Interesting Items 03/30

Howdy All, a few Interesting Items for your information.  Enjoy –

In this issue:

  1. Wuhan
  2. Alaska
  3. Totalitarians
  4. Stock Sales
  5. Models

  1. Wuhan. A wide array of stories regarding the Wuhan virus and US reaction to is follows:
  • The lack of ventilators in NY is due to a conscious decision by Governor Cuomo to not refill the needed numbers following the H1N1 flu in 2015. His government instead decided on crafting a rationing plan for what they still had on hand.  He let loose on Trump earlier in the week with a complaint that there were not nearly enough ventilators and the Trump administration had not been forthcoming.  Trump not so gently reminded everyone listening that Cuomo had differing priorities when it was time to restock.  California has the same issue.
  • With ventilators in mind, Trump finally used the Defense Production Law against General Motors who was diddling their promise to manufacture ventilators. The initial promise had been to produce at least 40,000.  That number changed to 6,000 at an increased price.  After negotiations broke down, Trump invoked the Act.  He had been reluctant to invoke this authority and was coming under no small amount of criticism for failure to do so by the media.
  • It appears that both the Surgeon General and the NIH have been lying to the general public during the outbreak. The lies have been crafted and times so as to mitigate the very real possibility of a public run on masks, possible mitigation drugs like hydroxochloroquine and azithromycin (and other anti-malarial drugs).  Scott Adams picked up on this late last week and spoke at length about it over the weekend.  Given local shopping behavior here in ANC (runs on 9mm bullets, toilet paper, nitrile gloves, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, vitamin C), a run on anything (everything) people believe will keep them safe is guaranteed these days.
  • There are at least three states – MA, NH and ME – who have rescinded plastic bag bans for the duration of the outbreak. All did so on sanitation grounds.  Here in ANC, our Mayor did rescind a ten-cent fee for paper bags in stores though he and his Assembly refused to even consider a repeal.  Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy may or may not be considering mandating a repeal for up to six months, though we haven’t seen action on that yet.
  • NYC and New Orleans are the current hotspots for outbreaks. And these hotspots appear to be tied to local decisions to hold massive public events in the early stages of the outbreak, not unlike what the ChiComs orchestrated in Northern Italy.  Both mayors are busily blaming Trump for their malfeasance.  New Orleans chose to hold Mardi Gras.  NYC chose to hold a massive parade.
  • The evolution of media opposition to the use of anti-Malarial drugs against Wuhan is also instructive. It was generally positive early on, asking Trump why he was not recommending the drug.  That changed instantly the day he suggested the drugs were a promising therapy against an infection, after which they started parroting ChiCom propaganda aimed at pumping up purchases of Chinese drugs rather than the generic anti-Malarials.  While the actual efficacy of these against Wuhan is yet to be proven at the absolute medical level, the lockstep reversal of media calls for their use and then against their use is no surprise.
  • Final item is consideration of what is the endgame for all of this. When does this end?  What happens after that?  Trump originally suggested Easter, which is in a couple weeks.  When he did that, the media instantly went into “How many people are you willing to kill” mode.  Trump’s response?    Expect them to bang the drum on the notion of a premature lifting of federal guidance intended to restart the economy, blaming every single Wuhan death on Trump rather than the ChiComs.  Over the weekend, he relented a bit and adopted April 30 as the new day the social distancing recommendations will end.  I think this is pacing, and the reopening will be much earlier, likely a rolling reopening / back to work suggestion in as little as 7 – 10 days from today.

 

  1. Alaska. The State of Alaska is currently on a statewide stay at home order.  Due to distance, many villages in the Bush have shut down human movement between the villages and those to live outside them.  No explanation yet about how they will handle cargo generally flown in and out this time of year.  Here in ANC, the Mayor turned a convention center and neighboring ice rink into a homeless shelter.  We’ve had a growing homeless population during his time in office that has been allowed to populate public spaces, greenbelts, and parks citywide.  Apparently, he wants to herd them all together so that the virus will spread more efficiently, as demonstrated by a Japanese study released over the weekend.  The Recall Dunleavy signature gatherers finally shut down their signature gatherers and are doing what they want to do via the mails, apparently so they can get out of state signatures more easily.  Three deaths so far and over 114 confirmed cases statewide, with most of them here in ANC.  Note that the People Mover bus system is still operating and the ban on single use plastic bags is still in place.  Funny story is that the commissary on Joint Base Elmendorf – Richardson (JBER) does not allow reusable shopping bags inside anymore.  Best sources of latest news is either the State of Alaska or Suzanne Downing’s Must Read Alaska.

