Coronavirus – Some Historical and Statistical Context

Float - July 4th parade - 1918 - Wallace

by Ron Roizen


NOTE:  This post, in Georgian, is available here, translated by Ana Mirilashvili.


As of today, some big numbers are being suggested for the novel coronavirus’s potential death toll in the United States – ranging from 100,000 to 240,000.  These are merely projections.  And yet they lack, when presented by themselves, appropriate historical or statistical context.

Every year roughly 2.8 million people pass away in the U.S.  In a population of 325 million, 2.8M deaths represents a little less than 1 percent of the total population.  In recent years the U.S. death rate has varied between 0.8 and 0.9 percent of total population per year.

If 240,000 “extra” deaths were in fact to result from this new virus, then total deaths would rise to a little over 3M, an increase of 8.6 percent over the “normal” U.S. mortality count. Continue reading

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Another Sample Chapter from “The Rossi Murder”

Mabel-1.2Below, one more sample chapter from my booklength MS, The Rossi Murder, which is nearing completion but still in search of a publisher.  Very soon after his Shoshone County jury acquitted him for the murder of his young wife’s paramour, Clarence Dahlquist, on October 14, 1916, Herman J. Rossi filed for divorce.  Mabel, in response, filed a change of venue motion with the district court, seeking to have the case heard in Kootenai County, where her husband had relatively less influence and fewer business associates and friends.  Rossi contested her motion.  The documentation associated with this battle provided ample material for the writing of this, the book’s 16th, chapter.  Enjoy!



Although newspaper editors near and far doubtless hoped that their divorce would provide yet another salacious and riveting courtroom drama, actual events took a less public course.  The conflict shifted to behind-the-scenes legal wrangling to which the newspapers were largely not privy.  Mabel’s change of venue (COV) request, made to Judge William W. Woods in Shoshone County’s First District Court, argued three main points:  (a) that she was now a resident of Coeur d’Alene, in Kootenai County, and therefore the place where the plaintiff’s action should be brought; (b) that Herman Rossi had grossly misstated his wealth, his indebtedness, property holdings, and the extent of the couple’s community property; and, finally, (c) that Judge Woods himself had heard too many discrediting things said about her at Herman’s murder trial to allow him to avoid bias against her in the divorce proceedings.  Mabel noted, in particular, that Judge Woods had heard her husband’s testimony saying she was chronically intemperate, that she was “a demon” while intoxicated and frequently assaulted her husband, that she committed adultery with Dahlquist, and that she committed numerous other alleged acts of impropriety and improper relations with him.  And although Mabel had “the utmost respect and consideration” for the honorable judge, “both as a man and as a Judge,” she felt that what Woods’ exposure to these allegations would inevitably become “unconsciously and unintentionally prejudiced against her.…”  She surely had a case.  Continue reading

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Herman J. Rossi’s other Mabel, the one who saved his skin

Note:  The author has, for the past year, been writing a book about Herman J. Rossi, five-time mayor of Wallace, and his notorious murder of his young wife’s lover in June of 1916.  The following was adapted from Ch. XXI of this draft volume.

Rossi and City - 1930.jpg

Herman Rossi and the City of Wallace in syndicated article, 26 Aug. 1930

Miss Mabel Price, who was 15 years younger than her groom, married Herman J. Rossi on March 16, 1906 at St. Thomas Church in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.  Herman was, at the time, the sitting mayor of Wallace.  Ten years later, Mabel – while husband Herman was away on a political errand in Boise — engaged in a drunken and heedless encounter with musician Clarence “Gabe” Dahlquist at the Rossi home in Wallace.  Herman’s shattering discovery of her adultery upon his return home, on June 30, 1916, led to Rossi’s murder of Dahlquist that same evening at the Samuels Hotel in downtown Wallace.  After a weeklong trial, in October, 1916, Rossi was readily acquitted by a Shoshone County jury.  The trial and its dramatic verdict were frontpage news all over the Northwest.  By the time of Rossi’s own death however — 20 years later, on March 12, 1937 — newspaper tributes said nothing of his 1916 murder trial and instead recounted the more the recent courtroom dramas springing from Rossi’s violations of the National Prohibition Act in 1929, for which he was once again ultimately exonerated.

