Roaming Charges: Always Look on the Bright Side of Death


German Plague Doctor, 14th Century.

+ Francesco Rondonelli, a contemporary chronicler of the Florentine plague of 1629: “And who had heard an entire city praying at the same time all together … through the tenderness it was not possible to contain the tears … and a most beautiful thing in some roads with poor people to see lights at every window; and all the praises of the Mother of God resounded everywhere; in this way verifying the common proverb that the poor sustain two things better than the rich: that is, justice and devotion.”

+ It’s a sparkling spring day in Oregon, with no visible hint of the peril that surrounds us, a day when we should all be frolicking on a lawn or stumbling along a trail–instead people are hunkered down in their “safe” spaces, as the collective dread intensifies, awaiting an all-clear signal that may never come or, if it does, given by someone no one trusts…

+ I have five really good friends who are emergency room doctors or nurses. It is grueling work in the best of times, often operating in a near-constant state of triage. They are among the most selfless and hardworking people I know and are all now working insane shifts treating dozens of people a day with coronavirus symptoms. Unable to confirm a diagnosis due to lack of tests, they are sending most of the patients back home, while placing themselves at extreme risk of contracting the virus. They are holding the system together while it splinters, quite literally performing triage on patients and the health care system itself. But it can’t be sustained much longer.

+ Ralph Nader: “Remember when Trump said of America’s problems during the 2016 campaign–“I alone can fix it.” He can’t fix a faucet. Coronavirus has him hanging by his golf clubs. A disgrace! Weak! Compare him to strong, courageous health care workers day and night.”

+ We’re about to see what happens to a nation whose economy has been kept afloat by the service sector when it shuts down the service sector. The restaurant industry has been almost completely shuttered, it’s 10.6 million workers laid off or fired…

+ It’s looking more and more likely that Trump’s American Carnage speech was a prophesy and not a description of social conditions as they existed in 2016, which will, of course, only increase his status with evangelicals as one of God’s anointed prophets …

+ Peter Alexander (NBC): “What do you say to Americans that are scared?”

Trump (who yesterday flirted on camera with Chanel Rion, an OANN reporter who previously “reported” that the COVID-19 virus originated in a lab in — check notes– North Carolina): “I say you’re a terrible reporter.”

+ MAGAmerica in a nutshell: “The Chinese scientist who invented the coronavirus test had worked at the University of Florida for 25 years and raised his kids here but left, along with two other notable researchers, because of the Trump administration investigating them.”

+ Joe Liberal: “We’re so friggin’ mad we’d storm the capital… if only we weren’t all self-isolating.”

+ How painfully ironic would it be if Americans suffering from COVID-19 were unable to get Interferon Alfa 2-B medication, one of the only promising treatments, because of the US’s insane embargo on Cuba? Sanctions bite both ways…

+ Pompeo Maximus is a BioWar Criminal: “US to Iran: Coronavirus Won’t Save You From Sanctions!

+ The question is how many US citizens are we willing to sacrifice to appease a few thousand rightwing Cuban-Americans in south Florida. Is the price worth it, Marco? Does 3.4 percent of the population sound reasonable?

+ I wonder if some game theory types are calculating whether it would be advantageous (for them) if they get infected now while there are still ventilators and hospital beds rather than two weeks from now when they’ll end up breathing through a straw (paper) on a stretcher in a Wal-Mart parking lot?

+ Apparently, the Vampires don’t only come out at night, consider Sen. Ron Johnson (who Wisconsin elected over Russ Feingold): “Getting coronavirus is not a death sentence except for maybe no more than 3.4 percent of our population. We don’t shut down our economy because tens of thousands of people die on the highways.” (By the way, 3.4 percent of the US population is: 10.8 million people.)

+ After attending a secret briefing on COVID-19, Johnson sold off $25 million in stock equity. Then he voted against the coronavirus relief package…

+ Stephen Schwartz, a leading pathologist at the University of Washington, whose research and practice might yet save millions of lives, died on the frontlines fighting COVID-19, while senatorial microbes like Ron Johnson, who are willing condemn millions to death for their own self-enrichment, thrive……

+ Cost of treatment for an uninsured COVID-19 patient: $34,927.43.

