge. I don’t have a mortgage and I have a big yard. I had visions of these days. I kid you not. But I always thought it was a figment of my imagination. That’s what losing your career during the Great Recession does to your psyche.

Anyway, I have two raised beds and lots of room for more. Last year was a sucky year for gardening. The spring was cold, dark and rainy. This year is starting off better. Last night, I ordered some seeds. It looks like half of the US has already ordered them since most of the stuff I wanted at the most popular brand name seed store was sold out. Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives.

I’m planting radishes, Romain, buttercrunch lettuce, spinach, chard, bok Choi, eggplant, sugar snap peas, green beans, sweet peppers, poblano peppers and two kinds of tomatoes. Still searching for broccolini. Maybe some berries. And need to do herbs as well.

So, that’s another thing I can do to prevent myself from going crazy and getting my veg. If you plan to start a garden, order your seeds now. They will be back ordered and you don’t want to wait too long.

And here’s a video from my favorite preppers at Guildbrook Farm in North Carolina. Jaime, Jeremy, Marina and Ilaria aren’t kidding around with their garden.