Category: US politics

Science and journalism

The Wall Street Journal:

Give Neil Ferguson a break. Nearly two weeks ago Mr. Ferguson, an epidemiologist with Imperial College London, issued a report on Covid-19. Much of the public attention focused on his worst-case projection that there might as many as 2.2 million American and 510,000 British deaths. Fewer paid attention to the caveat that this was “unlikely,” and based on the assumption that nothing was done to control it.The report was one reason that led Prime Minister Boris Johnson to change policy and lock Britain down. Under the Imperial College model, the projection was that the steps Mr. Johnson had been taking would cut the number of projected deaths in half but still leave about a quarter million British dead.
Now Mr. Ferguson has clarified his estimates. He told Parliament this week that he now reckons the number of deaths in the U.K. “would be unlikely to exceed 20,000”—and that many would be older people who would have died from other maladies this year. With the measures now in place, he believes Britain’s health service won’t be overwhelmed.

Critics are bashing him for the revisions, but not so fast. Mr. Ferguson didn’t change his model so much as adjust for new circumstances. In particular he believes that Covid-19 is more transmissible than he previously had thought—but because strong measures had been implemented, deaths would be far lower than his worst-case scenario.

There’s a warning here about science and journalism. Surely if we hope to neutralize a pandemic we don’t fully understand, we need to encourage a culture in which scientists feel able to adapt and clarify with new evidence. Scientists would also help themselves if, in explaining their findings, they would be more candid about the assumptions and variables.

This goes double for the press. It’s no secret that the press’s reputation has taken a credibility hit in this crisis. Nor is it any secret why: Instead of a presentation of what we know and don’t, too often the focus has been political scapegoating or sensationalizing.

[Last] week on “CBS This Morning,” U.S. Surgeon-General Jerome Adams complained about a press that runs with projections “based on worst-case scenarios.” He was talking about ventilators, but his point applies across the board. Deborah Birx, coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, said the same regarding apocalyptic forecasts not backed by data about hospitals having to issue Do Not Resuscitate orders.

In the battle to save lives and address the scourge of Covid-19, good information is paramount. Credit to Neil Ferguson for clarifying his projections when the situation changed.

It’s as if the media is rooting for the worst that could happen, or something.

The costs of the coronavirus

I guarantee you no one in the Evers (mis)administration has read this, from Heather Mac Donald:

Less than 24 hours after California governor Gavin Newsom closed ‘non-essential’ businesses and ordered Californians to stay inside to avoid spreading the coronavirus, New York governor Andrew Cuomo followed suit. ‘This is about saving lives,’ Cuomo said during a press conference on Friday. ‘If everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.’

Cuomo’s assertion that saving ‘just one life’ justifies an economic shutdown raises questions that have not been acknowledged, much less answered, as public officials across the country compete to impose ever more draconian anti-virus measures:

  • Is there any limit to the damage we are willing inflict on the world economy to mitigate the infection?
  • What are the benefits of each new commerce-killing measure and how do they compare to the costs?
  • What are the criteria for declaring success in the coronavirus fight and who decides whether they have been met?

To ask about the costs and benefits of the spreading economic shutdowns guarantees an accusation of heartlessness. But the issue is not human compassion versus alleged greed. The issue is balancing one target of compassion against another. The millions of people whose lives depend on a functioning economy also deserve compassion. Many of the businesses that are now being shuttered by decree will never come back. They do not have the reserves to survive weeks or months without customers. In New York City, many streets were already blighted by rows of empty storefronts. The virus shutdown could knock out the remaining enterprises, as customers acclimate themselves further to ordering on-line. Layoffs are piling up in restaurants, hotels, and malls; on Tuesday, unemployment claims in California were 40 times above the daily average, an increase greater than any coronavirus surge.

It is low-wage employees who are most being hurt. The knowledge class can shelter in place and work from their home computers. Their employers are not shutting down. Not so people who physically provide goods and services. The employees who have been let off now may not be able to find work again if the economy continues to collapse. While governors and mayors declare some businesses essential and some not, to their employees, they are all essential.

A prolonged depression will stunt lives as surely as any viral epidemic, and its toll will not be confined to the elderly. The shuttering of auto manufacturing plants led to an 85 percent increase in opioid overdose deaths in the surrounding counties over seven years, according to a recent study. Radical social upheaval is possible.

The arts world is being decimated. For the last two years the New York Times and other left-wing newspapers have been bashing the boards of major cultural institutions for being too white and too male. Those institutions had better hope that their ‘non-diverse’ trustees feel flush enough after the $5 trillion loss in the stock market to bail them out.

While the coming explosion of deficit spending — possibly $2 trillion worth — may be necessary to keep people afloat, government cannot possibly replicate the wealth-creating effects of voluntary commerce. The enormously complex web of trade, once killed, cannot be brought back to life by government stimulus. And who is going to pay for all that deficit spending as businesses close and tax revenues disappear?

