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Some of you may have noticed a few technical problems on this blog in the last couple of days. I updated the version of PHP and WordPress, and all hell broke loose. I think I have everything working properly again, and the new versions are faster and more secure now. But let me know at if you notice anything still broken.


The Market Strikes Back!

This Modern World
© Tom Tomorrow

How long before the market realizes that better advance preparation for epidemics and pandemics would be good for the economy (including the stock market)?

Bill Gates, one of the most ruthless businessmen of the modern era, talked about this 5 years ago!

UPDATE: The Atlantic has a great article listing all the times our government has been warned about the imminent danger of a pandemic. In fact, “a pandemic disease is the most predictable catastrophe in the history of the human race, if only because it has happened to the human race so many, many times before.”


St. Patrick’s Day

Have a fun, but safe, St. Patrick’s Day!


More Virus Humor

While you’re sitting at home, here’s two videos you can watch.

If you see any others, please post them in the comments.

UPDATE: I love this one, from Australia!


Read this NOW

Everyone should read this article NOW. It is long and contains lots of numbers and graphs, but it explains everything well, every step of the way.

If you want the short version, it is that we must reduce the transmission of the coronavirus, and the best way to do that is through social distancing, which means shutting down any place where people gather, and putting at least a meter (and preferably 2) between you and any other people. Or even just staying home. Now.

I cannot stress enough that these measures must be taken now. Every day that we delay taking measures will increase the number of cases of COVID-19 by a whopping 40%.

That’s right. 40% every day. That is how exponential growth works. For 40% growth per day, in just a week there are 10 times as many cases, two weeks means 100 times.

And when there are too many cases, the health system becomes overwhelmed and people die.

This is all based on the best numbers we have now, and you can look at the numbers and helpful graphs yourself.

And don’t panic. It is very reassuring to know that there is something straightforward that all of us can do, which we know will work.

If you think you can’t take measures now, know that if you don’t do it now, you will do it later, when it will be much worse. Do it now.


Please forward this link to everyone you know.

UPDATE: Washington Post has a “coronavirus simulator” which shows (simplified) simulations of COVID-19 spreading under different conditions, including with nothing done (very bad), closing borders in a forced quarantine (works a little, but not very well, and causes lots of problems), social distancing (works much better, as that other article predicted, and how well it works increases as more of the population practices safe social interactions. The percentage of people who practice social distancing can be improved by doing things like closing businesses and other places where people tend to interact closely.


Never Forget

Donald Trump is trying to rewrite recent history, but he may not realize that the internet never forgets. Here’s a post from Political Wire:

As President Trump attempts to blame President Barack Obama for his own handling of the coronavirus outbreak, it’s important to document Trump’s comments during this public health crisis.

These are not utterances from some of his more rambling news conferences or from his advisers. These are Trump’s most direct statements as a global pandemic took hold.

January 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.” (CNBC)

February 2: “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China.” (Fox News)

February 10: “A lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat—as the heat comes in.” (Bloomberg)

February 24: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA… Stock market starting to look very good to me.” (Twitter)

February 26: “It’s going very substantially down, not up… The 15 within a couple of days, is going to be down to zero.” (CNN)

February 27: “It’s going to disappear one day, it’s like a miracle.” (Twitter)

March 6: “I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it… Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.” (Wired)

March 6: “I didn’t know people died from the flu.” (CNN)

March 6: “I like the numbers being where they are.” (Washington Post)

March 10: “It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.” (Twitter)

March 13: “I don’t take responsibility at all because we were given a set of circumstances and we were given rules, regulations, and specifications from a different time.” (New York Times)


Virus Snark

This is a snarky article from The Independent, a UK newspaper:

Thank God we have Trump to do what the scientists won’t – build that coronavirus wall

by Mark Steel

We’re so lucky. Because in a time of global danger, we need leaders who are clear, informed, sensitive and decisive. So, truly, we have been blessed.

“The virus will not have a chance against us,” said Donald Trump in his presidential message. Clearly he thinks the coronavirus is a nationality, and tomorrow he’ll explain “we have to stop these Virutians from coming here, there are millions of them, coming to our great country, they’re very bad and they want to live in our stomachs and I’m going to stop them.”

This could be how Trump will defeat the virus, with mass rallies chanting “bomb the virus”, and “send it back to Virussynia”, and tens of thousands of people huddled together in an enclosed area high-fiving each other will ensure the virus can’t possibly spread.

Trump supporters will then prove their determination to defeat the virus by putting one of its spores in a petri dish and firing at it for 40 minutes with an M60 machine gun while screaming “see you in hell, you infectious asshole”.

Trump also assured us it’s a foreign virus and that’s the problem: this virus doesn’t share American values. It doesn’t speak English, it kills people by restricting breathing rather than going berserk in a shopping mall with a rifle, it makes people croaky on purpose so they can’t sing the national anthem.

But he’ll reassure us: “I’ve convinced the doctors to build a wall around everyone’s kidneys. And who’s going to pay for the wall? Coronavirus is going to pay for the wall.”