+ About that “employer insurance” Biden’s so fond of instead of Medicare for all… The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that the average cost of COVID-19 treatment for someone with employer insurance—and without complications—would be about $9,763. Someone whose treatment has complications may see bills about double that: $20,292.

+ This is the way the world ends: not with a bang, but a fatal wheeze and a hospital bill….

+ Remember when Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said coronavirus would be good for US jobs? How’s that working out for you now, Wilbur…?

+ No answer from Wilbur? Didn’t think so. But according to an assessment from SurveyUSA, 9% of working Americans (14 million) so far have been laid off as result of Coronavirus; 1 in 4 workers have had their hours reduced.

+ MAGAmerica in a nutshell: “The Chinese scientist who invented the coronavirus test had worked at the University of Florida for 25 years and raised his kids here but left, along with two other notable researchers, because of the Trump administration investigating them.”

+ The latest from Mike Davis: “We are in the early stages of a medical Katrina. Despite years of warnings about avian flu and other pandemics, inventories of basic emergency equipment such as respirators aren’t sufficient to deal with the expected flood of critical cases. Militant nurses unions in California and other states are making sure that we all understand the grave dangers created by inadequate stockpiles of essential protective supplies like N95 face masks. Even more vulnerable because invisible are the hundreds of thousands of low-wage and overworked homecare workers and nursing home staff.”

+ Trump: “It snuck up on us.” (Must consult Trump University Dictionary for its definitions of “snuck” and “us”.)

+ A Trump COVID-19 timeline…

Jan. 22: “We have it totally under control”
Feb. 28: “This is their new hoax”
Mar. 9: “Last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. Think about that!”
Mar. 13: “I don’t take responsibility at all.”
Mar. 16: “You were surprised. We were all surprised.”
March 17: “I’ve felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”
March 18: “It snuck up on us.”

+ In 18 days, the US has gone from 70 confirmed cases to 9,236…

+ The US, a far richer country, with more time to prepare is currently on an Italy-like (which has now surpassed China in fatalities) trend for COVID-19 cases and deaths…

+ The deaths from the COVID-19 crisis in Italy aren’t all from the virus, more and more are from the structural collapse of the health care infrastructure: “Now, people wait an hour on the phone to report heart attacks, because all the lines are busy.”

+ Note: Italy has more hospital beds than the USA.

+ The first coronavirus case in the U.S. and South Korea was detected on the same day. By late January, Seoul had medical companies starting to work on a diagnostic test — one was approved a week later. Since then, South Korea has tested 290K people and the coronavirus outbreak is largely under control. The US has only tested 60,000 and cases are exploding. When confronted about this staggering disparity, the Surgeon General of the United States, Jerome Adams, said it was because South Korea is “an authoritarian nation“. South Korea has been more democratic than the US since at least 1987 ..

+ Arizona officials estimate they have 70,000 undetected cases of COVID-19. As of Monday, they’d only performed 143 tests…

+ Trump is going down as ugly and bigoted as he entered.

+ Asked about a White House official using the term “Kung flu” about the virus, and whether that’s acceptable, he says, “I wonder who said that. Do you know who said that?” He says, “Say the term again.” He adds, “Kung flu.”

+ Whenever there’s a fork in the road, Trump takes the low one. When there’s no fork, he just goes off-roading straight downhill…

+ The Trump administration is furiously blaming China for the COVID crisis and there’s no doubt that the Chinese acted slowly and covered up what was really going on in Wuhan during the early days. But China identified COVID-19 on 1/7 and shared its genetic sequence with the World Health Organization on 1/12. So that leaves a big, lethal gap between when the US knew the virus posed a pandemic threat and when the Trump administration finally took action (except for cronies selling stock). Trump on 2/28: “It will disappear like a miracle.”

