Pennsylvania, Meet Florida: Startling Facts About COVID-Related Nursing Home Deaths

 

Pennsylvania, meet Florida.

You’re smaller than Florida, with a population of 12.8 million compared to some 21 million in Florida. And Florida’s population is proportionately older; 20.5 percent of Florida’s residents are over age 65, compared to 18.2 percent in the Keystone State.

Then comes coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. Nasty bugger, that.

As of today, Florida has reported 481 deaths in nursing homes and related facilities. Tragic, and the number includes nursing home staff who have also succumbed.

But as of today, Pennsylvania has reported more than 2,700 deaths in nursing homes and related facilities. I do not know if that number includes staff.

Why is that, I wonder? Is it because there are more seniors living in nursing homes in PA than FL? Actually, the numbers are almost identical: 72,000 for Florida, 76,000 for Pennsylvania. So we can eliminate that.

But wait. This story from yesterday outlines how Governor Ron DeSantis and Florida’s Health Department moved COVID-positive nursing home residents into hospitals.

Pennsylvania? Governor Tom Wolf and his Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine (the behavioral kind, not a medical doctor) ordered COVID-positive patients back into nursing homes.

But PA Health Secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, made sure to move her 95-year-old mother out of her nursing home as deaths skyrocketed.

Let all that sink in.

Biden Nomination Keeps Interesting What Should’ve Been a Gimme for Democrats

 

News flash: the Democratic nomination for president has been won by a nearly 80-year-old man who’s spent the last two months puttering around his basement. With the US economy in flames, a divisive and broadly-unpopular incumbent president, and a viral pandemic ravaging the country’s most densely-populated areas, Democrats have somehow managed to turn what should’ve been a sure thing into a loser on the betting markets.

Whether he’s telling voters they’re full of [redacted], referring to God as “the thing,” or describing the impact of evaporating water on his blond leg hair during his halcyon days as a lifeguard, Biden’s increasingly erratic public pronouncements give American voters reason to stick with the relatively staid tweets of President Trump.

Biden, who voted against the hugely successful first Gulf War and for the catastrophic second one, reminds voters that some things are right even less often than a broken clock. A serial plagiarist, dumber than average, with a reputation for imposing unwelcome social intimacy on women even before our era of social distancing and the #MeToo movement, Democrats have to be wondering where it all went wrong.

Biden buyers are quick to point out that he’s merely a placeholder candidate; so long as he’s the not-Trump, he’ll win. After all, who better situated to pat a woman on the head for the bottom half of the ticket than a soon-to-be-octogenarian white male political lifer? That, after all, is practically the essence of what it means to be a Democrat.

But what if the next five-and-half months make voters in swing states long for a not-Biden candidate?

A political lifer’s political lifer, Biden continues to add to his impressive canon of surreal public pronouncements unrivaled in our national politics. With the legacy press and hundreds of progressive pundits working overtime to provide cover — the eight-year media holiday during the Obama era must seem to them like a very long time ago — it might be enough to pull the geriatric candidate over the finish line. But it’s safe to say that Biden could make an unscheduled campaign stop in his pantry to issue an apology for plagiarizing Bill Clinton’s denial of sexual assault allegations and it would be somehow be reduced to an innocuous “Biden being Biden” narrative.

An NFL coach once said of his mediocre kicker, “he puts the excitement back into the extra point.”

Democrats can relate.

Quote of the Day: Corruption

 

I just finished Profiles in Corruption: Abuse of Power by America’s Progressive Elite by Peter Schweizer. I would recommend it highly, but only in chunks of no more than a chapter at a time. Your blood pressure won’t take any more.

Each chapter focuses on a different politician: Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Eric Garcetti. The author has already treated the Clintons in a separate book — Clinton Cash.

The type of corruption varies some, but the benefactors of the corruption are a combination of family (Joe Biden, Sherrod Brown, and Bernie Sanders stand out) or the “machine” that supported the politician on the way up (Kamala Harris) and sometimes both.

The difference between the pre- and post-election positions is often striking. For example, before her election, Klobuchar was vehemently against earmarks. After her election, she was in the top third of the Senate in using them.

I am under no idealistic view that the Republican side of the Establishment politicians haven’t taken advantage of the system in the same ways. The conclusion has several interesting quotes:

“Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.”  — Milton Friedman

“It is said that power corrupts, but actually it’s more true that power attracts the corruptible.” — David Brin

A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims, but accomplices.” — George Orwell

The first two quotes make it seem that there isn’t much the individual voter can do, but the third indicates that it is up to us to try to fix the problem. One issue is that we need more real journalists like Schweizer to dig up the information required to make a good decision. In the long run, the solution is to get the size and power of government reduced to a point where it is no longer worth it to lobby politicians. :taking off rose-colored glasses:

Beauty Goes Beast-mode

 

The opening moments of White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s second press conference called to mind a dominant mixed martial arts fighter taking down her opponent in the very first exchange of a championship bout. Since the UFC rules provide for championship fights of 5 five minute rounds, it was fitting that McEnany closed out the briefing in just under 25 minutes. I thought of women’s featherweight and bantamweight champion Amanda “Lioness” Nunes, but then thought that, in terms of style, Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko was a better analogy.

What on earth am I talking about? Mixed martial arts have become just that, taking successful techniques from all unarmed “pure” combat sports. You may recall that an Olympic judoka, Ronda Rousey, established women’s place in the UFC. You may not know that she was ultimately driven out of the sport by effective strikers, ultimately dispatched to big time wrastlin’ by Amanda Nunes’ devastating combination of punches and Brazilian jujitsu takedown and grappling defense.

Rousey, you see, never learned a few basic wrestling moves, called “takedowns.” That is, she was always looking for a standup flip or throw rather than “changing levels,” dropping under her opponent’s fists to drive her shoulders through the thighs or hips. This is called “shooting,” as the fighter are dropping and driving forward or at an angle with the full power of your rear leg. From that move, she can get into all sorts of striking or grappling attacks. Here is what that basic move looks like on a training mat:

Now watch Kayleigh McEnany come out of her corner and dump the White House press pool on their collective backs. Kayleigh knows the combatants in front of her only have one move, coming straight forward in the attack. So, she parries the telegraphed line of attack from the day prior, controls the propagandists’ narrative thrust, changes levels and shoots for a clean double leg takedown.

On Monday, President Trump, with his experts, put on a great demonstration of the massive national surge in testing capacity. This was absolutely hated by the propagandists posing as reporters, so they were in attack mode, as usual. Indeed, they got so far out of the bounds of proper conduct, as established by their eight years of worship at the feet of Obama, that President Trump cut them off short.

Kayleigh McEnany, having already shown this motley crew last Friday how disciplined and prepared she would be, should have walked out Tuesday to Judas Priest’s “Some Heads are Gonna Roll.” It was five rounds of brutal beauty.

A review of the tape and the transcript* shows how McEnany never gave up top control, easily maintaining full mount, and putting on a submission and ground and pound clinic. Every effort by the “journalists” to bridge, buck, or shrimp out is controlled. Every attempt to strike up or get into a control position just brings more damage raining down from the podium. Standing up at the start of each round just earned a spinning back kick to the chest. The editors should throw in the towel before McEnany takes someone’s arm off with a smile. Their fighters are not even leaving a mark, not even mussing her hair.

So, what should her fight name be? Lioness? Bullet? Killer? Shillelagh? Mamba? What do you think best fits her?


*Annotated and highlighted Tuesday transcript

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

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:17 P.M. EDT

MS. MCENANY: Hello, everyone. I want to highlight three critical aspects of President Trump’s response to the coronavirus that have exceeded the media’s expectations and should inspire confidence in every American across this country. Rest assured the Trump administration is working tirelessly to defeat the invisible enemy.

First, contrary to some media pronouncements, the United States did not need the 1 million ventilators thus far that the media said we were in dire need of. [Media punch controlled] In fact, it’s encouraging to be able to say that every single American who has needed a ventilator has received a ventilator. And this administration has managed to pe- — procure, excuse me, 100,000 ventilators to be manufactured in 100 days. That’s extraordinary. That’s three times the amount produced in the average year.

Likewise, there was some concern about N95 respirators, but the Trump administration has now shipped over 90 million N95 respirators. [Media punch controlled] Once again, that is more than three times the average healthcare industry consumption of N95 restorators [sic] — respirators in the typical year.

Finally, the U.S. now leads the world in testing. For weeks, the media cited South Korea as being the gold standard for testing. [Media punch controlled But as it stands, we are now testing at a higher rate per capita than South Korea. And, in fact, as this chart is going to show you, in all 50 states we are now testing at a higher rate per capita than South Korea. So a state in this country is testing at a higher rate per capita than the entire country of South Korea. That’s pretty extraordinary, I would say.

[McEnany controls three crude attacks and dumps the media on their backs, showing President Trump’s administration overwhelmingly succeeded on their own fake metrics.]

Now I would like to provide the American people with an update on the Trump administration’s support for underserved communities.  [This controls the frantic attempt, again, to change the topic and smear the President and his supporters as racist] As the President has said, this country is at war with the invisible enemy. And while we all fight the virus as one united American people, it is a fact that this virus disproportionately has affected those in medically underserved communities, and therefore the President has committed to delivering economic support and quality care for individuals in distressed communities.

The Trump administration, as I announced last week, distributed $12 billion in provider relief payments to 395 hospitals across the country that have been harded [sic] — hardest hit by the coronavirus. Many of these hospitals were in underserved communities. And to ensure even more funding to these communities, $2 billion of that overall funding was specifically targeted to hospitals in proportion to the amount of care they provide for low-income and uninsured patients.

Additionally, the Trump administration is investing nearly $2 billion in community health centers to help their 28 million patients in medically underserved areas that receive care and the testing they need. That’s what this funding is intended for. And additionally, there’s $583 million awarded to 1,385 health centers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the eight U.S. territories specifically geared towards testing.

These health centers currently provide 100,000 tests per week, and 59 percent of the patients tested last week were from minority communities.

Finally, under the Paycheck Protection Program, the Trump administration has done extensive outreach to the community development financial institution funds across the country. These are known as CDFIs, and they support revitalization in distressed communities. In the second round of PPP, 100,000 loans have been distributed to CDFIs and to MDIs, which are known as minority deposit institutions. These have amounted to about $6.2 billion.

And finally, 570,723 loans have been issued to smaller lenders and non-banks, and these loans have amounted to $29.9 billion. President Trump will continue to fight for the health, safety, and economic wellbeing of all Americans, especially those impacted in low-income communities and disadvantaged communities.

And with that, I’ll take questions.

Yes.