Pace Cuomo, it is not the case that saving even one life justifies any and every policy. Decision-making is always about trade-offs. About 16,000 Americans are murdered each year. That number could be radically lowered by locking up known gangbangers and throwing away the key. The left in America, however, is on a crusade to empty the prisons and stop enforcing a host of criminal laws. Some of the de-incarcerated and decriminalized will go on to maim and murder. An influential criminologist once acknowledged to me that lowering prison sentences in order to end so-called mass incarceration would inevitably mean that ‘some guy will throw a little old lady off the roof’. The answer is not to back off of de-incarceration, he said, it is to explain that the community in the aggregate is safer with resources diverted into social programs instead of incarceration. That is a perfectly defensible line of argument, regardless of whether one agrees with the particulars in this case.

Around 40,000 Americans die each year in traffic deaths. We could save not just one life but tens of thousands by lowering the speed limit to 25 miles per hour on all highways and roads. We tolerate the highway carnage because we value the time saved from driving fast more. Another estimated 40,000 Americans have died from the flu this flu season. Social distancing policies would have reduced that toll as well, but until now we have preferred freedom of association and movement.

So it is worth reviewing what we know and don’t know about the coronavirus epidemic to assess the benefits and costs of the growing policies. The rising number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 is undoubtedly a function to a considerable extent of increased testing. We don’t know its transmission rate. We don’t know how much shutting down restaurants and air travel lowers that transmission rate. We still have no idea what the virus fatality rate is, since we don’t know how many people in the general population are infected. Early fatality estimates were undoubtedly too high, since they were derived from a small denominator composed of already identified, severe cases.

The only situation to date where an entire, closed population was tested was the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship, as Stanford epidemiologist John Ioannidis observed last week. Among seven hundred passengers and crew members, seven died, for a 1 percent mortality rate — low given the close and prolonged exposure among the passengers. A cruise ship’s population is much more elderly than the general population and thus more vulnerable to disease. Ioannidis suggests that a reasonable fatality estimate for the US population as a whole could range from 0.05 percent to 1 percent; he settles for 0.3 percent. If 1 percent of the US population becomes infected, under a 0.3 percent fatality rate, 10,000 people would die, a number that would not move the needle much on the existing level of deaths due to various types of influenzas, Ioannidis notes.

Those fatalities would be highly concentrated among the elderly and the already severely sick. In Italy, as of March 17, there were 17 virus deaths under the age of 50, out of a little over 2,000 total deaths. Eighty-eight percent of those deaths were concentrated in just two adjacent regions — Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna — out of 20 regions, rather than being spread throughout the country. Five males between the ages of 31 and 39 had died, all had serious preexisting conditions including cardiovascular and renal disease, diabetes, and obesity. The fatality rate for those under 30 was zero. The median age of Italy’s COVID-19 decedents was 80.5. They had a median of 2.7 pre-existing health conditions: 33 percent had coronary artery disease, 76 percent suffered from hypertension, 35 percent were diabetic, and 20 percent had had cancer in the last five years. Just 3 decedents had no pre-existing conditions.

Italy’s demographics are different from our own — it is an older population with a high concentration of Chinese workers, especially in the north. On February 1, the mayor of Florence called on Italians to hug a Chinese person to fight virus-induced racism. According to a propaganda video put out by the Chinese government, many Italians complied. Nevertheless, American virus deaths so far mirror the pattern of Italy: geographically clustered in three states and concentrated among the elderly or those with serious chronic medical conditions. In South Korea, too, deaths have hit the elderly, whereas as many as 99 percent of all infections have been mild.

Nevertheless, government authorities at the federal, state, and local levels are seizing powers unheard of in peace or even wartime. Many on the left want an even greater assumption of power. Michael Dorf, a Cornell University law professor, has urged the suspension of habeas corpus, to eliminate the possibility of a legal challenge to a national lockdown. It’s hard to avoid the impression that some see the current moment as a warm-up for their wish-list of sweeping economic interventions.

The New York Times has touted the benefits of social distancing and curtailed commerce for global warming and air pollution. ‘Never waste even a tragic crisis,’ the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at University of Minnesota told the Times with reference to global warming policy. (This is the same sage, Dr Michael Osterholm, who early on criticized President Trump’s prescient travel ban from China as more of an emotional or political reaction than a sound public health one.) European leftists are noting with delight that large-scale state intrusion into the economy is being normalized. Times columnist Farhad Manjoo gloated that ‘everyone’s a socialist in a pandemic’. Actually, we had better hope that everyone’s a capitalist, since it is the extraordinary flexibility and fecundity of America’s private businesses that are continuing to restock grocery shelves after the panicked hordes strip them bare. It is private businesses that are retooling themselves to produce much-needed medical equipment.

