Tuesday, July 14, 2020

New Cases in Peer Countries

From Paul Waldman in the Washington Post:
Here are new case totals from Monday for a few of our peer countries:

France: 580
UK: 564
Spain: 546
Germany: 365
Canada: 299
Japan: 259
Italy: 200
Australia: 158
South Korea: 52

And the United States? 55,300.
No, these aren't per capita. But making them per capita won't make much difference. The US response has been a joke, pathetic, laughable, tragic. Why? Trump. The worst pandemic in a century comes along, and we have Trump. It has to be a cosmic joke.

Trump voters may yet get us all killed. And that's not a joke.

Victory: Trump administration rescinds foreign students rule

Trump admin caves quickly: Trump administration rescinds foreign students rule.

The Hill: "The Trump administration on Tuesday rescinded a policy that would have stripped visas from international students whose courses move exclusively online amid the coronavirus pandemic."

The parties in a lawsuit brought by Harvard and MIT against ICE came to a quick resolution, in which, as far as I can tell, ICE retreated 100%. That was the right thing to do -- this measure was ridiculous and cruel from the start.

Being Forced to Work From Home

Grant Imahara of Mythbusters Has Died

This is terrible: Grant Imahara, a co-host of Mythbusters, has died at the young age of 49. No cause of death has been released yet. The Hollywood Reporter reported that Imahara died of a brain aneurysm. Such a nice guy.

Monday, July 13, 2020

I Have a Blog, and I Must Scream

Just out: June 2020 tied with June 2019 for the warmest June in NASA GISS's records.

People are losing their minds; for some, almost literally: French bus driver beaten to death after asking passengers to wear masks, Oregonian, 7/11/20.

Here a Portland, Oregon protester, who was simply standing across the street with a speaker, was shot in the head by a federal officer with some kind of impact munition. The video is graphic. He is in serious condition, but, last I heard, is now awake with a tube draining blood from his brain.

At least one piece of good news: Today the Washington D.C. area football team will announce they will change their name from the Redskins. (They won't announce the new name today, but have said it won't involve Native American imagery.) Credit the George Floyd and BLM protests.

By the way, seven years ago the Redskins owner, Dan Snyder, said he would never change the name.
"NEVER," Snyder said at the time. "You can use caps."

More insanity: Trump aides "sent reporters opposition-research-style bullet points about Dr. Anthony Fauci." You'd never guess they are on the same team, or that Fauci is his leading infectious disease expert.... As Eric Wemple writes in WaPo (same link):
Fauci’s efforts may have been flawed at times, but by all appearances they were undertaken in good faith. And that’s the cardinal sin here: Since handling a public health emergency in good faith requires a sincere — if sometimes tactful — effort to inform the public about it, this has inevitably put him in Trump’s cross hairs, because it has reflected badly on Trump.
The NY Times wrote:
Mr. Trump has long been dismissive of Dr. Fauci in private, according to White House officials, taking note of the amount of time he spent on television and of when the doctor contradicted him during press briefings.
Trump is afraid of anyone who knows more than him -- which is most people, including all scientists -- so they must go. The pandemic here is spiraling out of control. Trump must go in November, and most people can see through warped maneuvers like this.

This annoying woman is celebrating what she thinks is her little role in getting Orange County, California to drop their face mask mandate. Here is the COVID-19 case history in Orange County, from the LA Times:

Stupid people will get us all killed.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Trailer for "I, Pastafarian"

A recognized new religion. Be sure to stay to the end.

"My Petition For More Space"

I just reread My Petition For More Space by John Hersey, a novel I first read maybe 30 years ago. I guess it would be labeled dystopian sci-fi; it's the story of a man, David Poynter, who lives in a New Haven, Connecticut that is absolutely chock full of people. Like, people walking in the street shoulder-to-shoulder, front-to-back. They live in large, open warehouses, each assigned a space marked by white lines on the floor. Being single, Poynter's space is 7 ft by 11 ft, with no walls; crossing the line, or letting one's possessions cross the line, is severely punished.

Poynter wants to ask the faceless, nameless bureaucracy to give him more space -- an increase to 8 ft by 12 ft. To do this he must enter a petition at an official station, explaining why his petition should be granted. This requires getting in and standing in a long, jam-packed line for several hours with all the other people submitting their own petitions, to change jobs, asking for Havana cigars, asking for permission to have a child. Those in line are also stand shoulder-to-shoulder, chest-to-back, so tightly packed that when one women faints she must be lifted up vertically out of the crowd. There's no reason given why their world is this way, but it seems to be a relatively new state, as Poynter and others can remember when the world was less crowded and more bucolic.

