Doom and Bloom: Reopening After a Pandemic

The Altons at Doom and Bloom Medical have an article up about Reopening After a Pandemic – what it looks like, the CDC recommendations, and federal and state plans.

The COVID-19 pandemic has rampaged throughout the planet, but a few encouraging signs are giving some citizens the impetus to emerge from their homes. Although the number of cases and deaths continue to rise, several countries have flattened or are clearly on the far end of the bell curve.

Testing in the U.S. has surpassed 10 million and the percentage of severe cases requiring ventilator support are dropping somewhat compared to total cases.

Although some pandemic supplies are still generally unavailable to the average citizen, hospital staffs (in our area, at least) seem to be getting more personal protection equipment than before. While still accepting donations, Cleveland Clinic Florida states on its website: “…through months of planning for the pandemic it had “adequate supplies and medical equipment…”

As time goes on, personal protection gear will become more available

Aside: This may not be the case everywhere. If you have a lot of extra personal protection equipment, consider donating some to your local hospital in case of a second wave of COVID-19 cases.

While we are beginning to get more optimistic with regards to public health, the financial news is terrible. 36.5 million unemployment claims have been filed. Businesses are reaching the point of no return; some brick-and-mortar enterprises may not survive if they don’t reopen soon.

And the customers? Just because the businesses are reopening doesn’t mean the patrons will come flowing back. Many people have been traumatized and are scared to venture out into the New Normal. Some have been able to work from home, cook dinner instead of eating out, and otherwise fend for themselves. They won’t be seeking these services outside the home so much anymore, even if money isn’t an issue.

Cooking at home

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a detailed 17-page document of its recommendations for reopening. Some believe the criteria may be too strict. The battle between public health and public policy continues.

What are the criteria that must be met before reopening occurs in the U.S.? The federal government is giving leeway to state governments, but there are 50 states, and almost as many different plans of action.

FEDERAL PLANS

The federal government (and most states) want a phased approach to return to normal (or at least the New Normal). Optimally, certain milestones should be reached before beginning phases:

SYMPTOMS: The federal government recommends that the reopening should begin when there is a downward trajectory on the graph of cases of influenza-like illnesses (ILI) within a 14-day period as well as a similar trajectory specific to COVID-19 signs and symptoms.

CASES: The federal government wants to see a downward trajectory of documented COVID-19 cases within a 14-day period, or at least a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percentage of total tests conducted with a 14-day period. This assumes at least a similar (or larger) quantity of tests performed during the same time period.

HOSPITALS: The goal is to have a robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers with a particular interest in checking for antibodies against COVID-19. Also, hospitals would need to have no or few patients requiring “crisis care”.

PHASE 1

INDIVIDUALS SHOULD…(continues)

Click here to read the entire article at Doom and Bloom Medical.

EFF: COVID-19 and Digital Rights

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. Here are their thoughts on threats and opportunities arising from COVID-19 response, COVID-19 and Digital Rights.

Surveillance. Governments around the world are demanding extraordinary new surveillance powers that many hope will contain the virus’ spread. But many of these powers would invade our privacy, inhibit our free speech, and disparately burden vulnerable groups of people. Mindful of the stakes, we ask three questions when analyzing proposals that would provide greater surveillance powers to the government: Would the proposal work? Would it excessively intrude on our freedoms? Are there sufficient safeguards? Different proposals raise different issues. For example:

  • Government has not shown that some intrusive technologies would work, such as phone location surveillance, which is insufficiently granular to identify when two people were close enough together to transmit the virus.
  • Some surveillance proposals are too dangerous to a democratic society, such as dragnet surveillance cameras in public places that use face recognition or thermal imaging, mounting such technologies on drones, or giving police officers access to public health data about where people who have tested positive live.
  • Some technologies, such as aggregate location data used to inform public health decisions, need strict safeguards.
  • No COVID tracking app will work absent widespread testing and interview-based contact tracing. Bluetooth proximity is the most promising approach so far, but needs rigorous security testing and data minimization. No one should be forced to use it.

Many new government surveillance programs are being built in partnership with corporations that hold vast stores of consumers’ personal data. We need new laws to protect our data privacy.

Free speech. The free flow of ideas about COVID-19 is vital. This includes anonymous whistle-blowing about containment efforts, online criticisms of government responses to the crisis, and prisoner access to social media to tell the world about outbreaks behind bars. Governments will inevitably abuse any new powers to censor what they deems false information about the virus. When online platforms increase their reliance on automated content moderation, in part because human moderators cannot safely come to work, those moderation “decisions” must be temporary, transparent, and easily appealable

Government transparency. Government decision-making about the virus must be transparent. When governments temporarily close the physical spaces where they make decisions, for purposes of social distancing, they must adopt new transparency accommodations, such as broadcasting their proceedings. While government responses to public records requests may be slower during this public health crisis, the outbreak is no excuse to shut them down altogether…(continues)

AIER: Why Didn’t the Constitution Stop This?

Robert Wright at the American Institute for Economic Research writes about Constitutional issues surrounding the pandemic and lockdown orders in Why Didn’t the Constitution Stop This?

constitution

The genius of the U.S. Constitution is that the Framers, especially James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, saw it as a constraint on bad policymaking. Given the number of really bad policies that various US governments and officials, from school boards to POTUS, have implemented, especially recently, it is high time to restore weakened or lost Constitutional restraints against arbitrary rule.

Five forces threaten Americans with destruction: 1) nature; 2) foreign powers; 3) the national government; 4) state and local governments; 5) themselves. The threat from 3, 4, and 5 is double-edged, meaning that Americans can be harmed by the actions of those forces as well as by their inaction.

The national government, for example, can harm Americans by being insufficiently prepared for natural catastrophes and foreign incursions, as with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the 9/11 attacks. It can also harm Americans, though, by doing too much, as with the invasion of Iraq and the way-too-long occupation of Afghanistan. (Relying too much on FEMA instead of states or private initiatives may be another example, but less clear cut than the needless wars.)

The national and state governments are supposed to check each other’s power, so that if one overreaches, the other can thwart it. We usually think about this in terms of “states’ rights” but in fact federalism, as the concept is sometimes called, runs both ways: the states should check the national government when necessary but the national government should also check the power of the states when they overreach, as they sometimes do.

Advocates of states’ rights often cite the Tenth Amendment, which reads in its entirety “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Because the word “expressly” does not occur before “delegated” in the ratified version of the amendment, however, it is among the weakest parts of the Constitution.

Traditionally, though, the states retained primary control of so-called “police powers,” the powers that form the legal basis for the economic lockdowns that have imprisoned most Americans for over a month now. Books have been written about this stuff so obviously I cannot relate all the details and nuances involved but ultimately they matter little in the present case. The key point is that police powers, national, state, or local, do not provide carte blanche to governments. Specifically, the Constitution constrains state police powers in numerous ways.

Importantly, courts see Constitutional rights as tradeoffs between conflicting interests. So while the Constitution says that the national and state governments cannot infringe individual speech rights, they can pass laws that make it illegal for an individual, for example, to falsely yell “fire” in a crowded theater. The notion is that the property and natural rights of the theatergoers trump the free speech rights of the liar.

Similar restrictions apply to the right of assembly. All Americans have the right to assemble with other Americans for any lawful purpose but state police powers, the positive duty of states to protect the physical safety of assemblers and non-assemblers, mean that governments may restrict assemblies through permit systems.

Similar arguments are made to defend the pistol permit systems common in many states. They are bogus but show how far courts go to balance one person’s rights with those of others. If you believe that gun control laws should be followed because they are laws passed by democratically elected representatives you have missed the point of the Constitution, which, again, is to constrain policymakers, to protect individual Americans from the national and state governments and also other Americans.

Just because a majority wants some policy doesn’t mean that that policy is a good idea, after all. I imagine at one point in March 2020 a majority of Americans might have thought it a good idea to deport, tax, infect, or maybe even kill Chinese-Americans in order to make “them” pay for what “they” did to “us.” (I don’t want to link to evidence of that … just look at your social media feeds if you need evidence.) That is a typically ugly human reaction to trauma but one that would have been proven empirically wrong as well as morally bankrupt and economically inane (sunk costs). Thankfully, the Constitution remained strong enough to prevent that horror.

It did not, however, prove strong enough to prevent state governments from taking their police powers too far. They engaged in fancy word play to hide the fact that they acted without a shred of precedent. What they imposed is not a quarantine, which constrains the movement of sick people, nor a cordon sanitaire, which locks people into an afflicted area, nor a protective sequestration, which locks people out of an unafflicted area. Instead, they have implemented partial martial law (military rule essentially) by imprisoning Americans in their own homes without due process of law and stolen their property by shuttering their businesses. (Some recompense has been attempted but of course only bluntly and at a cost to all taxpayers, including those in states that did not shutter most businesses.)

Remember, just because a state has general police powers doesn’t mean it can do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, simply because its actions are popular, or passed into law, or urged by some scientist. Imagine, for example, if some executive thought everyone ought to drink bleach, crazy as that seems, and actually mandated it. Would you do it? (Hint: Don’t do it! Even if some guy in a suit or lab coat tells you that you must.) What if some leader believed that the coronavirus is spread primarily by clothing and mandated that we all go naked in public, except for our masks and gloves of course? Or if one thought an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) would solve the problem (and destroy all computers in the process)?

