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Year of the Plague – 2 – A Walk in the Neighborhood – The Green Frog in Rocky Mountain Park and the Nation’s Lack of Preparedness for the Coronavirus Outbreak.

March 17, 2020

The Green Frog in Rocky Mountain Park. Northwest Denver

These are musings, nothing more.

1.

Today on our daily walk we went by the local Safeway just to see how busy it is. There were several dozen cars in the parking lot, people coming and going, one wearing a face mask. Then a round-about walk to Rocky Mountain Park. A lot of youngish joggers, all giving us a lot of space, people gingerly waving or acknowledging one another …from a distance.

I had a strong desire to visit the green frog there; then up Hooker St. past the split level house on the corner of 45th and Hooker, where the man who built it forty or so years ago – claimed to have been in a Special Forces unit that killed Che Guevara in Bolivia. Never could verify that but he was a nasty, right-wing fellow, even back in those days.. Remember how pleased he was in telling the tale.  Son-of-a-bitch. His wife developed cancer and he unceremoniously dumped her, leaving her to die alone. He’s long gone from the place.

Can’t go by the place without cursing him and his fate.

But then there are more pleasant memories. The green frog.

Actually with its recent paint job it looks better than I do. It’s been there a good half century, maybe more. an anchor of neighborhood stability in a sea of contractor-developer cancerous change. Both our daughters played on it, climbed on its back, stayed on top, explored its cement body in great detail.

I cannot go to the park without giving it a nostalgic glance, happy to see, although most of the playground equipment has been modernized and changed, that the green frog remains – just as green, just as much of a challenge for a 3, 4 year old to climb, just as enticing.

2.

A number of my friends – people in the seventies here in Colorado – are quite cynical about this whole pandemic idea.

  • One, an otherwise unusually intelligent person thinks the whole country is “just being paranoid.” Of course this is true, the panicked response of the American people is quite striking, but this friend is in denial, nothing less.
  • A second, a talented (and actually principled) local contractor who never believes what the government says anyway because it lies so much, thinks the whole thing is fabricated, another government conspiracy to control our lives that much more a la Naomi Klein’s shock doctrine. No doubt there are strong elements of this in what is transpiring.
  • In an email, another friend from Florida writes: “Let’s see, 3000 people disembarked from a cruise ship in Miami (with confirmed cases on board) with no checks whatsoever and went on their merry corona way everywhere….Jet Blue NY to Palm Beach flight had a confirmed positive passenger on board, put him at the back of the plane and they all got off as usual…Chaos in airports packing people in together in lines for up to six hours to check their temperature at passport control not before….My neighbor on my floor did tai chi twice a week at our local community center where there is a positive test of an employee and I spoke to her helper yesterday, she can not get her to stay home and self isolate….wants me to go talk to her….right. Very Local rabbi tested positive…..several neighbors attend this temple…had a Purim dinner party in our party room last Sat…A wine friend came back from Italy Mar 1 with no checks at the airport on return and he and his wife told me this week that they both now likely have the virus with mild symptoms, no testing, self quarantine 95% of the time…had neighbors up for drinks yesterday.. ( sent me a text on this in error..) “
  • More from Florida – a Newsweek report from yesterday, headlined ” Thousands still flocking to Florida’s Beaches Despite Coronavirus Social Distancing Guidelines. From the article:Videos and photos posted on social media by local news sites and residents show large crowds of people on the sands and in the ocean at Clearwater Beach, West Florida, despite repeated calls from officials for people to avoid large crowds to help protect against the virus.One beach goer told WFTS she was not put off by the idea of going to the beach along with thousands of others despite being a senior and having autoimmune diseases.

Doesn’t sound like people are taking this too seriously. I am.

I noted that libertarian commentator and former U.S. Senator, Ron Paul, also had argued on his program that the pandemic is “much to do about nothing” or something to that effect. In his case, anything that might lead to greater government intervention, which by the way is the only way this pandemic night be brought under control, should be suspect. Paul’s approach to this crisis is completely ideological and reveals how shallow, self centered and stupid libertarian thinking is.

As for my friends, they are, despite being my friends, in different stages of denial.

We – the country and the world are in trouble – deep ca-ca, as the rather colorful colloquial expression puts it. We’re at the outset of a truly awful global crisis, of which neither the parameters of nor the end is even vaguely in sight. I’ve read a number of credible reports that this pandemic could go on for years, alternating between the northern hemisphere’s in our Spring and Summer, jumping to the southern hemisphere when their warmer temperatures spike and then after genetically morphing a bit, heading back north.

This isn’t going to be over in two weeks.

