healthcare

Who Will Lead?


Reading time – 2:43  .  .  .

It has been clear from the start that the leadership of Donald Trump is of himself, for himself and by himself. Where does that leave the remaining 328.2 million of us in this time of worldwide pandemic?

Many of our governors are doing a good job with the limited tools they have. I’m thinking of Andrew Cuomo (NY), Gavin Newsome (CA), Jay Inslee (WA), Mike DeWine (OH), J.B. Pritzker (IL), Gretchen Whitmer (MI) and more. Some others are brainless tools, like Kay Ivey (AL), Pete Ricketts (NE) and Doug Ducey (AZ). Regardless of their competence, purity of intention (if any) or skills, these governors are unable to do what a president can do. Our problem is that this president isn’t doing those things either.

He lies about all facets of dealing with this pandemic, including denial that it exists and later denying his denial. Worse, he recommends dangerous remedies, like ingesting disinfectants and taking hydroxychloroquin, which has a proven potential to kill people. More worse is his absolute refusal to do the critical things needed to combat this killer disease, including (but not limited to) fast response, massive testing, tracing and quarantining and securing abundant PPE for our healthcare workers. And most worst, his total abdication of proactive leadership has led us to 100,000 dead Americans, 30 – 60% of whom were avoidable fatalities of his self-absorbed failure of leadership. He has disgraced the office of the Presidency to the point of our deaths.

Meanwhile, we hear messages about dealing with coronavirus from various other leaders, often couched in terms of criticism of Trump. What we don’t hear is clear, consistent leadership to get through this crisis. Who is beating that most important drum? Who is showing up on podcasts, in automotive plants, in press conferences, in meat and poultry plants and more with the exquisite focus and the clarity of vision we need right now?

My notion is that Joe Biden should be leading that parade and I wrote about it here. But Biden and we are months past prime time for this. And, no, a one-off statement doesn’t come remotely near to satisfying the requirement for the consistent message of leadership we need.

I’m in the “anybody but Trump” camp. Well, nearly so. I require a candidate who wasn’t fabricated in a plastics factory, and flamers need not apply. But if I am to put my faith in whoever runs against Trump, I want some demonstration of ability and worthiness to lead right now when we need it.

My pal John Calia writes a leadership post with the overarching message and title, “Who Will Lead?” and I think he’s spot-on with that question.

We are suffering nationally from the better part of a few decades of inept or counter-productive leadership both in the White House and in Congress. The reasons are as dispiriting as they are complex, but in the final analysis, it comes down to things like integrity, accountability and actually giving a damn about this country and its people.

Trump is killing us and Biden is essentially AWOL.

Back to Calia’s question: Who will lead?

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The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Sometimes I change my opinions because I’ve learned more about an issue. So, educate me. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Sacrifice


Reading time – 3:39 + 1:43 .  .  .

Tomorrow is Memorial Day – a formal day of remembrance for those who did their duty, put their lives on the line and died defending America. The flag-draped coffins continue to arrive at Dover, Delaware and, with the healthcare mess we’re in, it will take extra effort to remember those who sacrificed everything. Do it anyway.

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My friend Sheila Markin writes an excellent post and asked a question in her most recent offering. Here’s the background information.

Trump is now directing his campaign people to fire up the Trump raucous rally machine to drive numbers for his re-election effort. That means thousands of people will be jammed together with everyone joyously chanting for some Trump opponent to be locked up and doing that without a mask, flaunting their disdain for science. They’ll show the world they’re tough, rugged people and nobody’s gonna tell them what to do.

I’m just wondering how they’ll be doing 14 days after each rally. I get that Trump isn’t worried about that, because doing so would require empathy and you know the professional analyses of his ability for that. But there is obvious risk to these fellow Americans.

That’s what Sheila wondered about, ending her post with this question:

“Could it be he is so desperate he would sacrifice any number of his followers to insure his own re-election?”

Here’s my answer.

Years ago I had to deal with an individual who was a cruel man. His great joy lay in verbally abusing others and laying false charges against them, including me. Happily, that was a short assignment, but cruelty hasn’t gone away.

Today’s cruel man is the president and his cruelty isn’t just verbal. He’s allowing the preventable deaths of our people through his bumbling. And, with his claim of taking hydroxychloroquine, the drug with demonstrated, potentially lethal consequences, he’s setting a dangerous example that others might follow and which might kill them, just like his proposing that people ingest disinfectants. Clearly, he thinks our people are expendable, or he doesn’t think about them at all.

There are analyses showing how many more people have died and will die because of Trump avoiding doing what is needed to protect us – swift action, robust testing, tracing and quarantining, adequate protective equipment, leadership to influence people to distance, etc. It’s approximately 60% of our total COVID-19 deaths (more information here and here and here)  The numbers of excess deaths caused by Trump’s ineptitude are staggering. If you want to begin to grasp the magnitude of this, have a look at today’s New York Times front page.

But of course, they’re just numbers, statistics – until we realize that Granny is one of those people who died an avoidable death. So is nurse Sally. And cousin Jamie. And the pizza delivery guy and the EMT who answered the call and brought my elderly neighbor to the hospital, and the sanitation worker at that hospital, and the high school senior who was excited about her acceptance to West Point. These are metaphors for those actually afflicted. And they weren’t just numbers. They were very real people who died avoidable deaths. Over 60,000 of them so far.

