Thursday, April 09, 2020

Drug Is Safe and Sometimes Works, Let All COVID-19 Patients Take It

In mid-March a Palo Alto, California, woman’s COVID-19 worsened to pneumonia while being treated at Stanford Hospital. She had already suffered from asthma and diabetes.

In a trial, doctors decided to give her the drug remdesivir, which has been well established as safe and used to treat Ebola. It worked; she’s now home recovering wonderfully.

The outstanding question is: Is it helpful for COVID-19? The answer is: Yes, at least for some coronavirus victims.

So why not let the drug be given to all COVID-19 patients rather than just in trials, as was the case with the Palo Alto woman’s trial? They have everything to gain and nothing to lose. The drug sometimes cures pneumonia and possibly prevents it in the first place.

Governmental medical science, tragically, does not work this way. The Food and Drug Administration requires that, before a drug can be prescribed, it must clear three sets of clinical trials to prove that it is safe and effective; that usually takes a year.

COVID-19 patients usually have anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to live or die. Why can’t patients with the coronavirus take remdesivir to see if it helps?FDA approval for efficacy is largely pointless.

I learned of this sad FDA policy the hard way. I was on the board of the Abigail Alliance that sued the FDA when a terminal cancer patient was denied the right to experimental drugs even though the FDA had found the them clinically safe and promising.

Our argument was that if we have a constitutional right to defend ourselves against an attacker, why can’t we have that same right of self-defense when the attacker is cancer? I based this logic on my own wife’s experience: she had terminal lung cancer and was given an experimental drug that extended her life and eliminated her chronic pain.

Our case was heard in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on August 7, 2007. We lost and would likely lose today because the FDA still mandates three clinical trials to prove drugs safe and effective.

Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases cites frequently the necessity of this three-clinical-trial process referring to any other drug cure of the coronavirus as merely “anecdotal.”

Judge Judith Rogers supported our case and pointed out a cruel irony: In rejecting our appeal to extend cancer patients’ lives, said the judge, “the right to try to save one’s life is left out in the cold despite its textual anchor in the right to life.”

Chief Judge Douglas Ginsburg also supported our case. He argued: Do we have a constitutional “right to eat meat” when the Constitution is silent on the matter?

It is silent on drugs, which does not mean that we can’t take them. It is a right we are given by the Ninth Amendment: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

It is tragic that a patient with COVID-19 and pneumonia or difficulty breathing cannot be given the remdesivir, which is safe and, in some cases, effective.

It sent the Palo Alto woman home rather than to the morgue.



Coronavirus Deaths Will Be 'Much, Much, Much Lower' Than Predicted Models, Says Head of CDC

In the ever-changing contradictory nature of information during the pandemic age, the head of the CDC, Robert Redfield, told listeners of Arizona's 1030 KVOI radio he believes there's good news ahead. Redfield said the death toll from the Chinese COVID-19 will be "much, much, much lower" than the models have predicted. “If we just social distance, we will see this virus and this outbreak basically decline, decline, decline. And I think that's what you're seeing,” he said.

The models the White House is using projected the deaths of between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans. Redfield says models aren't the end of the story. "Models are only as good as their assumptions, obviously there are a lot of unknowns about the virus,” he said. “A model should never be used to assume that we have a number.”

He continued to praise the American people for taking the social distancing seriously, saying, "I think that's the direct consequence of why you're seeing the numbers are going to be much, much, much lower than would have been predicted by the models."

Redfield has vociferously approved of the social distancing measures taken by the federal and local governments.



Dem Lawmaker in Detroit Says Hydroxychloroquine and Trump Helped Save Her Life

State Rep. Karen Whitsett, a Detroit Democrat, tested positive for the coronavirus last month. Now, she's crediting hydroxychloroquine and Donald Trump with saving her life.

President Trump has been touting hydroxychloroquine as a potential game-changer since mid-March after small studies showed it potentially served as an effective treatment for coronavirus patients. “I feel good about it. Just a feeling. I am a smart guy, we’ll see soon enough and we have certainly big samples of people,” Trump said at the time. The media was quick to pounce on Dr. Anthony Fauci's reluctance to fully endorse the drug because there had not been a clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus yet. Hydroxychloroquine has long been approved by the FDA as an antimalarial drug.

Whitsett was prescribed hydroxychloroquine, and she said she felt relief from her symptoms in less than two hours. She had experienced shortness of breath, swollen lymph nodes, and what felt like a sinus infection.

Boston Globe Editorial Board Claims Trump Has 'Blood on His Hands'
Whitsett had been aware of  "the wonders" of hydroxychloroquine after a previous Lyme disease affliction, but, the Detroit Free Press reports, "does not believe she would have thought to ask for it, or her doctor would have prescribed it, had Trump not been touting it as a possible treatment for COVID-19." Whitsett says she's been taking the drug in combination with antibiotics.

"It has a lot to do with the president ... bringing it up," Whitsett said. "He is the only person who has the power to make it a priority."

When asked by the Detroit Free Press whether she thinks Trump may have saved her life, she replied. "Yes, I do," and "I do thank him for that."

President Trump responded to the story on Monday, "Congratulations to State Representative Karen Whitsett of Michigan. So glad you are getting better!"

The media has desperately tried to undercut Trump's positive message about hydroxychloroquine's potential as a treatment for the coronavirus, calling it "unproven" and claiming there's "no proof" that it works. The New York Times even alleged that Trump's motivation for touting the drug was self-serving because he holds “a small personal financial interest” in Sanofi, the company that makes a brand name version of hydroxychloroquine, even though the drug's patent is expired and any pharmaceutical company can manufacture their own generic versions of it. Even New York governor Andrew Cuomo conceded that “There has been anecdotal evidence that it is promising."



Setting a 'D-Day' to Restart the American Economy


Much is being said these days about how the two-week period of April 5-19 is expected to experience a peak in coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths. This prediction applies to the city of New York as well as certain other cities and areas of the United States.

Concurrent with the above time period and continuing thereafter, the nationwide supplies of essential face masks, protective clothing, ventilators, protective gloves, and other needed medical supplies to combat the virus are exponentially mushrooming. As of the last week in April, there should be little or no scarcity of the above items to treat dangerously infected Americans, no matter where they live. Furthermore, by the end of April, one or more therapies will most likely receive greater approval as effective treatments against COVID-19.

It is well known that the president and state governors have a delicate balancing challenge. On the one hand, they must consider COVID-19 death rates. On the other hand, they must consider the ongoing tremendous damage and harm being done to the mental and physical health of millions of Americans who have suddenly lost jobs, lost savings, become bankrupt, or otherwise are experiencing severe mental anxiety, hopelessness, and/or depression.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic thus far rightfully have concentrated on the number of people infected, recoveries, and deaths. Largely overlooked, however, are predictions that the ultimate death toll from the pandemic could be higher due to job losses, bankruptcies, lost savings, and containment/mitigation efforts than from the actual virus itself.

It is well established that unemployed individuals often suffer from loss of self-esteem and a sense of shame, humiliation, or despair. They may suffer from hopelessness, depression, and social isolation, which are all serious risk factors for suicide.

Given the above, this article suggests that in order to establish a degree of certainty, and absent any further catastrophic event(s), President Trump and his administration should designate a day in May as the target day — D-Day, if you will — for America’s $22 trillion economy to be “back in business.” A possible date to consider is May 12, which happens to be the 75th anniversary celebration of the allied victory over Nazi Germany in Europe.

In taking this action, the president will, of course, need to defer actual implementation to the governors of the 50 states according to their own assessments of their containment, mitigation, and recovery efforts in their respective states. But the president can set an example by, among other things, authorizing the opening of federal buildings and other facilities and services under his control.

The president’s decision and recommendation for when people should return to their jobs is similar in at least one important aspect to the decision General Dwight Eisenhower had to make concerning the launching of the Normandy invasion in June 1944. Both decisions revolve around life-and-death issues. Eisenhower knew that the allied death rate could be very high (many tens of thousands) if the invasion was unsuccessful, whereas President Trump understands that the number of COVID-19 deaths could be in the many hundreds of thousands if he acts too early or, conversely, too late. As with Eisenhower, President Trump ultimately must make his decision for all Americans, not just those who unfortunately happen to be directly in harm’s way.

No doubt many will say that the president is “between a rock and a hard place.” He will be criticized no matter when he eventually recommends that people return to their jobs even with the understanding that critical mitigation actions need to be maintained for the foreseeable future such as frequently washing hands, not touching one’s face, and maintaining a safe distance from another person.

Thus, Mr. President, please work with the state governors and push for the American economy largely to be “back in business” during May 2020. This senior citizen is more than willing to take responsibility for my own personal COVID-19 mitigation actions, as I am sure many others like me will do the same. Get the economy rolling again — soon.