The press is working overtime to ensure maximum hysteria. The New York Times outdid itself on Saturday, following a weeklong run of terrifying front-page banner headlines. A blood red map of the US above the fold purported to show infections by July 1 if no restrictions were imposed on public life — a completely counterfactual projection, since numerous restrictions have already been imposed and more are being added daily. The headlines above the fold contained the usual blend of Trump-bashing and fear-mongering: ‘PRESSURE ON TRUMP AS MILLIONS ARE KEPT HOME’, ‘Mixed Signals From President Sow Confusion’, and ‘Virus Tightens Grip on Nation’. This at a time of 214 deaths and 17,000 infected, compared to the 36 to 51 million infected by the flu this season, and the 140 to 350 flu deaths a day.

‘America plunged into a deeper state of disruption and paralysis on Friday,’ opened the lead story. But that disruption and paralysis were man-made, caused by the stay at home orders, not by the actual medical consequences of the pandemic. It was not the virus that was tightening its grip on the nation, it was policy and fear.

To be sure, we are facing a daunting public health challenge. Thousands will die; every death will be a harrowing loss for the victim’s family. Our medical personnel are already being severely taxed; they deserve proper equipment and facilities. The government is right to coordinate and boost the effort to supply them with desperately needed protective gear. But the rush to impose sweeping restrictions on public and commercial life across the entire economy should be more carefully evaluated. We have no ability to test the efficacy of those measures and no criteria for lifting them. The downside risk to their being over-inclusive could well outweigh the upside risk.

Moreover, a certain percentage of social distancing is virtue theater. While the elites stay at home and carefully maintain their cordons sanitaires, they expect their food and other necessities to magically materialize from a vast and complex supply chain whose degree of social distancing is out of sight and out of mind.

We should focus our efforts on our known vulnerable populations — the elderly, the infirm, and those who care for them. The elderly should be protected from unknown contacts. Nursing homes must be immaculately maintained. But until there is clear evidence that canceling commerce is essential to preventing mass casualties, the stampede of shutdown oneupmanship should end.

And we know no one employed by Evers reads M.D. Kittle:

The economic casualties are piling up in the wake of Gov. Tony Evers’ restrictive orders shutting down business and sending workers home. 

And things are about to get much worse with Evers’ broad Emergency Order #12 going into effect. 

Jobless claims in the Badger State have soared, with north of 100,000 people filing for unemployment benefits between March 15 and 23, according to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. There were some 21,000 claims filed on Monday alone. 

That was before Evers’ latest order that requires all “non-essential” businesses to shut down and for “non-essential” workers to stay at home to avoid spreading the novel coronavirus. The order, which went into effect at 8 a.m. Wednesday, is tentatively scheduled to lift at 8 a.m. April 24. 

“We’ll be following the rules, but nobody can afford to shut down for 30 days,” Frank Irvine, owner of a  Play It Again Sports franchise in Eau Claire told the Leader-Telegram. Irvine, like so many other Badger State businesses, has been forced to cut staffing and hours. 

As employers urge lawmakers to act, they worry about the details of the massive $2 trillion relief package coming out of congress. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the bill “a wartime level of investment into our nation.” Democrats decried the initial proposal as a “500 billion slush fund” for business. They demanded changes. What liberals meant by “changes” was that they wanted to dump a lot more money in and smack businesses where they could. 

As the Wall Street Journal reported, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) bragged about the changes he secured to the bloated stimulus bill, but Schumer’s delay may have increased the incentive for employers to let go workers. 

“On top of the government enforced lockdowns which are destroying enterprises in many jurisdictions, the federal legislative trouble began last Wednesday with the enactment of expanded sick leave and family leave rights for employees,” James Freeman wrote in a piece headlined, “Will New Crisis Legislation Repair Damage from Last Week’s Crisis Legislation?” 

The problem is, while congress goes about trying to “save” the economy, provisions tucked in the package aimed at helping workers will drive employers out of business — taking good-paying jobs with them. 

“The very least that politicians like Sen. Schumer should be doing at this moment is to avoid placing new compliance burdens on companies watching their revenues collapse,” Freeman wrote. 

Meanwhile, Wisconsin Republican legislative leaders say they can’t even begin to talk relief packages for employers and workers at home until they figure out what the federal government is doing. 

“There’s a big chunk of that $2 billion bill I don’t think we should duplicate,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said Wednesday at a teleconference with the press. “We need to be smart and wise. We can’t print money and we can’t borrow for operations like the federal government does. We need to be judicious about how we spend state dollars.”

Trump and the coronavirus

Daniel Henninger:

The costs of how the U.S. has conducted its politics the past three years are now obvious. Beset by a crisis akin to wartime, the country’s leadership is engulfed in political rancor.

Since Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017, the national Democratic Party has tried to stop his presidency from functioning. That irrefutably was the goal of the Russia collusion narrative, its attendant Mueller investigation and then the impeachment.