Let’s make this even more personal with the closing words of John Donne’s poem, “For Whom the Bell Tolls:”

Each man’s death diminishes me,

for I am involved in mankind.

Therefore, send not to know

For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee.

That notion hasn’t found its way into the Oval Office since January 20, 2017. Indeed, it’s an odd and cruel trip from “I alone can fix it” to “I don’t take responsibility at all.”

Now the cruel man insists that we “open up” everything, everywhere, as though that might be safe. 10 days from now let’s see if last weekend’s happy Milwaukee bar revelers are still well. They were crammed together, shoulder to shoulder, with nobody wearing a mask. And the meat packers in Sioux Falls and in Greeley similarly stand shoulder to shoulder. What do you suppose is in their near-term future?

I desperately want to be wrong about this, but I’m pretty sure there is a looming, now unavoidable catastrophe on the way. “Opening up” will temporarily goose the Dow and the economy, which is good for Trump’s re-election prospects, but the price for that may be found in body bags.

Back to the mirage of minimizing the infection and death numbers to make Trump look better to his believers.

This is not about the actual health of our people. All he cares about are the published numbers and how they make him look. Indeed, he has said – even seemed to boast – that more testing would make the count higher, which would be bad for his re-election prospects, so he keeps the count inaccurately, artificially low by keeping the country orders-of-magnitude short of doing the testing we need to do. That gets Trump his sick numbers, but makes us sicker.

To compound Trump’s dishonesty about this, we now have 3 states with Republican governors refusing to release infection and death counts. That’s a big help to Trump’s suppressing-the-numbers game. You don’t suppose those Republican governors received a call from the White House, do you?

So, Sheila asked, “Could it be he is so desperate he would sacrifice any number of his followers to insure his own re-election?” They’re about to be crammed together at rallies, because that’s what’s good for Trump. What do you suppose will happen to some of them 14 days later? Do you have even a whisper of a notion that Trump has entertained that question? Or whether he’s willing to sacrifice them if doing so helps him?

Sadly, it isn’t just his followers Trump would sacrifice. There’s a Trump-branded human sacrifice alter ready for every one of us whenever he hallucinates that it’s in his best paranoid, sociopathic interests to use them.

You’ve known since at least 2015 that the only thing Trump cares about is Trump. That leaves you eligible for sacrifice on one of his alters. If that’s not to your liking, there’s something you can do about it. Roll up your shirtsleeves and get to work to put Trump’s human sacrifice alter company out of business on November 3, 2020.

And follow President Obama’s clear direction: Vote.

Click here for a 37 second demonstration of how COVID-19 spreads.

Click here for Timeline: Trump’s Coronavirus Response. It will tell you all you need to know about what has caused us to have less than 5% of the world’s population and 30% of the world’s deaths from coronavirus. And it will show you why the majority of American deaths from coronavirus were preventable.

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Compare and Contrast

This is a true, current story.

British Capt. Tom Moore, the 100-year-old World War II veteran who raised over 32 million pounds ($39.1 million) to support the U.K.’s health workers by walking 100 laps in his garden, will be knighted in recognition of his fundraising efforts.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the recommendation on Wednesday, and Queen Elizabeth II has agreed.

“I have, exceptionally, recommended to The Queen that he be awarded a knighthood, in recognition of his extraordinary fundraising achievements, and as a signal of the kind of contributions we will want to mark in the months to come,” Johnson said in a statement.

The centenarian launched his charitable campaign in late April as his 100th birthday approached. Wearing a coat and tie as well as his military medals, he pushed his walker lap after lap around his garden in the hope of donations.

He was trying to raise 1,000 pounds (over $1,200) for National Health Service (NHS) charities to show his appreciation for the medical treatment he received for cancer and a broken hip.

Donations gathered pace after his fundraising effort received national and, before long, international attention amid the increasing severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am certainly delighted and overawed by the fact this has happened to me,” said Moore, who will be known as Captain Sir Thomas Moore after he is knighted.

The award is expected to be formally presented in the fall, with details of the ceremony, where the Queen will officiate, still to be worked out.

“I’m looking forward to that,” Moore said, adding, “I hope she’s not very heavy-handed with the sword, because by then I might be rather a poor old weak soul.”

After the fundraising effort, Moore released a charity single, “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” with singer Michael Ball, which became a hit, reaching number one on the charts and making him the oldest singer ever to have a number-one single in the U.K.

Moore fought in Burma, now called Myanmar, and went to Sumatra with his regiment following the Japanese surrender.

It’s clear that this gentleman is still the upright man of service he has always been. He sees his duty and does it. That’s quite inspiring in a time when we can use all the inspiration we can find.

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Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so

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Thanks!

