Coronavirus Journal

May 22 2020

The pandemic rages on, but it is never too early for recriminations at the New York Times.  The Times sees no need to wait for Monday morning to start quarterbacking.  

The Times is still pursuing its pre-pandemic mission to vilify President Trump at every turn.  Its tools are those of the trial lawyer:  half truth, exaggeration, and selective presentation of facts.  The trial lawyer starts with the conclusion that his client is entitled to win. The Times starts with the conclusion that President Trump is unfit to be president.  Then both the trial lawyer and the Times highlight facts favorable to their conclusion and suppress, deny, or minimize those that are not.  Neither has any reluctance to beat square pegs into the  shape of round holes.

When I was a trial lawyer, a learned opponent gave me a wonderful compliment.  He told the jury that I was a master of half-truth.  Half truth, of course, is the art trial lawyers practice.  No one expects otherwise. Has it become acceptable for newspapers to practice it?

These are excerpts from a May 20 New York Times article.  It is crafted with the intellectual dishonesty we have come to expect from the Times.  The article begins, as sensational articles must, with a headline in a font size much larger than this:

Lockdown Delays Cost at Least 36,000 Lives, Data Show
Even small differences in timing would have prevented the worst exponential growth, which by April had subsumed New York City, New Orleans and other major cities, researchers found.”  (emphasis supplied)

The article concludes not with a bang, but a whimper.

All models are only estimates, and it is impossible to know for certain the exact number of people who would have died. But Lauren Ancel Meyers, a University of Texas at Austin epidemiologist who was not involved in the research, said that it “makes a compelling case that even slightly earlier action in New York could have been game changing.’ ”  (emphasis supplied)

Only at the end of the piece does the Times tell the reader that the promised would is at best a could.  The would, of course, is in big letters at the top of the article. The could (the author showing the cards he really holds) is at the end.  That is how newspapers handle retractions.  The defamation appears on page one. The retraction, if one is made, is buried on page 37 two days later.

It appears that the Times did not interview any epidemiologist who would say that an earlier lockdown would have made a difference in New York.  Had they done so they would have quoted him.  The best the Times could do was Dr. Myers, who declined to utter the words the Times longed to hear:  that an earlier handling of the pandemic by the Administration would have made a difference.

What is the data mentioned in the Times‘ screaming headline? The article provides none.  Perhaps they expect the reader to take the columnist’s (oops! reporter’s) word for that.  The line between news and commentary has become indistinguishable at the Times.

The writers of the piece should go to work for the National Enquirer.  There they could give full vent to their hatred for President Trump.

Trump has blood on his hands!  Caused the death of 36,000 Americans!!

After a couple of years at the Enquirer they could hope to advance to writing about movie stars with precarious marriages and babies with three heads.
May 18 2020

On April 14 I began my CV Journal entry with this:
Today, Tuesday, another day like those that went before. We continue to live in the shadow of the pandemic. So what news prompts this entry in Coronavirus Journal?  The news is that there is no news. 
Today, Monday, May 18, I find it hard to believe that little more than  a month has passed since I wrote that.  It seems like six months.  Today the news is as it was then:  There is no news.  Events are reported but there is no news.
I live near Jacksonville, Florida.  Almost every day, it seems, a TV news anchor reports a case of fatal gun violence.  The station has sent a pretty young woman to report from the scene.  One constant is that the action is over before she arrives.  She stands with her microphone on the periphery of the crime scene.  Behind her the closest thing to interesting is the yellow police tape.  As she waits for her cue the anchor back in the studio speaks:  
Bob: “Well, Alicia, another child dead in an act of senseless violence.”  
Alicia: “Yes, Bob.  Three year-old Latasha Johnson died last night when a bullet pierced the wall of her house and killed her as she knelt to say her nightly prayers.”

The following day Alicia will be back with a follow up. 
Bob: “Well, Alicia, we’re told that the community is in mourning.”
Alicia:  “Yes, Bob, three-year-old Lastasha Johson is still dead and the community is in mourning.  We reached out to the Sheriff’s Office but they have not yet gotten back to us.”


Wait a minute! we heard that story a month ago!  But then it was Aaliyah, 4 years old.  Perhaps Lorena or Kimberley held the microphone, but the story was the same.  New event, old news.
the sun rises and people thrive
the sun sets and people die
here in beautiful  Jacksonville
where Florida begins

And so it is with the pandemic news these days.
Bob:  “Well, Alicia, people have gathered, some carrying guns, at the state capital of [Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio] to demand an end to social distancing.”
Alicia: “Yes, Bob, protesters, some armed with long guns, are here to protest continuing restrictions on activity in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.”

The cities change but the tone is the same.  A mob has gathered  to shoot the messenger, to vilify a governor or mayor who refuses to pretend that the pandemic is over before it really is.
Michigan demonstrators called Governor Gretchen Whitmer a tyrant and carried a sign, “tyrants get the rope.”  They propose to add her to a list of obvious villains:  Hitler, Stalin, Castro.  It is a preposterous hyperbole to place Governor Whitmer in that company.
The protesters want an end to inconvenience.  It is inconvenient to  wear masks.  It is inconvenient to avoid crowded places.   In Ohio some “organizer” was quoted as saying:
The cure for this virus is way worse than the disease,” Miller said. “I think we’re all finding that out. I think we’re all finding out also that the virus is not nearly as bad as we thought.”

If Miller gets his way, an 80-year-old woman in Cleveland will die whose death could have been prevented by precautions to prevent infection.  We don’t yet know her name, but we know that her outcome will be “way worse” than Miller’s inconvenience.
What do I say now without being preachy?  Just this:  Let’s not add anarchy to our other problems.
May 12 2020

Strippers are people too.

Yesterday a Federal judge in Flint, Michigan ruled in favor of the Little Darlings strip club in Flint.  Little Darlings sued the Small Business Administration because the SBA refused to give it a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program.

The Paycheck Protection Program is a hasty response to the economic disaster caused by the pandemic.  It provides loans to small businesses so that they can pay their employees during the crisis.  In effect it is designed to freeze the status quo.  Those employed before the pandemic will continue to be employed.

The Small Business Administration ruled that “prurient” businesses like strip clubs are not eligible. Ordinary people, I suspect, would think that reasonable.  Strip clubs are not the kind of business we want to nurture: Middle-aged losers with bellies by Budweiser leering at young women and tucking greasy $5 bills (or whatever the rate is for a glimpse of breast) into their meager clothing.

Judge Leitman is not an ordinary person.  He is a judge.  It is not his place to rule what the law ought to be.  It is his place to rule what the law is. His ruling is correct.  The congressmen who passed the Paycheck Protection Program (without reading it, I daresay) did not exclude unsavory businesses.

I wanted to see just how unsavory Little Darlings is.  This is a review by one of the working girls whom Congress wants to keep employed:

I was hit in the face by a customer and ripped off a 1,000 dollars, the club dose nothing if the girls get ripped off by a customer and don’t be surprised when the club rips your off. This club dose not protect their girls their easily disposable. . . .The drug flow in the bar is insane if your looking this place has what you need sorry . . . Iv been a dancer for 9 years and have worked at many of clubs Iv never had a customer or dancer complaint, I have Constance repeat customers, my standing with all the dancers and customers is in great an reliable along with my opinion.  [Carrie M., Grand Blanc]

Thanks to Judge Leitman Little Darlings will get its money.  How far should this open door go?  I propose some candidates for relief:  neighborhood drug dealers, pimps and prostitutes, lawyers who advertise.  To all of them I say, “your government is thinking of you.  Take the money and carry on as before.  We’re all in this together.”
May 1 2020

Never waste a good crisis.” Those who were pushing extreme left wing positions before COVID-19 now offer them as solutions to problems caused by the disease.  One huge problem is the loss of jobs, which makes it impossible for Americans to make rent and mortgage payments.  Here is a proposed solution:

As unemployment soars across the country, tenants rights groups and community nonprofits have rallied around an audacious goal: to persuade the government to halt rent and mortgage payments — without back payments accruing — for as long as the economy is battered by the coronavirus.

Naturally Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is on board. So is her soulmate from Minnesota:

Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, introduced the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, which would relieve tenants of their obligation to pay rent, transfer mortgages to the federal government and allow landlords to recoup their rent costs — but only if they agree to a vast new regulatory program that includes a rent freeze and the inability to collect back payments.

There will be no lack of tenants to support the idea.  Whenever a politician proposes to rob Peter to pay Paul, he can always count on Paul’s support.

The proposed legislation seeks to solve renters’ problems at the expense of landlords.  But the solution would soon become unpalatable to both.  Government has the power to plunder some to help others.  It does it all the time by taxation and subsidies.  But it cannot repeal the laws of human nature and economics.  Without rent income the business of owning and renting apartments would become unprofitable.  Landlords would start to neglect, even abandon, their buildings.  Tenants freed from rent payments would find themselves living without working elevators, without heat, without water, without pest control. Fortunately Representatives Ocasio-Cortez and Omar would be spared such inconvenience as recipients of government paychecks.

As I read outrages like this in the pandemic press, I think about Atlas Shrugged, a dystopian masterpiece (philosophical, not literary) about America trying to survive by looting its productive citizens.  It works at first, but eventually the looters run out of things to steal.  The productive gather in an idyllic corner of the country and trade with each other, value for value.  There are no subsidies, no freeloaders. They leave the looters and those who tolerate them to their own ineffectual devices. 

