Wednesday, March 25, 2020

No Corporate Bailouts: In The Land Of Opportunity, If You Struggle, You Can Make It!

Thank You Rich People For All Your Many Gifts

NYTimes | About 50 guests gathered on March 5 at a home in the stately suburb of Westport, Conn., to toast the hostess on her 40th birthday and greet old friends, including one visiting from South Africa. They shared reminiscences, a lavish buffet and, unknown to anyone, the coronavirus.
Then they scattered.

The Westport soirĂ©e — Party Zero in southwestern Connecticut and beyond — is a story of how, in the Gilded Age of money, social connectedness and air travel, a pandemic has spread at lightning speed. The partygoers — more than half of whom are now infected — left that evening for Johannesburg, New York City and other parts of Connecticut and the United States, all seeding infections on the way.

Westport, a town of 28,000 on the Long Island Sound, did not have a single known case of the coronavirus on the day of the party. It had 85 on Monday, up more than 40-fold in 11 days.

Worry, rumors and recriminations engulfed the town. Political leaders fielded hundreds of emails and phone calls from residents terrified that their children or vulnerable family members had been exposed. Who threw the party, and who attended? They wanted to know. Rumors flew that some residents were telling health officials they had attended the party so they could obtain a scarce test.

Officials refused to disclose the names of the hosts or any guests, citing federal and state privacy rules. Mr. Marpe posted a videotaped statement to the town website on March 20. “The fact of the matter is that this could have been any one of us, and rumor-mongering and vilification of individuals is not who we are as a civil community,” he said.

As the disease spread, many residents kept mum, worried about being ostracized by their neighbors and that their children would be kicked off coveted sports teams or miss school events.
One local woman compared going public with a Covid-19 diagnosis to “having an S.T.D.”
“I don’t think that’s a crazy comparison,” said Will Haskell, the state senator who represents Westport. He has been fielding frantic phone calls from constituents.

Most residents were exercising recommended vigilance, Mr. Haskell said, but one call that stuck out to him was from a woman awaiting test results whose entire family had been exposed to the virus. “She wanted to know whether or not to tell her friends and social network,” he said, because she was worried about “social stigma.”

Hot Zone In The Heartland

thebulletin | Before 1990, there had been only two BSL-4 labs in the United States: one at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta, and another at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (U.S.A.M.R.I.I.D.), in Fort Detrick, Maryland. In the nineteen-nineties, three were added. In the first seven years after 9/11, the United States opened ten more. In a 2007 report, Keith Rhodes, then the chief technologist in the Government Accountability Office (G.A.O.)—the independent watchdog that conducts research for Congress—observed that there was “a major proliferation of high-containment BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs is taking place in the United States.” Rhodes counted fifteen known American BSL-4 labs (including N.B.A.F.) but suggested that there could be others; the number of BSL-3 labs appeared to have increased even more. “No single federal agency knows how many such labs there are in the United States,” Rhodes wrote, and “no one is responsible for determining the aggregate risks associated with the expansion of these high-containment labs.” In theory, the Federal Select Agent Program keeps tabs, since any lab in possession of a substance on its list has to register; a 2017 report from the G.A.O. counted two hundred and seventy-six high-containment select-agent labs in the United States. But the actual number is almost certainly higher, because not every dangerous pathogen is on the federal list.

In the summer of 2008, at the same time that D.H.S. was choosing a site for N.B.A.F., the F.B.I. announced that it had found the sender of the anthrax letters: Bruce Ivins, a mentally unstable biodefense researcher with high-level security clearances at U.S.A.M.R.I.I.D. Ivins died of an apparent suicide before he could be officially charged; subsequently, journalists have raised questions about some of the evidence against him. All the same, the possibility of Ivins’s involvement raised disturbing questions for those who work in biodefense. “A more ominous threat than terrorists taking up biology,” the epidemiologist Ali Khan wrote, in his 2016 book “The Next Pandemic,” could be “biologists taking up terrorism.”

Manhattan is surrounded by a rolling sea of golden grass—the Flint Hills, North America’s last remaining tallgrass prairie. “No grass anywhere can put weight on cattle more quickly or more economically,” Jim Joy, a historian of ranching, wrote. In the nineteenth century, cattlemen from Texas and elsewhere began driving their herds overland to graze in the Flint Hills. Today, Kansas is at the geographical center of the American beef industry. It is the third-largest cattle-producing state in the country, and its immediate neighbors—Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Colorado—are all in the top ten.

During and after the N.B.A.F. site-selection process, many scientists found it baffling that anyone would consider installing a high-containment animal-disease laboratory in the middle of livestock country. “It doesn’t make sense—it’s just insane,” Laura H. Kahn, a physician and research scholar at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security, told me. Abigail Conrad, who was a developmental biologist at K-State when D.H.S. was making its choice, said that the decision “defies reason”; her husband, Gary, also a biologist, called it “beyond ludicrous,” “almost criminal,” and “genuinely stupid.”

