The debate is currently raging over whether the government should remove restrictions and re-open the economy. There are some who gravitate towards first eliminating all risk from the virus, economy be damned (if that’s even possible). On the other end of the spectrum there are those who say it’s time to open everything all at once and see what happens.
It’s obvious that the correct course is somewhere in the middle. If your focus is only on the virus the economy will be dead by the time it is deemed “safe” to remove lockdowns. If you focus only on the economy many additional lives will be lost. Most would agree with what Dr. Fauci said last week about what type of approach is needed: “I kind of refer to it as kind of a rolling re-entry. … There’s not going to be like, a light switch that you turn on and off..” If you agree with that premise you are now presented with many questions. When? Where? How much? How fast? In order to answer those questions it would be helpful to quantify the risks and rewards on both sides of the equation. Let’s take a look at each side of the equation in a hypothetical going forward.
On the “medical” side of the equation we now have three months worth of experience with the virus. As of today we have had 47,800 deaths attributed to the virus (15,933 per month average). Let’s assume, for purposes of our hypothetical, that our plan to “open the country” gets it totally wrong causing a “second wave.” Let’s further assume that the second wave spreads in exactly the same way as the first. If this happens the results would be awful but not quite as bad for several reasons. First, we are much better prepared. Treatments have improved, facilities have been built, and doctors now have experience dealing with the virus. Second, the demographics of the population were changed by the first wave. There are now a large number of people who have developed immunity and, unfortunately, a large number of people have died. This gives the virus less opportunity to spread . Taking this all into consideration I’m going to use a “second wave” assumption of 75% of the number of fatalities of the first for the purposes of our hypothetical. It could be better or it could be worse but, for this hypothetical that’s what we’ll go with. That would lead to 35,850 additional fatalities over three months (11,950 per month).
Looking at the “economy” side of the equation it needs to be pointed out that it should probably be renamed the “economy/medical” side. Not getting much press these days is the fact that there is a direct link between economic upheaval and medical outcomes, specifically fatalities. From an excellent article by Betsy McCaughey, “Every 1 percent hike in the unemployment rate will likely produce a 3.3 percent increase in drug-overdose deaths and a 0.99 percent increase in suicides, according to data from the National Bureau of Economic Research and the medical journal Lancet.” She points out that, “These are facts based on past experience, not models” and calls these fatalities “deaths of despair.” If one assumes a modest rate in the increase in alcoholism of 0.5% that would lead to an additional 445 deaths per year as well for each point of unemployment. Overall on this side of the equation, a 13% increase in unemployment (which is where we are this morning) would lead to an additional 37,560 fatalities per year (3130 per month). Here are some projections:
- a 13% increase in unemployment (current) would lead to an additional 37,560 fatalities per year.
- A 15% rise in unemployment (definitely on the horizon) would lead to an additional 43,350 deaths per year.
- A 20% rise in unemployment would lead to an additional 57,800 deaths per year
- A 32% rise in unemployment (as predicted by one St. Louis Federal Reserve economist) would lead to an additional 92,480 deaths per year.
The above does not even consider the fact that all “non-essential” surgeries have been postponed for three months now or that those who will be diagnosed with cancer will now be further advanced when they can finally get back to see a doctor. There are people missing their regularly scheduled cancer treatments and follow-up visits. During this epidemic many are avoiding going to the hospital for fear of catching the virus who really should be going to the hospital . Deaths from stroke and heart attack are up in some places by 40% to 60%. Many who now die at home keep postponing going to the ER because they are afraid of the virus. As you can see, there are large numbers of fatalities that will be caused by the ripples of massive economic damage and government lockdown.
So, let’s sum up and compare the two sides of the equation. If we assume that strict lockdowns and continued business closures would save all the lives in a possible second wave (not likely) that would mean we could save roughly 36,000 lives over three months. If we assume that the lockdown measures lead to a 15% increase in unemployment we will lose over 43,000 additional lives over the next 12 months as a direct result of the lockdowns themselves. As you can see, when considering both sides of the equation you must look at the consequences of the steps you are taking to save lives. Those steps could be having a net effect of zero by costing as many lives as they save. Or worse.
