CORONAVIRUS UPDATE VI. AID PACKAGE AND NYC

As most of you know, Congress has finally passed the long-anticipated and much needed coronavirus stimulus package, and President Trump has signed it into law.   At $2.2 trillion it is the largest and most comprehensive emergency aid package in US history.   It is intended to provide assistance to every person and entity affected by the virus through no fault of their own – individuals, small businesses and entire industries.

The major provisions include:

  1.  Individuals will receive one-time cash payments.  Eligibility and amounts will depend on one’s income.  A typical family of four will receive $3,400 by direct deposit or by check.   Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the payments should be distributed within three weeks.
  2.  Additional assistance for those receiving unemployment assistance
  3.  Payments for those receiving social security.
  4.  Assistance for hospitals and other healthcare providers.
  5.  Assistance for veterans.
  6. Assistance for childcare if the facility was closed due to the virus.
  7. Waivers for student loan payments for loans held by the federal government.
  8. Financial assistance for small businesses
  9. Aid for distressed companies/industries, such as restaurants, cruise lines and airlines.  This is not a “bail-out” as some have characterized it, but loans and incentives.

These last two are necessary for America to maintain its strong economy and to ensure that workers have jobs to return to once the crisis has been resolved.

Is it perfect?  No.  Will there be unintended negative consequences?  Probably.  But, it is necessary, and it is important to remember that, due to the exigent circumstances, the bill was put together quickly and, perhaps, a bit haphazardly.

Furthermore, in order to pass it had to satisfy a wide range of special interest groups who were in a position to and, in fact, did, delay its passage.  These groups were not interested in assisting those in need.  Rather, they thought they saw an opportunity to blackmail and intimidate the main body of the Congress to accept their pet projects.

For example, it looked as though the bill was going to pass last weekend, but at the last minute Speaker Pelosi, promoting the interests of far left elements of the Dem Party, tried to insert various amendments that had nothing to do with corona.  I discussed these in my last blog , and there is no need to repeat them here.  Some were rejected, and some were accepted, but the primary effect was to delay the bill’s passage for several days.

Then, right before the actual vote GOP Rep Thomas Massie tried to force a rollcall vote, which would have led to further delay and would have required numerous members who were sick with corona or just sheltering in place at home to return to DC.  He was widely criticized on both sides of the aisle for that tactic.  (When was the last time President Trump and Senator John Kerry  agreed on anything?)   As House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pointed out, “We have members on both sides of the aisle who have the virus [and] are quarantined.”   Massie was thwarted, but, once again, it forced an unnecessary and dangerous delay.

So, the bill includes some provisions that have nothing to do with corona.   Many of us might not like them, but we have to accept them for the greater good.

As most of us know from following the news NYC has become the primary “hot spot” in the US for the virus.  As I write this it has identified in excess of 26,000 cases with nearly 400 fatalities.  NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo told the NY Times that the number of cases is “doubling every three days.”

Moreover, according to NYC’s own statistics the city is suffering a fatality every 17 minutes.  Think about that for a minute.  In the four hours it has taken me to write this blog some 14 people have died!

Furthermore, residents who can have been fleeing the city.  Dr. Deborah Birx  told the NY Times that this is part of the reason for the high incidences of the virus in neighboring Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester Counties.  The Presidential Task Force has cautioned that those leaving the city should be “self-quarantining” for 14 days, but I suspect many have not.  Either they were not aware they had the virus, or they were careless.  NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio has told reporters that the city could “run out of critical resources as early as April 5.”  Sentiment is growing for a “full lockdown.”  Public advocate Jumaane Williams opined “we need a mandated lockdown, and we needed it yesterday.”  Reports are that authorities are considering it.  By the time you read this it may have been declared.

How did this happen?  What is different about NYC that has caused this situation, which seems to be getting worse by the day.  It has almost reached the tipping point.  Everyone has their theories.  Below please find mine.  Some are fairly obvious; others may appear controversial.

  1. NYC is a very densely populated city, especially Manhattan.  People are living in very close proximity to each other.
  2. The primary modes of travel within the city are bus and subway.  I cannot think of easier ways to spread contagion unwittingly.  If you have ever ridden the subway you know what I mean.
  3. NYC has many large gathering places where people congregate, for example, movie theatres, Broadway shows, sporting arenas, hotels, parks, just everyday moving about.  People are always in crowds.
  4. NYC is primarily an international city.  There are always thousands of transients visiting it from all over the country and the world.
  5. All that said, based on various news reports as well as empirical evidence, it is becoming increasingly obvious that NYC was ill-prepared to deal with the outbreak.  I believe this responsibility falls primary on Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bill De Blasio. and other officials.  Even commentator, Geraldo Rivera, normally a liberal, characterized De Blasio as “AWOL.”  There have been many examples of poor leadership, but I will cite just a few.  I have provided more details in previous blogs on the virus.

a.  On February 2 NYC Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot was trying to hype the                    upcoming Chinese New Year parade and celebration in NYC’s Chinatown.  She                      downplayed the outbreak.  She put out a statement calling for people to “enjoy                    the parade…ride the subways.”

b.  Around the same time the NY Times, which many people consider the ultimate                   news source, labeled President Trump’s newly installed travel ban  as “racist                       attacks on Asians.”

c.  The NY Post has reported that Cuomo has wasted roughly $200 million that had                   been made available for stockpiling medical supplies on boondoggles such as a                   solar panel factory, a lightbulb factory and a computer chip factory all of which                   have either been taken over or closed.

CONCLUSION

With respect to the aid package as I said it may have its flaws, but the alternative would have been a deep recession or even a depression.  Hopefully, it will achieve the desired result.  Some commentators have been warning that another package may be necessary.  We’ll see.

With respect to NYC I believe the feds have been doing all they can to provide assistance.  Medical equipment has been provided, in some cases, exceeding current demand.  Funding has been provided for five temporary hospitals throughout the city, Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester.  A huge hospital ship is en route.

It was reported that the US now has the highest number of coronavirus cases, even more than China.  Of course, that is not good news, but I maintain that it is due to China’s severe underreporting.  Be that as it may, many people have found it necessary to politicize that disclosure.   For example, I and many others found Hillary Clinton’s inane, gleeful, and despicable comments regarding this news deeply disturbing.  While Americans are getting sick and dying her comment was “well, he did promise America first.”  I guess, we should not be surprised in view of her comments regarding the four Americans who died at Benghazi.  (“What difference at this point does it matter?  They’re dead!”)  In my view, she is an irrelevant has-been fighting for relevancy.

Unfortunately, some facilities are overwhelmed.  Kudos to the healthcare workers who are putting their own health and that of their families in danger by working long hours in dangerous conditions.  During the 1918 pandemic many healthcare workers got sick, which exacerbated the situation significantly.  Let us hope and pray this doesn’t happen now.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE V

One of the few silver linings relative to the coronavirus pandemic is that we are reminded of what a great country the US is.  We may have our differences most of the time, but as most of you know, time after time, the US has demonstrated its formidable power when it unites to combat a common enemy.  We have defeated fascism, communism, terrorism and tyrannical governments.  We have survived previous epidemics and the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918.  We have defeated diseases such as smallpox and polio.  I am confident that we will defeat the coronavirus as well.

