America’s Different Epidemics

When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in America, we already had different views of the global event in our public consciousness. As it has spread, those views have multiplied. We have different views based upon regions, income levels, data sets, and whether or not we subscribe to a science-blind political ideology.

Regionally, the pandemic has hit urban areas the hardest. To the people of the major US cities, COVID-19 means overwhelmed hospitals, compromised police, fire, and emergency medical staff, and deeply-felt questions about a federal government that has so far been unresponsive to their pleas. In the cities, it is hardest to maintain the necessary distance required to keep the disease from spreading. The cities are also where the fight against the disease is the hardest, where self-protection measures are strictest and where we see the greatest benefit from those measures.

In rural areas, distancing is already part of the lifestyle. They have questioned the need for a government order to mandate pretty much what they’re already doing. Except… they’re not doing it, not completely. There’s enough contact going on in rural areas to where the disease spreads steadily. Not as rapidly as in the cities, but steadily. Given rural areas’ resistance to being ordered to shelter in place, I’d expect the spread in the countryside to persist longer and to peak higher than in the cities.

The urban/rural divide is further colored by how a governor or mayor may or may not be an ardent supporter of President Trump. Those who are least supportive of Trump are most likely to enact comprehensive measures. As support for Trump increases in a government official, so multiply the loopholes in the comprehensive measures, so increases the slowness in applying measures, and so increases the likelihood that the official not only refuse to apply measures, but may even overrule other officials and mandate that no restrictions be in place. This means that we have a range of pandemics from those experienced in the non-ardent urban areas, the ardent urban areas, the non-ardent rural areas, and the ardent rural areas. While most non-ardent officials are in urban areas and most ardent ones are rural, there are exceptions to those rules. Ardency itself is on a spectrum, but these four major divisions will suffice. Expect the ardent, rural areas to be where the disease lingers longest and where it can hide from view, only to strike again as immunity fades in the general population.

Economically, it is the nation’s poor who suffer the highest infection rates and the highest fatality rates, with Blacks and Hispanics suffering the most among the poor. When politicians such as Texas’ Lt. Governor Dan Patrick – white and rich – exclaimed his willingness to die for the economy in order to justify not placing any restrictions on Texas’ population, he was actually pushing the poor of all ages in front of him. Of course, the poor Blacks and Hispanics of Texas were the vanguard of Mr. Patrick’s meatshield. With his access to not just emergency but life-long health care, Mr. Patrick was in good shape to face COVID-19. He was not volunteering himself, but his state’s poor as an offering to the economy.

So there is an epidemic for the cities, there is an epidemic for the countryside, there is an epidemic for those who live under an ardent Trump supporter, there is an epidemic for those who do not, there is an epidemic for the rich, and there is an epidemic for the poor. Now to look at the epidemics’ portrayal in data.

There are states that have had a high rate of testing of their populations, levels on par with testing heroes South Korea and Japan. There are states that seem to throw up obstacles to testing, for whatever reason that such a strategy may serve. The declared rates of infection in each state are a function of that state’s own definition. With no federally-accepted standard, we do not know the reach of the epidemic in regions where the local or state government prefers such questions not be asked – suppression of uncomfortable information prior to its gathering.

But we also have states where there is a high rate of testing and where the local health care system has also been overwhelmed. At that point, the health care system simply cannot spare the time required to test every patient for COVID-19, and where they certainly have no time to spare for the testing of the dead. And so, the spread of the infection is under-counted in those places. The fatalities are under-counted, as well. We have what numbers we have for the moment, but we also have to know where the numbers are weak in reporting the full view.

At the end of the day, it may not be until the full analysis of vital statistics data for 2020 is completed in 2022 and we can compare the year-on-year increase in mortality between 2019 and 2020 to get an idea about how severe the epidemic has been. How many more patients die of causes attributed to pneumonia, but for whom a COVID-19 test was not administered postmortem? How many cancer patients succumb not to COVID-19, but to the cancers, after being weakened by COVID-19? The same question, this time for those with heart disease, diabetes, kidney problems, or other “underlying health conditions”, as we euphemistically lump them all together? How many will be answered in two years’ time, which will be yet another view of the pandemic.

The remaining views belong to the rational on one hand and the science-blind ideologues who are made up of President Trump and his most ardent supporters on the other. Granted, these are two opposing views with many grades in between, but they serve as anchors of the continuum. I use the adjective “science-blind” advisedly. In many cases, the ardent Trumpists are outright hostile to science, as well as reality. The reason has to do with their ideological stance.