The titan Atlas, who held the world on his shoulders, holds it no longer.  He has shrugged.
April 29 2020

When I was a medical malpractice lawyer in Miami my job was as much about medicine as it was about law.  I thought I should learn about anatomy.  So I contacted Joe Davis, the Dade County Medical Examiner, and asked if I could watch some autopsies.  Dr. Davis said, “This is a public office.  You’re a member of the public.  Come on over.”

So I did.  It was a good day for my first visit, not busy enough for a visiting lawyer to be in the way.  Dr. Davis explained that Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami’s Bellevue, provided a steady stream of customers. He called it the Jackson Knife and Gun Club.  Many stayed there briefly and then took the short trip to Dr. Davis’ office.  They arrived dressed as they were when Death invited them:  hospital gowns, recent wounds dressed, IV and endotracheal tubes still in place.  They traded the din of the ER for the silence of the morgue.  Each corpse awaited his last doctor’s appointment in a refrigerated room.  The doctors keep their lunches there. 

Doctors get used to death.  I asked one of the doctors how he could stand the smell.  His reply:  “What smell?” Why would a doctor who lives with death every day decide one day to kill herself?  

Dr. Lorna Breen, age 49, was the medical director of the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital.  She contracted the coronavirus, “recovered” from it, and returned to work. The hospital sent her home again.  She travelled to Virginia to recover with her family.  That is where she died.

Dr. Breen was a beauty.  She had a prestigious job.  She played the cello, went snowboarding, and liked salsa dancing.  She was fully alive.  Why did she kill herself?  I don’t know.  

What I do know is the disease Dr. Breen was battling was very contagious.  She and her colleagues were at great risk of contracting it.  The long term effects for survivors were not known.  Dr. Breen and her colleagues worked without adequate protective equipment.  Every time they changed into a new gown or put on a new mask they could see that the remaining supply was dwindling.  They lacked ventilators to keep patients alive until their symptoms subsided.  That forced them to make choices about who would live and who would die. 

The way patients presented kept changing.  At first it was respiratory distress plus fever.  Then patients started to appear with different symptoms.  Loss of taste and smell.  Muscle pain.  Sore throat.  There was no established treatment protocol.  There was no cure.  

Death was so common and so frequent that the dead remained in the Emergency Department, sometimes for hours, before someone came to take them away.  As they walked around the dead to tend to the living, the dead constantly reminded Dr. Breen and her colleagues that they had failed.  Perhaps the first thing Dr. Breen saw each day when she arrived for her shift were the refrigerated trucks that served as temporary morgues.

As the medical director Dr. Breen had to worry about the health of the doctors she supervised.  I suppose that some of them were doctors in training.  They must have started medical school with a vague understanding of the profession’s dangers.  But nothing could have prepared them for the bedlam that is the New York City emergency department these days.  Dr. Breen, like a military commander, had to send them into battle.  What did she feel when they got sick?  Did she blame herself when they died? All those years of training, all those useful years ahead.  Gone.  But there was no time to mourn the dead.  Dr. Breen had to turn away and tend to the endless flow of patients pleading to be saved.

In an interview with Chris Cuomo Dr. Breen’s father, a retired trauma surgeon, used a metaphor to describe the end of his daughter’s life:

“I think she felt an overwhelming sense of wanting to help her colleagues and her friends who were still fighting the good fight, and so she strapped on her harness and took the bit in her mouth and she went back,” Breen said. “I talked to her just before her final 12-hour shift. And during the time she was on that shift, she basically went down in the traces like a horse that had pulled too heavy a load and couldn’t go a step further and just went down.”

That is as good an explanation as we are likely to get.
April 28 2020

Waiting for me in this morning’s news:

Several large restaurant chains, an asset management firm and even the Los Angeles Lakers have returned money they received from the first $349 billion allotment in the Paycheck Protection Program.

No doubt some spoilsports will howl that the Lakers are not a small business.  But of course they are.  They have only five employees on the floor at a time. The team’s majority owner is the Buss Family trust, a family business, akin to a Mom and Pop store.  The Lakers franchise is now valued at $4.4 billion, but without government assistance that could dwindle to $3 billion or even less.  It is more than reasonable that they, rather than some diner in Poughkeepsie with five laid-off employees, should draw on  limited PPP funds.  This is, after all, America, land of pigs, troughs, and friends in high places.  (Cue the patriotic music)

I want no more of these petty complaints about government programs, not while I have real problems, like finding toilet paper.
April 26 2020

Today is Sunday. Yesterday Penny and I went shopping at Publix for the first time in ten days.

On Friday Publix was a crime scene. When a sheriff’s deputy pulled over a pickup reported stolen in Pennsylvania, its driver fired a shotgun at him. Other deputies arrived, filled the fellow full of holes, and slid what was left of him into an ambulance. They impounded the cars they had wounded (evidence I suppose) and left their drivers to fend for themselves.

Saturday was much less exciting. The only frightening thing was the $200 bill at Publix. Not too bad actually. It works out to $20 per day since our previous visit. We found the shelves well stocked except for paper goods. No surprise there. We expected to find toilet paper no more than we expected to find gold bars.

After we filed  our purchases into the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, I suggested a drive down A1A, the scenic road that connects Ponte Vedra Beach to St. Augustine. We did not go all the way to St. Augustine, but close to it. Then we turned around and made the scenic trip in reverse. Traffic was sparse. We saw the same bicyclist, burdened with a telltale load, on both legs of our journey. “Homeless,” Penny said.

We could not see the ocean in Ponte Vedra Beach where the dunes rise high and the wealthy dwell. Their steep driveways make me think of snow which must be removed from the treacherous incline. Not here of course, but then they don’t have hurricanes.

When the ocean popped into view Penny got lyrical about how much she misses the beach. I do not share her fondness, but am willing to visit it for her sake. An activity for the indefinite future, I thought.

And then deus ex machina! M.L invited us to her private beach club. No amenities. No food. Umbrellas and blankets forbidden by county decree. Just a chance to feel the sand between our toes, to hear small waves lapping the shore beneath wispy clouds.

When we got there M.L. displayed the credential that admitted us. We headed for the beach but only two of us walked onto the sand. I do not do well on uneven surfaces, so I found a bench near the deserted clubhouse. Since it was too bright to read my phone I had to satisfy myself with viewing my surroundings: sky, water, beachgoers trying to maintain a safe distance from each other.

I hoped to see something worth writing about. Perhaps a sonnet to the sea, sand, and sky. (Hmm, lots of s’s there.) But there was no poem for a recovering lawyer trained to think literally. I saw and felt only what was there. I took some interest in departing visitors performing their exit routines. Those with flip-flops hosed them off. Those with sneakers stamped their feet to leave the sand behind rather than to carry it to the car.

And then Penny and M.L. came into view, back sooner than I had expected. I did not wonder what they had been talking about until a country lyric came to mind:
As long as old men sit and talk about the weather
As long as old women sit and talk about old men

M.L. retrieved the car and picked us up at the club entrance. I invited her to brunch at my house, but she had things to do. She might come over later. Or maybe tomorrow.

Another day living with the pandemic.
April 24 2020

I am writing today about the economic effects of the pandemic. They have  reverberated throughout the economy, but I focus here on its impact on working people who depend upon a salary or hourly wage for their income. They are experiencing the misery of not being able to pay their bills.

“‘My other piece of advice, Copperfield,’ said Mr. Micawber, ‘you know. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six, result misery.”
David Copperfield (1850)

Millions of people who earned enough to pay their bills before the pandemic no longer can. I can only guess how they must feel. The rent is due. The pantry is bare. The car needs work to be driveable. Chrissy needs braces or physical therapy. 

There is  psychological as well as economic pain. Thoreau said that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Nowadays the desperation is anything but quiet.  Demands to reopen businesses have become strident.

Many unemployed see the choice as between the possibility of infection and the certainty of economic ruin. People have always chosen to assume risk in order to make money. Civilian workers in war zones are well paid, but live with the danger of violent death. Coal miners risk permanent lung injury and shortened life. Iron workers risk death from falls and dropped objects. Yet people choose to work in these occupations.

With contagious diseases the choice is more complex than that. Someone who abandons social distancing is risking not only his own life, but also the lives of others within reach of his breath. A parent who leaves his children unvaccinated is risking the lives of his neighbors’ children. Infectious diseases make the population a single organism.

So how do we make the choice? From Bloomberg magazine, March 25:

The billionaire Tom Golisano was smoking a Padron cigar on his patio in Florida on Tuesday afternoon. He was worried.
“The damages of keeping the economy closed as it is could be worse than losing a few more people,” said Golisano, founder and chairman of the payroll processor Paychex Inc. “I have a very large concern that if businesses keep going along the way they’re going then so many of them will have to fold.”

“You’re picking the better of two evils,” said Golisano, who wants people to go back to their offices in states that have been relatively spared by the coronavirus, but remain at home in hot spots. “You have to weigh the pros and cons.”

We must decide how to assess risk so that we can choose the lesser of two evils.

When the Golden Gate Bridge was being built in the 1930’s, a rule of thumb was that one worker would die for every million dollars spent building a bridge. Does that mean that the bridge should not have been built?

If we lowered the speed limit on interstate highways to 45 mph, a statistically predictable number of deaths could be prevented. How many of us are willing to accept the lower speed limit in order to save (probably  someone else’s) life?

What is the probability that cases will increase if people abandon social distancing? We really don’t know. The models, when graphed together, resemble the spaghetti maps we see when hurricanes are approaching. 

