The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Covid Live Test of Your Government

One thing Covid-19 has done is allow us to rank a lot of governments by competence. There’s a lot of governments in the running for most incompetent. The UK and the US are up there, and if Sweden’s experiment doesn’t work, they may take the crown.

Probably the most competent government in the world is Vietnam. They managed to keep deaths to zero despite being right next to China and having massive economic ties. They jumped right on top of it, tested, traced, isolated and quarantined. They made sure people isolating had food (heck, they installed rich machines which gave rice for free).

This tracks what I’ve heard from ex-pats: Vietnam is a country where things get done, and that its cities are among the most dynamic in the world. Vietnam still has the sense that there’s a task, and you don’t put profit before that task. So they are able to build infrastructure and complete goals with stunning rapidity and minimal, by our standards, waste.

Was a time, of course, when the UK was like that (in the mid to 19th century British efficiency was often commented upon). Not so long ago Japan was like this, but they’ve lost it at the top, though the rot hasn’t gone all the way through the entire society yet.

In the Anglo-Saxon world, New Zealand and Australia have performed well. Canada’s performance, while good compared to the UK and the US (not even faint praise), was delayed. I was somewhat surprised by Australia’s performance, but I guess they can still be competent when it doesn’t touch on their corrupt resource extraction industry, as was the case during the wildfires (which is, in itself, interesting information).

The keys to good performance were acting early, testing and tracing contacts, and doing isolation properly: Quarantine away from your family.

The key to fixing this is going to be widespread testing, contact tracing, and then proper quarantine, which means you have to support the people in quarantine and make it mandatory.

Tracing is slow work. It can take five days to trace one person’s contacts. That means, if you’ve let things get out of control, you need a large number of people. Oddly, in the US, millions of people now need work and hey, it can be done from home: It’s phone work.

So competence means ramping up testing as fast as possible. It means distributing masks to everyone, free of charge. It means tracing, tracking and quarantining.

Until these things are done, releasing restrictions after a drop in cases will just lead to another spike in a few weeks.

Truly competent governments got ahead of this: They didn’t need an army of tracers.

But those who didn’t, do.

Let us hope our governments can, at least, learn from their mistakes.

The alternative is a year and a half of waves of cases, isolation, and more waves. In the US, with its refusal to support individuals and small companies, that means widespread hunger. And, as the food system is impacted in many countries, along with logistics, there is likely to be famine in other areas (for example, India, which has very low margins).

Few readers thought they might want to live in Vietnam, I suspect.

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.






April 27th US Covid Data


April 28th US Covid Data


  1. GlassHammer

    I think institutions (governmenrs) learn from their mistakes by removing people.
    People (especially powerful people) rarely learn from their mistakes. (Just look at how the same unchanged neoliberals keep re-emerging into leadership roles.)

    So for the U.S. the question is “Will there be a massive change in electoral composition any time ssoon?” I think the answer to that question is “No”.

    We (those in the U.S.) are on our own for now with only some minimal assistance at the state level to help us out.


    Imagine a blackout amidst this pandemic. It would be devastating and yet, like warnings about a pandemic, there have been numerous warnings for years about the blackout to come. If a blackout happens to America during this pandemic crisis, it’s quite literally lights out for America and game over. It may already, without the blackout, be game over for America. This virus has shown the world, if it didn’t realize already, just how chronically f*cked up America truly is.

    Until you capture all media, nothing is going to change the status quo. All media must be captured and reprogrammed. It is the media that serves as the glue for the status quo. It is the media that is a bulwark against any and all revolution.

  3. Willy

    Influenza deaths have been at the mid 30K level in recent years. Our friend BOO predicted with great certitude that coronavirus couldn’t reach anywhere near that level of mortality, now to surpass 60K.

    Yet he’ll be back to provide us with the next big tribal truthiness as if everything he proclaims is God’s own truth.

    And then there’s Biden and his evil little advisor friend Larry Summers.

    I did see a video where Al Gore appeared a bit pained when he heard Biden try to complete a coherent thought though. More normal others might’ve done a football timeout signal, then exclaimed that this is getting ridiculous and they cant hold their tongue anymore and that Trump is gonna eat this clown alive. But I guess Gore’s gotta play the game that got him this far.

  4. Ché Pasa

    I’m sure everything is going according to plan in the US and UK and the other not-so-advanced English speaking countries.

    Now that the British PM has had it and more or less recovered (touch and go there for a while), he can hardly say he doesn’t know what the British People are going through, but he can certainly say he doesn’t much care since he survived it (barely). The rest of you lot, you’ll do just fine. Or not.

    The US is approaching 1m officially recognized cases and 60,000 official dead; actual numbers may be double or triple that — who knows? Not I. But the evidence is that the virus is doing its job clearing out nursing homes, prisons, slaughterhouses, and the not-so-white and well-off generally, as well as doing a number on the hideous homeless and the defective of all kinds.