Political beliefs are one thing: they color how we view facts, but we still view the same facts as those of opposing political beliefs. One may see an economically-underdeveloped area and decide the solution is to have federal or state funds boost commerce there. Another may see the same economic underdevelopment and argue instead for a suspension of government regulations to allow commerce to flourish. The argument there is not whether or not the area is economically underdeveloped. The argument is how best to improve the area, and the solution may very well wind up being a combination of the two factors. In this case, the solution to the problem is more important than *how* the problem was solved.

But with a political ideology, facts and solutions take second place to the rightfulness of the ideology and the wrongness of anything that competes with it in the public mindspace. To the ideological Nazis, the Will of the German people could have pensioners with rocket grenades defeat armored divisions. To the ideological Stalinists, corn could be made to grow in the frozen wastes of Siberia, provided it was planted with socialist ardor often enough – it would figure out on its own how to take root in permafrost. To the ideological Maoists, steel production could be increased dramatically by melting down iron tools and cookware in backyard forges that produced nothing more than slag. To the ideological Khmer Rouges, Cambodia could be purified by murdering anyone with glasses, soft hands, or knowledge of the French language. This list is long – the Juche philosophy of North Korea, the Baathist ideology of Iraq and Syria, the hardline beliefs of the Iranian Revolution, and so on.

Finally, we come to the Trumpists, whose ideology allows them to stare at two photographs of the same place and state unflinchingly that the one with fewer people in it is actually the one with more people in it. When President Trump stared directly into the sun, his ardent supporter Tucker Carlson of Fox News called it “the most impressive thing a president has ever done” in spite of the fact that scientists globally throughout generations have warned us to never, ever look directly at the sun. The Trumpist ideology places prime importance on their leaders being in power in order to do two things: eradicate legal abortions and to obstruct any limitation of Americans’ ownership of arms. If those leaders stare at the sun like fools – or promote white supremacist groups and their policies – it is of no consequence. The Trumpists do not elect leaders to be sane or sensible or to care about facts. They are elected to eradicate abortion and to obstruct limitations on access to arms. Whatever else they do, the Trumpists either care not or actively support, as in the case of promoting white supremacist movements.

If there is any fact that threatens to unseat their leaders from their abortion-banning, weapon-loving bully pulpits, then the Trumpist will lie, cheat, and shout it down. This is why the photograph with fewer people actually has more in it. This is why staring into the sun is impressive. This is why they refuse to admit that their ranks are shot through with white supremacists, antisemites, and authoritarians. That is why they are proud to the point of public boasting to disobey any law they do not like, but scream in powerful fervor when others debate the wisdom of the laws they wish to impose on others.

And this is why the COVID-19 pandemic is such a threat to them: it threatens to add so much calumny to the pile already accrued by Donald Trump and his most fervent followers so as to make it nearly impossible for them to repeat their hair’s breadth win of 2016. The pandemic threatens to display Trump and his ardent followers for what they are – incompetent, science-blind, and unable to actually govern. Therefore, the pandemic was at first belittled. Then it was completely dealt with via a ban on Chinese travel. Then it was a conspiracy of some Chinese or American Deep State cabal. Then it was not worth shutting down the economy for. Now, Trump and his ardent supporters have the ghoulish chutzpah to claim that, should the USA have *only* 100,000 deaths, that it would be a good thing.

Already, as I write this, the USA has the 11th greatest per-capita loss of life among major nations. With 12,805 deaths out of roughly 330 million people, the USA has 39 known and recorded COVID-19 deaths per 1 million population. Yes, this is much less than Spain’s 300 per 1 million, but I expect the nation to bypass Ireland’s 43, Iran’s 46, and quite possibly most of the others. If we *do* arrive at only 100,000 deaths, that would be a mortality rate in excess of Spain’s 300 per 1 million, and Spain is considered one of the worst of the worst-hit nations.

Trump is presiding over what may be the worst response to COVID-19, and his abject failure as a leader in that capacity threatens the Trumpist agenda’s twin policy pillars. And this is why none of the other ways of viewing the pandemic have any meaning to them. The only way they can see it is through a blindfold.

