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Third Wave! And, Krugman finally notices Merchants

From New York Times, obviously.

We’re well into the much-expected third wave of the Coronavirus pandemic. California isn’t actually doing badly compared to the rest of the nation, but LA County is trending the wrong way, unfortunately.

Yesterday’s big news was that the White House chief of staff acknowledged that they’ve given up on the pandemic. That triggered today’s Krugman column, which links to Merchants of Doubt. Yay! It only took denial of mass death to get him on board.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/26/opinion/trump-coronavirus-climate-change.html?searchResultPosition=1

Election day is one week from tomorrow, and I wish I had confidence in the results.

We were going to go up to Mammoth last week but it’s been continuously smoky from the Creek fire. We spent last weekend cleaning out Alex’s room so it can be turned into my next office. It’s very echo-y now. I may have convinced The Mate to buy a Ford Bronco Sport when Ford starts to actually make them. At the moment, we only have my Model 3–she sold her truck to Alex. Long story on that! But due to the out-of-control pandemic, we never actually go anywhere so not much need for two cars, let alone the 3 that we had.

We’re going to Newport Beach for my birthday, and then we’re going to Mammoth for T-day.

The Madness of King Donald

The barrage of insanity over the last couple of weeks has been incredible. I guess the pace to start is Don the Con’s taxes. The New York Times got 20 years of them somehow and published an unbelievable expose. He owes more than a billion dollars, including more than $400 million to one or more mysterious overseas lenders, and pays almost no taxes. His first year as president, 2017, he paid $750. Most of the last ten years he’s paid none at all. He somehow got a $70 million refund in 2011 that’s ‘under audit,’ somehow, 9 years later. And he even managed to implicate Ivanka in tax fraud. It’s a remarkable story.

That story didn’t hold the news cycle long. The first debate with Biden was on Tuesday, 29 September, and it was a catastrophe for Ole Donny Boy. He was in fully aggressive bully mode, shouting over Biden and moderator (Faux New’s Chris Wallace), and drove away a lot of his own voters. He gave the white supremacists a shot in the arm by giving the Proud Boys a direct order. The insta-polling afterwards had Biden’s lead increase to double digits. I couldn’t watch it myself. The Mate watched, but I couldn’t tolerate him more than 15 minutes. I went and read instead.

But that disastrous performance didn’t dominate the news cycle more than a day. Ex-Trump aide and probably current mistress Hope Hicks tested positive for the coronavirus literally the next day. She’d travelled with Trump and gang on Air Force One to the debate while symptomatic. At least that’s what the initial reports said. Then the Mad King tested positive, three Rethuglican Senators who hadn’t been at the debate did, and it became very clear that the actual superspreader event had been the Federalist Society’s coming out event for Trmp’s Supreme Court nominee. She’s a christofascist from a cult called People of Prayer, and had been on the Notre Dame faculty before being appointed to the 7th circuit 3 years ago.

The Donald wound up being rushed to Walter Reed on Marine 1 to receive his socialized medicine, stayed three days and basically forced his way back out. He’s back at the White House as I write this, as more and more of official Washington gets quarantined. The White House hasn’t been performing contact tracing as they’re supposed to, and they barred CDC from doing it too.

It’s worth noting that what typically happens with this disease is that people start to feel better, go back to work, and then relapse and die. The relapse-and-die part happens after the 2nd week of infection, and we just started week two. So this may not end well for the Mad King.

It already hasn’t ended well for more than 210,000 other Americans. Fuck him.

Still Burning

I accidentally forgot to post this one. . .from September 15.

Just an update. . .Bobcat2 fire still burning east of Mt Wilson, and has forced evacuations in Arcadia and Monrovia. My PurpleAir sensor peaked at 525 a couple of days ago. This morning it was 270; JPL closed (again) from the bad air. Moderated enough to open the house this evening for a few hours, at least partly because the air indoors smelled musty and ick.

The Creek fire south of Mammoth is slowly moving towards the town. The air there is terrible too, the PurpleAir sensor up there read 710 a few minutes ago. The town starting kicking tourists out over the weekend in preparation for evacuation. Like here though, they haven’t pulled the trigger on the evacuation.

