Counting the Coronavirus Bodies

Sometimes I forget things, even important things, simply because no one talks about them and brings them up.  That’s how I was reminded of something I’d known but apparently forgotten from National Review of all places. In an article by Spanish journalist Itxu Diaz, he goes over the current European reaction to the coronavirus and mentions something else, far more important:

However, the truth is that lying does not solve the problem: We now know that neither Germany nor France is counting the deaths from coronavirus that occur outside of hospitals, and that the Germans don’t call it “death from coronavirus” if the patient had a previous illness.

This was a head slapping moment for me since of course different countries count and organize their statistics differently, making them difficult to compare across nations.  Crime statistics are a good example, since although homicides probably do mean someone got murdered from country to country, most other crimes, like rapes and various assaults have specific legal definitions that vary depending on your country.  That’s just as true for other statistics such as infant mortality.  Again, referring to yet another National Review article (yes I’m surprised too):

A 2006 report from WHO stated that “among developed countries, mortality rates may reflect differences in the definitions used for reporting births, such as cut-offs for registering live births and birth weight.” The Bulletin of WHO noted that “it has also been common practice in several countries (e.g. Belgium, France, Spain) to register as live births only those infants who survived for a specified period beyond birth”; those who did not survive were “completely ignored for registration purposes.” Since the U.S. counts as live births all babies who show “any evidence of life,” even the most premature and the smallest — the very babies who account for the majority of neonatal deaths — it necessarily has a higher neonatal-mortality rate than countries that do not.

But wait, there’s more!

A separate WHO Bulletin in 2008 noted that registration of stillbirths, live births, and neonatal deaths is done differently in countries where abortion is legal compared with countries where abortion is uncommon or illegal, and these discrepancies generate substantial differences in infant-mortality rates. Jan Richardus showed that the perinatal mortality rate “can vary by 50% depending on which definition is used,” and Wilco Graafmans reported that terminology differences alone among Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the U.K. — highly developed countries with substantially different infant-mortality rates — caused rates to vary by 14 to 40 percent, and generated a false reduction in reported infant-mortality rates of up to 17 percent. These differences, coupled with the fact that the U.S. medical system is far more aggressive about resuscitating very premature infants, mean that very premature infants are even more likely to be categorized as live births in the U.S., even though they have only a small chance of surviving. Considering that, even in the U.S., roughly half of all infant mortality occurs in the first 24 hours, the single factor of omitting very early deaths in many European nations generates their falsely superior neonatal-mortality rates.

This is simply an example that comparing statistics across nations, even among the advanced ones, is often a fool’s errand, which of course brings us to counting death by coronavirus. An article in the Spanish paper El País shows how different the count can be.

Italy is counting all patients who tested positive and who died, regardless of other aspects of their clinical history, following criteria from the Higher Institute of Health.

In the United Kingdom, until the epidemic became apparent, when a patient died in the hospital from a respiratory disease, the direct cause of the infection was not reported unless legally required…

In France, authorities have only been counting deaths at the country’s 600 hospitals and clinics caring for Covid-19 patients. This leaves out elderly people who die at home or at one of the 7,000 long-term care homes that operate in France.

And in the Netherlands, tests are only conducted on hospitalized patients. The agency in charging of tracking the disease says that the real number could be higher.

The truth is, we don’t know anything that we think we know about coronavirus mortality rates.  I don’t even know how the CDC is counting coronavirus deaths in this country.  If there were such a thing as a real reporter in the Washington press corps, you would think that one would ask about that, but be warned, don’t hold your breath.  If you do hold your breath, and die as a result, you may find yourself counted as a coronavirus statistic.

Picard Season One Finale: A Bad Copy

A few weeks ago I posted about the Star Trek: Picard series streaming on CBS All Access. I addressed the usual super fan complaints that accompany any new Star Trek venture, “Is this Star Trek?” and of course, “this sucks.”  I concluded that yes indeed, this was a Star Trek show, and a good one.  I was really enjoying it!

I was wrong. I apologize.

For me everything was going great until the two part season finale, Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 & 2.  So be warned, everything beyond this point is super spoiler territory.

