The price of a pandemic

Recession

There is a new blog post entitled, “When nothing happened next.”

David Blanchflower, “Pandemic Economics: ‘Much Worse, Very Quickly,” New York Review of Books, March 26, 2020, https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2020/03/26/pandemic-economics-much-worse-very-quickly/

Benjamin Fearnow, “Biden, Sanders demand 3-month freeze on rent payments, eviction of tenants across U.S.,” Newsweek, March 28, 2020, https://www.newsweek.com/biden-sanders-demand-3-month-freeze-rent-payments-eviction-tenants-across-us-1494839


Pandemic


‘Bodies piling up. Refrigerator trucks for corpses.’

Pandemic

The situation with the coronavirus pandemic has become surreal. The United States is number one in the world for COVID-19 cases.[1]

Rudderless, blindsided, lethargic, and uncoordinated, America has mishandled the COVID-19 crisis to a substantially worse degree than what every health expert I’ve spoken with had feared. “Much worse,” said Ron Klain, who coordinated the U.S. response to the West African Ebola outbreak in 2014. “Beyond any expectations we had,” said Lauren Sauer, who works on disaster preparedness at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “As an American, I’m horrified,” said Seth Berkley, who heads Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “The U.S. may end up with the worst outbreak in the industrialized world.”[2]

Thanks, Republicans, for your self-serving response.[3] Thanks, Democrats,  for your even slower one.[4] It’s so fitting that malpractice does not exist for politicians. But thanks also to a few other folks . . .

It isn’t clear which Elmhurst hospital Ilana Esther refers to, but I presume it is one in or near New York City. Meanwhile:

Laura Kalmes argues that neoliberal education has taught young people to distrust government—the same government that has eviscerated the social safety net and refused to react to gun violence or the climate crisis. So it now doesn’t work for government to tell young people to stay home rather than party.[5] It is certainly true that if government wants to be trusted, it needs to stop behaving in reprehensible ways. The trouble is that this problem is inherent to an authoritarian system of social organization, inherent to the very idea that some people can be trusted with power over others.

It continues to get worse in Pennsylvania.[6] Butler, Westmoreland, and seven other Pennsylvania counties have been added to the list affected by Tom Wolf’s “stay at home” order.[7] Butler is directly to the north of Pittsburgh, which is in Allegheny County, already covered by the initial version of Tom Wolf’s “stay at home” order.[8] Westmoreland is roughly to the east. I live in Allegheny County, not far from Washington County. The latter county, to Pittsburgh’s southwest, and Beaver County, to the northwest, are apparently still unaffected but the obvious question will be, for how long?

And what would a crisis be without Human Resources department assholes?

Ed Yong, “How the Pandemic Will End,” Atlantic, March 25, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/how-will-coronavirus-end/608719/

Laura Kalmes, “It’s our fault young people refuse to stay home,” Ozy, March 26, 2020, https://www.ozy.com/news-and-politics/its-our-fault-young-people-refuse-to-stay-home/293136/

Prashant Gopal and Brian K. Sullivan, “Rhode Island Police to Hunt Down New Yorkers Seeking Refuge,” Bloomberg, March 27, 2020, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-27/rhode-island-police-to-hunt-down-new-yorkers-seeking-refuge

Paul Guggenheimer, “Butler County added to growing list of areas under Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order,” TribLive, March 27, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/butler-county-added-to-growing-list-of-areas-under-gov-tom-wolfs-stay-at-home-order/

Eric Heyl, “Allegheny County Coronavirus Cases Continue To Surge,” Patch, March 27, 2020, https://patch.com/pennsylvania/baldwin-whitehall/s/h2aqu/allegheny-county-coronavirus-cases-continue-to-surge

Justin Heinze, “12 More Die In Pennsylvania From Coronavirus, 500 New Cases Found,” Patch, March 28, 2020, https://patch.com/pennsylvania/baldwin-whitehall/s/h2bmx/12-more-die-in-pennsylvania-from-coronavirus-500-new-cases-found

Eric Heyl, “Allegheny County Coronavirus Cases: Another Large Increase,” Patch, March 28, 2020, https://patch.com/pennsylvania/baldwin-whitehall/s/h2bkm/allegheny-county-coronavirus-cases-another-large-increase