Market Failure

In Economics, “Market Failure” is a term that refers to when the free market isn’t able to provide a proper allocation of resources necessary to resolve a problem. Neoliberal economists say that there’s no such thing, that a proper market, without government interference, can solve any issue of resource allocation. I disagree. Neoliberal economists are great for when there are no disasters, but their models fail the instant the expected rain turns out to be a hurricane. Or a blizzard. Or a tornado spawns. Or an earthquake hits. Or a war is declared. Or a pandemic enters the scene.

I am living through a pandemic right now. I assume that most of my readers are contemporary and are living through it, as well. We are all witness to how governments’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have fallen into one of several categories:

  1. Quick response, firm response – nations like South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore had experience from SARS and MERS and knew what to do. As soon as the reports started to trickle out of China in January about a possible new coronavirus outbreak, they got their plans together.
  2. Slow response, firm response – Germany did not react as quickly as the nations cited above. As a consequence, the number of per-capita cases in Germany is much higher than in the nations cited above. But because the Germans had a firm response to the pandemic, they have been able to keep the fatality rate remarkably low, relative to other nations that responded late.
  3. Slow response, lax response – Italy was the first, but the USA (so far) is the worst. Both high case numbers as well as high fatality rates, this clearly wasn’t the right way to go.

So, what were factors in the USA’s response being incoherent and uncoordinated? Alas, there are many, including those stemming from a leadership focused more on its own status and media perception than on the actual pandemic, as well as those that originated about that same leadership encouraging talking points that downplayed the severity of the pandemic or which promoted unproven claims of various stripes – all to distract from the failures of that leadership. In a full report on the failure of the USA to deal as appropriately with COVID-19 as did South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore – or even Germany – those reasons must be explored in greater detail. For this article, I want to focus on the market failures.

As it became clear that we were entering into a public health emergency, stocks of personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, gowns, gloves, and eye protection, began to move sharply up in price. In a pure market, this is to be expected. Demand for the widget is higher and supply is at present inelastic, so the price of the widget must go up. Simple exercise, time to move on to the next textbook section… except, in this case, the widget is needed to save lives and the limits on production of said widgets means that the producers can engage in competition against the customers, in this case, the states and their hospitals.

Competition against a customer is when the makers of a product all raise their prices, one after the other. They need not communicate such a plan in so many words. That would be illegal collusion if they did. Rather, all one has to do is raise prices and the others follow that “price leadership” to match. The customer has nowhere else to turn and has to pay a profiteer’s premium in order to purchase that good. Competition against customers also takes the form of a bidding war. In that, a producer doesn’t treat each transaction as contractually binding, but makes a deal with one state that is conditional that no other state offers a higher price. When a higher price is offered, the original deal is off the table. When the federal government shows up to bid, it invariably offers the highest price and the states are left in a quandry. Not only do they not have their desired goods, but the market-clearing price is now magnitudes above what it once was.

So far, the federal government has yet to truly put the provisions of the Defense Provisioning Act (DPA) into motion in order to provide for more PPE at cheaper, fixed prices to the state and federal buyers. The federal government has also not been transparent about how it plans to use its stockpile – but that is for another, more in-depth analysis of the USA’s failures in responding to COVID-19. The DPA exists precisely for conditions such as we are experiencing, where price leadership and bidding wars are driving up prices for scarce goods. We could have a federal response that dictates a fixed price and that also instructs manufacturers of PPE to expand capacity.

Had the DPA been invoked in January – right around the time we could all sense this was going to be a huge thing – capacity would be expanded as of now and we would not be dealing with PPE shortages of the sort we see now. We see far too many cases of medical professionals unable to procure their own PPE, let alone get it issued from their hospital, so they have to make do with second-rate supplies that go against all best practices for proper use and disposal. This places their lives in needless jeopardy and, by extension, the lives of their patients.

The next market failure is the matter of the USA’s health system being dependent upon employer-provided private insurance, with zero transparency or consistency regarding pricing. While the President has declared that certain areas of care will be either covered by insurers or paid for by the federal government, we have only those declarations and no actual, actionable law or executive order to point to as a reference when dealing with insurance companies. Consequently, as a matter of corporate survival in a pandemic, insurance companies are invoking every loophole possible in a rearguard action to avoid breaking themselves over COVID-19 claims.

At which point, we must all ask, why do we have health insurance companies in the first place if they’re unable to properly lay out in times of catastrophe? We’re depending upon them to pay the bills – that’s why we pay our premiums – but if they up sticks and disappear when things are really, REALLY bad, then what use are they?