+ Trump’s about-face this week was reportedly spurred by a British study suggesting that the U.S. could experience 2.2 million fatalities if the coronavirus epidemic goes unabated…

+ Neil Ferguson, the scientist who led the study that modeled an unrestrained coronavirus epidemic potentially causing >2,200,000 U.S. deaths, has now tested positive for coronavirus. It was Ferguson’s study that finally convinced Trump he needed to do something or at least act like he was doing something…

+ “Dig all the graves six feet deep,” one of the orders from the Mayor of London during the Plague of 1665, as reported in Daniel Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year. This historical novel, written 45 years after the plague from oral histories and diaries,  is well worth re-reading, as it outlines in detail the extreme containment measures London imposed very quickly after the plague appeared (embargo, isolation, closure of pubs, Inns, tippling joints, lodging the infected in “pest-houses,” restrictions on travel, curfews, and the deployment of “watchers” to enforce the quarantine) not much different than what we’re facing now.

+ While you’re digging graves, here are some political ones to consider…Senators who voted “No” on the coronavirus relief package…

Marsha Blackburn
James Inhoffe
Ron Johnson
James Lankford
Mike Lee
Rand Paul
Ben Sasse
Tim Scott of SC

+ Meanwhile, you might want to consign these corporations, who are denying their workers paid sick leave, to their economic graves…

McDonald’s – 517K workers
Walmart – 347K workers
Kroger – 189K workers
Subway – 80K workers
Burger King – 165K workers
Pizza Hut: – 156K workers
Target – 51K workers
Marriott – 139K workers
Wendy’s – 133K workers

+ Always look on the bright side of death…

+ Frederic Jameson: “It’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.”

+ Weeks ago, (while Trump was telling the public that the virus posed a very low risk to Americans and that it was “going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle. It will disappear.”) Republican politicians, like Sen. Richard Burr, were busy telling their biggest donors the truth: that the virus was highly contagious and that it might kill hundreds of thousands and upend the global economy. How much stock trading did these guys with the inside knowledge about COVID-19 do before the Great Collapse?

+ While Larry Kudlow and Eric Trump were telling Americans the virus was “contained” and to buy on the dips, Burr, lauded as one of the last reasonable Republicans in the Senate, dumped $1.6 million of stock in resorts, hotels and hospitality companies.

+ But Burr is wasn’t alone. The nation’s leading climate denier (and Cory Booker’s prayer buddy) Senator Jim Inhofe sold up to $500,000 of his stock on the Monday after his Friday (1/24) secret briefing on COVID-19…

+ And the flashy new senator from Georgia, Kelly Loeffler, dumped millions in stock after attending the same closed-door session. Loeffler is married to Jeffrey Sprecher, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, and the chairman and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange, which is NYSE’s parent company.

+ Of course, foreseeing this ripe opportunity for plunder, Congress voted to give itself immunity from insider trading laws during the Obama administration…

+ Trump tried to bribe a German drug company to make its coronavirus vaccine available only for US citizens…

+ It’s time for a heavy dose of Disaster Anti-Capitalism….

+ Imagine having to live in fear of a killer virus and that the mask-wearing agents of the American Gestapo (ICE) is going to track you down when you are at one of the most vulnerable points in your life, lock you up, take away your children, and dump you on the streets in Mexico, Guatemala or Honduras…

+ Your life is just a statistical inconvenience to these tech moguls…”It is soul-stealing and debilliating to embrace the notion of social distancing and economic hibernation… In the absolutely worse case, the overall life expectancy worldwide would click down by a few weeks.”

+ Looks like China’s firing up the factories again…

+ Dean Baker: “Donald Trump is obsessed about China passing the U.S. in size of GDP. It already did by purchasing power parity, but thanks to his leadership, China is likely to have a larger GDP, measured in nominal dollars, than the U.S. next quarter.”

+ Israeli finance minister Kahlon Moshe rejected a request from his Palestinian counterpart to release Palestinian tax revenues that were frozen by Israel so that the Palestinian Authority could use them for the Coronavirus Crisis. Kahlon said the law prohibits him from doing it…

+ Dept. of Forbidden Solution: Declaring a national emergency, Trump diverted billions from the Pentagon to build his useless and destructive border wall. How many ventilators could Trump buy by diverting that $3.8 billion in military aid to Israel?

