Nothing makes sense any more

I did it. I watched Trump’s address last night. It was painful. Somebody told him he couldn’t mug for the camera and that he had to hold still and not rant, but only read from the teleprompter, a completely unnatural behavior for him, and it showed. What’s with all the loud sniffing? All the speech did was highlight the unsuitability of this man for a crisis. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. Nothing he’s saying makes sense, except as an incoherent reaction to a problem that motivates him to reach out and help…his fellow rich people. We keep getting whipsawed by inconsistent policy decisions.

Makes sense:

  • Much as I hate it, shutting down face-to-face interaction at our university is a smart move. We have to slow this pandemic down.

Doesn’t make sense:

  • Closing down universities, while still allowing massive sporting events to go on. Tens of thousands of people, shoulder to shoulder, eating hot dogs and drinking beer?
  • Megachurches holding massive services. Jesus won’t help you.

Makes sense:

  • The NBA suspending all games.

Makes sense:

  • Putting scientists and doctors to work to come up with sensible policies.

Doesn’t make sense:

  • Trump waiting for Jared Kushner to make a decision about the virus.
  • Cutting funding to the CDC and NIH.
  • $50 billion in loans to small businesses, and cutting taxes.

Makes sense:

  • Coordinating internationally to prevent the spread of the disease.

Doesn’t make sense:

  • Banning travel from Europe. Just Europe, not Asia. Later amended to exclude the UK from the ban.
  • Calling this a “foreign virus”. Viruses don’t have nationalities.

Makes sense:

  • Universal free healthcare.

Doesn’t make sense:

  • Relying on the charity of insurance companies.

Makes sense:

  • 54% of Americans disapprove of Trump’s overall performance.

Doesn’t make sense:

  • 43% approve of how he’s handling the pandemic! Only 49% disapprove.

The president’s address was preceded by this phenomenon, which was perfectly representative of how America works.

And on that note, I have to go work with students who I may be seeing personally for the last time to figure out how we’re going to finish up this semester.


  1. aspleen says

    Trump waiting for Jared Kushner to make a decision about the virus.

    It does take some time to read 25 books on epidemiology first.

  2. blf says

    Banning travel from Europe. Just Europe, not Asia. Later amended to exclude the UK from the ban.

    Slightly garbled (but still does not make sense): The ban is only on people flying from the 26 Schengen Area countries, which is not the full EU (and includes a few non-EU countries). As summarised in the Grunaid’s current live Covid-19 blog:

    To clarify Trump’s European travel ban, here’s a list of the 26 Schengen countries from where people will not be allowed to fly to US for 30 days:

    Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

    The European countries that are not part of the Schengen zone, and whose citizens are therefore exempt from Trump’s ban are: Albania, Andora, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Georgia, Ireland, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine, The United Kingdom and Vatican City.

    Note that the ban applies to where people are flying from, not an individual’s nationality, so a Brit flying from a Schengen country will still be covered by the ban.

    There are numerous implementation questions; as just one example, can a person in a Schenegn country “bounce” through the UK, or should they self-isolate / quarantine (in the UK) before flying on the States? …and if so, how would that be checked / enforced?

  3. Ridana says

    Doesn’t make sense: Relying on the charity of insurance companies.

    Without first telling the insurance companies that they’d agreed to this until they heard it with the rest of us.

  4. Dunc says

    The small business support might make sense, depending on the implementation – a lot of small businesses are going to have an extremely hard time of it.

  5. says

    People have been remarking about Trump’s sniffling for a long time. You can find comments on it dating back to at least 2016. It’s led to speculation Trump uses some sort of substance, Adderall being a common suggestion.

  6. says

    Trump is desperately trying to save the one thing that he hasn’t completely borked. The economy. It’s not going to work. The “Trump Economy” has been a delicate house of cards the whole time. I’ve been saying it for years. Back in the 80s, when I got my first savings account, the federal interest rate was around 5%. A savings account would get you around 2%. Now the Fed is around 1% and a savings account gets you almost nothing. This is bad. The Fed is a cushion that helps regulate the economy when bad things happen. A very bad thing is happening right now, but the Trump administration cut rates to stave off an ultimately inevitable recession for the last three years and there isn’t anything left to cut.

    Trump in his deluded senile old white man brain thinks that we can keep cutting until we go to negative interest rates. For some reason he thinks that would be great. Let me tell you something. If the Fed ever looks like it’s going negative, pull all your money out of the bank immediately and stuff it under your mattress.