I am considering a trip to the grocery store today. I need nothing essential, but would like to replenish my supply of fruit and yogurt. The trip carries a non-zero risk of catching the virus. Am I willing to take the risk to satisfy my craving for fruit? I have not decided yet. The safe move is to stay home and eat peanut butter out of the jar.

When I was a kid playgrounds were positively dangerous compared to what they are today. A fall from the jungle gym would land a kid on a concrete surface with a good chance of a broken arm. When I was 9, I was a catcher in a softball game without a mask. A foul tip broke my nose. That would be a lawsuit today. My parents and I regarded it simply as bad luck.

Today Georgia, number 12 in the list of states with the most coronavirus cases, is permitting a partial return to work.

Georgia governor Brian Kemp announced on Monday (April 20) that he will be lifting some of the stay-at-home measures he put in place on April 1. “Gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, cosmetologists, hair designers, nail care artists, estheticians, their respective schools, and massage therapists,” will be allowed to reopen on Friday, April 24, he said. “This measure will apply statewide and will be the operational standard in all jurisdictions. This means local action cannot be taken that is more or less restrictive,” he added.

“Subject to specific social distancing and sanitation mandates,” theaters, private social clubs and dine-in restaurants will be allowed to reopen on Monday, April 27, he said.

Is Governor Kemp right to take this risk? We’ll see. And we’ll also see how many Georgians will continue to follow the more cautious guidelines despite the new freedom Governor Kemp has granted them.

We started this piece with one billionaire’s point of view. We end it with another billionaire’s opinion:

Mark Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks, wants Americans to listen to epidemiologists instead. “Ignore anything someone like me might say,” Cuban wrote in an email. “Lives are at stake.”
April 21 2020

If the demand for employees exceeds the supply, what should an employer do:

1. Raise wages
2. Lower wages
3. Keep wages the same

Some hospitals, including the redoubtable Mayo Clinic, have chosen option #2.

The doctors and nurses who work in our nation’s emergency room are among the heroes of the pandemic. In New York they are risking their lives, and their families’ lives, every time they report for work in the bedlam that is today’s New York emergency department. They work long hours without adequate protective clothing. They must yearn for comparatively safe occupations like lumberjack and Alaskan fisherman.

Here is how we repay them:

Emergency room workers in several states are reportedly facing pay cuts as hospitals struggle financially during the coronavirus outbreak. Workers in at least six states told CBS News that they have taken pay reductions of up to 40 percent as many doctors and nurses also see reduced hours for their work week.

I realize that hospitals cannot survive without revenue. The pandemic has idled profit centers like elective surgery. I recently received a call from the Mayo Clinic. The caller  offered me a videophone appointment. Before the pandemic, there was a long wait for an appointment. Now Mayo is cold calling to scare up business. These are hard times for hospitals and clinics. I can understand why they are looking for ways to boost revenue and to cut expenses.

But cutting salaries and hours of doctors and nurses is not the right way to do it.

Mayo, like most American hospitals, has nonprofit status. They pay no Federal income tax and no property tax. The rationale for the tax break is that they will use what would otherwise be profit to lower medical costs and to subsidize indigent care. Taking an action which makes pandemic treatment more scarce or unavailable is hardly consistent  with that obligation.

Having said that, I do not expect Mayo and other hospitals to bear the financial burden alone. Government also has a role to play. The Congressional response to the pandemic,  the CARES Act, is a Christmas tree for special interests. In addition to subsidies for those who don’t need or deserve them, it gives $1,200 to each taxpayer. Is it more important to enable a citizen to spend $1,200 however he wishes than it is to staff and provision adequately emergency departments and intensive care units overrun with coronavirus patients?

Arguably, medical care should be considered a service like any other. Those that can afford it get it; those who cannot do not. That is not a majority view in the United States. Most of us believe that emergency departments should not be free to turn patients away before stabilizing them. If we insist on that “right”, we must be willing to pay for it.

These are hard times. Many people are suffering economic hardship. But when need is great and resources are limited we must set priorities. The availability of doctors and nurses to staff hospitals should be at the top of the list.
April 20 2020
Yesterday “protesters” in Denver carried out what some reporter or editor dubbed Operation Gridlock. They blocked streets with their vehicles and honked their horns. They waved banners with edifying slogans. I’d prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery. Quarantine the sick not the healthy. Fake crisis. My favorite: Give me liberty or give me Covid-19. He may get his wish, and soon if a contagious colleague coughed on him in Denver.

We have come to expect such events. We call them demonstrations, as if everyone present had come to express the same grievance, including the man in Denver holding an automatic weapon and the double-wide woman in American flag stilettos embracing him. Those who praise demonstrations think them noble exercises simply because the Constitution permits them. 

That is, of course, a non-sequitur. The Constitution permits people to act like idiots, but it  is not an occasion for celebration when they do. I am free to approach a woman on the street and call her fat, but I am a churl rather than a freedom fighter if I do so.

There are arguments to be made in favor of lifting restrictions. Blocking streets and honking horns is an inappropriate way to make them. It may well prove to be counterproductive as well.

What impels me to write today is not that a grab-bag of discontents demonstrated in Denver, but that at least one healthcare worker was there to oppose them. Reuters photos show the scene well. A man wearing scrubs and a mask is standing with his arms folded in front of a line of vehicles. He evokes the lone Chinese man standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square. The Denver tank is a muscular Dodge pickup. Its angry driver is seen out of his truck reasoning with (or perhaps shouting at) the man in scrubs.  He is wearing a cap with a back-turned bill and a “Bills 33” jersey. No doubt Patrick Henry wore something similar. His passenger is thrusting her ample prow out the window while holding a Land of the Free poster. She is wearing an American flag T-shirt with stars on her shoulders. Her hair is blond, but perhaps not all of it. (Catty observation. Should be edited out.)

Regrettably the President of the United States is encouraging this sort of behavior, thereby ignoring not only the threat of the virus, but the threat of anarchy as well.
April 14 2020

Today, Tuesday, another day like those that went before. We continue to live in the shadow of the pandemic. So what news prompts this entry in Coronavirus Journal?  The news is that there is no news. 

When I told Penny about today’s theme, she remarked that no news is good news. That is often true, but not, I think, when the no-news is just more of the same bad news we have been hearing for days now. People are (still) dying. Different names, same event. People are (still) unemployed. Schools are (still) closed. 

The economy has atrophied. Grocers struggle to satisfy demand for the things that once filled their shelves, shelves that are now bare thanks to hoarders. That was news yesterday; it is no-news today.

In thirty minutes the nightly news will announce the body count. The New York body count and the everywhere-else body count. It will tell us that people are losing their jobs. It will tell us that medical  workers are exhausted and that the supplies they need to protect themselves are scarce and expensive.  

In many cases they are exorbitant. Crisis profiteering is no-news. It happens after every hurricane. An elderly widow pines for a return to life without a hole in her roof. Insurance check in hand she hires a “roofer” who called himself something else a week ago. He pockets her money and leaves the hole to remind her to be less trusting in the future.

Here is heart-warming bit of no-news from The Miami Herald:

Fisher Island — an exclusive enclave of multi-million dollar condos and homes and one of the wealthiest ZIP Codes in the country — has purchased thousands of rapid COVID-19 blood test kits from the University of Miami Health System for all of its residents and workers.

Fisher Island’s asymptomatic residents get scarce blood tests. Are they doctors? Nurses? Police officers? Grocery workers? No, they are rich. That is enough to move them to the front of the line.

I included an excerpt from Ecclesiastes in a recent post. True when written, true now: There is nothing new under the sun.
April 10 2020

Viral Senioritis
the high school prom is cancelled now
for fear that creamy mounds of flesh
might harbor viral death
expect the sheepskin in the mail
no need to mount the high school stage
with mortarboard and mask
just what do they commence this year
what future lies ahead for them
before they reach the grave
April 9 2020

Today I started to comment on an op-ed piece in yesterday’s New York Times by Senator Elizabeth Warren or one of her ghostwriting minions. The column offers the entire left-wing wish list as a solution to the pandemic. I was much improved by reading it. How blind I have been not to recognize that student loan forgiveness and public health are two sides of the same coin!

But my article would have been boring. It even bored me. So I took it out and shot it.

I must confess that I am out of ideas for Coronavirus Journal. I have written about people behaving well and about people behaving badly. I have written about heroes and about cowards. I have written about hard choices, about deciding who gets to live and who must die. Today I was about to write about business as usual:  a politician using a crisis to further her agenda. 

What is the point? Read this. I can write nothing as lucid and as powerful.

Ecclesiastes 1 King James Version (KJV)
1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
3 What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
4 One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth forever.
5 The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.
6 The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.
7 All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.
8 All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

When I get a new idea, I’ll be back.
Bart Greene
April 8 2020

Yesterday the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville called to offer me an appointment by video call. I asked if I could get a colostomy remotely. When she explained the procedure I realized that my phone was the wrong shape.

ABC Fine Wine and Liquors, a chain in Florida, has devised a way to buy wet goods with minimal exposure to people. Go online, place and pay for your order, and then wait for an email to say that it is ready. When you arrive for pickup, call the number on the email and someone will shlep the goods to your car. In Florida liquor shops are designated essential services and may remain open during the pandemic. Thus Floridians prevent adding alcoholic withdrawal to our other problems.