Once infected with foot-and-mouth, animals with cloven hooves—cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, deer, bison—come down with fevers and painful blisters. A cow’s milk production can decline. Adult animals can lose weight, and young ones can die. An animal that recovers can still transmit the disease to others. According to the authors of a 2013 paper in the journal Preventive Veterinary Medicine, in countries that are officially foot-and-mouth-free but experience occasional outbreaks, “the costs involved in regaining free status have been enormous.” During the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak in England, exclusion zones made travel difficult; tourism from overseas declined by ten per cent. The ultimate cost of containing the outbreak was nearly five billion in today’s dollars. Its source remains undetermined.

In 2007, Britain experienced another, smaller foot-and-mouth outbreak, with only eight confirmed cases. In that instance, investigators were able to trace the infection to the Pirbright Institute, a world-renowned high-containment animal-disease research facility in Surrey. A building at Pirbright had an aging, faulty drainpipe; heavy rains probably washed the live virus from the defective drain out into the open, where truck tires picked it up. According to the G.A.O., one reason to confine foot-and-mouth study to an island is that “there is always some risk of a release from any biocontainment facility.” In fact, for just this reason, foot-and-mouth disease cannot be brought onto the U.S. mainland without the explicit permission of the Secretary of Agriculture.

Pandemic Root Cause: Infected Rich Asses Played Hide And Seek Among The Masses

slate |  Professor John P.A. Ioannidis of Stanford University—by reputation one of the smartest people in fields ranging from epidemiology to biomedical data science—published a somewhat controversial piece in Stat News last week that warned of the possibility that our best efforts might end up backfiring:
If the health system does become overwhelmed, the majority of the extra deaths may not be due to coronavirus but to other common diseases and conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, trauma, bleeding, and the like that are not adequately treated. If the level of the epidemic does overwhelm the health system and extreme measures have only modest effectiveness, then flattening the curve may make things worse: Instead of being overwhelmed during a short, acute phase, the health system will remain overwhelmed for a more protracted period.
Ioannidis’ piece got some pushback by public health experts who worried that his questioning might make people less likely to follow instructions to self-isolate and stay indoors. But even his critics seem to agree that it is absolutely critical for us to have better data. 

We are currently quite lacking in data and sorely in need of it. We need to know many more things about the virus and what it does to the human body, including whom it affects and how to treat it. We need better testing to figure out how many people in the United States have it, even as the people on the front lines are realizing that they themselves have to shift their efforts away from containment approaches and toward treatment and mitigation of spread. 

We also need data on how our current approach is working and data on what the costs of this approach really are. We need to know how much our current version of social distancing, with everyone still going to the grocery store every few days, is affecting the rate of spread. We need to figure out how much people being stuck at home might lead to an uptick in domestic abuse or suicide. We need to know if more women are giving birth at home, and if more women are being forced to carry pregnancies that they don’t want as their right to abortion is interrupted. We need to know how the people who are laid off from their jobs are getting food, and if they are still willing to access health care when the financial cost of doing so might be very uncertain. We are all engaged in an enormous, high-stakes nationwide experiment right now, and we need all of this data to answer the question: Are we doing the right thing? 

And still, the questions remain: How long can we really do this for? What else could we do? What should we do next? 

Academic physicians Aaron Carroll and Ashish Jha have a piece in the Atlantic in which they consider the various possible scenarios in front of us. The extremes are helpfully familiar—on one side, do nothing, which we’re already doing better than; on the other side, stay like this for the next 18 months or so, the current accepted timeline until there’s a vaccine. But Carroll and Jha argue that there is a third path available, somewhere in the middle of these two strategies. They think that once we do the social distancing necessary to get the initial numbers under control (which will still take time), we can create a new type of plan, a middle road that keeps public health manageable without keeping the country completely shut down.

Rich Mexicans FUBAR'd Poor Mexicans - All Around The World The Same Song...,

LATimes |  Each winter, some of Mexico’s wealthiest residents flock to the snowy slopes of Colorado to ski, shop and socialize.

This year, at least 14 — and probably many more — came home infected with the coronavirus.

In a country that has not yet been hard hit by the pandemic, the travelers have become a focal point of efforts to prevent the virus from spreading widely.

Several of Mexico’s most prominent business leaders — including a banking executive, the chairman of Mexico’s stock exchange and the chief executive of the company that makes Jose Cuervo tequila — tested positive for the virus after traveling to Vail, a ski resort west of Denver.

Public health authorities are now scrambling to find others who recently returned from the resort, including an estimated 400 people who flew on two charter planes from Colorado to the state of Jalisco. 

