The Right To Defy

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I have kept quiet for as long as I’m able.  So far as I know, I still have a right to say what I believe to be truth.  I could be wrong about that.

There are two stories blaring out of your televisions and newspapers today.  One of them is played as big news, the other as secondary.  They’ve got it backwards.

We all know by now that Hunter Biden, the son of former vice-president and presidential candidate Joe Biden allegedly left his laptop at the repair shop with God knows what on it.

Did the appearance of this story—not the laptop but the appearance and timing of the story—surprise anyone?  Anyone? Those of us who have watched a few elections barely batted an eye.  I don’t know about you, but I was waiting for the October Surprise.  I just didn’t know which side would push the plunger down to see a story explode.  “Surprise!” said absolutely nobody.

I don’t know if it’s true or not.  But here’s something I do know: Every four years, in the middle of October, somebody will push the plunger down.

If the story is not true, Joe and Hunter should show a little righteous anger and demand unimpeachable evidence from their accusers.  If you are unjustly accused, righteous anger is an effective defense. If, on the other hand it’s true, folks are entitled to know about it. These things must happen now, because the story is out there. That’s politics.

You’ll find another story below the fold on the front page or at the end of the broadcast of your favorite talking head.  In some newspapers and some networks, you won’t find it at all.  That would be the story of how at least two major social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter, unilaterally suppressed the laptop story.  Tweedledee at Facebook judged it to be politically incorrect and possibly false.  She pressed a button and endless algorithms went to work, removing the story and any attempts to share it.  Tweedledum, her counterpart at Twitter, pressed the same button. Poof.  Story doesn’t exist.

These two major social platforms deleted or suspended accounts of the New York Post, the President and his press secretary, among others.  They digitally prevented the copying and sharing of the story.

To my very good friends who call themselves liberals or progressives (and I have many), you may be secretly high-fiving each other over this.  I must tell you that, were the shoe on the other foot, I would still be outraged.  I don’t get my news from social media, because it is so filled with bluster, baloney and hate.  I tend to stay off of it.  I know that major newspapers and media networks are polarized, so I try to avoid getting news from a single source.  Truth be told (and it isn’t these days) we would probably agree it’s damned hard to find out what’s really going on out there. But that doesn’t negate the fact that gazillions of young people and others use social media as their only source of information.  That’s scary even without the laptop thing.

The very idea of blocking a major story on the internet may not trouble you.  You may honestly feel that it’s no different than what the newspapers and TV networks do.  You may feel that these incredibly large and influential social platforms are basically publishers of news like the New York Times or Fox News.

They are not.

In the 1990s, government, news publishers, Internet platforms and the public were all balled up in an argument about “decency.”  It went on for a long time–a complex issue.  In 1996 Congress passed the Communications Decency Act. And within that Act, Section 230(c) (1) attempted to insure the free flow of ideas.  That section says in essence that social media platforms are not “publishers.”  That section says that they are no different from UPS or the pizza delivery guy.  That section says they are not responsible for the content of what they deliver and that you can’t take them to court for delivering or not delivering your pizza or your news.

In reality, Congress was concerned about “pornography,” whatever three hundred twenty-eight million people seemed to think that was—and is. Section 230 protected that free flow of ideas, exempting Internet platforms from liability regarding their content posted by third parties.  In understandable language, that means that Twitter and Facebook cannot be held responsible for what you, me or anyone else posts on Twitter and Facebook.

Section 230 was flawed. We have just witnessed its failure.  Amy Coney Barrett would understand what’s happened.

(And as to cleaning up pornography, do you think it worked?  You may need the experience of sitting down with a grandchild to help her write her school assignment on Louisa May Alcott.  You search for “Little Women”.  And then you frantically cover your grandchild’s eyes from the result. Asking for a friend.)

Newspapers and television networks are publishers.  They are businesses.  They supply “news” and sell advertising, while rolling in Croesus-like sums of money for doing it.  They are legally responsible for what appears in their product.  They spend millions each year on lawyers and risk management to assess their liability exposure.  And they get sued anyway.  Happens every day.  Regardless of whether you or I agree with their content, they do run this risk every time a story is published.  You can demand their appearance in court for anything, if you so desire.  This is America.

You cannot take Facebook to court for their content (or in this case, the lack of it).  You can shout all day long at Twitter because of something you read or were unable to read.  You have the right to shout at Twitter, but they don’t have to be legally responsible.  This, also, is America, thanks to Section 230.

Full disclosure: I supported this law.  I didn’t like the idea of it, but I felt freedom of speech was too important.  I landed on the side of “Let everyone speak, regardless of what they say, warts and all.”  We all make mistakes.

Facebook and Twitter say they are not “publishers.”  Section 230 supports them.  But it stands to reason that when they sell advertising and claim to offer “news,” when they profess to be champions of the “free flow of ideas”, and then  actively suppress a story because they don’t happen to agree with it, they have become publishers.  They are acting like the New York Times.  If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.