The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Sometimes I change my opinions because I’ve learned more about an issue. So, educate me. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Update to Consequences


Update to Sunday’s Consequences post:

From author John Scalzio in an interview for the New York Times Book section, May 17, 2020:

“Maybe people might look at me askance for “Atlas Shrugged” [being on my bookshelf], since I’ve written about how Ayn Rand valorizes a genocidal sociopath in John Galt, and I think it’s a really bad sign when ostensible adults take her “philosophy” seriously (and even worse when they’re elected to office). But I’ll tell you what, Rand could make a pot boil; there’s a reason her brand of nonsense sells.”

Even John Wayne was a fictional construct and he wasn’t as tough as the movies made him seem. When he was no longer young, strong and healthy he succumbed to disease. Lucky for him that he was rich, so he got great healthcare along the way. For the rest of us Ayn Rand’s “we’re all on our own” craziness really doesn’t work well. Few of us can tolerate being prevented from getting basic needs met just because we’re not young, strong and healthy. There has to be a better way.

Here’s how our present system is working, this from the Economic Policy Institute:

With the jobless tally rising quickly by the millions, as businesses struggle to keep people employed during the pandemic, the absurdity of having our health care linked to jobs becomes painfully clear.

EPI research determined 16.2 million Americans have likely lost their health care due to pandemic job losses. Linking health insurance to employment has always been problematic. The pandemic is highlighting and exacerbating those issues. Medicare for All, while a hugely ambitious policy undertaking, could be one way to remedy this situation.

Watch their 2-minute explanation of how Medicare For All would affect jobs. It isn’t what the naysayers tell us.

Apologies, but I don’t remember who posted this. Nevertheless, good on you!

This pandemic has made it abundantly clear that our highest-cost-in-the-world medical system isn’t providing the best care for most of us. And the layoffs/furloughs/firings/loss of employment caused both directly and indirectly by this disease have illustrated the folly of healthcare tied to employers and employment.

Perhaps you’re high on Maslow’s heirarchy and you’re asking the question, “What is it that we are supposed to learn from this pandemic, the lesson that we have steadfastly refused to learn any other way?” Here’s the answer:

It’s all about how we care for and care about one another.

It’s plain that this is no time for “rugged individualist” thinking to prevail. Embrace the “together” part of “We’re all in this together,” because if we refuse that, all of us are condemned to suffering that doesn’t have to happen, as though we plugged our ears when the answer to the question was given to us.

You don’t know it yet, but you want to read “9 ways Covid-19 may forever upend the U.S. healthcare industry.” The intense pressure that’s been brought to bear on every part of our healthcare system by this pandemic, including how we pay for it, is going to change everything about it. Let me know what you think.

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Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Sometimes I change my opinions because I’ve learned more about an issue. So, educate me. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Consequences In One Long and Two Short Parts


Reading time – 5:36  .  .  .

Part 1. Healthcare Wake-Up

The Kaiser Family Foundation just reported that, “.  .  .  nearly 27 million people will lose health insurance as a result of being laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Some will go on the ACA exchanges; the majority will wind up on Medicaid; and 6 million poor Americans will have no insurance at all to cover the enormous expense of battling COVID-19 or any other malady and will have to figure out the impossible. Said another way, these folks are already struggling to stay financially afloat and a COVID-19 anvil may be dumped hard onto their little boat.

I know a fellow who commented on a different catastrophe, offering a Machiavellian (or Ayn Randian) comment that sounded like this: “It’s sad, but they made their choices and now they have to live with the consequences.” Is that our official attitude toward poor people?

We’re now being told to get out there, go back to work and go shopping, where we will encounter lots of nice people, some of whom will be disease carriers and may send us to the hospital. I worry what will happen in 2 – 3 weeks to those who are packing bars now and are not wearing face masks. Indeed, the CDC tells us that the likelihood of infection is growing greater in many parts of the country.

Wait, greater? And we’re supposed to go back to work and drive the numbers higher?

Yes, because we’re warriors, wartime President Nero tells us. So, get out there and fight. Drive up herd immunity, which to the best of my understanding, means that those who manage to survive this deadly virus will probably have immunity. But you have to get sick first to get that immunity and you might die. And well over 6 million Americans won’t be able to pay for their healthcare if they survive the disease.

Can we agree that we need to figure out the best way for all of us to be able to get healthcare when we need it? Actually, we don’t all agree about that, but the overwhelming majority of us do. If that’s the goal, then how do we get there?

What I see is that we’re about to pay for the healthcare, one way or another, for an additional 27 million Americans who got laid off due to pandemic and who have little or no insurance. What if we just put on our big boy and big girl pants and face up to the facts that the bumper stickers are right, that shit happens, and that we think everyone should be able to get healthcare irrespective of their wealth? We’re paying for much of it anyway, so what if we were intentional and created a really good solution?

I can hear Libertarians wailing and can see Ayn Rand true believers bent over with cramps. I only have two problems with that rugged individualist philosophy. First, it only works for people who are young, healthy and strong. If you can’t check all three boxes, you’re screwed. Second, Ayn Rand wrote novels – fantasies – all of it was not-real, didn’t happen stuff. Doing so brought her fame, fortune and popularity with idealistic (mostly) young men during their formative years. Most of us grew out of believing in the made-up story not long after finding out that there is no Tooth Fairy. Sen. Rand Paul and members of the House Freedom Caucus, however, didn’t get the message and are still looking under their pillows every morning. Okay, that was snark.

