Monday, January 18, 2021

Storming the Capitol

We've all seen countless videos and images of the thousands of people who stormed and ransacked the Capitol last week.  I wrote about the insurrection when it happened here.   This has obviously been the biggest story in a sea of big stories and has resulted in a vote to impeach President Trump and lock down the Capitol for the inauguration like we've never seen.  I think most people are just anxious for it to be over and move on.


As we dissect and evaluate what happened, there is still one thing I just can't wrap my mind around.  So say you're an ardent Trump supporter and you heed his call to come to Washington DC on Jan 6.  It doesn't matter where you're from but you make your way to the Mall for the big demonstration.  There are thousands of supporters there and they are being whipped up by various speakers culminating in the President of the United States who tells everyone to march to the Capitol and fight like hell.  Of course, you being a relatively intelligent person realize that much of the rhetoric is political posturing and made for TV, but still it's exciting.  And maybe you even have half a brain in your head and know that the certification of the election by Congress is largely ceremonial and there is no way that objecting to it by sympathetic Congressmen is going to make a difference.  And not in a million, billion years is Vice President Pence going to somehow singlehandedly overturn the election.  It's never going to happen.  It's over.  But like I said, it's an exciting and heady environment.  So off you go with the crowd.  And you probably think you're gonna wind up at the Capitol and there maybe will be more speeches and a lot of milling around but that you will have been part of history and exercised your freedom of speech.  

But when you arrive you realize it's way more serious than you expected.  The rhetoric is turning fowl.  The people in the crowd look like people who could take a lot more serious action than you expected.  And as you're in the crowd it starts to surge forward.  Then you realize that the police are giving way because they aren't authorized to use deadly force.  And you get swept along with the crowd and all of a sudden you're on the steps climbing toward the door.  

So here's my question.  How in the world do you go through that door?  It's the door to the U.S. Capitol and you've realized that if you stay with that crowd nothing good will come from it.  In what world do you think taking over the U.S Capitol is a legitimate activity?  I get that there are a lot of violent, stupid people who occupy the far right and the far left in this country and it's not surprising that some of those knuckleheads would lower themselves to such despicable actions, but how does the normal political activist or political junky who simply attended a rally for the President advance to the point that they think violently entering the U.S. Capitol is okay.  I just can't wrap my mind around that.  

But I will say this, I hope they find you and I hope they hold you accountable.  And I'm not talking about a slap on the wrist or a fine.  I'm talking about making little rocks out of big rocks.  Because you are a traitor and an idiot.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Trump Presidency

There will probably be more articles, essays, speeches, panels and debates than we can count that will assess the Trump presidency.  They will go on and on and on.  Depending on who is doing the talking or writing, the assessments will take on dramatically different tones.  And ground truth will depend on where you sit.  You will either believe the proposition being put forth or you won't.  

I've already seen several attempts at describing the past four years.  Most are superficial and of course probably premature because time needs to go by to make assessments.  That is in most cases.  In Trump's case, there is plenty to dissect.

I saw an article in National Review today that caught my eye.  I generally like the author's take on things and I think even as the ink isn't dry on the Trump Presidency, he has done a good job of laying out the goods and bads.  At least I think he has done a good job.  You can read the article, "A Final Assessment of the Trump Presidency, and the Path Forward" here.  It's a long read and the lead in to the meat of the article is a bit tedious, but like I said, I think he captures it pretty well.  

I particularly like the three critiques of Trump's Presidency..."the incalculable damage his character and behavior has caused, the precedent of what he has done in fiscal management, and the dysfunctional management of personnel".  Many will not agree but I think it's pretty spot on.  

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Truth

 What is truth?  When you think of truth do you think of circumstances that lead to truth?  Are you one of those folks who talk about "your truth"?  There is an increasing tendency in our society to water down truth or at least to apply qualifiers to truth.  The loss of objective truth is one of many reasons that there is so much angst and conflict in society today.  If we can't even agree on what is objective truth, it's pretty difficult to agree on causes, processes, and outcomes of anything we do.  

A good friend and retired Priest who I've quoted several times in this blog had a great reflection on the mayhem at the Capitol on Wednesday.  One section particularly struck me and is something I've been concerned about for some time.  Objective truth.  Why have we lost it?  Or are losing it?  Here are his words:

"..,the political chaos in our country is a symptom of our abandonment to objective truth. President Trump’s lies reflect a postmodern culture in which there is no longer any objective truth, only the “truth” that I want to hear, or agree with, or accept. Truth is only a perspective from an individual and not an objective reality. It is truth as I see it, that suits my agenda, is in my self-interest, that furthers my policies and reflects my will to power. The Nazis of old and the Chinese Communists today have practiced this kind of truth. George Orwell warned against it in his books 1984 and Animal Farm, and even C.S. Lewis wrote a powerful book on the subject titled The Abolition of Man.

 

America today is a nation without truth, only “truths” for different segments of the population. If you are a liberal, you tune into MSNBC or CNN. If you are a conservative, there is Fox News or Newsmax. You read papers or go to web sites that appeal to your preferences and prejudices, never hearing or listening to any other viewpoints. This is a frightening phenomenon in our country, and it is preventing intelligent discussion and rational debate because each side is absolutely convinced they have the whole truth and their opponents are completely wrong – and not only wrong but evil. No dialogue is possible. There is no conversation, no willingness to listen and understand the perspectives of the other. No wonder there is violence and political heavy-handedness in America. We can’t even sit at the same table and talk to one another with mutual respect as citizens of one great country. "

 That pretty much sums up my views.  And the concern is how do we get it back.  One of the many websites I've been watching is Axios.  They are relatively new but are popular with the younger crowd who want quick stories that cut to the chase.  There is one this morning that particularly resonated called "Insurrection and misinformation tears the country into Three Americas".  The pull quote that struck me is here: 

"Now, more than ever, is the time to read and reflect: Our nation is rethinking politics, free speech, the definition of truth and the price of lies. This moment — and our decisions — will be studied by our kid's grandkids."

"The definition of truth".  Why does truth need to be defined?  Is it because we have moved to a place where everyone has their own truth?  If truth were objective, there wouldn't need to be a definition.  This little blog isn't going to change any of that.  But it's worth thinking about next time you hear someone say "their truth".  Is it your truth?  Is it the truth?  Good questions to be thinking about.

Along with truth and maybe just as important is trust.  Who do you trust do provide you with truth?   Do you suspect it's their truth and not the truth?  Do you seek multiple sources to figure out truth for yourself?  Most media has bias.  That's just a fact.  And it's nothing new.  I saw a quote the other day from George Washington from a letter he wrote in 1797 to James McHenry, the 3rd Secretary of War.  President Washington wrote, "We get so many details from the Gazettes (media), and of such different complexions, that is is impossible to know what credence to give to any of them".  So figuring out truth from media has always been a difficult task.  Add to this that these days many, many people get their information from non-traditional sources.  Blogs, websites, newsletters, podcasts, and many other forms of information have proliferated across the net.  There. is usually little control and they can say anything they want.  In the last week I've heard wild conspiracy theories from people I would otherwise deem level headed.  Our current strife has served to feed these theories.  So be careful.  Don't be the person who passes on bogus information that doesn't pass the logic test.

There is an increasing potential for the population to break into factions that only believe what they are fed.  When this happens it is only bad for the Republicans.  With their disappointment with Trump since the election, I think more and more people will turn away from him.  But there are a significant number of rabid zealots who believe in him as the renegade outsider who wanted and wants to "drain the swamp".  When you add in the far right white supremacists, you have a recipe for recalcitrance and even violence.   However, his actions and rhetoric along with disgust of the actions and beliefs of some of the people still in the Trump camp are increasingly alienating to a large number of Republicans.  So the next few years will be a critical and defining time for the Republicans.  And I think if there is a fracturing of the party that results in two (or more) smaller parties, then Conservatism is dead.  Or maybe not dead, but certainly on life support.  If you're a conservative Republican, which way will you go?