    Of course this first round of the virus is only the beginning. There will be more, and they’ll do their job as well or better won’t they, until the “cleaning” is done.

    I’m led to believe that the Surgeon General and the Woman With the Shoulder Scarves and Pence and Pompeo and a whole bunch of others in the US government are dominionist christianists who see their primary calling to ensure that God’s Work is done. Dealing with a pandemic is simple enough, as we have seen demonstrated in much of Asia. But doing God’s Work is much more complicated, so we aren’t seeing the simple solutions, only every more complicated ones, and the Woman With the Shoulder Scarves apparently said on the Sunday Shows that there won’t be more testing any time soon, and most of the other things necessary to control the virus and its spread aren’t going to happen either, so get used to it. This is the way things are gonna be until… well, whenever.

    Meanwhile, others are pointing out that The Economy is not going to recover any time soon, either, and shortages of just about everything are looming on the horizon. We already went through the toilet paper shortage, and there’s still no hand sanitizer to be found. Protective equipment for health care workers is supplied in inadequate quantities — except in nursing homes, where there’s often none at all — and nothing can be done about it because China or something. As various sectors of the food industry shut down, not to reopen till who knows when, we’re advised that there will soon be a lack of fresh meat, fruits, vegetables, and so on in the stores, much as there’s already a lack of staples.

    40% of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck prior to the virus, and now many of them not only have no paycheck, they have received no “stimulus” payments, no unemployment payments, no government payments of any kind, and they may never receive any given the way these things seem to be working. Food banks are running out. Hunger is stalking the land, and starvation might not be far behind. Nothing can be done about it. At least not for everyone.

    We can go on and on describing the deterioration during this Outbreak.

    And this appears to be The Plan.

  5. Daniel Lynch

    Agree with Ian but will add that countries that have good manufacturing capability have an advantage — S. Korea, China, Vietnam, and Germany, for example. They were able to quickly ramp up production of tests and masks.

    A country’s real wealth is WHAT IT CAN PRODUCE. Other than food, America no longer produces much of anything useful. Instead we produce asset bubbles, and “services” that largely benefit the rich. The social value of those services is questionable — if the rich had to cook their own food, clean their own toilets, mow their own yard, manicure their own nails, etc., would society be one iota worse off?

  6. krake

    It might seem slightly off-topic, but how we got from ‘there’ to ‘here’ tracks neatly parallel with the literal and metaphorical Confederization of the country.

    The old cavalier plantation-master’s slavery-by-another name, in the carceral state, in the destruction of fighting labor, in de-secularization of culture, law and education, in the actual plantationing of the food supply, in the paramount obsession with the “rights” of aristos and oligarchs – all of it begins with a sickening failure to properly end the War of Southern Tyranny: with a hanging by the neck until dead and gone every officer, official, slave-owner, minister and non-com in the CSA and state governments, militias, armies and corvee systems of the Southern police state; by keeping, as a minimum, the promise of “40 acres and a mule”; and by rooting out, without mercy, every single eruption and iteration of the Lost Cause.

  7. anon

    Anyone want to predict how many shutdowns the USA will need to have because its leaders didn’t address the virus soon enough and are now reopening too soon? I saw on the news packed beaches and people returning to the hairdresser and getting their eyebrows waxed. Because Americans aren’t being bailed out by their government, they have contended with putting themselves and others into harms way for a paycheck. I’ve been wearing a mask and sunglasses or eye goggles for well over a month when I need to go out for groceries. I’ve only seen an increase in mask wearing in my area in the last several weeks. The stupidity of US leaders and many citizens is mindboggling.

  8. Ivory Bill Woodpecker

    And how much longer would the Civil War have gone on, if the Rebels had known they would face such a fate if they surrendered?

    How much more Northern blood and treasure would have been expended?

    Typical Krake–all bloodlust, no intelligence.

    But then, I noticed at an early age (I will complete my 57th solar orbit next month) that as the testosterone goes up, the intelligence goes down.

    Of course, this all assumes that Krake is not actually Officer Krake or Agent Krake:

    “The first guy who suggests violence is always the undercover cop.” 😉


    As I mentioned above, the media must be captured and reprogrammed if any of this is to change. Have any of you noted that the virus appears to be running rampantly through CNN? Cuomo has it or had it and also Brooke Baldwin. How come Tucker Carlson at Fox News isn’t so fortunate?

    Seriously, are the folks at CNN conducting orgies every other evening? They don’t know how to take proper precautions yet they feel qualified to tell us to take proper precautions?

    Even though the virus and its implications are quite real, the coverage of it by the corporate media is disingenuous and stage-managed to the point it comes off as a hoax. Maybe that’s part of the plan. I wouldn’t doubt it. Scorpions will do what scorpions do.

