Elections

Corona Meltdowns

Is the bad and self-negating behavior of so many of Trump’s enemies setting him up for an even more impressive victory in the fall?

As the coronavirus outbreak begins to reach its zenith, it remains unclear whether the measures taken to stem its tide will prove sufficient, insufficient, or an overreaction. What is certain, however, is that a number of individuals and entities have behaved shamefully and demonstrated no capacity for leadership or usefulness in this moment.

Nancy Pelosi: Gone are the mythologies that Nancy Pelosi was a pragmatic liberal voice of reason among the otherwise polarizing American Left, honed after years of paying her dues to the Democratic Party, as the mother of five dutifully ascended the party’s cursus honorum.

It does not matter whether her political and ethical decline was a result of her deep pathological hatred of Donald Trump. Who cares that her paranoia arose over the so-called “Squad” that might align with socialist Bernie Sanders to mesmerize Democrats to march over the cliff into McGovern-like oblivion? All concede that very few octogenarians have the stamina and clarity to put in the 16-hour work-days and transcontinental travel required by a Speaker of the House.

Instead, all that matters is that for a nation in extremis she is now puerile, even unhinged—and increasingly dangerous.

In retrospect, the public will remember how in fear and confusion she reversed course to spearhead impeachment, outsourced the task in the House of Representatives to its most incompetent and perfidious members—Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)—and wasted weeks of the country’s precious energy and time as it was on the cusp of an epidemic.

Pelosi then quickly weaponized the viral crisis in hopes that COVID-19 could do what Robert Mueller’s dream team and impeachment had not done—destroy the administration of Donald Trump before the November 2020 election. Only such an obsession explains why any sober politico would damn Trump as culpable in January for ignoring the viral dangers, while nearly a month after his necessary and controversial travel ban of January 31—that stopped perhaps 7,000 Chinese citizens entering California per day, some on direct flights from Wuhan—she was doing a photo-op tour to urge the public to get out and shop in San Francisco’s crowded Chinatown: “That’s what we’re trying to do today is to say everything is fine here“.

Such a crazy juxtaposition is not just politics or hypocrisy—it’s insanity. The night before an impeached Trump was acquitted in the Senate, and five days after Trump had controversially stopped incoming Chinese visitors, Pelosi tore up his State of the Union address before a national television audience, a level of spiteful vitriol not seen in the U.S. Congress since the years leading up to the Civil War.

When the Congress finally agreed to call a truce and pass a bipartisan “rescue bill” to stave off a depression and deliver some relief to millions of unemployed, Pelosi single-handedly delayed passage to insert irrelevant progressive treats into the authorization—until she was reprimanded by her own party to cease and desist.

She is now, in the middle of an epidemic, insanely talking about a “truth” impeachment-light commission to investigate Trump. She is absolutely clueless of the nihilistic circus that would ensue when her own previous on-the-record statements, the parasitic investment practices of U.S. senators of both parties, the bizarre behavior of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, the empty January braggadocio of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Joe Biden’s smearing of the Trump travel ban would be fully aired.

Does she have any idea that by forcing Trump to “own” the virus—predicated on the notion of trusting in bleak but widely criticized Armageddon modeling—she is greenlighting Trump to take credit for the response, especially if coronavirus proves in the end comparable to the 60 million infected, roughly 1 million hospitalized, and 15,000-60,000 dead in the prior influenza epidemics of 2009 or 2017?

It is difficult to find one thing Pelosi has said or done that has not made the country worse off since the virus officially hit our shores in late January.

The Media: Watching the media deal with the daily White House briefings reminds the country that we have never had journalism of this low character before—not in the acrimony over the Founding, not in the furor during the Civil War, not even in the age of yellow journalism at the turn of the 20th century.

Reporters do not wish to transmit knowledge to the public that might aid in confronting the virus. They do not even wish to clarify murky statements from public officials to ensure Americans know exactly what the government wants them to do.

Instead, journalists during White House briefings fixate on two agendas.

One is to goad the president into saying something sloppy, by repeatedly suggesting that in reacting to the virus, he was in error, that he is cruel and heartless, or that he is dangerous. That gotcha obsession explains why the media can call Trump a xenophobe and racist for issuing a travel ban against China—contrary to the earlier advice of WHO, the Centers for Disease Control, the media, and the entire Democratic Party hierarchy—then silently support it. It explains why they then use doctored Chinese data and propaganda from the Chinese Communist Party to convince Americans that China—a nation that lied about the origins, spread, and nature of the virus—is admirably doing a better job in containing the virus than is their own country. Even the media cannot keep straight their own anti-Trump gymnastics.

If evidence convinces Trump to let the public know that hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin are efficacious in treating patients infected with coronavirus, then reporters will seek to persuade Americans that such off-label uses have no utility and are dangerous—even if they have to stoop to find some nut who drank fish-tank cleaner, clearly marked unfit for human consumption, to argue that a nonpotable chloroquine derivative cleaning agent provides proof of “Dr.” Trump’s deadly ignorance.

But the White House press obsesses over a second agenda, too. It must always prove that previously respected figures like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, once embraced by the liberal media in their pre-Trump days, either are in revolt against their doltish boss or brain-washed into obsequious enslavement to the president. Often the media advances both antithetical scenarios near simultaneously.

The third rail for the media is that Fauci and Birx are empirical and sound mostly politically disinterested. They seek to provide Trump with scientific data about the virus to balance his incoming streams of financial, economic, military, and cultural information.

When Trump accepts their advice over objections from other advisors with competing national concerns, the two feel it was for the good of the country. When he demurs, they press their arguments as advocates of public health. And when they rarely lose an argument the two concede the president has to balance dozens of existential concerns.

In other words, it would be hard, for anyone other than the current press corps, on Monday to paint Fauci and Birx as frustrated scientists at the mercy of a moron who refuses to listen to science, while on Tuesday writing off both as Trump toadies who have joined the forces of darkness.

But that is currently the schizophrenic state of the American media. The only constant is that whatever Trump advocated, they are against, even if lives are at stake. And whatever Trump policy seems to be working for the good of the country, they either deny or ignore it.

Another irony: While the current media is the logical culmination of the liberal biases of the more polite leftwing domination of network and print media of the late twentieth century, it is now also far more vulnerable to exposure and ridicule. After all, it was progressive Silicon Valley’s creation of the Internet website and social media that have allowed truth to emerge past even media filters, truth that has largely exposed the media as incompetent, meanspirited, and increasingly irrelevant.

Joe Biden: The virus shutdown was first seen as providing a necessary respite for the 77-year-old former vice president to go home, rest up, and recuperate after an exhausting summer, fall, and winter of campaigning—an ordeal that supposedly had explained Biden’s increasing flubs and gaffes.

Indeed, when the shutdown first began, a rested Biden, coming off a well enough debate performance against Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), was to broadcast daily out of his home. In informal fireside chat fashion, good ol’ Joe from Scranton would offer “here’s the deal” homilies and “point one, point two, point something or other” commentaries on the virus and Trump’s inadequate response to it.

But what followed was an ungodly disaster, as if the problem all along never was Biden’s weariness, but Biden himself. A rested Biden’s botched commentaries only convinced observers that a President Biden at this moment would be a veritable catastrophe. Biden seemed more confused from his home than he was on the campaign stump. He tried reading from a teleprompter script, and then talking ex tempore, and then both, and found he could do neither.

After blasting Trump as a xenophobe and racist for the January 31 travel ban, Biden hemmed and hawed and finally conceded he agreed with the ban. His staff claimed his xenophobic/racist allegations were in connection to Trump’s use of “Chinese virus”—a rubric first institutionalized probably by CNN. Yet Trump used that terminology only after, not before, Biden’s smear. Now Biden apparently is trying to argue that Trump should have issued the once “racist” and “xenophobic” ban even earlier—as Biden its former critic supposedly would have done. Once Biden decided he had to be against everything Trump was for, and once Trump was for most things that the so-called experts thought best, then Biden inevitably was in Pavlovian fashion against what was good for the country.

The truth is that Biden cannot find much to disagree with, given that most Democrats—Pelosi and DeBlasio, especially—were playing down the severity of the virus, as was Anthony Fauci himself in January.

Anytime Biden faulted Trump for belated responses, it was easy for Biden’s opponents to show that almost no one but Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) in early January was alarmed about the impending danger (and smeared by the Left for his warnings), and even easier given that Trump’s travel ban met fierce opposition as not merely racist but unnecessary and exaggerated.

Biden earlier also had promised a diversity vice president and is now wedded to that commitment. But the only Democrat in the present crisis who is winning mainstream media acclaim is Governor Andrew Cuomo, despite the paradox that he was also once exaggerating his own readiness for the virus and bragging about the openness of New York to the world. So far, he governs a state with the greatest numbers of virus cases as well as deaths and per capita fatality rates—facts which according to the blame—game logic of the Left are political fodder.

Nonetheless, Cuomo is being touted both as the far more competitive candidate in a crisis than the fumbling Biden, and yet he will prove almost impossible to nominate given Biden’s long campaign and delegate lead. The best squaring of that circle in the eyes of Democrat politicos would be to have Cuomo as the vice-presidential nominee on the ticket. He could rectify some of Biden’s gaffing, and do most of the fall campaigning, while with a wink and nod reassuring voters that he would likely have to step in for a President Biden if the latter’s present disturbing lapses continue.

Now that option seems less likely given Biden’s earlier politically correct grandstanding of promising a diversity vice-presidential pick without a clue of who such a person might be.

For now, the media, Pelosi, and Biden, along with the Left in general, wish to perpetuate a sense of viral Armageddon to make it politically impossible for Trump to initiate a graduated plan of returning America to work. Their hope is for a summer and fall of continued lockdown, a near depression rather than a mere recession, and enough public furor to end Trump in November—while hoping that a sudden post-election end to the lockdown will allow the natural recovery of Trump’s booming economy on their watch in 2021.

Missing in all these calculations is empathy for those who are ill and the losses that such macabre expectations certainly entail. Also absent is a sense of the irony that, by unfairly scapegoating Trump in hours of darkness, they are ensuring that in the upcoming dawn, he will be credited by their same logic with owning what will likely be an impressive U.S. response to suppressing the virus and reviving the economy.

Great America

What a Year! The Coronavirus Crisis in Retrospect

The crisis led to a new appreciation of contingency—an appreciation of the fact that our world is beset not only by the fragility of normality but also the normality of fragility.

December 31, 2020. What a roller-coaster of a year it has been.

In January, congressional Democrats were busy trying to impeach the president of the United States. That same month, news of a new, highly contagious virus leaked out of China and began to circulate in the West. The stock market stumbled, then recovered and went on to new heights, flirting with the magic number 30,000. Unemployment was at historic lows.

Then more worrying news about the virus emerged from China. It was difficult to wrest the facts from the secretive Communist Party. At the end of January, President Trump suspended all flights from China, a decision for which he was roundly condemned as “racist” and “xenophobic.”

It was not until March that the narrative shifted. In January, Trump had overreacted. By mid-March, he was accused of under-reacting. For weeks on end, there was only one subject: coronavirus, the “Wuhan virus,” the CCP flu.

It seems long ago now, but the dual onslaught of the new coronavirus and the resulting economic meltdown turned the world upside down.

For a brief period, hysteria reigned. The stock market plunged by thousands of points, erasing trillions of dollars of wealth. Whole states went into virtual lockdown. People started parading about—to the extent that they went out at all—in latex gloves and medical masks. All businesses deemed “non-essential” were shuttered for weeks. Many schools and colleges closed, first for weeks, then for the rest of the semester.

Suddenly, millions were out of work. Unemployment claims soared, and people began asking who it was who determined what counted as “essential.” (Some wags even wondered why it was that the people assigned with making such determinations never seemed to lose their jobs. Why was that?)

President Trump began holding near-daily press briefings. It became clear that some government intervention would be necessary. Trump at first mentioned the figure of $2 billion. Congress said $8 billion. When all was said and done, the aid package exceeded a staggering $2 trillion.

You could practically see some Democratic politicians salivating at the prospect of so much money floating about. Representative James Clyburn (D-S.C.) spoke for many when he said so much federal money provided “a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.” Was this not an opportunity to fix “climate change,” support wind mills, solar panels, and all the other items of the menu of the Green New Deal?

But where was the House of Representatives? It was not in session at all from March 13 to March 22. From March 23 to March 26, it was in session for 10 minutes. The “rescue bill” was finally passed on March 28, a week late. Only a week, but see if landlords and grocery stores regard getting paid on time as “nonessential.”

A new, vaguely Orwellian argot cropped up as the phrase “social distancing” was everywhere employed to describe the anti-social practice of shunning friends and neighbors. Books like Daniel Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year and Albert Camus’ The Plague enjoyed a new vogue. Aspiring Jeremiahs predicted mass death and societal collapse. CNN commentators rubbed their hands in glee at the prospect. “The ratings, Darling, the ratings!”

Then, around Easter, things began to change, gradually at first, and then suddenly.

New cases of the virus peaked and then began to decline. People began taking a harder look at what became the epicenter of the epidemic, New York City. The demographics were illuminating. In early April, Julie Kelly noted something that the so-called mainstream media was reluctant to acknowledge. Queens was the hottest spot of the hotspot New York.

“[T]he borough of Queens,” she wrote, “now represents nearly 10 percent of the total number of coronavirus-related fatalities in the entire country. In most neighborhoods in Queens, at least 50 percent of COVID-19 tests came back positive; several ZIP codes in the borough have positive results upwards of 60 percent.”

Why? Well, the hardest-hit area, Elmhurst, includes one of New York’s three Chinatowns. Some of its residents had recently traveled back from Wuhan, China, where the virus originated. The area is densely populated and, as Kelly reported, quoting John Liu, a state senator for the district, many households include multiple generations or groups of single workers living “on top of each other” under one roof.

But that was a long time ago. As new cases plateaued in April, aggressive testing showed that many more people had been infected with the virus than was originally thought. Millions upon millions. But since many are infected without getting sick, or suffering only minor, flu-like symptoms, they did not know they had the virus.

One result of this new understanding was a sharp decline in the projected fatality rate. At one point in late March, it was predicted that without full-bore “mitigation” (keeping businesses closed and “sheltering in place”), there would be more than 2 million deaths from the virus in the United States. With full mitigation, the projected number of deaths was between 100,000 and 240,000.

But April came and went with a much lower number of fatalities. People began to reflect on the fact that, since the overwhelming majority of fatalities occur in elderly people with serious underlying health issues, the claim that someone died from the coronavirus had to be taken with a grain of salt. There was a big difference between dying from the virus and dying with the virus.

But, again, it all seems so long ago now. As soon as it became clear that this was not a modern-day reenactment of the bubonic plague, normality began to reassert itself.

People calmed down. They appeared in public without medical masks, then without latex gloves. They still were cautious. They washed their hands more often and more thoroughly than they had before. Some researchers noticed that the hand-soap industry was doing very well, and stock in those companies soared.

Soon, in fact, the market generally soared. Donald Trump was reelected handily in November, and that was another shot in the arm for the market. It will take a while, however, to repair the damage of this extraordinary assault on the economy, not to mention the wounds left behind on the national psyche. How long it will take to address the incontinent discharge of fantasy money into the nation’s lifeblood is an outstanding question.

There is no question, however, that the extraordinary events of the winter and spring 2020 had many lessons to teach.

One sobering lesson concerns the world’s relation to the Chinese Communist Party. As we got a handle on the disease and then the economy, it became clear that the CCP, to a large extent, was to blame for the world’s subjection to this epidemic. They blatantly lied about its extent and severity, and their decision to let millions of people travel from Wuhan to celebrate the lunar new year endangered populations around the world.

In a more general sense, the Wuhan virus caused many countries to reconsider their taken-for-granted assumptions about the risk-free beneficence of the new-world globalist order in which nations were to be subservient to the ideology of transnational progressivism (and all were meant ultimately to be subservient to the “inevitable” rise of Chinese hegemony). By the end of 2020, people were rediscovering the importance of nation-states, and therefore of borders.

I said that normality began to reassert itself. That happened in late May. But it was a new, more skeptical normal that asserted itself. For the crisis had led to a new appreciation of contingency—an appreciation, that is to say, of the fact that our world is beset not only by the fragility of normality but also the normality of fragility.

Great America

Why is Queens the Hotspot of Hotspots in the Nation’s Coronavirus Crisis?

While failing to offer an honest explanation about how this disease continues to consume New York City, Cuomo nonetheless is demanding the rest of the country surrender to tyrannical and punitive government “cures” to do what he did not.

According to reports, the death toll from coronavirus-related illness in the United States, according to some sources, reached 6,000 on Thursday. The country remains in lockdown and the economy is in freefall after the White House warned this week that between 100,000 to 200,000 people will die in the United States over the next few months from the Wuhan flu.