Although I was not on board with every decision along the way to get to the season finale, such as the whitewashing of the murder of Bruce Maddox by Dr Jurati, I assumed that in the finale things would wrap up in a satisfactory way.  Nope.  Instead…

Doctor Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill):  As a cold blooded murderer, I expected either a redemption arc or a justice one.  Instead there was neither.  Jurati killed Maddox, the person that got the crew together to find in the first place, and then after promising to turn herself in, everyone just sort of shrugged and forgot about it.  She goes on to become a full-fledged member of Picard’s Scooby gang with no more mention that she’s a murderer and hey, maybe Maddox, a brilliant scientist, deserved some sort of justice.

Soji (Isa Briones): Soji started out as easily the most sympathetic character, a girl who didn’t understand what was happening to her, and then realizing that all of her memories were false and she wasn’t even human, but a sophisticated android. But then as her memories of her prior robot life return, the Soji that we’ve known through the series became effectively dead.  Soji 2.0 goes from being worried about whether she was human or not, to deciding to initiate galaxy wide Armageddon on biological sentient life by contacting the mysterious synthetic race that wipes out biological species that discriminate against robots.  That was a pretty quick turnaround from, “Am I human?” to “Destroy all humans!” Skynet would be proud.  And now she’s part of Picard’s Scooby gang.  I guess attempted genocide is an easily forgivable crime in the 24th Century.

The Romulans:  Surprisingly the Romulans, in spite of being Romulans, come out looking pretty good.  Having lost their homeworld in the Supernova, the scary Romulan Star Empire is a shadow of its former self.  The “Romulan Free State” is a much weaker version, not even able to enforce the Neutral Zone any more.  For all intents and purposes, there is no longer a Neutral Zone.  And still, they are trying to save the universe from the utter stupidity of Picard and the Federation.  Their super duper secret police, the Zhat Vash, has known about the advanced genocidal synthetics all along, and have worked to suppress advanced AI and robotics anywhere and everywhere to avoid attracting their attention.  This explains the motivation of the Romulan spies Narek, Narissa, and Commodore Oh.  They want to keep the galaxy safe from a far superior race which has exterminated entire biological races before and apparently seem willing to do it again.

And yet they are the “villains.”

The Star Trek Ending:  I’ve complained before about the complete hand waving that seems to go along with closing out the conflicts of a Star Trek storyline by a Starfleet officer giving an impassioned speech, and suddenly the enemy lays down his arms and turns his swords into plowshares.  The power of a self-righteous Starfleet speech is apparently not to be underestimated, as I noted about the Discovery season one finale in which Burnham gives the Klingon Chancellor one and the Chancellor calls off the attack on Earth, even though at this point the Klingons had all but won the war and their fleet was just outside the solar system, ready for orders.  This highlights one of the major flaws of the Star Trek worldview, it loves diversity, but as I noted about the Discovery finale, ultimately doesn’t believe in it.

“…the solution to the war wasn’t found in delivering a decisive military defeat on the enemy, but by adherence to the Federation’s highest principles, and assuming (always correctly) that everyone else in the universe at some deep down level, shares those same principles.”

So Picard gives an impassioned speech to Soji, and she changes her mind about eliminating every biological species in the galaxy, just like that.

I wonder how that would have played out throughout history…

Starfleet vs The American Revolution

Picard:  As an opponent of Brexit, I implore you to lay down your arms and end this senseless conflict.  Think about the lives lost…the waste.

General Washington:  Your words have moved me Admiral.  We started this struggle because we were moved by the writings of enlightenment thinkers, and the very real threat to our right to have representation, but eh, whatever, God Save the King!

Picard:  Actually we’re replacing the monarchy with a Federation Council.

Starfleet vs Hitler

Picard: …and that is why, Herr Hitler, you must lay down your arms, cease this pointless conflict to conquer Europe, and stop killing people based on religion and ethnicity.

Hitler:  You have enlightened me Admiral.  I never realized that Slavs, Jews, and Gypsies shared the same hopes and dreams as Aryans.  I could have saved so many bullets if I had known that!  And yes, my dream of establishing a united Europe, a common market united under a single currency with open borders was a foolish hope.

