The Insightful Troll

Rants and ruminations.

We Need to Ask Better Questions

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During the on going quarantine it is common for conversations and zoom meetings to begin with the obligatory ‘How are you doing?’ Ashley Fetters challenges us to ask a better question.

If we want to take the extra step to show our loved ones that we’re really asking, though, and not just greeting them as we might have done in normal times, reaching for a question that more explicitly asks after their emotional or psychological well-being might help. “How are you coping?,” for instance, signals that you don’t expect whomever you’re talking with to be doing great, and that you are genuinely curious about how they’re handling things. “What’s been on your mind lately?” suggests openness to a deeper conversation. You might also follow up on a worry or concern they’ve mentioned before, and check in on how they’re feeling about it now.

However you choose to start your conversations during quarantine, perhaps the most important thing is to ask a genuine question that invites a genuine answer. One of the kindest gestures we can extend to others in a time like this is to make clear that they don’t have to pretend they’re fine.

When Should You Wear a Mask?

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Katie Notopoulos over at Buzz Feed’s How to Plague advice column on when you should wear your mask:

A good way to gauge the amount of distance where it’s OK to dangle your mask around your neck or off one ear is to imagine your mouth is your asshole. If you were completely alone, it would be fine to let your nude tushy hang out, but you’d want to pull on your pants as soon as you saw anyone coming, even from 100 feet away. Basically, if someone can see you, mask up.

How Dumb Is President Trump?

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Here are some things that Donal Trump has said - from nuking tornados to taking over airports in the revolutionary war. And let’s not even get started on injecting people with disinfectant. I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. What is really scary is that 40% of the country thinks this guy is a genius.

Social Distance Across the World

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Filmmakers Ivan Cash and Jacob Jonas made a short crowd sourced video on how people all over the world are dealing with social distancing.

Amid what can feel like a constant deluge of depressing news, A Social Distance is a glimmer of hope and a welcome reprieve. The short documentary—co-directed by Jacob Jonas and Ivan Cash, scored by Steve Hackman, and premiering on The Atlantic today—offers a window into the ordinary quarantine experiences of people from more than 30 countries. In the self-submitted videos, people dance, play music, take us on a tour of their refrigerator, and introduce us to their pets. Edited together, these intimate moments create a synchronicity of humanity—a feeling of togetherness that’s difficult to conjure when you’re sequestered at home.

Mayor Goodman - Who's on First?

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Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman says that she wants to reopen the city’s casinos, restaurants and entertainment venues for business so people can get back to work. Problem is she has no plan or authority to control those casinos, restaurants and entertainment venues regarding testing or social distancing.

When Anderson Cooper pushes her on her responsibility:

Anderson Cooper: That’s your position?
Carolyn Goodman: No, that’s not my position but it is my position.

This women is bat sh*t crazy - she’s like the mayor in Jaws. Reminds me of “Who’s on first base?” skit by Abbott AND Costello.

Here is the truth that these right wing fools need to understand - if you pit capitalism against the science, science wins every time.

A Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience

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A bipartisan group of experts in public health, economics, technology, and ethics have produced a plan for a phased reopening of public life in the United States through testing, tracing, and supported isolation.

Among the report’s top recommendations is the need to deliver at least 5 million tests per day by early June to help ensure a safe social opening. This number will need to increase to 20 million tests per day by mid-summer to fully re-mobilize the economy.

Summary of the findings:

What we need to do is much bigger than most people realize. We need to massively scale-up testing, contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine-together with providing the resources to make these possible for all individuals.

Broad and rapid access to testing is vital for disease monitoring, rapid public health response, and disease control.

We need to deliver 5 million tests per day by early June to deliver a safe social reopening. This number will need to increase over time (ideally by late July) to 20 million a day to fully remobilize the economy. We acknowledge that even this number may not be high enough to protect public health. In that considerably less likely eventuality, we will need to scale-up testing much further. By the time we know if we need to do that, we should be in a better position to know how to do it. In any situation, achieving these numbers depends on testing innovation.