Today it means that the laptop story disappeared from Twitter and Facebook, two enormous social media platforms involving millions and millions of people and selling advertising to the tune of billions.  Sounds like a publisher to me.  In fairness, whether the story is true or false, some people believe it needs to be heard and investigated.  Tomorrow, it will be a story you believe should be heard.  And it will disappear.  And your account will be suspended.  Zillions of people will never see it, because that’s where they get their “news.”

We all seem to be concerned about being right.  But maybe we have forgotten how to be wrong.  Regarding Section 230, how difficult is it to say “Yeah, we got that wrong. Let’s get it fixed.”?  Most folks in this country are forgiving if the problem gets fixed.

This is more important than Hunter Biden’s laptop.  It goes to the heart of the Constitution—your right or mine to have access to a free press and make up our own minds.

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I hope you will sit for just a moment and consider this.  Don’t Google it.  Don’t tweet.  Just use that gray matter that God gave you and discover what you think.  I trust your gray matter over every single newspaper, network or media platform in the world.

Is this right or is it wrong?

Joe The Dog And The Newspaper

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I don’t know about you, but in this house, we’ve enjoyed our local newspaper for nearly forty years. I don’t read it much, but Saint Mary does.  Invariably, I’ll find a story on my desk, clearly circled for me to read.  I’m not henpecked but I am a wee bit controlled.

We’ve always been pleased with the newspaper service.  For decades, they tossed that paper right onto the front porch, where I could lean out and grab it.  We always appreciated that and at Christmas time, Mary wrote the delivery folks an extra check.

A couple of years ago (right after we sent the Christmas “bonus check”) we received a letter from the newspaper office.  It seems that they were no longer able to get the paper to our front door, but they could still get it to the driveway.  That is, unless we were willing to pay an extra five bucks.  Now, mind you, our home is built on a small hill.  To get to the driveway from my front door, I must walk down the sidewalk, down the steps and find the newspaper.  If I were thirty years old and living in California, that would be an enjoyable trip.  But I’m older than two thirties put together in Missouri.  I know that if I were in California I probably wouldn’t read the newspaper at all, but that’s beside the point.  There’s a principle involved here.

I took more than a little umbrage at the extra charge.  “No Christmas Bonus for you!” I shouted in my best Seinfeld Soup Nazi voice.  I told Mary I’d be damned if I was going to pay for that, and I’d do it myself.  And I did.  Until it snowed and got really, really cold.  It took me only one winter morning, standing in snow on my dark and freezing driveway to realize that perhaps my decision to take on the job of paper delivery boy was, well, unseasonable.  I went inside where I could think.

I fixated on this problem.  Now there were two things I didn’t want to do.  I didn’t want to pay the extra five bucks and I didn’t want to go out in the cold.  Joe The Dog lethargically thumped his tail on the floor as I stared at him and that’s when it hit me.  The problem wasn’t the distance to the driveway.  The problem wasn’t Missouri winters.  The problem was that Joe The Dog, to whom I provide food, water, shelter, education and companionship, was lazy.  Joe could get the paper from the driveway every morning. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night would keep him from his appointed rounds.

Joe’s a clever dog.  With a couple days training, he was happy and excited for me to open the front door.  He would race to the driveway, grab the newspaper in its pink plastic wrapper and race back to the door.  I taught him to take it down the hallway and deposit it undamaged on the floor beside my office chair.  And Joe was happy, let me tell you.  He never once felt put upon.  He took on the job of morning paperdog with the thrill that only a dog owner can understand.  He would sit in the office and stare at me expectantly until I said “Want to get the paper?” And he would tear down the hall to the front door where he would jump in the air until I got there.  This dog actually jumps about two feet into the air when he’s excited, I kid you not; his ancestry has kangaroos in it.  And he had reason to jump.  We both knew a win-win situation when we saw it.  I bragged on him.  I put photos of him on Facebook, prancing up the sidewalk with the huge pink roll in his mouth.  I wasn’t boastful about it, but when others told me I had a real knack with dogs, I let it be said uncontested.

During the summer that followed, a friend mentioned that he takes the electronic edition of the local paper—no physical paper delivered.  He said I ought to take a look at it.  He said the price was much better.  Well, of course Mary and I investigated.  I don’t remember the price difference, but it was enough to make you say “Maybe we ought to try it.”

