‘Doctor’ ‘Very Stable Genius’ writes a very bad prescription

Pandemic

Not that this should be even remotely surprising, but hydroxychloroquine is bad stuff,[1] even if a “very stable genius”[2] recommends it:[3]

“It’s one thing not to have benefit, but this [study] shows distinct harm,” said Eric Topol, a cardiologist and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute. “If there was ever hope for this drug [hydroxychloroquine], this is the death of it.” . . .

For those given hydroxychloroquine, there was a 34 percent increase in risk of mortality and a 137 percent increased risk of a serious heart arrhythmias. For those receiving hydroxychloroquine and an antibiotic — the cocktail endorsed by Trump — there was a 45 percent increased risk of death and a 411 percent increased risk of serious heart arrhythmias.

Those given chloroquine had a 37 percent increased risk of death and a 256 percent increased risk of serious heart arrhythmias. For those taking chloroquine and an antibiotic, there was a 37 percent increased risk of death and a 301 percent increased risk of serious heart arrhythmias.[4]

While this particular study relies on correlation, controlled experiments have also shown an increased risk of heart problems and little or no benefit in treating COVID-19.[5]

I have decided I can no longer patronize my favorite vegan restaurant in the Pittsburgh area, the one in North Strabane. The old man is a brilliant cook, really he is, but his attitude toward the lockdown, even to wearing masks, is unacceptable. I’m pretty sure he’s getting his information from the same sources as white supremacists who also blame Jews for the virus, which is especially ironic given that the family that runs this place appears to be conservative Jewish. Sorry, I just can’t wrap my head around this.

Ariana Eunjung Cha and Laurie McGinley, “Antimalarial drug touted by President Trump is linked to increased risk of death in coronavirus patients, study says,” Washington Post, May 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/05/22/hydroxychloroquine-coronavirus-study/

Dana Mattioli and Konrad Putzier, “When It’s Time to Go Back to the Office, Will It Still Be There?” Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/when-its-time-to-go-back-to-the-office-will-it-still-be-there-11589601618


Housekeeping

IMG_20200522_125537_MP
Fig. 1. I don’t think I’m slick enough for Slickville, in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Photograph by author, May 22, 2020.

I am discovering that if you get far enough away from Pittsburgh, the white supremacist gun nuttery seems to recede to something like a normal level. I wound up out in Greensburg, which is in Westmoreland County, today and it felt like a breath of fresh air. The rent is still too high and I have seen way too much social conservatism in previous visits to Westmoreland County anyway, but it may be possible for me to remain in the Pittsburgh area, albeit at some distance.


  1. [1]Associated Press, “FDA warns against using the drugs that Trump touts for coronavirus,” Los Angeles Times, April 24, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2020-04-24/fda-warns-against-using-trump-touted-drugs-to-treat-coronavirus; Marilynn Marchione, “Heart woes spur partial stop of malaria drug study for virus,” Washington Post, April 13, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/heart-woes-spur-partial-stop-of-malaria-drug-study-for-virus/2020/04/13/c6460050-7db6-11ea-84c2-0792d8591911_story.html
  2. [2]Emily Stewart, “Trump tweets that he’s a genius and ‘a very stable genius at that!’” Vox, January 6, 2018, https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/1/6/16857492/trump-tweets-mental-health
  3. [3]Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman, “Health Dept. Official Says Doubts on Hydroxychloroquine Led to His Ouster,” New York Times, April 22, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/22/us/politics/rick-bright-trump-hydroxychloroquine.html; Paul Waldman, “The real reason Trump is obsessed with hydroxychloroquine,” Washington Post, April 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/07/real-reason-trump-is-obsessed-with-hydroxychloroquine/
  4. [4]Ariana Eunjung Cha and Laurie McGinley, “Antimalarial drug touted by President Trump is linked to increased risk of death in coronavirus patients, study says,” Washington Post, May 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/05/22/hydroxychloroquine-coronavirus-study/
  5. [5]Ariana Eunjung Cha and Laurie McGinley, “Antimalarial drug touted by President Trump is linked to increased risk of death in coronavirus patients, study says,” Washington Post, May 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/05/22/hydroxychloroquine-coronavirus-study/; Marilynn Marchione, “Heart woes spur partial stop of malaria drug study for virus,” Washington Post, April 13, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/heart-woes-spur-partial-stop-of-malaria-drug-study-for-virus/2020/04/13/c6460050-7db6-11ea-84c2-0792d8591911_story.html

I hope you all are enjoying the show. I’m sure not.

