Stay Home…Stay Safe

April 24, 2020

From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “It’s our innate tendency to only act when we’re face to face with danger, rather than to try a preventive approach.”  (From Voices of Youth)

The situation that we all face currently in the danger that the COVID-19 virus poses is not necessarily one for which there was much of a preventative approach, but it is one that we could have been better prepared for as a nation. The Stay at Home measures in place now are about as preventative as we can get at this time, and they are in place just to slow down the spread of the disease before it overwhelms our health care system.

The lack of leadership in Washington just exacerbated the fact that we were unprepared. The so-called National Stockpile of ventilators and Personal Protective Equipment  was exhausted rapidly and even states that had emergency plans in place had grossly underestimated the scope and impact of even their worst case scenarios. For the most part the country rose to the occasion, with most state governors issuing executive orders to stay at home to reduce the spread of the virus.

Those who would act to reopen the economy before we have this pandemic under control and a vaccine in place pose the danger now. The pandemic of 1918 actually killed more people in its second wave in the U.S. than it did initially. You can Google that pandemic to read about it. It is the consensus opinion of our best medical professionals and scientists that we are not yet at the point where states can reopen for business, yet the governors of a few states have bowed to political pressure to restart the economies in their states, not matter what the cost in human lives. There is no way to even imagine businesses and people being disciplined enough to enforce the needed social distancing and personal Protective Equipment use to prevent a second wave from developing in those states.

The almost certain apology, “Gee, I guess I was wrong about that”, has already been used by the Mayor of New Orleans and will be of little comfort to those who lose family and friends because of this lack of the political will to do what is right. Even many of the business owners in those states say that they may not reopen just because the state governor says it is OK to do so. They have more sense than to put their employees at risk.

What can we do as individuals? For one we can show support for the courage that the leaders who put the Stay at Home orders in place, instead of engaging in noisy and dangerous public protests. Use safe means, such as emails, to let those governors no that you agree with their decision and continue to support it and them. Then, do your part by continuing to observe the orders, practicing safe social distancing, and wearing personal protection when you have to go out in public.

Stay Home! Stay Safe!

Pray!


Honest confusion – real concerns…

April 23, 2020

Two of the most truthful statements that I’ve heard on various news casts lately were “We just don’t know” and “We’re making it up as we go along”. Those were honest responses made by State-level  bureaucrats in recent news show interviews in responses to questions about what happens next and how Federal financial aid programs were being implemented.

While one can get weary hearing terms and phrases like “unprecedented”, “extraordinary” and “never in my lifetime”; the fact it that the current situation is one that very few have been alive long enough to remember having experienced. The 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic was the last comparable event. So, honest confusion about what to do is understandable. We are all making this up as we go along.

Honest confusion about what to do next should not be compared with the overt stupidity being displayed by those who would ignore the threat and get everybody back to work immediately. Idiots running around in large crowds with “Liberate Michigan” signs represent only the lunatic fringe of society, so self-centered and unconcerned about others that they would put us all at risk.

The paper today had a story about the impact of the Stay Home order on the tourist industry in the northern part of the state, specifically in Mackinaw City.  While the lack of tourist traffic will be a severe hardship for the businesses that depend on the million –plus visitors to Mackinaw Island each year, the business owners there ae more concerned about loosening the restrictions too soon and putting their communities at risk. Some were even quoted in interviews stating that they might not reopen their stores or restaurants if the Stay at Home order is lifted too quickly. They are rightfully concerned about travelers from other parts of the country bringing the virus with them.

Fear, anger and ignorance seem to be driving the push to reopen all businesses right away. Some of that is understandable even if not acceptable. The response at the Federal level has been pathetic and states were unprepared for something this big. Perhaps the states that have decided to open up starting next week will show us all whether that is a good idea.

We’ve already seen the impact that a stupid mayor in New Orleans had on spreading the disease and turning his city into a hot spot. Later he said.  “Gee, I didn’t know that letting people gather in large crowds for Marti Gras would spread the disease.” Well, Duh! Maybe the Governors of the states that are rushing to reopen can dust off that lame excuse. It’s unfortunate that the states surrounding  those states can’t close their borders and prevent travel from those states.  

For most of us, honest confusion is almost inevitable. We are bombarded daily with conflicting views from politicians and government leaders about what has been done and what needs to be done. The messages from medical professionals has remained consistent, focused upon social distancing and personal hygiene. Their goal all along was to try to slow the spread enough to allow an unprepared health system to keep up. Others in that industry have been working to find effective treatments for the sick and to develop a vaccine for the future.

