Archive for May 2020

Memorial Pause

May 27, 2020

With the coronavirus pandemic still center stage in most countries, the United States seems to be of two minds. 

  • Public health officials are cautioning that reopening the economy, and by default discontinuing much of physical distancing, there could be a reemergence of hot spots and possibly requiring locking the economy down again. 
  • President Trump’s supporters and many other Americans who seek simply to make a living, want to reopen the economy and live with the consequences.  Hmmm.

Memorial Day commemorated those Americans who had fallen in previous wars.  The day offered Americans a chance to reflect upon the bravery and sacrifices other Americans had made to ensure that others can enjoy freedom.  Parades, cemetery visits, and of course picnics and outdoor activities normally mark the day.  Most people also associate Memorial Day with the start of summer time.

This past weekend, following President Trump’s encouragement and example, many Americans took the opportunity to break out the bathing suit and frolic elbow to elbow ignoring public health officials’ recommendations.  For other Americans, more mindful of the potential to transmit the virus, a much more cautious Memorial Day took place.  Face masks, physical distancing, and concern for others was still the order of the day.  Hmmm.

Coronavirus transmission takes up to 14 days to develop symptoms.  So, in a couple of weeks, the President’s advice and personal example will come home to roost.  How many will draw a winning ticket from the Trump lottery?

Opening Too Soon?

May 19, 2020

Our Covid-19 saga has entered a new phase where “social distancing” and “isolating at home” are not cutting it with many Americans.  To be clear, overall most Americans are still afraid of the virus’ potentially harmful effects and are willing to accept government restrictions on movement.  In some areas, however, a vocal majority are ready to throw caution to the wind and visit their favorite restaurant or bar.  

This “open America” crowd has three main segments. 

  • One part is composed of libertarians who see themselves as grown up adults capable of making decisions for themselves. (It is unclear whether these libertarians feel any responsibility for what their actions might do to others.) 
  • A second segment find themselves between a rock and a hard place.  These Americans have bills to pay and no income, or worse they own businesses which are about to go bankrupt with no income.
  • And, of course, there are pure “knuckleheads” who do not understand the science or believe the advice public health experts are emphasizing and feel certain “this virus can’t happen to me”.

So the “opening” subject is tee-ed up very clearly. It is all about risk assessment and how to manage risk.   Public health professionals have laid out check points which must be met before they recommend giving the open up signal.  The “open America” group have had enough and demand a relaxation now of public health professional’s recommendations. 

Layer on top of these inherent differences, that the number of coronavirus infection is not homogeneous across the US or in any particular State. In general, rural areas have been spared while more densely populated areas have had serious hot spots.  So it would be understandable for someone living in the rural areas to say “what pandemic”?  Despite this perception if New York and New Jersey states’ coronavirus infections and deaths are removed from the national figures, one might be shocked to see the remainder of the US are still increasing in new cases.  Where is this story going?

Who knows but here’s some thoughts

  • As travel restrictions ease and more people travel, especially by air, the coronavirus will inevitably spread to currently under infected areas.
  • Demographically, the most “at risk” Americans will remain those with underlying medical conditions like suppressed immune systems, diabetes, and lung disease.  Other markers will be those who work in close quarters (like meat processing plants) or who reside in nursing homes.
  • With more new Covid-19 infections, deaths will rise also.  Proportionally, deaths should be as numerous as experienced in NewYork or New Jersey unless the demographics of the new hot spots differ.
  • If necessary due to the rise of new “hot spots”, shut downs and social distancing will be much more targeted and limited in scope.  At this point the general conclusion will be that public health  should resemble more the “Sweden Model” where relaxed standards are employed. 
  • Wishing the pandemic to end won’t work.  Given where the United States is now, any “return to normal” will require the development of “treatments” alone or in combination with vaccines.  HIV offers an example.

There is literally nothing to be learned from the Trump Administration’s management (or lack there of) this pandemic.  Of course, “tone at the top”, “consistency”, and “harnessing national resources and capabilities” are broad categories where future Administrations should put their emphasis.

For a President who “is not to blame”, “has done nothing wrong”, and “takes advice from some people”, it is simply unfathomable that any future President could perform worse when it counts as much.

The Storm Ahead

May 11, 2020

Watching Master Piece Theater’s “World On Fire”, one must wonder how a modern and advanced country such as Germany could become so ruthless and misguided.  How could the German citizens allow their country to be distorted like play-doh and lose totally its moral direction?  How could one citizen speak out against another over illnesses like epilepsy or the color of ones skin, or the religion of ones birth?

The answer, of course, is human nature and anyone who thinks that other peoples are immune to the loss of their moral and ethical compass are kidding themselves.  Fear, misinformation, and illusions of grandeur are time tested methods to mold a society into the shape a pretender to leadership may want.  Only rock solid institutions built around rule of law, free speech, and freedom of the press can contain a leader from wandering down a path of authoritarianism.

In three short years, President Trump has, before Americans’ eyes, begun dismantling most all American institutions and the fundamental branches of executive power. 

  • The Justice Department is now the Trump Justice Department aligned only to the wishes of the President. 
  • The State Department is close behind with Secretary of State Pompeo echoing whatever tirade the President wish to make. 
  • The Intelligence Services are next to fall in line with whatever truth the President wishes to be the case. 
  • Regulatory agencies might as well stop functioning since they are each headed by a Trump sycophant.  

The Trump train is moving with a building sense of urgency.  The November elections are less than six months away and the potential that President Trump will become a one term President is a distinct possibility. 

