Thursday, April 30, 2020

In which I agree with Elon Musk

Obligatory disclaimer: he is (in my opinion) a modern version of the Gilded Age robber barons.  Specifically, he has figured out how to extract government funding for his private ventures.

Of course, that doesn't make him wrong, it just makes him an interested party.

But this is a fine rant, getting extra credit for being delivered on an earnings call.  He calls the government lock down fascist, explicitly using the term.  Maybe he just reads Borepatch.  Full marks.  Maybe he's read Borepatch for a long time*, in which case the question becomes "what took you so long, dude?"

Of course, sophisticated observers have know this for the better part of a decade, but it's gratifying to see a Captain Of Industry saying this out loud.



But yeah - fascist.  And a note to all government employees who think they might "follow orders" to ask for a "government permit" for free citizens out and about doing their business: you get extra crazy fascist style points** asking for the permit in the original German: "Papierien, bitte."

Extra crazy style points.

* Perhaps the finest comment ever left here was by The Czar Of Muscovy on that post.  Bravo.  And that post got a comment by Spandrell.  (Respectful) Fanboi Squee!

** Remember, the Wehrmacht got Hugo Boss to design their uniforms.  Extra crazy style points, amirite?

Packard

Unable to compete in the post WWII era, Packard was gone by 1960. It doesn't quite fit in with the other losses I have been writing about because it was competition from GM and Ford that brought them to bankruptcy.

When the Packard complex was built, it was 3.5 million square feet under roof on 35 acres of land. Packard employed  40,000 people at the site. It was so large no use for the property was ever developed after Packard folded. It was left to the scrappers and the vandals and what remains is unsalvageable. Now it is the largest abandoned factory complex in the country.



 Last year, in a storm, the covered walkway finally gave way to rust and neglect and collapsed into the street.


YouTube has lots of urban exploration tours of the site.

Zenith

I picked Zenith because it was the last American manufacturer of televisions. They moved what was left of their television manufacturing operations to Mexico in 1991. Diversified into computers and data systems. Sold part of their stock to LG and hung on until 1999. In the end, they sold whatever was left to LG.

In 1962, there were 11,000 employees in the U.S. They made radios and televisions, transistors, hearing aids, electronics for the government, stereos, and electronic test equipment. They were innovators, designed the first wireless remote control systems, worked on computer development, and patented some of their designs.

This video is still pictures of the television manufacturing plant after shutdown with a voice over from former employees. It tells the tale.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

It Smelled Fishy From The Start

Remember the couple that ingested a chloroquine  phosphate based fish tank cleaner? It never made any sense. They were educated people, he was a retired engineer. He took enough to die, she got sick. They were not suffering from Covid19, they just took it, according to her. Then she blamed Pr. Trump because he had touted a prescription drug as a possible treatment for Covid19 and said they just blindly took it without any regard to the dose.

Now it's a homicide investigation.

Cannon Mills

Kannapolis, N.C. is named for Cannon mills. They had several factories in the Southeast States . By 1914 they were the largest manufacturer of towels in the world. In 1920, they employed 20,000 people. The growth continued, although as automation came on, the number of employees needed did not grow as fast. Still, in 1970, there were 18,000 employees in 12 locations and the company was ranked in the low 300s on the Fortune 500.

At the main plant in Kannapolis, they were making 300,000 towels at day at the peak, and they had a one million sq. foot warehouse. Primarily known for sheets and towels, they merged with Fieldcrest in 1982. The company was sold to Pillowtex in 1997 for $700,000,000.

By July 2003, they were completely bankrupt and shut down for the last time, laying off the last 7,650 workers. It was the largest single layoff in the history of North Carolina. The bankruptcy sale liquidated the manufacturing equipment and sold the name. The entire site was demolished in 2006.

The name lives on, but it's just a name put on imported products.

There's an interesting market in new old stock and used towels. Here's what's currently on Ebay.


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Bethlehem Steel

I am not romanticizing what killed Bethlehem Steel. It was the corporate management, starting after WWII. An ongoing series of decisions made with an eye to the short term, ignoring the aging infrastructure, underfunding pensions and benefits, and locked into a struggle with a powerful union that refused to negotiate in good faith for what would have benefited everyone involved.

Near the end, Bethlehem Steel had 11,500 workers and 110,000 retirees. Unfunded benefit liabilities of almost three billion dollars. Aging and obsolete steel making equipment. They had been ignoring the issues for decades and no longer had any room to maneuver. Fortune Magazine covered the details in this 2004 article.

But there was a time. Bethlehem Steel employed 167,000 people in 1957.

Free to a good home


The Story Of Civilization by Will and Ariel Durant, 10,000 pages of Pulitzer Prize winning Western Civilization.  Old School Western Civ.  Amazon is selling sets from around $100 (used) to over $600 (!) (new - who knew you could still get new?).

Mine are used, and there are a few Borepatch annotations in the margins about things that could make good blog fodder but which I never got back to.  I read each of the first ten volumes and around a hundred pages of the last before I ran out of steam.  Maybe you'll have more stamina than I do.

But they're free - I picked them up for a buck a copy at a library used book sale.  If this is your Bag, Baby, then it's first come, first served.  You can either pick them up if you're in the Maryland area, or I can ship them but you'll need to pay shipping.  Probably it would be cheaper for you to buy a used set off of Amazon, since they get a lot better shipping rates than I do.

UPDATE: We have a winner. I'm glad to see there's still interest in Western Civ among our readers, although I'm not at all surprised.  You seem to be smarter than the average bear.

Origin

Will Brown, who posts at Where There's a William, left a comment on my post about the end of denim manufacturing. I don't know if it was true when the video was made, but I read and repeated as fact that there was no denim manufacturing in the U.S. It is true that the big companies shut down or moved.

However, in 2009, Origin started operations in Farmington, Maine. It looks like they have two Draper looms running and making their own denim fabric.



They are making jeans, BJJ gi, hoodies, boots, and other apparel. All made in the U.S. from U.S. sourced materials. It's not cheap but it's American made and their videos are proud of it.

It doesn't reduce the loss or the damage done to our economy by so much our manufacturing capacity and jobs being moved out of the country. There are reasons, some of them understandable, for what happened and I will be visiting them in upcoming posts.

_____________________________________________________
Disclaimer: I haven't ordered anything from Origin, just learned that they existed, this isn't compensated advertising and I'm not endorsing them.