  10. I saw a graph – maybe on this blog – that suggest New Zealand was doing extremely well. What was missing was any sort of explanation why…..

  11. StewartM

    Having traveled to Vietnam a number of times in the past three years, I can echo what Ian says. Vietnam isn’t perfect by any means, but their leadership is competent and does attempt (insofar as I can see) to address the essential needs of Vietnam’s people. What’s more impressive is that being a developing country, they managed to do it with resources which would be considered limited compared to richer countries. The fact their resources *were* limited (say, for testing) and they had to take a low-tech approach means that they had to take things seriously from the get-go–which they did. The ultimate compliment to Vietnam’s competency is a news article I posted in a thread here a few weeks ago, how out of some 488 foreign nationals trapped in Vietnam, only 31 wanted to return to their own countries. I joke with my Vietnamese friends I’d be far safer there than here.

    (Cue in the knee-jerk MSM reaction ‘how dare you praise an ‘unfree’ country’s leadership!!’–just like they did when Bernie correctly pointed out how Cuba, a poorer country than the US, somehow managed to give all its citizens excellent free care and that Cuba’s health metrics are at least as good as that of the richer US.

    Moreover, having been in Vietnam, as a practical matter they are about as ‘free’ as we are in most things in daily life. I had a coworker who used to kid a new Chinese national hire about “how do you like this American freedom?” to which she would reply “What freedom? *I don’t see a difference between China and the US’. If you simply go about your daily business there and here, nothing will happen to you. However, if you start raising a fuss, or blow a whistle, unpleasant things may happen to you. But that’s just about as true here as there–ask many of the anti-war protesters (Josh Wolf?), many whistle-blowers, and the Occupy protestors. One can only protest safely here in the US when there is a powerful political or economic power allied with one’s protest—hey, if you have billionaire support, you can tote your semi-automatic weaponry to the protests and hardly an eye will blink. If you dare become a leader in a protest against the surveillance state, they can now dig up dirt from your past, embellishing it as need be, to discredit you).

    Taiwan also gets a lot of credit–it’s even maybe tied to China more closely than Vietnam, by culture and the fact that families can have relative on either side of the straits. They too did a fantastic job. My Taiwanese friends mention that when their leadership gives press conferences on Taiwan’s status during the epidemic, President Tsai is present yet stands in the background allowing the experts to speak, in contrast to what we see here.

  12. Benjamin

    The ruling conservative Australian government also ran groveling to Labor to help it formulate its economic rescue plan.

  13. Eric Anderson

    Che’ Pasa says:
    “I’m led to believe that the Surgeon General and the Woman With the Shoulder Scarves and Pence and Pompeo and a whole bunch of others in the US government are dominionist christianists who see their primary calling to ensure that God’s Work is done.”


    And for some reason this little quote keeps ringing in my ears:
    “Kill one man, and you are a murderer. Kill millions of men, and you are a conqueror. Kill them all, and you are a god.”
    — Jean Rostand

    Kill millions of the sick and elderly and there is a large constituency in this hell country that will
    herald trump’s policy decisions as a conqueror.
    It is known.

  14. Ten Bears

    They locked it down, meta, locked it down tighter than a bull’s ass in fly season.

  15. StewartM

    Ten Bears is right. New Zealand’s goal is to ‘squash’ the virus. You squash a biological virus the same way you do a computer virus–drive the replication rate down to < 1. That means the virus is dying off faster than it's replicating, and you are driving it to extinction.

  16. Mark Pontin

    “Kill one man, and you are a murderer. Kill millions of men, and you are a conqueror. Kill them all, and you are a god.”
    — Jean Rostand

    ‘CROWDS AND POWER’ (German: Masse und Macht) is a 1960 book by Elias Canetti, dealing with the dynamics of crowds and “packs” and … how and why crowds obey the power of rulers …

    ‘It is notable for its unusual tone; although wide-ranging in its erudition, it is not scholarly or academic in a conventional way. Rather, it reads like a manual written by someone outside the human race explaining to another outsider in concise and highly metaphoric language how people form mobs and manipulate power.’

    ‘Leadership in Canetti is a matter of cruelty … the leader himself emerges from the crowd, and is driven by the spirit of crowd-destructiveness. The Survivor, Canetti’s leader, is a ruthless idolater of death, “mankind’s worst evil, its curse and perhaps its doom” ….

    ‘Historically, the leader of a crowd is the one capable of defying death. Hunger does not vanquish him; he survives by eating the most – by eating his own people, as well. If the people are the leader’s body, it is because they have been ingested by power ….’

  17. Arthur

    I have always believed the reason the South was not properly punished was that the powers that be knew they would need fodder for the ‘conquest’ of the West.