Between now and August, we should phase in economic mobilization in sync with growth in our capacity to provide sustainable testing programs for mobilized sectors of the workforce.

The great value of this approach is that it will prevent cycles of opening up and shutting down. It allows us to steadily reopen the parts of the economy that have been shut down, protect our frontline workers, and contain the virus to levels where it can be effectively managed and treated until we can find a vaccine.

We can have bottom-up innovation and participation and top-down direction and protection at the same time; that is what our federal system is designed for.

This policy roadmap lays out how massive testing plus contact tracing plus social isolation with strong social supports, or TTSI, can rebuild trust in our personal safety and the safety of those we love. This will in turn support a renewal of mobility and mobilization of the economy. This paper is designed to educate the American public about what is emerging as a consensus national strategy.

We've Built Cities We Can't Afford

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In this sense, Kansas City, Missouri is no different than most communities in the United States and Canada. In the last 70 years, the physical size of Kansas City has quadrupled while the population has remained relatively stable. (Put another way, every resident of Kansas City is on the hook for maintaining four times as much of the city as his or her predecessors.) In Kansas City, there are 6,500 linear miles of lanes just in the city street system—so not including county, state and federal roadways. This is the equivalent of driving from New York to San Francisco and back, with a bonus trip to Portland, Maine. According to the Kansas City public works department, to maintain and replace existing roads it needs ten times more money each year than it can ask for.

It's Time to Build

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As the Coronavirus rages through US communities - one thing is devastatingly clear. We, the United States, no longer build anything of true value. All of the essential needs - masks, protective gear for healthcare workers, ventilator machines, medication, housing, transportation, infrastructure - are not built in the United States.

Marc Andreessen writes in his post - It’s Time To Build:

It’s time for full-throated, unapologetic, uncompromised political support from the right for aggressive investment in new products, in new industries, in new factories, in new science, in big leaps forward.

The left starts out with a stronger bias toward the public sector in many of these areas. To which I say, prove the superior model! Demonstrate that the public sector can build better hospitals, better schools, better transportation, better cities, better housing. Stop trying to protect the old, the entrenched, the irrelevant; commit the public sector fully to the future. Milton Friedman once said the great public sector mistake is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results. Instead of taking that as an insult, take it as a challenge — build new things and show the results!

Show that new models of public sector healthcare can be inexpensive and effective — how about starting with the VA? When the next coronavirus comes along, blow us away! Even private universities like Harvard are lavished with public funding; why can’t 100,000 or 1 million students a year attend Harvard? Why shouldn’t regulators and taxpayers demand that Harvard build? Solve the climate crisis by building — energy experts say that all carbon-based electrical power generation on the planet could be replaced by a few thousand new zero-emission nuclear reactors, so let’s build those. Maybe we can start with 10 new reactors? Then 100? Then the rest?

In fact, I think building is how we reboot the American dream. The things we build in huge quantities, like computers and TVs, drop rapidly in price. The things we don’t, like housing, schools, and hospitals, skyrocket in price. What’s the American dream? The opportunity to have a home of your own, and a family you can provide for. We need to break the rapidly escalating price curves for housing, education, and healthcare, to make sure that every American can realize the dream, and the only way to do that is to build.

Building isn’t easy, or we’d already be doing all this. We need to demand more of our political leaders, of our CEOs, our entrepreneurs, our investors. We need to demand more of our culture, of our society. And we need to demand more from one another. We’re all necessary, and we can all contribute, to building.

Capitialism or Cronysim

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From John Grubber at Daring Fireball:

Take the cruise line industry. They’re getting crushed by this pandemic for obvious reasons, and they very much want to be bailed out by the U.S. government. But why do they deserve it? For tax and regulatory reasons, they don’t even register their ships in the U.S. — Carnival Cruise Lines is incorporated in Panama, Norwegian in Bermuda, and Royal Caribbean in Liberia. Bermuda is not part of Norway and, last I checked, Liberia is not in the Caribbean. Not only do these companies want U.S. funded bailouts, they don’t even want to pay U.S. taxes or comply with U.S. laws during normal times.