I asked a doctor friend a hypothetical question. I told him to assume he had an emergency room with 10 patients. I asked him if he would use a treatment that would save 5 of them immediately but, by using it, he would cause the other 5 to eventually die. He said, “You know the answer to that.”
At first, it might seem a bit over the top to say that Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) has caused or increased fatalities in the coronavirus pandemic. A good case can be made, however, that it has been and is continuing to do so. It can be tied both collectively and individually to deaths in large numbers and small.
More on that in a minute. Let me preface by saying that I fully understand those who oppose the President on a multitude of issues. I understand those who cringe at some of his behavior and I understand their strong motivation to replace him with someone more to their liking. Strong political motivations (whether pro-Trump or anti-Trump) are normal, absolutely to be encouraged, and a healthy part of our society. Those infected with TDS, however, are in a completely different classification.
When I refer to those with TDS I am not referring to those who hold strongly opposing views. I am referring to those who display a visible, visceral hatred for the President. Those whose eyes enlarge and nostrils flare at the mere mention of his name. Those who will take every opportunity to attempt ridicule of the President or his followers, even when discussing completely unrelated subjects. Those who simply cannot allow that he ever receive credit for doing any good deed at all, no matter how small. Ever. In their eyes he is to be mocked, scorned, and opposed no matter what the situation at hand. He’s just wrong because….Trump. The most important characteristic of those infected with TDS, as it affected the United States virus situation, is the fact that they always immediately oppose the President. It’s a reflex. If he does something bad for business he’s “crushing the economy” and they head for a microphone. If he does something good for business he’s only “helping his rich friends profit” and they search out a TV camera. Trump bad. In regard to the virus, the press relentlessly hammered him for weeks demanding that he use his authority to force the states not on lockdown to do so. Now that it is time to begin opening some states back up they are telling him he has no authority to do that. There are far too many examples to include here. Going back to the day of his inauguration the operative phrase has been “resist.” In the case of the U.S. virus response the results of this reflex were disastrous.
Think back to January 31st. The Coronavirus Task Force was two days old,
there were six cases in the entire country, and the first fatality was a month away. President Trump banned air travel to and from China. Enter the TDS reflex. They said he was wildly wrong (of course) and they stretched for every possible reason to prove it. For the next thirty days there were several themes to the response. The ban was “xenophobic.” The ban was “racist.” The ban would cause a “backlash” against Chinese American citizens. Those things, even if true, could have a political or social effect but certainly would not cost lives. Looking back, the most damaging theme of the month long TDS response was the accusation that the ban was unnecessary. They knew that the charges of racism and xenophobia would not stick if it could be shown that the ban was necessary. And so, the campaign to discredit the need for the ban was on. That gambit, at a minimum, contributed heavily to New York becoming the worst place on Earth regarding coronavirus devastation. As the virus hitched a ride, New Yorkers were told to ride the subways, take in a movie, and attend parades. In television interviews and press conferences the talking points were clear and coordinated. The ban was not needed. This was no big deal:
*On January 31st New York City officials vehemently denied the existence of a coronavirus case in the city. They later admitted that a person who had just returned from China was being tested as suspicious. Interestingly, that same day the New York Times pointed out that New York has the largest Chinese population of any city outside of Asia with a headline “New York Bracing for the Virus.”
*On February 1st New York City Mayor DiBlasio advised New Yorkers to “go on about your lives normally.”