Monday, April 27, 2020

How the CDC will destroy American healthcare

The CDC has a track record of incompetence - a better example of Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy is hard to imagine:
Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people":
 First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration. 
Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.
The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.
So while CDC doubtless has many employees dedicated to controlling disease, the organization is run by people motivated by typical Washington politicking.  That is a very plausible explanation of why CDC looks like it is trying to destroy the American health care system.

Consider:

  • The CDC was the source of the estimates of Wuhan Flu death count (6.6M) that were used to shut down the American economy, and
  • The CDC was the source of the rationale for the shutdown - slow the spread of the disease in order to reduce the maximum number of ICU patients to a level that would not cause the collapse of the health care system.

It looks like Mission Accomplished.  Hospitals are empty, Hospital ships are leaving the ports they were to serve due to lack of patients, doctors and nurses are being laid off.  The capacity of the health care system has clearly been preserved from the Wuhan virus.

But it has not been preserved from the CDC.  Where are the recommendations from CDC to allow elective surgeries, reopening closed hospital wings and saving hospitals from bankruptcy?  The World wonders.  Hospitals from sea to sea are in precarious financial straits, due to the lockdown that was explicitly justified by CDC to prevent the same hospitals from collapsing.

But there's more, so much more.  Consider:

  • Most people in the United States get health insurance as a benefit from their employer.
  • By the end of this week, probably 30M people will have been made unemployed due to CDC's recommended economic lockdown.
  • The average number of people in the typical US household is 2.5.  Taking an estimated 1.5 employed workers per household, this means that by Friday probably 50M people will lack health insurance.

But those 50M people will need health care.  They just won't be able to pay for it.  Hospitals must (by law) provide services anyway, and so hospitals that are already in financial trouble due to CDC's recommended lockdown will face a flood of additional non-paying patients.

Oops.

Now none of this is controversial, although no doubt CDC would engage in a lot of ass covering to try to cover up all their past fear mongering.  The implications are inescapable - the cure for American healthcare is worse than the disease.  CDC is burning the village in order to save it.

Relax, we're doctors ...
We don't even need to go into motivations, because they're entirely irrelevant.  It doesn't matter whether CDC is doing this because they're Deep Staters who hate Donald Trump and want to take him down, or whether they see this as an opportunity to collapse the health care system and have the Government take it over, or whether they're just a bunch of incompetent nincompoops who rose to control the agency due to superior bureaucratic infighting skills - none of this matters.  What matters is that CDC's recommendation is causing what is clearly a worse outcome for this country than just letting nature take its course.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Get rid of the CDC

How has CDC screwed the pooch?  Let us count the ways ...

Act The First: You don't need no steenkin' test kits!

Via Lawrence (in a fabulous post), Why didn't we get test kits in January?
In essence, the CDC-designed test kit included and extra segment that would have allowed users to include people who had SARS or similar coronaviruses. It’s not clear what the point of this third segment of the test was but the important point is that only the first two segments of the test kit were needed to identify COVID-19.
The addition of the third test segment might not have mattered except that it wound up creating a significant problem. The CDC decided to manufacture the test kids “in house” rather than rely on outside labs. And during that process, the reagents used in the third segment of the test became contaminated. We know this because when the CDC sent out the initial batch of test kits, nearly all of them gave false positives on the third segment.
The effort to create these kits was let by their top expert on respiratory viruses, so this is a first class screw up by the A-Team.  Top.  Men.  And pay no attention to the name of the agency: the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Act The Second: What do you mean, Ebola has reached Dallas?

I mean, we've been sending out happy happy press releases for weeks now:
(CNN) -- A second health care worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who cared for Thomas Eric Duncan has tested positive for Ebola, health officials said Wednesday -- casting further doubt on the hospital's ability to handle Ebola and protect employees.
... 
Meanwhile, CDC supergenius Frieden has decided that maybe sending an actual, y'know, CDC response team, to Dallas immediately might have maybe sort of possibly perhaps been helpful, unlike all that bloviating and reassuring from 1500 miles away with their heads firmly clenched somewhere upstream from their anal sphincter muscle. 
More Frieden jackassery on parade. 
Great work, Frieden. 
Pity about the additional 100+ people now known to be exposed because you and your agency are run like the government equivalent of the Jamaican Bobsled Team, but thanks for the comedy relief.
Top. Men.  And pay no attention to the name of the agency: the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Act The Third: Sorry about that "make patients go cold turkey on their pain meds" thing ...

People put through excruciating withdrawal symptoms because CDC told doctors to stop prescribing?  My bad, Bro:
Last month saw a letter to the CDC, a letter that documented hundreds of patients suffering the adverse consequences of the CDC's guidance.  The letter was signed by hundreds of doctors and nurses.  And suddenly the CDC is stumbling all over itself to "clarify" their 2016 guidance:
Acknowledging the suffering caused by "misinterpretation" of the opioid prescribing guidelines it published in 2016, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday sought to clarify that it never recommended imposing involuntary dose reductions on chronic pain patients. In a letter to physicians who had objected to that widespread practice, CDC Director Robert Redfield emphasized that his agency "does not endorse mandated or abrupt dose reduction or discontinuation, as these actions can result in patient harm."
Except that's exactly what their guidance had told doctors.  Click through for the gory details, but all I can say is that this is what you get when you have your national health care run by Top Men.

Postscript: How did we get here?

A Charlie Foxtrot this bad doesn't happen by chance, but rather is built brick by brick over the course of decades.  As the old saying goes, enough layers of bureaucracy ensures that disaster is not left to chance.

And if you think I'm being hard on CDC here, check back tomorrow when I describe how CDC will single-handedly collapse the health care system in the United States.  They have Top Men working on it.

Made In (Not) The USA

Televisions? Computers? Cell Phones? Washer/dryers? Kitchen appliances from toasters to spatulas? All the textiles recently mentioned? Hand tools? Name it. We don't make it. Because reasons. Wages weren't competitive. Government safety and environmental regulations were too onerous. Legislation favored globalization. It doesn't matter why. Why is in the past. We could legitimately not make some things or have some brands imported. What we can't do long term is what we've done.


source: tradingeconomics.com

That's the last 50 years of U.S. trade deficits. The numbers on the right are in billions of U.S. dollars. This is not a sustainable economic model, the loss of jobs, wages, earning power, and taxes are a significant threat to the economic well being of the nation.