That reminds me of a story. A lawyer friend in Miami had a partner with a drinking problem. One night he drove his car into a swimming pool. My friend had to cover a hearing for him the next morning. When he told the judge and the other lawyers why he had to pinch-hit, the Judge said, “I hope he’s not hurt!” My friend replied, “Not hurt, judge. Just wet. They’re drying him out now.”

I was watching CBS news this morning. The news, as expected, was grim. One piece, with CBS correspondent Dr. Tara Narula, began with a story about a 78-year-old man who died recently after his heart surgery was cancelled. Dr. Narula asked his daughter if she thought that the cancellation precipitated his death. She said yes, but immediately added that her view was subjective and that “there is no blame here.” It was refreshing to hear someone view her own interests in the context of scarcity and overwhelming need.

Dr. Narula’s theme this morning was the ethical choices we must make during the pandemic. Dr. Narula is a cardiologist in New York. It is not relevant to say that she is astonishingly beautiful. So I won’t.

Dr. Narula explained why it might be appropriate not to perform CPR on coronavirus patients. First, the success rate for CPR is 20%. Thus 80% of the patients will die even when CPR is given. 

Second, CPR fills the air with infectious droplets. The doctors and nurses who participate are at risk of infection. To minimize that risk they must use a lot of personal protective equipment, thus depleting the hospital’s limited supply of masks and gowns.

We heard from other experts during the piece, including doctors and ethicists. All agreed that we need guidelines to spare doctors at the bedside the stress of deciding who lives and who dies. One suggestion was that we assign numbers 1 to 8 to patients based upon how likely it is that they can benefit from treatment. Limited resources would first go to patients rated 1, then to 2, and so on. Age would be a factor only as a tie-breaker between patients with the same numerical rating.

I am 74, but I disagree about the weight to be given to age. Age should be more than a tie-breaker. We should focus not on lives saved, but on years of life saved. Medicine does not save lives; it extends them. All men, including Socrates, are mortal. Treating a young person potentially saves more years of life than treating an old person.

Regardless of the criteria used, it is important to think about end-of-life decisions before the patient is circling the drain. It is important for doctors and ethicists. It is also important for patients and their families. Dr. Narula stressed that families should discuss their end-of-life preferences before the need arises in order to be prepared for the agonizing decisions that might lie ahead.
April 7 2020

Today’s oddity is from the Seattle Times:
A little-known Washington nonprofit has filed a lawsuit against Fox News in King County Superior Court, claiming the news station, its parent companies and owners violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act and acted in bad faith by disseminating false information about the novel coronavirus through its television news broadcasts and minimized the danger posed by the virus as COVID-19 began to explode into a pandemic.
Yakima attorney Liz Hallock, who is running for governor as a Green Party candidate, is representing WASHLITE in the lawsuit against Fox News. (Seattle Times)

Anyone can  file a lawsuit. When I practiced law in Miami, everyone did. The cost is trivial, a bargain if the goal is publicity.  
The news of the filing will be on page one. The news of its dismissal will be buried deep in the paper if it appears at all.
Ms. Hallock, as the Seattle Times article notes, is “little-known.” The news of this stunt will make her better known, which may be why she filed it. The article notes that Ms. Hallock is running for governor. She has already run unsuccessfully for other offices in Washington. Her campaign literature touts her experience as a small business owner, which she is. She runs a Mom and Pot store in Yakima called Sweet Relief Cannabis Company. When I read her skimpy bio I was impressed to find that she graduated from Princeton. I was less impressed when I discovered that she majored in Classical Art. 
So far this has all been ad hominem. What is important is whether her lawsuit has merit. It does not. Even though I am a lawyer, I will not bore my readers with a treatise on First Amendment law. Suffice it to say that Mr. Hannity and his henchmen at Fox News are well within their rights to express opinions about the pandemic or anything else. I hold no brief for Hannity. Having listened to him several times, I have no wish to listen to him again. That is my choice. His listeners can decide for themselves whether he has anything to say which is of use to them..
This Washington  lawsuit is as silly as the contention that “climate deniers” should be charged with a crime.
(CNN) President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and others who oppose action to address human-induced climate change should be held accountable for climate crimes against humanity. (August 19 2019)
That is totalitarian nonsense. 
Yesterday I wrote about Tavia Galonski, an Ohio woman who wants to charge President Trump with crimes against humanity because he opined that an anti-malarial drug might be useful against COVID-19. Perhaps Ms. Galonski and Ms. Hallock should discuss strategy  over tokes of Ms. Hallock’s product.
April 6 2020

Today I offer a little comic relief.
[Washington Times] Ohio state Rep. Tavia Galonski said she wants President Trump to be prosecuted in The Hague for “crimes against humanity” over his promotion of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus.
“I can’t take it anymore,” Ms. Galonski, a Democrat, tweeted Sunday night after Mr. Trump’s coronavirus task force briefing.
“I’ve been to The Hague,” she continued. “I’m making a referral for crimes against humanity tomorrow. Today’s press conference was the last straw. I know the need for a prosecution referral when I see one.”
Ms. Galonski is a state representative in Ohio. She is well-qualified to decide if the President has committed crimes against humanity. She has a law degree from the University of Akron School of Law (one of the top thousand in the country), served as a magistrate (something below a judge) in Ohio, and is a member of the Ohio House of Representatives. The clincher is that  she has actually been to the Hague! Not many American politicians can say that.
According to this middle-American prodigy, the President’s crime against humanity was that he claimed that an anti-malarial drug, hydroxychloroquine, has some efficacy against the COVID-19 virus.
The President did not say that. He said that there is evidence (albeit anecdotal) that suggests that it might have some efficacy. Even had he said  that hydroxychloroquine was of proven efficacy against the virus that would be no crime, just as it is no crime for washed-up actors to make paid television appearances to claim that copper bracelets are a sovereign cure for all sorts of ailments.

What is Ms. Galonski’s game here? Publicity? To improve her standing with the idiots who elected her to her present post? I don’t know. But I look forward to footage of Ms. Galonski in the Hague to file her complaint.

Lest I be misunderstood. Do I think that Presidents without medical training should give medical advice? Do I think that they should try to censor experts like Dr. Fauci? No and no.

I close with a senryu:

make room, Mengele
Trump is coming
thanks to Galonski
April 5 2020

New York Governor Cuomo issued an executive order on March 23. It immunizes health care workers from criminal and civil liability for their treatment of COVID-19 patients provided that their actions are taken in good faith and are not grossly negligent. It permits retired New York doctors to return to practice even if they lack current New York registration. It permits doctors licensed in other states to travel  to New York to treat COVID-19 patients. The order is effective between March 23 and April 22. 

No doubt some malpractice lawyers will denounce this measure. That is to be expected. The virus kills and weakens people. It does not kill or weaken greed and self-interest.

Rule One of the law of torts (malpractice is a tort) is this:  A person has no legal obligation to act for the good of another. Rules Two through Infinity are the exceptions to Rule One.

A doctor has no common law legal duty to treat a patient. A retired doctor has no duty to come out of retirement during a public health emergency. An out-of-state doctor has no duty to travel to New York to provide medical care.

Governor Cuomo’s executive order addresses one reason doctors might be disinclined to help during the crisis: the fear of legal liability.

Doctors will be making some very difficult decisions during this crisis. If a patient on a ventilator suffers a cardio-pulmonary arrest, should the doctors and nurses revive him? 

May the doctors pull the plug on a patient to make his ventilator available to a patient with a better chance of survival? Triage is a well-established way to allocate scarce resources. It can be a death sentence for patients who don’t make the cut for treatment, but it can be a chance for survival for those who do.

On April 3, I wrote about Dr. Richard Levitan, who came to Bellevue from New Hampshire to treat COVID-19 patients. The Board of the co-op where Dr. Levitan’s brother lives denied Dr. Levitan access to the apartment for rest between his Bellevue shifts. I concluded that Dr. Levitan is a hero and the Board members are ballast on the ship of life whose non-battle-cry is:  “I’ve got mine. Screw you!”

Thanks to Governor Cuomo free-riders like the co-op Board members will never sit as jurors to judge their betters, the doctors and nurses who are now acting under extreme pressure and at great personal risk.
April 4 2020

When I was a kid I encountered a counterintuitive (for a kid at least) bit of mathematics.

Suppose that D (debtor) owes C (creditor) $10,000. D does not have the money to pay, so C offers him a payment plan. Today you pay me a penny, tomorrow $.02, the next day $.04, and so on for 30 days. D, eager to accept before C sees his folly, agrees.

During the first 7 days D pays C a total of $1.27. D is feeling good about his bargain. During the first 15 days, he pays a total of $327.67. Halfway through the 30 days! By day 19 the total is $5,242.88. D is still ahead, but is becoming uneasy about how quickly the numbers are increasing.

And with good reason. The payment for day #20 is $5,242.88, bringing the total paid to $10,485.72, more than the original debt! And still ten more payments left!

The payment for day #30 is $5,368.709.12. The total of all 30 payments is $10,737,438.23. That is geometric progression.

COVID-19 spreads geometrically. There are few cases at first, but the number quickly becomes enormous, unmanageable. Suppose that each infected person infects two people. Each of them infects two people. And so on. The growth rate is the same as our money example. But the money example ruins only D. COVID-19 threatens to ruin us all.

During the AIDS epidemic there was a public service advertisement on television. It began with a picture of an attractive couple who are sleeping together. They look healthy, but each of them has slept with four other people. So eight more people enter the picture. After a few iterations, the two people have become a crowd. Some of them are  decidedly less healthy than the couple the ad started with.