+ In Kashmir, where Modi’s government has blocked internet access, “rumors and dis/misinformation are spreading quickly via Whatsapp and word of mouth, with no ability for citizens to research and confirm the claims.”

+ Germany must be doing something right in the treatment (though not containment where new cases continue to soar) of COVID-19. For example, Germany & Spain both have reported about 20,000 cases. Spain has experienced 1,054 deaths, Germany only 59 (The USA has reported 225 deaths with 3,000 fewer total cases than Germany). One theory is that Germany tests more frequently and widely, catches cases earlier and thus has both a higher case total and cure rate.

+ US numbers up 2,800 new cases on Friday, all because of more widespread testing. As the toll continues to climb and “hurt his numbers”, the COVID-19 test ban may be the only Test Ban Treaty Trump is likely to sign…

+ I spent 1.5 hours this afternoon at Safeway. Impossible to keep a six-foot distance when the checkout line stretches all the way back to the frozen food section. Canned goods shelves nearly bare. Entire paper products aisle empty. Teenager working checkout station had rubbed his hands raw with sanitizer, scrubbing himself after every three customers. He said the shelves were stocked this morning when the store opened and empty of the “good” kind of toilet paper by 7:30 and the “crappy scratchy stuff” by 8 am. My bill was $300, driven up by purchasing a week’s worth of (crappy) wine. This netted me 52 “Monopoly” cards which I donated to the woman behind me. She was so excited she tried to hug me. Not necessary, I said, as I sped away with my overloaded cart…

Paper goods aisle at Safeway. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

+ How to clean to kill COVID-19 (bleach not vinegar)…

+ The Virus vs. America’s aging nuclear arsenal….”One potentially vulnerable part of the defense-industrial base is the ongoing modernization of America’s nuclear arsenal, which the head of STRATCOM said is approaching a ‘point of no return’ should there be even small delays in the upgrade effort.”

+ Also Tylenol (acetaminophen) for fever and pain NOT ibuprofen!

+ The genomes of coronaviruses are three times longer than HIV’s and twice as long as the influenza virus’s…

+ Sean Penn went on CNN apparently sober last night and this is what came out of his mouth: ‘There is no greater humanitarian force on the planet than the US military.”

+ I saw a meme going around yesterday about King Lear being written during a plague year, as some kind of testimonial about how great art can be forged as people are dropping like flies around you. I’m not sure we know definitively what year Lear was written, but we do know WS’s son, Hamnet, died of a kind of plague & that 4 plays (aside from Hamlet) seem to reflect some evidence of WS’s emotional response to his death: King John, Romeo & Juliet, 12th Night and Julius Caesar. In other words, there’s nothing heroic about surviving a plague, except, perhaps, for how we care for those around us as it tightens its grip.

+ Daniel Defoe: “This was the beginning of May, yet the weather was temperate, variable, and cool enough, and people had still some hopes. That which encouraged them was that the city was healthy: the whole ninety-seven parishes buried but fifty-four, and we began to hope that, as it was chiefly among the people at that end of the town, it might go no farther; and the rather, because the next week, which was from the 9th of May to the 16th, there died but three, of which not one within the whole city or liberties; and St Andrew’s buried but fifteen, which was very low. ‘Tis true St Giles’s buried two-and-thirty, but still, as there was but one of the plague, people began to be easy. The whole bill also was very low, for the week before the bill was but 347, and the week above mentioned but 343. We continued in these hopes for a few days, but it was but for a few, for the people were no more to be deceived thus; they searched the houses and found that the plague was really spread every way, and that many died of it every day. So that now all our extenuations abated, and it was no more to be concealed; nay, it quickly appeared that the infection had spread itself beyond all hopes of abatement.” (Journal of the Plague Year)

+ Why is it so easy for NBA players to get tested and almost impossible for anyone else?

+ Nicholas Mulder (Cornell historian of 19th and 20th Europe): “One of the more intriguing (though unlikely) contingencies is that the US health insurance industry bankrupts itself and could be nationalized at rock-bottom prices once plunging ebit evaporates their market cap – call it left-Shkrelianism.”

+ Trump just said COVID-19 crisis could last until “August, maybe July.” He didn’t specify the year….