    The coronavirus is just the sneeze that blows down this house of cards. We’re fucked. If Biden wins in November, the GOP will label it the “Biden Recession”. If Trump wins we’re double fucked. Trump will be the next Hoover and a new Great Depression is around the corner.

  7. stroppy says

    It was painful, like watching a grade schooler reading in front of the class. The amazing thing about it was that he managed to read the whole thing through without going off script and strutting around. Something’s changed. It’s as though somebody managed to get to him through a little pinhole gap in his thick skull, and a random photon flew in and grazed one of his last functioning brain cells. I think he’s scared.

  8. ajbjasus says

    @4 Dunc

    Indeed,, it doesn’t take a lot to send perfectly good ethically run businesses to the wall – and it’s hard for them to ever come back.

    It’s not easy to understand this unless you’ve tried to run one yourself.

  9. madtom1999 says

    As a Brit I’m intrigued with the UK travel relaxation. I’m not in the least convinced that in the UK we have the functional tech that would allow us to know if someone flying from the UK had been in the Shengen area (EU free movement) in the last 10 days and even if we did we could legally inform the US.

  10. blf says

    Trump’s coronavirus ban on travel from the EU is backfiring already:

    A live televised address from the Oval Office should have reassured the US. Instead it sowed chaos

    Such is the reverse Midas touch of Donald Trump, that his attempt last night to face facts, steady nerves and reassure the public succeeded in spreading panic, sowing confusion and ratcheting up the anxiety.

    The fact that Trump delivered a rare, live televised address to the nation should, by itself, have induced calm. It suggested that the president [sic] was moving out of fantasyland […]

    Sure enough, when he referred to the virus as a “horrible infection”, after weeks spent dismissing it as a glorified cold or flu, it fed the hope that Trump might finally be ready to acknowledge that his approach up until this moment had not worked […]

    But no sooner had that hope appeared than it faded away. For in the course of nine minutes, Trump swiftly reverted to type. He described Covid-19 as a foreign virus, and took pains to point out that a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travellers from Europe. His doctrine of America first — a phrase he used once again — forever pits the US against the world, with its implication that America’s purity is permanently under threat of contamination by alien hordes. […]

    Equally in character was his preference for the vast, sweeping edict over the detailed, calibrated policy response. What the US needs most is a serious, extensive programme of testing. Currently, the US is bottom of the global league table for coronavirus testing, at a rate of just five people in every million. (South Korea is testing 3,692 people per million.) But that kind of announcement would require too much work, not least because Trump shut down the dedicated Obama-era, White House unit that had focused on preparedness against a global pandemic. […]

    [… T]he new policy lacked rhyme or reason. Why keep out almost all Europeans, as if this problem is exclusive to Europe (and China), rather than global, and when the US has a rising infection problem all its own? And why exempt the UK, which is hardly coronavirus-free? There was no explanation, so speculation filled the vacuum. Could it be a politically motivated swipe at the EU, which Trump once said he regarded as the US’s greatest foe, pointedly giving preferential treatment to Brexit Britain? Was it driven by a motive as base as the fact that Trump has golf courses in the UK (and Ireland), and he didn’t want to harm his own businesses? Or did it spring from a crudely racist worldview that divides the globe into a clean, acceptable Anglosphere set against a tainted, diseased “abroad”?


  11. Dunc says

    Trump in his deluded senile old white man brain thinks that we can keep cutting until we go to negative interest rates.Let me tell you something. If the Fed ever looks like it’s going negative, pull all your money out of the bank immediately and stuff it under your mattress.

    Negative real interest rates (which are what you should care about) are actually not at all unusual. It’s just that inflation is currently so low that we’re ending up with negative nominal rates as well, which people find weird even though they shouldn’t.

  12. birgerjohansson says

    “What’s with all the loud sniffing?”
    Re timgueguen @ 5: Sudafed is another medicine he is reportedly misusing. The two medicines causes sniffing, among other things. Trump displays an “upper” phase with frantic tweeting etc., and a “downer” phase when he slurs his speech. Also, a degree of cognitive impairment.
    The latter will in no way prevent Republicans from making attack ads against Joe Biden for his gaffes, claiming he is past his cognitive prome (which may be true).
    Republicans have built their schtick on getting away with hypocrisy.