“We need these people to understand that they have a very high probability of having acquired the virus and are a potential risk,” Jalisco Gov. Enrique Alfaro said in a video on Facebook in which he implored those who made the trip to contact health authorities. 

“We don’t want this to be the start of a major coronavirus spread,” added Fernando Petersen, Jalisco’s top health official. 

The state’s health department said that it has already contacted 73 passengers on those flights and that roughly 40% of them report coronavirus-like symptoms but have not yet been tested.

Of Jalisco’s 27 confirmed coronavirus patients, 11 had been in Vail in recent weeks, the department said. 

The frantic effort to find the ski trip participants has highlighted an uncomfortable fact: It is people wealthy enough to travel outside the country who have brought the coronavirus back to mostly poor Mexico. Yet if the disease spreads, it is those with the least who will probably suffer the most. 

As of Friday, Mexico had confirmed just one coronavirus death, that of a 41-year-old man who had recently traveled to the United States and — to the dismay of health authorities — later attended a rock concert at a stadium in Mexico City.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Relax, Just Let It Happen...,

libertyblitzkrieg |  It didn’t take long for the most opportunistic, nefarious and corrupt actors in the U.S. to turn a pandemic crisis into another massive power grab attempt. We’ve seen it before; after 9/11 and also throughout the response to the financial crisis a decade ago. The irredeemable sociopaths who always make the big, important decisions used those crises to consolidate wealth and power. They’re going for it again.

There are many examples, but let me list a few:

– The EARN IT bill, by which senators are attempting to destroy widespread public use of encryption, i.e. private communications. (EFF)

– The White House and the CDC are asking Facebook, Google and other tech giants to give them greater access to Americans’ smartphone location data. (CNBC)

– The Justice Department has quietly asked Congress for the ability to ask chief judges to detain people indefinitely without trial during emergencies. (Politico)

– U.S. Senators are attempting to use the crisis as an opportunity to pull off a gigantic corporate coup. (Matt Stoller, BIG)

We often get distracted debating the implications of Fed actions, and in the process lose sight of the bigger picture. The real question we need to be asking is why do we allow a handful of unelected banker welfare agents the right to shape our entire world? It’s a crazy system, and until we start questioning the underlying premises of everything about our world, we’ll remain confused and subjugated.

Elites Conspiring to Create A Permanent Underclass Who'll Work For Peanuts

unz |  This is the contempt these people have for you and me and everyone else who isn’t a part of their elitist gaggle of reprobates. Here’s a clip from another article at the WSJ that helps to show how the financial media is pushing this gigantic handout to corporate America:.
“The Federal Reserve, Treasury Department and banking regulators deserve congratulations for their bold, necessary actions to provide liquidity to the U.S. financial system amid the coronavirus crisis. But more remains to be done. We thus recommend: (1) immediate congressional action …. to authorize the Treasury to use the Exchange Stabilization Fund to guarantee prime money-market funds, (2) regulatory action to effect temporary reductions in bank capital and liquidity requirements… (NOTE–So now the banks don’t need to hold capital against their loans?) .. additional Fed lending to banks and nonbanks….(Note -by “nonbanks”, does the author mean underwater hedge funds?)…
We recommend that the Fed take further actions as lender of last resort. First, it should re-establish the Term Auction Facility, used in the 2008 crisis, allowing depository institutions to borrow against a broad range of collateral at an auction price (Note–They want to drop the requirement for good Triple A collateral.) … Second, it should consider further exercising its Section 13(3) authority to provide additional liquidity to nonbanks, potentially including purchases of corporate debt through a special-purpose vehicle” (“Do More to Avert a Liquidity Crisis”, Wall Street Journal )
This isn’t a bailout, it’s a joke, and there’s no way Congress should approve these measures, particularly the merging of the US Treasury with the cutthroat Fed. That’s a prescription for disaster! The Fed needs to be abolished not embraced as a state institution. It’s madness!

And look how the author wants to set up an special-purpose vehicle (SPV) so the accounting chicanery can be kept off the books which means the public won’t know how much money is being flushed down the toilet trying to resuscitate these insolvent corporations whose executives are still living high on the hog on the money they stole from credulous investors. This whole scam stinks to high heaven!

Meanwhile America’s working people will get a whopping $1,000 bucks to tide them over until the debts pile up to the rafters and they’re forced to rob the neighborhood 7-11 to feed the kids. How fair is that?

And don’t kid yourself: This isn’t a bailout, it’s the elitist’s political agenda aimed at creating a permanent underclass who’ll work for peanuts just to eek out a living.

The Plague is US

off-guardian |  The outward story of The Plague revolves around a malignant disease that breaks out in a town that is quarantined when the authorities issue a state of emergency. After first denying that they have a problem, the people gradually panic and feel painfully isolated. 