In watching the daily briefings on tv one sees that the full weight of the US has been mobilized.  One can debate about the degree of readiness, whether we, as a nation, should have been better prepared, and who is to blame.  However, I maintain that that is a debate for another day, after the virus has been neutralized.  A wise man, or country, learns from his mistakes so as not to repeat them, and hopefully, we will.

At the present time, the private sector has risen to the challenge in a manner that is uniquely American.  The hallmarks of the private sector are free enterprise and competition, and we are seeing them both on full display now.  The private sector is teaming with the federal, state and local governments and the scientific and medical communities to defeat the virus, and I am confident that we will succeed.  Why?  Simply, because we always have. As I have said many times, I am a “glass half full” guy.

Below please find the significant developments of the last few days, which will illustrate my point.  As always, the following is derived from a combination of reports from various media outlets such as the Washington Post, NY Times, Vox News, CNN and Fox, among many others:

  1.  As I write this, the total cases worldwide has risen to roughly 435,000 with some 19,600 fatalities.  By the time you read this, it is likely that the numbers will be close to 500,000 and 20,000, respectively, as the trend has been sharply up.  The virus has spread to 195 countries.  (I didn’t even know that there were 195 countries in the world.)
  2. The numbers for the US are about 55,000 and 800, respectively.
  3. The current hot spots are Italy, France, Spain, Iran and the US.  There are many theories as to why those countries, but no one really knows for sure.  In my opinion, two major factors are the relative mobility of the respective populaces (except for Iran) and better identification and reporting of infected people.
  4.  Within the US the hottest spot, by far, is NY State.  Presently, it has reported approximately 1/2 of the cases and 1/3 of the deaths in the entire country.  Within NYS, the preponderance of cases and deaths has been in the NYC metro area, including Long Island and Westchester.  Alarmingly, lately, the number of cases in NYC have been doubling every three days.  According to Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, this has been exacerbated by NYC residents fleeing the city for those areas.  Many of them are not exhibiting symptoms, however, they may be in the very early stages of the disease or they may just be asymptomatic but capable of infecting others. Accordingly, the authorities have urged anyone travelling from NYC to self-quarantine for a minimum of 14 days.
  5. Even worse, the NY Times has reported that some 60% of new cases nationwide are in the NYC metro area.
  6.  As bad as the US numbers may be, most independent observers agree that they would have been considerably worse if President Trump had not taken prompt, decisive action to restrict travel into the US and encourage symptomatic people to self-quarantine for 14 days.   In particular, Vice President Mike Pence and medical experts like Drs. Fauci and Birx maintain that those actions bought us time to gear up.
  7.  When President Trump took these actions at the end of January the mainstream media vilified him.  A sampling of headlines from early February:  Washington Post – “Get a grippe, America”  The [seasonal] flu is a much bigger threat.”  The NY Times  characterized the move as “racist attacks against Asians.”  Vox News – “Is this going to turn into a deadly pandemic?  No.”
  8.  On February 9 commentator Mark Levine encouraged people to feel free to celebrate the Chinese New Year in NYC’s Chinatown.  He admonished, “If you stay away you are missing out.”  NYC Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot chimed in, “enjoy the parade; ignore ‘misinformation’ ” [about the threat of the coronavirus].    How ignorant do those headlines and comments seem now?
  9.  What was Congress focused on during this time?  A “fools errand” trying to impeach and remove Donald Trump from office.  So, if anyone was “asleep at the wheel” it was Congress and the mainstream media.
  10.  Testing is, in the words of Dr. Birx, “ramping up.”  We are now up to some 70,000 per day, much of it through drive-through facilities.  Dr. Birx and others have told us the amount will increase prospectively.  Furthermore, self testing kits will soon be available.  The timeframe between testing and results will be decreasing from days to hours.  Ninety percent of the tests have been negative.
  11. The fatality rate has been dropping to below 1%.
  12. As I said, the private sector is “all in.”  For example, many large companies are providing large quantities of medical supplies such as surgical masks, ventilators and respirators and retooling their plants to produce even more.  Additionally, many companies have been paying or donating money to their workers.  Some individuals have made it a point to patronize their favorite restaurant and tip service workers a little extra.
  13. VP Pence has characterized the private sector’s involvement as “deeply inspiring [and] “extraordinary.”
  14. Drs. Fauci and Birx have been telling us that various scientists and pharmaceutical groups have been working feverishly to develop a vaccine, however, they caution none will be ready for general use for at least one year.  In the meantime, there may be some therapeutic treatments available.  There has been much talk about the efficacy of the anti-malarial medications chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.  These drugs have been in use for well over 50 years for treating malaria and have been very effective.  Many people who have taken these drugs for treating the virus have been cured.  For example, there have been reports of a Florida man who was near death, took the drug, and recovered.  But, medical professionals are cautioning people not to take these without a doctor’s prescription.  They have not undergone clinical  trials for treating the virus, and there are many potential side effects.
  15.  There have been reports of hoarding and price gouging, particularly with respect to medical supplies.  Of course, this is unconscionable.  President Trump has directed AG William Barr to investigate, and he is.
  16. Congress has been debating the terms of an aide package of up to $6 trillion.  As I have said in previous blogs, this is desperately needed to assist corporations, small businesses and individual workers through this crisis.  They are suffering through no fault of their own.  In order to combat this virus the government has decreed that nonessential businesses be closed and their employees stay home.  The bill contains a variety of cash payments, loans and other benefits specifically aimed at those affected by the pandemic.  It is not designed to be a general handout.  Unfortunately, typically Congress moves at a snail’s pace, so, as I write this, the package has not been passed.  (Note, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has disclosed they have an agreement and hopefully they will approve it today.)  Reports indicate that the House and Senate were very close to a deal over this past weekend, but then Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the far left wing of the House, seeking to take advantage of the exigent situation, attempted to add some highly partisan last minute amendments.  These were pure “pork barrel” and part of the ill-fated Green New Deal and far left “wish list.”  Shame on them!  They had nothing to do with combatting the virus.  To their credit, the other members of Congress refused to be bullied and blackmailed, so the bill has stalled.  This type of maneuvering may be typical in normal times, but this is not the time for it.  Time is of the essence.  People are suffering severe economic hardship.  We are on the verge of a severe recession or even a depression.

CONCLUSION

As I have written in previous blogs in addition to the severe medical impact of the virus there was a very real possibility that the economic impact could be worse and more long-lasting.  Shutting down the economy, though necessary in the short run, is a really bad idea in the long run.  The longer it goes on, the harder it will be to reboot once the virus has been neutralized.  The collateral damage and unintended consequences could last for many, many years.

President Trump realizes this as do many others.  He senses Americans are a nation of “doers.”  They want to get back to work.  It’s imperative that we have an economy to go back to once we have conquered this virus.

Throughout this ordeal he has tried to strike a balance between optimism and reality.  He has been criticized by his detractors, but, for the most part, his decisions have been right.  According to the latest Gallup Poll 60% of Americans approve of the way he has handled this crisis.

He has set a goal to be back on line by Easter, which is April 12.  It may or may not happen, and he assured us he would not force it if we were not ready, but it is good to set goals.  Perhaps, it will be a gradual return to normalcy as sections of the country become ready.

Some of you may remember President JFK in the early sixties setting a goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade.  Many people mocked him for that bold prediction, and it seemed unattainable, but we did it.  Yes, it is good to have a goal to shoot for.  It tends to focus the effort.  It did so for the moon landing.  Let’s hope it does so in this  case as well.