Any promulgation that violates the Constitution, in any way, shape, or form, is null and void. A federal judge has the authority to declare any state law or executive order unconstitutional and demand that it be revoked. Judges generally give governments broad leeway to protect “public health” but the policies must be rational and they must weigh the rights of all involved parties. Historically, many government epidemic responses never got litigated because the crises passed before suits could be brought and because quarantines, cordons, and sequestrations can make rational sense in specific situations. But, again, state governments for some reason have tried to combat the novel coronavirus with novel policies that come with huge negative side effects for everyone — workers, consumers, and taxpayers — and that have and will continue to cause deaths, minimization of which is the ostensible goal of lockdown policies.

Why draconian lockdown rules have not yet been deemed unconstitutional I still do not know, but the fact that a former federal judge who teaches at Harvard apparently does not know the difference between a quarantine and a lockdown might provide a clue…(continues)

Click here to continue reading at AIER.

Zero Hedge: America on the Brink?

An alleged protester in Harrisburg, PA

From Zero Hedge, America On The Brink? Shocking Images Show “Pennsylvania Militia” Rolling Up To “Reopen America” Rally. Early in this pandemic, I noticed that people had stopped talking about civil war, which was rampant talk last year. As the lockdowns progressed, I began to wonder if the economic damage would knock down all the barriers that intelligence analyst Sam Culper of Forward Observer said would prevent widespread violence.

America could be standing on the edge of a revolution. Seriously, well, with National Guard troops deployed across the country, any uprising would likely be squashed.

We noted late last month that a “social bomb” was set to detonate over major Western cities. It was thought that the epicenter of unrest could begin deep within inner cities, such as those in Baltimore and Detroit, but that might not be the case.

It appears tensions are soaring among anti-quarantine protesters and state governments. The lockdown backlash started last Thursday in Lansing, Michigan.

Anti-quarantine rallies sprouted up across the country over the weekend, organized by right-wing groups that held rallies in Texas, Indiana, New Hampshire, Nevada, Maryland, Utah, Wisconsin, Washington, and Colorado.

Attempting to show force, some protesters wielded rifles, handguns, and shotguns, along with American flags, Betsy Ross flags, Trump signs and “Don’t Tread On Me” flags right up to the doorsteps of some state capital buildings.

The sight is absolutely stunning, but before we continue, we must understand the right-wing groups that organized the rallies are fed up with quarantine orders enforced by state governments to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. While it is open for discussion if the strict lockdowns were worth it, several things are evident, and why many of these protesters are angry, is that the economy has crashed into depression, 22 million jobs lost, businesses bankrupted, and hunger crisis unfolding. Combined this all together, and a perfect storm of unrest could be nearing.

While we could show you images of the latest rallies from across the country, that would be a bit too much. So, let’s focus on the “reopen” Pennsylvania demonstration on Monday (April 20). The location was Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, more specifically, at the Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex…(continues)

Click here to read the entire article at Zero Hedge.

Our Finite World: Economies Won’t Be Able to Recover After Shutdowns

Gail Tverberg of Our Finite World writes about the difficulties of recovering our businesses in Economies Won’t Be Able to Recover After Shutdowns. It’s much easier to close businesses than to start them up again.

Citizens seem to be clamoring for shutdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19. There is one major difficulty, however. Once an economy has been shut down, it is extremely difficult for the economy to recover back to the level it had reached previously. In fact, the longer the shutdown lasts, the more critical the problem is likely to be. China can shut down its economy for two weeks over the Chinese New Year, each year, without much damage. But, if the outage is longer and more widespread, damaging effects are likely.

A major reason why economies around the world will have difficulty restarting is because the world economy was in very poor shape before COVID-19 hit; shutting down major parts of the economy for a time leads to even more people with low wages or without any job. It will be very difficult and time-consuming to replace the failed businesses that provided these jobs.

When an outbreak of COVID-19 hit, epidemiologists recommended social distancing approaches that seemed to be helpful back in 1918-1919. The issue, however, is that the world economy has changed. Social distancing rules have a much more adverse impact on today’s economy than on the economy of 100 years ago.

Governments that wanted to push back found themselves up against a wall of citizen expectations. A common belief, even among economists, was that any shutdown would be short, and the recovery would be V-shaped. False information (really propaganda) published by China tended to reinforce the expectation that shutdowns could truly be helpful. But if we look at the real situation, Chinese workers are finding themselves newly laid off as they attempt to return to work. This is leading to protests in the Hubei area.

My analysis indicates that now, in 2020, the world economy cannot withstand long shutdowns. One very serious problem is the fact that the prices of many commodities (including oil, copper and lithium) will fall far too low for producers, leading to disruption in supplies. Broken supply chains can be expected to lead to the loss of many products previously available. Ultimately, the world economy may be headed for collapse.