The steep rise in coronavirus deaths appeared to be leveling off Monday in hard-hit New York (AP)

Austria and Denmark are first in Europe to announce easing of lockdowns (The Washington Post)

Researchers lower fatality projections in model used by White House (The Daily Caller)

Trump approves USNS Comfort to treat New York patients (UPI)

Communist sympathizers at WHO demand abortion be considered "essential" healthcare services during pandemic (The Daily Wire)

Trump nominates White House lawyer Brian Miller to serve as Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (The Daily Caller)

Pelosi says next stimulus boondoggle will be $1 trillion or more (Bloomberg)

"I appreciate his calling": Trump says he and Biden had a "warm conversation" about coronavirus (Washington Examiner)

Trump asks reporter if she's working for the Chinese government after pro-Beijing questions. Sure enough, her agency is a front for the CCP. (The Daily Caller)

Bring back Scott Walker: Wisconsin Supreme Court overturns governor's gamesmanship, orders Tuesday elections to proceed (Politico)

Hillary Clinton can't duck out of Benghazi testimony by citing official privilege, State Department says (PJ Media)

"He made a mistake": Trump urges Navy not to "destroy" captain who wrote coronavirus letter (Washington Examiner)

Rise in searches for "How to set fire" a sign insurance fraud beckons as economy crashes (Washington Examiner)

Auto insurers rightfully refunding millions due to stay-at-home policies (Fox News)

District court upholds closing of Los Angeles-area gun shops (The Volokh Conspiracy)

Policy: How the Left is trying to blame capitalism for COVID-19 deaths (Mises Institute)

Satire: The Bidens still don't know how many grandchildren they have (The Washington Free Beacon)

For the record: "More people will die, even in the worst projections, from cigarette smoking in this country than are going to die from coronavirus this year." —U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams

Food for thought: "Our national media is ROOTING for hydroxycloroquine to not work as a treatment for #Covid_19. Think about that." —Matt Mackowiak


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


Wednesday, April 08, 2020

The End of America?

BY PHILIP CARL SALZMAN.  "Salty" Phil is a Canadian anthroplogist so knows about how societies evolve

How do societies and cultures end? What causes the death of societies and cultures? It is not always the obvious threats.

Today we are struggling with the coronavirus which has unfortunately sickened many and killed some Americans. The deaths are tragic, but so are the many Americans who die annually from the flu, from cancer, and from auto and industrial accidents. The death rate from the coronavirus will be low, far below any existential threat to American demography.

In order to fight and contain the expansion of the virus, we have suspended much of the American economy. That has led to a major loss of jobs, a serious threat to business, and destructive pressure on individuals and families, leading in some cases to abuse, breakdowns, and suicides. But the economy has been put on hold, not destroyed, and financial support from the government will go some way toward preserving jobs and companies, as well as individual and family budgets. It seems likely that the economy will rebound, probably fairly quickly, even with some displacement. Our economy and our country will not be destroyed.

Here is the critical fact: the death of societies and cultures is usually suicide. Members of the society lose faith in its institutions, reject its cultural values, demonize their fellow citizens, enthusiastically entertain foreign ideologies, and open their doors to foreign adversaries. This is particularly devastating when elites turn against the society’s institutions and culture. The initial result is social conflict, loss of confidence, and eventually civil war and or foreign invasion.

The example of Sweden illustrates cultural self-hate well. In 2010, Mona Ingeborg Sahlin, the leader at that time of the Swedish Social Democratic Party, told a gathering of the Turkish youth organization Euroturk: "I cannot figure out what Swedish culture is. I think that's what makes many Swedes jealous of immigrant groups. You [immigrants] have a culture, an identity, a history, something that brings you together. And what do we have? We have Midsummer's Eve and such silly things."

In October 2015, Ingrid Lomfors, head of the Swedish governmental "Forum for Living History," later told a group officials, "There is no native Swedish culture."

In December 2015, Former Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, president of the European Council in 2009, gave an interview to TV4 ahead of his departure from the leadership of the Moderate Party, in which he asked rhetorically: "Is this a country that is owned by those who have lived here for three or four generations or is Sweden what people who come here in mid-life makes it to be?... For me it is obvious that it should be the latter and that it is a stronger and better society if it may be open... Swedes are uninteresting as an ethnic group."

So Swedish elites have opened the country’s borders to floods of “refugees” from across the Middle East and Africa. The refugees see Swedes as “infidels” and Swedish girls as existing for “the pleasure of Muslim men.” Sweden has thus experienced an explosion of crime: “honor” killings, forced marriages, violent gang swarming, bombing, gang rapes, antisemitic hate crimes, most perpetrated by immigrants and children of immigrants. Sweden’s elite have dealt with this crisis by refusing to identify perpetrators. The old Sweden is disappearing, and the Swedish elite appears pleased.

Not to be outdone, in November 2015, the newly sworn-in Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, gave an interview to the New York Times, and published a month later, in which he said: "There is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada. There are shared values -- openness, respect, compassion, willingness to work hard, to be there for each other, to search for equality and justice. Those qualities are what make us the first postnational state.”

Trudeau followed up by opening the borders to illegal immigrants crossing from the United States, then sending the Canadian army to build shelters for the immigrants! Earlier, Trudeau had opened Canada to Syrian Muslim refugees, but not the Yazidi victims of Sunni Muslim ISIS. Under political and public pressure, Trudeau finally admitted some Yazidi refugees. Because of the American continental buffer to the south, but no thanks to multicultural Trudeau, Canada has escaped the great waves of illegal immigrant invasion.

Far more serious than opening Canada’s borders beyond the vast legal immigration that makes Canada the world’s per capita immigrant host, has been Trudeau’s determined effort to destroy Canada’s strongest industry, the energy industry, and to undermine Canada’s most prosperous province, Alberta, the province that for decades has transferred vast sums of money to Canada’s poorer provinces. Trudeau does not much like Canada or Canadians, wishing to transform Canada into a woke, multicultural paradise. Trudeau, like members of the Swedish elite, suffers from Oikophobia, hatred of one’s own culture. What he has succeeded in turning Canada into, for example by allowing environmental extremists to blockade highways and railroads, is a shambles.

The Swedes and Canadians are small players in a world largely dominated by the United States. In Oikophobia, as in much else, American Leftists lead the world. I would estimate that, in 2020, America is about 75% gone. American culture has been swept aside by “woke social justice” ideology, a neo-marxist framing of American society in terms of identity class conflict. Feminist, race, and sexuality activists have pushed a narrative that divides American society into white, male, heterosexual oppressors, on the one hand, and, on the other, the oppressors’ female, black, and LGBTQ++ victims. America is thus seen as inherently and entirely evil, and must be rejected and replaced. The preferred means is to provide special privileges and benefits for females, blacks, and LGBTQs.

“Woke social justice” is an anti-American, anti-capitalist, internationalist, and multicultural rejection of American culture and society. This ideology is now totally dominant in all colleges and universities, where social science and humanities disciplines have mostly abandoned their traditional fields of study in favor of “social justice” victimology. But it does not end there, for teachers are trained in radical faculties of education, and teach “social justice” ideology throughout the school system.

“Social justice” ideology is totally dominant in the mainstream and heritage media, notably in the Washington Post and the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC (and abroad as well, in the Canadian Broadcasting Company and the British Broadcasting Company). The New York Times has been hideously exemplary in its 1619 Project, which argues that America was not founded on the basic of Judeo-Christian human rights, on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, but on the basis of slavery. Slavery is the indelible sin that progressives love to bludgeon America with, as if America invented slavery, rather than it being a characteristic of all civilizations and most societies, including African societies, up to the 19th century. Progressives today reject the American Constitution on the grounds that its authors were slave owners, and slavery thus becomes the tool to discredit everything about America.

What exactly about America has been rejected by progressive “woke social justice”?

First, national sovereignty is rejected in favor of international ties and supranational organizations, such as the corrupt and ineffectual United Nations, much beloved by the likes of American progressive politicians and foreign leaders such as Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau.

Second, citizenship is rejected as an unearned privilege, to be corrected by open borders and floods of illegal immigrants, spun as “undocumented.” Joe Biden, presumptive nominee of the Democrat Party for Democrat candidate for the Presidency, announced that illegal immigrants are more American than American citizens. Furthermore, as progressives view whites as racist oppressors, “social justice” requires their replacement by black, brown, yellow, and red non-whites, until the whites are in the minority and no longer have any power.