 

  1. Totalitarians. One of the interesting lessons from the ongoing festivities is the self-identification and practice of petty totalitarians.  This has mostly happened at the state and local level, as President Trump has the federal bureaucracy by the privates and at least the appointees jump to his command.  In the rest of the nation, not so much.  Here is a short recap.
  • Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D, of course), issued a letter to in-state physicians and pharmacists prohibiting the off-label use of hydroxochloroquine and azithromycin to treat the Wuhan virus. The order threatened all participants with investigation and loss of license.  It even had a quaint little call for colleagues of anyone using the drugs to rat out those who prescribe the drugs, something that would have gone over well in the old East Germany.  Former Stasi would both be incredibly proud of this woman and feel right at home in Michigan.  No public discussion that I know of criticizing the governor for attempting to practice medicine without either the education or a license to do so.  The link to PowerLine has the actual “reminder” letter her administration concocted attached.  Whitmer first rose to the public stage being chosen by democrats to give their response to Trump’s State of the Union speech last month.  The ban appears to be her own personal version of Orange Man Bad.  OTOH, there are going to be a LOT of lawyers making a LOT of money in wrongful death lawsuits against the State after this is all over.
  • The original participant in the political grandstanding was Nevada Governor Sisolak (D), who signed an order earlier in the week outlawing the use of antimalarial drugs for treatment of Wuhan. He claimed he signed the emergency order at the request of the State Pharmacy Board (probably a demonstration of having the wrong group of idiots appointed to the Board).  It kind of sucks for both of these esteemed elected officials that the FDA approved the drugs for treatment of Wuhan over the weekend.
  • Sometimes the closures and bans go too far. Truck stop closures are one such example.  Generally, after a short period of time, states with actual thinking elected officials and their appointees relent and allow them to reopen so as to keep the freight rolling.  One such example was in PA.
  • The petty tyrants show up most often in their great enjoyment of writing and promulgation of emergency orders. One example of this is Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz (also a D).  He was at war with local restaurants and bars over his second attempt to pass an increase in the local alcohol tax.  They were pushing back effectively.  One of his first orders was to close all restaurants and bars or limit them to carry out only.  This was done without any warning or consultation with the business groups involved.  Other mayors are having a good time closing roads.  Some of them are thinking about keeping roads closed afterwards so as to minimize vehicular traffic downtown.
  • Final example are state and local closures of firearm and ammunition sales. NJ did it by simply shutting down the background check system statewide.  AK has not done it, though there was some early concern that the ANC hunker down order did include gun shops.  This was reported in error.  At the federal level, President Trump’s team has listed firearms as essential for safety and survival.

 

  1. Stock Sales. At least 4 US Senators – 3 Republicans and a democrat – sold stocks just in time for the stock market crash.  Of the four, Senate Intel Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R, NC) appears to be in the biggest jeopardy.  All four of the senators were members of the Senate Intel Committee which was briefed on Wuhan on Jan 24.  Kelly Loeffler (R, GA) was appointed to her senate seat in December and is married to NYSE Chairman Jeffrey Sprecher started making sales on Jan 24.  They are being accused of making sales using insider knowledge prior to the stock market crash.  Unfortunately for her critics, their assets are held in blind trust so neither has input nor knowledge of sales until well after sales were made.  Dianne Feinstein (D, CA), sold $1.5 – $6 million of shares of a biotech cancer therapy company before the crash.  All her assets are also held in a blind trust.  Jim Imhoff’s (R, OK) did not attend the briefing and his sales appear to be part of an extended divestment activity following his appointment to the Committee.  Burr (R, NC) may be in the most jeopardy as it appears his sales were large enough and early enough to save a stock loss during the crash of perhaps 30%.  He has asked for a senate investigation into his sales.  He is also the senator taking the most heat.  As usual, media concentrated on Burr, who has promised to retire in 2022 and Loeffler, who is up for her first election in November.  They have not unsurprisingly mostly ignored Feinstein.

 

  1. Models. US response to Wuhan has been driven by a series of models mainly out of Imperial College in the UK.  These models predicted the outbreak could last as long as 18 months, with multiple waves of infection, and overload the healthcare system.  Total number of deaths 1.1 – 1.2 million in the US, with half of that in the UK.  It turns out that the prediction was off by as much as a factor of 20 as the simple impact of social distancing was not considered.  At this point we do not yet know even how deadly this virus is here in the US.  There is a marked difference in lethality of it between Italy and Germany, though the relative ages of their population is similar.  German numbers are currently 2-3 deaths per 1,000 infected.  Current planning here in the US assumes many times that number.  With the revised model, my guess is that we will be open for business much sooner rather than later.  It is also a reminder of the folly of basing life and death decisions and actions exclusively on models without sufficient underlying data (climatistas – I am talking about you).

More later –

– AG

 

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