But what if the President wins?    Would it be too much to expect a minority of Americans with special self interests to join Trump in seizing power.  Authoritarians and conservatives could combine and help elect someone promising to deliver their distorted dreams around “law and order”, “xenophobia”, and “religious freedom”. Is it too much to fear an authoritarian presidency?

Once reelected the Federal agencies could go from impotent to dynamically supportive of President Trump’s grand plans.

  • “Richest man in the world”,
  • “President for life”, and
  • “A place on Mt Rushmore”

The coronavirus has dealt the Trump machine an unexpected and extremely unhelpful variable.  But what if the virus just went away and the economy miraculously recovered, would Americans care about the dangerous path the country has pursued the past 3 years the incompetent and self serving leadership the President has rendered? 

And should new infections from Covid-19 continue, would President Trump conceive a way to delay the national election or distort the polling place rules so that it favored his reelection?

Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election because she assumed she was the most qualified candidate and a woman who was destined to become President.  In other words, Hillary Clinton fell in love with her self image and did not do the work to grind out a victory.  Joe Biden cannot repeat that miscalculation.

Donald Trump will fight in every gutter he can find, promise every group of Americans what they want to hear, and resort to every underhanded maneuver which may help  him win.  Should President Trump win reelection, the Storm Ahead will look like a walk in the park compared to what destruction a second term offers America and the American way.  


May 9, 2020

A video titled “Pandemic” by Mikki Willis based upon an interview with Dr Judy Mikovits has made a “freedom of speech” splash this week.  Facebook removed the video claiming that the video contained “unsubstantiated claims” about the current pandemic.  This is quite surprising since Facebook felt no responsibility to police political postings which were demonstrably doctored and unfavorable to one party.  Hmmm.

Dr Mikovits has a background in virology and was a noted researcher during the HIV outbreak.  During this interview, Dr Mikovits speaks passionately about a conspiracy by big Pharma and current government officials to steer research towards certain companies for the purpose of generating large profits and royalties for government patent holders (inferring that Dr Fauci was one of the beneficiaries).

Web searches on Dr Mikovits turned up several reviews of her past outspoken positions on vaccinations.  Dr. Mikowits does not say vaccines cause autism or other illnesses, rather she says vaccines are “associated” with these unwanted consequences.  Dr. Mikovits precedes to explain her hypothesis and evidence that supports her opinion.  Why isn’t Dr Mikovits’ opinions widely held?

With prestigious hospitals like the Mayo Clinic, John Hopkins, and dozens of top level teaching Universities in the US as well as in other modern countries, one should expect a vigorous debate among scientists and researchers if Dr Mikovits’s claims were well founded.  There appears to be no such debate going on.

Dr Mikovits’s claims more comfortably fit with a narrow cut of conservatives who maintain that they should have complete control over their lives, especially as expressed through healthcare choices.  Just like it is my right to bare arms, Dr Mikovits’ supporters do not accept that they or their children have any responsibility towards the health of others.  

In spite of the cases where measles have reoccurred after years of suppression when certain people refused to vaccinate their children, the anti-vaccination advocates still insist it is their “right” to refuse vaccination.

While these closet libertarians may argue the merits and pitfalls of vaccination, in reality their real purpose is to argue their right to follow their own rules and not those of the society in which they live.   Sound like anarchy? 

My Rights/ Your Freedom

May 6, 2020

The nuanced subject of civil liberties has arisen around the consequences of Covid-19.  One example occurs when a government unit declares a “shutdown” leading immediately to the unemployment of others, has the government official overstepped his authority?

A motley collection of “me first” people have been demonstrating in State capitals demanding that restrictions such as business closures, social distancing, and mandatory face mask wearing  be revoked since these measures, made in the name of public health, are infringing upon Americans’ civil rights.  Even President Trump weighed in with his “Liberate” tweets and once again the President tries to have it both ways.

Consider a different example.  Most Americans believe they possess a right to drive an automobile.  They also recognize the need for States to regulate, for safety reasons, the speed at which one can drive.  Regulating speed is all about protecting the rights of others to also utilize roads (exercising their right) in a safe manner.  Stop signs, cross walks, and lane divider markings all limit in some way someone’s “right” to drive a car.  Most Americans have learned to accept these limitations as sensible even when grousing after having driven over a “speed bump” too quickly.

The novel coronavirus, however, brings in the question of “public health”.  Who is the “public” in “public health”?  Who has the right to deny one person the ability to earn a living (mandatory business closures)?  And, why don’t Americans have the right to opt out of protection under “public health”?

The repercussions of exposure to Covid-19 is still so poorly known.   Who will get infected?  Who will show symptoms?  Who will succumb to complications of Covid-19?  And testing and personal protective equipment has been out of reach for average Americans.

The science of coronaviruses belongs to a specialized field of medical knowledge.  Most Americans have limited scientific understanding.  So why would anyone expect Americans who already think owning military style assault weapons is an absolute right suddenly embrace social distancing and stay at home policies?

Add to this mix, public servants who may, in pursuit of public health, over step their authority.  Or “gig workers” who work when they want and are now without employment and no government money to put food on the table.   The “my rights/your freedom” question becomes a little more nuanced.  

Summing this quandary up, it should be clear that “rights” can’t exist in a vacuum.  Individual rights can’t supersede the rights of others or the public’s best interest.  One person cannot claim a right which by its very nature denies another person their freedom.

Since the coronavirus spreads by contact with another person, proper authorities requiring social distancing at certain times during the pandemic seems a reasonable argument and different from those who demand their right

  • to smoke,
  • to drive a motorcycle without a helmet,
  • to consume heroine etc,
  • to voluntarily end ones life,
  • to seek an abortion