The point is that a sexually active person is effectively sleeping with everyone his (or her) partner has slept with.
Substitute coughing (or even just breathing, we are now being told) for sexual intercourse. A stranger’s breath on you is effectively the combined breath of everyone who has breathed on him. That is the risk we run when we leave our homes these days.

Time for an updated public service ad?
April 3 2020 (Revised)

Coronavirus Journal April 3 2020
Bart Greene
The Doctor Came to Save Lives. The Co-op Board Told Him to Get Lost. [New York Times, April 3, 2020]

The headline sounds more like the Post or the Daily News, but the Times’ tabloid headline fits the facts perfectly.

Dr. Richard Levitan is a 58-year-old emergency room doctor from northern New Hampshire. He grew up in New York City and trained at Bellevue. Then  he trained in Philadelphia where, according to the Times, he became: “a teaching guru on managing the human airway — including performing the tricky but vital task of intubation, threading a breathing tube into people who are not getting enough oxygen.”

Is there any more valuable skill in a hospital full of coronavirus patients?and  

Dr. Levitan volunteered to spend ten days at Bellevue. He  went there for his first shift on Monday. and intubated a patient within ten minutes of his arrival. After his shift he was ready to go home to the Upper West Side apartment this brother owns. But before he left Bellevue, he found a text from his brother.

“Hey Richard — We are so proud of you and your heroism. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but looks like our apartment building doesn’t want you staying in our apt.”

Dr. Levitan  went to his brother’s building and confirmed the bad news. From the Times article:

The doorman told him that he was not allowed in, and called the superintendent. Dr. Levitan video-recorded the conversation with the building superintendent:
“You’re telling me I’m not welcome to stay in this apartment?” Dr. Levitan asked.

“I’m afraid, doctor, that is not my decision, unfortunately, but that is the situation, unfortunately,” the superintendent responded, sounding miserable.

“Why is that?”

“I guess they’re afraid of you bringing this virus with you,” the superintendent said.

Dr. Levitan got his belongings and left to seek  another place to stay.

It was not his decision, the superintendent had hastened to say, implying that had it been, Dr. Leviitan would be welcome to go to his brother’s apartment for some well-earned rest. It was the Board’s decision.. Of course no board member was present to face Dr. Levitan.  A lack of guts perhaps. Or perhaps the board members, rich enough to own second homes, had fled New York before Dr. Levitan arrived. They did not want their building exposed to the virus even when they were absent. They left it to their employees to tell Dr. Levitan that he was unwelcome.

The board members, if asked,  might well agree that New Yorkers should help visiting doctors help New York.They might criticize another building for doing what they did.  It is a classic case of Nimby (Not In My Back Yard) behavior. Nimbys are the people who favor wind power to decrease pollution, but will hire lawyers to oppose the placement of a tower that  blocks their view .

I was angry when I read this article, but then I thought about it.  Of what are the Board members guilty? They are guilty of not being heroes, a deficiency they share with the vast majority of human beings.

In the movie Patton, General Patton is addressing the troops of the Third Army who are about to go into battle. His theme is fear and duty.

Then there’s one thing you men will be able to say when this war is over and you get back home. Thirty years from now when you’re sitting by your fireside with your grandson on your knee and he asks, ‘What did you do in the great World War Two?’ You won’t have to cough and say, ‘Well, your granddaddy shoveled shit in Louisiana.’

Dr. Levitan is risking his life at Bellevue. The members of an Upper West Side co-op board are shoveling shit in Louisiana.

April 2 2020

Dr. Anthony Fauci is in the news today for having received threats. For anyone who has not been following the coronavirus story (both of you), Dr. Fauci is the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Health. In normal times, that information could be a good trivia question. Nowadays it would be a stumper only on a coma ward.

The coronavirus has made him a famous guy. Those who watch President Trump’s news conferences have seen him standing next to the President, listening and trying not to cringe at Mr. Trump’s more extravagant statements. Dr. Fauci  has himself spoken at those news conferences to give his expert opinions, praising the President when possible and holding his tongue when necessary.

The President and Dr. Fauci do not always agree, neither on the facts nor on how optimistic we should be about the eventual body count. Dr. Fauci does not speak of  “big, beautiful” hospital ships. He does not crow about the eight ventilators the Federal government has just delivered to New York. He does not spin fantasies about how treatments for other diseases might be useful against COVID-19. He is not an amateur doctor; he is a real doctor.

Dr. Fauci’s views have apparently ruffled some feathers. Today we learn that he has been granted a security detail. Dr. Fauci takes the threats philosophically:

“This is the life I’ve chosen,” Fauci told CBS’s Gayle King. “It’s my job.”

It is an interesting choice of words. In The Godfather, Hyman Roth meets  with Michael Corleone in Roth’s Miami Beach home. The reason for Michael’s visit is to discuss some regrettable murders each has ordered against the other’s minions. Hyman bears no grudge. It is, after all, just business. “This is the life we have chosen!” he says.

The comparison is apt. Dr. Fauci is Italian-American and an honorary Jew by virtue of his medical prominence. But the path he has chosen does not involve death by gun. There is death galore in his world, but no guns. The death is delivered by bugs with names that make us cringe: SARS, HIV, MERS, Ebola. And now COVID-19. Dr. Fauci is acquainted with all of them.

As far as I know he never received death threats when dealing with those epidemics. Why now?

I don’t know. People who make anonymous threats are not famous for courage. They don’t announce who they are. Some speculate that the President’s supporters resent Dr. Fauci for not having been a cheerleader for the President’s ideas like the Vice President and other Administration officials who take the stage to praise the President’s great leadership.

Dr. Fauci is a scientist. I believe that his comments are based on his understanding of the relevant science. Do I know if he is right? Absolutely not. I misspent my school years by becoming a medical malpractice lawyer. I decided what version of the truth would help my case and bent the science to fit. That strategy worked (sometimes) because my cases were decided by  jurors, plain folks dragooned to decide cases beyond their competence.

Dr. Fauci practices before more exacting jurors: the bugs that will decide how many of us to kill. He appears to be doing his best to limit the damage. The country owes him its gratitude.
April 1 2020

My morning routine these days includes CBS This Morning with Gayle King and colleagues. Each of the TV people is working from home,

This morning (April 1 2020) they ran an interview with Dr. Scott Samlan, an Emergency Room doctor in Chicago. The interview was obviously set up in advance. But according to the interviewer, David Begnaud, Dr. Samlan surprised the CBS people by receiving their Skype call while in the ER. 

It was a dramatic interview. At the end Gayle was fighting (successfully) to retain her composure. I could empathize with her. She and I took from the interview a heightened appreciation for what doctors and nurses are going through and doing for us.

“I deal with gunshots every day and trauma and crazy stuff and this is the only thing that scares me. This is the most scared I’ve ever been being an ER doctor, and it’s not just because of me. It’s because I have a wife and a 2-year-old and a 1-year-old at home and I don’t want to expose them”

Then he added emphatically, almost defiantly:

“People say it’s our job. It’s not our job, it’s our duty!”

Dr. Samlan takes the Hippocratic Oath seriously. The word hero is way overused. But Dr. Samlan and his ER colleagues are heroes, much like the Chernobyl Divers who entered the radioactive reactor for essential work with the certain knowledge that they were embarking on a suicide mission.

Dr. Samlan was looking up as he spoke, his eyes moving back and forth, presumably at screens with information about patients about to arrive and patients already in the ER.

At that point in the interview we saw the reason for Dr. Samlan’s fear: a photograph of his family. Mrs Samlan is stunningly beautiful, a head shorter than her husband, with long dark hair and a smile that must certainly predates  the epidemic. She is holding their two-year-old, a brown haired boy with a patch of golden hair on top. Dr. Samlan is cradling their sleeping one-year-old in his left arm. His right arm, invisible in the photo, is around his wife. His smile is in stark contrast to the expression he wore today.

Dr. Samlan’s wife and children are nightly exposed to a man who has spent his workday surrounded by contagion. One year from now which of the people in the photo will be alive? The dark haired beauty? The doctor? Will the children be dead? Will they be orphans?

During the interview Dr. Samlan looks up at one of the screens. He announces that another COVID case is on the way to the hospital:

Begnaud: How is he? 
Samlan: (looking at screen) They’re doing CPR.

We see doctors putting on gowns and masks, getting ready to receive the patient. And then a question for the doctor:

Begnaud: How critical is he?
Samlan (looking up again): They’re dead.

So the protective gear was not necessary. Not for that patient.

At the end of the interview Dr. Samlan urged everyone to stay at home. Then he made this plea:

”If you have a friend or a colleague or anyone you know in the health care industry who’s working the front lines, just send them a text saying god bless you, love you, thank you for what you’re doing… that’s all we need.”

This is a link to the interview:
March 31 2020

The movie On the Beach, based on a book by Neville Shute, was released in 1959. The movie was directed by Stanley Kramer and starred Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, and Anthony Perkins. 

The coronavirus pandemic makes me think of it.

The movie is about the impending extinction of the human race caused by atomic radiation after World War III. When the movie opens radiation has already devastated the Northern Hemisphere. A lethal cloud of radiation is moving southward toward one of the the last remnants of humanity in Australia.

The Australian government arranges for its citizens to receive suicide pills or prepared injections so they may end their lives quickly rather than suffer a painful, lingering death from radiation sickness.

At the end of the movie, the radiation cloud has reached Australia and the Australians are dead. A final scene shows the empty, windblown streets of Melbourne. Dramatic music plays over an image of a Salvation Army street banner: “There is still time…Brother”.