  1. [1]Talal Ansari, Jennifer Calfas, and Chun Han Wong, “U.S. Coronavirus Cases Surpass Those of China, Italy,” Wall Street Journal, March 26, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/governments-clamp-down-as-coronavirus-infections-surge-11585218656
  2. [2]Ed Yong, “How the Pandemic Will End,” Atlantic, March 25, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/how-will-coronavirus-end/608719/
  3. [3]Adam Gaffney, “Trump sees the coronavirus as a threat to his self-interest – not to people,” Guardian, March 17, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/17/trump-sees-the-coronavirus-as-a-threat-to-his-self-interest-not-to-people; Susan B. Glasser, “A President Unequal to the Moment,” New Yorker, March 12, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/a-president-unequal-to-the-moment; Dana Milbank, “For Trump, a reckoning has come,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/trump-reckoning-has-come/; Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-response-squandered-time/2020/03/07/5c47d3d0-5fcb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html; David Remnick, “How the Coronavirus Shattered Trump’s Serene Confidence,” New Yorker, March 22, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/03/30/how-the-coronavirus-shattered-trumps-serene-confidence; Paul Waldman, “How coronavirus has deeply flummoxed conservative media,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/how-coronavirus-has-deeply-flummuxed-conservative-media/; Kevin D. Williamson, “History Called — and Senator Burr Called His Broker,” National Review, March 20, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/03/history-called-and-senator-burr-called-his-broker/
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Why do Republicans seem better prepared to present proposals on coronavirus relief than Democrats?” Irregular Bullshit, March 20, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/03/20/why-do-republicans-seem-better-prepared-to-present-proposals-on-coronavirus-relief-than-democrats/
  5. [5]Laura Kalmes, “It’s our fault young people refuse to stay home,” Ozy, March 26, 2020, https://www.ozy.com/news-and-politics/its-our-fault-young-people-refuse-to-stay-home/293136/
  6. [6]Justin Heinze, “12 More Die In Pennsylvania From Coronavirus, 500 New Cases Found,” Patch, March 28, 2020, https://patch.com/pennsylvania/baldwin-whitehall/s/h2bmx/12-more-die-in-pennsylvania-from-coronavirus-500-new-cases-found; Eric Heyl, “Allegheny County Coronavirus Cases: Another Large Increase,” Patch, March 28, 2020, https://patch.com/pennsylvania/baldwin-whitehall/s/h2bkm/allegheny-county-coronavirus-cases-another-large-increase
  7. [7]Paul Guggenheimer, “Butler County added to growing list of areas under Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order,” TribLive, March 27, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/butler-county-added-to-growing-list-of-areas-under-gov-tom-wolfs-stay-at-home-order/
  8. [8]WTAE, “Stay-at-home order to begin tonight for several Pa. counties, including Allegheny,” March 23, 2020, https://www.wtae.com/article/stay-at-home-order-to-begin-tonight-for-several-pa-counties-including-allegheny/31900786

Do these people even hear themselves?

Pandemic

There is a new blog post entitled, “The capitalist death cult.” It is from an early draft of this post that I draw this issue’s title.

Meanwhile, Uber seems to have drawn at least some drivers back on the road by making it easy for them to also do Uber Eats deliveries. I avoid deliveries because, in my experience, the pay is about half what one gets for transporting people, because there are often parking issues—and possible citations—at both ends, and because discrepancies between what customers think they ordered and what they actually ordered are apt to be blamed on the drivers. But in addition, when it comes to food, I’m vegan and it is an ethical issue for me to deliver any animal products. So I’ll only do it if I have no choice and I’m not at that point yet. Yet.

Yascha Mounk, “This Is Just the Beginning,” Atlantic, March 25, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/national-shutdown-least-bad-option/608683/

Erica Werner, Paul Kane, and Mike DeBonis, “Trump signs $2 trillion coronavirus bill into law as companies and households brace for more economic pain,” Washington Post, March 27, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2020/03/27/congress-coronavirus-house-vote/


 

How will we know when we are ‘flattening the curve?’

Coronavirus

Gotta tell you, the U.S. jumping to the lead in aggregate cases of COVID-19 worldwide[1] sure doesn’t look like “flattening the curve” to me. At least not yet.