Picard: Wait, what?  Hold up a second…

Starfleet vs Osama bin Ladin

Picard: …and that’s why, in spite of 9/11, you’ll find that people are pretty forgiving if you pen a sincere apology for your actions and resolve to do better.

Bin Ladin: Admiral you truly bring wisdom surpassing all of our Mullahs.  In fact, you’ve convinced me that not only are you wiser than our best religious thinkers, but that all religion is but primitive superstition and that mankind is ready to evolve into a more enlightened species, ready to achieve utopia on Earth via the mechanisms of advanced AI, automation, and universal basic income.

Picard: #Yanggang2020.

Data (Brent Spiner):  Although the character has been dead since the end of the movie Star Trek: Nemesis, his presence has loomed large on the show as Picard, even years later, still struggled dealing with the grief and guilt of Data sacrificing his “life” to save Picard’s.  So in the finale, Picard meets Data again, or at least a copy of his memories, in a computer simulation.  As a final chat, it’s rather touching, as Data requests that when Picard gets out of the simulation, he deletes the Data memory copy.  As a character who struggled with being human, he wants an ending to his story; “a butterfly that lives forever is really not a butterfly at all.”  It’s a nice speech in which Data makes a point that everything about life has value because it’s temporary, and it really seemed in tune with the entirety of the season, in which Picard is dealing with his own mortality.

Picard (Patrick Stewart):  Getting back to Picard’s impassioned speechmaking, after making his final one to Soji, he collapses and dies, finally succumbing under the stress to his long battle with Irumodic Syndrome.  His companions mourn him, and if the show had just ended there, all the other flaws could have been easily forgiven.  Instead, they copy Picard’s mind, spin it up in a new robot body, and robot Picard lives.  They even made one that looks like an 93 year old man that’s weak and will break down after a decade or two.  How thoughtful.

Not being a series finale like the Lost ending, it’s probably not fair to compare the two. Also the ending of Lost was simply a result of the writers not being half as clever as they thought they were and they simply wrote themselves into a corner.  With Picard, bringing him back to “life” as an android was a deliberate choice, a choice that made Picard’s character arc, as a man coming to terms with his mortality, and Data’s character arc, as a being who wanted to be human so much he was willing to die like one, essentially pointless.  And pointless as it was, Robot Picard had no trouble deleting Data.  Apparently the writers and showrunners saw not a bit of irony in that.

So the show ends with everyone on the bridge of the ship, Soji, the near genocidal monster, Doctor Jurati, a brutal murderer, and robot Picard, all ready to zoom off into the galaxy for more adventures. For a show and season that I had otherwise enjoyed, that was one of the most stunningly bad season finale’s I’d ever seen.  It’s hard to fathom the deliberate choice of making a mockery of Data’s death (or murder at the hands of robot Picard) and the entire premise of the show by having robot Picard plead for more years of existence to his makers.

I wonder if actual human Picard got a funeral, or did they just dump his carcass in the landfill?  With Picard dead, who gets his Chateau?  It’s a cinch that his Romulan housekeepers, Laris and Zhaban, are not going to consider robot Picard as anything but an abomination, a hideous copy of their dear friend. There is no crying in Star Trek but I do have to mourn what started out as great show and turned into merely a synthetic copy of one.




Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics (Coronavirus Edition)

In the comments section Curle referred to a post over at the West Hunter site, Just another flu in Bergamo. Greg Cochran is one who is firmly with the worst-case-scenario crowd.  The money shot is this:

All this means that official death count in Italy ( 743 today) is a serious underestimate: the actual numbers must be something like 4-9 times bigger – say 4000 a day.   Does influenza do this?  One did, back in 1918.

However this basic point of agreement between the “Just a Flu” crowd and the “1918” crowd is that we can’t trust the numbers.  This unfortunately has been true from the beginning.  I’ve never believed the Chinese numbers, and I don’t believe their current “no new cases” claim now.  However, what’s a WHO going to do?  The World Health Organization initially only had Chinese numbers, and those numbers began to shape our understanding of this virus.