All the national forests in the state closed over the weekend. Apparently wanted to reduce the potential evacuation risk.

Still burning, still pandemic-y, still stuck at home

Well, the not-so-good national news is that the pandemic’s not getting better any more. We passed 200,000 dead, and after another downturn, cases are going back up nationally–not clear about California, though.

US Covid-19 cases from NYT.
California cases from LAT.

The Bobcat fire is still threatening Mt Wilson, as it has been for days now. Latest scary-cam image:

Terrible fire but great composition for a robot camera. . .Mt WIlson west camera on September 21st.

We stood and watched the aerial assault on the fire right before sunset today. We saw a C-130, a MD-80/DC-9, and a DC-10 tanker making runs. The fire has also been spreading north and has burned some communities in Apple Valley, apparently. They’ve also made new evacuations in Big Tujunga Canyon.

Air quality has improved enough the last few days to have the house open for some of the time anyway. We were getting very tired of recirculated, AC air. We are supposed to go to Mammoth thursday but the air quality up there is horrible–well over 300 on the PurpleAirs up there. And all the national forest lands are closed so there’s no real reason to go. Too bad, the change of scenery is nice.

There was a 4.9-ish earthquake down in the Montebello area (very deep) early Saturday. Andrea had just surveyed her mudpot on Friday so we went down Sunday to do that. Finally saw the legendary/horrific Bombay Beach and the Salton Sea, too. It was super hot as well. But again, nice to get out of the house.

in #trumpocalypse news. . .where do i even start? Ruth Bader Ginsberg died last friday, so Moscow Mitch is preparing to confirm whichever christofascist the God King appoints. The “Justice” Department has designated three cities “anarchist jurisdictions” so that federal funds can be cut and DHS stormtroopers can be imposed: Portland, Seattle, and New York. I’m with George Takei:

Seriously! We have Oakland. Compton. Mojave. San Francisco. Marin County. Berkeley, the beating heart of anarcho-syndicalism! What do you have to DO to get branded an “anarchist jurisdiction” by the Trump Crime Ring?” Have a lot of rain?

I wish I had confidence that the Trumpists will be swept out of office. But I don’t. Even if they get a clean sweep, though, the Dems will frak it up. DiFi has already said she won’t expand the courts to undo the christofascist takeover, and that’s the whole game given up before a vote is cast.

Seven months stuck at home. I expect to be here another 7. . . Well, actually, we could be evacuated if the winds pick up from the east. That would be Not Good.

Cali’s Burning Again and Other Stuff

It’s wildfire season again here in Cali and it’s bad, though not quite as deadly as a couple of years ago. More burned acres, less burned people. Closest to us is the Bobcat2 fire, which started east of Mt Wilson over the weekend. We’re under an “evacuation warning,” but so far the wind is blowing away from us. Forecasted Santa Ana winds have so far not appeared. We’re semi-packed for evacuation.

From the East facing Mt Wilson camera on September 7.

Mammoth area hasn’t been spared. An explosive growth fire started near Big Creek, CA, and spread to Mammoth Pool. The National Guard did a helicopter evacuation of more than 200 trapped people.

The Bay Area sky turned orange this morning. Happened in Oregon, too.

Online people are comparing it to the Vegas scene from Blade Runner 2049.

It’s a freaking hellscape.

MEANWHILE, somehow the God-King thought it would be fun to let Bob Woodward tape him over the last few months. Today’s big reveal was that on February 7, he told Woodward that he was downplaying the coronavirus. His hoax speech was two weeks later. I’d be surprised but. . .nah. It’s who he is.

Also he called veterans losers. Again, not a big surprise. But he may win and won’t leave office even if he loses, so there’s that. At least his campaign is running out of money early. They’ve spent $800 million apparently. I’d bet it’s gone into family pockets.

There was a pro-trump boat parade in Texas. It went badly in a very funny way.

And then there’s QAnon, which is exploding. I just can’t with that.