I have been spending my days at home in North Florida, waiting for the cloud of infection to roll down from New York or up from South Florida. We are, relative to those places, the Australia of On the Beach. We do have cases of our own, more each day, but are doing well compared to New York. That can of course change and we fear that it will. While watching the mayor of Jacksonville on television yesterday, I thought that he might burst into tears. He did not. He got through his appearance bravely.

We are used to hurricanes, those that hit and those that just frighten us before turning away. Following the pandemic is like waiting for a hurricane, hoping for a fizzle but preparing for the worst. The difference is  that we don’t know when it will arrive or how big it will be. There are no winsome weather women to give us the latest forecast.

In the meantime life goes on here, sort of. I go out to my front porch and see a mostly empty street, but the drone of landscape equipment tells me that someone is trying to make a living. The juxtaposition of calamity and business as usual is jarring.

Are we waiting for the end of humanity? Is there still time, brother? We’ll see.
March 30 2020

Today’s edition of Coronavirus Journal is about the horror of the pandemic, specifically about disposal of the dead. During my search of the news this morning I came across this video:

It shows body bags being loaded onto a refrigerated truck. The audio is particularly bleak.

Videographer: This is live from Brooklyn, New York. Brooklyn Hospital. They’re putting bodies in back of a freezer truck, y’all. . . .This is for real. My hand is shaking because … It’s hard to look at this right here, what I’m seeing right now.

Worker: They have a truck we’re gonna put fucking bodies in, bro. This is full up with bodies. It’s the second load.

Learning of deaths on the news, seeing the mortality figures: that was enough for me to recognize a catastrophe. To see piles of bodies, people who were walking around a month ago, lying on a Brooklyn sidewalk, really brings it home. In normal times, death is antiseptic. A nursing home or hospital patient is slipped out by routes that conceal  his final trip from the other patients He goes to a funeral home and is carefully prepared for burial or cremation by a professional who does not have to contend with a freezer full of corpses. The deceased is lowered into his own cemetery plot with family and friends looking on.

But the sheer scale of the death makes that impossible. From hospital to truck. From truck to where? Where will they go? Where have they gone in previous epidemics?

The Black Plague:

The body collectors had to travel the streets, carting away corpses in what might be history’s most undesirable job. Body collectors had to remove plague victims from homes and from piles on the street so that they could be buried. But the bodies were not in good shape by the time the collectors came around.

Charterhouse Square, Farringdon. The largest mass grave in London during the Black Death. It is thought that around 50,000 bodies are buried here. The pit was unearthed during Crossrail building work in March 2013 when the Museum of London were brought in to excavate and study the remains.

The 1918 flue epidemic:

The scenes in Philadelphia appeared to be straight out of the plague-infested Middle Ages. Throughout the day and night, horse-drawn wagons kept a constant parade through the streets of Philadelphia as priests joined the police in collecting corpses draped in sackcloths and blood-stained sheets that were left on porches and sidewalks. The bodies were piled on top of each other in the wagons with limbs protruding from underneath the sheets. The parents of one small boy who succumbed to the flu begged the authorities to allow him the dignity of being buried in a wooden box that had been used to ship macaroni instead of wrapping him a sheet and having him taken away in a patrol wagon.

For anyone who has not taken this seriously, now is the time.
March 29 2020

[New York Post] An elderly woman died after being pushed to the ground in a Brooklyn hospital for not social distancing, police sources said Sunday.

The 86-year-old victim (Janie Marshall, 86), was pushed by the patient in NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull just after 2 p.m. — falling backward and hitting her head on the ground, according to police.

She died about three hours later around 5 p.m. while hospital workers were waiting to give her a CT scan — but workers didn’t call cops in the 79th Precinct until 10:30 p.m. because the medical center was flooded with patients, according to sources.

The female attacker (Cassandra Lundy, 32) was given a summons for disorderly conduct, sources said. “She got too close,” (Lundy) allegedly said to justify the shove, sources said.

Lundy was charged with disorderly conduct before Ms. Marshall died. Now that she has died the charge will likely be upgraded to homicide.

Why would a 32-year old woman push an 86-year old woman so forcefully that she fell and struck her head against the floor? Is this attributable to the pandemic?  Or is it just another case of bad behavior in Bed-Sty. Crime there was common before the pandemic and is likely to be common after it.

Why did it take the hospital staff more than five hours to call the police after Ms. Marshall died? Even in Bed-Sty death by criminal conduct must justify calling the police.

Ms. Marshall fell at 2 p.m. Why was she still waiting for a CT scan at 5 p.m.when she died?  Were the doctors and nurses overwhelmed by cases thought more serious than hers?

If I were a judge sentencing Ms. Lundy, I would be enraged by her explanation that “(Marshall) got too close.” Have we degenerated to the point where that justifies homicide?

Another case of bad behavior in Lvov, Ukraine. The New York Post ran a video with this caption: 

A man was attacked for coughing on a bus in Lvov, Ukraine. In this violent video, passengers were filmed kicking the victim and forcefully removing him from public transportation — presumably because they feared the spread of coronavirus.

The video lives up to its warning. It shows passengers hitting and kicking the man and then throwing him out of the bus. Of course, they had no way of knowing whether his cough was due to coronavirus. Let us hope that the attackers find themselves coughing on another bus.

March 28 2020

From a column by Maureen Callahan, New York Post, March 19 2020

The year-round residents, the locals who serve and clean and landscape for the super-rich in the summertime — and put up with all manner of entitlement and terrible behavior in exchange for good money — are silent no more.”

There’s not a vegetable to be found in this town right now,” says one resident of Springs, a working-class pocket of East Hampton. “It’s these elitist people who think they don’t have to follow the rules.”

The Springs resident says her friend, a nurse out here, reported that a wealthy Manhattan woman who tested positive called tiny Southampton Hospital to say she was on her way and needed treatment. The woman was told to stay in Manhattan. Instead, she allegedly got on public transportation, telling no one of her condition. Then she showed up at Southampton Hospital, demanding admittance.

My Thoughts about her excellent column

Those fleeing the city arrive with big cars and big credit cards. They buy up what is available in the local stores without concern for whether anything remains for the locals. One local interviewed said he had seen one of invaders exit a grocery store with a cart full of carrots, nothing but carrots. Another said that the new arrivals all want their swimming pools heated to 88 degrees. Very reasonable. Why should they be uncomfortable while the locals suffer?

It was inevitable. Far from working shoulder to shoulder to confront a common enemy, some are working solely to save themselves.. They feel a massive sense of entitlement.

I am telling you this story as a counterpoint to the feel-good stories we see during the last three minutes of the nightly news.Old women knitting face masks in a rainbow of colors. Children selling baked goods and donating the $86 in proceeds to a local nursing home. The message is that people are basically good. It is at least as valid to say that they are basically bad. 

The truth is, of course, more complicated. There are givers and takers. Policemen, doctors and nurses, grocers who remain at their posts are givers. People who flee New York City to elbow aside the locals are takers. They deserve a special ring of hell.
March 27 2020

Representative Thomas Massie (R. Ky) managed to draw bipartisan condemnation today. 

John Kerry said: “Congressman Massie has tested positive for being an asshole. He must be quarantined to prevent the spread of his massive stupidity.”

President Trump praised Kerry’s remarks and called for Massie to be kicked out of the Republican Party.

What outrage did Massie commit to deserve such bouquets? He requested a “recorded vote” on the $2.2 trillion bill to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. 

A recorded vote requires each legislator to be present in the House and to cast a vote on the record. The alternative is a voice vote. The presiding officer says, “All in favor say aye, all opposed say nay.”  First the yeas cry out and then the nays cry out. The louder chorus wins. The member need not be present on the House floor to vote.

A voice vote is appropriate to authorize a new post office in Dubuque. It is not appropriate to authorize $2.2 trillion in spending.

“I came to here to make sure our republic doesn’t die by unanimous consent in an empty chamber, and I request a recorded vote,” Massie said on the House floor before his proposal was rejected.

Massie has opposed bills because of cost before. He joked once that the buttons lawmakers push to register their votes on the House floor – which are labeled “yea” and “nay” – should be relabeled “spend” and “don’t spend.”

Those angry with Massie will say something like this. We face a national emergency. We must do something fast. Anyone who seeks to slow the process is hurting the country.

But of course they need not act so fast that there is no time to stuff the bill with pork.

$25 million in the Senate bill went to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. During the past ten years, the center received $68.3 million in federal grants (2010-2019). The Kennedy Center has total assets of $557 million. The Pelosi bill earmarked $35 million.

$75 million in the Senate bill funded the Corporation For Public Broadcasting. The Pelosi bill allocated $300 million.

The Pelosi bill appropriated $1.2 billion to require airlines to purchase expensive “renewable” jet fuel. It was $200 million per year in grants (2021-2026) to “develop, transport, and store sustainable aviation fuels that would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.” The Senate bill eliminated this provision.

The House bill proposes erasing up to $10,000 in student loan debt per person.  

There is doubtless much more pork that has nothing to do with the effects of the pandemic. I don’t know what is in the bill, but I did not have to vote on it. I daresay that very few of the legislators who voted for the bill knew what was in it.

