Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Trump keeps his head when everyone else is losing theirs

Huge disruptions to everyone's lives matter too

Donald Trump has indicated he wants to ease social distancing measures in the United States and “reopen” the economy within weeks, not months.

Other countries around the world are imposing ever-stricter policies in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sent the United Kingdom into near total lockdown today. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern did the same yesterday. Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison has indicated intrusive measures will remain in place for “at least six months”.

At a White House briefing today, however, Mr Trump was focused on mitigating damage to the US economy. “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself,” he said.

The President told Americans they would get through the challenge presented by the virus. “The hardship will end. It will end soon. Normal life will return and our economy will rebound very, very strongly,” Mr Trump said.

“Our public health experts, who are terrific, are studying the variation in the disease across the country, and we will be using data to recommend new protocols to allow local economies to cautiously resume their activity at the appropriate time.

“We also have a large team working on what the next steps will be once the medical community gives a region the OK – meaning the OK to get going, to get back, let’s go to work.

“Our country wasn’t built to be shut down. This is not a country that was built for this. It was not build to be shut down. “America will again, and soon, be open for business. Very soon. A lot sooner than the three or four months that somebody was suggesting. A lot sooner.

“We’re not going to let the cure be worse than the problem.”

The United States is about halfway through a 15-day period of social distancing.

“At the end of the 15-day period, we’ll make a decision as to which way we want to go, where we want to go, the timing – essentially we’re referring to the timing of the opening. Essentially the opening of our country,” said Mr Trump.

After a short interlude, during which he promised that “vaccines are coming along very quickly” and urged Republicans and Democrats to make a deal on stimulus measures, the President returned to the subject of the economy.

“We are going to save American workers and we’re going to save them quickly. And we’re going to save our great American companies, both small and large,” he said.

“This was a medical problem. We are not going to let it turn into a long-lasting financial problem. It started out as a purely medical problem and it’s not going to go beyond that. We’re just not going to allow that to happen.

“Our country was at our strongest financial point. We’ve never had an economy like we had just a few weeks ago, and then it got hit with something that nobody could have ever thought possible. And we are fixing it. We’re fixing it quickly.

“Our country will be stronger than ever before, and we fully anticipate that, and it won’t be that long.”



The PATRIOT Act, Coronavirus, and the Politics of Fear

This week Congress has tackled two important issues that may not seem related at first: reauthorizing an expiring portion of the USA PATRIOT Act and legislating for those affected by COVID-19. But there is one common thread between them - each will have had their passage through the legislature amply lubricated by a potent dose of fear. Decisions made hastily under such pressure are often nigh impossible to reverse after the fact.

A quick review since it’s been two decades (and for those too young to remember). Just six weeks after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Congress rushed through a tremendous expansion of the government’s ability to spy on, ostensibly, terrorists. What was a controversial measure even in the fear-filled aftermath of the deadliest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor was written in secret and hotlined through both chambers of Congress with barely any chance for debate (and no chance for amendments) in only three days.

As always, the marketing of the bill obfuscated its true nature from the public. It was a simple necessity in order to keep us safe from terror, its sponsors assured Americans. And with a name like the USA PATRIOT Act, who could possibly oppose it -- you’re a patriot… aren’t you? In reality, Congress was, knowingly or not, creating a veneer of legality for a flagrantly illegal dragnet telephony data mass surveillance program that had already been activated by the NSA shortly after September 11th.

It was fortunate that some individuals had the foresight to force sunset provisions into some of the more controversial authorities like Section 215, the main part of the law that was at issue in Congress this past week. Otherwise, leadership in Congress would probably continue to ignore the litany of abuses of warrantless surveillance against innocent Americans, as revealed by whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, Bill Binney, Tom Drake, and others.

Still, although sunset clauses give reformers periodic bites at the apple, nearly two decades later, most of the most dangerous authorities from the PATRIOT ACT are still on the books. Thanks only to a heroic stand led by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), we’ll have another chance to change some of that in about two months, better late than never.

Turning to the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the difficulty is that once again we are presented with a clear and present danger that most people will agree there is a legitimate need for the federal government to address. This time, the enemy is invisible and walks among us, bringing with it a specter of dread that seems to have people losing their minds, desperate to control the unknown, even if the best they can do is strip stores bare of toilet paper.

A lot of talk of fear, so here is mine: I fear that legitimate concern about the spread of COVID-19 will, just like 9/11, lead to further erosions of our basic liberties that will last long after the outbreak, and long after vaccines and testing have made the coronavirus’ most durable memory the memes it spawned on the internet.

