BIDEN SEXUAL ASSAULT AND MEDIA BIAS

This is a story about two cases of alleged sexual assault and the radically different manner in which they are perceived by certain public figures and reported on by the media.  My point is that these cases are not and were not treated consistently.   I can understand that politicians would tend to exhibit a certain bias, but the media is supposed to be objective.  Our democracy depends on that objectivity.

Case #1 – Ford v Kavanaugh

Most of you are very familiar with this case and I blogged on it extensively at the time, so there is no need to repeat it in detail at this time.  Briefly, Christy Ford had accused Supreme Court Associate Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.  She was hazy on the details, such as where and when the assault occurred, had not told anyone at the time, and the “witnesses” she produced were equally hazy on the details.  All in all, she was not credible.

Case # 2 – Reade v Biden

Tara Reade has accused former Senator and Vice President Joe Biden of sexual assault during her tenure as an aide in his office in 1993.  Her charges are very specific.  As reported by “Politico” and other sources, she claims he accosted her in a hallway, pushed her up against a wall, and “penetrated her with his fingers.”  She added that afterwards “the anger kind of emanated from him.  He pointed his finger in my face and said, ‘You’re nothing to me.  You’re nothing.’ ”  So, we have an alleged sexual assault compounded by verbal humiliation.

Full disclosure, Biden has denied the charges, but then again, so did Kavanaugh.  It didn’t matter to his critics.

Unlike Ford, Reade appears to be very credible.  According to multiple reports she told various people contemporaneously, including her mother, her brother, and a neighbor.  She filed a complaint with the Senate.  Her mother called “Larry King Live” during a segment on sexual assault, to report the attack, although she didn’t disclose either her name or her daughter’s.

Moreover, additional corroborating witnesses have emerged.  “Business Insider” reported that the neighbor, Lynda LaCasse, disclosed that Reade had told her of the incident, in detail, at the time it occurred.  Additionally, Lorraine Sanchez, who had worked with Reade in the office of a California state senator in the mid-90s, recalled that Reade had disclosed the sexual assault to her and also that she had been discharged afterward she reported it.

It should be noted that Reade is not some Trump supporter seeking to damage Biden for political purposes.  She describes herself as a “lifelong Democrat.”  But, she characterized Biden as a “sexual predator.”  She told Fox News, “I will not be smeared, dismissed or ignored.  I stand in truth, and I will keep speaking out.”

I think most objective persons would conclude that Reade has a far more credible case than Ford.  Yet, the media gave far more support and credence to Ford’s story than it is giving to Reade’s.

The media treated Ford’s accusations as fact.  Due process, which, as we all know, is a basic tenant of our Constitution, was ignored.  Kavanaugh was assumed to be guilty as charged.   He and his family were vilified mercilessly for weeks.  He was labeled a sexual predator and worse.  The media demanded he withdraw his nomination.   There were calls for his arrest and imprisonment.  Women’s groups, such as #MeToo, and various Democratic politicians, such as Senators, Mazie Hirono, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, to name a few, were demanding that women be “heard” and “believed.”  It was a virtual “lynch mob” or, as President Trump characterized it, a “witch hunt.”  In the end, there was not sufficient proof to the allegations, and Kavanaugh was confirmed.

By contrast, Biden has essentially been given a “pass” by the same people.  The media has largely ignored the story.  The same media people who vilified Kavanaugh have been silent or, worse, have defended Biden.  In all the interviews he has given since the story “broke,” I have not heard him be asked one question about it.  For the most part, only Fox News has been reporting on it consistently.  Those who do not watch Fox News probably know little or nothing about the assault.

Besides the media bias, consider the following:

  1. Not one Democratic congressperson has gone on the record criticizing Biden.
  2.  I am not aware of any prominent feminist leader going on the record in support of Reade.  What happened to the standard that women are to be heard and believed?
  3. None of the various women who vilified Kavanaugh and have been rumored to be under consideration for vp – Klobuchar, Harris or Abrams – has come out in support of Reade.  When asked they have given a version of “no comment.”  What a surprise.  So much for their credibility, which, apparently, they are willing to sacrifice for the chance to be vp.  Due process, which was suspended in the Kavanaugh case, is back.
  4.  In the midst of all this, Hillary Clinton has endorsed Biden’s candidacy.  This is the same Hillary Clinton who spent years, denigrating the character of her husband’s female victims of sexual assault, who was good friends with Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein, and who as a defense attorney bragged about getting the rapist of a 12 year-old girl acquitted.  If I were Biden I would consider her endorsement to be  the “kiss of death.”  I would tell her, “thanks, but no thanks.”

CONCLUSION

Biden’s campaign and his supporters are hoping the story will just go away.  When they are not ignoring it they are issuing comments denying the “incident” occurred.  Some of them seized upon a NY Times story as an exoneration of Biden, but the Times issued a vehement denial.  In my opinion, it will not go away.  It is part of a pattern of his behavior.  He’s always been “handsy” around women, and don’t forget his treatment of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings.

Sooner or later, he is bound to be asked about it by an honest reporter or maybe by a debate moderator.  In my view, the lesser of two evils would be to meet this issue head on now, deal with it, respond to all aspects of it, and hope it runs its course by the Fall.  Issues like this don’t go away if they are ignored.

This just adds to Biden’s “baggage” as a candidate along with his memory lapses, confusion, and verbal blunders.  So far, Biden’s advisors have been able to sequester him from public scrutiny, but eventually he will have to venture out of his bubble and campaign.  At that point, I believe his poll numbers will decline.  The voting public is smarter and more intuitive than the Dems think and hope.  The Dems have a serious problem.  They are irrevocably committed to a damaged candidate who is akin to a ticking timebomb, and I think they know it.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE XIII – REBOOTING THE ECONOMY

Public support for rebooting the economy has been growing.  More and more people are desperate to return to work.  To them, feeding their families is beginning to take precedence over their fear of the virus.  They are tired of being confined to their homes.  According to JPMorgan Chase in the last four weeks 17 million persons have filed for unemployment benefits.  The current unemployment rate is 13%, and it will likely increase to 20%.  These are exceedingly grim numbers not seen since the Great Depression.

Congratulations to us!  For some two months we have diligently followed the guidelines of our political leaders, medical professionals and the president’s COVID-19 Task Force.  We have washed our hands assiduously, worn masks, gloves and other PPE, followed the social distancing guidelines, and stayed home except for emergencies.  We have endured long lines at the grocery store and voluntarily refrained from associating with friends and relatives.  We have postponed weddings, confirmations, bar mitzvahs, birthday and anniversary parties, and other social occasions.  We have sacrificed financially by closing our businesses and refraining from going to work.

After all this, we have flattened the curve, mitigated the effect of the pandemic.  In most areas, hospitalizations, cases and deaths are levelling off or declining.  The virus is not completely beaten yet, but the worst appears too be over.  Now, we are ready for the payoff.  Now we are ready to reopen the economy.  Now, we want to go back to work.  As President Trump has said, most Americans want to, need to work.  We are a nation of workers, not layabouts.

In the last week or so, many governors have announced plans to reopen their respective states’ economies.  I will briefly discuss some of those plans below.  Some in the media have criticized them for jumping the gun.  They maintain it is not safe yet.  They acknowledge we have flattened the curve, but they fear a resurgence.  A few have taken the position that we should wait until we have developed a workable vaccine, which will likely take over a year.

I disagree with those pundits.  I think that is a bit extreme. Another year of this and we will likely have no viable economy to reopen.

I say, the country is not a homogenous entity.  Some areas are densely populated; others are very rural.  Virtually every state has some large cities and some rural areas.  The CV has not affected all areas equally.  This is obvious to most of us who have been paying attention, but apparently not to many in the media.  Most of these media critics live in the densely-populated coastal areas.  They do not have any interest or knowledge of what goes on in the vast heartland.

One of the main reasons why President Trump has left the process of rebooting to the  governors was the realization that they know best what is appropriate for their respective states.  So, now, as many states begin to reboot we will be seeing some radically different approaches, which will be tailored to each individual state or area.  We should give these governors the benefit of the doubt, at least until and unless there are problems.

Below please find a few basic trends and specific examples based on news reports from Worldometer, CBS News, CNN, Fox News and, where indicated, my opinions.