Third, individuals no longer count as constituents of society. Individual achievement, merit, and potential are rejected by progressives as “white male supremacy.” Today, only identity categories count. What is important is statistical “representation” of different categories based on percentage in the general population. Under the guise of “diversity,” individual can no longer be considered as individuals, but must be considered only as members of identity categories, and treated accordingly. Males, whites, and heterosexuals must, in the name of “social justice,” be vilified, demeaned, and excluded. (Oddly, East Asians have become personae non grata because they are too successful, and thus honorary, or dishonorable whites.)

Fourth, capitalism is of course rejected because it is a cause of inequality. That capitalism is responsible for the prosperity within which the inequality exists, is no excuse for the radical levellers. The increasing popularity of socialism among progressives, no doubt because socialism has been so successful historically (not), expresses their rejection of capitalism.

Fifth, economic and political freedom are obstacles in progressives’ plans for “social justice.” Equality of opportunity and economic freedom are rejected by progressive advocates of “social justice” in favor of equality of results, that is, absolute equality, which requires government control of the economy. Progressives, like socialists and communists, also have never been that fond of political freedom, but prefer to control the results. We have seen the Democrat Party, and its media and identity allies, reject the results of the last presidential election because it was not the result they wanted, and launch a “resistance,” both inside of Congress and out in the streets, to the duly elected president. Rejecting the results of elections means the rejection of democracy.

Six, children are no longer wanted in America, which is currently unable to replace its population. Feminists have disdained motherhood as overemphasizing females’ biology and as obstructing economic independence and occupational mobility. The highest progressive value is killing babies in the womb, up to a million a year, ten million in a decade. Feminists and their progressive allies celebrate abortions and urge women to celebrate theirs. Killing babies has now been extended to infanticide, the newest progressive initiative. Likewise, families are regarded by feminists as the source of oppression for females, so say goodbye to families as well.

With the Democrat Party, all colleges and universities, the school system, and the mainstream media all devoted to anti-American progressive values and objectives, it is clear that America is 75% gone. Who is left to uphold American society and culture and the values of freedom, opportunity, prosperity, individual integrity, and family unity? We know that the half of the American population in “flyover country” maintains American values, even while the national elites on the coasts despise that population, infamously characterized by the Democrat Presidential Candidates Hillary Clinton as “the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it.” The Republican Party, faced with a pro-American candidate for president, retreated in part, while another part fought against, so it is unlikely to be the cavalry coming to save America. Do not bet against seeing the emergence of the United Progressive States of Socialism.



How About Some Good News on the Economy?

Appearing remotely on Sunday's Face the Nation, St Louis Federal Reserve Bank Chairman James Bullard indicated that the Fed has no idea, really, just how bad the Coronavirus Contraction is going to get. Asked by Margaret Brennan about his team's prediction that "47 million Americans could lose their jobs," bringing the unemployment rate up to 32%, Bullard said the "32 percent number is a compromise in the middle."

In the middle of what, you might ask. Bullard told Brennan that he and his economists at the St. Louis Fed estimate that the "unemployment rate could go anywhere between 10 percent and 42 percent."

So things could get Great Recession bad or blow past the 25% unemployment record set during the depths of the Great Depression in 1933. That's a bit like the doctor telling you that you either have a bad case of the flu or maybe caught a rare form of cancer that makes all your limbs slowly fall off.

I'm not picking on Bullard here. Not only does no one know what's going to happen to the economy, at this point nobody can know. The question is less "How bad is it going to get?" but "How quickly do we recover?"

The answer to that could be very nice, indeed.

An economy with plenty of liquidity and weeks of pent-up demand ought to bounce back almost as quickly as it sank -- like a big kid on a trampoline. Sharp economic downturns are usually followed by equally sharp recoveries. The 1981-82 and 1991 recessions come to mind.

What made the Great Depression and the Great Recession alike were anemic recoveries that took seemingly forever. As I noted back in March [VIP link]:

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt came into office pledging to end the Great Depression, he and Congress simmered up a party-size bowl of alphabet soup agencies to micromanage the business, wages, prices, and employment. The result? A couple of left-leaning UCLA economists were forced to conclude that FDR's New Deal actually lengthened the Great Depression by seven years.
Coming into office on the heels of the 2007-08 financial panic (caused in no small part by Washington meddling in the mortgage markets), President Barack Obama indulged in a flurry of lawmaking and micromanagement unseen since FDR. As a result, Obama's recovery was the slowest since FDR's. In some ways -- Washington's addictions to spending and debt are the worst examples -- we're still dealing with the hangover from Obama's reaction to the Great Recession.

Biden Switches to 'Front Porch' Campaign, Loses Porch
But back to Bullard on Face the Nation. Asked if there "will be somehow just a switch that flips on and the economy will come back roaring," Bullard said:

Well, I think it can be done. Whether it will be done depends on execution. I thought Congress did a great thing in passing their bill. I thought it was appropriately sized for this situation. The object is to keep everybody whole during the period when you're asking people to not go to their jobs and not go to the shops and - and basically not participate in the economy.
This is no bailout for big banks like we saw during the Great Recession. If anything, Congress is following the Fifth Amendment. The Fifth states that private property cannot "be taken for public use, without just compensation." If your labor isn't your property, then what is? If stopping a pandemic isn't public use, then what is? Relief checks aren't enough in my opinion, but they do represent at least some small amount of compensation for government orders to stay home and not work.

And as Bullard noted, "There's nothing wrong with the economy itself. The economy was actually doing quite well going into this health situation." If Washington can manage not to insert itself into the recovery, we ought to get right back to where we were before coronavirus in short order. The Democrat-controlled House is going to have a very strong itch to hobble the economy with a progressive wishlist of crap legislation, but the GOP-held Senate and White House ought to put the kibosh on any such nonsense.

There are some excellent indicators that the worst might soon be over. The White House noted on Sunday that there have been signs of stabilization in hospital rates, and New York enjoyed -- if that's the word -- its first daily decline in COVID-19-related deaths. Death rates are slowing in Europe, too, even in hard-hit Italy and Spain. Social distancing works, and as I reminded you three weeks ago [VIP link], "extreme measures at the start of a crisis can prevent extreme consequences later on."

For now we're stuck in the middle: We've taken the extreme measures, but the crisis persists. But it also looks like we'll avoid the extreme worst-case scenario, in no small part because of those extreme measures. Strangely enough, gridlocked Washington is kind of a best-case scenario for this particular crisis. The economy needs craploads of liquidity at a time when spending craploads of money is the one thing both parties can agree on. What the economy doesn't need is a bunch of new agencies and regulatory schemes hobbling the recovery -- and gridlock ought to prevent just that.

So hang in there. We're not off the bumpy road yet, but I think America and Americans are going to emerge from this thing stronger than ever.



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


Monday, April 06, 2020

Suddenly, Neither Liberty nor Civilization Is Assured

The two biggest uncertainties about the post-COVID-19 world are whether any privacy will survive and whether China or the United States will dominate. With regards to the first, the Guardian rhetorically asks whether you would  trade the total loss of your privacy for safety from the coronavirus, even if it meant entering a "cybergulag." That's what Russia is planning to do and China already did.  As the City Journal put it, perhaps the only way out of the lockdowns  is to voluntarily submit to 24x7 electronic tracking.

The responses adopted by governments around the world seem to fall into two main categories. Those countries able to leverage new and emerging technologies to fight the virus have done better in limiting the number of cases and fatalities, while managing to keep most of their economies and societies operational. The countries unable to use technology had to rely on lockdowns, quarantines, generalized closures, and other physical restrictions—the same methods used to fight the Spanish flu more than a century ago and, in many cases, with the same slow, painful results. In Singapore and South Korea, individuals are digitally monitored, but life is almost normal. In Spain, they are not monitored—but they cannot leave home.

Western publics seem willing to submit to previously unthinkable levels of government control in the name of public health. New York governor Andrew Cuomo is able to say with considerable support that "We do not have enough ventilators. Period. I am signing an Executive Order allowing the state to take ventilators and redistribute to hospitals in need. The National Guard will be mobilized to move ventilators to where they are urgently required to save lives."

Residents are now officially encouraged to inform on each other. "Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said this week that 'snitches' in his city will get “rewards” if they tattle on neighbors who could be violating the stay-at-home order put in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus," Fox News reported. "Google will help public health officials use its vast storage of data to track people’s movements amid the coronavirus pandemic, in what the company called an effort to assist in unprecedented times."

The effort is just a fraction of what Google has on tap for the global pandemic. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the Alphabet Inc. unit is among companies that have cooperated with a White House task force looking at controversial technologies such as individual location tracking to enforce distancing guidelines. Such technologies that have been effective in some countries are out of bounds in many democracies because of privacy concerns.