+ Mike Pence is at the National Prayer Desk, taking your calls…

+ If you’re really rich, money right now is free.

+ Liliana Segura: “Trump telling governors to get their own ventilators is horrifying but also confirms what he’s been broadcasting since Day 1: I don’t care, you’re all on your own, don’t expect help from me. State & local leaders have no choice but to lead or have even more deaths on their hands.”

+ “Hi, I’m from the Federal Government and I’m here not to help you…”

Infection rate per 1 million population (probably mostly due to the breadth and efficacy of the testing procedures)…

Italy 679
Switzerland 478
Norway 330
Spain 387
Austria 242
Iran 219
Estonia 201
Denmark 199
Germany 183
France 168
S Korea 167
China 56
UK 48
USA 40

+ Who, after reading this, thinks he really took the COVID-19 nasal swab test? Asked what it was like to take the test, Trump said, “Not, not uh – something I want to do everyday…you know, it’s a little bit of a — it’s a little bit of — good doctors in the White House, but it’s a test. It’s a test. It’s a medical test. Nothing pleasant about it.”

+ Bill DeBlasio, last seen working out at the Park Slope YMCA, is now bragging that NYC is capable of offering 5,000 tests a day. Great news. So how long will it take to test all of NYC’s 8.5 million residents? 1700 days or 4.6 years.

+ The Spanish Flu originated in Haskell County, Kansas, Senator. It became known as the Spanish Flu because Spain, which was not involved directly in World War I and its papers were not censored by the government, reported relatively freely on the spread of the flu. In Spain, the flu was called the Naples Soldier, a reference to a song about Don Juan, who was “sticky as the flu, though less deadly.” Now about that Spanish Fly, Senator Grassley…

+ Thanks to Matt Welch for tracking down this clip of the Soldier of Naples song from the operetta La Cancíon del Olivido…

+ Here’s John Barry’s ground breaking essay tracking the origins of the “Spanish Flu” to Haskell County in rural Kansas…

+ Asked if the rich and famous get unfair advantages in COVID-19 testing and treatment, Trump the Fake Billionaire replies, “Perhaps that’s the story of life.” (The story of life for a few, sickness and death for the rest.)

+ Crises Update, March 20, 2020…

– A climate crisis
– A pandemic crisis
– A supply chain crisis
– A demand crisis
– A labor market crisis
– A housing crisis
– An equity market crisis
– An oil price crisis
– A brewing bond market crisis
– A developing currency crisis
– A potential housing market crisis

+ This was the president just a week ago…

+ The VA serves 9.5 million veterans. Half of them are over 65 years of age. To date, it has performed 100 tests. Unchanged from last week!

+ Trump promised that 500 million respirators were on the way. But the grant application notes that it make take 18 months to deliver them

+ In Evansville, Indiana, the hospital mask shortage is so severe they’ve asked local sewing groups to start making them and have included a downloadable pattern in PDF format…

+ Bill deBlasio, back at the office now that the Park Slope Y is closed, says NYC needs:

— 3 million N-95 respirators
— 50 million surgical masks
— 15000 ventilators
— 50 million gowns, gloves, and coveralls.

Those sewing circles better get to work…

+ Trader Joe’s (the poor hipster’s Whole Foods) is refusing to allow its employees to wear gloves

+ After all of the gropings, body searches, interrogations and seizures of personal items we’ve had to put up with from TSA agents since 9/11, where are they when the country really needs them?

+ An estimated 86% of those with COVID-19 are still walking around, contagious and undetected. Can the Doomsday Clock get any closer to Midnight (or has it already chimed)?

+ As Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, PeteBot and Elizabeth Warren have gone silent, Marianne Williamson continues to be a voice for what the country desperately needs to hear…

+ What are the odds that Biden contracts (or is said to contract) COVID-19 and the now omnipresent Andrew Cuomo becomes the Democrats’ nominee, through the magic of Super Delegates meeting in a smoke-filled chat room at the online DNC convention…?

+ What a surprise! Latinos don’t trust the Deporter-in-Chief’s hatchet man…

+ How many suckers will fall for this (before they fall *to* COVID-19)?