Updates

  1. Originally published, May 21, 10:20 am.
  2. May 21, 9:37 pm:
    • Facebook has now also announced more (which is better than none, but in Facebook’s case, not much better than none) opportunities to work from home permanently.[1] The offer comes in stark contrast to Twitter’s somewhat more generous offer.[2]
  3. May 22, 8:58 am:
    • Donald Trump defied company requests and Michigan state law in addressing workers at a Ford plant without a face mask.[3] There are a number of issues with wearing face masks but a large part of it is that it is a marker for support for or opposition to Trump[4] in contrast to trust in medical authorities and compliance with state governors and their authority.[5] The politicization of the pandemic is certainly a possible path to our downfall.
    • The Wall Street Journal adds to the story already reported here about unemployment claims[6] by explaining that the number of people collecting unemployment benefits is up to over 25 million. This number, the paper explains, lags initial filings by a week.[7] For me, this story underscores the callousness of a bipartisan political decision to reduce the question of further economic relief to politics as usual[8] and we, as a society, should be asking what the fuck our system of social organization is good for if it doesn’t actually take care of people. Unfortunately, the answer at present has been reduced to protests against the lockdown and the decision to wear or not wear masks (see the immediately preceding bullet point above).
    • Just as a further comment on the Facebook story[9] in the earlier update (above), if you haven’t been by Facebook’s campus in Menlo Park, it is huge and Google Maps really doesn’t do justice to the visual impression. It is difficult to compare to Google’s headquarters (which I suspect are nonetheless larger) in Mountain View visually because the layouts and building designs are so different (one might suspect that this reflects vastly different corporate cultures). But when Mark Zuckerberg says he still thinks Facebook needs the space with the restrictions on working at home his company is imposing and with social distancing requirements that will be imposed within the offices[10] (their cubicles might be a little less hellish?), one is still entitled to suspect that his decision-making is influenced by a desire to justify the existence of that office space.

Pandemic

MasterCard will not send workers back to offices, it says, without a vaccine.[11] That could be a while. A long while.[12] And the company is considering consolidating offices,[13] which brings my warning yesterday more sharply into focus.[14]

Overall, however, we seem to be in a rush to reopen, even as the pandemic continues to rage in some areas and health care systems in some areas are overwhelmed,[15] and despite medical warnings against a hasty reopening.[16] That puts the rest of us at risk: Nobody’s borders—not even North Korea’s—are hermetically sealed.

It’s almost as if we are in a rush to rubberneck at the trainwreck that is the economy,[17] a trainwreck made all the more spectacular by our adamance in continuing to embrace neoliberalism and the corresponding refusal to embrace obviously correct progressive proposals.[18]

I hope you all are enjoying the show. I’m sure not. Rather, I’m at a loss for words at just how brain-dead all of this is.

Joel Achenbach et al., “Coronavirus hot spots erupt across the country; experts warn of second wave in South,” Washington Post, May 20, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/coronavirus-hot-spots-erupt-across-the-country-experts-warn-of-possible-outbreaks-in-south/2020/05/20/49bc6d10-9ab4-11ea-a282-386f56d579e6_story.html

Associated Press, “2.4 million Americans sought jobless aid last week; 39 million since coronavirus struck,” Los Angeles Times, May 21, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-05-21/coronavirus-jobless-unemployment-benefits

Sarah Chaney and Kate King, “Workers File 2.4 Million Unemployment Claims,” Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/self-employed-arent-counted-in-wave-of-unemployment-claims-11590053402

Jeff Horwitz, “Facebook to Shift Permanently Toward More Remote Work After Coronavirus,” Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-to-shift-permanently-toward-more-remote-work-after-coronavirus-11590081300

Noor Zainab Hussain, “Mastercard won’t send staff back to office without coronavirus vaccine,” Sydney Morning Herald, May 21, 2020, https://www.smh.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/mastercard-won-t-send-staff-back-to-office-without-coronavirus-vaccine-20200521-p54v12.html

Chong Koh Ping and Matthew Dalton, “Coronavirus Case Count Tops Five Million World-Wide,” Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/coronavirus-latest-news-05-21-2020-11590043161

Alison Rourke, “Global report: don’t count on vaccine, US scientist warns, as cases pass 5m,” Guardian, May 21, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/21/global-report-coronavirus-vaccine-us-scientist-cases-5-million

Joanna Walters, “Donald Trump goes without mask at Michigan Ford plant despite company request,” Guardian, May 22, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/21/trump-ford-factory-mask-michigan


