Possible Benefit of COVID-19?

 

COVID-19 is a disaster. I get that. I see one potential long term benefit, however.

In Michigan, there is a generation of high school students learning that totalitarian nanny statism is extremely undesirable. I think they are learning a visceral dislike of being told what to do and not to do by the government. Freedom is becoming more loved by its absence.

Progressivism is much more attractive in theory than in practice. Instead of hearing of the wonders of theoretical progressive government, they are experiencing the pain of actual progressive government. I am hoping this painful lesson will have a long-term political impact.

Member Post

 

SARS-Covid-19, or whatever the cognoscenti (that means people who smell like they think a lot) are calling it this week, is one odd little bugger. I’ve been soaking up everything I could read, and I’ve more than once had to ask for remedial explanations from a couple of specialists I found – one an underpaid […]

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Justice Coming for General Flynn?

 

Judge Sullivan’s weekend has been ruined by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. That is the court that is the boss of him. For many years, leftists could count on this district to further their interests. It was understood as important to their longer term projects. However, Republican presidents sometimes get to appoint members. In this case, the luck of the draw was in favor of justice. There is a Bush 41, Obama, and Trump judge on the assigned panel, and they all agreed that they should consider motions, a series of papers, on the petition for writ of mandamus on behalf of Gen. Michael Flynn.

Honest attorneys in the Department of Justice, under Attorney General Barr’s protection and leadership, threw in the towel on the wrongful prosecution of Flynn, a key part of the attempted Obama faction and security agencies coup against President Trump. That, as a matter of federal law and federal court practice, should have been the end of the matter. But Judge Sullivan hates President Trump and his voters more than he respects his oath and the Constitution, so he continued his disreputable conduct and sought to keep control of Flynn, looking for some way to play for time until, he hoped, Biden would be elected.

Sidney Powell was having none of this, and wrote a petition for writ of mandamus that is a thing of fierce beauty:

Petitioner respectfully requests that this Court order the district court immediately to (1) grant the Justice Department’s Motion to Dismiss; (2) vacate its order appointing amicus curiae; and (3) reassign the case to another district judge as to any further proceedings.

[. . .]

Inflaming public passions against a party, particularly a criminal defendant, and encouraging prosecutors to vastly increase the charges against him, is the very antithesis of calling balls and strikes.

[. . .]

This is an umpire who has decided to steal public attention from the players and focus it on himself. He wants to pitch, bat, run bases, and play shortstop. In truth, he is way out in left field.

[. . .]

Unlike in Fokker, the district judge’s outrage at General Flynn does reveal a deep-seated antagonism. In open court, knowing full well that his words would be broadcast all over the world within minutes, the district judge accused General Flynn of treason—a charge hurtful to any American, but a stake through the heart of one who has risked his life protecting the United States from its foreign enemies. The judge also expressed his personal “disgust” (pointing out he was not hiding it) and accused him of arguably having “sold out” his country. App. 1: 34. Even uttered in a private conversation, such words would be cause for recusal, but to say them to the world does, indeed, evince “deep-seated … antagonism that would make fair judgment impossible.” Liteky, 510 U.S. at 555.

If the Court grants the principal relief Petitioner seeks, there may not be much by way of further proceedings in the case, but there could be. Petitioner, the Government, and the appearance of justice will best be served by having another judge—one who has not implied that Petitioner is a traitor—conduct any further proceedings in the case.

Sullivan might have succeeded in running out the clock if the appeals court panel had been typical of the circuit. It was not, so, we got this terse order No. 20-5143:

BEFORE: Henderson, Wilkins, and Rao, Circuit Judges

O R D E R

Upon consideration of the emergency petition for a writ of mandamus, it is

ORDERED, on the court’s own motion, that within ten days of the date of this order the district judge file a response addressing petitioner’s request that this court order the district judge to grant the government’s motion to dismiss filed on May 7, 2020 (ECF No. 198). See Fed. R. Crim. P. 48(a); United States v. Fokker Services B.V., 818 F.3d 733 (D.C. Cir. 2016). The government is invited to respond in its discretion within the same ten-day period. The Clerk is directed to transmit a copy of this order to the district court.

Per Curiam

It is not over yet, but this is as good as Flynn could expect, and does not point towards a drawn-out process. Fed. R. Crim. P. 48(a) refers to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 48(a):

Rule 48. Dismissal

(a) By the Government. The government may, with leave of court, dismiss an indictment, information, or complaint. The government may not dismiss the prosecution during trial without the defendant’s consent.

United States v. Fokker Services B.V., 818 F.3d 733 (D.C. Cir. 2016)” tells you that this is an opinion from the very court of appeals that is the boss of Judge Sullivan. You will find this case cited by Sidney Powell in the petition for writ of mandamus. Here is what is likely to be the key passage from that decision, setting the rule by which this case will be decided:

We vacate the district court’s denial of the joint motion to exclude time under the Speedy Trial Act. We hold that the Act confers no authority in a court to withhold exclusion of time pursuant to a DPA based on concerns that the government should bring different charges or should charge different defendants. Congress, in providing for courts to approve the exclusion of time pursuant to a DPA, acted against the backdrop of long-settled understandings about the independence of the Executive with regard to charging decisions. Nothing in the statute’s terms or structure suggests any intention to subvert those constitutionally rooted principles so as to enable the Judiciary to second-guess the Executive’s exercise of discretion over the initiation and dismissal of criminal charges.

In vacating the district court order, we have no occasion to disagree (or agree) with that court’s concerns about the government’s charging decisions in this case. Rather, the fundamental point is that those determinations are for the Executive—not the courts—to make. We therefore grant the government’s petition for a writ of mandamus and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I do not expect it will be a good weekend, let alone a pleasant week ahead for Judge Sullivan. It did not have to be this way. He could have been the judge he was in overturning Senator Ted Stevens’ wrongful prosecution.

Member Post

 

Today our Quote of the Day is the result of my stumbling upon a horrible feminist post on Reddit. As you know by now, I am the opposite of a feminist. It triggered me, and I was forced to take to my fainting couch. Haha no not really, because I’m a Conservative and I don’t […]

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Truth: Capital “T” and Small “t”

 

Theologians and philosophers deal in the world of perfection, the ideal – capital “T” Truth. My degree is in Mechanical Engineering; I deal in the world of close enough – small “t” truths.

Tens of thousands of years ago, a great scientist observed that the sun rose in the east every morning and set in the west every night and concluded that the sun rotates around the Earth. And that was close enough to allow us to do some good stuff like navigating around our world.

Tens of thousands of years later, another great scientist, after making more refined observations, concluded that the Earth travels around the sun in a circular orbit while spinning on an axis. That was close enough to allow us to do even more nice things like navigating at night.

Many hundreds of years later, Kepler observed that the planets’ orbits are elliptical, and Newton gave us the mathematics to chart their movements. That was close enough to get us to the moon.

A few hundred years after that, Einstein made some adjustments to Newton’s approximation, which allowed us to do things that I don’t understand and don’t really care about because I’m an engineer living in the world of close enough.

Our succession – or progression – of small “t” truths should convince us that there is a capital “T” Truth out there somewhere because each new approximation is more useful than the last. We may get to that Truth someday or we may not. Either way, we can get close enough.

Member Post

 

I have to admit, I almost blew a half gallon of Hydroxychloroquine and 5W-30 synthetic motor oil out my left nostril when I read this passage from William Briggs’ guest post stemwinder essay at his eponymous website today called I Smell Victory: … It is simply exquisite justice that the South would rise again in […]

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Frequent Flyers for Beer and Chips

 

The following story has nothing to do with COVID-19. No surfers, beachgoers, parents playing in a park with their children, or hairdressers were harmed or arrested in this story. This is a story about a Midwatch shift on a summer evening. You never know what you’ll run into after roll call or, on this night, what will run into you.

The Midwatch shift started at 1800 hours and ended at 0400 hours. On a Friday night at 1800 hours, the rush hour is still in progress, and the payday drinkers who were paid at noon and didn’t return to work are still sitting in their local watering hole. When they get home, the domestic dispute calls pick up a bit. The slurred demand for dinner creates some marital tension after an afternoon of drinking away half a paycheck.

My partner was going to start the shift as the driver, so I would keep the books and handle the radio. We placed our bags in the trunk and began the preflight of our car. All the lights worked and there was no body damage to record.

My partner adjusted the driver’s seat and I placed the shotgun in the holder between the two front seats. I closed the clamp, and pushed four double-aught buckshot shells into the magazine — nine .32 caliber pellets are contained in each shell. You don’t chamber a round until you need one and the clamp on the holder prevents someone from chambering a round if you’ve left your car for any reason.

After we roll out of the precinct garage, I notified Radio that we were on duty.

Me: “484 is 10-11 (starting the shift)”
Dispatcher: “484 copy, have a good shift.”

Rush hour on the main drags was still bumper-to-bumper traffic so we headed for the side streets. Perhaps we’ll get lucky enough to catch a car clout in progress. You have to look for trouble as a cop. A well-developed sense of curiosity is a necessity for being a good police officer.

Sliding through neighborhoods that have seen better days between 1800 and 1900 hours isn’t producing too much action until another vehicle slams into our front left fender. My partner asks me if we were the car on the right at the uncontrolled intersection. I said we were, establishing the fact that we had the right of way. I told my partner; “By the way, thanks for asking if I was injured.” His reply was, “It’s a little early in the shift to start whining.”

We got out of the car and glanced at the damage, and we looked at the four individuals in the car that hit us. They had that deer-in-the-headlights look. They’re going to run, I thought to myself, and they did. The driver put the car in reverse, and hit the gas. We jumped back into our car and I got on the radio.

484
Dispatcher: “484 Go”
Our car was just hit at 29 and SE Taylor, they’re running.
Dispatcher: “484 copy.”

I held onto the mic as the chase started. I was going to call the chase as my partner drove.