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Insurection

There is no other word for it.  Unless you're totally checked out you know about the assault  by Trump supporters on our Capitol building today.  It was egregious, disappointing, outrageous, and shocking.  I really have never even contemplated something like this happening in the U.S.A.  As others have said, this is the stuff of banana republics.  The last time this happened was 1814 and it was the English doing it, not fellow Americans.  There is no excuse for it and those who were involved and can be identified should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  

If you've read at all you know that I've been one of those peoplefor the last four years who held his nose and supported Trump.  He is all the things we know he is but his policies have been more to my way of liking than the other side.  In fact, in my view the other side has the potential for some really dangerous and damaging actions.  If I'm being honest, part of my support was rooted in the fact that the other side went to such alarming and sometimes illegal lengths to destroy him.  His stamina and resilience was something to behold.  But after his election loss and his irrational and obnoxious behavior, I've been more and more disturbed.  Time after time, incident at incident, in courtroom after courtroom, in state legislature after state legislature, he has been turned back.  The claim of massive election fraud was dismissed time after time after time.  I don't think there is anyone who doesn't agree that there were some incidents and that the States have a lot of work to do to shore up their election systems.  However, was there enough to turn the election?  Clearly no.  But today ripped it for me.  First he put all his marbles in the barrel of intimidating the VP to single-handedly overturning the election via the process in Congress today.  That was never gonna happen.  And then during a speech to thousands and thousands of rabid supporters on the Capitol Mall this morning he whipped them into a frenzy and encouraged them to go to the Capitol to protest.  And the rest is history.  It was the most irresponsible and despicable thing I've ever seen a President do.  Ever.  

After the dust has settled a lot of people are piping up with what aboutisms.  What about the BLM and Antifa terrorists who looted and rioted and destroyed whole sections of cities?   I'll say what I've said.  Those incidents were terrible.  Like at the Capitol today, those people should be identified and charged.  But here's the deal.  The Antifa crowd is just a bunch of anarchist assholes.  They should be rooted out and destroyed.  The BLM people come from all walks of life and are protesting what they perceive as long term injustice and specific incidents.  Their tactics are horrendous and they should be held accountable for the destruction they caused.  But they weren't attacking me.  The people at the Capitol today were attacking me...and you. 

When I was at National War College, I took a course called Congress, the Media and the Military.  It proved to be a fascinating course conducted mainly at Capitol Hill.  But I'll never forget the first day.  The professor, a man who had worked almost every consequential job on the Hill including Chief of Staff to a powerful Senator, walked to the window and pulled back the shades.  There loomed the Capitol Building.  He said, "That building is the most important building in the world.  It is a beacon of freedom to the world and a symbol of the rule of law.  And you're getting a chance to study it up close and personal."  I've spent the better part of my life wearing the nation's uniform sworn to uphold the Constitution, against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  I never really thought about the domestic part.  But I thought of it today.  The attack on the Capitol and our Constitutional processes is an attack on all of us.  They should hang their heads in shame.   

I'm heartened that Congress returned to work tonight and will proceed with the process.  It provides reassurances that they will not let this attack thwart their duty.  The mob did not win.   This grand experiment called America will continue.  For now.  We're heading for some rough waters with the new administration, but as I have for every new administration I will offer my support until they lose it.  It may not take long.

I posted over on FB that "Today we may be seeing the demise of the Republican Party".  Some have called me out and queried me on that.  Here's my thinking.   As the incumbent President, Trump is clearly the leader of the Republican Party.  After is actions in the last few weeks and especially today, I think a significant number of people will turn away.  I know I will.  How can you not?  So what does that leave us with.  There are a lot of talented people in the party, but the power plays that will surely emerge will be crucial.  I believe that if Trump tries to hold power, the Party is done for in national elections. That would lead to fracturing and splitting into segments with dramatically reduced power.   Or there may be a strong, dynamic leader (there are plenty of them) who take the reins and the future turns brighter.  Or it may be something in between.  Only time will tell.  

A good friend and fellow Rotarian posted his thoughts over on FB (as so many have) and I think he is spot on in his analysis.  I stand with these remarks!

If you attempt to illegally access our Capitol, White House, or Supreme Court, you are making an unequivocal statement that you do not respect the institutions of our country.
If you "protest" in a way that puts the lives of our law enforcement at risk, you cannot claim to support law enforcement.
If you resort to violence in an effort to interrupt the electoral process provided in America's Constitution, you are committing treason. (18 U.S.C. sec. 2381)

Saturday, January 2, 2021

It's Not Rocket Science

Can you believe this inept and embarrassing rollout of vaccinations?  I mean, in what universe are we not going 7/24, balls to the wall to get as many people vaccinated as possible? There are supposedly 20 million doses ready with more coming and only around 3 million have been vaccinated.  Give me a break!  This is an epic failure of the federal government.  Epic.  Why on earth isn't there a federal standard and a federal plan?  To leave this to the states invites chaos.  I normally will default to planning at the lowest level but the current scheme isn't cutting it.  Each state choses how they are going to do it, what the priorities are, and what the urgency is.  No...just no.  This the Katrina in the medical world.  

There should be massive recruitment of anyone who can jab a needle in someone's arm or can be trained to do it and an implementation process designed to get it done asap.  There are plenty of people who need work.  Sign them up.  There are a lot of schools sitting idle.  Convert gymnasiums to vaccination centers.  Set priorities and get people in line.  Create an organization infrastructure to get it done.  I could name several folks who I know from the military who could get this done.  Put a group of veterans in charge who know how to organize, can give orders, recognize the need for urgency and stand back.  

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Optimism and Hope

 If there is a day that people look to the future with optimism and hope, it's January 1st of every year.  No matter how the previous year turned out, most of us look to the future with optimism and hope.  And why not?  2020 has brought more challenges to the entire planet than perhaps any year in recent history.  I say recent because there have been a lot worse years than 2020 in human history, but this year has been fundamentally challenging to most.  I don't need to detail all those challenges, but I bet every person has felt a sense of despair at one time or another .  But the arrival of a new year brings with it a natural desire for a fresh start.  And no matter what your circumstances, looking forward with hope, optimism, and a determination that things will be better in the future is only good for your soul...and your psyche,

As for me, I'm walking into 2021 with a clear heart and mind.  If you owe me, don't worry about it.  If you wronged me, it's all good, lesson learned.  If you're angry with me you won.  I've let it go.  If you feel I've wronged you, I apologize.  It wasn't intentional.  I'm grateful for every experience that I've received.  Life is too short for pent-up anger, holding of grudges and extra stress or pain.  Here's to 2021 and remember, forgiving someone is for you so you don't block your blessings.  Make 2021 a year of positivity and a season of forgiveness.  HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!



Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Loser

 I was generally a supporter of Trump and his policies over the past 4 years.  Sometimes it was very difficult as his arrogant personality and gigantic ego frequently blurred the good that he was doing. And not only was there good, the other side was bad.  As in Socialist bad.  So I hoped he would would be reelected.  But at some point as the election drew near, it became obvious that he had alienated too many people and was in great danger.  People just grew tired of his abrasiveness, his focus on himself, and his chaotic administration.  When he lost, I wasn't surprised.  A good example is the Philadelphia area.  He lost the city last time but won the suburbs.  This time he lost the city by even more and lost the suburbs.  Normal, middle of the road people, especially women, were just fed up and wanted a change.  

I'm sure he has people around him and in the Republican Party that provided this analysis, but he wasn't listening.  I guess it's not a big surprise that he has acted the way he has.  He has denied reality, surrounded himself with sycophants and village idiots, and resisted any notion that he lost.  His "team" has filed untold lawsuits and they've all been thrown out for lack of evidence.  And these are sometimes judges he appointed.  So it's over.

I thought at some point he would act like a President and concede graciously.  But I don't think that is to be.  He will pout and blame and threaten to the end.  It's a sad day and like nothing I've ever seen.  And it is exhausting.  Three weeks to go.  It will get worse as Jan 20 gets closer.  



Saturday, December 26, 2020

Masks and Social Distancing

 If you've read at all you know I live in Southern California.  And if you're breathing and even partially aware of what's going on in the world, you know that California is an epicenter for the COVID19 pandemic.  The infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are pretty eye opening.  People are frightened and the ICU's are filling up.  People with small businesses like restaurants and other service businesses are getting killed by being shut down by the governmental lockdown.  The State government in my opinion hasn't responded very well to the problem because they've adopted a "one size fits all" solution. And that solution is to close everything down.  But that is a whole other story,

Since my wife and I are of...ahem...a certain age, we've been very careful about our activities outside our home.  We've worn masks and kept a social distance when going out to stores, restaurants (when we could), stayed outside when possible, and limiting our interactions with others.  We've spent most of our time walking our two precious Labs, reading, playing games, doing chores around the house, and really just watching everything we do.  I continue to play golf, ride my new eBike, and partake of Rotary via Zoom but personal experiences are few and far between.  The exception is our interactions with our daughter, her husband and our three granddaughters.  They have been very careful and I think they are conducting their lives somewhat so that they can interact with us, which is so appreciated.  Seeing them really gives us a boost.  And seeing our son and his family on the East coast is just out of the question.  Thank goodness for Zoom and FaceTime.  Like everyone, we look forward to the day when we can be vaccinated and life can start to return to normal.  But I think that will be a while, so in the meantime we continue to do what we need to do to protect ourselves and others.  