Rossi in 1929 – by now long divorced from Mabel and happily remarried – was once again Wallace’s sitting mayor.  In that capacity he’d participated in an unorthodox taxation scheme that drew revenue for the city’s treasury from liquor sales, prostitution, and gambling in Wallace.  Nearby Mullan’s city government had developed a similar scheme.  In both towns, such taxation was justified on grounds that large populations of young, male, work-parched miners imposed policing and other expenses that required tax revenue from somewhere.  Since city officials did not pocket the money themselves, this reasoning went, taxing the steady and unabated flow of illicit liquor during Prohibition offered a pragmatic solution and as good an idea as any they could come up with. Continue reading

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I Draw the Line at the U.S. Constitution


Okay. I think I get it. In 2016 a significant portion of the American electorate voted to roll a grenade into the Washington, D.C. establishment. They wanted to destroy the liberal consensus, broadly defined, that has exerted some sort of hegemony in the federal government, and the national consciousness, since (let’s say) the 1960s. They wanted to terminate coastal elitism, turn back the regulatory clock, undo almost everything Obama accomplished, seal the nation’s southern border, overrule the rule of PC, and turn their backs on established expertise, whether scientific or otherwise. And Trump was the man to do it. Fortunately for him, he had an opponent, in Mrs. Clinton, who symbolized many aspects of this kind of elite entitlement, even down to her implicit claim that it was time for a woman in the Oval Office.

Given this framing of the reasons for Trump’s election, it was not surprising that he, in turn, would leave a trail of broken norms behind him once he assumed the presidency. He ignored divesting himself of business interests or revealing his income tax returns. He continued to tweet in an undignified manner – for instance, damning and insulting his political adversaries. He attacked the mainstream press calling anything he didn’t like therein “fake news.” He more or less ignored the emoluments clause, sending even military personnel to his hospitality properties and (gasp!) inviting the G-7 to stay at his Florida resort for their next meeting. And on and on and on it went. He didn’t care. Sometimes he didn’t even seem to know or realize that he was violating longstanding rules or codes. When he released the summary notes of his fateful call with the new Ukrainian president he called it “perfect” and didn’t seem to understand that the “favor” he was requesting represented a violation of American election law. Continue reading

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About That “150” Patch

by Ron Roizen

150 patch

NCAA football’s commemorative “150” patch

When does something “begin,” anyway?

NCAA football is celebrating its 150th anniversary this season, marking the occasion with a “150” patch worn, collarbone-high, on uniform jerseys.[1]  By implication, the patch recalls an inaugural contest and an exemplar of the sport – in this case a contest staged between teams representing Rutgers and Princeton on Saturday, November 6, 1869.  The game began at 3 p.m. at the commons between College Ave. and Sicard St. on the Rutgers’ campus in New Brunswick, NJ – now the site of a big gym and a big parking lot.  Yet the game shared very, very little with today’s American football.  Wikipedia’s page for the contest notes that it resembled soccer more than today’s sport.  Even the NCAA’s commemorative page for the game concedes that this contest, and the rematch that followed seven days later at Princeton, “looked nothing like what we see Saturdays these days.”[2]

About 100 supporters gathered around the field on that autumn afternoon.  Each team comprised 25 players.  The game’s spherical ball could not be carried or thrown, only forcefully kicked or “dribbled” forward by foot, soccer-style, or batted by the hand or by other means.  There were vertical goalposts at either end of the field but no crossbars.  The goal of play was to kick the ball through the goalposts, thus scoring a single point.  The first team to accumulate six points won.  Following a kickoff, the team with the ball formed a protective shield around the player footing the ball forward.  Defensive players tried to penetrate the shield and, on regaining the ball, formed their own defensive shield.  A score initiated a new “game” or “inning,” with a new kickoff.  Continue reading

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Watching Ken Burns’ “Country Music” Documentary on PBS, So Far

by Ron Roizen

Carter Family

The Carter Family

Mr. Burns’ new documentary, “Country Music,” has aired on PBS TV over the past three evenings, each installment running a full two hours.  Five more installments are still to air.  Last night’s (on Sept. 17th) dealt with a period up to the early 1950s, ending with the premature death of Hank Williams, at age 29, on January 1, 1953.  I’m thoroughly taken in by the program so far.  One of its little surprises for me has been the familiarity of many of the compositions the show recalls and celebrates.  I didn’t expect that because I’m not what you’d call a true devotee of country music, although over the years I’ve certainly put in my time listening to, say, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Dolly Parton.  Another surprise has been the poetry lodged in – like a secret in plain sight – the lyrics of many country songs.

My own modest familiarity with C&W music came down to me via two main routes.  The first was my father.  He used to love singing C&W favorites on the long weekend drives he’d take our family on.  Incidentally, watching the Burns’ series has newly acquainted me with how many of my father’s favorites were Hank Williams’ songs.  But he was an unlikely C&W fan.  He said he’d learned to love C&W while test-flying Helldiver planes fresh from the production line during World War Two.  Tests were flown out of Montreal but there was a C&W radio station in Virginia, he said, with a very powerful signal that could be used to zero the plane’s compass.  Once locked in, he just let the music play on. Continue reading

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Centennial of Mother’s, Grandmother’s, & Great Grandmother’s Birth, 9/9/1919

Mom - cropped

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Gisela “Doris” (Holl) Roizen, born September 9, 1919 at Cologne, Germany.  She passed away on May 5, 2006, here in North Idaho.  Her life left only the barest traces of documentation in the usual sources —,, etc.  One item I found just this morning is a manifest showing her travel by ship from Antwerp to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada — from the Old World to the New — in October, 1931.  She, age 12, sailed with her mother, Anna, 38; her brother, Hans Joachim (Fred), 9; sister, Susanne, 6; and brother, Manfred, 3.  Their ship was the S.S. Lapland, which, according to Wikipedia, was nearing the end of its oceanic service by 1931.  Tough times lay ahead for the family, of course, including the continuing Great Depression and World War II.  However slight her documentary record, she was responsible for the creation of a not inconsiderable flock of descendants.  We pause to note this anniversary of her birth today.