KENNY ROGERS

For the past several weeks we have been focused on the coronavirus, and for good reason.   The deadly pandemic has killed thousands and infected hundreds of thousands worldwide.   Moreover, it has disrupted the world economy to the point that we are facing the very real potential of a deep recession or even a depression.

However, lost in the shuffle was the passing of one of the most versatile and prolific entertainers of the last 60 years.  He achieved great success as a singer, songwriter, actor, record producer, and entrepreneur.  Although his primary popularity was as a country music singer he cut some 120 “hit” singles across many other genres, including jazz, pop, folk and rock.  He sold in excess of 100 million records, making him one of the best-selling artists ever.

Kenneth Ray Rogers was born on August 21, 1938 in Houston, Texas.  He was the fourth of eight children. He came from very humble beginnings.   His father was a carpenter; his mother was a nurse’s assistant.

He demonstrated his musical potential at an early age when he won a talent show at the Texan Theatre in 1949.  As a youth he worked at a succession of menial odd jobs, such as sweeping floors and as a busboy.

He began his recording career in the late 1950s with a group called the “Scholars,” which few of us remember.  The group’s big hit was “The Poor Little Doggie.”

After bouncing around for several years in 1966 he joined a group called “The New Christy Minstrels,” with which some of you might be familiar, for which he played double bass and bass guitar in addition to singing.  In 1967 he and a few members left to found “First Edition.”  Among that group’s hits you may recall “Just Dropped in  (To See What Condition My Condition Was in”), which peaked at #5 on “Billboard” and “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town.”  When the band disbanded in 1976 Rogers embarked on a long and very successful solo career.

In 1978 he released what I and many others believe was his signature hit, “The Gambler.”  Not only did it win him a Grammy Award, but it also became the basis for a series of made-for-tv movies for which he would win an Emmy nomination.  During his long career he collaborated with many other famous entertainers, such as Barry Gibb of the “Bee Gees” and Dolly Parton, which yielded one of his biggest hits, “Islands in the  Stream.”  He and Parton enjoyed a decades-long friendship and collaborated on various projects.  He won another Grammy in 1988 for “Make No Mistake, She’s Mine” in collaboration with Ronnie Milsap.

Kenny was featured in various movies such “Six Pack” in 1982, in which he played a race-car driver, and in television series, such as “The Gambler,” “Coward of the County”” and the MacShayne Series.  “Six Pack” was modestly successful at the box office ($20 million in the US).   In addition, he was host and narrator for the historical series, “The Real West,” which ran on A & E.

He co-founded a chain of restaurants, “Kenny Rogers Roasters,” which are still popular in Asia.  Some of you may recall that it was featured on an episode of the popular tv show “Seinfeld.”  His partner in the venture was John Y. Brown, former Governor of Kentucky and chief executive officer of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

CONCLUSION

Kenny was not as successful in his personal life.  He was married five times and had five children. At one point, he had a pet goat, named Smitty whom he considered his “center.”  He maintained that Smitty provided a “calming influence” in his life in contrast to his hectic and stressful touring schedule.

Kenny commenced his farewell tour in 2015.  In October 2017 he was honored by a host of contemporary star entertainers at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, including Lionel Ritchie, Dolly Parton and Wynonna and Naomi Judd, among many others, who appeared with him in what was billed as a “Salute to Kenny Rogers All in for the Gambler Farewell Concert Celebration.”  In 2018 he had to cancel the remaining dates of his farewell tour due to ill health.

Eventually, because of ill health, Kenny was living under hospice care in his home in Sandy Springs, GA.  He passed away there on March 20.

Rest in peace, Kenny.  You entertained us for 60 years and you will be sorely missed.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE IV

The coronavirus pandemic keeps getting worse with bad news far outweighing good news.  It appears that we have now entered the “bubble phase” that experts have been predicting.  Hopefully, it won’t last too long.  Conditions in China and South Korea seem to be improving.

The following is a summary of current developments as reported by various news agencies, including, among others, the NY Times, The LA times, USA Today and CNN.

  1. In my last blog I mentioned the possibility of a worldwide depression if the economic situation continued along its present path.  According to a news article published today by CNN unfortunately, as illustrated by the below developments, that possibility is becoming increasingly more real every day.
  2.  The number of cases and fatalities differ depending on the source, but according to Johns Hopkins University as of today total worldwide cases exceed 278,000 and  fatalities exceed 11,500.  By the time you read this the numbers could easily be 300,000 and 12,000, respectively.
  3.  Most people agree the US economy needs a boost to support workers and businesses that have been adversely impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.  The House has passed such a measure, but the Senate is still negotiating its package.   The amount and specifics of it seem to change every day.  The latest estimate, according to the Administration’s top economic advisor, Larry  Kudlow, will likely amount to around $2 trillion, or roughly 10% of GDP.  Why is the Senate taking so long to hammer out a document that everyone agrees is needed asap?  Why is that austere body seemingly incapable of acting exigently and decisively?  Good question.  That’s just the way it operates.  Too many rules and procedures, I suppose, which is small comfort to those in need.
  4.  NYC appears to have become the epicenter of the crisis in the US, with an estimated 5,700 cases and 43 deaths.  Currently, it has one-third of all US cases.  I’m not sure how it earned that dubious honor, but its situation is definitely critical.
  5. Today, NYS Governor Cuomo disclosed the state has at least 10,300 confirmed cases.  Cuomo told reporters that part of that high amount is due to increased testing   Cuomo said over 45,000 individuals have been tested, and “the more test(s) you take, the more positives you find.”
  6.  The city and the state are in urgent need of everything from hospital beds to medical supplies, such as masks, gloves, ventilators and respirators.  As a stop-gap NYS has agreed to send 1 million masks to NYC.  As an example of the severity of the shortage one Brooklyn hospital has begun reusing masks.  They say they are cleaning them as best they can, but still …  Ugh!
  7. In order to alleviate the severe shortage of hospital space Cuomo announced he is considering converting areas such as the Javits Center, the Westchester County Center and SUNY Stony Brook to treatment centers.
  8. President Trump has declared NY a disaster area.  Senator Chuck Schumer has declared ” we’re at a vital point in the battle against the disease, and we need to do everything in our power to stop it, right here, right now.”
  9. NY is not alone.  Various other states have instituted similarly severe measures and issued similarly ominous predictions.   Almost all states have closed their schools, bars, restaurants, and other venues where people congregate.  Gatherings have been restricted considerably.  Governors have declared that non-essential workers should stay home.  “Social distancing” has become the new “buzzword.”
  10. Some states, like Minnesota, have declared workers, such as grocery store clerks, cleaning staff, and food preparation personnel, as “emergency” workers, which allows them to continue going to work and entitles them to free child care and certain other benefits.
  11.  The US, Canada and Mexico, acting in concert, have closed their common borders to “nonessential” travelers.
  12. The financial market indexes have been dropping precipitously  This past week was the worst since the financial crisis of 2008.  Furthermore, there has been no indication that a bottom has been reached.  In a related matter, four members of Congress who had advance information of the coronavirus have been accused of selling substantial blocks of stock just prior to the market declines.  If true, this would be illegal and an unconscionable violation of public trust.  Hopefully, the SEC will conduct a formal investigation and if one or more of them is guilty assess appropriate penalties.  At the very least, the optics are very bad.
  13. With everything that’s going on, amazingly, the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games have not been cancelled or postponed.  The organizers appear to be in denial.  There is no way they can go on as scheduled.  Olympic officials in many countries have been calling for the IOC to cancel or postpone them.  How are all the countries in lockdown supposed to hold Olympic trials to determine their teams?  How are the athletes supposed to train, assuming they are even healthy enough to do so?  Why would any of them want to travel to Japan at this time anyway?
  14.  Australia, which has been practicing “social distancing,” was forced to close the famous Bondi Beach on Saturday after huge crowds of people gathered on the beach in defiance of the order.
  15. England closed all restaurants, pubs and bars.  Rishi Sunak, Finance Minister, characterized the order as an “unprecedented measure for unprecedented times.”  The government pledged to soften the impact on workers by paying them up to 80% of their wages.  Furthermore, one London hospital declared it was running out of “critical care capacity” and was seeking to transfer some patients to other hospitals, which, of course, would put similar pressures on them.
  16. Many stores in the UK are running out of supplies.  Several shelves in supermarkets have been empty.   The government has issued an appeal to shoppers to refrain from hoarding.  George Eustice, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, declared that “buying more than you need means that others may be left without…There is more than enough to go around.”
  17.  Egypt has closed all mosques for two weeks.
  18. Up to now, South America has largely escaped the pandemic.  But, in a sign that that is about to change Colombia, Argentina, Costa Rica and other South American countries have instituted closures, lockdowns and restrictions on travel.
  19.  Israel had been doing very well with only 883 cases and no fatalities out of a population of nine million.  However, Friday it reported its initial death.  I believe the circumstances portend an ominous situation.  The victim was an 88 year-old living in a nursing home.  Apparently, he had been infected by a social worker who had visited the home.  Reportedly, several other residents have also been infected, so we can expect more fatalities.
  20. New guidelines from the Red Cross suggest that its relief shelters may have been unwittingly spreading the virus among some residents.  So, it is now requiring (1) social distancing and (2) everyone to have their temperature taken.
  21. There is still the ongoing problem with cruise ships.  Many of them are still stuck at sea with sick passengers and nowhere to dock.  Those that have found a port, such as the Costa Luminosa and the Ruby Princess, which have docked in Savona, Italy, and Sydney, Australia, respectively, have infected passengers and have endangered  the local populace.
  22. Tragically, seven members of one family in NJ were stricken with the virus, and four of them have died.
  23.  There have been reports emanating from China, Italy and South Korea that men are more likely to die from the virus than women by a ratio of 2:1.   The LA Times reported that men have accounted for 58% of the cases worldwide and 72% of the fatalities.  Why? No one knows for sure, but one theory is that more men smoke than women and, perhaps, the smoking has compromised their lungs.  Another theory is that estrogen is somehow acting to mitigate the effects of the virus.

