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Your local Infrastructure: Who’s gonna fix it?

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Published on The Doomstead Diner  May 10, 2020

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I thought I would take a break this week from another depressing CoroNewz Report to look at another problem we have to deal with RIGHT NOW, which is the Collapsing Infrastructure of Industrial Civilization.  This isn't like Sea Level rise which will inundate some coastal communities like say Miami Beach and make it unlivable in 20 years, it's happening all over the place TODAY!

The problem goes far beyond you driveway which you as McMansion Owner are always responsible for keeping fixed up and nice looking, or your HOA will levy a nice fine on you.  If you have a Doomstead out in the Boonies, is there a Stream or Creek with a little bridge you have to cross to get in and out of the place?  The County of course is supposed to maintain that, but what happens when the county runs out of money because the Property Tax intake has taken a nosedive?  Are YOU gonna fix it?  Even one of those tiny bridges over a small creek can cost $100K and more to build, and where pray tell will you get the steel beams to drop down there with some Heavy Equipment when Home Depot has gone BK and you can't get Diesel for the Caterpillar Front End Loader or the Back Hoe to dig out the dirt?  Are YOU gonna dig that out with a Pick & Shovel?

Then, what about the airports?  Jets need nice smooth runways to land on.  The only way enough money gets generated to pay for that is to have lots of jets use them.  A few Private Jets fr the Filthy Rich and Masters of the Universe won't last much longer than the Flying Greyhounds packed with Tourista Sardines headed for St. John's to Snorkel around the wreckage from the most recent Hurricane.

…and that's all the Doom, this time until next time, here on the Doomstead Diner.

The downfall of ‘Professor Lockdown’: triumphs and failures of science based policies

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Published originally on Cassandra's Legacy on May 9, 2020

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Saturday, May 9, 2020

The downfall of 'Professor Lockdown': triumphs and failures of science based policies

 

 

 

 

Scientists normally think that a scientific theory can be good or bad independently of the moral status of the person who proposes it. But in politics, the messenger can be blamed. That was the probable reason for the downfall of Dr. Neil Ferguson, nicknamed "Professor Lockdown," whose moral position was destroyed by a petty sexual scandal. For most scientists, Dr, Ferguson's personal misbehavior has no relevance to the validity of his models, but for politicians and for the public, it does. A lot.

 

 

 

 


You all read the story of the downfall of Professor Neil Ferguson, aka "Professor Lockdown" trashed worldwide in the media for having had his lover, Ms. Antonia Staats, visiting him during the lockdown period that he himself had recommended for everybody else. It was a blessing for tabloids and there is no doubt that Dr. Ferguson deserved much of the scorn and the ridicule that was poured on him. Yet, there are some elements in this story that make it different from an ordinary story of philandering.

 

 

 

Let's review what we know: it seems that Ms. Staats and Dr. Ferguson met first over an internet site and then it was Staats who went to visit Ferguson at his home in London, and the same Staats who told the story to friends who, in turn, diffused it around. These encounters took place about one month before the story was revealed in the media. Ferguson didn't deny the media reports and he immediately apologized and resigned from his post of government advisor in epidemiologic matters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don't know about you, but. to me, all this looks like a trap, sounds like a trap, even smells like a trap. So, it probably was a trap. Ferguson fell head first into it and he was neatly skewered.

Of course, I am not the only one who smelled the rat: there have been plenty of speculations about who actually decided to push Dr. Ferguson under the bullet train and to do that one month after that the events that caused his downfall took place. Some say that it was because the British government needed to distract the public from bad news about the epidemic. Others think of a disagreement between the government and Ferguson. And when a government decides that a scientist is a nuisance, you know what happens (think of the case of Robert Oppenheimer in the 1950s)

Whatever the case, we are not talking here about a despicable professor who flouted a few moral rules. It is all about the political struggle that underlies the coronavirus story. It was Ferguson who told the UK government that they were facing a stark choice: either to accept a huge number of victims, maybe half a million of them, or to wreck the UK economy. The government chose the second strategy, probably thinking it was the least damaging one. Several other European governments, for instance, the Italian one, patterned their response to the crisis on the basis of the views expressed by Ferguson.

And here we have the interesting point: going into lockdown was one of the very few cases — perhaps the only case in history —  of a major policy choice made on the basis of a scientific model. It was a huge novelty because, normally, politicians ignore scientists and vice-versa. There are good reasons for the two categories to keep some social distance between them: science and politics use different languages to model reality. Science speaks in terms of data, politics uses narrative. 

There follows that if you want to use a scientific model for political purposes, you must translate it into a different language — the language of politics. That means turning quantitative models into narratives. And here we have the problem. A big, large, huge, humungous problem, since there is no "Google Translate" service that smoothly turns scientific results into policy choices. When people speak different languages they are bound to misunderstand each other, sometimes with disastrous results.  

So, Dr. Ferguson's recommendations were translated into a narrative and the lockdown became a moral tale of good and bad behavior. People were told that if they didn't follow the lockdown rules, they were not just breaking the law, they were evil for putting the life of their neighbors at risk. 

That worked nicely in the UK and almost everywhere in the world, with people accepting in good faith to be locked into their homes for the sake of the common good. But there was a problem: it soon became clear that the lockdown was doing great damage to the very people it was supposed to protect. Stuck in small spaces, often without a job, without money, and without perspectives, people's health was badly affected. We can't yet estimate how many life-years were lost because of the lockdown, but wasn't the solution worsening the problem? Unfortunately, in narrative terms, moral considerations always take precedence over cost-benefit analyses, and so the question couldn't be asked in the public debate. But, surely, it was present in the mind of policymakers.

Then, it started becoming clear that Ferguson's model had big problems. It was a hodgepodge of lines of code put together as needed, never comprehensively documented, never independently tested, never having undergone a sensitivity analysis. As far as I can say from my personal experience with modeling, it was a model good enough for academic research, but hardly a tool that could be used to guide the policy of a national government. The problem was that there was no way to test if the model was correct or not. What if the model had badly overestimated the effectiveness of the lockdown, as some elements seemed to indicate?

Now, let's assume that someone in the upper echelons understood that the case for the lockdown was not at all so clear cut as it had seemed to be at the beginning. Then, a huge problem appeared. The government couldn't just tell people, "oops… folks, we made a mistake. We beggared you for no reason." Think in narrative terms, as politicians do, and remember that the lockdown had been framed as morally and ethically as "good" while no lockdown framed as "evil." The politician who proposes to end the lockdown would be seen as evil himself/herself.

There follows, as politicians know, that the way to change policies is to change the narrative. That has rules, just as science has rules. Typically, evil cannot be turned into good (Sauron can be defeated but not turned into Gandalf's friend). But it is possible to turn good into evil when a supposed good guy turns out to be actually evil (Saruman the White, who turns into Sauron's ally). And that's the key: turn the good guy into the bad guy and then the narrative can be changed. 

At this point, everything makes sense: take the person who proposed the lockdown, Neil Ferguson, and turn him into an evil, amoral, egoistic, and reckless character. That can't have been difficult: mounting a petty sexual scandal surely poses no problems for a national government. Of course, we have no proof that this is exactly what happened, but the gist of the story is clear: Ferguson's head had to roll. And it had to roll as noisily as possible. Afterward, the whole edifice that the former good guy had built can be targeted at will with the heavy artillery of the media.

It seems to be what's happening. Not only Ferguson is being shredded to pieces (actually, all the way down to atomic particles), but also his work is being massively and aggressively criticized. Note what Elon Musk said about him: “This guy has caused massive strife to the world with his absurdly fake ‘science." We'll have to see how things will evolve in the coming days but right now, if things keep moving in this direction, the lockdown is a dead hippo in the water. And so be it: it had to be.

From this story, we can also learn something about the climate debate. You see on the image at the beginning of this post how the enemies of climate science had no qualms in associating Neil Ferguson with Michael Mann, a climate scientist often targeted with all sorts of smears and lies. Fortunately, Mann has been able to avoid, so far, to get entangled in some stupid scandal, but scientists as a category came under attack for lack of coherency when they use planes for their international meetings where they recommend people to stop using fossil fuels. No government ever implemented serious science-based policy choices about climate, although many of them claimed to have done that. But if something serious were ever to be done to follow the recommendations of climate science, you might see a much nastier backlash against climate scientists. 

Will we ever able to blend science and politics together? For sure, it looks like a very difficult task. We need nothing less than a completely different political language, a way of debating that would search for common ground instead of focusing only on shooting down the bad guy of the story. But that will take time, to say the least. And, in the meantime, we keep navigating toward the future thinking that the reefs don't exist if they are not mentioned in the media.

 

A comment from Mr. Kunning-Druger, Ugo Bardi's personal troll.

Glad to see that you finally recognize at least some of your many mistakes, Mr. Bardi. And the mistakes made by this friend of yours, this despicable Mr. Ferguson — despicable indeed, as you say. And you even have the gall to tell us that he created a model that is "good enough for academic research, but not reliable enough to be used as a policy tool." Why don't you say things the way they are: that model is crap. Yeah, stuff that comes out of a bull's rear end. And you gave yourself away when you said, "good enough for academic research." Shameful: you scientists spend public money to publish academic papers just thinking of your academic careers and then you take planes to go to academic meetings and enjoy nightlife and cocktails at the expense of the taxpayers! And then you think you can tell us what to do. You even think you can tell the government to lock everyone in jail as if we were criminals. But it is not the people who are criminals: it is you and your fellow scientists who are criminals. Now, this scandal about the coronavirus is going to really destroy you — and I can split an infinitive here, just like the public will split your gang and have all of you truly skewered, not just in a metaphorical sense, ha! This is the end of the whole scam called "climate science" and you know that very well. Mankind can thank Mr. Ferguson for this: at least he made it clear what kind of people those "scientists" (so to say) are. Ugly, amoral, reckless, evil, power-hungry monsters — not surprising that they ganged up together to create the scam called "global warming" just to fill their pockets with public money. Make no mistake: we'll remember this scandal. It is the beginning of the end of fake science and scientists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Responding to Collapse, Part 16: Shortages of Money, Part 1

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Published on The Easiest Person to Fool on March 3, 2020

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A few posts back I said that shortages of electrical power, diesel fuel and money will be at the heart of the troubles that lie ahead for small remote communities as collapse progresses. I am interested in that sort of community because that is where I am recommending that you take refuge in order to ride out collapse (and where I have already taken refuge). I've covered electrical power in parts 10 to 14 of this series and diesel fuel in part 15, so that leaves money for this post and the next one.

We'll be looking at shortages of money from two angles here. First, in this post, shortages that occur when you have money on deposit at the bank, or credit prearranged with the bank, but can't access it due to problems with the banking system. Second, in the next post, shortages that occur when you have trouble earning enough money to live on because of problems with the economy.

The song says, "money makes the world go round". You could certainly be forgiven for believing that, especially given the increased commodification of everything that has been going on, and the growth of the financial sector of the economy in the last few decades. I don't agree, though. Drawing from the writings of Dr. Tim Morgan on "surplus energy economics", I would say that it is energy that makes the world, or at least the economy, go round.

We'll get back to the role of energy in the economy in my next post, but first let's look at money itself. Money is really just a system of tokens we use as a medium of exchange, a unit of account, and a store of value.

