All posts by Richmond Shreve

The Doctors are worried

“Unlike many countries in the world, the United States is not currently on course to get control of this epidemic. It’s time to reset,”

report released this week by Johns Hopkins University.

“If the nation does not change its course — and soon — deaths in the United States could be well into the multiple hundreds of thousands.”

report from the Association of American Medical Colleges

The Washington Post article citing these two reports is alarming, but not alarmist. Here are the reports:



Reports like these are not sound bites or off-the-cuff comments. It takes time for these organizations to arrive at these conclusions and recommendations. These doctors have been worried for months.

Excessive loyalty

Anne Applebaum of the Atlantic has published the article that I would like to have written myself, but I just couldn’t quite piece my thoughts together as she has done so effectively. She lays out how Republicans’ loyalty is being played citing historic parallels. It’s clearer to us when we look at the distant past.

Good men and women, who at some point saw the danger can have their values gradually eroded when the stakes of not conforming to peer pressure are high. I’ve experienced it in business situations, and I’ve observed it in sports and religious communities. College professors study it in veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Groups can become cult-like in enforcing conformity and supressing dissent. Those on the inside lose perspective and, as the popular cliche goes, “drink the Koolaid.” If you think it couldn’t happen to you, think again. This article is long, but it is well worth reading. She’s nailed the problem both parties face.

Rights – Paying your dues

The news has featured certain people who defiantly refuse to wear masks because they say it infringes upon their God given rights. Here’s a frank rebuttal by a veteran who has paid his dues. Years of distinguished military service give his words weight that “flag-pin patriots” can’t shout down.

OP/ED – Stop being an Ugly American and wear a damn mask

JD Lock, Lieutenant Colonel, US Army (Retired), 17 July 2020

To my fellow Americans, what part about a pandemic do some of you not understand?!

Let’s start with the Pandemic 101 basics, a definition – “Pandemics happen when a new virus emerges to infect people with a disease and, because there is little to no pre-existing immunity or no vaccine against the new virus, it spreads worldwide.”

Fortunately, despite this lack of immunity and the fact that this virus is nefarious and more deadly than most, we are not defenseless against COVID-19.  Viruses are fragile.  They can be contained without vaccines or pre-existing immunity if we use common sense and are willing to make a minor sacrifice for the common good of all.

What’s this sacrifice I’m talking about?  It’s simple – wear a mask.  Per our nation’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, “Masks are not 100 percent protective. However, they certainly are better than not wearing a mask.”  Masks mitigate infecting others by limiting airborne virus droplets and vapors from those who’ve been infected, especially those who are asymptomatic and showing no signs.

Aside from a vaccine, masks are the most powerful, inexpensive and easiest weapon we have to confront this virus.  To wear a mask is an act of selflessness, courtesy and respect for others.  Wearing a mask is the act of a responsible, caring and empathetic American concerned about protecting others, protecting their families and protecting their community.

Yet, there are those who publicly pontificate and bellow about their “Constitutional rights” being infringed upon.  Really?  Your rights?  My father in law, Andrew ‘Ange’ McGirr, God rest his soul, was one of the most intellectually gifted individuals I’ve ever known, and I consider myself to be relatively smart, though not a “most stable genius.”  Ange was a B-25 Mitchell bombardier-navigator in the Pacific theater of operations during World War II.  He flew 71 combat missions, 68 as the lead aircraft, attacking the Gilbert Islands, Tarawa, the Marshall Islands, the Mariana Islands, Saipan and Guam.  He flew close air support during the invasion of Okinawa, bombed mainland China and Japan.  On 9 August 1945, his squadron watched as a mushroom cloud rose over Nagasaki.  He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Air Medals and a Presidential Unit Citation.  He lived in tents for years, he endured all sorts of deprivation and fear.  He lost four years of his early 20s fighting a war and, yet, never once in my talks with him, did he ever complain about the years stolen from his life or imply that his ‘rights’ had been trampled.

For those of you whining and sniveling about your rights being infringed upon for simply being told to wear a mask to protect others, you’re pathetic, selfish and as un-American as they come.  From what I’ve seen, I tend to believe that the vast majority of you who screech before the cameras earned your ‘Constitutional rights’ simply as a function of having been fortunate enough to have been born an American, not through any singular service or sacrifice to the nation.  To paraphrase the movie A Beautiful Mind, “Your rights are a luxury of those on the sidelines.”