Privacy concerns are likely to be swept aside by the understandable fear of disease. As a fictional CIA agent explained to an idealist, people in distress will let government do anything to make the problem go away. "Ask 'em when they're running out. Ask 'em when there's no heat in their homes and they're cold. Ask 'em when their engines stop. Ask 'em when people who have never known hunger start going hungry. You wanna know something? They won't want us to ask 'em."

Although such measures might be sold as temporary expedients, power once obtained is rarely relinquished. After all, it's a chance to remake the world:

[California governor] Newsom said, “forgive me for being long-winded, but absolutely we see this as an opportunity to reshape the way we do business and how we govern. And that shouldn’t put shivers up the spines of you know one party or the other. I think it’s an opportunity a new for both parties to come together and meet this moment and really start to think more systemically, not situationally, not just about getting out of this moment, but more sustainably and systemically to consider where we can go together in this historic moment if we meet it at a national level, in a state, and sub-national level. So, the answer is yes.”

The City Journal writes:

"if you think that the measures being tested in China grant too much power to public authorities, different ideas can be found elsewhere. The uses of technology are, by definition, plural and creative. In Singapore, for example, the government has launched a new app for contact-tracing that both increases its effectiveness and keeps each individual in charge. The app works by exchanging Bluetooth signals between phones to detect other participating users in close proximity. Records of such encounters are stored on each user’s phone. If a user is interviewed by the medical authorities as part of the contact-tracing efforts, he can consent to share his data. The app does not collect or use location data and does not access a user’s phone contact list or address book. Importantly, no data are uploaded to a government server."

Privacy issues will become the centerpiece of Western domestic policy debates. The public can try and reclaim its privacy but they shouldn't get their hopes up.

Foreign affairs will be dominated by the rivalry between China and the United States as each country vies for which can most successfully recover and regroup from the disaster. Beijing is already claiming the title. "Beijing is bolstering its soft power and taking the lead in a global response to the coronavirus public health crisis. The moves come as China’s daily number of new infections decline while those in the U.S. rise."

On social and state media, China continues to promote its shipments of medical supplies to hard hit countries in Europe and Africa. China’s officials have also used Twitter — blocked in the country — to trumpet China’ssuccess in containing the outbreak domestically, even though the virus was first reported there and was met with missteps initially. Through the efforts, Beijing is touting the superiority of its governance model and tapping into patriotic sentiments at home.

The Chinese rivalry loomed, like the proverbial elephant in the living room, over the relief of the commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt by Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly over a complaint sent to the newspapers about the coronavirus without consulting the chain of command.

When the Commanding Officer of the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT decided to write his letter of 30 March 2020 that outlined his concerns for his crew in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak, the Department of the Navy had already mobilized significant resources for days in response to his previous requests. On the same date marked on his letter, my Chief of Staff had called the CO directly, at my request, to ensure he had all the resources necessary for the health and safety of his crew. ...

But there is a larger strategic context, one full of national security imperatives, of which all our commanders must all be aware today. While we may not be at war in a traditional sense, neither are we truly at peace. Authoritarian regimes are on the rise. Many nations are reaching, in many ways, to reduce our capacity to accomplish our national goals. This is actively happening every day ...

The nation needs to know that the Big Stick is undaunted, unstoppable —and that you will stay that way as we as a Navy help you through this COVID-19 challenge. Our adversaries need to know this as well. They respect and fear the Big Stick, and they should. We will not allow anything to diminish that respect and fear as you, and the rest of our nation, fights through this virus. As I stated, we are not at war by traditional measures, but neither are we at peace. The nation you defend is in a fight right now for our economic, personal and political security, and you are on the front lines of this fight in many ways.

The most intriguing aspect of the naval press conference is the linkage of the virus to deterrence in the new cold war. The natural world is setting the agenda in domestic and international politics. As City Journal notes "the coronavirus proved that our natural environment continues to be as dangerous and hostile to human life as it has always been. ... climate change seemed to show that human activity was the problem ... Nature is once again the problem ... almost as if humanity is once again discovering the Neolithic."

Suddenly, neither liberty nor civilization is assured. Once again it is about survival. Survival of the fittest.



Modern society is 'so afraid of death' no one asks if lockdown measures to battle coronavirus are the right approach, says former Supreme Court judge

Former Supreme Court Justice Jonathon Sumption believes that the public's 'irrational horror of death' has lead to unnecessarily 'costly' measures surrounding coronavirus.

Writing in The Sunday Times Lord Sumption, 71, a former judge turned author and medieval historian, stated that the strict governmental measures will bring 'even greater misfortunes of a different kind'.

He wrote: 'We have acquired an irrational horror of death. Today death is the great obscenity, inevitable but somehow unnatural. In the midst of life, our ancestors lived with death, an everpresent fact that they understood and accommodated.' 

Lord Sumption went on to list a number of historic epidemics such as Bubonic plague, smallpox, cholera, typhoid, meningitis and Spanish flu, reminding people that such outbreaks with higher mortality rates were met with less 'hysteria'.

Adding: 'Fear is dangerous. It is the enemy of reason. It suppresses balance and judgment. And it is infectious. (...) Is the coronavirus the latest and most damaging example?'

He stated that earlier generations would struggle to understand the current hysteria over Covid-19, due to it having 'milder symptoms' than previous outbreaks.   

The former judge believes it is the public's 'risk-adverse' attitude which has lead us to not accept 'the wheel of fortune'.

Lord Sumption said current government measures are inflicting suffering on other less obvious victims of the coronavirus, such as future generations who will be left to deal with 'high levels of public and private debt' and the one fifth of businesses being pushed into bankruptcy.

He believes it is fear which has prevented governments and the public from thinking about 'remote costs' of the measures brought in to avoid tragic coronavirus deaths, and adds that we do not know enough about the Covid-19 mortality rate, which he hints is lower than stated due to limited testing.

Making the comparison to cars, which he calls 'the most lethal weapons ever devised', as they kill and injure thousands every year, he states that society has accepted that fact as a 'Faustian bargin' in order to drive in comfort - suggesting we may have to take the same approach to coronavirus.

Meanwhile Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician, warned that certain cancers which were until now thought survivable are to become 'inoperable' due to delays in the current crisis.

He told The Sunday Times: 'We know that if you operate in most early stage cancers, there is a high chance of a cure.

'If we wait too long before we operate the disease may spread beyond the primary site rendering cures less likely. Delays to surgery are of huge concern for many cancer charities.'

Currently 90 per cent of those with breast, bowel and ovarian cancers, survive when the disease is caught early.

This is due to early diagnosis and quickly scheduled surgeries.

Professor Swanton added: 'There is a risk that trusts may have to make a choice between ventilatory support for an acutely unwell patient with Covid-19 at the expense of an elective admission for primary surgery for a potentially curable tumour requiring a short post-operative stay in intensive care.'

A source close to The Department of Health told The Sunday Times that it was possible more people, including cancer patients, could die from delays to their treatment caused by the virus than from the coronavirus.



Leftmedia Trump Derangement

Media pundits are frustrated that his approval rating has risen during this national crisis.

A clear majority of Americans approve of President Donald Trump’s handling of the China Virus pandemic — 60% according to Gallup polling. That’s even better than his 49% overall approval rating, which matches the highest of his presidency. But one would think just the opposite is true given the mainstream media’s incessant negative coverage of the president’s handling of this national crisis.

One example that typifies the MSM anti-Trump coverage was the reporting on an Arizona couple who ingested fish-tank cleaner thinking it would prevent them from getting COVID-19. Sadly, that stupid decision led to the death of the husband and put his wife in the hospital. Yet the Leftmedia saw fit to blame Trump for “misleading” people into doing demented things, all because he mentioned a malaria drug that some medical professionals believe could be helpful in combating the virus. The only explanation for this level of journalistic malpractice is Trump Derangement Syndrome.

However, as mentioned above, even with the negative media coverage, Trump’s approval ratings have been rising. Why might that be? The most likely reason is due to Trump’s daily national briefing in which he speaks directly to the American people on what he and his administration are doing to combat the pandemic. Millions are tuning in to watch, due in large part to the fact that many Americans are quarantined and are looking to the president for information and leadership. And that is exactly what Trump has provided, much to the dismay of the Leftmedia.

The New York Times laments, “The numbers are continuing to rise, driven by intense concern about the virus and the housebound status of millions of Americans who are practicing social distancing. On Monday, nearly 12.2 million people watched Mr. Trump’s briefing on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, according to Nielsen — ‘Monday Night Football’ numbers. Millions more are watching on ABC, CBS, NBC and online streaming sites.” But of course, after reporting the facts, the Times inserts its own anti-Trump spin: “The audience is expanding even as Mr. Trump has repeatedly delivered information that doctors and public health officials have called ill informed, misleading or downright wrong.”