  18. Eric Anderson

    Interesting Mark. May have to pick that up.
    Sounds, in it’s form at least, kinda like the The Screwtape Letters.

  19. @ StewartM

    “Ten Bears is right. New Zealand’s goal is to ‘squash’ the virus. You squash a biological virus the same way you do a computer virus–drive the replication rate down to < 1. That means the virus is dying off faster than it's replicating, and you are driving it to extinction."

    Unfortunately, neither you nor Ten Bears have provided a link.

    Also, unless New Zealand is intending to isolate themselves from international travelers, indefinitely, what do they do when a bunch of spreaders comes for a friendly visit? With no herd immunity, they will either have to go back to a lockdown, or else catch and trace things with extreme vigilance. And if the spreaders go to a football match? Even with assigned seating, how are they going to trace everybody queued up at the restrooms?

  20. Zachary Smith

    Sometimes a person runs head-on into a concept by just skipping around the internet tubes. At the digbysblog site I found this:

    The older people can’t be convinced that everything’s fine when they are witnessing people their own age dying in huge numbers from this thing and living in fear that they will get it. Chit chat about GDP, oil prices and restaurants opening in Georgia aren’t going to cut it.

    I have some Southern relatives who are all-in for Trump. I’m out of touch with most of them, but I’d be curious to know how they’re mentally processing Trump’s disregard for their lives. What is their reaction when they hear that Lt. Governor of Texas say it’s their duty to die for Trump’s glory?

    My next internet stop found this:

    The speed at which the New York Fed, owned by multinational banks, can create trillions of U.S. dollars by pushing an electronic button and bring financial relief to the 1 percent on Wall Street stands in sharp contrast to the millions of mom and pop small businesses across America who are still waiting to see a dime in relief from an elected Congress, forcing a growing number of small businesses to close permanently and thus further consolidating money and power in the United States.

    Anyone remember the old Firestone TV commercial featuring “Where The Rubber Meets The Road”? In each case here we see the Priorities of the US Elites. Taking care of Themselves. Sacrifice the Olds. Throw the bottom 99% to the dogs. Me. Me. Me. Since they completely control the levers of power, they are able to adjust those Priorities so as to maximize the welfare and further enrichment of their precious Selves.

    Until the rest of us get the chance to vote in honest elections using tamper-proof voting systems, nothing will change. Nothing!

  21. Mark Pontin

    Eric Anderson: ‘Sounds, in it’s form at least, kinda like the The Screwtape Letters.’

    Heh. It’s really not, though. I don’t know anything else like it.

    It really is like a book written by an anthropologist from Mars — an intellect not merely cold, vast, and unsympathetic (a la Wells), but angry and contemptuous — to characterize in detail the varieties of the pack behavior of the human animal throughout its history.

    There are times I’ve tried to read it and my mind just bounces off it. Other times I’ve read parts of it and thought, ‘that’s brilliant.’ Yet other times when I’ve read other parts and said, ‘eh, so what.’

    Canetti was from a Jewish-Bulgarian family, whose father moved them to Manchester in the UK and then died young, whereupon his mother moved the family back to Vienna and insisted they speak only German. In other words, the Canettis were among those jews who were more German than the Germans in Berlin and the Austro-Hungarian empire, and what remained after that empire fell, who worshipped at the altar of the German high-culture of Goethe, Beethoven, Schiller, blah blah blah. Jews who thought themselves thoroughly assimilated; the Wittgenstein and Freud families were other instances of this.

    And then Hitler came along. Canetti escaped to England in 1938, only just in time.

    He won the Nobel (for literature) in 1981.

    If you want to get a small flavor of just how cold and strange a book CROWD AND POWER is, there’s a PDF on line and you can look at the TOC there and just read all the chapter headings.

    If you then want to read the whole thing, I do not suggest reading it online. It needs patience and concentration, because your mind will bounce off of the things it says and the way it says them. That may be you, the reader, or it may be Canetti.

  22. Mark Pontin

    For what it’s worth — and possibly relevant to Vietnam’s success with COV19 is this paper from 2010-11 on the first SARS coronavirus —

    ‘The Effects of Temperature and Relative Humidity on the Viability of the SARS Coronavirus’


    ‘The main route of transmission of SARS CoV infection is presumed to be respiratory droplets … The stability of the virus at different temperatures and relative humidity on smooth surfaces were studied. The dried virus on smooth surfaces retained its viability for over 5 days at temperatures of 22–25°C and relative humidity of 40–50%, that is, typical air-conditioned environments. However, virus viability was rapidly lost (>3 log10) at higher temperatures and higher relative humidity (e.g., 38°C, and relative humidity of >95%).