There’s still a pandemic but it’s fallen off the front page again–i guess we can thank the hellscape for that. Cases have been declining for weeks but university reopenings have created new outbreaks. Not clear if/when further “reopening” will happen in California.

California stats, 9 September 2020. From the LA Times.

It’s just been a craptastic year

I’ve been remiss in posting here, not because I’ve got nothing to say but because I’m finding it harder and harder to spend “non-work” time in front of my screens. It’s become almost active resistance on the part of my brain. . .

But anyway, this post is less motivated by the pandemic (which, for a short while, is getting less bad) or by the collapse of American democracy (which is accelerating. We’re fucked. But that’s some other post.)

Last week we were in Mammoth again, came back Saturday. ‘Twas lovely up there, and much cooler than ‘Dena. Did one day of hiking but otherwise it was a working trip as they all are now. Work-life separation went out the window in February and has run far away.

Monday afternoon (1 September) I had a surge of pressure and heat in my left side. I’ve been having GI problems for around 18 months now but no events long-lasting and severe enough to get a fix on. Last trip to urgent care about two months ago (they found nothing) the doc there said to go straight to the ER if it happened again. So around 2 AM tuesday, we zipped off to Huntington Hospital ER.

Totally empty, just staff. I was in a room in 5 minutes, getting ultrasounded within 20, had the answer in an hour: big gall bladder stone, apparently .7 cm. So gallbladder had to go!

Huntington’s rule is two COVID tests before surgery, a quick test and a PCR which takes hours. I assume that they don’t trust the quick test quite enough yet to accept just that, but that requirement delayed surgery until Tuesday afternoon. But within 10 minutes of getting the PCR result they wheeled me off to pre-op. I was back in my room around 5 PM tuesday. Very efficient post-test!

I was released Wednesday afternoon with stern instructions that i was NOT to sit around (or lie around). I must do some walking but no lifting and no strenuous anything for two weeks. At the moment, I have too much pain from the surgery to WANT to do anything strenuous, or even stand up for more than a few minutes. Hopefully this will pass soon.

Observations:
1) Hospital was EMPTY. Seriously, HH felt like a ghost town.
2) Morphine does very little to or for me.
3) Vicodin does nothing at all. Might as well have been prescribed Pez for the pain. Tylenol actually works. So much for the wonder opioid of the 21st century.

Hoping that this will resolve my GI issues overall, but I’m still going to go through with endo/colonoscopy combo as the gallbladder issue doesn’t resolve the bloody stool issue that helped kick all this off last year. Also hoping it resolves my increasing migranes–perhaps wishful thinking, though.

Launch Day

The Mate and I were up at 0430 Pacific for the Mars 2020 launch. It went off without a hitch (WHEW!). The show from KSC was. . .forgettable, to be kind. I wanted to throw things at the TV when the anchors went off on how we can’t communicate with the spacecraft because it’s on the night side of Earth. I hope someone will explain radio to them before they’re allowed on air again.

Towards the end of the launch our Emperor-for-Life and Chief Crime Boss announced he’s going to try to “delay” the November election. He doesn’t have the authority but he’s gotten away with a lifetime of crime, so why not try this one?

Meanwhile, the Trump coronavirus shitshow is continuing to kill people. The administration is still trying to force states to reopen schools, with mixed ‘success.’ LA County just said no. Caltech’s going to try to bring 1/3 of the undergrads back in September. I’m skeptical.

Shitshow in one chart. You can see how well “reopening” went.

The economy is in the tank and will stay there for the duration of the pandemic, I think. Wall Street hasn’t caught on yet, but they are being pumped up by the Fed. Today’s big announcement was that GDP contracted by a hair-on-fire 32.9% (annualized), which means ~10% last quarter. Meanwhile the GOP is preventing further life support to the economy for at least several more weeks.

Worst economy since the Great Depression (at least).

The Mate and I went to Mammoth a week ago. Quite crowded, and with masking rather mixed. Good compliance in the Village itself, but none at all on the trails, etc. They’re having a big outbreak now, with per capita numbers higher than LA County, but apparently mostly among kitchen staff. Not clear if they’ll be forced to close again. We haven’t opened our place up for August rentals yet because of this.

