Warren Dunn

Friday Potpouri



“The absurdity and cruelty of our employer-based, private health insurance system should now be apparent to all.  As tens of millions of Americans are losing their jobs and incomes as a result of the pandemic, many of them are also losing their health insurance.  That is what happens when health care is seen as an employee benefit, not a guaranteed right.”    – Bernie Sanders, NYTimes Op-Ed, Monday, April 20, 2020


     As one observer of our health care system put it on NPR this week,  (Americans) “don’t think of government as the insurer of last resort.   They prefer to think of themselves as rugged individuals who pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”   –  heard-on-the-car-radio from a writer for the Atlantic Monthly whose name I have unfortunately forgotten.


      “The coronavirus pandemic might spur lots of companies to think hard about automation.  For instance: Not only might more commerce be online, but more of the future workers in those warehouses and fulfillment centers might be robots.  That’s tomorrow however, not today.  If anything this (virus) outbreak has undercut the idea that somehow we are on the edge of a job apocalypse.”  – James Pethokoukis, writing on the American Enterprise Institution’s website.


    “Coronavirus speeds the way for robots in the workplace.  Adopting robots and artificial intelligence could keep businesses going during social distancing and reduce the health risk to human workers.   But with unemployment already at Great Depressions levels, many of the jobs lost to automation might never be regained…Past experience suggests the advance of automation happens in sudden surges, and economic downturns are often a trigger.”  Bryan Walsh in Axios. April 25, 2020


“…the corridors of power are littered with Fascist leanings; anything to save the upper classes through disenfranchisement of the common man while allowing the common man to think you’re on his side…”  – a character in Jacqueline Winspear’s, 2011 Maisie Dobbs novel, “A Lesson in Secrets.” (Resonates today, but it’s hard to think of Mr. Trump as “upper class.”)


I abandoned Oklahoma politics when the liberal Democratic candidate from Tulsa was running for Congress didn’t even make the primary. That’s why I was so pleased to read that Senator James Lankford (R-OK) spoke out against radicalization of our body politic. He said, “We should recognize rising hate. How do we identify things like anti-Semitism, racism, or hatred for government? We as a culture need to recognize those moments and not just allow them to lie dormant, but to engage.”


I’ve heard and read a lot of folks and organizations saying “Thank You” to the health care workers struggling to keep us – and themselves – alive. I just wonder if someone would be willing to be quoted adding “…and I’m sorry that the Federal Administration, and especially its titular head, made it so much more unnecessarily difficult.”


     Why is a man who is a moron, idiot, ignorant, feckless, negligent, goes off the rails, incompetent, egotistical, stupid, corrupt, fraudulent, a con man, narcissistic, dishonest, racist, a buffoon, dangerous, crazy, unqualified, disgusting, vulgar, arrogant, and a liar still President?

Not my words.   Most of them were words most used by a small sample of Americans to describe Mr. Trump and who were polled by one of the nation’s most respected pollsters.  Oh.  I must acknowledge that there a few nice words used, too.   But I can’t remember them.


     Fans of Wolf Hall will remember when Thomas Cromwell’s wife Liz died of what we assume is the plague.   What they might not remember is that one of the family suggested going in to London for some reason and another member of the family said, in effect, perhaps they all ought to shelter in place.  To which the London-bound answered:

    “You can’t close down London.”   


Note:  I was tempted to write what follows because I read in the NYTimes that 135 million face starvation.  That wasn’t the scary part.   The rest of the headline read:  “That Could Double.”  Then I read that “Banks Steered Richest Clients to Federal Aid,” and that claim was further verified by reports that a couple of real estate investment trusts in the luxury resort business got millions that were intended for small businesses. Then I read that one the nation’s largest banks funneled the aid to mostly their largest clients but “loaned” the federal aid to only two out of every 30 retail (smaller) customers who applied. And that’s why I read the NYTimes.   Even if it is the first rough draft of history, where else are you going to get anything even close to the truth in today’s information environment?   Guess daughter Alyson got lucky.  Her architectural firm got one of the payroll preservation loans.     

Thomas Robert Malthus would not be surprised.  In case you’ve forgotten your Economics 101, he is the economist/clergyman who predicted in 1798 in his famous An Essay on the Principle of Population, that even if food production increased through scientific farming, that it wouldn’t be sufficient to feed a growing population.  This led to an assumption on the part of his critics that his negative views could mean that only plague, warfare, and other natural and manmade disasters in which thousands/millions  died could maintain the balance between food supply and survival of humanity.

     Wikipedia lists at least 114 (I’m sure I missed some) famines the world has suffered since 1801 and God knows how many wars.   And yet the world population has grown from about one billion in 1800 to 7.7 billion today.   The Population Media Center calls “population grown is totally unsustainable.” 

     The NYTimes did an interesting “What’s Better? and What’s Worse” review in a recent edition.  They rated the absence of a mass famine as “Better,” which is hard to argue with, and the future food supply as “Worse” because “feeding everyone without further damaging the natural world” is a “daunting task.”   

      Mr.  Malthus made a deep impression on me in the 1950s, when I entered college.  There was a widely-held belief then that a world-wide famine was going to engulf the world.   But about that time,  the “Green Revolution” happened, a time when agricultural technology staved off that world famine (although there were plenty of smaller famines all over the world). 

      In the last two months or so I have heard many points of view on the cause of Coronavirus.  Pick one of the following:

  • Divine intervention
  • Research mistake
  • Deliberately manufactured
  • Animal infestation
  • Airline travel
  • Slow reaction by authorities
  • Natural phenomenon

    There’s probably an element of truth in some of them, but it remains to fully understand how to control and eradicate this virus.   Nonetheless, thanks to scientific advances and attention made to the causes and treatment of viruses over the past eighty years, we are in a better position to contain and treat them than in the past.   Does this, then, mean that we will be able to continue the population growth unabated once this virus is brought under control.   And what does that mean for the sustainability of life on Earth?  

     Couple this with the undisputed damage of climate change and the “daunting” challenge of feeding 10 billion people by 2050, then where does it leave us?   I know one thing for sure:  We as a nation and the world at large cannot continue to ignore the threats to our planet in the name of having the “liberty” to pursue our individual proclivities in allegiance to false ideologies and desires.  We can readily see that the leadership of our nation has mismanaged the control of the virus threat and pitted state against state in the competition for resources, reduced to trickery to keep possession of masks and protective ware that they have acquired on their own.   As it has been said in ads and by politicians under stress, “We are all in this together.”    Were it only true.

NEXT FRIDAY: Some thoughts on two books and a play I’m reading: Paul Krugman’s “Arguing with Zombies” and Andrew Bacevich’s “American Conservatism: Reclaiming an Intellectual Tradition.The play is “A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen, which Libby Trull suggested I read.

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