Conventional economists tell stories about how before money was invented, people had to barter for what they needed but couldn't produce for themselves, and this was very inconvenient. In fact, as an anthropologist would tell you, barter was used only on those rare occasions when they were trading with strangers, and often with the intent of gaining a (possibly unfair) advantage. They were strangers, after all.

Most people usually dealt only with people they knew and didn't want to cheat. In small groups (less that Dunbar's number) there was no need of money since people just did what was needed, didn't attempt to keep precise accounts it, and accumulated little of value to store. This was primitive communism which worked on the principle of "from each according to their ability and to each according to their needs."

As people began to live in larger groups, it proved useful to have some way of keeping track of transactions with people outside one's immediate group. I'm not going to go into the historical details here (read Graeber's book if you are interested), but eventually we arrived at the system we use now.

Today money is created when a bank loans it out as debt. The main thing about money created as debt is that it can increase flexibly as the economy grows, where money based on precious metals is limited by the scarcity of those metals. In order to make a profit, which is after all the reason for their existence, banks insist that those loans have to be paid back with interest. This means that the economy must continually grow in order to cover that interest. As long as the economy is growing, this system works quite well. Indeed that is why we adopted it, to accommodate the growth stimulated by fossil fuel energy.

Only a tiny fraction of money ever exists as coinage or bank notes—mostly it just consists of entries in the banks' accounting software. Coinage confuses the issue of what money really is, since coins at least appear to be made of precious metals. Many people believe that money based on precious metals (gold, silver) has some real value, because of their rarity and the difficult of mining them. They call our modern debt based money “fiat currency” because its value is based solely on your confidence in it. I disagree. Take gold as an example—it has some limited industrial use because of its low electrical resistance and high corrosion resistance, but its current high market value is based almost entirely on what people think it is worth. In fact all money is an abstraction and its value is based only on what value people agree to give it.

Indeed the financial sector of the economy is largely based on trading in money itself as well as stocks, bonds, and derivatives. Much of the so called wealth in the world is based on these things, and their value is almost entirely based on public confidence in them. If the confidence evaporates, so does the wealth.

I would define wealth as an enforceable claim of ownership on things with real value, or an enforceable claim on future productivity, yours or someone else's. The value of money in the bank or investments, is based on a claim on future productivity, and if that productivity decreases, so does the value of your claim on it. And, of course, if your claims become un-enforceable, as they might if the financial sector or society itself experience disruption, your "wealth" is worth nothing.

In the last few decades the switch over from primitive communism to modern neoliberal capitalism has been just about completed. The idea of an "immediate group" has largely disappeared, much to our loss, and money mediates almost all relationships, even to some extent within nuclear families. This means that we are very much dependent on the systems which provide us with money, and via that money, the necessities of life.

Today most of us access the cash we have on deposit at a bank via an automatic teller machine (ATM) or less commonly via a human teller at the local bricks and mortar office of our bank. And more and more we use debit cards to eliminate actual cash altogether, accessing our bank deposits directly at point of sale terminals. Many of us also have credit cards allowing us to access credit up to a prearranged limit at ATMs or point of sale terminals. Some of us, who are undertaking rennovation projects or operate small businesses for instance, have arranged lines of credit at the bank, at much lower interest rates than credit cards. This form of credit is usually accessed via cheques or online transfers.

But having cash on deposit or prearranged credit is no good if you can't access it. Ready access to money relies on infrastructure that can fail quite easily. A local grid failure or damage to communications cables can knock out ATMs, point of sale terminals and the banks themselves—you may have noticed that, when you are dealing directly with a human teller, they are making entries in a computer while dispensing or receiving cash. Cash itself has to be delivered regularly to both ATMs and banks and shortages of diesel fuel or storms closing the highways can stop those deliveries.

Financial crashes, recessions or depressions can cause banks to fail and take your money down a financial black hole with them. And during such crises the banks who don't fail get very cautious in their dealings with each other and the public. This is like throwing sand in the gears of the economy, and makes the situation worse. In such an event, you can except that your access to credit will dry up and that even your access to cash on deposit will be limited, since the banks will be concerned about nervous people deciding to withdraw all their money, in what is known as a "run on the bank". The banks, of course, don't have enough cash on hand to cover all the deposits that people have made, and would likely limit you to taking out only a few hundred dollar a week, at most.

The simplest preparation for these sort of problems is having a chunk of cash on hand, enough to see you through a few days or weeks at the worst. And having a stock of food and other essentials on hand so you don't need so much money to spend in times when the banking system isn't working.

A lot of people seem to think that a long term failure of the financial sector would be the end of the world, or at least of the economy, and believe that it is the form that collapse will take. But remember an economy is just a system in which the things people need are made and exchanged. Among small numbers of people who know each other (or can quickly come to know each other), and certainly in emergencies, it is quite possible for such activity to continue without anyone keeping track of it. The thing, of course, is to have close to hand the resources from which to make what is needed. In large population centres, once shipments stop, this quickly becomes difficult. In small agricultural communities, it need not be so much of a problem.

In communities of more than a couple of hundred people, it would be useful to print and issue a local currency and set up accounting systems separate from the no longer functioning banks. The idea that we can't get by without banks irks me—they currently have a monopoly on the services they provide and on which we depend—and they make a generous profit in that business. If they can no longer do their job, then we should feel free to replace them as needed.

As my regular readers know, I believe that collapse is actually something that happens quite slowly, has been going on for the last 50 years or so, and will be continuing for years or probably decades to come. But, when it comes to money, I can see why many people seem to have their hearts set on a fast collapse. Such a collapse would be much harder, of course, but at least your creditors, landlords, etc. would be collapsing with you and wouldn't be able to come after you for what you owe them. Leaving you free to concentrate on the business of survival.

In a slow collapse there will be a period of time (already started, actually) when the banks and landlords still want their pound of flesh, but many people no longer have jobs, or good enough jobs, to pay them.

That will be the subject of my next post.

As I have been writing this post, the corona virus, COVID-19, has been spreading over the world. I've done a fair bit of reading on it recently, and I am getting disgusted with the amount of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) that is being spread around by people who stand to gain by attracting more visitors to their websites. This is uncertainly not conducive to an intelligent response.

This a new disease and there is much we do not yet know about it, much that we will only know after the dust has settled. I think this sort of uncertainty is going to be characteristic of many of the challenges we will face as collapse deepens. My hope is that this blog will be conducive to a calm and constructive response to such challenges. Here are a few links that I hope will help when it comes to responding to COVID-19:

That last link is behind a paywall, so I'm including a link with advice to help you get past paywalls in general.. Just part of my anarcho-communist approach to life.


Links to the rest of this series of posts, Preparing for (Responding to) Collapse:

Gas Prices Crater…but WHERE’S MY STIMULUS?

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Published on The Doomstead Diner  May 3, 2020

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A few weeks ago with much Fanfare & Hoopla, it was announced by Da Goobermint that a "Bipartisan" agreement had been reached to send "stimulus" money to every Amerikan Citizen who could Fog a Mirror, including the kids as long as they were under 16.  Somehow, the 17-18 year old HS Seniors got left out of this Bonanza though.

In aggregate, the amount tallies up into the $TRILLIONS, but for you J6P it is supposed to be $1200, and $500 for each of your kids too!  Not that this amount of money will even cover a month worth of bills for anyone living in any major metro in the FSoA, hell it won't even pay a month's rent in NY Shity or Seattle!  But still… Better than Nothing right?

So I am Joyful about this, I am only used to getting Free Money from Alaska once a year when they issue the PFD (Permanent Fund Dividend) to the residents.  This is money from Big Oil paid to Alaskans just to live here and well…fog a mirror.  lol.

However, some 3 weeks or so after this announcement, I STILL have not received my Stimulus Mailbox Money! 🙁  Nor has anyone I know who lives in my complex, nor have any of the clerks and stockers at 3 Bears I talk to when I shop there.  I am very recognizable by my All-Black outfit and the fact I ride around on a Cripple Cart which is the only one of its kind in Alaska.  lol.  Everybody knows me who works at 3 Bears, ESPECIALLY the butchers in the Meat Dept! 🙂

So none of us poor J6Ps, neither the Working Poor or the old crippled guys living at Poverty Level on a Fixed Income have received our Stimulus!  Meanwhle however, Da Fedral Reserve has revved up the Printing Press some more todish out still more Funny Money to the Oil Majors, since they are sinking rapidly along with the price of Oil, now cratering to levels not seen since the Oil Shock of the 1980s, , followed shortly thereafter by the Collapse of the original Bretton Woods agreement following the end of WWII, the emrgence of the "Petrodollar" and the EXPLOSION of Irredeemable Debt, which has been on an ever upward spiral really since Capitalism began in the ~1500s, but has really taken on the Hockey Stick graph shape of an Exponential funtion over the last 30 years.

So the first question here is:  Just exactly how much longer can an Economy based on absolutely NOTHING utilizing fictitious money created out of Thin Air continue to function?

The second question I have is, who among the readers of the Diner or Viewers of the Collapse Cafe videos has actually RECEIVED your stimulus funny money?  Please let us know in the Comments Inside the Diner on the Forum, or in the Comments on the Collapse Cafe YouTube channel..  Inquiring minds want to know.

Collapse Cooks Converse Coronavirus

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Published on The Doomstead Diner  April 26, 2020

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In today's video, two Cooks sit down over dinner to discuss the ongoing Coronavirus Catastrophe, with a particular focus on the local economy, in particular the Restaurant Bizness.  We also talk about FOOD of course, as well as local Infrastructure problems we have in our Community.

What I really hope to convey with this video however is not so much these economic questions, but rather the importance of FORMING COMMUNITY and BUILDING INTERGENERATIONAL BONDS.  This most IMPORTANT aspect of preparing for the world to come is the one most often ignored or neglected by both Preppers and Doomsteaders.

When was the last ime you invited over a new neighbor for dinner?  When waas the last time you got to know a person 2 generations your Junior or Senior?

How do you do this?  It's not that hard really, 2 main things apply, SHARING and GENEROSITY.  Give to others NOW, and it will come back to you with interest later.

PAY IT FORWARD.

The Week in Doom: Don’t Drink The Bleach


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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on April 26, 2020

"Americans who take any comfort from [Trump’s nightly briefings] were Trump-drunk long ago. The unbesotted see and hear the president for what he is: a tone-deaf showman who regards everything, even a mountain of corpses, as a stage."

 ― Frank Bruni  


This week an out-of-control American president made remarks about using sunlight and disinfectants topically, an improvised medicine show that prompted frantic health warnings from multiple quarters. Since the revisionist right is furiously trying to deny that this ever happened, or happened the way that it happened, let's reproduce Trump's statements word for word here:

“I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that.” 

“So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous — whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light — and I think you said that that hasn’t been checked, but you’re going to test it [to Dr. Birx]. And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body.”

One wonders at the anatomical possibilities.

On Friday, Trump said he was speaking "sarcastically." So sarcastically that his administration had to dampen repeated outrage, face calls from poison control agencies nationwide, and endure cautionary calls from Lysol and other manufacturers as they had to issue dont-take-this-stuff denials. No one was buying it, after the aggressive pushback from all quarters. Making one pine for good old days when people merely ate Tide pods. 