All those things in the supply chain, all those goods we can't make here anymore, what happens if we get into a conflict with China and they turn off the flow? What's the ramp up to production time for a computer or a cell phone? How long would it take build, staff, and ramp up a factory to make 300,000 towels a day? To make enough disposable N95 masks to supply the country? Multiply that by everything.


Made In The USA

The original scope of this post was so vast that I have spent the last couple of days trying to pare it down. I narrowed it first to one State and then to one company. You could pick any State, any industry, and write about this. In the post war years of the 1950s and 1960s, textile mills were the center of hundreds of small towns and cities in North Carolina.

They are gone now. Sometimes the name remains, printed on the tags of imported goods, but the mills and the people that ran them are no more. Here's two videos. I picked these because it was the last denim producing mill in operation in the United States. The first video is 2014. They were still operating, although they had been bought out in 2003 by an international conglomerate and were not an American company any more.


The second was made as the plant was shutting down in 2017. The end of any production of U.S. denim.


You can tell this story over and over. Towels, sheets, socks, underwear, shirts, dresses, anything made from fabric. Go look at the tags in your drawers and cabinets. In the order I found them in about three minutes, there was Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Bangladesh, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, El Salvador, Haiti, and the Philippines. I kept going until finally, in with my jeans, I found a pair that said U.S.A., they are at least twenty years old.

We can't bring it back. The people that made these goods have moved on, gotten older, or passed away. The mills are empty shells. The looms were pulled out and sold overseas. If we wanted to make our own textiles, we would have to start from scratch. I couldn't find a post shutdown tour of the White Oak Mill, but here's another one. Remember what we threw away.

Cesar Cui - A Feast in Time of Plague

Картинка из Википедии
Things are sometimes not what you would think.  For example, you might think that a composer with the name "Caesar Cui" was Italian, or maybe French.  You wouldn't think that he was a Russian Army engineer, much less a full General who taught fortifications in the Imperial Military Academy and who wrote textbooks on the subject.

But today he is best known for his other life, the one in music.  As a child he received a first rate education which of course included the study music.  It turned out that he was gifted, and was writing piano pieces by the time he was 14.  While his day job no doubt kept him busy, he wrote a lot of music, most of which was based on Russian themes.

This piece is from his opera based on Alexander Pushkin's poem of the same name.  Originally performed in 1901, it was more or less forgotten until 1999, when the Tchaikovsky Opera revived it for the Pushkin bicentennial. In 2009 it premiered on these shores.

You might think that this was pretty obscure, but at the time he was a big deal.  He was one of "The Five", along with Mily Balakirev, Modest MussorgskyNikolai Rimsky-Korsakovand Alexander Borodin - basically, Russia's musical Hall Of Fame.  He is buried with the other members of The Five at  the Tikhvin Cemetery at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, Saint Petersburg.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Ronnie Dunn - Cost Of Livin'

We're only tracking half the cost of the Wuhan Virus.  We have meticulous (if somewhat suspect) data on the number of deaths; we have increasingly inaccurate data on the number of sick and the number of recovered.  There are big gaps in the data, but data are being collected and published.

But this is only half the story.  The country has been locked down, and a million people lose their jobs each day.  The Press is full of stories about people who are sick and their sufferings.  But when it comes to the unemployed Stalin's dictum is on full display: One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.

All we are told about the unemployed are the statistics - that hides the human face.  This song shows it.



Cost of Livin' (Songwriters: Ronnie Dunn, Phillip Coleman)
Everythin' to know about me
Is written on this page
A number you can reach me
My social and my age

Yes, I served in the army
It's where I learned to shoot
Eighteen months in the desert
Pourin' sand out of my boots

No, I've never been convicted of a crime
I could start this job at any time

I got a strong back, steel toes
I rarely call in sick, a good truck
What I don't know I catch on real quick
I work weekends, if I have to, nights and holidays

Give you forty and then some
Whatever it takes
Four dollars and change at the pump
The cost of livin's high and goin' up

I put Robbert down as a reference
He's known me all my life
We attend the same church
He introduced me to my wife

I gave my last job everythin'
Before it headed south
Took the shoes off of my children's feet
Food out of their mouths

Yesterday my folks offered to help
But they're barely gettin' by themselves

I got a strong back, steel toes
I rarely call in sick, a good truck
What I don't know I catch on real quick
I work weekends, if I have to, nights and holidays

Give you forty and then some
Whatever it takes
Three dollars and change at the pump
The cost of livin's high and goin' up

I'm sure a hundred others have applied
But rumor has it you're only takin' five

I got a strong back, steel toes
I'm handy with a wrench
There's nothin' I can't drive
There's nothin' I can't fix

I work sunup to sundown
Ain't too proud to sweep the floors
The bank has started callin'
And the wolves are at my door

Four dollars and change at the pump
The cost of livin's high and goin' up

Friday, April 24, 2020

Rockford Illinois 2020

Rockford got what America got. Starting in the 1980s they went through the collapse of manufacturing and the associated loss of jobs. Here's a photo tour of one manufacturing plant's ruins and a history of the rise and fall of Barber-Colman, Inc. . It's not what they made, it's that they made something and for decades they provided employment and paid taxes in Rockford. Here is a picture from the Rockford Library's digital archive of the Barber-Colman employees in 1916. Click on it to see it full sized.



Lots of YouTube videos of urban exploration of abandoned factories, stores, and schools, depressing crime, and urban decay.

I found exactly one mention of Company C, 4th Infantry Battalion, USMCR. It is a picture that was in the newspaper when the video I posted yesterday was being filmed. It was 1949. I didn't find out when the unit was dissolved or anything more about their history.


Thursday, April 23, 2020

Rockford Illinois 1949

It was made as a recruiting film for the Marine Corps Reserve made in 1949. What it has become is a fifteen minute window into a city in an America that no longer exists. An America filled with manufacturing and factories. An America with a sense of civic pride at both the local and the national level. This is the America I was born and raised in. I miss it.