When the pandemic was gaining momentum, the conventional wisdom was that only the elderly with co-morbidities were in danger.  Those in senior centers and older people with other health problems were doomed if they got the virus.  But as time has evolved, the stories of the virus killing people of all ages seems to be more common.  So now we know that the virus can be deadly for anyone and it isn't really very predictable how someone will be affected.  One person may not even know they have it, the next person will get mildly ill, the next will struggle and the next will die.  And it's difficult to predict how it will impact each individual.  

Having said all that, I continue to be amazed by number of idiots surrounding me.  I continue to be amazed at people discounting the wearing of masks and social distancing.  I've heard people say that wearing a mask takes away our freedoms.  WHAT?!?  Once again that is just idiotic.  If it does nothing else, it offers some basic protection.  You can read just one of a million articles on why to wear a mask here.  That someone would object to wearing a mask and practicing social distancing is just disrespectful to everyone around them.  It's infuriating and idiotic.  But don't get me started! :)  So please...when you go out, wear a fucking mask and practice social distancing.  It's not that hard.  It's not an abridge to your freedoms.  Have some respect for others.  Don't be an idiot.



Thursday, November 26, 2020

Giving Thanks


Year after year Thanksgiving is a special day.  It's a day to pause, reflect and give thanks.  In these troubled times that is sometimes difficult.  After all, 2020 is a year like no other that most of us have experienced.  The pandemic has brought with it a level of trauma and angst that is just not a normal part of life.  The death, isolation and fear is with us all every day.  And it's difficult to escape as it's invaded almost every facet of life.  

Adding to the trauma caused by a virus, the fabric of our culture seems torn.  After the last election, and really the last four years, we are clearly a country divided down the middle in how we view almost every aspect of our government, our people, and how we live our lives.  Whole sections of the country view other sections with disdain.  Many government decisions that impact us every day seem arbitrary, capricious and designed to favor a few over the many.  Frustration abounds.  

We are told constantly that there are large portions of the population who are racist, hateful, prejudiced against those not like them, and mysogynistic that want to turn back the clock and throw many of their fellow citizens in chains.  Or that there are whole sections of the country who are weak, socialistic, unappreciative, lazy, corrupt takers who want to destroy the country.  Instead of working together to solve problems we seem to have let our differences dominate our thinking about each other.  Instead of looking ahead we tend to look backwards.  And the historical perspective can be used in many devious ways by those ascribing to the validity of our ills.

And yet....we are all still Americans.  We all come together to overcome trials and tribulations.  It's been proven to be the case over and over.  December 7, 1941 and September 11, 2001 come to mind.  But it's also present in every day life.  Visit an area that's just been hit by a natural disaster be it hurricane, tornado, or wild fire.  You'll see an incredible coming together of people helping other people.  Often people they don't even know.  Or visit a place offering help, shelter and food to the homeless and disadvantaged.  Chat with a volunteer about why they are there.  You'll find the dominant answer is because helping people is what we should all be doing.  

So I'm optimistic for the future.  And I give thanks for many, many people, relationships and things in my life.  But I was thinking about the uniqueness of this year.  We hear every day about the heroes among us going above and beyond to help others.  But my primary thanks this year are the ordinary, every day people just doing their best.  Doing their best to keep it together.  Doing their best to be kind. Doing their best to maintain a sense of normalcy when nothing is normal.  The nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers, grocers, truck drivers, small business owners, gym owners, yoga studio owners, restaurant workers, farmers, migrant workers, landscapers, carpenters, electricians, private school teachers and administrators, preachers, and on and on and on.  They are all Indiana Jones!  They all are faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, are thrown curveballs by local and state governments, have a dedication to the people who work for them that is incredible and get up in the morning and do it again all while keeping it together for their families.  It really comes down to ordinary people doing extraordinary things.  They didn't ask for this pandemic but they are doing their best.  They are Indiana Jones personified.  And they deserve everyone's thanks.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

It's Getting Embarrassing

The election is over.  Done.  Finished.  Determined.  And that Trump won't concede is getting more embarrassing and in fact appalling by the day.  Calling it a rigged election, whining that his observers didn't get to observe, and sulking in your corner is just one more item in the four year history of items that have been embarrassing and cringe worthy.  It's un-American and small.  Period.  

Here's the deal.  Like everything else, you can find info on any website or news site that caters to your beliefs to confirm what you think.  But if you make a half assed attempt to find an unbiased and fair analysis, you can't come to any other conclusion than Biden won.  Fair and square.  And it wasn't that close.  In fact, it'll be just about the margin that Trump won in 2016.  And I've said this before but I believe it more and more with each passing day.  Trump lost to...Trump.  He lost because there were a ton of people who liked his policies but were embarrassed and exhausted by his by his actions, tweets and abrasive manner.  Simple as that.  They held their nose and voted for Biden because they yearned for some form of normalcy.  

Now we need to watch the Senate races in Georgia.  If the Republicans keep control of the Senate then what comes in the next 4 years won't be nearly as bad as it could've been.  So let's see how that goes and then start watching or gnashing our teeth.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Great Barrington Declaration

Have you read The Great Barrington Declaration?  If not, you need to check it out.  Of all the things I've read since the pandemic descended upon us in March, this might make the most sense.  You can find out more info at the website.  

The Great Barrington Declaration

The Great Barrington Declaration – As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection. 

Coming from both the left and right, and around the world, we have devoted our careers to protecting people. Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice. 

Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.

Fortunately, our understanding of the virus is growing. We know that vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young. Indeed, for children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza. 

As immunity builds in the population, the risk of infection to all – including the vulnerable – falls. We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity – i.e.  the point at which the rate of new infections is stable – and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine. Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity. 

The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection. 

Adopting measures to protect the vulnerable should be the central aim of public health responses to COVID-19. By way of example, nursing homes should use staff with acquired immunity and perform frequent PCR testing of other staff and all visitors. Staff rotation should be minimized. Retired people living at home should have groceries and other essentials delivered to their home. When possible, they should meet family members outside rather than inside. A comprehensive and detailed list of measures, including approaches to multi-generational households, can be implemented, and is well within the scope and capability of public health professionals. 

Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal. Simple hygiene measures, such as hand washing and staying home when sick should be practiced by everyone to reduce the herd immunity threshold. Schools and universities should be open for in-person teaching. Extracurricular activities, such as sports, should be resumed. Young low-risk adults should work normally, rather than from home. Restaurants and other businesses should open. Arts, music, sport and other cultural activities should resume. People who are more at risk may participate if they wish, while society as a whole enjoys the protection conferred upon the vulnerable by those who have built up herd immunity.

On October 4, 2020, this declaration was authored and signed in Great Barrington, United States, by:

Dr. Martin Kulldorff, professor of medicine at Harvard University, a biostatistician, and epidemiologist with expertise in detecting and monitoring infectious disease outbreaks and vaccine safety evaluations.

Dr. Sunetra Gupta, professor at Oxford University, an epidemiologist with expertise in immunology, vaccine development, and mathematical modeling of infectious diseases.

Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, professor at Stanford University Medical School, a physician, epidemiologist, health economist, and public health policy expert focusing on infectious diseases and vulnerable populations.