But the next question is, how will we know when we are flattening the curve? Because the statistics are flawed. And that last point applies broadly to statistics for the pandemic itself and to economic data. With the jobs data, Derek Thompson expands[2] on a point I earlier saw made by Justin Lahart for the Wall Street Journal.[3]

Talal Ansari, Jennifer Calfas, and Chun Han Wong, “U.S. Coronavirus Cases Surpass Those of China, Italy,” Wall Street Journal, March 26, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/governments-clamp-down-as-coronavirus-infections-surge-11585218656

Derek Thompson, “All the Coronavirus Statistics Are Flawed,” Atlantic, March 26, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/fog-pandemic/608764/


  1. [1]Talal Ansari, Jennifer Calfas, and Chun Han Wong, “U.S. Coronavirus Cases Surpass Those of China, Italy,” Wall Street Journal, March 26, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/governments-clamp-down-as-coronavirus-infections-surge-11585218656
  2. [2]Derek Thompson, “All the Coronavirus Statistics Are Flawed,” Atlantic, March 26, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/fog-pandemic/608764/
  3. [3]Justin Lahart, “Washington’s Trillions Alone Can’t Stop the Jobpocalypse,” Wall Street Journal, March 26, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/washingtons-trillions-alone-cant-stop-the-jobpocalypse-11585235110

Scary times

Pennsylvania

It’s scary every morning now since Tom Wolf’s “stay at home” order,[1] now expanded to three more counties,[2] took effect Monday evening, as I have both the Uber and Lyft driver apps online and get no orders. But so far, the bottom hasn’t really dropped out. I’m still making the numbers come out, in part with tricks I used in the San Francisco Bay Area but wouldn’t use here if Pittsburgh traffic were normal.

I don’t know how long that will work.

In the meantime, if you want to understand how coronavirus will play out with western Pennsylvania Donald Trump supporters, read Jason Togyer’s piece.[3] You won’t get the story you’re looking for, but his writing rings true to me.

Kara Seymour, “Stay-At-Home Order Expanded As Coronavirus Cases Top 1K In PA,” Patch, March 25, 2020, https://patch.com/pennsylvania/baldwin-whitehall/s/h27o5/stay-at-home-order-expanded-as-coronavirus-cases-top-1k-in-pa

Jason Togyer, “Fear and Loathing in the Time of Coronavirus,” Columbia Journalism Review, March 25, 2020, https://mailchi.mp/columbia/the-mystery-of-caroline-county-virginia-688061?e=a9376a1225


  1. [1]WTAE, “Stay-at-home order to begin tonight for several Pa. counties, including Allegheny,” March 23, 2020, https://www.wtae.com/article/stay-at-home-order-to-begin-tonight-for-several-pa-counties-including-allegheny/31900786
  2. [2]Kara Seymour, “Stay-At-Home Order Expanded As Coronavirus Cases Top 1K In PA,” Patch, March 25, 2020, https://patch.com/pennsylvania/baldwin-whitehall/s/h27o5/stay-at-home-order-expanded-as-coronavirus-cases-top-1k-in-pa
  3. [3]Jason Togyer, “Fear and Loathing in the Time of Coronavirus,” Columbia Journalism Review, March 25, 2020, https://mailchi.mp/columbia/the-mystery-of-caroline-county-virginia-688061?e=a9376a1225

The devil and the deep blue sea

Gig economy

Funda Ustek-Spilda et al., “The untenable luxury of self-isolation,” New Internationalist, March 18, 2020, https://newint.org/features/2020/03/18/untenable-luxury-self-isolation


Coronavirus

Center for Systems Science and Engineering, “Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases,” March 24, 2020, Johns Hopkins University, https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html


Neoliberals fiddle while the economy burns

Elon Musk

So yesterday, I posted a blog entry expressing skepticism about Elon Musk’s promise of N95 masks and respirators,[1] badly needed especially in the state of Washington for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The respirators remain to be seen, but Musk came through with the masks on schedule.[2] I’m sure there’s a backstory that isn’t covered here and if Musk actually comes through on the respirators, there will be much more of one that desperately needs covering.

Because in the world I know, things just don’t turn on a dime like this. They can’t.

Sydney Brownstone and Brendan Kiley, “50,000 N95 masks delivered to UW researcher’s home thanks to Elon Musk, Tesla,” Seattle Times, March 22, 2020, https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/truckload-of-50000-n95-masks-headed-to-uw-researchers-home-thanks-to-elon-musk-tesla/


Gig economy

There is a new blog entry entitled, “While neoliberal hot air floats over gig workers’ heads, here’s the Trump administration.”

