Monday’s Forum

Not playing games.

FILED UNDER: Open Forum
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bill says:

    Florida headline of the day-

    Citing coronavirus pandemic, Florida congressmen want crackdown on Chinese live animal markets

    Good luck to anyone trying to pressure China. They are going to need it and animal markets may or may not have anything to do with the coronavirus.

  2. Bill says:

    Headline of the day-

    Wuhan Lab Denies Link to First Coronavirus Outbreak

    A top Wuhan laboratory official has denied any role in spreading the new coronavirus, in the most high profile response from a facility at the center of months of speculation about how the previously unknown animal disease made the leap to humans.

    Yuan Zhiming, director of the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory, hit back at those promoting theories that the virus had escaped from the facility and caused the outbreak in the central Chinese city. “There is absolutely no way that the virus originated from our institute,” Yuan said in an interview Saturday with the state-run China Global Television Network.

    Yuan rejected theories that the yet-to-be identified “Patient Zero” for Covid-19 had contact with the institute, saying none of its employees, retirees or student researchers were known to be infected. He said U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, and Washington Post journalists were among those “deliberately leading people” to mistrust the facility and its “P4” top-level-security pathogen lab.

    None of its employees were infected and this is where the outbreak started. Like the line from the Lost in Space robot-

    “This does not compute.”

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Bill: Yeah but Cotton has “common sense”.

  4. Scott says:

    I, unfortunately, have Ted Cruz as my Senator. He has been railing about China for a couple of weeks now, mostly, I suppose, as a distraction for the failings of this incompetent and corrupt President. Well known for being unprincipled, he is engaging, along with other politicians, in red-baiting.

    So the thought that occurred to me is this? If China is Communist and therefore a failed ideology, why is it the second largest economy in the world and why is Ted Cruz afraid ot it? Isn’t he, by default, saying Communism works?

    The answer, I believe, is that while China still has the governmental trappings of Communism, it no longer follows the ideology. It is strictly a standard authoritarian government run by people of power whether that be money or position.

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  5. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Bill:

    Unless there is proof that China intentionally released the virus, it doesn’t matter whether the virus jumped species in a wet market or was accidentally released due to a lab accident. China’s guilt is in the subsequent attempt at a cover up.

    For the Trumpists, who seek to deflect blame from Tiny, by blaming China, China’s culpability doesn’t matter as well. Tiny failed and has continued to fail to provide leadership and to make sound decisions based on facts. The irony of this is that if Tiny had taken the threat of Covid-19 seriously and implemented serious measures to stanch the spread of the disease, so that our infection and death rate looked more like Germany’s rather than Italy’s, the guy would have been reelected in a landslide. But that would have required forethought and the need to make short-term unpopular decisions.

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  6. gVOR08 says:

    Who to believe? United States Senator Tom Cotton or some unknown Chinese official with an obvious motive to lie? All things considered, I’ll go with the Chinese official.

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  7. Bill says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    it doesn’t matter whether the virus jumped species in a wet market or was accidentally released due to a lab accident. China’s guilt is in the subsequent attempt at a cover up.

    Here’s a quick summary of what I think. Today I am going out for Doctor ordered medical tests.

    1- I am not a believer in that this was a bioweapon
    2- I do think chances are better than even that this was a lab accident. There was a lab doing research on this.
    3- The Chinese death toll numbers are a joke
    4- The Chinese have engaged in a cover up
    5- The only reason for knowing the exact cause of the outbreak is if it would be useful in fighting the disease or finding a vaccine for it. So it does matter.

  8. Teve says:

    @cheristandsup

    Someone actually just told my husband on Facebook that it’s a good thing Obama isn’t president right now because he wasn’t a billionaire and wouldn’t have been able to afford to give everyone $1200. Seriously. How do Trump supporters find their way home at the end of the day?

    @watt_cyrus

    That’s why Trump wanted his signature on the stimulus checks. He knew some of his intellectually challenged supporters would believe that the money is coming from him!

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  9. MarkedMan says:

    @Bill: no comment, other than a relief that he is using “live animal market” as opposed to “wet market”, which everyone else has been using fo months and which annoys the heck out of me. In China a wet market is any place that sells perishable food such as fruit, vegetables or meat. Banning wet mar2kets makes as much sense as banning the produce section in groceries stores.

  10. Kathy says:

    @Teve:

    I think their mommies pin a note with their address to their clothes.

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  11. Slugger says:

    Whether or not the virus was released intentionally, whether WHO gave prompt warning or not, it is the job of the US government to keep us safe. This job obviously requires developing intelligence that is not dependent on Chinese or NGO information to do its job. That’s what it means to be number one. Have we acted like the world’s number one? Count the corpses.