Death fear runs rampant, much like today with the coronavirus. The authorities declare martial law as they warn that the situation is dire, people must be careful of associating, especially in groups, and they better obey orders or very many will die. So the town is cordoned off.

Before this happens and the first signs that something is amiss emerge, the citizens of the town of Oran, Algeria remain oblivious, for they “work hard, but solely with the object of getting rich.” Bored by their habits, heavily drugging themselves with drink, and watching many movies to distract themselves, they failed to grasp the significance of “the squelchy roundness of a still-warm body” of the plague-bearing rats that emerge from their underworld to die in their streets.

“It was as if the earth on which our houses stood were being purged of their secret humors; thrusting up to the surface the abscesses and pus-clots that had been forming in its entrails.” To them the plague is “unthinkable,” an abstraction, until all their denials are swept aside as the truth emerges from the sewers and their neighbors and families die from the disease. 

“Stupidity has a way of getting its way;” the narrator, Dr. Rieux tells us, “as we should see if we were not always so wrapped up in ourselves …. plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.”
The American people are wrapped up in themselves. Nor do they recognize the true rats. They are easily surprised; fooled would be a better word. 

Camus uses a physical plague to disguise his real subject, which is the way people react when they are physically trapped by human rats who demand they obey orders and stay physically and mentally compliant as their freedom is taken from them.

You Peasants Are All In This Together

off-guardian |  The rush to elevate self-isolation to Olympian heights as a way to combat the spread of COVID-19 has gotten to the celebrities. Sports figures are proudly tweeting and taking pictures from hotel rooms (Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton being a case in point). Comics are doing their shows from home. Thespians are extolling the merits of such isolation and the dangers of the contagion.

All speak from the summit of comfort, the podium of pampered wealth: embrace social distancing; embrace self-isolation. Bonds of imagined solidarity are forged. If we can do it, so can you.

The message of warning varies in tones of condescension and encouragement. Taylor Swift prefers to focus on her cat. “For Meredith, self-quarantining is a way of life,” she posted on Instagram. “Be like Meredith.” Meredith, of course, had little choice in the matter.

John Legend delivered a concert on Instagram, wife Chrissy Teigen beside towelled and quaffing wine. “Social distancing is important, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. I did a little at-home performance to help lift your spirits.”

Then there was Arnold Schwarzenegger, who actually boasted two miniature ponies. “We will get through this together.” So good of him to let us know.

Others, like model Naomi Campbell, can barely hide their revelations, moments of acute self-awakening amidst crisis. 

A long dormant, cerebral world, awoken by a virus. 

Similarly, singer Lady Gaga has found that within that deodorised, heavily marketed form of celebrity is the heart of a human. “This is reminding me I think a lot of us,” she reflected on Instagram “what it is to both feel like and be like a human being.”

Self-isolation has seen the rich with their entourages making an escape for holiday homes and vast retreats. Then come the eccentric and the slightly ludicrous options: the well-stocked and equipped bunker; the safe room. Such an approach is far more representative of the estrangement between haves and have-nots.

St. Louis Fed Calls For $2.5 Trillion Fiat Stimulus To Offset Controlavirus Lockdown

bloomberg |  Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard predicted the U.S. unemployment rate may hit 30% in the second quarter because of shutdowns to combat the coronavirus, with an unprecedented 50% drop in gross domestic product.

Bullard called for a powerful fiscal response to replace the $2.5 trillion in lost income that quarter to ensure a strong eventual U.S. recovery, adding the Fed would be poised to do more to ensure markets function during a period of high volatility.

“Everything is on the table” for the Fed as far as additional lending programs, Bullard said in a telephone interview Sunday from St. Louis. “There is more that we can do if necessary” with existing emergency authority. “There is probably much more in the months ahead depending on where Congress wants to go.”

Bullard’s grave assessment of the world’s largest economy underscores the critical need for Congress and the White House to quickly find agreement on a massive aid program. The Fed last week restarted financial crisis-era programs to help the commercial paper and money markets, after cutting interest rates to near zero and pledging to boost its holdings of Treasuries by at least $500 billion and of mortgage securities by at least $200 billion.

 “This is a planned, organized partial shutdown of the U.S. economy in the second quarter,” Bullard said. “The overall goal is to keep everyone, households and businesses, whole” with government support. “It is a huge shock and we are trying to cope with it and keep it under control.”
The U.S. central bank bought $272 billion of government debt last week, of the more than $500 billion authorized, which Bullard emphasized should not be seen as a limit.

Monday, March 23, 2020

14 Million Newly Unemployed: These Peasants Have No Rights The 9% Is Bound To Acknowledge

NYTimes |  The rumor unsettled Deborah Santamaria.

A fellow janitor at 555 California Street, a 52-story office tower in San Francisco’s financial district, told her he heard that a floor of the building was being closed because a worker had contracted the novel coronavirus. At 63, Ms. Santamaria counted herself among those most vulnerable to a virus that had killed thousands worldwide and was rapidly spreading across the United States.