Q President Trump yesterday said the U.S. had prevailed on testing, but today we heard from senators, both Democratic and Republican, who say that’s not the case. Senator Lamar Alexander, a Republican, says, “What our country has done so far in testing is impressive but not nearly enough.” Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat, said, “We need dramatically more testing. It’s unacceptable we…don’t have a national strategic plan.”

What’s the White House response?

MS. MCENANY: Well, first, I would note the words of Dr. Anthony Fauci, which is this, “We will have, and there will be enough tests to allow us to take this country safely through phase one.” [Here’s your favorite expert countering your feeble attack.]

I’ve sat in the task force meetings where Admiral Giroir has talked to governors and literally pulled out his chart and said: “Governor X, here is your plan and your request for testing in order to safely reopen. I can assure you that that will be satisfied this month.”

So I have seen those meetings take place. I can assure the American people, in line with what Dr. Fauci has said, we do have enough for phase one. By the end of the week, we’ll be able to say that we’ve conducted 10 million tests. You know, we went from doing 150,000 tests per week to now testing about 300,000. That’s an extraordinary effort, not to — also note that that’s two times what other countries are doing when you look at America’s testing. I’d say that that’s pretty impressive and that’s a testament to the work of this administration and the hard work of the private sector.

Q Kayleigh, two about reopening schools and also vaccines, if you don’t mind. First of all, reopening schools: There were a lot of questions today up on the Hill about when indeed that can happen. When will the White House, and will the White House, issue guidance, benchmarks for various communities on when that can happen and how soon that can happen? There’s a lot of concerned parents, as you know, across the country.

MS. MCENANY: Yeah, well, you know, in our guidelines to safely reopen that are data driven, it is phase three where there is an outline to beginning to open schools. So, currently, I’d direct you to our guidance that currently exists. And there is that CDC guidance that is in the works that is forthcoming that will provide additional details.

[Have you bothered reading the guidelines approved by Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx?]

Q Okay. And with regard to vaccines, the question was asked: When and if a vaccine becomes available, regardless of income, can the President ensure that everybody will get the vaccine regardless of income?

[Here’s my arm, go ahead and break it.]

MS. MCENANY: Look, the President will go to great efforts to ensure that. I don’t want to get ahead of any announcement on his part, but I would say this: that when it came to testing, there was that same question, “What if I’m uninsured and don’t have the ability to afford a test?” This President, before it was even addressed in Congress, called in the private sector and got companies to say, “Yes, we will cover both treatment, and we will cover testing.” And then, eventually, that was inscribed into law.

So this President, before it was even an issue on the Hill, took great measures with testing, and he will do the same for vaccines. And I would just note, as Dr. Fauci said on the Hill today, there are eight vaccine candidates. And on January 10th, we received the genetic sequence. The 11th, there was a plan developed. The 14th, development began. And 62 days later, we entered phase one clinical trials for a vaccine, which is the fastest ever — in Dr. Fauci’s knowledge, at least. So that’s a pretty good pace that I think we’re on to getting that vaccine.

Q Is the President working with pharmaceutical companies? He met with executives back in April. Will he work with them, encourage them, to make sure that vaccines are affordable to everyone?

MS. MCENANY: Absolutely. There’s no doubt about it.

Yes, Weijia.

Q Kayleigh, thank you and welcome. I haven’t had a chance to —

MS. MCENANY: Thank you.

Q — say that in this room. I have a couple of questions. First, reopening. Dr. Fauci today stressed many times that reopening without following the federal guidelines and the gating criteria could lead to more outbreaks and could turn back the clock. Does President Trump still believe in these federal guidelines? And if so, why isn’t he urging states to follow them instead of asking them to move quickly to reopen?

[This is supposed to be the strongest attack, but lets McEnany and the president take the legs out from under the media, the DNC, and Fauci. Kayleigh McEnany speaks as a cancer survivor about the deadly side effect of Fauci’s fraudulent assertion of speaking for all of public health, rather than his own insular specialty. She does so without mentioning Fauci negatively. I call that artistry with a stiletto heel. ]

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.

Q And on testing: Last week, you said it would be nonsensical to test all Americans. And yesterday, the administration celebrated testing 2.7 percent of the population. In order to reopen 100 percent of the country, what amount of testing does make sense to you? And what’s an alternative to testing to track and contain the virus to make people feel confident to get back to normal?

[Back to testing jabs.]

MS. MCENANY: Sure. We have to engage in strategic testing, which is what our experts have always said. Look, you know, you had Admiral Giroir, who said it’s a bad strategy to say that you need to test everyone because testing a person now just means they’re negative at this moment — a point also emphasized by Dr. Fauci. If you get a test today, that does not mean that tomorrow or the next day or the next day or the next day you might get exposed, which is why we acknowledge testing is not preventative.

What is preventative is wearing this mask. What is preventative is social distancing. What is preventative is washing your hands. These are the measures we need to take to safely reopen, and then we’ll use testing strategically for contact-tracing purposes, for example. So that’s the way it should be used and deployed, and I stand by the comment that I made earlier.

Yes.

Q Kayleigh, could you speak just a bit about the next round of coronavirus funding — the bill that the Speaker is releasing today? What provisions are no-go for the administration? What can you get behind?

MS. MCENANY: Look, I won’t get ahead of the President in negotiating, but — and I certainly won’t condition any future legislation on a certain proposal, but I will say that the President has noted a payroll tax is something that he’s looked at — not conditioning it on that, but noting that’s something he desires to see, and it’s smart policy. In fact, according to Stephen Moore and Art Laffer, this means, quote, “Every worker in America would get a substantial pay raise.”

And what is so promising about the payroll tax is that it’s a regressive tax, so the lowest-wage workers are, in fact, the ones who would be most helped because they pay more payroll tax than they do income tax.

So that’s something the President has mentioned, not necessarily as a condition. I won’t negotiate here with Speaker Pelosi, but I encourage her to work with the President to help these low-income individuals get this tax cut that they deserve.

Q One — just one follow-up.

MS. MCENANY: Yes.

Q I’m sorry. Michael Pack has a confirmation hearing on Thursday. Could you speak to what the President wants him to do, if confirmed, to change the way the Voice of America operates?

MS. MCENANY: Yeah, I won’t get ahead of that hearing, which is later in the week, as you noted.

Yes.

Q Thanks, Kayleigh. I wanted to ask you about the task force. The President and the Vice President said last week that there’ll be some new additions to the task force and that those would be announced on Monday. We haven’t seen those names yet. Do you have any update on that and whether there are going to, in fact, be people added to the task force?

MS. MCENANY: Yeah, there will be additions, but no announcements on that just yet.

Jeff?

Q Thanks, Kayleigh. There were some deaths in St. Petersburg today from ventilators — Russian ventilators — that exploded. I’m wondering whether you can tell us what happened to the Russian ventilators that were sent to the United States and whether those ventilators have been used, and if not, if there — or if so, if they’re being taken out of commission.

MS. MCENANY: Look, that’s the first I’m hearing of that story, so I don’t have any updates on that other than to note that we are way ahead of where we should be on ventilators, as I noted in my opening remarks. A hundred thousand ventilators in 100 days is really good, and no one has died for lack of a ventilator. But that’s the first I’m hearing of that story.

Q And let me just ask you one other question if I can, then. Yesterday, the President indicated that he might be communicating with Vice President Pence by phone for a while, while the Vice President keeps some distance. Can you give us an update on whether or not those two men are going to see each other in person or whether — I know the Vice President has been working at the White House. Is he keeping his distance from the President for a while?

MS. MCENANY: The Vice President has made the choice to keep his distance for a few days. And I would just note that that’s his personal decision to make that. As to how many days he does it, again, that’s a decision for the Vice President.

Yes.

Q I have a related question. When is the next time that we might see Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci here in this room, giving us an update on, kind of, the status of the public health regarding coronavirus?

[Apparently Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci are supposed to help the media/DNC narrative. McEnany grabs the arm and starts cranking on their incredible laziness and sense of entitlement.]

MS. MCENANY: Look, we’ve heard from Dr. Fauci pretty much the entirety of the day. He had a hearing, as you noted, so you’ve probably heard from him more hours today than — than you’ve ever heard from Dr. Fauci. You hear from these experts regularly out on television. And, you know, we’ll see the next time they’re up here in this capacity, but they — we certainly have valued their time and we continue to value their time.

Q It has been a while since we’ve seen Dr. Birx, though, for example. I mean, she is the coordinator of the Coronavirus Task Force. When might we see her and be able to get an update from her and be able to ask questions of her?

MS. MCENANY: Yeah, again, you know, I don’t know when in this capacity you will see her, but I talk to Dr. Birx regularly. In fact, I talked to her just before I came out here because I had some questions about some funny numbers I heard from Senator Elizabeth Warren, and she helped me to correct those numbers, which I’d like to correct here, because I think it’s unfair to the American people to give inflated case numbers and mortality numbers because it leads to those same Americans making the decision to not get a mammogram, to not have the cancer screenings they need. So I’d like to just reveal to you some information Dr. Birx just shared with me.

Elizabeth Warren erroneously said there were 25,000 new cases today. In fact, there were less than 20,000. Senator Warren said there were 2,000 deaths. In fact, there have been less than 1,000. I spoke with Dr. Birx about that.

So I’d encourage our Democratic colleagues and all Americans to make sure we’re putting out their good information, because it does have consequences.

Yes.

Q Thank you. The Justice Department is considering bringing federal hate crime charges against the two men charged with murdering Ahmaud Arbery. Does the President think that’s appropriate?

[Trying to turn the President against what they imagine as his “racist” supporters, or against the African Americans who have benefited so much under this president’s economic policies. This one did not merit more than a quick parry.]

MS. MCENANY: Look, I’d refer you to the Department of Justice’s statement, which is this: That “we are considering the request to the Attorney General of Georgia and have asked that he forward to federal authorities any information that he has about the handling of that investigation. We will continue to assess all information, and we will take any appropriate action that is warranted by the facts and the law.” And the President — I’ve heard him say it to me personally — his heart breaks for the family of Ahmaud Arbery. And we want to see justice in that case, as the facts lead us to that place.

Yes.

Q Yeah. White House staff yesterday were asked to wear masks around the West Wing, except when you are seated at the desks. I can’t help but notice you’re not wearing a mask. What’s the reason for that? Is that a television thing? Or —

[Trying to muffle her voice and cover her face. This gets a quick punch in the face.]

MS. MCENANY: No, it’s because I’m distanced from you. You’d probably have a hard time hearing from me right now, should I have a mask on, and I’d be muffled. I’m delivering information to the American people. I’m an appropriate distance away. I had a negative test today, I had a negative test yesterday, and I’m in an okay place.

Yes.

Q (Inaudible.) Go ahead.

