Speculation and Circumstances

Due to recent speculation and social media activity, RB (the makers of Lysol and Dettol) has been asked whether internal administration of disinfectants may be appropriate for investigation or use as a treatment for coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). As a global leader in health and hygiene products, we must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route).

The Reckitt Benckiser Group

This week’s featured posts are “Why the Country Isn’t Rallying Around Trump’s Flag” and “Trump is Still Eating Souls“.

This week everybody was talking about states reopening

As I pointed out last week, no state truly fulfilled the criteria that the federal guidelines set out for beginning to roll back stay-at-home orders or other lockdown provisions. But Georgia allowed a variety of non-essential businesses, like barbers and nail salons, to open on Friday. Some of them did, but others decided not to. Restaurants and movie theaters will be allowed to open today.

A few other states are reopening a few types of businesses, and most states have announced a planning process that will lead to reopening at some undetermined future date.

Even if government allows it, reopening is a complex decision for a business to make. Of course you want to get your revenue stream started again. But are you telling your workers and your customers that you don’t care about their health? And if social distancing requires a restaurant to reduce its number of tables or a theater to reduce its seating, does its business model still work?

Everybody wants life to go back to normal, when you could go out to the mall without worrying about dying on a ventilator. But “back to normal” requires more than just unlocking the mall.

Also last week: I predicted that Trump would throw Republican governors under the bus. Thursday, a headline in the WaPo read: “Donald Trump Just Threw Georgia’s Governor Directly Under the Bus on Coronavirus“.

A reopen-the-economy protest in Arizona backfired when ICU nurse Lauren Leander showed up and silently observed. She was one of four healthcare workers at the rally. Healthcare workers have shown up at similar rallies around the country.

That poor guy with the flag, unable to intimidate one skinny little female. He’ll have to go home and order a big new gun to restore his manhood.

Congress passed another half-trillion in money for small businesses and hospitals. The one saving grace of Trump’s presidency is that deficits only matter when a Democrat is in office.

and the death totals rising

Friday, the United States recorded its 50,000th coronavirus death. This morning, we’re up to 990K cases and 55,506 deaths. That’s up from 40K deaths last Monday and 22K the week before. So the new deaths this week were slightly down, from 18K to 15K. Unless the trends slow down a lot faster, we’ll pass 60,000 deaths before the next Weekly Sift comes out on May 4.

If you remember, 60K has been tossed around as the likely total number of American deaths from this entire pandemic. That we’re sailing past it with considerable momentum should make everyone stop and think.

The IHME, [IHME Director Christopher Murray] said, will update its estimates next week to reflect a gloomier future amid indications that states like Georgia will begin to reopen — and boost the odds of a prolonged pandemic.

“We had presumed, perhaps naively, that given the magnitude of the epidemic, most states would stick to their social distancing until the end of May,” Murray said. “That is not happening.”

Another milestone likely to be passed in the next few days: 58,209, the number of Americans who died in the Vietnam War. We passed the Korean War total of 36,516 a week or so ago without much fanfare.

Confession time: I have been an economic pessimist for at least a year, so I happened to be in a relatively good position when the stock market collapsed. I lost money, of course, but I also had some cash to reinvest at the new low prices. I went looking for companies that would still be able to sell their products, and one I picked was Tyson Foods, the meat company. I was still buying chicken, so I figured everybody else must be also.

A couple weeks ago, when stories of the virus outbreaks at meat-packing plants started to surface, I realized that I had inadvertently joined the ranks of the villains: People were dying to make me money. Meat-packing plants are set up to crowd workers together, so if one of them gets sick, it spreads quickly.

So I sold the stock (at a profit, which feels weird). Anyway, yesterday Tyson took out full-page ads in major newspapers to emphasize how important it is to keep their plants open. They’re vital to the nation’s food supply and so on (which is true, but is only part of the picture). The letter from their chairman is very precisely worded, so he at least appears to care about the health and safety of his workers. But it’s hard not to be skeptical of lines like: “The government bodies at the national, state, and city levels must unite in a comprehensive, thoughtful, and productive way to allow our team members to work in safety without fear, panic, or worry.”

It kind of sounds like, “If we only kill a few workers, regulators should let us get away with it.”

From an editorial in National Catholic Reporter:

The question for the church in the United States is whether we will come out of this austere moment able to admit the role Catholics and their leaders played in electing and enabling a man who, far from being pro-life, has proven himself a distinct danger to life on several levels. …

This awful moment has laid bare the high cost to the U.S. church of 30 years or more of accommodation to a culture of political expediency and an attempt to diminish the community of faith’s responsibility to the common good. Single-issue voting relieved too many of us of the responsibility to engage deeper political and historical realities. The questions we’re left with are urgent.

The reckoning is upon us.

Dr. Fauci gets his wish: Brad Pitt plays him on SNL.


and injecting disinfectant

which you SHOULDN’T DO, under any circumstances. (Not that you ever would.)

In “Trump is Still Eating Souls“, I talked about the Thursday briefing where Trump suggested this, focusing not on why he said such a stupid thing (I think we all know the answer to that) but why none of the medical people corrected him before any damage was done.

If Republicans want to do some whataboutism here, they can point to stupid things Joe Biden has said, of which there are many (though I don’t remember any quite this bad). Words tend to pile up in Biden’s head, and sometimes they come out in an order that doesn’t make sense. Even Barack Obama, who generally thinks clearly on his feet and speaks off-the-cuff in well constructed paragraphs, once flubbed by saying he had visited “57 states“.

The difference is that Biden and Obama have enough strength of character to own up to their mistakes and laugh at themselves. (So could both Presidents Bush. It’s a character thing, not a red/blue thing.) So no Obama apologist had to argue that there really are 57 states, or deny what the tape clearly recorded, or insist that the President had intentionally exaggerated for effect. Instead, Obama confessed, “I understand I said there were 57 states today. It’s a sign that my numeracy is getting a little …” at which point an aide interrupted and ushered journalists out of the room.