We’re living in the real world where not everyone is young, healthy and strong – or wealthy. Not everyone had open to them the path to true free market enlightenment and success. Some are being cast adrift due to layoffs. Doing nothing while watching that little boat of theirs sink after the anvil crashes into it is a cruel consequence of our own design.

There is a Jewish imperative – Tikkun Olam – which means “repair the world.” The Boy Scout version of that is to always leave your campsite better than you found it. Pretty good ideas. No, actually they are imperatives. What repairs are we doing to leave things better than we found them? It is our obligation to our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and they are counting on us to do the right things right now.

Which brings us to,

Part 2. Napoleon

There is no shortage of commentary about both what Joe Biden should be doing now and speculation about his relative lack of visibility. I’m reminded of a quotation from Napoleon, used by Theodore White in his book The Making of the President 1964. White wrote,

“Never were Republicans denounced [by President Johnson] as such; the opposition was involved in its own civil war, and the president obeyed Napoleon’s maxim: Never interfere with the enemy when he is in the process of destroying himself.”

That proved to be a big help in sending Johnson’s opponent, Sen. Barry Goldwater, back to Arizona and I’m wondering if that is the advice Joe Biden is following today.

In that light, you must read Frank Bruni’s piece from April 26, “Trump Self-Destructs.” He ends his essay this way:

“Americans who take any comfort from [Trump’s nightly coronavirus briefings] were Trump-drunk long ago. The unbesotted see and hear the president for what he is: a tone-deaf showman who regards everything, even a mountain of corpses, as a stage.”

Which brings us to,

Part 3. The Math Update

Our first reported death from coronavirus was on February 6; the next two deaths were on February 26. Things ramped up slowly at first and then, as you well know, the death count ramped up very quickly.

It has been 100 days since that first case and we now have a minimum of 89,000 of our fellow citizens dead from coronavirus. We’re losing about 2,000 of our friends, neighbors and family every day, which translates to a Pearl Harbor every 1.2 days and a 9/11 every 1.5 days. The White House tells us that things could get worse and predicts that 100,000 – 240,000 Americans will die from this disease.

Well, things are worse right now. We better be really careful how we “open up” our economy, including doing COVID-19 testing in numbers a couple of orders of magnitude greater than we’re doing now or we may find out that the White House finally got something right – the counting of our dead. And that is a disastrous consequence of our federal ineptitude.

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Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Sometimes I change my opinions because I’ve learned more about an issue. So, educate me. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections. Refreshing when someone wants to get the facts right, eh?
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Rights


Reading time – 4:11; Viewing time – 6:20  .  .  .

There are small mobs clogging our streets, attacking our state capitol buildings and protesting inside those buildings with menacing assault rifles in their hands. They are carrying Confederate flags and Nazi flags and they’re egged on by the President of the United States. They are yelling and frothing and spitting – no face masks. They are demanding their rights, dammit. What’s theirs is theirs. No stinking governor or healthcare professional can tell them what to do.

Others are protesting less pugnaciously, like the Cleveland barbershop owner who’s shop is in financial peril, who needs to provide for his family and wants his workers to have paying jobs so they can care for themselves and their families, too. He has a right to earn a living, he tells us. And he, like the violence threatening protesters, is willing to risk contracting coronavirus in pursuit of financial stability and personal independence. It’s impossible to argue with the barber’s motivation or his willingness to take that risk. Except for one thing, which I hereby offer first to the swaggering, gun-carrying protesters, and then to all self-quarantine protesters.

The right to own firearms has been expanded greatly from its original intent, greased by the lubrication of the NRA’s millions of lobbying and campaign contribution dollars. What is true concurrently with Second Amendment rights is that while you may have the right to bear arms, I have a right to not get shot by your guns, whether they’re concealed or menacingly brandished. Your right stops at the tip of my nose. And, silly me, I think my right to safety and staying alive supersedes your right to own killing machines.

It works the same way in dealing with this worldwide pandemic. Your right to get out and protest – even with your AR-15 in your hands – or open your barbershop or any other shop seems clear, and your willingness to risk illness and even death in pursuit of whatever it is you’re pursuing is your decision to make. Where your right stops is at that same tip of my nose: I have a right to not be infected by you and that supersedes your right to ignore the dire health warnings that are all around. I have a right to not get sick and die of the coronavirus that you contracted during your protests and that you could pass along to me. It doesn’t matter whether you took that risk of illness solely because of your financial needs or because you were having yet another temper tantrum against authority. Either way, you’re unfairly putting me at risk.

I feel for that barbershop owner. But while he may clear-headedly embrace the risk of contracting coronavirus by opening his shop too soon so that he can feed his children, when he’s in an ICU with a breathing tube down his throat and then dies, exactly who is going to feed his kids?

I’d rather not have to admit that I don’t feel for the gun toting protesters, but there it is. Right now I can’t find room in my heart for those who threaten others so they can feel powerful for a few moments.