Responding to the criticism from public health officials around the country, the president said he was playing a trick on reporters.

Vin Gupta, a global-health policy expert, told NBC News: “This notion of injecting or ingesting any type of cleansing product into the body is irresponsible and it’s dangerous. It’s a common method that people utilize when they want to kill themselves.”

Lysol and Dettol maker Reckitt Benckiser said Friday, “Under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route). As with all products, our disinfectant and hygiene products should only be used as intended and in line with usage guidelines.”

These are not responses to sarcasm. By week's end, amid leaked stories that aides and advisers were trying to get Trump to reel in his freewheeling, off-the-cuff self-indulgement-fests, Trump announced an end to his daily pressers. He blamed the media for being "fake news" and said they were a "waste of time."  Like dealing with an ex, Trump can reliably be counted upon to let you know that whatever happens is someone else's fault. By week's end, Dr. Deborah Birx sold off what remained of her own credibility in a Fox News interview. Asked if the media in this country had been fair during this pandemic, Birx replied,

“I think the media is very slicey and dicey with the way they put together sentences in order to create headlines.”

"Slicey and dicey." We'll just leave this here to ripen.


With just over four percent of the world’s population, the United States has about one-third of all global coronavirus cases and one-quarter of the fatalities. And the numbers are probably under-reported, since the US has tested only about 1.5 per cent of the population. There are also recording and testing inconsistencies or errors globally. One wonders how India, with 1.3 trillion people, has only recorded 25,000 cases and 780 deaths.

Now we learn that healthy people in their 30s and 40s are dying of covid-induced strokes. Once thought to primarily attack the lungs, the coronavirus has shown that it can affect nearly every major organ system in the body.

Many researchers suspect strokes in novel coronavirus patients may be a direct consequence of blood problems that are producing clots all over some people’s bodies.

Clots that form on vessel walls fly upward so one that started in the calves might migrate to the lungs, causing a blockage called a pulmonary embolism that arrests breathing – a known cause of death in covid-19 patients. Clots in or near the heart might lead to a heart attack, another common cause of death. Anything above that would likely go to the brain, leading to a stroke.

Counting on antibody tests to let you know if you can resume life as usual? Not so fast: WHO Warns You May Catch Coronavirus More Than Once

“There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from Covid-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” the United Nations agency said in an April 24 statement.

The WHO guidance came after some governments suggested that people who have antibodies to the coronavirus could be issued an “immunity passport” or “risk-free certificate” that would allow them to travel or return to work, based on the assumption that they were safe from re-infection, according to the statement. 

The truth is that Trump Wants to Reopen the Economy Because He’s Panicking About Reelection Polls. He is running eight to ten points behind Biden in key states that he will need to secure re-election. Even with Joe Biden as good as being held in house arrest. No need for Joe to campaign, when Trump is doing such a good job of self-immolation.

Worldwide we are approaching 3M cases reported. In the US we approaching one million cases with no end in sight, and with minimal testing,  are adding 100K every 3 days. But how good are the official numbers? Since we have tested only about 1.5 percent of the American population, as the federal government has sent a steady, unbroken supply of excuses to the states' governors, the resulting numbers may be less than reliable.  A recent Antibody Study Suggests Coronavirus Far More Widespread Than Thought

A new study in California has found the number of people infected with coronavirus may be tens of times higher than previously thought. The study from Stanford University, which was released Friday and has yet to be peer reviewed, tested samples from 3,330 people in Santa Clara county and found the virus was 50 to 85 times more common than official figures indicated.

The study illustrates how little we really know about the virus. It may be far more widespread and far less deadly than we think. Meanwhile, if that news isn't bad enough, 

UN World Food Program reports that the "Risk of hunger pandemic as COVID-19 set to almost double acute hunger by end of 2020." While poor and working class people in the third world may starve, in the US people are having a hard time finding frozen french fries in  supermarkets because of demand disruption and supply chain issues. 


“Please don't call them protesters… they're terrorists. Protesters don't carry AK47s, wave swastika flags, or block ambulances.”

 ― Daniel Staniforth  

Last week Trump claimed "complete authority" to open the country. The following day, he punted responsibility to the states. He said he was going to close Congress based on some mystical Article 2 power,  Which he can't. Deciding that wasn't good enough, he tweeted: "Liberate Virginia!" "Liberate Michigan" "Liberate Minnesota!" in support of astroturfed right wing protest efforts. And a number of Americans have flocked to answer the call.

Anyone scoring at home knows that absent testing, there is little responsible way for larger and more afflicted states to re-open. But Trump's fans aren't moved by science or evidence. They seem to be moved by oppositional defiance disorder.

These folks are demonstrating in favor of the "herd immunity" stratagem rejected in the UK once Boris Johnson put pencil to paper and calculated the casualties. So members of this death cult are out on the streets in favor of sustaining as many deaths as necessary to restore business as usual. Given that the disease culls the elderly and infirm first,  say goodbye to Granny and Grandpa. Thanks for everything, and you've been great, but we have the quarter to think about and stock portfolios to protect.

These people have always been with us. During the Revolution, they supported the King, and fled to Canada and the Eastern Shore to avoid the insurrection. In the 1840s they emerged as the nativist Know-Nothings who emerged to fight the influx of Irish immigrants fleeing famine. 

During the Civil War, while  secessionists want to war to preserve their "peculiar institution," outrages against American Blacks occurred on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line.  There were "anti-Negro" race riots in New York city such that gunboats and federal troops were needed to restore order. After Reconstruction, southerners were able to deny generations of Blacks the legal status afforded in law by a combination of Jim Crow laws and a program of domestic terror via the Klan.. During the same period, we closed the frontier and made the world safe for railroad capitalists by embracing the motto "the only good indian is a dead indian," executing a war of extermination on both native Americans and the buffalo who roamed the plains. Within living memory, as Richard Nixon boarded the helicopter for his one way trip to disgrace, he maintained a 24 percent approval rating.

#Covidiots answered Dear Leader's call to "Liberate" three states with Democrat governors. Overwhelmingly white, they are eager to take credit for an unearned accident of birth and based on an erroneous social construct. Trump rewarded them with an executive order ceasing immigration to the US.

Perhaps even more distressing is Fat Orange's casual capacity for summoning his Bund into the streets, the better to block hospital entrances to ambulances. Look for more of this as the election approaches and Trump continues to sag in the polls.

Ironies abound regarding the flap over social distancing. For the past 15 years, we''ve watched as people became completely disengaged from their partners, families, friends, and children so they could stare raptly into their phones. Now, when social distancing can save countless lives, you can't get people to stay the fuck at home and stare at said phones. They want to die for the right to a haircut. They are, however, a distinct minority.

The Kaiser Family Foundation reports in a recent survey,

most Americans (80%) say strict shelter-in-place measures are worth it in order to protect people and limit the spread of coronavirus. Fewer (19%) say the strict shelter-in-place measures are placing unnecessary burdens on people and the economy and causing more harm than good.

Lots of good, recent polling information in this study. Worth a read, while you're sheltering in place.


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere. He lives a quiet domestic existence in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary. Descended from a long line of people to whom one could never tell anything, all opinions are his and his alone, because he paid full retail for everything he has managed to learn.

Coronavirus Daily Double from Ugo Bardi

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Published originally on Cassandra's Legacy on April 16 & 20, 2020

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Thursday, April 16, 2020

 

 

Collapse: The Coronavirus is not a Cause, it is a Trigger

 

 

 

Is the epidemic going to cause civilization to collapse? It may happen for good reasons

 

 

This is a version of the article that I published on the English version of "Al Arabiya" On March 26, 2020. It is not the same text I published there — but I kept the wonderful illustration by Steven Castelluccia. It perfectly conveys the concept of "Seneca Cliff"

Do you remember the story of the straw that broke the camel’s back? It is an illustration of how overloaded systems are sensitive to small perturbations. Could the COVID-19 epidemic be the straw that breaks the back of the world’s economy?

Like an overloaded camel, the world’s economy is strained by at least two tremendous burdens: one is the increasing costs of production of mineral resources (don’t be fooled by the current low prices of oil: prices are one thing, costs are another). Then, there is pollution, including climate change, also weighing on the economy. These two factors define the condition called “overshoot,” occurring when an economic system is consuming more resources than nature can replace. Sooner or later, an economy in overshoot has to come to terms with reality. It means that it can’t continue to grow: it must decline.

These considerations can be quantified. It was done for the first time in 1972 with the famous report The Limits to Growth sponsored by the Club of Rome. Widely disbelieved at the time, today we recognize that the model used for the study had correctly identified the trends of the world’s economy. The results of the study showed that the double burden of resource depletion and pollution would bring economic growth first to a halt and then cause it to collapse, probably at some moment during the first decades of the 21st century. Even with very optimistic assumptions on the availability of natural resources and of new technologies the calculations show that the collapse could at best be postponed, but not avoided. Many later studies confirmed these results: collapse turns out to be a typical feature of systems in overshoot, a phenomenon called sometimes the “Seneca Cliff” from a sentence of the ancient Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca.

 

The base case scenario calculated in the 1972 version of "The Limits to Growth" 

The coronavirus, in itself, is a minor perturbation, but the system is poised for collapse and the epidemics may trigger it. We already saw how the world’s economy is fragile: it nearly collapsed in 2008 under the relatively small perturbation of the crash of the subprime mortgage market. At that time, it was possible to contain the damage but, today, the fragility of the system has not improved and the coronavirus may be a stronger perturbation. The collapse of entire sectors of the economy, such as the tourism industry (more than 10% of the world’s gross product), is already ongoing and it may be impossible to stop it from spreading to other sectors.

So, what exactly is it going to happen to us? Since we started with mentioning a camel, we may also mention a famous statement by Shaykh Rāshid that we can summarize as, "My father rode a camel, I drive a Mercedes, my son will ride a camel." Might that sentence have been truly prophetic?

Indeed, the coming crisis might turn out to be so bad to push us back to the Middle Ages. But it is also true that all major epidemics in history have seen a robust rebound after the collapse. Consider that, in the mid-14th century, the “black death” killed perhaps 40% of the population of Europe but, a century later, Europeans were discovering America and starting their attempt of conquering the world. It may be that the black death was instrumental in this rebound: the temporary reduction of the European population had freed the resources necessary for a new leap forward.

Could we see a similar rebound of our society in the future? Why not? After all, the coronavirus could be doing us a favor by forcing us to abandon the obsolete and polluting fossil fuels we use today. The current low market prices are the result of the contraction of the demand and are likely to be the straw that breaks the back of the oil industry. That will leave space for new and more efficient technologies. Today, solar energy has become so cheap that it is possible to think of a society fully based on renewable energy. It won’t be easy, but recent studies show that it can be done.

That doesn’t mean that the near term collapse can be avoided. The transition to a new energy infrastructure will require enormous investments, impossible to find in a moment of economic contraction we expect for the near future. But, in the long run, the transition is unavoidable and there is hope for a "Seneca rebound" toward a new society based on clean and renewable energy, no more plagued by the threats of depletion and climate change. It will take time, but we can heal the poor camel’s back.