484 westbound on Belmont passing SE 26th
Dispatcher” “484 westbound on Belmont passing SE 26th”

The suspension on our car had been damaged and we were losing some distance. The two-tone robbery alert sounded on the radio. We could no longer transmit until the dispatcher finished transmitting the robbery info.

Dispatcher: “Armed Robbery at the convenience store at 34 and Belmont. Four white males. Displayed knives, unknown if they had firearms.”

The dispatcher paused for a moment. I got on the radio and said we were going to be northbound on Morrison and 18th. The dispatcher told us to stay off the air for a moment. Another officer came on the air and said 484 is chasing the robbery suspects. He put the locations together, and he was right.

The driver of the getaway car panicked when he turned north onto a residential street. He high-centered his car on the sloped front yard of a house. All four doors were opened, the engine was still running when we turned north on the same side street. I called radio with the location. The dispatcher told me a K-9 car was on the way. I did remember a K-9 officer telling the dispatcher he was responding, and the dog barking in the background when he hit the siren. The dog knows he’s going to work when his car accelerates.

The dog found one suspect about two blocks away from the abandoned car. He zeroed in on an elevated front porch. Barking, growling, and straining on the lead held by his partner. The owner of the house walked onto the front porch. He asked four police officers what was going on.

A plaintive voice from underneath the porch said; “Bob, don’t let them do this to me.” The homeowner looked at us and said; “My name isn’t Bob.”

The K-9 officer asked the homeowner to go back into the house. He told our suspect that he was going to let the dog off his lead if wouldn’t crawl out from beneath the porch. “I’m not moving,” was the reply. The dog got him out.

My partner and I put our suspect in the back seat of our car and drove back to the convenience store so the clerk could identify him. He said: “That’s one of them and this was the third time this week they robbed me.” I asked him if he was held at knifepoint each time. He said he was.

Three felony armed robberies, menacing, and kidnapping charges, instead of three misdemeanor shoplifts if they had just taken the beer and chips and run out the door. Some criminals swing for the fences and hit it out of the ballpark.

A good arrest made even better because we caught the person that hit our car. I never found out if the other three were ever caught. My partner had to fill out the DMV report. The sergeant asked us if we were okay. We told him we’re just getting started. He said, “Don’t wreck another car, we’re short on cars.”

3,000 Attend Block Party in Deland, FL

 

You didn’t misread the title of this post, but it doesn’t accurately describe the actual event, nor does it suggest the dangerous implications of this type of activity given concerns about the outbreak of COVID-19. Gov. Ron DeSantis has done a very good job of managing Florida through COVID-19, but in spite of his efforts, we’re seeing eruptions like the one described in this post. If other states don’t act quickly to lighten the restrictions on its citizens, we may very well see civil violence and destruction across the country.

Let me summarize the way the gathering on Saturday, May 16, took place and how it was conveniently mischaracterized. First, some people tried to characterize its origins with a planned memorial:

A block party that drew 3,000 people to the Spring Hill neighborhood on Saturday and spiraled out of control had nothing to do with a memorial held earlier in the day to honor a gun violence victim, a family member said on Tuesday.

But the party occurred in the 1200 block of South Delaware Avenue and not at 710 W. Cincinnati Ave. where a memorial for Kenya Alexander was held, said his cousin Javi Renee Collier.

Second, this “party” took place in several DeLand locations, not in any one “block.” Third, that evening the party turned ugly:

Law enforcement, which also included DeLand police, said they were met with weapons pointed at officers as well as bar stools, bottles and jars were thrown at them.

Around 10:30 p.m., a passenger in a vehicle pointed a weapon out the window, in the direction of a deputy and pedestrians while at a gas station at Beresford and Spring Garden avenues.

Just after midnight, at the 1200 block of South Delaware Avenue, two men, later identified as Alphonso Parker and Charles Turner, exchanged gunfire around a crowd of roughly 1,500.

Fourth, to deflect the criticism of their irresponsible behavior, members of the crowd described the incidents as racially motivated, and the sheriff and police chief pushed back —sort of:

‘Because the majority of those in the crowd were black, and the deputies and police were white, we are now having … hard conversations about race, racism and inequality,’ Chitwood said in a statement. ‘I don’t accept the accusations that our deputies and police are racists, or that their actions Saturday were racially motivated. It’s not true, and it’s not a fair conclusion from the video.’

I know that large events are taking place all over the country. If we expect to get through this pandemic without major civil disobedience, the governors and President Trump are going to have to take a hard look at how they are managing this process for protecting the public. We are setting ourselves up for disruptions if our rights to assemble and gather are not restored.

The fact is, most of the shutdowns (whether effective or not) only worked because the public cooperated. Weddings were radically modified or postponed; sporting events were canceled; people observed wearing masks, washing their hands, and maintaining social distancing. We wanted to protect each other and our communities. The inconvenience seemed worth the risks, to make sure we didn’t overwhelm our hospitals.

* * * * *

But that time has come and gone. People are losing their jobs and their sanity. They agreed to a deal but the governors have reneged, primarily out of fear of the unknown. We are all getting angry and impatient with their radical decisions. And people, who may have felt disenfranchised and isolated in general, are chomping at the bit to lash out at the powers-that-be.

Particularly in low- to middle-class communities of black people, the potential for protests and violence are greater. Of course, not all black people are angry in this period of shutdowns. But when they are joined by the few people who are angry, the frustration and rage will be contagious. When you add the tendency to blame law enforcement for the community misbehavior (particularly when the police and sheriff’s deputies are almost all white, working in a predominantly black community) the danger signs are there.

And, there are people who are looking for reasons to destroy civil order and community relationships. Southern Poverty Law Center, which blames white supremacy for the formation of radical black groups, has published a long list of extremist black groups. We have no way of knowing whether their radical ideas extend to violence, but do we really want to test out their goals?

Law enforcement also has a role to play in shutting down this type of lawlessness. Leaders of law enforcement, when the facts support their position, must protest the accusations of racism. Even if the black community disputes their claims in spite of the evidence, such as videos and appropriate orders given to the officers, they must speak out loud and clear.

There was also this observation:

Although large gatherings are discouraged during the COVID-19 outbreak, they are not against the law. Both Police Chief Umberger and Sheriff Chitwood were clear that the police would not enforce social distancing.

‘It’s a personal responsibility. It’s not law enforcement’s job to enforce quote-unquote, social distancing.’ Chitwood said.

He noted large groups have been gathering against Department of Health recommendations in other areas of the county. [My italics]

It would be interesting to know the nature and size of these other gatherings in the county. These inconsistencies in policy application aren’t helpful to any members of the community.

* * * * *

A key question to ask is whether these violent gatherings were due to the restrictions of COVID-19? Or were they random parties that happened to turn violent? And what are we to do with citizens who ignore suggestions not to schedule large gatherings? Since they are legally allowed to gather, should we turn our back until and when violence erupts? These are the questions we have to face and answer.

If we don’t want the incidents of civil disorder (as opposed to lawful protests) to escalate, the governors must act in concert with law enforcement.

Let’s hope it’s not too late to dial back the discord.

Biden Picks Caitlyn Jenner!

 

In a stunning political move, Democrat Presidential nominee Joe Biden has selected Caitlyn Jenner as his running mate. When asked about his choice, Biden said the following:

Biden: Caitlyn brings much-needed diversity to the ticket. Her knowledge of how change can be difficult will help this country heal after four years of Donald Trump. Plus, I’m told we have a chance to pick up the swing states, which could have gone either way with a different pick.

Reporter: Mr. Vice President, you do know that Caitlyn Jenner is a transsexual.

Biden: No, she’s my Veep pick, not my Transportation Secretary.

Another reporter: He said she’s a transsexual. She’s a guy who became a she.

Biden: I don’t understand.

Reporter (snickering): She’s a guy who underwent a lopitoffomy.

Biden (as reporters laugh): What kind of operation is that? They removed a malignant growth? What’s wrong with that?

Reporter (unable to hold back laughter): It means . . . he . . . he . . . hee hee hee!

Biden: Am I on candid camera?

Aide (to another aide): Get Jill in here stat!

Second aide (returns with Jill): Honey, I think you made a wise choice. I’ll explain it to you. [Whispers in his ear, Biden’s eyes widen.]

Biden: I thought her shoulders were pretty darn firm. At least her hair smelled good.

[Reporters lose it en masse. Another aide steps up to the mike.]

Aide: I’m sorry, but that’s all the questions for now. Mr. Biden has to leave and interview someone for his Chief of Staff.

Reporter: Who is it?

Aide (looks at paper): A Mr. Ron Jeremy.

[Reporters fall to the floor in hysterics]

Biden (surveys the commotion and turns to Jill): That went well, don’t you think?

Jill (rolling her eyes): Let’s just go.

We Cannot Survive Without Risk

 

playgroundIn strange times, what was once commonplace now seems bizarre. I was walking the dogs earlier this week and a couple of kids on bikes in a nearby park stuck with me. I watched as the boy and girl – probably around 11- or 12-years-old rode their bikes through the grass and down a slope steep enough that in winter makes for a black-diamond sledding hill. Neither child wore helmets nor shoes. The girl’s long, golden hair carried by the breeze was the last I saw as the pair peddled furiously out of view. I looked around. No parents. No nanny. No park overseer waiting to scold them for enjoying a sunny afternoon with such reckless abandon. I smiled at the thought that even in this time of modified police state, there were these two kids unaware of the cynical, fearful world beyond the park. Then it made me sad. I wasn’t mournful in a sense of lost nostalgia, but I realized these kids were an endangered species. And if the government had its way, they would be extinct.

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control released statistics showing the US birthrate fell to the lowest level since the data was collected in 1909. And 2019 births numbered approximately 3.75 million – the lowest level in 35 years. Experts attribute the decline to women waiting to start families later in life, after they establish a career and lifestyle. But there is another layer. Americans are losing the faculty for risk. We have long enjoyed the reputation and benefit of a society willing to join the fray up to the point of near brashness and unbridled enthusiasm for venturing into the unknown. We leveraged a font of freedom combined with ingenuity and liberty that created a great nation of unlimited opportunity.