  1. [1]Jeff Horwitz, “Facebook to Shift Permanently Toward More Remote Work After Coronavirus,” Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-to-shift-permanently-toward-more-remote-work-after-coronavirus-11590081300
  2. [2]Heather Kelly, “Twitter employees don’t ever have to go back to the office (unless they want to),” Washington Post, May 12, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/05/12/twitter-work-home/
  3. [3]Joanna Walters, “Donald Trump goes without mask at Michigan Ford plant despite company request,” Guardian, May 22, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/21/trump-ford-factory-mask-michigan
  4. [4]Marc Fisher, Clarence Williams, and Lori Rozsa, “Will Americans wear masks to prevent coronavirus spread? Politics, history, race and crime factor into tough decision,” Washington Post, April 18, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/coronavirus-masks-america/2020/04/18/bdb16bf2-7a85-11ea-a130-df573469f094_story.html
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Don’t just say #COVIDIOTS,” Not Housebroken, April 19, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/19/dont-just-say-covidiots/; David Benfell, “When confusion starts killing people, it is long past time to recognize it for what it is,” Not Housebroken, May 21, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/21/when-confusion-starts-killing-people-it-is-long-past-time-to-recognize-it-for-what-it-is/; David Benfell, “The pandemic and a crisis of illegitimate authority,” Not Housebroken, May 14, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/05/12/the-pandemic-and-a-crisis-of-illegitimate-authority/
  6. [6]Associated Press, “2.4 million Americans sought jobless aid last week; 39 million since coronavirus struck,” Los Angeles Times, May 21, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-05-21/coronavirus-jobless-unemployment-benefits
  7. [7]Sarah Chaney and Kate King, “Workers File 2.4 Million Unemployment Claims,” Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/self-employed-arent-counted-in-wave-of-unemployment-claims-11590053402
  8. [8]David Benfell, “Yet again, a season for cynicism,” Not Housebroken, May 10, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/05/10/yet-again-a-season-for-cynicism/
  9. [9]Jeff Horwitz, “Facebook to Shift Permanently Toward More Remote Work After Coronavirus,” Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-to-shift-permanently-toward-more-remote-work-after-coronavirus-11590081300
  10. [10]Jeff Horwitz, “Facebook to Shift Permanently Toward More Remote Work After Coronavirus,” Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-to-shift-permanently-toward-more-remote-work-after-coronavirus-11590081300
  11. [11]Noor Zainab Hussain, “Mastercard won’t send staff back to office without coronavirus vaccine,” Sydney Morning Herald, May 21, 2020, https://www.smh.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/mastercard-won-t-send-staff-back-to-office-without-coronavirus-vaccine-20200521-p54v12.html
  12. [12]Andrew Nikiforuk, “Don’t Bet on a Vaccine,” Tyee, May 13, 2020, https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2020/05/13/Vaccine-Not-Likely/; Alison Rourke, “Global report: don’t count on vaccine, US scientist warns, as cases pass 5m,” Guardian, May 21, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/21/global-report-coronavirus-vaccine-us-scientist-cases-5-million
  13. [13]Noor Zainab Hussain, “Mastercard won’t send staff back to office without coronavirus vaccine,” Sydney Morning Herald, May 21, 2020, https://www.smh.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/mastercard-won-t-send-staff-back-to-office-without-coronavirus-vaccine-20200521-p54v12.html
  14. [14]David Benfell, “COVID-19 points to a future gone entirely wrong,” Not Housebroken, May 20, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/05/20/covid-19-points-to-a-future-gone-entirely-wrong/
  15. [15]Joel Achenbach et al., “Coronavirus hot spots erupt across the country; experts warn of second wave in South,” Washington Post, May 20, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/coronavirus-hot-spots-erupt-across-the-country-experts-warn-of-possible-outbreaks-in-south/2020/05/20/49bc6d10-9ab4-11ea-a282-386f56d579e6_story.html; John F. Harris, “Admit It: You Are Willing to Let People Die to End the Shutdown,” Politico, April 30, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/04/30/coronavirus-shutdown-altitude-ethics-223569; Chong Koh Ping and Matthew Dalton, “Coronavirus Case Count Tops Five Million World-Wide,” Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/coronavirus-latest-news-05-21-2020-11590043161
  16. [16]Adam Cancryn and Nancy Cook, “Health officials want Trump to ‘double down, not lighten up’ restrictions,” Politico, March 23, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/23/coronavirus-economy-trump-restart-145222; David Wallace-Wells, “We Are Probably Only One-Tenth of the Way Through This Pandemic,” New York, April 17, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/04/we-are-probably-only-a-tenth-of-the-way-through-the-pandemic.html; David Wallace-Wells, “There Is Still No Plan,” New York, May 7, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/05/white-house-plan-for-ending-coronavirus-stay-at-home-orders.html; Holly Yan, “5 common arguments for reopening the economy — and why experts say they are flawed,” CNN, May 11, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/11/us/reopening-the-economy-flawed-arguments-trnd/index.html