In the address, he said: “Earlier this week, I met with the leaders of health insurance industry […] who have agreed to waive all co-payments for coronavirus treatments.” Later, a spokesperson amended this to say they weren’t waiving any payments for the treatment.

Then he announced a travel ban applying to US citizens, and later had to correct it slightly, to “the ban will not apply to US citizens.” But the important thing is he’s taking a clear lead so this isn’t the time to quibble about grammar.

The ban applies to almost all of Europe, but not the UK, because diseases are always careful to leave countries in the middle of an important trade deal with Trump alone.

He’ll explain: “It was the same with the plague in the 14th century. It was doing bad things, very bad, and I banned Europeans from coming here but not Britain because I was making a very good deal with Edward VIIII, wonderful king, and it worked, because no one has had the plague here for a hundred years.”

It’s also fortunate that the most powerful person in the world is someone whose specialist subject is science. For example, on the issue of the climate crisis, Trump has thrown doubt on all other scientists in the world, with their so-called “analysis”, with devastating theories such as: “I don’t believe it”; “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese”; and, “If there’s global warming, why is it so cold in New York?”

These detailed studies have all been extensively peer-reviewed and established Trump as an authority on the subject, so the scientific world anticipates his next pronouncement on coronavirus could be: “It’s all fake news made up by Chinese face-mask companies, believe me.”

The common feature of every mass outbreak of disease in history, is the population must be reliably informed about the ways to prevent it from spreading. This must be why news channels have invited experts such as Kelvin Mackenzie and Nigel Farage onto programmes to educate us. Mackenzie told us the best procedure was, if you catch it, “you should sue the Chinese government”.

He should put this expertise to wider use, and work for NHS 111. When someone calls gasping, “I think I’m infected, please please help me, oh God I’m scared”, he can advise them “The important thing is to make a claim against the president of China three times a day, after meals, and you’ll be running about like a whippet by Friday.”

US presenters are even more medically trained. Fox business presenter Trish Regan said: “Coronavirus is yet another attempt to impeach the president.”

Her colleague Sean Hannity answered a physician who explained the virus is “10 times more lethal than normal flu”, by saying: “Sadly, these viruses pop up from time to time.”

This is the strategy that will ensure the virus doesn’t have a chance against us. It was how we beat the Nazis. We told everyone “sadly, these Third Reich’s pop up from time to time” and off they went.

Luckily, we in Britain copy everything Trump does. So Priti Patel will tell us she’s designed a points system for any virus that wants to come here. “It has to prove it can survive on its own and not rely on sponging off our tonsils” she’ll tell us.

And some of us are dealing with it in our traditional measured manner, calmly buying 8,000 toilet rolls and setting fire to anything we bought from Primark as it was probably made in China.

There would be a certain justice if it turned out the fastest way to spread coronavirus is to assemble large quantities of toilet rolls together, as the virus keeps warm in the packaging, then jumps out and stabs you with a fork.

Every biologist and chemist is warning us about this virus being particularly sneaky, due to the way the symptoms don’t appear until the carrier has passed it on, and its ability to mutate. But they still underestimate how clever the virus is. Because it’s so smart it’s deliberately waited until we’re led by Johnson and Trump, then shouted: “NOW, over the top everyone, with them in charge we can take over the world by August.”


Heather Cox Richardson

A friend sent me this article from political historian Heather Cox Richardson that discusses the coronavirus, oil prices, and Donald Trump fiddling while America burns. I encourage you to read it.

This reminded me that I needed to add her website “Letters from an American” to my list of links (to the right). I’ve done that. You can (and should) subscribe to it.


Fighting the coronavirus?

On Monday, Donald Trump announced his “timely and effective response to the coronavirus”. It is “a possible tax relief measure”. That’s it. Seriously. He’s going to talk to Republicans in Congress and ask them to cut taxes. Again. He cares only about goosing the economy, not about the people who are actually sick or dying.

Could anyone possibly be more tone deaf and insensitive?

Well, of course! Also on Monday, Health Secretary Alex Azar stressed in an interview on Fox News that the government is taking the pandemic seriously, saying the coronavirus “is a very serious health problem. Nobody is trying to minimize that.”

Well, nobody except Trump. Soon after that, Trump took to Twitter and downplayed the seriousness of the people dying from the coronavirus:

So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on,” he said. “At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!

Yeah, life goes on, at least some of it. And he had to mention his precious economy, which dropped so fast Monday they had to shut down trading on the stock exchange for a while.

Trump also told us that we should be grateful, because the price of gas is going down (because fewer people are using it).

However, because of a huge US investment in shale oil, we are no longer a net oil importer, so the old conventional wisdom that cheaper oil is good no longer holds. As an oil exporting nation, Monday’s stunning 25% drop in oil prices will actually hurt our economy because shale oil costs more to produce than they can sell it for now. Or as one investment strategist put it more bluntly, “You’ve got to remember, what Saudi Arabia and Russia are doing is trying to put the shale producers out of business in the U.S. because they are the ones who are increasing the world’s supply.”

What’s next? Will Trump have to bail out the oil companies?


