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Remember a couple of weeks ago? This was the curve we saw in Italy. A couple of weeks ago was March 6, and our government was still denying this is a problem.

Now, I guess, they have figured out this is real, and politics, wishful thinking, and prayer, do not make reality change. This is the curve in the U.S. today, with 19,500 cases, up from a few hundred a couple of weeks ago. The number increases by about 50% a day now. Our curve looks what Italy’s looked like then.

So, if we want to know what will happen, just look to Italy and Iran. That’s what will happen. Those of us with scientific minds, a sense of numbers, and simple algebra knew this weeks ago, but our self-absorbed leadership didn’t want to hear it.

We’re finally recognizing the brutal facts, and wishful thinking isn’t going to fix anything. The term “going viral” suddenly has a whole new meaning.

Now if Trump would just get out of the way, stop opening his mouth, and let the experts lead us, maybe we can all tackle this thing.

Watch Dr. Fauci

The Stand is about a pandemic that kills almost everyone in the world.

I read this book shortly after it first came out in 1978. Then, in 1990, King reissued the “Complete and Uncut Edition” with extra chapters and some changes. I read it again the early 1990s.

I never did a review of the book. Now might be a great time to do so.

If you’d like to read up on details, check the Wikipedia page for the book here.

A modified strain of the flu (sounds familiar?) accidentally escapes a government lab in Texas. It kills almost everyone it infects. Far less than 1% of the population, for some unfound reason, are immune. This means that in any given city or community, there might be nobody or just one person left. Within just a few weeks, the entire country is a grave yard. Rotting corpses are everywhere, in every house and building. Cars run off the roads litter the highways, usually corpses inside. A few survivors eventually run into each other and small groups band together to eek out a life after “the flu.”

The story follows a group of people who start out in New England and make their way west, collecting straggling survivors as they go. They end up settling in Boulder, Colorado. However, as one might expect, there is also an “evil” group, with its own leader, and they congregate in Las Vegas. The epic struggle between good and evil is carried out by the fragments of humanity.

The Stand is King’s largest book. This is a monster, a work the size of War and Peace. However, it’s also, in my opinion, King’s best work ever, and one of my favorite novels of all time. There are some (very) long stretches of less than exciting mystical sections getting into the supernatural of the bad guys in the second half of the book, which I found tedious. But other than that, it’s riveting reading. King portrays a lot of unique and utterly memorable characters that have stayed with me for a lifetime, including the main characters of Stuart Redman, Frannie Goldsmith, Nick Andros and the ever likeable feeble-minded Tom Cullen, “Laws, Yes!” As usual, King’s characters are deeply developed, very real and convincing. The Stand also introduced me to “Payday” candy bars, which I hadn’t known before. After reading The Stand, discarded Payday candy wrappers always bring back post-apocalyptic visions for me when I randomly encounter them.

I am writing this review as we just received the order by the governor of California to stay at home for the next month to fight the coronavirus pandemic. None of us have ever experienced anything like this before, yet here we are, and the unthinkable has happened.

Well, I have read The Stand before, and I saw how it can end. It’s not pretty.

If you find yourself with some extra time and nothing to read, I highly recommend The Stand.

 

Bill Gates predicted that the world’s wealth would go down by about $3 trillion in a pandemic.

Gates knew what he was talking about five years ago, and we didn’t listen.

Obama’s stimulus package was largely ridiculed by the right wing for a decade now. I remember seeing Facebook posts about “The Obama stimulus was a disaster” and how we all “suffered in the Obama years.”

There are two big differences between the Obama stimulus and the Trump stimulus.

Obama didn’t crash the economy under his watch. The economy crashed before he took office. Bush initiated the stimulus, and Obama just carried it forward. Then the stock market went from 7949 when Obama took office to 19827 when he passed the baton to Trump. The bull market was steady for eight years and kept going up.