  17. [17]Associated Press, “2.4 million Americans sought jobless aid last week; 39 million since coronavirus struck,” Los Angeles Times, May 21, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-05-21/coronavirus-jobless-unemployment-benefits; John Cassidy, “The Most Alarming Thing About the Worst Jobs Report in History,” New Yorker, May 8, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-most-alarming-thing-about-the-worst-jobs-report-in-history; Sarah Chaney and Kate King, “Workers File 2.4 Million Unemployment Claims,” Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/self-employed-arent-counted-in-wave-of-unemployment-claims-11590053402; William Gumede, “The impact of coronavirus could compare to the Great Depression,” Al Jazeera, May 3, 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/impact-coronavirus-compare-great-depression-200420070542882.html; Faiz Siddiqui, “Tesla’s Elon Musk reopens factory, defying county orders and daring officials to arrest him,” Washington Post, May 11, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/05/11/musk-tesla-factory/; Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Eileen Sullivan, “As Trump Pushes to Reopen, Government Sees Virus Toll Nearly Doubling,” New York Times, May 4, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/04/us/politics/trump-coronavirus-death-toll.html; Charles Thompson, “Two central Pa. counties say they plan to reopen ahead of Gov. Wolf’s schedule,” Harrisburg Patriot-News, May 8, 2020, https://www.pennlive.com/news/2020/05/dauphin-lebanon-county-officials-declare-themselves-ready-to-reopen-say-they-will-break-from-gov-wolfs-plan.html;
  18. [18]David Benfell, “We are not going to be alright,” Not Housebroken, March 21, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/21/we-are-not-going-to-be-alright/; David Benfell, “The capitalist death cult,” Not Housebroken, March 27, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/27/the-capitalist-death-cult/; David Benfell, “When nothing happened next,” Not Housebroken, March 29, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/29/when-nothing-happened-next/; David Benfell, “The worst of times and the worst of humanity,” Not Housebroken, April 2, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/02/the-worst-of-times-and-the-worst-of-humanity/; David Benfell, “As we cower in our apartments,” Not Housebroken, April 6, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/06/as-we-cower-in-our-apartments/; David Benfell, “I fear for our world,” Not Housebroken, April 9, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/09/i-fear-for-our-world/; David Benfell, “An impatient capitalist god demands human sacrifice. Now,” Not Housebroken, April 17, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/15/an-impatient-capitalist-god-demands-human-sacrifice-now/; David Benfell, “Don’t just say #COVIDIOTS,” Not Housebroken, April 19, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/19/dont-just-say-covidiots/; David Benfell, “When confusion starts killing people, it is long past time to recognize it for what it is,” Not Housebroken, April 21, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/21/when-confusion-starts-killing-people-it-is-long-past-time-to-recognize-it-for-what-it-is/; David Benfell, “Elite priorities: Why social, animal, and environmental justice remains essential with COVID-19,” Not Housebroken, April 26, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/26/elite-priorities-why-social-animal-and-environmental-justice-remains-essential-with-covid-19/; David Benfell, “We may die at home or we may die alone but we are surely dying,” Not Housebroken, April 28, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/28/we-may-die-at-home-or-we-may-die-alone-but-we-are-surely-dying/; Jonathan Chait, “Trump Wants to Starve the States Into Opening Before It’s Safe,” New York, April 20, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/04/trump-coronavirus-open-state-governors-protests.html; David Frum, “Why Mitch McConnell Wants States to Go Bankrupt,” Atlantic, April 25, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/04/why-mitch-mcconnell-wants-states-go-bankrupt/610714/; Ed Kilgore, “Could Trump Go the Way of Herbert Hoover?” New York, May 4, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/05/could-herbert-hoovers-fate-be-trumps.html; Joe Lowndes, “The Morbid Ideology Behind the Drive to Reopen America,” New Republic, April 30, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157505/morbid-ideology-behind-drive-reopen-america; Robert McCartney, “McConnell’s rejection of federal aid for states risks causing a depression, analysts say,” Washington Post, April 27, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/mcconnells-rejection-of-federal-aid-for-states-risks-causing-a-depression-analysts-say/2020/04/26/1fd4731c-8632-11ea-a3eb-e9fc93160703_story.html; Jennifer Rubin, “Mitch McConnell cries ‘Uncle!’” Washington Post, April 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/28/mcconnell-cries-uncle/