Given that many insurance companies already have a massive deductible and next to zero coverage only underlines my question – what use are they? The properly-funded public health systems in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, and Germany provided and continue to provide life-saving care for all their citizens. Meanwhile, the morgues and even cemeteries are overwhelmed in New York City, where some of America’s finest hospitals are overwhelmed. And, at those overwhelmed hospitals, there are patients who are going to be told that the care they thought was going to be 100% covered actually won’t be covered to that extent… and they will be looking at bankruptcy-inducing expenses as a consequence.

Maybe a policy here requires two positive test results to confirm COVID-19 and a patient received only one or none and was a presumed COVID-19 patient. Maybe the patient died before being tested and the cause of death was just “pneumonia” and not actually connected to COVID-19. Maybe the treatment specific to COVID-19 is covered, but not the ambulance, anesthesia, X-ray or other imaging analysis, or the final care arrangements. There are all kinds of ways to think of loopholes, and I’m sure the experts have already come up with others.

Back to the employer-provided insurance. What of the mounting wave of unemployed Americans? While possibly a huge save for insurance companies that no longer have to pay out for people they *used* to cover, who pays for the care they receive? Do they even go in to get tested or treated, out of fear over how much it will cost? Maybe something comes along to guarantee the federal payment for COVID-19 treatments other than the words of a pathological liar, but until then, there’s nothing to promise a free treatment for COVID-19 victims that don’t have insurance. And even with that federal guarantee, should it materialize, what happens when a person is brought to the emergency room for trouble breathing, but it’s only common-or-garden emphysema? We’re back to the bankruptcy gamble.

We can’t even post a price list for treatments because such a list does not exist. That’s why it’s a bankruptcy gamble. What if you have COVID-19, your insurer promises to cover it 100%, and you go to an in-network hospital and see an in-network physician? So far, so good. Now enter a specialist who assists that physician who’s not in-network. All bets are off, now, and it’s likely this patient is going to pay dearly for the fact that nobody knows exactly what combination of specialists is going to be in-network or out.

The President and his most ardent supporters have made much noise about “getting America back to work again.” Their fears are real – if Americans can’t pay the rent, then they go bankrupt when they can’t service their loans that depend upon those rent payments. But sick Americans can’t work and dead Americans can’t pay the rent, so they’re really unable to get America back to work again in the midst of a pandemic and come out all right. Without some sort of government fiat ruling, they face the market’s failure to accommodate some slack for times of extreme duress. On a side note, bankrupt Americans also don’t pay the rent and are more likely to try and fight out their squatters’ rights in costly court proceedings, so maybe those ardent supporters might want to take a look at actually fixing the health care system and not breaking out in a rash whenever the topic comes up. But a president empowered with the DPA can also take it upon the nation’s best interests to suspend loans, mortgages, and rents for the duration of the crisis. Other nations have done so, but the USA lacks a leader with the fortitude or foresight to enact such a policy – and the banking system hangs all the more precariously without such a policy to support it.

The markets have failed. PPE, health coverage, and rents/mortgages/loans are all in a quandry in the USA and the President and his most ardent supporters have failed to address these issues in a timely or realistic fashion. There have been multiple calls to address the issues from a very early date, but the President and his most ardent supporters rejected those calls. Because of the failures of the President and his most ardent supporters, the USA faces a disproportionate toll in terms of persons infected with COVID-19, with persons who died because of COVID-19, and with economic impact from the COVID-19 outbreak.

Five Ways to Improve Your IT Staff – And Security

The USA unemployment news today is twice as grim as it was last week: 6.6 million more unemployed, bringing unemployment to 9.9% in just two weeks. More hard numbers are coming, and that means all businesses need to revisit their HR standards.

Do NOT Mind the Gapjobs have been lost through no fault of the employees, or even the firms they’ve worked for. When you see that the last job worked ended around the time the pandemic hit hard, don’t ask about it. Don’t worry about it, either.

This means also making sure the algorithms used to find resumes are tuned to not look for employment gaps. If you ask me, the best algorithms are real people looking at real applications and making reasonable decisions to arrange interviews based on common sense. When algorithms sort through resumes, they have blinders on. They can’t see what certifications are equivalent to the ones they’re told to look for. They don’t know what lines of work are very close to the experience desired. Humans can figure out that stuff. And if you think I’m encouraging the use of people and the discontinuation of automated job boards, you’re absolutely right. If you’ve got jobs that have gone unfilled for months with automated resume screeners, it’s time to go back to the humans again.