What greater risk is there than to carry on a new generation despite a guaranteed level of uncertainty? There is no perfect time to start a family, just the gratitude of having the miracle of life bestowed to us. But the current social climate of mitigating risk at all cost is stifling the American Spirit, and the COVID pandemic is making this painfully obvious. When reports out of China and Europe blasted grim headlines detailing mass carnage, overrun hospitals, and the high unknown effects of the virus, it was a reasonable reaction to follow the guidelines of our elected leaders, whom we assume have access to information to make at least semi-informed decisions in our best interest. We complied. Americans watched as field hospitals were built, as companies switched manufacturing capabilities to churn out personal protective equipment and ventilators. But outside of New York City, the impending run on body bags for the average American adult never materialized. Instead we saw carnage of another sort: record-breaking unemployment, nationwide school closings, alarming spikes in mental health problems, and holds on necessary ‘nonessential’ medical procedures.

Now we are left with a new standard of governance over the people: safety at all cost. We have been convinced death is not something we can risk. But without risk, we can’t have life. And the stay-home-forever crowd is setting a terrible precedent for our kids. They are modeling behavior antithetical to that upon which America was founded and must have to survive.

We had a problem with social anxiety, depression, and suicide amongst our youth before the pandemic. Continuing an extended lockdown despite no valid argument teaches kids to live in fear at the behest of government. Where is a message of hope and optimism in the unquestioning allegiance to guidelines that only further isolate them and discourage social interaction that builds the foundation for a stable, successful adulthood in which they can navigate life’s ups-and-downs? We’re not only taking away opportunities to learn and practice coping skills, but we are robbing them of their childhood. And as Bethany Mandel wrote yesterday, CDC guidelines for schools look to only exacerbate the problem. This used to be joked about as a “Helicopter” mode of parenting, but handing over our kids to a government that promises to be a savior is tantamount to betraying our, and our kids’ futures.

We have started to see a few cracks in the stay-at-home armor of the political class. A promising development came late Wednesday when Minnesota Catholic and Lutheran churches told Gov. Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison they would refuse to let the First Amendment be trampled on by the Governor’s self-proclaimed emergency powers. This was the correct move and I hope the state’s synagogues and mosques follow. We should refuse to be good little boys and girls, content with pats on the head and the crumbs the government mercifully throws us. Political elites expect us to dutifully snap back in line when they stomp their feet and wave their arms and yell “science!” and promise to keep us safe in exchange for compliance.

This the predictable progression of an increasingly intrusive and overbearing government. Politicians and unelected bureaucrats have eroded the bonds of reliance and trust between each other, leading to a deference to government to make our choices for us. It allows fear of our neighbors and a distrust of traditional institutions within our communities to be the arbiters of how we want to live our lives. Are we willing to turn our kids into the park police for the sake of safety? Do we show them the best life is a life lived without risk? That the pain of failure or imperfection isn’t worth the reward that may not come in this life, but the next?

Where government weakens moral ties, like that between houses of worship and parishioners, the moral understanding of the religious, and the inherent value of life as well as the promise of what follows beyond our earthly presence, the political ties are strengthened. When government marginalizes the necessity of the family, community, faith, and the pursuit of manifest destiny, it forces a reliance on following the edicts of a centralized government. By rejecting the idea that the citizenry can be trusted to come to the proper conclusions about opening the economy and society, the government is rejecting our Constitutional rights. But those belong to us. They aren’t the government’s to grant. They belong to us. We need to start acting like it.

On the Virus and the Rule of Law

 

I am an attorney. My largest area of practice is in the representation of youth in dependency cases. These cases are governed by statutory law, and, in general, the statutes do a pretty decent job of protecting the rights of parents. We may often hear about cases where some form of child abuse or neglect has occurred, and as thoughtful human beings, we tend to respond with a sort of knee-jerk anger directed at parents. We condemn what is often despicable behavior, and we are eager to see children removed and placed in better situations.

But consider what we’re doing when we choose to allow state intervention. It seems fairly uncontroversial to say that children ought to be kept safe, and that the state has an interest in keeping them safe, no? Well, I guess that all depends on your understanding of safety. It depends on the confidence we have in people who would make determinations of safety, and the myriad considerations that go into what really is a complex analysis. Consider that our government is taking legal steps to interfere with the construction of families, and think about what rights and what burdens of proof you might require of any government that wished to interfere with the construction of your family. Not all cases are simple. In fact, virtually none of them are. And, as with everything, our actions carry costs. Are the consequences of removal worth the benefits of some harm being mitigated? What if the cure is worse than the disease?

This is something that we should not enter into lightly. It is not something that we should trust to just anyone, even those people who we deem to be “experts.” When we do enter those waters, we should do so with an abundance of caution, with protections given, and limitations imposed.

Then COVID-19.

I’m sorry, Mr. M__, I believe you just said something about … go ahead and give me your specific concerns for what is being considered by this court and what is being relied on that you think is inappropriate, here.

Your honor, I am speaking specifically about the department’s argument that “because of the health risks posed by COVID-19, [they] recommend only limited visitation” between my client and his mother. RCW 13.34 specifically directs this court to consider the health, safety, and well-being of the child in question, and the department has presented no evidence of any actual and immediate threat to my client’s health, safety, or well-being that would result from having 9 hours visitation with his mother, rather than 4 hours visitation. In that sense, your honor, you are essentially adding your own law to 13.34 in the form of some sort of community safety standard that…

… Mr. M___, if you wish to make the argument that the Governor’s order and the Supreme Court’s orders are somehow unconstitutional, I would recommend that you note that up for a motion and you go ahead and make that argument, but in the meantime …

… That is not what I am saying, your honor, I am saying that this court is still bound by 13.34 and must consider a specific threat to this particular child, and the only thing the department has done here is said “because of covid.” Well, in our county, there are zero hospitalizations and zero fatalities in anyone under the age of 40, and yet you are willing to find that the threat to my client is so imminent, that… what concerns me is not simply that my client is being denied visitation – in what other context, your honor, would you simply accept this sort of evidence, just the supposed common-knowledge of everyone having read about this thing and picked which points they want to take home. You’ve solicited no testimony or evidence in making this decision, just the department saying “because COVID,” and that is somehow sufficient for you to make a ruling that requires a finding of particularized and specific harm with respect to this individual…

… Mr. M__, I see that maybe you believe that this pandemic is no big deal, and that there is no health risk posed, but I am going to go off of the Supreme Court’s guidance, and our Governor’s order – did you read the Supreme Court’s memo? In spite of what you say, there is a health risk to your client, and to the entire community, case counts in county are rising precipitously, and children are dying from delayed effects of the virus world wide, your client is at risk, and everyone in the community is at risk; so what I am basing my decision on, yes, I am basing my decision on the Supreme Court’s and Governor’s orders and the very serious health risk.

That was the second such hearing. In front of my usual judge … who was very angry by the exchange, and who seemed more incensed by the possibility that I was a “denier” than he was about the actual arguments I was making.

The Supreme Court did indeed release a memo designed to offer guidance to all involved, and here is an excerpt:

While in general video or other forms of virtual visitation may serve on a temporary basis to preserve family connections during the time of the public health emergency as described in the Governor’s Proclamations, such visitation will not be sufficient in some cases, because it cannot be accessed by the parent or child, or both, and the disruption/denial of visitation will not be in the best interests of the child. If, pursuant to the Governor’s Proclamation 20-33 and Directive 20-02, DCYF modifies in-person visits between children and their parents or children and their siblings, DCYF will notify the parties of any modification, the child if 12 or older or their counsel if represented, and the CASA/Guardian ad Litem. While this emergency order remains in effect, courts should hear motions by a parent or child seeking in-person visits regardless of whether they are considered emergency motions. Courts should rule on motions seeking in-person visits based on the relevant facts of the case, the relevant dependency statutes, case law, Governor’s Proclamations and Directives, guidance from the United States Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau, public health risks resulting from exposure to COVID-19, the child’s age and developmental level, the feasibility of in-person and remote visitation, functional capacity of the parent and child, the child’s best interests, and the child’s health, safety, and welfare. Any court-ordered in-person visitation shall mandate the specific health, safety and welfare protocols that must be followed.

So, we do still get to have hearings – how nice. We do still get to make arguments – how nice. The court should consider the “relevant facts of the case.” Ok, I guess we’ll all have our opinions on which facts are relevant, but that’s why we have judges, right? The “relevant dependency statues, case law” … yes, I should hope so! But not a heck of a lot of case law that talks about pandemics, or maybe I just haven’t gone back far enough. But here it is: “The Governor’s Proclamations and Directives, guidance from the US Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau, and … public health risks resulting from exposure to COVID-19.”

My goodness. In law school they do still teach us some Latin. I believe the term is Carte Blanche. But I am surely free to draft a motion if I feel that the Governor and our Supreme Court are behaving unconstitutionally. That’s amusing. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I am reminded of the accounts by Alexander Solzhenitsyn and others about the seriousness with which soviet interrogators loved to remind their prisoners of their “right to appeal.”

A week prior, in front of a different judge in a different jurisdiction, I attempted to put it in perspective. Several years ago, I represented a client who was arguing that she did not wish to have visitation with her mother. I made the request in court and cited my client’s rationale. My client had disclosed sexual abuse on the part of her mother’s boyfriend; her mother had been aware of these allegations for quite some time and accused the daughter of lying. She maintained this position, as well as a great deal of anger directed at my client for “having caused all of this.” My client told me that she and her mother did not get along, that they fought regularly, that visitation caused her to lose sleep at night and perform poorly in school. When I made the request, I was reminded by the judge that a parent’s right to visitation is a strongly protected right. I had presented no evidence – I objected that my client was perhaps the best person to describe her own state of mind (objection noted) – and had provided no facts that could possibly override this all-important right. Perhaps if I were to secure the testimony of an expert witness such as a psychologist or even a therapist, but as it was, there was simply no way that the court could rule, based solely on my arguments, find that there was an imminent threat to the health, safety, or well-being of my client.