Q On Afghanistan, if I may, President Ashraf Ghani has put his troops on an offensive footing. Has President Trump spoken to him about that? And what does it mean for the U.S.-led peace process?

MS. MCENANY: Not that I’m aware of. And I don’t have any new information on that.

Yes.

Q Thank you. We’re seeing a White House report on locations to watch who have increased cases. Can you hear me okay?

MS. MCENANY: You said locations to watch?

Q Locations to watch who have increased cases.

MS. MCENANY: Okay.

Q We’re seeing rates spiking in several spots in the Midwest, including Kansas City. Is this a concern of yours? And can you address it?

[Desperately trying to keep the economy crushed. This invites another flurry of aimed punches in the media’s face.]

MS. MCENANY: I did speak with Dr. Birx about this just before coming out. And I think you’re referring to a document that was put out. That wasn’t a White House document; it was a FEMA document that looked at what was going on in the Midwest.

And she made the point to me — she showed me a document that showed that these are isolated outbreaks that, where there are specific instances in, let’s say, a meat-processing facility or a prison, where we isolate that there’s a problem, we’re able to contact trace and pretty quickly resolve the situation.

She pointed out that, in Des Moines, there was a dairy county meatpacking facility, and that was a good example of where we were able to do that. So I would just say that — and this was a quote — this is proof that the system is working, that we’re able to identify what the President said are “embers” and put them out. It’s the system at work.

Yes.

Q Yeah. You mentioned, as an example of the risk of not closing, people not going to medical appointments. How do you extend that argument to restaurants, nail salons, you know, barbershops, and beauty — are those the kind of the essential things you’re talking about?

[They have to concede the lethal side effect of falsely declaring medical appointments “elective” or “nonessential.” They refuse to acknowledge the humanity of the people they despised and discounted for decades as deaths of despair soared. McEnany puts suicide and drug deaths right back in their face, while indirectly warning Fauci and Birx here.]

MS. MCENANY: What I’m talking about is we have a phased plan to reopen, and you can follow those guidelines. And the restaurants are in phases, and the entertainment facilities you noted are in phases, as accordance with declining cases.

But as a whole, with the totality of the circumstances, when you have a society that’s shut down and people are locked in their homes and they’re isolated, it leads to the very suicide-line increased calls that I noted. It leads to drug abuse. There are consequences to eternally staying shut down, which is why you have to find the balance, which the President does in consultation with expert advice from Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx and the task force, and he makes the best decision for America going forward.

He made the right decision to shut down the country at the time he did because there were 2.2 million lives at stake, and a lot of American lives were saved because of that decision. But at the same time, it’s a balance, which is why we put out the phased guidelines to reopening.

Q And I’d also like to ask you about a statement that Dr. Fauci made today. He said, “I think we are going in the right direction, but the right direction does not mean we have, by any means, total control of this outbreak.” How does that square with the President’s statement yesterday that we have prevailed over the outbreak?

[Fauci versus Trump? Sorry, this turns back into a devastating rain of truth bombs about testing, the media’s fake South Korea comparison, and real facts.]

MS. MCENANY: Well, the President made clear he was talking about testing. The fact that we can say we’re doing double that of any other country, the fact that we can put up that graph that shows South Korea as a small, little red bar of testing per capita, and every bar beside it is an American state or territory outdoing what South Korea has done — and let’s note that South Korea was the gold standard for testing.

In fact, on March 13th, The Washington Post headline was: “South Korea is doing 10,000 coronavirus tests a day. The U.S. is struggling for even a small fraction of that.” And here we are on May 11th with a Washington Post headline: “The administration keeps bragging that the U.S. testing now is better than South Korea’s was” a month ago.

So you can’t demand that we reach South Korea, and then say that we’re “bragging” when we do. This is a moment where the American private sector succeeded. This administration mobilized that testing. Every state is better off than South Korea at this moment, and that is a very good thing and something to be celebrated because it’s American innovation at its best with 92 emergency use authorizations, and it’s this administration under President Trump working.

Q But does the President agree with Dr. Fauci that we do not have total control over this outbreak?

[Punch drunk media pack members can’t figure out how to change tactics mid-fight, even with their editors on the other end of their not-so-smart phones.]

MS. MCENANY: The President believes in the phased guidelines to reopening, which Dr. Fauci signed off on along with Dr. Birx, and we encourage every state and governor to follow.

Yes.

Q Thank you, Kayleigh. The President said on Monday that Florida has so much testing that testers are literally sitting around waiting for people and that there is a, quote, “great overcapacity.” Yet, the reality in the state is there are still widespread criticism, reports of not enough testing. And the Kaiser Family Foundation ranks Florida 24th in the country per capita when it comes to testing. So is the President being overly optimistic about the situation in Florida?

[Attempted combination punches at Trump and a critical state’s Republican governor.]

MS. MCENANY: Not in the slightest. I was actually in the Oval Office when that discussion transpired and the Governor of Florida, Governor DeSantis — who’s doing a phenomenal job — talked about that there were — there was over-testing ability at these sites. So there were extra tests. There wasn’t enough demand. There weren’t people showing up to use them all.

He said that that had happened around some sites in the state. He saw it firsthand. He’s the governor of Florida — and that’s a good thing — and we’re able to fulfill Governor DeSantis’s plan in full that he has laid out as necessary to reopening the state of Florida, which happens to be my great home state.

Yes.

Q But overall, the data does not support that, Kayleigh. So is the President just listening to the governor or is he looking at the data?

[Flailing and not even covering up, resulting in the media eating another punch to the face.]

MS. MCENANY: Oh, he’s looking at the data. As I noted to you, Admiral Giroir has a chart of every single governor’s plan and has said we will fulfill every single governor’s plan. Governor DeSantis was reporting what he had seen at distinct facilities that are drive-through testing sites.

Yes.

Q With the restarting of the economies on both sides of the Canadian and U.S. border, you know how much trade between the two sides are essential for communities. Can you update us on the plans for reopening and also a timeline for reopening the border?

MS. MCENANY: Yeah, no announcements on that front today.

Yep. Chanel?

Q Thank you. With the release of the transcripts related to Adam Schiff’s Russia probe this week, do you have — is there any information you can share with us as to what the DOJ has shared with the White House on whether it is investigating Obama administration officials on this matter?

[A rare friendly reporter asks a real question, like a cornerman yelling to finish the fight. Kayleigh McEnany unleashes a series of hammer fists and forearm strikes in the media/DNC/RINO complex’s face, ending the fight with a TKO.]

MS. MCENANY: So I don’t have any updates on that front because that’s currently a DOJ matter. But you did refer to transcripts, and I do think it’s an important moment to talk about what was in some of the transcripts that were released prior to today, so not the specific ones that you’re asking about.

But we learned from newly released transcripts a few things: We learned that what some Obama officials were saying publicly was much different than what they were saying privately. James Clapper was out there saying that he had evidence that this was worse than Watergate when, in fact, a few weeks later he was saying privately, “I never saw any direct empirical evidence that the Trump campaign or someone in it was plotting [or] conspiring with Russia.”

Samantha Power said, “I am not in possession of anything — I am not in possession and didn’t read or [any] absorb any information that came” out of the intelligence community, suggesting collusion. Ambassador Rice: “I don’t recall…intelligence or evidence to that effect.” Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch: “I can’t say that — [if] it existed or not. I don’t recall that being briefed up to me.”

So it rings the question — it brings the question to light: Why then did we have many years of investigating collusion that these Obama administration officials — never existed, they never saw any evidence of, but for three years the American people were dragged through the mud and told that their choice for the President of the United States might have been a Russian asset based on no evidence of all — at all?

This President was exonerated by the Mueller reports, and there are some real questions for these individuals who are saying one thing publicly and another thing privately.

Thank you so much. I think I got to all of you, and we’ll be back soon.

END

2:41 P.M. EDT

Merry May Is Mary’s Month

 

Here at Toad Hall we love to celebrate in the month of May by hosting a Crowning for Our Lady. This traditional Catholic devotion involves making a crown of flowers for a statue of Mary and placing them on her head, accompanied with prayers and singing. As a child, I participated with my school. As a homeschooling mom, I’ve hosted or at least organized somewhere on the order of ten to fifteen May crownings.

Yesterday it was so beautiful, if chilly, here in New York that I called up my parents and invited them over to pray, sing and share some fellowship and lemon cake with us. 

First we made the crown from ajuga and sweet woodruff flowers.

 

Then we decorated the shrine with the last of the daffodills, cherry blossoms, phlox, pansies.

 

Programs for the service.

We prayed and sang several hymns, including this one:

 

It was a wonderful day. 

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

 

Day 114: COVID-19 Bill Kristol’s Fevered Dream

 

One of the most fearful aspects of COVID-19 is whether it could really deliver the presidency into the hands of Nancy Pelosi. This isn’t as farfetched as I truly wish it to be; both the President and the Vice President at ages 73 and 60 respectively are in an age range at higher risk. Both men’s vitality is evident so even if infected would not in and of itself trigger Bill Kristol’s fantasy. And this is just Kristol’s latest ploy. Earlier he was fantasizing about the 25th Amendment removal of Trump:

But Mike Pence has been stubbornly loyal, so now it is up to COVID-19 to make Bill Kristol’s dreams come true. No, an infection is insufficient, it has to be a full-blown case that renders both Trump and Pence truly done. Maybe that is why Nancy is carefully keeping herself outside of Washington. She can only dream her dark dreams from her redoubt in Napa. At 80 she is significantly more at risk of a very bad case of COVID-19 should she become infected.

But let’s step back and examine another route to the presidency for Nancy. Well, not the one who holds one hand and places the other on the Bible and takes the President’s oath, but the power behind the throne. Does anyone think that Biden will be doing anything should he succeed in taking up residence in the White House. I don’t, and I think 99.9% of Democrats don’t either. Do they take comfort that it would be Nancy pulling the strings? (I am assuming that if Biden wins the Presidency, the Democrats will hold the House.)

You say, what about Chuck Schumer? Has anyone else noticed that Nancy, not Chuck, is managing the Democratic caucus in the Senate? And even if the Democrats took over the Senate, Chuck will still be walking 5 paces behind Nancy. So in the Biden-Pelosi-Schumer trinity, Nancy rules supreme.

But what about that strong woman (of color?) that Biden has promised to pick as his VP? Won’t she have something to say about Nancy ruling the roost? After all, isn’t that gender-appropriate VP nominee the Democrat “insurance policy” for the November election lest voters worry about dottering Joe? Well, pretty much all the high profile women not named Michelle have already crashed and burned. Some of them have already lost to Joe meaning they have tested public acceptance and have been found wanting. Does Nancy even care who the Vice President is, if it isn’t Michelle? I don’t think so. She feels quite secure that she can manage anything she deigns important whatever Democrat sits in the Oval Office, so long as her name isn’t Michelle.