My heart instead is focused on the front line troops, the doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers and EMTs and the people who clean and disinfect our hospitals and clinics so that they’re ready to care for us, as well as the restaurant workers bringing your takeout to the curb for you, the delivery people and grocery store staffs who bravely show up and work so that we can get the things we need. All of them are risking their lives for the rest of us, risking even for the angry, gun-toting protesters who at last show up at our hospitals with coronavirus drowning their lungs. That’s why all those front line troops are in my heart. And the people who are suffering financial deprivations due to this pandemic, like that barbershop owner, are in my heart, as well. That doesn’t leave much room for the threatening AR-15 mobs.

For both groups of protesters my message is simple: There are hundreds of millions of Americans who don’t want to be infected by you or by others whom you infect and who unknowingly pass it along. Those who have survived the disease don’t want to learn that you’re setting it up for others to suffer the way they suffered. And if the dead could talk, they’d say, “Your selfishness is going to kill my family and my friends.”

So, grow up. This is not all about you. And you don’t get to wave the red, white and blue until you learn to behave as a patriot.

The Greatest Generation suffered rationing, 405,000 deaths, about 8 times that number of injuries and far more deprivations. All we’re being asked to do is to stay home for a while. Have we become so soft that we can’t do even that? Have we become so self-centered that we can’t sacrifice for others? If the answer to those questions is “yes,” then it’s long past time to drop the self-congratulatory platitudes and our certainties about exceptionalism and do a national gut check and recommit.

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Follow up report

In a recent post, Potpourri v11.0 – The “How Can We Be This Stupid?” Edition, a reader lamented that a lot of the money from the Payroll Protection Program intended for small business operators had instead gone to large corporations. Turns out he was right and The Washington Post reported on that.

The money from the Payroll Protection Program was supposed to provide money to small businesses to enable them to retain their employees, to pay them, even as our economy is “shut down” due to this pandemic. Instead, more than $1 billion went to large public companies. The result: “After the first pool of [money] ran dry, [that left] more than 80 percent of applicants without funding,” WaPo reported. This happened even as the CEOs of some of the large companies that received money from the Program are being paid millions of dollars.

It’s truly astonishing that in a time of national crisis the greed machine of the already wealthy keeps spinning along. Download a PDF of the WaPo article here, or read it online here.

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Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Sometimes I change my opinions because I’ve learned more about an issue. So, educate me. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections. Refreshing when someone wants to get the facts right, eh?
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA

 


Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Here’s Why We Don’t Do Widespread Testing


Reading time – 3:50; Viewing time – 5:28  .  .  .

We continue to bumble along, seemingly unable to develop a reliable test to use in large quantities throughout the country to fight this awful disease. It isn’t because we don’t have access to the needed resources. Here and here are reports on testing options that have been available for months.

In contrast to our stumbling, Germany has the lowest death rate from coronavirus anywhere and it’s hard to understand why we don’t use what has been proven to be the best available testing technology and practices.  Here’s an excerpt from a report by The New York Times on how Germany is achieving relative success:

In mid-January, long before most Germans had given the virus much thought, Charité hospital in Berlin had already developed a test and posted the formula online.

By the time Germany recorded its first case of Covid-19 in February, laboratories across the country had built up a stock of test kits.

“The reason why we in Germany have so few deaths at the moment compared to the number of infected can be largely explained by the fact that we are doing an extremely large number of lab diagnoses,” said Dr. Christian Drosten, chief virologist at Charité, whose team developed the first test.

By now, Germany is conducting around 350,000 coronavirus tests a week, far more than any other European country. Early and widespread testing has allowed the authorities to slow the spread of the pandemic by isolating known cases while they are infectious. It has also enabled lifesaving treatment to be administered in a more timely way.

To test in the U.S. at a rate comparable to that of Germany we would have to do a minimum of 1.4 million tests every week, but we don’t have a sufficient supply of test kits even for as little as 10 days; then we’re out of kits. Further, the reliability of our tests has been suspect, although claims are being made that some are now reliable. Nevertheless, our ineptitude exists and continues in spite of three facts:

  1. The World Health Organization had test kits available for our use months ago, but for unexplained reasons, our government refused to use them and relied instead on a CDC test that proved to be faulty.
  2. The formula for the reliable test that Germany is using was posted online in January and was available for everyone to use, as were other kits, but we refused those, too.
  3. President Nero invoked the Defense Protection Act and could have forced many manufacturers and labs to ramp up to produce as many  millions of tests as we need. BUT HE HASN’T DONE THAT.

On May 5 Trump made things worse by having Vice President Pence announce that he is disbanding the coronavirus task force by the end of the month. He essentially said that he is giving up without firing a shot. We would be left to suffer and many to die due to a complete lack of coherent leadership.

One day later, and in typical Trump flip-flopping fashion, he reversed that. He had been stung by the very negative public response to his disbanding decision, so he announced that now the task force will continue. But we’re left exactly the same as before, wondering if Trump and his team of incompetents will ever actually do something to help the people. Here’s why they haven’t and why they won’t.

If Trump were to take clear, decisive action, like organizing massive, national testing, he would be putting a stake in the ground, making himself accountable for results. If the results don’t turn out to be good – and it’s obvious that outcomes from this coronavirus are dreadful and will only become worse – Trump’s culpability would be on display for all to see. But Trump never accepts responsibility for anything unless he can claim victory, so once again he’s set things up for him to skate,

and he’s doing nothing.