*On February 7th the New York City Health Commissioner, Oxiris Barbot said “We’re telling New Yorkers, go about your lives, take the subway, go out, enjoy life.” She said, “there is no reason they should not take the subway, not take the bus, not to go to their favorite restaurant, and certainly not to miss the parade. I will be there.” (the Lunar New Year Parade on the 9th). This was clearly aimed at the Chinese population of the city, as if to say the President’s ban on travel was somehow more related to people of Chinese ethnicity than to the geographic location of the virus’ release. See video
*On February 12th the Democrats of the House Judiciary Committee voted to rescind the China travel ban.
*On March 2nd Mayor DiBlasio advised New Yorkers to go see a movie. “If you’re not sick you should be going about your life.” “Since I’m encouraging New Yorkers to go on with your lives + get out on the town despite Coronavirus, I thought I would offer some suggestions,” de Blasio tweeted. “Here’s the first: thru Thurs 3/5 go see ‘The Traitor.”
*On March 10th Mayor DiBlasio told New Yorkers: “We want to encourage New Yorkers going out. If you’re under 50 & you’re healthy, which is most New Yorkers, there’s very little threat here. This disease, even if you were to get it, basically acts like a common cold or flu. And transmission is not that easy.” See video
*On March 13th New York City schools were still open while at least five other states had already closed theirs.
*On March 15th Mayor DiBlasio again,“If you love your neighborhood bar, go there now because we don’t know what the future holds.”Just 31 days after these remarks by Mayor DiBlasio New York State reported its 10,000th fatality from the virus.
The results of New York’s pooh-poohing of the travel ban and the virus turned out to be absolutely disastrous. The red line below is New York. All the other lines are every other major city in the U.S. being tracked. (from the Coronavirus Task Force on Saturday) Roughly one half of all cases and fatalities in the U.S. have come from New York and the surrounding area.
As laid out in PJ Media, both fatalities and cases per capita in the downstate New York area are higher than any country in the world. If you broke off downstate New York from the rest of the U.S. the remaining portion of the country would not even be in the top ten in either category.
While the collective effects of governmental reflex in New York are shocking on a grand scale, the effects of TDS on individuals who may contract the virus could also be costing lives. Anecdotally, I have had several TDS friends (they would be proud to say so) tell me they would refuse to take hydroxichloroquine (HCQ) if they were infected. These are people who would not know the difference between HCQ and H2S if the President had not mentioned it in a press conference. Hypothetically, were they to become infected in a world where they had never heard of HCQ and they progressed to a point where it was needed their doctor most likely would advise them of possible side effects and suggest they take it. They almost certainly would. But this is not that world.
In today’s world those with TDS must always reflexively oppose all things Trump. Since he said it showed promise and “could be a game changer” it must be bad. Never mind that it is approved by the FDA for emergency use on COVID-19. Never mind that it is being used in hospitals all across the country as standard protocol for COVID cases. Never mind that both The Society for Critical Care Medicine and The Infectious Disease Society of America include HCQ in their guidelines for dealing with the virus. Never mind that it could save their lives. Trump likes it….it must be horrible. They begin grasping at reasons why this must be so and latch on to scare tactics and distortions put out there by those with a political agenda. It seems many actually wind up believing it’s “dangerous” or “not approved.” I don’t know if these folks would actually go through with denying possibly life saving medication if it got down to crunch time but I’m betting there are some who have.
To you TDS folks out there, if you want to hate Trump that’s fine. The country is pretty evenly split between those who do and those who don’t. Just be mindful of the consequences of a knee-jerk reaction. Not all things in life are about politics. Just ask New Yorkers.
One of history’s greatest mysteries is what happened to the Mayans. Around 900 A.D. a once great civilization was just abandoned leaving behind incredible temples, cities, and few clues as to what happened. It may now be solved.
The Mayans were an advanced people with knowledge far ahead of their time. The ability to construct the massive pyramids and temples they left behind tells us that. This being the case, they also probably had medical knowledge far ahead of their time. It seems that they discovered something unusual was making their people sick. They realized that their people were spreading this disease around from person to person and city to city. Out of their population of 100,000, 14 people caught the disease and two very old people died. Also being excellent mathematicians, they calculated that they might lose 150 of their elders if everyone got this mystery disease.