But what if Andrew Cuomo or some other Democrat governor becomes the presidential nominee after Sleepy Joe is pushed persuaded to step aside? That could be a problem for Nancy, and one of the reasons that I think Nancy will do everything to ensure that Joe stays on the ticket. Because it is her ticket if the COVID-19 crisis works out the way Nancy wants it to; not with Trump and Pence sidelined, but that the Democrats can depress the economy to get their 270 electoral votes.

That seems all right with Bill Kristol, even though he would prefer Nancy to accede to the presidency at an earlier date.

But Bill should remember that the dystopian future that he would abet, may not be kind to him. Becoming a made man in Nancy’s kingdom can be fraught with danger:

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

Mighty Mueller Has Struck Out But the Fabulous Fauci is the New Woke Wonder

 

Remember the way the left was about Mueller: He was almost like a religious leader. If you touch Mueller you will pay for it, they bellowed and threatened. So they kept their precious Mueller and his investigation until, finally, it was time for Mueller to produce. The Mighty Mueller struck out and there was no joy in Wokeville.

However, idiot hope springs eternal in the hearts of the goofy woke. Once again they have found a champion. The Fabulous Fauci has been telling Trump phony horror stories from day one and the MSM keeps the myth alive. Everybody in the entire world, even without the intelligence services of six different countries, confirm it knows that China lied in an incredibly dangerous fashion. For six weeks they knew of the danger but continued to tell the world that COVID-19 wasn’t transmissible from human to human. This lie alone, backed by China’s kept WHO, was inexcusable. This lie alone was an act of war. If you still cling to the fantasy that the Chinese didn’t know, a second fact should end that fantasy. China restricted travel to and from Wuhan for the rest of China but they allowed flights to and from Wuhan to the rest of the world! Guilty as charged.

Even the Fabulous Fauci was taken in and said as much. Of course, he was the guy who the administration was counting on not to be taken in. Bad choice. The Fabulous Fauci was taken in by every lie, every hyper-exaggeration that damages the economy and extends the lockdown through the November election. This has happened over and over again. It happened the other day when he appeared before Congress. Rand Paul, far from being too tough, was way too respectful of this nonsense performance.

Let’s get clear. The Democrats and Fauci (now that they no longer can be seen as separate entities) are willing to destroy the economy and let thousands of the elderly die in nursing homes all to screw Trump and win the election in November. Fauci needs to be fired like the toilet needs to be flushed after use. The woke will scream bloody murder just like they screamed about Mueller. Maybe there is a shred of decency left in Fauci. Maybe he announces that at 79 he can’t keep up the pace anymore and he is retiring. I’d be ever so glad to give him a royal send-off, a gold watch, or whatever else he’d like.

Alls well that ends well.

Regards,

Jim

Member Post

 

In order to prevent the homeless from catching the Wuhan flu or spreading the contagion to other locations, some members of the Department of Public Health are buying homeless people booze, cigarettes and cannabis.  Why can’t we just skip ahead and give them soma like we give troublesome boys ritalin and let the sick die? […]

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The Judge May Be an Ass: Clarifying That ‘If?’

 

It seems like forever ago but just four days ago over at the Flynn and the FBI post:

philo: For the record, the way this went down leaves me wondering if the judge would have done the right thing if the game was allowed to play out. Given what we’ve seen from the greater judiciary in the Age of Trump, that certainly remains a very big “if.”

I apologize for the apparent understatement.

There has, however, been some lively “taking of sides” on the subject since then. The first I came across was from probably the most disappointing of the Nevers (I used to really enjoy the former Fort Worthian and blog namesake) over at Patterico’s Pontifications in a post titled “The (Hypothetical) Transcript of the Next Court Hearing in the Michael Flynn Case.” No links from me, but the post and the comments provide interesting perspectives. Find it on your own if you wish.

I mention that one, because it’s a direct lead-in to a RedState post titled “Judge Emmet Sullivan Likely Committed Reversible Error In Taking The Guilty Plea of General Michael Flynn” which spun off a comment under the Patterico piece. It is a long-ish analysis that posits “The guilty plea was invalid as a matter of law independent of the DOJ motion” and suggests:

Judge Sullivan screwed up the factual basis of the guilty plea entered by Gen. Flynn, and the procedure he employed was unsound and violated Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.  I think DOJ knows this to be the case, but given Judge Sullivan’s unpredictability they have opted to not “call him out” on it at this point.  Instead, I suspect there is a hope that he may recognize his error — it’s right there in the transcript — and will instead grant the DOJ motion which solves his problem without him having to confront — or be confronted on — his own astonishing error.

I claim no useful knowledge of the law but would be interested in the opinions of the local law-types on this one.

But then, hot on the heels of that, another RedState post informs us “Judge Emmet Sullivan Signals He May Still Sentence Michael Flynn, Invites In the Left Wing Circus.” The tease:

But when the DOJ moved to drop the charges, I figured his hand would be forced. How could he go ahead and sentence a man against the request of the prosecution and whose case had been completely blown up by formerly covered up documents? Well, Judge Sullivan is signaling he may find a way.

As I said, the judiciary in the Age of Trump has been a massive embarrassment, so I am not optimistic. But one thing is clear from that last link:

Any judge that goes ahead with a sentencing after what’s been revealed needs to be removed from the bench.

Yes, that would be a must … just before the tar and feathers are applied.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

Lost … and Bonkers

 

This story from Wired is about the behavior of people who get lost in the woods, and features a search that the Maine Warden Service conducted, at great cost in time, treasure, and heartache, over many, many fruitless months. Middle-aged retired nurse and Appalachian Trail thru-hiker Gerry Largay’s body was ultimately found, accidentally and fortuitously, by a forest surveyor.

As you might imagine, it was an appalling ordeal for Mrs. Largay’s family and a big deal and painful failure for the searchers. That failure is painful and feels personal.

The wardens who run the search teams learn a lot about their search subjects. They glean intimate details of these strangers’ lives in the hope of finding clues for the search. They interact with and form relationships — lasting ones — with the members of frantic families. As a result, they fall in love with their subjects, something that drives them to work harder and longer. Their hearts break when they fail.

As the article confirms, Gerry Largay’s example teaches us that rational people who get lost in the woods do not think rationally. But — not included in the article — a further lesson I learned from Gerry is that under stress, we also default to our training. This isn’t a huge surprise, of course — it’s the whole point of training, in fact!

Part of Gerry’s training as a hiker was “leave no trace.” So even as searchers were looking for her, she was carefully holding onto her trash, burying her poops, and “leaving no trace.” Though she did start a fire, she put it out almost immediately because she was concerned about causing too much damage. (Gerry kept a diary, which is how we know so much about her thinking process).

One might imagine that a sensible person would be able to recognize that “leave no trace” is the wrong mental gear to be in when one is lost. Rationally, we are capable of realizing that in this situation, all sorts of traces need to be left … indeed, prominently and lavishly displayed for people to find — spare undies, credit cards, book pages, waste products, toothbrushes, toilet paper, dead cell phones, plastic baggies, burning car tires, you name it. When the Largay search comes up in conversation, the wardens will still express frustration with their beloved Gerry. They speak to her ghost: “Why? You had everything—matches, a camp stove, paperback books whose pages would burn, plenty of fuel … why didn’t you make the kind of big, smoky fire that would’ve brought us right to where you were? We could’ve saved you, dear Gerry!”

But that isn’t how our minds work under stress. We freak out … and we default to training.

So many lessons there applicable to all sorts of phenomena, the Wuhan-Woo-Hoo very much included. But as your own Reverend Worst Case Scenario, I’ll confine myself to this bit of advice. It is for those of you who hike recreationally and must be included in your training. In the words of my beloved wardens:

If you’re lost, stop moving … hug a tree … and leave a big [CoC] trace!

Why End the Shutdown?

 

I can think of four pretty straightforward arguments in favor of ending the mandated shutdown. The first three will fall on deaf ears for those of the “even one death is too many” way of thinking: it’s fundamentally un-American to take away the people’s rights without an overwhelming and existential justification; the US economy and critical infrastructure are being wrecked, with serious long-term consequences that will likely exceed the cost of the disease itself; and the shutdown is likely shifting unavoidable illness a bit into the future at an enormous and largely avoidable cost.

A fourth argument for ending the shutdown might gain some traction with our friends on the left. At the very least, it’s likely to be harder to answer with the usual you’re-putting-money-before-lives accusation.

The shutdown, in the US and globally, is going to doom literally millions of the world’s poorest to suffering and death. Millions are going without essential medical treatment for diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS, and a host of normally manageable conditions. Scores of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, are being pushed from marginal situations into serious malnutrition; scores or hundreds of millions more, already malnourished, will be pushed into literal starvation. However frightening, inconvenient, and sometimes tragic this disease is here in the west, it is a horrific humanitarian disaster for the billion or so who, until a couple of months ago, were on a long slow climb from crushing poverty. More people will die because of the shutdown than will be saved by it but, because they are far away and have no voice, their suffering is easy to ignore: they get no memes on Facebook.

Ricochet COVID Symposium: An ‘Essential’-Eyed View

 

Worker

“Migrant Mother” by Dorothea Lange.

I’m an hourly worker at a neighborhood pet supplies store. I never considered myself an “essential” worker. That was a term I used to refer to my paternal grandfather who, as a railroad engineer during World War II, was prohibited from joining the military. March 25 was the day Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced a statewide “stay-at-home” order. It was the day I learned I was an “essential worker” in COVID America.

In the days after the initial lockdown order, the chaos was almost overwhelming. What the run on toilet paper was to the grocery stores, dog and cat food was to my store. People were panic buying cartloads of food. Bags were gone as fast as they were stocked. The initial emergency state proclamation was for two weeks. For the most part, people were understanding, but nervous. Two weeks was do-able. Inundated with news reports about the dire situation in New York City was enough to sacrifice daily routines and a paycheck or two to prevent a similar catastrophe here. But then…we weren’t another New York City. Minnesotans held their breath, pensively, for another two-week extension. Thankfully the projected 75,000 deaths never materialized. But still, the call for sacrifice rang loud and clear.

The daily infection and death count are continually reported with intense seriousness, but without context. 83.9 percent of COVID deaths in Minnesota occur in long-term care facilities or nursing homes, the highest in the country. The average age of a COVID death is 83. While I mourn the loss of those deaths as a personal tragedy for every family, I also see the unemployment crisis of working-age adults staring me in the eyes with silent hopelessness. Customers telling me of a lost a job is an almost daily occurrence. When once people bought pet food in anticipation of supply disruption, they now buy it because they don’t know when they’ll have the money to buy more. Instead of donations for local shelters, customers are coming in asking for expired food, opened or returned bags, and they rummage through that same donation bin for themselves. Witnessing the pain and embarrassment of declined check cards, I’ve paid for more than one bag of cat or dog food for a neighbor in need.