 

 

 

 

 

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Monday, April 20, 2020

 

 

How effective is a hard lockdown against the COVID epidemics? The data say not so much

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Data about the mortality of the coronavirus epidemic start being available. Above, a list of mortality rates for Western European countries (including the US) taken from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) of the University of Washington. The data are ordered by the projected number of deaths per million inhabitants. In addition, I built a "lockdown score," also based on the data reported by IHME (except for the US, where different states chose different options). It would be difficult to say that these data support the idea that a "hard" lockdown that includes a stay home order is more effective than a looser kind of lockdown. (for a live version of the table, write to me at ugo.bardi(whirlette)unifi.it)
 

Your friend has a headache. She takes a pill and, after a while, she feels much better. And she is sure that it was because of the pill. Maybe, but how does she know that the headache didn't go away by itself? Was the pill a homeopathic medicine? In this case, you could tell her that she ingested pure sugar, unlikely to cure anything. But, if you ever tried something like that, you know that it is nearly impossible to un-convince someone who believes to have been healed by the miraculous powers of homeopathy or the like. It is a typical problem of medical studies: how do you know that a treatment is effective? That's why there exist precise rules defining how you can test a new drug or treatment.

Now, let's go to the coronavirus epidemic: practically every region in the world has been affected and practically every government has implemented some kind of rules to stop the epidemic from diffusing, from voluntary social distancing (Sweden) to stay home orders enforced by the police. Almost everywhere, most people are convinced that the lockdown has been effective in reducing the spread of the epidemics. Maybe, but how can we say? Not having a "blank experiment" to compare with, it might be argued that all these new rules are the equivalent of homeopathic pills: a little sugar and nothing else.

Right now, the data are still uncertain, but they are accumulating and I think we can at least try some sort of preliminary analysis by comparing the results of countries where the lockdown rules have been implemented in different ways. An especially interesting way to do that is to look at the data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) of the University of Washington. These data are good for this purpose because:

1. The IHME provides a large dataset for several relatively homogeneous countries in Europe in addition to the US.

2. The data include projections for the total mortality at the end of the epidemic cycle and so we can compare countries where the epidemic started at different moments

3. The data also include a list of the rules implemented by each government, whether they include "stay home" orders which we may see as defining a "hard" lockdown, or just invites to citizens to maintain a certain distance from each other. (but note that a "hard" lockdown in Western countries is much softer than the versioni implemented in China and other Asian countries)

Here is an example of the IHME projections. In the case of Italy, you see how the epidemic follows its typical curve and it is going down after the acute phase is over.
 

Note that I focused on the records on mortality because they seem to be the most reliable ones, unlike those on infected people that depend on the number of tests. About Italy, I checked with independent data on the excess mortality from all causes from the Euromomo site. It seems that the mortality rates coincide, these data are reasonably good.

The results I found for several countries are shown in the table at the beginning of this post (not the complete data set, only Western Europe). You can peruse the table yourself (for a "live" version, write to me) and come to your own conclusion. In practice, the mortality rates range from a maximum of about 700/million to a minimum of 10-20. I cannot find a clear relationship between the mortality rate and the harshness of the rules imposed by local governments.

My impression is that the kind of "hard" lockdown imposed in countries such as Italy or Spain didn't help so much, perhaps not at all. For instance, Germany and Austria do well in the list without the need for a stay home order. But, of course, you might also focus on Sweden's relatively poor performance to argue that very loose rules are not a good idea. However, in this case, you might also note that Norway, a country similar to Sweden, is doing much better also with a relatively soft lockdown. Then you might consider other factors, for instance, population density. A colleague of mine (Claudio Della Volpe) examined the data for this factor and he found that there may be a weak dependence but, at present, it cannot be said for sure.

So, my conclusion is that the hard lockdown is unjustified and probably useless, but let me repeat: these are PRELIMINARY data and this is a TENTATIVE analysis, justified only on the urgency we have to manage the epidemic the best we can. Consider that the lockdown is causing a lot of suffering for a lot of people and risks leading us to complete collapse. We should try to do what we can to understand if it is effective. Let me also note that I am NOT DENYING that the COVID-19 virus is killing people, and I AM NOT SAYING that nothing should be done to stop the spreading the epidemics. (and I am not saying that the virus is an engineered bioweapon, or that it is an evil plot to enslave all of us, gosh!). I just placed on line the data I found for the benefit of the readers of Cassandra's Legacy who may interpret them the way they like. When we'll have better data, we'll be able to arrive at more solid conclusions.

As a final note, the story of the coronavirus epidemics shows how we humans tend to politicize/polarize everything. Not that the virus itself, poor critter, is left- or right-leaning, but by now the Right and the Left have taken sides. The right in the US is against a hard lockdown, while the left favors it. At this point, speaking against the lockdown turns you automatically into a Trumpist and a supporter of the NRA, if not of the Ku-Klux-Clan (and of Bolsonaro, too!).

As an example, yesterday I posted on Facebook a link to a study by Yitzhak Ben Israel, (*) of Tel Aviv University that seems to support the idea that most lockdown rules are not very effective against the virus (and note that I didn't even say I thought the paper was correct — I can't read Hebrew!). But, as I should have expected  I was defamed and abused just for having linked that obvious piece of Israeli propaganda, surely a hoax thought to support the bad orange man and his ilk (surprisingly, my readers on Facebook seem to be familiar enough with Hebrew to be able to easily detect the mistakes in a scientific paper written in that language).

So, why is the stay-home ruling "Left" while no stay home is "Right"? Beats me. For those of you who can understand Italian, I leave you with a scene from a movie by Francesco Nuti, where he examines various kinds of cold meats concluding, among other things, that mortadella (bologna) is communist, while prosciutto cotto (cooked ham) is fascist.

(*) Dr. Ben Israel was so kind to send me a version of his paper in English. If you would like to have it, write to me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coronavirus: RE’s Excellent Food Acquisition Adventure

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Published on The Doomstead Diner  April 19, 2020

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Defending against Coronavirus from the Inside Out

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Published on The Doomstead Diner  April 15, 2020

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Vitamin Rotisserie

Most of the focus in trying to protect yourself from Death by COVID-19 has been on the PPE you should be wearing when you have to go out and interact with other Homo Sap Meat Packages who might infect you.  At least equally important however are your Internal Protections, IOW your IMMUNE SYSTEM.

Here at the Doomstead Diner we focus on all FOOD topics related to Collapse, and NUTRITION is the most important aspect of maintaining and strengthening your ability to fight off and recover from dieseases.  Eating Healthy Foods and supplementing your diet with Vitamins are critical for every individual in this Battle of Homo Sap vs Microbe, and they are both something you have control over.  You don't need to wait for Da Goobermint to ride to the rescue on this, at least as long as you have a SNAP Card and follow the SNAP Card Gourmet here on the Doomstead Diner.

Giving Thanks in the Dark Times of the Coronavirus Pandemic

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Published on The Doomstead Diner  April 12, 2020

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Collapse: Where can we find a safe refuge?

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Published originally on Cassandra's Legacy on April 6, 2020

 

Does it make sense to have a well-stocked bunker in the mountains to escape collapse?

Discuss this article at the Medicine & Health Table inside the Diner

 

Sometimes, you feel that the world looks like a horror story, something like Lovecraft's "The Shadow Over Innsmouth.." Image from F.R: Jameson.

Being the collapsnik I am, a few years ago I had the idea that I could buy myself some kind of safe haven in the mountains, a place where I and my family could find refuge if (and when) the dreaded collapse were to strike our civilization (as they say, when the Nutella hits the fan). It is a typical idea of collapse-oriented people: run away from cities, imagined being the most vulnerable places in a Mad Max-style scenario.

Maybe I was thinking also of Boccaccio's Decameron, when he describes how in the mid-14th century a group of wealthy Florentines finds refuge from the plague in a villa, outside Florence. And they had a leisured time telling stories to each other. I don't oven a villa in the countryside, but I took a tour of villages in the Appennini mountains, a few hundred km from Florence, to seek for a hamlet of some kind to buy. I was accompanied by a friend of mine who is a denizen of the area and whom I had infected with the collapse meme.

We found several houses and apartments for sale in the area. One struck me as suitable, and the price was also interesting. It was a two-floor apartment with the windows opening on the central square of the village where it was located, among wooden hills. It had a wood stove, the kind of heating system you can always manage in an emergency. And it was at a sufficient height you could be reasonably safe from heat waves, even without air conditioning.

Then, I was looking at the village from one of the windows when a strange sensation hit me. People were walking in the square, and a few of them raised their glance to look at me. And, for a moment, I was scared.

Did you ever read Lovecraft's short story "The Shadow over Innsmouth"? It tells the story of someone who finds himself stuck in a coastal town named Innsmouth that he discovers being inhabited by fish-like humanoids, the "deep Ones," practicing the cult of a marine deity called Dagon.

Don't misunderstand me: the people I was seeing in the square were not alien cultists of some monstrous divinity. What had scared me was a different kind of thought. It was that I knew that every adult male in that area owns a rifle or a shotgun loaded with slug ammunition. And every adult male in good health engages in wild boar hunting every weekend. They can kill a boar at 50 meters or more, then they are perfectly able to gut it and turn it into ham and sausages.

Now, if things were to turn truly bad, would some of those people consider me as the equivalent of a wild boar? For sure, I couldn't even dream to be able to match the kind of firepower they have. I thanked the owner of the place and my friend, and I drove back home. I never went back to that place.

A few years later, with a real collapse striking us in the form of the COVID-19 epidemics,  I can see that I did well in not buying that apartment in the mountains. At the time of Boccaccio, wealthy Florentine citizens could reasonably think of moving to a villa in the countryside. These villas were nearly self-sufficient agricultural units, where one could find food and shelter provided by local peasants and servants (at that time not armed with long-range rifles). But that, of course, is not the case anymore.

The current crisis is showing us what a real collapse looks like. And it shows that some science fiction scenarios were totally wrong. The typical trope of a post-holocaust story is that people run away from flaming cities after having stormed the shops and the supermarkets, leaving empty shelves for those who arrive late. That didn't happen here. At most, people seemed to think that what they needed most in an emergency was toilet paper and they emptied the supermarket shelves of it. But that was quickly over. Maybe we'll arrive at that kind of scenario, but what is happening now is not that the supermarkets are running out of goods, everything is available if you have the money to buy it. The problem is that people are running out of money.

In this situation, the last thing the government wants is food riots. And they especially care about cities — if they lose control of the cities, everything is lost for them. So they are acting on two levels: they are providing food certificates for the poor, and, at the same time, clamping down on cities with the police and the army to enforce the lockdown. People are facing criminal charges if they dare to take a walk on the street.

Not an easy situation, but at least we have food and the cities are quiet. Think of what would have happened if I had bought that apartment in the mountains. I wouldn't even have been able to go there during the coronavirus epidemics. But, if somehow I had managed to dodge the police, then I would be stuck there. And no supermarkets nearby: there is a small shop selling food in the village, but would it be resupplied during the crisis? The locals have ways to survive also with local food, but a town dweller like me doesn't. And I never tried to shoot a wild boar, I think it is not easy — to say nothing about gutting it and turning it into sausage. Worse, I am sure that no police would patrol that small village, surely not the woods. So, maybe the local denizens would not shoot me and boil me in a cauldron, but if I were to run out of toilet paper, where could I find some? And, worse, what if I were to run out of food?