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  12. charon says:

    @Bill:

    The only reason for knowing the exact cause of the outbreak is if it would be useful in fighting the disease or finding a vaccine for it. So it does matter.

    1) How likely is it that that info would actually be useful? Problematical.

    2) How likely is it that the cause will ever be known? Problematical.

    Maybe there are more productive ways to use resources than pursuing this issue.

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  13. OzarkHillbilly says:
  14. An Interested Party says:

    Maybe there are more productive ways to use resources than pursuing this issue.

    Oh come now, nothing is more productive than doing anything that tries to clears the trash in the White House of any responsibility in this matter…

  15. Kathy says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    The irony of this is that if Tiny had taken the threat of Covid-19 seriously and implemented serious measures to stanch the spread of the disease, so that our infection and death rate looked more like Germany’s rather than Italy’s, the guy would have been reelected in a landslide.

    Clearly you’e behind the times. You’re supposed to believe the Orange Clown did not just the bestest possible, but better than anyone else could have. Had God Himself been president, He couldn’t have done as well. Therefore if you vote for Biden you’re an evil traitor who hates America.

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  16. MarkedMan says:

    Pretty brutal but accurate analysis from George Packer over at The Atlantic. An excerpt:

    When the virus came here, it found a country with serious underlying conditions, and it exploited them ruthlessly. Chronic ills—a corrupt political class, a sclerotic bureaucracy, a heartless economy, a divided and distracted public—had gone untreated for years. We had learned to live, uncomfortably, with the symptoms. It took the scale and intimacy of a pandemic to expose their severity—to shock Americans with the recognition that we are in the high-risk category.

    The crisis demanded a response that was swift, rational, and collective. The United States reacted instead like Pakistan or Belarus—like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dys­func­tional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering. The administration squandered two irretrievable months to prepare. From the president came willful blindness, scapegoating, boasts, and lies. From his mouthpieces, conspiracy theories and miracle cures. A few senators and corporate executives acted quickly—not to prevent the coming disaster, but to profit from it. When a government doctor tried to warn the public of the danger, the White House took the mic and politicized 
the message.

    Every morning in the endless month of March, Americans woke up to find themselves citizens of a failed state. With no national plan—no coherent instructions at all—families, schools, and offices were left to decide on their own whether to shut down and take shelter. When test kits, masks, gowns, and ventilators were found to be in desperately short supply, governors pleaded for them from the White House, which stalled, then called on private enterprise, which couldn’t deliver. States and cities were forced into bidding wars that left them prey to price gouging and corporate profiteering. Civilians took out their sewing machines to try to keep ill-equipped hospital workers healthy and their patients alive. Russia, Taiwan, and the United Nations sent humanitarian aid to the world’s richest power—a beggar nation in utter chaos.

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  17. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Bill:

    saying none of its employees, retirees or student researchers were known to be infected

    Even though I think the Chinese Lab conspiracy theory is nuts, I don’t believe this. That a large organization in Wuhan didn’t have ANY infections is actually more suspicious than if they did. Not because they got it at the lab, but you’d think at least a few would have picked it up in the community.

  18. CSK says:

    @Teve:
    Cult45 doesn’t believe that Trump ever had any bankruptcies or that he ever slept with Stormy Daniels, either. This despite the fact that the bankruptcies are on the record, as is the pay-off to Daniels.

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  19. Michael Reynolds says:

    There is plenty of reason for concern about Chinese markets selling wild animals for human consumption. AIDS was zoonotic, SARS as well, and Covid may be. The Chinese need to knock that off – if we can hammer the Japanese for eating whales, we can raise loud objection to roasting bats and pangolins.

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  20. Slugger says:

    @CSK: I wonder if Stormy will be getting a $1200 stimulus check with a Trump signature on it. She will be disappointed by the size; she is used to bigger.

  21. CSK says:

    @Slugger:
    He’ll have to sign her check “David Dennison.”

  22. An Interested Party says:

    She will be disappointed by the size; she is used to bigger.

    Considering her previous experience with him, she certainly won’t be surprised…

  23. Scott says:

    @Michael Reynolds: And how are they different from farmers’ markets other than having food we consider yucky? In Texas, anything hooved gets shot and eaten, including all kinds of exotics some of whom have prion-like diseases. And let’s talk about our factory farms which are evolving antibiotic resistant bacteria as we speak.

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  24. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    AIDS was zoonotic, SARS as well, and Covid may be. The Chinese need to knock that off

    But aren’t pigs, ducks and chickens much more prevalent as vectors for diseases that jump to humans? And aren’t we in the United States increasing, rather than decreasing, the farm-to-table movement? Aren’t farmers markets growing and thriving? Don’t we encourage hunters to consume all of the animals they hunt?