What I keep coming back to is that in times of hardship, the kind people have become kinder, but the mean-spirited people are more ignoble and nasty. They double-down on their attitude of superior virtue just by an outward expression of self-sacrifice without actually experiencing it.

I come home each day thankful for my job and angry at the choices people are now forced to make because they no longer have a job, a paycheck, or a voice. The consistent message from pundits, analysts, and policy experts is the “Grandma Killer” drumbeat. It’s followed by lamentations of unemployment numbers far exceeding any previous record, as if they don’t understand why forcing the economy to ground to a halt wouldn’t cause mass unemployment. They have no idea how working-class people live and work, or they just don’t care. “Essential” workers are useful as long as they deliver their groceries, their takeout, and their aromatherapy candles. Everyone else is invisible – and expendable. And in this COVID “war,” if you’re not with them, you’re worse than against them: you’re the outright enemy.

PSA commercials tell us “We’re in it together!” but this crisis has intensified the polarization. In a society where everything is assigned a moral-political value, we are forced to choose sides. And in this black-and-white moralization of an all-or-nothing pandemic, those, like me, who are concerned about economic devastation are branded by those favoring indefinite lockdown as morally reprehensible. It is an extension of the forgotten class with which I interact every day. How can I look at them and say I was picked by the elected (and unelected) bureaucracy as being essential, and the hairdresser is not? Why do I have the good fortune of earning a paycheck and having the dignity of work while my neighbor is at the mercy of a government handout – or even nothing at all? It’s not about country club members who benefit from golf courses opening – it’s the groundskeepers, the caddies, the maintenance crews who have families to feed. Bars and restaurants aren’t just owners and operators – they’re servers, bussers, food suppliers, truckers, and repairmen. A paycheck is just as essential to their lives as anyone else.

As an essential worker, I have a front-row seat to the growing divide that started before the 2016 election and now reaching a near-insurmountable chasm. When the political and social elite started assigning value to classes of Americans, those at the bottom are not only forgotten, they are silenced. A government shutdown, paired with picking who would be allowed to work took away the freedom of people to make the decisions that best fit their situation, and the grandma-killer scolds are the enforcers. Taking away one’s livelihood takes away the power over one’s life. That is what I see where the pandemic intersects with politics. Between those who have a voice and those who are silenced – or worse – made to feel shame for wanting to have control over their lives.

When people talk of shared sacrifice, it’s spoken as if it’s an equally shared burden. In reality, the brunt of the sacrifice falls where it almost always falls: on those already marginalized and on the precipice of financial comfort and ruin. Those who speak up for their dignity and livelihoods are unfairly silenced by those who confuse their financial security for moral superiority. But unlike the end of WWII, when the dust settles on this “war,” there won’t be a ticker-tape parade for those who bear the cost of sacrifice. It will be an unbridgeable gulf between my friends and neighbors who were deemed expendable and nonessential, and those who doomed them to that fate.

Americans have held their breath long enough to flatten the curve, but it’s gone far enough, and now we’re dying of asphyxiation.

Member Post

 

Presumptive Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden released his compulsory plan for helping American blacks– should he win the November election. Few people noticed. Predictably, Biden promises expanded government intervention into the lives of American blacks.  Consequently, his plan calls for substantial government spending– pledging to do for blacks what he and fellow Democrats are convinced […]

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Health, Privacy, and Shin Bet Surveillance

 

Israel is re-opening the economy, and the world is watching our success story against COVID-19. Many parameters probably played a role in reducing the health impact of the virus. Still, it seems that closing the borders early and the outstanding behavior of the population are the main factors. The overwhelming majority of Israelis agreed to make drastic changes to save lives. This behavior isn’t unusual, Israelis live permanently in a state of emergency, almost instinctively, we come together in solidarity and unity at times of danger. But, the citizens also dictated the end of the strict lockdowns when the economic and emotional cost became unbearable. As days passed, and the virus felt less devastating than previously thought citizens demanded an end of the restrictions, leaving no choice to our government than to relax the most coercive legislation.

However, there is a tool that our government used during this crisis: military-grade surveillance on private citizens, and even as we return to our “normal” life, this monitoring persists. The use of such surveillance was defended as a tool for saving lives through contact tracing of the infection. It turns out that this system, operated by the Shin Bet, only helped reveal a minuscule number of cases. Despite those poor results, we are still under full surveillance even after the containment of the virus and return to “normal” activities. Detailed information about every single aspect of our life is being watched and stored by government agencies. They know who we meet, how long we spend with our friends, where we shop, where we walk. They trace every action we take during the day. It’s often described as one of the most intrusive surveillance systems in the world and with the exception of China, no other countries have deployed such monitoring in their fight against COVID-19.

In fact, until a few weeks ago, this type of surveillance had only been used against suspected terrorists. Have we all become suspected terrorists in the eyes of our government?

Some will say that they have nothing to hide, and that surveillance is only a small imposition for saving a life, but the choice isn’t between privacy or health, we can have them both. The Health ministry app, HAMAGEN, is already less intrusive to our privacy than the Shin Bet run surveillance. It is open-source, offering higher transparency than military software and presumably anonymous. Unfortunately, the data collected is stored in a centralized server susceptible to a single point of failure in case of a human mistake or an enemy attack. More secure decentralized solutions based on blockchain technology already started to appear on the market. Our start-up nation is undoubtedly capable of building a decentralized, open-source, anonymous application that will excel at contact tracing and respect our privacy.

Defaulting to the most intrusive surveillance system shows that our government doesn’t place any value on our privacy and security.

Israelis are aware of the dangers of using such surveillance, on the civilian population. In a survey administered by the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies on April 1, 67% of the respondents expressed concern about the use of surveillance on private citizens, and 55% doubted that the government would cancel civilian monitoring after the crisis.

A month later, the Shin Bet surveillance is still going strong, with no sign that the government will ever want to cancel it. Our Prime Minister even proudly raised the idea of placing ankle bracelets on children that would buzz when they don’t practice social distancing. This proposal isn’t a new episode of “Black Mirror” or a scene from 1984; this is our Prime Minister talking on national television during his latest press conference (from minute 22).

It is time for each of us to think about the world our families will live in tomorrow; this is a fight for our home. If Israeli citizens fail to demand the immediate cancellation of this military-grade monitoring on our phones and internet activities by the Shin Bet agency, it will become a permanent feature of our lives.

A national discussion needs to take place in total transparency between the government and its citizens. It is not appropriate, to say the least, that such an emergency measure, never activated before in Israel, will be swept through the Knesset without substantial national deliberations and dialogue with the citizens.

Contact tracing may be a necessity, but it needs to be entirely voluntary and based on reciprocal trust between the government and the citizens. As the citizens trust the government to protect them, the government needs to trust its citizens to do the right thing and stop monitoring them like suspected terrorists.

Murders That Matter

 

It is interesting to note which deaths that are considered meaningful and diagnostic of the state America according to our betters. The latest Meaningful Death is the killing of Ahmad Arbery in Georgia by two room-temperature IQ vigilantes who thought they had caught a burglar (officially, an innocent jogger who just happened to trespass a bit). Oddly enough, none of the other thousands of other murders in America so far this year have been quite as diagnostic of the racist nightmare that is the Trump Era.

In the same year that a Hispanic white man shot Trayvon Martin, there were over 14,000 murders in the US, about half of them African Americans and over 90 percent of those killed by other African Americans. (African-Americans make up about 13 percent of the US.)  Few of those other murders had significance for the Narrative.

In 2014, Eric Garner (“I can’t breathe”) resisted arrest for some trivial offense and died when several policemen were needed to subdue him. Michael Brown (of “hands up” mythology) was shot In Ferguson. The other 14,162 deaths by homicide that year were largely non-diagnostic of the State of our Nation.

Freddy Gray’s freakish death was diagnostic of America in 2015. Three of the six policemen involved in his arrest were black, as was the driver of the vehicle in which he died, and as was the police chief, the mayor, and the majority of the Baltimore city council. Civil rights issues that year fell under the purview of a black US attorney general appointed by a black POTUS. Nevertheless, white racists, presumably with ninja-level skills, managed to cause this incident. Few if any of the other 15,882 homicides that year had diagnostic significance. And of course, the huge jump in homicides from 2014 was in no way a reflection on Obama’s handling of race relations, social conditions, or crime prevention.

In 2016, 14 Dallas cops (five fatally) were shot by a black man. Oddly enough, this event had no diagnostic significance other than a possible indictment of systematic police abuse causing anger within black communities. In any event, it slipped quickly and quietly out of the national headlines. That same year, Sylville Smith, an up-and-coming young career criminal in Milwaukee fired at police while fleeing the scene of a robbery and was shot dead by a black detective under the authority of a black police chief in a city whose political establishment was and still is to the left of every jurisdiction east of Portland. Nevertheless, white racism managed to sneak in and cause this injustice. Naturally, riots ensued. Murders in the US jumped again that year to over 17,000 despite the racial healing and insightful economic stewardship of Barack Obama.

The FBI only categorizes offenders and victims by race for a fraction of the total reported murders because not all jurisdictions provide that data (for reasons that have nothing to do with political correctness, of course) the data samples for the most recent seven years are graphed below. Oddly enough it does not reflect a contemporary pattern of white murderousness toward African Americans.

The notion that the killing of young Mr. Arbery is diagnostic of Trump’s America is not merely an ungrounded, innumerate, and profoundly stupid repetition of a pointless, media-driven psychodrama but bad for the country.

I was a teenager when my father was an attorney for the US Dept of Justice Civil Rights Division, often gone for weeks at a time filing, investigating, and designing desegregation plans in Tennessee and northern Mississippi in 1965-7. Things have changed since then in case anyone hasn’t noticed. New social advances and new problems and yet two or three generations of white liberals (and exploitative black “leaders”) are still generating the ego-boosting thrill of being morally superior to the virtually extinct white racist of yore. The nearly auto-erogenous nature of The Narrative has made people more irrational, more detached from the simple truth that it is no longer 1960 or even close.

Imagine what America would be like if our leftward brethren:

• Stopped promoting the sick, hateful fantasy that America beyond the suburbs is a seething mass of violent racists.

• Started to accept that the national urban nightmare is largely the result of sustained, cynical political misuse of misguided good intentions from half a century ago.

• Stopped using PC to deflect attention from the social pathology within a large swath of the African-American demographic so that an honest examination and new solutions can begin.