So, where can we find refuge from collapse? I can think of scenarios where you could be better off in a bunker somewhere in an isolated area, where you stocked a lot of supplies. But in most cases, that would be a terribly bad idea. A well-stocked bunker is the ideal target for whoever is better armed than you, and they can always smoke you out. Of course, you can think of a refuge for an entire group of people, with some of them able to shoot intruders, others to cultivate the fields, others to care for you if you get sick. Maybe, but it is a complicated story. You could join the Amish, but would they want you? It has been done often on the basis of religious ideas and in some cases, it may have worked, at least for a while. And never forget the case of Reverend Jim Jones in Guyana.

In the end, I think the best place to be in a time of crisis is exactly where I am: in a medium-sized city. It is the last place that the government will try to keep under control as long as possible, and not a likely target for someone armed with nukes or other nasty things. Why do I say that? Look at the map, here.

This is a map of the Roman Empire at its peak. Note the position of the major cities: the Empire collapsed and disappeared, but most of the cities of that time are still there, more or less with the same name, the new buildings built in place of the old ones, or near them. Those cities were built in specific places for specific reasons, availability of water, resources, or transportation. And so it made sense for the cities to be exactly where they were, and where they still are. Cities turned out to be extremely resilient. And how about Roman villas in the countryside? Well, many are being excavated today, but after the fall of the Empire, they were abandoned and never rebuilt. It must have been terribly difficult to defend a small settlement against all the horrible things that were happening at the time of the fall of the Empire.

So, overall, I think I did well in moving from a home in the suburbs to one downtown. Bad times may come, but I would say that it offers the best chances of survival, even in reasonably horrible times. Then, of course, the best plan of mice and men tend to gang agley, as we all know.  In any case, collapses are bad and that's doesn't change for collapsniks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food Security, Prepping & Preservation for the Coronavirus Pandemic

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Published on The Doomstead Diner  April 5, 2020

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A Journal of the Plague


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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on April 5, 2020

"The taverns are fair full of gadabouts making merry this eve. Though I may press my face against the window like an urchin at a confectioner’s, I am tempted not by the sweetmeats within. A dram in exchange for the pox is an ill bargain indeed."

— Samuel Pepys, 1665


Watching Covid-19 unfold is like watching the approach of a slow motion catastrophe. We cannot run, nor hide. We can only wait. The math is immutable, and inexorable. The confirmed infection counts and death tolls double every three days. Tick-tock.

We are told to practice "social distancing," to wear masks, to wash our hands continuously, to not touch our faces, and most of all to #Staythefuckhome. Most do. Some, including notorious ignorami, assorted MAGATs, and fundamentalist preachers whose addiction to positive cash flow depends on filling their megachurches, do not. These people should be treated as if they want you dead, judging from their actions, they do.

On a warm spring day last weekend they could be found packing cars going God-knows-where, on sidewalks with kids in tow, even going house-to-house to talk to neighbors! Amidst all the people on their bikes taking advantage of a sweet spring day to go out and provide disease vectors for the unsuspecting, I noted that a friend posted on Facebook that the parking lots down at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront  were absolutely packed. Leaving the cynical person to wonder, "what the hell is wrong with people?" 

We are linear thinkers; we do not do the exponential function very well. (Part of the reason Einstein, when asked to identify the most powerful force he had seen in a lifetime of discovery, replied, “Compound interest.")

The very next day, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued a stay-at-home order for Virginia in an effort to further stop the spread of the coronavirus. Better late than never. 

Being first to lock the state down seems to have worked for California. I saw a clip by Gavin Newsom on TV saying as much, that the lockdown flattened the impact. He/they just had the good sense to employ the only weapon available. California bought themselves time, and kept the outbreak from swamping their health system. The less the infection penetrates the population in advance of a vaccine, the better.

My inner hunchback is waiting for karma to arrive in Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, and the other states that insist on staying "open for bidness" in the face of the trump Plague. I wish I were a better person. I am not.

In a recent book review, Charles Baxter observes, 

Mania rules in many American classics. Like it or not, in what has been taken to be our national literature, the notable white male characters are often in the grip of obsession. From Captain Ahab, to Frank Norris’s McTeague, Fitzgerald’s Gatsby, Faulkner’s Thomas Sutpen, Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert, Philip Roth’s Portnoy, and James McBride’s John Brown, we are in the presence of men who want only one thing and have sold their souls to get it.

We are all maniacs now: maniacs to stay alive, to remain beyond the reach of a silent killer with near universal reach, and whose lethality will disproportionately affect the elderly and the infirm. And while we may not sell our souls, we have certainly turned our vigilance up to "10."


Samuel Pepys (pronounced: "Peeps"), a capable administrator of British naval affairs and Member of Parliament in the seventeenth century, kept a diary as a young man. He recorded his daily life for almost ten years, and his record is often regarded as Britain’s most celebrated diary.

Historians have for years been mining Pepys' insights about details of everyday life during the seventeenth century, as he documented the coronation of King Charles II and the Restoration, the Anglo-Dutch war, the Great Plague, and the Great Fire of London.  It is his descriptions of the London plague years of 1655-66 that we care about here.

The Great Plague of London killed between 75,000-100,000, roughly 20 per cent of the population. Pepys' diary is filled wth what might today be called, "hot takes:"

On hearing ill rumour that Londoners may soon be urged into their lodgings by Her Majesty’s men, I looked upon the street to see a gaggle of striplings making fair merry, and no doubt spreading the plague well about. Not a care had these rogues for the health of their elders!

As noted above, on a clear weekend day I noted cars filled with people leaving the neighborhood… going where, exactly?  And beheld the sight of a neighbor working out on another neighbor who had the good sense to hide behind a storm door while the sputum-deliverer held forth. I swear, had he crossed the street I'd have used a rake to oblige him to keep his distance.

Great fears of the Sickenesses here in the City, it being said that two or three houses are already shut up. God preserve us all.

We are all shut up in our houses now. Aside, that is, from a few states in the south and west who wish themselves part of the Neo-confederacy. Persuading an entire country to voluntarily stay at home is not easy, and without clear direction from an unwilling White House, mayors, governors, and business owners have rolled their own.

Thus this month ends, with great sadness upon the public through the greateness of the plague, everywhere through the Kingdom almost. Every day sadder and sadder news of its increase. In the City died this week 7496; and all of them, 6102 of the plague. But it is feared that the true number of the dead this week is near 10000 – partly from the poor that cannot be taken notice of through the greatness of the number, and partly from the Quakers and others that will not have any bell ring for them.
As to myself, I am very well; only, in fear of the plague, and as much of an Ague, by being forced to go early and late to Woolwich, and my family to lie there continually.

The death toll in the US as of this writing is over 9100. The number of US confirmed cases is over 321,000. Look for these rates to double every three days until the disease peaks. Soon, most everyone in the US will know someone who has been infected. Like 9/11, the pandemic has already imprinted itself upon our psyche as a defining moment.

The pandemic has shattered the myth of American "greatness." As the first among equals of rich, strong, developed nations, the supremacy of American health care is held as an article of faith. That illusion has been shattered. In spite of months of advance warning as the virus tore through other countries, when America was finally tested by COVID-19, it failed.

Countries like South Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong followed the playbook: develop a test, use it to identify the infected, isolate them, and trace those they’ve had contact with. Wash, rinse, repeat. As Alexis Madrigal and Robinson Meyer reported, the CDC developed and distributed a faulty test in February. No one could have imagined that as the American caseload shot into the tens of thousands, only hundreds of people would be tested. This created an epidemiological hole from which we have never emerged. Lack of a reliable test deployed early enough is the single point of failure that undermined every other countermeasure, and that has led to the immutable, exponential math.

Bet your mortgage that the impacts on economic, social and political aspects of our lives from coronavirus will be long lasting. And   compounded, given the chaos, corruption, and cronyism that heralded our blundered entry into this crisis. Few have ever seen anything like this, and only a few cranks and miscreants (aside from professional planners) have even bothered to contemplate it.

The London plague continued into 1666.

Thanks be to God, the plague is, as I hear, encreased but two this week; but in the country in several places it rages mightily, and particularly in Colchester, where it hath long been, and is believed will quite depopulate the place.

Italy and Spain offer grim warnings about an American future. Hospitals are rapidly running out of room, supplies, and staff. Health-care workers are already seeing dwindling equipment, growing waves of patients, with doctors and nurses themselves becoming ill. And they are operating without a gaunt, shiny-faced, porcelain-doll wannabe-Dauphin to bollix up supplies of medical equipment, and to MBAsplain coronavirus to the nation's Governors. Trump and Bolton terminated the Pandemic staff and have given the portfolio to Richie Rich for on-the-job training. God help us all.

By 1667 Pepys' plague had burnt out, but still lived in recent memory:

One at the table told an odd passage in this late plague: that at Petersfield, I think, he said, one side of the street had every house almost infected through the town, and the other, not one shut up.

During a time of "social distancing," we are reduced to staring off the porch or out the window. Like the denizens of Plato's cave, we watch the electronic shadows dance off the wall, while we attempt to make sense of them. Even more difficult is imagining how we might begin to recover from a virtual shutdown of economic life. As we try to restart an all-but-stopped economy dependent upon an engine of ceaseless consumption, we run the risk of renewed disease flareups as seen in China, Singapore, and other Asian countries that briefly seemed to have the virus under control. All it takes is one case to reignite fresh infections.

My best guess is that until a vaccine can be produced (probably 18 months), we'll continue to play a protracted game of whack-a-mole with the virus, stamping out outbreaks as they occur.


The slow response to the virus by some Trumpophile governors will be telling. Virus hot spots in are South poised for disproportionate suffering. With many Southern states only recently implementing stay-at-home orders, there is a chance that a later wave of infection could swamp local facilities. Even sparsely populated counties could soon have more cases than their health care systems can handle. 

“There is no city anywhere in the world that can withstand the outbreak that would occur if there isn’t rigorous social distancing,” said Tom Frieden, a former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director.

In Virginia, the governor is both a Democrat and a physician, so he imposed social distancing earlier than some. But some children of privilege and exception haven't taken it seriously.

The Columbia University model also identified the area around Hampton Roads and Newport News, Va., at risk of having its health infrastructure swamped. Though the number of cases in those counties is currently low, Virginia is not expected to experience peak conditions until late May, and has so far received just a tiny fraction of the medical equipment requested from the federal government.

On Friday, state leaders confirmed that the tidewater region has some of the highest community spread in the state, and that it would be one of three areas designated for a field hospital to take pressure off the local medical system. The “alternate care” site in the Hampton Roads Convention Center will be able to hold up to 360 acute care beds or 580 non-acute beds, Gov. Ralph Northam said.


This Week in Doom:

Like the pandemic itself, the economic effects are just getting started. Strap in. Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman sees unemployment soaring to 20% in a matter of weeks.

WE'RE NUMBER ONE!  The US just recorded the highest single-day death toll in the world

Just when you thought it might be safe to peek out off your bunker… this asshole, again. Robertson Blames Coronavirus On Oral Sex, ‘Lady Chemicals’

Amid reports that the federal stockpile of medical supplies is “nearly exhausted” and production of new equipment is unlikely to come soon enough, it now appears that the Trump administration may be playing favorites, distributing supplies to political allies and states important for the president’s reelection campaign. How bad will the fallout be? Frank Rich: Trump’s Potemkin Recovery

Karma Comes to Cousinfuck Country. Mississippi Now Has the Highest Rate of Coronavirus Hospitalizations in the United States

Are there no lampposts? No nylon rope? New disclosure reveals Sen. Kelly Loeffler and her husband dumped retail stock and bought shares in a company that manufacturers medical supplies. Loeffler and her husband dumped hundreds of thousands in stocks before the market dropped over the coronavirus outbreak.