The shutdown is not about protecting people's health

Sure, that's how it was sold to the public, but that isn't how it's being used.  The Queen Of The World saw this on the Book of Faces, and it is so dead on target that I'm posting it here:
When the State tells you it's safe to go to Home Depot to buy a sponge but dangerous to go and buy a flower, it's not about your health. 
When the State shuts down millions of private businesses but doesn’t lay off a single government employee, it's not about your health. 
When the State bans dentists because its unsafe, but deems abortion visits are safe, it's not about your health. 
When the State prevents you from buying cucumber seeds because it's dangerous, but allows in person lottery ticket sales, it's not about your health. 
When the State tells you it's dangerous to go golf alone, fish alone or be in a motor boat alone, but the Governor can get his stage make up done, and hair done for 5 TV appearances a week, it's not about your health. 
When the state puts you IN a jail cell for walking in a park with your child because it’s too dangerous, but let’s criminals OUT of jail cells for their health- It’s not about YOUR health! 
When the state tells you it’s too dangerous to get treated by a doctor of chiropractic or physical therapy treatments yet deems a liquor store essential- It’s not about your health! 
When the State lets you go to the grocery store or hardware store but is demanding mail-in voting, ITS NOT ABOUT YOUR HEALTH. 
It's not about your health.  It's about the exercise of power by the State.

I don't think that I'm the only one who thinks this; the wave of protests we're seeing across the country are likely driven by this recognition.

And can we pretty please once and for all admit that "smart" public policy can't fix all problems if we just got the right Smart People® in power?

It's been a while since used the fascist post tag, but the last couple days I'm wearing it out ...

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Housekeeping

As Borepatch mentioned in a recent post, we have maintained a surprising level of civility here on the blog. The comments are mostly on point, disagreements about things do not test Godwin's Law, and value of the feedback helps keep me focused.

One fairly recent example is my deeply held belief that the damage done by criminal penalties on recreational drug use far exceeds the damage done by the drugs themselves. I am not reopening that discussion here, I am just pointing to it so how a topic that many people feel strongly about can be discussed and debated by adults. My mind and position was not changed, perhaps no one's was, but we talked about it without rancor.

We are going to discuss COVID-19 and we are going to discuss it the same way. In the absence of enough data to generate statistically significant conclusions, we are going to wag it, just like our political leaders are. In the last post, I started a list of things we know we don't know. If just the beginning of that list is an accurate assessment of some things we don't know, we are all working on conjecture and opinion.

Disagreeing with an opinion is fine. Offering a counter argument and the reasons for your own opinion is fine. I want you all here, I want you all to comment. Comments are blogger crack. When I write something that stirs people to comment I feel like that was a successful post.

Don't attack each other personally in the comments here. Disagree all you want with me, Borepatch, or other commenters. I am going to leave the current comments on Borepatch's post about being banned from commenting on Aesop's blog Raconteur Report, because while they skirt or cross the line, it was at least related the topic of the post. In the future, ad hominum attacks will be deleted without warning. 

Known Knowns, Known Unknowns and Unknown Unknowns

There is a famous quote from Donald Rumsfeld when he was Secretary of Defense,
"Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don't know we don't know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.'
This wasn't a new idea, it has been applied to planning theory since at least the 1950s. It is distilled in the idea of "the fog of war" where decisions are made on the information you have while clearly understanding that the situation is in flux and any decision may be wrong because there are thing you don't know and you know you don't know them. If we could interview the Japanese Admiral at the Battle of Midway, he would have some insight into the nature of this problem.

Unknown unknowns are just that. I don't know what they are, neither does anyone else.They are impossible to account for.

Known unknowns are easier to identify, allow for data gathering and planning, and sometimes reveal unknown unknowns in the process. Here are some of the known unknowns in the current Covid19 pandemic and the response.

1. Percentages of infected persons in various populations, city, suburban, and rural.
2. Lacking good data on #1, percentages of infected that become seriously ill.
3. Lacking good data on #1, percentages of infected that die.
4. Effective treatments for infected to mitigate the effects of the disease.
5. Effectiveness of current social distancing in halting or slowing spread of the disease.
6. Is it possible to create a vaccine.
7. Effectiveness of a possible vaccine.
8. Do humans develop an immunity after exposure and recovery.
9. Will natural viral mutation result in repeated waves of disease in the future.
10. Will it be possible to restart the economy.
11. What are the long term effects of the shutdown on the country.
12. Lacking good data on #1 and #5, when is the right time and what is the timeline to restart the economy.

There are others, one through twelve I came up with. Put yours in the comments. I will edit the post and add to the list.

Update 4/23/20:  Here's additional input from the comments, thanks to everyone who contributed. If I paraphrased your input and you feel it was incorrect, please comment again with your specific input in consise form and I will revisit this again.

13. What will signal that it's time to return to business as usual (Libertyman)
14. Edit unknown #1 for more detail. Percentages by age groups as well (Tim Wolter)
15. Effectiveness of available treatments and when in the disease course are the treatments most effective (Old NFO)
16. How many people with other diseases will die because hospitals stopped treating all other diseases and shutdown all non virus wards to other surgeries and treatments (HMS Defiant)
17. How many healthcare systems will be impacted by the loss, critical loss of doctors and nurses to both death from virus infection and a decision to call it quits to the practice of medicine and long term availability rates of hospitals shut down by loss of staffing (HMS Defiant)
18.  How many healthcare systems will simply close down once the virus goes into reduction only to be needed next winter as the 'new influenza type killer corona virus roars back to life just like the flu does every year (HMS Defiant)
19. Corollaries to #2 and #3 need to account for comorbidities, e.g. those who died because of the virus, and those who died with the virus (Eagle)
20. What are the significant comorbidities, how significant, do they overlap (Eck!)
21. What are secondary effects on the social order, focusing on oil, oil storage, and production (Differ)
22. What is the cost in lives of reopening the economy (Aesop)
23. What is the cost in lives if we remain shut down (Phelps)
24. How would we achieve herd immunity (ADS)

The Possibility of Multiple Issues

I would add a 4th circle: People that think we don't have enough accurate information about infection rates, death rates and long term effects to make decisions yet. and need to continue gather data as we make decisions.


Update: An edit to my 4th circle.

As I think about Aesop's and Glen Filthie's comments, I want edit the post because we always have to make decisions with the information we have. It's how police end up shooting a man holding a realistic looking pellet pistol. They are operating on the information they have under time pressure. We all make decisions based on the available information and sometimes that leads to bad decisions in hindsight. When more information becomes available, we need to be open to it and integrate it into our decision making process.


Well, it looks like I've been banned

Over at Aesop's place.

Weird, because I can't think of how I would have been abusive there.  But his place, his rules.  Whatevs.  Maybe debate isn't his forte.