Her supervisor at Able Services, the contractor that employs her, reassured her that nothing was wrong, she said.

It was not until five days later that a news article appeared saying that Wells Fargo had temporarily evacuated its offices in the building after an employee had tested positive for the coronavirus.

The bank had notified building management, which alerted the cleaning contractor. But according to the employees and their union representatives, no one had told the janitors.

“I felt as if I didn’t matter,” said Ms. Santamaria, who earns $22 an hour.

While many Americans are fleeing their offices to avoid any contact with the coronavirus, low-wage janitors are sometimes being asked to do the opposite. Although millions of Californians have been ordered to shelter in place, janitors are still being asked to go into offices to battle the invisible germs that threaten public health, even as those germs, and the new, powerful cleaning solutions they are being asked to use, may endanger their own health.

They often operate without specialized protective gear. And the increasing demand for their services is adding new stress and risks.

Janitors cleaning the Amazon headquarters in Seattle complained that a new disinfectant they were asked to use made their eyes and skin burn. In San Francisco, janitors said they have been asked to clean offices without having been told that people who had or were exposed to the virus had worked there.

Janitors wonder why they are left in the dark when companies go to great lengths to ensure that the tech, finance and other workers occupying the buildings they clean are aware of the most remote possibility of coming into contact with the virus. It shows, they say, how disparities play out in a public health crisis — how their lives sometimes seem to be valued less than those of people with resources and power.

“None of our families should be treated as second-class citizens,” Olga Miranda, the president of the Service Employees International Union Local 87, told the janitors at 555 California last week. She had gathered the largely immigrant work force in a plaza in front of the building and told them to walk off the job to protest the cleaning company’s failure to notify them about the coronavirus case.

Coronapocalypse Expendables

themarshallproject |  In Houston, the massive county jail has stopped admitting people arrested for certain low-level crimes. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, people who usually spend their days fighting with each other—public defenders and prosecutors—joined forces to get 75 people released from jail in a single day. And outside Oakland, California, jailers are turning to empty hotel rooms to make sure the people they let out have a place to go.

Across the country, the coronavirus outbreak is transforming criminal justice in the most transient and turbulent part of the system: local jails. Run mostly by county sheriffs, jails hold an ever-changing assortment of people—those who are awaiting trial and cannot afford to pay bail; those convicted of low-level offenses; overflows from crowded prisons. 

Even without a global pandemic, many local jails struggle to provide adequate medical care for a population that is already high-risk: many people in jails suffer from addiction or mental illness. Some have died after lax medical care for treatable illnesses

“Basically, the shit hit the fan,” said Corbin Brewster, chief public defender of Tulsa County. “COVID-19 is just a magnifying glass for all the problems in the criminal justice system.” 

Local officials’ responses have run the gamut. In the crisis of the moment, some are adopting measures long urged by criminal justice reformers: declining to prosecute or freeing people who have committed drug offenses or nonviolent crimes; releasing the sick or elderly; trying to reduce the jail population. For example, officials have been temporarily transferring some at-risk detainees to housing units in Kent, Washington, which were built to house homeless people.

But others have stuck to tough-on-crime tactics or rhetoric. The sheriff in Bristol County, near Boston, argued the incarcerated would be safer locked up, as would the public. 

Because millions of people each year cycle in and out of jail, experts have long warned that these lockups have the potential to be petri dishes of infection—an assertion coronavirus will test.

Controlavirus Lockdown A Two-Piece And A Biscuit Apocalypse

nbcdfw |  Doctors at Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth say stress from the coronavirus pandemic may be linked to the six cases of child abuse they saw this week, one resulting in death.

Dr. Jayme Coffman, medical director of the CARE team at Cook Children’s, said all six cases were related to physical abuse. 

They typically consult about eight a month.

“Thursday night, we had one child admitted with unfortunately, life-threatening injuries, which they succumbed to, as well as four other children in the emergency department at the same time who were treated and released,” Coffman said. “It was like, we have to reach out to the community.”

Coffman said all of the children were 6 years old or younger. Though she said they could not say with full certainty the impacts of COVID-19 motivated the abuse, “it’s hard to think that it’s just coincidental”. 

“There’s no way for us to directly link that, but that’s the concern – are these families under more stress related to financial issues, whether it’s lost jobs or concerns for their jobs?” she said. “We also saw similar types of things happen during the recession where, in our trauma department, the most common cause of trauma death in children was motor vehicle collisions. During the recession, that changed to abusive head trauma, and I don’t want to see that again.”

Shellie McMillon, chief program officer at the Alliance For Children, described the spike in cases at Cook Children’s as heartbreaking.