 

Click me for the story

You can depend upon Trump to continue to do nothing to fight this killer disease. You can depend upon him to continue to blame others when things go wrong. You can depend upon him to care nothing about the suffering and dying that is all around. You can depend upon him to focus solely on what’s good for Trump.

Turns out that’s a multiple whammy.

The lack of a robust testing protocol is why we don’t have accurate, targeted quarantines to prevent the spread of the disease. Lacking that testing information is why we’re all quarantined and why the disease continues to spread and why millions are out of work and out of money. And that financial nightmare for millions of Americans is why we are in a financial depression from which it will take years to recover. And that financial depression is why we will be at far greater risk from international bad actors for a long time.

In other words, our human carnage catastrophe, our economic peril and our future foreign vulnerabilities are largely self-inflicted injuries that are due to the cowardice, ineptitude and total self-focus of Donald Trump.

That is why we don’t do widespread testing to control coronavirus and protect the people.

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If you’d like to learn about the kind of leadership we truly need, my pal John Calia recently penned a post that provides that clarity. Read it here.

And watch this ad from The Lincoln Project. The message from these traditional conservatives has Trump apoplectic, so instead of focusing on our  dire national circumstances, he’s using his presidential time to rage tweet. Decide for yourself if someone telling truths he doesn’t like is justification for him abandoning his post.

NOTE – be sure to click the SKIP ADS button on the right side of the YouTube video.

Click me

Looking for a way to make a difference? Check out the One Minute Activist list right here. Not in the Chicago area? Just substitute organizations in your area as appropriate and go make a difference. Yes, today.

——————————-

Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Sometimes I change my opinions because I’ve learned more about an issue. So, educate me. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

I Know You See It, Too


April 30, 2020

Reading time – 3:23  .  .  .

The population of the United States makes up approximately 4% of the of the total world population. Yet we have managed to have 32.3% of all coronavirus cases and 26.7% of all coronavirus deaths on the planet. Even if all the illness and deaths in the  New York tri-state region are removed from the totals, the U.S. is still disproportionately sicker and possesses disproportionately more occupied body bags than any other nation. The math is right. The outcomes are not. (Ref: this post)

How has the richest country in the world, with first rate medical capabilities in healthcare delivery, research, development and the rest managed to perform like a failed nation with pitiful resources? That is the question that will be explored extensively over the next few years. If we are very lucky, the answers will give guidance for how to deal with the next pandemics, which are coming. If we can avoid our current self-defeating behavior, perhaps we’ll even follow that guidance.

Actually, we’ve done that. It happened following the Ebola epidemic ten years ago. President Obama established a standing group of 3 teams for the sole purpose of ensuring that we would be ready for the next pandemic. Wise move. Likely a life-saving move. But in his continuing quest to remove any trace of President Obama, President Trump disbanded those teams and fired all the team members he could.

So, the answer to the question about how we could be performing like a failed nation with pitiful resources is that we have a self-focused executive, devoid of the orientation and skills needed for leadership in a crisis. Everyone who is observing what’s going on knows it. We are left with little national leadership that is anything more than political posturing. Many of our state governments are similarly focused on political gain and they’re putting millions of Americans at greater risk in the process. It’s worse than no leadership at all, because it’s counter-productive.

I want to be wrong in my belief that this early “reopening” of our economy will produce a huge spike of illness with terrible consequences for us. I want to be wrong that the partisan cowardice driving these early “reopening” decisions is going to lead to a shortage of body bags very soon. I don’t think I’ll get my wish and be wrong.

Before the Civil War, escaped slaves would hide in safe houses along the Underground Railroad. They might spend a long time in a dirt hole beneath a cabin to avoid capture and there might be little or no food. Anne Frank spent 2 years in an unheated attic to avoid the Nazis. There are innumerable examples of people having to “hole up” for long periods of time, often in dreadful conditions, yet they did what they needed to do.

In contrast, we are being asked to stay at home with Netlix, home pizza delivery, video games, online school instruction and more. Honestly, it’s just a few inconveniences for most of us. We can wear our big boy and big girl pants a while longer.

On the other hand, for those who have lost their income and have no buffer, it’s a problem. A really big problem. Answer for yourself what you’d do to make sure your children don’t go hungry. You might be willing to risk your life working in a pork processing plant or a nursing home. Our federal and state governments have done a little to help these people, but no long term solution has been offered. That makes the future look particularly bleak for those hit hardest by our need to hunker down and many of the most pandemically dangerous places to work aren’t doing enough to provide protection for these workers.

Our government hasn’t figured out how to lead and deliver the healthcare protections we need, like extensive, universal testing, so:

  1. What are the chances the geniuses in DC can figure out how to keep our children fed?
  2. What are the chances they can figure out how we can stop being the world’s biggest pandemic loser?

——————————-

Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Sometimes I change my opinions because I’ve learned more about an issue. So, educate me. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections. Refreshing when someone wants to get the facts right, eh?
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

American Death Rates For Your Consideration


Reading time – 2:14  .  .  .