And so we “went paperless.”  We received our electronic newspaper and Mary enjoyed reading it.  She was happy.  My Scotch blood was warmed by the knowledge that I was still avoiding that extra five dollars.  I was happy.  Joe, on the other hand, was inconsolable.  He wouldn’t get up.  He refused to eat.  He moped. He wouldn’t have a thing to do with me.  Mornings were the worst.  He would stare at me and I knew what he was thinking.  “You’re not going to say it, are you?”  I had never seen clinical depression in a dog before, but he had all the signs. He wouldn’t talk to me about it, and I realized that dog therapy was going to cost a lot more than the five dollar charge I had outwitted.  A neighbor accosted me on the street one day and said “Why won’t you let that dog get the paper?”  And he had a tone when he said it.  I knew right there I had to solve the problem.

Things are better now. Mary reads the morning paper and emails me the articles that she thinks I need to read.  She’s happy.  I’m still controlled and resigned to it.  But Joe the Dog is ecstatic.  On the bookshelf above my desk is an old newspaper in its pink protector.  And every morning I take it off the shelf and look at Joe.  “Do you want to get the paper?”  He leaps into the air and tears off to the front door.  I step onto the porch and I throw the paper onto the driveway.  Then I open the door for him.  Like I said, a wee bit controlled.

I have never paid them the extra five bucks.

Trumped Up America

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This is the first CommonSense published solely to its followers.  I am not “advertising” it on Facebook because I would expect to be shouted down.  I find very little good purpose in that social medium, particularly when trying to quietly state my political opinions.  On Facebook it appears that when the shooting starts, the persecuting begins. This column may very well be available only to those who wish to read it in the future.  We’ll see how it goes.  As far as Facebook is concerned, I am thinking I don’t need the headache.

From a human side, I’m not a fan of Donald Trump.  He is boorish and self-aggrandizing.  Joe Biden doesn’t appear boorish; he simply doesn’t appear.  Trump doesn’t speak or communicate well unless somebody else writes the script. Biden can’t seem to speak and hold his train of thought. Liberal reporters are able to bait Trump easily, and the President always takes the bait.  Biden merely replies that 150 million people have been killed by guns since 2007, while the total population of our country is only 328 million people.  Trump stands in front of a church with a Bible in his hand, when most of us think he hasn’t read much of it.  But is he a monster?  I don’t think so.

We’ve had outstandingly boorish Presidents before.  You may not remember them.  John Adams had a reputation for razor-sharp put-downs at the expense of his allies and rivals alike.  James Monroe had a fiery temper and once chased Treasury Secretary William Crawford from his office, brandishing a pair of hot fireplace tongs.  The opponents of Andrew Jackson called him a “jackass,” resulting in the donkey as the Democratic symbol. Thomas Jefferson referred to Jackson as “one of the most unfit men I know of” to serve as president of the United States. Jackson taught his pet parrot to swear.  It did so, at his funeral.  John Tyler is usually ranked among the worst. He used ten unpopular vetoes to block his own party. Most of his Cabinet resigned in protest, and eventually they all quit.  And that’s not to mention his drinking.  Andrew Johnson, who also liked a drink or two, was despised for his arrogance.  He was called “a self-made man, distressingly proud of his maker.”  The New Republic wrote of Theodore Roosevelt: “ [He] spent much of his life behaving like a bully, drunk on his own self-regard…Roosevelt’s reputation for boyishness arose from…his ceaseless action, his snap decisions, his adolescent bellicosity, his refusal to consider intellectual or ethical complexity, his confusion of physical with moral courage, and his exaggerated self-esteem when confronted by actual or imagined insults.”  Lyndon Johnson was well known for a rude and overbearing personality.  The list of ungentlemanly Presidents goes on and on.  Some of them turned out all right.  This is a very long way of saying we have seen it before and survived.

Someone far wiser than me once said “Don’t judge the words.  Judge the behavior.” Let’s do that, disregarding the Covid-19 crisis, since the economy seems poised to return better than ever. 

  • Donald Trump’s administration is responsible for almost 4 million jobs created since the election.
  • More Americans were employed than ever recorded before in our history.
  • 400,000 manufacturing jobs have been created since Trump’s election, growing at the fastest rate in more than three decades. 
  • New unemployment claims hit a 49-year low. 
  • African-American unemployment achieved the lowest rate ever recorded. 
  • Hispanic-American unemployment recorded is at the lowest rate in history. 
  • Female unemployment reached the lowest rate in 65 years (and that was when Rosie The Riveter and her female compatriots went to work in World War II). 
  • Trump’s administration records the lowest unemployment rate ever recorded for Americans without a high school diploma. 
  • He signed the biggest package of tax cuts and reforms in history.
  • After tax cuts, over $300 billion poured back in to the U.S. 
  • Thanks to Trump’s tax bill, small businesses will have the lowest top marginal tax rate in more than 80 years. 
  • A record number of regulations have been eliminated.
  • The Obamacare individual mandate penalty is gone.
  • He withdrew the U.S. from the job-killing Paris Climate Accord. 
  • He secured a record $700 billion in military funding.
  • He withdrew from the idiotic, one-sided Iran Deal. 
  • He moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. 
  • He protected Americans from terrorists with the Travel Ban, upheld by the Supreme Court. 
  • He concluded an historic U.S.-Mexico Trade Deal to replace NAFTA. 
  • He reached a breakthrough agreement with the E.U. to increase U.S. exports. 
  • He Imposed tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum to protect our national security. 
  • He imposed tariffs on China in response to their forced technology transfer, intellectual property theft, and chronically abusive trade practices. 
  • Net exports were on track to increase by $59 billion. 
  • He has begun building The Wall.