“One thing we know is that educators, our school professionals are the largest group of people who report suspected child abuse and that makes sense. They’re usually with kids a good portion of the day,” McMillon said. “Now that kids are not in school, they’re at home – a lot of times, they don’t have that, what we call a trusted adult, to maybe tell about what’s going on.”

McMillon said one of the crucial things parents or caretakers should keep in mind if they are stressed is to not hesitate to ask for help.

Controlavirus: The Cure Is Vastly Worse Than The Contagion

NYTimes |  The data from South Korea, where tracking the coronavirus has been by far the best to date, indicate that as much as 99 percent of active cases in the general population are “mild” and do not require specific medical treatment. The small percentage of cases that do require such services are highly concentrated among those age 60 and older, and further so the older people are. Other things being equal, those over age 70 appear at three times the mortality risk as those age 60 to 69, and those over age 80 at nearly twice the mortality risk of those age 70 to 79.

These conclusions are corroborated by the data from Wuhan, China, which show a higher death rate, but an almost identical distribution. The higher death rate in China may be real, but is perhaps a result of less widespread testing. South Korea promptly, and uniquely, started testing the apparently healthy population at large, finding the mild and asymptomatic cases of Covid-19 other countries are overlooking. The experience of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which houses a contained, older population, proves the point. The death rate among that insular and uniformly exposed population is roughly 1 percent.

We have, to date, fewer than 200 deaths from the coronavirus in the United States — a small data set from which to draw big conclusions. Still, it is entirely aligned with the data from other countries. The deaths have been mainly clustered among the elderly, those with significant chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, and those in both groups.

Why does this matter?
I am deeply concerned that the social, economic and public health consequences of this near total meltdown of normal life — schools and businesses closed, gatherings banned — will be long lasting and calamitous, possibly graver than the direct toll of the virus itself. The stock market will bounce back in time, but many businesses never will. The unemployment, impoverishment and despair likely to result will be public health scourges of the first order.

Worse, I fear our efforts will do little to contain the virus, because we have a resource-constrained, fragmented, perennially underfunded public health system. Distributing such limited resources so widely, so shallowly and so haphazardly is a formula for failure. How certain are you of the best ways to protect your most vulnerable loved ones? How readily can you get tested?

We have already failed to respond as decisively as China or South Korea, and lack the means to respond like Singapore. We are following in Italy’s wake, at risk of seeing our medical system overwhelmed twice: First when people rush to get tested for the coronavirus, and again when the especially vulnerable succumb to severe infection and require hospital beds.
Yes, in more and more places we are limiting gatherings uniformly, a tactic I call “horizontal interdiction” — when containment policies are applied to the entire population without consideration of their risk for severe infection.

But as the work force is laid off en masse (our family has one adult child home for that reason already), and colleges close (we have another two young adults back home for this reason), young people of indeterminate infectious status are being sent home to huddle with their families nationwide. And because we lack widespread testing, they may be carrying the virus and transmitting it to their 50-something parents, and 70- or 80-something grandparents. If there are any clear guidelines for behavior within families — what I call “vertical interdiction” — I have not seen them.

You're All In This Together But Don't Get It Twisted, We Come First!

npr |  While average Americans fret on social media about empty toilet paper aisles, author Nelson Schwartz says the wealthy are installing hospital-grade filtration systems and building safe rooms. 

The coronavirus has exposed the vast inequalities in our health care system: Rich Americans from movie stars to Instagram influencers are getting access to COVID-19 tests before many sick people showing relevant symptoms.

In "The Velvet Rope Economy: How Inequality Became Big Business," Schwartz writes about how private services like concierge doctors disincentivize investments in health care and other public services.

Wealthy people can pay concierge doctors an annual fee for around the clock care. Now, he says, in the era of coronavirus, one concierge doctor who stocked up on virus swabs is organizing drive-through testing in Silicon Valley for his clients only.

Another medical concierge firm is helping people with underlying conditions like respiratory distress get oxygen concentrators, he says. The firm is also writing 90-day prescriptions and arranging nebulizers for taking drugs in case the supply chain is disrupted.

“Concierge docs are doing what they can to help their patients, even if that means jumping the line,” he says. “In the age of the coronavirus pandemic, not all patients are created equal.”

This is how health care works in this country right now, but Schwartz says it’s frightening because “we're all in it together.” Testing only a small number of people puts everyone at risk, he says.
People showing COVID-19 symptoms need to receive tests over the “worried well,” he says.

The Controlavirus Corporate Coup

mattstoller | Welcome to BIG, a newsletter about the politics of monopoly. This is a special edition. I need you to take this newsletter and repost it, forward it, and contact anyone you know in politics. Here’s why.

Congressional leaders are likely to put a very ugly deal in front of the American people, and if it passes, America may be unrecognizable after this pandemic. But there is a way to stop it, if people on the populist left and people on the populist right work together.