  1. As I write this, according to Worldometer, CBS and multiple other sources the US has reported about 990,000 cases and 56,000 deaths.  NY remains the state with the most cases (282,000) and fatalities (16,600).  By the time you read this those numbers will likely be higher.
  2.  I mentioned the wide disparity of the effect of the CV.  In contrast to NY, Alaska, for example, has reported 341 cases and nine fatalities, Montana 449 and 14, and Wyoming 502 and seven.  So, one would not expect those states to follow the same timetable as NY and other densely populated states.
  3. Every state that has announced a reopening plan has announced its intention of following (1) a phased-in approach similar to that suggested by the Task Force and (2)  different timetables for different areas of the state.  I think this is very sensible.  Dip your toe in the water; don’t jump in blindly.
  4.  Note, some of the following specific plans may be subject to last minute changes.
  5. Several neighboring states, which have overlapping economic interests and concerns, have decided to act in concert.  For example, NY, NJ, CT, RI and DE have formed one group, and CA, OR and WA another.  More may follow suit.
  6.  Perhaps, the most aggressive state has been Georgia.  In recent days, it has authorized the re-opening of hair and nails salons, restaurants, movies theatres, in-person religious services, and even tattoo parlors.  Governor Brian Kemp has received widespread criticism for this plan, and many observers are waiting/hoping to see if it will backfire.  I say, he should know what is appropriate for his state, and someone had to be brave enough to be first.
  7. Alaska is planning to re-open retail stores and dine-in service for restaurants, among others.
  8.  Montana Governor Steve Bullock has issued a plan to resume religious services on April 26 and retail stores the next day.  If all goes well, restaurants, bars and breweries are expected to follow on May 4 with limited capacity.  Schools may re-open as early as May 7 at the discretion of local school boards.
  9. In contrast, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo will be taking a more conservative approach.  He wants more testing, and he wants to see hospitalizations decline for 14 consecutive days.  NY is close to that now.  He is not planning to reopen anything until at last May 15 at which time there will be a monitored phased-in approach beginning with the more sparsely-populated upstate areas.  Businesses such as manufacturing and construction will be among the first.  If key health indicators continue to improve other businesses and areas will follow.  Schools, beaches and public swimming pools will be more problematic.  Cuomo said that areas such as NYC and LI are “more complicated.”  I would expect them to be reopened last, perhaps last in the whole country.  The whole process will require flexibility.

CONCLUSION

As I said, the country is on the cusp of being ready to reboot the economy.  It will be a gradual, phased-in process, which is the best approach.  It will vary by state and, within each state, by region according to their situation.  Everyone agrees that the health and safety of Americans is paramount.  At the same time, the longer the economy remains closed down the more difficult it will be to get it back to where it was.  Remember, we were enjoying the best economy in our lifetimes, if not ever.

The economy may need a boost to restart effectively.  Some people have been advocating another stimulus package.  I am concerned about the long-term effects of all the stimulus packages.  I am especially concerned about the idea, which has been floated by some Dems, to bail out some states that are in financial difficulty.  I don’t think it’s fair for states that have spent money carefully and wisely to have to bail out those that haven’t.

I would advocate a rollback of the payroll tax for, say, six months.  This would infuse cash into the economy immediately and would benefit both employers and employees.

KURT MAIER – HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR

April 21, 2020 was observed (“Celebrated” would be an inappropriate characterization.) in Israel as Yom HaShoah, or, in English, Holocaust Remembrance Day.  The purpose of the day is to commemorate the approximately six million Jews who were murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust.  The initial observance took place in 1951.  By Israeli law the official commemoration date is the 27th day of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar.  Typically, the date corresponds to a date in April or May on the Gregorian calendar.  As I said, this year the day fell on April 21; next year, it will fall on April 8.

It is difficult to comprehend the scope of the Holocaust.  The mind simply cannot imagine six million dead persons.  Therefore, for purposes of this blog I have chosen to profile the struggle of one family to survive, the Maier Family of Kippenheim, Germany.  As you read about them, be aware that their story was replicated millions of times by other families, in some form or another during the late 1930s and early 1940s.  The names and locations may have been different, but the facts and circumstances were eerily similar.  The Maiers were no better nor worse than millions of other Jewish families.  Why did they survive when others perished.  Often, as in their case, it was a matter of luck and happenstance.

The Maiers’ story began shortly after dawn on the morning of October 20,1940 when some policemen banged on their front door.  There are few things more terrifying than the police banging on your door first thing in the morning.  They told the Maiers they had two hours to pack up all their belongings and leave the house.  This was part of a Nazi government-ordered ethnic cleansing.  All Jews in the area were being summarily evicted.  This was not an uncommon occurrence.  You may recall a similar scene portrayed in the musical, “Fiddler on the Roof.”

The family included a father, Siegfried, a mother, Charlotte, two young children, Kurt and Heinz, and two grandmothers.  Ironically, the Maiers, like many other Jewish families, had feared this day was coming.  They had applied for US immigration visas, but they were still on the waiting list.

Siegfried had served in the German army in WWI, and he had a pin identifying him as a veteran.  After the war he had become a successful merchant, but his family was now poor as a result of a series of government-sponsored sanctions against Jews.  He wore the pin on his coat hoping it would get the family special treatment.  However, that day, one of the German officers told him to take it off, asserting “it won’t do you any good where you’re going.”

They were taken to a train station and stuffed into crowded railway cars.  The train dumped them, along with other “unwanted” Germans at a refugee camp named Gurs in Vichy France.

As one can imagine the conditions in the camp were horrid.  Food was scarce; medical care was virtually non-existent; and rats and disease were rampant.  Sickness and death were common, which, doubtless, was the Germans’ intent.

Remaining in Gurs would have meant certain death either from the conditions or from a transfer to one of the concentration camps.  However, leaving was not so easy.  It would require one to navigate through a bureaucratic nightmare consisting of  (a) the French police, (b) the American consulate in Marseille, (c) various foreign relief agencies, and (d) a difficult and circuitous passage across the Atlantic Ocean.

At every stage there was frustration, long lines and bureaucrats who do what bureaucrats the world over are famous for  – being arbitrary and making things as difficult as possible.  American relief worker Varian Fry described the process thusly in a memo written in February 1941: “The visa rigmarole here [Marseille] is inhuman.  It is almost killing the refugees…  They have to wait in corridors and [on] long lines over and over and over again, until their very souls must be shriveled and shrunken by the experience.”  We complain about the lines and quality of service at places like the DMV.  Think DMV times a hundred.

Obviously, in situations like this money and influence are very helpful.  Being poor and Jewish the Maiers had neither, so their application was relegated to the back of the que.  It didn’t look promising.

After some four months the Maier’s exit visas were finally approved, but that only meant they could leave Gurs for Marseilles.  As some of you know, Marseilles in southern France was the main debarkation point out of France.  That was merely Phase 1.

Next, they had to interview with a US consul on May 1.  That meant another long line and more frustration.  By this time, Siegfried and Grandma Sofie were very ill and barely able to function.  Here is where the family got lucky, very lucky.  They were accompanied by a relative who had been wounded in WWI fighting for the French.  Apparently,  he had a special pass that entitled the entire family to go to the head of the line.  Furthermore, they were able to produce some crucial documents: (a) US visas that had been issued to them in May 1940 but never used, and (b) an affidavit from a relative who lived in New Orleans.  Based upon this the consul extended their visas for four more months.

They steamed from Marseilles to Casablanca where they were delayed further.  They were supposed to continue on to Martinique, but Vichy France had closed down that escape route for Jewish refugees.  By now, the expiration date on their visas was becoming an issue.  If they were to fail to reach the US by September 8 their visas would become worthless, and they would be back to square one.  They needed to find another route and fast.  At this time, Casablanca was chock full of persons trying to escape to somewhere safe.

At this point Lady Luck intervened again.  A Jewish relief agency was able to secure room for them on another ship, which was headed for NY.  One final issue:  Upon arrival, as their ship steamed up the East River its mast clipped the Brooklyn Bridge.  This was not a major problem just a footnote to their perilous journey.  Their arrival was memorialized in the next day’s “NY Herald Tribune,” which noted the arrival of “two hundred refugees from Casablanca” who had been in a “race against time to reach the US before their visas expired.”

CONCLUSION

As the Maiers were being rounded up a neighbor took a photograph of the scene.   The photo was found some 30 years later in an old shoebox, and a copy of it accompanies this story.

Of the 6,500 or so German Jews who had been sent to Gurs about 25% perished in that hellhole.  Moreover, almost half were deported to Auschwitz.  I don’t know what happened to the Jews who were stranded in Marseilles or Casablanca, but, likely, it was not good.

Yes, the Maiers were fortunate.  Kurt, now a cataloguer of German books at the Library of Congress, acknowledges as much.  He pointed out that the back of the visas was adorned with a plethora of stamps and signatures.  He remembered that the absence of even one of these required stamps would have condemned his family to bureaucratic purgatory, which, all too often, meant death.  He called the visa “the most precious American document I ever possessed.”

If you would like to read the unabridged story of the Maiers and/or any other stories of Holocaust survival you may contact the US Holocaust Memorial Museum at <information@ushmm.org>  These stories are most inspiring to read, especially since they are true.

REOPENING THE ECONOMY

As you know, the world has been battling a serious CV pandemic since January.  The CV has been so virulent that most countries, including the US, have virtually shut down their economies for about the last month.  Presently, all 50 states are operating under a state of emergency.  This is the first time that has ever occurred.

Additionally, at the present time, 43 of the 50 states are operating under stay-at-home directives imposed by their respective governors.  Recently, in SD, one of the seven states that is not operating under such a directive, a Smithfield factory reported 769 cases of CV.  The factory was closed, and currently there is a widespread demand within SD that Governor Kristi Noem issue such a stay-at-home order.  So far, she has stood her ground saying she has “faith” in the people of SD to continue to exercise prudence.

The shutdown’s draconian measures have devastated our economy.  Unemployment has gone from the lowest on record to the highest since the Great Depression.  Over 22 million people have been put out of work through no fault of their own.  The private sector has just suffered a devastating quarter, and many businesses are on the verge of going under.  The medical community has told us that these sacrifices were necessary to defeat the CV.  For the most part, people have listened and obeyed at great economic and emotional cost.

Now, by most measurements, the CV is receding.  The rates of infections, ICU admissions, hospitalizations and fatalities have flattened or decreased.  At long last, we are nearing the time to restart the economy.   The questions are how do we do it and who will be in charge of it.

At first, Mr. Trump insisted it was the purview of the federal government.  The states’ governors pushed back, insisting that the Constitution gave them the authority to do so.  After some days of political wrangling and sniping it was agreed that the individual states would decide how and when to reopen their respective economies with the guidance and support of the federal government.  This makes sense to me as I maintain that the governors of each state are in the best position to determine an appropriate course of action for their state.  The situations are very different from state to state, or even from section to section within a given state.  For example, in NY, where I live, the situation in the NYC metro area is vastly different from that of the rest of the state.  I expect NY Governor Cuomo will take that into account.  So, the governors have secured the authority, but with the authority comes the responsibility should anything go wrong.

Basically, the plan is to reopen the economy in stages as areas are deemed safe to do so.  The states’ individual governors will have wide latitude to reopen the economies in their respective states in accordance with the federal guidelines suggested by the president and the CV Task Force headed by VP Mike Pence.  The reopening will consist of three phases.  A state or region will pass through each phase depending on its degree of readiness, according to the criteria outlined above.  For example, some states, such as AK, WY, ND, NE, WV, VT, NH, ME, HI, UT and MT are likely ready or close to ready right now.  On the other hand, states such as NY, and NJ still have quite a ways to go.

Everyone agrees that the safety of the people will be paramount.  All reopening plans will be data-driven and will rely on extensive testing, people wearing PPE, and social distancing.  There are shortages of some PPE, such as cotton swabs and reagents used in testing, but the feds are working hard to rectify them.

Below please find the current status of various states’ reopening plans:

  1. Doctors in some states have noted that the CV has been attacking the kidneys.  Twenty to forty percent of patients in ICU have been suffering kidney complications  and have needed dialysis.  This has led to a shortage of relevant machines, supplies and staff and may delay some states’ re-openings.
  2. There are increasing signs of public dissatisfaction with staying at home.  People want to return to work and commence earning money.  For those people, economic considerations are taking precedence over medical considerations.  There have been protests in several states, such as MI, VA, CA and TX.
  3. Florida has reopened some of its beaches, i.e. Jacksonville, but its schools will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year.  SC is also planning to open its beaches.
  4.  Some governors are considering easing the social distancing guidelines, while others are being more conservative opting to delay reopening until testing is more widespread.  According to the Task Force, presently, the US is testing about 175,000 persons per day, and the total tested is around 4.2 million.  This is, by far, the most of any country.  But, a Harvard University study suggested that reopening should be delayed until the daily testing rate has been increased to about 600,000.
  5. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the border with the US, which is the longest of any two countries, will remain closed for an additional 30 days.
  6. President Trump announced that the small business loan program is “fully drained.”  As I write this, Congress is negotiating a plan to authorize additional funds, which are sorely needed.
  7. VP Mike Pence delivered a commencement speech at the Airforce Academy in CO, where graduates were required to sit six feet apart for proper social distancing.
  8. Texas governor Greg Abbott announced he intends to begin relaxing restrictions next week.
  9. Idaho will be opening some “non-essential” businesses for curbside pickup such as flower shops and jewelry stores in advance of Mother’s Day.
  10. Montana plans to commence a phased reopening after April 24.
  11. Wisconsin governor Tony Evers disclosed he will be extending the state’s stay-at-home order until May 26, but he will be lifting the ban on craft stores (which sell PPEs).
  12. North Dakota plans to commence reopening gradually after April 30.
  13.  There have been some odd events, which make one wonder what country we are living in.  In NJ there were reports of police stopping cars to demand the drivers tell them where they were going.  In Philadelphia a man was dragged off a bus and arrested for not wearing a face mask.  In CO a man was “cuffed” for having a “catch” with his daughter in a park.  Several hundred people who were listening to church services in their cars were fined.  However, MI Governor Gretchen Whitmer wins the dubious prize for executive overreach.  For example, she has forbidden people to travel to their vacation homes, to go fishing, or to buy seeds to grow their own food.  But, she is allowing people to buy liquor and lottery tickets.  Go figure.  MI is really suffering, and many people are fed up.  It has 25% unemployment, has lost the most jobs of any state, has the 5th most number of cases and the 3rd most number of deaths.  She has tried to walk back some of the damage, saying she will be reviewing the state’s guidelines on May 1, but the damage is done.  She had been on some lists for vp, but now her chances have diminished.   The above examples are enough to make one wonder what happened to the Bill of Rights.

CONCLUSION

I believe the pain of the shutdown has fallen disproportionally on those who are most vulnerable economically, the middle class and working class.   They are more likely to have the types of jobs most effected, such as factory jobs, service jobs and blue collar jobs.  Many of the wealthy work in jobs that can be done at home in which case their income has not been affected materially.  All the more reason to reboot the economy as expeditiously  as possible.

I understand why schools, shows and sports venues should remain closed for now.  But, I see no rationale for not opening small businesses such as dry cleaners, doctors offices, jewelry stores, and stationary stores to name a few, as long as patrons wear PPE and practice social distancing.  I believe we could even find a way to open office buildings and movie theatres under the same guidelines.  Workers need to work, and patrons need to get out of their homes.

Most experts agree that the re-opening will be a very delicate process.  It has never been attempted before, so there is no guidebook to follow.  If we blow it, we could become mired in a depression that would rival the Great Depression.  Therefore, it is essential that we put aside political differences and act in concert.

That said, I already have seen signs of divisiveness.  Each Party is blaming the other one for delaying to recognize the gravity of the CV.  I believe that one can ascribe blame to either side, but the major villain in this matter is China.  It was China where the CV started, most likely due to careless safety procedures in one of their labs; it was China that failed to contain the outbreak at its early stages by allowing infected people to travel internationally; it was China that launched an extensive public relations program to deflect blame onto others; it was China that withheld vital information about the CV, including that it could be transmitted from animals to humans; it was China that enforced a news blackout; it was China that cracked down on those who wanted to tell the truth, likely sending them to work camps or murdering them; it was China that expelled foreign journalists; it was China that misled other countries’ medical experts with false information; and it was China that withheld vital medical supplies to other countries.

I say to our politicians, stop blaming each other.  Our politicians and medical experts did their best.  They unwittingly relied on false information provided by China.  The real culprit is China, China, China, and China again.  When the pandemic is over the world community must investigate China’s actions and inactions thoroughly and levy appropriate sanctions.  Congress is considering a bill that would permit US citizens to file suit against China for damages.  That would be a good start.

THE BIDEN BUBBLE

In my opinion, currently, there is another media conspiracy underway, the protection and nurturing of Joe Biden.  The media has encased him in a protective bubble in order to hide his flaws, primarily his declining mental acuity and his penchant for inappropriate behavior toward women, from the public.  It has been more subtle than the various ongoing overt and covert criticisms of President Trump over the last 3 1/2 years, but it is just as insidious.  Furthermore, to date, I believe it has been quite effective.  Why else would Joe Biden, with all his baggage, be leading in the 2020 presidential election polls?

For example:

  1. Biden has rarely given interviews, and the ones he has given have been highly controlled.  No open Q & A’s with reporters for him, even with social distancing.  Regardless, many of the interviews he has given have been somewhat problematic.  I recall one he gave from his home office, where he failed to shelter his cough.  When the interviewer reminded him that mitigation guidelines required him to do so, he replied it was all right as he was in a room by himself.  Apparently, he had just forgotten to shelter his cough, and he had forgotten that there was a cameraman present and possibly others as well.  In various other interviews he has stumbled over his words.  This seems to be more the rule than the exception.
  2.  The mainstream media has tried to ignore or sugarcoat his many faux pas, or what I have characterized (with apologizes to NY Knicks’ announcer, Walt Frazier) as his “fumbling, bumbling and stumbling.  In a recent blog I compared the situation to the children’s fable, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
  3.  The mainstream media has been largely ignoring Biden’s and his son’s relationship with both Ukraine and China.  Many people believe them to be prime examples of corruption and bribery and worthy of further investigation.
  4.  Perhaps, most obvious and egregious has been the media’s treatment of the Tara Reade sexual harassment accusation, particularly when contrasted with its coverage of the Christine Ford accusations against Brett Kavanaugh.  In my view, Reade’s account is far more credible.  She has been able to recall specific details about the time, place and nature of Biden’s attack; she promptly told friends and family who have said they believe her; and she filed a complaint with the Senate promptly.  On the other hand, Ford has been hazy, to say the least, as to the time, place and nature of the attack; she didn’t tell anyone in the immediate aftermath; and several of her friends whom she said were present either don’t recall the incident or don’t support her account of it.  Yet, the various female politicians and women’s groups who jumped to support Ford have been strangely silent about Reade’s claims. Where is the outrage from “Me Too,” “Planned Parenthood,” the Women’s ACLU,” and others?  Where is Hawaii Congresswoman, Mazie Horono, who, in support of Ford, inanely opined that “men need to shut up and step up,” and “Women need to be believed” in any “he said-she said” situation.  All that said, most of the media found Ford’s accusations credible, but has largely ignored Reade’s.  Why?  In my opinion, politics.  Ford was accusing a Republican; Reade is accusing a Dem.

Biden’s next big challenge will be to pick the right vp running mate.  Historically, the vp choice has been largely insignificant.  Conventional wisdom has always held that people vote based on the presidential candidate, not the vp.  That was even true in 1944 when due to ill health it was likely that FDR would not be able to complete the upcoming term.  Harry Truman was basically an experienced, relatively unknown candidate, but FDR still won easily.

This year, however, I have a feeling that the vp choice will have a significant impact on the election.  There is a very real chance that the vp could accede to the presidency. Already, it has been speculated that, if elected, at some point Biden would step aside in favor of his vp during his first term.

Biden has announced publicly his intention of choosing a woman as his running mate, which is fine.  Who will it be?  Kamala Harris?  Elizabeth Warren?  Gretchen Whitmer?  Amy Klobuchar?  Someone else?   Whoever it is, however, should be someone who is qualified, not just a sop to satisfy the pc crowd.  According to a recent poll by Politico, about 2/3/ of all voters and 4/5 of Dem voters felt it was more important to pick an experienced candidate, rather than just a female or a person of color.  Yes, Biden’s choice of running mate will likely have a significant impact on the election.

Of the above group, based on what I have seen during the campaign among the female possibilities I prefer Klobuchar. I don’t think the others are suitable for various reasons.  Harris and Warren have a lot of baggage, which I have outlined in previous blogs, and time and space do not permit me to repeat here.  I think Whitmer has damaged her chances by her recent executive overreach wherein she has been enforcing arbitrary, heavy handed rules regarding dealing with the CV.  Many people believe she has exceeded her authority under the Constitution and “trampled” on the Bill of Rights.  There have been demonstrations and at least one civil lawsuit is pending.  We will let the courts sort it all out, but in any event the optics have been really bad for her.

CONCLUSION

In my opinion, Biden’s handlers have done a masterful job in protecting him from himself.  But, eventually, he will have to come out and play.  At some point, the CV will have been removed as a threat and communication lines will open up.  He will no longer have an excuse to avoid the public.  He will have to commence active campaigning.  He will have to face reporters in an uncontrolled setting.  He will have to speak at the Dem convention.  He will have to debate President Trump.  At that point, his flaws will be on open display for all to see.  He will no longer be able to hide.  Then we will see if the emperor truly has any clothes.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY – APRIL

Many significant events have occurred in April. Below please find some of them:

April 2, 1513 – Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon landed at present-day St. Augustine, and claimed FL on behalf of Spain. St. Augustine is the oldest city in the continental US.

April 2, 1982 – Argentinian troops seized the Falkland Islands, a British territory just off the Argentinian coast, thus beginning the Falkland Islands War. Britain recaptured the islands on June 15.

April 3, 1860 – The Pony Express mail service commenced in St. Joseph, MO.

April 3, 1865 – Richmond. the capital of the Confederacy, surrendered.

April 3, 1948 – President Truman signed the Marshall Plan, an economic aid package that is largely credited with halting the spread of communism in post-War Europe.

April 3, 1995 – Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female Justice of the Supreme Court.

April 4, 1949 – NATO was created.

April 4, 1968 – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated.

April 6, 1896 – The first “modern” Olympics was held in Athens.

April 6, 1917 – The US entered WWI.

April 8, 563 BC – Celebrated as Bhudda’s birthday.

April 8, 1913 – The US ratified the 17th Amendment to the Constitution mandating the election of US senators by direct popular vote instead of appointment by State legislatures as had been the procedure.

April 9, 1865 – Robert E. Lee formally surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant ending the Civil War.

April 9, 1866 – The US passed the Civil Rights Bill of 1866, which granted AAs the rights and privileges of US citizenship.

April 10, 1942 – The Bataan Death March began.

April 10, 1945 – The Buchenwald concentration camp was liberated by US troops.

April 11, 1968 – The US adopted the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

April 12, 1861 – The Civil War commenced as Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter.

April 12, 1945 – FDR died in Warm Springs, GA of a cerebral hemorrhage.

April 12, 1961 – Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, became the first human in space.

April 14, 1828 – Noah Webster published the first American-style dictionary.

April 14, 1865 – President Abraham Lincoln was mortally wounded by assassin John Wilkes Booth at Ford Theatre. He died the next day.

April 15, 1912 – The “unsinkable” Titanic, which had struck an iceberg the previous night, sunk. Some 1,500 of the 2,224 persons on board perished.

April 17, 1961 – The so-called Bay of Pigs invasion, which was intended to precipitate the overthrow of Fidel Castro, failed disastrously.

April 18, 1775 – Paul Revere embarked on his famous “Midnight Ride” to warn the Patriots that “the British [were] coming.”

April 18, 1906 – The infamous San Francisco Earthquake and fire began.

April 18, 1942 – A squadron of airplanes led by General James Doolittle successfully bombed Tokyo, providing a much-needed morale boost to Americans by demonstrating that Japan was not invulnerable.

April 19, 1775 – Patriots fire the “shot heard ’round the world” at Lexington, MA, which marked the commencement of the Revolutionary War.

April 19, 1943 – The Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto began an armed insurrection against their Nazi captors.

April 20, 1999 – The “Columbine Massacre” occurred in Littleton, CO, leaving 13 dead and 20 more wounded.

April 21, 1836 – Texans, under the command of Sam Houston, decisively defeated a Mexican force at San Jacinto (near present-day Houston), which led to Texas’ independence from Mexico.

April 21, 1918 – Baron Manfred von Richtofen, the infamous “Red Baron” who was credited with some 80 kills, was shot down over France.

April 22, 1889 – The “Oklahoma land rush” began.

April 24, 1800 – The Library of Congress, the world’s largest library, housing some 145 million items, was established.

April 26, 1986 – The nuclear power plant at Chernobyl, Ukraine, exploded, spreading a radioactive cloud extending over much of Europe.

April 26, 1994 – Apartheid in South Africa officially ended as the country held its first multiracial elections with some 18 million blacks participating. Nelson Mandela was elected President.

April 28, 1789 – Led by Fletcher Christian, the crew of the HMS Bounty mutinied against Captain William Bligh.

April 30, 1789 – George Washington was sworn in as the first President of the US.

April 30, 1948 – Palestinian Jews declared their independence from the British and established the State of Israel.

Birthdays – 4/2/1805 – Hans Christian Anderson (Danish fairytale author); 4/5/1856 – Booker T. Washington (AA educator); 4/10/1847 – Joseph Pulitzer (publisher); 4/13/1743 – Thomas Jefferson (3rd President); 4/16/1867 – Wilbur Wright (aviator pioneer); 4/16/1889 – Charlie Chaplin (silent film comedian); 4/17/1837 – John Pierpont Morgan (financier); 4/18/1857 – Clarence Darrow (renowned attorney); 4/20/1889 – Adolph Hitler; 4/22/1870 – Vladimir Lenin; 4/23/1564 – William Shakespeare (writer); 4/23/1791 – James Buchanan (15th US President; 4/25/1874 – Guglielmo Marconi (invented the radio; 4/27/1791 – Samuel F. B. Morse (telegraph inventor); 4/27/1822 – Ulysses S. Grant (civil war commanding general and 18th US President); 4/28/1758 – James Monroe (Founding Father and 5th US President); 4/29/1863 – William Randolph Hearst (publisher).

JACKIE ROBINSON

Number 42. Does that have any special meaning for you, or is it just another number? Baseball fans, civil rights advocates, and students of history will recognize it as the uniform number worn by Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers. It should be noted that that uniform number has two other major significances:

1. It is the only number to have been retired by every major league baseball team (1997); and
2. since 2004, every year on April 15 on what is known as “Jackie Robinson Day,” every player wears that number in tribute to Jackie Robinson in recognition of the anniversary of his debut in the major leagues in 1947.  On that historic date Jackie became the first African American to play in the major leagues since the 1880s.

Unfortunately, this year the baseball season is in limbo due to the CV, so we will not be able to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day on the appointed date.  Hopefully, the MLB season will get underway soon, and we will be able to do so later in the season.

In order to put this in its proper perspective one must realize the racial situation in 1947. Life was radically different, a reality which few of us who live in the PC era can appreciate.  Much has changed in the intervening 73 years.

For example:

1. Segregation was the law of the land. “Jim Crow” was alive and well.
The “Brown” Supreme Court decision integrating public schools would not come until 1954.
2. Even though many AAs had distinguished themselves during WWII the armed forces would not be integrated until 1948.
3. A disproportionate percentage of MLB players were from the South and espoused all the values, attitudes and experiences of the region regarding AAs.  Most of them had never played ball with an AA.  Many had rarely even associated with one as peers.
4. The prevailing attitude among players, sports writers, and fans was that AAs were not good enough and did not have the “temperament” to succeed in MLB.

Very few of us lived through that era, and consequently, we cannot imagine the circumstances Jackie had to overcome.

Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born on January 31, 1919 in Cairo, Georgia.  His parents chose his middle name in honor of President Teddy Roosevelt, who had recently died.  He was the youngest of five children.  One of his older brothers, Mack, would later earn some notoriety by winning the silver medal in the 100 meter dash in the 1936 Olympics, (the Games held in Berlin at which Jesse Owens embarrassed Adolph Hitler and the Nazis by winning four gold medals).

Jackie’s parents were sharecroppers and barely scraping by, so in 1920 they moved to Pasadena, California seeking a better life.  In high school and college Jackie excelled in five sports – baseball, basketball, football, track and tennis.  Basically, he was an all-around athlete who excelled in any sport he tried.  At UCLA he became the school’s first athlete to “letter” in four sports (all of the above except tennis).  One of his teammates on the 1939 UCLA football team was the future actor, Woody Strode.  Ironically, statistically, at least, baseball was his worst sport of the four.

In 1941 Jackie left UCLA just shy of graduating to play semi-pro football, but in early 1942 he was drafted and stationed at Fort Riley in Texas.  He applied for admission to OCS. Initially, his application was rejected as few blacks were accepted at the time, but following a personal appeal from Joe Louis, the reigning heavyweight boxing champ, he was accepted.

Jackie’s tenure in the army was marred by one unfortunate incident in which his fiery temperament got him in trouble.  While riding an Army bus one day the driver told him to move to the back.  Jackie refused.  As a result he was nearly court-martialed for insubordination and other “trumped up” offenses.  A conviction would have changed the course of his life and, possibly, the country’s as well, but he was acquitted.

In 1945 Jackie signed to play for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues. Unbeknownst to him, Branch Rickey, President of the Brooklyn Dodgers, was looking for a Negro to break the major leagues’ “color barrier,” which had been in place since the 1880s.  He had compiled a list of the best players in the Negro leagues and was evaluating them for suitability.  There were many players better than Jackie, notably Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, but due to age, temperament and other factors, they were all eliminated in favor of Jackie.

Rickey knew the first AA player would have to “turn the other cheek” to a great deal of verbal, physical and emotional abuse.  Otherwise, it might be many more years before the next one got a chance.  When he told Jackie this, Jackie was shocked and replied: “Are you looking for a Negro who is afraid to fight back?” Rickey’s famous reply was that he was seeking a Negro “with guts enough not to fight back.”

To make a long story short, Rickey signed Jackie.  He played for the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers AAA minor league affiliate in the International League, in 1946.  He “tore up” the league, winning the MVP award.  The next year he made his debut in the major leagues.

To me, his debut was one of the most significant events not only in baseball history, but also in the country’s history.  There was tremendous resistance not only from other Dodgers, but from players on other teams as well.

Again, it is very hard for us to appreciate the level of abuse to which Jackie was subjected. Breaking into the major leagues is hard enough, physically. The added mental and emotional pressures Jackie and other AAs had to overcome was mind-boggling. Jackie had to endure a tremendous amount of prejudice and abuse both on and off the field (name calling, spiking, “beanings,” separate lodgings and restaurants on the road, etc.  Eventually, other AAs would join him in the majors. They had to overcome many of the same obstacles.  Some were unable to survive, but many more did.

Luckily, Dodger management was behind Jackie 100%.  When some Dodgers players threatened to quit, strike or demand a trade, the team’s manager, Leo Durocher, a fiery, no nonsense person himself, nipped the rebellion in the bud.  He declared: “I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a f****** zebra.  I’m the manager of this team, and I say he plays.”  Players on other teams also threatened to strike, but MLB Commissioner “Happy” Chandler quelled that rebellion quickly as well.

CONCLUSION

Rickey chose well with Jackie.  In baseball parlance, he “knocked it out of
the park.”  Attendance soared and not just in Brooklyn but in every other city as well. Black people came in droves to see their hero, Jackie Robinson, play.  In those days, attendance was the primary source of ball clubs’ revenue, so Jackie made money for everyone.

Not only did Jackie “take” all the abuse without incident, he starred on the field and became an integral part of one of the most storied teams in baseball history, the “Boys of Summer.”  In a ten-year period from 1947-1956 that team dominated the National League.

It won six pennants, lost another in a playoff and lost another by one game.

Among Jackie’s many MLB accomplishments:

1. Rookie of the year in 1947 (the first one).
2. National League MVP in 1949.
3. Appeared in six World Series.
4. World champion in 1955.
5. First ballot hall of famer in 1962.
6. Member of the MLB All-Century team.

Jackie was extremely versatile,  Although he came up as a second baseman, he also played first, third and the outfield.  Many times, he was among the league leaders in fielding at his position.  He was one of the best “clutch” players I have ever observed.  He could beat you with the bat, the glove or on the bases.  I have never seen a better baserunner or a tougher competitor.  When on base, he would drive the opposing pitcher crazy with his antics.  He was always a threat to steal a base.  I saw him steal home in the 1955 World Series.  When caught in a rundown he often escaped, which, generally, was a rarity.  His aggressive style of play was unique for the 1940s and 1950s.

As an example of his extremely competitive nature, one story will suffice.  In the decisive third game of the 1951 playoff with the NY Giants, when the Giants’ Bobby Thompson hit the game winning home run, all the Dodgers left the field immediately with their heads down in defeat.  All except for Jackie.  He watched and made sure that Thompson touched all the bases on his home run trot.  He would not accept defeat until Thompson had completed his circuit.

Jackie retired from baseball after the 1956 season worn down by age and diabetes, but he did not retire from life.  For example, he became very active in the civil rights movement; he became the first black to serve as vp of a major corporation (Chock Full O’Nuts); he went into broadcasting; and he acted in a movie of his own life story.

Ultimately, however, his fierce competitiveness could not overcome ill health.  Jackie died on October 24, 1972 at the relatively young age of 53 from complications of heart disease and diabetes.  I’m sure that all the stress he had to endure on the playing field also contributed to his early demise.

Jackie’s legacy, however, lives on.  There are countless, statues, schools, parks and roads named in his honor.  Moreover, every time a black or other minority takes the field in the major leagues, the NFL or the NBA, he owes a debt to the pioneer who made it all possible.

In all likelihood, eventually the 2020 baseball season will commence, and there will be a “Jackie Robinson Day” at some point when all players on every team will wear “42” to pay homage to Jackie.   At that time, take a moment to appreciate the special achievement of one Jack Roosevelt Robinson.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE XII – MEDIA BIAS

Well, that didn’t take long. The anti-Trumpers are at it again.

The same purveyors of fake news that peddled disingenuous stories of voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election, Russian election interference on behalf of Mr. Trump, the fake Russian dossier, unsubstantiated evidence to fraudulently obtain the FISA warrants, phony accusations of Mr. Trump’s alleged racism and xenophobia, phony accusations of sexual assault against Justice Kavanaugh, and many other similar journalistic assassinations, are at it again.  Even during a pandemic that represents an existential threat they can’t resist.

In my opinion, the media has been biased against President Trump since before he was elected.  I think most objective observers of the political landscape would concur.  I have blogged about this bias, in detail, several times over the last 3+ years.  There is no need to rehash it all now.

The latest example is the media’s attempt to rewrite the history of Mr. Trump’s reaction to the CV.   Over the weekend the NYT published a piece full of exaggerations, half=truths, misconceptions and outright lies with respect to Mr. Trump’s record of combatting the virus.  Basically, the Times claimed he repeatedly ignored the advice of his advisors and delayed taking action necessary to protect American lives, and as a result he caused thousands of fatalities.

The story was featured by both Chris Wallace on his Sunday news show, “Fox News Sunday” and on “60 Minutes” on Sunday evening.  Both programs presented a biased story designed to make Mr. Trump look bad.  In my blogs on the CV I have made it a point to try to be as neutral as possible.  As I have said many times, this is not the time for politicking.  But, the unfairness of this blatant attempt to reconstruct history has angered me no end as it should you as well.

Apparently, a refresher course is in order to set the record straight.  Below please find a timeline of the significant developments beginning in December, 2019.  If you doubt the accuracy of any of the following you may follow the advice of the late Casey Stengel and “look it up.”  Evidently, the fake news media and Trump haters have not done so or they think the American voters can be fooled.

  1. 12/19 – The first case and first death reported in China.
  2. 1/6/20 – The CDC issued a travel advisory regarding Wuhan Province.
  3. 1/1120 – The CDC issued a Level 1 travel ban regarding the province.  At this point, there were no CV cases in the US.
  4. 1/14/20 –  WHO tweeted there was “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission” of CV.
  5. 1/1720 –  The CDC authorized screening of travelers from Wuhon at airports.
  6. 1/20/20 – CNN quoted Dr. Fauci- “It is unclear how easily [the] spread [from person to person] can happen.”
  7. 1/21/20 – The first case in the US was reported.
  8. 1/27/20 – CV had still not spread “widely” within the US.
  9. 1/30/20 – The first human-to-human transmission in US was reported.
  10. 1/31/20 – Mr Trump issued a travel ban of anyone from China.  At this point, according to the CDC,  there were still no US fatalities.  Later, he issued bans on travelers from Europe.  It is important to recall that following these actions he was castigated as a racist and xenophobic by several leading Dems, including Pelosi, Schumer and Biden, as well as most of the media, including the usual suspects (CNN, MSNBC and the networks).  So, let’s all fully understand; when Mr. Trump imposed these travel bans he was criticized for doing so.  Then, a few days ago he was criticized for delaying action.  His critics want it both ways.
  11.  1/31/20 -Dr. Fauci characterized CV as “low risk” to the American people.
  12.  2/1/20 – Biden dismissed Mr. Trump’s travel ban as “fearmongering.”
  13.  2/5/20 – NYT headlines -“Who says it’s not safe to travel to China? and “The CV travel  ban is unjust and doesn’t work anyway.”
  14.  2/17/20 – Dr. Fauci in USA Today –  The risk of CV in US is “miniscule.”
  15.  Late Feb – The same people and media outlets were downplaying the danger of the virus.  They repeatedly opined it was “not a big issue in the US” and “not as bad as the flu.”  They were  encouraging people to attend celebrations of the Chinese New Year in various cities’ Chinatowns.  NYS Gov Cuomo and NYC Mayor DeBlasio were encouraging people to “take the subway,” which we have since ascertained is the absolute worst thing to do.  I said before, and I’ll repeat it now that I am convinced that action was a major reason why NYC ended up with such a high concentration of CV cases.
  16.  3/1/20 – Second confirmed fatality in US reported.
  17.  3/9/20 – Dr. Fauci in “Forbes” – “Cruising is ok if you’re healthy.”
  18.  3/15/20 – CDC issued recommendation banning gatherings in excess of 50 persons.
  19.  3/16/20 – President Trump issued recommendation banning gatherings of more than ten persons.  Eventually, this evolved into the situation we have been living under, namely, people working in “non-essential” jobs are either working from home or not at all.

It should be emphasized that President Trump, Drs. Fauci and Birx, and all the rest of our policymakers were relying on information received from the Chinese government, which, in retrospect, we know was inaccurate and perhaps intentionally understated and misleading.  So, anyone who is now asserting that Mr. Trump did not act quickly enough is either very forgetful, lying, or blinded by bias.  Most medical people, including Drs. Fauci and Birx, acknowledge that Mr. Trump’s early travel bans were extremely beneficial in moderating the number of CV cases and deaths in the US.  Even reporter Maggie Haberman, no supporter of the President’s, wrote in the NYT that the bans were “effective.”  Furthermore, some two weeks ago the Biden campaign released a statement acknowledging Mr. Trump was correct to issue the bans.

Does anyone seriously believe he should have closed down the economy any earlier, such as when there was only one reported death. Of course, not.  Let’s be fair.  He would have been crucified and vilified as an autocrat who wanted to throw working-class people out of work.

The anti-Trumpers have been blaming the president for the shortage of hospital beds, PPE, and other vital supplies.  It is important to note that each state was responsible for its own preparedness.  Some were prepared; most were not.  The federal supplies were only intended as a backup.  If anything, the blame, if any, should be shared by everyone, not Mr. Trump exclusively.

What is beyond dispute is that when the federal government became cognizant of the shortages it acted quickly and decisively to resolve the matter.  It has been providing massive amounts of these items, and it even built several hospitals in hotspots from scratch.  As it turns out, much of what it provided was not even used.  Moreover, it has fully engaged the private sector, which has been providing PPE and is even working on developing therapeutic treatments and vaccines.

Virtually all of the governors have praised the federal government for its support.   At the present time, it appears that not one state is lacking the resources it needs to combat the CV.

CONCLUSION

The media has been constantly trying to stir up controversy between Mr. Trump and Drs. Fauci and Birx.  This is absurd.  At yesterday’s presser Dr. Fauci reiterated that there not have been and currently are not any problems among them.  Whatever he and Dr. Birx have recommended Mr. Trump has agreed to right away.  One reporter even had the audacity to ask Dr. Fauci if he was speaking “voluntarily” or under duress.  He said, yes, everything he does or says is “voluntary,” but how ridiculous to even ask such a question!

It should also be recalled that during most of the above period the Dems were obsessed with pursuing their Don Quixote-like impeachment and trial of Mr. Trump.  What a waste of time, money and effort, and one can see how it likely caused a distraction from the CV and other serious matters.

Let’s be realistic.  The blame for the scope and seriousness of the pandemic is China and China’s alone.  They lied about everything related to it, and the rest of the world is paying the price.  What, if anything can be done about it is a complicated issue for another blog.