Say what you want in defense of these projects, but the reality is they inflamed the normal workings of our politics. The president’s opponents attacked relentlessly, and he without letup counterattacked personally.

Through this period, people often noted that the polarization of American political life had become corrosive and unhealthy. Everyone in Washington knew this, but no matter; it became an addiction. Every issue now defaults to the same petty level.

The greatest damage has been to the Democratic Party. Here a distinction is in order. By and large, the states are being capably led in their response to the coronavirus crisis by both Democratic and Republican governors. Apparently working below the radar of the national media is the antidote to political insanity.

But the national Democratic Party, run by people who live in a hothouse of their own making, looks to be in a state of meltdown. While everything in America is changing, they just won’t.

This is the party that produced a president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who led the nation through the crucible of depression and world war. Faced today with a similar crucible in the coronavirus, with much of the country in isolation and shutdown, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, backed by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and virtually all their Democratic Senate colleagues, demanded that the national rescue package include—this is still hard to believe—airline emission standards.

The response by Joe Biden, the presumptive presidential nominee, is even more dispiriting. He has been parroting Mrs. Pelosi’s talking points, calling the rescue package a “slush fund” and writing: “We can’t let Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell hold small businesses, workers, and communities hostage until they get their no-strings corporate bailout.”

A central selling point of Mr. Biden’s has been that he’s the adult in the room who, unlike Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, still understands the necessity of a functioning private sector. But if leading from behind is what Biden presidential leadership would look like, we should skip it and let Speaker Pelosi run the country from Capitol Hill.

Who’s left?

Who’s left is the president we’ve got, the one elected in 2016. With Democrats bailing out on bipartisanship in a unique circumstance, the responsibility of national leadership—a historic opportunity—defaults to Mr. Trump.

Let us understand the stakes. There are national problems and there are national crises. In the latter, as in world wars, the task of national leadership is to protect a nation’s confidence in itself so that it can emerge intact as a society.

We’re accustomed in difficult times to saying Americans can do anything, and that’s largely true. But let’s not delude ourselves that this just happens, like sunshine. American success isn’t a random effect. It requires leadership.

No national leader plans to be in a position like this—not Roosevelt, Lincoln or Churchill. Mr. Trump will emerge from this crisis either as just another president or a president who led his entire country through a great battle. If Democrats choose to be the opposition in this battle, voters will judge that choice.

Some will say, from experience, that asking Mr. Trump to rise to presidential greatness is quixotic. He’ll never adjust no matter the circumstance. And yes, on Tuesday he was in a cat fight over ventilators with New York’s Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo.

Ironically, Mr. Trump’s path to presidential greatness may begin by doing something small but desired by virtually all Americans: Separate himself from the pettiness of our politics.

Mr. Cuomo is a governor with a job to do. Help him. If he wants to kvetch, let him.

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have self-isolated from what the American people want from Washington now. With the rescue package finished, if they choose to stay small, let them.

Praise everyone else—from factory workers to supermarket employees risking disease to keep the rest of us fed.

It diminishes a wartime president to spend valuable time tussling with the barely relevant nonquestions of NBC reporters. It diminishes the president’s most impressive accomplishment: delegating and distributing operational authority for the details of the coronavirus battle to Vice President Mike Pence and the task force’s scientific and administrative experts.

Churchill had his war rooms. The White House press scrum is no war room. The public will keep faith with the president if it believes policy decisions are being made in the Situation Room.

If by September Mr. Trump and his team are bringing the U.S. through the threat from this pandemic, he will be re-elected. Without a single rally. Rallying a nation is what gets presidents remembered.

Cue Benjamin Franklin

My favorite Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin, said “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Andrew Napolitano:

One of my Fox colleagues recently sent me an email attachment of a painting of the framers signing the Constitution of the United States. Except in this version, George Washington — who presided at the Constitutional Convention — looks at James Madison — who was the scrivener at the Convention — and says, “None of this counts if people get sick, right?”

In these days of state governors issuing daily decrees purporting to criminalize the exercise of our personal freedoms, the words put into Washington’s mouth are only mildly amusing. Had Washington actually asked such a question, Madison, of all people, would likely have responded: “No. This document protects our natural rights at all times and under all circumstances.”

It is easy, 233 years later, to offer that hypothetical response, particularly since the Supreme Court has done so already when, as readers of this column will recall, Abraham Lincoln suspended the constitutionally guaranteed writ of habeas corpus — the right to be brought before a judge upon arrest — only to be rebuked by the Supreme Court.

The famous line above by Benjamin Franklin, though uttered in a 1755 dispute between the Pennsylvania legislature and the state’s governor over taxes, nevertheless provokes a truism.

Namely, that since our rights come from our humanity, not from the government, foolish people can only sacrifice their own freedoms, not the freedoms of others.