This continued under Trump. But Trump didn’t turn the economy around, Trump just kept it moving where it was already going, and via deregulation and tax cuts put more fuel on the fire. There is fundamentally nothing wrong with that, except that the massive debt we took on to finance these tax cuts will come to hurt us – long after Trump is gone.

Trump then took credit, called the Obama years a failure, which in reality just set him up to win. But now, Trump’s economy crashed, and as I write this we have no idea how bad it will get.

The pattern so far in my adult life:

Republicans drive up the debt and occasionally tank the market. Democrats then dig out, actually reduce the deficit, and rally the market. Both Clinton and Obama left office with the market at all-time highs.

Bush left office in financial catastrophe.

Trump – that’s anyone’s guess. How is your 401k doing right now?

I don’t always agree with Steve Forbes, but I usually read his Fact & Comment column in Forbes Magazine. This time I could not agree more.

I tried to find an online link, but oddly, I could not. Forbes does a very poor job opening its online presence to search engines. Maybe that’s on purpose, to get us to buy the hardcopy magazine? So I scanned the pages and published them here in PDF form.

This article is about the U.S. election system and particularly the electoral college, which is often under attack these days. It is particularly designed by the founders of our nation to be a dampener on public opinion. The founders didn’t want any old crazy political fad or outrageous politician to take over the presidency. Without the electoral college, it would not be inconceivable that a porn star could win, or a movie star, or a reality TV real estate salesman.

I do not want to minimize Steve Forbes’ article by retelling it here in this post, but I really think you should read it before you make up your mind about the electoral college. There is a lot of wisdom in it, and it keeps us from having the problem of needed awkward political coalitions like they have in Germany and many other modern countries.

Here is a link to the article.

How to Save US Politics – Steve Forbes – Forbes Magazine March 2020

I have a hardcopy subscription to Forbes, and I have had it pretty much my entire adult life. I like to read my magazines in hardcopy. Forbes has always been worth it.

Why don’t we just unplug 2020 for ten seconds, and then plug it in again?

Biden announced today that his candidate for vice president will be a woman.

Given that I expect that Biden will win the nomination, and given that I expect he will win the general election against Trump, this is pretty significant.

Biden, who will be the 46th president of the United States, is pretty much handpicking the woman who will be the 47th and the first female president.

Since Biden will be 78 years old when he takes office, there is a high likelihood that the person he picks for vice president will be president, either due to his death, or due to his abdication for age, as he will be the very oldest president ever.

As fate would have it, I would never have thought that that would be Biden’s eventual legacy.

Help – there is more toilet paper in my house than I know what to do with!

Here is a very insightful article by Peter Wehner in The Atlantic, titled:

The Trump Presidency is Over

It shows how the nation has started discounting the federal leadership and taken matters into its own hands. Seeing Trump speak now, every time, I can read it in his eyes. He knows it. Everyone does.

Trump 4 Days Ago:

Obama 9 Days Ago:

Does anybody wonder why Trump keeps blabbering about how he thinks Obama handled the H1N1 crisis poorly over 10 years ago?

That was in 2009.

As if that mattered right now.

Puerile!

 

After the post below, here is another inside view from another friend in Italy:

Our life has deeply changed, Patricia. Northern Italy is in a really bad shape.

Around Firenze the virus hasn’t spread so much yet, but we are confined at home to prevent infection. It seems that the highest peak is still to be reached and it is essential that everybody respects the restrictions, otherwise whoever gets sick may not all have the possibility to be perfectly treated. The number of ICU, which is necessary in several cases, is becoming insufficient. There’s a lack of ventilators, even of masks and of specialized doctors and nurses. Unfortunately a lot of people need intubation.

I’m slightly worried about my daughter who also works in the emergency room – she’s a technician of radiology. All of you who live in countries where COVID-19 hasn’t spread, make sure to follow any kind of restrictions. The earlier severe measures are taken, the less the virus can spread. This virus is not a flu, nothing to be underestimated.