  13. kome says

    Anyone else get the feeling that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are just writing a nonsensical final season to America: The Show?

  14. embraceyourinnercrone says

    Don’t forget, on April 1st 2020, 688,000 adults will lose there SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits. If they do not work at least 20 hours a week, no food assistance. SO they will have to go to work or not have enough to eat. Just what is needed during a pandemic. Pay attention to what’s happening in Italy because I think we’re next.

    “Massimo Galli, chief physician for infectious diseases at Luigi Sacco Hospital in Milan says that the infectious diseases unit at the hospital has been cleared, as have two sections of the surgical ward, in order to handle just the most acute cases of COVID-19. Hospital personnel are working 12 to 14 hours a day, he says, and they are suffering from a shortage of virologists, internists and pulmonologists, all of which are badly needed in a catastrophic situation of the kind the country is currently experiencing. “Those who think the coronavirus is being exaggerated should come for a visit,”

  15. Marissa van Eck says

    I sincerely hope this virus wipes out the Trump administration, all the old Republicans in general, and a good chunk of lying greedy corporate Dems while we’re at it.

    This virus, as horrible as it is to contemplate this, may actually do what We The People have needed to do for at least 20 years but never had the power to: break the current, corrupt uni-party system. As a nation, we fucking deserve this.

    I almost wish there were a Hell just so I’d know Trump, Pence, and all their cronies would go there.

  16. MichaelE says

    I don’t know if it’s relevant to the sensibility of the travel ban from the Schengen nations, but health authorities have declared Europe as the new epicenter of the virus.
    If that means what I think it means, perhaps in that light, travel restrictions might not be such a bad idea?

  17. says

    @#6, Ray Ceeya:

    Unfortunately, cutting interest rates is a game both sides have played for decades now. Clinton listened to the loathsome Alan Greenspan (a Libertarian admirer of Ayn Rand — literally, he knew her personally) and, apparently being the most gullible idiot to hold office for years, admired his argument that cutting interest rates would make people take their money out of banks and put it into the stock market, which would boost the economy and have no negative consequences ever, at all, because the stock market only ever goes up. Greenspan indeed commissioned a study to test the feasibility of negative interest rates (by way of banks charging fees to hold on to people’s money), and was also a backer of the repeal of Glass-Steagall, which he also talked Clinton into supporting. It was horrifying that people were saying in 2016 Hillary Clinton would “put Bill in charge of the economy” considering what kind of judgement he showed last time — it was as though Trump was promising to “put GWB in charge of the war”.

    Republicans naturally agreed with that, too. Obama was better, but not by very much — since he was a believer in the stock market as the ne plus ultra indicator of economic health, doing anything which might cause the public to pull money out of the market and put it into savings instead was anathema.

    The house of cards has been under construction for a long, long time — meanwhile, nobody’s talking about the renewed derivatives bubble, bigger than it was when it burst in 2008 and just as unregulated…

  18. wzrd1 says

    So, Trump has essentially forbidden the majority of NATO and US Forces in Europe personnel transfers, exchange officers and to hazard a guess, voided all relevant treaties with both groups.
    So euCOM can be quite trivially repatriated, whether we want that or not. Germany can send all of our installation personnel home as well. At least the UK will get US support, out of all of NATO.

    @12, as one who grudgingly uses pseudoephedrine, I’ll state flat out, sniffling is not a symptom of use of that drug. Blood pressure elevation is (hence, why I rarely use it, as I’m already quite hypertensive enough), decongested mucus membranes is and one doesn’t sniff what isn’t there!
    Well, unless he’s been snorting the shit and I’ll not rule out anything with that individual.
    Still, I am amazed that he didn’t slur his speech, usually when he’s managed into compliance he’s slurring speech and staying with the teleprompter.

    @13, entirely spot on. The only problem is, he can’t declare bankruptcy protection for the nation.

    @PZ, we’ve had leaders throughout our history who were utterly incompetent in dealing with one crisis or another, as it’s essentially impossible to actually be an expert in every field, even for a polymath! The difference is now, we have a maladministration that refuses to listen to subject matter experts and worse, Dunning-Kruger mismanages everything as a self-proclaimed expert in every fucking thing in the universe and beyond.
    Where Trump made noise about how much of a scientist he is because his uncle teaches physics and was “praised on his knowledge”, I’d get a similar, but real response from those experts that would be honest. “How do you know so much about this?”, “Easy, I listen!”. Trump doesn’t listen, he proclaims and trusts his god-king Imperial status to make reality bend to his whim.
    Which is working quite predictably.

