The Phileas Club 145 – Checking in with the US

On this episode we talk about:

  • How are things going in the US, how the administration is handling the crisis, and how people (seem to) feel about it.

More info on the show:


  1. Kevin Sickles says:

    I was a patreon supporter of Tech news today until 5 minutes ago. I was shocked at how completely ignorant and cold-hearted Tom was. Blaming the media for the awful things Trump says? Saying don’t watch TV News? Things are going OK? What world are you living in? 100,000’s WILL DIE of the virus based on Tom’s attitude of we are doing enough. Where is the concern for the need for 100,000 ventilators? Tom is as bad as Trump, worrying about the economy vs people dying. “If you look at what’s happened vs what is said”. Trump completely failed at testing and is completely failing at getting ventilators and wants to kill more people by “opening” up the country. What’s actually happening is very bad. We are a week away in the U.S. from doctors deciding who lives and who dies based on the inaction of our federal government.

    Please record another podcast Immediately (like today) with Wendi Dunford to correct all of the inaccuracies Tom presented.

    • Ok…

      So first, regarding your last comment: you’re not the boss of me.

      And second, you seem understandably upset. I will submit however that many of the things that are happening in the US are happening in other countries too. Not enough masks, not enough tests… We were all unprepared, but we can’t be prepared for *everything* as I mentioned in the show. Hopefully we’ll be prepared for these kind of things in the future though, because it seems it won’t be the last one.
      As to having to “decide who lives or dies”, this is called triage and there is no scenario where a pandemic happens and you aren’t forced to do that. You can’t have that many respirators operating all the time for the one case where you need 100x what you normally do. And that is why social distancing and flattening the curve is so important.

      I’m not trying to say Tom is 100% right; I opened the show saying he was “maddeningly level headed” and I meant it. He’s a special kind of person, and while that can be annoying sometimes, it’s also very interesting to hear an opinion that purposefully lets go of the anger and hype and hyperbole. That doesn’t mean I’ll take all he’s saying at face value, but it does provide perspective and is a valuable tool in forming your own opinion. I often talk to people who I disagree with. So in this case, I do think he is, to an extent, minimizing the impact of Trump’s behavior. That is his way of dealing with things I suppose?

      But you also seem to be going to the other extreme. As I said, all western countries are having to deal with these issues (lacking masks and test kits etc), so either we’re all as bad as Trump (I doubt that’s the case), or his responsibility in this aspect of the situation isn’t as big as you think it is. Again, I’m not saying he’s blameless. His behavior is, IMO, inexcusable, and it does make things worse (if nothing else, it creates an immense amount of anxiety in a population that has other things to deal with at the moment). But I don’t think he’s responsible for all the things you think he is. And honestly, if you were looking into what’s happening in other countries, you’d realize that’s the case. Most people look at their “place” and think it’s special. It’s really not; French people think only French people are being assholes and disregarding social distancing orders. They’re not, we’re seeing this everywhere. French people think the lack of masks and tests kits are happening because of our own irresponsible government. But that’s happening everywhere. The only place where it’s not happening, regardless of government or politics, is places where this has happened before (SARS): in Asia, no matter what side or how extreme the government is, they were prepared, they knew what to do, and they executed well. Hopefully when this happens again (it will) we’ll be prepared too.

      So anyway, to put it in more neutral terms: I do agree Trump is an asshole and doing harm. I disagree that what is happening in the US would have been dramatically different under another president. No one can prepare for all apocalyptic scenarios. And if it had happened during the Obama administration, the right wing would have blamed Obama the way you are blaming Trump right now. With the difference, admittedly, that Obama (or Bush or anyone other that Trump TBH) would have done a great job uniting the country in the effort to fight the virus, when Trump is being his petulant annoying dimwit self and making things harder for everyone… But I doubt there would have been more masks or ventilators or tests. Not enough for everyone at least.