    ‘The better stability of SARS coronavirus at low temperature and low humidity environment may facilitate its transmission in community in subtropical areas (such as Hong Kong) during the spring and in air-conditioned environments. It may also explain why some Asian countries in tropical area (such as Malaysia, Indonesia or Thailand) with high temperature and high relative humidity environment did not have major community outbreaks of SARS.’

    We shall see.

  23. S Brennan

    Just few notes on unmentioned factors,

    It hit NZ and Australia mid summer, that and, they’re located at the far ends of the earth, not exactly transportation hubs.

    Taiwan deported foreigners without hesitation, pro-immigration “liberals” would be shocked if the US were to behave similarly.

    China delayed reporting the true nature while they acquired medical assets. Numbers from China are still largely falsified, we don’t know the extent of their “competence”.

    Dumb luck still plays a role in War, Famine, pestilence & plague

  24. someofparts

    I think the people that run this country are incompetent at running the government for the same reason I am incompetent at golf – complete lack of interest in the activity.

  25. Mark Pontin

    Talking of luck, this could be an unfortunate complication.

    A Swiss research team suggests that antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) may be playing a role in Covid-19 pathogenesis, i.e. the virus uses antibodies to help it invade human cells, paradoxically _increasing_ disease severity in an immunized population.

    ‘Is antibody-dependent enhancement playing a role in COVID-19 pathogenesis?’



    ‘The pathogenesis of COVID-19 is currently believed to proceed via both directly cytotoxic and immune-mediated mechanisms [1]. An additional mechanism facilitating viral cell entry and subsequent damage may involve the so-called antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE). ADE is a very well-known cascade of events whereby viruses may infect susceptible cells via interaction between virions complexed with antibodies or complement components and, respectively, Fc or complement receptors, leading to the amplification of their replication [2] (fig. 1). This phenomenon is of enormous relevance not only for the understanding of viral pathogenesis, but also for developing antiviral strategies, notably vaccines.’

  26. S Brennan

    Not unexpected Mark,

    The Wuhan lab that accidentally released this on the world was studying AIDS…I would add in fairness, that was on the USA’s dime [circa 2015].

    At lot of dirty hands in this pandemic stew…

  27. Ten Bears

    No Brennan, it was released from a bioweapons lab in Israel, hand delivered.

    The Trump Bug, fuckhead, Trump Flu, Trump Plague, Trump Pandemic.

    Suck it up buttercup.

  28. S Brennan

    You gotta love DNC trolls…and ten feathers is one of the best

  29. Anthony Cooper

    @ Pontin – Thank you for the links to Canetti. Very interesting to my anarchist sensibilities


    Trump is an anarchist’s wet dream. In fact, Trump is the consummate anarchist. A quintessential anarchist. Anarchists love herd immunity and fascists love anarchists. Fascists use anarchists in eviscerating the social order so they can swoop in and fill the power vacuum and when and once they do, they then eliminate any and all who don’t fall in line, to include the anarchists.

    Trump is raring for a rally — and he’s anxiously awaiting his royalty check from Lysol. He’s now forcing West Point to accommodate a pseudo one (rally, in case you forgot) for him. He has indicated he doesn’t want social distancing at the commencement because, get this, like the true anarchist he is, he likes it “nice and tight.” I didn’t know Stormy Daniels was “nice and tight.” What’s her secret? So many partners and yet she managed to maintain her elasticity. Whatever that magic is, perhaps we can use it as a cure for COVFEFE-19.

  31. Lex

    I do emergency response for a large part of my living. Everything from “there’s oil on the ground” to “the refinery is on fire” to “that room is full of acid gas because a stupidly mixed barrel of nitric and sulphuric acid exploded and now the air will melt your lungs, can you go in?” The details of any individual event cannot be predicted. The response is always fluid and reactive. To counter this there are well established rules, not for what is done but how decisions are made made. You can take a free class online for it “incident command” and there’s at least one small video game available to simulate it.

    Ian’s point about competence is important. The entire structure of an emergency response incident command is to concentrate competence, make well-informed devious, and produce actionable plans that are both effective and measurable. The structure is very hierarchical and military. Everything funnels up. Near the top is a group of varied experts who meet as often and for as long as necessary. You don’t opine in these meetings unless asked. The incident commander may defer crucial decisions to subject experts but the final decision is the incident commander’s. Orders come out of these meetings either to gather specific data or act on decisions.

    What we’re watching is national level emergency response and by definition the head of state is the incident commander. I’ve been one, and I’ve been under a handful of them. Temperament and intelligence are key. It’s not how much you know but how quickly you can learn and your ability to keep it all together while making difficult decisions based on incomplete knowledge. I know a guy who thinks he’s great at it, but melts down and starts screaming if a minor data presentation isn’t smooth. Then he lashes out at everyone below him to deflect blame. He’s hated and the success of those responses are in spite of him, which is clear to everyone except him. Sound familiar? I’ve completely lost what little faith I had in the US because I’ve never seen an emergency response handled so horribly before. The incompetence on even the smallest facets of this are mind-boggling. We’re not flying blind. There’s a whole set of rules on how to do this and they work. They even work in spite of individual incompetence.