I told the judge that this is a conversation I regularly have with teenagers who are angry with their parents (for being abusive, for using drugs, for neglect, for choosing a boyfriend or girlfriend over children). This is a right that is treated very strongly in our statutes. Sometimes, there are actions we can take, but usually those actions cannot be taken right away. Do your best, try to make it work, and be sure to stay in good communication with me, to be honest with your therapist, and so forth.

So what happened to this jealously protected right? Presumably, it is a right of the children just as much as it is a right of the parents.

Prior to the hearing, I sent the following email to all of the parties involved (but obviously not the judge), in response to an email from a guardian ad litem, calling for the postponing of visits “for at least the next several weeks” as a result of four new positive tests that day:

I’d like to give a little bit of context on this. Keeping in mind that, as with any dependency, it is the court’s responsibility to consider the safety of the child.

With respect to COVID, according to the [County] Community Impact Dashboard: there are 44 confirmed cases (with 968 testing negative). There are 61 pending results, but if roughly the same percentage holds true, you might expect 2 or 3 of those to be positive.

More importantly, [County] has zero deaths from covid. The dashboard does not indicate whether there are any hospitalizations.

It is perfectly fine to point out that there is an illness currently at the forefront of everyone’s minds, especially due to the actions of our governor, which all but require that this be at the forefront of everyone’s minds. But if we are talking about actual risk of harm, and the actual safety of [my client], who is the only subject of this dependency and whose safety should be the only consideration with respect to whether or not visits are permitted, it is important to consider that the risk that this particular illness poses to [my client] is virtually zero. On the flip side of that, we have a youth with pretty severe psychological issues, who has been largely confined to his home for the past several months. He very much wants to visit with his family, and has made that abundantly clear. This, too, should be a serious consideration when we are determining what is best for [my client].

Perhaps we should take [my own county, just to the south] as something of a better example, since we’ve been talking about 4 new cases here and there up in [county]. [My own county] has, as of right now, 2025 confirmed (past or present) cases of covid. There has never been more than 25 hospitalizations at a time, and there have been 67 deaths. An overwhelming majority of those deaths have been in nursing homes, a majority have been in the demographic of individuals aged 80 and above, and all but 5 were individuals with serious underlying conditions (not simply the existence of some medical condition).

There have been zero deaths for people in [my client]’s age group. There has been 1 death (again, an individual with serious underlying conditions) in [my client]’s Dad’s age group (though, again, we are concerned with [my client]’s safety). As testing increases, as with literally every contagious disease in existence, “case counts” are going to go up. That is going to happen indefinitely. The risk to [my client] remains essentially 0%.

As COVID has been forced to the main stage of everyone’s collective consciousness, it is very tempting to pretend that it is of primary importance with respect to everything that we are doing. But it’s not. Nor is it even close. There are a lot of things to consider with respect to [my client]. The importance of family bond is primary among them, as are his particular mental health issues. His chances of being injured in a car accident on the way to a visit greatly outweigh his chances of contracting, much less suffering even mildly, from covid. The damage to his mental health from being denied visitation also greatly outweighs the potential of suffering in any manner whatsoever from covid.

In no way is this a reason to postpone visitation between [my client] and his father. Quite the opposite, in fact. It is very important that we help return some sense of normalcy for this child whose life has been turned upside down over the past several months, and there is absolutely no danger to him that will come from in person visits with his dad.

I did not read or repeat the entire email in court, but I did hit all of the same points. With similar results:

… and with respect to the issue of visitation, let me just say that Mr. M__ is absolutely 100% wrong. This pandemic does pose a serious threat to [his client], and it doesn’t matter whether there are fewer fatalities in people of his age, that’s not my only consideration. I am thinking about the whole community, and this pandemic poses a serious threat to the whole community. What if [client] touches catches this disease, and then he passes it on to someone else, and that person passes it on to someone else, and the whole community is what’s at risk here. So while I am not going to grant the department’s request for no visitation, I am going to accept the recommendations of the guardian ad litem, that [client] and his father wear masks at all times – and frankly, the father should always be wearing a mask at all times, whether in visitation or not – and that they stay six feet apart at all times.

The guardian ad litem followed up in an email, suggesting that really, though she hadn’t thought of it during the hearing, they should be temped before every visit as well. Brilliant.

Funny how laws get turned on their head like that. Funny how standards of evidence and burdens of proof are just as fleeting as whatever wind it was that blew COVID into our lives to begin with. During the week following that ruling, I exchanged some heated emails – apparently, the social worker (who never wanted this visitation to begin with) stated that, regardless of the court order, the department was not permitted by the Governor’s stay-at-home order to arrange for visitation, and therefore she would keep tabs on the Governor’s orders to see when this would be lifted. I responded harshly, and after a few days, the excuse was now that the social worker needed to consult with the head of the department, or the powers that be, to determine which sort of mask would be required, and whether the department could provide those masks. And on and on …

Well, at least my own judge, this morning, did not require that masks and social distancing were going to be a requirement, though I suppose he surely could have.

Carte Blanche, provided the governor declares a state of emergency – funny thing, there’s a statute for that, too. If you don’t think the actions of the governor and the supreme court were legal, feel free to note that motion with your local commissioner.

* * * * *

I am not a doctor. I know doctors, and as a lawyer, I am that obnoxious patient who attempts to reason through everything, and who asks his doctors for full explanations that amount to re-caps of what they learned in medical school. I read to understand, and to solve problems, and I read thoroughly. I am not an “expert,” but I am intelligent, and I think that quality is sometimes understated, especially when we can so easily dismiss arguments by appealing to a greater authority. Just listen to the experts. What’s that? No… not those experts. Listen to these experts. What do you know, anyway … are you a doctor? Are you an expert? I didn’t think so.

With respect to COVID, we are all experts. We all have access to the same information, all of the same studies, the same numbers, the same charts and graphs, the same data – we are all peers, and we have all been reviewing for the past several months.

There are a great many thoughts that I began to have back in February, many of which have persisted, and many of which have developed over time, as new evidence emerges. When this was allegedly confined to China, I was told that it wasn’t a problem for the United States. I had a hard time believing that. Even China doesn’t weld people into their apartments for something that isn’t going to be a problem. Why don’t the Chinese respond this way to the flu? Now, in retrospect, I believe we have enough evidence to understand why even China would overreact. They may well have known where this originated. That doesn’t mean it was a biological weapon, but it does mean that they understood that it was an unknown. Now it seems that China has realized that they can shift back to pretending that it doesn’t exist. They have learned just as we have.

Back in March, I was told that this virus was extremely deadly. I was also told that something close to 80% of people were asymptomatic, and I was told that the virus was aerosolized and capable of spreading just by people passing in close proximity to one another. Back in March, it seemed like we couldn’t have it both ways. If it was highly contagious and most people didn’t know they had it, this thing would be everywhere, and it would be everywhere very fast. Unless we really did have bodies piling up in the streets, it couldn’t possibly be nearly as deadly as people claimed. It also couldn’t be contained, as some were claiming at the time and are still acting on, now.

In April, we went from one or two identified and isolated cases that we could trace back to China, to a virtual explosion of cases, seemingly in a matter of moments, peppered throughout all states, with no known connection to China or to Italy. We had started testing widely, and everywhere we tested, we found COVID. In April, it seemed to me that contagious illness does not spread like a Jackson Pollack, but that they rather creep like The Blob. I wondered if maybe the illness was somewhat more ubiquitous than previously assumed, if maybe it had been here longer, and if maybe it was not quite as deadly as we assumed. I wondered if those curvy graphs we were seeing were actually miscalculating the starting point, and that we were somewhere else along that curve.

But sometime back in March our death counts also began to mount. We were – and we still are – treated to a daily running tally of deaths, seeming to rise uncontrollably. We were told that hospitals were going to be overwhelmed, and we were sold on “flattening the curve.” Two weeks was all it would take, and we wouldn’t lick this thing, but we’d save our hospitals. I kept looking at the numbers, but none of it really seemed to add up. The virus appears to behave irrationally – and it seems to me that things without brains are incapable of behaving irrationally. Only humans can do that. Nature virtually always follows a pattern. I don’t expect this part of nature to be an exception. So what exactly is the pattern?

Well, when we have an answer to that, we have the problem solved, don’t we?

I suppose – but we already do see patterns. If we look at the history of pandemics, we see patterns, and it isn’t masks and social distancing that have acted as nature’s vaccine as far as I can tell. But even with this one, we see patterns. We see that nature is not actually irrational and that humans still are. Many of those early contradictions still exist. We are now embracing the contradictions in exactly the same way the #metoo movement has managed to believe all women, except … well. Just this morning, I saw some sense in what seems to be a pattern. I read about Florida. Lost in all of the panic of this pandemic, and lost in all of the made-for-primetime stories of heartbreak and loss, amid the anecdotes about the one family that lost four members, the 20-year-old soccer player, the Broadway star who lost a leg … buried in all of that is the fact that this virus overwhelmingly prefers the old and infirm. In Washington state, if you look hard enough (but not on the official website), you will find that over 60% of COVID fatalities have occurred in nursing homes. That isn’t just Washington State, it is a pattern… It is a pattern we’ve known about for a while. So why was I so interested in Florida? Because of New York, obviously.

New York City has become the focal point of this entire pandemic, outpacing Milan and Wuhan, due in large part to the fact that – let’s face it – most of our media outlets are based in New York. But it also accounts for a vast majority of COVID deaths in the United States… and, not randomly. You’d think that nature was still being irrational, because DeBlasio sure is – the people of New York are told they must wear masks, they cannot go to beaches, they shouldn’t ride subways, and they really ought to stay inside. But the nursing homes? Take them away and what becomes of New York’s death rate? So what’s the lesson we learn from New York?