      Anyway, you probably won’t be happy with my take either. That’s fine. Just don’t tell me how to do my job please. And seriously, good luck with this terribly trying times… I really mean that. I know it’s not easy for anyone, but I’m sure it’s even harder for you guys in the US. <3

  2. Kevin Sickles says:

    “many of the things that are happening in the US are happening in other countries too”. Agreed!!! And the number of people dying is directly related the the governments response. China, South Korea and Japan shut it down. the leadership for Italy and Spain should be fired. France seems half way in the middle and responding ok. The U.S. Is going to set the record for worst response possible. and the U.S. had 2 more weeks warning over Europe to respond, and 2 weeks is a huge amount of warning time, which makes the U.S. failure to protect it’s citizens way worse than any other country.

    “You can’t have that many respirators operating all the time for the one case where you need 100x what you normally do”. Yes you can when you know a month in advance they are needed. Governors pleaded with Trump to require manufacturers to make respirators under the war time act. Trump refused.

    ” His behavior is, IMO, inexcusable, and it does make things worse” We completely agree. You pressed Tom numerous times to clarify if he supports Trump. He made it very clear that he has no issue with Trumps response and this brings us to the why Tom is ignorant and cold-hearted. The U.S. had several weeks notice ahead of Europe and did NOTHING based on Trumps’s comments that the virus was a political hoax. Because we did nothing 100,000 Americans will die. Let me repeat, Trump called the virus a political hoax and 100,000 Americans will die. This isn’t an interesting political debate. This is about a governments failure to act with clear evidence and people dying.

    “I disagree that what is happening in the US would have been dramatically different under another president”. This statement that is completely wrong. Any president republican or democrat that listened to what the scientists and math was projecting would have acted at a minimum of a week if not 2 weeks earlier. Saving 10,000’s of lives.

    “But I doubt there would have been more masks or ventilators or tests.” Completely wrong again. Governors and health care workers requested manufacturing increase weeks ago. Trump refused. 2 nights ago Trump stated he did not believe the request for additional ventilators was needed.

    Also., i didn’t make this a partisan discussion you did. I didn’t call out “republicans” or “democrats”. I called out Trumps’s failure to act and Tom’s inability to realize the crisis we are facing.

    “No one can prepare for all apocalyptic scenarios”. It is the governments job to prepare for Apocalyptic scenarios. Obama had a pandemic response team. Trump fired them.

    My sympathies go to all the people suffering form this pandemic across the world and Europe has been hit particularly hard the U.S. i about to be hit much harder. We are not OK.

    • You might very well be right Kevin. Not to be grim, but I think we’ll know once the crisis is behind us: it will be made clear down the line if mortality is higher in the US than in other similar countries. Of course there are specific factors (mortality is higher in Italy because their population is older), but we’ll have the data and we’ll know.

  3. Bill Burd says:

    Tom sounds like a very nice guy, and someone I’d like to have a beer with. His even temper and willingness to see a glass as half full rather than half empty are admirable.

    But I think he is a dedicated centrist. That’s not any better or worse than being a leftist or rightist. But what we need now (or any time) are realists.

    The US used to conduct multi-departmental disaster exercises, in order to prepare for circumstances including what we now face. This administration didn’t simply cancel future exercises. They destroyed records of the results of past exercises. These records would be very handy during the current pandemic.

    I agree with Tom that one of the huge failures was in having an insufficient numbers of test kits. This reflects Trump’s desire to keep the numbers of known cases artificially low, as when he refused to let a cruise ship carrying COVID-19 victims dock because, as he said at the time, “I like the numbers where they are. I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship.” Whether it’s wealth, TV ratings, stock market averages or the COVID-19 victim count, Trump measures himself by these numbers.

    Keep in mid that Trump was getting (or at least being offered) intelligence briefings about the severity of the problem in China and the threat here long before we had a serious problem at home.

