And not the kind in a bottle!

Something nearly universal is happening around us, an odd occurrence emerging from odd times. Americans rarely seem on the same page.

Certainly, it’s not a united response to the virus that is spreading so swiftly among us – there are still too many people ignoring sensible restrictions, and our President’s renewed attention to the lives at risk could be upended by the next market downturn. There will be conspiracy theories on both sides, with those seeing a nefarious plot to tank the economy – and Trump’s reelection chances – joined by those on the hard-hit coasts speculating that Trump’s “hoax” talk was meant to extract a human price from people who don’t adequately “appreciate” him.

But there will be time enough for that in November.

Where we ARE virtually all on the same page is our state of mind. We are confused about the facts and statistics of the virus sweeping the globe, never an easy subject to grasp or explain. As a result, we’re worried about what comes next, which has us tied in knots.

More than we want to admit out loud, we are all worried about ourselves and our families.

We are all getting fed up with our self-confinement.

We are all encountering on the telephone and in our cars, when we do dare to venture out, people who act more rudely, crudely and even offensively. Perhaps they too are upset with their lives and figure it does not matter how they behave with strangers.

Some of us may be sleeping too much. Others maybe not enough. And, we are getting grouchy.

Anxiety is a state of mind which is hard to hide. That anxiety is itself contagious, often in counterproductive ways. Two anxious people perhaps is equal to at least three upset people.

In “real” war the fighters are surrounded by comrades with the same goals, the same tools and the same esprit de corps. Somehow, they go ‘over the top’ fully knowing the risks simply because that is what soldiers do –there really is no other choice.

In a virus war, the enemy is invisible and each soldier –everyone of us –sees him/her self as potentially in competition with everyone else – to acquire toilet paper and hand sanitizer, to stay free of the disease and, most macabre of all, to secure adequate treatment, as we are wounded in battle.

That is perhaps why our universal spirits in today’s world are so universally depressed.

A bit of nightly alcohol does buy moments of distraction, but it is not mitigating the evil threads of discord woven by our microscopic enemy.

So, we have to recognize that the real source of our malaise is FEAR. 100 plus years ago, something terrifyingly similar happened in very much the same way.

This time, though, we had many clear and convincing warnings.

 Maybe it was just plain bad luck that our invisible enemy chose to strike when we lacked leadership.

Or, maybe our new enemy is even smarter than we can imagine and thought that this was the moment to strike when we totally lacked national leadership.

We have to rediscover and deploy our famous American WINNING SPIRIT!


Leadership vs. Egomania

A revelation into the mind of our accidental President.

Perhaps history will record that this was the biggest mistake in the history of our country.

Donald Trump got elected by playing on peoples’ fears of a horde of brown-skinned invaders illegally crossing our borders. The Wall – the “big, beautiful wall” — became the symbol of his genius and leadership.

One result of Trump’s relentless focus on imagined enemies was that he was consciously and deliberately ignorant of insistent cries of concern over microscopic invaders, dismissing even the warnings of intelligence officials in January of an emerging contagion. A real leader, heeding the alarm, would have picked up on the real threat and prepared the country – WHICH WAS THEN STILL POSSIBLE—to deal effectively with the coronavirus.

The money and attention wasted on the wall has contributed to more than 1,500 unnecessary deaths in the US, a number that is likely to grow starkly in coming days and weeks. For inexplicable reasons, Trump’s popularity has risen as the situation grows worse, even as he keeps saying he doesn’t take responsibility, it isn’t his fault, and he’s doing an “amazing” job.

The truth of the situation had been laid out well in advance simply and clearly. Bill Gates of Microsoft was speaking loudly and clearly. There were books, studies and government programs that called attention to the risk. They were followed by specific warnings of the emerging reality. They were completely ignored and even dismissed by Trump who substituted his hope and hunches.

In everything that’s happened, there has been only ONE thing on Trump’s mind: REELECTION!

There needs to be one thing on all Americans’ minds:  REAL LEADERSHIP!

Remember Pearl Harbor

What’s that got to do with anything today? Everything!

As we go through life remembering parts of the past, we should always ask ourselves if we are remembering the right things! Ideally, the past informs the future, and looking backward helps us look forward wisely.

We’ve remembered Pearl Harbor for 79 years now, using it and intervening incidents to build a defense industry that Ike warned us about 59 years ago, now costing over $600 billion a year.