Ian Kullgren, “Congress should bail out gig workers, Cohn says,” Politico, March 22, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/22/congress-gig-economy-workers-cohn-141886


Israel

Gershom Gorenberg, “With a pandemic as cover, Netanyahu is carrying out a coup in Israel,” Washington Post, March 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/19/with-pandemic-cover-netanyahu-is-carrying-out-coup-israel/


  1. [1]David Benfell, “Elon Musk, groan, again,” Not Housebroken, March 22, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/22/elon-musk-groan-again/
  2. [2]Sydney Brownstone and Brendan Kiley, “50,000 N95 masks delivered to UW researcher’s home thanks to Elon Musk, Tesla,” Seattle Times, March 22, 2020, https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/truckload-of-50000-n95-masks-headed-to-uw-researchers-home-thanks-to-elon-musk-tesla/

As we tumble not so gently into the abyss

Coronavirus

I’ve been assuming for days now that I will be exposed to the novel coronavirus sooner or later if I have not already been.

The number of cases testing positive for the covid-19 has been doubling nearly every two days since the state [Pennsylvania] began processing them, [Rachel] Levine said.

“It’s not just increased testing,” she said. “We are actually seeing a spike in (covid-19) cases because more people are ill.”[1]

But I have had no symptoms and therefore no reason to seek out testing.

Then there’s this weirdness:

We’re on new ground here. … But I also know that Pennsylvanians are strong and resilient, and that our communities will get through this if we do it together.[2]

I don’t know what communities she’s talking about. I really don’t.

Next, David Remnick has a blast at not only Donald Trump, whose malfeasance on coronavirus is already well-documented,[3] but his entire enabling Faux News bubble:

[Donald] Trump cannot be forgiven for his preening and his belatedness. And yet this least trustworthy of Commanders-in-Chief is entrusted by the authority of his office to make a series of critical decisions. In order to “flatten the curve,” we have rightly set in motion a set of edicts that, while necessary to control the pandemic, will continue to batter the economy, create deep atomization, and cause all manner of suffering. The human need for solidarity is frustrated by the need for social distancing. An economy that seizes up entirely could, in theory, produce nearly as much suffering as the virus itself, particularly for the most vulnerable among us. A host of well-judged policy decisions must be made and executed effectively if the country is to be spared the worst. As recently as Friday, however, the President spent much of his briefing berating a reporter and further alarming the public. It is better to be lucky than good, the old saw has it. Trump is not good; we must hope that he will be lucky.[4]

I’m remembering a lyric by Albert King: “If it wasn’t for bad luck, you know I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”[5]

Finally, on March 20th, I wrote,

What if Donald Trump’s initial diminishing and mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic[6] was meant to cover a retreat from the stock market by his allies?[7] They all deny it, of course. But also, it just looks to me like, for all that earlier denial and minimization, the Republicans are better prepared to present proposals than the Democrats.[8] For a lot of folks, this will be just putting two and two together. Or as Watergate’s “Deep Throat” was famously portrayed saying, “Follow the money.”

Consider this: After a decade of Republicans obstructing Democrats, suddenly on this singular issue, it is Democrats who are cast in the role of obstructing an urgent Republican proposal.[9] Something is surely up and I’m pretty sure it isn’t that Nancy Pelosi is smarter than Mitch McConnell.[10]

Now, here’s Kevin Williamson at the mostly neoconservative National Review:

If you want to know why people are so vulnerable to conspiracy theories and to misinformation, it is in part because they believe that they are being lied to by those with whom they have entrusted great power, that the truth is being kept from them by design. They are not wrong about that: The New York Times has the emails explicitly directing state authorities to keep the facts — “numeric values” — from “the public.”

Right now, the question for Trump, et al., is whether they will be reelected. But there are military hospital ships anchored off both coasts, and ventilators and other necessities are in short supply, for a reason. Perhaps we will be successful at “flattening the curve” and avoiding a pandemic that is as bad as it has the potential to be. These clowns in Washington had better pray perfervidly that we are successful. Senator Burr is not expected to run again in 2022. His retirement is understood to be a foregone conclusion. But the world is going to remember that when history called, Senator Burr called his broker, and it will take more than stock profits to ensure that his retirement is a comfortable one.[11]

This quote and the headline on Williamson’s article slightly mislead: Williamson points to a number of data points implicating a number of politicians. Earlier in his piece, he writes,

The senators’ explanations run the gamut from the more or less plausible, at a glance, to the barely plausible. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that these stories may be plausible on a case-by-case basis but that that plausibility requires a level of trust that Washington as a whole has not earned. And maybe Hunter Biden has some special charm known only to Ukrainians.[12]

I have little use for neoconservatives as a general rule. And Williamson’s appearance in the National Review only suggests he is probably a neoconservative. I’m more suspicious than he is—I think—but he lays out the evidence.