Co-signers

Medical and Public Health Scientists and Medical Practitioners

Dr. Alexander Walker, principal at World Health Information Science Consultants, former Chair of Epidemiology, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, USA

Dr. Andrius Kavaliunas, epidemiologist and assistant professor at Karolinska Institute, Sweden

Dr. Angus Dalgleish, oncologist, infectious disease expert and professor, St. George’s Hospital Medical School, University of London, England

Dr. Anthony J Brookes, professor of genetics, University of Leicester, England

Dr. Annie Janvier, professor of pediatrics and clinical ethics, Université de Montréal and Sainte-Justine University Medical Centre, Canada

Dr. Ariel Munitz, professor of clinical microbiology and immunology, Tel Aviv University, Israel

Dr. Boris Kotchoubey, Institute for Medical Psychology, University of Tübingen, Germany

Dr. Cody Meissner, professor of pediatrics, expert on vaccine development, efficacy, and safety. Tufts University School of Medicine, USA

Dr. David Katz, physician and president, True Health Initiative, and founder of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, USA

Dr. David Livermore, microbiologist, infectious disease epidemiologist and professor, University of East Anglia, England

Dr. Eitan Friedman, professor of medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Israel

Dr. Ellen Townsend, professor of psychology, head of the Self-Harm Research Group, University of Nottingham, England

Dr. Eyal Shahar, physician, epidemiologist and professor (emeritus) of public health, University of Arizona, USA

Dr. Florian Limbourg, physician and hypertension researcher, professor at Hannover Medical School, Germany

Dr. Gabriela Gomes, mathematician studying infectious disease epidemiology, professor, University of Strathclyde, Scotland

Dr. Gerhard Krönke, physician and professor of translational immunology, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany

Dr. Gesine Weckmann, professor of health education and prevention, Europäische Fachhochschule, Rostock, Germany

Dr. Günter Kampf, associate professor, Institute for Hygiene and Environmental Medicine, Greifswald University, Germany

Dr. Helen Colhoun, professor of medical informatics and epidemiology, and public health physician, University of Edinburgh, Scotland

Dr. Jonas Ludvigsson, pediatrician, epidemiologist and professor at Karolinska Institute and senior physician at Örebro University Hospital, Sweden

Dr. Karol Sikora, physician, oncologist, and professor of medicine at the University of Buckingham, England

Dr. Laura Lazzeroni, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and of biomedical data science, Stanford University Medical School, USA

Dr. Lisa White, professor of modelling and epidemiology, Oxford University, England

Dr. Mario Recker, malaria researcher and associate professor, University of Exeter, England

Dr. Matthew Ratcliffe, professor of philosophy, specializing in philosophy of mental health, University of York, England

Dr. Matthew Strauss, critical care physician and assistant professor of medicine, Queen’s University, Canada

Dr. Michael Jackson, research fellow, School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

Dr. Michael Levitt, biophysicist and professor of structural biology, Stanford University, USA. Recipient of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Dr. Mike Hulme, professor of human geography, University of Cambridge, England

Dr. Motti Gerlic, professor of clinical microbiology and immunology, Tel Aviv University, Israel

Dr. Partha P. Majumder, professor and founder of the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics, Kalyani, India

Dr. Paul McKeigue, physician, disease modeler and professor of epidemiology and public health, University of Edinburgh, Scotland

Dr. Rajiv Bhatia, physician, epidemiologist and public policy expert at the Veterans Administration, USA

Dr. Rodney Sturdivant, infectious disease scientist and associate professor of biostatistics, Baylor University, USA

Dr. Salmaan Keshavjee, professor of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, USA

Dr. Simon Thornley, epidemiologist and biostatistician, University of Auckland, New Zealand

Dr. Simon Wood, biostatistician and professor, University of Edinburgh, Scotland

Dr. Stephen Bremner,professor of medical statistics, University of Sussex, England

Dr. Sylvia Fogel, autism provider and psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and instructor at Harvard Medical School, USA

Dr. Udi Qimron, professor of clinical microbiology and immunology, Tel Aviv University, Israel

Dr. Ulrike Kämmerer, professor and expert in virology, immunology and cell biology, University of Würzburg, Germany

Dr. Uri Gavish, biomedical consultant, Israel

Dr. Yaz Gulnur Muradoglu, professor of finance, director of the Behavioural Finance Working Group, Queen Mary University of London, England


 

Monday, November 9, 2020

Don't Be This Guy


Conspiracy theories about the election are really getting out of control.  Everywhere you turn and depending on the source, you can find a story that fulfills any belief that you have.  I am watching otherwise intelligent adults spout stuff that makes me scratch my head pretty hard.  Of course, we all know  that the election was a doozy.  The run up was full of acrimony and accusations like I'm not sure I've seen previously.  Of course, with Trump that's something you'd expect.  But it was pretty bad.  And then Election Day was pretty anticlimactic.  Everyone, literally everyone, wanted to know the outcome.  But it was not to be.  And that isn't necessarily unique.  There have been plenty of times when it took longer than desired to count the votes.  Of course, the mail in ballot scheme was new and bound to result in problems.  Then you add in the media calling winners at various times when there was still uncertainty.  Stir that all with a bunch of protestors on the streets of major cities causing problems and it was a mess.  

It looked like there were 6 states, Nevada, North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin that were slow  in counting...and some are still counting.  Meanwhile the media called Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin for Biden and that put him over the top.  Of course, there is no official announcement until it's done but that didn't dissuade the Biden camp from claiming victory.  And, surprise, surprise, Trump dug in.  So now he has an army of lawyers out looking for shenanigans and filing lawsuits.  Will they go anywhere?  I'm not buying it.  I've looked at the numbers and I don't see how Trump overcomes the lead unless they find major, major irregularities.  Of course, if you want there to be irregularities you can find a source to feed your paranoia.  If that's your schtick, knock yourself out.  But please...stop sending me conspiracy theory videos, memes and stories via email, text, FB Messenger and any other medium you can think of.  I'm not opening them.  I'm deleting them.  So save yourself the effort.  

So I think it's essentially over.  I could be wrong, but I don't see any way that Trump is the President on January 20.  If there's something you want to be passionate about, be passionate about the two Senatorial elections in Georgia.  That's where it's at now.  If the Republicans hold the Senate, the game is very different for the next two years.  So watch that.

Everyone one has been stressed by this election.  Incredibly stressed.  Add in Covid and it only makes it worse.  So take my advice and give it a break.  Here's the top ten things you can do instead of acting like "this guy" over the election that you can't do one thing about anyway.

10.  Go fishing, or golfing, or running or whatever
9.  Get that project done around the house that you've been putting off
8.  Work on learning a new language or musical instrument
7.  Give your kids more help than they need with their homework.  You'll like it.
6.  Put more effort into your work.  Do something above and beyond.
5.  Take some time to read something that you've been putting off
4.  Volunteer at a local food bank or something similar to help people
3.  Knock on your neighbors door and ask them if they'd like to go for a walk
2.  Play with your kids.  Doesn't matter what.  Just play with them.
1.  Hug your wife, husband or significant other.  The days are short.  And they are limited.  Remember what Budda said..."The trouble is, you think you have time"

Friday, November 6, 2020

Three Days Later

The run up to the 2020 general election was excruciating for most of us.  At least the people I've talked to have been disheartened.  There could be a lot of ways to describe it.  "The gloves came off" might be a good one.  The vitriol, the hate, the low-blows, the wailing and gnashing of teeth were omnipotent on both sides.  Whether it was Trump at his rallies or his surrogates on media or Biden when he raised his head out of his bunker or his surrogates doing the same thing as Trump's, it was ugly, disheartening, and exhausting.  At least it was for me and many others.  At some point I just stopped paying attention and tried to live my life.  But the pervasiveness of it was a big distraction.

I guess the good news is that I recognize that this isn't some unique aspect of this year's election.  It's happened before.  Do a little studying about our history of elections and you can't help but find some really bad behavior.  So in some sense, this is business as usual, especially when there is a candidate that raises as much angst as Trump.

When Tuesday came around I had some amount of hope that the counting would proceed as it always has, and we'd have a winner forthwith.  But alas, it was not to be.  And of course, I knew that.  I just hoped it would be cut and dried.  

So now we're in limbo awaiting the continuing count in 4 or 5 states.  It's looking like, as I write this (Friday at Noon) that Biden has multiple routes to the 270 votes needed for the Presidency and Trump only has one or two.  In other words, it's not looking good for Trump.  However, that doesn't take into account any lawsuits and court decisions.  

It's perplexing to me that there are just a handful of states that are having difficulty.  And of course, that raises suspicion.  The conspiracy theory nuts are crawling out of the woodwork to stir the pot.  And normally I'd discount them.  But this is 2020 and the year of Trump so I'm not so sure.  Hatred drives people to do strange and desperate things.  Some of the stories about ballot irregularities seem credible and are certainly cause for investigation.  But, it's difficult for me to think that whatever they are that they would make a difference.  In any state the margin favoring the winner is usually not just a few votes.  Or even a few hundred.  There is usually a more substantial margin for victory.  But we have to let it play out.  There is a lot of drama, accusations, protests, and weird visual imagery.  It's messy.  But it's also democracy.  Above all else, the integrity of the system needs to be upheld.  And before you say that the one side or the other is to blame for lack of integrity, save it.  Both sides are to blame.  Both sides have tried shenanigans.  Both sides have made outrageous claims.  So the best thing would be for everyone to just calm down and let it play out.