COVID-19: The aftermath

Pandemic

I can’t tell you how reluctant I am to share newsletters in this space. First, I don’t trust the URLs. I wonder if they will be broken for others now, or generally in the future. Second, I’d rather get the original stories.

But this one[1] is good—really good—and I have responded with a new blog post entitled, “COVID-19 points to a future gone entirely wrong.”

Ishaan Tharoor with Ruby Mellen, “The pandemic may forever change the world’s cities,” Washington Post, May 20, 2020, https://s2.washingtonpost.com/camp-rw/?trackId=5a39652eae7e8a58807f9446&s=5ec4aa54fe1ff654c2e1eea0&linknum=4&linktot=72


  1. [1]Ishaan Tharoor with Ruby Mellen, “The pandemic may forever change the world’s cities,” Washington Post, May 20, 2020, https://s2.washingtonpost.com/camp-rw/?trackId=5a39652eae7e8a58807f9446&s=5ec4aa54fe1ff654c2e1eea0&linknum=4&linktot=72

Our present political and economic order is simply not up to the dilemma of COVID-19

Pandemic

unnamed
Fig. 1. Cartoon by Bob Moran of the Telegraph, May 14, 2020, via a newsletter, fair use.

When I wrote “The pandemic and a crisis of illegitimate authority” and “Don’t bet on ‘herd immunity’,” I essentially thought of a possible vaccine for COVID-19 as one might in terms of the old admonition against counting your chickens before they’ve hatched and didn’t bother to look into it further. I was more optimistic in the latter post than the former. It turns out that, as with the antibody-based protection that arises from being exposed to the disease,[1] and that some rely on for “herd immunity,”[2] there are nuances, including the possibility that a vaccine isn’t possible.[3] This, in addition to that it will take time to mass produce and distribute a vaccine should it be found,[4] should be absolutely unsurprising, and I’ve updated these posts accordingly.

The ugly truth here, and it’s not one I want to hear either, is that we as a species may well have to live with the novel coronavirus for many years to come. There’s a lot that needs to be rethought, including how we treat each other as human beings, should this prove to be the case, that we really need to be rethinking anyway, and—I don’t care what your political predilections are—our present political and economic order is simply not up to this task.

Andrew Nikiforuk, “Don’t Bet on a Vaccine,” Tyee, May 13, 2020, https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2020/05/13/Vaccine-Not-Likely/


Recession

I have added the photograph in figure 2 to an existing blog post entitled, “The abandoned.”
IMG_20200514_100125
Fig. 2. Abandoned houses in McKeesport. Photograph by author, May 14, 2020.

Tony Romm, “3 million Americans filed jobless claims last week, pushing eight-week total to 36.5 million,” Washington Post, May 14, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/14/unemployment-jobless-claims-coronavirus/


  1. [1]Christie Aschwanden, “Sorry, Immunity to Covid-19 Won’t Be Like a Superpower,” Wired, April 16, 2020, https://www.wired.com/story/sorry-immunity-to-covid-19-wont-be-like-a-superpower/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Don’t bet on ‘herd immunity,’” Not Housebroken, April 20, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/18/dont-bet-on-herd-immunity/
  3. [3]Andrew Nikiforuk, “Don’t Bet on a Vaccine,” Tyee, May 13, 2020, https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2020/05/13/Vaccine-Not-Likely/
  4. [4]Andrew Nikiforuk, “Don’t Bet on a Vaccine,” Tyee, May 13, 2020, https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2020/05/13/Vaccine-Not-Likely/; Christopher Rowland, Carolyn Y. Johnson, and William Wan, “Even finding a covid-19 vaccine won’t be enough to end the pandemic,” Washington Post, May 11, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/11/coronavirus-vaccine-global-supply/

Do these pastors hear their god, or their accountants?

Pandemic

We still refuse to take care of people. What the fuck is the point of civilization if it comes to this?

In general and as a consequence, the reactionary nuttery to the lockdown continues to intensify.

I have to wonder whether it is their god that pastors reopening in-person services hear,[1] or their accountants.[2]

Moriah Balingit, “Armed militia helped a Michigan barbershop open, a coronavirus defiance that puts Republican lawmakers in a bind,” Washington Post, May 12, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/coronavirus-michigan-republicans-whitmer/2020/05/12/54975e1a-9466-11ea-82b4-c8db161ff6e5_story.html

Heather Kelly, “Twitter employees don’t ever have to go back to the office (unless they want to),” Washington Post, May 12, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/05/12/twitter-work-home/

Mark Scott and Steven Overly, “‘Conspiracy bingo’: Trans-Atlantic extremists seize on the pandemic,” Politico, May 12, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/05/12/trans-atlantic-conspiracy-coronavirus-251325

Neena Satija, “‘Come on, we’re human beings’: Judges question response to coronavirus pandemic in federal prisons,” Washington Post, May 13, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/come-on-were-human-beings-judges-question-response-to-coronavirus-pandemic-in-federal-prisons/2020/05/12/925e5d32-912a-11ea-a9c0-73b93422d691_story.html

Brandon Showalter, “3,000 Calif. churches vow to reopen on Pentecost Sunday, regardless of gov. orders,” Christian Post, May 13, 2020, https://www.christianpost.com/news/3000-calif-churches-vow-to-reopen-on-pentecost-sunday-regardless-of-gov-orders.html


Gentrification

One of the very odd things in my life has been the parallels between two places I have lived, Pittsburgh and San Francisco. It shows up in lots of ways. Bridges are named for Joe Montana, the famous San Francisco 49ers quarterback, near the Monongahela River and the town of Monongahela. San Francisco’s cable cars are echoed by the Duquesne and Monongahela Inclines, remnants of a once much more common form of transportation. San Francisco has the reputation for hills and certainly has some but Pittsburgh has some of the steepest streets in the world.[3] A street in Alameda, across the bay from San Francisco, bears the name of Willie Stargell, a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball star. The list goes on, really, I think, to ludicrous lengths.

