Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The New Normal version 2020

The "New Normal" was a term born of the days right after 9/11 to describe how drastically things had changed and that we would not be going back to the old normal.  The days immediately following the attacks saw aircraft grounded across the country.  Entrance to federal facilities were restricted to absolutely the most essential personnel (another term you hear today from that time).  Everyone was on edge waiting for the next attack.

Some twenty years later and we are seeing the same things again.  Businesses closed.  Those that are open are deemed "essential" and only "essential personnel" are working.  Unlike 9/11, medical personnel are being pushed to the limits and by most models, we are still weeks away from the peak.  People are quarantined in their homes to varying degrees across the globe.  Here in Ohio, we are allowed out for walks, grocery shopping and doctors appointments.  In DC, there is now a $500 fine for being caught outside your home.

All of this and more is leading to a new normal, one unlike what we saw with 9/11.  First is the huge economic impact from the cancellation of professional sports seasons to the shuttering of the Big Three automakers.  Many restaurants have closed due to a lack of staffing.  Those that are still running have to rely strictly on carry-out/delivery service to stay afloat.  This has prompted Taco Bell to consider even after the pandemic to switch to an all-drive thru/delivery format.

Major League Baseball (MLB) is still trying to figure out how to have its 2020 season.  The latest idea is to have a compressed season with a late start in June...and no crowds!  As foreign as that idea is, to have professional baseball played in empty stadiums, what is even stranger is everyone's acceptance of the inevitability of this scenario.

Of course the politicians are all trying to outdo each other in a race to stem the pandemic without alienating their core constituents.  This lead to a very interesting and ugly confrontation over the weekend.  President Trump, a native New Yorker, decided the situation in his home state had become out of control.  Trump's go-to policy of insults via Twitter against New York Governor Cuomo had failed.  Trump facing an alarming crisis with a failing economy and going into re-election (something that seems so insignificant now) had to up his game.  Trump decided to that it was best to isolate the entire state of New York.

Governor Cuomo is also a lifelong New Yorker and did not back down and upped his own game by announcing quite publicly that any such move to isolate the state of New York by the Trump Administration would be nothing short of a declaration of war!  President Trump, unusual for his normal bluster, back-tracked and instead issue a travel advisory.

What the media and general public missed is a confrontation between an overzealous federal government and state government.  The exact situation the framers of the Constitution foresaw in creating the 2nd Amendment...no not the part about bearing arms, the part about a well regulated militia.  Trump and his administration learned why each state has a National Guard and unfortunately for Trump, New York has one of the largest National Guards in the country!

The Trump Administration isn't the only government that has tested the limits of authority under the new normal.  Serbia seems to be following suite.  Israel has also taken extreme measures to restrict the flow of its citizens.  Most concerning, is more and more countries (including the US) are trying to get a handle on what they deem as "fake news" by monitoring, filtering or outright shutting down social media.  In these times, social media has become the de facto way of assembling to share political discourse.  We should all be worried about governments capriciously shutting down communications under the guise of the new normal and protecting the citizens.

There is much more to cover but I want to leave you with one final thought.  We have been told repeatedly to wash our hands as the best means of preventing the spread of the virus.  Yet we still have to buy food which we pay for often times in cash.  Even elementary school students now that cash is one of the dirtiest things we handle during the day and you always wash your hands after handling cash.  Don't be surprised if the US digital dollar doesn't make another appearance down the road.  If not to help prevent the spread of pandemic disease, then at least to help curtail the illegal businesses that are sure to develop during this global lockdown.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Potential Martial Law?

Noise and panic caused by the response to the pandemic makes it hard to sort out the truth from the hype.  Regardless, the appearance of this article supports a concern I have had now for several days.  As we continue to see more and more austere restrictions being placed on the American public (and as Mark Osterholm has stated, "Quarantine without criteria"), you have to wonder how much longer before we inevitably land at martial law.

Newsweek just published an article entitled "The Military's Top Secret Plan If Coronavirus Cripples the Government". It should not surprise anyone familiar with the government and the military that such contingency plans exist.  What is concerning is that someone felt it necessary to share the existence of these plans with a journalist.  Or perhaps it is just a psyop move to test the public's reaction to martial law?

In either case, now is not the time to dismiss such articles as the work of "liberals" or "conspiracy nuts" as the plans for continuity of operations are very real (I know, we were working on these during the preparations for the avian flu 15 years ago).  Unlike other scenarios, the threat from coronavirus means that essential all of the government leaders are vulnerable and come succumb to infection at the same time and/or die.  This would create an almost unimaginable situation where the military assumes command of the US government from civilian leaders.  The US has always had civilian control of the military, reversing could have long-term consequences for our country.

The real question that needs to be asked before it becomes too late is if we were to go under martial law, what conditions need to exist before we see marital law being lifted?  If civilian leadership is replaced by the military, how long will that exist? How would the US civilian government be reconstructed?  Here in Ohio we just had to postpone the primary elections due to concerns about the pandemic.  What if those conditions continue to exist and the aren't allowed out to vote a new government in for an extended period of time?

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

March 18, 2020, still wash your hands!

Here in Ohio we are more or less shutdown (barring what the governor says at his 2:00 conference).  Nationally we've seen the NBA cancel, the NCAA tournaments cancelled. NHL cancel, the MLS cancel, MLB postpone opening day, and the E3 conference cancel.  Most schools have closed switching to on-line delivery of lessons.  Bars and restaurants have closed, going to carryout or delivery options only.

Despite this, I'm still seeing some social media posts that refuse to believe the severity of this crisis.  As of this post, Ohio has 67 confirmed cases in 16 counties (like here).  The naysayers point to these numbers as proof that the measures taken in Ohio are disproportianate to the cases.  What they seem to be missing or unwilling to accept is that those low numbers of infection are due to the extreme measures taken by the governor.  (And no, postponing the March 17th primary to June 2nd doesn't deny your constitutional rights.  If you are bothered by this, maybe next time get your dead ass into the Board of Elections and vote early!)

I saw another post pointing out that the Chinese coronavirus hospitals are closing (link here). So see coronavirus is already over they conclude.  There are several things wrong with this conclusion.  First and foremost, we know China withheld critical information at the beginning of the outbreak.  What makes these social media experts feel that China is now telling the truth?  Perhaps China is closing the hospitals simply for the optics to prevent their economy from collapsing.  The other problem with FB expert posts concluding the worst is over is perhaps the Wuhan situation has already burned through everyone it can kill, the rest are now carriers.  Finally, just because Wuhan is apparently recovering that doesn't mean the rest of China is.

Let's just say the news about Wuhan is accurate and truthful, that doesn't mean we should drop our guard.  Yes people are losing wages.  Yes I know you're already tired of spending this much time home with your spouse and kids without any distractions (the release of Black Widow and several other blockbusters have been pushed back MONTHS!).  Yes I know that suddenly toilet paper and hand sanitizer have become black market gold.  Take this time to relax and realize by staying home you and your family are helping to prevent coronavirus from spreading.

Here in Dubtown, a positive side of the shelter in place protocols has been a significant decrease in the homeless population roaming our streets aimlessly.  Also people do seem to be much more focused on helping each other and local businesses so there are some good points to remember as well.

Take this time to read.  Watch or take some on-line courses.  Get outside and breath some fresh air.  Stop worrying about what China or other countries are doing and focus on this one.  And while you're at it, don't forget to wash your hands!

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Coronavirus 2020

You step away from the keyboard for a while and then when you come back, all hell has broken loose.  Coronavirus has hit the collective minds of the smart phone carrying generation with a fury that it will likely not be able to match in reality.

For reasons that elude me, coronavirus has terrorized the  attention of the American public more than the seasonal flu.  According to the CDC and US Health Dept, on average 10,000 or more die every year from the seasonal flu.  That's more than all of the coronavirus deaths combined so far (yes, I know China very forthcoming with data but then why the panic?) yet coronavirus has captured that minds of the public like nothing since the ebola break out a few years ago.

From a sociological point of view, this seems to be rooted in the distrust of all things Chinese.  Chinese produced pet foods a few years ago earned a bad reputation for being manufactured with ingredients that were harmful to pets.  Chinese manufactured products don't have the best reputation for quality control.  China's reputation for human rights abuses (think Tiananmen Massacre in 1989 or the continual riots in Hong Kong) creates a lack of trust in how the Chinese government will deal with a pandemic illness.  Therefore when details of coronavirus first started making the news, most assumed that the Chinese would cover up the information.

The United States and the American public has become extremely polarized under Trump.  You are either for or against, right or left, Republican or Democrat.  No middle road tolerated anymore thank you very much.  Just look at the Democratic candidates going into Super Tuesday.  All moderate candidates have had to sit down and allow Joe Biden to try to save the Democrats from the socialist Bernie Sanders.  The same polarization effects how you perceive coronavirus.  You are either terrified that it will be a global pandemic wiping out mankind or it is nothing more than an over-hyped cold (the same way people view climate change).

How the coronavirus will spread and the severity of its spread remains to be seen, however its economic impacts are already being felt.  Of all places, we can see this hitting Hollywood.  The latest James Bond movie Chinese opening is being delayed indefinitely. No one is going to the movies in China for fear of catching coronavirus.  This means the biggest overseas market for movies is effectively shutdown.  To give you an idea, Avengers Endgame could never have achieved is record breaking $2 billion without China.  The Hollywood types are scared their blockbuster movies won't be able to make back nearly as much money without the Chinese market.

Think about what a shutdown China means to our economy.  We use Chinese manufactured technology everyday, most of our clothing is manufactured in China, as well as auto components, and food.  Prices are going to go up for consumer goods regardless of how severe coronavirus really is.