But of course we are still trying to find gold from dross, which is how 743 deaths times x (with x being guesswork) gives you 4,000 dead Italians a day.  But I don’t see how Italy can tell us anything about the virus.  That country has been an outlier throughout this crisis.  Look at the (official) death rates compared to some comparative countries:

I could argue contra Cochran, “Hey look at Germany!”

Of course for all I know Germany is fiddling with their numbers to mitigate the impact of the virus.  The truth is, we just don’t have good numbers, and frankly I don’t trust Italians to keep good records in the first place.  I do trust the records of the US however, with qualifications.

As of today (March 26th):

The qualifications?  I buy the death rates (1,163), but I don’t buy the number of cases (80,854).  Testing for COVID-19 is still mostly limited to first responders, medical personnel, celebrities (?), and people showing symptoms at the doctor’s office or emergency room.  That is not a representative sample. At the earliest it will be weeks, and more likely months, before the US has enough data to really have a good idea how the bell curve of severity of symptoms plays out with COVID-19.  In the meantime I can agree with Cochran that the Italian numbers are probably wrong.


The Coronavirus Hysteria

Meanwhile in Florida…

Gov. Ron DeSantis issued four executive orders Friday designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, shutting down restaurants except for takeout or delivery, banning non-urgent medical procedures and surgeries, closing most businesses in Palm Beach and Broward counties where people congregate and allowing local governments to meet via telephone or video conferences.

…and just like that, Florida was in an economic depression. And; in the name of one-upsmanship…

Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried issued a statement on Friday asking Governor Ron DeSantis to consider implementing a statewide “stay-at-home” order.

This is being repeated all over the country as States, cities, and local municipalities try to outdo each other in how quickly they can shut down all economic activity in their area.  The nation’s economy has gone from roaring 20’s to Great Depression in a few weeks, and because it’s under the guise of a healthcare emergency, everyone seems to think that once this has died down, the economy will spring back to normal.

I really hope so.

But I don’t have much experience with this sort of economic downturn, in which the fundamentals of the economy were fine and then, on a dime businesses all over the country were ordered shut down by government fiat. When one thinks of the number of businesses that are afloat on a thin margin, even in good times, it seems clear that many of those businesses won’t be coming back.

Of course a health care emergency, if big enough and threatening enough could make it worth the damage that we’ve willingly inflicted on ourselves.

I just don’t think this is it.

Since the beginning of this “crisis” I’ve been skeptic of the idea that this was some new Spanish Flu, or do we have to call it the Latinx Flu now?  I don’t even know this flu’s pronouns!  My initial skepticism was based on not being able to believe a lying media which has been in a state of constant phony hysteria for the past couple of years.  Why would this hysteria be any different?  But whatever “Operation Get Trump Part XXII” this may have started as, the hysteria has swollen well past mere partisanship.  This is now the real thing; real hysteria.  People like me who seem a bit sanguine about the “crisis” are so few that we’re treated as oddball curiosities. And the bipartisan coming together of left and right into unhinged hatred of skeptics asking reasonable questions is something that, like so much of the past few years, is new; beyond my experience.  But I’m starting to see how witches get burned at the stake and people get lynched.

I’ve been tracking the numbers of new cases and deaths based on the past couple of days, and although I acknowledge that there is a testing bias involved in these numbers (there are no doubt far more cases than are being shown in the available statistics) the numbers don’t seem very frightening to me.


Of course I’m comparing it to a fairly comparable similar example in history, the “Swine Flu” pandemic.  From the CDC:

From April 12, 2009 to April 10, 2010, CDC estimated there were 60.8 million cases (range: 43.3-89.3 million), 274,304 hospitalizations (range: 195,086-402,719), and 12,469 deaths (range: 8868-18,306) in the United States due to the (H1N1)pdm09 virus.

We suffered 12,469 deaths from H1N1 and we didn’t shut down a single restaurant. In fact, I don’t even recall a demand to do that, let alone shut down the entire economy, and establish curfews.