Now, we are working on when and how to reopen the economy.  Most people agree we should do so as soon as it is safe.  The primary questions seem to be the methodology and who has the authority to do so, the president or the various state governors.  Some governors have even banded together to challenge Mr. Trump’s authority in this endeavor.  It appears to me that the constitution is ambiguous on the issue.  The current wrangling is unseemly and counterproductive, although not exactly surprising.

In any event, I don’t see how the reopening of any particular state can be successful without the concurrence of both the president and each state’s governor.  No astute politician would want to take sole responsibility for it in case something were to go wrong.   The obvious solution would be to cease the “breast-beating” and reach a compromise solution.  I hope and expect that they will do so.  People want to go back to work.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE XI

Phase 1 of dealing with the Coronavirus Pandemic is almost finished.  Many areas have already passed their peak.  Many others are approaching their peak.  As Drs. Fauci and Birx have explained many times that even though the fatality count is still rising in many areas that statistic is viewed as a lagging indicator.  Doctors focus on the number of hospitalizations, which are levelling off or decreasing in many areas.

Currently, most medical professionals are of the opinion that the curve is flattening.  That is great news.  But, now, we will be facing another challenge, which I believe will be just as dangerous and just as much a threat to our way of life.  Perhaps, in the long run, it will be more so.  Of course, I am referring to Phase 2, the reopening of the economy. More on this later.

Just a month or so ago, the economy was roaring; unemployment was at historic lows; consumer confidence was high; and the stock market was at an historic high.  Now, unemployment is at levels not seen since the Great Depression; consumer confidence has eroded; and the stock market, though recovering, is down substantially from its highwater mark.

Why?  Our political leaders and virtually all medical professionals had determined that in order to defeat the CV we had to completely shut down the economy except for essential services.  Most of them agreed at the time, and still do, that such a shutdown was necessary.   The tradeoff was to save lives from a deadly, highly contagious virus recognizing that we would be severely damaging the economy in the short run.  The hope was that after we had dealt with the virus the economy would recover.  For example,

  1. Entire industries have been virtually shut down.
  2. Many small businesses, the very backbone of our economy, have gone out of business.  Many more are on the verge of doing so.
  3. Over 16 million people are out of work, just like that, and through no fault of their own.  We are talking about real lives, which may never be the same again.
  4. Schools have been closed.
  5. “Broadway” in NYC has gone “dark.”
  6. Professional and amateur sports, which many people need and want as an “escape,” have had their seasons disrupted and/or cancelled.  Major League baseball has delayed the 2020 season and may not be able to resume until late summer/early fall.  The NBA and NHL may not be able to complete their seasons.  The 2020 NFL season will, at the very least, be severely disrupted.  All NCAA sports have been disrupted and/or cancelled, including, among others, the highly-popular and profitable men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments.  All this has affected not just the athletes, but also the countless ancillary jobs and services that depend on them.
  7. The list goes on and on.

Next, we will face a unique situation.  We will have to reopen the economy.  This has never been done before.  No one really knows how to do it.  No one really knows what the ramifications will be.  There will likely be unintended consequences that will last for years, if not decades.  Everyone has an opinion.  Who will make the final decision?  The President?  Individual governors?  Whose advice will be paramount?  The medical professionals?  The business people?  A combination?  Again, no one knows.  Anyone who claims to is lying and not to be trusted.

Opinions as to how to proceed differ radically.  Generally, the medical professionals are being cautious.  Many of them are warning of substantially more deaths or even a resurgence of the CV if we move too quickly.  Some of the more conservative ones would like to wait until we have developed a proven vaccine.  More on this later.

The businesspeople and the unemployed individuals are becoming increasingly concerned about the possibility of losing their livelihood permanently.  Many economists are warning us that the longer we wait the harder it will be to return the economy to the way it was.  The politicians are caught in the middle.  They know that regardless of what they do people will suffer.  They also know that their decisions will be closely scrutinized after the fact, and if things turn out wrong they will be blamed, and perhaps lose their positions.  More on this decision-making process later.

Below please find an outline of some of the recent significant developments as reported by various news outlets including the NYT, Fox News, CNBC, and CNN, among others:

  1. According to Worldometer, as I write this the total cases worldwide are in excess of 1.8 million with some 110,000 fatalities.  In the US the numbers are approximately 533,000 cases and over 21,000 fatalities.  Moreover, the total US deaths when all is said and done are projected to be 60,000.  Every death is a tragedy, but we should be happy that the current projected total is considerably fewer than the 100,000 to 240,000 that was predicted just a few weeks ago..
  2.  The situation in various states varies widely.  Some have been hard-hit, others not so much.  Some have reached their peak, while others are not close.  In all likelihood, this will result in a variance of restart dates for their respective economies.  I do not envision a “one size fits all” situation.  For example,

a.  The governors of TX and FL are already discussing reopening schools and businesses in their respective states.

b.  On the other hand CA, PA, WA and NY are exhibiting more caution.  NY Gov Andrew Cuomo told reporters he will not reopen non-essential businesses until “widespread testing” for CV is available.  Schools in NYC, CA, PA and WA will be closed through the end of the school year.

3.  Most likely, the timing and nature of the restart will also differ by industry.  For instance, healthcare, beauty salons and restaurants will probably get up to speed fairly quickly.  There is a pent-up demand for those services. (If you doubt me, talk to your wife.)  It has been reported that the auto industry is targeting May 4.  On the other hand, the airline and cruise ship industries will probably not return to normal until 2021, if ever.  Of course, these and all other businesses will be dependent on child care facilities being up to speed.

4.  Some industries, such as financial services will likely have to adapt to a new normal.  Many employees of financial institutions have been working from home successfully throughout this period.  This arrangement has been aided and abetted by the wonders of modern electronic communication.  Moreover, it has yielded several financial benefits to both employers and employees.  There may be no returning to the old ways.

5.  The retail industry as we knew it, is in grave trouble.  People have gotten used to shopping on-line.  They have experienced and gotten used to the obvious advantages.  Brick and mortar stores will find it increasingly difficult to compete, and many will be closing.

6.  As we return to work both employers and employees should be mindful of the federal guidelines for dealing with the CV, many of which are common sense:

a.  Test as many people as possible or practicable.

b. Take your temperature before going to work.

c.  Wear protective gear, i. e. face mask and gloves

d.  Practice social distancing.

e. Employees that feel sick should go home or to a doctor immediately.

f. Avoid sharing any items, such as headsets, that people keep near their face.

g.  Try to avoid congregating in groups.

h.  Keep the workspace clean and disinfected, especially frequently-touched surfaces, such as counters and bathrooms..

7.  The latest controversy is over Easter church services.  Individual states are dealing with them differently.  For example, FL and TX have exempted them from the stay-at-home order, whereas in GA and IN worshippers are being urged to attend services online.  Authorities in KY will record group worshippers’ license plates and hand them over to local health officials who will then enforce a 14-day quarantine.  Some church groups have been protesting any restrictions as impinging on their constitutional right to freedom of religion.

8.  The daughter of a woman who died at the Seattle nursing home where there was a cluster of CV-related deaths has filed a lawsuit against the facility.

9.  Dr. Chris Murray, director of the IHME, which created the model that the White House has been using, told CNN that he believes the US’s daily death toll, which exceeded 2,000 Friday, has peaked.   Worldometer has reported that Saturday’s US death count was minimal.  Despite this, Drs. Fauci and Birx continue to warn that we should not get overconfident.  They caution that we need to continue to follow the mitigation guidelines that have worked so well.  If not, they and others predict a spike in infections and fatalities.

10.  Widespread testing is generally considered to be critical in controlling the CV.  According to President Trump the US is “leading the world in testing” thanks, in large part, to Abbott Labs’ development of a five-minute test.   Currently, the US is conducting in excess of 100,000 tests per day and has completed over 2 million in total.

CONCLUSION

President Trump has characterized the decision of when and how he will seek to restart the country’s economy as “without question the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make.”  Accordingly, he has said he will consult with a broad spectrum of experts, including doctors, economists, business people and federal, state and local politicians of both Parties.  He will also consider what has and has not worked in other countries.  Finally, he will be introducing an “opening our country council” on Tuesday, which will be heavily involved in all decisions.  I think this is the correct approach.  It is wise to cast as wide a net as possible.  As the old saying goes, “better to have him/them inside your tent p***ing out than outside your tent p***ing in.”