In response to Trump’s rising popularity, many MSM outlets have begun limiting their coverage of his daily briefings, cutting away to their own talkingheads while giving the ridiculous excuse that they must prevent the spread of misinformation. “I would stop putting those briefings on live TV,” pontificated MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, “not out of spite, but because it’s misinformation.”

Former ABC News anchor Ted Koppel perfectly expressed this MSM elitist mindset when he argued, “Training a camera on a live event, and just letting it play out, is technology, not journalism; journalism requires editing and context. I recognize that presidential utterances occupy a unique category. Within that category, however, President Trump has created a special compartment all his own. The question, clearly, is whether his status as president of the United States obliges us to broadcast his every briefing live. No. No more so than you at The Times should be obliged to provide your readers with a daily, verbatim account.” In truth, Koppel’s real beef is that he doesn’t like Trump being able to speak freely and directly to the American people unfiltered by Leftmedia spin.

Don’t miss another important reason why MSM outlets have begun cutting away from Trump’s briefing: ad revenue (or lack thereof). Trump’s evening briefings last an average of two hours during prime-time hours — all without commercial breaks. With millions tuning in to watch, media outlets are loathe to lose ad revenue, even during a national crisis when information is paramount.



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


Coronavirus and Elections — Changes Increase Risk of Voter Fraud

The recent coronavirus relief package will provide $400 million to states for the 2020 elections. Beware: If this pile of money isn’t spent wisely, the integrity of the elections will be at risk.

Residents of some states may not be able to vote in person and may be forced to vote using absentee or mail-in ballots as long as the current emergency continues, with social distancing being the norm and schools, businesses, offices and government facilities closed.

But no one should forget that absentee-ballot voting is vulnerable to intimidation, fraud and chaos as all-mail elections move behind closed doors beyond the oversight of election officials. Not to mention prolonged counting and potentially lengthy delays in certifying questionable results.

Election officials should start taking steps now& to ensure that if a mailed ballot system is ordered, the election itself can be protected from the dangers that will otherwise result.

Georgia, for example, has declared that its June 2020 primary will be conducted by mail. Election officials have taken steps to avoid some of these concerns. Only registered, active (not inactive) voters will be sent an absentee-ballot request form. This will cut down on fraudulent voting, as unauthorized persons won’t be able to send in unsolicited ballots that show up in states that simply mail absentee ballots to all registered voters without receiving a request.

As an added benefit, by sending the request forms first class, election officials will receive valuable information from the U.S. Postal Service, such as whether a voter has moved or died. This will help confirm the accuracy of the voter-registration list.

All states and localities contemplating voting-by-mail should require voters to respond with a request for an absentee ballot in a written form — with a signature. That accomplishes two objectives: active voters are notified of the change in the process, and the signature will allow election officials (and interested citizens) to compare and authenticate voter identity.

For further protection, officials should require a photocopy of an ID or, for example, if they have a state driver’s license or ID card, the serial number of that identification on the absentee-ballot request form.

State voter-registration lists around the country are notoriously inaccurate and out-of-date, with many jurisdictions having duplicate or triplicate registrations, registrants who have died, and registrations lacking full address data. Some counties have more registered voters than voting-age citizens.

Not every new resident at an address will throw out a ballot automatically mailed to the old resident at that address, and where there are no safeguards, individuals may cast votes using ballots originally intended for other voters. It is further tempting to campaign workers and activists to canvas neighborhoods — often poor, minority neighborhoods — looking for those “extra” ballots.

Simply put, automatically mailing ballots to all registrants is an open invitation to fraud.

States should require voters to register prior to Election Day with sufficient time for election officials to validate and verify the information provided by voters of their identity, their residence, their citizenship status, and any other information relevant to their eligibility to vote. Same day or Election Day registration doesn’t allow for such verification.

States should only accept absentee ballots that are officially postmarked by the U.S. Postal Service on or before Election Day. This assures that ballots are not cast after Election Day and after preliminary election results are known, which would otherwise risk giving voters (or vote “harvesters”) the ability to manipulate close races after the polls have closed.

States should ban all ballot “harvesting” by third parties. Only the voter or close family members should be able to hand-deliver a completed absentee ballot. Candidates, political consultants, party activists and campaign guns-for-hire — all of whom have a stake in the outcome of the election — should not be allowed to collect absentee ballots from voters.

Anything else is a recipe for intimidation and fraud, as occurred in the 2018 election in North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District, and in multiple other cases. Moreover, it is difficult to see how vote harvesting would comply with government orders requiring or recommending “social distancing.”

Election officials must also establish protocols and work with local U.S. postal authorities to ensure integrity in the mail system, to prevent the slow delivery of ballots.

When processing the returned absentee ballots from voters, states must have strong authentication standards. This includes allowing election officials and observers to compare signatures on the ballot envelopes to voter registration signatures.

If states insist on unwisely mailing out absentee ballots automatically, voter rolls must first be reviewed and cleaned. The Justice Department should swiftly file lawsuits under the Help America Vote Act against states with suspected inaccurate voter rolls.

Only accurate voter rolls should be used for mass mailings of absentee ballots, and proper voter-roll maintenance and clean-up ought to include comparisons with other databases. That includes state social service agencies, tax authorities, the DMV, and corrections departments, as well as federal databases at the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security to confirm voter information and eligibility.

The Department of Homeland Security must end the roadblocks states currently face in verifying the citizenship of registrants. States and localities should also utilize the National Change of Address system available from the U.S. Postal Service to update addresses of registered voters and remove those registrants who have relocated out of state.

As the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said in a 1998 report, absentee ballots are the “tools of choice” of vote thieves. Switching to mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus outbreak should only be a temporary measure that is not used for future elections. In the meantime, adequate safeguards to protect the integrity of an all-mail election must be implemented.

The coronavirus has taught us a valuable lesson: election officials should be ever-mindful and actively engaged in ongoing voter list maintenance, year-in and year-out. They should be complying with federal law and ensuring that only eligible voters are on the voter rolls, and that voters who die or relocate are removed in a timely manner.

By engaging in zealous voter roll maintenance, election administrators will be prepared for any changes in the system that might result from emergencies that may interfere with the voting process. Hopefully, the emergencies from the coronavirus will be long since lifted by Nov. 3 and there will be no need for changes in the process for the general election.

The fallout from the disease is a stark reminder, however, that the integrity of our elections can only be protected by the ongoing actions of conscientious election officials committed to ensuring that every eligible voter is able to cast a ballot, with the sure knowledge that it has not been diluted by error, fraud or mistakes that could have been corrected months or years beforehand.



How Would Free Market Health Care Respond To The Coronavirus?

John C. Goodman

Have you ever wondered how a free market for health care would handle the COVID-19 crisis?

Most patients would have a health kit in their home, with a temperature gauge, blood pressure cuffs and an oxygen sensor. Patients would have these because doctors, hospitals and health plans would encourage them. Patients with older models would call in the readings to their doctors. Newer models would send the doctor an automatic, electronic alert if there was reason to be concerned.

The initial doctor/patient contact would probably be by phone. If warranted, a virtual face-to-face examination by Skype or similar device would take place. If the services of a specialist were required, that connection would be made – again, remotely and electronically.

If the patient were suffering from a cold or a mild case of the flu (which would be the case more than 90% of the time), the doctor would order a prescription, which would be filled and delivered by a local pharmacy.

In the face of coronavirus indications, a doctor or nurse would arrive at the home (within an hour), take a swab sample and perform a COVID-19 test – with results in, say, 10 minutes.

In the serious cases, patients would go to the emergency room. But that would not be a scene of coronavirus roulette, as it is today. Hospitals would know in advance which patients had the virus. A special team would be there to greet these patients. They would be escorted to isolated rooms with appropriate equipment and safeguards to protect other patients and hospital personnel.

The demand for special masks (with better protection than the masks you see surgeons wearing on TV), ventilators and other equipment would rise dramatically. But it would be a targeted demand, informed by real data. You wouldn’t see hoarding and over-subscribing by providers who scramble to get more than they need “just in case.” The demand would be met by suppliers who would work nights and weekends to step up production because …. well …. because they would expect to get paid extra, just like in any other market.

So why aren’t these things being done now? They are being done. But not as often as they should. The reason: government.

Getting diagnosed in your own home. If you go to a doctor’s office or a hospital emergency room you risk infecting other patients or being infected yourself. So why not stay home? As I wrote last week, telemedicine is being used extensively in China to diagnose the coronavirus right now. Vice President Pence and major health insurance companies say it is “the first line of defense” against the virus. And more than 40 million Americans can currently get doctor consultations by phone, email or Skype. Yet federal and state laws have been major barriers.