As much as those healthcare professionals appreciate the “clap outs” and supportive signs that they see, they are more concerned with the movement to open the economy back up too soon. They know that our healthcare industry cannot sustain the intense level that they have been operating at for the last month or so. A second wave outbreak of the virus, precipitated by getting people back to work and back to public gatherings too soon, will break the system and the people within it.

The question now becomes one of, “Who will we listen and follow?” Will elected leaders who have little real understanding of the situation and no scientifically defensible rationale for their decisions cave into the loud voices of the angry mobs demanding the right to get sick and to be allowed to sicken others? Will common sense prevail or will we all be exposed to the unmasked and loud, virus spreading shouts of the ignorant? Should the connector on their signs be changed from “Live Free or Die” to “Live Free and Die”? Let’s watch what happens in Georgia and see; before we make the same mistake in Michigan.

In the meantime – let’s all stay home, wear masks and gloves in public and wash our hands often. There’s little to be confused about in that.


An implausible explanation

April 22, 2020

It is amazing to me the level of gullibility that a portion of the public displays during crisis like the one that we are in today. One doesn’t know whether to be amused or alarmed at the reports that some believe that the virus is caused by cell phone towers that have implemented the new Gen 5 phone communications standard. There were even reported attempts to burn down the towers by people who believed that rumor.  I also saw on our nightly news that some Chinese news outlets are now saying that the virus was created in the U.S. by our intelligence community and loosed on China by them.

With tongue firmly in cheek, I decided to try my hand at creating an explanation that, while still ludicrous, might tie a few things together logically and appeal to the cell phone tower fringe.

I postulated that the COVID-19 virus is actually a computer virus that was created by U.S. cyber forces to combat Chinese interference with the 2020 election. That computer virus, I theorized, was injected into selected Chinese computers in approximately May or June of 2019, at sites that the U.S. cyber forces had identified as sources of disinformation and disruption concerning the 2020 election. 

The original intent was to have the virus monitor the activities of those groups and report back. However, built into the virus was the ability to effectively render the computers useless, if it was remotely ordered to do so. The virus was designed to learn and intelligently find ways to infect other computers that might be in close proximity on the network – say within 6 feet.  

My theory was that all was gong according to plan until the virus became intelligent enough to find a way to escape the confines of the computers and networks that is was originally designed to live within.

It has been well documented, Chinese chip foundries that supply many of the circuit boards, components and chips for use within modern computers had for years been adding potentially malicious circuits to the designs that they were given to produce – See MALICIOUS COMPONENT FOUND ON SERVER MOTHERBOARDS SUPPLIED TO NUMEROUS COMPANIES.

Less well known, and certainly not admitted to by the Chinese government, was the possibility that the Chinese had developed secret coating  to put on computer touch screen membranes. This coating was designed to act as an RNA sensor to human DNA. (NOTE: RNA – ribonucleic acid, a nucleic acid present in all living cells. Its principal role is to act as a messenger carrying instructions from DNA for controlling the synthesis of proteins, although in some viruses RNA rather than DNA carries the genetic information.)

When combined with the secret circuits that they had embedded in the screen’s video controller, the RNA sensor sent the DNA pattern of the user to the computer. Just touching the screen provides enough DNA from the user’s fingertip to allow this system to identify the user. This coating allowed the Chinese internal security spies to identify users, just by them touching the screen. Basically, it “learned” and remembered their DNA sequence. The Chinese internal security forces found that to be a very important tool for them to identify any wayward or suspect citizens.

It turned out that the screen coating and the controlling circuits were not just one-way avenues for collecting data, but rather were capable of allowing communications back through the touch screen to the DNA of the user. An obscure fact that scientists have known for a long time is that human brains actually contain snippets of an ancient virus that facilitates our thoughts and intelligence – see  An Ancient Virus May Be Responsible for Human Consciousness .

The virus injected into the Chinese computers discovered this route to the outside world and set about trying to exploit it, as it was designed to do.  After months of pattern analysis and failed attempts, in November of 2019, the injected computer virus succeeded in sequencing itself into the DNA of a Chinese user through the RNA touchscreen of his computer. He became the first officially reported case of the COVID-19 virus. The virus has used its human hosts to replicate and spread itself ever since.

Somewhere in the process a small mutation in the some of the new human viruses caused it to turn on the destructive code that had been embedded  within it, which caused it to attack its host. That mutation only occurred in a subset of the viruses that where circulating at the time, thus explaining the differences in human reaction to the virus – some becoming very sick and some displaying almost no symptoms.