I have some takeaways from this election, and really our whole political atmosphere.  

  1. Trump lost to...Trump.  I've said in this blog previously that he is a gigantic jackass and he proved it over and over during the run up to the election.  His tweets and continual half-truths turned a lot of people off.  Not just a few, a lot.  If I were voting for just the two men, I would've voted for Biden.  Because Trump is an obnoxious jerk.  But, and it's a big but, I believe his policies were much more in tune with what the average American wants and needs.  So I stuck with him.  And I have to say I will not be surprised at all if he ultimately doesn't win.
  2. There is no mandate.  Not even close.  If Biden prevails at least he won the popular vote.  But no one on either side can claim a mandate.  If this isn't the time to reach across the aisle and and try to work together, I don't know when it would be.  But Biden will have enormous pressure to move farther left.  If that happens, there'll be a Republican sweep in 2024.  The country is simply not there.
  3. Trump and the Republicans blew it when they railed against the mail in ballots.  That was clearly going to happen.  Instead of embracing it, they tried to obstruct and denigrate it.  They could have turned it to their advantage, but instead it probably beat them.  
  4. Biden isn't the ogre and monster he was made out to be.  Oh he's a swamp dweller and has never really done anything in 47 years in politics, but by most accounts from colleagues over the years, he's a pretty good guy.  The big dust up about his son was clearly political theater.  At least that's how it appeared to me.  
  5. Kamala Harris is the most unlikable politician in America.  And that's just not me folks.  She has never done anything substantive.  She has mannerisms that are like nails on a chalkboard.  She blows with the wind.  And when she was climbing to the top in California, that's not all she blew.  We all better hope that Joe's health hangs in for 4 years, because she would be a nightmare.  Unless there is a miracle, I don't see her as a force in 2024
  6. The media?  Well, what I can say about the media?  They (all of them) have lost me.  I essentially don't believe them.  A few months ago I started watching several different channels a day for a few minutes to get the flavor of their reporting.  After a very short time I could predict the spin that they would put on their stories.  The most obnoxious (NBC) are now unwatchable for me.  Their smugness turns my stomach.  The vast majority of the media today are telling a story that is aligned with the messaging of their corporate owners.  Figure out who owns them (and that isn't difficult) and you'll know how they are going to spin.  Finding objective, honest reporting is almost impossible.  They should be ashamed of themselves, but of course they aren't.  Most media types on the national stage care about accolades, power, fame and money.  Full stop.
  7. The polling companies should be hanging their heads in shame.  And I don't know how they recover.  They were wrong about virtually everything!  At their worst, some of these polls caused people to stay home.  And that is shameful.  They also contributed to media lies.  
  8. 2020 (assuming we lose the Presidency) isn't all bad for conservatives.  We picked up members of the House, we picked up state legislatures, and most importantly, I think Senate will not flip or at least wind up 50-50.  In a republic such as ours with checks and balances, that is a huge check.  We'll have to see in the coming months how it plays out (because of runoffs in Georgia) but I'm hopeful.  The other thing to anticipate is 2022.  Assuming Biden screws up enough and tradition of the incumbent party losing seats in the mid-terms, it is likely that the Republicans will pick up seats in both houses in 2022.  So the checks will continue. 
  9. There's a story out there that Pelosi may lose her Speaker's job.  Don't count on it.  She is smart and cagey.  She'll likely remain in power at all costs.
  10. 2024 should be very interesting.  Kamala will try to be the presumptive Democratic nominee but I just don't see it.  I think Buttigieg will be the favorite.  Maybe Cuomo.  Maybe Booker.  The Republican side will be interesting once again.  I think Nikki Halley, Tim Scott and Marco Rubio will be favorites.  Like Kamala, I don't see Pence as a serious player.  Could Ted Cruz gain traction?  Whoever it is on the Republican side will have a built in difficulty in that they will not be able to whip up the emotions of being an outsider like Trump did.  It's a long way to 2024 but the nature of our political life is that it starts today.  Distressing isn't it?
  11. I think (hope) that the last 4 years and 2020 should discourage multi-billionaire businessmen to enter the fray for the Presidency.  Tom Steyer and Mike Bloomberg embarrassed themselves.  And wasted a lot of money and their message fell flat.  Andrew Yang did okay but wasted a lot of money.  Trump won because he was Trump.  Larger than life and tough as nails.  Don't know that there are any others out there like that.
  12. The nuts on the fringes of both parties didn't prevail.  Whether it's Antifa or BLM on the left or the Proud Boys on the right or all the other kooks out there causing division, they just stirred up a lot of trouble and ultimately were not a force.  The 150M Americans that voted were the force.  If we start to move back to some sort of normalcy and civility, my most fervent hope is that both parties will repudiate the radicals, looters and rioters.  
So it is evolving.  I'm pessimistic that Trump will win, but there could be court action that will delay what I think is inevitable.  It would be nice if he would take the high road and concede after a decent amount of time and the outcome becomes obvious.  But...that's not Trump.   Not even close.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Closing Argument

 Posted this over on FB.  It’s a collection of a lot of thoughts.  There’s more but I had to stop somewhere!

The clown in the White House just brokered four Middle East Peace Accords, something that 71 years of political intervention and endless war failed to produce.

This naïve idiot moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to its rightful place, Jerusalem, something the last 5 Presidents promised to do. 

The buffoon in the White House is the first president that has not engaged us in a foreign war since Eisenhower.

The imbecile in the White House has wiped out ISIS and has brokered fairer trade agreements with Mexico, Canada and the European Union. Oh, he also made us energy independent and an exported for the first time in over 75 years.

The clown in the White House has had the greatest impact on the economy, bringing jobs, and lowering unemployment to the Black and Latino population of ANY other president. Ever.

The buffoon in the White House has exposed the deep, widespread, and long-standing corruption in the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, and the Republican and Democratic parties.

The buffoon in the White House turned NATO around and had them start paying their dues.

The clown in the White House neutralized the North Koreans, stopped them from developing a further nuclear capability, sending missiles toward Japan, and threatening the West Coast of the US.

The clown in the White House turned our relationship with the Chinese around, brought hundreds of businesses back to the US, and revived the economy. Hello!!!!!!!

The clown in the White House has accomplished the appointing of three Supreme Court Justices and close to 300 Federal Judges.

This same clown in the White House lowered your taxes, increased the standard deduction on your IRS return from $12,500 for Married Filing Joint to $24,400 and caused your stock market to move to record levels over 100 times, positively impacting the retirements of tens of millions of citizens.

The clown in the White House fast-tracked the development of a COVID Vaccine - it will be available within weeks - we still don't have a vaccine for SARS, Bird Flu, Ebola, or a host of diseases that arose during previous administration.  This jackass also stopped Chinese from entering the country when everyone was calling him Xenophobic.  He deployed field hospitals and hospital ships where needed, mobilized industry to produce ventilators and PPE, and negotiated unprecedented stimulus packages.

The moron in the White House has kept prescription drugs costs from increasing during his first term. That is also unprecedented.

The clown in the White House rebuilt our military which the Obama administration had crippled and had fired 214 key generals and admirals in his first year of office.

The idiot in the White House has drastically reduced the volume of illegal border crossings during his term in office.

I got it, you don't like him. Many of you utterly hate and despise him. How special of you. He is serving you and ALL the American people. What are you doing besides calling him names and laughing about him catching the China virus ?????

And please educate me again as to what Biden has accomplished for America in his 47 years in office?

I’ll take a ‘clown’ any day versus a fork tongued, smooth talking hypocritical corrupt liar. Please let it be known, I am not sure I would want to have a beer with him (if he drank, which he doesn't) or even be his friend. I don’t care if I even like him. I want a strong leader who isn’t afraid to kick some ass when needed. I don’t need a fatherly figure - I already have one. I don’t need a liar - that's what Hollywood and CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS and the New York Times are for.

I don’t need someone to help me, but I also don’t want an obstacle or a demented, senile washed-up Swamp Monster.

The world is a dangerous place - history has proven that. If the ‘world’ loves our President- its probably since he and our country is a chump for admiration.....