Meanwhile, even while we prepared for a modern Pearl Harbor, we ignored and even shut down research that was SCREAMING at us to worry about pandemics. The “Crimson Contagion” planning exercise in 2019 underscored how ill-prepared the nation was for a pandemic in broad terms; in January, intelligence and health agencies warned President Trump that the nation was gravely ill-prepared for THIS pandemic.

Even those out of government might have come across John M. Barry’s “The Great Influenza” – which spent a year on the NY Times bestseller list — and “The End of Epidemics” by John Quick.

A measly $1 billion properly spent when those books were published quite likely would have averted a great deal of today’s anguish.

 But we are a country of dopes (myself included), now led by the King of Dopes, and nobody took advantage of easily available and comprehensive knowledge of how to minimize exactly what is happening today – and, incredibly, claiming it was unknowable.

Aphorisms like ‘Remember Pearl Harbor’ have some utility. But they also have a limited life span of relevance. WWI brought the Spanish flu across the world in 1918 in amazingly similar ways to today. Commerce accomplished the same this year.  

In an ever-changing world, we should always make sure we’re still asking the right questions.

Clearly that did not happen at all. And, here we are now.

‘Remember Covid-19.’

Of People and Platypi

Today’s missive is delivered to you mostly by my great granddaughter, RuthAlice, named after my mother, and every bit as smart, willful and charming as the woman who raised me.

In challenging times, good news is more precious than normal, it seems. And the good news is that several generations below me is a cadre of young people preparing to take over the country, and the world – if we can keep it going long enough. I’m proud to count RuthAlice and ALL my other “grands- and-greats” among them.

I’ll admit that, despite being what I consider quite well-read and well-informed, I’d given little thought to the platypus. In fact, on further review, it turns out the things I don’t know about platypi are quite numerous, kind of like a certain President and a certain virus – but I digress…

Duly noted: The platypus is, in some ways, like people my age – short on teeth and always hungry!

And the biggest threat to this lovely marsupial? People. What is it young people say? “We can’t have nice things.” Thank you, RuthAlice, for looking out for the platypi and everyone else!

And, to my indulgent readers, if you’ve been worried about who’s going to replace me as the author of this blog, say, 60 years from now, I commend you possibly to the capable hands of RuthAlice.

The ‘Other’ Perspective on Covid-19

From the inside out!

Slightly more than 100 years ago, in the immediate aftermath of WWI, the world experienced a pandemic called, perhaps inaccurately, the Spanish Flu. 50 million people died. My father contracted the virus while he was in the army, and luckily for me and my sister he survived to tell the stories.

Even now, with months of warning and for reasons not yet wholly clear, the USA has failed to test enough people to get a better, bigger picture of the spread of coronavirus.  Scientists and others are thus “flying blind” in efforts to to contain and mitigate the spread of this pandemic.

That has left a lot of scientists asking how to learn more in the absence of hard data about the human dimension of the pandemic.

Taking advantage of fantastical (and highly classified) advances in artificial Intelligence and data mining, the President has appointed a secret, hand-picked team of White House operatives (“the best and the brightest of the brightest and the best of the people working here” he likes to say). Their mission: to discover the language of coronavirus, like the way we have learned that horses whisper and trees murmur, sharing amongst themselves, we believe, disdain for much of human behavior.

Their breakthrough came in social media. Vast datasets disclosed that social media is, in its way, an organism that behaves as both pathogen and contagion, poisoning its victims and using them to reproduce across the globe, from one contact to the next.

This new universe of communication, in turn, provides feedback to the viruses circulating through the system, enabling them to anticipate and respond to actions and efforts of humans to interrupt them from going about their daily business of trying to wreak havoc with humans.   

Trump is stirring up the chaos to win the 2020 election. Just another example of how crazy he is – or crazy like a fox?

Zuckerberg and the rest are too busy running their own greedy games to realize what is happening under their noses. Fear not, though: Trump knows what these geniuses don’t: Jared’s on the case.

The world in the hands of microscopic enemies is really getting under our skin!

See previous posts at fawideas.com

Past vs. Present

New vs Old

Even when it is critically essential, we no longer know how to simplify and get things done faster and cheaper.