Keep Your Friends Close, and Keep Your IT Closer: When we have staff that’s worked somewhere for years, they know things that only people who worked there for years would know. No outsourcer can match that. If you treat those IT workers with respect and consideration, you’ll keep that knowledge and expertise in your firm. That’s not just good for productivity, it’s good for security. They will know where the holes are and which ones are most important to patch up and repair. If they have a long-term stake in your firm, they’ll be ready to point out what needs work, and they won’t try to charge you extra for items not on the SoW.

Contractors CAN Become FTEs: If you have a rule against hiring contractors for full-time positions, written or unwritten, get rid of that rule. With the massive layoffs, lots of IT people may have to pick up a contract here or there to make ends meet while they search for their next FTE role. Lots of contractors have been trapped by senseless no-contractor rules that would be excellent assets as FTEs in your firm. And those excellent assets are going to be on top of things which brings us back to security. It’s much better to have a security role filled by a former contractor than to have that role unfilled because of a, frankly, nonsense rule.

No Experience Means NEW Experience: If someone has a general IT background and is interested in a security role, don’t shy away. If you’re about to take on a new project with a new technology, that candidate knows as much about the new technology as everyone else in your firm: that is to say, nothing. They’re going to learn just like everyone else would, so why not let that person start there? That person with no security experience is a good choice for getting some new experience.

Training Is Compensation, Not an ExpenseIT pros *want* training. When your firm cuts the training budget, that’s like cutting their salaries. When your firm promises one course per year, that’s a great thing. But if a person asks for a week off to take the course and gets told to maybe consider doing online learning on their own time, that’s a beatdown. I know we have to consider remote learning options during the pandemic, but a live teacher is so much better for interaction than a recorded training film. Keep them in vendor courses and general courses – and there’s lots of security training out there – and you’ll keep your IT pros not only happy where they are, but eagerly soliciting their contacts to apply for openings at your firm when they open up.

The world is changing around us. Make sure your employee hiring and retention policies change with the world.

Some Working with Numbers…

Some work with numbers to prove why it’s a very good idea to wash hands and to keep a goodly distance from others… It starts out grim, with fatality statistics, but we can nevertheless find some hope in those numbers, so do bear with me.


CDC data for 2017 shows there were 2,813,503 deaths in the USA that year. The top ten causes were:

Heart disease: 647,457
Cancer: 599,108
Accidents (unintentional injuries): 169,936
Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 160,201
Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 146,383
Alzheimer’s disease: 121,404
Diabetes: 83,564
Influenza and pneumonia: 55,672
Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 50,633
Intentional self-harm (suicide): 47,173
A comment on “Influenza and pneumonia”. That’s a heavy emphasis on “and pneumonia”. When we look at the breakout of those numbers, just less than a fifth are influenza – about 10,500. The rest are “and pneumonia.” So when we talk about influenza’s mortality, it needs to be decoupled from “and pneumonia” to get a truer sense of influenza’s mortality.


Now take the number of deaths and divide by 365, one gets 7708. That’s about how many deaths per day we have normally in the USA. We had an additional 1000+ yesterday, a 13% increase over the normal rate.


When we divide 100,000 by 2,813,503, we get 0.0355, or 3.55%. That means, every 100,000 deaths is an increase of our annual mortality rate by 3.55%. Put another way, every 28,135 deaths is an increase in the USA’s annual mortality rate by 1%.


So, with a little back-of-the-hand math, a low-end death toll of 100,000 would make COVID-19 the 7th leading cause of death in the USA, ahead of diabetes. 200,000 COVID-19 fatalities would make it the 3rd leading cause of death in the USA. You can see a pretty close cluster between 3rd and 6th place, but it’s a big gap to reach cancer and heart disease. That being said, it’s not impossible if we don’t, all of us, take this pandemic seriously. Death tolls of 1-2,000,000 are possible if we do not wash hands constantly and keep our distance from others of at least 6ft / 2m.


Around 1,340,000 American soldiers died in combat, accident, or disease in all of our nation’s wars and conflicts. If we wash and distance, we need not face down that awful milestone.
We want to take pains to avoid being in the statistics for heart disease and cancers – we diet, we exercise, we change what we do to beat those diseases. It’s the same with COVID-19: change what you do, and you beat that disease. Don’t change, and you risk becoming a sad part of a larger statistic. The good news is that you *can* change.