The book twists and turns on the social interactions of those in the multiple lines, whom they can only see by turning their heads or listening to those around them. And the book focuses on Poynter's thoughts, about what he wants and why, how he feels about this world, and how he feels assaulted and demoralized by it, yet still he hopes for change. After several hours of back-and-forth social dynamics even in such a crowd, Poynter finally reaches one of the unseen bureaucrats behind an opaque window and begins to make his case....

It's a quirky book, and not very long (my paperback version is only 160 pages), published in 1974. I definitely recommend it; I appreciated it as much this time as the first time, although of course the shock of it wasn't there. Long ago I also read Hersey's book Hiroshima, which is excellent. Hersey was one of the first western journalists allowed into Hiroshima after the US's nuclear bomb was dropped, and he tells the story of six witnesses to the bombing, in, for then, a new style, applying some techniques of fiction to nonfiction reporting. The New Yorker gave an entire issue to this reporting, and his book then sold three million copies.

COVID-19 Seems to Be Peaking in Some States

It looks like the COVID-19 spikes in some of the worst hit states may be peaking. That would be very good news.

Via today's Washington Post.

In other news, this stupid, ignorant, deathly White House actually made a list of all the times Fauci has been wrong on the coronavirus. You really have to wonder what their priorities are. (Well, you don't have to wonder -- we all know exactly what their priorities are, and it's certainly not containing the pandemic.) Just keep stuffing science in the closet -- look what that's done for us so far.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Pure Corruption

Why did President Trump grant clemency to the guilty Roger Stone? Because Stone had the goods on him on the Russian hacking scandal and threatened to spill them.

David Frum lays out all the details in "Stone Walks Free in One of the Greatest Scandals in American History" in The Atlantic.
Stone was accused of—and convicted of—lying to Congress about his role in the WikiLeaks matter. Since Stone himself would have been in no legal jeopardy had he told the truth, the strong inference is that he lied to protect somebody else. Just today, this very day, Stone told the journalist Howard Fineman why he lied and whom he was protecting. “He knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t.” You read that, and you blink. As the prominent Trump critic George Conway tweeted: “I mean, even Tony Soprano would have used only a pay phone or burner phone to say something like this.” Stone said it on the record to one of the best-known reporters in Washington. In so many words, he seemed to imply: I could have hurt the president if I’d rolled over on him. I kept my mouth shut. He owes me.
Read all the rest of the filthy details.

Trump should be impeached over this.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Inspired by Putin?

Trump thinks he gets to decide what universities can and can't think, how they can and can't teach:

This guy's reelection campaign is really floundering....

The US Administration's History on the Pandemic

I'm bringing this out of the comments -- thanks J.D. It's the story of an administration who had tried to minimize and underplay (undercut?) this pandemic at every turn, and as a result the US has handled it worse than almost any other country in the world. It's really hard to believe.

Original source.

National Daily Death Count Rising

Now the daily national death count is rising too. A statistical blip? NYT has more here: "health experts cautioned that it was too early to predict a continuing trend from only a few days of data.... Still, many experts predicted that the declining death tolls were unlikely to last as the virus continued spreading, passing from younger people to older people and those who are more vulnerable to the most dire effects of the virus."

I read recently that Trump hasn't attended a meeting of the Coronavirus Task Force in months. It sounds like he's falling apart.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Temperatures Are Running Amock

This is really quite something, considering that the El Nino of the past several months was literally almost the smallest that was possible, and that it has now ended, and that the 2015-16 El Nino was huge.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Someone(s) tore down a statue of Frederick Douglass in Rochester, N.Y. Only fair, right?