Thus, freedom can only be taken away when the government proves fault at a jury trial. This protection is called procedural due process, and it, too, is guaranteed in the Constitution.

Of what value is a constitutional guarantee if it can be violated when people get sick? If it can, it is not a guarantee; it is a fraud. Stated differently, a constitutional guarantee is only as valuable and reliable as is the fidelity to the Constitution of those in whose hands we have reposed it for safekeeping.

Because the folks in government, with very few exceptions, suffer from what St. Augustine called libido dominandi — the lust to dominate — when they are confronted with the age-old clash of personal liberty versus government force, they will nearly always come down on the side of force.

How do they get away with this? By scaring the daylights out of us. I never thought I’d see this in my lifetime, though our ancestors saw this in every generation. In America today, we have a government of fear. Machiavelli offered that men obey better when they fear you than when they love you. Sadly, he was right, and the government in America knows this.

But Madison knew this as well when he wrote the Constitution. And he knew it four years later when he wrote the Bill of Rights. He intentionally employed language to warn those who lust to dominate that, however they employ governmental powers, the Constitution is “the Supreme Law of the Land” and all government behavior in America is subject to it.

Even if the legislature of the State of New York ordered, as my friend Gov. Andrew Cuomo — who as the governor, cannot write laws that incur criminal punishment — has ordered, it would be invalid as prohibited by the Constitution.

This is not a novel or an arcane argument. This is fundamental American law. Yet, it is being violated right before our eyes by the very human beings we have elected to uphold it. And each of them — every governor interfering with the freedom to make one’s own choices — has taken an express oath to comply with the Constitution.

You want to bring the family to visit grandma? You want to engage in a mutually beneficial, totally voluntary commercial transaction? You want to go to work? You want to celebrate Mass? These are all now prohibited in one-third of the United States.

I tried and failed to find Mass last Sunday. When did the Catholic Church become an agent of the state? How about an outdoor Mass?

What is the nature of freedom? It is an unassailable natural claim against all others, including the government. Stated differently, it is your unconditional right to think as you wish, to say what you think, to publish what you say, to associate with whomever wishes to be with you no matter their number, to worship or not, to defend yourself, to own and use property as you see fit, to travel where you wish, to purchase from a willing seller, to be left alone. And to do all this without a government permission slip.

What is the nature of government? It is the negation of freedom. It is a monopoly of force in a designated geographic area. When elected officials fear that their base is slipping, they will feel the need to do something — anything — that will let them claim to be enhancing safety. Trampling liberty works for that odious purpose. Hence a decree commanding obedience, promising safety and threatening punishment.

These decrees — issued by those who have no legal authority to issue them, enforced by cops who hate what they are being made to do, destructive of the freedoms that our forbearers shed oceans of blood to preserve and crushing economic prosperity by violating the laws of supply and demand — should all be rejected by an outraged populace, and challenged in court.

These challenges are best filed in federal courts, where those who have trampled our liberties will get no special quarter. I can tell you from my prior life as a judge that most state governors fear nothing more than an intellectually honest, personally courageous, constitutionally faithful federal judge.

Fight fear with fear.

State law supposedly backs up the governor’s emergency powers. That law should be challenged in court. Then it should be changed to require approval of the Legislature — whose Republican leaders were not even told about the “Safer-at-Home” announcement-by-Tweet Monday morning.

 

What could possibly go wrong?

Politico:

The Justice Department has quietly asked Congress for the ability to ask chief judges to detain people indefinitely without trial during emergencies — part of a push for new powers that comes as the novel coronavirus spreads throughout the United States.

Documents reviewed by POLITICO detail the department’s requests to lawmakers on a host of topics, including the statute of limitations, asylum and the way court hearings are conducted. POLITICO also reviewed and previously reported on documents seeking the authority to extend deadlines on merger reviews and prosecutions.

A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment on the documents.

The move has tapped into a broader fear among civil liberties advocates and Donald Trump’s critics — that the president will use a moment of crisis to push for controversial policy changes. Already, he has cited the pandemic as a reason for heightening border restrictions and restricting asylum claims. He has also pushed for further tax cuts as the economy withers, arguing it would soften the financial blow to Americans. And even without policy changes, Trump has vast emergency powers that he could deploy right now to try to slow the coronavirus outbreak.

The DOJ requests — which are unlikely to make it through a Democratic-led House — span several stages of the legal process, from initial arrest to how cases are processed and investigated.

In one of the documents, the department proposed that Congress grant the attorney general power to ask the chief judge of any district court to pause court proceedings “whenever the district court is fully or partially closed by virtue of any natural disaster, civil disobedience, or other emergency situation.”