Finally, remember that if you’re reading about these numbers, look at them as golf scores – we have to play this out over many days, weeks, and months, but if we come out with a low score, we do all right. Stay indoors, and you’ll come out all right, most likely.


I’ll close with a quote from Mel Brooks:”Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. Life is a play, and we’re unrehearsed!” Don’t feel bad if this caught you flat-footed. You’re reading this, so you can take control of your own health and breathing, even if other things are spinning around you. You can own this, you can command this aspect of your life.


Now I’ll really close with a quote from Mel Brooks’ good friend Carl Reiner: “I read the obituaries every morning. If I’m not in them, I have breakfast!”

Municipal Bonds – Underlying Weakness

I want to call attention to the shakiness in municipal bond markets. Cities are having trouble meeting budgets due to unanticipated revenue losses while having to expand essential services – overtime pay for police, fire, and medical workers. Higher costs and less revenue mean wider budget gaps. Even with laying off other workers – which itself puts a burden on state unemployment systems, more on those later – city governments have to borrow money to stay operational.

Enter the current financial crash. Cities have to spike up their yields in order to meet investor demands for return on risk. Interest rates are moving into “expected default” territory for municipalities, where investors hope to recoup their invested capital and a small return through high interest rates before the borrower defaults.

Mutual funds have already dropped over $10 billion in muni bond investments, and that continues to increase.

The Fed can intervene to buy short-term muni bonds, but cannot buy long-term bonds. It would need legislation passed in Congress and signed by the President to get that ability.

But the Fed may have to also move soon to aid the states. Recall my reference to unemployment. States are looking to lay off employees in order to have enough money to pay unemployment claims… and there is also the issue with unemployment insurance funds’ solvency. 22 states are below Department of Labor recommended funding levels – and big states like New York, California, Texas, Illinois, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania are all below that recommended minimum. TX, NY, and CA are the three lowest in their ratios.

With 3.3 million unemployed last week and another big number expected this week, even properly solvent funds will be strained. The Fed will have to step in to provide liquidity for states to meet those unemployment insurance demands, as those are not discretionary spending items.

As I mentioned before, getting out of a financial crisis requires increasing national debt by a very large amount. The $2 trillion package is only the start – expect about $15-21 trillion more. And then the question to follow on to that is this – will the Fed get enough solvency itself to cover the state budgets? If not, I’d expect high inflation as a means of balancing the books. Would that be fair? Of course not. Would it be necessary to prevent a national bankruptcy? That’s very much a possibility.

Save Lives, Not Costs: A Christian Philosophy

I am heartened by leaders who talk about saving lives, regardless of cost.

I am dismayed by leaders who talk about saving costs, regardless of lives.

Christ taught that one cannot serve both God and mammon. Serving God means loving my neighbor as myself, healing the sick, and caring for the poor and needy. Serving mammon means putting matters of money and finance ahead of other concerns.

This is why I am dismayed by the leadership from President Trump and leading Republicans. Yes, they want to save lives. But they want to save hedge funds, stock dividends, and corporate earnings first. I will pass over their too-comfortable association with white supremacists and major polluters. I will pass over profiteering from tragedy. I will pass over separating children from parents in cruel applications of the law. When leaders speak of sacrificing the people to prop up the economy – and it is the poor people, the needy people who are sacrificed, not the rich, make no mistake there – they show that though they may draw near to God with their lips, they are far from Him in heart. They do not serve God. Their master is mammon, and their judgment awaits. They will have the world with all its power and fortune, but they lose their eternal lives in the transaction.

Know that there are a few Democrats who shame themselves with service to mammon and a few Republicans doing God’s work in saving lives without concern for the costs. But when considered as a whole, it is the Republican Party whose leadership on local, state, and national levels that has been brutal in its willingness to sacrifice the poor to save the rich. Shame on them for such practices and shame on any American who supports them.

So ends my Jeremiad. And, like Jeremiah, I expect that the targets of my criticism will denounce me and say that it is sinful to criticize the leaders of this proud nation, that they are doing nothing wrong, or not much wrong. Jeremiah had the destruction of Jerusalem as his justification and I fully expect the United States to have one of the highest per capita mortality rates from this pandemic as my justification. These are not happy things – would that men would change so that these things need not be the future.