And I wonder how it is that two places I have lived have so much in common. The coincidences seem surreal.

Another is more troubling: There is a new blog post entitled, “Pittsburgh is repeating San Francisco’s mistake.”


  1. [1]Hailey Branson-Potts, “Pastor who refuses to cancel Sunday services because of coronavirus greeted by police,” Los Angeles Times, April 5, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-04-05/pastor-who-refuses-to-cancel-sunday-services-greeted-by-police; Brandon Showalter, “3,000 Calif. churches vow to reopen on Pentecost Sunday, regardless of gov. orders,” Christian Post, May 13, 2020, https://www.christianpost.com/news/3000-calif-churches-vow-to-reopen-on-pentecost-sunday-regardless-of-gov-orders.html; Sam Stanton, “Judge rejects Lodi church’s bid to resume in-person services, says California order legal,” Sacramento Bee, May 5, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/crime/article242512621.html
  2. [2]Michelle Boorstein, “Church donations have plunged because of the coronavirus. Some churches won’t survive,” Washington Post, April 24, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2020/04/24/church-budgets-coronavirus-debt/
  3. [3]For example, Canton Avenue: WTAE, “World’s steepest street: Welsh road claims the title over Pittsburgh’s Canton Avenue in Beechview,” July 16, 2019, https://www.wtae.com/article/worlds-steepest-street-pittsburgh-canton-avenue-beechview-ffordd-pen-llech-wales/28413028

Donald Trump and that distinction between authoritarian populism and paleoconservatism

Pandemic

There is a new blog post entitled, “Yet again, a season for cynicism.”

I have distinguished between authoritarian populists and paleoconservatives, with the latter tendency including white supremacists and neo-nazis, in part on the denial of racism by authoritarian populists and its unapologetic embrace by the paleoconservatives.[1] Donald Trump has, for quite some time, straddled that distinction, denying he is racist, but unapologetically saying and doing blatantly racist things. In yet another example of Trump’s blatant racism, Adam Serwer argues that Trump’s push to reopen the economy is based on the race of many victims, especially in the working class.[2] Paleoconservatives also join capitalist libertarians and traditionalist conservatives in generally opposing war which, with his bluster, is hard to say of Trump. So on balance, I still count Trump as authoritarian populist, but I have to wonder what he has to do before I’ll consider him a white supremacist. And I have updated my new blog post noted above accordingly.

Adam Serwer, “The Coronavirus Was an Emergency Until Trump Found Out Who Was Dying,” Atlantic, May 9, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/05/americas-racial-contract-showing/611389/


  1. [1]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  2. [2]Adam Serwer, “The Coronavirus Was an Emergency Until Trump Found Out Who Was Dying,” Atlantic, May 9, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/05/americas-racial-contract-showing/611389/

No one knows how many will get their jobs back when the lockdowns are lifted

Pandemic

FireShot Capture 143 - Gov. Wolf announces most of Western Pa. moving to yellow phase May 15_ - triblive.com
Fig. 1. Screenshot of Pennsylvania county map showing yellow or red phase taken from TribLive article, May 8, 2020.[1]

Most of western and north central Pennsylvania (figure 1) will be in “yellow” phase (figure 2) as of May 15. The bright red exception in western Pennsylvania is Beaver County, where the Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center is quite a hot spot.[2]
GX-NEWreopeningPhases
Fig. 2. Graphic converted from portable document format (PDF) to a jpeg, May 8, 2020. Original from TribLive article, May 8, 2020.[3]

In the meantime, I am suddenly out of work and now subject to the lockdown. Both Uber and Lyft require occasional background checks. Mine have come due. In the past, these have taken maybe two or three days. This time, it might be several weeks. But the pandemic is only indirectly to blame—it’s slowing down the background checks—so I don’t think I’m eligible for unemployment insurance and people are still having trouble getting through to file claims.

Do not expect me to handle this well.