The thing to remember is that if allowed to fail, the cruise ships won’t sink to the bottom of the ocean. The jobs won’t disappear. The companies will go into bankruptcy, existing shareholder equity will get wiped out, and new ownership will take over. A bailout won’t rescue the industry or the jobs — it will rescue the shareholders.

Steve Schmidt - Speaking Truth to Power

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Steve Schmidt, former Republican strategist, tells MSNBC’s Ari Melber that many avoidable problems in the US response to the coronavirus pandemic revealed Trump’s failures as a president. Historians will look back on this as a time when a reality show star “New York con man” narrowly ended up as President and was simply not prepared.

It is about time that the Republicans standup to Trump’s dangerous ineptitude.

Ultimate Gaslighting

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Julio Vincent Gambuto highlights what what the Covid-19 pandemic exposed about our country - that the United States leadership is indifferent to its own people.

Until then, get ready, my friends. What is about to be unleashed on American society will be the greatest campaign ever created to get you to feel normal again. It will come from brands, it will come from government, it will even come from each other, and it will come from the left and from the right. We will do anything, spend anything, believe anything, just so we can take away how horribly uncomfortable all of this feels. And on top of that, just to turn the screw that much more, will be the one effort that’s even greater: the all-out blitz to make you believe you never saw what you saw. The air wasn’t really cleaner; those images were fake. The hospitals weren’t really a war zone; those stories were hyperbole. The numbers were not that high; the press is lying. You didn’t see people in masks standing in the rain risking their lives to vote. Not in America. You didn’t see the leader of the free world push an unproven miracle drug like a late-night infomercial salesman. That was a crisis update. You didn’t see homeless people dead on the street. You didn’t see inequality. You didn’t see indifference. You didn’t see utter failure of leadership and systems.

Corona Virus in Nursing Homes

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Ireland, a country with 448 deaths as of today, has successfully contained the Covid-19 in their country. How did they do it?

  • Acted quickly
  • Shut down all public celebrations - they canceled St. Patrick’s day!
  • Mobilized the health care industry through strong federal government management.
  • Test quickly, tracked contacts, and enforced isolation.

This effectively contained them to 448 deaths in all of Ireland. Upon further investigation they noticed that more than half of those deaths were in nursing homes.

The health director of Ireland, having secured the general population, is now directing resources. He is asking all health care workers, firefighters, nursing aids, even caterers to work in nursing homes. Further more, he is guaranteeing that these volunteers will get paid and receive proper protective equipment.

With the US nursing homes under siege, what is our government doing? NOTHING. They are left to fend for themselves.

Coronavirus Vaccine

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Derek Lowe on his blog at Science Translational Medicine provides some good news regarding a Covid-19 vaccine. Once a vaccine is developed and approved by the FDA, how quickly will we be able to manufacture and have a large scale application of the vaccine.

Time for another look at the coronavirus vaccine front, since we have several recent news items. Word has come from GSK and Sanofi that they are going to collaborate on vaccine development, which brings together two of the more experienced large organizations in the field. It looks like Sanofi is bringing the spike protein and GSK is bringing the adjuvant (more on what that means below). Their press release says that they plan to go into human patients late this year and to have everything ready for regulatory filing in the second half of 2021. For its part, Pfizer has announced that they’re pushing up their schedule with BioNTech and possibly starting human trials in August, which probably puts them on a similar timeline for eventual filing.

“But that’s next year!” will be the reaction of many who are hoping for a vaccine ASAP, and I can understand why. The thing is, that would be absolutely unprecedented speed, way past the current record set by the Ebola vaccine, which took about five years. More typical development times are ten years or more. But hold that thought while you peruse another news item today from J&J. They have an even more aggressive timeline proposed for their own vaccine work: they have already announced that they have a candidate, and they say that they plan first-in-human trials in September. Data will be available from those in December, and in January 2021 they say that they will have the first batches of vaccine ready for an FDA Emergency Use Authorization. Now that is shooting for the world record on both the scientific and regulatory fronts.

Dare to Be Stupid

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Known for more than forty years as America’s premier satirist of popular music and culture, “Weird Al” Yankovic (aka, Alfred Matthew Yankovic ) has had almost as many careers. He has accordingly been a comedian, singer/songwriter, music producer, actor, director, and writer–often all at the same time. Mr. Yankovic has won five Grammy Awards and has sold more comedy recordings than anyone else in history.

Sam Andeson writes on the legend of Weird Al Yankovic :

Weird Al has now been releasing song parodies for seven presidential administrations. He has outlasted two popes and five Supreme Court justices. He is one of only five artists (along with his early muses, Michael Jackson and Madonna) to have had a Top 40 single in each of the last four decades. Yankovic has turned out to be one of America’s great renewable resources. He is a timeless force that expresses itself through hyperspecific cultural moments, the way heat from the center of the earth manifests, on the surface, through the particularity of geysers. In 1996, after Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” became a national earworm, Weird Al took its thumping beat and its heavenly choir and turned it into “Amish Paradise,” a ridiculous banger about rural chores. When Chamillionaire’s “Ridin.” hit No. 1 in 2006, Weird Al took a rap about driving in a car loaded with drugs and translated it into a monologue about the glories of being a nerd. Whatever is popular at the moment, Yankovic can hack into its source code and reprogram it.

His work has inspired waves of creative nerds. Andy Samberg, the actor and a member of the comedy group the Lonely Island, told me that he grew up having Weird Al dance parties with his family. “Each new generation of younger kids is like, ‘Wait, this can exist?’” Samberg said.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, a Weird Al obsessive, credits Yankovic as an influence on “Hamilton.” Miranda once lip-synced “Taco Grande” (a Mexican-food-themed parody of the 1990 hit “Rico Suave”) in front of his sixth-grade class, He told me that he prefers many Weird Al songs to the originals. “Weird Al is a perfectionist,” Miranda said. “Every bit as much as Michael Jackson or Kurt Cobain or Madonna or any artist he has ever spoofed. So you get the musical power of the original along with this incredible twist of Weird Al’s voice and Weird Al’s brain. The original songs lose none of their power, even when they’re on a polka with burping sound effects in the background. In fact, it accelerates their power. It’s both earnest and a parody.”

Millennials Don’t Stand a Chance

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Annie Lowery in The Atlantic:

Put it all together, and the Millennials had no chance to build the kind of nest eggs that older generations did—the financial cushions that help people weather catastrophes, provide support to sick or down-on-their luck relatives, start businesses, invest in real estate, or go back to school. Going into the 2008 financial crisis, Gen Xers had twice the assets that Millennials have today; right now, Gen Xers have four times the assets and double the savings of younger adults.

How are all of these people going to contribute to the US economy when they are struggling to just get by? It’s time to bail out the millennials, not the mega corporations.

Why US Nurses Are Wearing Garbage Bags

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For the longest time, US politicians were assuring the US had the best health care system in the world. But the Covid-19 pandemic has shown just how fragile and dangerous our healthcare system is.

With an administration that will not step in to help, it is each man for himself. States are biding against each other and the federal government. Companies such as 3M are selling to the highest bidder - even shipping product to foreign nations instead of meeting the US demand.

Susan B. Glasser for the New York Times:

A few weeks ago, it was already apparent that the federal response to the pandemic was late, disorganized, and putting large numbers of American lives at risk. What is becoming apparent now is something just as unthinkable: Trump’s reluctance to have the federal government play the role for which it was designed in such an emergency. At his press briefing last week, Kushner introduced Polowczyk, the Navy rear admiral, as “the best man we have in the country for logistics and supplies.” This week, a senior Administration official told me that not only have supplies been flowing from the federal government to where they are needed but the worst-case scenarios of hospitals literally running out of ventilators appear to have been averted for now. But Kushner’s public statements, and those of the President over the past couple weeks, griping about various Democratic governors and complaining about their inflated demands on the national stockpile, suggest states and cities are stuck in a Darwinian competition with one another, and with the federal government, for scarce supplies, and there is little transparency in how or why FEMA's decisions are being made.