The country’s main hotspot remains New York City. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is holding daily press briefings to riff about how we are “all in this together,” whine about the dearth of critical supplies his administration failed to secure as the crisis unfolded overseas, and wisecrack with his brother. Nearly half of all U.S. fatalities have occurred in New York state, according to tracking reports.

Cuomo insists that New York is the “tip of the spear” of COVID-19 cases; it’s only a matter of time, Cuomo predicts, before the rest of the country is under siege by the lethal virus.

But New York is not the tip of the spear—it is the spear.

As I detailed here, Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio failed to prepare for the inevitable spread of coronavirus until it was too late. There were warning signs dating back to January that the disease would sweep through certain areas of the city, endangering the lives of health care workers, state residents and people across the country.

A January 27 article in the New York Times sounded an early alarm. “With isolated cases of the dangerous new coronavirus cropping up in a number of states, public health officials say it is only a matter of time before the virus appears in New York City,” Joseph Goldstein and Jeffrey Singer reported.

Goldstein and Singer described how city residents returning from Wuhan—the source of the outbreak—were worried they had been infected with the contagious disease before coming back to the states. “In Queens, some who recently returned from China have even self-quarantined. But officials have urged calm,” they wrote.

Calm. New York City officials urged calm. (As late as March 11, DeBlasio was encouraging people to go out to eat and downplayed the risk to the general public.)

It’s hard to underestimate how dangerous and deadly that approach has been. With a population of about 2.3 million people, the borough of Queens now represents nearly 10 percent of the total number of coronavirus-related fatalities in the entire country. In most neighborhoods in Queens, at least 50 percent of COVID-19 tests came back positive; several ZIP codes in the borough have positive results upwards of 60 percent.

One area particularly hard hit is Elmhurst, Queens and surrounding neighborhoods. (One, ironically, is named Corona). It is home to one of New York City’s three Chinatowns; nearly half of its residents are Asian. It also is home to Elmhurst Hospital Center, which has been besieged by coronavirus sufferers and victims. (This video shows how the facility is located in a neighborhood populated with Chinese retailers and signs in Chinese.)

A March 25 article in the Times described the harrowing conditions inside and outside of the facility; 13 people died in one day at Elmhurst, although the reporters did not confirm each victim succumbed to COVID-19.

“Elmhurst, a 545-bed public hospital in Queens, has begun transferring patients not suffering from coronavirus to other hospitals as it moves toward becoming dedicated entirely to the outbreak,” the Times reported. “Doctors and nurses have struggled to make do with a few dozen ventilators. Calls over a loudspeaker of ‘Team 700,’ the code for when a patient is on the verge of death, come several times a shift. Some have died inside the emergency room while waiting for a bed.”

Videos and photos of overwhelmed health care workers from Elmhurst flooded social media. A truck parked outside the hospital awaited dead bodies. People were lined up at dawn for testing.

President Trump referred to Elmhurst Hospital last week in an emotional statement during a daily press briefing. “Body bags all over, in hallways. I’ve been watching them bring in trailer trucks, freezer trucks, they’re freezer trucks, because they can’t handle the bodies, there are so many of them,” Trump said.  “This is essentially in my community, in Queens, Queens, New York. I’ve seen things that I’ve never seen before.”

So, aside from a high population of Asians, some of whom had traveled back to Queens after visiting parts of China, including Wuhan, what else is driving the high infection and death rates there?

John Liu, the state senator who represents the area, explained that his district is densely populated “with multiple generations living under one roof, or a group of single workers living together.” Liu said the fact that so many people “live on top of each other” makes it nearly impossible to abide by CDC-mandated social distancing guidelines.

Oddly, the news media is incurious as to why Queens—and the Elmhurst area in particular—is overrun with coronavirus activity. New York City officials are just as sly. The city’s health department releases daily reports that include figures for both U.S. citizens and “foreign residents treated in NYC facilities.”

But city officials refuse to indicate whether a victim is an American citizen or someone who traveled here from an infected region such as China and spread the virus throughout an overcrowded city that failed to institute any precautions until just a few weeks ago.

That’s why it is so galling to hear Cuomo lecture America each day. While failing to offer an honest explanation about how this disease continues to consume New York City, Cuomo nonetheless is demanding the rest of the country surrender to tyrannical and punitive government “cures” to do what he did not. But Topeka and Des Moines and Scottsdale aren’t Queens or the Bronx: people in flyover country, a target of scorn for Big Apple elites, nonetheless, are paying the price.

Further, as the economy crashes, millions lose their jobs, and politicians on both sides imprison citizens in their own homes to “stop the spread,” Cuomo and De Blasio need to give specific answers about how coronavirus took hold and why it continues to spread. The truth might not be comfortable—then again, neither is living in a locked-down country separated from family and friends because a few politically correct officeholders dropped the ball and now want to shift blame.

Elections

Coronavirus Consequences Coming into View

Democrats seeking electoral advantage from this crisis are in an untenable position.  Even in suboptimal circumstances, it is hard to see where any case can be made for mismanagement by the administration.

The new Democratic pre-electoral chorus is already audibly arising like a Wagnerian finale from the largely hidden choir. President Trump, they intone, bungled this and must be investigated for his incompetence which is costing countless American lives. Because of his negligence and stupidity, the country must be shut down for months to ensure an economic disaster entirely attributable (unsurprisingly) to the contemptible ineptitude of the Bad Orange Man.

CNN’s Brian Stelter, one of the battle-scarred, grizzled, veterans of the Long March of media Trump-haters, choreographically synchronized with the Washington Post, New York Times, and MSNBC, has already kicked off this new campaign, on the air and on the internet. He has gathered together the usual sampling of Trumpophobic media group-thinkers, and followed Saul Alinsky’s first rule, accusing the enemy of precisely what he and his comrades are doing. Stelter has gone forth to battle with the same grim earnest that he brought to the previous unsuccessful crusades for the Trump-Russia election rigging fable and the impeachment fantasy.

The pro-Trump media, outnumbered but victorious, will indeed have the effrontery to defend the president and join with the 60 percent of Americans who think that he has generally led well in this struggle against the coronavirus, despite an overly optimistic launch.

For so long Stelter has uttered the old stock phrases “walls are closing in,” and “the drip, drip, drip,” and the almost daily “bombshell” of each new damaging allegation (that evaporated overnight), that he could be operating on autocue as he storms out of the firehall again, tearing through the pandemic-deserted streets to assault the president on a completely spurious charge one more time. No one can deny the vigor and imperishability of the hate and vitriol that propels the president’s media enemies again and again, no matter how often they are mowed down by the facts.

Theirs is a bloodless re-enactment of the Japanese defense of Okinawa 75 years ago: the Japanese defense force of 120,000 took 113,000 dead and 7,000 wounded, one of history’s few large engagements where one side had a 100 percent casualty rate. It is mad, but it is bold, or as General Bosquet famously said of the Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War of 1854: “It is magnificent, but it isn’t war; it’s insanity.”

It isn’t very professional, either.

Even less forgivable is the campaign, already begun by New York Times hit-person Maggie Haberman to tear down the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, who is an indisputable expert doing an exceptionally capable job. Birx has an unblemished career of great distinction, being not only a respected medical doctor but a retired colonel and former ambassador. Her offense is not to slag off the president who has recruited her.

Aiding and Abetting Globalist Corruption

The same media outlets have been engaged in a scandalous attempt to represent the Chinese response to the crisis as brilliant and to accept Beijing’s claim to have eliminated the virus within its own borders, in embarrassing contrast (they suppose) to Trumpian floundering about.

In reality, the Chinese were inexcusably dishonest in withholding the proportions of the coronavirus outbreak; have not uttered a truthful word about it up to and including this week—as they claim to have had almost no further fatalities and none at all in the past few days; and were extremely negligent in not moving promptly to restrict outward travel and warn the world.

The same American media which have acclaimed the official Chinese performance with an adulatory hallelujah chorus have railed against President Trump for following the normal practice of identifying the coronavirus geographically. The subordination of the World Health Organization as a cheerleader for China’s odium and criminality will require that the entire leadership of the WHO to be sacked and replaced by people in whom it is possible to have some confidence.

By the time this horrible virus has ravaged the underdeveloped world—which is completely unprepared to deal with it and where the danger of horrific human devastation is the fear that dare not speak its name—the complacent support of the corrupt leadership of the United Nations and its agencies by African and Asian states may have abated.

In the aftermath of this crisis, China’s prestige will have been thoroughly besmirched and a number of states will have followed the lead of the United Kingdom in questioning the utility and efficacy of the European Union, which has provided no leadership at all.

Making Up for Lost Time

Without question, the United States lacked adequate preparation for a pandemic. There is no just reason for heaping abuse on the previous administration for not being prepared for what the country is now facing because it has not faced anything comparable since the Spanish flu a century ago. Nor is it just to hammer President Trump for his somewhat cavalier opening reflections on the coronavirus, as he was not at that stage being warned that it could achieve the proportions it is achieving, or that the virus was distinctly more dangerous than outbreaks of aggressive flu in the last several decades.

The charges of unpreparedness are based mainly on a lethargic start to testing; even three weeks ago it was necessary to send all tests, which only could be administered by appointment in hospitals, to Atlanta for evaluation. These complaints have been effectively answered by the swift development of immediate testing devices that can be administered anywhere by almost anyone and produce evaluations within 15 minutes.

The president made exactly the right decision on Wednesday in permitting the two Dutch cruise liners with coronavirus-infected passengers to land at Port Everglades, Florida, and to do “what is best for humanity.” It was an admirable gesture and is widely interpreted in the world as generous and respectful of the universal character of the fight against this disease.

Trump and his advisors have now prepared the country for 100,000 deaths, but that total will only occur if the incidence of New York ripples across all the heavily populated areas of the country and if California only peaks at the end of April.

Preliminary evidence, indicative and not at all dispositive, is that California is almost at its peak now. If this is the case, the death total will be far less than 100,000 and the country will likely reopen in May, if in stages, and the president will be deemed to have managed the crisis well and sustained and retrieved the economy well.

If the peak in California only comes late in April, however, the total number of fatalities could approach 80,000 and the country might not be substantially open for business until mid-June.

Tedious and Predictable Partisanship

Obviously, speculation is hazardous and these projections are rank guesses based on official statements of pandemic patterns. Even in a suboptimal circumstance, it is hard to see where any case can be made for mismanagement by the administration, especially by those who accused him of “racism” and “xenophobia” for stopping the direct flights from China, (e.g. Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trial balloon on CNN on Sunday about an investigation like that which followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was preposterous. In 2001, there had been some badly misjudged intelligence, by the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. In the coronavirus crisis, the president moved quickly to end direct travel from China and then Europe, saving many lives and giving the United States the lowest fatality ratio of any large country with a sophisticated medical system and reliable reporting except Canada and Germany.

The administration is taking fiscal and social advantage of the crisis in the national interest with desirable tax reductions and, finally, an infrastructure renovation program. This president is emulating the tactic of Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II in styling any legislation that involved official expense as a bill to assist members and veterans of the armed forces. If something of durable value can be legislated along with the measures necessary to strangle the public health crisis and rescue the economically vulnerable, it will be a commendable nugget in a rocky field. Pelosi’s investigation will not get far off the ground.

Greatness Agenda

The Chinese Communist Party Virus and Its Discontents

Unfortunately, the pandemic-inspired shutdown of the economy only threatens to further corporate consolidation in our economy.

This writer and others who for decades railed against outsourcing industries to the People’s Republic of China were long dismissed as crackpots and Luddites. Now many of those who were doing the dismissing have been forced to admit the true cost of cheap goods is very high.

The Chinese Communist Party virus has exposed many of our nation’s infirmities.

The most glaring is our dependence on Communist China for medicine, medical equipment, and so many other essential goods.

But that is by no means the only problem the pandemic has exposed. The consolidation of property and industries into fewer and fewer hands is another.

The New York Times details how corporate consolidation in the medical device industry contributed to the shortage of ventilators our nation is now experiencing.

Over a dozen years ago, in the wake of SARS, MERS, and other deadly outbreaks, the federal government saw a need to stockpile ventilators in case of a future emergency.

It contracted with a small California firm, Newport Medical Devices, that had an innovative design it could produce for $3,000 per machine—significantly less expensive than the $10,000-$20,000 price tag commonly quoted.

But then something happened and everything changed.

“The medical device industry was undergoing rapid consolidation, with one company after another merging with or acquiring other makers,” the Times reports. “Manufacturers wanted to pitch themselves as one-stop shops for hospitals, which were getting bigger, and that meant offering a broader suite of products. In May 2012, Covidien, a large medical device manufacturer, agreed to buy Newport for just over $100 million.”

Covidien, a publicly traded corporation with $12 billion in sales, bought five other medical device companies that year alone. It was playing mergers and acquisitions if not “Monopoly.”

Here’s the rub: Covidien was already selling more expensive ventilators. It didn’t consider developing a low-cost machine to be a priority. Project managers were re-assigned and Covidien told the government it wanted out of the contract.

“Government officials and executives at rival ventilator companies said they suspected that Covidien had acquired Newport to prevent it from building a cheaper product that would undermine Covidien’s profits from its existing ventilator business,” the Times story notes.

It doesn’t end there. In 2015 Medtronic, an even larger medical device company, bought Covidien for $50 billion (can you say “consolidation”?) as part of a corporate inversion scheme so Medtronic could register in Ireland and avoid paying U.S. taxes.

Medtronic, one of the four largest ventilator manufacturers in America today—along with Phillips, GE Healthcare, and Allied Healthcare—has been slow to increase the production of its higher-priced ventilators, choosing to guard its existing supply chain relationships.

Public shaming compelled Medtronic finally to announce it would release the blueprints and specs for the low-cost machine Newport (now part of Medtronic) developed at U.S. taxpayer expense.

The nation’s productive capacity and know-how have come under the ownership of fewer and fewer giant corporations. These corporations try to squeeze every penny from production by eliminating R&D and outsourcing production to the lowest cost cheap-labor camps on Earth, even those ruled by communist dictators.

Unfortunately, the pandemic-inspired shutdown of the economy only threatens to further corporate consolidation in our economy.

A report from Indiana provides an example of how this will play out, even if it is an unintended consequence of shutting down much of the nation’s commerce.

Book stores, toy stores, and other retailers deemed “nonessential” are complaining that Dollar General—a low-cost chain offering food among many other items—remains open and is still selling toys, books, and other items they are barred from selling.

In response to the complaints, county officials ordered Dollar General to rope off the aisles where “non-essential” merchandise is displayed.

Question: Have officials elsewhere barred Dollar General—one of the largest vendors of Chinese imports—from trafficking in prohibited merchandise?

And how about Amazon? Amazon still sells clothes, toys and everything else, much of it from China. None of the money spent on Amazon finds its way into the pockets of American owners and employees of brick-and-mortar shops now closed.

While small businesses are ordered to shut down, their giant corporate competitors remain open.

This is how the multi-trillion dollar economic relief package is also a stimulus bill for Jeff Bezos, Walmart, and China.

The virus has also revealed another weakness of 21st century America: rule by a cult of experts with an unshakeable faith in mathematical models.

These are the people whose economic models told us trade with China would make us all richer and happier.

Now they place their faith in yet another infallible model, one they tell us will save us from death itself—a Savior Machine.

Its answer is law. Dare to question it and you are condemned as an enemy of the state.

Woody Guthrie said some men will rob you with a six-gun and some with a fountain pen.

Today he would wonder if computer models aren’t the equivalent of those fountain pens.

Great America

Hockey Sticks, Changing Goal Posts, and Hysteria

There’s still time to find a balance between public health and the economy: Trump must find it before April 30.

Last year, Glacier National Park in Montana began removing signs that warned visitors the park’s gigantic glaciers would start melting away by 2020 due to global warming. Park officials altered other climate change flair such as brochures and displays to postpone the threat to sometime in “future generations.”

Like so many claims about the catastrophic consequences of anthropogenic global warming, predictions about disappearing glaciers were quickly memory-holed. And, as usual, the experts behind the flawed science that misled millions of people to believe their actions would cause the destruction of one of nature’s most awesome sights didn’t apologize. No scientist or government official even had the guts to stand up and say, “Oops, my bad.”

Quite to the contrary—prophets of nonexistent doom are often cheered as heroes no matter how many times they’ve been wrong.

Take Dr. Michael Mann, for example. The Pennsylvania State University author of the infamous “hockey stick” graph is still considered a god among the international climate change set; his graph launched the modern-day climate movement even though his work has been widely refuted by scientists and hacked emails showed how he and his fellow researchers manipulated data to “prove” their theory.

Now, we have the latest version of the hockey stick graph and it is related to COVID-19. The alarming visual indicates a huge spike in estimated deaths and hospitalizations in the United States from coronavirus infections over the next few weeks. Last week, a researcher at the University of Washington released a study that appears to serve as the scientific justification to extend the CDCs social distancing guidelines until at least April 30.