Trump's budget director stands by plan to cut CDC budget by 15 percent during the coronavirus pandemic  The acting director of the OMB seemed unperturbed when asked about if it was wise to cut the CDC during a pandemic.

Karma, your table is ready. Liberty University Brings Back Its Students, and Coronavirus Fears, Too

Americans are doing what they do best: buying guns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For unbiased information, Just found this. No interpretations, no politics. Just data, visualized: https://covid19.healthdata.org

Stay informed and protect your own. 


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere. He lives a quiet domestic existence in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary. Descended from a long line of people to whom one could never tell anything, all opinions are his and his alone, because he paid full retail for everything he has managed to learn.

Diners Discuss the Coronavirus Catastrophe

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Published on The Doomstead Diner  April 5, 2020

 

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The Coronavirus Catastrophe brings ever more BAD NEWZ to all of us every day, whether we get our information from newspapers, radio, TV or the internet.  Every other news story has been swamped by this, and overallll the Graphic interactive and animated graphical daily reports explain why without much to add to it.

What began just a few months ago in the Wuhan Province of Chna has EXPLODED Exponentially, and now covers the population of Homo Sap in pretty much every country on Earth, and still growing.  Lockdowns are popping up like Mushrooms on a cool damp morning in Kennett Square, PA.  Do Goobermint is about to drop $1200 of Helicopter Money on the FSoA population of Tax Paying adults to try and keep the economy floating for another month while they try and figure out WTF to do.  BoJo over in Jolly Old England is now residing in a London Hospital and running the country from there instead of 10 Downing Street.  I could go on of course, but I don't have to because we did that in the video! 🙂

New Netflix Three Musketeers Movie Has a Mission Impossible Tone/FilmThe one good outcome of this crisis is that for the first time EVAH, it brought together all 4 of the Diner Admins for a Round Table discussion of the plethor of problems we are facing over the next months, weeks and years.

Here on the Diner, we wish you all the best as you try and negotiate this global calamity.  Get that mask & gloves on!

All for One, and One for All!

 

Coming Attractions

 

 

 

Gearing Up for Coronavirus Self-Defense

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Published on The Doomstead Diner  April 1, 2020

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The Coronavirus Crisis has brought with it innumerable bad outcomes and blowback, which is still expanding in scope.  Exponentially, just as the virus itself is spreading exponentially across the Global Population on Earth.  There is not a habitable continent on the Planet COVID-19 has not reached, and at this point I doubt there is a country it is not breeding in, feasting on the plethora of Homo Sap Meat Packages walking about and driving their cars around willy-nilly.  Well, they're not driving around quite so much these days, despite the fact that Oil has reached its lowest price/barrel in 17 years.  There is about nowhere to go to that is safe, all the restaurants, bars,theaters, sports arenas etc are shuttered.  You can still go to the grocery store, although you may not be able to find Toilet Paper, Paper Towels, Canned Soups, Frozen Pizzas, Eggs and innumerable other items which are also disappearing, albeit  not quite so fast as the goodies scarfed up in the initial Panic Buying frenzy.

Globally, Hospitals are already overwhelmed, and in many Epicenters like New York Shity the Peak Virus is still weeks away.  Respirators are in incredibly short supply, a deperately needed therapy for a virus that attacks the Lungs.  Hospital is pit against Hospital and City against City to try and find a supply of these machines, which are rapidly getting more expensive to buy in the Capitalist "Free Market" economy where Profits come before Human Life.

In the face of this non-stop innundation of BAD NEWZ, what can you DO besides Panic Buy?  What Positive, Pro-Active steps can you take to try and SURVIVE the ongoing catastrophe?  In today's CoroNewz Report, we cover the Pro-Active steps you can take to protect yourself, best as you can despite ongoing shortages of such essential PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) as Surgical Gloves and Masks, which even the Top Private Hospitals in New York Shity are running short on.

For a more comprehensive recap of the progress of COVID-19 and analysis of the situation we face in the near future, last Saturday 4 Diners got together in a virtual room (no chance of catching the Corona Cooties!) to discuss the full gamut of the calmity ongoing.  Assuming I can complete the editing in time, it should be Ready for Prime Time for the Doomstead Diner Sunday Collapse Brunch.

 

Coming Soon to a Laptop Near You

A Round Table discussion of the Coronavirus issues by the Diner Admins

TEOTWAWKI ARRIVES!

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Published on The Doomstead Diner  March 29, 2020

 

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No intro article yet.  I am neck deep in video editing.  Maybe later today  For now, you just gotta watch the vid.

What Can Collapsologists Learn From the Coronavirus Disaster?

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Published originally on Cassandra's Legacy on March 27, 2020

 

——————  This time, it is for real!  ——————–

Coming this Sunday to a Laptop Near You

A Doomstead Diner Double Feature

 

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What Can Collapsologists Learn From the Coronavirus Disaster?

 
Guest post by Herbert Krill
March 23, 2020
 
 
These are interesting times for collapsologists and for anyone interested in collapse. For many years, we all studied the past, historic collapses like the Fall of Ancient Rome, and speculated about future collapses. We studied Joseph Tainter, Jared Diamond, read the Blogs of Dmitry Orlov and James Howard Kunstler, re-read "The Limits to Growth" and "Overshoot", enjoyed "The Long Descent" and so on … But now, something that could end in collapse is really here. There is a very fast decline of things as we speak, a "cliff" just as Seneca and Ugo Bardi and others have described.
Is the Coronavirus disaster our collapse? Is that "it"?
 
It might not "the Big One". But it's a big, fat Black Swan. And big enough to learn a lot from it.  Like one learns from a quake, even if it's not the Big One.
 
What is it that we have learned so far?
 
 
All the big systems need redundancy
 
Next time we will have to be better prepared. All this "slowdown", this trying to "flatten the curve" that's happening now (and disturbing the economy and the people themselves, although there are also positive sides to it, see below) could have been mitigated if a better health infrastructure would have been in place. The thing is, you have to build redundancy into the system, some overcapacity.
 
If you have capacity, then you don't have to slow down things so much. Think of fire-fighting. Fires are quick, they need to be attacked quickly. You have to have overcapacity. Fire engines sitting around idly, seemingly uselessly, until the call comes. Firefighters being bored, playing cards (or, rather, playing their smartphones). But no-one will say, "We don't need so many of them if they don't actually work." At some point, they will be needed, in a flash.
 
And that goes for the health care system as well. There should have been many more hospital beds available (even if empty most of the time), more respirators, protective suits, and so forth. If you don't have that infrastructure, you will have to build it quickly, like you do in a war.  It was funny to see those pictures of dozens of caterpillars digging the foundations of emergency hospitals in China, but a week later, those hospitals were actually ready. America did that sort of thing in World War II, regular factories were converted into producing arms, planes, ships, at an incredible rate. But for that to happen you need leadership. There was a Franklin D. Roosevelt then, not a Trump.
 
And the rest of the infrastructure?
 
For collapsologists, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the infrastructure holds together. Here in California, the Internet works (thank God), electricity flows, the mailperson makes his or her rounds, and amazon deliveries are still happening, albeit a bit delayed already. Even though there are lines in front of the supermarkets (people spaced two meters apart), there are not real food shortages. But will it stay that way?
 
The other day, I was reassured by reading an article in the L.A. Times about electricity distribution in  California. "Say what you will about the utility industry – they’re pretty good about contingency planning," Stephen Berberich, president of the California Independent System Operator, which manages the electric grid for most of the state, was quoted. The big electric grids, though sometimes weak, are systems that have always planned for disaster. They might be more vulnerable by a computer virus than a biological one.
 
But still, things can get stressed way too much. What if an earthquake decides to strike us right now? For example, a major rupture of the Hayward Fault, running through Oakland and Berkeley, about 10 km from where I live, is way overdue. Kamala Harris, California senator and recently a presidential candidate, worried aloud about this. It's not just a fantasy. Just a couple of days ago, there was a mid-size earthquake outside Zagreb. People running out on the street and congregating, instead of staying inside, as per official Coronavirus mitigation strategy.
 
A cure worse than the disease?
 
Isn't the current cure what's causing the "slow collapse"? That's probably what President Trump and his people think. They don't want the economy fall to pieces. "The U.S. was not built to be shut down," he said today.  He wants to get things running soon again. But what's more important, the economy or the people? Or are they one and the same?
 
It's a big, bold and perhaps desperate experiment, all this shutting down of everything, of "non-essential businesses", of more activities day by day, including most transportation and especially flying. There is certainly a danger that the whole economic edifice, or house of cards, depending on your point of view, could yet fall down. So interesting to watch this in real time! But just let's not be caught underneath the rubble.
 
Gail Tverberg (students of collapsology will know her) wrote recently on her blog: "Human beings cannot stop eating and breathing for a month. They cannot have sleep apnea for an hour at a time, and function afterward. Economies cannot stop functioning for a month and afterward resume operations at their previous level. Too many people will have lost their jobs; too many businesses will have failed in the meantime."
 
There is already talk of "cascading effects" in the mainstream press. And today, on Bloomberg, the word "domino effect": "Real estate investor Tom Barrack said the U.S. commercial-mortgage market is on the brink of collapse and predicted a domino effect of catastrophic economic consequences if …". This is classical collapsology.
 
The psychological impact
 
You cannot tell people just to stay at home, not to do anything, for a long time. It's bad for their mental health. Many will become slightly unhinged. The "Guardian" just had an article about domestic violence increasing, in China in February and now in the U.S. as well: "A domestic violence hotline in Portland, Oregon, says calls doubled last week." And "The New Yorker" came out with this story: "How Loneliness from Coronavirus Isolation Takes Its Toll".
 
The "shelter in place" policy actually exacerbates the gulf between the haves and the have-nots. You were lucky if you had booked a suite with a balcony on the "Diamond Princess" cruise ship when you had to wait out fourteen days of quarantine, instead of an interior room without any windows at all. The same goes for small apartments in a crowded city.
 
Stay-at-home and creative types like writers can cope with this, but most people are dependent on going out, having a drink at a bar, going to the movies, be part of a crowd. It's bad for the average guy, for the working classes, to be cooped up like that.
 
Positive sides, unintended
 
If you are not too stressed out, it's a time for reflection. Cherishing nature, family, or even thinking of death, it's good for you. Strangely enough, most churches are closed, as well. It will be a most unusual Easter this year.
 
Less greenhouse gases getting released, the air becomes clean again, for example in China. Time slows down, becomes available again. It's a period of deceleration. And by and by it starts to resemble a "World Made by Hand", the title of a novel by James Howard Kunstler, in which the post-collapse world was not a bad one indeed.
 
And despite of the new etiquette of "social distancing" (a brand-new expression, only ten days old or so) there is more face-to-face friendliness. And people are more in touch with each other via telephone, email, Facebook and such.
 
Just a dress rehearsal?
 
