Trump and the “Slow-Moving Coup”

ng slots 2019 The same media that created Trump is now aghast he has supporters. What did they expect when they gave Trump hours of free airtime every night back in 2016? The media ignored fifteen other Republican candidates in order to gain ratings by airing whichever rants Trump chose to utter that day.

gala casino 10 pound free Even now, the media are giving Trump far more airtime, and in spite of themselves, more credibility by being utterly consumed by everything he does. Now they are concerned about a “slow-moving coup?”

This will be the narrative of the next few months, and will, once again, give Trump the airtime and attention he craves.  Mainstream media has no credibility among many Trump supporters.  But, as one of the cardinal rules of politics attests, any coverage, even negative, is preferable to no coverage.

Trump lost the 2020 election, plain and simple. I know there are far too many who believe he actually won, and the election was somehow stolen from him. Indeed, this is the portrayal Eric Trump is trying to advance in order to keep his father relevant and in the news. But the truth is that Trump, in his arrogance and hubris, ran an awful campaign.

Because he didn’t get the kind of unlimited and uncritical airtime he enjoyed in 2016, he had to actually run a campaign in 2020. He failed to do that, and he lost.

Even those believing some sort of conspiracy “stole” the election from Trump have failed to read the Constitution. Article II, Section 1, clearly states, “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.”

Note that the Constitution does not require a popular election for president. If it so desires, any of the states could just appoint electors of their choosing (and that was the original intent of this passage of the Constitution). Once the states approved their presidential electors, they completed their obligations according to the Constitution. Even if Trump actually did win the states his supporters claim were “stolen,” it doesn’t matter according to the Constitution. All the states had to do was appoint electors. Constitutionally, it doesn’t matter if the electors reflected the votes each presidential candidate received.

Personally, I always thought Trump was an idiot who ran a populist campaign designed to appeal to the grievances of many middle-class Americans (indeed, he stole his techniques from the tactics used by the left for decades). He has virtually no knowledge of government, and even less of the Constitution (of course, that critique can be applied to far too many members of Congress, as well).

I won’t deny the nation was better off with Trump as president than it is under Biden, but that’s a very low bar to clear. Biden has given the Bernie Sanders’ “progressive” wing of the Democratic party far too much power, and, in fact, many Democrats are attempting to govern to the left of Sanders. Considering the current state of the Democrats, anyone that even sounds remotely reasonable would be a better choice. Even confirmed liberals, like Senators Joe Manchin, (West Virginia), and Kyrsten Sinema, (Arizona), seem moderate by comparison.

Both major political parties are a mess. If the Democrats continue on their unitary national government, socialist path, there won’t be a need for a “slow-moving” coup. There will be a need for a full-scale revolution to reinstate federal government according to the principles of the Constitution.  This revolution won’t be led by Trump.  Instead, it would be conducted by those who actually read, understand, and revere the Constitution.  That doesn’t describe Trump.

There will always be those who are attracted to charismatic populists, and who believe they see their own images in populist candidates.  However, populists rarely make good representatives and leaders because of the narrow and shallow focus of their beliefs and their inherent narcissism.  Instead of holding any recognizable political philosophy, populists rely solely upon their own charisma.  Although Trump is a charismatic individual to many, and even though he has the ability to make people think he cares about them, Trump was less than a success as president.  Even though some of his instincts were correct, he lacked the power and ability to create long-standing change.  Indeed, his actions actually further emboldened the socialistic left.

If the country is to move to the correct course, it needs a president who understands their job is to execute the laws passed by Congress, not one who unilaterally attempts to create law anytime he thinks Congress has failed.

We need a Congress whose members actually understand federalism, and who recognize the states, not the federal government, are invested with the majority of sovereignty by the Constitution.  Members of Congress must recognize the powers of the federal government are limited by design, and this design is appropriate.  They must also recognize they shouldn’t have the power to spend other people’s money anytime they have a constituency with a grievance or an opportunity presents itself to buy votes with government spending.  Representatives should use the upmost discretion every time they seek to spend a dollar, and they must use fiscal sense so as not to extort too much money from wage earners or saddle future generations with massive debt.

Trump is not the answer, and the election was not stolen from him.  The Democrats, as they are now constituted, are not the answer either. 

Both parties must carefully assess their beliefs and goals, and develop appealing candidates consistent with those beliefs and goals.  If they continue to fail to do so, another party may rise up to supplant one or both of the current major parties.  And if the situation appears too extreme, we might actually see the genesis of a new political revolution, and not merely a “slow-moving coup.”

The Real Danger of Facebook

The real problem with Facebook is not that they fail to censor enough posts. The real danger is their practice of using analytics to segment users into identity groups.

As a result of a 60 Minutes report, the media is all over Facebook – decrying what former employee Frances Haugen called an emphasis of “profit over safety.”

No kidding!

Of course, Facebook chooses “profit over safety.”  They exist to sell advertising and to turn a profit.  They are not, and should not, be in the business of ensuring safety – whatever that really means.

Facebook has been under attack for virtually any kind of post made by its users.  If someone posts an opinion questioning the current orthodoxy, it’s labeled misinformation.  If a user believes in American exceptionalism and cultural superiority, he or she is branded as an unrepentant racist and white supremacist.  If an individual questions the “settled science” of climate change, that person is called a science denier.  People must even ensure they use the accepted nomenclature to refer to gender.  Women can no longer be called women – they are “menstruating persons” or “people who give birth.”

Community Standards and Censorship

In order to placate the opponents of free speech, Facebook has created so-called “community standards,” which are ever-changing and worded similarly to the Democratic party platform.  Any deviation from these so-called standards may subject a user to a permanent ban from Facebook, particularly if a user creates posts containing a conservative point-of-view.  Although private companies are not required to follow the Bill of Rights, Facebook selectively chooses which types of speech violates their “community standards” and often uses technology, rather than real people, rendering the context of posts irrelevant to their decisions to suspend or ban a person.  Indeed, Facebook often seems intent on appeasing the 40% of millennials who believe so-called hate speech should be outlawed.

In spite of Facebook’s efforts, critics demand even more censorship of user content by the social media giant.

The content of posts found on Facebook is not the problem, and censorship often results in valid content and opinions being suppressed.  For example, Facebook would routinely remove posts claiming COVID-19 was man-made or escaped from a Chinese laboratory.  Users were even permanently banned from Facebook if they continued to voice these opinions.  In another example of Facebook’s defiance of constitutional norms, there is no appeal to their decisions, even if those decisions are made using incorrect assumptions and information.  In May 2021, Facebook reversed course as evidence was uncovered demonstrating the possibility of the virus escaping from a Wuhan laboratory due to an accidental leak.  Once the general media entertained the idea such a conclusion was credible, if not likely, Facebook stopped censoring posts asserting COVID-19 was created by humans.  Yet it did nothing to remedy the damage done to users it disabled or suspended for previously expressing the view that COVID may have originated or escaped from a laboratory.

The Case Against Censorship

The content of posts is not the problem with Facebook.  There is a good reason why the United States guarantees free speech in the First Amendment of the Constitution.  Today’s “crackpot ideas” may be tomorrow’s revelations.  Posts that challenge the moral tenor of the times one year may reflect common sentiment another year.  Most importantly, any kind of censorship involves the suppression of ideas, even if many consider certain ideas reprehensible.  Ideas are far less likely to cause a problem than the selective censorship of certain ideas.  Currently, some are so invested with the dogma of so-called progressivism that they consider any opposing viewpoint as not only wrong, but as evil.

The remedy of misinformation, crackpot ideas, and reprehensive ideas has always been the truth and a free marketplace of ideas in which opposing viewpoints are not only permitted, but encouraged.  This is where Facebook fails.  Rather than presenting multiple viewpoints to its users, Facebook categorizes users into groups of commonality, so they may be better targeted by Facebook’s advertisers.  Because Facebook has found it profitable to divide users up into political, social, and racial identity groups, users are rarely confronted with perspectives that differ from their own.  Indeed, Facebook users often find themselves in echo chambers in which every user they see expresses similar opinions.

The Real Danger of Facebook

Why is the practice of segmenting users into identity groups dangerous?

Facebook employs algorithms which segment users by age, political views, socio-economic characteristics, education, and likely even race.  This is useful for advertisers who seek to craft their message to appeal to specific demographics.  Yet it is disastrous for both free speech and the truth.

In normal society, everyone has the freedom to voice their own opinions.  Yet, voicing specific opinions are not without consequence.  If people spout misinformation, others can use facts to publicly correct them.  If someone uses socially unacceptable language or engages in discriminatory speech, that person may be shunned or embarrassed by others.  When speech is totally unfettered, so is the right and likelihood of rebuttal.  In a totally free marketplace of ideas, true, good, and acceptable ideas tend to rise to the top.  Discriminatory ideas, misinformation, and profanity is usually squelched or rendered impotent by those offering rebuttals.