CONCLUSION

Finally, some good news.  We are beginning to see some instances of private industry “stepping up.”  For example:

  1.  Wall Mart has announced it will pay cash bonuses to its US workers.
  2.  Darden Restaurants has declared it will pay two weeks wages to any of its 190,000 employees whose hours have been cut due to the pandemic.

Through all the bad news regarding this virus it is not easy to remain upbeat, but I urge you all to try to do so.  This surge in cases and fatalities was predicted.  We have beaten other pandemics in the past, and I believe that by pulling together we will beat this one too.

In the meantime, MAINTAIN YOUR “SOCIAL DISTANCE,” and WASH YOUR HANDS THOROUGHLY.

CORONA VIRUS UPDATE III

And the hits just keep on coming.  With the world already reeling from the coronavirus outbreak the latest news is mostly bad.  The experts have been telling us that despite all our efforts things are expected to get worse before they get better, and unfortunately they appear to be correct.  As I write this, a summary of the significant developments as reported in the “NY Times,” CNN, and elsewhere is as follows:

  1.  First, some good news. China is reporting (1) the mortality rate in Wuhan Province was lower than previously reported.  Instead of 2 – 3 1/2 % of those infected, we are now being told it is 1.4%.  (2) China is advising that there have been no new infections.  Of course, most of us take any information disseminated by the Chinese government with the proverbial “grain of salt.”
  2. Italy’s fatality count has now surpassed 3,400, which exceeds that of China.  This is particularly disturbing since Italy’s total population is only 60.5 million compared to China’s 1.5 billion.
  3.  What do we or can we extrapolate from the terrifying situation in Italy?  How did the virus get out of control so quickly?  I don’t know.  I have not seen a rational explanation.  The situation is particularly disturbing since Italy was the first European country to impose travel restrictions on its citizens.  That action should have mitigated the impact of the virus, but apparently it did not.  Furthermore, it has called upon the military to lend assistance.  In an effort to stem the tide, the army has provided doctors and other health professionals, set up field hospitals, and provided a variety of other emergency  services.  Prime Minister Giuseppe Conti has asserted Italy’s “restrictive” measures are working, but if these measures are “working” I would hate to see what would have happened had they not been enacted.
  4.  The US death toll continues to rise.  It is now approaching 11,000.  Basically, most of us are confined to our own homes for our own good.  We only venture out for necessities, such as food and medicine.  Our lives have been placed on hold, for how long, no one knows.
  5. The State Department has raised its travel advisory level to four, which is the top level warning.  It is recommending (not requiring) that all Americans presently abroad should return home.  President Trump disclosed that the military will be available to assist those who are seeking to return but are stranded.  Alternatively, they should shelter in place.  Several other countries have also issued travel advisories .
  6. Various medical supplies, such as testing kits, respirators, ventilators, masks, and hospital beds remain in short supply, although federal, state and local governments and the private sector are coordinating feverishly to rectify the shortages.  For example, a huge, fully-equipped hospital ship has docked in NY to provide assistance, and GM has offered to build ventilators in its plants.
  7.  Several parties have been proceeding with researching possible vaccines.  Mr. Trump has advised that his administration has “slashed red tape” in order to expedite this process.  There appear to be various possibilities in the pipeline, although a usable vaccine is likely a year or more away.  According to Dr. Stephen Hahn, the FDA commissioner, the most promising drugs for treating the virus appear to be chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, which have actually been used for 70 some years to treat malaria.   Dr. Hahn added that unfortunately, these drugs have not been tested for effectiveness against the virus, and there is no assurance they will be effective in treating it.  Another drug, remdesivir, may be approved for “compassionate use” only, i. e. for patients who would die otherwise.
  8. The economy, which had been roaring along, is heading for a recession, perhaps a deep one. Some people are predicting a depression. The stock market remains jumpy.  Some people are panicking over their dwindling 401K accounts, but remember the market suffered similar declines after “9/11” and during the SARS and H1N1 epidemics and came roaring back.  In an effort to calm fears President Trump stated that he “believe(s) in the V curve” for both the economy and the stock market (rapid decline followed quickly by rapid recovery).  For what it’s worth, so do I.
  9. The Congress has approved a $1 billion aide package, which will include, among other things, cash payments to certain workers and loans to small businesses.  The hope and expectation is that this will mitigate the economic downturn.  I believe it will certainly help, but how will it be delivered, how soon, and will it be sufficient?
  10.  Governors continue to close restaurants, bars, schools, gyms and other meeting places in their respective states, and restrict gatherings to a certain maximum number of people.  Texas is the latest to do so.  The governor has declared a “public health disaster” for the first time since 1901.
  11. Georgia has self-quarantined its state legislature after a state senator tested positive for the virus.
  12.  NY Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order waiving mortgage payments for 90 days for those persons facing hardship. He also felt it necessary to deny ridiculous rumors that the state was going to declare martial law or “lock people in their homes.”
  13.  Connecticut has joined the list of states that have delayed their primaries (from April 28 to June 2).
  14. There are rumors that some locales may be releasing prisoners from jails due to “unsafe overcrowding.”
  15.  There was a report that in Philadelphia police will no longer enforce “minor” crimes.  If true, these last two would be very scary.  In my opinion, they would signal a breakdown in safety for ordinary citizens

CONCLUSION

As the economy continues to deteriorate and the stock market remains in freefall I am reminded that last year certain far left liberals, for example, comedian Bill Maher, expressed dismay that the economy was setting records, because it was reflecting well on Donald Trump.  They were wishing for a downturn so he would be blamed and then possibly be defeated for re-election.  I know they weren’t wishing for the virus, but this reminds me of the old adage “be careful what you wish for.”

