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I keep hearing everywhere: It’s just a virus and eventually we will all get it.

I never got Herpes. I never got HIV. Those are just viruses, and I took steps to never get them. I am glad I did.

The following summary is apparently attributed to Amy Wright on Facebook, even though it was later attributed to Dr. Fauci, and many re-posters, including myself, did that. I cannot tell if Amy was the first to post this as her original text, but I’ll give her attribution here:

Chickenpox is a virus. Lots of people have had it, and probably don’t think about it much once the initial illness has passed. But it stays in your body and lives there forever, and maybe when you’re older, you have debilitatingly painful outbreaks of shingles. You don’t just get over this virus in a few weeks, never to have another health effect. We know this because it’s been around for years, and has been studied medically for years.

Herpes is also a virus. And once someone has it, it stays in your body and lives there forever, and anytime they get a little run down or stressed-out they’re going to have an outbreak. Maybe every time you have a big event coming up (school pictures, job interview, big date) you’re going to get a cold sore. For the rest of your life. You don’t just get over it in a few weeks. We know this because it’s been around for years, and been studied medically for years.

HIV is a virus. It attacks the immune system and makes the carrier far more vulnerable to other illnesses. It has a list of symptoms and negative health impacts that goes on and on. It was decades before viable treatments were developed that allowed people to live with a reasonable quality of life. Once you have it, it lives in your body forever and there is no cure. Over time, that takes a toll on the body, putting people living with HIV at greater risk for health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, diabetes, bone disease, liver disease, cognitive disorders, and some types of cancer. We know this because it has been around for years, and had been studied medically for years.

Now with COVID-19, we have a novel virus that spreads rapidly and easily. The full spectrum of symptoms and health effects is only just beginning to be cataloged, much less understood.
So far the symptoms may include:

Fever
Fatigue
Coughing
Pneumonia
Chills/Trembling
Acute respiratory distress
Lung damage (potentially permanent)
Loss of taste (a neurological symptom)
Sore throat
Headaches
Difficulty breathing
Mental confusion
Diarrhea
Nausea or vomiting
Loss of appetite
Strokes have also been reported in some people who have COVID-19 (even in the relatively young)
Swollen eyes
Blood clots
Seizures
Liver damage
Kidney damage
Rash
COVID toes (weird, right?)

People testing positive for COVID-19 have been documented to be sick even after 60 days. Many people are sick for weeks, get better, and then experience a rapid and sudden flare up and get sick all over again. A man in Seattle was hospitalized for 62 days, and while well enough to be released, still has a long road of recovery ahead of him. Not to mention a $1.1 million medical bill.

Then there is MIS-C. Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. Children with MIS-C may have a fever and various symptoms, including abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes, or feeling extra tired. While rare, it has caused deaths.

This disease has not been around for years. It has basically been 6 months. No one knows yet the long-term health effects, or how it may present itself years down the road for people who have been exposed. We literally *do not know* what we do not know.

For those in our society who suggest that people being cautious are cowards, for people who refuse to take even the simplest of precautions to protect themselves and those around them, I want to ask, without hyperbole and in all sincerity:

How dare you?

How dare you risk the lives of others so cavalierly. How dare you decide for others that they should welcome exposure as “getting it over with”, when literally no one knows who will be the lucky “mild symptoms” case, and who may fall ill and die. Because while we know that some people are more susceptible to suffering a more serious case, we also know that 20 and 30-year-olds have died, marathon runners and fitness nuts have died, children and infants have died.

How dare you behave as though you know more than medical experts, when those same experts acknowledge that there is so much we don’t yet know, but with what we DO know, are smart enough to be scared of how easily this is spread, and recommend baseline precautions such as:

Frequent hand-washing
Physical distancing
Reduced social/public contact or interaction
Mask wearing
Covering your cough or sneeze
Avoiding touching your face
Sanitizing frequently touched surfaces

The more things we can all do to mitigate our risk of exposure, the better off we all are, in my opinion. Not only does it flatten the curve and allow health care providers to maintain levels of service that aren’t immediately and catastrophically overwhelmed; it also reduces unnecessary suffering and deaths, and buys time for the scientific community to study the virus in order to come to a more full understanding of the breadth of its impacts in both the short and long term.

I reject the notion that it’s “just a virus” and we’ll all get it eventually. What a careless, lazy, heartless stance.

Science should not stand in the way of reopening schools.

— Kayleigh McEnany, White House Press Secretary

That one actually cracked me up.