FYI[1]: I've only banned one person here, and it was my ex-wife who was posting nasty stuff on (for example) my post about my Father-In-Law's funeral.  The ban took a court order  to enforce.  I actually apologized to everyone here, but was pretty covert.  I should be more explicit: my ex-wife ("Mrs. Borepatch") intentionally tried to inflict emotional distress on The Queen Of The World (who had been nothing but nice to her), on the occasion of TQOTW's Father's funeral.  It really sucks to have to get a court order.  Aesop and I don't agree on some things, but he's never been abusive here to me or TQOTW.  I really hope I don't have to ban anyone other than the ex, and with almost 40,000 comments here I think there's some hope that I might not have to.

FYI[2]: Aesop, you're not banned here.  We don't always agree, but you're smart and passionate and that's something that adds to the discussion here.

FYI[3]: Maybe it's just a Blogger hiccup.  I hope so.

UPDATE: Aesop stops by to say that I'm not banned, he's just shut down comments due to an infestation of morons.  It makes me very grateful for the high caliber of the comments here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Nobody will argue your virus math

They will argue your virus assumptions.
To err is human; to really foul things up you need a computer.
- Unknown, from the 1960s
This is the problem with the virus models (as with all models).  The math is the easiest part, and modeling software libraries are pretty thoroughly debugged.  The crank and the gears that turn are doing what they're supposed to do.

But if the input data is wonky, then the output will never be accurate.  Some of the inaccuracies are unescapable, for example delays in reporting deaths.  Different countries have different reporting policies and cadences, and there's really not much that can be done about that.  After all, the data are the data.  But some really important data are poorly known, or not known at all:
  • True infection rate can only be known with mass testing of the population.  You don't need to test everyone, but you do need to test a statistically significant sample.  For the US, we're talking about hundreds of thousands or even millions of people.  Nobody is working on this, so we simply can't know what the infection rate really is.  several small scale studies strongly suggest that it is much higher - perhaps ten times or more higher - than is being reported.
  • The recovery rate can only be known with mass testing of the population.  We are seeing that many people who catch the virus are asymptomatic; since they don't feel (or act) sick, they don't get care and so are not included in the total number of infected.  Again. small scale studies suggest pretty strongly that the recovery rate is much higher than is being reported.
  • The number of deaths includes a wide range of victims, some of which almost certainly were not killed by the virus - rather, they were killed by other ailments ("co-morbidities") but also had the virus along for the ride.  Right now, all of these are included in the virus death rate, overstating its lethality by an unknown amount.
  • Since lockdowns vary by geography and by what is allowed or prohibited, tracking the result of the lockdowns is fiendishly hard, and I haven't seen anything that is even trying.  We're told that "we're all in this together" and "we're making a difference" but there's no data about how much - if at all.
Put all of these together and it's simply impossible to provide good inputs into any model.  This is basically a game of guessing, and the result has been a series of model re-works that dropped the projected death toll from 6+M to 500,000 to 120,000 to now (maybe) 60,000.

Which is about what the death toll from seasonal flu is.  I'm not saying that this new virus is no more lethal than the flu; I'm saying that the people running the models are saying that maybe this is the case.  Those models have been wildly inaccurate repeatedly in the past, so take the latest model results with a huge grain of salt.

But governments are sitting on top of increasingly restive populations.  The populations have very good reason to be restive - the world economy has taken probably a $10T (that's Trillion) hit.  That hit has been very unevenly distributed.  In economic terms this is a very regressive tax targeting the poor and working classes.  Ask Louis XVI or Czar Nicholas II how that turned out.


And so very interesting things are happening to the data.  Very interesting things indeed:
Last week we saw that we went from dying from, to dying with, to just plain dying. Even people who haven’t been tested are now classed as dying from coronavirus. This is juicing the numbers in the direction of the models. Whether this was intentional, to avoid confessing to the most colossal and costly blown forecast of all time, or this is more panicked over-reaction, I’ll let you decide. Either way, they did get a boost in the numbers from the re-definitions, which we’ll see below.  
We saw yesterday that counting who dies of flu or any virus is not so straightforward, that it’s always the result of a statistical model. Every single flu death is not trumpeted from every media organ for months on end, but if they were, then we’d have counts similar to the way we have counts for coronavirus.  
Something else strange in the numbers. Remember how every week I’d cut and paste the CDC’s update flu hospitalization and death estimates? Can’t do it anymore, because why? Because the CDC stopped reporting on them. This could be because of over-burdened government workers, or because flu deaths aren’t as sexy as coronavirus deaths (even though the totals are similar), or because something else is going on.
And it's not just here in the New World:
It isn’t only in the US where the numbers are looking funny. France, too: 
It’s already happening – France has stopped publishing the weekly mortality report in mid March – where (the lack of) excess mortality could readily be seen. Instead they created a new publication focused only on covid deaths.
Is this all political ass covering by the health services?  Beats me.  Certainly it looks like the motivation exists.  Remember, the reason for all this government-imposed misery was to protect the health care services from becoming overwhelmed.  Well, we're seeing hospital ships with no patients and Army field hospitals being demobilized because there are no patients and the Javits Center (which had been turned into a makeshift hospital) empty and there are doctors and nurses being laid off all over the country.  And there are very odd things happening to the data.

But juicing the numbers can only go so far:
The temptation to juice coronavirus deaths must be overwhelming! The models promised unimaginably huge numbers. We haven’t come anywhere close to them. Millions and millions and millions of lives the world over have been ruined, with more ruin on the way, as the result of trusting expert models. They have to find a way to bring actual numbers in line with models. 
They’re running out of options, though. Dying with from dying from was a good move, and we saw it immediately pop up in the death counts. Dying with suspicion from dying with was also clever enough, and we saw that, too. 
What else is left, though? Only one thing. 
If “dying from” is defined as dying with presence of COVID-19 antibodies, then once we reach herd immunity, which it seems is close in many places, then about 80% of all deaths can be classified as coronavirus deaths.
So where is the crisis?  It's entirely fair to ask this question when literally everything we were told about this "pandemic" has turned out to be somewhere between overblown and flat out wrong.  And quite frankly, not unusual in recent historical terms:

As with the Global Warming hysteria, if the science were as settled as we're being told there would be data falling off of trees confirming everything.  Instead, everywhere we look we see data that calls the projections into question.  If we want science-based public policy then its reasonable to ask for, well, science-based public policy.