Christopher Murray, director of the university’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, warns that daily fatalities will climb from zero on February 24 to a high of 2,214 on April 15. (Much like Mann’s hockey stick graph that claimed to show warming temperatures, data from the period before the spike cannot be accurate since the first case of coronavirus in the U.S. was reported in mid-January. If it’s as contagious and as lethal as we’ve been told, hundreds if not thousands of people would already have died from the disease in the first two months of the year unbeknownst to healthcare providers.)

By May 2, based on Murray’s model, more than 60,000 Americans will be dead; by the beginning of August, nearly 84,000 of our fellow countrymen will have succumbed to the disease.

The need for hospital beds, intensive care units, and ventilators will far outpace supply, according to Murray. By this Friday, U.S. hospitals will need more than 135,000 beds, nearly 26,000 ICUs and more than 20,000 ventilators to accommodate COVID-19 patients.

And this disaster scenario will occur even with the draconian measures enacted at the federal, state and local level to slow the disease’s death march.

“The estimated excess demand on hospital systems is predicated on the enactment of social distancing measures in all states that have not done so already within the next week and maintenance of these measures throughout the epidemic, emphasizing the importance of implementing, enforcing, and maintaining these measures to mitigate hospital system overload and prevent deaths,” wrote Murray.

From Common Sense to House Arrest

The White House, apparently, is listening. After first disputing an outlandish study produced by the UK’s Imperial College that projected a few million Americans would die from COVID-19 this year, Dr. Deborah Birx presented Murray’s report to the president over the weekend. Birx referred to Murray’s model in a Rose Garden briefing on Sunday.

“It’s anywhere, in the model, between 80,000 and 160,000, maybe potentially 200,000 succumbing to this,” Birx cautioned. “That’s with mitigation.” She insisted that the current measures would need to continue “with a level of intensity.”

During a confusing press briefing Tuesday evening, Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, presented the models to the American public. The president solemnly prepared the country for a “very tough two weeks” that could witness the death of 100,000 to 200,000 Americans. But neither Birx nor Fauci could convincingly explain the data supporting the ominous charts—while Birx seemed married to the ultimate death toll, Fauci tap-danced around the study’s projections, wish-casting about better outcomes and riffing about how new information would improve the model’s efficacy.

So in a matter of weeks, relying on sketchy and incomplete data, government experts have pivoted from offering common-sense steps to fight a virus to declaring government-imposed house arrest. “Flattening the curve” is old news; preventing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans requires tyrannical diktats that a month ago freedom-loving Americans could scarcely imagine.

COVID-19 wasn’t transmitted person-to-person before it was transmitted person-to-person. Masks weren’t necessary; now, they might be part of a required uniform should anyone dare to leave the house. It’s like a bad flu; now it’s way worse than the flu.

Governors are one-upping each other in an egregious power play that defies science, common sense, and decency in a despicable trampling of constitutional rights. The appeal to authority, a common tactic to quash any dissent in the climate change debate, is in full effect as laypeople are warned not to question the advice of credentialed medical and health professionals.

The consequences of this collective overreach—and that’s putting it mildly—have been mind-boggling. The world’s most vibrant economy is at a standstill. Millions of hourly employees are being laid off or let go as unemployment claims skyrocket to historic levels with the worst yet to come. Small business owners fear bankruptcy. The stock market is tanking while politicians on both sides of the aisle, along with the president, concoct bailout plans to fix the economic disaster they helped create.

School children and college students are done with public classes for at least five months. Job offers to college graduates have disappeared. Weddings, graduation ceremonies, and funerals are prohibited. Places of worship are shuttered; religious leaders who defy a government guideline—not a law on the books—to serve their flock are being arrested. Daily joys like a stroll on the beach or dinner at a restaurant or a game of pickup basketball or a round of golf have been stripped from our lives with shockingly little protest. And an army of Karens are policing public spaces to tattle on Facebook if anyone refuses to submit.

Sick people suffer alone; seniors are cut off from family and friends. Lonely children are further isolated as schools close down and their teachers and friends are out of reach. Panic and fear are weaponized to dictate individual behavior.

Echoes of Climate Alarmism

It all has an eerie ring to those of us who’ve covered the climate movement. (Barack Obama connected climate and coronavirus in a tweet on Tuesday: “We’ve seen all too terribly the consequences of those who denied warnings of a pandemic. We can’t afford any more consequences of climate denial.”)

And just as happened with the climate change agenda, farfetched models with incomplete, untested data drive public policy decisions. Anyone who disputes the experts or challenges the assumptions must hate the environment or the children or the future. (In the case of COVID-19, you must hate grandma.) Anyone who laments the destruction of the economy is a heartless, greedy money-grubber. “Profits over people!” the detractors are taunted. The goalposts keep moving, doomsday is extended, but harsher and harsher actions are nonetheless demanded from above.

So, what if, as Trump accurately said just a week ago, the cure is worse than the disease? What if Murray’s models are woefully off by a factor of five or even 10 but it’s too late to salvage jobs or small businesses? His data is already way off: As of March 31, Murray predicted the U.S. would need 98,000 hospital beds for COVID-19 patients but only 22,000 were hospitalized that day.

Will the White House, much like Glacier National Park, just change the message while the agitators escape any accountability?

The president is trying to do the right thing but this is a breaking point. If Trump ruins the economy and torches his solid economic achievements based on a handful of flawed models and the evolving opinions of unsure advisors, it will be hard to walk it back. If these figures don’t move to support Murray’s modeling—and fast—Trump needs to reconsider his plan.

There’s still time to find a balance between public health and the economy: Trump must find it before April 30.

Greatness Agenda

The Reemergence of the State in the Time of COVID-19

State sovereignty is the best chance we have to fend off adversaries. We defend our freedom by exercising power through the state, not through global illusions or cozy provincialism.

Once upon a time, there was an illusion that the state would disappear. It was the fiction Marxists told each other at bedtime, and it was the lie of the Communists, once they had seized state power. For even as they built up their police apparatus and their archipelago of gulags, they kept promising that one day the state would eventually disappear. 

Of course, in a sense, they were right because Communism ended and so did the Communist states in Russia and Eastern Europe. Yet the death of those regimes is in no way an argument for the death of statehood itself. 

The state is the expression of sovereignty, and sovereignty is the ability of national communities to decide their own fates. Such independence is far from obsolete, and certainly not for the countries on the eastern flank of the European Union. After years of Russian occupation, they have regained their state sovereignty. They will continue to insist on it, and rightly so.

Capitalists, too, have indulged in the fantasy of the end of the state, especially in the neoliberal version of an economy free of political constraints. This peculiar fiction grew pronounced in the millenarian hallucination of an “end of history,” which preached that the epochal change of 1989 had ushered in a Kantian era of perpetual peace. Global capitalism was supposed to erase borders, replacing national solidarities with abstract universalism. 

Genuine conflicts were predicted to dissolve into rules-based competition, while existential threats would dissipate in a thoroughly benign cosmos. After all, with the fall of Communism, all enemies had disappeared, which made states obsolete. 

Hence the idealists’ horror at the rise of national populisms after the 2008 financial crisis. Today respectable public opinion still views populism as deplorable, hoping that the next election cycle will bring a return to a normal trajectory of an ever diminished nation-state, ever-larger supranational organizations, and a programmatic neutralization of all political decisions.

A Pandemic Upsets the Old Order

And then came the virus from Wuhan, the global pandemic that signals the end of globalization and therefore the reassertion of the state, for several distinct reasons. 

First, despite the illusions—Marxist, capitalist or anarchist—that the state will vanish because the world is a friendly place, the virus reminds us that danger never disappears. The state is the vehicle with which a political community can respond to ever-present existential threats. One prominent feature of the response to the pandemic is the recognition that sooner or, sometimes tragically later, the state must respond to enemies. The responsibility to do so rests ineluctably with the political leaders who must make crucial decisions. Without them and without the state, we would be helpless. (The mirage that the state might end is nothing more than an expression of what Karlheinz Bohrer once called “der Wille zur Ohnmacht.”).

When Donald Trump banned travel from China in January, his critics called him a racist. When he stopped travel from Europe, those same critics complained that he acted too slowly, while the EU leadership denounced him for acting alone. Within a week, the European Union instituted travel bans similar to those for which they had attacked Trump, but only after leaders of individual states, such as Austria’s Sebastian Kurz, had made similar decisions. 

It is no coincidence that we have seen national leadership emerge by way of renewed assertions of control over national borders: a state that cannot control its borders is a failed state. The border closings of 2020 are the retraction of the German border openings of 2015.

Second, the reemergence of the state marks the end of globalization in a pending economic restructuring. The excessively praised free flow of capital opened national economies to foreign direct investment, just as it enabled companies that developed in one country to shift production and investment overseas, in search of lower wages. Yet all that glittered was not gold. Chinese capital buying up European firms has damaged domestic economies and contributed to accelerated technology transfer, legal and illegal: recall the Kuka case

In response, Western countries have begun to subject foreign investments to national security scrutiny because it might not be wise to sell off one’s domestic industries to foreign investors beholden to undemocratic and hostile regimes. 

Today, however, similar national security concerns are being raised with regard to the globalization of supply chains. For the United States most medicine, including even penicillin, is manufactured in China: we can thank the starry-eyed globalists for this dangerous vulnerability. Fortunately, there are now moves afoot to bring supply chains back home, while also retrieving jobs thoughtlessly exported overseas. Deglobalization is the watchword of the state.

Coming to Terms with China

Third, the willingness to sacrifice state sovereignty in the name of globalization was always based on a misunderstanding about China. The West has fooled itself repeatedly that Communist China would undergo a political liberalization: it never did. 

China remains a dictatorship ruled by a Marxist-Leninist party. During the past half-century of the supposed rapprochement with China, it has neither liberalized, nor established an independent judiciary, nor carried out free and multi-party elections. Sadly, China’s access to Western economies was never made contingent on any respect for human rights. 

While western states subordinated themselves to the illusions of post-nationalism—the European Union is the best example—China only grew stronger as an illiberal surveillance state. Hence the crisis of the Wuhan virus: Chinese authorities knew of the illness in December, if not earlier, but they chose to suppress the information, punishing the brave whistleblower professionals who tried to sound the alarm. If addressed promptly, the novel coronavirus might have been contained in Hubei province. 

Instead, thanks to the Chinese leadership and its lies, we face a pandemic, with countless deaths and enormous economic losses. Party Chairman Xi Jinping should be held accountable for this suffering. There are no grounds ever again to believe any statistic coming out of China—at least not until Beijing allows the Chinese people to enjoy freedom of speech and a free press.

The China question, however, is not only about the origin of the virus or even the vicissitudes of globalization. This Corona moment reminds us that the genuine purpose of the state is to respond to all dangers which jeopardize the life of the political community. The family of Western democracies—not only in the geographic West but also on the periphery of the Eurasian landmass including South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, India, Israel—face concerted efforts by China and Russia to disrupt the world order. To be sure, Chinese and Russian interests do not always coincide, and they engage in complicated relations with North Korea and Iran, hardly satellites in the Cold War sense, but ultimately all are part of a multifaceted challenge to our ways of life. 

It is not because the virus came from China that we should recognize these dangers, but the virus is an acute reminder that the world is replete with threats, whether epidemic or political, military or economic. Those who argue for the end of the state have to explain who else, other than the state, will ward off another invasion, such as took place in Crimea, or prevent similar aggression in the South China Sea. The answer is: no one. The argument against the state is an argument for capitulation and powerlessness.

Such powerlessness is evidently attractive. It reflects a certain element of conflict-aversion inherent in human nature, especially endemic in the academic class. Yet our capacity to live in institutions of our own making—whether individual or collective—based on our traditions and our aspirations, is predicated on the will to mount a defense against external threats. The primary vehicle for self-preservation of the political community is the state. State sovereignty is the best chance we have to fend off adversaries. We defend our freedom by exercising power through the state, not through global illusions or cozy provincialism. This commitment to the state is called patriotism.

Greatness Agenda

Viral Prerequisites and Nationalist Lessons in Time of Plague

Trump’s prior initiatives eased the implementation of many of his most effective orders during this crisis.

President Donald Trump has courted endless controversies for promoting nonconventional policies and entertaining contrarian views. From the outset, he oddly seemed to have believed that having navigated the jungles of the Manhattan real estate market—crooked politicians, mercurial unions, neighborhood social activists, the green lobby, leery banks, cutthroat rivals—better prepared him for the job than did a 30-year tenure in the U.S. Senate.

Certainly, candidate and then President Trump’s strident distrust of China was annoying to the American establishment. The Left saw China in rosy terms as the “Other” that just did things like airports, high-speed rail, and solar panels better than did America’s establishment of geriatric white male has-beens. Many on the Right saw China as a cash cow that was going to take over anyway, so why not milk it before the deluge?

In sum, conventional Washington wisdom assumed that appeasing the commercial banditry of an ascendant China, at best might ensure that its new riches led to Westernized political liberalization, and at worst might at least earn them a pat on the head from China as it insidiously assumed its fated role as global hegemon.

Trump once enraged liberal sensibilities by issuing travel bans against countries in the Middle East, Iran, Nigeria, and North Korea as they could not be trusted to audit their own departing citizens. His notion that nations have clearly defined and enforced borders was antithetical to the new norms that open borders and sanctuary cities were part of the global village of the 21st century.

Trump certainly distrusted globalization. He has waged a veritable multifront war against the overreach of transnational organizations, whether that be the European Union or the various agencies of the United Nations. Even relatively uncontroversial steps, such as greenlighting experimental drugs and off-label uses of old medicines for terminal patients drew the ire of federal bureaucrats and medical schools as potentially dangerous or irrelevant in cost-benefit analyses.

Yet since the outbreak of the virus, Trump’s idiosyncratic sixth sense has come in handy. The country is united in its furor at China—even if it is giving no credit to Trump for being years ahead of where it is now.

No longer is there a national debate over the evils of “protectionism” and “nationalism,” but rather over how quickly and effectively can the U.S. return the manufacturing of key medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, strategically vital technologies, and rare earth metals to American shores. Offshoring and outsourcing are now more likely synonymous with tragedy than smart investment strategies. Not long ago, pundits and politicians were startled to hear Trump in his grating Queens accent berate Chinese “cheating,” as he invoked Neanderthal remedies like tariffs and boycotts. Today, even liberals are furious that the Chinese Communist Party put their families and businesses at risk by systematically lying about the origins, transmission, and lethality of the coronavirus. When you need a mask or antibiotic, it can cut through a lot of political rhetoric.

When Trump issued the key January 31 travel ban that suddenly stopped the arrival of 15,000 visitors per day to the United States from China, the Left was as outraged as it had been with the ban against Libya, North Korea, and Iran. Candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders saw an opening against their presumed 2020 opponent, and quickly sought to demagogue voters with “here-we-go-again” rhetoric that racist Trump is banning free travel of a marginalized people in his habitual “xenophobic” and “racist” fits.

That Trump shortly extended the ban to all of Europe—and eventually was followed by almost all nations of the world—did not mean he was not simultaneously caricatured as a nationalist rube. How odd that no prior critical major newspaper, network, or politician has now called for the end of such unnecessary and hurtful bans and the resumption of travel from China without further interruption—especially now that we are told by CNN and MSNBC that the Communist Party apparat has all but ended the virus or at least is far more competent than the Trump Administration.

What made Trump a renegade Republican was his appeal to the deplorables, irredeemables, clingers, and dregs, whom the national media and elite had derided as toothless, smelly, fat, superstitious, bigoted, racist, superfluous, addicted, and toxic. Those at Trump rallies were deemed mindless if not scary. Yet Trump claimed he felt more at home with them than with the national press corps on the night of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

When 150 million Americans were barricaded behind their doors, corporate lawyers did not deliver their food. Dropping Harvey Weinstein’s name to the guy shelving hand cleanser didn’t mean anything.

The chatterbox Rachel Maddows of the world were not growing fruits, beef, vegetables, and grains for those behind locked doors. Those pro-Chinese NBA stars were not needed to ensure toilet paper on the shelves, any more than loudmouths like Cher and Madonna were up all night in the emergency room or checking groceries at Costco. It was not the beautiful people, not the best and brightest, not the globetrotters and cognoscenti who were pulling the country through, but their antitheses, the rubes and assemblers who never learned to code.

We are learning, belatedly, that Trump was also rightly wary of transnationalism. The World Health Organization in the early weeks of the outbreak was mostly a paid-for Chinese megaphone. Its functionary director propagandized, on Chinese prompts, that the virus was likely not transmissible from human to human and that travel bans were ineffective and thus reflective of Trump’s repugnant views.

Americans were startled at how quickly the brotherhood of the European Union collapsed. Within days, individual countries were ignoring the Schengen open-borders rules and reinvented themselves as nations. None were eager to welcome in their neighbors. Few were willing to share medical supplies and key pharmaceuticals across ancient boundaries. And fewer still wished to allow even more illegal aliens from the Middle East and North Africa to continue to pour into their nations.