Massie is probably one of the most intelligent House members. He has engineering degrees from M.I.T. He has founded a company based on his inventions. He does not deserve to be vilified for asking his colleagues to declare themselves on the record before giving away the farm.
March 26 2020

[Fox News] As hospitals across the country face shortagesof personal protective equipment due to surges of coronavirus patients, health care professionals are reportedly privately discussing the possibility of a blanket do-not-resuscitate policy for infected patients to mitigate the risks for those responding to a code blue.

“If we risk their well-being in service of one patient, we detract from the care of future patients, which is unfair,” bioethicist Scott Halpern at the University of Pennsylvania wrote in a circulated model guideline, according to The Washington Post. Still, he said a blanket do-not-resuscitate policy for all COVID-19 patients is too ”draconian.”

If the value of life is infinite, as many seem to believe, then cost/benefit analysis has no place in medical decision making. We put extremely low weight newborns into Neonatal ICU’s and spend astonishing sums to keep them alive. When the baby is ready to go home, we give the parents a child damaged for life and a bill for several hundred thousand dollars.

We spend amazing amounts of money on Medicare patients in the final three months of life, enough in some cases to send a bright high school graduate to college for four years.

If we ever had the luxury of using medical resources profligately, we certainly don’t have it now.

“Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” Samuel Johnson

The pandemic is now concentrating our minds wonderfully. When a code is called, the patient’s room fills with a gaggle of responders. There is no time to don protective gear before the chest-thumping or similar heroics begin. It is a Pyrrhic victory indeed if the doctor saves the patient but dies a month later of the disease that brought the patient to the hospital.

Not for nothing is economics called the dismal science. Limited resources + extremely high demand = scarcity —> difficult decisions must be made.
March 25 2020

Today’s entry is about how the funeral industry is coping with the pandemic.

My interest in writing began with my wife’s death in 2017. I entrusted her cremation to Ponte Vedra Valley Funeral Home and Cemetery. After she was cremated and her ashes spread in their scatter field I began to visit the cemetery almost daily to meditate. My wife is as much present there as are the people in the graves.

The couple who own and operate the business, Jacque and Brent Headrick, have been very kind to me.. Jacque is a beauty as well as being kind, which inspired this little poem:

don’t flirt with women
whose husbands can easily
dispose of bodies

And so I don’t. Not really.

Today I had this exchange with Jacque:

Bart Greene: How has the pandemic affected you? Are you conducting funeral services? Do corpses pose any risk to you?

intersection of
death and life
tears at a distance

Jacqueline Headrick: Tears at a distance is right.  We are still allowed to hold funerals, but with a maximum of 50 people including our staff.  Per the health department, we can still do embalming and a viewing, but have to make sure no one touches the body and it’s challenging keeping people six feet apart – especially when they are grieving and not really paying attention.  So far, the majority of the families are cremating.  We can live-stream if it comes down to it as it’s hard for people to travel right now.
Brent employs universal precautions with every family.. He is now using more gowns and gloves than normal.  We have an abundance of disinfectant spray, hand soap, and alcohol based sanitizers to help and I am disinfecting the buildings after every family we meet. 

Hope you are doing well.

BG: Thanks for your prompt response. The embalming precautions are  worse than I imagined. Cremation is a good option these days. I am surprised that the Health Department allows gatherings of 50 people. I would have thought it less.

I suppose that a visit to PVV would be a minimal risk for me. If I decide to come, would you object? I used to come after visiting the YMCA. But now the Y is closed.

I am writing a daily journal about the pandemic. It is on my blog, The feature is called Coronavirus Journal, under Prose. Today’s edition will draw on what you have told me.

JH: Cremation is a good option, but we still have the option for a traditional funeral and burial. We have yet to have a family want a service now, and most are postponing funerals until a later date. If the numbers continue to rise with more testing, I’m sure that the health department will reduce the number to the recommendation of ten, or even less.
You are more than welcome to come and sit outside.  There are lots of people out visiting in the cemetery each day and sunshine and fresh air is good for us all.  We do not have anything scheduled in the funeral home.
I’ll look at your journal.  Maybe it will include the people in PV that insist on standing outside of Publix and Winn Dixie in large groups waiting for the stores to open – I don’t think we are adapting well to a few social inconveniences … it’s important that we take everyone’s health into consideration – especially if we are lucky enough to be healthy ourselves.

BG: I will definitely write about the effects of the pandemic on the funeral industry. May I quote you? May I identify you?

JH: You sure can on both accounts

My thanks to Jacque. I look forward to resuming my visits to Ponte Vedra Valley. It is a beautiful well-maintained cemetery and a perfect place to meditate. Jacque and Brent have placed two rocking chairs on the portico at the funeral home entrance. They are very close to a soothing fountain. And of course there is the proximity to Robyn’s cremains. I conceived of this poem sitting in one of the rocking chairs and thinking about her remains a short distance away.

My Robyn

My Robyn had a pretty name,
as pretty as a dove.
’Twas just about a year ago
that Death came for my love.

My Robyn’s dust on grass is strewn
beneath the cotton clouds.
Those underground don’t have her view,
recumbent in their shrouds.

I meditate near where she lies.
She does not speak to me.
But yesterday to my surprise
a robin on my knee.

I gave a start, she flew away.
Perhaps she’ll come another day.

Bart Greene
May 15, 2019

There actually was a bird on my knee. Whether it was a robin I can’t say.
March 24 2020

DENVER, Colo. (KRDO) — Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced a stay-at-home order Monday afternoon, closing all non-essential services. The order is set to go into effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday and initially included liquor stores and recreational marijuana dispensaries. Almost immediately, long lines formed as residents flocked to their nearest retailer.The City of Denver soon after announced an amendment to the stay-at-home order, now allowing liquor stores and dispensaries to stay open so long as they practice “extreme physical distancing.”

What is “extreme physical distancing?” Are these Mom and Pot stores the size of stadiums?

And Denver is not unique.

PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – Oregon pot dispensaries and liquor stores will not be forced to close after Gov. Kate Brown on Monday issued an executive order to close various businesses, including shopping centers, salons, gyms, and theaters.

Brown directed everyone on Monday to stay home “to the maximum extent possible” due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The order is effective immediately.

Now, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has made some rule changes so marijuana retailers can still get their products to customers while practicing safe social distancing. The agency on Sunday temporarily approved curbside delivery.

Staying at home “to the maximum extent possible” obviously does not require anything so draconian as closing liquor and pot stores. Not in Portland. Not in Denver.

So let the rest of th country take a cue from the Portlandians and the Denvermin. Only public enemies visit the gym for aerobic workouts. The civic minded instead pack pleasure emporia to stock up on intoxicants. At a prudent distance of course.
March 23 2020

It was reported today that five University of Tampa students have tested positive for the Corona Virus after their spring break hilarity.  CBS News ran a video about crowds on Miami Beach. Those interviewed were apparently unconcerned with the risk to themselves and others that crowds pose.  They are social animals in the sense of partying hearty, but not social animals like bees who behave for the good of the hive.  

One of the students interviewed said, ““If I get corona, I get corona,” Brady Sluter, who is from Ohio, told Reuters. “At the end of the day, I’m not going to let it stop me from partying.” To hell with the hive, says Brady. I’ll party until I drop. He very well may. And those he breathes on may drop as well.

What do we make of that? First of all, Brady is an idiot (or to use a term of recent coinage, a COVIDiot). To be more charitable, he is a teenager and thus invincible. But his parents are not teenagers. Why did they let him travel to Florida to risk his life and theirs for his fun in the sun?

And why did Miami Beach and other spring break destinations allow crowds in plain violation of the distancing guidelines? Two syllables, rhymes with funny. 

Remember Jaws? Mayor Murray Hamilton, determined to cash in on the holiday, overrules police chief  Roy Scheider’s advice to close the beaches. Roy is a wet blanket. Murray is a practical guy. Why pass up the money  to save a couple of legs or lives?

I would rather live in the United States than in China if I survive the pandemic. But apparently the Chinese system of state control  is more efficient than our democracy in dealing with public health emergencies.  The Chinese leaders don’t make suggestions; they issue orders and enforce them with whatever it takes.

End of screed.

My thanks to Brady and his ilk for inspiring the Poem of the Day:

At least five students from the University of Tampa have tested positive for  coronavirus after packing beaches on Spring Break.

they thought Corona
was a beer
fatal hangover

March 22 2020

Israeli doctor in Italy: We no longer help those over 60

Israeli medical doctor Gai Peleg told Israeli television that in northern Italy the orders are not to allow those over 60 access to respiratory machines.

This article from the Jerusalem was of personal interest to me because I am well over 60. I did some Googling and found out that it is an exaggeration. There seems to be no hard and fast rule about who is entitled to a ventilator. But of course the well-established medical custom of triage is still in place. Triage divides the patients into three groups:

1. Those who will die matter what is done for them.
2. Those who will probably recover without immediate care.
3. Those for whom immediate care might make a difference between recovery and non-recovery.

It is rational to allocate limited resources to the third group. But what if resources are so limited, or demand so great, that doctors must decide who in the third group will be treated and who will not? Then distinctions like age and general health come into play. The elderly may find their age counted against them.