Two days ago I posted that we need to re-open the economy.  We're seeing a million people a day lose their jobs, so that's 2 Million more people without a paycheck, just since Sunday.  It may be for nothing: there's actual data that suggests that the lockdown doesn't do much, if anything: Sweden hasn't implemented a lockdown at all and their death curve looks basically identical to the USA's:

The caveat about the problems with the data is a good one, and echoes what I wrote here.  But the data are what we have, and if the lockdown - and the 25M newly unemployed - were actually effective you'd think you'd see something.  You don't.

Enough, all ready.  There is simply no rational, science-based justification to keep the lockdowns in place anymore.  We see this recognized by Governors (who are starting to end the lockdown) and by the population in general (who are starting to willfully violate the lockdown).  Everybody but the "experts" is starting to recognize this, and the "experts" may be refusing to recognize it so that they don't get blamed

Monday, April 20, 2020

Normal? Not Yet, Not Until The N95 Index Goes Green Again

There's an index of the relative nature of a crisis called the Waffle House Index. As long as the Waffle House restaurants are open and running a full menu, it's condition green for that area. If the Waffle House is closed, it's red. If the Waffle House is open with a limited menu or running on generators, that's yellow. Right now, they are all closed, although I understand that is by edict, not power outages or a lack of deliveries.

In the current pandemic situation, we need some other measures to consider. We could use toilet paper, but that shortage seems to be artificially created by hoarding. I'm going to go with N95 masks. When I can go to Lowe's or Home Depot and buy a 10 pack of N95 dust masks to use while mowing the lawn or sanding a woodworking project, normal will be returned.

Even the government at the federal level is hoarding N95 masks, collecting seizing large orders as they come in. I know hospitals are having trouble getting in sufficient stock. I'm not trying to buy any, but the fact that they are unavailable is my marker. It is the N95 Index. It's currently Condition Red.


Sunday, April 19, 2020

It's time to re-open the economy

Nobody is talking about the justification the government used shut down the economy: the health care system will collapse unless we "flatten the curve".  It wasn't "people will die unless we do this" - people will die no matter what.  Instead, it was to protect the health care system from collapse.

Well, mission accomplished:

The curve is flattening all over the world.  It's at or approaching the top of the bell curve, and will be dropping soon.  We see the same thing in the US:

Even New York which has kept its Petri Dish subway system open if flattening.  I guess the reason you close restaurants but keep the subway open is that Public Transit has been sprinkled with magic government dust.

Curve, flattened.

Note that we don't know what flattened the curve.  The models that projected disaster are full of crap* and so this might just be the normal course of the disease.  Note that we don't know exactly how many people really dies from this disease because of sloppy record keeping.  There are tons of co-morbidities and a death often gets chalked up to the virus when the patient was on Death's Door anyway.  The data is not great, and you don't need to be a conspiracy theorist to wonder if the Powers That Be at CDC are shifting into ass covering mode and fiddling the data.  It wouldn't be the first time that data got "adjusted" to suit political purposes.

At the end of the day, what will protect sick people from this virus is herd immunity.  We don't even know how many people have had this and recovered, because the CDC screwed up the test kits and we aren't systematically testing the population.  However, it looks like the number of recovered is much, much higher than predicted (remember - the models are crap).  The key metric now has shifted from Hospital Bed Usage to Percent Recovered.

So it's time to declare victory.  We can't increase the number of recovered fast if everyone is under house arrest.

And quite frankly, enough damage has been done to the people of this country.  80% of restaurant owners polled are unsure if they will survive until things return to normal.  23M people are out of work, just in this country.  Enough.

But we're not done.  We're seeing that the fascist instinct is alive and well at all levels of government.  I won't bother with exhaustive links, but people getting tickets when they are in their cars in their church parking lot, Chicago closing hair salons except for the Mayor, and New Jersey claiming that political protests are illegal are just a few examples.  The government has gotten a taste of power, and likes it.

Enough.

I don't often disagree with Aesop, but he's entirely wrong in his latest post.  The curve has flattened.  Sure, reopening might lead to a spike but that's just conjecture.  Certainly any models showing this are suspect, based on the crummy track record of previous model projections.  And we don't know how many of the deaths would have happened anyway without the virus, but it sure isn't zero.

Lastly, I have to call Godwin.  Those of us who are saying we have to reopen the economy aren't the brown shirts.  On the contrary, Aesop can drive out to San Clemente to look at the sand filled skate park.  There's your fascist, right in your own back yard.

It's not Wall Street that's hurting, it's the small businesses which are the core of the country.  These are our neighbors.  Their dreams are being crushed.  The government said it had to be done to protect the health care system from collapse.

Well, mission accomplished.

The 19th of April, 1775

Remember.

British Regulars marched out from Boston to confiscate the powder, shot, and weapons stored at Concord. Recognizing that this action made it "now or never", the Colonials formed up on the village green. They were not Americans. They were British subjects committing treason. They are only heroes in hindsight.

Their actions that day became the spark that lead to the Revolution.

I always take this day to remember one man. Samuel Whittemore, State Hero of Massachusetts. Born in 1696. Served in a Massachusetts Regiment in King George's War in the 1740s. On the 19th of April, 1775, he was 80 years old.

Upon hearing of the events of the day, he loaded his muskets and two French pistols he had kept from his prior service and went to intercept the retreating British. He shot one with the musket and another with the first pistol, with decisive result. He wounded a third with the last pistol. Then he drew a sword and attacked.

The rest of the British detachment shot him in the face, bayoneted him several times, and left him for dead. When he was found, he was trying to reload. He survived this, lived another 18 years, dying at the age of 98, a citizen of the United States.



"Stand your ground. Don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war let it begin here." --Captain John Paarker, on Lexington Green, April 19, 1775.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Biden - Obama 2020

It's clear to everyone that Uncle Joe is not going to be able to be President. The Democrats know it and must be looking for an out. There's an obvious one. Biden selects Obama as his running mate. No, not him, her. Michelle Obama.

With Pr. Obama at her side, she'd be a force on the campaign trail. VP Joe Biden would have some quiet, well scripted role and it would be clear to everyone who Pr. Trump was really running against.

If they win, sometime after the Inauguration, and probably not more than a month or two, Pr. Biden would get an official diagnosis of Alzheimer's or dementia, and regretfully resign for medical reasons. *See the update below. It would set up Pr. Michelle Obama to serve out the remaining term and still be eligible to run twice once more. She could conceivably be President until January 20th, 2033 2029.

