Comment Of The Day: “Mid-Day Ethics Stimulus, 3/31/2020: Dunces, Heroes, Hacks And More”

Veteran commenter Michael  Erjecito’s comment on another post about the pandemic included the line, “When this emergency ends, we will give back all powers, without exception.” Chris Marschner used that statement as his departure point in this Comment of the Day on a separate EA post, Item #4 under the title above, which involved Governor Ralph Northam’s “order” restricting the freedoms of  Virginians. Since I had started a post on the topic of draconian government restrictions that are Constitutionally questionable, I was grateful to see Chris had attacked it with his usual verve.

Here is Chris Marschner’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Mid-Day Ethics Stimulus, 3/31/2020: Dunces, Heroes, Hacks And More”:

I am beginning to believe this event is a government dress rehearsal for a much more draconian event later on. One must test the limits of what the public is willing to endure from governmental decrees lest we see the people charging the statehouses with torches and pitchforks.

Ok, enough of my melodrama. But the quote above is indicative of the risk of a different type of loss well after this virus disappears.

I keep hearing that Trump ignores science or that he relies on hunches and not data to make quality decisions. Well at 8 pm yesterday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) issued the stay at home order or face fines of $5,000 and/or a year in jail. In that decree, there is absolutely no mention as to the scientific data that he used to trigger the order and thus there is no data to indicate when he would lift the order.

 There is also no specific data-driven rationale for a Stay At Home order when all types of recreational activities are allowed as long as they are in groups of 10 or fewer. How exactly does the data suggest that grocery stores filled with hundreds of people crowding the aisles will cause less of a problem than a non-essential service like a mom and pop jewelry store or a scuba shop that usually have fewer than 10 people in it any given time? Why is it that the data supports Home Depot and Walmart being allowed to sell non-essential goods because they are allowed to stay open because they offer other essential goods such as repair items, food, and medicine but a comic book bike shop or video-store must shutter its business?

My point is that for all the claims that decisions are data driven I would wager most decisions are driven by political calculus not necessarily on epidemiological considerations.

Furthermore, if we are to use data to drive decisions, that data must be understood by all in order to ensure that the people subject to the restrictions imposed will know if the government is abusing its governing powers. The terms of these orders should spell out specifically the triggers that cause regulatory restrictions and when those restrictions MUST be rescinded; these restrictions cannot be open ended and without definition.

The only data that we hear is the 2.2 million deaths that could have occurred had nothing been done, and Dr. Fauci’s equivocating statement that maybe as many as 200,000 might die – but don’t hold him to that—and, the ongoing death watch clocks prominently displayed on all the network news shows and web search engines. We never hear why this decision is made or why we are not doing something that some believe might be helpful. Tell me: are the anti-malarial drugs something to be considered as a treatment or a prophylaxes; neither or both? I suppose drugs are worthwhile and can be used off label with some effectiveness so long as they are not suggested by Donald Trump.

We cannot use infection growth rates as growth rates as a trigger because they may be much higher initially with low absolute numbers. Going from 10 cases to 30 cases an increase of 20 cases is a 300% increase but going from 100 cases to 120 cases is only a 20% increase. Then the issue is where are the cases occurring? Should a county with few infections be subject to the same restrictions as a highly populated hot spot?

I do wish the media would stop confusing the public by switching between growth rates, absolute numbers and per capita values. When the press states that on a per capita basis the US lags other nations in testing, that suggests we are not doing enough even if we have tested three times the amount of others. Growth rates don’t mean beans if you don’t have a basis from which to measure. Growth rates and absolute values must be used in tandem to make them meaningful.

Many in the media and some within our commentariat believe there has been an abysmal failure at the federal level to adequately plan for such a pandemic. NO, the Governors and legislatures of the respective states have been an abysmal failure at preparing for such an emergency. In my state, Maryland, we have the Office of Emergency Preparedness.  (https://preparedness.health.maryland.gov/Pages/About.aspx)

How prepared is Maryland Governor Hogan?

On the Resources page there is not one mention of the Covid-19 virus under infectious threats. We are still mentioning Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Ebola, and Zika but all is quiet on the Chinese Flu front.

Is the reference to MERS a bigoted and racist term? I did not consider the others to have racist connotations because how many Americans know Ebola is named after a river in the sub-Saharan Africa and the others after other places in Africa. Our governor seems to be at odds with his own departments. We are prepared for any eventuality according to our state team. They say so!

https://preparedness.health.maryland.gov/Pages/Resources.aspx:

IS THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH PREPARED? Yes! The Department of Health Office of Preparedness and Response prepares in a variety of ways:

• Maryland Influenza Plan and Pandemic Influenza Plan
• Pandemic influenza exercises for emergency personnel
• Partnering with local, state, federal, and private agencies to prepare for, prevent, and lessen the impact of a flu pandemic
• Maintaining a stockpile of antiviral medications and medical supplies ( WHERE ARE THEY?????)

From their web pages we find that their preparedness program is merely a funnel for federal funds.

The mission of the Hospital Preparedness Program is to support and enhance the ability of hospitals and health care systems to provide effective care and save lives during emergencies. The Office of Preparedness and Response receives annual federal funding to advance these goals and objectives. The Maryland Department of Health awards these funds in the form of grants to our health care system partners across the state (including hospitals, free-standing emergency departments, emergency medical services, community health centers, and home care and hospice agencies). Health care system partners utilize the Hospital Preparedness Program funds to enhance their ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies that pose a threat to the health and safety of the community.

We should be asking Ms. Sherry Adams, as Director of Maryland’s Office of Emergency Preparedness why she  did  not seek to secure adequate resources for your Hospital Preparedness Program.  Mr. Romanosky, as the Medical Director what responsibility do you bear in in adequate planning for this type of emergency? Why hasn’t Jim Acosta or Ms. Alcindor asked why Maryland’s Medical Countermeasures Program failed to have enough PPE’s on hand for such an emergency instead of asking the President idiotic gotcha questions?

One thing we are not overstocked with in this office is personnel. (https://preparedness.health.maryland.gov/Pages/Contacts.aspx#command)

My own Governor, Larry Hogan (R) joined with Gretchen Whitmire (D) Michigan to pen an op-ed this past weekend for the Washington Post pointing the finger at the Federal government because the states are now competing against one another for supplies and that the Federal government needs to do more to facilitate cooperation. The Feds cannot facilitate cooperation if the states themselves are unwilling to cooperate with the federal government. It is 50 competing state interests trying to get under the umbrella. It is not the umbrella’s fault that you are pushing each other around.

I gather that their point is to follow Cuomo’s lead in saying that the Feds should step in and exploit its monopsony power to eliminate the potentiality for competitive price increases because of the current increase in demand. Are they really trying to get us to believe the federal government will get a better deal because they are the only buyer competing? Or, are they counting on the fact that, unlike states, it has virtually no limits on spending, and because price is no object during this pandemic they can blame any shortfall on Trump’s lack of (fill in the blank)?  Holding the line on prices by being a single buyer is highly unlikely with a product that is both price inelastic and voter inelastic. These governors know that. They are not idiots, but they do consider us a bunch of dolts.

It is obvious to a thinking person that Governors Hogan and Whitmire are deflecting their own lack of planning oversight at the state level. Hogan obviously took Ms. Adams’ word that all was well. Maryland has chosen to prioritize spending countless resources through the AG’s office to sue the Trump administration numerous times. In fairness, in our state the governor is powerless against a virulently anti-Trump AG named Brian Frosh. Apparently, ensuring that states can choose what federal laws it will honor takes a higher priority than ensuring that all health facilities have ready access to all the supplies it needs in a statewide emergency. In my opinion, the feds should only backstop states in their quest to obtain resources; not supplant them – especially those states that have spent millions of state taxpayer dollars suing the current administration.

Governor Hogan, take responsibility for the fact that our state, like so many others, have Governors and legislatures that chose to spend its resources on something other than pandemic response. Acknowledge that you shifted the total responsibility for resourcing the response to the federal government. And, for god’s sake stop going on TV wearing that inane State Police ball cap and vest. You are not touring a disaster zone or working to hand out supplies. It looks put on and foolish.