Jennifer Rubin on the sins of the big red state southern governors (AZ-TX-FL):
The recklessness and incompetence of these governors should outrage not only residents of their own states but Americans everywhere. One thing we have learned is that a runaway pandemic in one or more states imperils all of us. They can hardly claim to be surprised by the predictable result of their arrogant, anti-science approach. Governors who wanted to rev up their economies and chose to ignore warnings about the consequences of their actions are responsible for thousands falling ill and dying. Their economies closed down anyway. Resigning is the least they should do.
An infectious disease specialist said Trump's Fourth of July celebration at Mount Rushmore was "the behavior of a cult leader..."
"...who is jumping off the cliff, except he's jumping off into a safety net where he has protections around him. People around him are being tested. He's being tested on a regular basis. While he asks his followers to jump off a cliff into nothing," she continued. "I mean, this is extremely dangerous behavior and unfortunately, this has become so politicized where you abide by public health and scientific recommendations on the basis of your political beliefs not based on the science. And people are really going to be harmed as a result of this."
Two weeks ago, a Politico/Morning Consult survey asked whether the Pentagon should “rename military bases that are named after Confederate leaders” or “leave the names” as they are. A plurality of voters, 48 percent to 33 percent, said the names should be left alone. Trump’s position was a winner with independents, moderates, and suburbanites. It was also preferred by voters who somewhat disapproved of his job performance or who expressed a somewhat unfavorable opinion of him. In short, it’s an issue he could use to claw his way back into the election.
But read the rest of the article too.

Why (US) health insurance should never have been tied to employment. Great idea in a pandemic, huh!

A paper from a Nobel Laureate, in 1963(!), of why the free market cannot, even in principle, provide affordable, universal health care:
Synopsis: Free markets have never provided affordable, universal health care, anywhere in the world, ever.
And for good reasons: The advantages of a free market system do not apply to health care, because
(1) you cannot predict when you will need care
(2) or what care you will need
(3) you usually can't comparison shop.

Buying health care is not like buying bread. Thus, you need an insurance system. And private insurance systems demand a profit, and a large administrative staff to analyze and deny claims (NOT paying for care is, after all, how they make their money). Private insurers refuse to insure those they think will be too expensive, and drop clients who have become too expensive.
This was pointed out long ago by a famous economist:

"Uncertainty and the Welfare Economics of Medical Care," Kenneth J. Arrow, The American Economic Review, Vol. LIII n 5 (Dec 1963)

For a synopsis you can read:
"Why markets can't cure healthcare," Paul Krugman, New York Times, July 25, 2009.
"Patients are not Consumers," Paul Krugman, New York Times, April 21 2011.

Coal Under Trump And in Campaign 2020

I wonder how coal families are going to vote in November. I'd guess they think they don't have any choice.

In May 2016, during his first campaign, Trump said, in West Virginia
On Thursday, Trump drew wild applause in Charleston, W.Va., by telling miners in hard hats and reflective stripes to get ready to be "working your asses off" in reopened mines if he's elected. Some people waved signs saying, "Trump digs coal," and the business tycoon joked about needing a spritz of hair spray after trying on a miner's helmet, the gift of an industry group. 
"I'm thinking about the miners all over this country," Trump said. "We're gonna put the miners back to work. We're gonna put the miners back to work. We're gonna get those mines open."
Of course, it was just a lie to get votes, as many analysts knew at the time -- that the real reason coal was in decline was because electricity generated from natural gas had become cheaper.

If Trump didn't know that he was incompetent. If he did know it then he was a liar.

This time, Trump's campaigning looks to be too busy being a racist to have time to bother with coal miners. Their numbers hadn't moved at all since Trump's inauguration, and with the pandemic have plummeted:

I guess the pandemic plummet is due to less electricity used by industry, even though there must be more electricity use by households. Though looking at the graph the plummeting here began in the late 2019s, which is consistent with the Trump recession beginning this past February, before the pandemic. 

I don't know how you do this, but US coal miners, in the Appalachians and in Wyoming, need to be made to realize that coal simply isn't come back, due to the economics alone. Plus add climate change on top of that. Coal power is now more expensive than wind and solar too.

Hillary Clinton really did have it right when she said, during her 2016, "we're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business." It was a mistake, which she admitted later. But, typically, that's all that was quoted and no one went any further. But what she said after that was
"We're going to make it clear that we don't want to forget those people," Clinton said. "Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories. Now we've got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels, but I don't want to move away from the people who did the best they could to produce the energy that we relied on."
She wanted to invest in the region -- at one point I think I remember hearing her say $30 billion. That's a lot of money.