This is far from a complete list.  If Donald Trump were our employee (and he is), we would be hard pressed to fire him as a slacker.

It seems obvious that Trump detractors will do or support anything that will remove him from office.  I expect those detractors have made plans.  The Epoch Times  reports that the Department of Justice has evidence that the far-left extremist organization Antifa and other similar groups have been behind the recent riots in order to fuel their own violent agenda.  Police departments in several states have warned of materials being purposefully planted in certain locations so as to fuel the rioting. Bricks, incendiary materials and accelerants (that’s a Molotov cocktail) have been found hidden, ready for use.  Unknown individuals, wearing dark combat gear have been reported in the crowds, communicating with others and giving directions.  These are not peaceful protesters.  They were organized and ready.  They don’t care too much about the reprehensible death of George Floyd.  The clear evidence of riot preparations and directions during the rioting should strongly suggest that plans were in readiness prior to Floyd’s death.  Something smells fishy. His wrongful death appears not to be the reason for rioting, but rather the excuse for it.

Floyd was not the model citizen who had “turned his life around” and who is being made a martyr by the misinformed.  He was a career criminal.  He was high on Fentanyl and methamphetamine, trying to pass a counterfeit bill when accosted by police.   A video clearly shows him handcuffed, sitting against a wall and secretly dropping a packet of white powder behind his back when police weren’t looking. While the left screams of intentional murder, It is not clear if the policeman intended to kill him.  The video makes policeman Derek Chauvin appear to be showing off.  Any evidence of an intentional murder is, at the most, unclear. Maybe we should let the courts decide.

It appears that George Floyd was no hero and Derek Chauvin no saint.  Should justice be served? Certainly. Did Floyd deserve to die?  Certainly not. The left now agitates to “Defund The Police.”  That is tantamount to sinking an ocean liner because one is mistreated by a crew member.  Yet it seems clear that this incident involved a career criminal and an idiotic cop.

During this President’s term, we have seen outlandish charges leveled by liberals and the press on every single day.  The Senate Judiciary hearings for Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh were an embarrassment and a complete disregard for our legal and time-honored presumption of innocence.  Trump’s impeachment proceeding was a shameful travesty.  The pandemic of Covid-19 unleashed accusations of poor leadership.  And now rioting, which seems directed at businesses in an attempt to curtail the resurgence of the economy.  Do you see a pattern in all of this?dbsig2

Those of us who have watched elections down through the decades are familiar with what is called an October Surprise.  The disloyal opposition has managed several of them in the past four years.  Only God knows what October will bring.

My Calm In The Middle

LogoCommonSense2I’ve never wanted CommonSense to be an “advice column.”  I’ve always felt capable of having ideas, but never skilled enough to know what’s best for others. Maybe that’s because I’ve always believed you can decide that for yourselves.  I’m afraid I’ll always have more questions for you than answers.

Does it seem to you that in a crisis, people tend to act and react in an “only two choices” mode? And do you believe that real life is seldom that way?  Does it usually turn out, after the fact, that there were hundreds of possibilities?  And when you found the answer, was it ever, in your life, one of the first two choices you considered?

Do you suspect there is a “thinking trap” into which we often fall?  The sort of thinking that imprisons us, believing our choices are between the devil and the deep blue sea.  This—or that.  Politics and public issues tend to be a good example of this: Republican or Democrat.  Liberal or Conservative.  Hawk or Dove.  Let me ask you about that, and how you think it applies to our current “emergency.”.

We often fall into this “dichotomy dilemma” by watching television, social media or reading a nationally syndicated newspaper.  Take “scientific research” as opposed to “anecdotal evidence,” for example.  If you hear a story about a doctor who has cured Covid-19 cases using hydroxychloroquine, you can bet good money that you’ll next hear a scientist saying it’s only anecdotal evidence.  It’s not scientifically proven.

Now I have a barrel of respect for science, along with a pinch or two of salt.  The good thing about scientists is that they always get smarter, given time.  The unfortunate thing is how many times they’re wrong in between.

Anecdotal evidence isn’t always wrong, any more than scientific research is always correct.  When Paul Revere rode through Lexington and Concord, warning “The British are coming,” he was operating on purely anecdotal evidence. Somebody told him about it and, having good horse sense, he jumped on a horse.