We went comet hunting twice, with good results. First time we went up to the pinnacles overlook. Very crowded and annoying. I learned that to get photos at night on the Nikon, you have to turn off the noise reduction functions. They were removing the comet from the images! The Mono Lake outing was much nicer but involved rescuing a couple of guys who tried to go offroading in a BMW 3-series and buried it in the sand up to the floorpan. We hauled them out with cargo straps. I guess we should start carrying a tow rope around. . .

From Mono Lake.
From the pinnacles overlook. This one has ISS passing in front of the tail.
Also from the Mono Lake expedition. This one was from the Nikon. I also shot this with the much newer GoPro Hero 8 Black, but much worse results. The sensor is really noisy.

Another Gobsmacking Week and it’s only Tuesday

Hard to say what Biggest News was. I guess I’ll start with the administration’s attempt to purge the US of foreign students. Basically, a couple of weeks ago, Harvard announced it was going online only, and within a few minutes, ICE announced any foreign student at a university that was online only in the fall would lose their visas. I was flabbergasted since that seemed to be a clear violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. Harvard and MIT sued last week on that ground and others, a zillion other universities filed amicus briefs including Caltech, and the court hearing was today. DHS walked in and surrendered.

Newsom basically ordered the state closed again yesterday. All bars, wineries, card houses, movie theaters, gyms, indoor dining, churches. . .ugh. Just ugh. Here’s why:

New cases in California, from LA Times.

Didn’t stop Orange County’s ruling troglodytes from ordering schools to reopen without a mask requirement. Meanwhile, LA Unified isn’t opening at all, and it’s not clear what Pasadena, La Canada, etc. are going to do.

The US isn’t doing better.

The White House’s current “efforts” to solve the pandemic seem to be demonizing Fauci–gotta discredit the messenger–and removing responsibility for hospitalization data from the CDC and giving it to Health and Human Services so it can be discredited, or blocked, too. Otherwise they’re looking for ways to force open the public schools.

I shouldn’t fail to note that last week the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that a large chunk of Oklahoma is still a Creek nation reservation.

The First Wave of Reclosing

Reopening has, as I expected, gone so super well that Reclosings are now firmly under way. LA County, which never actually met the Reopening criteria it distributed, has been told to close bars and nightclubs and so on and is also closing the beaches for the 4th of July weekend. Don’t know why on the beaches. There’s no evidence of outdoor spread. Seems stupid and counterproductive. But the bars and nightlife stuff should never have been Re-opened. And now they’re Reclosed in 7 counties.

Hospitalizations are soaring. Oops.https://www.latimes.com/projects/california-coronavirus-cases-tracking-outbreak/

The mate and I went to the Huntington Sunday afternoon with friends for the first time since the safe at home order began. Huntington’s allowed to reopen the gardens for nonmembers on July 1st, with limited timed tickets, etc. Friend Ann says the school reopening plan will basically mean 6 days of home schooling, 4 days in-classroom. This would be interrupted anytime a student turns up positive with a two week quarantine. That’s gonna be chaos in the fall.

It’s not just California. Texas rushed to Reopen and is now Reclosing. So far it’s just bars closed and restaurant capacity reduced 50%. So far the state hasn’t done what Newsom did and require masks in public. I expect that will change too.

Arizona’s approaching full capacity of its hospitals too and Reclosed bars, restaurants, gyms and apparently river tubing. They are short of PPE in hospitals again and are starting to ration care by life expectancy etc. Death panels.

Florida is, of course, the dumbest state. Cases soaring but continuing re-opening, except for beaches. The Republican National Convention will be in Jacksonville, which just invoked its own mask requirement. I bet they ignore it.

The #trumpdeathtoll to date.

The EU is not going to let Americans in. Wise move. Facebook is finally starting to suffer advertising loss over its continued refusal to police hate speech and health disinformation and of course its continued promotion of Mad King Donald. The stock market is soaring while the unemployment situation is very confusing. We still have sky-high weekly unemployment filings but BLS says most states have seen employment increases.