Because of Facebook’s algorithms, however, users with similar ideas are placed together.  This includes users spouting misinformation, discriminatory ideas, crackpot ideas, conspiracy theories and the like.  Rather than being challenged, as they would in a free marketplace of ideas, bad ideas are amplified, and purveyors of stupid ideas believe they are in the right, because everyone with whom they interact agrees with their assessments.  In Facebook’s balkanized environment, users are only presented with ideas that mirror their own.  Contrary opinions and facts, which might change one’s perspective, are rare.  Instead, bad and dangerous ideas are reinforced in Facebook, rather than subjected to counter-arguments from others.

Although Facebook may mouth fidelity to whatever types of diversity are currently in vogue, they fail to ensure users are exposed to a diversity of ideas.  Instead, they enhance division and polarity by dividing users by certain characteristics and assigning them into electronic ghettos populated solely by like-minded individuals.  There is no debate, no give and take, and no free marketplace of ideas in Facebook.  Instead, there are hundreds of echo chambers, each populated by people of similar characteristics, similar interests, and similar opinions.  Not only are Facebook users not presented with differing perspectives – the Facebook algorithm prohibits this from occurring.  Instead, users are just grouped into categories of like-minded individuals.  There is no diversity of thought and ideas, and there is little opportunity for one’s views to be assessed and challenged.

As with any other type of social construct, organic freedom always results in greater progress and lifestyle than dictatorship.  When a person, company, or government seeks to censor and suppress certain ideas, they are doing so solely for their own perceived self-interest, not the interest of the citizenry as a whole.  When a free and diverse exchange of ideas exists, great ideas rise to the top and reprehensible ideas are consigned to the dustbin in the normal course of human interaction.  The danger of Facebook is not that they fail to censor enough ideas or remove enough posts.  The real danger is that Facebook actively works to prevent users from being exposed to different ideas.

What does the Biden Administration and the Venezuelan Dictatorship Have in Common?

What does Venezuela’s desire to adopt a totally cashless society and the Biden administration’s plan to require banks to report all transactions over $600 to the IRS have in common?  They are both about establishing government control over our finances and diminishing personal privacy.

The Biden administration believes that requiring banks to report all transactions over $600 to the government would reduce income tax evasion.  However, the IRS can already gather all the financial information it may need for an audit without adding this cumbersome requirement.  If instituted, the compliance costs to report all transactions over $600 will be enormous and the reporting process will be a bureaucratic nightmare.

In addition to the compliance costs, which would drive up the fees charged by banking institutions, the privacy implications are alarming.  The IRS would have access to information about any banking transaction exceeding $600.  If you’re withdrawing a few thousand dollars to purchase a used car, the government will know about it.  If you received a thousand dollars in wedding gifts, the government will know about it (and try to tax it).  If you spend $600 to attend a protest event, the government will know about it.  Even if you move money from one account to another, not only will the government know about it, it would also likely trigger an IRS audit. There is no telling what the government will ultimately do with the information they collect about individual spending, saving, and earning habits.

It is all but certain the reporting of transactions over $600 will be reported electronically.  Not only will the government have unconstrained access to most people’s financial activities, but so will hackers and other nefarious actors.  Considering the increasing number of data breeches against supposedly secure credit card transaction and personal information, it is inevitable that individual financial data will be leaked.  This data provides a treasure trove of information that may be used by criminals.  Under this proposal, not only will bureaucrats in Washington have access to your private information, but so will criminals in China, Russia, and the rest of Eastern Europe. 

This idea seems to always turn up like a bad penny anytime Democrats engage in a federal spending binge.  In 2010, as part of the so-called Affordable Care Act, Democrats wanted small business owners to submit a 1099 form to any vendor with whom they spent $600 or more in a calendar year.  This would have meant, for example, that a company which ordered a few cases of printer paper and pencils from Staples would have to send them a 1099 form at the end of the year.  Companies whose employees stayed at a Sheraton Hotel on a business trip would have had to send Sheraton a 1099 form (for each separate location).  The list goes on and on.

Had a few sane legislators not noticed this insertion into a massive spending bill, and had not small business owners lobbied against this, every small business owner would have been saddled with huge paperwork requirements and thousands of dollars in additional accounting costs.  The costs to comply with the proposed dictates would have dwarfed the small amount of additional taxes collected by the IRS as a result of these requirements.

Democrats seem to have a fixation with the $600 number.  That was their preference in 2010, and it has appeared again this year.  They believe that infringing upon the financial privacy of Americans is a small price to pay in order to fund their vote-buying programs.  They also totally ignore the costs of maintaining compliance, and the fact that such costs will be passed down to all users of banking services.  If inflation wasn’t already bad enough with gasoline prices more than a dollar per gallon expensive than it was a year ago, this bill will surely send inflation spiraling out of control.

What does this have to do with Venezuela?  Ever since the Venezuelans elected a socialist government, which shortly became a dictatorship, inflation has skyrocketed.  Even their currency could not keep up with the rate of inflation.  Before Hugo Chávez became president, the Venezuelan bolivar typically traded at 3 to 4 bolivars to one United States dollar.  Even after several currency reevaluations, it now takes 4,146,022 bolivars to purchase a single U.S. dollar.

Venezuela can not print currency fast enough to keep up with their rate of inflation.  Their largest denomination bank note, 50,000 bolivars, is now only worth a couple of cents in United States currency.  Bank notes are often obsolete even before they enter circulation.  Because of the huge inflation rate, bank notes are rarely used in commerce, and coins have completely disappeared from circulation.

In light of this, Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro has announced plans to abolish physical cash and go to an entirely cashless society.  In a cashless society, all transactions are electronically recorded and available to the government upon request.  This allows the government to track the finances and transactions of specific individuals and to limit the places in which money may be spent.  If, for example, an opposition party is attempting to raise funds to challenge the incumbent government, the dictatorship could prevent any funds from being used for this purpose.  It will be impossible to purchase books, artwork, newspapers, or anything else not approved by the government.  Electronic records of all financial transactions is the secret police force’s best friend.

Will the proposed reporting requirements in the United States be as intrusive as those used by Venezuela?  Not immediately.  However, we must remember the Patriot Act was ostensibly created to thwart international terrorists.  Yet, its use of secret warrants and indictments has been employed more often to prosecute crimes within the United States, rather than foreign terrorists.  The Internal Revenue Service has been used, not only to collect taxes, but to target political organizations opposing the incumbent administration.  And while the FBI has not yet become as much of a political secret police force as Venezuela’s Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional, it has many times exceeded its authority to achieve political aims.  Granting the government another excuse to spy upon its citizens’ economic transactions does not bode well for the future of liberty.

Will those determined to evade United States taxation be thwarted by the bank reporting requirements?  For the most part, no.  Those with large resources will begin conducting transactions using unregulated cyber currencies, tangible metals (silver and gold), and sophisticated barter systems.  They will remove themselves from the United States fiat currency system.  In fact, the bank reporting requirements may result in a reduction to tax collection by driving many economic transactions underground.

The real victims of the proposed reporting requirements will likely be middle-class wage earners and small-business owners.  The government will use the data collected to harass (often innocent) citizens through intrusive audits and civil forfeiture provisions.  Even citizens who innocently moved money from one account to another may find themselves bullied by zealous IRS agents or local police forces hungry for the proceeds of civil forfeiture. 

And all this damage is being done so the Democratic administration can attempt to buy votes by dramatically expanding social and spending programs.  It’s hardly a good bargain.

The Nation was Devastated to Keep People from Inhaling the Spit of Others

The CDC, who, as we all remember, strongly discouraged the wearing of masks by the general public until they decided everyone should wear masks, is now saying coronavirus “does not spread easily from touching surfaces or objects.”

The geniuses at the CDC are now saying the virus spreads from person to person in the following four ways:

  1. “Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  2. “Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.”
  3. “These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.”
  4. “COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.”

I think the CDC just needed to fill up a lot of screen space so they wouldn’t have to admit they don’t much about the spread of the virus at all. This list doesn’t describe four ways the virus spreads. Number 1 doesn’t describe how the virus spreads; it just describes the typical distance you can catch or transmit the virus. Numbers 2 and 3 are saying the same thing. And, number 4 says the CDC doesn’t know whether or not the virus can be spread by asymptomatic people, as evidenced by the use of the qualifier, “may.”

In basic terms, the CDC is saying COVID-19 spreads by inhaling the spit of other people.

This was the basis of shutting down virtually the entire country – to prevent people from breathing in the spit of others!