    The reality is, leaders have to listen to their experts and allow what the experts suggest guide policy. Carter was a nuclear engineer in the US Navy, he was not an expert in melted down nuclear reactors, as the US Navy has no real experience in that field. He’d have to call in old timers from the US Army for that subject and he was far better served by calling in experts in that type of reactor.*

    *Yeah, the US Army melted down a couple of reactors, blew one up by a prompt critical accident and leaked to hell and gone a couple more (fortunately, in areas where it wouldn’t matter, as the Arctic won’t melt – oh, shit).
    Greenland, Canada and Antarctica come to mind for leakers, SL-1 for blowing up, the melted down reactors names escape memory, but are easily looked up for anyone interested in better news than Trump’s Coronavirus nonresponse.

  19. larpar says

    @ PZ
    Are the dorms and cafeterias and other areas where students gather also being shut down? I know you guys are going on spring break, will students be able to return? How about international students?

  20. says

    Oh, in case anybody has missed it — I haven’t been looking through all the related threads, so it might have been posted elsewhere:

    Trump just met with Bolsonaro last week. One of those present was Bolsonaro’s aide Wajngarten. Wajngarten just tested positive for coronavirus.

  21. says

    @larpar, #22

    Not specific to PZ’s school, but local to me, Illinois State U, spring break was extended a week and all dorm residents told to stay home for distance learning. Not sure how long that will last, but I imagine they’ll eventually have to come back to get their stuff. The dorms aren’t cleared out during spring break.

  22. jrkrideau says

    @ 2 blf
    The ban is only on people flying from the 26 Schengen Area countries,….

    What would you want to bet that Trump’s brain trust did not know that EU != Europe != Schengen Area?

    It reminds me of those US sanctions on Russian oligarchs where someone reportedly used the Kremlin “phone book” and Forbes list of billionaires to assemble the list.

    I hope our border precautions at the US entry points are solid. I expect things are going to get bad here[1] but we seem to have a functioning public health system and the federal government is not totally insane.

    As of today Sophie Grégoire, Prime Minister Trudeau’s wife, is being tested for covid-19 and the PM has put himself in self-quarantine.

  23. says

    Turns out the Trump-possibly-exposed-to-coronavirus story I mentioned is even better than that — Trump says that all he did was sit next to Wajngarten at dinner, so he’s not worried.

    At the risk of getting on a watchlist, if Trump gets sick from this, it will be the most hilarious, karmically-deserved illness of the last century.

  24. blf says

    jrkrideau@25, “[perhaps] Trump’s brain trust did not know that EU != Europe != Schengen Area?”

    Indeed. For instance, from the Grauniad’s analysis Why did Donald Trump exclude the UK from his coronavirus travel ban? (“President’s [sic] restrictions are as arbitrary as 2017 ‘Muslim ban’ — driven by politics, not science”):

    Many explanations have been offered for why Trump presented his announcement as he did. His prejudice against the EU is well known, and targeting Schengen countries gave him a chance to exempt the US’s natural allies Ireland and the UK.

    It may be that Trump has never heard of Schengen, Luxembourg or the Schengen free travel area. His spinners thought, rather than bamboozle an American public, and possibly the president [sic], with the complexities of EU border areas, the neater impression should be left that the EU and not Brexit Britain was being targeted.

    An alternative explanation is that Trump had only cursorily acquainted himself with his own announcement, and misspoke. Elsewhere in his statement he twice said that goods from Europe would also be banned, a mistake that was hastily “walked back” by his briefers.

    [… other possibilities…]

  25. petesh says

    Compare and contrast Biden today and Trump last night. The election race should be over.

    Biden’s Plan is remarkably detailed and overall sensible. [Did he get Warren to help write it? :-)] It says, early on:

    Biden understands that this is a dynamic situation. The steps proposed below are a start. As the crisis unfolds, Biden will build on this policy to address new challenges.

    You may think that’s pablum, but compared to last night’s blather, it’s a great relief. He even ends by talking about the importance of fighting climate change.

    I dunno, he may have lost a step (haven’t we all?) but he sure seemed up to the job to me.