    And yet here we are. We’re ignoring all the rules of the game and purposefully amplifying the issues those rules are designed to mitigate. The nations that have had some success are clearly following the rules applied to a viral disease response. It’s not one-size fits all exactly. Vietnam will have different details than Nee Zealand or Germany. But to the trained eye, it’s clear that their incident command is serious and effective. Ours, well, it shows what passes for political leadership in the US. There is none.

    And sorry for the blog post length comment, Ian.


    Brennan, without a proper investigation, there is no evidence supporting your assertion the virus started in a lab in Wuhan and was released, accidentally or not, into the general public. There’s much more circumstantial evidence this virus is potentially a bioweapon unleashed by the Neocons using Trump as their foil, many of them, as always, Israel Firsters.

    Trump, and the cabal using him as a foil, was warned of a this pandemic in November prior to the Chinese having any knowledge. How could the DoD have known about a pandemic that wasn’t underway, at least from China’s vantage, yet in November? Unless. And then this same DoD is now releasing UFO footage as a distraction as scrutiny on the fringes intensifies and threatens to invade the middle and core of public perception.

    Early on I surmised this was a bioweapon attack on China and it boomeranged. More and more evidence points in this direction. Hoisting & Petard. It’s a great law firm. Better than Squire Patton Boggs even.

  33. Ché Pasa

    And yet here we are. We’re ignoring all the rules of the game and purposefully amplifying the issues those rules are designed to mitigate.

    I’d say that’s the point. Anglo/American exceptionalism and all that. Disruption. Ignoring the rules, breaking the rules, inventing new rules that are themselves broken in a minute. No rules at all. Chaos.

    For some, this is a kind of heaven. Sure, lots of people die needlessly, but so what? As long as it’s not them, they don’t care. Structures, means and methods long maintained and still functional fall to ruin, but so what? Others can be built — maybe — to take their place. Or not.

    Those who are trying to preserve or restore some sort of rational order in the midst of this chaos are at a loss. There’s no one in the federal power centers who believes in “rational order.” They are all, it seems, on a different plane of understanding and action. God’s Work takes precedence, and to them Trump is the chosen vessel for accomplishing God’s Plan.

    Most of us think it’s insane, and it is. And yet… here we are.

  34. nihil obstet

    @Eric Anderson @Mark Pontin
    on Canetti’s Crowds and Power

    I read it back in the early 80s, so I’m speaking about memory from nearly 40 years ago. There was the occasional interesting insight, but I remember it as primarily a defense of patriarchy in what I would now describe as Fox News punditry. The “highly metaphoric” language came across to me as argument by strained analogy.

    A couple of the sections that I remember in my highly partial way — he argued that older men are valuable and honored because they are close to the great crowds of the dead. Therefore, the older men are awarded the most valuable, desirable young women. It left you wondering whether he couldn’t see that if old age creates value, then his statement makes no sense. And then, throughout the book he invokes myths of males giving birth, from Adam’s rib, Zeus’s head, and tribal myths from various indigenous peoples. Eventually, he seems to have realized what the implications were, which he dismissed by simply saying, “And these are not about male birth envy”. Oh, yeah? Well, what are they about?

    The book must have had something to recommend it because I still remember how obtuse I found it, and usually I just forget obtuse books. Or, maybe I just remember how appalling I found it that a man who dismisses half the human race was so highly respected and honored in the mid to late 20th c. I can also do numbers on Steven Pinker and Richard Dawkins.

  35. Eric Anderson

    Bravo to your comment. My wife is US Forest Service fuels planner but moonlights in the summer on a Type I incident response team. The USFS basically invented it and have perfected over the past 50+ years. The retired veterans of these teams often tend to move on to consulting worldwide. They taught FEMA how to do it’s job (although obviously FEMA still needs to learn some things.
    The massive wildfires that you see on the news that now rip nearly every summer? Pick one from a hat … she’s probably there. She used to be an ordering manager and has since morphed into a logistics manager and so sits at the table during the I.C. meetings. Let me just say this, she read your comment and gave it 3 thumbs up.

    She’s been losing her $!#% watching this boondoggle unfold. I mean, seriously, the federal government has the greatest incident response apparatus in the world at it’s fingertips ready to respond in an INSTANT (yes, all the team members keep their bags packed for the call) and trump dilly dallies around only to put Pence in charge.

    fml …

  36. StewartM


    Unfortunately, neither you nor Ten Bears have provided a link.