+ I drove by Wendy’s an hour ago before the debate the place was packed, drawn by the 2 for 5 special, I guess…two singles with cheese, 5 new COVID-19 cases.

+ And now a few notes on the strange Sunday night debate between Sanders and Biden…

+ Biden opens up by coughing on the first question…

+ Cognitively-speaking, Bernie appears 20 years younger than Biden…

+ GI Joe Biden: “I’d call out the military now!”

+ Biden saying “do what I proposed 30 years ago” isn’t much of an argument for his ability to “get things done”….

+ Shouldn’t there be an intermission where they both take a COVID-19 test?

+ Things are getting tense. Biden has gone from calling Sanders “Bernie” to “this man”…

+ Rock-em Sock-em Geriatric Robots…

+ Biden just came out for the Green New Deal, except, of course, for everything in it….

+ Both of these guys seem to be running out of gas and it’s not even halftime. Shouldn’t there be a backup candidate on stage who isn’t in the “high risk” category for COVID-19?

+ I hope they’re both washing their hands during the break…

+ Has Joe Biden ever gone to JoeBiden Dot Com?

+ Biden: “85% of the climate problem is OVER THERE.” This is Trump level bullshit.

+ Did the Sierra Club submit the pro-natural gas question?

+ Does CNN have two ventilators available for this commercial break?

+ CNN starts with China-bashing and ends with Castro bashing. The network has fallen a long way from Ted Turner’s days of trying to end the embargo against Cuba…

+ Biden is now lying about his previous lies about Iraq.

+ Biden: On day one, war on China!

+ I don’t know if Biden’s message is resonating, but his leg is…

+ Biden’s most ludicrous statement in a night of whoppers might have been his final assertion that income inequality is Donald Trump’s fault…

+ Sanders needed to knock Biden out. And despite many, many openings he didn’t.

+ The frequency and blatancy of Biden’s lying plays to his advantage. Bernie should have nailed him to floor on one major lie–Iraq, Social Security, abortion, bankruptcy, crime bill–instead of chasing him around the ring on all of them & not drawing much blood on any. Hard to do, of course, but he had him squirming on abortion and social security and let him slither away…

+ When the press yammers, as they did at the debate Sunday night, about the 90,000 Cuba exiles in south Florida who “fled dictatorship”, do they ever ask what those people (or their parents) were doing in Cuba before the revolution or the kinds of terroristic acts of violence they committed after they came to the states?

+ Votes cast on “Stupor Tuesday” for Tulsi Gabbard: 20,462

Votes cast on “Stupor Tuesday” for Roque “Rocky” de la Fuente, a businessman who keeps running for president as a hobby: 33,120

+ On Thursday, Gabbard withdrew from the race and endorsed Biden. Tulsi always seemed to have something going with Biden, she never pressed him on the Iraq War or any other aspects of his savage foreign policy, the way she went after Harris, Warren, Beto and PeteBot…I suppose the next move will be for Tulsi to drop her libel suit against Hillary and the duo will hit the campaign trail for their boy Joe…

+ Notice Biden’s Tweet is all about Tulsi’s military “service,” her “honor” and “decency,” and no acknowledgment of her political positions on regime change wars, climate change, or health care…

+ Just go the Oregon way and institute voting by mail. The pandemic is almost certain to be worse in May and much worse in June.

+ Robert Reich: “Walmart bonuses are tied to minimizing the time you take off to care for yourself or a family member with an illness, which is why 88% of Walmart employees report coming to work when sick. Walmart’s 500,000 part-time employees have a 48 hour annual cap on paid time off.”

+ DeFoe: “Another plague year would reconcile all these differences; a close conversing with death, or with diseases that threaten death, would scum off the gall from our tempers, remove the animosities among us, and bring us to see with differing eyes than those which we looked on things with before.”

+ The Scots have this guy pegged….

+ On Tuesday, Facebook banned 6 of my posts for “violating community standards”, as the censorship around COVID-19 tightens. All of the stories were from mainstream media and relatively straightforward: the Intercept, Politico, and Bloomberg Environment News. I understand that blocking the link to a NYT piece was done in the public interest.