• Started to use their power of media control and authority to adversely judge any and all behaviors that are detrimental to black youth. There is nothing natural or endemic in “gangsta” culture, or useful in the notion that academic success is “acting white.”

• Stopped using PC to viciously attack African American leaders who rightly believe that fostering family, virtue, self-reliance, self-respect is a better path than fostering dependency and excusing destructive behavior. They don’t have to agree with everything Thomas Sowell has written, for example, but they must accept that it is substantive and deserves a substantive good-faith response.

Imagine what America would be if…

Instead, a few thousand homicides and drug-overdoses from now there will be yet another Meaningful Death that tells us what a racist, benighted people we really are. Please forgive me in advance for the hatred I will feel for the poisonous narcissists who will rally to that narrative when I know that they have the power in media, academia and in circles of wealth and influence to do much, much better than that.

Thomas Hobbes, Greta Thunberg, and me

 

Our founding fathers knew exactly what they were doing when they began the Declaration of Independence with, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…”

Our founding fathers were horrified by the results throughout history of “The Divine Right of Kings,” which stated that kings had been chosen by God, and thus had enormous power over other men. Even atheist pacifists like Thomas Hobbes tended to support such things, in fear of the results of unbridled human nature, because they knew humans, and they shared the dim view of human nature expressed by The Bible, Shakespeare, and modern conservatives. So while kings claimed to derive their power from God, Americans claimed that individual rights had been granted to each human being by God, and thus government could only secure those rights which had already been granted by a higher power. That’s a pretty solid argument for the limitation of government power. Until we decide that we are God.

The shift from the 1970’s global cooling to the 1980’s global warming was a good example of the acquisition of nearly absolute power through compassion and good intentions, regardless of the actual scientific or policy details. If you mean well, you should be granted nearly Divine Rights of Kings. Your authority should not be questioned. Anyone who questions your intentions is not engaging in a simple disagreement over a policy debate – they are guilty of blasphemy. Such people are beyond the pale of polite society, and the mistreatment of such evil simpletons is not just acceptable but encouraged. I don’t think that Mark Steyn would find this statement to be an exaggeration.

This sign is another example of this phenomenon. Do masks reduce the death rate from COVID-19? Possibly. On one hand, the viral particle is 1,000X smaller than the holes in the mask, so masks may not help. But the viral particles are often adhered to droplets of moisture, which are larger, so masks may help. But those who wear masks touch their face a lot more, so masks may actually increase the rate of viral transmission. But perhaps the mask serves as a constant reminder to avoid personal contact with others, so they may actually decrease the rate of viral transmission. But since those truly threatened by this virus are generally very sick, very old residents of long-term care facilities, and most of us are unlikely to encounter many such people each day (especially while we’re jogging), so perhaps masks worn out in public (especially while jogging) can’t really have much impact either way on COVID-19 death rates. But the concept of herd immunity may change that. Or perhaps not.

So do masks reduce the death rate from COVID-19? Perhaps. Or perhaps not.

It’s complicated.

Or rather, it’s complicated to me, at least.

You might gather from this sign that the authors don’t find this to be complicated. They seem to claim a God-like, complete, and full understanding of all the nuances of the debate.

But if you read the sign carefully, they don’t really say that. They make no effort to convince anyone of the benefits of masks to anybody. They don’t call mask-less joggers evil or stupid. They call them selfish – they accuse such joggers of a lack of compassion. They then claim to “value the lives of our elderly neighbors” more than the mask-less joggers. They then further claim that their superior compassion for other people grants them the right to actually physically attack other people. Different people, in this case.

This, too, is complicated.

Or rather, it’s complicated to me, at least.

While such a sign may seem absurd, I think it’s a helpful attempt to clarify what could be confusing to some (like me). If you were jogging along this street and someone started throwing stuff at you, you might think that that was a sign of hatred. But you would be wrong. Such unprovoked attacks are actually a sign of compassion, not hatred.

It’s complicated.


“Leviathon” is an extraordinary book in which Thomas Hobbes argued that a strong central government should be forgiven the occasional misuse of its near-limitless power because the only alternative he could envision at the time was anarchy. And anarchy would expose humans to human nature in its natural, ungoverned, state; leading to a life that he famously described as “nasty, brutish, and short.” As an atheist, Hobbes feared that as men became less religious, and thus less confined by the ethics and morals of a higher power, a powerful central government would become increasingly necessary to moderate and regulate the passions of men.

I wonder what Mr. Hobbes would make of that sign? Or of Greta Thunberg? Or of Al Sharpton? Christine Blasey Ford? John McCain? The EPA? David Hogg? The United Nations? AOC?

How can anyone control those who claim something like the Divine Right of Kings based purely on their self-described compassion or victimhood? They aren’t granted power by God. They aren’t deriving their powers from the consent of the governed, to protect the individual rights granted by God.

No. Their compassion and/or victimhood mean that, for all intents and purposes, they are God. And thus their proclamations, whatever they are, must be obeyed. Any disagreement with whatever they think “social justice” means today is not a disagreement to be discussed – it is blasphemy that must be vigorously punished. You can even throw stuff at such people. You can tell them what cars they may drive. You can require certain bakers to bake certain types of cakes for certain types of events. You can make plastic bags either mandatory or forbidden. Not just for your groceries, but for everybody else’s. You can do whatever you want.

Your compassion entitles you to Divine Rights.

I think Mr. Hobbes would find such modern forms of tyranny to be more terrifying than The Divine Rights of Kings that he wrote about in the 1600s. Kings could, ultimately, be controlled. If not by their subjects, than by reality itself. They were, after all, only men, albeit in extraordinary circumstances.

How does anyone control an army of Gods who answer to no one?

Today’s God-like compassionate victims dismiss the “Social Contract Theory” of medieval times as ignorant, simplistic, or blasphemous. Or more likely all three. Charles, I would agree with them. But in the battle between The “Divine Right of Kings” and “Social Contract Theory,” he lost. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but essentially, Social Contract Theory won, in that case.

I argue that it is losing today.

Again, it’s a bit more complicated than that. But still, I think it’s losing.


I think that Mr. Hobbes would find this new age of the Divine Rights of self-proclaimed compassion Gods to be concerning. Greta Thunberg would scare him, I suspect.

I know that she scares me.

I would love to have dinner with just the three of us – Thomas Hobbes, Greta Thunberg, and me. Mr. Hobbes would have a lot of fascinating things to say, I suspect. He was an absolutely brilliant man. I would have a lot of questions if nothing else.

I wonder what Greta Thunberg would add to the discussion? My guess is, not much. Not much brilliance, and even fewer questions.

But then, why should she be bothered with the prattlings of mere humans? The entire earth needs saving, for God’s sake. Gods have more important concerns than mundane discussions of the matters of men. To Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and all that.

Such compassionate Gods should be forgiven the occasional misuse of their near-limitless power because the only alternative we can envision is chaos. We fear the unknown and long for the structure and comfort of a powerful governing force. But we no longer believe in an actual God. And we don’t like being told what do to by the government, even if we elect it ourselves. So we agree to allow our human passions to be moderated and regulated by these new self-proclaimed compassion-Gods. Like Greta Thunberg. Goodness.

This is scary stuff.

Still, I think that dinner would lead to a fascinating discussion.

For two of us, at least. The two of us who are actually interested in the mundane matters of men.

53 Transcripts: How The Story Is Invented

 

I’ve now waded through 34 of the 53 transcripts. Still no evidence of collusion or conspiracy. For my prior post go here.

We’ve often talked at Ricochet about how the media and progressive echo chamber works and its power in the public imagination. Reading the transcripts provides yet another example. The interview of Evelyn Farkas (June 26, 2017) has already made news, at least in non-progressive circles (it appears to have been blacked out elsewhere). Ms. Farkas is a Democrat, a long-time national security policy person and a staff member of Senate Armed Service Committee and Deputy Asst Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia during the Obama Administration, and is now running for Congress in New York. Like so many Obama refugees she became a commentator, in her case, on MSNBC. In March 2017, she made headlines by urging all her former colleagues to get out all the information they had, even if classified, on Russian election interference and implied she had evidence of collusion with the Trump campaign.

Conservative commentary has focused on her responses to questions at the Intelligence Committee interview that she actually had no information regarding any collusion or conspiracy by the Trump campaign with Russia (see page 12 of transcript). In other words, she knew nothing of substance despite her claims on MSNBC. She even went further, telling the committee, “Russia has not interfered in our elections in the past” (p.16) despite the Intelligence Community Assessment of January 2017 which stated Russia had interfered in the past.

But what really caught my eye was this back and forth between Rep Trey Gowdy and Farkas (p.27):

Gowdy: You also didn’t know whether or not anybody in the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia, did you?

Farkas: I didn’t.

G: When then, why did you say what you said?

F: Because I had a strong suspicion.

G: Based on what?

F: Based on the media reports –

G: Dr Farkas.

F: – and reporters calling me.

. . .
G: What did you know at the time?

F: I knew what the public knew from reading the newspaper.

That is how it works. Someone is hired with the correct political views and credentials but who does not know anything more than the public. People inside the government leak things about their enemies and friendly media, with no interest in investigating accuracy, act as stenographers, and once one publication prints or airs it everyone else jumps in, and then the “credentialed expert” can act like it is real news. Soon, everyone is just repeating the same story to each other, and because that’s all they hear, it becomes the obvious truth. Economists talk about the multiplier effect of spending but this is the real multiplier effect in action.

The success around these narratives can be seen in the interviews of several witnesses regarding the alleged “softening” of the Republican Party platform on Ukraine, in order to supposedly appease Russia, a story that was an obsession with the minority members of the committee. It’s simply fake news that was planted in the media and became the accepted truth to such an extent the FBI referenced newspaper reporting on it as part of the Carter Page FISA warrant application, a subject I wrote about in January on Ricochet.

Unfortunately, the price of fake news can be heavy. Jeffrey (JD) Gordon, a member of the Trump campaign, and the staffer at the heart of the alleged Ukrainian platform controversy testified on July 26, 2017, “It’s an urban legend that the Trump campaign changed the platform . . . it was false” (p.83) as can be proved by examining the language as I did in my January post. Nonetheless, Gordon went on to say that his life had been destroyed by the allegations. Because of the investigations he had been unable to get a position in the administration, his reputation was damaged, and career prospects limited.

We may despise what the media is doing but cannot ignore the power they wield, particularly the New York Times and the Washington Post which set the agenda and tone for much of the rest of the media. If you don’t live in the Northeast it is easy to underestimate the impact their coverage has on everyone. Even Jared Kushner in his testimony (July 25, 2017), spoke of his father-in-law’s attention to the Times:

“I’d have discussions almost every day with the candidate saying, look: If the New York Times mattered you’d be at 1 percent”. (p.70)

Day 113: COVID-19 We’re All in Exactly What, Together?