It's a big moment in history and therefore exciting. There is a "global feeling". Awaiting the coming days, weeks, and months. I communicate with my friends in Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic as much as I can. Everyone does this now. When will we see each other again? We are united in isolation. And it's a global unity against an unseen, common enemy.
 
But perhaps this is just a fire drill, a dress rehearsal. The real thing, a much worse pandemic, might come later. A more contagious, and/or more deadly virus could emerge. Peter Daszak, a well-known "disease ecologist", thinks the current crisis will prove to be manageable, noting that the mortality rate of Covid-19 isn’t as great as SARS and the spread isn’t rampant. "I’m not hiding in my bunker right now," he told the "Wall Street Journal" at the beginning of the month. "We’re going to get hit by a much bigger one sometime in the next 10 years." Really?
 
 
So we collapsologists may get our "Big One" after all. We may even die from it.
Up to now, we were more or less theoreticians. Now it gets far more real. We were Cassandras, collapse aficionados, we kind of enjoyed our post-apocalyptic visions.
 
But who would have thought that we would really experience something like this?
Now we should stop speculating and start analyzing this event, the Coronavirus Crisis of 2020 or whatever it will be called. Create a framework, set rules, detect mechanisms, make Collapsology a real science.
 
 
Herbert Krill is an Austrian documentary filmmaker currently working in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2012, he directed "American Collapse", a 45-minute documentary for the German-language Public TV network 3SAT.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coronavirus Sets the Sun on the British Empire

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Published on The Doomstead Diner  March 24, 2020

 

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Today's installment of the CoroNewz Reports features more input from the Diner International  Correspondents, in this case Jason Heppenstall (Hepp) of 22 Billion Energy Slaves based in Cornwall, England & Monsta666, aonther Admin on the Diner based in London, England who also works in the Bankstering Industry.

Before I get into a synopsis of what we discussed in this chat, I want to adress a criticism I got inside the Diner on our Forum regarding the FOOD intros I do in all our Broadcasts now.  The critic was too "impatient" to watch the 7 minutes or so I spend going over the meal of the day, where it was grown or sourced, how it was prepared and how much it costs.  To me, these are among the most important questions we must deal with as we move inexorably into the next stage of Collapse.  The fact of the matter is despite the fact I often cook Premium Meals, I NEVER exceed the SNAP Card budget of ~$150/month for my food purchases.  In fact I generally only spend half of that.  I don't receive a SNAP Card although I DO qualify for one because I am at the Poverty Level.  I don't need it.  If more people knew how to Cook and shop for FOOD like I do, we could probably eliminate the SNAP Cards all together.  So I try in addition to reporting on the Collapse Calamity of the Day to teach people how to do this, in the first ~7 minutes of each broadcast.  I am a DOER, not just a Talker.  I Walk the Walk, I don't just Talk the Talk.  I follow the Principles I write about here on the Doomstead Diner; watch my Potlatch Parking Lot Videos where I give away free FOOD to the other Old Folks, Poor People and Cripples like me who live in my community.

Besides the importance of this information is the simple fact if it doesn't interest you, you can simply Fast Forward the Video through it using the Slider on your Utoob screen to get to the Discussion of the Day.  The whole criticism was completely invalid.

Now insofar as today's discussion goes, I got together with Hepp & Monsta to discuss how the Coronavirus Pandemic is playing out in Jolly Old England.  We discuss maany facets of the crisis as it is playing out over there, which is not dissimilar from how it is playingout here in the FSoA.  The Health issues, Economic issues and Political issues are all covered.

So, crack open a Corona Beer or mix a Bloody Mary or brew a cup of Java if you are a Tea-Totaller and get your Daily Dose of Doomstead Diner Collapse Analysis this morning. 🙂

Responding to Collapse, Part 15—Addendum

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Published on The Easiest Person to Fool on December 21 2019

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At the end of my last post I said something to the effect that while I had just said pretty much all I had to say on the subject of diesel fuel, comments from my readers might spark something further. Indeed they have, and at least two of those ideas from the comments section are worth sharing here with the rest of my readers.

 

 

 

Battery Powered Tractor Trailers (EV Semis)

There has been a lot in the news lately about battery powered electric trucks suitable for long distance hauling of heavy loads, following the release of Tesla's prototypes of such a vehicle.

One reader on Facebook was outraged that I wasn't sufficiently impressed by Tesla's "achievement", but in the context of this blog whether disruptions in cargo transport are caused by problems with the supply of diesel fuel or problems with the supply of electricity (needed to charge batteries for electric trucks) is of little importance. We are going to experience both those problems, in any case, as collapse progresses.

Concerns about climate change, more than shortages of diesel fuel, are probably the driving force behind the interest in battery powered transport technology. In order to do something about climate change we do need to stop burning fossil fuels. The alternatives to fossil fuels—nuclear, wind, solar, etc.—all produce energy in the form of electricity, but electricity only accounts for about 20% of the energy we use. We need to find ways to use electricity where we now use coal, oil or natural gas. In the U.S., the trucking industry alone contributes about 23% of total greenhouse gas emissions, so it would seem that switching to electric trucks would make a big difference.

I am not at all convinced that this is even possible, or that it is such a good idea in any case. But I must admit that I just can't resist talking a little more about whether or not battery powered semi trucks are feasible and/or economically viable. Specifically, can Tesla battery powered truck do what they claims, or are they just more of the sort of marketing hype we've grown used to seeing from Elon Musk.

In an effort to become more informed on this subject, I did some googling and read a few articles, which I've listed below, along with the size of battery that each is guessing at for the Tesla trucks:

There certainly isn't a lot of agreement among these people. A lot of that has to do with the fact that they are all talking about slightly different things and making somewhat different assumptions. Picking and choosing what seems to make sense from among these different analyses, here's what seems reasonable to me:

The kind of truck we're talking about is a "semi truck", "eighteen wheeler" or where I grew up a "tractor-trailer". Regulation wise this is a class 8 truck, and it can have a maximum weight, including payload, of up to 80,000 lbs.

Diesel trucks have an empty weight of 31,000 to 37,000 lbs, including the tractor with engine and fuel, and the trailer, leaving a payload weight of 43,000 lbs to 49,000 lbs. These trucks carry as much as 300 gallons of fuel, for a range of over 2000 miles. Regulations limit how long truck drivers can work in one stretch, so the argument is made that an electric truck with a range of 500 miles and a quick charge capability could compete with diesel trucks. I don't know about that—many of the truck drivers I know work in teams and have a sleeper cab so they can cover a lot more than 500 miles without making lengthy stops.

Diesel trucks consume 3.5 to 5.3 kWh per mile, while Tesla claims their semi will consume under 2 kWh per mile. While some of this phenomenal performance can be chalked up to reductions in drag, I suspect some of it may also be attributed to optimism and marketing hype.

That's about all Tesla is saying. They aren't telling us what the truck weights empty or what the battery weighs. We can make some intelligent guesses, though.

Using Tesla's optimistic numbers, and accepting that a 500 miles range is sufficient, at 2 kWh per mile, you need a 1000 kWh battery. Lithium ion batteries have an energy density from 100 to 265 Wh/kg. I think it's fair to assume that Tesla is using a battery at the upper end of that range. So a 1000 kWh battery would weight at least 8300 lbs.

What might their empty truck weigh? Take the lower end of the weight range for diesel powered semis (31,000 lbs.), subtract 4000 lbs for the engine and 2000 lb. for the diesel fuel, and you get 25,000 lbs. Add in the 8300 lb battery, and this gives them a total empty weight of 33,3000 lbs and a payload of 46,700 lbs.

Using a more healthy skepticism, we can estimate a 30,000 lb. battery and 30,000 lb. for the truck and trailer. That leaves us with only 20,000 lbs of payload. I expect the truth will turn out to be somewhere between those extremes.

In and of itself the Tesla truck appears to be technically feasible for runs of 500 miles or less. But just because something is technologically feasible doesn't mean it's economically practical, or even a good idea in any number of other ways.

All these calculations are based on trucks running on level roads. Hilly roads can use up quite a bit more power, even using regenerative braking when going downhill. The same can be said of stop and go traffic in cities. And these are conditions that real trucks have to cope with.

If we widen our horizon on the technical front just a bit, we can see another problem. Tesla says they'll be setting up a network of "super" charging stations which can charge a flat battery up to 80% charge in 30 minutes. It's pretty easy to see that there is a problem with this. It takes over two megawatts of power to charge a battery at that rate and a truck stop would probably need several such chargers. Current truck stops aren't equipped with anything like that heavy duty a power supply, and the power company would have to install new lines and substations to supply this load. While that is technically possible (though expensive) it would certainly add an additional source of stress to an already shaky power grid.

It's also important to remember that electric vehicles only reduce greenhouse gas emissions if the power used to charge those batteries is in itself "green". Currently, in many areas where power is generated using fossil fuels, this is just not the case. And as things stand at the moment we are adding renewables to the generation mix at a very low rate.

What about the economic outlook?

all link to last post

A new diesel tractor usually ranges from $130,000 to $180,000. New trailers usually range from $30,000 to $80,000. Tesla quotes a base price $180,000 and a "Founders Series price" of $200,000. It is unclear if they are talking about just the tractor, or the combined unit of tractor and trailer. If it is the former, then they are well beyond the upper end of the cost range for a diesel truck. If it's the latter, then their price is more competitive. But batteries aren't cheap even if, like Tesla, you make your own. I can't help wondering what their profit (or perhaps loss) margin really is. At some point Tesla is going to have to start making money, or go out of business.

They also claim payback in two years based on the diesel fuel you wouldn't be buying, and a price for electricity at their charging stations of 7 cents per kWh. That's less than power costs in most areas, so once again I am left wondering how this can be a viable business proposition for Tesla.

Battery longevity is always a concern for electric vehicles. As batteries age, they can store less power, shortening the range of the vehicle. And if you have to replace the battery before the truck is worn out, it would add significantly to the lifetime cost.

All this analysis leaves me uncertain about the viability of battery powered trucks, and that takes me back to my original observation: it doesn't really matter much whether shipping is interrupted by shortages in diesel fuel or by interruptions to the power grid. In either case, the results will be similar. And it's those results that we need to be prepared for.

Horses vs Bio-Diesel

I put a link on the Collapse sub-Reddit to my recent blog post "Responding to Collapse Part 15: shortages of diesel fuel". This sparked a discussion on the merits of bio-diesel, and a much higher quality discussion than I have come to expect on Reddit.

I have no doubt that powering the currently existing fleet of diesel trucks, locomotives and ships with biodiesel in order to continue on with BAU (business as usual) would not be feasible. It would take up so much of the available agricultural land to produce the vegetable oil to be converted to bio-diesel that while the vehicles might be happy, the human race would be left starving. The EROEI of bio-diesel is, after all, only around 5.

Even using biodiesel just to power agricultural equipment in an attempt to feed 7 billion plus people wouldn't be feasible for the same reason—just too much land would have to be planted to oil seed instead of food for people. But I think there is something to be said for the idea of growing oil seed to make biodiesel to power agricultural equipment in the areas surrounding the small remote towns I have been talking about throughout this series of posts. The population density of such areas is much lower and there is more land to go around.

The real question is which is more feasible: tractors powered by bio-diesel or horses (and other draught animals) powered by hay and grain.