As for the annual flu, the 2017-2018 flu Season:

CDC estimates that the burden of illness during the 2017–2018 season was high with an estimated 45 million people getting sick with influenza, 21 million people going to a health care provider, 810,000 hospitalizations, and 61,000 deaths from influenza (Table 1). The number of cases of influenza-associated illness that occurred during 2017-2018 was the highest since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, when an estimated 60 million people were sick with influenza.

So we had 61,000 dead Americans just last year, and again, no call to shut down the entire country.  People went to work, kids went to school, and thousands died.

So what makes this year different?

After this season winds down and cooler heads begin to prevail, I expect to be reading some think pieces on “Why did we overreact?” or “Why did Trump overreact?”  In any case I’ll be curious as to the theories of why my immune system seemed to resist the wave of hysteria while so many others succumbed.  That’s one view of it.

The other view of course, is that I’m totally off base.  Every bit of hysteria is totally justified and I’m the crazy one, I’m this guy…

Is this me?

…totally oblivious to the real danger I’m in, either through drunkenness or stupidity.  I have to consider the possibility, when so many people whose opinions I respect are foaming at the mouth in fear, that I’m too dumb to be afraid of something I very much should be afraid of.

It’s possible.

We’ll know one way or the other.  If Covid-19 deaths fail to exceed annual flu deaths, than I was right, the hysteria was overblown, and I can return to my usual state of smugness.  Of course if they way exceed that amount by hundreds of thousands, then we’ll know I was a fool.

Can’t wait to find out!

Age of Coronapocalypse

America 2020

It’s been 5 days since President, now War Leader Trump, declared a state of emergency against the dreaded COVID-19.  It’s astounding how quickly civilization collapsed.  Today I had to do the unthinkable; I had to leave the house.  We needed supplies.  Our stocks were low but luckily I had something to trade.  As we arrived at Barter-town (formerly known as Publix Supermarket) the hulking guard, with a human skull necklace had me check my guns.  “Sure,” I said, “but don’t get any funny ideas.”  I nodded over my left shoulder, to make sure that he could see my wife, perched atop our SUV, aiming the AR onto the scene.  These days, when you go shopping, you have to have backup.  He got the message, and to ease the tension, I noted, “Nice skull.”  “Hmm Amazon.” He half grunted.  I’ll have to check that out.  Human skull jewelry and accessories are all the rage in these benighted times.

I got in line to see the assessor.  Cash was mostly worthless now, having been used as toilet paper in the early days of the crisis. But the absence of cash was my fortune.  I had something to trade.  When it was my turn, I stepped up to the grizzled assessor and began unbuckling the straps to my canvas bag.  “Nice purse” the assessor said, trying to establish dominance.  But I wasn’t going to let him get the upper hand.  “It’s a Murse thank you.”  I replied.  I tried to sound extra snippy, like Niles Crane challenging a dock worker to a fist fight.  “OK whatcha got?” he huffed.

White Gold


I pulled it out; it almost glowed with its crisp, clean whiteness.  I slowly passed it over to the assessor.  He was quiet now.  He pulled out a small jeweler’s loupe, twisted it into his eye and examined.  “Fine grain, two ply of course, crisscrossed ridge pattern, and…” his voice trailed off.  “…soft…” he looked up at me again.  “Extra absorbent?” he asked, although he already knew the answer.  I nodded.

“Cottonelle.” I replied.

After staring almost dreamily for a moment, no doubt thinking what he would do to that roll if he had a chance, the assessor was suddenly all business.  “I can give you three cans of beans.  No more.”   “That’s ridiculous!” I replied, and we proceeded to haggle.  Since the country went on the can of beans standard, it had turned every transaction into haggling like a Middle Eastern bazaar.  When you can’t split the can into decimals…

We finally came to an agreement of four cans and I tossed in a coupon.  Heading back out, I checked out my guns and spied my wife still on top of the SUV, weapon at the ready.

The traffic after shopping is murder!


So it was another successful shopping trip.  I do regret that we had to crash the economy, destroy the livelihood of millions, and leave a wreck of a country in the wake, but this is how we live now. Hey, at least we’ve avoided the sniffles!

And Earth Abides.