Not New York – the lesson is in Florida. Keep up. Florida, it seems, did not prescribe the nuclear bomb. Florida had access to the same numbers that we don’t seem to hear enough about – it knows about this virus’s penchant for the elderly, the infirm, and particularly the residents of facilities. And Florida ought to have been terrified, unless I am wholly mistaken about my vision of Florida as essentially the east coast version of Sun City. Regardless, Florida seems to have taken a narrowly tailored approach, opting to protect its nursing homes.

I wonder how many contradictions we could eliminate if we took the same approach?

Well, we have a virus that attacks the elderly and the infirm, we know that something close to, or even more than 60% of deaths occur in nursing homes (and this may not even include individuals who are transferred from nursing homes and die in hospitals). We know that this illness is fairly widespread and fairly contagious, even if it is not quite as widespread and it is not quite as contagious as previously assumed … and, for all we have been hearing about the impossibility of “herd immunity” from people who love to do the simplest of math (i.e. we have 3% infection and 96,000 deaths, so in order to get to 80% infection we would need how many million, again? oh, crap), the fact is, we also have the history of all other coronaviruses, none of which died out because of “herd immunity,” but none of which are presently a threat.

Why is that? Because everyone in Japan and South Korea wears masks? Is it because nobody hugs outside of Italy? Is it because Asians are obsessively tracked by their big-brother governments?

Or – maybe – maybe these contradictions indicate that some of our assumptions are simply wrong, and maybe that is because nature is not actually behaving irrationally. Maybe we have a virus that impacts the old and infirm far differently than it impacts the young and healthy. Maybe, if contained solely within the sick and elderly demographics, it would infect 80%, killing 25% of them, before finally burning itself out – and maybe, if contained solely to the young and healthy demographics, it would circulate widely, nobody would notice, and it would either die off or mutate into another common cold.

Maybe, if we looked at patterns instead of dreaming up new feel-good ways for the whole community to join together in solidarity, wearing masks, social distancing, and staying home to save lives(!), maybe we would do something close to what Florida has done, and something far, far different than what New York has done.

We don’t need to respond to a disease that attacks the elderly and infirm by asking the young and healthy to go to drastic measures to avoid infection and spread. We do not need to obsessively track our population in order to seek out every case, while simultaneously telling people to cover their faces because death exists as a fog surrounding the healthy. We do not need to fundamentally transform society so that we never congregate in groups and our children grow up as terrified hypochondriacs.

But we love to live out our contradictions, don’t we?

* * * * *

Back in court, I can only dream about what life would be like if we could apply the standards that our governments and supreme courts have adopted for COVID in other circumstances.

Your honor, due to depression, I am asking that visitation between my client and her mother be suspended or at least curtailed.

Mr. M__, you’re going to need to be a bit more specific than that.

Well, depression effects millions of Americans, as we all know, and … what if the visit makes her more depressed and she ends up taking it out on someone else, who takes it out on someone else, and, as we know, depression isn’t just an individual problem, it is a community iss…

…Have you filed any sort of declaration or affidavit with the court, citing evidence for your assertions with respect to the impacts of depression, the existence of depression in your client specifically, and the potential that my decision with respect to visitation might have any impact on any of the above? Are you requesting a hearing with expert witnesses? Do you have expert testimony showing that your request will alleviate the depression rather than cause more depression? Do you have expert testimony showing that this visitation is the primary source of your clients depression? Under what authority and on what basis do you expect me to grant your request? Can you point me to the statute that requires me to consider anything other than the actual and particularized – and proven – harm to your client?

oh, well, yes your honor, I know that this is how we used to do things, but I thought everything had changed… I’m sorry, how about this, instead? I am requesting that visitation be suspended … because COVID.

Granted.

Quote of the Day: Drawing from CS Lewis’s Well of Wisdom

 

Clive Staples Lewis is one of my favorites. The Chronicles of Narnia books were da bomb as a child (still are) and he’s a frequent font of wisdom as an adult. We could probably fill Quotes of the Day for years and not dry out his wisdom well, so deep and clear is his thinking. Not to worry, I picked just a handful I’ve been pondering during lockdown, interspersed with brief narrative tying them together to fill a few days this month. No need for explanation on the correlation between lockdown extremes and these first two:

The greatest evils in the world will not be carried out by men with guns, but by men in suits sitting behind desks.

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

What is evil?

While most would agree Class A Level 1 felonies and people like Stalin/Mao/Hitler/Charles Manson/Ted Bundy are evil, the Book of Proverbs has a short list that covers a lot of ground and is as applicable today as when written.

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes [looking down on others with disdain], a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers (Proverbs 6:16-19 ESV)

In fact, “every day” malevolent acts abound in modern society.

“What about those things that aren’t this type of evil, but aren’t necessarily good?” you might ask. The tricky nebulous things categorized as necessary evils are at the crux of many current public policy discussions. Often we hear arguments presented as though the only choices available are the “lesser of two evils.” Lewis has a couple of perspicacious cautions:

He (the devil) always sends errors into the world in pairs–pairs of opposites…He relies on your extra dislike of one to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.

And

Do not let us mistake necessary evils for good.

There are unpleasant things that are done or accepted in order to achieve a goal or objective; governments and taxes come to mind, TSA imaging to prevent terror attacks, or social networking insofar as it replaces face-to-face interaction and meaningful relationships with others. Even those necessary evils that are accepted must never become so customary we start to think of them as “good.”

Next up, we’ll take a dip into some C.S. Lewis thoughts on The Good.

A ‘Patchwork’ Approach to Normalcy

 

Last week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck a fatal blow to Governor Tony Evers and his “Safer at Home” plans. Evers, and secretary-designee of the Department of Human Services (DHS), Andrea Palm, first issued an Emergency Declaration in March, followed by the “Safer at Home” orders that were set to expire on April 24. Shortly before that expiration, Evers and Palm extended the “Safer at Home” orders until May 26. Republicans in the state legislature sued, in part because Palm — not an elected official, but a political appointee — did not have the authority to impose criminal penalties through that order. The 4-3 decision called Palm’s order “unlawful, invalid, and unenforceable.”

The Evers administration was, unsurprisingly, displeased with the state Supreme Court’s ruling. In a call to reporters, Evers accused the state Republicans of being “unconcerned about…massive confusion that will exist without a statewide approach” with the media calling it a “patchwork approach.”

Yet…isn’t that how it should have been all along? In Wisconsin, the numbers as of May 17 are, according to the MacIver Institute as follows:

5.7 million Wisconsinites, 152,000 have been tested for COVID 19.

152,000 Wisconsinites tested for COVID 19, 92% of them came back negative.

6,500 have recovered, 5,500 are currently sick and 453 Wisconsinites have died.

Of the 5,500 currently sick, only 361 or 6.5% are hospitalized statewide and just 129 or 2.33% are currently in an ICU setting.

Most cases and deaths in the state are located in Milwaukee County. Currently, there are 5,185 positive cases and 240-260 deaths (depending on the source). Two counties — Langlade and Taylor — have zero reported cases. A majority of counties have no deaths, and those that do have fewer than 50 (with the exception of Milwaukee County). Why should those two case-free counties see their businesses shuttered and their lives upended? Why should counties where cases and deaths are low be under the same restrictions as counties where the cases and deaths are higher?

Evers and the DHS went to the legislature, asking them to revise the rule-making process that would give Palm the authority to extend Wisconsin’s statewide lockdown by an additional 150 days, with the possibility of another 120-day extension on top of that. For those who aren’t quick to do the math, that’s 270 days or…nine months. The Evers administration pushed, after keeping Wisconsin locked down since March, for another nine months. Never mind that state unemployment claims have skyrocketed with more than 2 million filed since March 15, while the Department of Workforce Development has failed to pay 675,000 claims. Thankfully, the Republican-controlled joint rules committee shot down Evers’ proposed rule change.

The driving mentality behind much of the lockdowns is now “I don’t want to go outside/to work/to a restaurant, therefore my neighbors shouldn’t be able to do so.” We were told that we needed to stay home for two weeks to “flatten the curve” in order to not overwhelm our health care system. We’ve done that, in spades. In Wisconsin, only 361 people are hospitalized and 129 of them are in the ICU. The curve is flattened. Hospitals, which had postponed “non-essential” elective procedures have units empty and are furloughing or laying off staff. But the goalposts are moved again and again. Fifteen days turned into 30 which turned into 45 which has now turned into indefinitely or until there is a vaccine (which may or may not happen, despite promising early reports).

Last week, I had the ability to escape Milwaukee, where the businesses remained closed, and drove to lake country to eat a meal at a bar that had reopened. The normalcy — sitting in the sun with good food and fellowship — was a balm to my soul. It was also the choice and flexibility of the city and county, which felt it was safe — and that the people were responsible enough — to open up businesses again. Many at the bar shared my sentiment. Given all that had happened during the lockdown, it was the mental health boost many of us needed.

This “patchwork” approach lamented by Gov. Evers is what’s best for all of us.

Fair…and Unfair

 

This is a story of two world’s fairs, held 25 years apart. The early fair, the one my parents went to as kids, is still justly remembered with fondness and respect, one last good time before World War II. The later one, the space-age fair that my wife and I went to as kids, was also a dazzling, Disneyland-sized tribute to modern progress. It was held in the same place, by many of the same people: companies and designers who created the first one. But this new fair, “our” fair, was scorned by fashionable critics.

Then and forever since, the few writers who mention the New York World’s Fair 1964/65 saw it as ugly and unimaginative if not outright tacky, shallow corporate hucksterism. In the quaint language of the day, the fair was a distraction from pollution, prejudice, and poverty. The New York Times Sunday Magazine said something typical that seemed clueless and unintentionally funny even at the time. It still sticks with me: “Only the people who went to it liked it.” I’m one of them.

I usually write about technology intersecting show business. This post is about one very un-usual, very costly form of specialized moving image storytelling, the world’s fair or theme park exhibit ride. It’s a unique kind of show you actually move through, part inspiration, part entertainment, part advertising–or propaganda. It’s a popular art form that was essentially invented in America to look beyond those Depression blues. Its spirit lives on even today at Epcot Center and in every Disney park.