The ramifications of this virus may reach far beyond the medical issues. It may plunge what was arguably the best economy ever into a depression.  In addition, it may swing the presidential election.  A month ago President Trump looked like a strong bet to win.  If this keeps up or gets worse, it may cost him the election.

On the plus side, this crisis has even managed to get political opponents, to mend fences, at least temporarily.  For example, President Trump, CA Governor Gavin Newsome and NY Governor Andrew Cuomo have been coordinating efforts fairly seamlessly, even complimenting each other.  Even Rep Ilhan Omar has praised Mr. Trump’s efforts.  Most politicians realize that now is the time to put aside differences and unite against the common enemy.  The virus does not distinguish between GOP and Dem, black and white, or rich and poor.  Now, if we can only get CNN and MSNBC to climb on the bandwagon that would be impressive.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE III

And the hits just keep on coming. With the world already reeling from the coronavirus outbreak the latest news is mostly bad. The experts have been telling us that despite all our efforts things are expected to get worse before they get better, and unfortunately they appear to be correct. As I write this, a summary of the significant developments as reported in the “NY Times,” CNN, and elsewhere is as follows:

  1.  First, some good news. China is reporting (1) the mortality rate in Wuhan Province was lower than previously reported. Instead of 2 – 3 1/2 % of those infected, we are now being told it is 1.4%. (2) China is advising that there have been no new infections. Of course, most of us take any information disseminated by the Chinese government with the proverbial “grain of salt.”
  2. Italy’s fatality count has now surpassed 3,400, which exceeds that of China. This is particularly disturbing since Italy’s total population is only 60.5 million compared to China’s 1.5 billion.
  3. What do we or can we extrapolate from the terrifying situation in Italy? How did the virus get out of control so quickly? I don’t know. I have not seen a rational explanation. The situation is particularly disturbing since Italy was the first European country to impose travel restrictions on its citizens. That action should have mitigated the impact of the virus, but apparently it did not. Furthermore, it has called upon the military to lend assistance. In an effort to stem the tide, the army has provided doctors and other health professionals, set up field hospitals, and provided a variety of other emergency services. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conti has asserted Italy’s “restrictive” measures are working, but if these measures are “working” I would hate to see what would have happened had they not been enacted.
  4. The US death toll continues to rise. It is now approaching 11,000. Basically, most of us are confined to our own homes for our own good. We only venture out for necessities, such as food and medicine. Our lives have been placed on hold, for how long, no one knows.
  5. The State Department has raised its travel advisory level to four, which is the top level warning. It is recommending (not requiring) that all Americans presently abroad should return home. President Trump disclosed that the military will be available to assist those who are seeking to return but are stranded. Alternatively, they should shelter in place. Several other countries have also issued travel advisories .
  6. Various medical supplies, such as testing kits, respirators, ventilator masks, and hospital beds remain in short supply, although federal, state and local governments and the private sector are coordinating feverishly to rectify the shortages. For example, a huge, fully-equipped hospital ship has docked in NY to provide assistance, and GM has offered to build ventilators in its plants.
    Several parties have been proceeding with researching possible vaccines. Mr. Trump has advised that his administration has “slashed red tape” in order to expedite this process. There appear to be various possibilities in the pipeline, although a usable vaccine is likely a year or more away. According to Dr. Stephen Hahn, the FDA commissioner, the most promising drugs for treating the virus appear to be chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, which have actually been used for 70 some years to treat malaria. Dr. Hahn added that unfortunately, these drugs have not been tested for effectiveness against the virus, and there is no assurance they will be effective in treating it. Another drug, remdesivir, may be approved for “compassionate use” only, i. e. for patients who would die otherwise.
  7. The economy, which had been roaring along, is heading for a recession, perhaps a deep one. Some people are predicting a depression. The stock market remains jumpy. Some people are panicking over their dwindling 401K accounts, but remember the market suffered similar declines after “9/11” and during the SARS and H1N1 epidemics and came roaring back. In an effort to calm fears President Trump stated that he “believe(s) in the V curve” for both the economy and the stock market (rapid decline followed quickly by rapid recovery). For what it’s worth, so do I.
  8. The Congress has approved a $1 billion aide package, which will include, among other things, cash payments to certain workers and loans to small businesses. The hope and expectation is that this will mitigate the economic downturn. I believe it will certainly help, but how will it be delivered, how soon, and will it be sufficient?
    Governors continue to close restaurants, bars, schools, gyms and other meeting places in their respective states, and restrict gatherings to a certain maximum number of people. Texas is the latest to do so. The governor has declared a “public health disaster” for the first time since 1901.
  9. Georgia has self-quarantined its state legislature after a state senator tested positive for the virus.
  10. NY Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order waiving mortgage payments for 90 days for those persons facing hardship. He also felt it necessary to deny ridiculous rumors that the state was going to declare martial law or “lock people in their homes.”
  11. Connecticut has joined the list of states that have delayed their primaries (from April 28 to June 2).
  12. There are rumors that some locales may be releasing prisoners from jails due to “unsafe overcrowding.”
  13. There was a report that in Philadelphia police will no longer enforce “minor” crimes. If true, these last two would be very scary. In my opinion, they would signal a breakdown in safety for ordinary citizens.

CONCLUSION

As the economy continues to deteriorate and the stock market remains in freefall I am reminded that last year certain far left liberals, for example, comedian Bill Maher, expressed dismay that the economy was setting records, because it was reflecting well on Donald Trump. They were wishing for a downturn so he would be blamed and then possibly be defeated for re-election. I know they weren’t wishing for the virus, but this reminds me of the old adage “be careful what you wish for.”

The ramifications of this virus may reach far beyond the medical issues. It may plunge what was arguably the best economy ever into a depression. In addition, it may swing the presidential election. A month ago President Trump looked like a strong bet to win. If this keeps up or gets worse, it may cost him the election.

On the plus side, this crisis has even managed to get political opponents, to mend fences, at least temporarily. For example, President Trump, CA Governor Gavin Newsome and NY Governor Andrew Cuomo have been coordinating efforts fairly seamlessly, even complimenting each other. Even Rep Ilhan Omar has praised Mr. Trump’s efforts. Most politicians realize that now is the time to put aside differences and unite against the common enemy. The virus does not distinguish between GOP and Dem, black and white, or rich and poor. Now, if we can only get CNN and MSNBC to climb on the bandwagon that would be impressive.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE II

As the Coronavirus has continued to spread throughout the world I am struck by the wide range of reactions and attitudes of people.  Some people have taken a cavalier attitude, choosing to downplay or even ignore the warnings of various medical professionals and political leaders.  I have noted that this has been particularly true of younger people who are in generally good health.  I suppose, they think they are invulnerable.  Also, some of them reason that even if they were to get sick they would fight it off.  They should be mindful that various medical professionals have cautioned that even if they do not get sick or if they recover from a mild case of Corona they could infect others who are more susceptible, such as an elderly relative, an infant, or a friend with a compromised immune system.