The only consolation, small though it might be, is knowing how Hillary would feel, all the while having to smile and be supportive.


Update: A thank you to Rick C. in the comments for pointing out the exact wording of the 22nd Amendment. I was in error, if anyone took over the office with more than two years to serve, they would only be eligible to run for election once: No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this Article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.

The Queen Of The World tells it like it is

On the Book of Faces:
After reading the governor of CA is planning to give money to illegals to help them thru the virus, it finally dawned on me! 
All Americans struggling financially need to do is become a fake illegal. You’ll get education, medical, food stamps, a check from California, and you can vote twice - once legally and once as an illegal! 
And THAT’S the next crime some of these political geniuses are paving a way for when they make it easier for illegals to break our laws!
Can't argue with The Queen ...

Watching Video Games

I know people watch video games the same way people watch sports. Never saw the attraction until now.


Friday, April 17, 2020

The CPC Virus models are total crap

"Experts" told us that he had to pull the master breaker switch on the economy because the Fung Flu virus was so damn infectious that a huge portion of the population would catch it.  "Experts" told us that most of those infected would end up in the ER, turning American health care into a scene from the Black Death.  "Experts" told us that millions would die and we needed to pull the dam switch RIGHT DAMN NOW!!!!11!!!eleventy!!!!!!!

Well, never mind:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now “actively looking into” results from universal COVID-19 testing at Pine Street Inn homeless shelter.

The broad-scale testing took place at the shelter in Boston’s South End a week and a half ago because of a small cluster of cases there.

Of the 397 people tested, 146 people tested positive. Not a single one had any symptoms.
My emphasis.

My goodness, whatever would we do without fancy computer models?  Next you'll tell me that the Earth will become uninhabitable unless we end use of fossil fuels and turn the everything over to a Socialist World Government ....

This would all be light hearted mockery if it weren't for a 600% increase in calls to the Suicide Prevention hotlines.  The company I work for supplies software that the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is using to rapidly scale work-from-home to handle the load.  It's cool that this can be done, but it seriously stinks that it has to be done.

At this point, the projections that were the justification for shutting down the economy are worthless.  Entirely worthless.  Nobody has a basis for the shutdown that's more than having a bad feeling.



That's not a justification, that's a cliché.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Busy

Will be busy all day.  Back tomorrow.

There are a bunch of great blogs on the blogroll.  Check 'em out.

U.S. Investigating Wuhan Lab As Virus Source

It will likely not be a surprise that the U.S. is investigating the BLC4 lab at Wuhan as the source of the novel coronavirus. These viruses are endemic in bats and were being studied at Wuhan. It may have been accidental, it may have been deliberate, how modified or weaponized the virus is is still unknown, at least to the public.

Here's my theory. A lab worker, someone hired to clean cages and do the manual labor of caring for the bats, was tasked to kill and incinerate a number of bats. The bats looked healthy enough. They had market value. He had no idea what the purpose of the lab was or the need to maintain isolation. He supplemented his income by selling the bats in the market because it just seemed wasteful to destroy them. He might have been doing it for some time but eventually the virus did what viruses do and made the jump to something else, maybe pigs, and on to humans.

Whatever the reality of the initial release, that jump was probably in October or November of last year. Like a small fire, it took a while to get established and burn brightly enough to gain notice. Once it did, the Chinese government reflexively lied, covered up, and downplayed for as long as they could. By the time the truth started to be known, it was everywhere.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

How the Novel Chinese Virus kills

This is a great article about how the Kung Flu virus works and why it is so deadly.  In particular, this explains why so many patients who go on ventilators end up dying:
Without the iron ion, hemoglobin can no longer bind to oxygen. Once all the hemoglobin is impaired, the red blood cell is essentially turned into a Freightliner truck cab with no trailer and no ability to store its cargo.. it is useless and just running around with COVID-19 virus attached to its porphyrin. All these useless trucks running around not delivering oxygen is what starts to lead to desaturation, or watching the patient’s spo2 levels drop. It is INCORRECT to assume traditional ARDS and in doing so, you’re treating the WRONG DISEASE. Think of it a lot like carbon monoxide poisoning, in which CO is bound to the hemoglobin, making it unable to carry oxygen. In those cases, ventilators aren’t treating the root cause; the patient’s lungs aren’t ‘tiring out’, they’re pumping just fine. The red blood cells just can’t carry o2, end of story.
It also talks about why Hydroxychloroquine is effective, even though Malaria is bacterial and the Kung Flu is a virus.  This is exactly what the main stream media should be publishing but isn't (because they're all busy shouting ORANGE MAN BAD!!1!!eleventy!).

Monday, April 13, 2020

Changes

The U.S. Supreme Court is going to hear court by video conference. Lawyers, Justices, support staff and the press will all be participating remotely.

This is a sea change. It reflects on just how far reaching and long lasting some of the effects of the pandemic are going to be.

If the Supreme Court can do it, what organization won't be able to point to them as a precedent and follow their lead? 

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Grace inside the Madhouse

If the world is sane, then Jesus is mad as a hatter and the Last Supper is the Mad Tea Party. The world says, Mind your own business, and Jesus says, There is no such thing as your own business. The world says, Follow the wisest course and be a success, and Jesus says, Follow me and be crucified. The world says, Drive carefully — the life you save may be your own — and Jesus says, Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. The world says, Law and order, and Jesus says, Love. The world says, Get and Jesus says, Give. In terms of the world's sanity, Jesus is crazy as a coot, and anybody who thinks he can follow him without being a little crazy too is laboring less under a cross than under a delusion.
- Frederick Buechner
The World has gone Mad.  From sea to shining sea people are under house arrest, and by the end of this week the government will have forced 20 million onto the unemployment lines.  It is indeed a heavy Cross to bear.

I posted the following on Easter in 2012, but it applies today as well.

Triumph

(Image source)
Somewhere in the world there is a defeat for everyone. Some are destroyed by defeat, and some made small and mean by victory. Greatness lives in one who triumphs equally over defeat and victory.
- John Steinbeck, The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights
Nietzsche famously wrote that which does not destroy me makes me stronger.  That's almost certainly not true, but even if it is it's a cold comfort.  Some tasks laid at our feet are hard, maybe hard unto death.  Things that are easy leave no mark but we find ourselves branded - sometimes to our core - by the critically important but seemingly impossible.  The Quest with no end in sight, that promises no victory, and maybe not even survival.

