Tick-Tock

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Death inspires me like a dog inspires a rabbit.


If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.


That first quote is from Twenty One Pilots and the second is from Winston Churchill. I thought about both while listening to Donald Trump’s address to the nation last night.

I think Trump’s speech last night was constructive. Weeks late? Yes. Too late? Maybe. But it was his first public statement on CV-19 that reflected seriousness and resolve in the national interest. It was his first public statement that wasn’t overtly corrupt. It’s a start.

Tick-tock.

As for the policy specifics and the bizarro delivery and the walk-backs afterward? I don’t care. As Churchill also said, “war is a series of blunders,” and god knows there is no end to the blunders we have gotten and will continue to get from this guy.

But for the first time our federal government is treating the fight against this virus like the war that it is.

Is it pathetic and sad that it took this long? Of course. But now here we go. And there is no country in the world that mobilizes for war more effectively than the United States.

As for the market reaction to Trump’s speech today? Please.

The fact that the market doesn’t “like” Trump’s speech is exactly what made it a constructive speech in the national interest.

Like it or not (and I hate it) Donald Trump is President of the United States for the next TEN MONTHS. My reaction to his speech is not about giving him “credit”. It’s not about giving him a “grade”. It’s not about gnashing my teeth and rending my garments over a man who I think has betrayed the public trust at every turn and is the most damaging President in the history of the Republic.

Screw all that. I’m way past THAT.

The ONLY thing I care about now is fighting this war. The ONLY thing I care about now is saving lives.

Welcome to the fight, Mr. President. Hope you stick around.

Tick-tock.


How do we save lives?

First, and most importantly, we help our neighbors.


The Non-Linearity of Need

In a potential recession, need isn’t evenly distributed. In a pandemic, that’s even more true. The time to start helping is now.   … Continue reading



Second, we end #DontTestDontTell.

#DontTestDontTell is not just a policy embarrassment. It is not just simple bureaucratic incompetence. #DontTestDontTell is a willfully corrupt betrayal of our country and its citizens, and it is our moral duty to howl our anger and discontent.

You can read about #DontTestDontTell in Epsilon Theory notes here and here.

You can see it here, in Alabama.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill: “We don’t need for people to be concerned about something that may not ever happen.”

Alabama has tested 10 people for coronavirus. TEN.

5 million people live in Alabama. Including my 78-year-old mother who’s a substitute teacher and uses a prednisone inhaler for her asthma and her more-than-occasional pneumonia. Shelter in place, Mom, shelter in place.

Alabama, like all states, is getting a chunk of the $8 billion in federal funds recently allocated to fight CV-19. For Alabama that comes to $8.15 million. Know what they’re gonna spend their money on? “Public health communications.” In Alabama-speak, that means posters. Wash-your-hands posters.

Also, a task force has been assembled. Like the Avengers.

Here’s what the task force wants you to know about CV-19. This is from March 6th.

“The Alabama Department of Public Health has issued guidance to hospitals and healthcare centers regarding testing for the virus and encourages Alabamians to take the standard protocol for cold and flu season.”

Yep. Alabamians like my mother and my brother and my sister-in-law and my nephew and my nieces and my childhood friends are “encouraged to take the standard protocol for cold and flu season.”

And you wonder why I am so angry.

Tick-tock, Alabama, tick-tock.


Third, we move to a war-time footing to protect our emergency responders and healthcare professionals, and to bolster our healthcare system.

Specifically that means a national mobilization of manufacturing capacity to make personal protective equipment (PPE), respiratory and anti-viral therapeutics, ventilators, and ECMO equipment to support the surge in CV-19 patients who will require not just hospitalization, but intensive care treatment. It means a broadening of patient under investigation (PUI) criteria and a complete revamping of patient testing and ingestion protocols, including airborne-secure (negative air pressure) facilities inside and outside hospitals and clinics … wherever healthcare professionals come into contact with potential or actual infections.

Specifically that means utilization of domestic military bases as treatment facilities and isolation wards. It means coordination of state and local authorities with the Dept. of Defense to establish regional command, control, communication and intelligence (C3I) capabilities at tertiary medical centers. Yes, direct coordination with the DOD. It’s the most competent, well-resourced C3I organization in the world, and they are present in every domestic battlefront in this war. Yes, tertiary medical centers. They are the most competent, well-resourced medical organizations in the world, and they are also present in every domestic battlefront in this war.

Whether we have a >4% death rate from CV-19 (Wuhan) or a <1% death rate (Singapore) is entirely up to us. It is our choice! If we prevent our healthcare system from being overwhelmed, then we win. If we don’t, we lose. It’s really as simple as that.

Are we almost out of time?

Absolutely. Tick-tock.

But we all see the danger now. All of us rabbits see the virus dog chasing us. Even Donald Trump.

I said it at the start of this note and I’ll say it again, there is no country in the world that mobilizes for war more effectively than the United States. And I know you won’t believe me, but I tell you it is true:

This will be our finest hour.


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Simons Chase
7 months ago

A hopeful message. What I saw in Trump last night was a suspicion of destiny that Bernie is inside him, writhing to get out.

tany
tany
7 months ago

I appreciate the positive view here. I also appreciate the notion that we mobilize for war well. I can’t help but disagree though. The majority of the things we need this time aren’t MRAPs and missiles. They aren’t made in the USA. We might be able to get close, but we’re going to need help.