But Thursday-into-Friday the White House and the entire Trump propaganda machine had to turn itself inside-out denying the obvious fact that the President had said something asinine and harmful. At first, Fox News just didn’t comment on it. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany insisted that the media was to blame for taking Trump’s comments “out of context“. (They hadn’t.) Then Friday, Trump gaslighted the country: His suggestion was “sarcastic”, a sarcasm so subtle that no one — not Birx, not Bryan, not McEnany, not Sean Hannity or Laura Ingraham — had recognized it up to that very moment.

But now that’s the official explanation, so all those whose souls Trump has eaten have to parrot it. If anybody says anything else, they are the ones who are being absurd. “How can any adult believe, seriously believe, that he was saying, ‘Hey, people should inject Clorox into their body’?” Fox News host Greg Gutfeld asked incredulously.

That’s how gaslighting works: How can any loyal subject truly believe that the Emperor is walking down the street naked? That’s just crazy.

If Trump’s “sarcasm” didn’t appeal to your sense of humor, try Randy Rainbow’s “A Spoonful of Clorox“. What have you got to lose?

And while we’re singing, here’s The Liar Tweets Tonight by Roy Zimmerman and The ReZisters, featuring Sandy Riccardi, in collaboration with the Raging Grannies of Mendocino.


and the immigration ban

A new executive order shuts down the green-card process for 60 days. Ostensibly this has something to do with the pandemic, but that explanation isn’t credible. Really it’s Trump using the virus as cover for something he wanted to do anyway.

and this just in: Russia helped Trump win

One casualty of the Trump-era news cycle is that by the time evidence comes in and reasonable people have a chance to weigh it, the whole subject feels like ancient history.

Case in point: The Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded that all Trump’s talk about a “hoax” or “coup” or whatever is baseless. The intelligence community’s assessment of the Trump/Russia thing was right. Russia did intervene in the 2016 election, and did it for the purpose of making Trump president.

For years, President Trump has derided the assessment by American intelligence officials that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election to assist his candidacy, dismissing it without evidence as the work of a “deep state” out to undermine his victory.

But on Tuesday, a long-awaited Senate review led by members of Mr. Trump’s own party effectively undercut those allegations. A three-year review by the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee unanimously found that the intelligence community assessment, pinning blame on Russia and outlining its goals to undercut American democracy, was fundamentally sound and untainted by politics.

and you also might be interested in …

This week I learned: The word quarantine comes from the Italian word for forty. During the Black Death in the 1300s, thirty days was the accepted standard period to isolate a ship from a plague-infested area. If that had held up, we’d be having trentines. But sometime during the 1400s, another ten days got tacked on for reasons no one remembers.

Nobody really knows what’s going on in North Korea. Maybe there’s some problem with Kim Jong Un’s health, or maybe he’s dead. But maybe he’s fine.

Crisis has a way of hastening along trends that were happening anyway. Wednesday, the NYT raised the possible end of the big department store. The decline has been going on for a while; Sears, K-Mart, and Penney’s had already closed large numbers of stores before the virus hit. For years, the growth in retail has been online, and even the top-line department stores were struggling to remake themselves. Now their time may be up.

The NYT article says:

The entire executive team at Lord & Taylor was let go this month. Nordstrom has canceled orders and put off paying its vendors. The Neiman Marcus Group, the most glittering of the American department store chains, is expected to declare bankruptcy in the coming days, the first major retailer felled during the current crisis.

The whole industry is eating its seed corn.

At a time when retailers should be putting in orders for the all-important holiday shopping season, stores are furloughing tens of thousands of corporate and store employees, hoarding cash and desperately planning how to survive this crisis…. The resort season has been canceled entirely, and fall orders have been put on hold, raising questions about what inventory will be left if and when shops reopen and consumers return to stores.

Department stores are typically the anchors of big malls; you want to look for something in Macy’s, and since you’re there you window-shop at Yankee Candle and get lunch at the Panda Express in the food court — neither of which would have been worth the trip otherwise.

“The nature of the mall is if you lose a big anchor like a Macy’s, you have co-tenancy issues and you have more pressure on the mall traffic, which was already a big issue,” said Oliver Chen, an analyst at Cowen. Co-tenancy clauses typically allow other tenants to demand rent reductions if certain key chains depart. Mr. Chen said that could accelerate the ongoing divide between top-tier malls and the second- or third-choice malls in certain areas.

Shares in the biggest mall-owner, Simon, have fallen from a high of $180 to $53. The shares currently yield 15%, a number indicating that the market believes a large dividend cut is coming.

In related news, private equity firm Sycamore Partners is trying to wriggle out of its poorly timed acquisition of Victoria’s Secret.

and let’s close with something inspiring

Voices Rock Canada offers a choir of women physicians singing “Rise Again“.

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • Anonymous  On April 27, 2020 at 1:34 pm

    for climate change and the lessons from covid we need to stop eating meat- so am against investing in Tyson chicken

  • Creigh Gordon  On April 27, 2020 at 4:06 pm

    Oh you have got to see this version of Lanigan’s Ball:


  • ADeweyan  On April 27, 2020 at 5:40 pm

    I think Trump’s excuse that his dangerous and ridiculous coronavirus advice was sarcastic is itself ridiculous. Trump does not have the wit or subtlety for sarcasm, and we’ve seen time and again that the only things that make him laugh are things that humiliate others or cause them pain.

  • David McMahon , Fairfield CT  On April 29, 2020 at 7:22 pm

    Voices Rock Canada was spectacular !!!

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