    Aside from the type of animals we eat, isn’t the thing that is in common here is inability to enforce hygiene on small producers/hunters? The live animal markets are actually one of the points where proper hygiene could be enforced.

    I’ve eaten monkey. In the small West African village where I consumed it, a farmer who is able to catch or kill a monkey on the way home from their field is happy in the same way as a US farmer who gets a few pheasants or, in some areas, squirrels. Why is eating the monkey horrendous but eating those pheasants perfectly fine?

    [I see Scott beat me to it]

  25. gVOR08 says:

    Conservatives view the world through a framing of simple morality. One aspect of this is that their default solution to all problems is to find out who’s at fault and punish them. In their fuzzy thinking if we can blame China, and punish China, then we will have restored moral order. Then God, or the invisible hand, or something will reward us, and all will be right with the world.

    The world is a mystery to most people. That God will reward virtue makes as much sense as bugs that aren’t alive but can reproduce, or exponential growth, or asymptomatic transmission.

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  26. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Kathy:

    Momma Sleeping Dog, didn’t raise children that were that stupid. Even in kindergarten, she didn’t need to pin my address on my coat to ensure that I could find my way home from school.

    It’s amazing when I think about it, as 5 year olds, me and my friends were allowed to walk the 7 or so blocks from school to home. the 1950’s were an idyllic time.

  27. Kathy says:

    Leaseback.

    That’s the latest puzzle I’m trying to figure out.

    It means selling an asset and then leasing it long term from the new owner.

    It’s been happening in industries I follow, namely gambling and aviation. Two fo the big players on the Vegas Strip, MGM and Caesars, have been selling big hotels on the Strip and leasing them. United recently sold several planes to a lessor, and leases them in the long term.

    I can see the advantage in selling and then leasing. you get cash right away. I’m less clear on the ROI for the lessor who buys the assets.

    For all I know, this is a standard practice that has been going on for decades, and I just now heard about it. But it strikes me as something new(ish), and I wonder at the risks involved.

  28. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Scott:
    @MarkedMan:

    In the case of the diseases, Michael noted, the cross over to humans wasn’t do to eating animals cooked, but eating them raw or proximity in the markets. The government has standards for slaughter houses for a reason.

  29. Modulo Myself says:

    @Scott:

    It’s not about morality. Factory farms are monstrosities and I have way more respect for somebody who hunts and kills their food than I do somebody who thinks bats are gross but eats bacon 4x a week from a package.

    That said, factory farms are at least in theory scientific. They fire hormones into those pigs and chickens so they can be exploited to the nth degree. The live animals in Chinese markets are being used for traditional purposes. There’s no science behind draining a bear’s glands.

  30. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Kathy:

    For tax purposes the lessor also gets to right off the lease cost as a business expense rather than depreciation of a capital asset.

    For the leaser, the benefit is that the lease contract typically amortizes the cost of the asset and when the lease ends the leaser can re-lease the asset or sell it, either way the resulting earning have little or no cost against them. A lot of commercial leasing is financing by another name. The entire cost of the asset is amortized over x years and a the end the lessor can either walk away or buy the asset for a small amount of money, often between $1USD or 10% of the original cost.

    When I was selling technology, much of the product was leased rather than purchased

  31. Teve says:

    @Kathy: interesting. Please share anything you learn about this. Learning about Finance is one of my near-worthless hobbies. 🙂

  32. Teve says:

    @Sleeping Dog: so it’s a tax scheme?

  33. Kathy says:

    Factory farming could be improved by giving animals more space, and letting them be animals, rather than treating them as inanimate products.

    But they have advantages when it comes to preventing the spread of disease. If there is an outbreak in farm animals, they can be destroyed rather than marketed for consumption. This has happened in the case of mad cow disease and avian flu. We have also been getting, and giving, diseases from, and to, farm animals for literally ages. Sometimes a pathogen mutates in an animal and becomes more deadly to humans, as happened with the swine flu, but we have evolved some natural defenses against them.

    These two advantages don’t exist in the case of wild animals.

    BTW, disease transmission happens when the carcass is processed for consumption, not when eating it. This can affect the people who kill and dress the animals, the butcher, if any, who prepares it for sale, and even the consumer who handles it in the kitchen.

    When I prepare any kind of meat, I’m careful to wash my hands, as well as any plates, bowls, and utensils that touched the meat. Germs will perish upon cooking, but they may be left behind elsewhere.

  34. An Interested Party says:

    the 1950’s were an idyllic time.