In the early days of kidney transplants, doctors had to decide which patient waiting for an organ would get one when it became available. There were committees to make such decision, and they sometimes involved ethical distinctions. Who in desperate need should get the organ? The thirty-year-old criminal or the seventy-year-old nun? Agonizing decisions. We shall soon be making such decisions daily. Italy, it appears, is making them now.
March 15 2020

Why is there a run on toilet paper? I went to Publix (Florida supermarket) today and saw the TP shelves bare. There was produce galore and the food shelves were fully stocked, but the TP shelves had been picked clean.
Is there some correlation between a high rate of viral infection and a dearth of toilet  paper? Would I find it embarrassing to be in Rome and, having defecated, reach in vain for the cleansing sheets? Did the Wuhan-ese suffer from a lack of paper goods before so many of them fell ill?
Perhaps, facing the pandemic, we think that we must do something, anything, to ward off evil. So for some irrational reason, we descend on stores and hoard toilet paper, thereby inconveniencing  those who need it for its real, non-symbolic, purpose.
March 16 2020

Sorry to talk about toilet paper again. I found this on Fox News today:
One police department in Oregon posted a reminder on their Facebook page, asking the public to not call for an emergency if they run out of toilet paper due to the coronavirus outbreak.
You will hear it said that we Americans are a resilient, resourceful people. The quote above tells another side of the story. Some Americans are stupid and  self-centered. In 1992 Hurricane Andrew devastated parts of South Florida. After the storm, a woman in Broward County, north of Miami, called a local talk show host named Neal Boortz to complain that the wind had blown her patio furniture into her swimming pool. The acerbic Mr. Boortz’s excoriation of her was heartwarming to those who had really suffered.
And now we can expect to hear people not sickened by the virus complain that they cannot find toilet paper, or pizza, or whatever else they deem more important than the health and safety of their neighbors.
My doctor, an enthusiastic skier, had a sign in his office:
Steepness of terrain magnifies errors in technique.
I suggest this kindred maxim:
Increase in stress magnifies ethical shortcomings.
Watch and see what happens.
Now, since this is after all, a poetry blog, these are some I wrote this morning:
awakening to
another pandemic day
first cup of coffee
virus awakens
decides whom to wear today
someone in plague black
hoarding goes viral
garage full
of peanut butter
blood on the lintel
it can’t hurt
it has worked before
March 17 2020 (Erin go bragh)
I expect a somber St. Patrick’s Day. Even if not exactly somber, the celebration will certainly be muted. New York City has not only cancelled its famous parade; they have closed the bars. There will be drinking somewhere. And there will be green ties,  green beer, and red faces. But it won’t be the same.
Chicago cancelled its festivities as well. The cancellation included the tradition of dying  the Chicago River green. But the river is in fact green! WTTV says that no one knows who did it. Leprechauns perhaps.
I awoke this morning in North Florida, dragged myself out of bed, and went to the YMCA. The parking lot was empty, an ominous sign. An employee told me that the branch had closed indefinitely yesterday afternoon.
After lunch we went to Costco. I knew from Costco’s email that they were limiting the number of people who could be in the store at one time. The parking lot looked full, but there were not enough would-be shoppers to trigger temporary exclusion. We found shopping carts and orange cones arranged to define a single lane at the entrance. It was like being at Disney World or at an airport. When we reached the head of the line an employee with a spray bottle of disinfectant sprayed a shopping cart and gave it to us. Very efficient. Very well thought out.
The store was not as crowded as we had feared. There were no fights over toilet paper because there was no toilet paper. We were told that there had been some in the morning, but it disappeared in a nanosecond. Definition of nanosecond: the amount of time that elapses between delivery of a scarce product and the time of its sale.
We spent $415, a new record, to furnish our pantry for what promises to be a difficult time. We did not hoard, though some might think our purchase of six large jars of creamy Jif excessive. Had I toilet paper to trade I could have left with a hundred jars and a small amount of cash.
wearing of the green
in Pandemia
a shamrock for luck
Mar 18 2020

I worry that one of the effects of the virus will be anarchy. Here are three  sobering articles in today’s Drudge Report.

[USA TODAY] . . . Elsewhere in the Golden State, people are calling 911 to report coughers.

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – An NYPD officer has tested positive for the coronavirus as the number of cases continues to spread statewide.

PHILADELPHIA – In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Philadelphia police officers have been instructed to stop making arrests for certain non-violent crimes.

Civilization is a thin veneer. If the demand for police services increases or if the supply of officers decreases, who will maintain that veneer? Who will keep us from falling into the horror of anarchy? The New York story presages a decrease in the number of officers as officers fall ill. The California story presages an increase in the demand for police services as people make unreasonable demands on law enforcement. The Philadelphia story tells us that anarchy has partially arrived there. Is it coming soon to a city near you?

What do the California callers expect the police to do with a report of coughing? Coughing is not a crime. Although it is consistent with coronavirus infection, it is a symptom of many other illnesses. Do the callers expect the police to respond to  all reports of coughing? What do they expect the officers to do when they arrive? Shoot the offenders? Arrest them? These imbeciles are the sort who call 911 if McDonald’s delivers soggy fries. They are unwelcome ballast on the ship of life.
March 19 2020

I can’t seem to get away from the toilet paper fetish.  I call it a fetish because although TP is useful to have, there are other ways to perform the task. In the movie Dances with Wolves the Indians called Lieutenant Dunbar that because they saw  him prancing around with wolves in the distance. Had the Indians seen him 20 minutes earlier they would have called him Wipes with Leaves. (not original with me)

At 10:54 this morning I received this email from my pest control service:

One of our wholesale suppliers has toilet paper.
We have approximately 100 rolls at our office, after supplying the office and our employees. Our inventory had gotten very low!

If you need TP, you can come to our office in Jax Beach and get 4 rolls. There is no cost to you. If you are in a tough situation and you need it delivered, then we should be able to drop some off to the most needy within a few days.

I was not astonished to find this email from them at 1:36 p.m.:

We are out of TP! The need was overwhelming!
I have ordered an additional 500 rolls.
We will send another email when this additional order is delivered.

What is surprising is that supply lasted as long as it did. I suspect it was long gone when they got around to writing the second email. Perhaps the only person in the office was busy using her allotment of toilet paper when the supplicants arrived and she found it inconvenient to greet them promptly.

Of course people who are wiping with other products are flushing those products down their toilets, thereby wreaking havoc with municipal sewer systems. Are these the same imbeciles who call 911 when they need toilet paper and call the police to report coughers?

It is refreshing to see signs of normality. The New York Times still finds time and space in the paper to trash President Trump. Gail Collins, said this today in her column:

So our question for today is: What is the appropriate attitude toward Donald Trump in a time of national crisis?

A) Rally around the president.
B) Tell your friends about the pandemic response team he dismantled.
C) Put your head down and watch 200 repeats of “Modern Family.”

Come on, get your head up. I know this is tough. It’s definitely a time for Americans to come together. On the other hand, complaining about Trump is sort of … our way of life.

“It’s the last pleasure I have,” whimpered one of my housebound friends.

My thanks to Madame Snide for remaining positive in the face of the pandemic.
Mar 20 2020

Today’s Pitching in to Help award goes to the scumbags in Seattle responsible for this outrage:

Bronze custom-made gates that stood at the entrance to Seattle’s Washington Park Arboretum for a generation, and made by the internationally-renowned sculptor George Tsutakawa, were stolen Wednesday night.

Seattle is among the cities hardest hit by the coronavirus. The lost of these splendid gates must have been a real morale booster. May the perpetrators be exposed to the most pestilential breather in Seattle.

At Thursday’s press conference about the pandemic, ABC reporter Cecilia Vega challenged the President’s use of the phrase “Chinese virus.” Did he not think it racist, she asked. Of course he did not.

That made me think of how Legionnaires Disease got its name. It was first described after an outbreak during the 1976 American Legion convention in Philadelphia. I recall that some Legionairres took umbrage at the name. When it began to be called something else, other Legionairres complained about the name change, presumably because the name “Legionairres’ Disease commemorated their loss.

Using the same logic, it seems reasonable to call coronavirus the “China virus.” It did, after all, originate in China. But having said that, the President’s use of the phrase was a gratuitous red flag to the PC crowd, which had its agent, Ms. Vegas, rise to the bait.

Black stars to both of them.
March 21 2020

We have dwelled on bad behavior during the pandemic. Today a mention of people helping people.

Los Angeles (AFP) – From grocery shopping for the elderly to delivering meals or offering free classes online, acts of kindness during the coronavirus pandemic are providing uplifting moments of joy in a United States beset by anxiety.

I went grocery shopping today. A stranger approached me with a box of disinfectant wipes and gave me one. I don’t use wipes, but I took the one she handed to me and thanked her. I felt like a wounded soldier lying on a WWII stretcher. In the movies one of his  comrades puts a lighted cigarette in his mouth. On the theory, I assume, that what a dying man wants more than anything is a smoke. I have heard the wounded man protest that he is a non-smoker. 

The hoarders are still at it. 

Hoarding Eggs

And people are ignoring the suggestion/order to avoid crowds.

LAKEWOOD, N.J. (CBS) — Police in Ocean County have arrested a homeowner for hosting a pop-up wedding with more than 50 people in attendance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I don’t know what a pop-up wedding is, but I know that fifty people constitute a crowd.

Here is something truly ominous.

The Justice Department has quietly asked Congress for the ability to ask chief judges to detain people indefinitely without trial during emergencies — part of a push for new powers that comes as the coronavirus spreads through the United States.

There has always been a tension between civil liberties and public safety. In less frightening times, no reasonable person would support indefinite detention without trial. But in times of danger, civil liberties have to yield to public necessity. As Justice Jackson said, the Constitution is not a suicide pact.

I make no judgment about this proposal. Panic produces dismal results. We certainly got the freedom/safety dichotomy wrong when we detained Japanese Americans during WWII.

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