Because the CDC didn’t know what they were doing, the government condemned millions to joblessness, destroyed hundreds of thousands of small businesses, and depleted the retirement savings of almost everybody.

Rather than assess whether lockdowns were truly effective at limiting the spread of the virus, states prevented people from being treated for other medical conditions, increased poverty, created more stress, intensified mental illness – causing increased mortality from all these conditions.

Why?

They didn’t know why. Governments reacted to panicked people by implementing policies not supported by any empirical evidence. No one even bothered to assess the potential consequences of lockdown policies or determine if these policies caused more damage than they were designed to address.

Ultimately, it was all to prevent people from inhaling the spit of other people.

I could have figured out how to avoid that without condemning millions to economic, physical, and mental health devastation. It all boils down to the things people should do to avoid any illness.

  • Stay away from sick people and stay home if you’re sick.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Don’t stick your fingers in your mouth or nose.

We didn’t need to put everyone under house arrest to accomplish the above.

1968 Strong – 2020 Soft

Anatomy of Fear and Panic

The 1968-1969 Hong Kong Flu pandemic killed one to four million people worldwide, and over 100,000 in the United States.  Most of the American victims were over 65. 

Adjusted for population, this would have been the equivalent of almost 164,000 deaths in the United States today.

Despite the lethality of the Hong Kong Flu, it didn’t create the kind of panic found today over the coronavirus, nor were any economy-killing lockdowns instituted, or even proposed.  By and large, people took the Hong Kong Flu in stride – taking sensible precautions, but not making any substantial changes in routines.  Schools and stores remained open, sporting events were held, and people went to restaurants and movies.  A full presidential campaign was conducted in 1968, and the large Woodstock concert was held in 1969.  No one gave any thought to closing down society in order to “flatten the curve.”  People recognized a terrible virus was circulating, as viruses are wont to do from time to time.  They did not panic, they did not demand government “do something,” and they did not try to force the entire population to cloister at home.  The population of the late 1960’s recognized the reality of the virus, took sensible precautions if they felt vulnerable, but continued to go about their lives.

In terms of infections and fatalities, the Hong Kong Flu pandemic appears very similar to the COVID-19 pandemic.  In light of this, why did the public react very differently in 1968 than they do now?

First, we have to look at the constitution and characteristics of the people influencing society and making policy in the late 1960’s.  These individuals lived through the Great Depression and defeated the Axis in World War II.  They knew true deprivation firsthand, and learned to cope with the challenges and risks of life.  They were self-sufficient and reluctant to lean on anyone else for assistance of any kind.  Hard work, saving for a rainy day, personal accountability, and personal accountability were still considered moral virtues.  Communism and socialism were the enemy; they were not something to emulate and implement.

Secondly, there were real challenges and hardships in society in the late 1960’s.  The civil rights movement was still very active, and Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated early that year.  The Vietnam War was raging.  Anti-war protests were breaking out on college campuses.  Cities were devastated by urban riots.  Political assassinations became all-too common.  The Cold War was still raging with people living under the constant threat of global nuclear annihilation.  Worry about a virus took a backseat to the more pressing problems of the day.

Compare that to those in positions of authority today.  Today’s leaders and influencers were raised in the most prosperous time in American history.  By and large, our nation has been at peace, with a small number of volunteer professional soldiers addressing any violent outbreaks.  Employment is plentiful, and technology not even conceivable a generation ago is available to virtually everyone, including those below the poverty line.  There are very few people alive today who have weathered the adversity common to the Greatest Generation.  Self-sufficiency and individual responsibility are increasingly considered quaint traits – those raised by helicopter parents now expect the state to provide them similar security.  Much of society has demanded government become in loco parentis – providing protection from bad individual decisions and socializing personal responsibility, accountability, and initiative.  The collective has become paramount over the individual.

Whereas the Greatest Generation developed character though hardship and adversity, much of today’s population seek “safe spaces” from “triggering” comments and events.  A 24/7 media trades in sensationalism, emotionalism, and fear, moving seamlessly from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis.  Much of the population no longer wishes to confront challenges head-on – they want and expect someone else to do it for them.  The skills of critical thinking and balancing options with risks have degenerated into blind fealty to comforting authoritarianism.  Planning for the future and making wise choices is no longer important because someone in the government will always bail them out.  Rather than be hardened by adversity, the current crop of leaders has grown soft from prosperity. 

Let’s look again at the biggest issues and concerns of 1968 – 1969.  They included civil rights and equality of all races, the draft and the Vietnam War, the raging Cold War, riots which forever altered communities, violent protests, demonstrations, and political assassinations.  Each and all of these real events were consuming the thoughts of the population.

Contrast that with some of today’s biggest issues.  Worry about which restrooms transgendered individuals should use and debates over whether taxpayers should pay the student loans of individuals having difficulty obtaining gainful employment from their Gender Studies degrees. 

COVID-19, like the Hong Kong Flu before it, can have devastating consequences, including a large number of deaths.  Yet we did not destroy our economy during the Hong Kong Flu pandemic and did not subject millions to joblessness and poverty because of a virus.  We did not prevent individuals with other health issues from accessing their doctors.  We did not force our population into a form of house arrest in order to placate the panic and fear of some. 

In 1968 – 1969, we still thought and we still considered things from the perspective of reason.  In 2020, far too many of us relinquish our thinking to others and operate solely from the perspective of raw hysteria and emotion.

Why Must we Surrender our Rights during times of Perceived Crises?

Once again, our nation surrendered its liberties – our natural rights endowed upon us by our Creator – because of fear and panic.  We did not sacrifice our rights to some “greater cause,” for there is no cause greater than the natural state of freedom that makes us all human.  Instead, we compliantly surrendered that which makes us human, that which makes us American, to scare-mongering “experts” who conned us into believing their priorities, preferences, and judgements were somehow superior to everyone else’s.  We willingly relinquished our own powers of critical thinking and allowed our emotions, particularly our fears, to limit our own judgements.  We allowed a small cabal of so-called experts and politicians to strip us of our right to free will and choice, in exchange for being serfs to their own choices.

The United States of America was founded upon the principle that all humans were granted natural rights by our Creator.  These rights are not abstractions that a benevolent or despotic government can freely grant or deny.  They are an extension of the free will provided to us by our Lord – a recognition that such free will, choice, and liberty is the natural state of every human.  Legitimate governments strive, at all times, to preserve and protect individual liberty.  Despotic governments seek to control humanity by infringing upon these natural rights.

Anatomy of Despotism

During the coronavirus pandemic, governmental officials, usually governors and members of the federal and state executive branches, abandoned any pretext of protecting individual rights and, instead, chose to rule by dictate and decree.  Most of the nation’s governors chose to put their own citizens under various forms of house arrest, through “stay at home” or “lockdown” orders.  They arbitrarily closed businesses they deemed “nonessential” with little thought given to the real impact this would have on the business owners, their employees, their suppliers, and the communities they serve.  When confronted with a perceived crisis, these supposed leaders reflexively resorted to the most intrusive and excessively coercive mechanisms of governmental power, rather than trusting their citizens to independently make the choices right for them.

This was partially caused by mass hysteria driven by the sensationalist and alarmist pronouncements of the media and by opportunistic “experts” seeking personal publicity or the raw exercise of power.  The so-called “experts” were granted levels of influence and power far beyond their areas of expertise, and the public eagerly and willingly acquiesced to even the most draconian recommendations of these individuals.  It is a sad reality of human nature that when given an opportunity to exercise power over others, most people will gladly wield that power to their own ends.  Far too often, the public meekly complies.

Whether you choose to call the technique “gaslighting”, or as Hitler termed it, “the Big Lie,” when something is repeated often enough and with enough conviction, the public will eventually believe, and then, embrace the lie.  The panic and raw emotional reactions to the perceived threat of COVID-19 was a classic example of this phenomenon.

The Path to Dictatorship

Initially, most Americans, including most politicians, believed COVID-19 would not cause much trouble, and even branded those who disagreed as racists against the Chinese.  It was not uncommon to see mayors and other political figures tour Chinatowns in their cities and encourage people to visit their restaurants and businesses.

That all changed in late February and early March of 2020.  The news media seized upon the worst aspects of the outbreak in Europe, particularly in Italy and quickly sensationalized their coverage in a desperate search for ratings and readers.  Then, on March 16, Imperial College in Britain published a model which predicted that half a million people in Britain would die from COVID-19, and two million from the United States.  Even though the authors of the Imperial College model quickly walked back their predictions, the press, and swiftly afterwards, the public and the politicians, seized upon these alarmist predictions and repeated them like a mantra.