Maybe I’ll add my own quote:

Gravity should not stand in the way of White House staff being able to fly.

— Norbert Haupt

It appears that we have a lot of stable geniuses coming together in our federal government to lead our way.

Has anyone ever heard of lemmings?

I have only seen, with my bare eyes, two comets.

The first one was Halley’s when it came in January 1986. My daughter had just been born a few weeks before. We went out in the dark fields and barely saw the smudge in the sky that was Halley’s Comet. It was not a spectacular showing that year. With a period of 75 years, it won’t be back until 2062. I remember thinking about the life of my daughter then, and realizing she’d be 75 years old when the comet would be back.

Today I saw the NEOWISE comet.

Trisha and I drove out to Lilac Road in Valley Center to have some unobstructed northern horizon. We found a suitable spot on the side of the road and pulled over. I knew where the comet was supposed to be with relation to the Big Dipper. The evening sky was still kind of light where the sun had just set. So we had some time to wait.

Trisha just bought a brand-new iPhone a few days ago. It is known to have an excellent camera. I suggested she’d take a picture of the Big Dipper to practice and see how it came out. She did, and showed me the picture she took.

NEOWISE Comet [click to enlarge]

And look! Down on the bottom of the picture you can see the comet. I knew approximately where it would be, but we could not even see it yet with our bare eyes. The camera found it for us. Now we knew where to look.

NEOWISE Comet

 

Here is another picture of the comet with me pointing at it.

NEOWISE is actually an acronym for the telescope that detected the comet in the first place, named Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer. The official comet’s name is C/2020 F3.

The comet will be visible with the naked eye through most of July 2020, and then it will start fading again, going on its long journey. But make sure you say good-bye, because it won’t come back to visit us until the year 8820. The last time it was here was about 4500 years ago.

And that puts my life into perspective. Today was a good day!

Our government obviously has something against immigrants, and the whole thing does not make any sense to me. Clearly, the current government is a nationalist government, and they think that is a good thing. I think it’s a terrible mistake, which sets the United States back in the world intellectually and scientifically, and it does damage that it will take decades to repair.

I am not going to talk about agricultural workers for now, service workers, and all those “low income” workers that we depend on every day for the goods we consume and the services we hire. I am not going to talk about the moral abomination of separating children from their parents and putting them in cages.

I am talking about revoking student visas from foreign students if they are only taking online courses during the pandemic. What good could that possibly accomplish other than looking good for a political base that apparently does not understand the foundation of our scientific community and our tech economy.

Do they know that 29% of all Medical Doctors in the United States are foreign born? Have they noticed that just about every emergency room physician interviewed on television during this pandemic appears to be foreign born? We need these doctors. We could use twice as many of them right now.

Do they realize that 79% (yes, 79%) of all Ph.D. candidates in Computer Science studying in the United States are foreigners (as of 2015)?

Do they realize that 75% of all Ph.D. candidates in Industrial Engineering are foreigners?

Do they realize that we need highly educated people in this country if we want to remain competitive in biomedical sciences – like inventing vaccines?

Do they realize that we need computer scientists for the economy of the future if we want to remain at the top of this field?

Our government does not appear to know what it is doing, and the only thing I can think of is that it’s systematically trying to dumb down America as fast as it can.

It seems to be working.

If you had shown me this chart six months ago, and asked me to guess what it means, I would have had no idea.

If you had urged me to just guess, the word “yesterday” in the title notwithstanding, I would have said it must be the number of deaths due to gun violence last year, but I would have been suspicious that the numbers for Japan and Germany were as high as they were.

If you had then told me that the numbers reflected daily infections of a new and highly contagious disease, I would not have believed it.

I would not have been able to reconcile that our country, with a medical establishment (science, research, medical schools) second to none in the world, would have an infection rate of 250 times as bad as Germany or Japan.

With our population being about four times as large as Germany and three times as large as Japan, we can safely divide the rate again by a third and state that we’re about 100 times as bad as those countries.

Then I hear arguments that this is still not real, since we’re testing so much more than other countries right now (which I actually don’t believe and see no evidence of, but that’s another matter to investigate). So let’s say we’re testing twice as much per capita as Germany and Japan. This would reduce the factor from 100 times to about 10 times the rate.

[I really should be using an equation like the Drake equation to show this in more scientific terms, but this ‘back of the napkin calculation’ makes my points]. We’re still off by a factor of 10.

Something is very wrong in Denmark… ahem …in the United States.