The quite diverse manner in which Germany and Italy respectively reacted to the virus showed very little European commonality, but reflected that both were unique cultures and societies as they had been for centuries. In sum, the virus panic gave Americans some idea how the European Union might act during a war or invasion—each country likely cutting deals with the invader, and double-crossing one another, with the most virtuous in abiding by EU canons in a suspicious climate, also the most likely to suffer the quickest defeat.

Here at home, under the present lockdown conditions, Americans worry about finding their needed but long-ago outsourced prescriptions and medical supplies, but they are not so fearful of running out of food or fuel for their vehicles and heat for their homes. Was it good then to have demanded expansions of native gas and oil production, to have supported pipeline construction and more fracking and horizontal drilling? Was it in retrospect wise or foolish to have tried vehemently to stop California authorities from releasing precious state and federal reservoir water out to sea thereby shorting the irrigation contracts of the nation’s most important food producer?

At such times as these, was it smarter to trust in bureaucracies like the CDC to issue test kits or to encourage private enterprise to step forward and become creative producers? Could counties and states adapt better to the local and regional differences of the virus’s manifestations than a monolithic federal government?

What is one to make of gun stores in liberal cities and counties of all-blue California mobbed by potential gun owners, many of whom had no prior experience with firearms, but plenty of fears that law enforcement would not or could not enforce laws respecting shoplifting, burglary, and assault during the lockdown?

When the jails are emptying, was it then wiser to have a pro-Second Amendment president or one who wished to restrict the availability of guns and ammunition, Beto O’Rourke style?

In short, Trump’s prior initiatives eased the implementation of many of his most effective orders during this crisis. And his general suspicions about China and globalization, his distrust of bureaucratic regulations, his support for domestic production of key industries, his promotion of the interests of farmers and frackers, and his vehement opposition to increased gun control, all reflect a world view of national and self-independence, in which Americans can only count on themselves and their fellow citizens.

Trump often loudly and crassly pushed these policies. He fought tooth and nail with his opponents. He replied with nuclear tonnage to preemptive media and political attacks on his person and family.

All that also might suggest that presidents really should start being judged by their actions rather than the degree of mellifluousness of their words—yet another lesson from this time of plague?

Greatness Agenda

It’s Not a Choice Between Lives or the Economy

President Trump has shown great leadership during this manufactured crisis. Let’s hope he continues to ponder his observation that we do not want to get ourselves into a situation in which the cure is worse than the disease.

There seem to be shortages of everything these days, not least a shortage of commentary on the COVID-19 virus, also known as the Chinese virus, the Wuhan flu, known to some as the Chinese Communist Party virus, or the CCP virus for short.

Since there has been so little discussion of this disease in the news or in the blogosphere, I thought I would weigh in with a word or two.

Regular readers will know that I have already, these past few weeks, had occasion to say something about this disease, and the reaction to the disease, here and at other venues. I seem to be in a distinct minority in thinking that the best reaction to the disease was not furnished by the protagonist of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.

Let me begin, therefore, by acknowledging that this new virus can make people, especially older people, and most particularly older with other health problems very sick indeed.

COVID-19 is the big and nastier brother of SARS, another Chinese import, which made its way around the world in the early 2000s and killed nearly 800 people. “SARS” stands for “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome,” which can be the dreaded effect of COVID-19 infection and which explains why you are hearing so much about medical ventilators at the moment.

As of Saturday, there were in the United States some 111,000 recorded cases of infection and just over 2,000 deaths. Worldwide, the number of recorded cases so far is 657,434, the number of deaths just over 30,000. Obviously this number changes daily, indeed hourly. A good, and regularly updated, source for the numbers is at WorldoMeter. In the United States, half the total number of cases and nearly half of the fatalities are clustered in and around New York City.

Most people who are infected by the virus experience mild or no symptoms at all. But for those who do become sick, the disease can be horrible. A friend passed along these observations from an ICU doctor on the front lines in New York. He indicated that he did not object to his remarks being shared.

A large number of admitted patients end up needing to be intubated. . . . The two main things hospitals need to keep adding, and adding, and adding again are 1) emergency room beds and 2) ICU beds. Every day I feel there is yet another area being planned for one or the other. Our [emergency department] was packed with patients—either all with masks or already intubated. I have never seen such a sight. All providers were walking around with their (slightly worn) [personal protective equipment] and names written on the visors. Our ED has already outgrown the designated space and will be expanded so that, essentially, we have a respiratory ED. The nursing home that had been closed across the street from us has become our lifeline. Rec rooms have become treat and release respiratory testing centers. The former long-term care floors are being prepped to help with the load of vented patients. . . .

We continue to learn on the fly for this illness. The spectrum of how it presents is vast! Purely abdominal pain, to the point that they are admitted to the surgical service with nary a complaint. Syncope—patients just falling without any preceding fevers (so less likely due to dehydration from insensible losses) or other symptoms. . . . Encephalitis—definitely less numbers but I think it’s there.

Also, nothing—just nothing—but they get a chest x-ray for some reason and looky-there, bilateral patchy opacities. They develop acute kidney failure REALLY quickly. They are in the ICU and looking good but then, you blink, and they are arresting and die of sudden cardiac arrest. Also, and a bunch of my colleagues have been chatting about this one, anosmia (loss of smell) and dysgeusia (taste changes). These two symptoms are really common, I think more so with milder upper-respiratory disease rather than severe lower respiratory disease.

I quote this not to be morbid or to scare people but simply to acknowledge that I am aware that this is a nasty bug. Many precautions should be taken. People should wash their hands thoroughly as well as frequently. If you are out and about, hand sanitizer is your friend. You should stand a few feet away from others in public situations. (The jury is out, I think, on whether this should be called “social” or “asocial” distancing.)

If you have traveled somewhere in which the disease is prevalent, you should self-quarantine for a couple of weeks and be especially careful to avoid being around the elderly or infirm. Infection is most common in situations where there is prolonged contact with someone who is infected and “shedding” the virus (which is why Governor Andrew Cuomo has had second thoughts about closing all New York’s schools and colleges and sending all those students home to mama, papa, the grandparents, and poor old Uncle Joe who has been unwell for years).

That said, I continue to believe that shutting down the U.S. economy was insane (also here, here, and here). I maintain, in retrospect, this episode will furnish ample material for an addendum to Charles Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.

Unfortunately, there is no arguing with insanity. As one friend of mine likes to note, arguing with such madness is like arguing with a hurricane. It is completely ineffective, indeed counterproductive, because making arguments at such a time is likely to distract one from taking precautions and making preparations.

From Millions Will Die to Hospitals Will Be Overwhelmed

In earlier columns, I have contrasted the annual toll in hospitalizations and fatalities from the seasonal flu with the known numbers form COVID-19. The former dwarf the latter—so far. We’ve had plenty of “doomsday scenarios” predicting millions of deaths in the United States alone, but cooler heads are beginning to prevail.

You don’t hear this from the megaphones of the media, but the fatality rate in the United States remains among the lowest in the world, barely above Germany and Norway, the lowest in Europe. Sweden, which is only slightly higher, has bucked the trend. Its borders remain open, as do its schools, restaurants, museums, etc. As of this writing, it’s not at all clear that they were wrong to do so.

There has been a gradual shift in the commentary over the last week or so as many scribes and pundits, tiring of the shopworn “millions will die” meme, have shifted to a “our hospitals will be overwhelmed” aria.

In New York, the epicenter of the epidemic, there will certainly be strains. But I think that this article, arguing that COVID-19 is not going to overwhelm our healthcare system, is persuasive.

Some numbers: According to the CDC, during the 2018-2019 flu season, there were some 810,000 hospitalizations in the United States for flu and 61,000 deaths. As of March 26, we have seen more than 490,000 hospitalizations and 34,000 flu deaths. Add in the COVID-19 numbers and you get 565,000 hospitalizations and 35,264 deaths. In other words, seen in context, COVID-19 cases are a barely discernible blip.

With these differences: the patients suffering from the effects of COVID-19 tend to be much sicker, taking up hospital beds for longer, and they are arriving more quickly and in bigger clumps.

Our Disgusting Media and Democrats

One of the most disgusting features of this health scare is the behavior of the media and liberal Democrats. In this season of Lent, they seem to be on their knees, fervently praying for greater damage to the economy, for more people to lose their jobs, for a greater destruction of wealth. It’s not, exactly, that they think these are good things in themselves—though one senses an air of thoughtfulness as they ponder the rapidity with which the economy can be turned upside down and people brought to heel.

Left-wing progressives are not advocates of big government for nothing. Nothing seems to justify big government more than a dependent populace, and nothing guarantees dependency more reliably than economic distress. All that is in the background—present but unspoken.

What is patent is the fervent wish that this crisis might, somehow, be pinned on Donald Trump. So far, that hasn’t happened, indeed, the public seems to approve of the way he is handling the situation. His poll numbers are higher than ever.

Still, his enemies never tire. At a recent press conference, some wretched “journalist” asked the President, “How many deaths are acceptable?” It was intended to be a “gotcha” question. “Trump says that X number of deaths are OK!”

The president, after a moment’s incredulity, dispatched the question and the questioner. “None,” he said, “none are acceptable.”

Good answer. But while none are acceptable, it is in the nature of things that many are inevitable. New York’s pol of the moment, Andrew Cuomo, got on his shiniest soapbox recently and said “This is about saving lives. If everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.”

Heather Mac Donald had a tart but appropriate response to that burst of sentimental hogwash. “Cuomo’s assertion that saving ‘just one life’ justifies an economic shutdown raises questions that have not been acknowledged, much less answered,” Mac Donald notes, “as public officials across the country compete to impose ever more draconian anti-virus measures.”

One question is this: “Is there any limit to the damage we are willing to inflict on the world economy to mitigate the infection?”

There are people, like Cuomo, who like to pretend that we have a choice between saving lives and saving the economy. But a moment’s thought will show that that is a false dichotomy. Unemployment just shot up by more than 3 million. That is more than 3 million people who have lost their livelihoods so far, many of whom face uncertain prospects for the future.

Expect a sharp rise in cases of depression, drug abuse, and suicide because of that.

A Word About the Difference Between “From” and “With”

In The Road to Serfdom, Friedrich Hayek observed while it “may sound noble to say, ‘Damn economics, let us build up a decent world,’ . . . it is, in fact, merely irresponsible.” Something similar can be said about the false opposition between humanitarian concerns and attention to the economy. Tending the economy is just as much a humanitarian concern, just as much a life-or-death matter, as manufacturing new ventilators.

Finally, a word about the difference between “from” and “with.” Over the past few weeks, I have been predicting a modest fatality rate from COVID-19. I began by predicting no more than a couple of hundred deaths and then upped my prediction to a 1,000-1,200. As of today, the number of deaths attributed to the virus is just over 2,000. So I was wrong about that.

Or was I? It is one thing to die from the effects of the coronavirus, quite another to die with the virus. Let’s say you are 87 years old, diabetic, with congestive heart failure and emphysema. You are infected with the coronavirus, get sick, and die. Did you die from it, or merely with it?

This is a point that Dr. John Lee, a retired professor of pathology in the United Kingdom, made in Spectator USA. “There is a big difference,” he writes, “between Covid-19 causing death, and Covid-19 being found in someone who died of other causes. . . . Much of the response to Covid-19 seems explained by the fact that we are watching this virus in a way that no virus has been watched before. The scenes from the Italian hospitals have been shocking, and make for grim television. But television is not science.”

“First do no harm.” Dr. Lee is right to warn that the panicked response to this new virus has neglected that age-old medical advice. “Unless,” he notes, “we tighten criteria for recording death due only to the virus (as opposed to it being present in those who died from other conditions), the official figures may show a lot more deaths apparently caused by the virus than [are] actually the case. What then? How do we measure the health consequences of taking people’s lives, jobs, leisure and purpose away from them to protect them from an anticipated threat? Which causes the least harm?”

That is an excellent question. Also excellent is his concluding observation that “The moral debate is not lives vs. money. It is lives vs. lives.”

It will take months, perhaps years, if ever, before we can assess the wider implications of what we are doing. The damage to children’s education, the excess suicides, the increase in mental health problems, the taking away of resources from other health problems that we were dealing with effectively. Those who need medical help now but won’t seek it, or might not be offered it. And what about the effects on food production and global commerce, that will have unquantifiable consequences for people of all ages, perhaps especially in developing economies?

In the United States, we have locked down whole counties and shuttered businesses across the country. We have erected scores of soapboxes upon which ambitious politicians and venal media hacks pontificate and spread panic and misinformation. Congress has just passed, and the president has just signed, a $2 trillion “stimulus” package. I put “stimulus” in quotation marks because what government stimuli stimulate is more government spending, along with inflation and ever increasing government bureaucracy.

President Trump has shown great leadership during this manufactured crisis. I hope he will continue to ponder his observation that we do not want to get ourselves into a situation in which the cure is worse than the disease.

Greatness Agenda

China Must Release the Secret Records of the Wuhan Biolabs

It’s time for Beijing to come clean.

The leaders of the Chinese Communist Party have a lot to answer for.

Clearly, it was the CCP’s coverup and incompetence that first allowed the Wuhan virus to reach epidemic proportions in China, and then spread around the world. A congressional resolution authored by Representative Jim Banks (R-Ind.) condemns China for these misdeeds. It should be an easy vote.

But what if China is responsible not only for the global spread of the Wuhan virus but also for the original infections?

There are many, myself included, who suspect that this particular coronavirus may have been under study at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and that it somehow escaped from the lab.

A paper by two Chinese scientists outlined a plausible scenario about how this leak might have happened at either the WIV or at another nearby biolab run by China’s Centers for Disease Control. They argue that “Patient Zero” was a lab worker who accidentally infected himself with a bat coronavirus. The paper was quickly censored by the Chinese authorities, which only heightens suspicions.

Without question, China for years has been doing research at its Wuhan biolabs that could be used to create coronaviruses harmful to humans. The researchers have left a clear paper trail.

In a 2008 article in the Journal of Virology, WIV researchers described how they were genetically engineering SARS-like viruses from horseshoe bats to enable them to use angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) to gain entry into human cells.

In other words, more than 10 years ago the Wuhan biolab was already creating entirely new and deadly viruses by inserting that part of the dangerous SARS virus that allows it to infect people into a second bat coronavirus, which was then able to attack human cells just like the Wuhan Flu virus does.

Then there is a 2013 article in Nature by some of the same WIV researchers entitled, “Isolation and characterization of a bat SARS-like coronavirus that uses the ACE2 receptor.”

They conclude that “Chinese horseshoe bats are natural reservoirs of SARS-CoV, and that intermediate hosts may not be necessary for direct human infection by some bat SARS-like coronaviruses.”

Here we find the Wuhan biolab involved in collecting a range of SARS-like coronaviruses from horseshoe bats and proving that, like the SARS virus itself, some of these other naturally occurring coronaviruses could infect human beings directly. Again, just like the Wuhan virus does.

Now if either genetically engineered or naturally occurring coronaviruses capable of infecting people escaped from the Wuhan biolab, this could be the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and I are being hammered in mainstream media outlets for even suggesting that the Wuhan virus may have escaped from a Chinese lab. They have tried to “fact check” our concern to death by mischaracterizing it and by citing so-called experts.

A left-wing site called Health Feedback falsely accused me of suggesting that the virus was definitely a genetically engineered bioweapon. A Forbes columnist claimed that both Cotton and I had said it “was manufactured in a lab.” The Daily Mail wrote “Sen. Tom Cotton and American social Scientist Steven Mosher push this theory that the virus was manufactured.”

On and on it goes.

What Cotton and I actually said was that it may have escaped, in one way or another, from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Many of those who rush to China’s defense, it turns out, have undisclosed ties to that country, and even to the Wuhan Institute of Virology itself. Virologist Danielle Anderson, who was cited by Health Feedback in its hit piece, works for the National University of Singapore, which in turn is an “International Partner” of WIV.

In fact, her joint project with the Wuhan lab is called “Combating the Next SARS- or MERS-like Emerging Infectious Disease Outbreak by Improving Active Surveillance.”

One assumes she and her Chinese partners have moved on from the current pandemic and are now researching the “next outbreak,” since they obviously missed this one. 

This means Anderson is not just an interested party; she is a heavily invested party. If WIV is the cause of a worldwide pandemic, obviously she and others with ties to that institution will see their reputations suffer by association.

Whatever reasons China’s apologists have for defending China—to protect themselves and their Chinese colleagues, to shift the blame away from China onto America, to blame President Trump—they are offering opinions, not facts.

To determine the actual origin of the pandemic we need only one thing. China must immediately release all of the coronavirus research records of the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Wuhan Center for Disease Control.