    Not trying to imitate the guys on the Debian Linux forums, but I would think that a simple googling of “New Zealand + Squashing + coronavirus” would have done the trick.

    Here’s just one of like a zillion

  37. StewartM


    Taiwan deported foreigners without hesitation, pro-immigration “liberals” would be shocked if the US were to behave similarly.

    No they didn’t.

    They did ban *entry*, first from China, Macau, and Hong Kong, and then extended that to the US, Europe, and Canada, but they did NOT deport those already there legally. Moreover, Taiwan still allowed foreign workers to enter, though they could only work after 14 days of quarantine.

    What good would it do to deport any non-sick residents from Taiwan who are already abiding the restrictions? That doesn’t stop the virus in any way.

  38. Dale


    I also want to thank you for your insights. Your point about there inevitably being one fellow in the chain of command who blunts the efforts of the group as a whole is well taken. A fellow sees himself as the perfect leader, but who almost always lacks the skill set you describe as being effective.

    As a 30+ year employee of the federal government I witnessed this phenomenon over and over. With every passing presidential election the situation got worse. Each time political appointees were slipped into the Civil Service ranks at lower and lower pay grades. People who wanted to do the best job possible were constantly stymied by these political know nothings. A neoliberal mindset that has been in effect for the past 40 years believes that big government is bad. Fed agencies have been starved of funding and true leadership for decades, and we are now living with the results.

    Consider today’s events in relation to where we were at the onset of WWII. We had an administration that had worked to keep the country from collapsing into anarchy and a potential Bolshevik revolution. Our young people were given jobs and training. Our manufacturing capabilities were extensive. We had huge reserves of natural resources. Government and industry had learned to work together. Today, for many reasons, all that is pretty much gone.

    Lex, I’d like to know if your wife thinks that the USFS is presently searching out and building a cadre of young leaders to continue in the roles she and others now hold. I’ll bet they have lost the funding to do so. Our country is in this position today because of the politicians we elected, and still are electing.

  39. Benjamin

    @nihil obstet

    “A couple of the sections that I remember in my highly partial way — he argued that older men are valuable and honored because they are close to the great crowds of the dead. Therefore, the older men are awarded the most valuable, desirable young women. It left you wondering whether he couldn’t see that if old age creates value, then his statement makes no sense.”

    Surely it makes complete sense if the writer only values women as sexual objects to be impregnated.

    ‘Girls are people too, just as much as boys’ seems to be something a lot of conservatives can never fully grasp, when you really boil their writings down to the essentials.

  40. Mark Pontin

    Dale wrote: “Our country is in this position today because of the politicians we elected, and still are electing.”

    Pretty to think so.

    But with all respect, you need to huff a better class of airplane glue if you think that at this late stage of the game the desires of the American people have anything much to do with who they’re allowed to elect.

    In 2016, as you may have noticed, the American people were given a choice between two monsters: Trump and the other one, who’d received more funding from members of the MIC than any preceding presidential candidate and who’d made the choice to engage in an undercover war of choice in the Middle East in direct violation of an agreement the U.S. signed not to do so if Gaddafi closed down his nuclear weapon programs (as he was foolish enough to do).

    Here she is laughing and boasting about it —

    Overall, Clinton’s elective wars of regime change have killed about half a million folks in the Middle East. Not that the Clintons’ home field score has been peanuts: getting GATT through in the 1990s, for instance, allowed C-suites and Wall Street to ship 4 million U.S. jobs overseas, with the consequent immiseration and deaths here in America.

    Similarly, here in 2020, the American people will be allowed to choose between Trump and a particularly nasty water-carrier for the U.S. financial elites who, though visibly suffering from dementia/aphasia, has nevertheless been propped up as the Democrats’ potemkin presidential candidate and has “chosen” Larry Summers as his chief economic adviser.

  41. Mark Pontin

    And yes: thanks to Lex for laying out so cogently the theory and practice of crisis response management.

    But it’s not the vast mass of people who choose these incompetent monsters like Trump and Clinton to obstruct effective leadership and governance. (Though granted, a large mass of the American populace isn’t just brainwashed but downright stupid). It’s the current powers that be, who wish their looting to continue unrestrained for as long as possible.

    And that doesn’t speak well for those powers’ own long-term foresight. Forgive me if I’m being a bore, but this inability to think long-term is symptomatic of psychopathy, whether institutional or personal.

    On a personal note, I used to work as a journalist. So, for instance, I found in my files the other day a letter from Joe Lieberman’s office praising an article I wrote, I once got into an argument with Newt Gingrich over breakfast, I’ve had George Schultz put the phone down on me, and I’ve gone to senate hearings and sat a dozen feet from the likes of Clinton and Lindsay Graham.

    So I’ve seen these people slightly closer — and not merely through the medium of TV — than most. And my personal observation is that the rulers of America, or their tools, are by and large not-very-bright psychopaths.