Two hundred years ago, a great jurist of our Court established that no citizen, not even the President, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding. We reaffirm that principle today and hold that the President is neither absolutely immune from state criminal subpoenas seeking his private papers nor entitled to a heightened standard of need.

— Chief Justice Roberts – July 9, 2020

Trump has been proclaiming since the day he took office that the market has been the best in the history of the country during his presidency. Looking at the facts, that is just not true.

For every president since we have market indicators, with very few variations,  the latest president had the highest stock market numbers. But looking at relative gains from inauguration day forward for Obama and Trump, we see a different picture.

Obama entered his presidency at the tail end of a market crash of epic proportions. The economy was in free fall at the end of Bush’s term in 2008. The chart below shows the S&P 500 index for Obama in blue and Trump in red, aligned on the left side to the inauguration date.

We can see how the free fall continued for Obama for another few weeks and then the graph started going up steeply and steadily for the next year, before it dipped again.

Trump’s index also rose steadily for about a year and a quarter, before its first dip. Trump’s slope is actually more modest than Obama’s was, and Trump’s S&P gains never went over 50%, while Obama’s were beyond 80% at about 1,000 days.

S&P percentage performance from Inauguration Day, Trump vs. Obama [click to enlarge]

I often hear complaints from the right about how the economy suffered under Obama. It really didn’t. There were several things that were bothersome: The recovery took a long time, probably due to significant regulatory burden. Unemployment improved throughout all 8 years of Obama’s presidency. While the recovery was slower than we would have liked, I would not exactly call this “suffering” and I for one never minded paying more for gas in exchange of cleaner air and water.

Trump’s stock market rose steadily too over the first 3 years, but then, unfortunately tumbled back to the beginning. It has recovered since, but there is no telling where it is going to go next.

I would certainly not make any predictions right now.

Every morning when I get up I look up into the clouds to check if there are any giant alien spaceships floating above our cities ready to laser-beam us to annihilation. I would not be surprised to see those in the second half of 2020.

But I made the mistake of pulling James Cone’s ‘The Cross and the Lynching Tree’ off my shelf — a book designed to shatter convenient complacency. Cone recounts the case of a white mob in Valdosta, Ga., in 1918 that lynched an innocent man named Haynes Turner. Turner’s enraged wife, Mary, promised justice for the killers. The sheriff responded by arresting her and then turning her over to the mob, which included women and children. According to one source, Mary was ‘stripped, hung upside down by the ankles, soaked with gasoline, and roasted to death. In the midst of this torment, a white man opened her swollen belly with a hunting knife and her infant fell to the ground and was stomped to death.’

— Michael Gerson, President George W. Bush’s chief speechwriter, quoting from a book.

Just what planet is Darrell Issa living on?

Historic Presidency?

Trump leading America to a strong recovery from COVID?

What is Antifa anway?

Strongest economic recovery in history?

Seriously? Now I definitely know who not to vote for.

I noticed something familiar when I saw these T-Shirts.

Four pictures speak a thousand words:

 

 

 

For comparison, for anyone who would argue that an eagle is a general symbol and used as our own seal. This is what the United States Seal looks like, and it’s not even close to the America First logo.

 

It will come early: ‘Fox News is now projecting Joseph R. Biden is the President-Elect of the United States’ The American people are going to throw you out of office. You will be repudiated and disgraced. You’ll leave nothing behind but the stench of epic failure. No American has ever failed this country worse than you. None. Your incompetence, ignorance, ineptitude, and old fashioned stupidity have caused the economic collapse and made the U.S. the epicenter of coronavirus death and suffering. You have shattered American alliances and weakened our military. You are a disgrace. Your name will be a synonym for losing, failure, and weakness. Biden is crushing you, and you want to know why? It’s because he is a good man and you are a bad one. He cares about the American people and you do not. He is respected on the world stage and you are laughed at like some type of grotesque and buffoonish clown. He is capable and you are not. You attack because you are scared. Take a minute to look at the picture of Fred Trump on your desk. Do you think he would be surprised by your failures? He would not. He bailed you out over and over again. He bailed you out because you couldn’t cut it as anything other than a con man. There will be no monuments and no encomiums for you. The whole country has watched you fail. The whole country is watching your increasingly feeble state. The whole country is watching you lose. We will all watch you return to your golf clubs as the biggest loser the American presidency has ever produced.”

– Steve Schmidt: former Republican strategist

Steve Schmidt is one of my favorite Republicans, albeit a “former” one now.