Driven by public demand to “do something!,” California’s governor issued the first “stay at home” order on March 19, 2020.  All but seven states quickly followed.  These “stay at home” orders closed businesses deemed nonessential by the state governors, prohibited elective surgeries in hospitals, limited gatherings of more than a handful of people, and often closed public parks, beaches, and other outdoor recreation venues.  Some restrictions, such as those imposed by Michigan Governor Whitmer, were more arbitrary and draconian than others, including forbidding lawn service companies from cutting lawns, preventing residents from purchasing plants and seeds from shops already open, and banning motorboats on waterways, but permitting non-motorized watercraft.  Clearly, all these restrictions violated the rights to free exercise of religion, the right of the people to peaceably assemble, the right to petition the government for redress of grievances, the right to not being denied liberty or property without due process of law, the right to not have excess fines imposed, and a host of other Constitutionally-enumerated rights.

Few governors gave thought to the health and economic consequences of their decisions, and often imposed restrictions in spite of the lack of empirical evidence supporting them.  The initial justification was that the restrictions were necessary to “flatten the curve” and later, to limit new cases of coronavirus. When it became obvious COVID-19 was still spreading in spite of stay at home orders, governors opted for new requirements, like mandating masks in public, even though the value of the public wearing homemade masks is questionable.  Instead of admitting their policies were little more than ineffective political theater and abandoning their overreaching dictates, pot-committed governors often doubled down by extending existing restrictions and even imposing new ones.

The Myth of “Killing Grandma”

Those who questioned and protested the governmental dictates were attacked as being selfish, anti-science, and even racist.  Those who protested the infringement of their liberties were even accused of wanting to “kill grandma.”

In many states, these lockdowns, which often weren’t even voted upon by state legislatures, still exist, despite statistical evidence stay at home orders have no impact on coronavirus infection or fatality rates.  In fact, nationwide, over 1/3 of all coronavirus cases and fatalities occur in long-term care facilities like nursing homes and assisted living communities.  The fatality rate predictably rises by age, with those under 65 unlikely to perish from the disease unless other comorbidity factors already exist.  Transmission of COVID-19 is very rare during fleeting contacts, such as passing an infected person in a store.  Even governmental officials are implicitly recognizing this, by limiting contact tracing to persons with close and constant contact with infected persons.

There is no disputing COVID-19 is more contagious and more serious than typical strains of influenza.  Worldwide, the fatality rate appears to be about 1.3% for those with symptomatic cases of coronavirus.  The vast majority of people who contract coronavirus recover, including a majority of the most vulnerable patients (those over the age of 85).  In addition, it is estimated that 25% to 50% of all coronavirus cases are asymptomatic. Although the risk of coronavirus should not be understated, it need not be exaggerated either.  Although the raw numbers of cases and deaths may appear alarming, the chance of contracting COVID-19 and having a bad final outcome is still statistically minimal.

Humans are naturally social animals.  They create family units, extended clans, communities, and entire civilizations though voluntary interactions.  These voluntary interactions and socialization are essential to the success of the species.  The United States has developed the most advanced nation in the world through its principles, which are eloquently documented in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  The inevitable advancement of our nation was never hindered by the temporary challenges of disease, war, financial depressions, or any other perceived crisis.  Indeed, it is the values of individual liberty that allowed us to weather these challenges.  We are not weakened by our rights and our liberties; we are weakened when we surrender our rights and our liberties.

There are risks throughout life, and each person has the natural right to determine how best to navigate through these risks.  Some may choose to avoid most risks by sequestering themselves in safe environments and avoiding any activities that may potentially be dangerous.  Others may choose to embrace risks, feeling they experience life best while risking it.  Most people fall somewhere in the middle, prudently avoiding likely risks, attempting to mitigate serious, but unlikely outcomes, and living normal lives.  Everyone has the right to determine how they each, individually, wish to balance life’s risks with actually living their lives.

By instituting policies, particularly one-size-fits-all policies, in an attempt to slow the progressions of coronavirus, those holding governmental power have not only implemented ineffective “solutions” that have likely generated more problems than they solved, they have also denied people the natural right to determine their own fates.  The individuals possessing the coercive power of government have determined they alone, not the people themselves, possess the unerring wisdom to dictate the preferences, priorities, and risks each individual may hold.  They have failed to consider that every policy decision has trade-offs, which are often negative.  While responding to the unbridled panic of the public by infringing upon individual liberties, these pandering politicians have failed to address the social and health costs of deferred medical care, the loss of jobs and income, the loss of life savings and businesses that took a lifetime to build, and the ensuing stress, anxiety, and depression tied to these factors.  Most importantly, these smug “leaders” have denied the nation’s citizens their inherent rights to choose their own actions, their own tolerance for risk, and their own paths in life.

Individuals should not be subjected to the whims and preferences of governmental officials and “experts,” especially when those whims directly infringe upon the liberties of the citizens.  Each person has a right to determine the actions he or she wishes to take as it pertains to COVID-19.  A younger adult, in good health who has invested her life savings in a small business may legitimately arrive at the conclusion that the risk of contracting coronavirus, and the risk of permanent adverse impacts, is much less than the risk of losing her business and life savings.  A senior citizen with high blood pressure and diabetes may decide sheltering at home is the safer alternative.  When people decide they have more important priorities than hiding from a virus, particularly if the virus is unlikely to cause them significant harm, no one has the right to prevent them from engaging in the activities of their choice.  Likewise, a person who may be at high risk of adverse outcomes is free to choose to shelter at home until the threat abates. 

Nobody will be “killing grandma.”  If grandma feels she is at risk for adverse outcomes, she is welcome to shelter in place until the viral threat subsides.  Grandma, however, does not have the right to demand everyone else put their lives on hold.

We’re Not “All in This Together”

It is always troubling when someone pretentiously announces “we’re all in this together,” and “everyone must make a sacrifice for the common good.”  There is no common good; there are only tradeoffs inherent in any policy that may benefit some and disadvantage others.  Those demanding “sacrifice” are usually only demanding others sacrifice their liberties to those most fearful in society.  They, themselves, are the last to truly sacrifice anything.  Those who most loudly demand government solutions to somehow manage a natural phenomenon are viewing government as in parentis loco.  In other words, they are plaintively begging their mommies to tell them everything will turn out all right.

Things won’t turn out all right.  COVID-19 is a very contagious disease with a higher-than-average fatality rate.  Although the odds of any one person dying is statistically remote, particularly those in their younger years, millions of people will contract the virus and hundreds of thousands or more will die from it.  Unless an effective vaccine is developed in record time, or the virus unexpectedly mutates into a less potent form, the virus will likely be with us for several years to come.  We can hunker down, destroy our society and economy in the hope the virus will pass us by, or we can live our lives, with each of us taking the precautions we each feel are necessary to avoid or mitigate the impact of the virus.  This is not a decision that should be dictated from above.  It’s a decision that rightfully belongs to each and every individual.

An old adage says, “When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” 

Similarly, when politicians are asked to address a problem, their only tool is the blatant exercise of coercive governmental power, usually resulting in the infringement of people’s rights.  Why do we, as a citizenry, compliantly accept the dictates of those wielding political power, especially when those dictates involve an unconstitutional infringement of individual rights?   Why shouldn’t we demand that our representatives figure out ways to address problems (if they really should be involved in the first place) that don’t involve the diminution of our natural and constitutional rights? Why should every response to perceived crises first involve dictatorship and infringement of our liberties?

The media and politicians thrive on creating, exaggerating, and fueling perceived crises.  Addressing crises gives them purpose, drives reader and viewership, and wins them votes.  Unfortunately, crises are also used to instill emotional reactions in the populace, usually fear.  When the population is driven by emotions, particularly panic and fear, they are often willing to surrender their individual rights and sovereignty to whomever promises them security, whether that security really exists or not.  As citizens, we must use reason, rather than emotion, to address the validity and severity of alleged crises, and demand that any governmental actions not involve dictatorship or the deprivation of liberties.

The Romans lost their republic when they voluntarily ceded their rights and self-representation to magistrates granted dictatorial powers to respond to crises or “emergencies.”  Over time, these crises and emergencies grew so frequent that Rome was constantly ruled by dictators, rather than their own Senators.  It did not take long for the Roman Republic to be replaced by the autocratic Roman Empire.

Every time Americans were required to surrender their liberties in response to some perceived crisis, it was later concluded that such actions were unnecessary and an example of governmental overreach or abuse of power.  In spite of this historical reality, we are constantly told it is selfish to resist the dictates of the state, for those dictates are for our own good.  Instead of compliantly submitting to regular governmental dictates to surrender our rights, we should be demanding government respect and protect our rights, and seek out solutions to any emergencies that don’t infringe upon individual choice or liberty.

Do Masks Really Help Reduce Transmission of COVID-19?