I did some googling and found a good article in Low tech Magazine discussing that very issue. The author reckons that on a farm worked with horses about 11 percent of the acreage would have to be used for growing the crops used to feed the horses. A farm worked with tractors burning bio-diesel would have to set aside about 26 percent of its area to grow oilseeds to be converted to bio-diesel for the tractors.

Not surprisingly, this would seem to indicate that farms powered by diesel fuel use about 2.5 times as much energy as farms powered by horses. When cheap diesel fuel refined from petroleum is available, this extra energy provides a couple of benefits. One, the land used to grow horse feed is freed up to grow other crops. Two, the powered equipment reduces the amount of human labour required. Much of the success of modern farms, be it conventional or organic, is based on this.

In a post fossil fuel, post collapse world, where the energy used to power machinery has to be produced on the farm or at least in the local area, those advantages disappear. Initially, though, I think bio-diesel does have some merit. The thing is that there aren't very many draft horses around today and it will take some years to breed up and train the population of horses that will be required. The diesel burning equipment, however, already exists and the main thing needed to keep it running is to grow the oil seed (probably canola in the area where I live) and set up the equipment required to press the oil from the oilseed and convert it to bio-diesel.

Eventually, of course, the existing diesel powered equipment will wear out beyond the ability of the local foundry/forge/machine shop to repair it, and it will have to be replaced by horses.

A breeding program for draft horses seems quite doable, as does a development program for horse drawn/powered equipment using existing equipment adapted for horses or new equipment built with village level technology using scrap metal and locally sourced wood.

The bio-diesel enthusiasts make producing bio-diesel sound fairly easy, but they are thinking in terms of ordering whatever they need from BAU supply chains. Making everything required from locally available materials using village level technology will be more of a challenge. Still, with some advance preparation while the supply chains are still running, it should be doable. Such a biodiesel program doesn't need to be long term sustainable—it only has to work for a few years until the horses are ready.

Existing diesel engines can't use straight vegetable oil (SVO), so some processing is required to turn SVO into bio-diesel. Here a rough list of what is needed:

  • seed for the first crop of oilseed
  • planting and harvesting equipment
  • mechanical presses to get the oil out of the oil seed
  • the chemicals required in the process to turn the vegetable oil into biodiesel:

     

     

     

     

    • a caustic (sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide or calcium hydroxide)
    • an alcohol (methanol or ethanol),
      (there are reasonably low tech processes to produce these from locally available materials, although it would sure help to have someone involved who has studied up on the relevant chemistry)
  • the vessels, piping, valves, pumps, instrumentation and so forth needed to do the processing

The alternative to bio-diesel would be to use a lot more human muscle power in local agriculture until it can be replaced, or at least augmented, by horses. This should provide incentive to get a bio-diesel program set up in advance.

Here are some sources of information on bio-diesel:

Well, I think that's really it now for my discussion of diesel fuel. After the new year, my next post will finish off this series with a look at coping with shortages of money.


Links to the rest of this series of posts, Preparing for (Responding to) Collapse:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Pox Upon Us


That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on March 22, 2020

“Stupidity has a knack of getting its way; as we should see if we were not always so much wrapped up in ourselves” 
― Albert Camus, The Plague 


During the incursions of the Black Death, the bubonic plague that attacked Europe in waves during the 14th and 16th centuries, the rich have always taken pains to insure that sickness remains the province of the poor. Some things never change.

Plague doctors wore a beaked mask and carried a stick. During the 16th century, French royal physician Charles de Lorme is credited with having invented the bird-beak plague mask. The long, beaked mask was typically filled with sweet or strong-smelling herbs, such as wormwood, the main ingredient in absinthe, which were believed to filter out miasma, or bad air, thought at the time to spread plague.

 As Jezebel reminds us, Rich People Have Always Been Assholes During Plagues​. In the 14th century Black Death, which wiped out somewhere between 30 to 50 percent of Europe’s population, those who could afford were told “cito, longe, tarde:”  “flee soon, go far, come back late.” As servants were left behind to clean the houses of an absent aristocracy, the swells and grandees got the hell out of town. Reports abound of those left in cities screaming while being enclosed alive in body bags bound for the plague pits.

The 21st century version of retreating to one’s Italian villa seems to be barricading oneself in a Hamptons mansion. The new court physician is the concierge doctor, and the new plague mask is the high-end, sold-out Urban Air Mask 2.0, miasma-blocking herbs replaced by “cutting-edge filter technology with timeless Scandinavian design,” the company’s website reads Gwenyth Paltrow recently posted a selfie wearing the $65 modern-day plague mask en route to Paris, though doctors say they’re likely ineffective, as the masks are intended to prevent sick people from spreading coronavirus, not protect well people from catching it.

Our own rich are following the advice to flee and stay away, hiring private planes to avoid the miasma emanating from those who fly coach. The Rich Are Scrambling To Escape COVID-19 On Private Jets. And money is often no object.

The most wealthy among us are trying to get around flight bans with private jet flights as they are desperate to get into or home from Caribbean countries, many of which have partial or full international travel bans. .. These countries are home to many affluent expatriates. The money some of them spend on private jet flights is staggering. One round trip to Europe in a Gulfstream 550 jet from the United States with five passengers can easily cost the client six figures.

With the world being crippled in many ways by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ultra-wealthy still have places to be and airline options are not only becoming restrictive, they are dwindling. Rumors currently abound of private jet pilots, both from charter operations and private flight departments, being offered large bonuses to get into and out of Caribbean resort countries undetected and bypassing customs and port of entry requirements.

Yes, I know you have your so-called "rules," but this is ME we're talking about. And I'll pay you handsomely.

And you might wonder: Why are the rich and famous getting coronavirus tests while we aren't? It occurs to a couch-surfing peasant to wonder how elite athletes on NBA teams, rich actors and well-connected swells can get tested, when first responders and many presenting with obvious symptoms have been turned away.

Just kidding.

While the evasions and lubrications by the rich may stink as much as the flesh of rotting buboes, we'll need a plague mask to mask the stench of corruption emanating from Washington, DC this week.


Virus Vultures

On Thursday, Senators faced a massive scandal after multiple members revealed in public filings that they had sold large stock holdings after private briefings on the coronavirus outbreak.  Senator Richard Burr Sold a Fortune in Stocks as G.O.P. Played Down Coronavirus Threat to the mere public. And Sen. Kelly Loeffler, she of the half-billion dollar net worth (the richest member of Congress), sold off seven figures worth of stock holdings  after the same, private, all-senators meeting as Burr. Then, she bought stock in a telework software company. Later, as March unfolded, fear of the virus hammered U.S. equities for its largest loss in decades.

After they were briefed that the coronavirus crisis would be far worse than was publicly known, they dumped their personal stock market holdings while publicly insisting that things would be fine. Even while privately telling wealthyt constituents that it was going to be ugly.  From the Times:

Senator Richard M. Burr sold hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of stock in major companies last month, as President Trump and others in his party were still playing down the threat presented by the coronavirus outbreak and before the stock market’s precipitous plunge.

The stocks were sold in mid-February, days after Mr. Burr, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, wrote an opinion article for Fox News suggesting that the United States was “better prepared than ever before” to confront the virus. At least three other senators sold major stock holdings around the same time, disclosure records show.

No less a noted socialist than Fox News host Tucker Carlson, called for Burr’s resignation.

“He dumped his shares in hotel stocks so he wouldn’t lose money, and then he stayed silent,” Mr. Carlson said during his show on Thursday night. “Maybe there is an honest explanation for what he did. If there is, he should share it with us immediately. Otherwise, he must resign from the Senate and face prosecution for insider trading.”

Three other senators also sold major holdings around the same time.

It makes perfect sense to believe, does it not, that the richest single member of Congress, a former investment banker CEO worth $500M and married to the NY stock exchange president, a Senator with inside knowledge and ability to manipulate markets,  has no idea what her portfolio is doing. 

These moves place Burr and Loeffler in direct violation of the STOCK Act of 2012, which specifically made it illegal for members of Congress to trade equities based on any secret information received as part of their jobs.

For their parts, Burr and Loeffler have asked for Ethics Committee investigations to, wait for it, "clear their names." Which, since the secretive committee meets behind closed doors, means waiting until the shitmist from the scandal settles and it's time to start pounding the phones to raise money for re-election.

No idea at all. Baseless attack.

The Times article continues:

In a series of posts on Twitter, Mr. Burr accused NPR of twisting his comments into a “tabloid-style hit piece.” He argued that the report made him look duplicitous for sharing information at a publicly advertised event that was consistent with the message members of the Trump administration were then trying to promulgate. He did not address his stock sales.

Of course he didn't.


You Can't Have One.

This is the above-referenced selfie of Gwyneth Paltrow, actress-cum-celebrity goopifier, who has built a second career positing that illness can be prevented by cold baths, energy healing and making better lifestyle choices, wearing a ventilator. And not just any ventilator. From the looks of it, an Airnum in Onyx Black. And don't ask, peasant: sold out.

Remember that we pissed away two months of lead time because Trump didn't want "the numbers" to harsh the stock market and thus his re-election chances. For months, Trump has his band of grifters and right wing media enablers have said that it was nothing to worry about, and they had it contained.

Pete Hegseth said “the more I learn about this, the less there is to worry about.” Jeanine Pirro asserted that mainstream-media coverage “doesn’t reflect reality.”  Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham accused the non-cult press as “panic pushers” stirring up “mass hysteria.” And Trish Regan at Fox Business accused the “liberal media” of using the coronavirus “to impeach the president. That last outburst was apparently bad enough to rouse Rupert Murdoch from his crypt to take her off the air.

What a difference a few days, and a few thousand active coronavirus cases in the U.S., can make. Both Trump and FNC have changed their tune regarding the significance of the virus. And Trump, prevented from staging his Nuremberg rallies to bathe in the adulation of his cult, has taken his act of vindictiveness, press attacks, and racism to the White House briefing room. It is a failing of the corporate media that they continue to live broadcast these exercises in propaganda. During a pandemic, disinformation costs lives.

 It’s certainly true that health workers and those who have already contracted the virus should be getting masks before celebrities, considering we’re entering into global mask shortage that will make it even more difficult to contain a rapidly spreading public health crisis.

But Paltrow isn’t modeling a mask out of deep concern for public health; she’s posting because she’s beginning to panic. Covid-19 definitely isn’t the end times, but it’s a useful indication of what end times might look like: All our favorite celebrities, like the rest of the idle rich, tossing away their public postures and scrambling to spend as much money as necessary to make sure that they stay safe.


Latebreaking News:

Coronavirus updates: Angela Merkel quarantined, Rand Paul tests positive, Ohio on lockdown

Germany is banning gatherings of 2 or more people to slow coronavirus outbreak

US states report price gouging

A top New York surgeon warns that the coronavirus has 'breached' hospital walls and infections could peak in 22 to 32 days

Italy Tightens Quarantine as It Battles World’s Deadliest Coronavirus Outbreak

In strategic shift, doctors in America's two largest cities are told to skip some coronavirus testing​.


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere. He lives a quiet domestic existence in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary. Descended from a long line of people to whom one could never tell anything, all opinions are his and his alone, because he paid full retail for everything he has managed to learn.

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