Imaginary Leaders

There are many things I wish I could do for this country, but they are beyond my powers. … But there is one thing I can do: To a large extent, I can take partisan politics out of this struggle, and I’m going to do that right now with this announcement: I will not be a candidate for re-election in November, nor will I endorse any candidate in that election.

– from “The Speech a Great President Would Give Now

This week’s featured posts are “The Speech a Great President Would Give Now” and “My Coronavirus Test“.

This week the virus was almost the only thing to talk about

OK, the numbers: Currently the US has about 340K cases, and 9679 have died. Sometime today we’ll likely cross 10,000 deaths.

One of the ominous things to watch is the percentage of the world toll we represent. When I first started paying attention to those ratios a few weeks ago, we had about 1/15th of the world’s cases and 1/50th of the deaths. Now we’re up to more than 1/4th of cases and almost 1/7th of deaths.

The encouraging news this week is that Italy seems to have passed the top of the curve.

Europe saw further signs of hope in the coronavirus outbreak Sunday as Italy’s daily death toll was at its lowest in more than two weeks and its infection curve was finally on a downward slope. In Spain, new deaths dropped for the third straight day.

Italy, the world leader in deaths-by-country, had 525 deaths in a 24-hour period Sunday. The United States had 1165.


We’re getting some encouraging signs from the earliest-hit American regions, Washington and California.


The virus started in the cities, because people of all sorts (including infected people) pass through cities. But no place is really an island, so the pandemic is also starting to hit rural areas. In some ways it might eventually be worse there, because rural areas don’t have the same medical and emergency infrastructure that larger cities do.

Margaret Renkyl in the NYT notes that a “perfect storm” is gathering in the South:

What does it mean to live though a pandemic in a place with a high number of uninsured citizens, where many counties don’t have a single hospital, and where the governor delayed requiring folks to stay home? Across the South, we are about to find out.

Grist adds a factor to that analysis: environmental hazards. Poor air quality, for example, correlates strongly with respiratory illness in general. John Showalter, chief product officer for health-data company Jvion says:

There’s definitely a biologic rationale that environmental health hazards that lead to pulmonary and cardiovascular conditions would then lead people with those conditions to do poorly during a COVID-19 outbreak.

Louisiana in particular is famous for its oil-and-chemical-industry pollution, but much of the South is also lax in regulating polluters.

New Orleans is already one of the worst-hit places in the country, and (on a per capita basis) so is a county in Georgia.

More people—thirty—had died in Dougherty County, the state’s twenty-seventh most populous county, than anywhere else in Georgia. While Dougherty is served by a well-regarded hospital, nine Georgia counties, most of them also in the southern part of the state, not only lack hospitals but have no practicing physicians at all, according to Monty Veazey, the president of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals. Eighteen have no family-practice doctors. Thirty-two have no internal-medicine doctors. Seventy-six counties have no ob-gyn.

Kentucky and Tennessee look almost like a controlled experiment:

Andy Beshear, the Democratic governor of Kentucky, urged his citizens not to enter Tennessee: “We have taken very aggressive steps to try to stop or limit the spread of the coronavirus to try to protect our people,” Mr. Beshear said. “But our neighbors from the south, in many instances, are not. If you ultimately go down over that border and go to a restaurant or something that’s not open in Kentucky, what you do is you bring the coronavirus back here.”

Kentucky, which not only elected a Democratic governor but also expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, is an outlier in the South.

Renkyl recalls the March 16 conference call Tennessee Governor Bill Lee had with local officials around the state, when he urged them to pray. The old saying that “The Lord helps those who help themselves” is often used cynically to justify grabbing whatever you can get. But if you turn the saying around “The Lord doesn’t help those who refuse to help themselves”, I think it’s pretty sound Christian theology: It’s hard to picture God helping people who could take action on their own, but choose not to.


The Washington Post printed a comprehensive what-went-wrong article.


Nobody quite understands why the virus kills more men than women. But the pattern recurs all over the world.

and how leaders respond

In addition to my fantasy of what a great president would say, we also heard real speeches from the Queen of England, Angela Merkel, and Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota. All of them somehow managed to make statements of hope and determination without insulting anybody, saying anything false, or pushing quack remedies. Governor Walz even told a story he was not the hero of:

The White Bear Lake Pee Wee hockey team was on the road to New Ulm for the state tournament when it was canceled mid-route due to COVID-19.  While the season ended abruptly, the team is still a team– virtually. The players and their parents have started a text chain to check in every night to see how everyone is doing and if anyone needs help.