+ The company later said it was an AI glitch in the software system, developed and run by RAND, meant to monitor online content. Censorship by AI glitch is still censorship and likely a preview of coming attractions.

+ Boccaccio’s Decamaron is yet another text written in the shadow of the Black Death...

Day One…

I say, then, that the years of the beatific incarnation of the Son of God had reached the tale of one thousand three hundred and forty-eight, when in the illustrious city of Florence, the fairest of all the cities of Italy, there made its appearance that deadly pestilence, which, whether disesminated by the influence of the celestial bodies, or sent upon us mortals by God in His just wrath by way of retribution for our iniquities, had had its origin some years before in the East, whence, after destroying an innumerable multitude of living beings, it had propagated itself without respite from place to place, and so, calamitously, had spread into the West.

In Florence, despite all that human wisdom and forethought could devise to avert it, as the cleansing of the city from many impurities by officials appointed for the purpose, the refusal of entrance to all sick folk, and the adoption of many precautions for the preservation of health; despite also humble supplications addressed to God, and often repeated both in public procession and otherwise, by the devout; towards the beginning of the spring of the said year the doleful effects of the pestilence began to be horribly apparent by symptoms that shewed as if miraculous….

+ Ventilators may soon be worth their weight in gold, and other countries are frantically placing orders. But a US company that makes ventilators says it could increase production five fold — but, according to Forbes, the US hasn’t placed an order…

+ Andy Slavitt, who ran Medicare/Medicaid under Obama: “Experts tell me we need more than 1 billion N-95 face masks. I don’t know how many we have today but I suspect it’s less than 10% of that capacity. Let me explain what’s going on. A whole number of factories closed over the last few years that were making masks because they were too cheap. Good news is there are a number of empty factories to be brought on. China has repurposed shoe factories and other factories. We haven’t.”

+ Mar-a-Lago, it’s not just the bedbugs any more: “The entourage of President Jair Bolsonaro who went to the United States just over a week ago [and met with Trum at Mar-a-Lago] has 13 people infected with coronavirus. Tomorrow, Bolsonaro will have new medical tests to check if he has the disease.”

+ How COVID-19 Got to Brazil: 22 people on Bolsonaro’s plane back from the US have now tested positive for COVID-19…

+ Tim Shorrock: ‘Why Trump won’t say a word about South Korea. “A nation of 51 million, South Korea has tested about 250,000 people since its outbreak began on Jan. 20, with a daily capacity of 15,000. It has conducted 3,600 tests per million people compared to five per million in the U.S.”‘

+ In case you needed another reason to vote for someone (anyone?) other than Joe Biden, he just got the endorsement of 80 “national security professionals.”

+ Before you know it, Biden’s going to be bragging about his vote for the Iraq War…Joe Biden is accusing Trump of failing to deal with “national security challenges” from Syria to Venezuela and weakening the US’s global hegemony. “The international system that the United States so carefully constructed is coming apart at the seams.””

+ Anyone else get the feeling that the 2020 Census will be invalid a few weeks after it’s completed?

+ Send the hospital bills to FoxNews, Rush Limbaugh and Trump, which spent the last month calling COVID-19 a hoax …In a new poll, only 40% of Republicans say they think the coronavirus is a real threat — down from 72% last month.

+ Trump’s Green New Deal comes in one variety only: Soylent.

+ Chris Floyd: “At a time when many countries, like France, are suspending rent payments during the crisis, the US is being run by two slumlords, Trump and Kushner, who get most of their news and views from another slumlord, Hannity. An utterly catastrophic confluence of dire circumstances.”

+ Paging Harmony Korine, please come get your children! Thousands partied at this Miami Beach spring break festival. Nine tested positive for coronavirus….

+ Trump is nominating Carlos Trujillo, who covertly spearheaded OAS official’s baseless smearing of Bolivia’s October elections, paving way for the coup, to be Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere…

+ Someone bought a used German Army laptop off eBay for 90 euros and it contained a top secret manual on how to defeat their anti aircraft missile system…

+ At a time when there’s a pandemic virus on the loose killing people with pre-existing lung disorders, the Coal Mining industry, perhaps the most ruthless and murderous business on the planet, is demanding that they be allowed to suspend payments for black lung disease!