I know a regional economy doesn't change easily. I understand it is scary. My dad was in the steel industry near Pittsburgh in the '70s, which was collapsing, and we had to move twice, the first time away from all my extended family and the second time all the way across the country, and those were some of the biggest factors on the shape of my personality, personally. The governor of West Virginia is a billionaire in the coal business, so he's not going to lead them to a new, sustainable future. Trump couldn't lead six baby ducks to a pond of water. Their leaders are failing them, in a manner such that early deaths in Appalachia have, over the decades, surely exceeded deaths from COVID-19. Seems Trump probably doesn't care about either.

Another Hockey Stick Has Been Published

"Holocene global mean surface temperature, a multi-method reconstruction approach," Darrell Kaufman et al, Scientific Data volume 7, Article number: 201 (2020).

It's open access.

I've added it to the list of hockey sticks.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Las Vegas???

What the hell?
Not a deep fake -- it's in the White House transcript... He makes it sound like it's one of America's greatest accomplishments, not a boring mob-built monument to greed.

Friday, July 03, 2020

June 16, 1996

I found this photo from the archive of the Appalachian Trail Conference, where they keep a photo of all hikers who stop at their headquarters in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. We -- me and my then-girlfriend Sharon -- passed through on 6/16/1996, after starting the Appalachian Trail in Georgia on 3/6/1996. 995 miles hiked at this point to get to Harper's Ferry. Wow, I was so thin then. (She was thin from the outset.)

My trail name was "Bronco," because I had a case of bronchitis very early on in the hike; her's was "Puddin'," because she'd gather up everyone's boxes of pudding and make one big pot for a party.

Alas, we didn't make it to Maine. I partially tore two ligaments in my ankle in southern Virginia (though a Dr didn't discover that until many years later; a surgery didn't help), and by Massachusetts I couldn't stand the pain anymore and with the swelling could barely lace up my boot, and we got off the trail after hiking 1,483 miles. Still had 677 miles to go, really tough miles through NH and ME. Not completing the full, 2,160 mile hike to Mt Katahdin is still the biggest heartbreak of my life, but the 2/3rds hike was still an unforgettable adventure. Very bittersweet. My ankle never did heal and still hurts today.

How the Big Wheels Handle the Small Things

Here's an interesting article about how Anthony Fauci and five other health specialists handle the ordinary things we are all dealing with -- masks, hair cuts, dinner invitations, cleaning their houses, etc. Of course, they're all big-time professionals so most of them have cleaners who come in, but still it's interesting how they handle it. Fauci does most of his own grocery shopping, for example.

Kudos to the reporter or editor who came up with this excellent article idea.

"How Fauci, 5 other health specialists deal with covid-19 risks in their everyday lives," by Marlene Cimons, Washington Post, July 3, 2020.

My own hair has never been this long before, even in high school. I'm going to start hacking away at it with scissors, I've decided, at least on the sides. It's become a real bird's nest.

What are your problems?

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Cowardly Trump Can't Acknowledge COVID Record

49,000 new COVID-19 cases in the US today. Our cowardly, good-for-nothing, yellow-bellied president doesn't say a word about it.

What a fucking pussy this man is.

Arizona: Everything is Rising, Including Deaths

Link. (Sorry. I can't get this shit stuff to embed right unless I just cut what I want -- too much else often comes along.)

COVID-19 Deaths Rising in Florida, Arizona, and Texas

Bringing this out of the comments, here's a graph from Professor of Child Well-Being at McGill University that shows deaths look to be rising in at 3 of the states were cases have been spiking: Arizona, Florida and Texas:

A Few COVID-19 Notes

"To date, only two Rwandans are known to have died of Covid-19." - Farhad Manjoo, NYT. Rwanda, population 12.3 million.

Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), Tuesday: “We shouldn’t presume that a group of experts somehow knows what’s best.”

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation article (title): “The lessons Canada can take from the U.S.’s mishandling of Covid-19.”

Here's a graph from the CBC article.

If you adjust for populations, the current values would be

Arizona   9,000
Florida   7,800
Texas   3,400
California   2,500
New York   570

and the peak for New York in early April would be about 9,800.

From the Financial Times, via Twitter, showing why the EU is keeping Americans out (Update, 3 hours later - the US has denied EU citizens entry since March):

Donald Trump could not care less; he only wants someone to blame. And I do mean, he really couldn't care less. When is the last time he even mentioned the pandemic and 125,000 127,485 Americans dead? He will be remembered no better than a president who hid in the closet when foreign troops landed on our shores and invaded the country.