Get Schwifty

The 110 Harbor Freeway toward central Los Angeles on Friday.

Journaling the Coronavirus, Sunday April 5th: Where have you gone, Joe DiBillionaires? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you, woo woo woo.

It’s raining today, literally and figuratively.  Whenever it rains I think of Simon & Garfunkel songs, I’m not sure why – today it’s Mrs. Robinson, the woman in the movie The Graduate (a movie I hated) whose husband correctly predicts plastics are the future of capitalism. I read there has been a 50% reduction in pollution and it’s certainly believable when you look at pictures of places like Los Angeles and China where we’ve come to expect smog as part of the landscape, and can now see what we’ve been missing. I wonder if it is too soon for the oceans to be measurably less choked with plastic.

At the grocery store, people stood in long lines before the doors opened for the morning, getting soaked. And the bad news is pouring down.

Everything I know about statistical curves assures me, the US is approaching its first peak  – of new cases, hospitalizations, deaths – in the next seven days.  Already in New York they are transferring bodies to temporary morgues by the truckload. What a dystopian task for those workers. A field hospital –  the same one used to treat Ebola patients in Liberia, to care for victims of earthquake in Ecuador, to treat shrapnel wounds of children in war-torn Iraq, places the president has referred to as shithole countries, one and all –  now sits in the middle of Manhattan. FEMA has just ordered another 100,000 body bags.

The British government reported a new national record of 708 deaths for a 24-hour period. Queen Elizabeth will make a special broadcast tonight, one of just a handful of televised addresses in her lifetime. I bet she’s thinking of the broadcast she gave in 1940, then a young woman of 14, during World War II, as Britain’s children were evacuated from the city. How surprised she must be to find herself in this time and place, eight decades later.

In the name of combating the coronavirus, the Hungarian Parliament gave Prime Minister Viktor Orban the right to rule indefinitely by decree. In the name of that’ll-teach-you-not-to-be-disloyal, President Trump  fired the intelligence community’s inspector general, when questioned by reporters he launched into what can only be called a diatribe against the IG that contained a few words repeated many times:  whistleblower, fake, hoax, impeachment, sue his ass off.

“Where is the informer? Maybe Schiff was the informer, he’ a corrupt guy, a corrupt politician.”

get schwiftyIn an interesting example of word association – something Sigmund Freud believed offered insight into peoples’ personalities – President Trump seems to think he can convince us that Adam Schiff is shifty because that’s what his name sounds like to President Trump. He is totally unaware that the rest of us are Rick and Morty fans and to us, the name Schiff is reminiscent of Schwifty, the song that mad scientist Rick summons in desperation to save the world from a gross, clownish, reality-tv-watching alien intelligence that is considering, on a whim, to destroy Earth.  Now that I think of it, it’s not a bad idea to make sure ol’ Adam knows the words to the “Get Schwifty” song, in case he’s called upon to do the same with some gross, clownish, reality-tv-watching alien with a similar whim for Earth’s total destruction.

In Texas this weekend two nursing homes report 150 residents and staff infected, which tells you what a colossally horrible job we are doing as a nation following – even knowing – the right procedures to protect our most vulnerable, even with three months of warnings and data learnings from countries that underwent the crisis earlier.  Never has America seemed more discombobulated, incompetent and frankly ridiculous. We have so many billionaires and millionaires, the thinking went – they can fix whatever government can’t, so keep government small and keep making billionaires!  Where have you gone, Joe DiBillionaires, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you, woo woo woo.

At the Oakland zoo, the zookeepers report animals are missing seeing people, in particular the chimps. The zoo has enough reserves to care for the animals through the summer, but what then?  In a world where giraffes are going extinct, if we end up euthanizing some of the precious few remaining because the corrupt clowns in this incompetent administration couldn’t do their jobs…well, I don’t know what I will do, but it will be something, and chances are if you are reading this I’ll ask you to join.

In other news, what might be the greatest statement of optimism ever was uttered by a Dr. Byrne when Uranus blasted a gas bubble 22,000 time the size of Earth, causing him to excitedly assert “This discovery provides yet another reason for blasting off a dedicated mission to Uranus.” Gas bubbles from Uranus is the kind of phrase that would have sent me into gales of immature laughter for weeks, as a kid. Today all I can think is, blasting off from Earth doesn’t sound half bad.

Another bananas press briefing
At yesterday’s presser everyone was practicing social distancing for the first time, spread across the stage like an aging 80s band dropping its reunion album and inexplicably dressed by Ann Taylor and The Men’s Warehouse.  Main takeaways:

  1. The CDC says wear a mask but President Trump says he won’t. In the city of Laredo, Texas, that will earn him a fine, except of course he’d say he’s exempt from the fine because he feels fine, masks are for the sick, and the president is not sick, he’s in fine fettle, firing his enemies and joking about sleeping with models.
  2. Chloroquine isn’t proven to be effective but the president says he’s going to take it and may be ordering millions of doses from India remarking “What do you have to lose? Take it. I really think they should take it.”  The doctors in the room stand silently by, their faces impassive.
  3. Dr. Birx reminds us we’re now in the midst of a presidentially recommended “30 Days To Slow The Spread”. Immediately after, the president warns the virus death toll will reach its highest in the next two weeks, then also says he’d like to see social distancing relaxed for Easter Sunday services.
  4. Dr. Fauci appears in interviews around the nation saying he prefers a nationwide mandate to shelter in place; at his presser, President Trump says he’s more comfortable letting the states handle it. 

“Hydroxychloroquine. Try it. If you’d like.”   ~President Snake Oil Salesman

How long will this last?
Unofficially, this is all over in August, according to the President. “I want fans back in the arenas as soon as possible.I can’t tell you a date, but it’s going to be sooner rather than later. It would be great if it was August.” Which seems a pretty good bet, based on President Tump’s reassurances that the Republican convention scheduled for the week of August 24th is still a go.

“We have no contingency. We’re having the convention.”

The president says the cure cannot be worse than the disease. I agree the cure must be much much better than the disease, the cure has to go much much farther than getting back to the way things were. The way things were is exactly what led us to the way things are, an unacceptable state that includes

  • nearly thirty million uninsured
  • four in five Atlanta public school students depend on the free or reduced lunch as their only meal of the day
  • in California, nearly 114,000 homeless
  • an epidemic of drug addiction, alcoholism, and suicide that has been lowering American life expectancy for three years
  • an utter lack of mental health services nationwide
  • $1.6 trillion in student loan debt saddling the next generation

The reporters raise their hands to be called on for questions. President Trump chides them, “Do you guys ever stop? You’re not going to blame me that this is going too long? Every hand is going up. It shows you love what you do and some of you do it well. Not all of you, though.”

Good things: Germany has a high number of cases (only the US is higher) but thanks to widespread testing and other measures, its percentage of fatal cases has been very low, just 1.3 percent. When I read that, I couldn’t help thinking how my business partner Alex – a German national raised in the US, he died when he was just 43, and yesterday was his birthday – would be tracking these stats and proud of his countrymen showing global leadership in this, the most important time of all our lifetimes.


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