One evening, a player’s mom shared how she is exhausted from her work as a nurse and is worried about doing her job without personal protective equipment. The next day, the hockey dads cleaned out their supplies of masks at work and in their garage. A big box was left on the nurse’s doorstep with a note that said: “Your hockey family loves you.” It left her in tears. Her hockey family is helping her through this crisis.


Trump is doing his best to undercut the good things Democrats wrote into the $2.2 trillion emergency response act.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act sought to protect workers and families from losing income if they fell sick with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. It gives workers two weeks of paid leave, 12 weeks if their children are home from school or require child care, and reimburses employers with tax credits.

It came with some carveouts, though: The law exempts businesses with over 500 employees, and companies with fewer than 50 employees could ask the Department of Labor for an exemption if they believed the rule could bankrupt them. Nearly 75% of workers are employed by companies with under 50 employees or over 500, according to the New York Times.

Now, the Department of Labor has issued a rule that lets small businesses choose whether to give workers paid sick leave, rather than apply for a waiver.

The act also created a special inspector general to oversee the $500 billion the bill appropriates to aid businesses — partly over concern that Trump will direct money into his own pocket, or use the money to reward friends and punish enemies. The inspector general he nominated comes from his White House counsel staff and was involved in his impeachment defense.


Speaking of inspectors general, Trump continued his post-impeachment purge by firing the intelligence community IG, the one who refused to quash the whistleblower report that led to Trump’s impeachment. In that episode, there is no indication that he did anything other than his job as defined by law.


Meanwhile in the Situation Room, a heated debate broke out between medical people and political appointees who don’t actually know anything and should just shut up. The topic was the untested remedy hydroxychloroquine that Trump has promoted numerous times in the daily briefings.

But what can be expected from an administration where first-son-in-law Jared Kushner has a major role in dealing with a generation-defining crisis? Our lives are in the hands of someone whose sole life accomplishments are to be born rich and marry rich.


Meanwhile, no good deed goes unpunished. Captain Brett Crozier, who drew attention to the coronavirus outbreak on the aircraft carrier he commanded, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, was fired. He has also tested positive.

James Fallows:

I should have pointed out that Thomas Modly, the acting secretary of the Navy who dismissed Crozier, was in that role because his predecessor, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer, was forced out of that job when he resisted Donald Trump’s efforts on behalf of Edward Gallagher, the former Navy SEAL who was prosecuted for war crimes in a court martial.

War criminals do well in this administration. Commanders who try to protect their men, not so much.


Andy Borowitz: “National Incompetence Stockpiles at Full Capacity”.

“The sheer tonnage of failure and impotence that is being dumped into the stockpiles on a daily basis is straining their ability to contain it,” the G.A.O. statement read.

and let’s close with something to pass the time

Music video parodies are among the best things to come out of this pandemic. My favorite so far is Chris Mann’s parody of Madonna’s “Vogue”.

Though there’s a lot to be said for either Mann’s “My Corona” or Brent McCollough’s BeeGees parody “Stayin’ Inside” or Jon Pumper’s “Kokoma” parody “My Corona Home“.

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Comments

  • Anonymous  On April 6, 2020 at 5:19 pm

    reread your post of “still undecided” you wrote 4 years ago and see the divide that is between your way of thinking and one that I hold- i think policy is the MOST important thing to be voting on – NOT the person- they are the messenger- the policy needs to be forwarded by informed voters- who are citizen leaders themselves- the name on the top of the ticket is not a god, just a respected co-citizen leader- this is how a democracy- and actual one – would function- the needing to find a parent so we as a citzenry cannot know the decisions being made on our behalf is an abdication of our decision making capacities- and the road to despotism- which is the road of trump AND Biden- would love to see an article you write looking at how the dems do not want to win, they want to be the fake opposition to Trump- as they are part of the 1% class that has opposing interests to sustained life on earth

    • Dale  On April 6, 2020 at 6:17 pm

      Why would you think that Biden is the “road to despotism”? That is ridiculous

    • George Washington, Jr.  On April 6, 2020 at 6:36 pm

      Not sure who you have in mind as an alternative. Surely not Bernie Sanders, who is the head of a personality cult if there ever was one. If anything, Biden is just the opposite – a low-key bureaucrat whose personality takes a back seat to his identity as a party man. Biden is the candidate we would get if the nomination was decided by party bigwigs in a smoke-filled back room at the convention.

  • nicknielsensc  On April 6, 2020 at 9:28 pm

    My personal favorite video isn’t a parody. And it’s definitely NSFW!

    Then there’s Samuel L. Jackson’s book.

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