Until recently, Congress outlawed telemedicine in Medicare, except for patients in rural areas, and even then they couldn’t be in their own homes. However, with President Trump’s approval, Seema Verma (who directs Medicare and Medicaid), began allowing all Medicare patients to have “virtual check-ins” from their homes to see if a doctor office visit is needed.

After the coronavirus struck, Verma used the president’s executive authority to give Medicare Advantage plans broad discretion with respect to remote diagnosis and treatment. Congress responded with legislation that now allows Medicare to pay for telemedicine in connection with coronavirus. But it imposed an onerous restriction: the doctor must have had a previous relationship with the patient within the past three years.

That requirement is a disastrous barrier to remote medical care. It would make every telemedicine company in the country ineligible. Fortunately, the administration is using its emergency powers to override the restriction in both Medicare and Medicaid.

Getting tested in your own home. The first known person with the COVID-19 virus was discovered in the United States and in South Korea at about the same time. Since then, South Korea has engaged in a massive testing campaign (including drive-through testing) to determine who has the virus and who doesn’t. Overall, that country has tested more than 5,000 people for every one million residents. By contrast, the number tested in our country is 125 for every million residents. In fact, the U.S. testing rate is about the lowest in the developed world!

US officials claim that the tests used in other countries are not as accurate as those approved by our government. Even so, the proof is in the pudding. As Alec Stapp writes in the Dispatch:

South Korea has effectively contained the coronavirus without shutting down its economy or quarantining tens of millions of people…. Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan have also managed to contain the virus via a combination of travel restrictions, social distancing, and heightened hygiene.

Until early February of this year, all testing for COVID-19 had to be done at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta. Once the CDC recognized it was ill prepared to handle a pandemic, it sent out testing kits to about a hundred public health centers around the country. Unfortunately, about half of the kits were defective.

President Trump on numerous occasions has made clear his desire to wipe away regulatory obstacles. Along those lines, Alex Azar, the secretary of Health and Human Services, declared a public-health emergency, on February 4. Since then any lab that wants to conduct its own tests for the new coronavirus can get authority under something called an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the F.D.A.

But although this was supposed to usher in deregulation, the EUA process bought with it a new set of bureaucratic obstacles. The entire process, which is described in great detail by Robert Baird in the New Yorker, reads like an episode of the Keystone Kops.

Meanwhile, the private sector has been responding. Biomerica has developed a test that involves little more than a finger prick. It can be performed by trained professionals almost anywhere – airports, schools, offices, homes, etc. The test sells for $10 per patient.

Another company, Kinsa Health, has developed smart thermometers which are Internet-connected. It has given away or sold a million of them to households in which two million people reside. The company, which can track the flu across the country in real time, says it can do the same for COVID-19 at a time when U.S. health officials have been flying blind.

Exercising the right to try. Another reform championed by the president is allowing patients to try drugs that have not been approved by the FDA if the patient is terminally ill. He now says the same principle should apply even if the patient is not terminally ill. Chloroquine, for example, is an 85-year old drug that is safe for use to prevent malaria and it apparently can work on COVID-19. (It has worked for other SARS viruses.) The president asks, “What have you got to lose?”

Continuing to enjoy the benefits of deregulation. One reason the country is doing as well as it is in defending against COVID-19 is that President Trump began deregulating the health care market early in his presidency. Those efforts have laid the groundwork for further deregulation.

Donald Trump is the first president in over a century who has understood that in health care, government is not the solution; it is the problem.



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


Sunday, April 05, 2020

The coronavirus recession will shift British politics – but not to the Left

The economy’s collapse will prompt profound and unpredictable changes to people’s political priorities

It is hard, for us moderns, to grasp what is happening to our world. We are the children of the most technologically advanced civilisation of all time, and yet are plunged into a pre-modern health crisis, forced to revert to equally pre-modern tools as the death toll spirals horrifyingly. Quarantines, lockdowns, field hospitals: as we wait for tests, protective equipment, high-tech tracing and vaccines, we are stuck with the medieval techniques our forefathers used to control the bubonic plague. We use Zoom and Houseparty, but otherwise are following a 1919 Spanish flu playbook, shutting down society to save lives.

This is also the first pre-modern recession since the Second World War. Downturns since the industrial revolution have normally been about monetary policy errors or bubbles going pop. The coronavirus recession is like a war or a crop failure or a natural catastrophe, events that, together with pandemics, have caused the most savage depressions in history.

Drawing on the Bank of England’s Millenium of Macroeconomic Data, Deutsche Bank reminds us that the worst ever recessions were in 1624 (GDP down 25 per cent the year Parliament voted for war against Spain) and 1349 (down 23 per cent during the Black Death). The current downturn – GDP down 6 per cent this year – will only be slightly less severe than those of 1919 and 1921, both connected to war and flu. No “modern” recession has come close. It is also an exceptionally concentrated collapse: the second quarter will be the worst three month period for the economy since records began.

In 1919, those US cities that reopened too soon suffered a worse overall hit to the economy – after the flu returned with a vengeance in a second peak – than those that waited longer in lockdown, according to Sergio Correia, Stephan Luck and Emil Verner. While the lessons are obvious, if we test and trace on a massive scale, we ought to be able to lift the lockdown more quickly than a century ago. But so far it’s not looking good, implying that this recession will be severe, perhaps continue into the third quarter, many firms and jobs will be permanently destroyed and that the bounce-back, when it comes, won’t be great enough to catch up all the lost output.

It is a golden rule of political economy that downturns of this magnitude have huge political ramifications. But while much will be different AC (After Coronavirus), this doesn’t mean that British politics will automatically shift Left-wards. That would be a lazy assumption.

The NHS was already untouchable and unreformable, and Boris Johnson was already planning to shower it with cash: it will merely get even more. The railways were already being renationalised: the crisis has accelerated this. Other bailed-out entities will be reprivatised.

It will be self-evidently unaffordable for the Government to continue paying for half the jobs in the country when the crisis ends, and some of the abuse of furloughing that can even now be detected will remind the public of the dangers of generous welfare. Rishi Sunak’s superstructure will be dismantled: extremely elevated levels of benefits essential during total war can’t continue in peacetime without massive incentive problems.

The greatest change AC will be to our culture, and this won’t help the Left: we will rediscover the advantages of economic growth and have to relearn to live with unemployment. The BC (Before Coronavirus) obsession with frivolous “first world problems” will be gone: there will be no interest in identity politics, just in hard-headed policies that can boost growth and jobs and put money in people’s pockets. There will be a cost of living crisis, and reduced support for taxes or green policies that hurt the poor and middle class, just as there was in 2008-09. It may delay but won’t derail Brexit: national self-interest is back worldwide. The EU is facing severe strains, with fury at how member states aren’t helping each other and Hungary going fully undemocratic.

Taxes may not go up either, at least not conventionally, despite the massive budget deficit (though the self-employed will be hit). The national debt may be “repaid” without explicitly hammering taxpayers: we may see higher inflation in the years ahead, eroding the real value of IOUs. We could even see actual debt write-offs: a rich world Jubilee.

And why would a Tory government be stupid enough to cripple an economy on its knees with higher taxes? A million businesses could easily have gone bust by the end of this, unemployment will be through the roof and asset values – including house prices – could have dropped by 20-25 per cent. Hurting the rich for populist reasons is something that governments can afford to do in the good years, not when they are desperate to attract entrepreneurs, capital and talent. Taxing wealth will be impossible when the price of mansions has collapsed, and hitting the middle classes politically suicidal. The Tories will have to rediscover their supply-side instincts, and do what it takes to encourage growth.

Any higher inflation caused by the monetisation of the deficit will also infuriate Middle England. Only Left-wing economists believe that inflation is popular: it never is. It always leads to a shift to the Right, sometimes to the poujadiste variant.

Many private sector businesses will have their reputations enhanced by their crisis, including supermarkets and even tech firms. Almost everybody blamed profit-making firms for the financial crisis; nobody is blaming them for the virus. There are some caveats: banks can’t pay dividends or bonuses anymore, which will limit the backlash, but they will face reputational damage unless the cheap business loans promised by the Government can be accessed easily.

Most important of all, Johnson’s plans for a big government conservative spending spree are in tatters. With the national debt at 100-110 per cent of GDP, it will become imperative to keep the finances under control, and only spend more on projects to prevent another pandemic.

Nobody can know for certain how politics will change as a result of this humanitarian and economic catastrophe. But as our shell-shocked society, stunned that it isn’t as advanced as it thought it was, goes back to basics, I wouldn’t bet on a Left-wing renaissance.