Once we have these records from China, it will be easy to do a comprehensive sequencing comparison of the Wuhan Flu virus, SARS-CoV-2, with all of the coronaviruses isolated, sequenced, and studied at these biolabs.

In particular, we would want to take a very close look at how the Wuhan virus compares to all the human-ACE2-binding coronaviruses that these biolabs have created or collected. This is the feature that allows SARS-CoV-2 to invade the lungs, where it causes the pneumonia that is characteristic of COVID-19 illness.

If we find no matches in the research records, this will prove China’s innocence, at least in terms of the origin of the epidemic.

If there is a match, we will know not only that it escaped from the lab, but we will also learn from the research records whether it was in some way engineered.

Now, if the Beijing regime has nothing to hide, then it should be happy to authorize the release of the records that will clear its name. So should the Wuhan Institute of Virology, whose director recently said in an emotional interview that she swears on her very life that her Institute did not release the virus.

Fine. Then release the research records to prove it.

Because of the importance of finding out the truth, I believe that President Trump should both personally and publicly request Chinese President Xi Jinping to authorize the release of the research records.

If President Xi refuses, that should be taken as an admission of guilt on China’s part.

Then we will have one more reason to continue calling this “made in China” pandemic the Wuhan Flu. Or, if you prefer, the China virus.

Elections

‘Dr. Win-the-War’ vs. the Mouse

Democratic Party bosses are sending an infirm and elderly mouse to bell a big, tawny, roaring cat. Anyone can see how it will end.

President Trump has met and passed his supreme test. This has left his Democratic opponents  desperately espousing gloom and demanding that the economic shut-down continue, according to frequent semi-high-brow Democratic ideologue and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, for up to seven months.

Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers took to the Washington Post to preach epidemiological defeatism. While the choristers of fear and despair are clinging to a prolonged economic melt-down like drowning men clutching a raft, their presumptive presidential candidate is disintegrating in the midst of friendly interviews and struggling to get a little attention while the man he wishes to unseat takes one to two hours of prime-time television every day announcing the success of his plan of action to deal with the country’s greatest public health crisis in a century.

When Trump realized that his breezy assurances that everything was under control and that the spring weather would vanquish the problem weren’t cutting it, and that he was wide open to blistering criticism from his opponents, he imperturbably executed a 180-degree turn and became, in FDR’s phrase, apt for a public health crisis, “Dr. Win-the-War.”

The Democratic Party spokespeople for a few days were feeling very sufficient, settling into a long siege with the entire economy of the country descending into desperate straits, and then carrying their recently resurrected nominee, the ill-assured and quavering Joe Biden across the finish-line against the new Herbert Hoover.

Democrats had been incredulous at Trump’s appearance as a candidate, judged him unelectable, were so astonished by his victory they convinced themselves and corrupted the Justice Department and the intelligence agencies with the monstrous falsehood that he had won by enlisting the support of the Kremlin. And when that enormous canard came down in flames—like the Hindenburg at Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1937—out of terror-induced distraction, they impeached him for unimpeachable offenses and with no believable evidence that he had committed them anyway.

The unelectable Trump had given way to the impeachable Trump, who was replaced by the distinctly beatable Trump, a vision it was increasingly hard to believe in as the economy disobediently boomed and the president’s poll numbers rose. Then, like the Seventh Cavalry guided by a beatific apparition, the coronavirus pandemic descended. It wasn’t quite the Trump exit his enemies had wished, but it would do and it was providential. Trump would shut everything down after being pilloried for overconfidence and ineffectiveness, the economy would wither, the pandemic would do to him politically what the Iran hostages did to Jimmy Carter, and the Democrats could claim in the autumn that if he had just acted more quickly, all would be well, and the disease-driven poverty of America was Trump’s doing.

The president had the grace of conversion. He shut down all the bunk about his philistine animosity to science by recruiting a blue-ribbon scientific and public health administrative team. He stopped most of the Democratic officeholders by cooperating closely with all the governors, including some he had quarreled with publicly and acidulously. People in the front lines, like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and California Governor Gavin Newsom, were fighting for the lives of the people in their states, as well as for their own political futures, and all those who were trying to cope with the pandemic, rather than exploiting its political consequences, had the same interest.

The eminent scientists and other specialists on the president’s task force appeared with him at his press briefings and spoke in solidarity with him. Trump more or less shouldered the vice president aside and took the podium every day with the whole country watching. He brought in the private-sector leaders and a collaboration somewhat reminiscent of the brilliant cooperation between government and industry in World War II instantly came into being as many corporations threw their energies into producing and distributing vital equipment for combating the scourge.

Medical supplies were moved quickly and with almost no red tape. The astounding incapacity to test in serious numbers and promptly was replaced in two weeks with mass testing that almost anyone could perform with results coming in 40 minutes. This week there have been 65,000 tests a day and by next week there will be 150,000 tests a day.

Trump was solid, not rattled, by the questions and entirely believable as he handled the press every day, and fully corroborated by his experts. The anticipated fatality rate between 5 and 10 percent of those afflicted, and a majority of those apparently with coronavirus symptoms, narrowed out after about 10 days and it emerged that only about 15 percent of those who seemed to have the symptoms tested positive, and of those, fatalities were about 1.5 percent of infected people.

If the immuno-compromised portion of the population could be segregated and protected, the fatality rate came down to about half of 1 percent of the 15 percent of the tested and symptomatic people who actually had contracted the coronavirus. And there are large regions of the country where the penetration of the virus has been minimal, and this condition was generally conserved by drastically reduced travel.

The independent medical and epidemiological experts confirmed that the president’s actions in closing down flights from China in January and from Western Europe on March 11 had undoubtedly saved many American lives and that without these measures, the United States could have had fatality rates like Italy’s distressing 10.5 percent of infected cases—scores or even hundreds of thousands of dead if replicated in the United States. At the time of the move on flights from China, Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer fired the usual Democratic charges of “racism” and “xenophobia” at the president—the charges didn’t wear well.

The president championed the malarial remedy Hydroxychloroquine, and when one unfortunate tried to self-medicate but with the phosphate version (an aquarium tank-cleaner) he died so CNN billed it a virtual manslaughter by the president. Laughable. And the actual remedy does appear to be promising. As this new and less terrifying picture emerged, a rising focus among commentators was on the economic damage of a prolonged shut-down of the country.

Although this was essentially what the Democrats were counting on, they had to concur in the president’s relief package, an awe-inspiring two trillion dollar direct relief bill supplemented by a four trillion dollar liquidity facility. The Democrats squandered their ability to take much credit for it by trying to pack in nonsense about solar panels, windmills, abortions, carbon emissions of grounded airliners, and back-handers for trade unions. Too late. They realized that Trump and the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, had layered in tax benefits that would outlast the public health crisis and its consequences and would be of tangible pleasure to the voters as they went to their election places.

And so the Democrats arrive at their last line of defense: Bill de Blasio, the failed, lame-duck mayor of New York, pathetically wailing for the deployment of the armed forces (for no evident purpose and as if they were immune to the virus) and predicting that the pandemic would rage everywhere in the country at the highest New York City rate, for six months. Reich and Summers and the others charged out of the firehall one more time demanding a long shutdown, but it won’t fly. They’ve run out of dirty tricks they’re finished.

The Democrats have a presumptive candidate who can hardly utter a coherent sentence in response to a friendly questioner, live-streaming from a little podium in his living room, an absurd, and objectively sad spectacle. The Democratic bosses are sending an infirm and elderly mouse to bell a big, tawny, roaring cat. Anyone can see how it will end.

Greatness Agenda

Ventilator Blues

America’s small businesses, our machinists, die-casters, plastic injection molders, electronics parts suppliers, and others are eager to get to work providing the medical equipment the nation needs but the companies that hold the patents and process patents for this equipment need to open up and ask for bids.

Don’t matter where you are
Everybody’s gonna need a ventilator

— “Ventilator Blues” Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Mick Taylor

The Wuhan coronavirus has laid bare America’s dependence on Communist China for critical medical supplies, from pharmaceuticals, facemasks and hospital gowns, to medical ventilators.

Besides suffering from the Wuhan virus, America has a bad case of the ventilator blues. That’s not just a track from the Rolling Stones’ classic “Exile on Main Street”—it’s the zeitgeist from New York to Detroit and Washington (state and District of Columbia).

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says his state alone needs 30,000 breathing machines for intensive care units.

The FDA changed regulations to clear bottlenecks in the design and production and there’s talk of automakers retooling to produce ventilators.

“GM is working to help find solutions for the nation during this difficult time and has offered to help, and we are already studying how we can potentially support production of medical equipment like ventilators,” a GM spokeswoman told Automotive News.

Bill Ford, the head of Ford Motor Company, told NBC’s “Today Show” his company is working with GE to make ventilators “as fast as we can.”

But that’s not fast enough for some. New York’s Cuomo is the loudest, but not the only, voice calling on the Trump Administration to invoke the Defense Production Act to speed the manufacture and delivery of the machines.

The mobilization of private industry to counter the Wuhan coronavirus harks back to World War II when industry repurposed assembly lines to turn out machine guns and other war materiel.

There are similarities and key differences with our situation today.

In World War II, the government essentially took over the factories producing goods for which there was only one customer—the U.S. government.

Today, four of the largest ventilator manufacturers in the world have some production located in the United States: Philips Healthcare, Allied Healthcare, Medtronics, and GE Healthcare.

But actual long-time suppliers to these ventilator manufacturers are seeing no plans for rapid increases in output. And the Michigan automotive suppliers association has seen no evidence whatsoever that members have been asked by automakers to retool to make ventilator parts.

Phillips has a plant in Pittsburgh and says it’s hiring an additional 50 employees to double the production of respirators from 1,000 to 2,000 in the next eight weeks.

“And after those two months we want to double it again,” a company spokesman says. “For this we are dependent on our network of suppliers,” the Dutch newspaper NRC reports.

But even if Phillips quadrupled its production, it would be nowhere near enough to handle the need in the United States. Meanwhile, the Netherlands has ordered 2,000 respirators, and other countries are buying all the respirators and other medical supplies they can lay their hands on.

Phillips is concerned the Trump Administration could use the Defense Production Act to take the respirators it’s currently producing for export to Europe.

While know-nothing globalists chant “viruses don’t respect borders, we’re all in this fight together,” reality bites. Global Trade Alert reports 54 governments around the world have imposed export restrictions on medical supplies and drugs in response to the pandemic. (The United States has no export restrictions.)

The list includes allies such as the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and other countries in Europe. Half of the world’s ventilator producers are located in the EU and are not available to the United States because of export restrictions.

Then there are the parts that go into a respirator.

“Every respirator maker in the world is looking for parts, and they all come from the same suppliers,” Emergency Care Research Institute director Marcus Schabacker tells the New York Times.

And many of those parts suppliers are in Europe and Asia.

The circuit boards that go into Philips respirators are made in China. One of Phillips’ long time suppliers reports the Pittsburgh line was shut down for several days because of a lack of circuit boards. The company didn’t have a second source in the United States.

Circuit boards aren’t the only problem. It seems the overwhelming majority of Phillips’ part suppliers—providing such things as plastic enclosures, filters, plastic tubing—are short on stock. That’s according to Phillips’ buyer.

Meanwhile, Medtronics, another respirator manufacturer, has problems as well. A European outsourcing conglomerate manages Medtronics’ supply-chain acquisitions. It issued a request for price quotes on 11,000 different ventilator parts and components.

However, the RFP failed to include specifications, blueprints or drawings for the parts. Not a single design or specification was provided for even one of the 11,000 parts.

It’s hard to provide a price quote when you don’t know exactly what you’re supposed to be making.

The long and short of it is existing supply chains are nowhere near able to meet the short-term demand.

A reasonable person might suspect these companies are hiding or covering up their supply capacity, or are merely going through the motions to appear they are interested in ramping up production while trying to protect existing production chains. Or they are truly incompetent.

Our friends at Phillips give us a hint at what else may be going on here.

“Philips director Frans van Houten met with ‘the main competitors’ over the phone last weekend, says Philips spokesperson Klink, ‘To discuss how we can scale up together,’” NRC reports.

We have a name for “competitors” who “discuss how we can scale up together”—it’s called a cartel.

Which brings us back to World War II.

Transforming America into “the arsenal of democracy” required breaking up cartels that controlled critical industries.

In May of 1940, President Roosevelt set a target of building fifty thousand planes a year. That required a lot of aluminum, and the metal was under the control of one company, a monopoly, Alcoa.

By November 1940, a shortage of aluminum forced Northrop Aircraft Company to cut hours by 20 percent. Six months later, Boeing ceased bomber production because of inadequate aluminum supplies.

Alcoa was attacked for keeping supplies down in order to keep prices up.

The government stepped in to expand desperately needed supplies.

The federal government loaned millions to an upstart in the aluminum foil business named Richard S. Reynolds. He was happy to provide as much aluminum to build aircraft as needed. America met Roosevelt’s target in 1942 and doubled it two years later.

The government also pushed to break up other cartels, forcing giants like Standard Oil to license their patents for all to use.

The lesson: the federal government can use its purchasing, financing and legal powers to promote competition and make America manufacturing great again.

America’s small businesses, our machinists, die-casters, plastic injection molders, electronics parts suppliers, and others are eager to get to work providing the medical equipment the nation needsbut the companies that hold the patents and process patents for this equipment need to open up and ask for bids.

Thanks to “Goliath” by Matt Stoller for recounting the role of anti-monopolists in building the arsenal of democracy.

Elections

Trump’s Coronavirus Response Is Foiling His Enemies

The president is already unlimbering the economic guns and starting to spike the dreams of those who hope that the economic consequences of the anti-coronavirus measures will lose the administration its reelection.

The political aspect of the coronavirus crisis is developing in a familiar way. The president’s enemies in the media have led the propagation of panic in the country, and have been given enough encouragement to do that from the scientific community, some of whose members are enjoying their 15 minutes of world fame a little more than is seemly.

Trump’s opponents are thus able to swaddle themselves in the legitimacy of science as they hurl their brickbats at the president. As is his custom, the president has given his opponents plenty of ammunition by speaking constantly, leaving a rich trove of contradictory, and in some cases, it turns out after a few days, absurd reflections on the medical and related problems as they unfold.

As is also the well-established custom, his enemies cannot resist embellishing and fabricating. The claim he had disbanded the pandemic response section of the National Security Council is false, as are suggestions that he has ignored or overruled scientific opinion.

The assault on the president’s credibility as an enunciator of facts has had some success, partly because there is some reason to question his attention to facts and partly because he is routinely smeared by his media enemies.

Meantime, the dishonesty of the media is reaffirmed almost daily. The president has made an effort to avoid partisanship and has worked well with Democratic governors, even those with whom he enjoys a relationship of intense reciprocal dislike, including Andrew Cuomo of New York, Gavin Newsom of California, and Jay Inslee of Washington. He has also made a reasonable effort to conduct daily press briefings with civility; those efforts are not always requited, and some of the journalists routinely withhold the respect due the office.

There is a slightly theatrical quality to these daily press briefings; the president set up the committee including senior scientists, doctors, and public health officials, and put Vice President Mike Pence in charge, but has now taken to handling the press briefings himself. And all the figures in the administration who address the press seem to be pre-programmed to begin every third sentence with “The president has very wisely decided . . . ” or “Because the president so presciently foresaw . . . ” or some such testimony to the indefectible judgment and decisiveness of the president whom they serve.

They may be motivated, in part, by the knowledge that, as an executive and as a television star in his former life, this president has greater ease in dismissing cabinet and other senior officials than any preceding U.S. president, and has no sense of a high official turnover being indecorous. There is doubtless some truth in their compliments, but the effect of such a parody of totalitarian public information methods is the reverse of what is intended. And to some extent, the media are just legitimately covering an immense news story, and not trying to sow panic in order to frighten people unnecessarily, stampede opinion under the president, or disturb what even a month ago looked like a pretty smooth glide-path to reelection.

This is all of a familiar pattern: the antagonistic press, the egocentric president—but also, and this is emerging, the successful and competent president.

An Improving Situation

Try as he does, unintentionally, to disguise the progress he is achieving by making exaggerated claims and injudicious utterances and then denying he made them and reformulating them, President Trump is clearly all over this problem like a cheap suit. He was right to assemble the committee he did, right to work with all jurisdictions and set partisanship aside, right to enlist the private sector from which he came and whose methods he well knows. And he was right to engage in a program of full and prompt public information.

The results are that where a month ago, coronavirus testing could only be done by appointment in hospitals and the results determined by physically sending tests for evaluation to Atlanta, Georgia—even from Hawaii—simply administered mass testing devices will be manufactured and delivered in great and increasing numbers starting next week, with anyone able to do the test, results known in 40 minutes, and all tests free of cost to the individual tested.