    Not so much if you were a black person living in Mississippi or a member of the LGTB community living just about anywhere in the United States who wanted to live life being true to yourself…”idyllic” would not have been an apt description for such people…

  35. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Teve:

    In a very small part. Mostly it games credit and finance restrictions by lenders. The company has a capital expense that it can either take cash to buy or hit the line of credit and borrow the money. Buying outright has a lost opportunity cost as the business can’t use that cash for other purposes, e.g., developing new products, expansion etc. If they borrow the money, that amount is no longer available in the line of credit. Since the leasing company buys the asset, the company doesn’t touch the cash or line of credit. The lease cost is an operating expense of fixed amount and duration. Everything goes on the P&L and the balance sheet stays clean. Investors like that and the government really doesn’t care one way of the other. In fact, state an local government are huge users of leasing.

    Though public leasing often has a failure to appropriate clause, meaning they can get out of the lease, if the appropriating authority doesn’t approve the expense.

  36. Joe says:

    Kathy and Teve: Leaseback is not new or a scheme. As Sleeping Dog explains, it’s a financing mechanism. It does have significant tax-related aspects relating to the ability of the seller/lessee and buyer/lessor to recognize depreciation. But it is not odd or shady. It’s been around forever. It’s not terribly different than leasing a car rather than buying it, although in that case the lease company buys the car you want and leases it to you, rather than you buying it, selling it to them and leasing it back.

  37. Jen says:

    The biggest issue with zoonotic diseases is humans closing in on their habitat. Yes, animals for food is part of it, but any encroachment that brings wild animals into close contact with humans presents an issue.

    I’m in New Hampshire, and our area is seeing quite a bit of building into former farmland/woodland areas. Household pets are now in close proximity to porcupines, skunks, coyotes, foxes, woodchucks, beavers, bats, bobcats, deer, and bears–along with wild turkeys wandering around right up to and around the many home backyard chicken coops.

    We have a fair amount of risk exposure in this country too. Yes, China’s live animal markets create conditions for zoonotic diseases. But between building expansion and our factory farming practices, there’s potential here too.

  38. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Scott:
    @MarkedMan:

    I notice that the people complaining about Chinese based wet markets are never calling for, say, a banning on hunting in the US. Because shooting a wild deer or boar and then eating it is normal, but shooting and eating some wild animal that’s not common in North America is icky.

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  39. Mister Bluster says:

    the 1950’s were an idyllic time.

    For some. Things were crusing down the middle class parkway as my family entered the 1950s. I had just been born in ’48. My dad, a high school educated Navy veteran, had a great job with Eastman Kodak. He was able to buy a new car every four years. And after my brother was born in ’53 and my sister in ’55 he had a 3 bedroom, 1 1/2 bath house with a one car garage built for us is a newer suburb than the one we were living in.
    Mom had the neighbor ladies over for bridge club once a month. Dad went bowling with the guys.
    Then almost overnight my mom turned into a raging monster.
    Schizophrenia!
    At first the family doctor could not diagnose the disease. She didn’t think that anything was wrong. There were no drugs to treat the malady.
    Until medication was developed to manage this curse mom spent the better part of the next ten years locked up in State Hospitals.
    There was nothing idyllic about any of this.

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  40. MarkedMan says:

    @Mister Bluster: And of course those idyllic times were only idyllic for a few. Kodak was mentioned in that excerpt. I lived in Rochester in the 80’s and I remember a friend of Italian descent laughing about how the deed for the house he had just bought in Kodak Park, the development Kodak created early in the twentieth century to ensure good housing for its rapidly expanding workforce, contained a clause barring resale to Italians, Irish or Jews. I guess blacks and browns went without saying.

  41. Kathy says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    My school was like several kilometers away, so I never walked to it. But in the 70s we were allowed to walk to the park (1.8 kilometers away), the bowling alley (2.6 kilometers), the supermarket (2 kilometers), and a few other nearby places. The suburb I grew up in had few really nearby places of interest.

    But in the city proper, when visiting friends for instance, we could walk anywhere we wanted to, or even take public transportation. One time a friend and I rode the subway all the way to the airport.

  42. MarkedMan says:

    Correction for above comment. Kodak Park was the office and industrial area. I can’t remember what the Kodak housing development (developments?) was called.

  43. CSK says:

    @Mister Bluster:
    And of course you and your sibs and your father had to suffer this in silence, because any discussion of mental illness was taboo. It was considered something shameful, not to be publicly acknowledged. You have my sympathy. It’s an awful circumstance in which to grow up.

  44. Scott says:

    @Mister Bluster: Something similar. My Grandparents moved in with us in the 60s. My grandmother had severe dementia. One day she simply disappeared and went to the State Hospital where she stayed until she died.

    When my mother had the same thing, we kept her at home and took care of her until she peacefully passed away. I’m glad we are living in today’s world.

  45. Scott says:

    Just picked up the mail. Nice post card advertisement for Carnival Cruise Lines.