South Korea's Successful Pandemic Strategy

It effectively limited the virus's spread without shutting the country's economy down.

South Korea only just now passed 9,000 total positive tests for the China Virus, and yet the East Asian nation was one of the earliest outside of China to report infections. Furthermore, South Korea did not engage in a nationwide shutdown to slow the virus’s spread, which has many wondering how it has been able to so successfully keep COVID-19 at bay.

The head of the World Health Organization’s Emergency Program, Mike Ryan, noted, “We’ve seen examples in places like Singapore and [South] Korea, where governments haven’t had to shut everything down. They’ve been able to make tactical decisions regarding schools, tactical decisions regarding movements, and been able to move forward without some of the draconian measures.”

The key, Ryan believes, has to do with widespread testing. South Korea quickly engaged in a vast testing regimen, which allowed it to essentially locate and then target those infected areas for isolation and quarantine, thereby slowing and limiting the spread of the virus to other areas of the country. Thus, those regions of the country free of the virus are able to operate more normally. As explained by South Korea’s foreign minister, Kang Kyung-wha, “Testing is central because that leads to early detection. It minimizes further spread.”

National Public Radio also reports, “Japan is another Asian country notable for its response. Although Japan has more than twice the population of South Korea and also has strong ties to China, it has recorded only a fraction of the cases that South Korea has. … Japan hasn’t been testing nearly as widely as South Korea, but appears to have fended off significant community transmission by quickly investigating any flare-ups of cases, identifying who exactly is infected and then monitoring their contacts.”

Finally, nothing helps like learning from past experiences. Back in 2015, South Korea was hit hard by a MERS outbreak that brought the nation to a near standstill. Lessons learned from dealing with that outbreak have proven pivotal in guiding its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Removal of navy captain 'poor judgment'

Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden says the Trump administration showed "poor judgment" in relieving the commander of an aircraft carrier who sought stronger measures to control a coronavirus outbreak onboard.

"Donald Trump's Acting Navy Secretary shot the messenger - a commanding officer who was faithful to both his national security mission and his duty to care for his sailors, and who rightly focused attention on a broader concern about how to maintain military readiness during this pandemic," Biden said in a statement to Reuters.

"And the Navy sent a chilling message to the rest of the fleet about speaking truth to power. The poor judgment here belongs to the Trump Administration, not a courageous officer trying to protect his sailors."

The commander, Captain Brett Crozier, was removed from command after writing a scathing letter to Navy leadership about conditions on the nuclear-powered carrier. The letter leaked to the public.

But acting navy secretary Thomas Modly said the ship's commander "demonstrated extremely poor judgement" in the middle of a crisis.

On Thursday, Mr Modly told reporters that Capt Crozier was being fired for allegedly leaking the letter to the media.

He said the captain copied too many people into a memo, which was leaked to the California newspaper and then quickly spread to many news outlets.

He said Mr Crozier should have gone directly to his immediate commanders, who were already moving to help the ship.

Mr Moldy said the letter "created the impression the Navy was not responding to his questions".

He also said Mr Crozier created a panic by suggesting 50 sailors could die.




We need an exit strategy: Weekly jobless claims double to a whopping 6.6 million (CNBC)

So about those declining numbers... Chinese county goes into lockdown amid fear of second wave (South China Morning Post)

In typical communistic fashion, Chinese doctor disappears after blowing the whistle on threat (National Review)

Coast Guard tells cruise ships with cases to stay away from U.S. ports (TPR)

Dr. Anthony Fauci given security detail after receiving threats (Washington Examiner)

Environmentally "woke" San Francisco ironically joins Massachusetts in banning reusable bags from grocery stores (Fox News)

California engineer ran train "off the end of rail tracks" in attempted attack on USNS Mercy in Los Angeles (USA Today)

Trump, in preemptive maneuver, says Iran planning "sneak attack" on U.S. troops, assets in Iraq (Fox News)

"There is a growing threat that ... malign actors will try to exploit the situation": Trump launches massive military offensive on drug cartels (The Daily Wire)

Rep. Adam Schiff drafting legislation to set up 9/11-style commission so Democrats can exploit coronavirus response (The Hill)

Rep. Matt Gaetz proposes commonsense bill blocking funds from Congress to China-owned businesses (Washington Examiner)

America's civilian arsenal grows by some 2.5 million firearms after record-shattering gun sales in March (The Washington Free Beacon)

Massachusetts governor infringes on the Second Amendment by closing gun stores (NRA-ILA)

Florida issues statewide stay-at-home order (Fox News)

Pennsylvania placed under stay-at-home order (NBC Philadelphia)

Policy: We can fight pandemics without the communist-allied World Health Organization (The Federalist)

Policy: Statewide lockdowns and the law (Hoover Institution)

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.

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Friday, April 03, 2020

The shutdown is excessive

In Italy, all those who die in hospitals with Coronavirus will be included in the death numbers. In the article, Professor Walter Ricciardi, Scientific Adviser to Italy’s Minister of Health, reports, “On re-evaluation by the National Institute of Health, only 12 per cent of death certificates have shown a direct causality from coronavirus, while 88 per cent of patients who have died have at least one pre-morbidity—many had two or three.”

Recording the numbers of those who die with Coronavirus will inflate the CFR as opposed to those that died from Coronavirus, which will reduce the CFR.

And, indeed, in an Italian study of those who died, only three patients (0.8 per cent) had no pre-existing health condition, 99 percent had at least one preexisting condition, half had three, and the average of all was 79.6 years. Those figures give some indication of the difference between dying withcoronavirus and dying of coronavirus. That’s a somewhat technical difference to the deceased and his family, but it’s a significant difference to any judgment of how big a threat the virus poses to our peoples. Ignoring it inflates the total of deaths owing to the virus; correcting it must mean reducing the raw data of Italian CFRs to something nearer the German ones. As the CEBD authors point out, moreover, the various estimates of case fatalities all decline substantially from the start of an epidemic to its final tally. Swine-flu estimates fell fivefold over that period.

Reports in the past few days, moreover, suggest that over the weekend the Italian curve “peaked” and should now gradually decline until it dissipates entirely. That may take some time, and I leave it to the epidemiologists and statisticians to guess where both will end up. At this “peak point,” however, the Italian figures are 69,176 infected and 6,820 deaths, while Germany at an earlier point on the curve is looking at 31,260 infected and 156 deaths. These two countries point to quite different estimates of final fatalities.

Let’s look at a slightly more average case. The U.K. has 8,164 infections and 423 deaths. It has far fewer infection cases than Germany does and three times the number of deaths. And in the report of the Imperial College scientists—the one that underpins the policy of the British government—their estimate is that the coronavirus could lead to the deaths of between 20,000 and 500,000 people, depending on whether nothing is done or a quite draconian “lockdown” is imposed. And Boris Johnson has just done the latter. (Their estimate for the U.S. is between 500,000 and 2,200,000 deaths.)

Their report, though not without its technicalities, is closely argued and readable. My advice is to read it here. I shall not attempt to paraphrase it, since Peter Smith, a former colleague at Quadrant and a fine economist, has done a first-class job of both summarizing and critically analyzing it. But I will make a few points that strike me as relevant and important:

The IC report itself is a balanced and flexible document. Though its authors chose a policy of “suppression” over “mitigation,” that was a matter of emphasis rather than of a strict division. Most of the practical policies to tackle the pandemic—case isolation, voluntary home quarantine, social distancing of the elderly, social distancing of the entire population, closure of schools and universities—are proposed under both headings but in different combinations, timescales, and so on.

The report itself was not a departure from previous government policy—the “U-turn” much touted in the media—but the evolution of policy that was a response in real time to the dimensions of the threat posed by the virus. What led the scientists to propose a move from mitigation to suppression was data from Italy showing numbers of infected people so high that the hospitals were overwhelmed.

Without a policy of suppression—i.e., immediately halting the spread of the virus by quarantining the population—the National Health Service would be overwhelmed, as in Italy. But the virus would remain in the population and resume spreading when quarantine was eased. There would be a second upsurge of infections and deaths in the fall, as has happened in earlier epidemics and may now be happening in China. And so a second lockdown. Or third.

At the same time, a “lockdown,” partial or total, under suppression would gravely damage the economy, perhaps reducing the gross domestic product by a fifth to a third and creating mass unemployment. It would also halt the gradual expansion of “herd immunity,” which under mitigation would have meant that most people would have suffered the mild symptoms of a weakening virus, thereby becoming immune, while the elderly and at-risk groups were protected by quarantine measures reserved for them until the virus had been more or less eradicated.