A brilliant doctor I have known for decades recently shared with me a fascinating fact. As a new physician in 1982, if he needed a liver sample from a patient, he simply took an appropriate needle, inserted it into where he knew it would enter the liver, withdrew the sample and went about helping his patient. It was standard procedure at the time. The whole process took 15 minutes and cost the patient about $250. Doctors knew there were some risks and believed perhaps 1/1000 might encounter a problem in the procedure.

Today, extracting a liver sample takes 2-3 hours, including x-rays, and costs about $2500. It probably is safer but if suddenly a million were quickly needed the system could not meet the demand. Correspondingly, the question of whether today’s process is more efficacious than yesterday’s remains shrouded.

The issue takes sharper focus in connection with Covid-19. Researchers returned to abandoned efforts on vaccines against previous contagions, including Ebola, to hasten development of a vaccine for Covid-19. Surely, there must be other “outdated” but beneficial – particularly in emergencies —practices that could, if enabled, offer more timely ways of addressing this pandemic.

The BIG question is how can our medicine reach back in time and use simpler, cheaper and essential treatments to meet the demands of a different but modern world??

See previous posts at https://fawideas.com

The Virtues of Self Quarantine

If done right!

At the ages of 89, Denie and I are what medical professionals call a “vulnerable population” – part of a vast collection of people more susceptible to negative, even fatal outcomes, from contraction of Covid-19.

So, starting last Saturday, we have holed up in our DC home. The plan is to revisit the topic in two weeks. The way things look now, it may be quite a bit longer.

Do not bother with feeling sorry for us. We lack for little, except social interaction. We do see our son and his kids and our housekeeper under VERY strict rules.

When the FedEx delivery person brings a package, we detox it before touching it. There’s a similar protocol for food and other items that come into the house.

We already like the feel of the new process. There’s a simplicity to our lives in this moment that is appealing, and elusive in more normal times.

After 69 years of marriage, there are not a lot of surprises in a relationship. Still, Denie looks more beautiful every day. And, I appreciate more everyday what she does to keep me alive. I hope she sees some of that in me too?

The walk around the block this morning was as stirring as our five-hour walks in Switzerland a few years back.

Inside the house, where we spend most of our days, the computer keeps me well informed and even busy. The television keeps me less informed, I know, but offers welcome relief from eye strain, and endless (often clueless) speculation about coronavirus and the possible downfall of the Trumpian empire.

Toss in my iPhone to stay connected and an occasional nap to stay serene and the day slides by beautifully!

If this is all we have to do to be able to celebrate 80 years of marriage (in 2031), we will be lucky folks — as long as we do not have to be isolated for the next 10 years!

The New Normal?

Life After Covid-19

Much has been said of the economic chaos the emergence of the novel coronavirus has wrought. Trillions of dollars have already been lost in the markets; the travel industry has been decimated; and entire countries are effectively closed for business.

Short-term, the economic damage from coronavirus is certain to be severe. The human toll won’t be fully known for some time. Less considered at this early stage is the potential for lasting impacts. The markets will take coronavirus out of pricing calculations in due course and, economically, the world will return to a semblance of normalcy. And policy makers will, one hopes, reverse the ill-advised decisions to dismantle the country’s epidemic response capabilities.

But what of us? In our (mostly) sensible efforts to contain the spread of the virus, we may have discovered new facts about ourselves and our lifestyles. First: working. The rash of businesses and organizations instituting work-from-home policies may be a harbinger of long-term change in the nature of the workforce. If so many people can stay at home for so long, without sacrificing productivity, morale, etc., then many businesses have what is effectively a glut of office space they don’t really need that’s costing them a small fortune.

It turns out that many of us can do at least as much, at least as well, and at least as quickly without sitting at our desks five days a week. Factor in the time and expense saved by not having to commute, along with the office space that is no longer needed, and it becomes clear that everyone benefits from this arrangement.

Everyone, one might think, except real estate developers. But reduced need for offices provides a rich opportunity to revitalize the urban housing market. Imagine hundreds of thousands of new rental units and mid-range condos created from converted office space in urban cores across the country.

Once we get that fully into our noggins, employers and workers alike may seize the opportunity to reduce costs while maintaining the full value of our services.

There are also many other habits we have grown into which, having been paused, may not seem so necessary.