Kevin D. Williamson, “History Called — and Senator Burr Called His Broker,” National Review, March 20, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/03/history-called-and-senator-burr-called-his-broker/

Natasha Lindstrom, “Pennsylvania reports 103 new covid-19 cases, large clusters in Allegheny County,” TribLive, March 21, 2020, https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/pennsylvania-reports-103-new-covid-19-cases-large-clusters-in-allegheny-county/

David Remnick, “How the Coronavirus Shattered Trump’s Serene Confidence,” New Yorker, March 22, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/03/30/how-the-coronavirus-shattered-trumps-serene-confidence


  1. [1]Natasha Lindstrom, “Pennsylvania reports 103 new covid-19 cases, large clusters in Allegheny County,” TribLive, March 21, 2020, https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/pennsylvania-reports-103-new-covid-19-cases-large-clusters-in-allegheny-county/
  2. [2]Rachel Levine, quoted in Natasha Lindstrom, “Pennsylvania reports 103 new covid-19 cases, large clusters in Allegheny County,” TribLive, March 21, 2020, https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/pennsylvania-reports-103-new-covid-19-cases-large-clusters-in-allegheny-county/
  3. [3]Adam Gaffney, “Trump sees the coronavirus as a threat to his self-interest – not to people,” Guardian, March 17, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/17/trump-sees-the-coronavirus-as-a-threat-to-his-self-interest-not-to-people; Susan B. Glasser, “A President Unequal to the Moment,” New Yorker, March 12, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/a-president-unequal-to-the-moment; Dana Milbank, “For Trump, a reckoning has come,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/trump-reckoning-has-come/; Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-response-squandered-time/2020/03/07/5c47d3d0-5fcb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html; Paul Waldman, “How coronavirus has deeply flummoxed conservative media,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/how-coronavirus-has-deeply-flummuxed-conservative-media/
  4. [4]David Remnick, “How the Coronavirus Shattered Trump’s Serene Confidence,” New Yorker, March 22, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/03/30/how-the-coronavirus-shattered-trumps-serene-confidence
  5. [5]Albert King, “Album: Born Under A Bad Sign,” Song Facts, 1967, https://www.songfacts.com/lyrics/albert-king/born-under-a-bad-sign
  6. [6]Adam Gaffney, “Trump sees the coronavirus as a threat to his self-interest – not to people,” Guardian, March 17, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/17/trump-sees-the-coronavirus-as-a-threat-to-his-self-interest-not-to-people; Susan B. Glasser, “A President Unequal to the Moment,” New Yorker, March 12, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/a-president-unequal-to-the-moment; Dana Milbank, “For Trump, a reckoning has come,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/trump-reckoning-has-come/; Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-response-squandered-time/2020/03/07/5c47d3d0-5fcb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html; Paul Waldman, “How coronavirus has deeply flummoxed conservative media,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/how-coronavirus-has-deeply-flummuxed-conservative-media/
  7. [7]Michelle Ye Hee Lee, John Wagner, and Teo Armus, “Sen. Richard Burr, head of powerful committee, sold large amount of stocks before sharp declines in market,” Washington Post, March 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/sen-richard-burr-r-nc-head-of-powerful-committee-sold-large-amount-of-stocks-before-sharp-declines-in-market/2020/03/19/6cf4b25a-6a31-11ea-9923-57073adce27c_story.html
  8. [8]Jeff Stein et al., “Senate Republicans release massive economic stimulus bill for coronavirus response,” Washington Post, March 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/19/trump-coronavirus-economic-plan-stimulus/
  9. [9]Eoin Higgins, “Refusal by Pelosi to Consider Universal Cash Payments in Response to Coronavirus Pandemic ‘Maddening,’ Say Progressives,” Common Dreams, March 18, 2020, https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/18/refusal-pelosi-consider-universal-cash-payments-response-coronavirus-pandemic;  Michelle Ye Hee Lee, John Wagner, and Teo Armus, “Sen. Richard Burr, head of powerful committee, sold large amount of stocks before sharp declines in market,” Washington Post, March 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/sen-richard-burr-r-nc-head-of-powerful-committee-sold-large-amount-of-stocks-before-sharp-declines-in-market/2020/03/19/6cf4b25a-6a31-11ea-9923-57073adce27c_story.html;Jim Tankersley and Ben Casselman, “Washington Weighs Big Bailouts to Help U.S. Economy Survive Coronavirus,” New York Times, March 18, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/business/bailout-economy-coronavirus.html
  10. [10]David Benfell, “Why do Republicans seem better prepared to present proposals on coronavirus relief than Democrats?” Irregular Bullshit, March 20, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/03/20/why-do-republicans-seem-better-prepared-to-present-proposals-on-coronavirus-relief-than-democrats/
  11. [11]Kevin D. Williamson, “History Called — and Senator Burr Called His Broker,” National Review, March 20, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/03/history-called-and-senator-burr-called-his-broker/
  12. [12]Kevin D. Williamson, “History Called — and Senator Burr Called His Broker,” National Review, March 20, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/03/history-called-and-senator-burr-called-his-broker/