The proposal would also grant those top judges broad authority to pause court proceedings during emergencies. It would apply to “any statutes or rules of procedure otherwise affecting pre-arrest, post-arrest, pre-trial, trial, and post-trial procedures in criminal and juvenile proceedings and all civil process and proceedings,” according to draft legislative language the department shared with Congress. In making the case for the change, the DOJ wrote that individual judges can currently pause proceedings during emergencies but that their proposal would make sure all judges in any particular district could handle emergencies “in a consistent manner.”

The request raised eyebrows because of its potential implications for habeas corpus — the constitutional right to appear before a judge after arrest and seek release.

“Not only would it be a violation of that, but it says ‘affecting pre-arrest,’” said Norman L. Reimer, executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “So that means you could be arrested and never brought before a judge until they decide that the emergency or the civil disobedience is over. I find it absolutely terrifying. Especially in a time of emergency, we should be very careful about granting new powers to the government.”

Reimer said the possibility of chief judges suspending all court rules during an emergency without a clear end in sight was deeply disturbing.

“That is something that should not happen in a democracy,” he said.

The department also asked Congress to pause the statute of limitations for criminal investigations and civil proceedings during national emergencies, “and for one year following the end of the national emergency,” according to the draft legislative text.

Trump recently declared the coronavirus crisis a national emergency.

Another controversial request: The department is looking to change the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure in some cases to expand the use of videoconference hearings and to let some of those hearings happen without defendants’ consent, according to the draft legislative text.

“Video teleconferencing may be used to conduct an appearance under this rule,” read a draft of potential new language for Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 5(f), crossing out the phrase “if the defendant consents.”

“Video teleconferencing may be used to arraign a defendant,” read draft text of rule 10(c), again striking out the phrase “if the defendant consents.”

The coronavirus economic recovery

Tom Del Beccaro:

The U.S. economy was motoring along as 2020 got underway, but has taken a sizable hit because of the coronavirus. Getting it back on track requires sound economic policy, not tax and regulatory hikes – and that means advantage Trump.

No one should forget that the eight years of Obama/Biden produced the weakest economic growth of any modern presidency. Not one year did the policies of increased taxes and a much higher regulatory burden produce growth of 3 percent – an all-time record of poor performance.

While those on the Left blame the George W. Bush administration for handing off a poor economy, simple economics tells you that the Obama/Biden response made things worse. By dramatically increasing the costs of doing business in the United States, the Obama/Biden administration reduced growth from what it could have been.

President Reagan, on the other hand, who faced double-digit unemployment and inflation and interest rates above 20 percent – a condition far worse than Obama faced – achieved stellar growth through tax and regulatory reform.  In other words, policy matters.

Remember, the economic Law of Demand tells us that the more something costs, the less of it we get. The Obama/Biden administration raised taxes (costs), including those in ObamaCare, on the economy overall.

The Obama/Biden administration also undertook a war on energy in the form of regulatory costs. Beyond just the energy sector, overall, Obama/Biden regulations added billions annually in costs to the U.S. economy – and the higher the cost of something, including the economy overall, the less of it you get.

Faced with poor economic numbers at the end of the Obama/Biden years, the Left said 3 percent growth was no longer possible. In a sense they were right: under the burdens of ever-growing government – spending, regulations and taxes – economic growth is reduced.

That is why our average growth from the 1950s to today has fallen from 4 percent to 2 percent. In Europe, which has an even higher government burden, growth has fallen from 2 percent to zero.

Candidate Donald Trump, who understands such things as the Law of Demand, promised tax and regulatory reductions. Obama suggested that Trump would need a magic wand to reach 3 percent growth.

Instead of a magic wand, President Trump and his Republican allies paid heed to the Law of Demand.  By significantly cutting the costs of doing business in the United States, American entrepreneurs, businesses and workers responded as predicted, and the economy indeed reached 3 percent growth and beyond.

No one should be surprised by that outcome. Before 2017, we’d had four major tax reforms (1920s, 1960s, 1980s and 2000s). Prior to each the economy was weak or falling and tax revenues were weak or failing. Each time doubters said a tax reduction would make things worse. Each time, however, the economy improved and tax revenues rose because of the wider economic base and activity that tax reform created.

That is why I predicted that, in the second quarter of 2018, four to six months after December 2017 tax reform passed, economic growth would top 4 percent. Historically, there is a time lag after reform.  Also, historically, there is a burst of energy that is let loose after reform. Until the coronavirus, the reforms were producing stellar economic growth – even in the face of our still oversized government burdens.

Now, there can be little doubt that the coronavirus is reducing economic activity. The hospitality and travel industries are being especially hard hit. The stock market drops hurt everyone given that virtually every pension, public and private, in this country is invested in the market.

All of which brings us back to the 2020 election. If Joe Biden is indeed the Democrat nominee, he will do for economic growth exactly what the Obama/Biden administration did for eight years.

How could anyone predict otherwise?

