And a favorite spot on the floor: It's done on a daily basis. Last evening, twenty-one minutes in, the most logorrheic president in American history inevitably went there again.
The president had even better news to share about those N95 masks. As always, the news was incredible.
Roughly twenty-one minutes in, the commander in chief offered this:
TRUMP (4/17/20): The vaccines are coming along really, really well. Johnson and Johnson is very well advanced, and one thing is, they have to—we’re having great, great success, but we have to test them, and it takes a long period of time. It takes probably over a year, unfortunately. But therapies likewise are coming along very, very well. Therapies are immediate. When we get that, that’ll be a big day.We've tried to punctuate fairly.
We’re also equipping our medical warriors on the front lines. In total, we have the Project Airbridge, and the Airbridge has been incredible. The National Strategic Stockpile, and every other channel the federal government has deployed—if you think about this, 44.5 million N95 masks, nearly 524 million gloves, 63.5 million surgical masks, and more than 10 million gowns. And we have 500 million masks coming in very soon, between manufacturing and orders. 500 million masks.
We'll confess that we do have one question. If the vaccines haven't been tested yet, how do we know that they're coming along really, really well—that Johnson and Johnson having great, great success?
Ditto, perhaps, for the therapies. They were said to be coming along very, very well.
Whatever! Today, we focus again on the N95 masks the commander-in-chief has provided. Their number now stands—"Think about this!"—at 44.5 million, the gobsmacked commander declared.
For today, we won't simply "think about" that very large number. We'll also provide a percentage—a percentage in which we attempt to compare masks provided to actual need.
We should have done that yesterday. Today, we'll finish the job.
In the passage posted above, the president was again engaged in The Gong-Show of Very Large Numbers. For over a month, he has staged this gong-show every day while a somnolent press corps looks on.
As we showed you yesterday, the president cited other incredible numbers earlier in this past week. On Tuesday, he said this:
TRUMP (4/14/20): My administration is also distributing vast amounts of medical supplies to states across the country through Project Air Bridge, which has been an amazing success...It’s logistically incredible what they’ve done. And we’ve also been working on this with the military. And these people have been—the genius of all of them together, it has been incredible to watch.It was incredible and amazing. In total, through all channels, the federal government had developed and delivered 39.4 million N95 masks!
In total, through all channels, the federal government has developed and delivered 39.4 million N95 masks, 431 million gloves, 57 million surgical masks, and 10.2 million gowns. We ordered 500 million masks, and they’ll be coming shortly. And we’ve distributed 100 million masks.
As of last evening, the number had risen to 44.5 million. Inevitably, that sounded like a very large number of N95 masks—but as before, it happened again:
The president cited the number of N95 masks which had been provided. He forgot to tell us how many N95 masks will be needed before this is done.
How many N95 masks will our health care workers need? As we showed you yesterday, a Trump official testified in early March that we would need something like 3.5 billion such masks.
As of last night, the commander in chief said that he had provided 44.5 million such masks. We did the math, and we now announce the result:
Based upon the numbers provided, the commander has provided a truly incredible 1.2714 percent of the masks we were told we would need! We are going to round that down to 1.27 percent.
Will we really need 3.5 billion N95 masks before this ordeal is over? We have no idea. Nor do we know if the commander in chief has provided the number he claims.
We do know this—while his number does sound very large, it may be a drop in the bucket. And even though he has performed this gong-show over and over and over again, no one in our slumbering press corps has ever pursued this amazingly basic point.
We're speaking of the slumbering children who defer to the commander in various ways at his daily briefings. We're speaking of the major newspapers which fail to pursue such basic points.
We're speaking of the cable news channels which have presented reports about shortages of protective gear in hospitals without pursuing the question raised by the president's very large numbers. We're speaking of people like Joe and Mika, who rant and rail every morning but can't deal with something like this.
This gong-show has been performed in the face of the upper-end press corps day after day after day, edging ever further into prime time. How do our news orgs react?
They keep airing this silly prime-time mess. They fail to fact-check or clarify even this blindingly obvious, deeply important matter.
This daily gong-show of very large numbers is an obvious propaganda tool. Along with many other daily monologues, it's an obvious part of the commander's re-election campaign.
It doesn't provide useful information. Indeed, absent assessments of likely need, these blindingly stupid recitations are baldly misleading—but our news orgs let them go.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep. We were never "the rational animal."
Anthropology lessons continue next week. We still owe you a list of the actions our major news orgs should take.
On a happier note: We've been reading Aljean Harmetz's 1992 book, The Making of Casablanca. Here's why:
We've long marveled at the enduring appeal of a movie which wasn't designed to be a great film. How did this accident actually happen? And what makes this film seem so deep?
We think we can answer your sensible questions! Let's hope we get to discuss the topic some day, even as we continue our letters to our 9-year-old kids.
Regarding the latter matter, we apologize for our suspension of service. Immersion in those daily briefings, and in the press corps' reaction to same, makes it hard to flip a switch and think about loftier topics.
By the way, Anne Frank also had a favorite tree. Somehow, she even persisted in having a favorite spot on the floor. One translation:
I go to the attic almost every morning to get the stale air out of my lungs. This morning when I went there, Peter was busy cleaning up. He finished quickly and came over to where I was sitting on my favorite spot on the floor. The two of us looked out at the blue sky, the bare chestnut tree glistening with dew, the seagulls and other birds glinting with silver as they swooped through the air, and we were so moved and entranced that we couldn't speak...I also looked out the open window, letting my eyes roam over a large part of Amsterdam, over the rooftops and on to the horizon, a strip of blue so pale it was almost invisible.Compare to Thoreau's "delight," as recalled last week. Especially under the circumstances, such a miraculous state of being deserves full exploration.
"As long as this exists," I thought, "this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?"
As before, so too today—we strongly recommend Francine Prose's 2010 book, Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife. It's one of the best books we've ever read, one of the most revealing.