+ Biden is now lying about the Endangered Species Act, which he falsely claims to have “co-sponsored.” (Biden also owns a blue ox named Babe, killed the outlaw Jesse James, and jumped the Snake River Canyon on his dirt bike….)

+ Meanwhile, in news that seems welcome but is really anything but…It was an almost-snowless season for the US East Coast this year.

+ Trump’s Interior Department downplayed the threat of Coronavirus for employees and on Indian reservations for weeks, saying they were “at very low risk.” What do you expect from an Administration that considers mercury, mining waste, carbon dioxide and fracking fluid  part of the four major food groups?

+ While everyone else is worried about COVID-19, the oil companies are targeting Canyonlands and Arches National Parks in southern Utah….

+ Searching for some good news among the wreckage? Dolphins have returned to the canals of Venice for the first time in 60 years and the critically endangered Mexican wolf population went up by 24% last year, despite every attempt by Trump’s Interior Department and MAGAranchers to knock them off!

+ While they thought no one was looking, Trump and Bernhardt tapped Anna Seidman, a 20-year veteran attorney of the trophy hunting group, Safari Club International, to serve as assistant director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s international affairs program.

+ North of the mining town of Mojave, where the Sierra Nevada merges with the El Paso Mountains, there’s a beautiful little California State Park with the rather bland name Red Rock Canyon. It’s actually several canyons, one of which, Nightmare Gulch, I kicked around in for a couple of hours two weeks ago. Now, locked in my quasi-quarantine, I wish I was back there hiding out in one of the caves, contemplating the petroglyphs left by the Kawaiisu people, who were largely wiped out by the waves of white plagues…(I believe their population is now down to 60.)

+ I watched Elia Kazan’s “Panic in the Streets” last night, a “virus scare” flick set in a nearly all-white New Orleans in the early 50s. The human vector of the disease is a dark-skinned Euro immigrant smuggled into town on a ship with Chinese laborers. Richard Widmark plays the Navy “health doc” who shouts, jails reporters, and, with a cop, tracks down the criminal pals of the immigrant (Jack Palance and a sweaty Zero Mostel) and kills them before they can leave town. The film was as xenophobic as a Trump presser. No wonder Kazan named names…

+ Two more novels to put on your Plague Days reading list, both by Jim Crace: Quarantine, which is set in the Judaean desert at the time of Jesus’ sojourn, and The Pesthouse which takes place in a post-plague America, of religious cults, disaster capitalists, roving armed gangs and communes that seems very familiar. The writing in both is vivid, succinct and gut-wrenching.

+ What traveler’s guide to the afterlife should we be reading, so we don’t get lost along the way: the Tibetan or Egyptian Book of the Dead? Which has the best Yelp! rating from those who have bought the ticket and taken the ride?

+ When Keith Richards is concerned about health risks, you know shit’s getting serious…

+ According to Maria Golia’s forthcoming biography of Ornette Coleman, the free jazz master worried about whether having sex would inhibit his ability to improvise musically. So much for the theory peddled by the likes of Harry Anslinger and J. Edgar Hoover that playing or listening to jazz was going to turn people into sex fiends.

+ Charles Mingus: “No threat can keep us from playing the music.”

All you’ve got to do is take his hand…

Booked Up
What I’m reading this week…

The Great Influenza: the Story of the Greatest Pandemic in History
John M. Barry

Florence Under Siege: Surviving Plague in an Early Modern City
John Henderson

The State of Water: Understanding California’s Greatest Crisis
Obi Kaufman

Sound Grammar
What I’m listening to this week…

We Are Sent Here by History
Shabaka and the Ancestors

Black Magic
Jason Miles & Kind of New

England is a Garden
(Ample Play)

The Dogs They Loved

“Rumors spread that dogs carried influenza. The police began killing all dogs on the street. And people began killing their own dogs, dogs they loved, and if they had not the heart to kill them themselves, they gave them to the police to be killed.”  (John M. Barry, The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History)

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