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In his novel, 1984, George Orwell coined a new term, “doublethink.”  Doublethink was a word that described the ability and willingness of an individual to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time, and fully believe both of them.  The federal government’s flip-flop on the ability of face masks to stem the transmission of coronavirus seems to be another example of doublethink.  Before April 4, 2020, the federal government suggested the general public not wear face masks, except in very specific circumstances.  Many communities followed the CDC’s lead and suggested the public avoid wearing face masks in public.

Yet, suddenly, the CDC changed its guidance in early April.  All of the sudden, they encouraged the general public to wear face masks in public.  Communities, who a day or two earlier were issuing recommendations against face masks, suddenly changed direction with little explanation, and recommended the public wear face masks.  Some jurisdictions even started issuing fines for people who failed to wear masks in public areas.

Why were the recommendations about masks changed so abruptly, and why were local communities so willing to unquestionably follow the new guidance when they were religiously following other guidance just a day or two earlier?

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About April 4, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) abruptly changed their position on the public wearing masks to prevent coronavirus.  Before this date, the CDC agreed with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidance that masks should be reserved for healthcare workers, and masks for the rest of the population should be limited to people caring for persons with COVID-19.

The recommendations against the general public wearing masks (which is still WHO’s position) were based upon a need for public manipulation as well as valid concerns about masks.  Due to the coronavirus pandemic, medical-grade respirator masks and surgical masks were in short supply, and the United States government wanted the production of these masks directed solely to healthcare workers.  Because of this desire, the government strongly suggested that masks were not needed by most of the general public.  The federal and state governments wanted the sale of all medical-grade masks limited to healthcare professionals.

That is not to say there weren’t valid, or at least plausible, explanations for discouraging the public from wearing masks.  The ability of masks to protect the wearer or others from the virus is greatly reduced if masks are not properly fitted.  Air gaps will let bioaerosols escape or enter.  The outside surface of masks tend to collect viral particles, so care must be taken to avoid touching the outer surfaces of masks and to practice good hand hygiene.  In fact, WHO points out, “masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.”    

Considering most lay persons would not fit their masks properly, studies show the outer surface of a mask collects viral particles, and most people would not handle masks properly, the discouragement of masks appeared to make sense.  On top of this, the ability of homemade masks to filter out bioaerosols was not widely studied.

Despite the recommendations of the United States Surgeon General and the CDC, many people started ignoring the guidelines, and chose to wear masks out in public anyway.

It would not be implausible to believe the federal government changed direction on masks due to public pressure, rather than medical consensus.  Ostensibly, the government “discovered” the coronavirus can be transmitted by asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic carriers.  On the April 5, 2020 broadcast of Meet the Press, Surgeon General Jerome Adams said, “Here’s what’s changed.  We now know that about 25%, in some studies even more, of COVID-19 is transmitted when you are asymptomatic or presymptomatic.

However, this claim doesn’t fully explain the reason for the sudden shift in guidance.  It was suspected since January, and widely accepted by early March, that a significant quantity of coronavirus infections was asymptomatic.  If asymptomatic transmission was such a true concern, wouldn’t the CDC have changed its guidance at least a month earlier than April 4. 2020?  If wearing masks truly prevented asymptomatic carriers from transmitting COVID-19, didn’t this delay potentially contribute to increased infections?

We can only speculate on the reasoning for the CDC’s change in policy.  It is very possible they were confident that medical-grade masks were finally making their way to healthcare workers in early April, so there was no longer a concern of the public trying to hoard them.  It is also well within the realm of possibility the CDC still doesn’t see a true need for the general public to wear masks, but they changed direction due to political pressure.  It is rapidly becoming more and more obvious that governmental regulations are being driven by the public’s demand that the government “do something,” even if these policies have no actual impact on the progression of COVID-19.  The change in guidance regarding masks may have simply been the desire to create more political theater to placate a fearful and panicked population.

In light of the new guidance from the CDC, and in spite of WHO’s contention the general public generally does not need masks, many municipalities have mandated the wearing of masks for anyone out in public.  Some are even levying fines against those who defy the edict.

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In light of the rapid about-face on the guidance about wearing masks, it is fair to ask whether they really make much of a difference in preventing the spread of coronavirus or in protecting the wearer from catching the infection.

There is fairly widespread consensus that N95, P95, and R95 respirators, when properly fitted, prevent 95% + of viral bioaerosols from entering the mask or leaving the mask.  However, x95-class respirators are not currently being sold to the general public.  Some people may have previously purchased respirators meeting this standard and still have them at their homes.  Provided an x95 mask is fitted without air gaps, not used beyond its recommended lifespan (usually four hours for disposable masks), and handled properly, these masks provide substantial, but not perfect, protection from catching or transmitting coronavirus.

Pleated surgical masks are still being directed to health-care facilities, although some may occasionally be available for purchase by the general public.  Studies don’t entirely agree on how effective surgical masks are at filtering the bioaerosols containing the COVID-19 virus.  A South Korean study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggested that surgical and cloth masks provide no protection against coronavirus bioaerosols. However, another study, published in Nature Medicine, found that surgical masks were an effective method of blocking viral bioaerosols.  A third study, in BMJ Open, suggested that surgical masks provide about 56% protection from bioaerosol infiltration or transmission.

There is not universal consensus on the effectiveness of non-woven surgical masks in providing protection from receiving or transmitting coronavirus bioaerosols.  Surgical masks are certainly less effective than x95 respirators.  But they do appear to provide some protection from COVID-19 penetration, provided they are worn over the nose and mouth with no air gaps.  As is the case with other masks, surgical masks should be carefully handled after use and touching the surfaces, especially the outer surface, should be avoided.  The user should always wash his or her hands immediately after removing any mask.

Since x95 respirators and nonwoven surgical masks are hard to come by, most of the public is relying upon home-made masks or bandanas.  What impact do these devices have?

Depending upon the build and demeanor of the wearer, a bandana can make him look sort of like a cowboy.  A cotton mask can make one appear to be a second-rate bank robber. Generally, these homemade contraptions offer very limited protection from dispersing or receiving coronavirus bioaerosols.  The BMJ Open study claims 97% or bioaerosols can penetrate cloth masks.  In fact, the study’s authors conclude, “Moisture retention, reuse of cloth masks and poor filtration may result in increased risk of infection.”  In essence, cloth masks may increase, rather than decrease, the risk of coronavirus infection.

A study in the American Chemical Society’s journal, ACS Nano, provided more positive data for the effectiveness of homemade cloth masks.  This study examined different fabrics, with different thread counts, and the impact of single-layer masks versus multi-layer.  The study still did not provide good news about the filtration ability of typical single-ply cotton masks.  The study found 80 threads-per-inch single-ply cotton masks filtered about 9% of airborne particles of the size most typical of coronavirus.  Some other materials and thicknesses fared much better, with cotton/chiffon, cotton/silk, and cotton/flannel blends performing about as well as x95 respirators, provided the masks were fitted properly with no air gaps.  If these masks did have air gaps, which is rather typical in home-made masks, the filtering efficiency dropped to below 40%.

It’s probably fair to surmise that home-made masks with multiple layers of fabric (particularly non-woven fabric) and higher thread counts offer more protection from viral infiltration than typical, single-ply cotton masks.  However, when fabric weaves are tighter and multiple layers are used, it may be far more difficult actually breathing through one of these masks.  Wearers may be inclined to lift the mask occasionally to breathe, which negates any benefits of wearing a mask.

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There has been considerable debate as to whether face masks are necessary, or even desirable, for non-medical personnel.  First, we have to consider the real threat of one person infecting another through aerosol transmission of COVID-19.  The previously referenced study published in Nature Medicine suggests that people infected with viruses like coronavirus seldom shed detectable amounts of the virus in respiratory droplets or aerosols, and those who do shed the virus through bioaerosols tend to have very low viral loads.  The authors of the study believe this finding implies, in order to be infected by respiratory aerosols or droplets, a person must be in prolonged contact with an infected individual.  Fleeting contacts would not usually be sufficient to transmit COVID-19 through bioaerosols.

This is admittedly only a single study.  Not a lot is yet known about the transmission of the coronavirus, and whether it is primarily transmitted through the air or by surface contact. 

We must also address the limitations of the studies referenced above.  Most of the studies measured the transmission of potential viral loads from areas fairly close to the mask (usually one meter or less).  The studies did not measure the viral load of respiratory droplets or aerosols that travel longer distances, such as from a cough or sneeze.  No studies have evaluated how effectively different types of masks limit the distance droplets or aerosols can be projected.  If, in spite of the study published in Nature Medicine, casual encounters with aerosols or droplets can cause infection, a mask’s ability to suppress the travel distance of viral particles would be desirable.