  42. Z

    this inability to think long-term is symptomatic of psychopathy, whether institutional or personal

    The vast majority of our politicians are all jacked up on amphetamines. Look at Pelosi, almost 80 years old, and prances around like she could be a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars”; Biden, who I’d imagine his handlers have down to a strict diet and sleeping regimen so that they can calibrate the fine-tuned mixture of pharmaceuticals they feed him to keep his focus and energy levels raised to hide his cognitive decline from the public, but also keep him grounded enough so that he doesn’t start a fist fight with a voter; Sloppy Joe’s pal Lyin’ Liz who tweaks and flails around like a teenage meth addict; and of course The Donald himself who reportedly hoovers up rails of Adderall.

    It shortens processing times and leads to a moment-to-moment what’s best for me mindset.

    We’re a country run by amphetamine addicts, all through the C-Suites, the media, Wall Street, the government, the entertainment industry, the medical industry, the legal professionals, etc., etc., etc. We’re a nation fueled by amphetamines and that rarely ends well.

    IMO, it’s the great unspoken story behind the long-term suicidal path of the U.S..

    Might add that a large part of the demand for amphetamines is driven by the fact that we live in a country where the stakes between being a winner and loser are HUGE.


  43. Benjamin

    @Mark Pontin

    “And my personal observation is that the rulers of America, or their tools, are by and large not-very-bright psychopaths.”

    I maintain that the comedy show Veep is the most accurate representation of American politicians. They’re vain and silly and stupid, and have to be carefully handled by an army of only slightly less stupid aides.

    The reason shows like House of Cards and Game of Thrones are beloved in the Beltway is because they’re slick and sexy and clever in a way real DC politics isn’t.

    Real DC corruption isn’t two politicians meeting in a smoke filled room to engage in a complex game of dueling blackmails. It’s a corporation openly giving your campaign fund a single 10,000 dollar check.

  44. Dale

    Dear Mark,

    You miss my point totally. If party A puts up mr bad and party B puts ms not so bad, we traditionally have dutifully gone to the polls and selected one or the other. There are other viable choices no matter what the two primary parties and the msm tell us. Isn’t it time for a change? Tell me again what that definition of insanity is? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result this time.

  45. someofparts

    Here we go

    The fiscal year for states runs July 1 to June 30, so we will learn just how broken the states are soon enough. Carnage in the muni bond markets is expected.

  46. Eric Anderson

    That was my USFS wife. Lex appears to be an actual incident commander for a private outfit.

    But to answer your question, the trend is to staff all the SO and RO and keep paying them more to shuffle papers, while pushing more and more responsibility to fewer and fewer people who actually know what they’re doing on the ground.

    With the general exception of the fire shops b/c enough politicians seem to be aware of the potential for all hell to break loose if they don’t, and the potential to get handed a huge bill by the private timber outfits who lose trees from fires that start on federal land. However, do they give any significant amount of money to the silvicultural/restoration/fire prevention side of the equation to mitigate the effects of the massive wildfires we’re seeing of late? Of course not.

    And don’t even get me going on the difference in pay grades between the dumbass border-patrol types because they carry a gun vs. the scientist who actually have educations and a brain in their head. If you carry a gun as fed employee it’s good for a two GS level pay increase with less qualifications that a federal ‘ologist.

    So, yes. You nailed it.

  47. Mark Pontin

    Dale wrote: “There are other viable choices no matter what the two primary parties and the msm tell us.”

    With all respect, TPTB have left much less to chance on both the Federal and State levels than you imagine. Start here —

    ‘Qualifying as a political party’

    Follow the links like this one and others —

    ‘Getting ballot access and incorporating a party committee’

    You’ll have to invest an hour or two in actual research, but you’ll find out that at every level and from every angle traps have been set up to keep the duopoly system as it is.

    I can’t quite recall his name now, but there was actually some senator from some small podunk Eastern state who managed the miracle of getting himself elected as an Independent for decades despite the duopoly and he gave up on trying to beat the system when it came to trying a presidential run. There was a reason he did that. What the hell was that guy’s name?

    Anyway, yes, the Green party has somewhat threaded the needle and Jesse Ventura is making noises about becoming its 2020 candidate this time. Is that grounds for optimism? If it’s not, that’s still as good as it gets.

  48. Z

    I’d vote for Ventura over Biden and Trump.


  49. Lex

    Hey thanks for the kind words, all. Yes, I work in private industry but that work regularly interfaces with government from local all the through the EPA. And as was mentioned in replies, this is the USG system. It didn’t need to be adopted or modified. It was ready to roll out and there are people from desks in DC to your local fire department who know it and can act through it. For those of us who are in it, the frustration is overwhelming. Having the “answer” and not using it is sickening.

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