Great depression or the breakdown of the nation’s health service? It’s not an easy choice, and to be fair to the scientists, they recognized this in the report, acknowledging both that there were crucial social and economic aspects of the crisis and that they could advise only on its medical aspects.
Once the report was released, however, all restraints of practicality were released too. A mass public pandemic of panic took over. The merits of suppression versus mitigation seem to me to lie narrowly on the mitigation side of the argument. But its great failing is that allowing a virus to spread, albeit to sections of the population resistant to it (while protecting the vulnerable), is a very hard sell. That failing was magnified by media that scented government incompetence in the mythical U-turn (a reversal denied by the IC chairman) and set off to prove it. And that press campaign was made as toxic as the coronavirus by the fact that large numbers of pundits, including some conservatives, are in the grip of a wildly irrational “Boris Derangement Syndrome” that leads them to believe the most exaggerated (albeit contradictory) charges against him—“He’s a fascist who wants to control everyone.” / “He’s a libertarian who won’t impose the necessary controls on people.” (Much the same syndrome can be seen in the United States; indeed, some say it was invented there.)

One result is that public opinion has demanded—and governments have yielded to—the imposition of lockdowns that go much farther than the IC report proposed. The report was, for instance, ambivalent-leaning-to-hostile with respect to school closures. They would not reduce transmission of the virus between children, since they would still be mixing outside; if they had been infected, they might transmit the virus to vulnerable grandparents given the task of looking after them by harassed parents; and those parents working in the health sector and emergency sectors, now greatly needed to deal with higher patient loads, would be kept at home. But governments all over Europe—except, to its credit, the Dutch government—have now closed schools in response to public pressure, even though the ministers in them will tell you privately they think this is a bad idea with likely bad consequences. Boris Johnson’s Tory government has gone to extreme lengths in this regard, literally imprisoning people in their homes, with only an hour or so for exercise or shopping every day.

It offers only a little solace that Boris is doing this reluctantly. It is still leading to the deliberate economic ruin of the country. President Trump sees the same thing and so proposes ending or avoiding a shutdown, but without a plausible way of dealing with the threat of the coronavirus in the longer term. There is a basic flaw to this approach. As Peter Smith writes: “The policies being adopted by governments are not tenable. They will bring about unquantifiable and crippling economic and social (and quite possibly serious health) consequences. Make no mistake, governments will be forced to reverse course . . . and adopt a different strategy.”

What he has in mind is a weaponized version of the mitigation strategy.

Recall, this strategy consists of socially distancing only those who fit in the category of being particularly vulnerable to the virus, and quarantining those with the infection and those living in the same households. If that were done, it would cause some economic dislocation—e.g., for the travel and tourism industries—but it would allow most everyone else to get on with life as normal, albeit while practicing good hygiene. That is the economic and social advantage of mitigation.

The medical advantage is that it leads to a rapid spread of the virus and to herd immunity, “leading to an eventual rapid decline in case numbers and transmission dropping to low levels.” Unfortunately, in the meantime, under assumptions about its transmission to vulnerable groups (because of the likely degree of contact despite encouragement of social distancing) and the number of available critical-care hospital beds, it overwhelms health services and causes many deaths.

If we could solve the medical flaw in this strategy—and that might be possible: read on—it would still face a more obstructive flaw. Governments have already committed themselves and their prestige to a bold (if mistaken) policy and invested immense amounts of political capital in it. It’s hard enough to change their minds before they’ve made such a commitment; it’s nigh impossible to do the same when they’ve bet the house on a single number in roulette. Okay, events will force a retreat to mitigation or something like it eventually. But it would require a bolt from the blue to get them to change now.

Amazingly enough, two bolts have suddenly appeared from the blue.

The lesser bolt is that, as we noticed earlier, researchers have only lately begun to point out that the Italian statistics may greatly exaggerate those deaths caused by the virus: They amount to only 12 per cent of the total number of those who died with the virus. Most died, in effect, from other causes. And that smaller death rate from COVID-19 is likely to shrink farther as the pandemic runs its course. These doubts about the Italian statistics are important because governments and the media have been treating Italy’s experience with COVID-19 as a guide to what their own countries are likely to suffer after a time lag. What if it isn’t? This question has particular significance to the U.K. The IC scientists chose suppression over mitigation in their urgent advice to the British government because they were alarmed by data they had just received from Italy. Did that data exaggerate the Italian death rates? Or did it take into account the growing doubts about them? Probably the latter, though the U.K. media have begun to follow this story only in recent days..

Even if the Italian data showed no bias, however, a third factor must be taken into account: namely, the annual death rate in the U.K. In 2018, one full year before COVID-19 was heard of, 541,000 people died in England and Wales, most of them older and less healthy people. That’s almost the exact prediction in the IC report of how many people would die if nothing was done. Are the 510,000 deaths in addition to the annual total? Apparently not. They will be part of the total. Naturally, no one now knows how large a part, since the deaths are hypothetical and the deceased still alive. But since those Brits who died in earlier years are similar in relevant respects to the great majority of Italians who died with the coronavirus rather than by it, it’s reasonable to argue that the deaths from the virus in the U.K. will not add all that many to the annual total of the dead of previous years, since many of them would likely die if the virus hadn’t erupted among us.

That’s not to dismiss the fates of human beings with a claim on us, merely to refine what is at stake. If the main aim of policy is to prevent those deaths from occurring all at the same time and overwhelming the health system, then—yes—it makes sense to adopt suppression. But if the main aim is to save their lives while avoiding an economic dislocation that would put many more lives at risk too, then that might be better accomplished by Smith’s policy of weaponized mitigation. His policy would combine paying the elderly to self-quarantine for a period while organizing industry and the voluntary services to equip hospitals with more beds and better medical technology in real time. And the latter is already happening throughout the English-speaking world.

That approach would work more easily and surely, however, if “herd immunity” were more advanced in Britain, so that fewer people would be at risk of catching the illness and therefore fearful about it. That possibility has just been delivered by the second bolt from the blue, hurled, oddly enough, by the “Pink’ un.” The Financial Times has just broken a story that Oxford medical researchers have developed a model that shows among other things that Britain has already developed a high degree of “herd immunity.” Work by Oxford’s Evolutionary Ecology of Infectious Disease group suggests that the coronavirus could have arrived in Britain in mid January, far earlier than previously believed, spread widely under the radar for more than a month, and by now infected up to half of the population, most without their ever realizing they had been infected. Sunetra Gupta, the leader of the study and a professor of theoretical epidemiology, told the FT that, if the results are confirmed, they mean that “the vast majority develop very mild symptoms or none at all.”

If Professor Gupta’s work survives testing and, presumably, some pushback by the scientists at Imperial College, it will be a great and welcome achievement. It would mean that far fewer people are now at risk of a painful illness and death, that the balance of advantage between mitigation and suppression has now changed decisively in favor of the former, and that the destructive policy of closing down the economy to fight the coronavirus at recurring intervals can now be reversed or at the very least put on hold. As Robert VerBruggen points out on The Corner, “this is a possibility the paper sketches out, not an actual finding inferred from the data.” But if that possibility turns out to be true, it would change the entire gloomy landscape we have all felt trapped inside.

Millions of people already feel luckier. Among them, Lucky Boris, who’s been handed an alternative to trudging into a socialist prison (if he’s prepared to take it), and Lucky Trump, who’s been given the justification he needs to close down the shutdown.




Stocks close historically bad quarter with losses; Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq all down between 15% and 24% (The Hill)

Larry Hogan and Gretchen Whitmer: What governors need from Washington during this health emergency (The Washington Post)

How South Korea reined in the outbreak without shutting everything down (NPR)

New Jersey backs down on gun-store closures (The Washington Free Beacon)

An answer to China? Trump calls for $2 trillion infrastructure bill as "Phase 4" of coronavirus response (Fox News)

For the record: Ten insanely wasteful spending items in the relief bill (The Federalist)

"Millionaires don't need a new tax break": In ironic turnabout, Grassley blasts Pelosi's attempt to eliminate SALT deduction cap (National Review)

The rule of men: DOJ IG checked 29 more FBI spy warrants and found problems with all of them (The Daily Caller)

Unconstitutional ban? District court finds bump-stock proscription may constitute a taking, because the federal government lacks a police power (The Volokh Conspiracy)

"Preparing for worst-case scenarios": The U.S. military's dealing with the virus — but keep it a secret (RealClearInvestigations)

With friends like these, who needs enemies? Chinese propaganda is now citing U.S. journalists' and Democrats' coronavirus rhetoric (Washington Examiner)

Marine Corps plans to cut tanks, shrinks F-35 squadrons to confront China (Naval Technology)

Policy: Even during these dark days, it's not all bad news in the jobs market (New York Post)

Policy: Why it's so hard to escape anti-poverty programs (Foundation for Economic Education)


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