Is this explanation any more farfetched than the rumors about it being caused by Gen5 cell towers? No. In fact it is much more believable, because we have all been pre-conditioned by fantasy and sci-fi movies to believe science-based and computer-based explanations, no matter how off-the-wall they may be. Do you remember the TRON movies? How about the Matrix series of movies? And, remember that in the movie The Lawnmower Man, the evil cyber-being that escaped into the Internet at the last second said that it would be back. Just throw in a couple of scientific articles from the Internet as supporting “proof” and you have a great explanation that will appeal to the cell-tower crowd.

Now, you won’t have to sound like a fool by repeating the ridiculous story about cell towers spreading the COVID-19 virus. Now, you know a better explanation – that it is a computer virus gone awry.

Medical scientists are working on treatments for the disease and a vaccine for humans while computer scientists at McAfee, Norton and Total AV are working together on a new anti-virus tool that will scan and remove it from the world’s computers.

In the meantime, wash your hands, don’t touch your face and don’t touch your computer screen.

You saw it on the Internet, so it must be true.


Don’t hope for the past…plan for the future…

April 20, 2020

OK, I get it. These are uncertain times. We’re all in this together. We’re here for you. Yada, yada, yada. I think most have gotten the message, even if some reject the need for the precautions that government leaders have imposed. So, what now?

Many seem to be sitting around hoping and waiting for things to return to the old “normal” that we had, before all of this happened. Guess what, Yolanda? It aint’t gonna happen. When the dust settles, things will be permanently different. We need to accept that and plan for our new lives in the new reality that we are living in.

There will be people who are no longer with us. There will be businesses that didn’t make it through the crisis. There will be new rules for how we live and work together. There will be a new appreciation of how fragile our lives really are and how precious the time is that we have. There will still be jerks; there will always be jerks running around with “Don’t tread on me” signs and refusing to do what is needed for the good of all.

The key now is to let go of those false hopes for a return to how things used to be and to focus upon making the best of things as they are and will be. We must learn from this experience and hopefully be better prepared for the next big things that happens to us. We have already learned that we were woefully prepared at all levels of government  for this event; just as we learned from Hurricane Katerina how poorly prepared FEMA was  for that type of event.

This event exposed the poor planning and preparedness at the Federal level (exacerbated by the total lack of understanding and leadership at the top) and the lack of any form of Federal/State coordination to deal with such events. That needs to change, beginning in November. There will be lots of campaign talk about being better prepared for the next major crisis. Try to find the few honest politicians who aren’t just blowing smoke and vote for them

At a personal level, each person needs to reflect on what they discovered about themselves, their lives and their relationships during this crisis.

Financial planners have been telling us forever that we need  to have at least 6-8 month cushion of readily available cash to see us through temporary setbacks like this. That is to say, that you need 6 to 8 times what your normal bills would be in an “emergency fund” that you can readily access. That’s a lot and it won’t be easy to save that amount, but it should be your goal when you get back to work. That means a lot of sacrifice for a while, but keep in mind how exposed and helpless you felt during the current crisis and that might help you make those sacrifices for the future.

While I certainly don’t espouse that we all become “preppers”, stocking our bunkers in anticipation of a Zombie apocalypse, this experience did expose how ill prepared most are to ride out even a short crisis. We have become accustomed to being able to hop in the car and go get a roll of toilet paper or some eggs when we run out. We did not anticipate the hoarding and supply chain issues that this crisis exposed. Being better prepared may mean having a better-stocked pantry that can supply our needs for a week or more.

As for our relationships, I suspect that being quarantined in place with family was an eye opener for many, especially for husbands who now see what their wives go through every day with the kids. For a few that may have been the straw that broke an already shaky marriage. For many, I hope it was the event that changed the relationship from one of convenience to one of interdependency – from love in the Greek word Eros to that of Agape. . For couples, that may mean a completely new understanding of the words “us” and “we”.

And for our feelings about ourselves, this event likely forced more alone, “ME” time than any that has led up to it. Some probably came away disappointed or depressed with what they came face to face with in that alone time. Hopefully, most love themselves enough to have enjoyed a bit of time alone to think and reflect on life. With that base of loving yourself, you could also explore your love for others and perhaps make some life changes to better share and express that love.

