The Phileas Club 152 – Editorial: The virus and the US

On this episode we talk about:

  • Patrick discusses the latest developments in the Covid 19 epidemic in the US.

More info on the show:


  1. Corey Dunn says:

    I agree the USA has a poor leader who could do better to quell the masses and guide. As harsh as it might be though, there is a picetag on human life. Every leader needs to weigh the cost of doing something vs nothing. Just like an insurance company. The price the govt uses is 10 milion USD over a life time of a person. It drives me nuts when Governor Cuomo of NY came on TV and said, what is cost of a human life? ” priceless” He is lying about a tough truth that I am sure his team is calculating daily. You cannot bankrupt a state/ nation to save every life, there also the cost of locking up people for months on end and having it lead to chaos and starvation. Yes Trump is a bozo but i’m sure somebody on his staff is tuned into this reality even though he dosen’t say it out loud. Right now is there a good outcome or way of doing this? Nobody can stop a majority of people from just running the course with this disease over the next couple of years. Maybe a vaccine will come along, maybe not. It is also hard to tell where we are in this pandemic, Start, middle, or end. I say we have just started. Lets rate success after its all done. I feel there is also a financial incentive for government to not value life of older Americans. During the Black death in the 1300’s many governing bodies (churches and guilds) became very wealthy. When lots of people die they built up wealth goes to these bodies like current death taxes in the US. Social security payments will be reduced with a lower elderly population. Since older Americans have come to the end of their 10 Million USD productive life, it might change the calculation. I know its ugly, but its the truth. I have recently watched The Black Death: The World’s Most Devastating Plague on amazon which contains many of these facts. I live around many people in a smaller city outside of New York City who are disregarding all safety protocols. I’m playing it safe and I hope to come out better/ alive because of it. Its a dark time for all of us, I appreciate your show for showing me a prospective and opinions I have never thought of. Thank you .

    Corey Dunn

    • patrick says:

      Hey Corey, and thanks for the comment. Though I have to say that this is something that is constantly frustrating when I speak with Americans: for good or ill (usually ill), their view is very limited to what happens in the US. In this case, I don’t think we can judge the situation by looking at one country alone. We don’t know how well anyone is doing in isolation because we don’t have any point of reference. We could be doing better, we could be doing worse, it’s all speculation. Which is why it’s important to look at how other (similar) countries are doing. And in this case, every other western countries has the epidemic more or less under control. Only in the US is it running wild still, not only costing more lives, but also having an adverse effect on the economy, which this whole idiocy was supposed to save!
      In other countries, stricter measures and government level guidelines have been effective and have reigned in the spread, which means the economic activity has restarted (progressively), and durably. With of course the caveat that if things get out of control again we need to act swiftly and roll things back appropriately, in order to limit the impact on lives, AND on the economy.
      So no, I don’t think you can save everyone, and yes it would be too costly to try and do so. But saying this and then throwing your hands up in the air and doing nothing (or close to nothing) is not only irresponsible, it is abysmally stupid and irresponsible AND more importantly counter productive! And there is no excuse in saying this, because you can see your brothers in Europe handling it so much better with simple common sense guidelines and policies. The only reason I can think of to follow the radical “we can’t do much about it” train of thought you’re laying out is the manufactured divisiveness around this whole issue, which is pushing even more moderate people to question common sense. This is why I’m talking about criminal behavior by the president; it doesn’t have anything to do with how much I like or dislike him, it has to do with his ability to lead and handle this crisis, which again, as we look at how other countries have done, is very clearly lacking.

      I hope what I’m saying here makes sense to you, but in any case please remember this: in this instance, it is not a question of money. The issue is your leader’s ability to responsibly handle a crisis. And most of them (especially on the right side of the political spectrum) have completely lost sight of what that means or what their job is…

      • Well spoken, that is why you communicate for a living and I am a stereotypical engineer struggling to put words together to convey what i’m thinking properly. My state governor has been on TV daily leading and guiding where the federal guidance have been lacking. My family is following it and even taking it further than suggested. How do you force the people not taking it seriously and going out to bars at night without any protections, or the neighbor across the street who runs a facebook group that is demanding that elementary schools in the fall open with no restrictions or distancing or they are withholding their school tax $? I am at a loss. I am holding onto a plan B to home school my 2 girls in the fall because people cannot be forced to conform to the states guidelines for safety. Even people in my extended family think things are going to return to normal shortly. I have to beg my 75 year old mother weekly to allow me to buy her groceries instead of her going to get them. Maybe it is leadership from the president but lower officials on both sides of the political spectrum are not being listened to either.
        I do stand behind my theory that money makes the decisions for us and the politicians who can justify it the best end up “leading” -examples:
        -Fossil fuel dependence (It costs much less to do nothing to enact measures to foster a change)
        -My school district is not offering any guidance as to what is going to happen next fall until the state makes a decision and the liability gets moved up the ladder from the local school district to the state.
        -The Governor had huge financial pressure not to declare state of emergency at the beginning because of the financial implications for insurance claims and closing business.