For example, as The American Conservative’s Barbara Boland has reported, Israel has taken to domestic mass surveillance to address the spread of coronavirus, with the U.K. considering doing the same. The U.S. government, too, has reportedly already been in talks with the big tech companies about leveraging the location data they have for all their customers to track the disease’s spread. Thus far, fortunately, Google appears to have said “no,” but a mandate of this sort is certainly not impossible based on the government’s past history.

Same for the quarantine lockdowns already being implemented in some localities, which are certain to expand dramatically over the coming weeks. Never mind that there is serious evidence that militarized mass lockdowns are not an effective way to address epidemics. It’s one thing to mandate that infected individuals be isolated from others - that’s an unfortunate necessity to protect others from harm - it’s quite another to shut down an entire city for days or weeks. With mass testing for the disease finally becoming more widely available (no thanks to the government for that either), we ought to be able to handle the outbreak without a martial law style approach reminiscent of China.

Even some of the economic stimulus that is intended to be temporary could easily find a way to stick around. Things like mandatory paid sick leave may be necessary given the current economic shutdown, but should not be allowed to stick around once coronavirus is in the rearview mirror. The trillion-plus dollars of additional national debt, certainly, will stick around to haunt future generations regardless. Worse, the very infrastructure of crisis management created by these hasty measures can tend to stick around to help mismanage the next major panic, such as how portions of the 2008 Emergency Economic Stabilization Act are being used to facilitate this week’s bailouts.

Be mindful that our politicians, too, are timorous creatures, ever fearful that any action they take or any power they don’t grant the government might redound upon them in the form of their most dreaded of miseries – a loss in November. They will always value their employment over your liberties unless we the voters make clear that those two things aren't mutually exclusive. Left to their own devices, our elected (and unelected) overlords will create a catastrophe from a crisis and congratulate themselves for averting Armageddon.



In Walmart We Trust During Troubled Times

As we go through all of this END TIMES apocalypse fun, it’s good to look at things that aren’t oh-so awful. Our good friends at Walmart Inc. are helping us through the storm in a couple of ways.

Walmart has long been the whipping boy of liberals, derided for both its sheer capitalist success and the fact that the company serves so many rural Americans.

In short: Walmart is an effete liberal’s nightmare.

The company that the worst people in America love to hate just did a couple of things that prove them wrong.

In this most dire of economic times, when so many Americans are worried about their jobs, Walmart announced that it would be hiring 150,000 people to handle the coronavirus panic buying.

In the same announcement, the company said it would pay out almost $550 million in bonuses to hourly employees.

The Big Bad Capitalist Behemoth that has long been derided for making too much money now has the money to help people in a time of true crisis.

There is a lesson to be learned here, but we know that the people who need to learn it won’t. Just yet, anyway.

This may be the tipping point.

Before anyone gets too crazy in the comments, let me say I don’t really believe that. I’m just saying that if it ever were going to happen, this would be the thing that does it.

But it won’t.




A NEW CHAPTER: Federal Reserve pledges asset purchases with no limit to support markets (CNBC)

"WE'RE ALL UNDER QUARANTINE NOW": Gov. Andrew Cuomo orders most New Yorkers to stay inside (CNBC)

VALID UNTIL END OF APRIL: Illinois issues stay-at-home order (NBC Chicago)

VALID UNTIL APRIL 7: Massachusetts under stay-at-home order (CNBC)

APPROVED BY FDA: At-home tests now available, companies say (Fox News)

FIRST SENATOR TO CONTRACT THE VIRUS: Rand Paul tests positive (Axios)

WHO'D A THUNK IT? Five Florida college students test positive after spring break trip (Fox News)

TRADE AND COMMERCE EXEMPTED: Trump administration announces U.S., Mexico limiting nonessential travel across border (Fox News)

SILVER LININGS: Pandemic measures cut illegal border crossings by half (AP)

THE PARTY OF DOUBLE STANDARDS: Michael Bloomberg exploits campaign-finance loophole to funnel $18 million to DNC (The Washington Free Beacon)

NO WONDER BERNIE SANDERS HASN'T FOLDED: Five more states suspend Democrat primaries, sending nomination race into chaos (The Daily Wire)

POLICY: We have the technology to address climate change and still use fossil fuels (RealClearPolicy)

POLICY: It shouldn't take a crisis to deregulate healthcare (The Federalist)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


No comments: