Never let a crisis go to waste

The folks who are pleased to thump their big, manly chests over what they’re a-gonna do when The Shit Hits The Fan appear to have missed the fact that it just did.

The current gamble seems to be to shut down the nation indefinitely to suppress a virus that is especially deadly to some demographics and experts agree cannot be contained, only slowed. The New York Times claims the basis of many U.S. officials’ decisions so far is a report from Imperial College London, and other models that spit out similar results. It says to contain the virus it will be necessary to quarantine Americans for two- to three-month stretches repeatedly over the next 18 months.

The alternative, says the report, is 4 million Americans dead, half who would otherwise have lived but instead die for lack of medical capacity such as ventilators. If we merely quarantine sick people and those at risk, a “mitigation” strategy, it projects the U.S. death toll at about 2 million, again half from lack of ventilators, not depth of disease.

This is why state governors are shutting down restaurants, schools, entertainment venues, government offices, parks, historical sites, churches, and travel. Most Americans and businesses likely can sustain a suspension of their lives for two weeks, the usual annual vacation time.

But start extending these bans to one and two months, and then to four and six months, and people are going to revolt as they sit chained to their houses, watching their jobs, businesses, and retirement accounts disappear, replaced with funny money taken from yet-unborn generations and no end in sight. Numerous people are already skeptical and fed up with the lockdowns, and we’re not a week in.

Strangely, though, the US Congress—at least 2 of whose members have been confirmed as infected with COVID-19, with several more exposed—remains open for bidness. Guess these noble “public servants” are all vitally crucially vital personnel, absolutely indispensible to the mighty challenge of shepherding the nation through these bleak days.

Just one competing projection, from the Hoover Institution, suggests “the total number of cases world-wide will peak out at well under 1 million, with the total number of deaths at under 50,000″ (emphasis added). This is near the annual death rate due to flu in the United States alone. We don’t know if that estimate is accurate either, but that’s the point.

We’re acting as if coronavirus is for sure going to amount to the worst-case scenario without knowing that is true. If we all do shelter in place for the next year and a half while politicians pass the equivalent of the Obama-Bush stimulus that suffocated the economy 12 years ago, the “experts” will insist the nation’s long-term ability to provide for itself was required to save millions of lives. There will be no way to prove them wrong, even if they are.

It seems a fool’s errand to pre-emptively and indefinitely risk everyone’s livelihoods without hard information about what is happening and a risk assessment that includes the serious dangers of killing the U.S. economy, not what computers project will happen with lots of missing, unreliable, and rapidly changing information.

Come, come now. Similar computer models turned out to be one hundred percent reliable on Climate Change (formerly Global Warming, formerly Global Cooling, formerly “the weather”), didn’t they?

If we continue the present course U.S. politicians are taking, “we’ll be spending a lot more than we’ve ever been willing to spend before to avoid flu deaths. Eighty-three percent of our economy will be suppressed to relieve pressure on the 17% represented by health care. This will have to last months, not weeks, to modulate the rate at which a critical mass of 330 million get infected and acquire natural immunity,” writes Holman Jenkins at The Wall Street Journal.

Is it right for the nation to require our children’s futures be destroyed to keep alive less than 1 percent of our population until the next flu season? Could we not attempt to keep them safe by less disastrous means?

Probably so….if that’s what all this was really about. But it isn’t—not anymore, it isn’t. Whether or not you accept the premise that Chinese Yellow Peril Fu Manchu Wuhan Sino-Flu is the planet-killer plague some have said, it’s abundantly clear that The Powers That Be have identified it as a fine tool for their own nefarious purposes, and are wielding it to apply the finishing touches to the “fundamental transformation” they hoped for from the Ogabe junta.

Funny, innit, how the actions we’ve seen taken to “protect” Americans in certain states and cities all seem to be straight off the eternal Democrat-Socialist wishlist? Closing gun shops; banning gun and ammo sales; severely restricting freedom of movement and peaceable assembly; forbidding the sale of alcohol, with close monitoring of other purchases; fines for businesses who refuse to toe the line and obey authoritarian edicts; all that, and more. All just coincidence, no doubt. Strict rationing and curfews soon to follow, to be enforced by local police and/or the National Guard.

True national treasure Mike Rowe ponders the question of whether the response might wind up doing more harm than the disease itself.

For the uninitiated, I coined the expression “Safety Third” back in 2008, during an episode of Dirty Jobs. It was a smart-ass way for me to challenge the ubiquity of those Safety First banners, and debunk the popular notion that safety was always the most important thing on the job site.

After years of Safety First indoctrination, and a front row seat to it’s unintended consequences, “Safety Third,” became a slightly subversive way for my crew and I to remind each other that our safety was in fact, our responsibility, and that no amount of compliance could ever keep us out of danger. Safety, I argued, was not a value to be “ranked,” but rather, a state of mind to be maintained. Thus, “Safety Third” became an hour-long special that stirred up a great deal of conversation around personal responsibility, risk equilibrium, and the unintended consequences of ranking Safety above everything else.

Which of course, is precisely what our leaders are doing right now.

Today, in the name of safety, the United States of America has been shut down. Which brings me to your question – are we overreacting?

I honestly don’t know. I’m not an expert, and I’m in no rush to be labelled a “virus denier.” But I am concerned that the medicine we’re prescribing might turn out to be more deadly than the virus we’re trying to kill – especially if we don’t know the criteria by which we can re-emerge from our bunkers. And I’m not alone.

But I do know that recessions and depressions can impact a country in ways no less catastrophic than a pandemic. And we are most assuredly headed for both, if we continue to operate from a “Safety First” state of mind. Because “Safety First” is never a long-term solution.

We are being bombarded everyday with facts and information with extreme urgency but no context. Imagine for a moment, if the millions of automobile accidents in America were reported on with the same frenzied, up-to-the minute drama as each new virus infection? Imagine if all 40,000 annual automotive fatalities from those accidents, were announced in the same fashion as every virus fatality. Would any of us ever drive again?

Wrong question. Given where we find ourselves now, would we even be ALLOWED to?

Personally, as an avowed non-expert with a large Facebook following, I do think a temporary shutdown makes sense, while we gather more information and answer some pressing questions. Who exactly does this affect? How exactly is it passed? Can you develop an immunity? Does it mutate and if so, how often? And of course, it’s worth repeating that the lockdown wont work unless everyone participates, which is easier to do in Wuhan than it is during Spring Break in this country. Consequently, people are arguing over which is worse – hundreds of thousands of dead Americans, or another Great Depression. Unfortunately, I think that misses the point. I think the worst-case scenario, is both.

As I wrote the other day, it feels to me like America is going through the five stages of grief at varying speeds. Some of us are still in denial, some are angry, some are bargaining, some are depressed, some have accepted some version of the reality in which we currently find ourselves, and all of us are trying to keep up with the latest information which is bombarding us from all sides. The evidence is obviously sparse, but it would be a mistake in my view, to not treat this thing very, very seriously. If our hospitals become overrun with virus victims, the rest of the population will have no healthcare system at all. But, it’s equally dangerous to think that a long-term shutdown is the answer.

I don’t say this lightly. I have two elderly parents solidly in the “at risk” group, and believe me, I want to do all I can to protect them. But I also know that Safety First is no way to live indefinitely. We are at base, a Safety Third nation. We can’t remain in the air raid shelter indefinitely – if we do, they’ll be no country left, when we finally emerge.

Ahh, but there’s the rub, Mike; as is becoming all too clear, in Mordor On The Potomac that’s considered a feature, not a bug. The big worry isn’t the use of a pandemic as cover for an audacious power grab. That, after all, is the nature of politicians and bureaucrats and must be expected from them—just another case of the scorpion stinging the poor old frog. Far worse is the fact that Americans—either from a surfeit of fear or blind faith—have been stampeded into yielding up most of what little remained of their rights and liberties without resistance or demur.

In the end, nobody had to take our country from us. We surrendered it willingly, without the firing of a single shot.

Update! Prognosis: piss-poor.

By what authority? None dare speak these three words. A month or so ago, we ridiculed China’s totalitarian response to coronavirus; now we replicate it. The governor of our most populous state just grounded its citizens as though they were his children. Unelected health czars make decisions without the consent of the governed. Martial law, forcing the shuttering of businesses and the sheltering in place of individuals, characterizes the situation in states and locales far beyond California. Yet America remains more at peace now than at almost any time over the last two decades.

Socialism, the default answer to all crises, describes the federal government we soon get but nobody really deserves. Government destroyed civil society in joining the panic. Now it seeks to replace it. In this, our government compounds one disaster with another.

Americans could withstand this deadly disease, as horrible and contagious as it is. That deadly disease, the one that infected Venezuela and Cuba and points beyond, seems another matter. And this seems one of the lasting scars of the panic from the pandemic.

This is a power grab. It transfers power from the private sphere, society, to the state. It came about because of the Rorschach-test response to every crisis. People in government see every inkblot as “bigger government.” We do not trust our neighbors to guard their health. So government tells them to stay home from school and work and church and gyms and theaters and arenas and almost everywhere else (the politicians imagine themselves too important not to gather). Then the state, after creating this economic crisis by its heavy-handedness, proposes to solve it through more heavy-handedness. They destroy, and then they destroy again.

It is all enough to make one want to practice social distancing from fellow citizens. Fear fear. Covid-19? It is not the Black Plague.

Fascism is deadlier than the coronavirus. If only a surgical mask could save us from that.

There’s only one thing that can, really. And I’m afraid we no longer have anywhere near enough of it to do the trick.

8 thoughts on “Never let a crisis go to waste

  1. It says to contain the virus it will be necessary to quarantine Americans for two- to three-month stretches repeatedly over the next 18 months.

    Some recent number crunching told me that four US states alone comprise 71.76% of the Total US cases and 63.64% of the Total US Deaths.

    Maybe we should just quarantine the major urban hives for two- to three-month stretches repeatedly over the next 18 months while the rest of the US goes on about its business.

    I know we’d all be just heartbroken over seeing SeaTac, NYC, Los Angeles, San Fran, and Jersey drown in their own diseased juices.

    1. You may laugh, but Look at that election-by-county map from 2016, and the CHINESE WHUAN FLU infection map by county (or other locale). Striking, isn’t it?

  2. Hearing a lot about KungFlu being NBD.  Got a relative who is an RN.  Texted recently that this virus is ‘truly vicious’ and ‘deadly’.  This person is not prone to hyperbole – one of the most level-headed people I’ve known in my life.

    1. My stepsister is an RN too, and in contrast to myself she’s terrified over it. But then, she IS given to hyperbole–badly so, in fact. Also gossip, exaggeration, and a few other things.

  3. 60 million Americans were infected with Swine Flu and 12,000 died, but no mass hysteria when Obama was president. Why?

    1. I’m starting to think that authorities and others in the know came to realize weeks ago, perhaps months ago, that this was a bio-weapon on the loose, accidentally or otherwise. Hence the extremes actions being taken or contemplated.

  4. At the same time, let’s not also forget:

    1. The virus is most lethal to those above 65. Which age group is holding together the Left’s mad dogs, finances, et al.? If they succumb to the virus, then their Blackface brigades will be markedly less effective.

    2. American society is currently very isolated and atomized. The pandemic/quarantine will force families to work together, and as everything unravels, the smart ones will use their resources to get the extended family together so that they’ll have a wider net to cast. The result: revival of family and clan, which is a long-term win against the dissolvers of civilization.

    3. The government does not have the power to quarantine us against our will overall. Individually, yes, but they have to rely on persuasion outside of the large cities (where they already rule as a uniparty). China does not need to persuade. We still have power to ignore them, and will still have it once this blows over.

    4. Now is the time to convert digital wealth into physical wealth. Panic buys are expediting the process, but cooler heads will invest in long-term property needs. Extended families living together are even better-suited to provide for themselves.

  5. I remember swine flu. I remember it being brought up in departmental meetings at my job at the time, discussing possible implications and whether work-from-home would be expanded. There wasn’t hysteria but there was definitely an awareness of a risk. Looking back on the numbers now, we can see that the death rate was equal to or lower than that of regular flu. And we don’t worry about regular flu because it’s been with us since forever; it’s constant background noise.

    I am leery of chinavirus for several specific reasons.

    1) The Chinese started off trying to convince each other it was no big deal and to keep the economy humming. Pretty much exactly the argument here, really. Then they did an about-face and started applying measures one would expect for the rage virus. I want to know what made them change their minds.

    2) Flu, as I mentioned, is constant background noise. The proportion of the population it seriously affects doesn’t change much. Chinavirus is nothing but change. The doubling time of recognized cases has not merely stayed consistent, it’s gotten shorter. That’s not the behavior of a background noise disease, it’s the behavior of an impending explosion. People keep talking about total chinavirus and flu cases in comparison, without addressing the different rates of change – clearly without understanding the significance. Two months ago we had a handful of cases in the USA. Now we’re in the tens of thousands. The nature of doubling times is that it only takes a few more months to get into the millions. I have seen no concrete evidence that this can not happen – some speculation as to why it MIGHT not happen, but nothing specific indicating it can’t or won’t. That’s a very rickety nail to hang a policy on.

    3) Swine flu and bird flu are both flu variants – different ones but still recognizably flu, and therefore recognizeable by human immune systems. SARS did not become a pandemic because it was shut down hard and fast by very effective action. Ebola was stopped in East Africa by the vaccine and in West Africa by concerted action at all levels of society (as well as the disease killing off everyone unwilling to modify their behavior). Epidemics don’t just stop on their own, there’s reasons they slow down. In this case we have nothing specific on which to project a slowdown.

    4) All the first-person accounts I’ve seen of this disease support the claim that it is most definitely not “just the flu”. That said, it’s not even the people at highest risk from dying from it that are the problem. It’s everyone who gets seriously sick from it and is out of commission for a month as a result, plus the drain on the people around them taking care of them. That’s something like 20% of the cases, mostly in the 40-60 range. Taking that many people out of productive economic activity, in an uncontrolled, scattershot fashion, coupled with the panic such events would induce – that looks to me to be at least comparable to the economic damage the shutdowns are doing. Very possibly far worse.

    I’m not saying your argument isn’t worth thinking about – it is. I’m just not convinced by it.

    I also think this is a very necessary trial run that should get people thinking about certain things. This time around, it’s a pneumonia that might be 5% fatal. Next time around, it might be another disease that asymptomatically contagious for several weeks, only to then break out in Ebola-style explosive bloody liquefaction. Given the spread of genetic engineering knowledge, that’s going to have to be something people think about how to handle.

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