Biden is promising to raise taxes dramatically by undoing the Trump tax reform. Biden has also said: “I guarantee you, we’re going to end fossil fuel.” In other words, Biden is going to reignite the war on business that his prior administration prosecuted. In the face of a weakened economy, the Law of Demand tells us such cost increasing policies would pull the economy under – just as increased taxes on you reduces your ability to spend and save.

Simply put, why anyone would again hire the same people who delivered the worst economic performance ever?

On the other hand, the Trump administration is already moving to further reduce the costs of doing business in America. A reduction in any tax, including the payroll tax and personal taxes as Trump has suggested, is in keeping with the Law of Demand, and is the right prescription to boost the private sector.

We face uncertain economic times. The response should not be to drain the private sector, as Biden would love to do.  We should leave money in the private sector, which Trump advocates.

I can pan(dem)ic better than you can!

Matt Margolis:

Joe Biden has proven that he’s not above politicizing the coronavirus on multiple occasions. On Sunday, he doubled down on his politicization of the outbreak in an op-ed credited to him that was published on CNN, which claims that the country would be better equipped to handle outbreaks under a Biden presidency.

“No President can promise to prevent future outbreaks. But I can promise you that when I’m President, we will prepare better, respond better, and recover better,” the op-ed reads.

Here’s why that’s a bunch of malarkey.

Biden claimed that “Our government’s ability to respond effectively has been undermined by the hollowing-out of our agencies and the disparagement of science.” This is a regurgitation of an allegation he made last month when he said the Obama administration increased the budgets of the CDC and NIH, but that Trump cut the funding for these agencies. This was fact-checked by the Associated Press last month and was determined to be not true, yet Biden doubled down on the lie anyway. Neither agency saw their budgets cut.

Biden then mentioned that last week he “released [his] plan to combat and overcome the coronavirus,” which basically plagiarized everything the Trump administration had done already. I guess he still wants credit for stealing Trump’s plan.

But regardless of what Biden says he’d do differently, let’s look at his record to see what that tells us. The best way we can tell how an outbreak would be handled by a Biden administration is to look at how things were handled when Biden was vice president.

In short, not very well.

Remember the H1N1 pandemic? According to the CDC, from April 12, 2009, to April 10, 2010, there were an estimated 60.8 million cases, 274,304 hospitalizations, and 12,469 deaths in the United States due to H1N1. Clearly, the United States wasn’t prepared for it. We didn’t see any travel bans to slow the spread of it.

As PJM’s Victoria Taft noted about the H1N1 outbreak, “American health officials declared a public health emergency on April 26, 2009,” yet sought to downplay the announcement, calling it “standard operating procedure.” Barack Obama didn’t declare a national emergency until October, after millions of people in the United States were already infected, at least 20,000 were hospitalized, and over a thousand had died. Had a national emergency been declared right away, it would have freed up resources to address the pandemic earlier. Perhaps if the Obama administration had treated the outbreak more seriously, fare fewer than 12,469 people would have died during the outbreak.

On a similar note, the CDC, under Obama and Biden, was slow to generate a vaccine for H1N1. Yet, Biden has the nerve to claim the CDC was better prepared on his watch than it is currently under Trump? What a joke.

I think it’s clear that the Obama-Biden administration failed to meet the challenges of the H1N1 outbreak. The Obama-Biden administration proved itself to be less than adequate during the significantly smaller-scale West Africa Ebola outbreak of 2014-2016. The Ebola outbreak was never declared a global pandemic, but the Obama-Biden administration still had to concede that there were “shortcomings” in the federal government’s response. Even CNN panned the Obama-Biden administration’s response to the scare. CDC models were way off.

The lessons learned by the Obama-Biden administration in response to the global H1N1 pandemic and the Ebola outbreak should have resulted in improvements to our country’s ability to handle outbreaks. But that never happened. “The system is not really geared to what we need right now,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “That is a failing. Let’s admit it.” Fauci was responding to a question about our nation’s coronavirus testing capacity.

The Obama-Biden administration should have taken what it learned from the H1N1 pandemic and modernized the system to be able to handle such outbreaks. As a result of that inaction, the Trump administration is now having to address these issues. But, we should trust Biden when he says he’d handle the coronavirus outbreak better than Trump, who was busy addressing the outbreak while the Democratic Party was distracted by their efforts to impeach him. In fact, Trump’s decisive actions early on saved lives, according to experts.

Ultimately there would be little difference between a Trump administration pandemic and a Biden administration pandemic, except that Democrats lock up people faster.

 

The best reaction to the coronavirus panic

Rick Esenberg:

I think the garbage that people like Limbaugh and Hannity have been pushing about COVID-19 are just that. I think Trump was very slow on the uptake. But I can’t help thinking that we seem unable to respond in a measured way to anything. Overreaction is seen as a sign of sincerity and concern. Yes, you can make an argument that closing down the world is the “safest” thing to do. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessary. You can be concerned about the danger for exponential spread of the virus without concluding that all public contact must halt. We run the risk of causing far more damage than the virus ever could because we can’t balance cross-cutting concerns. It must be all or nothing.