    It’s not just wayward pundits who are calling for suspension of social distancing for the (alleged) benefit of the economy, and at the expense of the lives of vulnerable older people. The lieutenant governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, who calls himself pro-life, suggested that grandparents should be “willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren.” You can watch the video from Tucker Carlson’s show last Monday. In order to make this scheme work, the impacted people would have to die at home without treatment – or else the health care system would implode. I don’t think these clowns have thought this through.

    Tom said that Trump is experiencing his highest approval ratings ever, so he must be doing something right. What this reflects is commonly known as the “rally around the flag” effect that often results from tragedies. In Trump’s case, it was small, and is already dissipating. Remember, his approval has NEVER cracked 50%, and usually sits around 40%-45%.

    Oddly, his handling of the COVID-19 outbreak once stood at 52% to 60%, an even more pronounced “rally” effect, but has since dropped below 50%.

    The Trump campaign has demanded that TV stations refuse to show an anti-Trump ad. The ad’s sound is entirely Trump speaking. The visual is a rather scary still photo of Trump overlaid with his remarks and dates and US virus counts. You can see it here:

    If there’s one thing he doesn’t want people to have, it’s a memory of his past remarks.

    The governors of the states of Washington and Michigan have complained about the failure of the federal government to provide supplies. Trump’s response? “If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.” And he said it in one of his “press conferences.” You can view the video.

    Trump refused until a day or two ago to order the manufacture of needed supplies. People are sewing face masks to provide to medical personnel, who often lack them. The casts and crews of TV doctor shows are sending their gear where it’s needed. It’s hard to see us as a first-world country at this time.

    The USA is in the midst of its greatest crisis in several generations, and we have a thin-skinned narcissist for a leader.

    You have to ignore, or be unaware of, all this to believe that things are pretty much OK here.

    • Hi Patrick,
      I just wanted to say thanks for having Tom on to be the voice of reason again. I was left feeling quite discouraged and a bit embarrassed after hearing Camden’s hysterical ravings on the previous show. Through the coordination of our (surprisingly competent) administration, our private sector has produced a surplus of Masks, face shields, gowns, and ventilators. By all accounts we have yet to have one person have the need for a respirator and not receive the use of one. Before this over, we will Be shipping loads of it overseas to help you guys out. Stay safe friend!

      • patrick says:

        Hey Jon, and thanks for the kind words. That being said, honestly that seems like an overly optimistic view of the situation, but I hope you are right…

  4. Bill Burd says:

    Regarding Jon’s comment:

    Sometimes it can be hard to detect sarcasm in print. I’d suggest the use of upper case for selected words.

    • patrick says:

      I think the issue was that I was tired…

      • Bill Burd says:

        I have no excuse for being tired (I could sleep around the clock now).

        But I’m not 100% sure I was right about it being sarcasm, either. Which is to say, my wife disagrees with me.

  5. Nope, I quit attempting sarcasm on
    internet years ago due to I being constantly misinterpreted…

    Okay so New York City has been by far the worst hit here due to how densely populated that entire area is. Still, not one patient has yet gone without a ventilator or ICU bed that has needed one. This coming directly from the Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo (who really hates Trump by the way…) and California Governor Gavin Newsome (who really hates Trump by the way…).
    The conversion of the Javits Center into 1000 bed ICU unit and the fully staffed USNS Comfort (converted super tanker hospital ship) sailing into New York Harbor was particularly impressive.
    The private sector seems to have really stepped up, we’ve got GM and Ford partnershiping with hospital equipment companies to mass-produce more ventilators than we possibly need, with the excess being shipped to Europe and around the world. (Yes, even to some “shit-hole”countries). And everyone seems to be manufacturing face masks, gowns, etc…
    Overall, the response has been quite impressive. Now we’ll see how round two goes…


    • Yeah I think the bottom line for each country will be how many people have died (per million) compared to other countries. Although even that is difficult to compare, given the disparity of situations (population density and age mainly…).

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