#57 – Laissez-Faire Is Not Dead, But Amy Winehouse Is

Sweden’s Approach to Covid-19

Many of us say claim to value non-conformity but prove otherwise. Voltaire observed, “Our wretched species is so made that those who walk on the well-trodden path always throw stones at those who are showing a new road.” In the Covid crisis, Sweden was internationally stoned for taking a “new road.”

Fear of the COVID-19 pandemic has driven the citizens of many countries around the world to be extremely trusting of their governments’ information, predictions, advice, and edicts, the Swedish government flipped the script by placing its trust in its citizens.

Sweden did not institute mass shutdowns or ramped up authoritative policing. Instead of closing its economy, national leaders asked its citizens to limit the spread of COVID-19 another way: by acting responsibly.

The Swedish government’s approach was not overly invasive and many “experts” considered too light. The government’s response was to limit public gatherings to 50 people, asked its residents to wash their hands frequently, encouraged remote work, and self-isolate if they feel ill or are over 70.

The Swedish people lived up to that trust, and have appreciated its leaders’ strategy. It has won the approval of Swedes, and support and popularity have soared.

The 10 million Swedes were allowed to visit libraries and pools, which remain open. People were allowed to drink IPAs in their local restaurants, children still got up to go to elementary schools in the morning, although students over 16 have been encouraged to school at home.  In other words, Sweden’s economy was allowed to pump on most cylinders while people take sensible precautions—without an explosion of deaths akin to those witnessed in Italy and Spain.

Vindication?

Sweden’s unusual approach to fighting the coronavirus pandemic is starting to yield results, according to the country’s top epidemiologist. Anders Tegnell, the architect behind Sweden’s relatively relaxed response to Covid-19, told local media the latest figures on infection rates and fatalities indicate the situation is starting to stabilize.

Is this vindication for Sweden, which has been widely denounced for bucking the trend among governments of imposing draconian “shelter-at-home” decrees that have crippled the world economy and thrown millions out of work. 

If a fair analysis of the Swedish scenario is applied we would question the “well-trodden” path taken by most countries. The Swedish model indicated that our cowering posture has proven to be counterproductive.  We should demand an answer to, “Why were the experts so quick to employ force and the threat of force to impose mass shutdowns?”

“They tried to make me go to rehab, But I said, “No, no, no” Amy Winehouse

Individual responsibility used to be part of the American model. But we have developed a culture of giving up individual responsibility whenever we are shepherded into fear. Fear of terrorists, of economic hardship, of a virus has pushed us towards economic devastation.

If Americans are going to rehabilitate our thinking,  we must rediscover our country’s founding principles and insist that our leaders place at least as much trust in its citizens as Sweden has. In order to accomplish this initiative, we must learn to trust ourselves as a society of individuals, have faith in our neighbors, and understand the concept of spontaneous order.

Leonard Read observed, “The more complex the economy, society, or situation, the more we should rely on the miraculous, self-adapting processes of men acting freely.”

#56 – Battling COVID PTSD

An open letter, published in a recent Vineyard Gazette, inspired this blog:

https://vineyardgazette.com/news/2020/04/15/open-letter-vineyard-hospital

COVID – PTSD

My COVID-19 battle has left me with scars. One of those scars is an uncontrollable scoff. I have not yet fallen victim to a COVID inducted PTSD but I am exhibiting some early warning symptoms.

I now scoff at statements like, “we will need to make sacrifices.” I typically reject the “we” collectivism. My past experience with shared “sacrifice” is that those who are comfortable and continued to; receive paychecks, cupboards full, rent paid, and insurance coverage intact do not share as equal as those that lost their job.

I scoff at statements like, “being in this thing together.” I don’t remember joining or trying out for this thing. If I had joined, I definitely would have considered the fee and the members that would surround me. That makes me more of a conscript than a volunteer “in this thing.”

I scoff at statements like “we will need to make those decisions together.” Together! I have not been contacted “to make those decisions.” Besides, how can I be taken seriously if I’m non-essential and told to go home and cower?