In this post, I explain some of the reasons for my concerns.

[1] An economy is a self-organizing system that can grow only under the right conditions. Removing a large number of businesses and the corresponding jobs for an extended shutdown will clearly have a detrimental effect on the economy. 

Figure 1. Chart by author, using photo of building toy “Leonardo Sticks,” with notes showing a few types of elements the world economy.

An economy is a self-organizing networked system that grows, under the right circumstances. I have attempted to give an idea of how this happens in Figure 1. This is an image of a child’s building toy. The growth of an economy is somewhat like building a structure with many layers using such a toy…

Click here to read the entire article at Our Finite World.

 

Alt-Market: How To Protect Yourself From Long Term Pandemic Lockdown

How long with the lock downs last? Hint: X-axis is in months, not weeks.

Brandon Smith at Alt-Market has an article on protecting yourself during what he believes is sure to become a long term pandemic lockdown – How To Protect Yourself From Long Term Pandemic Lockdown. Certainly he is not the only person to express that this will not be over in just a couple of weeks, and there is much to back him up.

It has been only two weeks since widespread pandemic lockdowns were implemented in the US and as expected the public is not handling the idea very well. Within one week there were already frantic demands for the economy to reopen by Easter (spurred on by Donald Trump), and mass delusions have developed that this is still going to happen despite the fact that lockdown guidelines have been extended to at least April 30th. People desperately want to believe that this will all be over in a matter of weeks.

Many governments continue to perpetuate this fantasy by using very carefully worded terminology. For example, the phrase “two weeks of hell” is being consistently repeated by the media after Trump uttered the notion a few days ago. In Italy, a Milan official sees lockdowns now continuing for 2-3 more weeks. In Spain, the public was left with the impression that two solid weeks of quarantine and lockdowns would help stave off infections, yet the government extended the restrictions for…yes, you guessed it…another two weeks.

Why are these announcements always in two week intervals? I suspect it is because this the maximum amount of days before the average person begins to register the passage of time in their minds in a new situation. After two to three weeks of going without certain comforts and habits, people tend to adapt and find different ways of doing things. And, after two to three weeks of crisis, they might wake up and recognize the situation is not going to get better…

Are we just supposed to sit back and become slaves, dependent and clamoring for a meager UBI check every month?  I think not.

So, the question is, what can we do about it? As I have been saying for well over a decade, the solution is to decouple from the system and build our own. But what does this mean specifically?

Step 1: Start Providing Your Own Essentials

Essentials include water, food, shelter and security. Without these four things no human can live for very long. If a person can provide these things for himself, then he will never be beholden to anyone, including a domineering government.

I suggest starting small and expanding. Build a water collection source, or drill a well if you own property. Turn your yard into a garden, even if you live in the suburbs. In fact, your entire neighborhood should be growing gardens right now, and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise should be dissuaded from their attempts to control what you do on your own property. This means establishing neighborhood security and no longer relying on local law enforcement.

It’s one thing to store essentials in case of emergency, it’s another to become a producer and ensure your survival for the long term.

Step 2: Organize For Mutual Aid And Defense

Each neighborhood or town should be working together for security as the system continues to collapse, which means establishing radio communications and small patrols to ward off looters. In New York alone, major crimes are up 12% as the lockdowns ramped up.  In many municipalities in the US, law enforcement is not responding to most calls involving assaults, break-ins and robberies.  Organization at this time is paramount; the more organized you are the more of a deterrent you represent to people who would seek to take what you have. Most predators are cowards; when given the choice between a strong target and a weak target, they will invariably choose the weak target.

The common argument against organization is that the “nail that sticks up will be hammered down”. I would remind people that the nails that are willingly hammered down will be stepped on forever. Nobody wants to step on a nail that sticks up. That hurts.

Predators, including predatory and totalitarian governments are, at bottom, weaklings. And their weakness will become apparent the moment they face an opponent that actually refuses to back down due to fear.

Step 3: Establish Barter Markets And Black Markets

As noted in previous articles, the primary goal behind this pandemic is to use it as a rationale for controlling all commerce. If you do not have the proper “green code” from the government indicating you are “free from infection”, then you are not allowed to participate in the economy. No job, no grocery stores, no public gatherings, etc. This is happening right now in places like China and South Korea and according to elitists like Bill Gates and others it is coming to the US soon, make no mistake.

The only way to counter such control is to not need the mainstream system at all. Localized barter markets need to be established, and if they outlaw those, then you need to set up black markets. Trade and production must continue or humanity as we know it will die. It will be replaced with a centralized socialist hive system that will crush all liberty, and this is unacceptable. Localization is the key to our survival.

This means that the public must make and active effort to save themselves through their own innovation instead of waiting around for government to save the day…(continues)

Click here to read the entire article at Alt-Market.