Personally, I could care less whether you become infected.  Stupidity is also your right.  As Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol character Ebenezer Scrooge declared, “If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”  However, your stupidity and rights stop at the maximum range of your breath’s vapor.  At that point, you’ve crossed a line and have become a clear and present danger to me and my loved ones.  Let me ‘Trump’ your professed right with another recognized Constitutional right – that of self-defense.  You’ve been forewarned.

Like my father in law, I’ve served, twenty-eight years active duty Army – West Point graduate and professor, Ranger, Master Jumpmaster, etc.  My lungs were damaged at the WTC ground zero and I’ve already had one bout with COVID-19.  My bride of nearly three decades made me a mask from one of our grandchildren’s crib sheets.  Personally, I find it rather chic and stylish, and I’ve even been complemented on it – thanks Babe.  It doesn’t make me feel unmanly, and I don’t feel my rights being infringed upon wearing it in pubic.  In reality?  I feel I’m serving the nation in a small way, once again.

The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  Do not take advice from a reality show carnival barker who recommends drinking bleach as a vaccine while he cowardly hides behind layers of tax payer funded self-protection.  Follow the advice and recommendations of health care officials on the front lines, who have been doing this for their entire professional life.  Try to at least be a shadow of the Greatest Generation.  Stop being an Ugly American and wear a mask.  It doesn’t take big hands to put one on.

John Lock is the author of Rangers in Combat: A Legacy of Valor.

Good Writing

Frank Bruni publishes lines submitted by his readers that quote speech that is particularly vivid. This week’s were particularly gripping (and make me humble about my own efforts).

Another crowd favorite: David Brooks’s assertion that “if you don’t breathe the spirit of the nation, if you don’t have a fierce sense of belonging to each other, you’re not going to sacrifice for the common good. We’re confronted with a succession of wicked problems and it turns out we’re not even capable of putting on a friggin’ mask.” (Amanda Schack, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; Deborah Hartman, Houston; and others)
And another: Roger Cohen’s observation that “nationalism is not fascism but is a necessary component of it. Both seek to change the present in the name of an illusory past in order to create a future vague in all respects except its glory.” (Chris Warsaw, Carefree, Ariz.; Mary Ellen Roche, Scottsdale, Ariz.; and others)
And still one more: The response by Senator Tammy Duckworth, a military veteran and double amputee, to Tucker Carlson and anyone else who questions her dedication to, and veneration of, America. They should know, she wrote, “that attacks from self-serving, insecure men who can’t tell the difference between true patriotism and hateful nationalism will never diminish my love for this country — or my willingness to sacrifice for it so they don’t have to. These titanium legs don’t buckle.” (Graciela Daichman, Houston; Joe Doggett, Beijing; and many others)
Gail Collins and Bret Stephens produced a trove of gems in a recent edition of “The Conversation,” their online back-and-forth, including this from Gail: “Life with Trump keeps reminding me of that scene in ‘Peter Pan’ where Tinker Bell is dying and the audience revives her by clapping to prove they all believe in fairies. Worried about a pandemic? Just keep saying everything’s fine and magic will happen.” (Mark Van Loon, Hamilton, Mont.)
Dana Jennings’s intensely vivid account of his and his father’s work at a New Hampshire factory that became a Superfund hazardous-waste site includes this description of a “Bleak Lagoon” of toxic runoff, of “silt and slurry, scum and sludge. All this lethal offal seeped and oozed into the ground, into the rills and runnels that flowed beneath our town, where we all drank well-water.” (Janice Aubrey, Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Many of you were taken with “America’s Enduring Caste System,” by Isabel Wilkerson, published in The New York Times Magazine, and you singled out various passages, including this: “An old house is its own kind of devotional, a dowager aunt with a story to be coaxed out of her, a mystery, a series of interlocking puzzles awaiting solution.” (Kathy Lazar, Brecksville, Ohio)
For pith, try this from Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation: “Our economy is unbalanced because conscious choices, in the aggregate, amount to a conscienceless capitalism.” (Nancy Sanfilippo Newton, Rochester, N.Y.)
Or this, by Amanda Hess, writing about the comeback of the Dixie Chicks (now the Chicks) after many years of ostracism for bluntly stated political views: “They move with the energy of witches who could not be burned.” (Bill McGrath, Chimacum, Wash.)
Or check out the finish of this paragraph by Maureen Dowd: “Biden’s fabulist flights were an effort to make himself look better. Trump’s are more audacious — and dangerous. It’s the difference between fibs and whoppers, white lies and white supremacy.” (Conrad Macina, Landing, N.J.)
Or savor Paige Martin Reynolds’s description of her devotion to her son, who is autistic: “I empty myself for him and love fills me back up in overwhelming waves.” (Ste Kubenka, Austin, Tex.)
“For the Love of Sentences” appears every two to three weeks. To nominate favorite bits of writing from The Times, please email [Frank Bruni] here, and please include your name and place of residence.