Megan Guza, “Gov. Wolf announces most of Western Pa. moving to yellow phase May 15,” TribLive, May 8, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/gov-wolf-to-announce-most-of-western-pa-moving-to-yellow-phase-next-week/


Recession

Today, the real jobless rate is probably somewhere in the low twenties, which would put it on a par with the peak rates seen during the Great Depression.[4]

But what really worries John Cassidy is that no one knows how many people will really get their jobs back as the lockdown is lifted.[5]

John Cassidy, “The Most Alarming Thing About the Worst Jobs Report in History,” New Yorker, May 8, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-most-alarming-thing-about-the-worst-jobs-report-in-history


  1. [1]Megan Guza, “Gov. Wolf announces most of Western Pa. moving to yellow phase May 15,” TribLive, May 8, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/gov-wolf-to-announce-most-of-western-pa-moving-to-yellow-phase-next-week/
  2. [2]Megan Guza, “Gov. Wolf announces most of Western Pa. moving to yellow phase May 15,” TribLive, May 8, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/gov-wolf-to-announce-most-of-western-pa-moving-to-yellow-phase-next-week/
  3. [3]Megan Guza, “Gov. Wolf announces most of Western Pa. moving to yellow phase May 15,” TribLive, May 8, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/regional/gov-wolf-to-announce-most-of-western-pa-moving-to-yellow-phase-next-week/
  4. [4]John Cassidy, “The Most Alarming Thing About the Worst Jobs Report in History,” New Yorker, May 8, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-most-alarming-thing-about-the-worst-jobs-report-in-history
  5. [5]John Cassidy, “The Most Alarming Thing About the Worst Jobs Report in History,” New Yorker, May 8, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-most-alarming-thing-about-the-worst-jobs-report-in-history

Nowhere to go but down

Recession

As usual, the headline unemployment figure is bullshit:

As horrific as the April unemployment figure, economists say the official government rate almost certainly underestimates the extent of the job losses. The Labor Department collected the data in mid-April. Layoffs have continued to mount since then, and the unemployment rate only measures people actively searching for a job, which is difficult during an era when Americans are being encouraged to stay at home.[1]

For a whole bunch of reasons, it will likely be a long, slow road to recovery.[2] In real terms, this translates to many people being unable to pay rent, pay mortgages, pay credit card bills, pay utility bills over a long haul. They’re not going to be able to catch up on those bills when the bans on evictions and utility shutoffs expire. And they won’t be buying much so producers face curtailed markets. This, in turn, means more homeless people and more layoffs as businesses continue to go under. That means more desperation.

Unless serious action is taken to relieve these folks, we face a downward spiral, and it’s hard to see how the recent white supremacist gun nuttery in support of reopening the economy and letting the old and weak die[3] won’t intensify.

Allegedly, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer will propose a major relief package.[4] But this is like the impeachment of Donald Trump. It’s really a sham, meant to placate the Left, but dead on arrival in the Senate, thus no threat to neoliberal principle. Pelosi can return to her ice cream unperturbed.

Alexander Bolton, “Schumer, Pelosi set to unveil ‘Rooseveltian’ relief package,” Hill, May 7, 2020, https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/496565-schumer-pelosi-set-to-unveil-rooseveltian-relief-package

Heather Long, “Jobless rate soared to 14.7% in April as U.S. shed 20.5 million jobs amid coronavirus pandemic,” Washington Post, May 8, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/08/april-2020-jobs-report/


  1. [1]Heather Long, “Jobless rate soared to 14.7% in April as U.S. shed 20.5 million jobs amid coronavirus pandemic,” Washington Post, May 8, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/08/april-2020-jobs-report/
  2. [2]Heather Long, “Jobless rate soared to 14.7% in April as U.S. shed 20.5 million jobs amid coronavirus pandemic,” Washington Post, May 8, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/08/april-2020-jobs-report/
  3. [3]Ryan Deto, “Photos: About 120 protest in Downtown Pittsburgh, calling for Pennsylvania to reopen during coronavirus pandemic,” Pittsburgh City Paper, April 20, 2020, https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/photos-about-120-protest-in-downtown-pittsburgh-calling-for-pennsylvania-to-reopen-during-coronavirus-pandemic/Content?oid=17167012; Bryan Armen Graham, “‘Swastikas and nooses’: governor slams ‘racism’ of Michigan lockdown protest,” Guardian, May 3, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/03/michigan-gretchen-whitmer-lockdown-protest-racism; John F. Harris, “Admit It: You Are Willing to Let People Die to End the Shutdown,” Politico, April 30, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/04/30/coronavirus-shutdown-altitude-ethics-223569; Gloria Jackson, as told to Eli Saslow, “‘I apologize to God for feeling this way,’” Washington Post, May 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/02/elderly-woman-coronavirus-lonely-expendable/; Joe Lowndes, “The Morbid Ideology Behind the Drive to Reopen America,” New Republic, April 30, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/157505/morbid-ideology-behind-drive-reopen-america; Jamie Martines And Tom Davidson, “Protesters in Pittsburgh demand Gov. Wolf to reopen businesses amid coronavirus pandemic,” TribLive, April 20, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/protesters-gather-in-pittsburgh-demanding-gov-wolf-reopen-businesses-amid-coronavirus-pandemic/; Laura Newberry, “The pandemic has amplified ageism. ‘It’s open season for discrimination’ against older adults,” Los Angeles Times, May 1, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-05-01/coronavirus-pandemic-has-amplified-ageism; William Wan, Carolyn Y. Johnson, and Joel Achenbach, “States rushing to reopen are likely making a deadly error, coronavirus models and experts warn,” Washington Post, April 22, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/04/22/reopening-america-states-coronavirus/
  4. [4]Alexander Bolton, “Schumer, Pelosi set to unveil ‘Rooseveltian’ relief package,” Hill, May 7, 2020, https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/496565-schumer-pelosi-set-to-unveil-rooseveltian-relief-package