Repeating the Past

This article from the Daily Beast (so read it with a grain of salt) is supposedly about how Donald Trump claimed that he “didn’t know people died from the flu” when in fact his grandfather died from the Spanish flu. The article points out “The president’s grandfather, in fact, was one of the first domestic casualties of the world’s worst modern pandemic, which ultimately killed millions.” But is Trump lying about easily disproved things considered news anymore?

More interestingly, the article goes on to talk about president Woodrow Wilson, and how his efforts to downplay the virus was instrumental in helping the Spanish flu turn into the historic killer that it became. Not only did Wilson get the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 passed, which made criticism of the government (including spreading “pessimistic stories” calling for peace, or belittling the US effort to win WWI) a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison, he also created a propaganda arm of the US government at the urging of Arthur Bullard. Bullard claimed “Truth and falsehood are arbitrary terms… The force of an idea lies in its inspirational value. It matters very little if it is true or false.” Sound familiar?

The government telling citizens that everything was ok and suppressing public health officials from telling people how to combat or even avoid the disease led to uncountable deaths, estimated at 50 million people worldwide, more than the total number of people killed by WWI, and estimated to be almost the total deaths from WWII.

Ironically, president Wilson himself was eventually hobbled by the flu in the midst of peace talks (of course, the government publicly lied, saying that it was merely a cold).

So now, we have a president who claims that everything is alright, saying there is nothing to worry about from the coronavirus, while slashing funding for the CDC and eliminating the government team responsible for fighting global pandemics. He doesn’t need to create a propaganda arm because he already has the right-wing media. He even put his vice president in charge of combating it, a man who claimed in 2001 that “smoking doesn’t kill” and, when he was governor, tried to deal with the worst outbreak of HIV in his state’s history by praying it away.

UPDATE: The US is dead last (no pun intended) in testing for the coronavirus. South Korea is first with 2,138 tests per million people, Italy is next with 386 tests per million, but the US has only tested 1 person per million. And the US has far more people without health insurance that most civilized countries.

What could go wrong?


Warren on SNL

This SNL opening reminds me why I love both Kate McKinnon and Elizabeth Warren.


Who are you going to believe? Me, or your lying ears?


During a town hall broadcast by Fox News on Thursday night there was a discussion about the national debt, which has soared during the Trump administration.

This, despite the fact that Donald Trump promised to not just eliminate the deficit (which was last accomplished by Bill Clinton), but also the entire national debt. Of course, as soon as he was elected, Trump cut taxes for the rich (like himself) and corporations, and increased military spending dramatically.

Republicans have never tried to hide the fact that they want the deficit to increase so they can cut entitlements like Social Security and Medicare. But it was still a surprise that Fox News host Martha MacCallum pointed out “if you don’t cut something in entitlements, you’ll never really deal with the debt.”

Even more surprising, Trump blurted out in response, “Oh, we’ll be cutting. We’re also going to have growth like you’ve never seen before.” Of course, instead we just had the largest drop in the Dow Jones index in history. That’s due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which Trump is pretending doesn’t exist.

But here’s the really hypocritical part. Immediately afterwards, the White House went into full spin mode, denying that Trump didn’t say what we all heard with our ears. Here’s Kellyanne Conway claiming that Trump didn’t say that, even though Fox News played the clip of Trump saying it (skip ahead to 2:30 for the relevant parts if you can’t stand to listen to Conway for very long):


Pandemic Humor

A selection of comics about the coronavirus:

Dr. Trump's Pandemic Prescription
© Brian McFadden
This Modern World
© Tom Tomorrow
Tom the Dancing Bug: Super Medical Force
© Ruben Bolling
© Lalo Alcaraz


Joe Biden has a huge opportunity staring him in the face. And it is the same opportunity that Obama utilized for his winning coalition, when he brought many of his competing Democrats (and some Republicans) into his administration.

Biden should announce cabinet level (or similar stature) positions for his now-vanquished competition:

  • Elizabeth Warren. Is it too much to hope for her as Biden’s VP? I know the conventional wisdom is that his VP will be a black woman, but he has demonstrated that he already has strong support from the black community. Instead, he really needs someone who can help him with the progressive vote, and Warren will definitely help with that. Plus Warren has shown that she was a great attack dog against Bloomberg, and that could really help against Trump.
  • Amy Klobuchar. She was one of the best debaters, but for some reason she never took off. She would be a great cabinet member, and a strong campaigner for Biden.
  • Pete Buttigieg. Super smart, young, and would help bring in the LGBTQ vote. And the Democratic party would benefit by giving this rising star a role that would provide him experience and attention.
  • Julian Castro. Sanders is strong with Latinos, and this might help blunt that.
  • Maybe even Mike Bloomberg, as Trump is clearly afraid of him, and he has shown he can attack Trump with impunity and do damage.

Comments? Anyone else? Any (presumably never-Trump) Republicans who would be a good addition?


Sick Humor

Does anyone else think that the reason Donald Trump is putting Mike Pence in charge of combatting the coronavirus outbreak is so that Pence can be blamed and thrown under the bus when the outbreak becomes a pandemic?

UPDATE: According to a report in the NY Times, Vice President Mike Pence was picked to lead the federal government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak because President Trump said he didn’t “have anything else to do”.