Though the effectiveness of a malarial remedy in combating the coronavirus is based on a single experiment in France, it is a known medicine ready to go and is being used starting this week on an enlarged number of people in New York. Trump has ramped this up very quickly with his declaration of a national emergency and utilization of the Defense Production Act. He rightly leaves it to states and cities to determine the extent of closings and restraint of public activity.

The administration is moving well ahead of most of the media in anticipating the economic consequences of such an assault on commerce as is implicit in the draconian remedies the scientific community is espousing. The more ingenious of Trump’s media enemies probably assume, since his enemies have always assumed that his complete self-annihilation was always about to happen at each “turning point,” and “bombshell” caused by the “walls closing in,” that he can be stampeded into such a medically motivated strangulation of the economy and he will surrender the election into the cupped hands of a thoroughly unfeasible Joe Biden. But it is increasingly clear each day that he is not going to run through these 15-day cycles indefinitely.

As testing increases, the numbers improve. Only about 10 percent of people tested have the virus, and of those only 1.2 percent of people have died from it, the lowest percentage of all serious and reliable reporting countries except Germany and Canada. If the cases connected to the unfortunate home for the elderly in Seattle are excluded, the number would be under 1 percent. Obviously, as mass testing goes forward the incidence will decline, and as measures to protect the immune-challenged are implemented and strengthened, the percentage of fatalities among those who do contract the virus will also decline.

A $6 Trillion Relief Package

The president is already unlimbering the economic guns and starting to spike the dreams of those who hope that the economic consequences of the anti-coronavirus measures will lose Trump the November election.

A package of $6 trillion of direct and indirect assistance and assured liquidity has been proposed. The Democrats, after the customary waffling about Trump’s self-prostration to his fellow billionaires and indifference to the workers of America, will have to get on board.

What Trump and his officials propose is aimed directly at those who need it most. He has made it clear that he will make the jump from the coronavirus being the principal enemy to the enforced sluggishness of the economy being the principal problem, and he expects to return to the voters as the president who vanquished an unprecedented public health challenge (in this he is allied to the media’s magnification of the crisis) and the president who created a miraculous economy and then retrieved it from the jaws of (foreign-originated) disease.

The polls of presidential job approval have softened slightly, but the polls of approval of Trump’s handling of the crisis have flipped in his favor. They will continue to rise and pull general approval with it. The president would do better if he could resist the urge to insert himself always and excessively into every public aspect of government, and he is, in managing his quest for attention, making what our elementary school teachers called “steady progress.”

The credibility of the media declines as they invent pettifogging reasons to harass a president who increasingly is seen as managing a very challenging situation very well. Joe Biden, about to hold alternative press briefings on the coronavirus, is almost the answer to a trivia question now and will only emerge from that status in the unlikely event that Trump mismanages the public health or economic elements of this crisis, as opposed to just somewhat mischoreographing it.

Great America

Can Ron DeSantis Bring Some Sanity to Coronavirus Overreaction?

No one is speaking for the tens of millions of terrified Americans suffering mostly in silence over fears they will be shamed as uncompassionate or ignorant. It’s time for a real leader to emerge at the state level. Maybe DeSantis will be the one.

Considering its demographics and daily influx of tourists from around the world, Florida should be ground zero for the spread of COVID-19.

The Sunshine State is home to the highest percentage of senior citizens in the country, and that doesn’t include snowbirds from the Midwest and East Coast who seek temporary refuge during the winter months. Given what we know about the higher risk for people over age 65, hospitals in the state should be overwhelmed with coronavirus patients.

Further, as college campuses emptied out in early March and students headed to “Where the Boys Are,” these virus-carrying hedonists should have infected thousands of elderly Floridians. Florida also is a favorite destination for international tourists: Two of the top four U.S. cities visited each year by foreigners—Miami and Orlando—are in Florida. As the virus spread across the globe in the first two months of 2020, it undoubtedly made its way to the state unbeknownst to health officials.

But unlike New York City and a few other hotspots in the country, there is no evidence of a widespread, lethal outbreak of coronavirus in Florida. As of Monday morning, 90 percent of Floridians tested were negative for COVID-19. Only 217 people have been hospitalized and 14 total have died. (About eight people per day commit suicide in Florida according to 2017 statistics.)

The same tracker indicates that about 72 percent of those tested in New York state were negative, while 2,635 have been hospitalized and 114 have died.

There’s more good news for Florida: One-third of the state’s hospital beds remain available. During a press briefing over the weekend, Governor Ron DeSantis not only confirmed that 18,000 regular hospital beds are open but that 1,700 intensive care unit beds out of a total of 5,400 in the state are unused so far. DeSantis noted an increase in available beds over the past week, possibly due to the cancellation of elective surgeries, but those beds have not been filled with coronavirus patients.

Other information points to a nearly nonexistent threat of the Wuhan virus in Florida. According to the Centers for Disease Control, visits to health care providers by Floridians complaining of influenza-like symptoms, which mimic those for coronavirus, is “minimal.” The state’s surgeon general also confirmed that data during the governor’s weekend presser. A testing site in Jacksonville only attracted a few hundred people.

Yet even without an official shelter-in-place order, much of Florida is at a standstill. DeSantis, spurred by media pressure and government directives, continues to ratchet up efforts to curtail any spread of the virus during the height of the state’s lucrative tourist season.

On March 9, DeSantis declared a state of emergency. In response to President Trump’s 15-day directive to “flatten the curve,” prepared by the CDC, DeSantis shuttered most bars and set limits on the number of people gathered in restaurants and beaches. But after social media mobs shamed beachgoers and bar patrons in his state, DeSantis closed down most beaches as local governments followed suit. On Friday, the governor closed all restaurants and fitness gyms indefinitely.

Malls, resorts, and downtown areas are basically deserted. Highways usually packed with cars bearing license plates from northern states are lightly-traveled. Flatbed trucks filled with construction supplies, a common sight on the interstate, are nowhere to be seen. The luxury hotel adjacent to our condo in southwest Florida just closed until June 1. Tens of thousands of low-wage workers are out of a job without any indication of when, or if, they can return to work.

DeSantis, without a doubt, is in a tough spot. First, he’s a major target of Trump haters for his loyalty to the president when he was a member of Congress before barely defeating a Democratic rising star, Andrew Gillum, in November 2018. Second, any refusal to implement the CDC’s guidelines or cave to social media mobs looks like heartless disregard for grandma and grandpa. And third, DeSantis is widely considered to be a 2024 Republican presidential contender, so any action must be carefully calibrated to burnish his future prospects.

Local leaders continue to pressure DeSantis to announce a statewide shutdown. The Democratic mayor of Miami Beach just issued a stay-at-home order; his area counterparts are expected to do the same this week.

But as the national economy crashes and fear replaces reason among both the citizenry and political leaders at every level, someone needs to step up to challenge this unprecedented, destructive power play. (It’s vital to note that not one elected official was required to vote on the CDC guidelines now cited by federal and state officials as the law of the land.)

DeSantis could display real courage and leadership at a time when its in short supply. By March 30—the end of the so-called 15-day pause—if not sooner, DeSantis needs to publicly weigh the dire damage now inflicted on his state against the uncertain threat of coronavirus.

He’s already making important statements that his residents need to hear. Florida, DeSantis noted in an interview last week, enjoyed one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.

“Our economy was humming, things were going along great, and now this external event, this virus, is going to dislocate a lot of people,” the governor said.

And it isn’t just economic havoc that the first-term governor fears: DeSantis has expressed his concerns about other implications of the crisis. “I really worry, as this drags out, the effect this is gonna have on mental health in the state and in the country because you’re looking at some major changes and upheavals that have happened in just a couple weeks,” the governor told reporters on Saturday.

He also has questioned the veracity of the sketchy science behind the draconian government cures for the disease, correctly observing that much of it is based on models and not hard data.

So, what could DeSantis do to counter the increasingly tyrannical responses enacted by his Democratic counterparts across the country? (Virginia Governor Ralph Northam on Monday announced a 30-day shut down of his state’s economic and educational system, far exceeding recommendations by the CDC, even though the virus has resulted in just 32 hospitalizations and three deaths in the commonwealth.)

DeSantis could tout how predictions of doom have not materialized in his state despite an influx of likely infected people for at least the past several weeks. (One study concluded that ultraviolet light and humidity lowers infection rates.) Hospital beds are widely available and the state has a contingency plan to use sports stadiums and even hotels as backup triage centers should the situation deteriorate rapidly.

Data on the disease, DeSantis could explain, is unreliable and untested; viruses do not act the same in every locality and under every circumstance whereas the human toll from joblessness is very real. The most vulnerable populations—the elderly and the ill—and those who care for them will need to take special precautions such as hand-washing, masks, and other mitigation strategies.

If ongoing testing reveals a hotspot in the state, the government will move swiftly to contain it. Increased screenings for people traveling back to the state could be initiated at major hubs; routes from New York could be curtailed until the situation in that state improves.

But DeSantis has a chance to stand out among other leaders by putting his state back to work. There is no reason why he needs to follow along with CDC bureaucrats or left-wing Democrats or even the White House to sink his state’s future for nothing in exchange.

For now, he’s holding firm on his refusal to declare a shelter-in-place order.

“It would be a very blunt instrument,” he said Monday afternoon. “When you’re ordering people shelter-in-place, you are consigning . . . probably hundreds of thousands of Floridians go lose their jobs, you’re throwing their lives into potential disarray.”

There are more dire tradeoffs that DeSantis could condemn. Stripping the joy from people’s lives, provoking unnecessary panic, separating loved ones, further isolating lonely children and adults, and halting life’s celebratory moments have emotional costs that will never be fully measured. Those legitimate maladies are dismissed as we are told that major sacrifices are necessary to save even one life.

No one is speaking for the tens of millions of terrified Americans suffering mostly in silence over fears they will be shamed as uncompassionate, cruel or ignorant. It’s time for a real leader to emerge at the state level. Maybe DeSantis will be the one.

Great America

The Virus is Not Invincible, But It’s Exposing Who’s Irreplaceable

When your refrigerator goes out under quarantine and your supplies begin to rot, do you really need another rant from Maxine Waters—or do you rather need a St. Michael Smith and St. Uriel Mendoza to appear out of nowhere as the archangels from Home Depot to wheel up and connect a new one?

In all the gloom and doom, and media-driven nihilism, there is actually an array of good news. As many predicted, as testing spreads, and we get a better idea of the actual number and nature of cases, the death rate from coronavirus slowly but also seems to steadily decline.

Early estimates from the World Health Organization and the modeling of pessimists of a constant 4 percent death rate for those infected with the virus are for now proving exaggerated for the United States. More likely, as testing spreads, our fatality rates could descend to near 1 percent.

There is some evidence from Germany and to a lesser extent South Korea, that it may be possible to see the fatality rate dip below 1 percent. And with the breathing space from the lockdown, better hygiene (the degree of constant and near-obsessive cleaning at businesses that are still open is quite amazing), more knowledge and data, better medical protocols, the use of some efficacious drugs, warmer weather, and experience with the disease will, in perfect-storm fashion, begin to mitigate the effects of the virus.

Should we get the lethality rate down to German levels (currently two to three in 1,000), then we can cautiously assume that those who predicted that the coronavirus could eventually be contextualized as a bad, H1N1-like flu will no longer be demonized as nuts, and life can resume with reasonable precautions and focused quarantines and isolation.

In two or three weeks, if we can just allow most businesses to reopen, gear up to pandemic testing, track cases and contacts in the manner of past protocols that lessened polio, tuberculosis, AIDS, and measles outbreaks, and focus on the ill and elderly, then the economy will reboot.

But now the current economy is starting to resemble a patient in an induced coma, one whom no one knows whether he will recover after the respirator is disconnected. But still, there are reasons for optimism: historically low interest rates will eventually encourage bit-ticket buying.

After any war or national crisis, confidence soars with collective relief and people go out to eat, travel, buy, and consume. Airlines, and the entire commercial and private transportation sector, will receive a multi-billion-dollar subsidy in radically reduced gas and diesel prices. The same holds true for the utilities.

Summer is approaching. With it comes increased driving and travel at lower prices, at the exact time there is some good reason to believe warmer weather could curb viral transmissions—just as we are learning of an increased effort to defeat the coronavirus with experimental medicines, homogenized protocols, more plentiful medical supplies, and better data.

A Dry California?

We forget the world goes on amidst the viral panic, and the news apart from the outbreak is actually pretty good. California, the country’s largest state and biggest economy, was facing a harsh drought just three weeks ago.  There were near record dry months in January and February, when essentially no rain or snow fell, and the bounty of the prior December was melted or sent out to sea. There was not much hope, since the great preponderance of California’s precipitation falls before March 1.

However, a rare “March Miracle” has just seen the Sierra Nevada Mountains suddenly receive 4-6 feet of snow that covers dry ground (it is still snowing as I write this). And the later the snow, the better the spring runoff.

While 2020 will not prove an especially wet year, the state—and by extension, the country— has dodged a lethal bullet. Had California in the midst of the epidemic, whose spread is predicated on unhygienic behavior, been struggling also with drought-induced water rationing—less bathing, hand-washing, cleaning—the negative synergy could have been devastating.

Certainly, the public gloom would become endemic at being simultaneously ordered to practice nonstop washing and cleaning, while also being ordered to save water amidst a panic of hand cleanser and antiseptics hoarding and shortages.

Our Rivals

In geostrategic terms, we do not endure an absolute but rather a relative epidemic. Like it or not, national rivalries continue at a time of plague. Our three greatest rivals, China, Russia, and Iran are all faring far worse than are we in ways that transcend the virus.

China’s brand is tarnished, despite its cheap and loud effort to Silkroad its way out of the disaster. Sending medical supplies to Italy does not balance out earlier sending hundreds of Chinese citizens with the virus to Italy, at a time the communist government knew the disease was transmissible, and well established among the Chinese population. It kept such knowledge from the world in general, and from its clients like Italy in particular.

Nations, if wise, will question Chinese reliability, transparency, and truthfulness as never before—despite likely Chinese discounts and outreach to maintain relationships. Many will still conclude that the upside of cheap labor cancels out the downside of dependency on such an unreliable and odious government partner.

In American terms, Trump’s supposedly quixotic effort to decouple key industries from China will no longer be the stuff of bemused scorn, but the new orthodoxy, with obvious advantages for the United States in terms of autonomy and autarky of life-sustaining goods—not to mention U.S. jobs.

Iran was in extremis before the virus—oil price crashes, oil sales boycotted and embargoed, unpopularity over killing 1,500 protestors and lying about shooting down a passenger airliner. Now its “China First” policy of relying on Beijing for help in avoiding U.S. sanctions boomeranged in catastrophic fashion: their atheistic and Islamic-persecuting Chinese patrons knowingly sent infectious people into Iran, with the full knowledge of the risk to their supposed client.

Russia’s Middle East agendas were already stagnating, given that Syria is an expensive hellhole that great powers are now wise to avoid, at least on the ground. Crashed oil prices robbed Moscow of revenue. Its military buildup, Middle East imperialism, and anti-American efforts are running short of cash. They will continue to do so as both Saudi Arabia and the United States pump more oil.

There is a golden opportunity for U.S. corporations to return to America and to become what has been called the new Roosevelt “arsenal of democracy,” the world’s supplier of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals that nations count on in times of crisis.

The Media

Everyone knew before just how biased and unprofessional the media had become in its maniacal hatred of Donald Trump. But few appreciated how uneducated, arrogant, and clueless about simple calculations and logic was this generation of reporters that has emerged from politicized schools of journalism, which taught therapy rather than knowledge, much less a code of conduct.

The media daily blares out preliminary models and data, without even the most remedial context. They parrot the supposedly historic death rate of the virus, without any knowledge that the denominator of virus cases is as inaccurate and misleading as the numerator of deaths is mostly factual.

Then they seemed surprised that the death rate dips as tests and supposed cases spread, without any appreciation that known cases are likely not representative of the populace as a whole, but represent only those who were tested (80-90 percent negative), and thus only of those who felt ill or were exposed enough to be tested. Few tell us that a small percentage of those tested, when ill, have COVID-19, or the death rate is warped by those over 70 with accompanying heart, respirator, and cancer challenges.

When journalists talk of “20,000 cases!” they never remind their readers that nearly 99 percent recover from the virus that has stealthily been with us likely since mid-January, and of those 20,000 or so cases, a large number of the sick are already well. There is now a parlor game on the Internet of cutting and pasting clips from cable news, PBS, and NPR to reveal how inane and unthinking reporters have become.

Not so long ago, it was “bombshells,” “turning points,” “game-changers,” and “walls are closing in” to assure us that Robert Mueller was about to indict the entire Trump team. And now “we will never be the same,” “worse than the 1918 flu,” “xenophobia,” etc. have become the new parroting. Only an ignoramus or worse, would employ the terms “Chinese virus” and “Wuhan flu” for most of January and February, and then suddenly declare such terms racist when Donald Trump or his supporters copied such common media parlance.