Folks whose stories have ‘changed over the time’

Horse race

So how does a potential vice presidential candidate credibly claim to believe Christine Blasey Ford, whose accusation rocked Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, and not Tara Reade, who alleges rape against Joe Biden?[1] I guess it helps to be a politician:

“‘Believe the woman’ didn’t mean believe all women, all the time. But this is an era of slogans and we’re paying the price for that,” said an adviser to one of the women under consideration [for the vice presidential nomination], noting Reade’s story changed over the time.[2]

Because you know I know some other folks whose stories have “changed over the time.”

Marc Caputo, “Tara Reade allegations rattle Biden’s VP search,” Politico, April 30, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/30/tara-reade-biden-vice-president-224945


Pandemic

So Donald Trump ordered meat plants back into operation after they had become hotspots for COVID-19 and started shutting down.[3] Some meat plant workers say they won’t show up.[4]

Ann Colwell and Rob McLean, “Meat plant workers to Trump: Employees aren’t going to show up,” CNN, April 29, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/29/business/meat-processing-plant-workers-reaction-executive-order/index.html


Recession

A lot of state unemployment insurance systems still run on COBOL,[5] a programming language I eschewed in the 1970s because I saw the load even a single COBOL compile put on a Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-11/70 RSTS/e system and judged the cost of its verbose syntax to be much too high.

The language has, since then, been routinely derided as obsolete and programming technique has gone through at least two iterations of evolution, since then, away from the spaghetti code that was the norm in COBOL’s heyday. Which, of course, helps to explain the shortage of COBOL programmers needed to fix state unemployment insurance systems.[6] Most of them have long since retired or died and I can’t imagine anyone seeing this as a project they would particularly want to take on. It’d be difficult work even if (a pretty big if given that many, if not most, programmers burn out at around the five-year mark) your head is still in this kind of space.

But there are a lot of ‘legacy’ systems, both in and out of government, still running COBOL. And unemployment insurance systems are crumbling under the load.[7] I heard from a passenger just yesterday that she was still trying to navigate the system in Pennsylvania. So I’m pretty clear that even as some 30 million folks have managed to navigate those systems,[8] we still don’t have a complete picture.

Sarah Chaney and Kate King, “Over 3.8 Million Americans Filed for Jobless Benefits Last Week as States Struggle With Coronavirus Claims Surge,” Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/states-struggle-with-coronavirus-unemployment-claims-surge-11588239004

Anneken Tappe, “30 million Americans have filed initial unemployment claims since mid-March,” CNN, April 30, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/30/economy/unemployment-benefits-coronavirus/index.html


  1. [1]Marc Caputo, “Tara Reade allegations rattle Biden’s VP search,” Politico, April 30, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/30/tara-reade-biden-vice-president-224945
  2. [2]Marc Caputo, “Tara Reade allegations rattle Biden’s VP search,” Politico, April 30, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/30/tara-reade-biden-vice-president-224945
  3. [3]Taylor Telford and Kimberly Kindy, “Trump to order meat plants to stay open in pandemic, person familiar with action says,” Washington Post, April 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/28/trump-meat-plants-dpa/
  4. [4]Ann Colwell and Rob McLean, “Meat plant workers to Trump: Employees aren’t going to show up,” CNN, April 29, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/29/business/meat-processing-plant-workers-reaction-executive-order/index.html
  5. [5]Sarah Chaney and Kate King, “Over 3.8 Million Americans Filed for Jobless Benefits Last Week as States Struggle With Coronavirus Claims Surge,” Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/states-struggle-with-coronavirus-unemployment-claims-surge-11588239004
  6. [6]Sarah Chaney and Kate King, “Over 3.8 Million Americans Filed for Jobless Benefits Last Week as States Struggle With Coronavirus Claims Surge,” Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/states-struggle-with-coronavirus-unemployment-claims-surge-11588239004
  7. [7]Sarah Chaney and Kate King, “Over 3.8 Million Americans Filed for Jobless Benefits Last Week as States Struggle With Coronavirus Claims Surge,” Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/states-struggle-with-coronavirus-unemployment-claims-surge-11588239004
  8. [8]Anneken Tappe, “30 million Americans have filed initial unemployment claims since mid-March,” CNN, April 30, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/30/economy/unemployment-benefits-coronavirus/index.html