My Corona

There was something missing for me before I could join the internet frenzy of posting on the current hysteria on the coronavirus, and that was the coronavirus parody songs.  We’ve finally hit peak parody songs for Coronavirus, so let me present the best one of the bunch I looked at…

…there were a few others that let’s face it, just were not up to snuff, but at least they were out there trying.  Of course The Knack’s My Sharona is probably one of the most easily parodiable (is this a word?) song of all time.  Yes, Sharona and Corona is a happy rhyming coincidence, but you don’t even need that, as Weird Al demonstrated back in 1983 with his iconic take.

No such luck for my second guess, a parody of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire. A search found nothing coronavirus related so I’ll get it started and everyone can join in:

Black Plague, Spanish Flu, Jonas Salk cured Polio

Legionnaires, Swine Flu, Measles and Anti-Vax,

SARS and MERS, Ebola coming straight for you

And don’t forget Bird Flu!

We didn’t start the virus…

Now Everybody…


OK back to the day job…

But parody songs aside, I’ve been wondering how serious I should take this virus for the past two months.  Is it “wash my hands” serious, or stock up on beans and bullets and head for the hills serious?  Most of the commentary online seems to lean more towards beans and bullets.  But I guess I’ve just been so over-saturated with hysteria from the media the past few years it’s becoming more and more difficult to take anything they say seriously.  You may not remember, but in January we were supposed to plunge into World War III because Trump offed some terrorist.  We were also supposed to plunge into World War III in 2017 because North Korea was going to nuke us.  Now someday, we may well get into World War III, but I doubt it will be due to anything that the media hyped up for sweeps.

On the other hand, I am washing my hands more, and for the first time, I’ve availed myself to the Purell wipes for the carts at the grocery store.  So precautions are being listened to.

However some people seemed to have gone corona-crazy, and in a way that I wasn’t even during the last time I was seriously worried about a disease as a public health concern, 2014’s Ebola outbreak.  With a death rate of 50-90%, that is a disease to be feared.

But the nearest comparison is still the annual flu season (I know I know, it’s not the flu, but its symptoms are basically identical).  To put it in perspective:

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that last year in the U.S. alone 35 million people contracted the flu. That is million with an “m.” That means that one in every 10 Americans had the flu. There were 490,000 hospitalizations and 34,000 people who died of the flu in America during last year’s season. That was an annual flu epidemic.

So far in the United States this flu season, from October through February 22, the CDC estimates there have been upwards of 45 million cases of the flu in the U.S. Again, that’s million with an “m.” There have been between upwards of 560,000 flu-related hospitalizations and upwards of 46,000 flu deaths. This is another annual flu epidemic.

According to this website, (which updates with regular coronavirus statistics); as of this writing, the US has 950 cases, 30 deaths, and 8 cases considered “critical.”  Since the coronavirus competes with the flu for the same vulnerable population (elderly with chronic conditions), the idea that this virus could kill over a million and a half people in the US seems ridiculous.  The precautions being taken could save lives by reducing deaths and infection from the annual flu.  If anything, the worst threat we face is the economic one from the hysteria.

Well, we’ll know in a few months.  Either it will drop down the media memory hole, or at some point I’ll step out of my Fortress of Solitude to find a vacant, dead world, killed off by a Mexican beer of all things.

My bet is memory hole.

Star Trek Picard: Is it Real Trek?

I’ve really enjoyed the Star Trek Picard show since it dropped on CBS All Access and in the world of Star Trek television (which is surprisingly a going concern) it’s one of the best going; better than Star Trek Discovery.  But some fans are really annoyed, dismissing the show as “not Star Trek” like these two hate watchers.

But what is and isn’t Star Trek goes back to the premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation, back in 1987.  No Kirk? No Star Trek the thinking went.  And that sort of thinking has accompanied every new Star Trek show.  There was at least a good reason to think that when Star Trek Deep Space 9 came out.  That was a show totally different from the previous two shows, featuring a stationary space station on the edges of the Federation where the Federation and Starfleet only had a toe hold, and aliens set the agenda.  But…as the show grew it produced some of the best Star Trek episodes ever.  However that only happened because Gene Roddenberry died in 1991 before Deep Space Nine premiered in 1993, allowing the show to evolve without Roddenberry’s rigid guidance.