Now get out and VOTE!! 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Two Things

It's been awhile.  Since July 23rd to be exact.  We've been surviving and making the best of this shitty situation that has been handed to us called Covid19.  In truth, other than not being willing or able to visit people at some distance from us, our lives have been okay.  So no big complaints.  I've got some definite thoughts on how the federal, state and local governments have handled the pandemic, but I'm going to save that for another post.  As preview, I think it's pretty simple.  They went down a road they couldn't come back from for a lot of reasons (personal, political, financial, etc) and we are now paying for it.  Plenty of blame to go around.  But like I said, for another day.

I'm not going to write about the election either.  Anything I would say would be redundant, wouldn't matter in the bigger scheme of things, and really is just more noise.  Most have gone to their corners.  So in a few weeks we'll see what the outcome is.  It will be interesting to see responses.  I'm sure there will be plenty to write about then.  If you've read this blog at all in the past you know where I stand.

So the other big, huge, enormous issue is of course race.  Since May 25, 2020 when George Floyd was murdered, that issue has been front and center in almost every social discussion occurring in so many areas be it social media, traditional media, or personal interaction.  There is just so much to unpack that once again it is daunting and whatever I say will be a blip.  But Floyd's death hit most people hard.  It was just so blatant, so deliberate, so heartbreaking to see a person's life snuffed out.  No matter what kind of person he was he didn't deserve that.  So the aftermath has been filled with marches, riots, looting, discussions, introspection, statue toppling, group analysis, and every other thing you can think of to try and shed light on what is called "systemic racism" in the United States.  We have seen the group "Black Lives Matter" rising rapidly to a level of prominence that is surprising.  We have heard demands and claims that on the face of it seem outlandish.  And yet...what to make of it all?

So I will readily admit to being one who took a step back and spent some time reading, talking, studying, watching films, and exploring as many aspects of our racial troubles as I could.  I wanted to try and understand.  If you're interested in a list of resources that I've used, leave me a note in comments and I'll provide it.  I joined a few groups to receive the perspective of different people to try and unpack all of the history and contradictions that keep popping up.  I wanted to really know about what can only be termed the shameful treatment of our fellow citizens, who happen to be black.  

I'm still on that journey, but there are a few things I've discovered.  Most prominently there are a lot of things I didn't know, or didn't remember, or didn't want to know, or to my shame, didn't care enough to know.  What are they?  Here's just a few of them:

  • The unbelievable treatment of black people during the Jim Crow era from 1865 to 1965.  I guess I intellectually knew it, but it was far removed from me and I certainly didn't empathize with it.  I'm sure I heard about the conditions, the mistreatment, the violence and everything else.  But my only explanation was that it was a system that was far removed and didn't impact me growing up so I tuned it out.  
  • The concept of "separate but equal" goes along with Jim Crow.  It doesn't take much digging to discover that it was never separate but equal.  I think that whole thing was a concept that was used to ease the conscious of white people.  I have friends who honestly say that it wasn't a big deal.  They lived in their area and we lived in ours.  Of course, their area was usually a shithole.  But again, most didn't want to see that.
  • I sat watching 60 Minutes one night when they did a story on the Tulsa Massacre in 1922.  Essentially, an entire black community was wiped out and no one was held accountable.  No one. I was stunned that I had never heard of it.
  • The redlining of housing by our federal government to keep black families out of certain neighborhoods was unknown to me.  The ability to buy a home is the American dream.  And it's so important because it creates generational wealth.  It becomes something that gives your kids and their kids expanded opportunities.  And they were denied this oh so fundamental part of the American dream.
  • Similarly the denial of GI Benefits to Vets returning from WWII.  When I heard about this I was truly stunned...and pissed.  Again, it is a deliberate denial of benefits that would become generational.  And this was done to people who fought for the country.  Today it is beyond comprehension
  • The amazingly cruel, unfair, and unjust incarceration of young black men that has been going on for decades and decades.  If you're interested in this story read "Just Mercy" or watch the move, "13th".  That this was a system that was built and approved is beyond me.  And it continues today.  When you hear about President Trump enacting prison reform, he's really only scratching the surface.  But at least he's doing something!
  • The unbelievable disparity between funding for predominantly white schools and predominantly black schools.  No wonder Charter schools are so popular and important to black families.  These schools are many times the only way black children have a chance.
  • There are others but I'll quit this little list with the thing that has perhaps impacted me the most.  I've watched several panel discussions and testimonials that include life as a black man.  At some point during these talks the man will tell the audience about "the talk" he must have with his sons about life as a black man in America.  About how to interact with white people, white police, volatile situations, shopping, and everything else.  It makes me incredibly sad and angry that I didn't have to have that talk.  That a fellow citizen of this great country has to live like that.  And that my friends is bullshit.  
So all of this studying and listening and discussing has helped me to in some small way understand.  It has also stimulated me to try and help.  But as I've had those experiences, I've also been watching what's been happening in society around this issue.  There are a couple of things that are so disturbing that it tends to dilute some of my distress and outrage that was born from learning about the issues I stated above.  Here's another little list:
  • As I said above, the group "Black Lives Matter" has risen rapidly in society.  They have gained their prominence after a shooting of a black man by police.  It really didn't matter the circumstances of the shooting because the police were always wrong.  When it came to Floyd, they leaped on the obvious murder.  But here's the thing about BLM.  They were founded by two avowed Marists who openly ascribe to the overthrow of the country.  They have gained a tremendous amount of funding from companies who have donated millions of dollars to remain as woke as possible.  And try as I might, I can't find what they have done for the black community other than stir the pot and increased their coffers.  They also have coined this crazy "defund the police" slogan that has gained traction in certain quarters.  It is nothing but a distraction and how it will help is beyond me. 
  • Speaking of the police, they have been increasingly under the gun.  Every time there is any kind of incident involving a white policeman and a black person, expect riots, looting, outlandish rhetoric, and the tension to ratchet up.  They are losing good, honest members in droves and at least in my opinion are the least deserving of the hate piled on them.  Because here's the thing. It's a tough, dangerous, thankless job that has to be done.  Because if we don't have law and order, we don't have a society.  Here's the other thing.  Check any source you want and you'll find the statistics on white officers killing black people are infinitesimal.  The vast majority of black deaths come from black on black crime.  So this piece of the puzzle just doesn't make sense to me.  
The issue of race in this country is complicated.  Very complicated.  These few issues I've touched on really only scratch the surface.  But it's a start.  For good or for bad that so many people, especially white people, see this as an issue that has to be understood and dealt with is a good thing.  But there aren't many quick wins.  These issues took decades and decades to build up and be recognized and it will take policy changes, attitude changes, and changes of the heart for us to achieve some success.  And I don't think we'll ever get to the ideal.  Because, well, we're human.  

I'm of a certain age where I'm not going to see a lot of it.  I hope that I've got enough time so I can see the start of some good things.  And here let me say there are a lot of good things...great things.  We can see it every day if we look hard enough.  And don't believe the naysayers and pessimists that say this country is fundamentally racist.  I call bullshit to that.  We are the country that started with the view that all are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights.  Granted that it didn't apply across the board, but it was certainly aspirational.  We had imperfect people with a dream for this country who couldn't achieve the desired equality.  But they had the dream!  People like to talk about slavery being America's original sin.  It's as if we invented it.  The reality is that there has been slavery since the dawn of man.  People have enslaved their fellow man for as long as humans have been around and it is still a huge problem today.  We argued and fussed about slavery for a hundred years before waging a war to end it.  And we lost 600,000 Americans to stop it.  We've had successes and failures but the vast majority of us in 2020 have matured to the point where we hope to achieve "a more perfect union".  There are some outliers and they need to be squashed, but I'm totally convinced in the goodness of our people.

But once again, at a certain age you don't make long range plans.  :). So I think there are two things I can do.  The first is to try and increase my understanding and empathy so that in some small way maybe I can pass on some of it to those in my circle of family and friends who remain.  As I said, there are no quick fixes.  We're only going to achieve equality in a generational manner.  Bit by bit, person by person.