Holl Family leaves Europe - 1931 - cropped.jpg

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A Poem for the Late Judy Asplund


I have the most vivid memory of you, Judy.

I see you smiling, seemingly saturated with a kind of joy

the rest of us can only envy.

You’re seated, head cocked a little, replying silently with your eyes and smile,

to some passing, inconsequential thing.

I would have asked you out at some point.

I was a senior; you, a year below.

But, and in the hierarchy of high school dating’s possibilities,

I saw you as at least two or three rungs out of my range.

But I want to convey my feelings now,

albeit too late, of course.

Judy, you were a kind of beacon.

A light source. 

What I would imagine pure human spirit to feel like

were I in its presence.

So much so that when I heard you’d died

(by chance, I was driving down one of the depressing stretches of 101,

Between S.F. and Palo Alto)

I felt my own spirit suddenly dim.

The shock of it was

that it just seemed your spirit couldn’t be extinguished,

not, at least, before everyone else’s in our generation had flickered out.

Yours was too strong, too incandescent, too warm.

Even so many, many years after,

the feeling was palpable, visceral, and sad as can be. 


– Ron Roizen                                                     




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The Rejection of Omphalos: A Note on Shifts in the Intellectual Hierarchy of Mid-Nineteenth Century Britain

Note:  This old chestnut used to be available on the web.  But now I see that it’s disappeared there.  I’m hoping no one will mind that I re-present it here at my blog, on this bright Easter morning.  (Citation:  Ron Roizen, [title], Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 21:365-369, 1982).

Creation of Adam.jpg

Omphalos (which is Greek for navel) is the title of an ill-fated book published in Great Britain in 1857–in the period just preceding the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1859.  The book presented Philip Henry Gosse’s attempt to resolve one of the great contradictions bedeviling naturalists of his day, namely, the apparent disagreement between the enormous age of the earth suggested by the geological record and the comparatively much shorter six-thousand-year age suggested by the book of Genesis.1  Gosse proposed an ingenious and thought-provoking theory, a theory that seemed (to him at least) to resolve the great contradiction and at the same time to leave geology and Genesis intact.  But Omphalos was very badly received, and Gosse’s theory mercilessly rejected.  Some years later, on the occasion of Gosse’s death, an obituary writer in Nature would suggest that “perhaps no work since Vestiges of Creation was received with a greater tempest of adverse criticism….Neither Gosse’s friends nor foes seemed to have any appreciation for it.”2  As might be guessed. the book has been almost completely ignored and forgotten in our own century.  In this brief essay I would like to consider some of the reasons for this rejection.  My hunch is that the rejection of Omphalos provides us with an intriguing window on the shifting intellectual priorities and matrix of values in the mid-nineteenth century.

First, it is necessary briefly to examine the essence of the theory Gosse advanced.  Fortunately, this is easily accomplished merely by considering a little thought experiment.  Suppose that Adam in the Garden of Eden, was sitting next to a big pine tree twenty minutes after his own creation.  Suppose he took a saw and cut the tree down, and then examined the stump:  Would it have tree rings?  Being a big tree, it would be expected to.  On the other hand, tree rings accumulate year by year as trees grow, and this tree had been created less than a week before.  Gosse pondered the problem and he came to the conclusion that, yes, the tree would have to have rings.  In fact, he argued that any and all living things show the marks of past development as a matter of course and in many different ways.  Martin Gardner wrote of Gosse’s case: Continue reading

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Notable WildWords Moment

WildWords record game 031419 Tahoe - cropped left

In one sense the third game of our three-game match was a disappointment.  I got almost all the good trays and Peter got garbage trays.  And yet that same luck-of-the-draw led to a personal best score for me — a remarkable total of 683 points.  This may be a WildWords family record.  The game was played on Thursday, March 14, 2019 at Peter & Sonja’s place at Tahoe Keys.  The combined score, if memory serves, was 1,162, which also may be a family record.  My own favorite play in the game was “EXTRATERRESTRIALS” (upper right, horizontal), which play used seven natural letters in my tray (i.e., I had no asterisk tiles and I did not use turn-to-wild squares in this play either).  The third-game win gave me the victory in the match of course.  But that win was more or less meaningless given the unfortunate distribution of good trays.  WildWords, even so, is and remains a great game.

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