  46. Mister Bluster says:

    And of course you and your sibs and your father had to suffer this in silence…

    Not that I recall.
    Everyone in the neighborhood knew when my mom was in the hospital. Many times neighbors would bring food over for dinner.
    We had several different women work for our family as housekeepers. Some would be live in. Some would go home every night.
    My parents belonged to church groups that helped out.
    When we relocated from Rochester to Danville, Illinois we lived with my dad’s parents in the house he grew up in.
    It was no cakewalk by any means but family and friends who might not have been tuned in to mental illness were still supportive for the most part.

  47. Scott says:

    @Guarneri: Yes, that would be a tax for the right to not wear a mask.

  48. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08:

    Conservatives view the world through a framing of simple morality.

    If the past 20 years have taught me anything it is that for conservatives, morality is transactional. A thing to be sold to the highest bidder.

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  49. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: Govts too. IIRC AZ sold their legislative building and leased it back.

  50. Teve says:

    There’s a town 20 miles away from me where the last lynching took place in the 1970s.

  51. Mister Bluster says:

    Rule of Law Republicans video.
    Who are these people?

  52. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Guarneri: You are paying that tax, you box of rocks. The problem is your lord and savior is using it to line his buddies’ pockets instead of contain the virus and keep Americans alive. Maybe you want to ponder on this fact the next time you wander into a polling booth.

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  53. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Conway Defends Protesters, Says Governors Have ‘Physically Distanced From Common Sense’ Now if only the country could physically distance itself from her and the prion disease that is eating her brains.

  54. Kathy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Now, let’s not be too hasty. the troll may be on to something. Suppose instead of issuing stay at home orders, state governors were to impose a “leave your home for non-essential purposes” tax. Proceeds would be used for healthcare only. This way you’re not stuck at home. you can leave whenever you feel like paying to do so.

    What’s more capitalistic than charging for everything? What, you think the sidewalks, paved roads, traffic signals, road barriers, police, etc. are free?

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  55. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Mister Bluster:
    @Mister Bluster:

    My wife was psychiatric social worker and I worked in residential mental health for a few years. Individuals with schizophrenia are among the most tortured of gods creatures and they deserve our care. It was dealing with the families that effected me so much.

    We would receive referrals from the local hospital psych units or in the case of more sever cases, the state hospital. Usually these were first time hospitalizations and we would have a young man or woman in their late teens or early 20’s. As part of the intake we’d meet with the family, who were often shell-shocked by what happened to their child. If you knew what to look for, you could see it coming on as the psychosis takes months to manifest itself. Usually the parents simply dismissed the odd behavior as the quirks of a kid, moodiness or using drugs (which they often did, in part to self medicate) and then bam the police are being called or the college calls to say the kid has been hospitalized.

    By the time I was working in the field, medications had advanced to the point where the psychosis could be controlled but often at the cost of debilitating side effects. Today it is better still, but I can barely imagine what life was like for those suffering from schizophrenia before the advent of pharmacological treatments.

  56. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: If only we could impose a tax on stupid comments… Wait a minute, that might not work out so well for me.

  57. Kurtz says:

    @Slugger:

    I wonder if Stormy will be getting a $1200 stimulus check with a Trump signature on it. She will be disappointed by the size; she is used to bigger.

    This deserves a Cannes length standing ovation.

  58. OzarkHillbilly says:

    From the Bulwark: Look What He Makes You Give

    A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away Republican elites claimed that they didn’t like Donald Trump very much. They didn’t support him in the primary. Many said or implied that they wouldn’t vote for him in the general election. But at some point each one of them reasoned that the right thing to do was to don the MAGA hat in order to ensure that Trump made good on the policy priorities they most valued. They acknowledged the trade-off. Trump would make them eat some shit sandwiches with the tweets and the corruption and the protectionism and the race baiting. But they’d get theirs. This was the genesis of the “But Gorsuch” meme.

    At the time, some of us asked . . . are you sure you know what’s in this sandwich?

    Today that’s now clear.

    …………………………

    The deal that Republicans made with Donald Trump was never going to be a good one.

    But with tens of thousands of people dead, the economy in shambles, and a historic crisis requiring a competent leader, do they still, in the silence of their own hearts, think, “But Gorsuch”?

    For it should no longer surprise us that Republicans have turned over the kingdom to Donald Trump.

    It is sad, though, how cheaply they gave it up.

  59. wr says:

    @MarkedMan: “Why is eating the monkey horrendous but eating those pheasants perfectly fine?”

    Because monkeys are much closer genetically to people. Not that this has to do with the virus — it’s merely why it makes the practice horrendous.

  60. An Interested Party says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: From your link…

    “I look at those people and I see the forgotten men and the forgotten women economically,” she told Smith.