One friend does take this seriously. A part of his heritage is Iranian and he shared that some thirty to forty of former colleagues, friends, teachers have died from Coronavirus, many living in the Shi’ite holy of Qom and that he dreds opening his “What’s Ap” each morning to see who else has died, a warning for what is probably to come here as a result of sloppy, half-assed Trump Administration non-response to the pandemic (until yesterday anyway).

One friend does take this seriously. A part of his heritage is Iranian and he shared that some thirty to forty of former colleagues, friends, teachers have died from Coronavirus, many living in the Shi’ite holy of Qom and that he dreds opening his “What’s Ap” each morning to see who else has died, a warning for what is probably to come here as a result of sloppy, half-assed Trump Administration non-response to the pandemic (until yesterday anyway).

3.

Our life-long friend Melinda Dell Fitting posted an article from the Atlantic Monthly on social media – Anne Applebaum’s “The Coronavirus Called America’s Bluff“.The sub-headline reads ” Like Japan in the mid-1800s, the United States now faces a crisis that disproves everything the country believes about itself.” It goes on the detail how Trump’s adviser, Depart of Health and Human Services head, Alex Azar, former pharmaceutical-industry executive and and lobbyist, hid the actual explosion of the virus from his boss, Donald Trump, knowing the president gets especially irritable about “bad news.” Nor did Azar push for additional testing. As Applebaum notes:

“Nobody threatened Azar. But fear of offending the president may have led him to hesitate to push for aggressive testing nevertheless.”

Thus the extraordinary level of unpreparedness for the Corona virus outbreak.

Applebaum continues:

Without the threats and violence of the Chinese system, in other words, we have the same results: scientists not allowed to do their job; public-health officials not pushing for aggressive testing; preparedness delayed, all because too many people feared that it might damage the political prospects of the leader. I am not writing this in order to praise Chinese communism—far from it. I am writing this so that Americans understand that our government is producing some of the same outcomes as Chinese communism. This means that our political system is in far, far worse shape than we have hitherto understood.

Like many before him, Donald Trump is mesmerized with “the numbers.”

He is not the first. During the war in Vietnam, knowing that the Johnson Administration liked high Vietcong body counts, the military in many cases, simply fabricated the numbers – that is to say, they lied, minimizing US casualties and maximizing those of their Vietnamese adversaries. Nor were post-war casualties, all those U.S. Vietnam vets who committed suicide, five, ten, thirty years later, counted. Johnson and even more so his statistical head-up-his-ass Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, ate, drank and sleep on those numbers. McNamara might have had “numbers” but the U.S. lost the war in Vietnam.

Trump deals in numbers too. As Applebaum again notes:

Once again, no officials from the Chinese Communist Party instructed anyone in the United States not to carry out testing. Nobody prevented American public officials from ordering the immediate production of a massive number of tests. Nevertheless, they did not. We don’t know all the details yet, but one element of the situation cannot be denied: The president himself did not want the disease talked of too widely, did not want knowledge of it to spread, and, above all, did not want the numbers of those infected to appear too high. He said so himself, while explaining why he didn’t want a cruise ship full of infected Americans to dock in California. “I like the numbers being where they are,” he said. “I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault.”

The lack of preparedness for other global disasters – the denial followed by the panic to compensate – Chernobyl, Fukushima, one might add Operation Barbarossa (the June 21, 1941 Nazi invasion of the then USSR among others) – suggests that even governments, experts with detailed information about the coming tragedy are unprepared when it actually happens. Fukushima continues to leak radioactive toxins into the Pacific Ocean; only a fool – and there are many – would go for a week of camping at the “Chernobyl Nature Reserve.” As for the Nazi invasion of the USSR, yes, it ultimately failed but at what a price – some 27 million killed, who knows how many others wounded physically, emotionally etc.

And now this pandemic for which the world is unprepared with some countries being less prepared than others. And among the worst prepared, the USA. Yes part of the problem, as the Applebaum article makes clear is that Alex Azar’s cowardize to reveal the growing threat to Trump was a part of the problem. There are a number of physicians who understood the danger from the beginning,  Helen Y. Chu of Seattle among them, who were likewise ignored.

Yet even had Azar not been the pharmaceutical executive he is or if the Trump Administration had listened to the likes of Chu, the fact remains that given the current status of healthcare in the United States – a system run for profit at the expense of the common good – the United States would have had a very difficult time dealing with this pandemic, problem is: the healthcare system in the USA is broken and terribly so. Period.

Then to make matters worse, the Trump Administration disbanded the unit that might have helped organize a less irrational band-aid type response to the crisis that is upon us: the Pandemic Response Team.

As an article in the Intercept noted:

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP denied on Friday that he was in any way responsible for his administration’s failure to make Coronavirus testing widely available, and professed to have absolutely no idea who had disbanded the White House pandemic response team two years ago (John Bolton), or even if that had happened (it did).

Despite all his lies – he does so every day – this comment has a ring of truthfulness. As the Intercept article goes on to note: “it suggests that he still has little idea, and less interest, in what happens in his own White House” … or in the rest of the country.

And the more I read and discuss about this pandemic, the more I have come to conclude 1. this is a long term affair 2. the problem is far more serious in the US of A (the number Trumpty-Dumpty!) because so few have been tested. Is the infection level five times, ten times, twenty times higher than reported? No one – not even out idiot of a president knows. 3. While self-isolation is not a bad strategy for those of us over sixty, indeed it is imperative – it is hardly a fix to what we are going to experience, little more than the proverbial drop in the bucket.

A Canadian goose in flight. Rocky Mountain Park, Northwest Denver. March 17, 2020

 

7 Comments leave one →
  1. William Conklin permalink
    March 17, 2020 4:37 pm

    I have walked around Rocky Mountain Park many times and for some reason I can’t remember that green frog. Maybe it is just out of context. I rode my electric bike today out to Anderson Park, it was nice to get out. Here are some thoughts on Corona: If this virus is in the same class as the common cold, it appears there won’t be any immunization coming anytime soon. We will sequester for a few weeks and maybe things will get better in the Spring, but the 1918 flu killed worse in the fall than it did in the spring even though it died down in the summer. This thing is so deadly that it might be a weaponized corona that escaped; who knows? During the flu of 1918 the population was less than 2 billion. Now the population is 7.5 billion. When I was born in 1945, the population was 2.4 billion. When I was in Graduate School at the University of Mexico in 1967, I was friends with a doctor who was in charge of the United Nations Birth Control Clinic in Mexico City, she was really upset about population projections. I remember arguing with the Idiot professors about the population issue. One guy had eight kids, I couldn’t believe how stupid he was. Then in the 70s the book “Limits to Growth” came out, and Ehrlich published the Population Bomb. People keep having babies. People are animals and animals have babies. The world is so massively overcrowded that even limiting the population to 2 billion will not save us. Yes this is really depressing, but even if we solve Corona which is unlikely, we aren’t going to save the Capitalist Engine that is mowing down Mother Earth. It is doomed, there is only one issue, how long will it continue. Doesn’t look good right now!

  2. China Smith permalink
    March 18, 2020 2:57 am

    I love you, Rob. You are so damn right about so many things. If we could just get you and Bernie and Liz altogether into the White House, can you imagine how much saner our world would be!! Otherwise, I think of biologist Farley Mowat’s book about wolves & big game in western Canada, and where by eating rodents himself (incl. the intestines) and testing his nutritional levels he showed that the wolves were principally eating rodents and in fact killing very little big game — mostly the old and the sick (it was hunters who indiscriminately were decimating the herds). Maybe I should extrapolate no more on this but…. Is coronavirus doing what wolves do? Here it’s not a class issue, the rich might be the worst off here.

    • China Smith permalink
      March 18, 2020 6:20 am

      I reply here to my own thesis (that it’s not a class issue), which I now myself challenge. Given that pollution wrecks havoc on the immune system, it follows that low-paid industrial workers who spend 30-40 years eight hours a day in dirty environments are going to have diminished immunity and therefore might be more susceptible to viruses.

      • March 18, 2020 8:27 am

        Well it is and it isn’t… what we need to know more about – is from whence this damned virus actually emerged… in whose laboratory and for which purpose.. Will proceed carefully on this front but will proceed…

    • March 18, 2020 8:26 am

      And here China Smith, Nancy and I were thinking about you just yesterday hoping that you are doing well. Warm regards to both you and “Le Baron”.. “Being right” has limited applicability… but maybe it helps a little. On a more serious note – your comments about Farley Mowat – suggesting an evolutionary aspect to all this… I was thinking of it in another way – weaponized eugenics… Can’t prove it, but many signs are there. Will write about it later. Take you and the great fisherman are actually in a good place from whence to view the world collapsing around us…

  3. March 18, 2020 10:00 am

    Rob, thanks for the frog. Hope you are overestimating level of denial, but as a friend of mine said it’s very hard to overestimate levels of stupidity especially with the stupidity and craven greed of our liar in Chief. But there is so much good also arising. So writing more about all such old or emerging frogs would help. Stay well. John

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