So they decided to stop the spread by calling everyone in from the fields, to stop all work in the cities, and ordered everyone to stay in their adobe huts until further notice. The people obediently followed orders and no one did anything for weeks and months on end. Unfortunately for them, when they finally decided to come out of hiding, the crops had died from neglect and could not be brought back. With not enough to eat the workers couldn’t work, the builders couldn’t build, and the people began to starve. Their proud civilization slowly collapsed around them and those that survived were forced to flee and look for other places to live. All that is left behind are their stone structures.
An amazing hypothesis….they did it to themselves.
Somewhere deep beneath Washington and in secret bunkers in California fax machines went into action and I-phone text traffic was heavy as the Democrat spin machine was shifted into high gear. How could they minimize the damage from the President’s State of the Union speech and Nancy Pelosi’s pre-planned tantrum? The talking points were decided on and the word went out to all available media players. The talking point was, and continues to be, that Nancy Pelosi just couldn’t take it and that she just had to rise in righteous “protest” over a “speech filled with lies.” Cue the “fact-checkers” to point out the lies. AP fact check, Politifact, and Snopes all weighed in with their predictably misleading bowls of word salad. Just calling themselves fact checkers is an act of chutzpah akin to naming Obamacare the “Affordable Care Act.” You can check out all of the tap dancing for yourself but the rest of this post will look at the AP version.
AP first attempts to undercut the President’s SOTU claims on the economy. “The U.S. economy indeed is healthy. But gains have largely followed along the same lines of an expansion that started more than a decade ago under President Barack Obama.” This is like saying that Stradivarius really can’t claim he made that violin; credit should really go to the guy who cut down the tree. One who claims that Barack Obama had anything at all to do with the current success of the economy is simply economically illiterate. There is no question that the combination of eased regulations, tax cuts, and repatriation of foreign money under President Trump has led to the current boom. Ask anyone you know who has ever signed the front of a payroll check.
The President also claimed he added factories. AP said “But increases in the number U.S. factories began in 2013, more than four years before the start of Trump’s presidency..” It would’ve been hard for them not to begin going higher after 5 years of the Obama recession/stagnation. It doesn’t matter when they started to recover. Who is responsible for the current record-setting increases? There is only one answer and that is Donald Trump. A friend of mine back in college had some down home advice for building a fire. He told me, ” One log won’t burn. Two logs might burn. Three logs will burn. Four logs make a fire.” After four years of shivering, then-president Obama got some kindling to ignite. That was slightly better than freezing to death. President Trump, on the other hand, knows how to build a roaring bonfire.
On immigration, AP quibbles with the statement that there was a “catch-and-release” policy on the southern border which the President claimed to have fixed. AP says “Mexicans were quickly returned while others were held in detention until they were deported.” This ignores illegal crossings by those from other Central American countries (treated differently) and, most importantly, those arriving with children. The combination of asylum claims from non-Mexicans and accompanying children put the border patrol in a box as to what they could legally do. The net result was that they were forced to release “families” (some were really families, some weren’t) with a promise to appear for a hearing. Massive numbers of these folks just melted into the US and never appeared. According to Customs and Border Protection, as of September 2018, more than 90,000 family units were detained in fiscal 2018 along with more than 45,000 unaccompanied minors. In October 2018 Arizona was forced to release at least 800 family members in one week. Later, in their attempted take down, AP said, “The surge has since passed, so fewer people are being held and fewer would need to be released.” Yes AP, the surge has passed. President Trump made it pass. Forced to work without Congress, he secured the assistance of Mexico and several other Central American countries to drastically reduce the flow of illegal immigrants and built portions of the wall in several areas. It was reported this morning that total arrests at the border are the lowest in 2 years and apprehensions involving children are at the lowest since 2017. Did anything of note happen in 2017?