This kind of periodic, unpredicted perspective may provide an opportunity to cleanse ourselves of a lot of things that diminish, rather than enhance us. And it starts with TRUMP.

Go, Joe – GO!

The Would-Be Emperor Has No Clothes

It should now be obvious to all…

It is incredible to take in the breadth of ignorance Donald Trump has displayed at the most important moment of his presidency. A quick summary is in order:

  • Trump has a “hunch” that the mortality rate of coronavirus is far lower than expert estimates. “Hunches” are exclusively for people with backs at Notre Dame.

  • He did a great job “containing” coronavirus by shutting down travel from affected areas based on 1,500 tests alone.

  • He is confident that “like a miracle, it will disappear.” Like his miracle election with a minority vote.

  • Trump assured Americans that a vaccine would be available in “months” rather than the year+ experts say is necessary. He sought to keep cruise ship passengers on board so that the sick among them wouldn’t be counted in the total of U.S. coronavirus cases.

  • Responding to criticism of flawed test kits and slow delivery, he falsely asserted again on TV “Anybody that wants a test can get a test. And the tests are all perfect, like the transcript and my conversation with the President of Ukraine.”

Those are the truly dangerous statements Trump has made – ones that contradict science and ACTUAL health experts and can leave the public ill-prepared for what may (but one hopes will not) turn out to be a serious medical and economic crisis.

Trump has also been almost comically inept in discussing the crisis. At the Centers for Disease Control on Friday, he insisted that EVERY doctor asked him, “How do you know so much about this?” Moments earlier, of course, Trump had been SHOCKED to discover that the flu kills people – tens of thousands of them, in fact, he told his audience.  Observers quickly pointed out that Trump’s own grandfather died from the flu in the 1918 pandemic.

No one knows yet, of course, what path coronavirus will follow. And Trump may, through literal dumb luck, prove to be right, at least in part. I, along with every decent human being, hope he is. But it should – it MUST – be obvious to all that, in the biggest crisis he’s faced, Trump is winging it, ignorant and ill-informed but nonetheless blindly confident in his own genius.

It’s the same playbook he’s used before – in the past, though, Trump was able to walk away unharmed when his casinos went bust, the women talked, or the Ukraine investigation backfired.

It SHOULD go without saying: President’s simply do not govern based on hunches; in times of crisis, Americans deserve and demand truth from their leaders; and, pandemics are more important than politics.

In what may be his Katrina moment, we can only hope that Trump, too, recognizes his clothes-less state and lets the experts do their jobs. 

A Note to Readers:

Just yesterday, economic advisor to the President Larry Kudlow called the coronavirus outbreak “contained.” In the face of such ongoing misinformation, it’s incumbent on all of us to educate ourselves. A friend recently sent me a link with practical, detailed and accurate information on coronavirus symptoms, pre-existing conditions that merit special caution, and more.  We know Trump won’t read it. You should.


After Super Tuesday

And Beyond!

Breathe a great sigh of relief! This topic may be ending?

My fixation on the importance of the election I believe is paying off.

No, I am not claiming any credit for yesterday’s results.  But everyone who has been bleating about the Trump problems has contributed to the broad public understanding of the urgency to defeat Trump in November. Super Tuesday really bears that out. Voters gravitated to Biden in stunning fashion, particularly in the last few days.

The Democratic Party is now on the brink of finally (mostly) coming together, and Bloomberg also has promised to keep stepping on the $ accelerator, including keeping a lot of his new 2000-person political staff organizing to defeat Trump.

Without counting chickens, the Biden administration will feature several of his previous competitors, and other steady, experienced hands who can make government work again, and untangle the mess Trump has made with the world at large.

All business, financial and political leaders will tell you that their worlds work best in a surrounding atmosphere of dependability, reliability and predictability.

The convergence of a potential pandemic and Biden’s political resurrection brings to mind my January post, Après le Déluge, which now seems more prescient than I imagined at that moment.

The recent sharp correction in the stock market in the last week of February, triggered by the virus scare, was no doubt at least mildly exacerbated by fears of four more years of either Trump or Sanders. We now better understand what we are up against with Covid-19 AND can see the political future more clearly.

It may be a bit premature, but I am increasingly confident that the USA can again lead the world in dependability, reliability, and predictability. That tells me investors can be looking prudently at great long-term companies to carry us into the rest of the 21st Century in go