In general, it is fair to say x95 respirators and surgical masks will likely provide some protection from catching or transmitting coronavirus, provided the masks are fitted properly, remain dry, are handled carefully when being removed, and are not worn longer than the manufacturer’s recommendation.

There is not as much certainty of the value of home-made masks.  The most common materials found in home-made masks and facial coverings only filter miniscule proportions of droplets and aerosols.  Common single-ply cotton masks, when properly worn, filter out 9% or less of bioaerosols.  These masks may or may not reduce the distance such bioaerosols travel from a cough or sneeze, but it appears unlikely that makes any difference in actual infection potential.

There is a psychological value in wearing home-made masks.  One may feel virtuous that he or she is protecting others from potential exposure to viral particles (although such a belief is likely incorrect).  A mask can also be perceived as equivalent to suit of armor – protecting the wearer in public.  Unfortunately, this belief can be dangerous if it gives the wearer a false sense of security that encourages one to drop his or her guard.  If a person believes a mask offers protection to oneself or others, the wearer may be less inclined to engage in social distancing or frequent hand-washing, both of which are considered more effective at limiting the transmission and catching of the virus than wearing a mask.

Home-made masks may actually be more dangerous than not wearing a mask at all.  It has already been established that most commonly used home-made masks have a very limited ability to filter viral particles.  If the concerns of the authors of the BMJ Open study are correct, improper handling of masks (remember, viral particles often collect on the outside surface of masks), moisture retention, and improper fitting (the presence of air gaps or a failure to cover the mouth and nose) can increase, rather than decrease the risk of infection or transmission of disease to another.

These conclusions appear to be counter-intuitive and contradict common sense.  One may argue that even a little bit of protection from viral infiltration is desirable.  It would be, provided a mask is always carefully handled, washed frequently or correctly disposed-of after use, fitted and worn properly, and if the wearer complied with all other social distancing and personal hygiene guidelines.  In the real world, however, people are not likely to perfectly follow all of the guidelines.  Researchers have recommended that health-care workers wear home-made masks only as a “last-resort.”  The use of the same masks by untrained individuals appear to provide very little benefit in filtering bioaerosols, and may actually increase, rather than decrease the rate of infection.

The abrupt about-face of the CDC in changing their policy on public use of face-masks looked suspiciously like it was caused by political pressure, rather than comprehensive medical research.  In spite of the most recent direction from the CDC, the position of WHO on the public use of face masks seems more in sync with current medical research. doxycycline price boots Madrid

The Nation’s Governors Respond to Trump’s Gaffes – “Here, Hold my Beer!”

President Trump has embarrassed himself many times by speaking off-the-cuff about the coronavirus.  His challenger, Vice President Biden, has embarrassed himself many times by not being able to complete a sentence when speaking about his COVID-19 plans (as well as just about everything else).

There must be something inherent in a crisis that exposes the abject stupidity of politicians and their complete obliviousness in enacting meaningful and effective policies to deal with crises like the coronavirus outbreak.  They are only capable of crafting extreme policies that amount to nothing more than political theater, which usually have adverse consequences that ultimately cause more problems than the crises these politicians are trying to address.  Not to mention the obvious fact these politicians are merely imitating one another – very few actually consider the implications of their policies and perform their own analysis.

It’s almost like several of the nation’s governors have looked at Trump’s gaffes and said, “Hold my beer!”

Michigan Governor Whitmer banned people from purchasing house paint and seeds for gardening at shops that were already open!  She banned landscape maintenance services from mowing residents’ lawns.  Individuals could not use motorboats, but boats without motors were permissible.  Of course, Whitmer had to protect her patronage of political hacks; those who supposedly “perform necessary government activities” were exempt from her draconian restrictions.

New Jersey Governor Murphy has seemed far more concerned with the economic impact COVID-19 would have on illegal aliens in his state, than on the economic devastation his policies are causing to the small businesses and jobs of New Jersey citizens and legal residents.

43 states enacted arbitrary, and ultimately ineffective, lockdown regulations.  There was no rhyme or reason behind many of these policies.  “Essential” workers and businesses were allowed to continue to operate, although the definition of “essential” was arbitrary and inconsistent between, and in some cases, within, states.  It was obvious governors were winging it by placating their fearful and panicked residents with empty and ineffective political theater, none of which were justified by any empirical evidence.  Unfortunately, their acts of political pandering did have genuine negative impacts on the health and economies of their residents.

Although Governor Whitmer has been cited as instituting the most stupid, arbitrary, and heavy-handed regulations, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has quickly established himself as the most tone-deaf, presumptuous, and incompetent governor in the nation.  Despite his almost-daily dog and pony show, Cuomo has excelled in instituting ineffective regulations, while at the same time feigning ignorance or ignoring actions that would have truly been effective at addressing coronavirus in the nation’s hardest hit state.

It’s probably not fair to point out the recommendations that New York purchase additional ventilators and supplies in 2015 went unheeded.  Yet Cuomo was not alone in ignoring these recommendations.  Governors in several other states overlooked their own need to restock critical supplies, as did the federal government.  Indeed, it would have been hard to justify those expenses to taxpayers without an obvious, immediate need.  Hindsight is 20/20 and we shouldn’t fault politicians for not having crystal balls.

We can even forgive Cuomo for his self-serving appearance at a location staged to look like a full warehouse early in the outbreak.

More recent actions, and inaction, have displayed that while Cuomo is busy preening on national television, he has failed to actually implement policies that would truly protect his residents from coronavirus.  Cuomo has proven himself to be tone-deaf and incompetent in not only recognizing the consequences of his actions, but also in protecting the most vulnerable residents in his state.

When residents began protesting against Cuomo’s policies, complaining they were first prohibited from performing their jobs and then hadn’t received their unemployment checks, Cuomo failed to empathize with fate his constituents who were quickly running out of money and unable to feed their families and pay their bills.  Instead, Cuomo’s contemptuous response was, “”You want to go to work?” Cuomo said. “Go take a job as an essential worker. Do it tomorrow.”

Never mind that these workers would NOT have been unemployed had it not been for Cuomo’s ill-advised policy to lockdown the state except for favored individuals and institutions he deemed “essential.”  And never mind that these workers, many of them small business owners, toiled for years to develop the unique skills to perform their real jobs.  It is not simple, nor is it lucrative, for these workers to quickly transform themselves into “essential” workers.

These people HAD jobs, and Cuomo’s directives took those jobs away.  Cuomo could have displayed just a little bit of empathy and consideration for the individuals harmed by his own policies.

More seriously, while Cuomo was engaging in the political theater of ineffective, one-size-fits-all lockdowns, he was ignoring the needs and the plight of New York’s most vulnerable residents.

It was obvious, even before COVID-19 established a toehold in the United States, that coronavirus was particularly dangerous to the elderly and people with certain existing health issues.  This reality was driven home when the first substantial U.S. outbreak, in Washington state, impacted a nursing home. 

In spite of these known factors, New York established a policy which REQUIRED nursing homes to admit patients who have tested positive for coronavirus.  New York failed to appreciate, or purposely ignored, the danger of introducing a contagious individual in a closed environment filled with aged and vulnerable people.  Instead of establish segregated facilities for individuals infected with coronavirus, New York’s policies REQUIRED nursing home operators to accept individuals who posed a real and direct threat to their elderly residents. 

When a formerly compliant media finally asked Cuomo about the policy, the governor feigned ignorance, “That’s a good question. I don’t know.”

Wouldn’t one think, when most states are seeing 40% + of their coronavirus fatalities occurring in nursing homes and senior assisted living communities, the governor would be on top of this situation and rescind such a dangerous directive?  Instead of focusing on a statewide lockdown, the governor would have saved more lives had he been more attentive to the situation in adult living facilities, where many of the vulnerable citizens lived.  Instead, the governor appeared to be totally ignorant of the situation.

To add insult to injury, when nursing home operators appealed to Cuomo to help them obtain needed personal protective equipment (PPE), Cuomo callously responded, “it’s not our job!”

A reasonable person would think, if government was to get involved in a crisis of this magnitude, it would do all it could to help out facilities caring for the most vulnerable people.  You would think the state government would NOT issue regulations that put more people at risk.  Considering that well over 3600 New Yorkers who perished from coronavirus lived in nursing homes and adult care facilities (and this number is probably dramatically understated), a reasonable person would expect government to pay particular attention to these institutions when crafting a coronavirus mitigation strategy.

It appears that Governor Cuomo is not such a reasonable person.  He had been happy to preen in front of the television cameras.  He has been an enthusiastic spokesman for stay at home orders that are ineffective for most of the population, and economically devastating for all.  But when it comes to protecting those known to be most vulnerable to coronavirus, Cuomo has feigned ignorance and displayed dismissive callousness.