Context is often critical.  Abraham Lincoln often told this story: A law-abiding citizen once found himself looking down the barrel of a gun. According to Lincoln, this attacker severely underestimated his target, who lunged forward and took the weapon. “Stop!” hollered the crook. “Give me back that pistol; you have no right to my property!”  Context is often critical.

If a speechifying politician pounds his fist in Congress, telling us that our friend from yesterday is now an enemy, we’ll probably want to think about it.  But if a family member awakens us in the middle of the night shouting “The house is on fire!” we will likely accept the anecdotal evidence.

Does it seem to you that in our hometowns, we tend to consider context when we hear a story?  Maybe that’s because we have the context.  Maybe it’s because we know these people and only rarely do we talk with Senators over the back fence. Isn’t it almost always the case that when we want to find truth we seldom find it on the ends but somewhere in the middle? 

So when we’re told that “new coronavirus cases are increasing,” do we examine the context? Do we consider that testing  for coronavirus is also on the rise?  When someone tells us that sunshine kills the virus, we probably don’t rush naked into the streets, but we might sit out in the yard for an hour or so with our clothes on.  dbsig2We probably figure the sunlight isn’t going to kill us any faster than it has in the past.  That’s anecdotal, of course.  Are we careful about getting too close to other people, and do we wash our hands?  Seems like it worked for the common cold, tuberculosis and Ebola.  That’s operating on the anecdotal comfort of our lives and experience.  That’s horse sense.

After talking this over, you have convinced me that the truth is somewhere in the middle and we’re going to feel collectively foolish about the current crisis.  We’ll blame someone for it.

 

Avoid Coronavirus Death Rays

LogoCommonSense2Normally I don’t watch much television.  Only three of us live here.  Saint Mary, Joe The Dog and me.  In these days of governmentally forced imprisonment, someone likes to leave the TV on as “background” and it’s not the dog.

As a consequence, I’m exposed to a virus on the outside and indoor media manipulation when I walk through the living room or kitchen.  I’ve stayed inside too long because I’m beginning to feel as though death rays are being emitted from that talking box.  In a way, it’s true.

There are more commercials than in previous decades.  I haven’t set a stopwatch to it yet, but I believe the actual air time of any program, including the news, now consists of more commercials than the actual broadcast they promised me.  I suppose I could get one of those Tivo things and avoid commercials.  But why should I have to lay out the investment when I didn’t invite them in?  If the Fuller Brush Man knocked on my door and asked me to let him show me all his brushes, I’d say “No, thank you” and shut the door.  Why do zillions of us passively allow this home invasion by death rays? 

You may now realize that commercials annoy me no end.  Not because they’re trying to sell me something, but because they didn’t ask to come in and they entered with deception. At least the brush salesman would have told me what he’s up to, out there at my front door.  In these times of misguided lockdowns, every commercial I see or hear tells me, in one way or another, that we’re all in this together.  We’re not.  Saint Mary, Joe The Dog and I are in this together.  Ford Motor Company has never set foot in this house.  Neither has Viacom, which airs the most commercial minutes per hour, according to the folks who analyze that sort of thing.  Why do they speak of “we,” as though we are intimate friends?  I would think if we’re that close, they’d at least offer me a stock option. That would set the stage for a much friendlier relationship.

Today, every commercial assures me that, during this terrible crisis, their company is here to help me.  That’s shameless.  They want me  to help them. And they’re not here, they’re there.   All I want is for them to fess up and admit it.  If they were here, as they claim to be, we could have a conversation based on honesty, like with the Fuller Brush Guy.  But they’re not, so my solution is to hold up a foil turkey roasting pan to avoid the death rays while I’m in the kitchen.

The smartest thing most of us could do is turn off the television and read a book.

This odd national scare we’ve had will pass.  I suspect most of us will feel foolish dbsig2about it before too much time goes by. We are in this together, you and me.  I’m not selling anything other than ideas.  If you’re as old as me, stay safe.  If you’re young and healthy, stop worrying and enjoy your life.  I realize you have no idea who the Fuller Brush Man is, but take care around older people and help to protect us.  Our later years may be valuable to you.  And we’re honestly here to help.

Let’s Think About This

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I’m tired of hearing about coronavirus.  I’ll bet you are too.  Enough of the Trumpeting daily briefings.  Enough.  (I’m holding my hand up, palm out.)

Do you think maybe that by constantly being exposed to the media’s ranting and raving, we are altering our own reality?  Reality is not MSNBC.  It’s not Fox News, either.  The New York Times is not delivering reality to our doorstep, and politicians in front of a camera are not telling us about our world. They are delivering their  version of it.  Perhaps we could all benefit from less news and a grain of salt. 

I don’t know for sure, but it’s possible that “real” starts when when we talk and listen to others, then use our own logic and common sense.  Maybe that’s when it gets real.  Maybe the real  real is what we desperately need right now.