Here's the situation. Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, and the Trump administration is negotiating a bailout package to address the coronavirus crisis. There's been a lot of chatter about the need to support workers as the economy goes into a freeze. This is happening around the world; the British government, for instance, is willing to pay 80% of worker wages during this downturn for those affected by the crisis. 

But in the U.S., our leaders seem to be falling prey to what can only be called a corporate frenzy of favor-seeking. “Any time there is a crisis and Washington is in the middle of it is an opportunity for guys like me," said one lobbyist

Now first I should say that I don’t know exactly what is going to be in the final bill, because the whole process is opaque and being negotiated right now by some untrustworthy political leaders. We will only find out the details at the last minute. So all I have to go off is rumor and reporting. But if we wait until we know the full contours, it will likely be too late to act. I hope I’m wrong, but the list of what lobbyists are asking for is long, and ugly, and often the requests for money or legislative favors are done to cover up mistakes made before the coronavirus hit. 

Take Boeing. The aerospace giant of course wants a $60 billion bailout. Financial problems for this corporation predated the crisis, with the mismanagement that led to the 737 Max as well as defense and space products that don't work (I noted last July a bailout was coming). The corporation paid out $65 billion in stock buybacks and dividends over the last ten years, and it was drawing down credit lines before this crisis hit. It is highly politically connected; the board of the corporation includes Caroline Kennedy, Ronald Reagan’s Chief of Staff Ken Duberstein, three Fortune 100 CEOs, a former US Trade Representative, and two Admirals, one of whom is the board’s only engineer. Using the excuse of the coronavirus, Boeing is trying to get the taxpayer to foot the bill for its errors, so it can go back to making more of them. 

But that's not all. Defense contractors want their payments sped up, and I've heard they want to widen a giant loophole called 'other transaction authority' to get around restrictions on profiteering. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezo want "$5 billion in grants or loans to keep commercial space company employees on the job and launch facilities open." They also want the IRS to give them cash for R&D tax credits.  

CNBC reported that hotels want $150 billion, restaurants want $145 billion, and manufacturers wants $1.4 trillion. And the International Council of Shopping Centers wants a guarantee of up to $1 trillion. The beer industry wants $5B. Candy industry wants $500M. The New York Times reported that "Adidas is seeking support for a long-sought provision allowing people to use pretax money to pay for gym memberships and fitness equipment." Gyms are of course closed. Meatpackers want special visas so they can undercut wages of their workers, and importers want to stop paying duties they incurred for harming domestic industries for illegally dumping products into the U.S.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Are You F'ing Kidding Agnes?!?!?! (School Starts at 1:53:20)

Sincerity is the key to success. Once you've learned to fake sincerity, then you're in the game. The fundamental rule of the game is to "sincerely" believe and behave as if power holders are superior. You are expected to pretend that power holders are better than you. The problem for a great many objectively smart people is that they can't fake sincerity or mask their own objective and demonstrable superiority. When the only way to survive in a hierarchical environment is to lie, fake, or cheat, then everyone is complicit in the fraud and its accompanying narratives. And so, everyone has skin in the game of protecting the fraud and its concomitant beliefs and behaviors. If the next generation wants to rise they have to become complicit in protecting the fraud that their predecessors have institutionalized. THIS is the rot now pervasive in American institutions that has resulted in the hollowing out of innovation and achievement.

Pleasing white light at 1:53:00 and cleansing blue fire at 1:55:48

thepointmag |  In the Importance Game, participants jockey for position. This usually works by way of casual references to wealth, talent, accomplishment or connections, but there are many variants. I can, for instance, play this game by pretending to eschew it: “Let’s get straight down to business” can telegraph my being much too important to waste time with such games; or your being so unimportant as to render the game otiose.

The other game is the Leveling Game, and it uses empathy to equalize the players. So I might performatively share feelings of stress, inadequacy or weakness; or express discontent with the Powers that Be; or home in on a source of communal outrage, frustration or oppression.

A player of the Importance Game tries to ascend high enough to reach for something that will set her above her interlocutor, a player of the Leveling Game reaches down low enough to hit common ground. The former needs to signal enough power to establish a hierarchy; the latter enough powerlessness to establish equality.

The advanced games really are advanced, in the sense of being harder to play than the Basic Game. This is due to the fact that one must, while playing them, also pretend not to be playing them. It is not okay to approach a new acquaintance with: “Let us set up a contest to figure out which of the two of us is smarter.” Nor would it be reasonable for me to say to my colleague: “How the administration oppresses us! Let us unite in self-pity.” Or to an undergraduate who enters my office: “Let me tell you how overwhelmed I am, that will put us on equal footing.” (“Stars: they’re just like us!”)