Elon Musk, our rich white knight in shining armor

Elon Musk

There is a new blog post entitled, “Elon Musk, groan, again.”

Tim Higgins, “Elon Musk’s Defiance in the Time of Coronavirus,” Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/elon-musks-defiance-in-the-time-of-coronavirus-11584733458

Jack Morse, “Ventilator manufacturers aren’t impressed by Elon Musk’s offer,” Mashable, March 21, 2020, https://mashable.com/article/experts-doubt-tesla-elon-musk-manufacture-ventilators/

Zachary Shahan, “Elon Musk: Should Have 1000 Ventilators Next Week, + 250,000 N95 Masks For Hospitals Tomorrow,” CleanTechnica, March 21, 2020, https://cleantechnica.com/2020/03/21/elon-musk-should-have-1000-ventilators-next-week-250k-n95-masks-for-hospitals-tomorrow-cleantechnica-exclusive/


Coronavirus

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is looking for power to, among other things, abrogate habeas corpus.[1] Just so we know where their priorities lie.

Betsy Woodruff Swan, “DOJ seeks new emergency powers amid coronavirus pandemic,” Politico, March 21, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/21/doj-coronavirus-emergency-powers-140023


  1. [1]Betsy Woodruff Swan, “DOJ seeks new emergency powers amid coronavirus pandemic,” Politico, March 21, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/21/doj-coronavirus-emergency-powers-140023

Winter will be extended

Coronavirus

A couple days ago, I wrote:

Since the panic began, I’ve been seeing a bump in business driving for Lyft, which has kept me sufficiently busy that I haven’t even tried driving for Uber. I attribute this to three possible factors, none of which seem to be mutually exclusive. I am not able to determine the extent to which any of these may be, if at all, true:

  1. It is March. We might be coming to the end of winter, which has, as long as I’ve been driving cab (and for Uber and Lyft) been a horrible season.
  2. Some drivers may be staying offline, to avoid coronavirus exposure.
  3. Some passengers may be avoiding public transportation, to avoid coronavirus exposure.[1]

Naturally, it was just about the time I posted that, that I started noticing a softening of business.

Today, while the iPhone I’m relying on to get mobile data to my Pixel 3 XL, which I’m using while I await the Pixel 4 XL (now expected tomorrow, with a planned communication disruption to follow), has started to act up, particularly with the hotspot function, I’m getting a picture of the answer:

  1. It appears winter will be extended. Usually, Sunday is one of my better days. Although, the iPhone screw-up might be a contributing factor, I got relatively few passengers today. Usually, I see some trips to retrieve vehicles left near bars. I saw none of these today even after the Saint Patrick’s Day celebration yesterday. And judging from the grocery store loads, the shelves are now well and truly empty; there weren’t even very many of these trips today. The trips I did see today were generally short.
  2. Drivers are staying offline. When I’m traveling long distances for rides, I infer that no one closer was available. I did a fair amount of that today.
  3. Folks now appear to be heeding advice to “stay home.”[2]

How the psychology of all this plays out remains to be determined, and it will, of course, be psychology that determines individual decisions to go out, to stay home, to work, to not work. But right now, I’m feeling pessimistic.

Among the articles below, there is one by Jennifer Gonnerman, given the headline, “How Prisons and Jails Can Respond to the Coronavirus.” That headline should have the words “and how they probably won’t” appended.[3]

Why are prisons and jails especially dangerous places to be during a pandemic?