There continue to be comparisons made between the seasonal flu and COVID-19, with the apparent goal of decreasing our perception of the danger of this pandemic. After all, we suffer thousands of deaths every year from the seasonal flu and we don’t shut down the country. To put this into perspective, I did some research to compare various high body count episodes of our history, which resulted in the chart below. Decide for yourself what you should do in this pandemic.

Sources:

    • War stats: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_military_casualties_of_war
    • *CDC, as reported at https://www.health.com/condition/cold-flu-sinus/how-many-people-die-of-the-flu-every-year and
      https://www.statnews.com/2020/04/09/its-difficult-to-grasp-the-projected-deaths-from-covid-19-heres-how-they-compare-to-other-causes-of-death/
    • **With no social distancing, masks or other protective gear, testing or extensive use of disinfectants and hand washing.
    • #CDC at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-pandemic-h1n1.html

Some comments are in order.

  1. The war deaths per year are skewed because there were vastly different rates of deaths depending on the year. For example, for the first 7 or 8 years of the Vietnam War there were relatively few deaths, while there were many thousands per year following that. The same issue of variation applies to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
  2. Deaths from seasonal flu depend on the strain of influenza and other factors, so the number of annual deaths varies greatly.
  3. The total deaths from the 1918 Spanish Flu is a CDC estimate.
  4. The actual annual deaths per year from COVID-19 is yet to be determined because we’re only 3 months into the pandemic in the U.S. and only 4 months into the calendar year. Experts believe the rate of illness and death will decrease in the warmer months and may increase substantially in the coming fall and winter months. In other words, we may bend the curve in summer, but that won’t eliminate the threat. Consequently, the actual deaths per year may turn out to be substantially different from that shown. Or this calculated number of deaths per year might prove to be frightfully accurate.
  5. Not shown is the death rate, which is approximately 0.6% for seasonal flu and 6% for COVID-19. That is to say, 6 people of every 100 who contract COVID-19 will die. As more cases are identified due to expanded testing, that calculated rate will decrease due to the method used to determine the rate – simple division.
  6. Disease transmission rates were not found, so they are not included. However, the medical professionals have consistently said that COVID-19 transfers from human to human with remarkable and perilous efficiency.
  7. Many experts have said that the strongest predictors of both contracting and succumbing to COVID-19 are, 1. underlying or existing conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other infirmities, and, 2. a weakened immune system. A primary cause of a weakened immune system is lifestyle choices, including food choices, exercise, smoking, stress, etc. Translation: Make better lifestyle choices and you’ll have a much better chance of surviving this pandemic.
  8. For more on our COVID-19 testing efforts, have a look at this from STAT. Looks like we’ll be ramping up our testing capabilities soon to the point that we may have 1/3 to 1/2 of the capacity we need. Maybe.
  9. We Americans love to set records, so this should be a time of celebration, because we passed not one but two landmark numbers: 1. We now have over 1 million cases of COVID-19, and 2. We now have more Americans dead from COVID-19 than the number of names on the somber black granite Vietnam War Memorial on the Mall in DC. We’re number one.
  10. Leonard Pitts’ article, I Will Not Die of Stupid is a must-read. And if you like parodies, click here.

Like I said: Decide for yourself what you should do.

——————————-

Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so

    1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
    2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

    1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
    2. Sometimes I change my opinions because I’ve learned more about an issue. So, educate me. That’s what the Comments section is for.
    3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections. Refreshing when someone wants to get the facts right, eh?
    4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA

——————————-


Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Coronavirus For Dummies


Reading time – 3:41; Viewing time – 5:30  .  .  .

Imagine that in your town nobody has smoke detectors. The only way the fire department knows to come out and battle a fire is when they can see flames shooting through a roof. But when another house goes up in flames somewhere else in town and the flames are shooting through that roof, the firefighters have to divide their forces to battle the second blaze. Then houses catch fire on either side of both houses that were already aflame, because fire is very contagious. Then those fires spread to even more houses and the firefighters are soon stretched beyond their limits.

There was no early warning of any of these fires because there are no smoke detectors anywhere in the entire town. Yet with quick notice of a small fire from a smoke alarm in the kitchens of those first two houses, all those houses could have been saved. In fact, most would never have even become warm. Too bad nobody anticipated the obvious need and purchased and installed smoke detectors.

So it is with coronavirus. We don’t have the test kits, the immunological version of smoke detectors, so the fire of COVID-19 continues to spread, our people are falling victim to this deadly disease, we’re running out of places to store the body bags and our healthcare workers are stretched beyond their limits.

On April 16 Dr. Birx was once again on the president’s nightly circus sideshow and she smiled and happily told America that we have over a million test kits. Three days later on Meet The Press Vice President Pence proudly proclaimed that we have over 2 million test kits. But go to any hospital or doctor’s office and ask them if they have test kits for their patients and you’ll find out that they don’t have any or they have only a very few to ration for special circumstances.