    Sweetheart, it is you and your boss who have forgotten these people! They only mean anything to you when it’s time to vote…what a bunch of reprehensible trash in the White House…

  61. KM says:

    @MarkedMan: “Why is eating the monkey horrendous but eating those pheasants perfectly fine?”

    As @wr noted, the fact that simians are closer to people then avians is a huge part of it. I would add that sentience – the actual or perceive potential for it – is a big factor too. It’s why people get upset when you eat dog, dolphin or whale but are less squeamish about goats or pigs. If it seems like it can think or be taught (an imitation of true thought that nonetheless requires intelligence), it’s a no-go. Things that are pets in one country are dinner in another and freaks travelers out – think cuy (guinea pig), sfilacci (horse) or hamam mahshi (often pigeons).

    Humans pretend we’re special because we’re sentient. Therefore, anything that has the intelligence of a small child makes people unhappy if it’s on the menu…. excluding pigs. They’re too tasty for people to give up, apparently.

  62. DrDaveT says:

    @Scott:

    Just picked up the mail. Nice post card advertisement for Carnival Cruise Lines.

    The company we were going to be cruising the Med with in May/June finally cancelled our booking — not because they weren’t willing to take us to Italy, but because United Airlines wasn’t willing to fly anyone there for them.

    To their credit, they are offering us a certificate for future travel worth 150% of what we paid them for this trip… Or a refund, if we insist.

  63. Kathy says:

    If I understand this correctly, it means oil producers would pay me $3.70 per barrel of crude oil to be delivered in May.

    Ok. I do understand I cannot order a few billion barrels, or even just a few hundreds, because I don’t suppose shipping them would be free. So that’s out (damn!)*

    What I really don’t get is why they keep producing any oil at all if it’s being sold at a loss, given away, paid to be given away, and there’s no room left to store any more.

    * I wouldn’t have a place to store it, either. I know “barrel” is a unit of measure, and that crude is not delivered packaged in barrels.

  64. Kurtz says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Oh please. A stupid comment from you is more valuable than anything Guarneri has ever produced, including his proficiency at golf.

    I realize it’s not a high bar, but stupid here is way ahead of the curve just about everywhere else. If you insist on self-deprecation, think of yourslef as an NFL player who makes a twelve year career out of playing 20 snaps a game. For people like me, bouncing around practice squads, you are someone to admire.

    In reality, you contribute just as much to the intellectual culture here as anyone else.

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  65. DrDaveT says:

    @KM:

    Humans pretend we’re special because we’re sentient

    My preferred version of that sentence is “Humans pretend we’re special because we can.”

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  66. Kit says:

    @Kathy:

    What I really don’t get is why they keep producing any oil at all if it’s being sold at a loss, given away, paid to be given away, and there’s no room left to store any more.

    These big boys make up for the low margins with volume!

    I don’t know about American production, but this article in the New Yorker had this to say about Russian oil wells:

    For reasons of climate and geology, Russia’s oil wells are less flexible than Saudi ones: they can’t simply be turned off today and then back on again tomorrow. Decreasing output in Russia would risk damaging wells and losing some fields for years, if not forever.

  67. Kurtz says:

    @Kathy:

    If you look into futures and options markets, there are plenty of stories of traders who didn’t sell their contracts and were obligated to take delivery of goods that they were unprepared to receive.

  68. Kurtz says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Insist, Dr. Dave. Or demand 250% to account for the health risk of cruises that seemed to be increasing even before COVID-19.

  69. Kathy says:

    @Kurtz:

    I think if we let Wall Street have its way, we’d need to hire an accountant just to buy a pack gum at a newsstand.

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  70. Kathy says:

    @Kit:

    These big boys make up for the low margins with volume!

    Of course.

  71. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Scott: @MarkedMan:

    As people upstream have already pointed out, we do regulate slaughterhouses and test at least some of the meat that comes out at the other end. No question antibiotic resistance is going to be a huge threat, possibly very soon.

    Closing wildlife food markets won’t hurt the Chinese a bit, and I’d say three zoonotic plagues (that we know of) is more than enough reason. Just because Trump is trying to scapegoat China is not a reason to defend them. If they want to play with the big boys in the First World they need to see to the vast swathes of the country that are still very poor and poorly supplied with sanitation.

    It would also help if they’d stop lying. But with our current regime we’re not really in a position to say much about that.

    On the question of meat more generally, there are definitely negative health effects to meat consumption. There are also negative health effects from underconsumption of protein. I suspect that a significant percentage of vegans are bullshitting us and sneaking in the occasional cheeseburger or barbecued chicken. Our species didn’t evolve these big brains on kale.

  72. Scott says:

    @Kit:

    What I really don’t get is why they keep producing any oil at all if it’s being sold at a loss, given away, paid to be given away, and there’s no room left to store any more.