 

The screengrab is from the Rt:Effective Reproduction website. I featured it before in Day 104: COVID-19 It’s Over, But How Do You Convince People That It’s Over?. That was a week ago and if you go to the site and click on older graphs you can see (at least according to their methodology) things are moving in the right direction.

And yet we are constantly serenaded on television with the public service announcements featuring persons who do not live in hovels talking about how “We’re all in this together.” That is, we stay at home, isolate ourselves, keep our shops closed (except for where they are beginning, unevenly, to open under new rules), and sacrifice ourselves for the greater good.

Mind you, I am not against self-sacrifice. Mrs Rodin takes the view that (intellectually) there is no such thing as “altruism”. I concur that people will do things for psychic compensation — emotional, religious, patriotic– that we view as altruism. So people do self-sacrifice for personal reasons, some of which we heartily approve as a society.

But in the strictest sense, it is clear that we are not all sacrificing in the same degree or to the same extent. Thus it is said that we are all in the same “storm” together, just not in the same “boat.” Accordingly, we need to have freedom to navigate through the storm in ways necessitated by the individual condition of our own “boat.” And when you overlay the question of what exactly is the “storm” in which we find ourselves together, things get even more complicated.

It is now evident in hindsight that there were multiple choices that could have been made. The decision to shutter “non-essential” businesses and activities started out as a simple (allegedly) short-term strategy but has now morphed into a power struggle between individual liberty and collective rights with a health component. The “storm” has morphed from a health emergency to a political battle.

If absent bad public policies everyone would live forever, that would be one thing. But the opposite is true: No one lives forever even with good public policies. So why are we destroying our future well-being in the name saving some unknown, incalculable increment of life. The same society that accepts millions of abortions cannot accept hundreds of thousands of premature deaths — the avoidance of which costs so much and gains so little?

If the virus were free to pick its victims unaffected by government policies but hindered only by the decisions and actions of individuals and private organizations, there would be winners and losers as there always are. Sadness would come to many, as it always does. But those victims would be victims of the natural order, not the often wrongheaded actions governments.

If it was really a choice between all tragedy incurred or all tragedy avoided, then broad-scale governmental action might be reasonable. But it isn’t.

This is a challenge to be met with conservative beliefs. Either you believe that life is what it is and people should have the broadest possible chances to make their way through it, according to their own predilections and beliefs, or you feel that populations should be managed toward some ideal goal. History shows that there are sorrows and joys in the former, and widespread despair in the latter.

Let our people go.

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

Veracity Dies in Darkness at the Washington Post

 

According to the Johns Hopkins data (here), reported COVID-19 deaths have been generally declining in the US. Here is my graph showing daily reported deaths, and the seven-day moving average, from April 1 to the present:

You can see the moving average peaked on April 18, 2020 (at 2,201.6/day), and has subsequently declined. It was 1,775.1/day on May 9, a decline of 19.4%. As of May 11, the seven-day moving average is 1,680.0, a 23.7% decline from the peak.

I give the data for May 9 because I want to rebut and criticize this Washington Post article released that day. I know that the authors were aware of the Johns Hopkins data, as they specifically cite it, and I deduce that they had the information through May 9, because their article cites a number of cumulative deaths (“past 78,000”) which did not occur until May 9 in the Johns Hopkins data.

This article is an exceptional example of what we’ve come to call “fake news” and promotion of “the narrative.” I find the Post, and most other outlets, to be extraordinarily mendacious, with an exceptional ability to paint a completely false picture while, usually, not stating anything that is technically untrue.

I guess it’s an impressive achievement, to mislead through a series of statements that are each true. Not admirable, but impressively deceptive.

The title of the Post piece is: “As deaths mount, Trump tries to convince Americans it’s safe to inch back to normal.” The opening paragraph is:

In a week when the novel coronavirus ravaged new communities across the country and the number of dead soared past 78,000, President Trump and his advisers shifted from hour-by-hour crisis management to what they characterize as a long-term strategy aimed at reviving the decimated economy and preparing for additional outbreaks this fall.

Again, it’s all technically true. The deaths will continue to “mount” until the number of newly reported deaths is zero. It’s more rhetoric than reporting to say that “the number of dead soared past 78,000,” when the daily total has generally been declining. It would be equally accurate for the title and first paragraph of the story to be:

As daily deaths continue to decline, Trump tries to convince Americans it’s safe to inch back to normal.

In a week when average reported deaths from the novel coronavirus declined to under 1,800/day, down almost 20% from the peak in mid-April, President Trump and his advisors continued their long-term strategy aimed at reviving the decimated economy and returning an estimated 35 million unemployed Americans to productive work.

But why let facts get in the way of the Narrative?  The Post will decide what facts are fit to print, and count on it, those facts will support whatever conclusion the Post wants you to reach.

There is an interesting part of the article quoting a statement by Dr. Birx about the favorable, downward trend line in reported COVID-19 deaths. But Dr. Birx was not careful, and her statement was technically false, though her point about the downward trend is true. The Post, with a skill worthy of the father of lies, manages to give a false impression that the number of deaths has not been declining, though a series of statements that are each technically true. The article states:

Birx said in a statement: “Mortality is slowly declining each day. To keep with this trend, it is essential that seniors and those with comorbidities shelter in place and that we continue to protect vulnerable communities.”

That assertion is contrary to Johns Hopkins data, which shows U.S. daily deaths hovering close to 2,000 most days for several weeks now, and climbing higher some days last week. Many experts also believe coronavirus deaths are actually being undercounted, with mortality data showing that U.S. deaths soared in the early weeks of pandemic, far beyond the number attributed to covid-19.

Let’s parse this.

Dr. Birx said “Mortality is slowly declining each day.” This is true of the seven-day average. It is not true of each and every individual day, at least if we rely on the reported data. (It is possible that actual daily deaths are declining, and that the daily ups-and-downs are the result of reporting delays. My graph above plainly shows a significant decline in reported deaths following a weekly cycle, with below-average figures on Sunday and Monday and above-average figures on Tuesday and Wednesday.)

So Dr. Birx was careless. She should have said something like: “The trend in daily mortality is down, though individual days may be a bit above or a bit below that trend. The seven-day average is down about 20% from its peak about three weeks ago.”

But look at the Post claim, which says that “the Johns Hopkins data . . . shows U.S. daily deaths hovering close to 2,000 most days for several weeks now, and climbing higher some days last week.”  That’s technically true — here is my graph again:

Ignore the downward trend. Just focus on the fact that “most days” are “hovering close to 2,000.” Don’t tell your readers that the weekly average is down about 20%.

Here’s where the Post goes the extra mile. Not content to mislead about the daily reported death figures, the Post proceeds to cast doubt on the validity of the reports. “Many experts believe coronavirus deaths are actually being undercounted . . ..” True enough, and maybe they’re right, maybe not. And many other experts believe that coronavirus deaths are being overcounted. They’re probably both right, as it seems difficult to believe that everyone is being 100% accurate in: (1) not missing a single death caused by COVID-19, while (2) not incorrectly attributing a single death to COVID-19 that was actually caused by something else. But the Post doesn’t explain this to its readers.

The issue of underreporting is a misdirection, too, as it does not rebut the fact that the number of fatalities is declining. Even if we were undercounting COVID-19 deaths by, say, 25%, this would not imply that there has not been a decline. Undercounting would only be relevant to the trend line if we were previously counting more accurately, and are now counting less accurately.

Again, not that it matters to the Post. The Narrative is what matters. Obscuring any good news is what matters. Making the Trump administration look bad is what matters.

My thanks to Stad (here) for linking this Post article, though his post was addressing another issue.

ChiCom delenda est. WaPo delenda est, too.

Member Post

 

1) Wearing a MAGA hat sideways or backward. Penalty: No apple pie. 2) When Indians are mentioned, performing the tomahawk chop for more than 3 Mississippi’s. Penalty: Deduct corn from your plate. 3) Mentioning of Fauxcahontas or Liawatha while children are in the room. Penalty: Lose the good seat at end of the couch during the […]

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My next book project, with co-editors Dr. Rose Cothren, Kevin Neece, and Jaclyn Parrish. Representing the best of the Dallas Baptist University community, and written by friends, fans, and students of David Naugle. My own essay is a nice intro to accounts of faith transcending reason in Augustine, William James, Kant, and Kierkegaard. The book […]

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On Perspective, Context, and the Rational Response

 

It has been a while since I’ve posted anything… some (all of those “charter members”) might recall that I am often fairly long-winded. I recently added a series of comments to another post. Seems stupid to write 1,500 words in a comments section, so I’m just putting them all in this separate post. It’s not polished or written in essay form or anything like that. Just a very long comment all on its own.


I have recently engaged in some debate over how to correctly apply Thomas Sowell’s famous statement that “there are no solutions, only trade-offs” to our present situation with respect to COVID-19. I feel that it is being misapplied. Perhaps a more appropriate restatement in this context would be to say that “all solutions have a cost.”

I am not a doctor or a virologist, but I do spend every day working with a government system whose stated purpose is the mitigation of harm, and let me assure you, my views are not nearly so crass as “interventions are ok as long as they don’t impact my life!” Rather, taking a look at both the harm and the intervention, I am daily reminded that our best interventions are generally inadequate to eliminate the harm, yet they very often result in greater harms – like that old joke about punching you in the nose to help you forget the pain in your toe.

With respect to this virus, I tend to think of it in this way: I’ve represented three teenagers who ended up dying of cerebral palsy. All of them died as a result of some sort of infection or pneumonia. In talking with doctors about this, it really seems that that is what these sorts of diseases are all about. Everyone has to die of something, but rarely do people die of the thing they’re actually dying of. They die of pneumonia. Colds and flus, oddly, seem to serve that purpose. They are what gets you in the end. Or, rather, they are like the last straw.

It seems to me that COVID is essentially a new addition to that group of last straws. It will either burn out on its own, or it will become less virulent and stick around forever, acting like a seasonal bug. There is precious little we can do about that. It is not attacking indiscriminately, it is attacking elderly and infirm, just as other respiratory illnesses tend to do. It’s not that I consider human lives to be a “trade-off,” it is that I consider this disease to be, very likely, a newly-discovered part of our lives about which we can do very little. When we react as we have, the primary foolishness is in the idea that this is something we can actually control or eliminate. Also, we seem to be grossly overstating the impact that it actually has.