Second, I've come to the conclusion that there are really two things that matter.  You can argue about history all you want and wring your hands about a statue somewhere or the name of a school somewhere or some incident that occurred sometime in the past, but there are only two things that will move the needle in the long run towards achieving equality.  Someone I really admire and is smart as they come told me one time about a business philosophy that he'd seen in a Harvard Business Review article about what makes a successful business. There are 3 things:
  1. Revenues before cost
  2. Better before cheaper
  3. Nothing else matters
This is a fun little model that might be a bit hokey, but if you've ever run a business, it's difficult to argue with it.  So in the same mode, I've come to the conclusion that there are three things that are vitally important in the world of racial equity:
  1. Education at all costs
  2. Getting and holding a job
  3. Nothing else matters
The key to a better life is education.  The key to understanding the world is education.  The key to establishing an attitude of achievement is education.  The key to developing the discipline of personal responsibility is education.  If there is one thing that could help advance the cause of education in the black community it is Charter schools.  Simply put, their record of success is undeniable.  They provide structure, discipline, and optimism.  But they have a very powerful enemy.  The teachers unions hate them and try to destroy them at every turn.  But the battle is engaged across the country and we'll see how it plays out.  Having a job is a close second.  Having a job provides discipline, achievement, self worth, family support, development of generational wealth.  If those two things aren't present, nothing else matters.  Simple as that.  

So in my little corner of the world I'm finding and helping minority kids stay in school.  The tool that I'm using is my Rotary Club because we believe in doing good in the world.  It's not a lot, but it's something.  As Teddy Roosevelt famously said, "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are".

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Honesty

In the sea of misinformation, hysteria, and incompetence, this is maybe the most honest article you can read summing up the past four months.

Four Months of Unprecedented Government Malfeasance

May/June 2020 • Volume 49, Number 5/6 • Heather Mac Donald

Heather Mac Donald
Manhattan Institute

Heather Mac DonaldHeather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. She earned a B.A. from Yale University, an M.A. in English from Cambridge University, and a J.D. from Stanford Law School. She writes for several newspapers and periodicals, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The New Criterion, and Public Interest, and is the author of four books, including The War on Cops: How The New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe and The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture.

The following is adapted from a lecture delivered on June 18, 2020, for a Hillsdale College online symposium, “The Coronavirus and Public Policy.”

Over the last four months, Americans have lived through what is arguably the most consequential period of government malfeasance in U.S. history. Public officials’ overreaction to the novel coronavirus put American cities into a coma; those same officials’ passivity in the face of widespread rioting threatens to deliver the coup de grâce. Together, these back-to-back governmental failures will transform the American polity and cripple urban life for decades.

Before store windows started shattering in the name of racial justice, urban existence was already on life support, thanks to the coronavirus lockdowns. Small businesses—the restaurants and shops that are the lifeblood of cities—were shuttered, many for good, leaving desolate rows of “For Rent” signs on street after street in New York City and elsewhere. Americans huddled in their homes for months on end, believing that if they went outside, death awaited them.

This panic was occasioned by epidemiological models predicting wildly unlikely fatalities from the coronavirus.

On March 30, the infamous Imperial College London model predicted 2.2 million deaths in the U.S. by September 1, absent government action. That prediction was absurd on its face, given the dispersal of the U.S. population and the fact that China’s coronavirus death toll had already levelled off at a few thousand. The authors of that study soon revised it radically downwards.

Too late. It had already become the basis for the exercise of unprecedented government power. California was the first state to lock down its economy and confine its citizens to their homes; eventually almost every other state would follow suit, under enormous media pressure to do so.

Never before had public officials required millions of lawful businesses to shut their doors, throwing tens of millions of people out of work. They did so at the command of one particular group of experts—those in the medical and public health fields—who viewed their mandate as eliminating one particular health risk with every means put at their disposal.

If the politicians who followed their advice weighed a greater set of considerations, balancing the potential harm from the virus against the harm from the shutdowns, they showed no sign of it. Instead, governors and mayors started rolling out one emergency decree after another to terminate economic activity, seemingly heedless of the consequences.

The lockdown mandates employed mind-numbingly arbitrary distinctions. Wine stores and pot dispensaries were deemed “essential” and thus allowed to stay open; medical offices were required to close. Large grocery stores got the green light; small retail establishments with only a few customers each day were out of luck. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer notoriously used her red pen within megastores to bar the sale of seeds, gardening supplies, and paint.

It was already clear when these crushing mandates started pouring forth that shutting down every corner of the country was a reckless overreaction. By mid-March, two weeks before the Imperial College model was published, Italian health data showed that the coronavirus was terribly lethal to a very small subset of the population—the elderly infirm—and a minor health problem to nearly everyone else who was not already severely ill. The median age of coronavirus decedents in Italy was 80, and they died with a median of nearly three comorbidities, such as heart disease and diabetes. The lead author of the Imperial College model has admitted that up to two-thirds of all coronavirus fatalities would have died from their comorbidities by the end of 2020 anyway.

Three months later, this profile of coronavirus casualties still holds true. Public health interventions could have been targeted at that highly vulnerable population without forcing the American economy into a death spiral.

DISINFORMATION

By now it is impossible to attribute the media’s failure to publicize the facts about the coronavirus to mere oversight.

Every story that does not mention, preferably at the top, the vast overrepresentation of nursing home deaths in the coronavirus death count—above 50 percent in many countries and 80 percent in several of our states—is a story that is deliberately concealing the truth. Casual readers and viewers have been left with the false impression that everyone is equally at risk, and thus that draconian measures are justified.

The media have been equally uninterested in the scientific evidence regarding outdoor transmission. Coronavirus infections require what Japan calls the three Cs: confined spaces, crowded places, and close contact. The fleeting encounters on sidewalks and public parks that characterize much of city life simply do not result in transmission. And yet if you briskly approach someone on one of Manhattan’s broad and now empty sidewalks, the oncoming pedestrian may lunge into the street or press up against the closest wall in abject fear if you are not wearing a mask. You may be cursed at.

The public health establishment has been equally complicitous in creating this widespread ignorance. It has failed to stress at every opportunity that for the vast majority of the public, the coronavirus is at most an inconvenience. The public health experts did not disclose that outdoors was the safest place to be and that people should get out of their homes and into the fresh air.

Not coincidentally, the experts’ newfound power over nearly every aspect of American life was dependent on the maintenance of fear.

While the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus has been demographically circumscribed and lower than the previous flu pandemics of 1968, 1956, and 1918 when adjusted for population, the economic toll has cut across every sector of the country and every population group. Whole industries have seen their capital wiped out overnight.

Despite a better than expected employment report in early June, the long-term effects of the shutdowns and the continuing mandates to socially distance will prevent a full economic recovery for years to come. Forty-four million Americans are still out of work. Supply chains have been thrown into chaos. Fresh fruits and vegetables are being plowed under and livestock burned uneaten for lack of access to processing plants and markets. Small businessmen who have put their life savings into creating a service that customers want have seen their hard work go up in smoke. Without rent from their retail tenants, commercial landlords can’t pay their taxes. City budgets have been decimated. The additional $8 trillion in public debt taken on to try to substitute for the private economy will depress opportunity for generations.

And what has been the response to this economic carnage on the part of our ruling class? Branding strategies! Politicians have put cute names on what has been a taking of private property on an unprecedented scale. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo calls the state lockdowns “New York on Pause,” as if commerce can be indefinitely suspended and then magically resuscitated with the flick of a switch.

The politicians’ ignorance about the complexity of economic life was stunning, as was their hypocrisy. To a person, every elected official, every public health expert, and every media pundit who lectured Americans about the need to stay in indefinite lockdown had a secure (“essential”) job. Not one of them feared his employer would go bankrupt. Anyone who warned that the effects of the lockdowns would be more devastating than anything the coronavirus could inflict was accused of being a heartless capitalist who only cared about profits.

But to care about the economy is to care about human life, since the economy is how life is sustained. It is a source of meaning, as well as sustenance, binding humans to each other in a web of voluntary exchange. To its workers, every business is essential, and to many of its customers as well. Even judged by the narrowest possible definition of public health—lives lost—the toll from the lockdowns will exceed that of the virus, due to the cancellation of elective medical procedures, patients’ unnecessary fear of seeking medical treatment, and the psychological effects of unemployment.

In May, politicians started inviting a few scattered sectors of their state economies to reopen, with blue state governors and mayors being particularly parsimonious with their noblesse oblige. These blue state officials invoked “science” to justify yet another arbitrary set of guidelines to determine which businesses would be allowed to start up again and when. “Science,” we were told, dictated the timetable for reopening, based on rates of hospital bed vacancies and new infections.

In fact, the numerical benchmarks, enforced with draconian punctiliousness, seem to have been drawn out of a hat—they certainly had no evidence behind them. But even with official reopenings, many customers will be long reluctant to resume their normal habits of consumption and travel thanks to the uninterrupted fearmongering on the part of the media, the experts, and elected leaders.