    It was explained to me that oil produced by fracking cannot be easily turned off.

  73. Scott says:

    During the CARES Act negotiations some oil state congressmen (Ted Cruz) tried to get taxpayers money to buy oil and store it in the Strategic Reserves. I think the Federal Government should take it off their hands for free now and store it. Not sure what the legality would be but no appropriated funds would be involved.

  74. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Kathy:

    While the effect varies from field to field, a producer shutting down a well is quite likely to have a less productive well when it restarts and in some cases, significantly lower production. Added to that it is costly to shut the well down and to re-start it. If they haven’t already been shut down, we can expect that older wells nearing the end of their productive life will be shuttered.

  75. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: In terms of real estate, most of the people that I have known who did real estate investment were buying tax write offs. It’s why all of those “buy real estate for no money down” guys consistently go bankrupt in about 5 year cycles.

    For some reason buying 25 cent tax credits/deductions for a dollar each doesn’t work as a long term plan. 😉

  76. Kathy says:

    About leaseback, thanks to all who replied.

    I’m familiar with leasing. It’s a common practice in commercial aviation (some airlines lease more planes than they own), and once I had a long(ish) lecture from someone in IT regarding the lease agreement for the office printers and copiers(*).

    Leaseback seems like financial smoke and mirrors maneuvering. Shifting risk and expenses and the like. I worry this can be securitized, like mortgages were, and lead to some future financial meltdown we’ll get stuck footing the bill for again.

    I haven’t heard anything about that. But given how airlines and lessors are bound to suffer due to the pandemic, some smart Wall Street type laser-focused on short-term profits, who knows any major failure will be covered, is bound to come up with some utterly brilliant, ultra-high risk idea like that.

    It’s just a matter of time.

    (*) As an aside, I think the crappy HP printers and copiers we used to have were way better than the crappy Xerox copiers and printers we have now.

  77. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    do they still, in the silence of their own hearts, think, “But Gorsuch”?

    Given that they are neither sick nor economically impacted, they probably do.

    If they are sick or impacted, they are probably either rethinking that or (more likely) the part of the party whose suffering doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Every war of attrition needs its cannon fodder, after all.

  78. Matt says:

    @MarkedMan: Indeed the 2009 novel H1N1 was called the “swine flu” for a reason.

    I’m not sure why Micheal listed COVID-19 separately from SARS as COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus…

  79. Kathy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    It wouldn’t work out well for anyone(*). But you’d make up for it with the tax credit for smart comments.

    I think Socrates’ paradoxical statement “I alone know that I know nothing,” means a smart and/or wise person is one who is aware of the extent of their ignorance and/or capacity for stupidity.

  80. Kathy says:

    I’ve been posting a lot today, and jumping all over various topics. But I got to thinking about the COVID-19 antibody studies coming out, all which indicate a much higher rate of infection and hence much lower rates of severe symptoms, hospitalizations, and deaths.

    So from my very non-expert opinion, I’ve come up with the following:

    1) The studies are flawed somehow, perhaps picking up related coronaviruses which are mostly harmless, like those that cause just common cold symptoms. I don’t think this is likely, but it’s possible.

    2) Perhaps there are two strains, or more, of SARS-COV2, one of which causes very light or no symptoms.

    3) Perhaps the severity of illness is partly, or wholly, determined by the initial viral load one gets. this is very iffy, but perhaps a light load can be dealt with by the immune system before it causes any major consequences.

    4) perhaps some people have abnormal of ACE-2 receptors and these allow for easier, and greater, infection; or viceversa.

    5) Perhaps a less virulent strain of SARS-COV2 has circulated for months, causing light or no symptoms, and was joined later by this more aggressive strain more recently. Two recent studies are from California, which is rather well-connected as regards travel to and from China.

    5.1) It may even be possible that a kind of benign SARS-COV2 strain mutated into a destructive one inside a human host.

    I stand ready to be told by those more knowledgeable than I why I’m way off or totally wrong.

    Lastly, about the recent anti-health measures protests, one can see the narrative that will unfold:

    As symptoms take several days to manifest, as long as 14 days, just about everyone who took part will think they weren’t infected, or maybe even the whole thing is a hoax. Since few lock-down orders will be lifted, as some of these attendees begin to grow ill, they’ll blame something, anything, else, as they were fine right after the protests. Look for someone to explain away COVID-19 as “lock-down syndrome.”

  81. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @An Interested Party: You are a braver person than I. I saw the headline and I had to be a smartass with it, but no know way was I going to actually expose myself to the putrid sewage spewing out of her mouth.

  82. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kurtz: I never take myself too serious and I laugh at my inanities at every opportunity. Why should everybody else have all the fun?