I don’t know which is worse, VA Governor Northam’s 70 day stay at home demand or an open ended one like Governor Hogan’s. I am willing to comply with lawful orders but when do lawful orders such as this end and the Constitutional protections we are suppose to enjoy are restored? Without this question being answered to our general satisfaction we cannot dismiss the possibility that we are being prepared for a significant restructuring of our Constitutional system of government by our government.

Can you tell I’m pissed?

7 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Mid-Day Ethics Stimulus, 3/31/2020: Dunces, Heroes, Hacks And More”

  1. Furthermore, if we are to use data to drive decisions, that data must be understood by all in order to ensure that the people subject to the restrictions imposed will know if the government is abusing its governing powers

    To further emphasize and support your outstanding point, the Governor of Kentucky today got up in front of us and told us that he knew the projections “out of the White House” were “optimistic,” essentially saying he didn’t believe them and he and his advisers here in the Commonwealth of Kentucky were more qualified to judge what the actual model should be. The obvious implication is that he will say when the restrictions will be lifted, and not “the White House.”

    This is another example of exactly that which you speak. The Kentucky governor is effectively saying that we have better experts here in the 4-million strong Commonwealth than the President does. One need only listen to Anthony Fauci for five minutes and our equivalents here to judge the risible narcissism of that.

    Fortunately, here in the Kentucky, people are not going to take Andy Beshear’s word over that of the President, so he should be prepared to face massive civil resistance if it comes to loggerheads. But the pathetic thing is, he’ll get away with it far longer than he should.

    Why do I feel like the mythical frog in the slowly-warming pot of water?

  2. Thanks Jack
    I wish I had proofed it twice. I meant to say “We are overstocked on personnel” and I had one too many growth rates in an early sentence.

    Earlier today, because I received an email from our local EDC about getting an official travel form, crafted by the UMD Law school, I sent a friend an email that began “Papers Please”. It went on about wondering about check points etc. Because one person on the reply list is a common friend and a member of the state government I received some clarifying documents from a member of the Governor’s team regarding his executive order. This is what concerns me, why does the law school spend time crafting travel documents when no one is obligated to tell police what they are doing or where they are going? They can simply refuse to answer any questions. Is this an appropriate use of our law schools? I see this as an attempt to make citizens compliant using the order and the law school’s involvement as the authority to which it is appealing. The governor says so and the law school backs him up therefore you must have papers to travel legitimately. You don’t.

    This order h is virtually unenforceable because the allowed activities are so numerous and vague enough that anyone could merely claim they were going to the grocery store or any of the deemed allowed exceptions. With only essential businesses operating where else would one go. The order says you are allowed to walk, hike, and bike provided you respect the social distancing rules but nowhere does it say you cannot drive to a place to walk, hike or bike. I do wonder why driving around in your car surrounded by metal and glass creates a greater epidemiological hazard than walking, biking or hiking in the open air. Then there is the issue of bus service. How does the bus driver know you are going to an essential business. They do not, and you are not obligated to tell the driver who you are and what you are doing. So why is bus service still operating. Your guess is as good as mine. Will law enforcement get on the bus walk down the aisle and checking papers of all the riders if the bus is stopped or in an accident? Get the picture. They won’t I hope. Finally, what stops people with these letters from using them inappropriately to obviate the order? Nothing.

    “Maryland State Police Superintendent Colonel Woodrow Jones III has directed troopers to continue their public education and enforcement efforts regarding the Governor’s Executive Orders and last night issued specific instructions regarding the stay-at-home order. Those instructions are as follows:

    – Enforcement of the expanded Governor’s Executive Order will be conducted by Maryland state troopers. However, troopers will not make traffic stops simply to ask drivers where they are going to determine if their travel is essential or not.”

    “- If, in the course of the regular performance of his/her duties, such as during a crash investigation or a traffic stop, the trooper develops information indicating the individual was engaged in non-essential travel, enforcement action can be taken, in consultation with the state’s attorney’s office in that jurisdiction.”