Much has been said about Trump’s half-baked ideas and comments that appear to endorse unproven treatments of coronavirus.  Whereas Trump’s ill-advised comments may have resulted in a handful of deaths by truly stupid people, Cuomo’s callousness and inattention has contributed to the deaths of thousands.

It should be apparent that government is usually ill-equipped to provide effective leadership during most crises.  During the coronavirus outbreak, most politicians have been far more interested in avoiding blame and preening for the cameras, rather than truly addressing the needs of those most likely to be adversely impacted by COVID-19. 

The Sheep and the Border Collie

Contrary to the media and the “the end is near” alarmists, the coronavirus is not going to be “disastrous.” It’s another in a long line of viral infection outbreaks. It is already in the wild, and it will continue expanding until it runs its course – which will occur when there is enough herd immunity to stem its growth.

It is very likely there are tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people who have already contracted COVID-19 in the United States. Because the symptoms for most healthy adults tend to be very mild, most are probably not even aware they have contracted the virus. The “official” numbers likely reflect those who have exhibited serious symptoms related to the disease, and those in close contact who exhibited any symptoms, resulting in positive tests. The real number of cases is almost certainly greatly higher than the published data.

As with any outbreak of disease, the outbreak should be taken seriously. But the reaction should be proportionate to the reality of the disease, and not the fear of the public (particularly fear being driven by a sensationalistic media). The original reactions of most government officials and medical professionals were correct. Individuals should take the same precautions they take during any other viral outbreak – practice good hygiene, wash hands often, cover coughs and sneezes, and stay home when feeling ill. Very vulnerable members of society should be protected as much as possible. Recommendations like closing nursing homes and assisted living centers to non-essential visitors make perfect sense.

Efforts should be taken to ensure that healthcare centers and providers have the materials and machines needed to address the outbreak, with government removing any unnecessary roadblocks that may be preventing this from happening. Note that I suggested government merely remove the roadblocks and not attempt to take over the healthcare system. In spite of the agendas of Marxists like New York mayor Bill de Blasio, government does not need to nationalize healthcare industries. The last thing we need is to have a hidebound, governmental bureaucracy tie up the process. Let private industry do what it does best, which is quickly, flexibly, and nimbly responding to market demand.

Much of the population has not experienced any real adversity in their lives, and they are desperate for someone else to take control and reassure them everything will be OK. These folks expect government to shield and protect them from any adversity.  These individuals believe that every disease or malady must have a cure, and the lack of any cure must be the result of governmental inaction or greedy corporations unwilling to invest in a cure. They can’t accept the fact that certain diseases just don’t have a cure, and must just run their courses.

Short of vaccines, most viral diseases don’t have cures. People who contract the diseases must let the disease run its course until the body’s natural immune system produces enough antibodies to destroy the virus. The only thing medical science can do is engage in palliative care by treating some of the symptoms as they appear. Some symptoms will be so severe they will kill the host, usually people with existing medical vulnerabilities. This holds true for coronavirus, influenza, and even the common cold. Coronavirus tends to be more contagious and has a higher mortality rate than common strains of influenza, but also has milder symptoms in healthy adults (and children appear to be largely immune to experiencing any substantial symptoms of COVID-19).

Because of the media-driven sensationalism, the public, led by the usual “activist” suspects, has decried the “lack of action” on the part of government.  Pressure has been placed upon government to “do something,” “ANYTHING!” to deal with this “crisis.” There are even people demanding that the government put everyone on lockdown, essentially house arrest, for the next few weeks.

The federal government and the states have reacted in various ways to these demands. Most recently, the politicians have put many states on partial lockdown, restricting the types of businesses that may operate, their hours of operation, and the maximum size of public gatherings.

When governments attempt to engage in such far-ranging and severe restrictions of commerce and civil liberties, it is the prerogative, if not the duty, of the population to ask what these governments hope to accomplish by these measures, and if these measures will actually be effective. Nobody should blindly and unquestionably accept the dictates of governmental “authorities,” particularly when their actions appear to be driven by political, and not practical, considerations.  The definition of specific, quantifiable goals must be established, and metrics and empirical data used to validate effectiveness of any restrictions.

We have to face the reality of this infection, whether we like it or not. The virus exists in the population, and will continue to spread until herd immunity slows, and eventually halts its progress. The current business restrictions are mostly window-dressing, with so many loopholes that they probably won’t impact the rate or timing of the spread of coronavirus, and some of them may actually accelerate it. While closing restaurants, bars, and other entertainment venues may limit the spread of the virus in those venues, there are enough supermarkets, drug stores, and other businesses open that the spread of the virus will likely not be contained. In fact, people standing cheek to jowl in a supermarket checkout lane or waiting to pick up their take-out order in a restaurant are more likely to spread the virus than if people were casually enjoying a restaurant meal at private tables in which each are separated by several feet.

Even if we were to lock down every individual in the United States and eradicate coronavirus from our country, we would merely be put in the position we were in a few months ago. Just one infected person coming to our shores would start the infection process over again, since society would not have yet developed the immunity needed to fight the virus. We’d just be kicking the can further down the road.

Any attempts to halt the spread of coronavirus at this point will be futile. As long as there is no immunity in the population, the virus will continue to spread. We might (and the key word here is, “might”) be able to limit the pace of the spread to ensure that our medical institutions are not overwhelmed with an influx of seriously-ill patients. However, considering the fact that the vast majority of infected individuals exhibit rather mild symptoms, it is unlikely our medical care facilities will be that overwhelmed. There are always doom and gloom prognosticators, but their dire predictions almost never pan out.

Regardless of what government does, and in spite of alarmist and sensationalized media coverage, this outbreak will not abate until enough people develop the natural antibodies to coronavirus required to develop enough herd immunity to halt the progress of the disease. Eventually, the virus won’t be able to find hosts without immunity, and will die out of its own accord. This is the natural progression of virtually all viral diseases, and will be the natural progression of COVID-19, whether we like it or not.

It is fair to also ask how these governmental restrictions on lifestyles and businesses will impact the lives of Americans, and whether these restrictions cause consequences more serious than the coronavirus itself.

Closing bars, restaurants, theaters, and any other venues considered “unessential” also impacts the jobs and wages of those dependent upon these venues.  Often, these are the people in the lower-paid segments of society, who are now being deprived of their livelihoods.  Many of these businesses are small, individual or family-run businesses, and may not be able to survive any extended closing.

Downstream businesses will also be affected.  If restaurants, theaters, bars, and other businesses are required to close, this will also adversely affect their suppliers.  We can keep going downstream to the landlords, distributors, transporters, and producers who will also have their livelihoods impacted by these business closures. 

The federal and state governments claim that anyone economically affected by these business restrictions will be made whole.  But by whom?  Someone has to pay for the missed wages the government will pay displaced workers, the grants and tax credits offered to closed businesses, and the unemployment benefits paid out to workers who permanently lose their jobs at businesses that couldn’t weather an extended closing.

The funds needed to make those affected “whole” don’t’ appear by magic.  They have to come from somewhere. This money will come from our tax dollars or increased financial deficits in the federal budget.  In essence, we will be paying ourselves, through our tax dollars, to make ourselves “whole” (minus the government’s administrative cut, of course). 

The claims by government that lost wages, lost jobs, and lost businesses will be paid for is a ruse.  These costs may be paid.  But they’ll be paid by ourselves, to ourselves.  No magic money fairy will swoop down to reimburse us for the costs of these governmental actions.

The stock market dropped precipitously since the coronavirus outbreak began.  This was due far more to the uncertainty of how governments will respond, rather than the impact of the disease itself.  This will probably throw us into a recession or depression, and will adversely impact the retirement savings of almost everyone who holds a 401(k) account, not to mention the ability of businesses to acquire the capital needed to grow.

Unfortunately, there will be no mechanism available to determine which, if any, of the government’s actions were effective in arresting or delaying the spread of this virus, and which were merely superfluous window-dressing.  If the spread of the virus abates quickly, or if the effects of the virus are less severe than predicted, many people will make the assumption the eradication of the disease correlates with the government actions, when in fact any such relationship may merely be coincidental.

If the virus doesn’t abate quickly (and in all likelihood, it will continue to spread at an increasing rate for a while), the hysteria will continue to grow to demand the government puts even more draconian restrictions on public movement and commerce.  Some won’t be satisfied until there is a complete lockdown and everyone is subject to marital law. 

Eventually, the virus will abate, like every virus before it.  And these desperately scared people will ascribe the disappearance of the virus to restrictive governmental actions, when the virus’ natural progression would just as likely be the cause.  With a lack of empirical data to gauge effectiveness, the public may reflexively accept greater governmental intrusions into their lives in the future.