Yet, for some reason (and I think it is almost entirely media and social-media driven), we are reacting to this illness far more like the zombie apocalypse or invasion of the body snatchers than anything else. Our interventions are extreme, and our desperate need for interventions is unprecedented. Our willingness to give up basic freedoms and allow centralized control to self-interested politicians with no better access to data than anyone else, and our trust in self-proclaimed “experts” whose primary expertise is trial-and-error, and who tend to live in a very specialized bubble is, again, unprecedented. We have for some reason decided to compartmentalize, and magnify this single problem of human existence to far beyond every other problem we currently face, at the expense of our ability to deal with any of those other problems.

And consider the scale of what we’re actually dealing with. It is probably roughly on par with the flu – something that is hardly nothing, but (importantly) something that we have come to accept as a part of our lives. Saying that it is 2X “deadlier” than the flu is virtually meaningless, as it serves primarily the same function, seems to operate in roughly the same way, and again, “twice as deadly” must be taken in context. Twice as deadly as the flu (for a disease with no vaccine and few well-tested treatments) is still statistically on par with the flu. Not something to be totally ignored or disregarded, but also within the bounds of something we are going to need to consider to be a part of our lives for the foreseeable future.

But more importantly, what about the extremity of our actions? Here is where “everything has a cost” comes in. We could control the flu and even the common cold (which is also not 100% benign) in the same ways we are attempting to control COVID. We could cancel all sporting events, ban large gatherings, all deck out in PPE everywhere we go, wash our hands, sanitize, etc. It is up for debate whether this would do any good in the long run (our immune systems, for instance, are important), but we could do these things for illnesses we already have, and we don’t. Why don’t we? We recognize that the cold/flu operates as I discussed above. It is an inconvenience to most, and it is the last-straw that kills many. It is a problem that we keep in mind – but on the long list of problems (poverty, depression, cancers, domestic violence, heart attacks, obesity, international politics… domestic politics like immigration, abortion, etc…), it is not nothing, but neither is it so important that literally everything else is brushed aside.

So why are we doing this with COVID?

My response may seem selfish or callous or heartless… but that is only because this is right at the forefront of everyone’s minds, and it is being discussed in a vacuum. It is no more callous or heartless than our response to literally any other problem. Why are 70K lives lost to COVID an appropriate test of humanity while 60K lives lost to any other respiratory illness are simply a part of life? The only difference is that this is where our focus currently is, and when this newly-ADD-riddled global population gets its mind set like a laser beam on one problem, it loses all context and perspective. But context is everything.

So what would I do? What would I recommend with respect to COVID? That all depends. I would say that people need to think of COVID in exactly the same way they think of any other respiratory illness. If you are overweight, lose weight. If you are diabetic or have hypertension, get it under control (and probably lose weight). If you live in a big city, slap yourself in the face, get a life, and realize that stress is probably going to kill you… then, move out of the big city, start voting republican, and get a concealed-carry permit. If you are extremely old, realize that you have entered the phase of life where death is lurking around every corner. Enjoy every moment with your family and try to dust off the Bible that you received 70 years ago at your baptism. All of that sounds heartless, no? Not really. It is the approach we take with virtually everything, because we simply cannot live our entire lives in fear of death and illness. This latest illness is one that has just been added to the list of things that are trying to kill us. For the old and infirm, they should treat this exactly the way they do the flu – both can kill you. Half as deadly as “dead” isn’t much better…

But what should our national response be? I don’t think our response to COVID should be any different than anything else. It is a reminder to hospitals and governments that it would be a good idea to be better prepared for disaster and pandemics. Maybe we shouldn’t be so heavily in debt, such that we can actually afford to provide limited relief when something like this flares up. Maybe instead of spending billions on ridiculous pet projects, graft, and personal favors for individual politicians, we should incentivize research and innovation through grants and so forth (which will still be subject to graft and favors). When we see a massive problem in nursing homes (as COVID seems to indicate), maybe we should be attempting a more targeted response… there are books of regulations (and as a lawyer, I’ve read them!) for these facilities, and it may be that they need to be improved. Maybe, as individuals, we should focus less on our own careers and think about the extent to which we rely on these sorts of facilities to care for our elderly.

All that to say – what we really need to do is [expletive]-ing snap out of it. We are experiencing a major panic that is largely driven by media/social-media and fear of the unknown. This latest unknown has somehow led us into forgetting that our lives are absolutely chock full of unknowns, and whether this is twice or three or five times as deadly as the well-known and already accepted flu, that difference still exists on the margins, and COVID still falls into roughly the same category.

Somehow, we have decided that this latest hazard necessitates a complete shift in our way of thinking – it reminds me of the first Bolshevik revolution in 1917, which bubbled and stewed, and then just spread like a tsunami, resulting in decades of misery. COVID is the earthquake out in the middle of the ocean that started that wave, but the tsunami is now a thing all its own.

Consider what we’re doing. We’ve started with the absolute most extreme. Essentially, house arrest. Whether this is effective in stopping the spread of this particular disease is up for debate, of course, but I don’t think that is the most important consideration. If we were to look at anything in a vacuum, we could start to solve the problem the way we’re “solving” COVID. We could ban driving to cut back on automobile accidents, we could ban all guns to cut back on violence (whoops… I guess that’s a different post). So, people are pretty fed up with this solution, right? People suffering from other ills are fed up with this notion that we’ve taken this one problem and elevated it above literally all other problems. But we don’t get to open up that vacuum and let in the rest of life. This becomes a negotiation process, for some reason. What are you willing to compromise? What are you willing to give up? We still, apparently, need to stay laser-focused on this one problem… ok, so let’s start talking about privacy rights. You willing to give those up? We need extreme contact tracing, we need large-scale testing. Let’s start talking about individual rights. We need you all to put on this mask. Complain? Well, you don’t complain about having to wear pants, do you?! Nevermind that the two are in no way comparable. Do you want off this house arrest, or what?

All this over what? No – you can’t say that! If you say that, you are basically sacrificing lives. Too many wish to put it in those overly simplistic terms. My freedom at the expense of lives. Intervention is OK just as long as it doesn’t impact me directly, right?

No – the problem is that this is a fundamental shift in the way we solve problems…

The problem is not that I fail to recognize that this particular respiratory illness is to some degree more deadly than the other respiratory illnesses that we accept as a part of our lives… it is that we really do need to start focusing on limiting principles, because the fact is, this particular respiratory illness is not different enough from those other accepted illnesses to necessitate so drastic and fundamental a change in our underlying views of what are and are not appropriate responses to this category of harm.

So what’s my solution? Let grandma die? Shrug our shoulders just as long as we’re not personally impacted? No, you don’t get to accuse me of that, because the exact same accusation could be levied against anyone who isn’t fully on board with pushing every other harm aside in favor of your preferred harm. My solution is that we should handle this exactly the same way we handle literally everything else that we face on a daily basis. Smart people who are motivated to do so should continue attempting to work on the problem. Profit-driven drug companies should still hope to capitalize on people’s fears by providing effective treatments, innovating, and solving problems regardless of their motives for doing so. Doctors should continue to abide by the Hippocratic oath and do their best to save lives, continually updating treatment methods and discovering new ways to address not just this problem, but every other problem that their individual specialties point them toward. People in at-risk categories should continue to protect themselves from all the final-straws, perhaps keenly aware that some are more dangerous than others. People with at-risk loved ones should help out as much as they can. And all of us should focus our time and energy on trying to solve our individual problems, whatever they may be.

As a lawyer, I spend my time working with teenagers who are abused or neglected. That’s a problem. It has lasting effects on their lives. Some will die because of lifestyle choices resulting from trauma or despair. Some will grow up and abuse their own spouses or children. If we all put down everything we’re doing and worked together, maybe we could help these kids. Maybe, though, we’d do more harm than good. Undoubtedly, we’d be putting down whatever else we otherwise would be doing. If a doctor stopped seeing patients in order to help me solve my problem, he wouldn’t be solving his own problems, and people would suffer as a consequence of that.

Interestingly, the free market still works, even with pandemics. There are still a million and one problems that need to be solved, the result of which lives are very much at stake. This notion that we should stop everything we’re doing to solve this one particular problem is taking us back to that Bolshevik revolution mindset that has been stewing for the past decade. My own governor, Jay Inslee, released his four-phase plan for release. We see posters up everywhere, ads on TV… everyone needs to work together.

He may just as well call it a five-year plan, and we can start producing the Yugo all over again, all in it together, all solving just one problem.

Fundamental Critique of the 1619 Project

 

On NRO right now is a piece by Allen C. Guelzo, Senior Research Scholar in the Humanities Council at Princeton University. He takes the 1619 Project’s foundational premises apart and exposes the absurdity. This piece isn’t that long and well worth your time to read. This is the response of a real historian to this malignant Marxist wishful thinking contrivance called the 1619 Project.

1619 and the Narrative of Despair

On August 14, 2019, the New York Times Magazine dropped something of a historical bombshell on its readers. It was not some new conspiracy theory about the Kennedy assassination or some breathtaking revelation of the secret life of Millard Fillmore. It was much more dramatic. It was called “The 1619 Project,” and it consumed an entire special 100-page issue of the magazine. It also aimed at nothing less than a complete overhaul of how we understand American history. It did not, however, meet with entire agreement by American historians: At least two very diverse groups of American historians and political scientists, one headed by myself (and including eleven others) and another by my Princeton colleague Sean Wilentz, wrote letters to Jake Silverstein, the editor of the New York Times Magazine, to question a host of gaffes and misstatements in The 1619 Project. All of these were summarily waved away, and last week, The 1619 Project’s lead essay sailed merrily to a Pulitzer Prize for commentary — although if “sailed” is the right metaphor, the ship in question resembles the Bounty more than the Cutty Sark.

Mr. Guelzo point by point lays bare the corrupt nature of this pseudo-history. He also makes clear the size of the threat it poses.

… Already, 3,500 classrooms and five major urban school systems (including Buffalo, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.) have adopted The 1619 Project for their history curricula. As they do this, the results will be that we teach schoolchildren that:

  • capitalism is a form of totalitarianism . . . so that we may then think kindly of socialism.
  • we should pay reparations for slavery (and Hannah-Jones has stated frankly that “the project is an argument for reparations”), as though, to reverse Lincoln’s formula in his Second Inaugural Address, every drop of blood drawn by the lash had not been paid for by one drawn by the sword.
  • history is nothing more than a web of narratives and interpretations, so that any connection of history to historical fact can be ignored. As one enthusiastic backer of The 1619 Project confessed, “often reading straight history doesn’t get us deep into emotion and perspective and feeling,” and as we all surely believe, “emotion and perspective and feeling” are infinitely more important than truth.
  • the America that Lincoln described as the world’s “last, best hope” becomes a swamp of guilt, resentment, accusation, and lethal mistrust.

The 1619 Project is false, sick, and evaluated by its real intentions just plain evil. The Goofy Woke New New Left is very very dangerous and needs to be stopped.