Flat Arthur
Flat Arthur
7 months ago

Thanks Ben. As far as I know you have indisputably been America’s most important voice for mobilizing our response and I have been proud to draw attention to your work as much as I can within my pack. I’m a fan of “The 4th Turning” and Neil Howe’s work. Whether it is truly prescient or not, that framework has helped me maintain my sanity during this insane time. Recently, I have been pondering whether this crisis could end up being an important inflection point. Historically it either takes a civil war (in which one side eventually bludgeons the other into submission), or an existential, external, threat that ends up bringing us together and setting us up for a new era of collaboration and growth. Can the response to Coronavirus be the beginning of realigning our social, political and financial priorities? If so, I can’t wait to join the fight.

Landvermesser
Landvermesser
7 months ago
Reply to  Flat Arthur

One possible silver lining is the rebuilding of domestic supply chains. Usually this is put in terms like “how do we build tanks when we need them if all our steel is imported” or rare earth metals for EV’s, etc. Usually countered by Team Elite with “enough with the crazy talk, China is our buddy, if you can shovel coal you can learn to code…” [Just never use that last part with laid off journalists, because that would be hate speech.]

What’s happening now is hitting closer to home, it’s very real for a lot of people, and maybe it could get that pendulum swinging back. No, Trump never had the ability to bring back those manufacturing jobs on his own. But Trump+Covid-19… Who knows?

Every real government ever, anywhere, is going to drag its feet at the beginning of a crisis. It’s delta hedging and it works and keeps you in power almost all the time. Until it doesn’t. What exactly happens when it doesn’t? That depends on small, unobservable random variables passing through enormous, recursive amplification. Your guess is as good as anybody’s. Risk vs uncertainty…

Kevin Mosh
Kevin Mosh
7 months ago
Reply to  Landvermesser

Using the current example of COVID19 — how long was the South Korean Govt dragging its feet? The Singaporean? I would think that in a well organized system regardless of the probable outcomes their would be a rigorous set of contingency plans if a threat was imminent and the response frameworks of that plan would be triggered into action based on daily reassessment of risk data. I am having a tough time attributing the current outcome to delta hedging that went awry.

Landvermesser
Landvermesser
7 months ago
Reply to  Kevin Mosh

SG and Singapore were hit pretty hard by SARS, if I remember correctly. And that wasn’t so long ago. A lot of the same personnel are working in public health, in the trenches back then and in management now. So CV doesn’t feel so much like a tail event for them. It’s right there in the meat of the distribution they’re using to price their “options”.

Daniel Hankins
Daniel Hankins
7 months ago

Just a random thought… as a cohort the US Military is relatively young. This coupled with the stats that, so far, correlate far less problematic outcomes with youth is at least one bit of positive news.

“The average military officer was roughly 34.5 years old in 2015 … the average enlisted member was just over age 27”
Source: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/13/6-facts-about-the-u-s-military-and-its-changing-demographics/

Kevin Mosh
Kevin Mosh
7 months ago

_

Kevin Mosh
Kevin Mosh
7 months ago

If we were capable of accessing modeling data regarding the imminent impact of COVID19 in mid January– do you not believe that the same data was presented to the administration in January? Scenarios with probabilistic outcomes? As much as I like to believe where we stand today was a result of pompous negligence, the actions that have been taken to wage the war seem to indicate that in looking into the horizon of the probabilistic outcomes an opportunity to further political agendas of the administration were recognized.

“Kings play the fool, and the people suffer for it” -Horace

Peter
Peter
7 months ago

Simply stated, just another great article by Ben

Farmer Don
Farmer Don
7 months ago

Here is a terrific plain talk discussion with Michael Osterholm : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3URhJx0NSw

Tanya Weiman
Tanya Weiman
7 months ago

I’m curious to hear what Ben (and the rest of the pack) think of this tweet thread from (to me) a level-headed and reliable source — is it time (at least in NYC) to abandon the notion of testing widely and concentrate resources only on treating the seriously ill? I’m really torn on this, there are so many issues.

https://twitter.com/MarkLevineNYC/status/1238287813042462720
(I’m not sure why the whole thread is not coming up, click on ‘Show this thread’ to see the whole thing)

Two arguments against would be, is it possible to do *both*? (maybe not), and that people who are mildly sick or asymptomatic knowing that they definitely have the virus would make them more motivated to self-isolate and avoid spreading it to others.

Flat Arthur
Flat Arthur
7 months ago
Reply to  Tanya Weiman

If we want to win, we have to do both testing and quarantine. Ben drew my attention to this video earlier today.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3gCbkeARbY
Seems to me that volunteers could be pretty easily trained to collect test samples. Let true healthcare professionals focus on people who need care now to maximize the capacity of the healthcare system. SF has already converted the public libraries into free day care for healthcare and emergency responders. Rumors are circulating that they may convert hotels into field hospitals and/or fever wards.

Hash20
Hash20
7 months ago

Hi Ben,

When you make the metaphor of mobilizing for war, I thought sharing this article might be interesting. “All told, over 10,000 companies have added masks, hazmat suits, thermometers and the like to their product lines in the past two months”

https://www.economist.com/business/2020/03/14/chinese-companies-rush-to-produce-anti-covid-kit

Roger Tauss
Roger Tauss
7 months ago

There are wars and wars. You’re thinking of something like our response to WWII. But how about the War on Drugs, the War on Poverty and myriad other “wars” that went ‘pffft?’ I think the difference between wars we won with full mobilization and wars that ended up nothing but a slogan is the kind of fear each engendered.

Not the intensity of the fear, but fear of the consequences. So far, most people, even those who are abiding by the various strictures, view it as a short-term problem: yes, I could die, but that threat will go away in a few months at worst. I think people are still too sanguine to support the kind of all-out mobilization called for by a genuine threat to our society.

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