Ungrounded opinion

Most critical thinkers recognize that opinions from this man have little to do with fact, wisdom, or analytical thinking. Most of the time you would do better deciding something with the flip of a coin than with reliance upon His Nibs. You can’t be sure if he’s lying, misinformed, or making it up for appearance sake. But you can be sure that he will take no responsibility for adverse outcomes.

No, we don’t really care if you disagree, but we do care if you start meddling and bullying better informed people.

My son’s experience provides two examples of what thoughtful, wise people are doing. His eldest returns to Tufts this fall. The president of Tufts is a medical doctor. The school has a complex and detailed strategy for COVID-19. It includes contagion control measures that limit the mixing of different groups of students, extensive testing and tracking for the outbreaks that will surely occurr, and contingency plans for controlling them.

My son is himself the head of a private high school with 125 students. They will be opening in the fall, and he has a complex and nuanced plan that is based upon contagion control measures, a four tiered contingency plan, and testing and monitoring.

So if these schools can do it, why can’t all schools? Here’s what investigative reporter Judd Legum says.

With confirmed coronavirus cases rising in dozens of states, school districts now have to decide whether to reopen schools in the fall. Los Angeles and San Diego unified school districts announced on Monday that they would only offer remote instruction in the fall. The two school districts, which together enroll about 825,000 students, issued a joint statement explaining the decision:

…One fact is clear: those countries that have managed to safely reopen schools have done so with declining infection rates and on-demand testing available. California has neither. The skyrocketing infection rates of the past few weeks make it clear the pandemic is not under control.

…This announcement represents a significant disappointment for the many thousands of teachers, administrators and support staff, who were looking forward to welcoming students back in August. It is obviously an even greater disappointment to the many parents who are anxious for their students to resume their education. Most of all, this decision will impact our students in ways that researchers will take years to understand.

Both districts hope to reopen their physical campuses sometime in the 2020-21 academic year. But, as they alluded to in their statement, the impact of the continued closure of schools could be severe. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) detailed some of the consequences:

The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020. Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation. This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality. Beyond the educational impact and social impact of school closures, there has been substantial impact on food security and physical activity for children and families.

Quoted from “Popular Information

The problem with His Nibs ungrounded opinion is that our children become pawns in this lethal test of wills. It looks like the hidden agenda in this political game is Betsy DeVoss’ desire to fund “faith based” schools with vouchers, thus fostering the teaching of religious dogma and pseudo-science like creationism.

Yankee Individualism fails

COVID-19 has been teaching us bitterly hard lessons. One lesson is how our implicit belief in the supremacy of individual personal choice can be suicidal.

We don’t have that individual right when our personal choice threatens others. In fact, it is a crime to recklessly endanger others by one’s unthinking behavior. The masks we all should be wearing are no more a protected personal choice than driving while drunk, or texting when at the wheel of a moving vehicle.

Nick Kristoff’s column Wednesday provides both the science and the social analysis that proves these points:

One of the interesting correlations Kristoff reports is the high compliance with mask use among residents of Hong Cong and the corresponding lower contagion despite their densely packed urban environment. It’s part of the culture to see the individual as part of his or her community. The Chinese culture values social cohesion and shuns much of the fierce individualism seen in America.

In recent weeks, some Americans have taken the stand that they have a God-given right to go maskless should they so choose. It’s not a new attitude. The same mentality rides motorcycles without a helmet while wearing flip-flops, boats without a life jacket, smokes, drives 80 in blinding fog, and flies light planes into threatening storm weather. We Americans do these things at great personal risk, and considerable risk to friends, lovers, and strangers.

It’s supported by our veneration of an image of the rugged individual – Ayn Rand’s John Galt. It’s the American pioneer homesteading in an isolated wilderness. It’s the cowboy hero who singlehandedly defeats evil hoards. It’s Rambo beating the odds – alone. It’s Superman. It’s Dirty Harry, driving fast, careening blindly over the hills in SanFranciso city streets launching his car free of the pavement, then gloriously blazing away at the bad guys with his powerful 44 magnum as bystanders dive for cover and his bullets shatter glass.