Flashback, all the way back to April 30, 1939. “I Have Seen the Future.” That’s what it said on a display pin you were handed when you stepped off the seated ride conveyor, at the end of General Motors’ spectacular Futurama exhibit at the 1939-’40 New York World’s Fair. Its dazzling moving diorama views of mile-high skyscrapers and 20-lane, 100-mile-an-hour superhighways made it by far the fair’s most popular pavilion. America’s future was looking far brighter than it did when the World’s Fair was first proposed in 1935, in the Gotham City-like depths of the Great Depression.

The Futurama badge you pinned to your lapel was a boldly colored design on enameled metal, New Deal stark and mythic looking. Working-class families were almost all Democrats, suspicious of Wall Street, and recently scarred by hard times. Yet they flocked to see the pride and self-flattery of rich corporations at the zenith of their power, spending bundles to create ten-minute visions of the future so elaborate that you can sit down and spend ten minutes riding through them. And Futurama, a word trademarked by General Motors, was where it all started.

When the NYWF opened, Germany’s conquests were still nearly bloodless, something that would change, and soon. But as the public swarmed through the gates on that last day of April 1939, there was still plenty of hope that it would indeed be the beginning of a bright new day.

Another seated conveyor “ride” at the 1939-’40 fair was called Democracity, the fair’s own giant light-and-sound diorama of city life in a rationally planned future. This exhibit took place inside a giant ball, half of the iconic Trylon and Perisphere theme center known to every viewer of the 1961 Twilight Zone episode, “The Odyssey of Flight 33.” In the diorama, each quadrant of the town had to re-paint their buildings to match the neighborhood’s voted-on color scheme. Democracity would have been democracy at its pushiest.

The pre-war fair wasn’t all rides, of course. It marked the public debut of nylon stockings, fax machines, new forms of plastic, robots, and television.

Some pavilions had a sense of fun, like NCR’s building that was shaped like a giant cash register, whose numbers displayed a running tally of the day’s attendance. There were exhibits of passenger trains and of milking machines. Foreign pavilions competed to attract visitors with free food and entertainment.

There was also a lakeside Amusement Area, with more traditional fairground entertainment, games of “chance,” carny barkers, and sideshows, including “artistic” poses by topless women. It doesn’t fit our clean image of 1939, but it happened.

Then, world war, and a world transformed. In the prosperous ’50s, with America effectively on top of the world, New York’s power circles wanted another round. Everyone was in on it: Democrats of Brooklyn’s Tammany Hall and the outer borough construction unions; patrician Republicans who ran Manhattan’s banks and real estate. Everyone could make a buck off another world’s fair. Political power broker Robert Moses, the unelected king of New York, accepted the job of making it happen. The date, 1964, was chosen as the 300th anniversary of Dutch New Amsterdam becoming British New York.

After toying with impractical schemes like a glass dome a mile in diameter, the city settled on the simplest, cheapest solution, of re-using the street plan of the ’39-’40 fairgrounds. The Kennedy administration was fully on board. Like the earlier fair, the flashiest parts would be presented by major corporations like General Electric, AT&T, IBM, DuPont, Bell Telephone, and the car companies.

The international clearinghouse for world’s fairs had already okayed Seattle’s Space Needle world’s fair of 1962, and was in the process of approving Montreal. They turned down New York. They’d turned down New York in the 30s, too, but this time they made it stick. Most major countries like Britain, France, and Germany didn’t participate. To save face, the fair allowed privately owned unofficial fake “pavilions” that were no more than a fast-food stand and a souvenir shop. A definite mistake, though not a killer one.

In a late stage of design, the USSR and its satellites changed course and withdrew. In a fit of spite, Moses—that’s Robert Moses—gave their land to God; he made their pavilion real estate available to religious groups, just this legal side of free of charge. Not everyone loved the flashy Vatican pavilion, but my family did. The Billy Graham Evangelical Organization had a great exhibit. For years to come, I was the only Catholic kid in the neighborhood who subscribed to the Hour of Decision newsletter (as well probably being the only one with a copy of the album to 1964’s biggest Broadway hit, Fiddler on the Roof). An Anglican writer complained good-naturedly that the various denominations of the Protestant and Orthodox pavilions looked like a bunch of Allegheny Airlines check-in counters. It should be admitted that the ’64-’65 fair was a bit on the churchy side, but it accurately reflected the attitudes of the country at that time, a reality that irritated the hell out of critics.

Progressives were increasingly distrustful of technology, and seemed to have no interest in automobiles, computers, suburban living, video telephones, or space travel.

In 1964 and 1965, the GM Futurama’s exciting ten-minute trip into the future was once again the most popular exhibit at the fair. Seated riders glided past lifelike scenes of lunar colonies, arctic weather control stations, and underwater scenic hotels. The so-called pin that ride attendants handed you was made of injected plastic, and its symbol was just an atomic abstraction of the space age. A sign of changing times and styles.

People in 1939 wore hats, and men often wore a jacket and tie even in summer heat. By contrast, a glance at color photos of the 1964 crowds doesn’t look that strange to us today. People are dressed for comfort, as we do today, though for the ladies, slacks and not-very-short shorts were still outnumbered by dresses and skirts. It was a world of families, not singles. The crowds of ’64, the civil rights era, were more racially integrated than 1939’s, as ours are today.

Some of the differences between then and even just a few years later don’t show up readily in photos. What we think of as the ’60s had barely started. There was no women’s movement to speak of. The only new freedom for women touted at the fair was the kind that modern appliances and wash and wear fabrics could convey. The world of 1964 wasn’t thinking much about gay rights or the environment, not yet, anyway. The Vietnam war hadn’t inflamed the country; that came later. There was no graffiti, and very little crime at the fair. As far as we know, the smell of marijuana was never detected wafting through its nighttime streets. All of this would change quickly, even by the time of the New York fair’s gifted, conceited younger sibling, Montreal’s much-loved expo67.

More than a half-century on, I still think that most, not all later criticisms of the fair were snobbish sour grapes. The ’39 fair also had its share of tacky, and ’64 had plenty to be proud of. It hosted the Pope and the Beatles, among 51 million other people. It inspired artists from Andy Warhol to Stanley Kubrick. If its fascination for outer space now seems a little naïve, it appears to be coming back into style. The IBM pavilion’s computers-are-your-friends creativity was smartly ahead of its time, and so were the telecommunications forecasts of one of the fair’s other great ride pavilions, Bell System/AT&T.

Walt Disney, whose theme park rides owed much to the earlier fair, designed no fewer than four exhibits, three of which were retained afterward for use in Disneyland: the Illinois pavilion (Abe Lincoln in Illinois), Pepsi-Cola (It’s a Small World), GE Carousel of Progress (It’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow) and the biggest of the four, Ford Motor Company’s own ride through history, one-upping GM by having the passengers seated in actual Ford cars, propelled from below with small electric motors.

The top attraction remained the General Motors Futurama. There’s a saying in show business, “Give the people what they want and they’ll show up for it.” That’s why two generations of people waited in hour-long lines to see what amounted to a slow ride around an ingeniously detailed, three-block-long model train layout, while contemplating America’s future. What Futurama gave us in the crowd was buoyant technological optimism.

A Day of Great Social Import

 

Fourteen years ago today. It was a Sunday. A beautiful, young nurse became so fed up with the dating life that she let her father walk her down the aisle aboard the Tall Ship Silva in Halifax Harbour. There she stood, never looking more gorgeous in her flowing white wedding gown, in front of a socially awkward, unemployed former lawyer three years her senior. Ignoring her father’s offer to steal a lifeboat and bring her back to shore, she married him.

That loser found a job a few months after the wedding. It was a really bad job, terrible hours, little pay, soul-crushing work. But within weeks of starting, he got a slightly better job with a much better company. A couple of months later, he got a better job within the company and the news that the beautiful young nurse was now expecting a child. Two promotions followed in rapid succession and by the time that child was born (six weeks premature), that nurse’s husband had a job he could be proud of.

Seven and half years after that first child was born, the couple was blessed with another child.

Happy Anniversary Crystal, thank you for taking a chance on that loser 14 years ago. I love you.

It Came From Beyond

 

Bit of a drive-by posting, but it’s getting close to 4 a.m. here in the Boston suburbs, and the linked resources (“Mail on Sunday” news coverage, plus the PDF of the study itself) unquestionably tell the tale far more effectively than I could. Suffice it to say that this represents a development that the redoubtable Senator Tom Cotton might well term a Big BSL-4 Deal.

First, the reportage. Second, the PDF of the actual published study:

I’ll just add — apologies for the reiteration — my own contention that the Wuhan Virus outbreak not only surely must be the result of a pathogen handling protocol mistake committed in either one of two labs in Wuhan, but also that the bat coronavirus research implicated in the outbreak was surely geared towards determining which particular strain in the labs’ ever-expanding collection should be designated for plausible-deniability ethnic-cleansing deployment in the Uyghur-detention gulag archipelago in the PRC’s far-western Xinjiang province.

Member Post

 

This is from a person who only in the last few weeks discovered the other side of Trump: They now blog at “mynewnormal”From the blogger: “So, Mr. President, I’m embarrassed and sorry to say that I did not use my intuition to develop my opinion of you. I have bad mouthed you for 4 years. […]

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Public Health: Personal and Public

 

But for “public health,” you would not be reading these words. What follows starts with the personal and moves to the public, writ large. None of this should be controversial, as we all kind of know, or knew before the latest political gambit blasted through our collective memories and quickly polarized information into take it all for what it is worth.

The personal: But for public health, you would not be reading these words. My mother graduated from college with her BN in the late 1950s and went to work for the city of Philadelphia as a public health nurse. They called themselves “streetwalkers for the city of Philadelphia” because they walked a beat, bringing front-line medical care to poor sections of town. Mom was very tall for her era, a lean 5’11” white woman perfectly safe in an all-black neighborhood because the drug gangs had not yet arisen and driven off the old men who sat on every stoop keeping a watchful eye over “their nurse.”