A case was also made that Star Trek: Discovery also, wasn’t Star Trek.  Set 10 years before the original series, it looked and acted nothing like the original series and just didn’t even look as if it was set in the same universe.  The “Klingons” were remade to look like…some other kind of alien.

Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, had progressively gone more nutso commie from the time his Original Series came out as a space western until The Next Generation came out, where the Federation was presented as some sort of utopian commie empire in which society, and the people in them, had reached perfection. This cut into a lot of drama since Roddenberry’s script guidance in TNG was that there could be no interpersonal conflict among crew members because hey, in the future, we all get along. That ridiculous script guidance started to fade before TNG ended its run and wasn’t a factor in subsequent Star Trek outings.  That wasn’t the worst of Roddenberry’s delusion.  As I noted while reviewing Star Trek Beyond:

“Roddenberry’s “vision” was of a communist utopia that even in the realm of science fiction, made no sense.  It was easier to make up the technobabble of transporters, holodecks, and faster than light travel then explain why they don’t need money and no one is drawing a paycheck, but still showing up for work every day.”

One day, I may take up the challenge of designing a Federation economy, and see if I can squeeze Roddenberry’s dumb view of economics into some sort of technobabble shape, but not today.

So Star Trek: Picard takes place in a far less utopian time in Federation history.  Set approximately 20 years after the events of the last TNG movie, Star Trek: Nemesis, the universe, in Picard’s view, has gone to hell in a handbasket.  Fourteen years earlier, the supernova of the Romulan homeworld’s sun (which kicked off the events that lead to the “Kelvin timeline;” the three JJ Abrams Star Trek movies) had the Federation engaged in a massive refugee relief effort to evacuate Romulans from their doomed system.  The effort was aborted by an android terrorist attack on the shipyards of Mars, killing 92,000 people.  The androids, called “synths” were based off Commander Data’s basic design, and were quickly banned throughout the Federation and the refugee evacuation was halted.

Naturally Picard throws a fit and thinking he could pull opinion at Starfleet (“do you know who I am?”) throws his position on the line, and Starfleet, to Picard’s surprise, takes it, effectively forcing him into retirement.  This is the scenario that actor Patrick Stewart likened to our current age:

“[The show] was me responding to the world of Brexit and Trump and feeling, ‘Why hasn’t the Federation changed? Why hasn’t Starfleet changed?’ Maybe they’re not as reliable and trustworthy as we all thought.”

This is, of course ridiculous.  Both Patrick Stewart and his avatar, Jean-Luc Picard are wrong on this.  This isn’t about Brexit or Trump, it’s more about 9/11, and how you respond to a massive terrorist attack when you don’t know the real cause.  Did the Synths just get together and decide to go full Skynet?  Was it some sort of major malfunction?  Did some other nefarious group reprogram the Synths as an attack on the Federation?   Immediately after the attack, nobody would know, so the prudent thing would be to do exactly what the Federation did, ban Synths and halt the Refugee program.  With the Utopia Planitia Shipyards destroyed, you can’t tie up all of your remaining ships on some do-gooder adventure when you have no idea if or when the next attack is coming.

Why the Romulans couldn’t evacuate their own people is never explained.  They ruled a massive star empire covering many worlds.  It would seem they would have plenty of resources to throw at the problem much closer to home.

But to the question, is Star Trek: Picard “Star Trek,” my answer is unequivocally yes.  In fact, I would argue that it is the most “Star Trek” show since Next Generation.  Picard is a nice coda to TNG.  It’s a “where are they now” view of what happened to the Next Generation crew as well as Star Trek: Voyager and answers the question what happened to the galaxy and the universe of Star Trek since those shows ended. Unlike a show that has Easter eggs, the entire show is one big Easter egg. That’s not an answer that will please some Star Trek fans that have never been able to move on from the original series, but almost never does a successful TV show like TNG gets a series that functions as an aftermath.  Fans should enjoy this.