Ladies and gentlemen, your probable Democratic candidate for president

RedState:

Joe Biden’s descent continues.

This time, it comes via a video from this morning showing the former VP in a Michigan auto plant. After being challenged by a voter on his Second Amendment record, Biden explodes at the worker in what can only be called a rage.

It’s one of those things you have to see to believe.

On the issue being confronted here, the worker’s concerns are 100% valid. It was just a week ago that Biden announced he’d appoint Beto O’Rourke, who has called for full-scale gun confiscation of semi-automatic weapons, in charge of solving the “gun problem.” Biden has also stumped for an “assault weapons” ban, as well as other measures that would severely limit American constitutional rights.

But past that, Biden’s behavior here is just insane. He once again manages to fall into incoherence, calling an AR-15 an “AR-14” and calling semi-automatics “machine-guns.” Further, his demeanor toward the worker he’s speaking to is way over the line. He cusses, begins yelling, and jabs his finger in the man’s face. He also threatens to slap the guy in the face. This is not the behavior of someone who’s well.

Don’t believe me? Try to imagine a world where Donald Trump gets in a voter’s face, curses at them, and then gets physically threatening with them. How would people react? Would the media spend days on it, proclaiming as proof he’s unhinged and lacks the temperament to be president? You bet they would.

Biden is simply not up for running for President. This is a guy who needs to be sitting at home, dealing with whatever issues he’s got going on. This is not the first time Biden has gotten in a voter’s face. He physically accosted a Democratic primary voter back when his campaign was the ropes. Continuing to put him up in front of people is just cruel. He can’t handle it, physically nor emotionally.

It’s a testament to how partisan our media are that they aren’t making a bigger deal about Biden’s continued mental lapses and public belligerence. He can’t run from this forever and Trump will make it the cardinal issue of the campaign.

Another RedState commenter calls this …

… simply unhinged behavior that indicates the stress of the campaign is accelerating the pace of Biden’s dementia onset. A few months ago, the tame, compliant Democrat media would have tut-tutted over it but now that Joe Biden is the presumptive Democrat nominee, it is all hands on deck to defend the indefensible. One of the first out of the box was The Atlantic’s David Frum. I’d just like to note that Frum was a speaker at the goat-rope-and-county-fair mash up that was the Summit on Principled Conservatism.

Not to miss a beat, the New York Times’s Jonathan Martin joins in following the same script

The unnamed Republican campaign vet/strategist is the journalistic equivalent of the ‘woke eight-year-old.’  It is a bullsh** designation used to try to launch a narrative. What Martin is really saying is ‘the professionals think what Biden did was great and wondrous but the rube voters don’t understand.’

There is virtually no one out there who hasn’t experienced this type of behavior from someone in a position of power. And you know what, no one thinks it is terrific. No one loves it. No one thinks it makes Biden look like anything but the worst sort of ass. Shouting down citizens who apparently know your record and rhetoric better than you, yourself, is not a good look.

If you want proof, here’s a simple test. If anyone thought this made Biden look like anything but a ill-tempered, doddering old fool, this video would be playing on every television station and cable news outlet non-stop both today and for the next week to help him in two critical rounds of primaries. But that will not happen. Other than FoxNews, you won’t see this video ever again.

The coronavirus freakout

The Daily Wire:

Physician David Drew Pinsky, commonly referred to as Dr. Drew, slammed the media in a CBS News interview late last week, saying that it is responsible for causing the American public to panic, which is hurting businesses and people.

“A bad flu season is 80,000 dead, we’ve got about 18,000 dead from influenza this year, we have a hundred from corona,” Dr. Drew said. “Which should you be worried about, influenza or Corona? A hundred versus 18,000? It’s not a trick question. And look, everything that’s going on with the New York cleaning the subways and everyone using Clorox wipes and get your flu shot, which should be the other message, that’s good. That’s a good thing, so I have no problem with the behaviors.”

“What I have a problem with is the panic and the fact that businesses are getting destroyed, that people’s lives are being upended, not by the virus, but by the panic,” Dr. Drew continued. “The panic must stop. And the press, they really somehow need to be held accountable because they are hurting people.”

Overnight, the New York Times reported:

As Italy restricted travel across the country, Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, visited Wuhan, the city where the global outbreak began. China signaled that it would begin easing some travel restrictions around Wuhan.

State news media said Mr. Xi met with front-line medical workers, military personnel, community workers, police officers and officials.

This is not to say that I trust China, except to the extent that I think Li wouldn’t be running around in Wuhan if he seriously believed he could get the coronavirus. (Because politicians are often cowards.)