    How will a trooper develop information given that future events have not yet occurred? How can they tell if you were not headed to a grocery store, home improvement store, liquor store or any of the other approved exceptions when there are numerous stores in any given direction unless you tell them? You do not have to tell them anything and would be foolish if you did. Just drive to the nearest grocery/ convenience store and go in.

    “- While it is not necessary for drivers in Maryland to have documentation about the purpose of travel, having such documentation may help resolve questions.”

    I do believe my 5th amendment protections allow me to not answer any questions regarding anything other than providing my drivers license, registration and insurance info.

    I am not trying to poke the bear but a little push back on vague and unenforceable rules is in all of our interest. Maryland is becoming far too Orwellian for my taste. Time to pack up and move across the river to WVA. My wife would love that.

  3. Dress rehearsal?

    It seems, and I apologize for this sounding dramatic, like we’re seeing technocratic socialism unfold before our eyes in this country. It’s worse elsewhere to be sure, from drone surveillance to China’s insane but pretty much status quo social control. However something isn’t right about how our leaders in this country are handling not only this crisis, but us.

    How we balance the needs of safety with liberty is always a challenge with no easy answers. I can’t fully address all aspects of the encroaching and readily accepted authoritarian measures in this comment. I plan to keep monitoring this as much as I can and hopefully pass on more cultivated insights.

    But I have to ask:

    Does anyone else wonder just what the hell is going on?

  4. “In much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.”

    What interests me is to observe people — the patriotic fine upstanding American types! — notice that their world, the world of their *belief* and their *faith*, collapses.

    An essential element is exposed, and thus there is a Key to understanding our modern Postwar world: that key is a comprehension of how power functions, and what it is capable of. What interests me is the moment when the veil drops and we see power for what it is. And it is at that moment that power, knowing that it is seen, does actually show its true face.

    The structure of ‘Patriotic American Belief’ is based on the integration of lies & distortions. It requires a faithful, unquestioning, ‘dumbed-down’ population that is gullible and easily tricked to support the system-of-lies that allow it to continue. How does this happen? My theory: the gullible, the credulous, associate their own self with the State in such a way that any criticism of the State is (nearly) equal to a criticism of their own ‘fine and upstanding self’.

    Long, loooonnngggg ago the destructive, nefarious influences began their under-excavations. When the war-making industrial power in the US nation claimed power and ownership of the national direction. This was the WW1 era. So, about 100 years ago.

    A wonderful line from a Kafka story An Old Manuscript:

    You can gesture at them till you dislocate your jaws and your wrists and still they will not have understood you and will never understand.

    What I notice is that when we do not wish to see, we set our will to not understanding. If someone brings us a contrary message we see them as ‘bad’ or ‘evil’. It might sound self-centric on my part but for 5 years+ I have dealt with the blows and insults of very confused and credulous people who ‘strike the messenger’. This does not concern me. What concerns me is developing the ability, the capacity, the inner strength, the intellectual commitment, and the personal liberty to be able to *look out upon the world* and to actually *see* it, and that means also not to see the false, shimmering shadows of a projected *reality*: the flickering images projected on the TeleScreen, which is to say: funneled directly into my brain and my *imagined world*: that *place* where seeing and understanding occur.

    But what is also interesting is to observe the limits that one will establish when one becomes, finally, able to see corruption and its function, even if dimly. Again, the will comes into play. The will to see *only so much and nothing more!* To see and talk openly about one smallish element of corruption while simultaneously setting up bulwarks against *further seeing*. How interesting that we participate in establishing the content of our perception and especially its *outside edges*.

    The Game of Power as a world-game has nothing to do with truth, goodness, ‘Constitutional values’ nor with ‘democracy’, nor really with freedom and liberty. It must *take on the face* of those things though, and this theatricality is a huge part of the Game of Deception and trickery. Americanism and the Americanopolis (I am sort of genuinely sorry to reveal this) does not have to do with those things, either. The game is played on a *ruthless field* where idealism is weakness.

    Therefore, I propose that *seeing* in these terms is a sounder perceptual platform for the citizen and the seer than any other, and naturally self-deceiving, platform-of-view. But to what end? Seeing and understanding do not lead to contentedness and peace.

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