Whereas no one believed the media in the past, no one especially likes them now, either. The more they in Pavlovian fashion equate coronavirus with the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, and Trump with Hitler, the more people, to the degree they hear of such silliness, tune them out.

Relative Value?

I think one of the strangest of all sequelae to the virus and the lockdowns might be the millions of high-paid Americans whose absences were hardly missed either by the public or count much in subsequent economic analyses of damage to the economy.

In a sophisticated society under lockdown, is it more existentially valuable to know how to fix a toilet, replace a circuit breaker, or change a tire, or to be a New York fashion designer, a Hollywood actor, or a corporate merger lawyer? At 9 p.m., when you go downtown in need of a critical prescription, are you really all that furious that a law-abiding citizen who has a gun and concealed permit is also in line—or would you be more relieved that gun control laws might ensure that his ilk never enters an all-night pharmacy?

So who is important and who not?

We were often told globalized elites on the coast were the deserved 21st-century winners, while the suckers and rubes in-between had better learn coding or head to the fracking fields.

But who now is more important than the trucker who drives 12-hours straight to deliver toilet paper to Costco? Or the mid-level manager of Target who calibrates supply and demand and is on the phone all day juggling deliveries before his store opens? Or the checker at the local supermarket who knows that the hundreds of customers inches away from her pose risks of infection, and yet she ensures that people walk out with food in their carts? The farmworker who is on the tractor all night to ensure that millions of carrots and lettuce don’t rot? The muddy frackers in West Texas who make it possible that natural gas reaches the home of the quarantined broker in Houston? The ER nurse on her fifth coronavirus of the day who matter-of-factly saves lives?

Do we really need to ask such questions of whether the presence of the czar for diversity and inclusion at Yale is missed as much as the often-caricatured cop on patrol at 2 a.m. in New Haven?

Do social justice student protestors who surround and heckle the politically suspicious now in ones and twos also scream in the faces of the incorrect plumber who unclogs their locked-down apartment drain?

The virus has reminded us again, but in an unorthodox fashion, that the world is bifurcated by the degreed versus the non-college educated, rural versus urban, sophisticates in opposition to supposed rubes—and the dichotomy has been telling. I don’t suppose Rick Wilson will go on CNN again to do his fake-Okie accent to ridicule the supposed unwashed, who deliver his food and energy, as viewers might wonder what exactly was his expertise.

Will multibillionaire Mike Bloomberg really convince anyone that a farmer operates by simplistic rote, and someone like himself is critical to America—one who censored the politically incorrect reporting of his own journalists while he schemed to find ways to capitalize Chinese Communist-owned companies with western currencies—at huge multi-billion-dollar profits to himself?

When your refrigerator goes out under quarantine and your supplies begin to rot, do you really need another rant from Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.)—or do you rather need a St. Michael Smith and St. Uriel Mendoza to appear out of nowhere as the archangels from Home Depot to wheel up and connect a new one?

Great America

COVID-19, the Elephant, and the House Cat

The really scary thing about this latest health scare is not the disease but the unexpected depths of passivity it revealed.

Here’s something special: a headline in The Economist that speaks the truth: “In Europe, and around the world, governments are getting tougher.” You betcha. Last week, I wrote with contempt about San Francisco’s mayor who had just announced she would “legally prohibit residents from leaving their homes except to meet basic needs.” “Well,” I thought, “It’s California, what do you expect?”

But now several other states, including New York, Connecticut, and Illinois, have issued “shelter-in-place” orders. They closed all “nonessential” businesses (nonessential to whom? To the people who work there?) and are throwing their weight around in other ways.

Restaurants: closed, except for take-out and delivery. Gymnasiums: closed. Museums: closed. Concert halls: closed. Public fraternization: essentially prohibited.

Why? Because of the biggest threat to mankind that the world has ever seen: the COVID-19 virus, also know as the Chinese flu, which to date has killed—are you ready—276 people in the United States, almost all of them over 80, almost all with serious co-morbidities.

Two-hundred-and-seventy-six people! And yes, that frightening number will rise. It will be 400, 500 before you know it. Maybe when all is said and done, we’ll see 1,000-1,200 identified who have died from complications that can be traced to this respiratory illness.

Meanwhile, somewhere between 22,000 and more than 50,000 people have died from the seasonal flu in the United States this year. Why is there no panic about that?

The Wuhan virus is a bad bug. But far more lethal than the “pandemic”—it sounds so much scarier to say “pandemic” than “epidemic,” even if the term is not justified—far more lethal, I say, are two other “P” words: panic and passivity.

Unfettered Exhibitions of Insanity

One of the two best pieces I have read about this extraordinary, wealth-destroying episode was written by the Stanford epidemiologist John P.A. Ioannidis. We are making decisions without reliable data, Ioannidis warns. There is still much we do not know about the lethality of the Chinese virus, he acknowledges, and “reasonable estimates for the case fatality ratio in the general U.S. population vary from 0.05% to 1%.” With every passing day, however, the evidence suggests that we will wind up on the lower end of that spectrum. “A population-wide case fatality rate of 0.05%,” he points out, “is lower than seasonal influenza.” The kicker:

If that is the true rate, locking down the world with potentially tremendous social and financial consequences may be totally irrational. It’s like an elephant being attacked by a house cat. Frustrated and trying to avoid the cat, the elephant accidentally jumps off a cliff and dies.

Is the market the elephant?

The panic, the hysteria, the mob mentality that has swept over the country is an amazing and disheartening thing to witness. Unfettered exhibitions of insanity are always disquieting. But even more alarming is the twofold dialectic operating in tandem with the panic. I mean the sheep-like passivity of the public, on the one hand, and the eager exercise, at every level, of state power on the other.

Governors, mayors, city councilmen, and neighborhood watch captains are dusting off their Gauleiter uniforms as they compete with each other to issue the most sweeping prohibitions against the liberty of their charges.

And the media just eggs them on. Scribe after wretched scribe laments the fact that Western countries are not as “organized” and “single-minded” as China was in dealing with the “crisis.”

I put scare quotes around “crisis” because this threat is less medical than characterological.

Perhaps the single best overview of what I like to call Wuhanomania is a long post by Aaron Ginn called “Evidence over hysteria—COVID-19.” (I call it that in homage to Charles Mackay’s classic description of Tulipomania in Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.)

Ginn’s essay is partly about data—what the real numbers and the real dangers of the virus are—and partly about despotism: its distinct and troubling rise as the virus makes its utterly predictable way up and then down the bell curve described more than a 150 years ago by the British epidemiologist William Farr.

Just a few salient bits of data.

How easy is it to catch the Wuhan flu? Not as easy as the scaremongers in the media—and, alas, as many policymakers—would have you believe. A study issued by WHO on how the Chinese responded to the virus is one of the most exhaustive studies yet published. The results, Ginn points out, “show that COVID-19 doesn’t spread as easily as we first thought or the media had us believe.” The boldface of the next bit is in the original: “According to their report if you come in contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 you have a 1–5% chance of catching it as well. The variability is large because the infection is based on the type of contact and how long.”

Bottom line: “The majority of viral infections come from prolonged exposures in confined spaces with other infected individuals.”

Then why is your kid’s baseball practice canceled? Well, might you ask. Ginn quotes Dr. Paul Auwaerter, the clinical director for the Division of Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “If you have a COVID-19 patient in your household, your risk of developing the infection is about 10% . . . . If you were casually exposed to the virus in the workplace (e.g., you were not locked up in the conference room for six hours with someone who was infected [like a hospital]), your chance of infection is about 0.5%.”

How do you spell “negligible”?

From Data to Despotism

Ginn goes on to point out that 93 percent of people who get tested because they think they have the virus turn out not to have it. He also notes that, as testing increases, so will the total numbers of cases reported. But both the fatality rate and “the severity case mix” will fall. We’re told by the media and some policy spokesman that COVID-19 “Is not just like the flu.” But the more data we have, the less plausible (and more alarmist) that claim looks.

It is about at this point in the discussion that people start shouting “Italy! Oh my God, what about what’s happening in Italy?” But the situation in Italy is vastly different from the situation in the United States. For one thing, Ginn notes, “99% of all deaths” in Italy “had an underlying pathology. Only 0.8% had no underlying condition.” Then, too, Northern Italy, where the disease first sprouted, had been overrun by people from China who carried the virus with them.

It is at this point that Ginn pivots from data to despotism by way of damage.

First the damage. “Local governments and politicians are inflicting massive harm and disruption with little evidence to support their draconian edicts.” This is true.

So is this:

Every local government is in a mimetic race to one-up each other in authoritarian city ordinances to show us who has more “abundance of caution.” Politicians are competing, not on more evidence or more COVID-19 cures but more caution. As unemployment rises and families feel unbearably burdened already, they feel pressure to “fix” the situation they created with even more radical and “creative” policy solutions. This only creates more problems and an even larger snowball effect. The first place to start is to stop killing the patient and focus on what works.

Here are some things that don’t work and militate against the Hippocratic oath, which applies in politics as much as in medicine:

  • Shuttering the local economy. This irritates and depresses people and shoves a drainage pump into local businesses, bankrupting them by the scores and hundreds. The evidence, Ginn points out, is “overwhelming” that airborne or “aerosol” transmission is “not a threat.” In more and more places, you can’t go out to eat, you can’t go to the gym but “We don’t have significant examples of spreading through restaurants or gyms.”
  • Hoarding. It’s silly. It’s counterproductive. It “demonstrates an irrational hysteria (stocking up on useless masks, trying to corner the market in toilet paper). But the hysteria, the fear, is ultimately being driven by governmental action, by fear of “what the government will do next.”

Acute Political Passivity

Which brings me to that minatory, nauseating phrase: “an abundance of caution.” Out of an “abundance of caution” we are going to close your schools, forbid you to travel, make you stay in your house, prevent you from socializing with your friends. “Let’s be frank,” Ginn says, with refreshing candor: “these acts are emotionally driven by fear, not evidence-based thinking in the process of destroying people’s lives overnight. While all of these decisions are made by elites isolated in their castles of power and ego, the shock is utterly devastating Main Street.”

These days are precarious as Governors float the idea of martial law for not following “social distancing”, as well as they liked while they violate those same rules on national TV. Remember this tone is for a virus that has impacted 0.004% of our population. Imagine if this was a truly existential threat to our Republic.

And this is where the threat of despotism comes in. The other side of the hysteria and panic that has swept like an emotional tsunami across the land is an even more worrisome phenomenon: an acute political passivity that is at the same time a failure of character.

What is the fitting response to COVID-19, whereby “fitting” I mean worthy of citizens in a free society?

First, practice good hygiene. Wash your hands. Take care about sneezing and coughing. Second, stay home if you feel ill. Be careful about shaking hands. Third, if you are older and have underlying health problems, isolate yourself from others until this episode passes. Those simple steps would have gone a long way in achieving what our masters are trying to achieve now with their draconian closures and interdictions, but without the huge costs.

Ronald Reagan once observed that the nine scariest words in the English language were “I’m for the government and I’m here to help.” One can only speculate about what Reagan would have made of this gargantuan, Manhattan-Project-like mobilization of state power.

“When this is all over,” Ginn writes, “look for massive confirmation bias and pyrrhic celebration by elites. There will be vain cheering in the halls of power as Main Street sits in pieces. Expect no apology, that would be political suicide. Rather, expect to be given a Jedi mind trick of “I’m the government and I helped.’”

The political philosopher James Burnham once observed that civilizations tend to end not because they are invaded by an external enemy but from an inner collapse. They are not murdered; they commit suicide. The really scary thing about this latest health scare is not the disease but the unexpected depths of passivity it revealed.

Great America

Can We Prepare America for the Next Pandemic?

If some politicians can’t or won’t address pressing questions in order to prepare America for the next “worst-case scenario,” then vote out the bums who put politics ahead of the public health; and put more responsible public servants in their seats to meet the people’s needs.

With every passing moment, nations are establishing precedents for how to contain and ultimately stop a global pandemic. Because the novel coronavirus apparently originated in Wuhan and was immediately covered up by the Chinese Communist Party, the health and welfare of the Chinese people and all other affected populations have suffered from this lethal malfeasance.

But one of the less reported consequences of the Beijing regime’s cover-up (and subsequent propaganda blaming the United States for the virus) is that nations are being forced to establish pandemic precedents on an ad hoc basis, largely upon what we do not know rather than the little we do know about the coronavirus.

Yes, in the United States one can point to and endeavor to compare the annual infections of the flu and its mortality rate, or past instances of the swine flu or other contagious viruses, and question whether our country and others are overreacting to the threat of the coronavirus. (Why the swine flu was treated differently by the national media is another matter.)

But the facts on the ground have rendered the public health point moot. The fundamental decision has been made: at the urging of the medical profession and public health experts, federal and state governments will err on the side of caution, with an overreaction preferred to an under reaction or inaction. (Politically, of course, for the elected officials this makes sense, as no one wants to be featured in an ad that claims they let people die.)

Once the pandemic subsides, no matter how it does, the proponents will be able to argue their measures worked, largely for the same reason their actions occurred—namely because of the unknown. Their argument that more lives would have been lost absent such drastic public health measures will be difficult, if not impossible, to refute. And any argument that public health should be endangered for the sake of the economy will be a nonstarter in the public square.

Setting aside the dismal political shenanigans aimed at politicizing the pandemic, it’s fair to say there have been no well-established public health protocols or precedents during a pandemic for phasing in—however rapidly—measures to protect the citizenry; and there appears to have been no planning whatsoever for the economic consequences of the public health measures necessary to stem the contagion.

Thus, there are hard questions for policymakers, medical and public health professionals, and all interested stakeholders—starting with the sovereign American people who must consent and delegate their power to their government servants to implement the necessary measures during the next pandemic.

Though obviously not exhaustive, and all based upon the premise that a novel emerging virus initially will have little known about it (like this coronavirus), here are three of the most fundamental questions:

Can the rate of infection and/or mortality form the basis for a phased-in escalation of public health measures to contain a novel virus’ spread?

A staged implementation of public health measures to combat the pandemic based upon the facts at hand would be optimum. Easier said than done.

For instance, if the numbers of cases and deaths are within the United States, it will still require time for the numbers to develop; and that means people will be afflicted and many will die. If the numbers come from outside the United States, as we have seen with the deceitful regimes in Communist China and Iran, can the numbers be trusted?

And what of nations that make a good faith effort to report their numbers, but lack the resources that can ensure their accuracy? What happens if, despite the best efforts of everyone, everything needs to be done immediately?

Bluntly, what is the extent to which one can proactively prepare for a pandemic based upon the “known unknowns”?

Can an economic recovery plan be proactively crafted and then implemented for future pandemics?

The coronavirus pandemic has wrought economic devastation and dislocation on a global scale. In so doing, it has revealed our country’s workers and businesses who are most at risk from both the virus and from the public health measures implemented to combat it. Like so many of the government’s actions in the present pandemic, the relief package will prove to have sound and unsound policies and practices, the latter needing to be prevented in the future.

Because the fear of being economically harmed by these public health measures impairs their successful implementation, the assurance that such economic harm will not occur is crucial. The success or lack thereof of the pending remedial economic policies will shape the public’s expectations—for better or for ill—during the next pandemic.

Again, the economic recovery policies we enact today as well as their impacts can instruct policymakers how to improve them for future pandemics—which worked, which didn’t, and why did they or didn’t they work? Who actually needed relief and to what extent? When should the economic mitigation occur, during or after the pandemic? Should all workers and industries receive relief at the same time? How should relief be calculated—per capita, pro-rated, means-tested, etc.? Are direct cash infusions preferable to tax relief or loans? Should there be combinations of all of them?

Importantly, should there be established by federal law a mechanism for instituting a temporary Pandemic Economic Recovery Board, along the lines of World War II’s War Production Board, which can streamline the assessments and implementations required to speed America’s return to economic normality? If battling pandemics is truly a war against a virus, doesn’t it make sense for the temporary creation of an organization to implement what would amount to a post-pandemic Marshall Plan for America?

Such planning does not prioritize the economy over public health; it is a recognition and proactive remediation of the economic consequences of a pandemic and requisite public health measures.

How will proactive pandemic planning and its implementation affect federalism?

Unlike Communist China and the barbarous Iranian regime, despite its fitful start, one of the strengths of America’s response is its flexibility and transparency.

In addition to the federal government, governors have broad powers to implement public health measures to protect their citizens. Should the governor’s powers be increased? Alternatively, would a further nationalized response be more beneficial? Or is the present system sufficient?

Further, while the governors have the power to implement public health measures, such as shutting bars and restaurants, should they be responsible, in whole or in part, for the economic consequences of their decisions? If so, could this adversely impact states’ implementation of public health measures due to fiscal constraints?

Ultimately, federalism must be preserved to the greatest extent possible because, again, when properly functioning it allows for the most rapid, powerful, and effective approach to helping Americans.