  26. Pierce R. Butler says

    blf @ # 2: The European countries that are not part of the Schengen zone, and whose citizens are therefore exempt from Trump’s ban are: Albania, Andora, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Georgia, Ireland, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine, The United Kingdom and Vatican City.

    At least four of those (Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City) have no airports, certainly not any which could handle a transatlantic jet.

  27. says

    @#29, aspleen:

    Almost as good as Sanders’ town hall meeting a few days ago, where he had actual doctors and nurses speaking, and pointed out that if and when a vaccine is available it should be free since it will have been developed on taxpayers’ dime… but of course you didn’t hear much about it.

  28. aspleen says


    I did just hear Sanders also address the coronavirus emergency and give his rundown and recommendations of what to do. One minor kvetch is that while Biden had just the U.S. flag behind him, Sanders had a background of BERNIE BERNIE BERNIE signs, which at least to me looked tacky.

  29. petesh says

    Biden’s Plan: “… Ensures that every person, whether insured or uninsured, will not have to pay a dollar out-of-pocket for visits related to COVID-19 testing, treatment, preventative services, and any eventual vaccine. No co-payments, no deductibles, and no surprise medical billing. …”

    Yeah, Bernie’s fine but he’s not going to be the next President.

  30. blf says

    @32, yes, and as per the reference in @2, three of those (Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City) “are de facto part of the Schengen Area.” The odd one out is Andorra, which is (and this is perhaps relevant) the only one with more than one land border (sitting between Spain and France).

  31. unclefrogy says

    Trump in his deluded senile old white man brain thinks

    there is your first mistake
    there is no indication that he has ever behaved any differently he has always been a deluded rich kid and he remains one to day. I would agree he does seem to have some age related impairment but it is really hard to separate that out from is general ignorance and delusional actions that he has been displaying all a long. Add to that his inability to tell the truth about anything unless it is by accident and it is impossible to know anything about him at all. If we are really following his lead in this crisis we are indeed domed to be just the last great failure in his long long list of failures.
    I do not want to speculate as it just feeds my worry which is already beginning to want to run away.
    uncle frogy

  32. says

    @#34, aspleen:

    Just had the pleasure of seeing a video of a Biden campaign ad, where he accuses Sanders of lying to claim that he, Biden, tried to cut Social Security. Seeing as how there is actually video, easily available online via Google, of Biden on the Senate floor bragging about how he had tried to cut Social Security four times, Biden is clearly not above telling outright lies when he thinks the electorate wants to hear them. What on earth makes you think he’s serious about doing anything about coronavirus? He has already said, on MSNBC a couple of days ago, that even if the Democrats took Congress and passed Medicare for All, he would veto it, so he’s pretty clearly down with letting the public die to protect corporate profits.

    @#35, petesh:

    I don’t think Biden is going to be the next president, unless Trump actually drops dead. Biden is the candidate Trump wants to face — an incapable, amiable idiot with a history of making dumb mistakes and betraying the people he claims he serves. All it will take will be an ad showing the aforementioned video showing Biden bragging about trying to cut Social Security, and undecided old people will drop Biden. Since young people aren’t going to bother to turn out for Biden at all, and old people already swing toward Trump, Biden will be toast almost immediately.

  33. mmason0071 says

    Gotta give Trump credit for one thing though – the wall works. Mexico only has 11 cases of Covid.

  34. chrislawson says

    It’s the ultimate testament to Trump’s stupidity and arrogance that he thinks only the UK and Ireland are the “natural allies” of the US in Europe. Before Trump was President, every single country in the EU was a US ally.

    (And Ireland is just playing it quiet. If forced to choose between the US/UK and the EU they will jump headfirst into Europe. And the UK may well lose Scotland too in the next 25 years.)

  35. Ridana says

    21) @wzrd1:

    Still, I am amazed that he didn’t slur his speech, usually when he’s managed into compliance he’s slurring speech and staying with the teleprompter.

    Were we watching the same feed? He was slurring from his first words. “My fellow Amercensh…I am confident that by counting [schlurp] and continuing to take…” He also sounded really out of breath (one of the symptoms of Covid19 infection). I was wondering if he was having a stroke right on camera.

  36. Saad says

    The orange shithead is literally talking about H1N1 and comparing approval ratings.

  37. says

    @26 jkrideau One of the student rental companies have offered free housing to anyone without anywhere to go until either the dorms reopen or the semester ends. It’s not a huge number of available units, but they’re trying.