Ironically, even though a frightened public may be currently begging the government to micromanage their lives, they will soon tire of the restrictions and begin to resist and openly defy them.  This will begin to occur in mere weeks, and not months or years.  As people exhaust their savings, they will demand to be permitted to go back to their jobs.  Cabin fever and social isolation will compel people to ignore restrictions and venture out in public again.  Small-business owners will rebel against restrictions that slowly (or quickly) strangle their businesses.  If stores can no longer source and stock goods demanded by the public, there may even be civil unrest.  Just as social pressure has forced the government to enact restrictions on commerce, movement, and assembly, the same public pressure will force the government to abandon these restrictions, even if the viral threat has not abated.

In essence, the government has less than a month before people start to rebel against the current restrictions.  The powers that be may attempt to engage in more incendiary propaganda to engender fear and compliance, but the impact of these measures will diminish rather quickly.

There is no doubt that coronavirus has the potential to be a serious malady, but it is unlikely the most dire predictions will come to pass.  Admittedly, any death from the virus is a tragedy, but unfortunately this is a natural process that regularly occurs with any viral outbreak, including regular seasonal influenza. 

Will coronavirus impact more people than influenza?  It may, and it may not. 

However, the fear of our nation’s medical system becoming overwhelmed by serious cases is largely the result of the Italian experience.  We cannot, and should not, compare our health care system to Italy’s antiquated and bureaucratic system.  Nor does our population mimic the health demographics of Italy.  The likelihood of coronavirus cases overwhelming our nation’s health infrastructure is remote, and even if certain areas experience problems, providers will quickly emerge to address the need. 

There will likely be a substantial number of coronavirus cases and deaths, with numbers that may exceed those of this year’s seasonal flu.  But even that is questionable, considering that many of those exposed will exhibit minimal symptoms, yet develop the personal immunity that will contribute to the herd immunity.  It is very likely that a much larger proportion of the population has already contracted the virus than documented, and that the viral curve is farther along on the horizontal access than expected.

From a long-term perspective, the social lessons coming out of this outbreak are troubling.  There are certainly evil individuals paying attention to the way the public is influenced by sensationalistic fear-mongering, falling prey to the herd mentality, paralyzing themselves with fear, demanding others reassure them, and blindly following the dictates of those presented as “authorities.”  The public so desperately craves the illusion of security that they are willing to ask the government to imprison them so they may avoid a perceived threat.  These are valuable characteristics that may easily be exploited by a nefarious individual.

The single-minded fealty given to the loudest alarmists is troubling.  There is no doubt that coronavirus is an infection that should concern each of us.  Obviously, we should all engage in the basic actions required to minimize or mitigate exposure to COVID-19, just as we should be every other viral infection.  We should also carefully assess the political responses to the outbreak, supporting those likely to be effective and exposing those that are merely examples of political opportunism or window-dressing.

A rational, balanced approach to the outbreak is necessary.  Succumbing to unwarranted hysteria by panic buying, hoarding goods, or blindly accepting the dictates of self-styled “experts” is dangerous and unproductive.  We must examine and adjust our personal actions to address the outbreak, while also critically and fully assessing recommendations and dictates emanating from our elected officials or medical experts.

There is no unanimity among medical professionals of the likely progression, impact, and effects of the coronavirus.  The politicians and bureaucrats crafting public policies to address the outbreak are far from infallible, and often driven more by political calculus and public pressure than actual need.  The press engages in sensationalistic coverage that emphasizes worst cases and anecdotal stories over actual facts.  And the public has been conditioned to be fearful, and is confused by conflicting information.

Nonetheless, it is the duty of every citizen to carefully assess that which is being requested and dictated.  Blindly accepting the dictates of every “expert,” “authority,” or politician out of fear or insecurity benefits no one.

Was Julian Castro correct that We Should be “Pissed?”

During the June 27, 2019 Democratic presidential debate, candidate Julian Castro stated, “We saw that image today that broke our hearts,” referring to photos of  Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter drowned after crossing the Rio Grande River to illegally enter the United States.

Both Castro and the debate moderator, José Diaz-Balart, stated that Martinez Ramirez and his family were seeking asylum in the United States because of the economic hardships the endured in El Salvador.  Expanding on his reaction to the drowning, Castro stated, “It should also piss us all off.”

Castro was right, it should piss us off!  But not for the reason he alleges.  In fact, Castro, Diaz-Balart and their ideological allies have propagated this myth that anyone wanting to enter the United States is eligible for asylum.  This myth has provided false hope to many individuals seeking to bypass the legal immigration process.  They have been led to believe that asylum is possible if they are economically destitute in their home countries, or if they live in dangerous areas. 

In fact, none of this is true.

Asylum is not offered by the United States for people suffering economic deprivation, nor is it available for people who reside in violent or dangerous places.  Asylum is only legally available to people “because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” 

If a person is unable to prove that he or she is actively being persecuted by a governmental or de-facto governmental policy directed specifically at specific races, religions, nationalities, social groups, or political opinions, that person is not eligible for asylum in the United States.  Even if a person is a victim of persecution due to their membership in the listed groups, people are not eligible for United States asylum if there are areas in their own nations where that persecution does not exist or if they pass through another country in which that persecution does not occur.  In fact, if a person makes a frivolous claim for asylum, that person may be permanently prohibited from any kind of immigration to the United States in the future.

It is true that the “catch and release” policy of asylum seekers used under previous presidential administrations facilitated illegal immigration.  Those seeking to bypass United States immigration law knew that the asylum claims system was overwhelmed.  If people claimed asylum after arriving on United States soil, they were usually given a future court date and were permitted to remain in the United States.  It is no surprise that an overwhelming majority of those who claimed asylum never appeared for their court dates.  Instead, they remained in the United States as illegal immigrants.

Recognizing that well over 90% of requests for asylum are denied by our courts and that the vast majority of those claiming asylum never returned for their court dates, the Trump administration ended the “catch and release” policy.  Instead, applicants for asylum were either incarcerated while waiting for their court dates or were refused entry until the courts would be able to hear their cases.  Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez chose not to wait in accordance with United States policy, and instead took the dangerous path of fording the Rio Grande River with his family to enter the United States illegally.  From all appearances, Martinez Ramirez was not legally eligible for asylum anyway.  He was attempting to enter the United States solely for economic reasons.

It is obvious that there are many politicians, particularly in the Democratic party, who are encouraging people to immigrate illegally and to improperly claim asylum.  Julian Castro and José Diaz-Balart exemplified this during the June 27, 2019 debate.  This tactic undermines United States immigration law, overwhelms our immigration enforcement resources, and puts potential immigrants at risk.  One can not know if these politicians are signaling false hopes for asylum in order to pander to certain electoral constituencies, intentionally undermine immigration law, or out of sheer ignorance.  But their actions in holding out false hope puts more potential immigrants at risk than any of Trump’s policies.

Most of the Democratic presidential candidates served in Congress.  They know (or should know) that President Trump did not create immigration law.  Immigration law emanated from Congress – the president just enforces the laws passed by Congress.  Each of these candidates had the opportunity to propose new immigration laws.  None of them did.  Instead, they advertise false hope to potential immigrants in order to sabotage Trump’s presidency.  This is an abdication of their own responsibilities and a reckless policy that puts lives at risk.  I fear the Democrats don’t recognize the consequences of their actions and are only concerned with the political advantages they may provide.

Should we have completely open borders?  Some make strong cases that we should.  But the United States (or any other nation) can’t have unconstrained immigration and generous and universal social welfare programs.  If we wish to retain the current level of welfare programs, we must carefully vet potential immigrants to ensure they won’t become burdens on the public welfare system.  If we instead decide to open our borders completely, we must recognize that our current social welfare programs will be quickly overwhelmed by freeloading immigrants who will put significant pressure on the public treasury.

Regardless of the type of immigration laws we desire, it is not within the authority of the president to create such laws.  Immigration laws may only be created and passed by Congress.  If any presidential candidates who once served in Congress claim they will change immigration law as president, they are lying!  They had their opportunity to do so while in Congress.  If they failed to reform immigration law when serving in the body responsible for creating such laws, what makes one think they will successfully change the law while serving in a position that does not have the authority to create laws?

Julian Castro is right when he says we should be pissed about immigrants dying as they try to reach our shores.  We should be pissed that there are pandering politicians who make people believe they can receive asylum even though they are not legally eligible to do so.  We should be pissed at politicians who seek to undermine the laws they are responsible for creating just because they with to pander to certain groups in order to secure a political advantage.  We should be pissed at politicians who use desperate and uninformed people as pawns in their attempts to secure political points.  Yes, Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez was ultimately responsible for the poor decision that cost him and his daughter their lives.  But they were encouraged to make that decision by politicians who falsely and cynically held out hope for asylum to Martinez Ramirez.

It is those politicians who should be targets of our ire!