Being fantastically risk averse is now a badge of honor, at least among the professional elites. A young tech columnist for The New York Times wrote an op-ed in May about cancelling a restaurant reservation in Missoula, Montana. Missoula County had been virus-free for weeks, and Montana’s case load had been negligible. Nevertheless, the columnist experienced a panic attack after booking a table, contemplating the allegedly lethal risk that awaited him in the reopened restaurant. Rather than being ashamed of his cowardice, the columnist was proud, he wrote, to have bailed out of his reservation in order to continue sheltering in place.

The absurd social distancing protocols make operating many businesses and much of city life virtually impossible. The six-foot rule is as arbitrary as the “metrics” for reopening. (The World Health Organization recommends three feet of social distance, and many countries have adopted that recommendation.) Keeping customers and employees six feet apart will render a city’s basic institutions unworkable, from restaurants to concert halls. The Metropolitan Opera has cancelled the first half of its 2020-2021 season while it figures out how to maintain social distancing among audience members and on the stage. Every other performing arts organization will face the same almost insuperable dilemma.

My 34-story apartment building in Manhattan, like many others, has imposed a one person per elevator ride rule, even though the elevator interiors are more than six feet across. I invite anyone who may also be waiting for an elevator to share my ride up; no one has ever accepted the offer, even though both I and my invitee are masked. Nor has anyone ever extended such an offer to me. Now translate this hysteria to Manhattan’s massive office towers. If New York City ever fully reopens, a similar social distancing rule for office elevators will lead to lines of workers around every midtown block each morning. As long as this fear lasts, city life is not possible.

FROM COLD WAR TO HOT

Then the cities started burning. What had been a cold war on the economy and civic life became a hot war.

Government officials, having shut down commerce due to unblemished ignorance of how markets work, now enabled the torching and looting of thousands of businesses due to the shirking of their most profound responsibility: protecting civil peace.

On Monday, May 25, a video of the horrific arrest and death of a black man suspected of passing a forged $20 bill in Minneapolis went viral. A police officer kept his knee on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd begged for help breathing. Floyd was already handcuffed and thus posed a minimal risk. The officer ignored Floyd’s distress even as Floyd stopped talking or moving.

The officer’s behavior was grotesquely callous and contrary to sound tactics, and the officer will be prosecuted and punished under the law. His behavior was not, however, representative of the overwhelming majority of the ten million arrests that the police make each year. Indeed, there is no government agency more dedicated to the proposition that black lives matter than the police. Nevertheless, within 24 hours, the violence had begun.

On the night of Thursday, May 28, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey ordered the city’s Third Police Precinct evacuated as the forces of anarchy descended upon it for a third day in a row. The building was promptly torched, sending a powerful sign that society would not defend its most fundamental institutions of law and order.

Soon cities across the country became scenes of feral savagery. The human lust for violence, the sheer joy of plunder and destruction, were unleashed without check. Police officers were shot at, run over, slashed with knives, and clubbed; two current and former law enforcement officers were killed in cold blood. Police cruisers and station houses were firebombed; courthouses were trashed. Looters drove trucks through storefronts and emptied the stores’ contents into the back of these newly repurposed vehicles of civil war. ATMs were ripped out of walls; pharmacies plundered for drugs.

Blue state governors and mayors ordered law enforcement to stand down or use at most (in New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s words) a “light touch” with the rioters. By the time these progressive public leaders realized that something more forceful needed to be done, it was too late. The fire of sadism and hatred could not be contained, but would have to burn itself out. Belatedly imposed curfews were universally ignored: why should anyone obey an edict from a government that refused to protect human life and livelihoods?

Perversely, the rioting exhibited features of the coronavirus shutdowns in even more literal form. If before, businesses were boarded up due to bankruptcy, now they were boarded up to prevent further theft. Small businesses, lacking the resources to outlast the shutdowns, now saw the final depletion of their inventories. The fortress mentality in residential buildings from coronavirus hysteria was replaced by an actual fortress, as building managements hastily erected plywood barriers over lobby windows and doors. The hyped-up fear of going outside into allegedly virus-infected public spaces became a justified fear of leaving one’s fortress and being sacrificed to the mob. Shelter-in-place became a necessity, not a product of government overreach. The fall of night became a source of terror for ordinary citizens and business owners.

Previously, securely-employed public officials breezily dismissed their constituents’ anguish over unemployment and growing business failures. Now those same officials, safe behind their security details and publicly-owned mansions, foreswore the activation of the National Guard and military. None of those officials owned businesses, so they faced no loss either from economic quarantine or from physical rampage.

DOUBLE STANDARDS

One thing did change markedly between the coronavirus lockdowns and the riot lockdowns, however: elite wisdom regarding social distancing. The politicians, pundits, and health experts who had condescendingly rebuked business owners for reopening without official permission, who had banned funerals and church services of more than ten people, and who had heaped scorn on protesters who had gathered in state capitols to express their economic distress, suddenly became avid cheerleaders for screaming crowds numbering in the thousands.

Most remarkably, public officials overtly admitted to choosing the forms of assembly that would be allowed based on the content of the protesters’ speech. Mayor de Blasio explained that protests over “400 years of American racism” are not the same as a “store owner or the devout religious person who wants to go back to services.” While the store owner or worshipper may be “understandably aggrieved,” he conceded, their grievances must still be suppressed in the name of coronavirus safety. Not the grievances of the protesters and rioters, however. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy congratulated the Black Lives Matter activists and distinguished them from mere “nail salon” entrepreneurs protesting their ongoing business stasis. The two are in “different orbits,” Murphy said.

The politicians’ hypocrisy was a mere warm-up for that of the public health establishment. These were the people whose diktats had inspired the lockdowns and whose allegedly supreme knowledge of medical risk was allowed to cancel all other considerations in maintaining a functioning society. Nearly 1,200 of these same experts, including from the CDC, signed a public letter supporting the unsocially distanced protests on the grounds that “white supremacy is a lethal public health issue that predates and contributes to COVID-19.”

One could just as easily argue that a global depression, induced by the gratuitous crushing of trade and the hollowing out of capital, is a lethal public health issue of at least equal magnitude. But it turns out that public health is as much about politics as it is about science.

This shameless reversal should have torpedoed the lockdowns once and for all. If it turns out that mass gatherings were now not just allowable but to be encouraged, no rationale remained for preventing restaurants and stores from reopening. But instead, once media attention became a little less monomaniacally focused on the anti-police agitation, the familiar chorus rose up again, directed at everyone else: Stay socially distanced! Wear your outdoor masks! No gatherings of more than a few dozen! No entering “non-essential” stores! The same arbitrary “metrics” for business reopenings were still in place and still being enforced.

By now, the collapse of government legitimacy is complete. For three months, public officials abdicated their responsibility to balance the costs and benefits of any given policy. They put the future of hundreds of millions of Americans in the hands of a narrow set of experts who lack all awareness of the workings of economic and social systems, and whose “science” was built on the ever-shifting sand of speculative models and on extreme risk aversion regarding only one kind of risk.

The public officials who ceded their authority to the so-called experts were deaf to the pleas of law-abiding business owners who saw their life’s efforts snuffed out. They engineered the destruction of trillions of dollars of wealth, through thoroughly arbitrary decision making. And then they stood by as billions more dollars of work burned down. Public order and safety, equal treatment under the law, stability of expectations—all the prerequisites for robust investment have been decimated. The failure to quell the riots means that more are inevitable. Any future business faces possible destruction by another lockdown or by looting—which it will be is anyone’s guess.

The coronavirus lockdowns demonstrated our leaders’ ignorance of economic interdependence. After the riots, that ignorance has been shown to run far deeper. It is an ignorance about government’s most fundamental obligation: to safeguard life, liberty, and property. It is an ignorance about human nature and human striving.

Property and capital are not soulless abstractions, easily replaced by an insurance payout, as the rioters and their apologists maintain. (The Massachusetts Attorney General noted that burning is “how forests grow.”) Capital is accumulated effort and innovation, the sum of human achievement and imagination. Its creation is the aim of civilization. But civilization is everywhere and at all times vulnerable to the darkest human impulses. Government exists to rein in those impulses so that individual initiative can flourish. America’s Founders, schooled in a profound philosophical and literary tradition dating back to classical antiquity, understood the fragility of civil peace and the danger of the lustful, vengeful mob.

Our present leaders, the products of a politicized and failing education system, seem to know nothing of those truths. Pulling the country back from the abyss will require a recalling of our civilizational inheritance.