A friend of mine is a financial planner who uses the tag line – “People don’t plan to fail; they fail to plan”.  That was certainly true for most of us before this crisis. We can take actions coming out of this experience to make sure that it is not true when the next crisis hits. So, let go of the past and hopes for a return to something that is gone. Start planning  for your future. That future starts now.


Science or intuition – what will we depend upon?

April 19, 2020

In a recent Corona Virus daily briefing President Trump said, in response to a question about how the decision would be made on re-opening the country, that he would depend upon science and intuition, adding – “a lot of intuition”. So our future is in the hands of a man who depends more on his “gut feel” about things and people than on any intelligent decision making process. Disappointing, but not surprising.

The decisions that must be made on relaxing the current measures to combat the virus really boil down to answering the question – How many lives are we willing to lose to keep the economy afloat. There is some number circulating in the back of POTUS’ mind of the acceptable collateral damage death toll that Americans will accept as the price for getting back to work.  

In fact, Sweden was in the news recently for having made that very decision at the start of the outbreak in their county. The government leaders in Sweden acknowledged that their decision not to impose any stay at home or social distancing mandates would come at a price in deaths – a price that they deemed to be acceptable, in order to keep the economy of Sweden running. Not every Swede agrees with that decision, just like many disagree with the stay at home mandates here .

The few scientific minds that get snippets of TV time during stories about getting America back to work have consistently warned that it will be a complex problem to solve and that acting too quickly to relax social distancing restrictions will put America at risk for a second wave of infection from the virus. Little is currently known about the virus and whether or not some level of herd immunity can be achieved from those who survived infections in the first wave. Scientific progress is being made on multiple fronts – testing, treatments and developing a vaccine – but much work remains to be done, especially to ramp up to the levels needed to insure safety – especially testing  and tracking.  The most honest answers from the scientific world start with “We just don’t know”.

So, on the one hand, we have our best ab brightest scientific minds cautioning against going too fast to reopen the country, while they work as fast as they can to find solutions to slow the rate of infections and deaths.  On the other hand, we have POTIUS going with his intuition and focusing upon reopening the country’s economy at some acceptable cost in lives. Upon which hook shall we hang the health and fate of the nation?

As I watch the posts in Facebook and elsewhere, I often see people who have been posting that this all B.S., a hoax and government overreach that it’s stealing their freedom. They quickly turn to posts of “Holy Crap, this stuff it real”, as soon as someone close to them gets it and dies. One can only assume that a number of the idiots who flaunt the rules on re-opened beaches and at large anti-government mandates rallies will soon become “Holy Crap” posters, if they live to post about it.

Now, more than ever, it is time to pray for God’s help. Pray for intelligence, patience and perseverance to prevail over frustration, stupidity and intuition.


Getting beyond stage three…

April 16, 2020

I wrote back on March 20 (see What’s your plan?) that there are four stages that we all would be going through during this crisis. Stage 1 – Shock and Awe, Stage 2 – Fear and Anxiety, Stage 3 – Frustration and anger and, finally,  Stage 4 – Acceptance and inventiveness.

We have been through stages 1 and 2 for the past few weeks in quarantine and many, if not most, have already entered stage 3, as witnessed by the protest rally at the state capitol yesterday. The frustration and anger are fueled by fear and have been exacerbated by a total lack of leadership at the national level. One is tempted, while watching the daily briefings from Washington, to cue up the music “Send in the Clowns”, but as the song itself says, “Don’t bother, they’re here.”

So here we are, into stage 3 – frustrated and angry. Frustrated that we don’t know who to be angry at and angry that everything that we want to do is frustrated by the situation at hand. For some, that frustration and anger results in stupidity – going to crowded protest rallies unprotected by masks or social distancing comes to mind or going to large church services. For others it has resulted in family friction that threatens to end marriages or cause depression. For many this feels like the same anger and frustration that as children used to cause us to hold our breath until we turned blue. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.

Stage 3 is the most dangerous stage to get through, since it is the stage that precipitates to most dangerous reactions. When anger takes over your life, reason is often pushed aside in favor of a response – a response that in many cases just makes the situation worse. In this stage, even God becomes a target for our anger – we ask, “How could God let this happen to us?” In fact, it is in this stage that we need God’s help the most. We need to pray for God’s help to let us quickly move on to Stage 4, where we start to take positive steps to deal with the changes needed in our lives. We might pray that God calm our frustrations and anger or end our self-pity party and give us the strength to accept our new reality and find ways move forward within that reality.