Apparently, some people are concerned that Mr. Trump will make decisions regarding the economy unilaterally.  This is absurd on its face.  Nevertheless, in response to reporters’ questions on this matter the president has repeatedly assured he will “listen to the experts.”  In addition, he has assured that “we’re not doing anything until we know this country is going to be healthy [after the restart].

Many of Mr. Trump’s enemies in the media and elsewhere have been openly critical of his performance during this period.  It is their right as Americans to express contrary opinions.  However, some of them seem to be openly routing for the country to fail because they feel it will mean that Mr. Trump has failed.  Some House Dems are even talking about an investigation of Mr. Trump’s handling of the CV crisis.  I maintain that it is Congress’ constitutional right, or even duty, to conduct oversight over the executive branch.  But, based on recent history, I fear such an investigation will devolve into another “witch hint.”  Now is not the time for that.

All this political partisanship is most bothersome to me.  During a crisis such as this we all have to pull together.  I don’t think the GOP was rooting for us to lose WWII to make FDR look bad.  In my view, this is no different.  This, too, is war, and it is incumbent upon us to rally behind our leaders.

 

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE X

As I write this, it appears that maybe, possibly, we have passed the worst.  President Trump and members of the task force have reported that there is a “light at the end of the tunnel.”  That is not to say that today’s news is all positive.  As you will see, there is plenty of negative news to go with the positive.  As always, I have compiled what follows from various news sources, including the Washington Post, NY Times, CNN, ABC news and Fox News, among others.

  1.  According to Worldometer as I write this there have been approximately 1.5 million cases of CV worldwide with some 82,000 fatalities.  For the US the approximate numbers are 423,000 and 15,000, respectively.  The US recorded some 2,000 each for Tuesday and yesterday, which was the highest single day total for any country at any point in this pandemic.  Also, the US has recorded roughly 3X the cases of the next highest country, Spain, but it has suffered fewer deaths than Spain and Italy.
  2. Within the US NY continues to record the highest number of cases and fatalities of any state.  Its 150,000 cases are 3X the next highest state, and its fatalities are 4X (NJ in both instances).  Moreover, it has about the same number of cases as Spain, which has the second-most of any country.
  3.  Wednesday, NY reported its single highest daily number of fatalities, 779, which brought the overall total to 6,268.  To put that in perspective, that is more than twice the fatalities recorded on 9/11.  Despite those grim numbers there is cause for optimism as the number of hospitalizations, which is viewed as a precursor, is falling.
  4. Other previous hotspots, such as CA and Louisiana, appear to be flattening their curves as well.  On the other hand, new hotspots appear to be emerging in the Philiadelphia and DC-Baltimore metro areas.
  5. Despite all that grim news Drs. Fauci and Birx are optimistic.  They reported that we could be approaching a turning point.  Moreover, there is growing evidence that the “curve” is “flatttening” in the US.  The new model projects only 60,000 US fatalities.  You may recall that not long ago this model was projecting between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths. They attributed this primarily to our strict observation of the mitigation guidelines.  However, they urged against complacency lest we suffer a resurgence.
  6.  Bi-lateral support is growing for an additional emergency package, although there are differences of opinion as to the amount and content.
  7.  Many Americans have expressed concern as to how and when life will return to pre-CV days.  Dr. Fauci has disclosed that the task force is discussing a “framework” for such an event.
  8. Currently, the largest concentration of CV can be found, not in any city but in the Cook County jail in Chicago (387).  This illustrates a major dilemma.  On the one hand, prisoner safety is such an issue that many governors have authorized the release of many convicts who, based on the crimes for which they were convicted, should be retained in prison.  One the other hand, these prisoners represent a clear and present danger to law-abiding citizens.  One might say that these governors are valuing the safety of the convicted over that of the law-abiding.
  9.  College students at several universities are organizing a tuition strike.  They are asserting that the on-line education they are now getting is inferior to the real thing, and they don’t want to pay the same tuition for it.
  10. Dr. Birx stated she was “in awe” of Americans’ ability to radically change their behavior in order to conform to the mitigation guidelines.  However, while being interviewed on ABC she expressed concern over the high number of cases (1,440) and fatalities (27) in the DC-Baltimore metro area.  She attributed it to the fact that many residents there were not complying fully with the guidelines on social distancing.
  11.  Belatedly, the CV has invaded rural America.  Some 2/3 of the country’s rural counties have now reported cases and about 10% of them have reported at least one fatality.  The concern is that a substantial outbreak could overwhelm these areas, many of which have limited medical facilities and personnel.  This will bear watching prospectively.
  12.  There are reports that the NYC theatre district could reopen for business as early as June.  That would be a real shot in the arm to the city’s economy and its psyche.
  13. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo has reported that since January 29 the State Department has repatriated some 50,000 American citizens who were stranded in some 90 foreign countries.  Repatriation efforts are ongoing.
  14. Immigration officials have begun to release detained illegal immigrants who are thought to be at risk to contract CV.
  15. Due to an unexpected sudden surge in demand many food banks are running short of funds and supplies.
  16. England’s PM Boris Johnson is reported to be “clinically stable” and “responding to treatment” for the CV.  That is very good news.
  17. Airlines have been plagued with empty seats. Recently, I saw a story where one flight had just one passenger.  Most of them have sharply reduced the number of flights.  Delta has announced that for the time being it will not sell the middle seat on its flights in order to facilitate “social distancing.”
  18. The state of Vermont has been designated as a “disaster area.”  It is the 47th state to do so, leaving only Alaska, Idaho and Wyoming.  This bears watching as the US has never had a 50-state disaster situation.
  19.  Texas Governor Greg Abbott told journalists that the state is now at the “high water mark” for both new cases and fatalities.
  20.  In yet another cruise ship disaster an Australian ship, “Greg Mortimer,” which was sailing to Antarctica reported that 60% of its passengers were infected with CV.
  21.  FL Governor Ron DeSantis has announced that the state will convert the Miami Beach Convention Center into a 450-bed temporary facility (expandable to 1,000 beds) to treat CV patients.  He also plans to ramp up testing substantially.
  22. As part of the federal government’s ongoing efforts to coordinate with the private sector General Motors has agreed to produce and sell 30,000 ventilators to the federal government for $490 million.
  23.  A Kenyan factory that was making gardening clothes has retooled to make 30,000 surgical masks a day.

CONCLUSION

For the most part, Americans have put aside their differences and united to fight the common enemy, CV.  Many have voluntarily sacrificed economically for the greater good.  Most have diligently observed the mitigation guidelines.  All of these efforts appear to have borne fruit as the number of cases and fatalities have been lower than even the most optimistic estimates.

A recently-released  Monmouth University poll disclosed:

  1. An overwhelming  majority (72%) approved of their respective state’s governor’s handling of the CV.
  2.  Their rating of President Trump was evenly split (46% approve, 49% disapprove) and, not surprisingly, highly partisan.  87% of Republicans, 45% of independents and 16% of Dems approved of his performance.
  3. Respondents were not particularly trusting of any officials.  Dr. Fauci was highest at only 35%, followed by Cuomo (23%), Trump (20%) and Dr. Birx (14%).  Those results are mystifying to me, especially with respect to Drs. Fauci and Birx, but there it is.

I am mystified and troubled by the controversy over the drug, hydroxychloroquine.  I understand that it has not gone through all the blind testing that the FDA normally requires for new drugs.  However, it has been safely prescribed for malaria and lupus for 65 years, with superb results, and currently, it is being used to treat some CV patients with very positive results.  The most recent success story involves Dr. Marc Siegel’s 96 year old father.  He was gravely ill with CV, near death.  After one day of CV he felt immeasurably better.

Yet, many in the media insist on denigrating it as unproven, experimental and unsafe.  Cuomo has gone so far as to ban pharmacies in NY from dispensing it even with a doctor’s prescription.   NYers are the only ones in the country who are required to get it at a hospital.  I believe those naysayers are only criticizing it because President Trump has been touting it. They are doing Americans a grave disservice.

Personally, I strongly believe it is critical for Americans to return to normalcy as soon as possible.  It will benefit us economically, socially, emotionally and psychologically.  Furthermore, I am not aware that we shut down the entire economy during any other previous pandemic or epidemic, not even for polio and smallpox, which had considerably higher death rates.   In my opinion, widespread use of the newly developed five-minute testing, antibodies of cured patients, and the much-maligned hydroxychloroquine could be key elements in returning us to normalcy,

I hope the task force and other advisors can develop a safe, prudent plan sooner rather than later.  Our way of life depends on it.