I just did a quick scan of two polar-opposite media networks.  Fox News has 22 coronavirus stories displayed.  MSNBC has 70.  The difference may interest you, since they both have political agendas, but one fact underpins both of them:  neither are in the news business.  Both are in the advertising business. They very badly need us to stay with them and not “switch channels.”  They know we are watching and they will use that information to persuade Coca-Cola or Proctor and Gamble to put millions of dollars into their pockets.  Oh, and they know which stories and advertisements we selected.  Consider that.

I’m far more interested in what real people think.  Not one word of any CommonSense I’ve ever written originated with me.  They came from interacting with other people.  But it sure seems like too many folks are functioning today only on what the media has fed them.

I was the problem child in my family.  Throughout my early years and a great deal of my adolescence, my parents would counsel me in my abject foolishness.  My mother spoke about love.  To her obstinate son, she would say things like “I will always love you, but if you behave like this, other people won’t.”

My father was a different story.  Oh, he loved me dearly, but it didn’t exactly come out that way. Completely frustrated by my foolishness, he would shout, rant and bluster, finally throwing his hands out in exasperation. “You’re not not using your brain!

They both made some very good points.  Somehow, during the next fifty years, I have softened my approach and started using whatever gray matter God put between my ears.  So I listen to a little of the news every day and then I turn it off.  And think about it.  And listen to people who have proven to me that they also discovered their brain at some point in their lives.  The reality soaks in.

I’m not just blabbering.  I have a point. Stick with me.

I have a good friend who also happens to be a doctor.  I’ve told you about him before. I’ve known him most of my life. He’s very logical.  If I was a hell raiser in my early years, he was calm and rational. Logical to the extreme.  I think it’s possible that he decided to be born only because he thought it over in the womb and decided it was a well reasoned idea.

We were sitting in the sun the other day, six feet apart, getting our dose of ultraviolet light, discussing the “Opening of America.”  His thoughts seemed to more clearly express what my nagging common sense has been picking at. What follows is a collection of his thoughts and mine.  I think it’s a valid, common sense approach.

Our first goal in this pandemic was to “Flatten The Curve.”  That was because we didn’t want to overwhelm our medical systems.  It worked.  It more than worked.

As we learned more by testing larger numbers of people (including those who had no symptoms) we found that the virus can be devastating for a small segment of people, yet mild or undetected for most. We didn’t know it earlier and now we do.  We can now take it to the bank.

Yet while the “number of cases” may be helpful for epidemiologists, it’s of very little value for us normal people.  My doctor friend says that watching for significant hospitalizations would be a more useful tool.  That will tell us if we’re moving too fast. 

We started with Flatten The Curve, but the narrative has changed.  Flatten The Curve has become Eradicate The Disease.  That is an impossible goal.  My friend said nothing we are doing now will bring that about.  Nor should it, necessarily.

Here’s the good part. The coldly logical, common sense part.  As more and more people contract Covid-19, with or without symptoms, herd immunity rears its head as the victor.  Herd immunity is not in me.  It’s in the people around me. As their numbers increase, my chance of catching it decreases.

It’s very logical, then, to grasp the real  reality.  Continued isolation will only delay the development of herd immunity.  Isolation was right in the beginning.  Rather than saying it’s wrong today, let’s call it counterproductive.

I’m an older person.  I still need to be very careful.  I’m not offering medical advice to anyone.  But I am saying that with common sense and an eye to caution, it’s time to bring back the new/old normal because I’m tired of hearing about this.

Biden Time

 

LogoCommonSense2Believe it or not, there’s more going on than just a virus.   There are people running for president.

Full disclosure here: I’m not a Joe Biden supporter.  That’s because of his past policies and his current stand on important issues.  He’s a likeable guy.  I would go so far as to say that it’s almost impossible not  to like him. But supporters of the Democrat candidate deserve to know the ramifications of his candidacy and consider them.

Knowing our history is important. Listening to older people who have a sense of what has happened before looms large.  We may be too old to run for president, but our knowledge is pure gold, should young voters wish to take advantage of it.  Generally speaking, we’re not as quick as we were.  But we’re much more careful.

In private conversations with my friends, I’ve stated several times that I feel like history is repeating itself, and perhaps it’s time to “go public” with it.  Joe Biden’s choice of a vice-presidential candidate may be critical.  Should Biden be elected, it may be one of those decisions about which we ultimately say “Wow, if only we’d realized how important that was at the time.”