If Woody Allen's dictum is true that eighty percent of life is showing up, we see around us people who didn't, or who did for a while and then stopped.  Whether they are destroyed by defeat, or simply overwhelmed by a lifetime of trouble compressed into a few years, human strength has a limit.  The unlucky among us will find that limit of our own strength - the lucky ones manage to get through without ever being tested to the breaking point.  The question before us, as we gaze into that Abyss is what will we do, now at that critical moment?

Our heroes are those who keep going past that 80% mark.  They are the ones who keep going, even in defeat and hopelessness.  They are the ones who when the Quest looks broken and the end is upon them, they go forward anyway.  Heroes are rare because it's not easy.

The purpose of religion is to put us in tune with what it is to be fully and completely human, as we would wish to be.  To take the defeats and turn them to our own spiritual enlightenment.  Those who do this we call saints.  
The love for equals is a human thing--of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles. The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing--the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world. The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing--to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints. 
- Frederick Buechner
Nietzsche understood many things, but not saints.  That's a hard road to walk, and most don't.  We can learn from those that do, that despite the difficulty do it anyway.  We can take what we learn from them and turn it around for our own Quest.  Because in that unexpected persistence, even in the face of despair and defeat - especially in the face of despair and defeat - there we find heroes and saints.

There we find triumph, triumph of the soul.

It's easy to say this, and hard to do it.  The eighty percent from showing up is just eighty percent, that last twenty percent sometimes feels like the other eighty percent.  Sometimes the only company we have with us on that impossible road are the footprints of heroes and saints.  Footprints left by those who when faced with as bad or worse as we are, did it anyway.  Who even in defeat found triumph.

Holidays are a meditation, if we bother.  The meditation of Easter is not the joyous renewal; we've been given a great gift, but now we need to ask ourselves what will we do with it.  The hard slog begins again.    But in that journey we walk with saints and heroes.  May the walking be easy.  If not, let it be a triumph.
(Image source)

Easter Morning Music

The LORD is risen, alleluia!  Here is a mix of music worthy of the occasion.

Purcell sets the stage as only he can.



I think that this is my favorite hymn, especially for Easter.



And the celebration ends with a sendoff from Handel's Messiah.



He is risen indeed, alleluia!  Alleluia

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Teaching My Fingers to Fight - A Brigid Guest Post

ASM826 saw this on my FB page and asked that I post it here as well.  May you all have an Easter weekend of peaceful time to reflect with loved ones. - Brigid


Blessed be the Lord, my strength, who teaches my hands to war, and my fingers to fight. - Psalms 1:44

On my last trip home before his death, I took my big brother to breakfast one morning while Dad was at the doctor's office. Not feeling so good after chemo, he went only to please his little sister. Before we dug into our plates we prayed. As we bowed our heads, the entrance door opened with a waft of cold air and the murmur of pouring rain. I looked up and noticed the people at the next table were not looking at the door, but rather, at our table, as if our actions were unknown to them

My brother and I were adopted and although not related by blood my family shaped me in ways I'd not have known otherwise. We grew up in a small logging town, a community both inside, and outside of the church. I was raised with the values of my parents, meals taken as a whole family, said around the table, with Grace always being spoken before we began.

When I would go back to my hometown, we would eat at that table; still sit in the same pew in church. There's comfort there in that community of saints and sinners. As we prayed, I glanced at my Dad, who has lived a life of total love, service, and honor, sensing how his heart will soon fail him. It's a strong heart, a good heart, but it is failing him more each day. He saw me looking at him and put his hand on mine as we bowed our head in the silence that is not silence but is innumerable.
Is that fair? Yet, he's had almost ten decades more than his first daughter, born in extraordinary perfection, simply too early and too small, the awful perfect prayer of his firstborn, who breathed only days, my mom rendered barren from the travail of the birth. Yet from that death came life, adopting children no one wanted, and soon the table was filled, with small hands, small hearts and much laughter.

Had my parents closed off their hearts in that original loss, that table would have been silent. Although I’ve already lost my Mom, my Stepmom, my brother, and soon Dad, they leave me with love and forgiveness, just as my heavenly Father does.

I've certainly had to ask for that forgiveness in my talks with God. For I talk to Him regularly, in the woods, when the light has a weary quality to it, like a backwater pool of light lying low, winter's light is crisp, clean, illuminating everything so clearly. The words are less than wishes and more than regrets, and even if I didn't state them out loud, I could hear them with my breathing as they gathered within the intent of breath and came forth in a rush of cold air, invisible words going up to an invisible God.
Sometimes He and I talk as I'm standing in the middle of a scene of dark desolation and crime scene tape, black bag in my hand, red smeared on my boots, as bold as if painted on a door frame, a sign, that for tonight, I was to be spared. Perhaps this one time I did not save His sparrow which He perhaps neglected to mark, but I am here to reconcile the remains. It's just talk; but it's still a prayer; prayer being more than the order of words, the conscious calling of the mind that is speaking, or the sound of the voice praying. I do not expect to hear anything back, the communication between us tongued with fire beyond the blaze that is dying next to me. But it's comforting, words spoken into the void, penitence, and belief, as all around hope is falling into embers. He may not respond, but He is there, Never and Always.

So I do not care if someone looks at me oddly if I bow my head. I only smile when someone says, how can you do that with all that you've seen, the pain and harm that man can inflict on one another?

But I can, for I have come to realize that the same God that seemed to sit silently while hearts ceased beating, also blew life into everyone else around me that I love deeply, now shaping their strong hands and putting spark in their vision. So it is, I don't clench my hands in anger in all that I've witnessed, have borne, but simply give thanks. God writes death on all our hearts, just as he writes life, our story penned as much by our actions as His creation, our heart a journal that only we keep, its entries scribed by both man and God, it's ending as much as a mystery as we are.
I, for one, am thankful for the words.

Good Friday was six years since my brother passed, the few precious things he left me, on the shelves with other treasured things where I can see them when I wake up each morning. Small, simple things - powerful things

With the meal, I will say a prayer, of thanks for that and many things. For my brother and his brave heart. For those that prayed for me over the years, even when I didn't deserve it. For forgiveness of sin, for the blessing of the one that loves me, even in my imperfections.

Bless us oh Lord for these thy gifts. . . .