The pay was not great, so a number of nurses roomed together and threw a spaghetti dinner almost every weekend, designed to attract young men from the medical schools and such. That, and 10th Presbyterian Church, is why my parents met, married, had me and three girls, and are wonderfully still married to this very day.

The personal, at second hand: As a nursing student, or perhaps a new nurse, my mother was in attendance at one of the first large medical presentations in Philadelphia on the link between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer. A number of medical luminaries, the Dr. Faucis of the 1950s, were present and seated on a dais, facing the audience. At the conclusion of the presentation, concluding cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, one of the premier surgeons of the day elaborately drew his cigarette case from his breast pocket, carefully lit up, and slowly exhaled a large cloud of cigarette smoke. Then, as now, experts can come to believe too much in their own expertise well beyond their actual credentialed specialty.

What, then is “public health?” Let us take the government’s words for it. Start with the Center for Disease Control introduction to public health:

Public Health Defined
“The science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private communities, and individuals.”
—CEA Winslow. The untilled field of public health. Mod Med 1920;2:183–91.

Mission
“Fulfilling society’s interest in assuring conditions in which people can be healthy.”
—Institute of Medicine

“Public health aims to provide maximum benefit for the largest number of people.”
—World Health Organization

What might the field of public health actually encompass? The American Public Health Association explains:
Some examples of the many fields of public health:

  • First responders
  • Restaurant inspectors
  • Health educators
  • Scientists and researchers
  • Nutritionists
  • Community planners
  • Social workers
  • Epidemiologists
  • Public health physicians
  • Public health nurses
  • Occupational health and safety professionals
  • Public policymakers
  • Sanitarians

You are sharp-eyed enough to pick out that epidemiology, which still is not limited to the infectious diseases or immunology, is but a piece of the puzzle. My mother and her sisters-in-uniform were public health nurses. A public health physician is a medical doctor with additional training beyond clinical medicine.

A public health physician is a highly trained physician who focuses their efforts on improving the health of an entire population instead of solely on one-on-one patient treatment. The primary focus is on the prevention of disease within a community, and there are numerous responsibilities that you may have within the position.

…You’ll need a solid medical degree in order to enter this field. Usually, physicians working in the public health field start by providing primary care and gradually move into the field by earning a Master of Public Health degree. Others begin their training early with the specific goal of becoming a public health physician. In either case, a Master of Public Health will be needed, along with the training needed to become an MD or other similar physician’s training. It can take several years to complete the training, but for many the rewards are well worth it.

Public health includes, according to the CDC, “clinical care” or “health care”:

clinical care: prevention, treatment, and management of illness and the preservation of mental and physical well-being through the services offered by medical and allied health professions; also known as health care.

That is quite a bit more than researching and treating infectious diseases. What are some of the known public health side-effects of the Fauci prescription?

Try domestic violence for starters, again from an official government source, connecting social distancing with domestic violence:

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Americans are required to stay home to protect themselves and their communities. However, the home may not be safe for many families who experience domestic violence, which may include both intimate partners and children. COVID-19 has caused major economic devastation, disconnected many from community resources and support systems, and created widespread uncertainty and panic. Such conditions may stimulate violence in families where it didn’t exist before and worsen situations in homes where mistreatment and violence has been a problem. Violence in the home has an overall cost to society, leading to potentially adverse physical and mental health outcomes, including a higher risk of chronic disease, substance use, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and risky sexual behaviors.1 Further, victims of domestic violence including intimate partner abuse and child abuse are at great risk for injuries including death.

Let us move on to suicide. The Surgeon General calls suicide prevention a public health issue, in part:

Suicide is a problem that touches the lives of many Americans. Suicide is among the leading causes of death for adults under age 45 in the United States, and it exacts a huge emotional and economic toll on those left behind.

Reducing the number of suicides requires the engagement and commitment of people in many sectors in and outside of government, including public health, mental health, health care, the armed forces, business, entertainment, media, and education. Learn how the Surgeon General is drawing on suicide prevention experts across the nation to help make Americans aware of the heavy burden suicide imposes on our nation and to facilitate the prevention of suicide and related problems.

There is a robust public health literature on suicide increasing with economic downturns and mass layoffs. These, along with fatal overdoses, have become labeled “deaths of despair.” A 1992 study of suicide and unemployment between 1940 and 1984 found “the higher the unemployment rate the higher the suicide rate and the lower the female participation in the labor force the higher the suicide rate.” A 2013 study of long-term unemployment noted past studies on the link between unemployment and suicide, and shifted the focus to the effect of length of unemployment, concluding that “the long-term unemployed have a greater risk of suicide and attempted suicide compared to those unemployed in the short term, or compared to the general employed population.” A 2019 VA factsheet summarized multiple studies and multiple effects of unemployment on suicide rates, noting that some studies seem contradictory. The issue has been raised in publications aimed at the general public. See, for example, Chicago Magazine in 2011.*

Addiction deaths were the subject of a short 2017 article in The Atlantic linking joblessness and opioid deaths:

A new study suggests unemployment might be one of the factors behind that dramatic rise [in drug overdose deaths]. The paper, published by NBER last week, finds that as the unemployment rate increases by one percentage point in a given county, the opioid-death-rate rises by 3.6 percent, and emergency-room visits rise by 7 percent.

HHS recognized the danger of addicts falling back into using without recovery groups, and started promoting virtual recovery programs as a temporary solution through the COVID-19 shutdowns.

Public health importantly includes prevention and early detection for cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, among others. We have all been raised with the public health admonition that we should get our regular check-ups, both medical and dental, for the sake of our very lives. Dental disease is linked to heart disease, brought on by harmful bacteria that started in the mouth. It is also linked to worsening nutrition, which makes you more vulnerable to disease. Everyone reading this has had the public health messages beating into their brains for much of their lives. We all understand why professional athletes wear pink gear in October. The Irish Examiner was early in publishing warnings by cancer doctors in Europe:

Focusing solely on the current Covid-19 pandemic could “precipitate a future cancer epidemic”, researchers from Ireland and Europe have warned.

Research from Queen’s University Belfast, the University of Split in Croatia and King’s College London has shown that the response to the outbreak of Covid-19 is “significantly affecting the treatment and care of patients with cancer”.

The research, published in the European Journal of Cancer, found delays in urgent referrals and patients having their cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy postponed, or surgery being delayed.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany made it personal in one of her first press briefings:

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany
HEALTHCARE | Issued on: May 12, 2020

MS. MCENANY: Well, he has encouraged states to follow the guidelines. That’s still consistently our recommendation today, that you should follow the phased approach to reopening as outlined in the data.

I do want to stress, as the President has stressed, that we do want to reopen this country because there are consequences that run the other way when we stay closed down as a country, and I want to run through a few of those with you.

A hotline run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services saw a 1,000 percent increase in responses during April, as we kept this country closed. Epic’s data said appointments for screening for cancer of the cervix, colon, and breast were down 86 percent and 94 percent in March. There are real consequences for that.

I’m a BRCA2 — I carry a BRCA2 mutation, so I was someone who was regularly screened for breast cancer until I got my mastectomy. And when I went to my cancer hospital for screening, I didn’t see as many people in the halls.

And that is quite frightening because the consequence of that is this: According to the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, a total of 80,000-plus diagnoses of five common cancers in the United States are protected — are projected to be missed or delayed during the three-month period of early March to early June, which is why this President has always said, “Go to your doctor. Do your screenings.” There’s a way to safely do this. If you feel chest pain, go to your doctor. We can’t scare people from going to hospitals. It’s a consequence of staying closed, though, when people are scared. They’re scared to even go to their doctor, and there are consequences for that.

And finally, I would just point out a recent CNN article from Friday noted a national public health group that warned as many as 75,000 Americans could die because of drug or alcohol misuse and suicide as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

So there are consequences to us staying closed. And it’s why I believe it was eight medical groups came out with a statement — eight medical groups noted concerns that some people with symptoms of heart attack, stroke, and cardiac arrest are avoiding hospitals.

So it’s why I’ve said from this podium, I think at least two times — today is the second or third — you’ve got to go to your doctor. We’ve got to encourage this country to safely reopen.

These are all first-world problems, that is, problems not masked by more elementary threats to public health. Let us end this brief exploration at the global level. Move from mere malnutrition to starvation. With most documented and illegal immigrants in jobs deemed “nonessential,” the remittances their families and villages depend upon are gone. The global economic expansion that had finally pulled so many out of generational destitution has been deliberately crashed by the richest nations in the world. The United Nations has already warned that 130 million are on the brink of starvation. This should come as no surprise, if you’ve been conscious for any significant portion of the past decades.

Let us hear from the real medical experts offering real public health advice. Real public health advice is full public health advice, however messy and unpleasant the apparent trade-offs that then appear in this imperfect world. This should start with “America’s doctor,” the Surgeon General, in his leadership capacity in the US Public Health Service, backed up by the other fellow wearing a USPHS admiral’s uniform.


* Chicago Magazine, August 2011

Dunn and Classen, who have previously studied the link between suicides and presidential elections, released an early version of the paper in 2009 (PDF); it was published earlier this year in Health EconomicsTheir findings, covering 1996 through 2005, aren’t surprising: “mass layoffs and long spells of unemployment specifically were associated with increased suicide risk.” This should be of particular concern since unemployment duration is at unprecedented levels, and since concerns are rising about the unwillingness of employers to even consider hiring the unemployed:

“We may be seeing what’s called statistical discrimination,” said Robert Shimer, a labor economist at the University of Chicago. “On average, these workers might be less attractive, and employers don’t bother to look more closely to pick out the good ones.”

And the data is getting less thin. The research by Dunn and Classen tracks with a CDC study published shortly thereafter about suicide rates from 1928 through 2007—i.e. from the Great Depression to the Great Recession:

The study found the strongest association between business cycles and suicide among people in prime working ages, 25-64 years old.