In 1944, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran for his fourth term, he was virtually unbeatable.  He was also in extremely precarious health and most of the country didn’t know it.  The truth, however, was very evident to party leaders and insiders of the time. In those days, as today, the vice-presidential candidate was selected by the party convention, but the candidate’s views carried a great deal of weight in that decision. While a majority of our country was not aware of FDR’s poor health, the Democrat leadership was frightened by it. They knew that FDR would win the election.  They were aware that he would likely not survive another four years.  It wasn’t talked about, but within the party leadership, they could see FDR dying right before their eyes. They knew that in selecting a vice-presidential candidate, they were likely naming the next president.

Henry Wallace was the sitting vice-president.  Wallace leaned far to the left and was regarded as “a Socialist” or a “near-Communist.”  A frightened Democrat leadership pressured FDR to dump Wallace and move right with his selection, toward the center of the party.  In July of 1944, the convention accepted FDR’s choice of Harry Truman as his running mate. In nine months, Roosevelt was dead at 63 years of age and Truman took the oath of office as President. In a nutshell, that’s what happened.

Biden is 77 years old.  He has suffered two known burst brain aneurisms. He has also experienced “leaking” from aneurisms, known as sub-conjunctival hemorrhages. I’m not a doctor.  But I’m honestly frightened and concerned that Joe Biden may have hidden aneurism issues or is displaying the first signs of impending dementia.  Having dealt with this in my own family, I don’t wish it on Democrats or my worst enemy.

Biden has long been ridiculed for his public “gaffes.”  I don’t fault him there.  Any candidate who is being rushed from state to state, city to city and expected to remember where he is and what day it is will ultimately fail the test and offer the media some regrettable blunders.  The extent of the candidate’s misstatements is directly related to the media’s eagerness to hear them. Biden has had the misfortune of a press that hungers for his errors.  It is perhaps important, though, to consider the physical stamina required in a presidential campaign, not to mention the physical and mental stress of the presidency itself.

Far more concerning than “gaffes” are his age, health history and recurring tendency to lose his train of thought, mid-sentence.  Were he to win the presidency and a subsequent re-election, he would be nearly 90 before leaving office.  I’ll put it bluntly: the odds of him reaching the end of his first term are not good.  Things are looking awfully (and I chose that word carefully) familiar.

Today, the Democrat candidate is not being pressured to move toward the center.  He’s already there.  Rather, the “smart money” says he needs the Bernie Sanders supporters; he has to move left, toward the radicalized Sanders and the Jihad Squad.  Couple that with Biden’s health. It’s not a stretch to imagine a successor president very few of us expected.dbsig2

Truman’s legacy survived.  He’s now regularly listed as one of the ten best presidents in U.S. history.  This is a wonderful country, but I suspect we’ll not get another Truman.

Rocket Man Not Wanted Dead Or Alive

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I am getting more than a little tired of this pandemic and I’m afraid it’s starting to show.   I was laughing for all the wrong reasons as news bulletins can’t decide if the North Korean dictator has drawn his last breath.  Or not.

Kim Jong Un is dead.  Or maybe just really sick.  Or mildly ill.  Or hiding from the Covid-19 pandemic at an elite resort on the eastern side of a country that claims to have no virus cases whatsoever.

The media has conjectured about the little rocket man for nearly a month.  Originally he was only oddly missing but there was no proof of this. Then someone supposed he was ill, hedging their bet by admitting that information from North Korea is hard to come by.  The President said he hoped LRM wasn’t ill and had received a nice note from him.

Less than a week ago, the New York Post said he was dead.  The story reported that a stent procedure went south because the surgeon’s hands were shaking.  It did seem a little odd that in a country with very few forthcoming details, the shaking hands ingredient had made a break for it and gotten around the world. The Post lamented that getting information from North Korea is like pulling teeth.

We were then subjected to numerous stories about Little Rocket Sister—who they say is a likely successor as soon as they bury her brother.  But of course finding the actual truth is, well, difficult.

In a very short time, Kim Jong Rocket had risen, shuffling up the mortal coil to arrive successfully at gravely ill again.  

I’ve seen this show before.  In Monty Python’s stage musical Spamalot,  Not Dead Fred insists that he’s alive as they toss him onto a cart full of plague victims.  The new North Korean hit of the season is Rocket Man: Only A Little Dead!

In today’s brave new world, honest information is scarce as hens’ teeth.dbsig2

The most recent news is that someone (I’ve given up on who said what) spotted the dictator’s private train at a resort. Someone else postulated that his procedure was
minor, that his condition was serious yet not fatal. 

I suspect that by next Monday, he’ll be perfectly all right.

What Goes Around Comes Around

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What goes around comes around.

As recently as a month ago, the news media suggested we were in a life and death struggle for more ventilators.  Now we sit atop the ventilator motherlode of the world and don’t need them. The president won’t stop boasting about them as though they were another “beautiful, huge, and incredible” Trump Tower. 

Ventilators are now old news. Today the annoying screech of the media is “More Testing!” I’ve been accused of being overly simplistic about this.  (Maybe they said I was half simple, I can’t remember.)  I’m not a doctor but I have played one onstage and I don’t need a stethoscope hanging around my neck to notice when common sense flies out the window.