  83. DrDaveT says:

    @Kathy:

    But I got to thinking about the COVID-19 antibody studies coming out, all which indicate a much higher rate of infection and hence much lower rates of severe symptoms, hospitalizations, and deaths.

    If you’re referring to the Stanford study, there are serious methodological issues with that one, having to do with their assumed value for the false positive rate of the test. Andrew Gelman has a thorough discussion of it at his blog.

  84. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Gotta pass this along before I go take care of the chickens and the dogs, via John Cole at Balloon Juice: Preppers today.

  85. Gustopher says:

    @KM:

    Humans pretend we’re special because we’re sentient. Therefore, anything that has the intelligence of a small child makes people unhappy if it’s on the menu…. excluding pigs. They’re too tasty for people to give up, apparently.

    Wait until people discover how tasty small children are…

  86. Gustopher says:

    @Guarneri:

    Is there a tax I can pay to stop this Wuhan virus thing?

    Actually, yes. If we taxed the wealthy enough to keep the economy in stasis, and got people to stay home while being paid, we could stop the virus in its tracks after it burns through the current infected group. So, a month.

    Add in a robust testing protocol, and reduced travel, and we could ride it out until there is a vaccine with a modest disruption.

    Instead though, we won’t pay people who are staying home, and there will be a growing cry from morons to open the country up for business again, and the entire process will take longer and be more expensive.

    Oh, wait, you weren’t asking a real question, you were just being a guano berry.

  87. Mister Bluster says:

    @Sleeping Dog:..I can barely imagine what life was like for those suffering from schizophrenia before the advent of pharmacological treatments.

    My mom was 36 in the mid 1950s when she was first diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. My dad had to take her before a judge to get her committed. The state of the art treatment at the time was electroshock therapy. She endured that several times. I know she talked about it however I honestly can’t remember what she said.
    Apparently that did acheive some success at mitigating symptoms but it was not permanent. There were no drugs available although they might have been in development. WikiP states that Fluphenazine (Prolixin was the brand name that my mom took) came int0 use in 1959. Not sure when she started the regimen but I do know that she would be locked up for months and even years at a time with some home visits over a 10 year period.
    The side effects were worse when she first took the drugs.
    My dad stuck with her through thick and thin. And she knew that if she stopped her medication she would be committed again. That worked most of the time.
    They were married 60 years when he died in 2001.
    My brother and sister and I helped take care of mom for the next seven years before she died.
    Mostly my sister as she was close enough to check in on mom almost every day.

    By the way have you ever heard of this guy?
    Frederick Frese
    I saw him interviewed on Nightline a while back.
    Dr. Frese died in 2018.
    May he Rest In peace.

  88. gVOR08 says:

    I don’t understand oil futures. But some weeks ago it was reported Saudi Arabia wanted OPEC to cut production, but Russia refused, supposedly to drive down prices and bankrupt the American frackers. Then Trump claimed he brokered a deal to cut production and drive up prices. Now prices have apparently collapsed. I expect there’s lots going on I don’t see, but it sure looks like Trump can’t even manage to screw over the country to help his Saudi and oil company buddies. So much winning.

  89. Jen says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    If they haven’t already been shut down, we can expect that older wells nearing the end of their productive life will be shuttered.

    That’s part of it, the other component is how expensive extraction is relative to location. It’s just harder to transport oil from some places than others. So, producers will look at the cost–and this includes everything, from how expensive it is transport the oil once removed, to the tax/royalty payments to the state, how much workers cost, etc.

  90. Teve says:

    America can afford a world-class healthcare system. Why don’t we have one?

    In March, Congress passed a coronavirus bill including $3.1 billion to develop and produce drugs and vaccines. The bipartisan consensus was unusual. Less unusual was the successful lobbying by pharmaceutical companies to weaken or kill provisions that addressed affordability — measures that could be used to control prices or invalidate patents for any new drugs.

    The notion of price control is anathema to health care companies. It threatens their basic business model, in which the government grants them approvals and patents, pays whatever they ask, and works hand in hand with them as they deliver the worst health outcomes at the highest costs in the rich world.

    The American health care industry is not good at promoting health, but it excels at taking money from all of us for its benefit. It is an engine of inequality.

  91. Scott O says:

    @Guarneri: You’ll never surpass Trump in immaturity. You can try to imitate him but you’ll never have his worshippers.

  92. Hope says:

    I partly agree with you. According to Chinese people, that’s irresponsible to eat whatever you want and care less than ever at the beginning of this pandemic. I was in Europe when everything started, when it was the first virus outbreak in China. All Chinese people didn’t care at all, they did shopping with all family members. Who knows, maybe they had a virus inside with no symptoms, it’s scary. Daily, I check news from John Hopkin’s university and more information from them you can always check, they never steal it from other resources.