The overall suicide rate generally rose in recessions like the Great Depression (1929-1933), the end of the New Deal (1937-1938), the Oil Crisis (1973-1975), and the Double-Dip Recession (1980-1982) and fell in expansions like the WWII period (1939-1945) and the longest expansion period (1991-2001) in which the economy experienced fast growth and low unemployment.

I Think the Time for Open Defiance Might Be Approaching

 

This is a series of quotes from politicians around the country today.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy:

“You, too, should expect to continue with this for the foreseeable future,” Murphy said of the state’s coronavirus restrictions, as he outlined when workers might be able to get back to their offices. He continued: “Until either a proven vaccine is in our midst or proven therapeutics are widely available, we cannot firmly enter the new normal, which eventually awaits us when life will once again return to all of our workplaces, downtowns and main streets. Most importantly, we will continue to be guided by the principle that public health creates economic health. And if we begin to see a backslide in public health, we will have to also pull back on the reins of our restart.”

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer:

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said that crowds would not be able to gather for professional or college sports in her state until a vaccine is available or there’s a rigorous testing regime in place with signs of herd immunity in the population.

“We’re gonna be in a new normal for quite a while. And it doesn’t mean that sports is over,” Whitmer said in a press conference Friday, mentioning a plan being pursued by the MLB to play a shortened season with no fans present.

“We need a vaccine, and we need to have mass quantities available,” she continued. “Or we need to be able to test and be able to acknowledge that we’ve got some immunity that’s built up. We’re not there yet and until that happens I think all the organizers of these leagues understand how important it is that we act responsibly here.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti:

“We have to all recognize that we’re not moving beyond COVID-19, we’re learning to live with it,” Garcetti said. “There’s no so-called ‘open state’ or ‘open country’ that doesn’t continue to have health orders telling us to cover our faces, physical distance and to tell people that you’re safest working from and staying at home.”

When will it be time for the Citizens of New Jersey, Michigan, and California to simply say “No, just No?” We will not continue to rot in place until our Rulers declare it is safe for us to emerge. When?

Defy Tyranny. Break the Lockdown.

I’m with Kamala on This

 

Sen. Kamala Harris, joined by Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Mazie Hirono, introduced a resolution in the Senate condemning the use of phrases such as “Wuhan virus,” “Chinese virus,” and “Kung flu” as racist.

I have a proposal for a fitting alternative.

Given what we now know via genomics analysis, most of the COVID-19 cases in the United States originated in, or with travel from, the New York metro area. I think we should be calling it the New York Flu. Over to you, Governor Cuomo!

Note: Though the first-known cluster was in Washington state, it was contained and is not the source of most of the US cases.

Your Government Inaction: Self Quarantine

 

My sister in-law was a teacher on the Navajo reservation. When her school shut down due to the Chinese Virus crisis, she opted to retire instead of being paid to do make-work. Since her residence was part of her compensation, she had to move out by June 1st.

My wife flew to Albuquerque to help her sister move. The scene at the airport when I dropped her off an hour before her flight was surreal. Ours was the only car in the departures area. There were a handful of employees visible but no other passengers. She told me that she was the only person in the security queue and was done in seconds. There were only 35 people on her flight.

Apparently New Mexico has a law that people from out-of-state have to self-quarantine for fourteen days after flying in. This does not apply to people who drive into the state, or casually stroll in, say through the southern border. Obviously the rule was crafted due to Science! and is in no way arbitrary. Or capricious. This does make the law easier to enforce, since the Albuquerque International Sunport® is basically the only airport with commercial flights from out of state. The airport I use in the fifth-largest city in Texas gets more traffic than the entire state of New Mexico.

When my wife deplaned, all the clean, healthy New Mexico citizens went out through one corridor, while the potentially disease-ridden out-of-staters were directed down another. She told me there was a folding table in the corridor with a stack of papers on it. The table was not labeled and no one was manning it. She and all the other dirty out-of-staters passed the table by without picking up a paper. Of course, at the end of the corridor, there was . . . nothing. All the unhygienic denizens of plague states just mingled back with the pure New Mexicans.

I was a cop in Albuquerque, and I seem to remember that the Sunport® has its own police department. When I flew in last year to visit family, I saw something very much resembling a police officer at the security line. So, why didn’t they have anyone, at the corridor they deliberately sent people through, to explain the law, ID people and get the location of their self-quarantine? Of course, it was Saturday, so maybe they had the day off. Or were in the office, doing inventory on their bullet.

My wife helped her sister load up a U-Haul®, and they drove out of the state the next day. Of course, nobody stopped them at the border to check their quarantine status.

This reminds me of one of my favorite jokes about the Soviet Union:

A man goes to the store by to buy some meat. Naturally the queue goes on for miles and when he finally gets to the counter, all the shelves are bare.

He loses his temper. “I’m sick of this stupid country, sick of this government, sick of the communists!”

The clerk looks around and says “Calm down, comrade. You remember what this sort of outburst would cause back in the bad old days…” and mimes a trigger being pulled against his temple.

Back home, the man’s wife looks at him returning empty-handed and asks, “They’re out of meat again?”

“It’s worse than that. They’re out of bullets.”

The government will will always have a totalitarian impulse when a crisis occurs. Fortunately, they are usually totally incompetent about it.

 

We need shut-down metrics next time, not just open up metrics

 

I get that when the current situation was getting underway we had little information to go on, so most people in government panicked at the thought of hospitals getting overwhelmed. We had to “flatten the curve” so they shut down just about everything, everywhere. Now they’re slowly opening things back up in stages based on metrics such as declining hospitalizations for 14 straight days.

But now we know more, and it turns out that running out of hospital beds didn’t happen. It was a concern only in the New York City area and maybe a couple of other places, for a little while. If anything, hospitals are empty because of stopping most other treatments. Maybe all the shutdowns helped, but we don’t actually know that. Some places didn’t shut down and did ok.

If something like this happens again, I suggest we don’t shut down everything everywhere all at once. We use metrics such as a steady decrease in available hospital beds so that running out might actually happen. We do this at the county level, not even the state level, because of how localized the hotspots were. It’s the shutdowns that need to be justified in stages, not the re-openings.

I suspect many people would voluntarily go back to masks and distancing and working from home if they could. We don’t need the blunt instrument of government disrupting our lives because of something someone said might happen.

Dear Liberal, You’re Not That Special

 

Pop Pundit: Mobs rule: Monster movie mobs and the politics of rageLast night I saw one of my exes post to her wall, the same familiar screed. “Oh my god. My governor is opening up the state of Oregon. Think of all the people who are going to die.”

I checked out the state of Oregon, it has a population of 4.218 million. It has had a grand total of 140 deaths. Over two-thirds of them are over the age of 65 and every single death had an underlying condition according to the stats I can find.

Sorry but you and your husband, a pair of 30-somethings who do kickboxing for a hobby, are going to be fine. You’re not that special.

Looking at these “continue the shutdown” people, they are the fearful peasants in the Frankenstein story. They are the people who burnt the witches. They are Christian apocalypse people. You know, the people carrying signs saying “the end is nigh.” Their lives are so meaningless they have to take strength that they are the chosen people living out the end times in preparation for the final battle with the Antichrist.

I am here to tell you, that the world is going on and passing you by. You’re not that special. You’re not going to die of COVID-19. However, people are dying of depression, people are going bankrupt, and are going to become poorer. We will see real inflation for the first time in many of our lives. Millions of people are destined to now die of tuberculosis in poor countries. The supply chain is disrupted and there will be shortages. Rich corporations are going to become richer and small businesses will go bankrupt. Alcoholism is surging as well as child abuse. Including molestation.

A friend of mine is a single mother. Her six-year-old son is now living alone in the house and is terrified to go outside. He hasn’t seen another child in two months. He is living in fear because of your selfishness. Frankly, that’s child abuse. You are allowing your fear to ruin other people’s lives so you can feel special about yourself.

That’s disgusting.

To all these people I have one thing to tell you: grow!

Day 121: COVID-19 Why Are States Obscuring the Data?

 

The screengrab above is from the Vermont Department of Health Weekly Summary of Vermont COVID-19 Data. It makes quite clear how residents of long-term care facilities are the majority of deaths from COVID-19 in that state. Similarly, the following chart illustrates the same thing, just adding that “Health Settings” include not only hospitals and long-term care, but therapeutic centers and behavioral health institutions as well.

Contrast Vermont’s data clarity with that of Minnesota. Although it is reported that 81% of Minnesota’s deaths occurred among residents of long-term care facilities, that is not easily demonstrated by the Minnesota Department of Health’s Stay Safe MN website. First, the only data that mention long-term care facilities is “case data,” not “death data.” Second, what death data there is is only disaggregated by race and ethnicity, not any other factors:

Congregant living?

Are LTC and Residential Behavioral Health “Non-Hospitalized?”

No correlation of deaths to anything other than race and ethnicity. Why is it important to correlate death to race and ethnicity, but not to residence in long-term care?

Of course, Minnesota is not alone in obscuring the relationship between infections in long-term care facilities and death. But why? When the data suggests that just getting your long-term care facilities infection control protocols in place would have reduced your deaths from COVID-19 by 80%, why wouldn’t you focus your energy there rather than house arrest for all residents? I get it that if you have a lot of infected but asymptomatic or minimally ill people going about, there is a greater challenge in protecting the residents of the long-term care facilities. But how is it less costly to impact the livelihoods of tens of millions rather than treat long-term care facilities more like Level 4 Bio labs?

The New York and Florida situations have been contrasted with regard to, in the one case, introducing infections into long-term care facilities, and in the other, putting emphasis on protecting residents of long-term care facilities as compared to other broader societal restrictions. As Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweeted, there does seem to be some correlation between the governing philosophies and the epidemic outcomes:

The first thing is focusing your efforts on the vulnerable, not controlling the whole of your society. Maybe you are obscuring the data so that it doesn’t make clear the consequences of your governing philosophy?

[Note: Links to all my COVID-19 posts can be found here.]