Many of them have been resisting the recommendations to “shelter in place” and not to congregate in gatherings of more than ten people.   I have observed less and less of this attitude in the last couple of days, as more and more states, counties and cities have promulgated restrictions on large gatherings and have closed restaurants, bars and other venues, but it still exists to some extent.  For example, many college-age students are insisting on participating in the traditional “Spring Break.”   They plan to congregate on the public beaches and party wherever else they can, although some governors such as Florida’s Ron DeSantis, have warned they will enforce the CDC’s guidelines on “social distancing” and “social responsibility.”  It should be interesting too see what transpires.

On the other hand, many people have been panicking.  For example, in the last few days I have noted news reports of “runs” on items, such as food, medical supplies, and even toilet paper.   People are buying more food than they could possibly eat in a month.  There have even been reports of brawls in stores over some of these items.  I’m sorry, but that is just ridiculous.  People see that on the news and it just feeds more panic and desperation.  Don’t be surprised if one day someone is killed over a bottle of milk or a loaf of bread.

Many supermarkets’ shelves are empty as if they had been attacked by a horde of locusts.  Do people really think we will run out of basic necessities such as food to eat or water to drink or toilet paper to wipe their rear ends with?   We’re not in the midst of a famine or similar disaster.   In my view, the worst case would be just temporary disruptions in the supply chain.  One might not be able to get a preferred brand of milk or bread, but there will be some available.

As I write this, the latest statistics available: worldwide cases – 190,000; deaths – 7,500.  US cases – 6,000; deaths – 90.  The states with the highest number of cases are Washington with close to 800, followed closely by NY.  Remarkably, West Virginia still has none.  Good for them.

By now, we are all familiar with the basic symptoms of the Virus, but I think they bear repeating:  runny nose, sore throat, fever, cough and shortness of breath.  Severe cases could lead to pneumonia.

What to do if you think you are sick?

  1.  The number one rule, as various doctors have cautioned, is stay home.
  2. Do not go to a hospital or clinic.  Do not go to work.  Don’t send your children to school (assuming their school has not been closed).  Contact your doctor for instructions.  If you were to go to the hospital and you are not sick, chances are you will catch the virus from someone there who is, and if you are sick you will likely infect others who are not.  In most cases, the best course will be to self-quarantine at home.  Be wary of infecting at-risk members of your household, such as children, the elderly and anyone with a compromised immune system.
  3. Drink plenty of water.
  4. Keep your doctor apprised of your condition.

Various medical professionals and political leaders from the president on down have stated we are entering a crucial period.  The virus is likely poised for a substantial uptick in infections over the next 15 days.  In preparation, more and more political leaders have restricted group gatherings and closed schools, restaurants and bars and other venues where people gather.  In addition, more and more businesses are laying off employees or encouraging them to work from home.

For example:

  1. In NY, NJ, Washington DC, CT, and various other locales all restaurants and bars have been closed, except for takeout orders.
  2. More and more schools have been closed, with students to be taught by virtual learning.
  3. Several states, such as MD, GA, LA and KT, have postponed scheduled primaries.
  4. Various utility companies have suspended pending “service disconnections” and/or waived penalties for late payment of bills.
  5.  More testing kits and drive-in facilities are becoming available, in some cases, with the assistance of private companies, such as Target and Wall Mart.

Basically, there is no need to leave one’s house except for emergencies or to obtain basic necessities.  This Virus is highly contagious, much more so than the flu.  The best defense against it is to avoid close human contact and shelter in place.

CONCLUSION

We can beat this contagion if we are smart, stay calm, listen to our leaders, and use common sense.  I believe we need to engage in moderation.  We need to stay in the vast middle ground between cavalier and panic.  We should be respectful of the Virus and what it is capable of, but we should not fear it.  I am reminded of the famous words of FDR in 1932 in the depth of the Depression: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  That was true then, and it is true now.

CORONA VIRUS UPDATE

This blog is an update to my posting on February 27, 2020.  Much has happened since then.  In fact, we have been bombarded with significant developments daily, if not hourly.  It is hard to keep up unless one is glued to the tv or internet continuously.

For example, as reported by various news outlets, such as CNN, Fox, NPR, Haaretz and others, in just the last few days the folIowing significant events have occurred:

  1. WHO declared the outbreak to be a “pandemic,” which means that it has spread across multiple continents or to a significant region of the world.  The designation is not predicated upon the number of cases or deaths, as some people think.
  2. Unfortunately, pandemics have not been rare.  Just in the 21st century we have had three, with SARS and the swine flu being the others.
  3. Corona is thought to have originated in bats, whereas SARS and the swine flu originated from pigs.
  4. According to the CDC the warning signs to be cognizant of generally include headache, shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, fever, coughing, lethargy or bluish lips or face.  Unfortunately, some of these mimic the symptoms for the ordinary flu, so in the absence of testing one cannot be sure if one is infected.  Anyone developing some or all of the above symptoms is urged to contact a doctor for guidance.  Don’t just go to a hospital or clinic.  If you do so and you have the virus you could infect others who don’t.  If you don’t have the virus you could catch it from those who do.
  5.  According to CNN in the US every state except for West Virginia has reported at least one case, although, by the time you read this it, too, may have reported one or more.  Washington State has reported the most, nearly 600.  Keep in mind, due to the shortage of testing kits, the number of reported cases is likely understated, perhaps, significantly so.
  6.  President Trump has declared a national emergency and authorized $50 billion of federal funds to be allocated to fight the outbreak.  President Trump asserted that “no resource will be spared, nothing whatsoever.”  The significance of a NE is that the federal government can institute a variety of actions and policies that normally it would be precluded from doing.  Typically, a NE is only declared during a natural disaster, an epidemic, or a war.  The declaration also had a psychological benefit as witnessed by the strong rally in the stock market.
  7.  The stock market has been bouncing up and down like a deranged yo-yo.  I believe it has a great psychological impact on the populace, so I was glad to see it recover immediately after the president’s speech.  I believe it is considerably oversold, and, as was the case following other disasters and pandemics, such as “9/11,” swine flu, and SARS, it will recover all of its losses and then some as soon as it becomes apparent that the danger has passed
  8.  The president tightened travel restrictions, banning travel to the US from Europe, except for returning American citizens who had been screened.
  9. The House passed an aid package.  The Senate is expected to do so in a few days.  The President has stated he will sign it promptly.
  10.  The president disclosed that the government will be pairing with the private sector to augment testing and medical supplies.  The paucity of testing kits has received the most criticism.  For instance, the NIT’s Dr. Anthony Fauci has repeatedly pointed out that the “US testing system was failing to meet the public’s needs.”   He was particularly critical of the “incompetence” of the CDC, which he blamed for not being prepared for an outbreak of this magnitude.  Consequently, we don’t have an accurate count of infected people.  In contrast, there are reports that South Korea, which a week ago was cited as one of the hot spots, has been testing 10,000 or more persons per day, chiefly by drive-through and now appears to have the virus under control.  Mr. Trump has been eliciting the assistance of retailers, such as Wall Mart and Target, to establish drive-in testing venues.   The obvious advantage over walk-in testing sites is that the person being tested is isolated in his or her car and will not infect others or be infected by others.  NY, IL, and Colorado have already commenced drive-in testing, and other states will likely follow. NY Governor Andrew Cuomo stated that testing can be set up by appointment.  He called it “faster, easier, smarter and safer.”
  11.  In a move that two months ago would have been considered unthinkable, a variety of public gatherings have been cancelled, postponed or curtailed.  For example, in sports, the NCAA has cancelled the remainder of its games, including the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball championship tournaments, which are its biggest moneymakers; MLB is delaying opening its season; the NBA and NHL have suspended their remaining scheduled games; the PGA has cancelled many events and delayed the Masters Golf Tournament until the autumn; and NASCAR will be holding its races without fans in the stands.  For many people who had had a cavalier attitude toward the virus this was a “wakeup call.”  Moreover, many entertainment venues, including Broadway theatres, have cancelled scheduled shows; many colleges have closed and sent their students home; many public schools have suspended classes; movie theatres have begun to limit seating;  theme parks, such as Disney, have closed; and weddings and Bar Mitvahs have been delayed.  Many school classes, business meetings, and religious services will likely be held by virtual reality, rather than in person.  Various businesses are encouraging employees to work from home.   Furthermore, several states and foreign countries have passed laws limiting the number of persons in public gatherings ranging from 500 in NYC to ten in Israel.  The adjustments to our lives seem to be endless and, in some cases, may prove to be permanent.
  12.  Inevitably, some people have panicked.  There have been several instances of “runs” on staples, such as milk and bread, even toilet paper as some people think they need to stock up.  There have even been fistfights on some occasions.  In my opinion, there is no reason for this, but it occurs all the time in a crisis.
  13.  Some countries, for instance, Denmark, Poland, Israel and Czechoslovakia, have closed their borders.  Mr. Trump had closed ours weeks ago.  At the time, he was called a “racist” for doing so, but now it seems like a very  prescient decision.
  14.  Most of the victims have been elderly and/or persons with underlying health problems, such as respiratory problems, diabetes or heart problems.  In a particularly poignant occurrence there was a report out of London of a newborn who had tested positive for the virus.
  15. There have been reports of a vaccine being ready for testing.  I am aware of two – one in Israel and one by a company based in Boston.  That is great news, but it is important to note that clinical trials can take several months.