I have a strong network of friends all over the world and I get information that would not otherwise be available. Here is a letter of warning from a woman in Bergamo, Italy. I will keep her name confidential. Our own government and the media have no idea how bad things are in Italy right now, and Italy is only a week or two ahead of the United States in the curve – unless we keep the curve down – NOW. Here are her words:

I am writing to you from Bergamo, Italy, at the heart of the coronavirus crisis. The news media in the US has not captured the severity of what is happening here. I am writing this post because each of you, today, not the government, not the school district, not the mayor, each individual citizen has the chance, today to take actions that will deter the Italian situation from becoming your own country’s reality. The only way to stop this virus is to limit contagion. And the only way to limit contagion is for millions of people to change their behavior today.

If you are in Europe or the US you are weeks away from where we are today in Italy.

I can hear you now. “It’s just a flu. It only affects old people with preconditions.”

There are two reasons why Coronavirus has brought Italy to its knees. First it is a flu that is devastating when people get really sick and they need weeks of ICU – and, second, because of how fast and effectively it spreads. There is a two week incubation period and many who have it never show symptoms.

When Prime Minister Conte announced last night that the entire country, 60 million people, would go on lock down, the line that struck me most was “there is no more time.” Because to be clear, this national lock down, is a Hail Mary. What he means is that if the numbers of contagion do not start to go down, the system, Italy, will collapse.

Why? Today the ICUs in Lombardy are at capacity – more than capacity. They have begun to put ICU units in the hallways. If the numbers do not go down, the growth rate of contagion tells us that there will be thousands of people who in a matter of a week? two weeks? who will need care. What will happen when there are 100, or a 1000 people who need the hospital and only a few ICU places are left?

On Monday a doctor wrote in the paper that they have begun to have to decide who lives and who dies when the patients show up in the emergency room, like what is done in war. This will only get worse.

There are a finite number of doctors, nurses, medical staff and they are getting the virus. They have also been working non-stop, non-stop for days and days. What happens when the doctors, nurses and medical staff are simply not able to care for the patients, when they are not there?

And finally for those who say that this is just something that happens to old people, starting yesterday the hospitals are reporting that younger and younger patients – 40, 45, 18, are coming in for treatment.

You have a chance to make a difference and stop the spread in your country. Push for the entire office to work at home today, cancel birthday parties, and other gatherings, stay home as much as you can. If you have a fever, any fever, stay home. Push for school closures, now. Anything you can do to stop the spread, because it is spreading in your communities – there is a two week incubation period – and if you do these things now you can buy your medical system time.

And for those who say it is not possible to close the schools, and do all these other things, locking down Italy was beyond anyone’s imagination a week ago.

Soon you will not have a choice, so do what you can now.

Trump looked sick. Not well. Nervous. He did not sound like a leader we should trust and follow.

Announcing cessation of trade with Europe was a mistake. He didn’t mean that.

Exempting the U.K. from the travel restriction with Europe makes no sense. There are more cases of infection in the U.K. than in many EU nations.

With more than 7,000 infections in the U.S., a travel restriction with Europe makes no more sense. Europe is not our problem. It is now our own infrastructure.

While deaths are still low, if they increase like in Iran, Italy and South Korea, they will overwhelm our hospital capacity. Trump didn’t even talk about that. A huge omission.

Trump didn’t talk about social distancing. A huge omission.

Trump didn’t talk about tests and testing capacity. This is now more important than anything.

This morning, the DOW is down another 2000 points since yesterday. It’s getting close to the level it was when Trump first took office. Obviously, the market didn’t believe Trump last night and he didn’t invoke the world’s confidence.

Trump’s juvenile tweets and schoolyard name calling tactics may work against political opponents, but a pandemic could not care less. It moves forward based on scientific reality, not wishful presidential thinking and propaganda.

Trump’s address was a lost opportunity and therefore an epic fail.

I came across this post from 2014 and I was struck by its message again:

I am an Illiterate Polyglot

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