AP again quibbles with the President’s assertion that his regulatory relief has moved us to “become the number one oil producer in the world, by far.” Note the last two words…”by far.” AP hangs their hat on the fact that the US first became the number one producer for oil, natural gas, etc. in earlier years and thus Trump had nothing to do with it. Here’s a little fact …..The increase in annual US oil production since Trump became president is equal to the annual oil production of Mexico. That’s just the increase. It is surpassed only by the annual production of the other members of the world’s top ten. It seems that the key words missed by the AP fact checkers were “by far.”
The President said in the SOTU that the new USMCA agreement would create 100,000 new jobs. AP cites a hand-picked study which predicts only 28,000 new jobs. They then admit that another government agency predicts 76,000 new jobs. According to AP, “It’s still not the 100,000 jobs claimed by Trump.” First of all, this is a prediction. If the president is wrong that’s a bad prediction, not a lie. Second of all, whose prediction are you more likely to believe? I’m more inclined to believe the president’s optimistic projection. Just last week the “experts” predicted the economy would add 164,000 new jobs. Turns out it added 225,000. Who ya’ gonna believe, your experts or your lyin’ eyes? And even if it really is only 28,000 new jobs, is that a bad thing?
The AP version of this fact checking nonsense continues ad nauseum and touches on drug prices, unemployment, and healthcare with equal deception. The pretzel twisting knots they tie themselves into just to be able to say, “See, he wasn’t right” are just amazing. The self-assigned label of fact checker is cleverly designed to try to give a biased point of view instant credibility. Don’t buy it. Just as the Affordable Care Act had little to do with affordable, today’s fact checkers have little to do with facts.
Dig for yourself.
In many ways, yesterday’s Super Bowl coverage was confusing and disjointed, jumping back and forth between sports, politics, and social messaging. One had to be fairly nimble to jump back and forth between subjects. It must have been especially whiplash inducing for young women.
The commercials, which have been the highlight of many Super Bowls past, were dominated by politically correct messages of “empowerment” for young women. I prefer my commercials to entertain rather than preach but that’s OK. Different strokes for different folks. Within reason, positive messages to our young women are good things and this Super Bowl was filled with them.
Oil of Olay ran an ad called “Make Space for Women” telling our young women they should reach for the stars. After all, if they set their mind to it they can do anything. They set up a hashtag to donate up to $500K to Girls Who Code, in support of women who want to learn computer skills. Bravo.
Microsoft ran a commercial called “Be the One” touting the first female NFL head coach. She said she didn’t want to be the best female coach, she just wanted to be the best coach. Show ’em what you got! Another ad featured Toni Harris, the young woman who wants to become the first female player in the NFL. Doubtful, but if you’ve got what it takes do it!
There were several others including one from Serena Williams called “The Ball’s in Your Court” which suggested women take the lead and be more assertive. The NFL’s own commercials showed women in non-traditional roles competing with the men in a positive light. Across the board generally it was a very positive “women’s night” with one very notable exception.
The halftime show sent an entirely different message. It seemed to say to our young women “Look at the money and fame you can have by wearing next to nothing and doing soft-porn for men on television!” There was no mistaking the J-Lo and Shakira show for “dancing” or “musical performance.” The crotch grabbing, pole dancing, and near x-rated posing were more suited to a strip club than a nationally televised event watched by millions of kids. If you like that kind of thing, fine. Go to a concert and enjoy. It does not, however, belong as a main attraction in an event which has so many children watching. It amazes me that our society sends so many messages that we should be “woke” and treat women with respect and not as sex objects while, at the same time, promoting performances like these for our children. Performances which are the very height of women portraying themselves as sex objects for mountains of money.
Considering the halftime show, there was a heavy dose of irony in some of the pre-game quotes hyping the positive women’s commercials……
“There’s an emergence of women in leadership roles in ads, instead of being the butt of the joke or being shown in a bikini.”