We assert we have a right to be stupid. But reality doesn’t care about what we believe about individualism or imagined free rights. We are only 4% of the world’s population and we already account for 25% of the world’s COVID-19 deaths. Our sociopathic Reagan/Rand philosophy of individualism is costing us dearly. And the despised “socialist-commie” conforming world is wearing their masks and surviving.

Loving your neighbor with no exceptions is not a socialist idea. If we could just do it better, maybe together we could salvage the economy and save some lives.

Don’t Blame Trump

The GOP with Trump as standard-bearer has been playing all of us. Those who have lost faith and had the veil lifted from their eyes are the most bitter critics of their former party.

Steve Schmidt, a longtime Republican strategist and now a founder of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project disagreed [with Trump’s assertion that COVID-19 will ‘fade away’]. He said in an interview this weekend on MSNBC that Trump has “brought death, suffering, and economic collapse on truly an epic scale. And let’s be clear. This isn’t happening in every country around the world. This place. Our place. Our home. Our country. The United States. We are the epicenter. We are the place where you’re the most likely to die from this disease. We’re the ones with the most shattered economy. And we are because of the fool that sits in the Oval Office behind the Resolute Desk.”  

The above quote is from Heather Cox Richardson’s blog. It is not all Trump’s doing. The GOP, Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, Facebook, and various allied PACs are consciously enabling and amplifying the disinformation that is causing foolish behavior by the ill-informed.  And there are many in the business press and business community who are prepared to put Wall Street ahead of Main Street for short-term economic benefit. The US has 4% of the world’s population and a quarter of the COVID-19 deaths worldwide. 

The political philosophy that says what’s good for Wall Street is good for the nation has morphed into a sociopathic political orthodoxy that condones gaming the system for private profit.

Consider these openly practiced anti-democracy strategies of today’s GOP:

  • Operation Red Map (Gerrymandered state legislative districts to thwart majority rule.)
  • Opposition to reform of political districting practices.
  • Urban Voter Disenfranchisement
  • Voter ID (Disenfranchisement of poor people who don’t have credentials of more privileged people.)
  • Opposition to Mail-in Ballots (Disenfranchise the working poor)
  • Opposition to Statehood for Puerto Rico and DC (populations likely not to vote Republican.)
  • Partisan stacking of the Courts by obstruction of the legislative process.
  • Obstruction of Anti-corruption Investigations.
  • Obstruction of Criminal Investigations for Political Reasons.
  • Public Health Disinformation (To get people going out shopping)
  • Opposition to reform of the Electoral College System that thwarts the popular vote in national elections.
  • Aggressive suppression of whistle-blowers.

The political philosophy that says what’s good for Wall Street is good for the nation has morphed into a sociopathic political orthodoxy that condones gaming the system for private profit.

Consider these openly practiced pro-inequality strategies of today’s GOP:

  • Opposition to progressive taxation (The poor pay a bigger percentage of non-discretionary income.)
  • Opposition to consumer protection legislation.
  • Opposition to Clean Air, Clean Water, and other environmental regulation on the basis that it hurts economic development.
  • Opposition to SNAP (food stamps) that help poor people eat properly.
  • Opposition to the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare).
  • Opposition to price control of pharmaceuticals.
  • Subsidies to favored industries (fossil energy).
  • Environmental concessions to polluters (fracking, agrochemicals, etc.)

We know the values and character of people by their actions, not by their words.

And, sadly, the above lists are very incomplete, though they make the point clearly. You can easily think of additions. You will see more in daily news from Washington and Harrisburg if you look for them cloaked and disguised in the political spin.

Not out of context

One of the more common political propaganda ploys is to take a sound bite out of context and amplify it to unfairly characterize someone.  But when a Pulitzer winning economist writes an entire column using only embarrassing quotes from the leader of the GOP, you can’t say it’s yellow journalism.  

Why is it an economist’s column? Because the motive for all this mendacity is economic. We do need to find ways to carry on in the presence of COVID-19.  But not wearing a face mask and sociopathic political philosophy will not alter the reality.  The places that have reopened with poor public health strategies have squandered the advantage bought at such a high cost by mitigation.

And the GOP, like lemmings to the sea, is following His Nibs to Jacksonville! (They should ditch him for Romney.)

Timeline of Covid-19

The Trump administration is doing its best to posture itself as blameless in the catastrophic lack of leadership and foresight that has led to the greater than necessary contagion of COVID-19. In the coming months it will be abundantly clear that failure to isolate, test, and track esposures has resulted in needless suffering and death.

This video and timeline well help us understand what was known and when. The coming election may hang upon how voters perceive the actions and inaction of those in office as this global pandemic developed.