        I believe financial pressure made a smart South Korea like response impossible in the US.

        We have the same things in NY as your statement below and our numbers look good so far, its the states that didn’t have the initial wave that postponed it until now that are having trouble. (OK i just proved your point that a real leader of a president could have unified the response. you win i’ll celebrate your victory with homemade French Fries) I hope the Europe model isn’t just analogous to one of the US states that was initially successful and will suffer later. stay tuned to find out.
        “In other countries, stricter measures and government level guidelines have been effective and have reigned in the spread, which means the economic activity has restarted (progressively), and durably. With of course the caveat that if things get out of control again we need to act swiftly and roll things back appropriately, in order to limit the impact on lives, AND on the economy.”

        Stay Safe Patrick and thank you for your insightful coverage of world news

      • patrick says:

        > OK i just proved your point that a real leader of a president could have unified the response. you win i’ll celebrate your victory with homemade French Fries

        Haha well at least there’s that… 🙂
        Enjoy the fries!

  2. Ben Betts says:

    I finished this episode not sure why you felt the need to make this particular point, at this time, solo. I think you tried to communicate the why, but it escaped me. What stuck with me is what I find so wonderfully lacking in every Phileas episode, “news”. The kind you hear 24-7. I’m evading the point there. I’ll get to it. This is not my forte.

    The U.S. economy’s success over the last several years does not make up for the federal governments mishandling of the devastation in Puerto Rico in ’17. Same for the immigration crisis that reached a whole other level in 2014 and was only compounded my the actions of the Trump administration. Just to list a few crises handled with an equal level of carelessness by the U.S government.

    These crises don’t match the scale of Covid, but their mishandling has caused unnecessary death, struggle, and pain, and has focused those on the the needy, the poor, the non-white, disproportionately. I’d say that the similarities are vast. The only significant difference to the effect of the misgovernment is scale and scope.

    Oh, Yeah. And George Floyd.

    So, “news”. The news, regardless of where you get it is better severed if you are interested in the worst thing happening right now. Actually, if you could just forget that _anything_ has *ever* gone wrong before, that would really help out the numbers, so, you know – this thing happening right now is totally the worst.

    Obviously, I don’t like that. I think it all matters. I think any value comparison of one human life to another is, well, wrong. If I believe that, I suppose I believe that loss of a life due to inaction in Puerto Rico is incomparable to a loss to Covid. So, I think that saying, “what is going on now is not OK, but it was OK then”

    Is wrong.

    And that’s what I came away with. You needed to break your normal format to say, “enough, is enough.”

    Well, no. It’s not. The loss of life doesn’t go from wrong to more-wrong. We move from inaction, acceptance and complacency to outrage, choice, and commitment. Unless the scale is reset by the next, most horrible thing. That will totally be the worst. This time.

    • patrick says:

      Hey Ben, and thanks for your comment. It’s really interesting though; the first comment was someone says “well, things aren’t so bad”, and you’re now saying “things were bad before already”. 🙂
      I don’t think you’re wrong, but I also don’t think we’re looking at the same thing. The situation was bad everywhere, and my argument was that in spite of the inadequacy of the federal government (which I pointed out back then), things weren’t *worse* in the US than they were in other places. Which, objectively, they weren’t. And I fully believe that the US could have gone the same way as these other countries if six weeks ago sanity had prevailed and the “end lock down now to save the economy” fallacy hadn’t taken hold. Now of course it has taken hold in no small part because of the federal’s government inadequacy, which already existed, I understand that and I’m not diminishing it. But I still think there is something essential about that failure taking a turn into reality, which again I don’t think it had before. Of course I’m talking about the pandemic and not other topics; we could talk about those too (and I have), but I think in this instance they muddle the issue rather than clarifying it.
      Anyway, the reason I felt like talking about it in these terms now is because in my view there is an objective and neutral way of qualifying the situation now, which there wasn’t before. And that’s what I tried to do.

Speak Your Mind