I wish all good health and that your sorrows be swallowed up in joy. May we all ask of our leaders to remember that lives are more important than monies.

Life As I Know It

Life as I know it involves a number of complex bodily systems working together to provide a homeostasis. It involves joy and anguish, good times and bad. It involves the greedy affecting me and my family and friends with the consequences of their greed, and it involves the blessings of encounters with the kind, considerate, and compassionate.

Life as I know it continues as before. The furniture or schedule may be rearranged, but my complex bodily systems continue to provide homeostasis, allowing me to continue to experience the full range of life experiences. If I go to a war zone, I will keep my head down so that the snipers don’t shoot me. If I live where there is a pandemic, I keep my distance, so that the virus doesn’t infect me.

Let us be realistic: a cure will be found, a vaccine will be developed. A distribution method will be employed, people will get the vaccine – and people will refuse to be vaccinated, such is our world. That is at some point in the future. Until then, if we keep our physical distance, we do not become a link of disease transmission between the infected and the currently uninfected. We do not become the infected ourselves. The overall fatality rate is around 2-3%, but we know it is much higher for people whose complex biological systems have been weakened by cancers, diabetes, rheumatism, or other diseases and disorders… or the wear of age.

We also know that, in addition to the fatal cases, there are disease victims who face long-term symptoms as a result of their encounter with the disease. Most frequent is a permanent respiratory system problem. The disease passes, but the symptom does not for another 5-10% of victims.

We have questions about whether or not a person who survives an infection will be immune to a second infection or, if there is immunity, how long it lasts. We have questions if there is already a cure at hand – the answer there is simple, no. There is no vaccine.

Is there a drug already among us that will successfully control the symptoms? That is a dangerous question, as it presumes we would also know the correct dosage and timetable for the administration of that drug. Getting the correct compound to the correct patient at the correct time is the science of pharmacology. Do not second-guess it, especially if you haven’t been trained in that field. Until there is a properly-researched treatment, keep your head down where there are snipers and your distance where there are viruses.

If you are still reading this, your complex biological systems are providing you with homeostasis, and you experience both the storm and the calm: life as you know it continues as it always has thus far.

Getting Good Information About the Recent Pandemic

Is it safe to use ibuprofen to treat a fever? Is it safe to use marijuana during this outbreak? These are just some of the questions going around and we should all know how to find answers for them. There’s conflicting information from various sources, so we all have to learn how to hit multiple sources to see what’s going on. Right now, studies are going to be limited due to the recent nature of the outbreak. That being said, health professionals globally are going to share ideas with each other and some of that chatter may spill over into the media reports – and not all reporters know how to report science.

What we *do* know is that anything that stresses the lungs will leave a person more susceptible to damage from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. Right there are two good keywords to use in searches. Everyone’s calling it “coronavirus” in the popular media, while scientific communities are using SARS-CoV-2 to identify the virus and COVID-19 to identify the disease. Using those keywords gives a better shot at getting quality results.

Next, when we see the site providing the information, examine the website itself to evaluate its accuracy of information. Local news stations, those are good for reporting things like what’s open and what’s closed and how many people locally are in the hospital, but not much more. National news outlets will have a higher degree of accuracy, but can still get a few things wrong. Websites with a strong political bias may be victim to Russian trolling – yes, the Russians are taking rumors and amplifying them on various websites that are much more political than they are scientific – so disregard those entirely as providers of scientific information. Entirely. Their information may actually prove harmful, which is why I say to disregard them entirely.

Websites affiliated with medical institutions, particularly medical research, will have the best quality information. Learn how to read their information carefully and patiently, as the more technical sites will use specialized terms and expressions to convey meanings. The specialized definitions themselves are not hard to learn – but they must be learned, so part of your reading of specialized articles will involve looking up words you don’t quite understand. Once you get the meanings, though, you’re able to better understand the next article.

As regards ibuprofen, the WHO has walked back an earlier statement cautioning against using that drug as a fever suppressant. That’s another thing to mind – conditions can change, so we need to be ready to change with them.

For marijuana use, the cautions are as regards to impact on the respiratory system and any activity that involves communal sharing of drugs or their delivery apparatus.

What about other questions? I just apply the above methodology to get the answers. In particular, I use those keywords SARS-CoV-19 and COVID-19 to deliver better results in my searches.