So, how does the corona virus compare with the most recent pandemic in 2009, the swine flu, aka H1N1?  Glad you asked.  Read on.

According to WHO:

  1.  There were 1.4 billion confirmed cases worldwide (61 million in the US) of the swine flu compared to 132,000 of the corona virus so far (some 1,300 in the US).
  2. Fatalities – 575,000 for swine flu (12,469 US) vs. about 5,000 for corona (36 and counting in the US).
  3.  Of course, the Corona Virus has not yet run its course.  Most experts predict a spike before it does, so beware.
  4. According to “Business Insider” the mortality rate for the swine flu was only .02%.  Corona’s is estimated to be 3 – 4%.  By contrast SARS mortality rate was 9.6%.

CONCLUSION

There is no doubt that the Corona virus is a serious outbreak.  At first, it seemed to take us by surprise.  Part of that was due to the Chinese government’s underreporting the severity of the outbreak and its laxity in dealing with it.   However, as various governments and health organizations have begun to gear up, and people have begun to observe common sense precautions, it now appears that we will prevail.   As I said above, we have prevailed over several pandemics in the past.

One disquieting note is that due to the shortage of testing equipment we don’t really know the extent of the outbreak.  Additionally, we could develop a shortage of basic medical equipment, such as ventilators, and even hospital beds prospectively.  Hopefully, we will rectify that soon.

Another potential problem is brewing in some cities, such as NY, LA, SF and Seattle, which have large groups of homeless people.  They are living in dangerously unsanitary conditions.  Many of them are in poor general health to begin with.  These areas are a prime breeding ground for any disease, especially Corona.  There is potential in these locations for a sizeable concentration of cases.

The other matter that irks me is that some have sought to politicize this outbreak by criticizing and blaming their political opponents.  For example, (1) As noted above, President Trump was roundly criticized by his political enemies when he restricted travel into the US.  Meanwhile, several other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Spain and Italy have also done so, some early on and some later. (2) One of the “fake news” networks was complaining about a “lack of diversity” among the members of  VP Pence’s task force. Really? Who cares?  We need the best people whether they are white, black, brown or purple, male female or other, and it appears that we got them.  (3) Furthermore, some were saying that referring to the outbreak as the “Chinese flu” was racist and insensitive.   Another inanity.  Where did the virus originate?  China.  In the past we have had the “Spanish flu” and the “Asian flu” based on the areas of origin.  To me, the abovementioned criticisms were a totally irresponsible distraction.

Some politicians and members of the media have been engaging in fear-mongering.  I believe that has contributed to the wild gyrations of the stock market and the “runs” on some products.  Now is not the time for that.  That is distracting and counterproductive.  What the people need is to be reassured by calm, rational leadership.  I think President Trump has struck exactly the right note.  There is plenty of blame to go around.  When this outbreak has been contained, then it would be appropriate to analyze what we did wrong and institute corrective action to guard against a recurrence.  At this point, we have to all work together to solve the problem.  Hopefully, we will.

THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES

Most of you are familiar with the children’s fairy tale, “The Emperor Has No clothes.”  For those of you who may not be, the gist of the story is that the emperor is very proud of his new clothes.  He wears them in public to show them off to everyone.  In reality, he is naked, but no one has the courage to acknowledge it.  Instead, they ignore his nudity, pretend he has clothes on, and tell him how great he looks in them.  Finally, one person, a little girl, blurts out the honest truth that the emperor has no clothes on whereupon everybody finally acknowledges the truth.

That, my friends, is what we are seeing now with Joe Biden.  Any objective person can readily ascertain that Biden has “lost a step,” maybe two or three.   He has always been prone to gaffes, but now they are more frequent and serious.  He forgets what day it, where he is, what office he is running for, tells us emphatically that guns killed “150 MILLION” people last year, and mixes up his wife and sister.  No one seems to want to admit it, not his campaign staff, not his supporters, not the Dem Party leaders, not the mainstream media, and, most importantly, not most of the general public.

Things are so bad that his handlers have limited his campaign speeches to seven minutes or so.  Moreover, they are seeking approval for him to use a chair to sit on in the next debate.  I suppose the theory is that the less he speaks, the less the chance that he would utter a damaging gaffe.

Meanwhile, Biden continues to rack up the endorsements.  The first significant endorsement, and the one that is generally viewed as the one that turned the tide was South Carolina Senator and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn.  It came on the eve of the SC primary.  Until then, Biden’s campaign had been floundering seriously.  He was running short of money, and he was being attacked mercilessly by the other candidates.  It looked like Sanders had the inside track to the nomination.  Biden had suffered through disappointing losses in Iowa and New Hampshire.  In NH he hadn’t even bothered to stay to the end of the night to thank his supporters who had labored long and hard for him for months.  Instead, he left early to campaign in SC.