At any time during a pandemic, should our constitutional rights be suspended?

The answer is no. But the question comes up because in a time of crisis some would be tempted to answer in the affirmative.

For example, let’s look at a group in disfavor with conservative-populists. In its more lucid moments the press has the ability to report on the course of the pandemic; provide critical information about how to avoid the contagion and about what measures are being implemented to combat it; and reveal legitimate problems with the government and the public’s response to the pandemic. That so many in the media find this hard to do without coming off as fearmongering partisan hacks is regrettable, especially in a time of crisis. Regardless, the First Amendment—and all of our God-given enumerated constitutional rights—must be protected at all times. (“Give me liberty or give me death,” remember?)

I admit the fundamental questions examined above raise a host of other queries, which I tried best as possible to also incorporate. Let’s just say I erred on the side of “overreaction.”

Planning to make the next pandemic less painful than the present one is going to be very difficult, especially given today’s political climate. But that is one ailment easily diagnosed and cured.

If some politicians can’t or won’t address these and so many other related questions in order to prepare America for the next “worst-case scenario,” then vote out the bums who put politics ahead of the public health; and put more responsible public servants in their seats to meet the people’s needs.

Great America

Dangerous Curves

If this is the new normal, where incomplete data and media-fueled panic rule the day, that is an even more frightening prospect than what’s happening right now.

If you weren’t very ill in late January or February, you probably know someone who was. The complaints often sounded the same: A fever for days, a stubborn and unusual-sounding cough, a persistent sore throat—the severity of the symptoms seemed worse than the usual influenza.

Doctors, assuming it was a version of the seasonal flu, administered flu-fighting drugs without testing. (My college daughter was very sick with the same symptoms; her flu test was negative.) Plenty of afflicted Americans just stayed in bed without ever seeing a physician.

Obviously, anecdotal evidence that the COVID-19 illness has been around for at least the past few months isn’t enough to make the case that there’s a chance the worst days of the outbreak are behind, not ahead, of us. But data from the Centers for Disease Control seems to support the possibility that the country has been besieged by the novel coronavirus since the start of 2020.

And while political leaders and medical experts push for more and more draconian measures to “flatten the curve,” it raises some questions. Are we looking at the right “curve?” And how accurate is the current curve if it doesn’t include possible cases before the height of the hysteria began in late February and early March?

The curve, according to one report, “refers to the projected number of people who will contract COVID-19 over a period of time.” To date, the novel coronavirus curve undoubtedly looks ominous. Only a smattering of coronavirus cases was reported in the U.S. during January and February; that figure jumped at the beginning of March due to testing availability.

The first known American victim, a Washington resident who had traveled back from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, was confirmed on January 21. The U.S. coronavirus graph basically flatlines from that date until the last few days of February.

But since the disease originated in China in December at the latest, it’s highly unlikely the number of reported cases in the United States between January 1 and late February is accurate. (It’s important to note that in its order prohibiting most noncitizens from entering the United States from China, the White House confirmed that an average of 14,000 people per day traveled between the two countries in 2019. That means tens of thousands of potentially infected people entered the country for weeks prior to the travel stop.)

Therefore, how could a highly-contagious virus remain nonexistent in a free-moving society for several weeks?

The answer is, it probably did not. The CDC tracks a category called “influenza-like illness,” or ILI. Since symptoms of the flu and coronavirus are very similar, it’s instructive to look at this data, which is based on visits to health care providers in all 50 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. “For this system, ILI is defined as fever (temperature of 100°F or greater) and a cough and/or a sore throat,” reads the CDC webpage on influenza-like illness.

“What influenza-like illness is saying to us is that you have a virus likely affecting your respiratory system that is making you feel crummy and, currently aside from influenza, there aren’t good therapies for these other viruses, so we just treat the symptoms,” Dr. Michael Ison, a professor of infectious diseases at Northwestern University in Chicago, told WebMD.com in January. The underlying cause could be any number of undetected respiratory viruses.

During the week of January 18, 2020, the number of people complaining of ILI started to spike dramatically. That week, nearly 90,000 Americans visited a health care provider with ILI symptoms; by the following week, that figure jumped to more than 107,000. For the next two weeks, into mid-February, the number stayed about the same. And that doesn’t include people with symptoms who didn’t see a doctor.

During the same period, testing for influenza A and B also spiked. Positive tests for both flu strains began to climb during late January and plateaued in mid-February before declining. At its peak, about 20,000 people per week were diagnosed with influenza—but it also represented a positive rate of around 30 percent. That means lots of people were tested for the flu, had flu-like symptoms, but did not have the flu.

Now, again, one can dismiss those figures as the usual discrepancies in any given flu season. But another CDC chart shows that, with the exception of the highly virulent 2017-2018 flu season, this year’s measurement of ILI reports from January 1 until mid-February is the second-highest in the past decade. Then, from the third week of February until now, nationwide reports of influenza-like illness surpassed the 2017-2018 season and now have leveled off.

Again, that too could be written off as a fluke and unrelated to coronavirus. But the CDC acknowledges a connection between coronavirus and reports of influenza-like illnesses: “Clinical laboratory data remain elevated but decreased for the fourth week in a row while ILI activity increased slightly. The largest increases in ILI activity occurred in areas of the country where COVID-19 is most prevalent. More people may be seeking care for respiratory illness than usual at this time.”

So to recap: The current coronavirus “curve” cannot be accurate since it does not include suspected cases of the illness before late February. (It’s unclear why scientists have not yet produced any models that attempt to calculate the virus’ presence here until testing was available.) A big increase in symptoms very similar to coronavirus occurred a few weeks after the first case was recorded, a timeline in accordance with the estimated trajectory of the illness’ spread. And roughly 70 percent of those expressing flu-like symptoms did not have the flu. So what was it?

It’s not unreasonable, in fact, it’s necessary and responsible, to consider that COVID-19 has been in the states since the first of the year; that people suffering similar symptoms to the flu actually had COVID-19; and that the peak of the outbreak occurred last month. The number of people now testing positive for the virus does not mean that the outbreak is accelerating because the data is incomplete.

That’s not the only concern about the veracity of data related to the transmission, spread, and fatality rate of the disease. Experts are cautioning that the available data is not sound and should not be used to justify draconian government measures now enacted at the federal, state, and local levels at a tremendous cost.

“The data collected so far on how many people are infected and how the epidemic is evolving are utterly unreliable,” Dr. John Ioannidis, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Stanford University, wrote this week. “Given the limited testing to date, some deaths and probably the vast majority of infections due to SARS-CoV-2 [the virus that causes COVID-19] are being missed. We don’t know if we are failing to capture infections by a factor of three or 300.”

The encouraging news, for now at least, is that the coronavirus does not appear to be as deadly as the seasonal flu in terms of sheer numbers. Based on CDC estimates—again, important to note that even the detection of influenza-caused hospitalizations and deaths is not an exact science—between 36 and 52 million Americans have contracted the flu since last October and anywhere between 22,000 and 55,000 have died.

While the number of detected coronavirus cases continues to rise due to widespread testing, about 150 people reportedly have died from the infection. Nearly half lived in the state of Washington; many states are reporting single-digit fatalities. Further, hospitals are not yet overrun with coronavirus patients and, according to the CDC, hospitalizations this year due to the flu “is lower than end-of-season total hospitalization estimates for any season since CDC began making these estimates.” Good news if indeed the number of coronavirus sufferers requiring hospitalization actually materializes.

This is a dangerous time and not just because of the threat of a treatable disease. Americans are willingly surrendering to government their freedom, their livelihood, their long-term economic security, and their mental well-being over unjustified panic about a virus that might have already spread and now is abating. If this is the new normal, where incomplete data and media-fueled panic rule the day, that is an even more frightening prospect than what’s happening right now.

Great America

Fear Makes Power

The establishment’s pundits and politicians who cheer for higher death tolls from the virus and for more straitened circumstances must imagine that enough people in their audience are fearful enough to have abandoned all critical faculties—fearful enough to follow the fear-mongers.

Don’t panic is rotten advice,” Peggy Noonan advised in her column in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal. A stream of similar opinions in the New York Times and from CNN, reminded me of Machiavelli’s historical observation that “whoever controls the people’s fears becomes master of their souls.”

The formula for achieving such mastery has not changed in millennia: stoke any fear, turn the fear to hate of whomever and whatever you accuse of standing in the way of safety, and make yourself the agent of that hate.

The formula works when its dynamic embeds itself in the masses’ behavior—even when the master himself is the one to be feared. That is because stampeding humans readily give up their souls and become no more mindful of their own interest than steers. Hence, whoever manages to madden crowds while directing their hysteria onto his enemies stands to reap power.

Our 21st-century “developed” world, which so touts its own rationality, is now engaged in the historically unprecedented attempt to shut down most social and economic intercourse for the sake of mitigating the effects of a virus the lethality of which is far more like recent strands of the flu than that of the plague. One reason we do not know how many persons have been infected by this virus is that most infections in most people are so mild as to be unnoticed. That is also why we do not know the virus’s true lethality. Of course it is especially lethal to the old and otherwise infirm. What isn’t?

Hence, we really have no basis for believing that, left unchecked or dealt with as just another round of seasonal respiratory diseases, the Coronavirus would devastate modern life. After all, having no cure for it any more than 17th century Europeans had for the plague, the only real weapons we have against it are the same that served long ago: heightened hygiene, social distancing, quarantine and self-quarantine. It is not clear what good the rest of the restrictions do.

By contrast, we have far better basis to gauge the effects of what the “developed” world’s governments are doing to our societies and economies, and to judge that these measures are certain to reduce the general population’s prosperity and quite likely to result in a substantial transfer of even more power to those who already have too much of it.

Why then do so many in high places advocate this global shutdown so vehemently? And does the question answer itself?

The shutdown of schools, offices, all manner of public venues—in short the imposition of something like national and international time-outs—does not hurt everyone. For government employees, for most people in the media and for professionals it is more like a paid vacation than anything else.

But for most small businesses and their employees, who must work in order to get paid, any significant idleness means inability to meet basic obligations, and hence either going into debt or out of business. Who will pay the utilities? The tuitions? Who will pay for the food and gas and mortgage or rent?

Big businesses, like big government, will be largely unaffected. But for much of the rest of Americans, the shutdown is sure to be a disaster that no one has begun to think about undoing.

At best, if those who suffer receive from the government as much money as they lost from forgone labor, they will merely have traded independence for dependence. Few will be happy about that—except those in charge of managing the dependence.

All the above would be bad enough were those advocating the shutdowns—and mostly managing them—were doing so in a politically dispassionate manner. But no. Almost uniformly, such advocacies are at least as much about Donald Trump as about the coronavirus.

Those who fault the Trump Administration’s response to the virus would be a lot more credible had they not spent the past three years blaming him for everything imaginable. Also, their credibility would rise to threshold level were they not so obviously inconsistent in their advocacy of domestic shutdown and of open external borders.

The establishment’s pundits and politicians who cheer for higher death tolls from the virus and for more straitened circumstances, especially for their independent fellow citizens, who blow upon the flames of panic, all the while indicting their socio-political enemy, must imagine that enough people in their audience are fearful enough to have abandoned all critical faculties—fearful enough to follow the fear-mongers.

Thus they are showing that the virus of partisanship has already hurt America far more than the coronavirus ever can.

Great America

China’s Post-Virus Plan to Destroy America’s Economy

The “respected voices” calling for America to lift the tariffs on China are simply swallowing Beijing’s sophisticated propaganda. China means to use this crisis to destroy us.

The virus that originated in Wuhan, China poses a double threat to America.

The first is to our health as the virus spreads through the U.S. population. The second is to our economy as more businesses, schools, and events shut down to slow the spread of the contagion.

We must not underestimate the economic threat because the Chinese Communist Party is using the pandemic to achieve its goal of supplanting the United States as the world’s leading economic, diplomatic, and military power.

Sounds unbelievable?

A new report from Horizon Advisory consultants details Beijing’s post-virus strategy—already operational—to leverage the pandemic to seize global market share in key industries, further global dependence on Chinese manufacturing, and reverse efforts in the United States and elsewhere to decouple from the People’s Republic.

“Beijing intends to use the global dislocation and downturn to attract foreign investment, to seize strategic market share and resources—especially those that force dependence, and to proliferate global information systems; to as Chinese sources put it, ‘leap-frog’ industrially, ‘overtake around the corner’ strategically, capture the ‘commanding heights’ globally. Beijing intends to reverse recent U.S. efforts to counteract China’s subversive international presence; at the same time to chip away at U.S.-Europe relations. In other words, Beijing will use COVID-19 to accelerate its long-standing, strategic offensive,” the Horizon report states.

We’re witnessing Beijing’s attempt to scrub its culpability for the pandemic from the world’s memory. Chinese Communist propagandists declare, “China is owed a thank you for buying the world time” and the New York Times dutifully repeats it.

After covering up the novel infection and unleashing it on the world, Beijing’s rulers bought up the world’s supply of protective gear and respirators.

Then they sell these critical goods to Italy while portraying themselves as the heroic humanitarian savior of the world, not unlike a pyromaniac who takes credit for calling the fire department.

Now, as China’s factories come back online at the same time the West’s economies shut down, Beijing sees further opportunity to extend its soft power and tighten its grip on global supply chains.

Don’t take my word for it. Authoritative policymakers and leading players in China’s government-industrial system have told us.

The Horizon Advisory report draws on their writings and statements.

On March 12, Song Zhiping, representative to the 15th Party Congress, former party committee secretary, and chairman of the state-owned China National Building Materials Group Corporation declared:

China will “turn crisis into opportunity: It will transform and upgrade and strengthen its position in the international industry chain.” Chinese enterprises “must not just resume production. They must also boost economic development and exposure to the world in order to speed up the adjustment of the industrial structure, to enhance competitiveness in the international industrial chain, and to build an advance strategic positioning.”

That comes directly from the Horizon report.

The CCP Central Committee identifies industries to “seize in the adjustment of the international industrial chain while fighting the epidemic and resuming production.” These include 5G construction, urban high-speed rails, urban rail transit, new energy vehicles, big data in infrastructure, artificial intelligence, automobiles, electronics, ships, aviation, power equipment, and machine tools.

Han Jian of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and director of the Ministry of Civil Affairs’ China Industrial Economics Association put it more succinctly on March 4: “It is possible to turn the crisis into an opportunity—to increase the trust and the dependence of all countries around the world of ‘Made in China.’”

The Chengdu municipal government echoed the party line on March 5, calling on enterprises and individuals

to focus on turning crisis into opportunity: Make full use of the important window after the epidemic and focus on the strategic opportunities such as the new technological revolution it will bring about, the new international market demand, and the shortcomings of supply which will need to be filled . . . Deeply integrate into the global supply chain system in the fields of biomedicine, electronic information, intelligent manufacturing, and agricultural products.

Beijing’s post-pandemic plan and the industries mentioned above are in line with its longstanding  “Made in China 2025” strategy for global dominance of crucial industries.

Moreover, Beijing sees an opportunity in the pandemic to reverse President Trump’s call to move manufacturing out of China.

In a report on the economic effects of the Wuhan virus, China’s State Administration of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND), stated: “China will get more opportunities, including in the reduction of pressure for the international industrial chain to transfer away from China . . . The global epidemic has provided opportunities for improving China’s international position and countering anti-globalization.”

An expert from the Beijing Administrative Review Committee put it this way:

With the globalization of the epidemic and the general frustration of the global economy, Western countries’ reliance on China ’s economy and markets will deepen, and the United States’ use of the epidemic to accelerate its ‘decoupling’ from China is likely to be counterproductive . . . China’s policy drive for anti-epidemic conversion has fostered strong manufacturing, including of masks, medical devices, and technology systems. All can become new growth points for China’s foreign aid and exports, thus providing strong support for the international radiation of China’s soft and hard power . . .  The U.S. economy meanwhile will decline.

“The third decade of the 21st century,” he concludes, “is launched with China’s fight against the epidemic—with it the structural improvement of China’s interaction with the world economy and a breakthrough in China’s global role.”

China plans to target the very industries hit hardest by the pandemic and use the same predatory practices it has used in the past to subjugate the world’s industries.

The State Administration of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense lays out the strategy: “Accurately support industries affected by the global spread of the new epidemic, proliferate information technology and other industries overseas to help fight the epidemic, and pave the way for international market expansion after the epidemic is over.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, “proliferate information technologies” means wheeling out techno-surveillance Trojan Horses, integrating temperature monitoring with facial recognition, big data, artificial intelligence, and government-monitored social credit scores.

Beijing has a plan to gain ground after the setback it experienced from the Wuhan virus. It is deploying all its resources—industrial, economic, and information—to achieve its goal.

Remember that when you hear “respected voices” such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers or the Peterson Institute for International Economics call for lifting tariffs on China.

Like the New York Times, they are simply swallowing Beijing’s sophisticated propaganda.