“The climate has changed, with the #MeToo movement and things like that, there is a realization that there’s a big need to speak to the [female] audience and in a way they can appreciate and are not being talked down to.”
“It’s important for my girls to see what is being modeled for them..…” I would ask, “What was being modeled for them in that halftime show?”
I feel bad for today’s young women being bombarded with all of these mixed messages.The decisions must be difficult………Astronaut or stripper?…..Computer whiz or pole dancer?
Brainsnacks are back at the Chronicle…. Small bite-size tidbits for the brain to have with your Sunday morning coffee. Enjoy a couple or even add one in the comment section…….
The old “truism” that breakfast is the most important meal of the day will be 100 years old sometime this decade. Prior to 1920 the standard American breakfast was coffee, some juice, and maybe a roll. Back then a man named Edward Bernays conducted a loaded question survey of doctors asking if they felt that a larger breakfast of bacon and eggs would be beneficial. His results were turned into the first ads beginning with “three out of five doctors agree that……..”. His employer, Beech-Nut packaging, was very pleased with the huge increase in demand for their bacon. Bernays was a nephew of Sigmund Freud.
The word “arctic” as in Arctic circle comes from the Greek word for bear, “arctos”. The reference is to the Bear constellations and, by extension, Polaris (the North Star). It does not refer to the polar bears.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma it is illegal to make glue out of skunks.
In 2014, a missing woman on vacation in Iceland was found when it was discovered that she was in the search party looking for herself.
In 1967 tickets to the first Super Bowl cost $6.00 and there were 30,000 empty seats. According to StubHub the average price of this year’s ticket is $4380 as of yesterday. There are still 1500 tickets left with the lowest priced starting at $2900.
Over the last few months the impeachment circus in Washington has cast a bright light on the polarization of our American politics. All events seem to be evaluated on the “team” aspects of what took place. Will it be good for the Democrats? Will this help or hurt the Republicans? What will be the next move for each team? The talking heads drone on and on about who is winning this news cycle and what it means for the polls. To some extent this is understandable. People are interested in upcoming elections, political wonks want to know the latest, and, as always, ratings are king for the media. I would submit, however, that today’s environment has crossed over from healthy interest to destructive obsession. Healthy debate will not be possible until the focus returns to the issues at hand.
Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, although part of the President’s defense team, has given all of us (Republicans and Democrats) an excellent example of how to shred the team jersey in favor of higher principles. For a long time he has advocated the “shoe on the other foot test.” The basic idea is to flip the Republican/Democrat participants in any event 180 degrees and see if your opinion remains unchanged. If your opinion changes then your allegiance is to your “team” and not to the underlying question or principle. For example, if the principals in the impeachment drama were changed from Trump/Biden to Obama/Romney would you feel the same about the same evidence? Would the principle of executive privilege be any more or less important? If Donald Trump Jr. were substituted for Hunter Biden would your definition of corruption change? At each step of the process would you be interpreting the law and the Constitution the same way?
Mr. Dershowitz not only advocates for the test, he lives it. He voted for Barack Obama twice and Hillary Clinton in 2016 yet in this case he represents the very President he voted against. His loyalty is not to a team jersey but to the law. Importantly, he argues in this case not for this President but for the Presidency. He realizes that what can be used against a Republican to win a “team event” today can be used against a Democrat in the future once the precedent is set. He eloquently laid out the case that a victory in a “team event” that weakens the country or the Constitution is not a victory at all.
How can we follow Mr. Dershowitz’ example? We can follow by making our allegiance one tied to the law, a policy, or an underlying principle we wish to support. If that aligns with political objectives so be it. If not, be courageous enough to say so. Above all, we should be consistent with our praise or disdain for individuals or parties. If we believe “x” for a Democrat we should also believe “x” for a Republican. Ditch the jerseys. Follow your principles. Then vote your conscience. It’s the only way we are going to be able to talk to each other.