Jails and prisons are full of people who are at higher risk than the general public. We have filled them up with people who have high rates of serious health problems. We also, especially in the state prison systems around the country, have an increasingly older population of people. So we have lots of people who are at high risk for serious complications.

All of the new terms of art that everybody has learned in the last two weeks, like “social distancing” and “self-quarantine” and “flattening the curve” of the epidemic—all of these things are impossible in jails and prisons, or are made worse by the way jails and prisons are operated. Everything about incarceration is going to make that curve go more steeply up.

If you think about how a county jail works, the first thing upfront is that people—when they’re arrested in the precinct and then when they go to court and then when they get to jail—they’re in these court pens with lots of other people. You could have a dozen or even two dozen people in a small pen, where there’s not room to really sit down, where you’re sitting on the floor or you’re sitting on benches.

Every time we do much smaller investigations of outbreaks—if there’s a bacterial meningitis or if there’s a pulmonary TB case—those are the places we worry about and where we see transmission happening, very quickly, of communicable disease. The jails are built to operate this way: big pens, big groups of people coming in. Five, ten, fifteen, twenty at a time going in blocks through cells. They start out in one cell, then they go to a second cell. They might go through six or eight cells. They don’t really have hand-washing access built in. That is basically a system designed to spread communicable disease.

Once people get through that intake process, if you go to housing areas in jails and prisons today, whether it’s a cell or a dorm-housing area, if you go to the bathrooms, you would find that many of the sinks don’t work. Many of them don’t have soap, and many of them don’t have paper towels to dry your hands.[4]

In addition, Uber is now providing details to their driver “sick leave” plan for coronavirus. It’s based on the last six months of earnings,[5] which might work out if Lyft matches it, as many drivers drive for both.

Jennifer Gonnerman, “How Prisons and Jails Can Respond to the Coronavirus,” New Yorker, March 14, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/how-prisons-and-jails-can-respond-to-the-coronavirus

Bloomberg, “CDC says U.S. gatherings of over 50 people should not be held for eight weeks,” Los Angeles Times, March 15, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-03-15/cdc-us-gatherings-over-50-people-should-not-be-held-for-eight-weeks

Eric Heyl, “Four Coronavirus Cases Now Confirmed In Allegheny County,” Patch, March 15, 2020, https://patch.com/pennsylvania/baldwin-whitehall/s/h1t4f/third-coronavirus-case-confirmed-in-allegheny-county

Heather Long, “Federal Reserve slashes interest rates to zero as part of wide-ranging emergency intervention,” Washington Post, March 15, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/15/federal-reserve-slashes-interest-rates-zero-part-wide-ranging-emergency-intervention/

Brent Kendall, Chad Day, and Alex Leary, “U.S. Officials Urge More Action to Combat Coronavirus,” Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/fauci-urges-americans-to-stay-home-amid-coronavirus-11584284229

Uber, “Supporting you during the Coronavirus,” March 15, 2020, https://www.uber.com/blog/supporting-you-during-coronavirus/

Wes Venteicher and Theresa Clift, “California plans to use private hotels, motels to shelter homeless people as coronavirus spreads,” Sacramento Bee, March 15, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article241216061.html

Washington Post, “Mapping the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. and worldwide,” March 15, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/01/22/mapping-spread-new-coronavirus/


  1. [1]David Benfell, “The panic,” Irregular Bullshit, March 13, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/03/13/the-panic/
  2. [2]Bloomberg, “CDC says U.S. gatherings of over 50 people should not be held for eight weeks,” Los Angeles Times, March 15, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-03-15/cdc-us-gatherings-over-50-people-should-not-be-held-for-eight-weeks; Brent Kendall, Chad Day, and Alex Leary, “U.S. Officials Urge More Action to Combat Coronavirus,” Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/fauci-urges-americans-to-stay-home-amid-coronavirus-11584284229
  3. [3]Jennifer Gonnerman, “How Prisons and Jails Can Respond to the Coronavirus,” New Yorker, March 14, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/how-prisons-and-jails-can-respond-to-the-coronavirus
  4. [4]Jennifer Gonnerman, “How Prisons and Jails Can Respond to the Coronavirus,” New Yorker, March 14, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/how-prisons-and-jails-can-respond-to-the-coronavirus
  5. [5]Uber, “Supporting you during the Coronavirus,” March 15, 2020, https://www.uber.com/blog/supporting-you-during-coronavirus/