The focus at state leadership levels will soon turn to defining the rules that must govern or lives as we return to work. We will not be out of danger with this virus for months, but efforts to flatten the curve have worked to some extent to reduce the severity of the outbreak and prevent the wholesale overrunning of our health care system. We could soon be at an acceptable steady-state level of infections and deaths (if there is ever an acceptable level for deaths), that will allow us to slowly put people back to work. It will not be life as we knew it. Nothing will be as we knew it. Some will call it the “new normal”; many will just use the old hack – “It is what it is”. I call it Stage 4 of this crisis – the accepting and adapting (inventing) stage.

In this next phase we will need to understand how to conduct our lives and our businesses in a manner that doesn’t harm others by re-introducing the virus to them. The virus will still be there. It will always be there. We will not have a widespread vaccine or enough people with herd immunity for a year or more, so we must learn to live without killing each other. Social distancing rules and practices will dramatically affect how we live and how we conduct business.

It will be literally impossible for some businesses to operate profitably under social distancing rules. How can a restaurant, that may have been small to begin with, be expected to continue with half or less of the tables that it needs to be profitable? Yet that may be the new reality, if tables must be far enough apart to prevent the spread of the virus.  How can small stores, in which 3-4 people constitutes a crowd, remain open under new occupancy and social distancing guidelines? How can large events like sporting events or street festivals that draw huge crowds be allowed or made safe? There are no good answers to these simple questions, yet, and we have not even thought of all of the questions at this point.

It is in this stage that our resourcefulness as a people and as a nation will be tested. It is also in this stage where a moral triage of sorts will take place. We will be making the conscious choice to accept a certain level of illnesses and deaths as the necessary price for the survival of our economy. While that has always been true in our society, it has seldom been as starkly apparent as it will be now. We have always chosen to let a certain segment of our society go without access to healthcare (and die) for economic reasons. It was convenient for us to ignore that segment, since they were usually the poor and homeless. This new choice puts our friends, co-workers and families equally at risk. The virus is not discriminatory in that regard.

Let’s move as quickly as we can into stage 4. It is a much more positive stage than the self-destructive environment of Stage 3. Our best scientists and medical professionals will continue to focus on finding treatments and vaccines. Now our best business minds must focus upon creative ways to get America safely back to work. It won’t be easy, but there is not a challenge that we can’t overcome, once we put our minds to the task.

As a business owner, the first task at hand in Phase 4 is making it possible for customers to shop or eat or get services in your business with a minimum risk of becoming infected, and still be profitable while doing so. That task is quickly followed by finding the best way to let your customers know that you are open again and have taken those steps to protect them. Just don’t be the bull-headed merchant who re-opens without regard to the guidelines and gets shuttered again by the authorities (and there will be those jerks).  

Believe me there is plenty of pent-up demand for goods and services and food . It’s time to get to stage 4 and get ready to re-open. There is not a more creative group in our economy than the small business owners who make up the backbone of that economy. It’s time to get creative.

Let’s re-open American for safe business!


Look for it…it’s still there…Hope

April 13, 2020

Pastor Jack Freed used this quote from the movie Shawshank Redemption in his blog today –

“Hope is a great thing, maybe the best of things.  No good thing ever dies”

Hope never dies, but sometimes it eludes us. Perhaps it is because we are so consumed with fear or anxiety that we fail to look for it. Hope is like an onion with many layers. You may start with I hope things get better soon or perhaps I hope things get back to normal soon. There may be a layer that says, I hope they find a cure for this soon. Right below that hope maybe the layer that says, I hope I don’t get this virus. If you dig down deep enough, at the core for almost everyone is the hope  – I hope I don’t die from this virus.

When one gets down to that level of the onion it is not unusual that one find that hope is joined by faith. Faith and hope together form the foundation for belief – belief in the message and promise of Easter that there is life after death.

As we wait out this pandemic, one can find  guidance and reassurance in the Bible. The book of Romans has quite a few good references to hope –

Romans 5 – “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope”

As we persevere through the current stay at home lockdown, imagine the character that we are building. Think of it as a long workout at the gym, but we are not building muscle; but, rather, we are building  character. For most of us, this lockdown may be the longest amount of time that we’ve had by ourselves, maybe ever. For some it is building character that they did not know that they had in them and bringing out hope that may have been long forgotten.

Romans 8:24-25 “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

Perhaps hope is the best thing. Hope based upon faith and belief is the strongest hope of all. We all need that kind of hope during this prolonged crisis.

Romans 15:13 – “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

Keep hoping and have patience.

Keep the faith. God be with you.