Musings from the Bunker 3/15/20
Good morning, friends!
Welcome to Musings from the Bunker for Sunday. I hope all are staying safe and well. Stocking up has gone well. I’m not sure about you, but I’ve developed a real affection for our Amazon deliveryman…
Virus Thoughts and Observations (you can skip this section if you’ve had enough for today!)
A few things I’ve learned and/or concluded today…
This is the first time Disneyland has closed for a prolonged period and when not caused by political unrest or weather-related causes.
The President’s doctor is not a medical doctor—he’s a doctor of osteopathy. No judgments—just an observation.
Even in the face of a national crisis, our president continues to tweet about the failings of his predecessors—as if that justifies the incompetence of our government to date. The President falsely accused the Obama administration of making changes to testing procedures. What’s the point here? Rather than these self-serving comparisons and claims that he’s executing the “perfect” strategy all the time, how about if we all just work together…?
Dr. Fauci, on Face the Nation, made clear that it is better to be over-prepared than under-prepared, better to be thought of as over-reacting than risk the consequences of underreacting. Thank goodness that the our leader, who said he “liked the numbers” and wanted to undercount cases is now stepping back and letting the pros handle this.
There is a tremendous amount of misinformation going around. But some of the most damaging information derives from essentially factual statements, to wit, this is kinda like a flu, the flu kills lots of people, more people die from gun violence/car accidents/whatever, most won’t exhibit bad symptoms, that the Swine Flu, or SARS or [fill in the blank with your disease or catastrophe of choice] was much worse. Assume any one of these statements may be true. There are differences here that make this quite a bit dire (setting aside essentially shutting down our emergency preparedness system last year). Remember:
This disease is insidious—many will carry it with minimal symptoms and pass it along to those more vulnerable
The strains of the “flu” we’re familiar with have vaccines (that’s why we should get flu shots each year)
The “flu” has treatments (e.g., Tamiflu). This does not.
This is far more contagious than many flus and other communicable diseases (I don’t know the math but it moves as fast or faster than the Measles)
It is fine for folks to say that the mortality rate is low. But that doesn’t warrant rolling the dice with ourselves and our loved ones. If 60% of the population gets this and if the mortality rate is only 1%, then as many as two million Americans may die. And if 5% require hospitalization, that’s catastrophic numbers in our hospitals. Our health care system is woefully insufficient. Shame on us—hopefully we can deal with this after the crisis passes.
Andrea and I took a drive around Beverly Hills today and here’s what we saw: many nearly empty restaurants, fewer people, but of those out and about, virtually all appeared to be under 50 years of age. This is the tragedy—young people feel invulnerable and indestructible. They are not. But they are playing the odds, knowing there is little likelihood they will contract severe or life-threatening symptoms…but they’re out there infecting many of the rest, who are more vulnerable. This disease has an estimated R naught value of 3. This means each person infects only three other people, the “power of compounding,” a nifty concept when considering the value of your 401(k), shows how quickly this gets out of control in 16 days, at three infections each day:
I think what is so hard to grasp is that today the virus is invisible and people can’t quite grasp what it means to them. Let’s remember that many things are invisible until they are deadly—cancer, radioactivity, poison. This will be very visible all too soon.
This is not a political issue! If you think our health care system has been caught unawares in the past, if you think that the reckless behaviors of this administration have precedent or justification because of the failings of prior administrations, you are of course entitled to your opinion—and you can voice your opinion in November. This doesn’t change the fact that we all must act now. This is not a plot to undercut the President (if it were, then why is it prevalent in Iran, China and other places?!. There is far too much misinformation floating around on the web. Let’s not weaponize a national crisis for political gain.
A few of you have asked whether we’ve been exposed to COVID-19 or whether we’re just a little crazy. No, we don’t believe we’ve been exposed and yes, we probably are a little crazy. But I don’t think because of this. We are hunkered down to see whether we have the virus and, if we do, ensure that we are cutting off the vector from us to others. And if we don’t, then we hopefully can keep it that way. As we learned from the experiences in the Far East and now in Europe, social distancing is good, but social separation is better. If their lead is an indicator, widespread restrictions on travel—and even on leaving the home—are coming soon enough anyway.
Getting off the Constant News Fix
As many of you know, I’ve been a news and politics junkie all my life. But the news is all consuming if we allow it to be. Every story is “breaking.” Every pundit is trying to outdo the last. The cacophony is deafening; the news has become like a drug, whose fix I require dozens of times a day. My new plan is a daily fix of the major papers, only one Sunday news show and then stop. Why let CNN agitate me any more than necessary? I’m finding a bit more happiness with a little less news.
Isolation, Redux, and Things to Read
Difficult as it may be to find ourselves spending more time in our comfortable homes, well stocked with food and endless entertainment, let us remember this is not by any stretch the worst case. Let us remember the forced exile of Anne Frank and others during the Shoah. And while we are feeling put out by our current inconvenience, look to Man’s Search for Meaning, by Victor Frankl, for some perspective and prescription.
If you’re in the mood for apocalyptic novels, try “California,” by Edan Lepucki, where much of the action is in and around a Los Angeles of the future. Or there’s the “The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047,” by Lionel Shriver. It is the story of the collapse of America as a result of economic forces. If dystopia isn’t your thing and a disease theme is your preference, look no further than Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel prize winning master of magical realism.
In some simple ways, non-political ways, the world is divided into two—whether one prefers Ginger to Mary Ann, cats to dogs, chocolate to vanilla. And then there’s the great debate—Star Wars vs. Star Trek. Lauren and I are watching the final episode of the Star Wars saga and I agree with Lauren’s somewhat inartful summary: “This movie sucks.” Whereas Star Wars has offered swashbuckling fun of good and evil duking it out, Star Trek addressed issues of importance through metaphor. The new series, Star Trek: Picard, explores several themes, including whether artificial intelligence can have a soul, whether knaves are capable of redemption, and whether an aging Starfleet Captain can have relevance. The plight of a captain, who because of his age needs to depend upon—and mentor—the “next generation” is particularly relevant to those of us who ourselves are beginning our “third act.” I recommend it.
In this time when it is easy to be self-centered and not always easy to show patience toward others, I recalled a great rant by Louis CK on people’s behaviors in cars. Yes, I know. He’s a pig. That said, this is a great 2 ½ minute rant on how people can be inhumane behind the wheel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8062QEFk5g
And in these crazy days of miscommunications, one of my favorites:
Enjoying the Rain
With the Winter Solstice only a week away, we are in the midst of rains—rains that feel like they’re washing something away. Rain doesn’t wash away a virus, nor does it wash away pain. But perhaps its presence can cleanse our minds and our souls. I had two long walks with Andrea yesterday. During one, we encountered the most beautiful bluebird either of us had seen in some time. It got me wondering whether if I encountered this bird a month ago it would warrant more than a passing glance. Perhaps a positive byproduct of the madness and isolation may be an enhanced appreciation of the world around us. Perhaps our senses are becoming more acute—a scoop of ice cream seems more sweet and creamy, a symphony more beautiful, and a bird more vibrantly blue.
Back to catching up on work, making breakfast, cleaning the garage and more exercise alongside Andrea (she is quite the demanding trainer). Enjoy the coming week. And remember that we need not let social isolation detach us from those we love and from the rest of the world.
PS: Yes, I know, these are too long. Relax, as the days go on I suspect this will stop being a daily rant (or at least shorter)…