There is only one extremely important bad decision that Steve made back in 2008 that had profound impact on the American political system and truly shaped the world we live in. Remember he was McCain’s campaign manager.

He helped pick (and consented to choosing) Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate.

If he had not picked Palin, I believe McCain would have won the 2008 election. I would have voted for him, and so would have many others. McCain would have been president, presumably for two terms. We would have had eight years of solid conservative leadership under McCain and dignity in the office of the presidency. Obama, still very young at the time, would have risen, and been elected in 2016. We’d now be in the first Obama term. He would be running for reelection right now. The “tea party” movement of 2009 would not have happened. Trump and all that he stands for would never have risen.

Our world now is a truly different world from that, fashioned by Steve Schmidt’s direct contribution.

Hannity asked Trump what his priorities for a second term were.

Here is Trump’s answer:

Well, one of the things that will be really great — you know, the word experience is still good. I always say talent is more important than experience, I’ve always said that. But the word experience is a very important word. It’s a very important meaning. I never did this before. I never slept over in Washington. I was in Washington, I think, 17 times, all of a sudden, I’m president of the United States. You know the story, I’m riding down Pennsylvania Avenue with our first lady and I say, this is great. But I didn’t know very many people in Washington. It wasn’t my thing. I was from Manhattan, from New York. Now, I know everybody and I have great people in the administration. You make some mistakes like, you know, an idiot like Bolton. All he wanted to do was drop bombs on everybody. You don’t have to drop bombs on everybody. You don’t have to kill people.

Word salad.

There are voices out there now that claim that “wearing a mask is living in fear” and similar assertions. Others proclaim their rights are being infringed upon. Whatever happened to the old “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” policy we had no problem with in grocery stores in the olden days? If I ran a store, I’d put up a sign that says “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Mask, No Service” and be done with it.

I wear a helmet when I ride a motorcycle. Heck, I wear a helmet when I ride my bicycle. I wear a helmet when I go rock climbing. I wear a seatbelt when I drive a car. None of those self-protection measures have ever had me cry that my freedom is lost. Of course, I still freak out when I travel in Ohio and people ride motorcycles without a helmet. Any old idiot on the road can not see you on the motorcycle, and hitting your head on the pavement at 60 miles an hour with just your jaw and teeth to protect you is not a pleasant thought.

In our country, we now have 2.4 million people identified positive for Covid-19. We have 125,000 people dead due to Covid-19. That is a horrifically high death rate of 5% for a disease if you catch it. Since older people are much more vulnerable, the death rate is even much higher. I am over 60.

I have done rock climbing. I have done skydiving. I have ridden motorcycles on the highway. None of these activities are even within a factor of 1000 close to the death rate of Covid-19.

And worse, if you survive the disease after weeks in ICU, you have a 7-figures hospital bill.

So if I can wear a mask at the grocery store and give myself a slightly better chance not to catch this bug, I will take it.

I am not living in fear, but I am not very interested in dying, or having a million dollar hospital bill ruin the rest of my life.

Interestingly, we had a slight bending of the curve that gave me some hope, but it looks like the fear of living in fear and the aversion to lack of freedom with a mask is turning it the other way again:

This graph does not show the infection rate of a country that is conquering this virus.

Darwinian effects will quickly take care of this “living in fear” argument, but in the meantime, we’re prolonging the agony of a country shut down, we’re burning out our doctors and nurses, and we’re keeping the economy on a life support system.

If you think living in fear is bad, try going on like this for another few months, after the hospitals finally do run out of capacity.

Where do you go?

 

Here is a Facebook post by a good friend whom I have not seen in a long time. Thanks for this post, KL.

This will give you pause at first:

What weird little superpowers were you issued instead of the Flight and Super Strength you put in an order for? I have three:

1) I can catheterize just about any female urethra that crosses my path. Any species, although I have never been called upon to come to the aid of a hyena.

2) I am a clockhead: if I want to wake up at 2:13 AM, I wake up at 2:13 AM. Not that this makes me prompt.

3) And, like all middle-aged women, I get the invisibility superpower by default.

Your turn!

Now that you’re scratching your head about superpower #1, I should add that she is a veterinarian.

She is also one of the most quirky-humored persons I have ever met, and I can attest to the fact that she can keep you roaring with laughter for hours around the campfire with what she has experienced with all manner of animals large and small.

Ever wonder about a catheter for an elephant? She will have a story.

Thanks, KL, for adding some smiles in this gloomy world.

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