Following Clyburn’s endorsement Biden won big in SC.  He might have won anyway, but the Clyburn endorsement had to have helped significantly.  Suddenly, “Old Mo” was on Biden’s side.  Klobuchar, Bloomberg and Buttigieg dropped out and endorsed him.  Warren stayed in the race, which likely benefited him by syphoning off votes from Sanders.

He cleaned up on “Super Tuesday” and followed up with resounding victories on “mini Super Tuesday.”  Now, the money and endorsements are pouring in.  Except for Sanders and Elizabeth  Warren, all of Biden’s major former opponents have endorsed him.  Moreover, the DNC and Party insiders are in his corner.  Now, it is Biden who looks unstoppable.

As I write this, the nomination is his to lose.  He leads in the delegate count 846-684 (a misleadingly large lead since most of the remaining states will be awarding delegates proportionally rather than winner-take-all; the demographics of the upcoming states favor him, particularly Florida; and finally, he is perceived to have the best chance of defeating President Trump in the general.

CONCLUSION

But, is Biden’s sudden rise a good thing for America.  Nobody wants to talk about it, but Joe does not seem mentally competent.  Even Sanders has been reluctant to raise the issue.

Can we/should we elect a man who seems incapable of governing effectively?  The issue of his incompetence is not being discussed anywhere, except on Fox News.  It is being assiduously ignored, just like in the aforementioned children’s fable.  Except, this is real life, folks.

In my opinion, the “deep state,” Party insiders and their allies in the media are fully aware of Biden’s condition.  But they have their reasons for ignoring it:

  1.  Their overriding obsession is to defeat Donald Trump no matter what the cost and the impact  on America, and they realize that there is no other candidate who can.  Mr. Trump has been their worst nightmare.  He is uncontrollable, and he has been successful.  He has “called them out,” and he has taken away their absolute power and influence.  They want it back in the worst way, and they will do anything to get it (even support a candidate they know is incompetent).  Presidents come and go every four or eight years, but the “deep state” is more or less permanent.
  2. Biden is a “good soldier” who can be controlled by the “deep state.”  As president, he would dutifully follow the guidance of his advisors, including and especially his vice president.  He would not make waves.
  3. He would be unlikely to seek a second term, in which case the vice president or some other loyal party person would hopefully ascend to the presidency.  This would be the VP whom the insiders had secretly selected in the proverbial “smoke-filled room.”
  4. Even better, he might not even finish his first term.   No matter.  Trump would be gone, and the “deep state” would be back in business.

What America needs is people to speak up, like that little girl, and tell the electorate that Biden, figuratively, “has no clothes.”

PRESIDENTS’ QUIZ

We are in the midst of what could very well be an historic presidential election.  It promises to be exciting and contentious.  Each of the three viable contenders – President Trump and Dem hopefuls Sanders and Biden – has a cadre of very strong supporters and also harsh critics.   When all is said and done we could end up with another four raucous years of President Trump, an avowed Socialist in the White House and/or a female vice president.

With that in mind, I thought a presidents’ quiz might be appropriate.  How much do you know about our presidents?  Let’s see.

You know the drill.  No peeking at the internet.  No asking “Alexa.”  Good luck.

  1. Donald Trump is president # (a) 42, (b) 43, (c) 44, (d) 45.
  2. Who was the only president to serve in both WW1 and WW2?  (a) Harry Truman, (b) Dwight Eisenhower, (c) Douglas MacArthur, (d) John F. Kennedy
  3.  Each of the following served as generals in the US Army, EXCEPT: (a) Theodore Roosevelt, (b) Franklyn Pierce, (c) Benjamin Harrison, (d) Andrew Johnson.  Bonus – There were 12 in total.  How many can you name?  See below.
  4.   Only two presidents are buried in Arlington National Cemetery, JFK and who else? (a) Eisenhower, (b) Jackson, (c) Taft, (d) Teddy Roosevelt.
  5.  Who is the only president to serve two terms non-consecutively? (a) Grover Cleveland, (b) James Buchanan, (c) Teddy Roosevelt, (d) Chester A. Arthur.
  6. What was Lady Bird Johnson’s real first name? (a) Eugenia, (b) Claudia, (c) Alice, (d) Mary
  7.  Who is the longest-lived former president?  (a) George Washington, (b) George HW Bush, (c) Jimmy Carter, (d) Ronald Reagan
  8.  Who was the oldest president on his inauguration date? ( Jimmy Carter, (b)  Ronald Reagan, (c) George HW Bush, (d) Donald Trump
  9. Who was the only president who never got married? (a) Andrew Johnson, (b) Warren Harding, (c) James Buchanan, (d) John Quincy Adams.
  10. Who is the only president to have also served as Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court? (a) Woodrow Wilson, (b) James A. Garfield, (c) Benjamin Harrison, (d) William Howard Taft
  11.  Who was the first president for whom “Hail to the Chief” was played? (a) John Tyler, (b) George Washington, (c) Andrew Jackson, (d) FDR.
  12.  Which president’s wife was the first to be dubbed “First Lady?” (a) John Adams, (b) Thomas Jefferson, (c) James Madison, (d) James Polk
  13. Who was the only president to serve in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812? (a) James Monroe, (b) John Quincy Adams, (c) Andrew Jackson, (d) John Tyler.
  14.  Who was the only president to serve as president and vice president without being elected to either office? (a) Gerald Ford, (b) John Adams, (c) James Monroe, (d) Martin Van Buren
  15.  Who was the first president to live in the White House? (a) George Washington, (b) John Adams, (c) Thomas Jefferson, (d) James Madison
  16. Who was the shortest president? (a) John Adams, (b) James Monroe, (c) James Madison, (d) John Quincy Adams.
  17.  Who was the first president to be born in the US? (a) Andrew Jackson, (b) George Washington, (c) James Buchanan, (d) Martin Van Buren
  18.  Who had the shortest tenure as president? (a) James K. Polk, (b) William Henry Harrison, (c) Rutherford B. Hayes, (d) Samuel Tilden
  19.  Who was known as “Old Kinderhook?” (a) Franklyn Pierce, (b) Chester A. Arthur, (c) John Tyler, (d) Martin Van Buren.
  20.  How many presidents have died in office? (a) 6, (b) 8, (c) 10, (d) 4
  21.  How many presidents were elected despite having lost the popular vote? (a) 4, (b) 5, (c) 6, (d) 8.
  22.  FDR won four terms as president.  How many VPs did he have? (a) 1, (b) 2, (c) 3, (d) 4.

ANSWERS: 1. (d); 2. (b); 3. (a); [ Washington, Jackson, Zachary Taylor, Franklyn Pierce, Andrew Johnson, US Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, William Henry Harrison, James Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, Benjamin Harrison, Eisenhower] 4. c;  5. (a);  6. (b);  7. (c) (95 and counting);  8. (d) (70, FYI Biden would be 78; Sanders would be 79);  9. c;  10. d;  11. (a);  12. (c) (President Zachary Taylor referred to Dolley Madison as “First Lady” when he eulogized her at her funeral.)  13. (c);  14. (a);  15. (b);  16. (c) (5′ 4″); 17. (d);  18. (b) (32 days); 19. (d) (That was the derivation of “okay” or “OK”);  20. (b); 21. (b) ( John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, George W. Bush, Donald Trump); 22. (c) (John Nance Garner, Henry A. Wallace, Harry S. Truman)

So, how did you do?  I’d like to know.