Players of the Basic Game are permitted to come pretty close to explicitly saying “Let us see what places/people/interests we have in common.” With the other two games this kind of explicitness itself violates one of the rules of the game. Call this “The Self-Effacing Rule.” Why does this rule apply to the advanced games, but not the Basic Game?

Welcome to the Coronapocalypse

tomluongo |  Regardless of what you may think about the origins of COVID-19, bio-weapon or not, ‘just the flu’ or the new plague, the reality is that it is here. The response to it is real and the damage it has had on the global economy is real.

It doesn’t matter at this point in time whether the response is the right one or the wrong one. Because in an age where perception is more important than reality and has been that way for so long, we have no real frame of reference to guide our conclusions.

Prices and costs have been distorted beyond all recognition to the saved capital they represent. The epic meltdown of markets speaks to just how insanely overvalued the world was once the layers of credit contracted.

In the end, all we have are our observations. And those observations are intensely personal. And most of the the time the conclusions we draw from them are wrong no matter how tightly we believe in them.

Be that as it may, we still have to make choices. We still have to act. 

And, if this is truly now a survival-like situation, one that I personally tried to prepare for nearly a generation ago, that means we have to deal with reality. 

We have to put away the childish things we’ve been fighting over for the past five years politically.
How ridiculous and insipid do the identitarian fights over gender, race, sex and color look now? How dangerous and stupid does all that capital, that time spent, look now in hindsight when today people with skills, humility and high executive function are needed?

Do you really care today if the guy behind the meat counter at your local supermarket is a MAGApede or a Bernie Bro, hates gay people or is a closet tranny? 

If you do then I suggest you stay home and reassess your priorities and your choices.

The reality is that now that the damage to the economy has been done we will need each other more than ever, regardless of what we thought about each other yesterday.

The reality is governments are grabbing for insane levels of power. Martial Law is here in Europe. The U.S. isn’t far behind if we look at how some governors and mayors have acted.

The reality is that the more power governments grab the less capable of protecting you, your family and your community it was before that. It will view you as a threat. It will treat you as less than human because your disobedience threatens their control.

Quarantine, Tyranny, Rebellion...,

alt-market |  In my view there is no excuse for tyranny, even during a pandemic event. The majority of the public is more than capable of voluntary quarantine without government enforcement. Add government intervention into the mix and it will only make people want to do the opposite.  And beyond that, Covid-19 has such a long incubation period that ultimately most people will probably contract it anyway. Total containment is not achievable (as we have just seen in South Korea). Quarantines might slow the spread, which is good, but do not expect to avoid this virus indefinitely. Why sacrifice your freedoms for safety that is an illusion?

Then there is the argument of “herd immunity”, which is utter nonsense and always has been. Either a person or group is immune, or they are not, and people who are not immune do not put immune people at risk. Period. The claim that the virus might “mutate” within non-vaccinated or non-immune people and put vaccinated people at risk is a propaganda argument that ignores science. Generally, when a virus does mutate, it mutates into a less deadly or infectious strain, not a more deadly strain. Viruses are programmed to survive, too. If they evolved to kill ALL potential hosts then that would be counter to their survival imperative, which is why they usually evolve in the other direction.

In terms of Covid-19, there is no “herd immunity” by the establishment definition anyway, because it is a brand new virus. There is no vaccine and the vast majority of people have no antibodies. No one can make the argument that people need to be forcefully locked down in order to maintain a herd immunity that doesn't exist.

Finally, there is a question of agenda and motive behind the rising call for martial law-like measures over the pandemic. For example, Champaign, Illinois mayor Deborah Frank Feinen has given herself executive powers in response to the coronavirus infection that are outright dictatorial and Soviet in their violations. Among other things, she demands the power to enforce curfews, ban public gatherings, ban alcohol, ban or confiscate firearms, as well as confiscate supplies from any citizen if those supplies are “needed for emergency response”.

Is this really about protecting the public? How does it protect the public to confiscate their only means of defense, or confiscate their food and supplies? This type of thing is usually done in communist countries, and it is done to protect government power, not protect the people.

Understand also that the Champaign mayor is not the only official calling for these types of actions. From New York to LA and beyond, those of us who are paying attention have noticed a swift and quiet implementation of orders that are whittling down American freedoms. Do not expect Donald Trump to operate differently, either. Expect him to initiate martial law measures (though he may not call it “martial law”) in the next few months. Expect him to activate Executive Order 13603, which was created by Barack Obama in 2012 and allows the federal government to appropriate everything from land to food to firearms in the event of a national emergency. This is going to happen. Count on it.

The pandemic is not an excuse for tyranny, and I for one will not comply. I and many I know will self quarantine for a time with the expectation that we will eventually contract the virus, and hopefully our immune systems are strong enough to fight it. In the meantime, I will not be allowing any government officials to confiscate my supplies or my firearms "for my own safety" or "for the greater good".