Taking a test to determine if I have the virus is plausible only until somebody sneezes. The best test doesn’t require distance, danger or dollars. Do I have a persistent fever, cough, fatigue, loss of appetite or shortness of breath?  If yes, I should call the doctor.  If no, I should return to my home and nothing more will be said.  Is this overly simplistic?  I don’t think so. 

Antibody testing is a different critter. The first test was done on a representative sample of the population of Santa Clara County, California.  It appears that up to 85 times more people had been infected than reported cases—but they had not been noticeably sick as a result. A larger study on Los Angeles County has now been completed.  I’ll bet we can expect the same results.  The same studies are being done in New York with similar results.

Opinion writer Brian Giesbrecht wondered aloud about antibody testing: “If it’s confirmed that instead of the estimate that two or three out of 100 infected people die from COVID-19, only two or three out of 1,000 die, it would be a game-changer.”

Again, I’m no doctor or scientist, but I have felt for months that this virus has been around far longer than we thought and that far more people have survived, many without realizing it.  I’m not advising readers to hit the streets with no worries. Be careful out there. I’ll probably wait until the science corrects itself.  It’s a simple fact that I’m also avoiding the flu, the common cold, Ebola, tuberculosis and the Black Plague.  What’s not to like about that?

Is this worldwide economic shutdown the most costly mistake ever made?  If the pandemic is shown to be less than what we thought, the lynch-mobbing media will certainly view it that way.  A president faced with what appear dbsig2to be catastrophic consequences is forced to make choices.  What should those choices be?  If I’m not mistaken, presidents still take that oath promising to faithfully execute the office and protect the Constitution.  Time will be the ultimate judge—not the hyperventilating media.

The New Normal Looks Like The Old One

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Stanford University researchers recently tested over 3000 adults and children in Santa Clara County in California for Covid-19 antibodies.  A lot of details on this study are available, but the bottom line is that the information suggests the virus has been here far longer than we thought and it’s likely far more widespread.  People had it and didn’t know it.  Herd immunity was calmly developing before the news media first decided to be upset about Covid-19. It’s not much of a stretch to suggest also that the virus is not nearly as dangerous as we thought.  Please don’t go rushing into the streets, shaking hands and kissing each other based on what I’m saying here.  I’ve made a retired career out of being happily irresponsible and I’m not going to change now.

I have suggested, in various ways, over the past three months that the long term view of this pandemic will look far different than it does today.  We’re getting there. If you want to know how we’ll eventually view the Covid-19 pandemic, just think about how you view tuberculosis or the flu.  Study the history.  They were both horrible pandemics.  They were nightmare killers. Think about how we view them today.  It’s a safe bet that if I walk up to just about anyone on the street and ask “Wow, that deal with tuberculosis back in the 1800s was just awful, wasn’t it?”  the probable answer would be “Yeah.  I guess so.”  We forget very  quickly.  That’s our nature.

I hear the criticism of how this apparent emergency was handled.  Trillions spent!  I don’t know about you, but even if they discovered tomorrow that the virus doesn’t actually exist, I’m still  not going to have a problem with the government giving me some of my money back.  I’m not built to feel that way.

I don’t know the exact timing of when the new normal starts looking like the old normal.  But I believe it’ll happen sooner that we suspect.  We’re not going to “social distance” forever, and it’ll happen before we can think of a better term for it (like “being careful,” maybe?)

An awful lot of talking heads are now slamming the earlier models which are now “wrong.”  I’ve listened to dozens and dozens of scientists who have said, in one way or another, that of course the models were wrong.  That’s because they’re models.  A model is built with assumptions, and are only as good as those assumptions.  And of course some of the assumptions are incorrect, and the models get adjusted.  When the problem is finally solved and ended, the models serve as information for the future.

Let’s say you’re sitting at home and decide you want a hamburger.  You hop in your car, drive across town and take a short cut that happens to be a dead end.  You correct the error and get your hamburger.  The next time you’re hungry, you avoid making that mistake again. There.  You’ve adjusted your model, and it’s better than it was when you started.  If you wish to spend even a minute of your time assigning blame for your erroneous model, that’s your privilege.  I’m only on the smart edge of half simple, but I say when you correct your model you’re smarter and you’ve got a hamburger.

Why are we so upset with models?  An apparent emergency occurred and we tried to make intelligent plans.  Why do we feel the need to assign blame when we know very well that folks did the best they could with what they had and got better as they learned? it’s illogical and downright silly.

Here’s something we’ve learned:  we can knock down a highly contagious virus by staying home and being careful.  In fact, we can knock down many health problems simply by washing our hands, keeping our distance and being careful.  I suspect we’ll forget that too.