Even if it’s true that we have two million test kits, they aren’t where they’re needed, and there are way too few of them to test sufficiently in order to protect 330,000,000 Americans. Indeed, in a report published last week by the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University they wrote,

“We estimate that steady-state testing levels that would permit replacing collective stay-at-home orders as the main tool for disease control with a testing—tracing-and-warning—supported-isolation, or TTSI, methodology will eventually need to reach a capacity to test 2 to 6% of the population per day, or between 5 and 20 million people per day.“[emphasis mine]

Please stop complaining about stay-at-home.

Simple math tells us that Vice President Pence’s proud declaration of our having 2 million test kits means that the total number of kits available in the entire country is enough to meet our national needs for between 2 – 9.6 hours. Then we’ll be out of testing capacity completely. We’ll be left solely with stay-at-home as our only prevention tool, except for those states where their governors refuse even that and, back to the metaphor, they instead encourage playing with matches.

You can read a most accessible review of the Harvard report here or download the full report here. The key point is the difference between what is actually needed in order to protect us and the pitiful efforts of our federal government.

The brother of a dear friend was in a memory care facility. He had some underlying health issues as well, so when he became infected with coronavirus, it only took a few days for him to waste away and then die alone. There had been no visitors allowed in the facility for weeks, so he must have been infected by a member of the staff. We may never learn who was carrying the virus that killed him because no tests were or are available to identify carriers, so the infecting goes on to yet others to become sick and perhaps to die.

So, I say with dripping, angry sarcasm, “Thanks a lot, Mr. President, for your intentional refusal to make coronavirus testing our national priority and available everywhere, rejecting the very thing all the experts have insisted for months was mandatory if we were to curb this pandemic. We might have been able short circuit the spread of this awful disease and spare my friend’s brother’s life had you done your job.”

Mixing metaphors, Russian roulette virus dodging is all we’re left with because of the failure of our national leadership. This has already sickened additional hundreds of thousands of Americans and killed more of us, infected by others who don’t know they’re carriers. But they would know if there were robust testing protocols in place. We would all be safer, but we aren’t safer.

This is what happens when those we count on to promote the welfare of all of us instead put on a daily circus sideshow, complete with monkeys in suits doing tricks and a magician spouting lies to distract us. This is what happens when a president abdicates his responsibilities to the American people in favor of blaming others and wailing about imagined grievances, most of which have nothing to do with our critical national need. This is what happens, back to the metaphor, as our houses burn to the ground and the president refuses to make smoke detectors available and even waits for weeks to send out the fire trucks, all this as my friend’s brother died alone.

——————————-

Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Sometimes I change my opinions because I’ve learned more about an issue. So, educate me. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections. Refreshing when someone wants to get the facts right, eh?
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Royal Leadership


Reading time – 2:53  .  .  .

It’s so difficult seeing the President of the United States bumbling us to death.

First he ignored the experts because, as in all things, he believes that he knows better than any of them. That caused two months of delay in taking action to minimize the spread and impact of this highly contagious and deadly disease. Then he lied to us over and over, claiming there is minimal risk from COVID-19, as though his words would make things so. Then he blew off our governors who knew they would be facing healthcare disasters in just a short time and he let us know that he would favor states and governors who had been “nice” to him. He made no mention of our sick and dying people. That’s Trump leadership.

Compare that to the leadership offered to the children of Britain during the darkest days of the Battle of Britain. Princess Elizabeth was 14 years old in 1940, when she provided a clear, caring radio message, offering understanding and hope to the children of those besieged islands. Listen to her here and imagine receiving her message in that world gone mad.

She is now 93-year-old Queen Elizabeth, the same person who spoke to and comforted children back in that awful time. On Sunday she was once again called upon to bring her calm resolve to offer reassurance and hope to all the world, a place that has once again gone mad. Listen to her here and imagine you’re a front line healthcare worker or you’re quarantined at home as a loved one lies on a gurney in the hallway of a vastly overcrowded hospital ER. This is what you need to hear. This is what great leadership looks and sounds like.


One of the most difficult parts of this pandemic is a sense of helplessness; it feels like there’s nothing we can do to make things better. Sitting passively in our homes is frustrating, in part because we are human beings, so we are wired to solve problems, to fix what’s broken. So, if there weren’t enough anxiety already driven by this life threatening disease, our anxiety is amped up by seeing no way to contribute to a solution. But there are things we can do.

Many people are sewing face masks. Just try to buy 1/4″ elastic and you’ll find it out of stock everywhere because so many people have purchased it to make masks at home to donate to our heroes who risk their lives for us. And yes, that includes the healthcare workers, as well as the cleaning and maintenance workers in the hospitals and clinics. And it includes workers in the grocery stores who keep showing up so you can get food – and yes, TP, also. And it includes the people who deliver your online purchases so you don’t have to go out and risk exposure. Some people have figured out ways to construct full face shields and are delivering them to hospitals by the thousands. And there are more ways to help.

Contact the Red Cross and make an appointment to donate blood. They will soon be desperate for it, so let’s head that off at the pass. The earliest I could get an appointment to donate was April 26. I’ll be  there and I’ll be looking for you to lend the inside of your elbow, too.

——————————-

Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Sometimes I change my opinions because I’ve learned more about an issue. So, educate me. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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