I scoff at the self-proclaimed “experts” claiming that they are not “writing these words to create panic” then reference the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded Institute, in Seattle and quote forecasts using words like “staggering”, with “death toll” and “men and women of all ages, genders and medical conditions”

I scoff at the COVID-19 pirates that want to “share the reality of where we are today,” by a back-handed admittance of failure. Like “our community hospital … was simply not built to handle an increasing population and a worsening pandemic. That is an alarming mixture in this health care crisis and there is no other way to soften that statement.” We know that! That was the propaganda behind “flattening the curve.” Remember, you “essentials” accepted the responsibility to plan, innovate, and solve those logistic challenges.

I scoff at those that will tell half of a story and ignore the other half. Yes, the Covid-19 virus is highly contagious and dangerous. But it preys primarily upon a limited, identifiable, isolate-able population that can be protected and cared for at a tiny fraction of the cost being imposed by the hysterical shutdowns now in place.

I scoff at those making most of the noise do not separate the COVID statistics by demographics. Most deaths are those over 69 years of age. Over 80% of those elderly that died had more than one chronic disease inflicting them, primarily hypertension and diabetes. Dementia, coronary artery disease, and renal disease also make the elderly vulnerable.

I scoff at the millions of the younger, under 50, healthy individuals that have yet to realize that they only account for about 10% of all the COVID cases. I scoff because they have been put under house arrest to protect them from a 2.6 per 100,000 death rate. Their death rate from accidents and suicides is higher. What’s next? Taking away their cars, guns, and sharp objects.

I scoff at the experts that offer deep humanitarian wisdom like “agree that this is a time to think of each other and our greater community” while the effect of the economic shutdown projection of the needy is nowhere to be found. Take a look at the food pantries and check out the length of the unemployment lines.

I scoff at those that can frame simple directives into flowery verbiage like: “embracing a spirit of unity with a singular focus of taking care of one another for the safety of one another” instead of just saying “be compliant and wait for their next instruction.”

I scoffed when former White House chief-of-staff to Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, was famously quoted as saying, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” These are dangerous times when crisis empowered authoritarians abuse their influence and scoff at liberty. Liberty comes at a high price a price that many have scoffed at.

Articles like the following have kept my PTSD at bay: https://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/494034-the-data-are-in-stop-the-panic-and-end-the-total-isolation

#55 – Return to Normal

I’m Calling You Out

On Wednesday, Martha’s Vineyard witnessed a demonstration requesting the local government to relax the restriction they have levied upon the work conditions of local businesses. Although I support the efforts of the organizers and their reasonable request, I probably wouldn’t have participated. However, my laziness was interrupted by hate, cyberbullying, and slander directed at the organizers. Before Covid (BC) these tactics would be called out as wrong, intolerable, and un-American.

George W. Bush’s once stated, “you’re either with us or against us.” That logic produced two-generational wars “on terrorism.” It appears that this same narrative has been perpetrated on the people. We have been asked to accept one narrative and only one narrative. You are with us, “in this together” or against us “deviating outside your quarantine.”

Since when has asking the authorities to relax their restrictions on workers been labeled as; “against us,” insult to nurses, un-American, a threat to the community and idiotic. Some of the more zealots have even demonized the organizers on social media, Facebook “hate,” cyber-bullying, and calling for boycotting their products.

It should be understood that a recovery of the economy must begin at some time. Our start for a reasonable and safe economic recovery is being delayed by intolerable social responses to any request asking for reduced authority. I do not accept that the quarantine must be observed until “we say it is safe” or “we now have a cure.” This is not a viable path to follow. 

The protesters are asking for the authorities to unchain the creative, economic, and production power of those in quarantine. They are asking local government to restore the peaceful cooperation within our local commerce that existed BC. The victims of Covid are not limited to the symptoms of the virus, there are others suffering economic despair.

Both the protesters and I believe a safe reopening will help to reduce the economic suffering that many of our residences are experiencing. I fear that some of the “lucky,” those that have maintained an adequate income or enough savings to get through the covid-19 shutdown, are insensitive to the hardships facing the “unlucky.”

We are asking our towns to at least explore alternative ways to restore our local economy. This is the basis of the protest, asking them to return authority back to our businesses and residence so that they can lead and share in a safe recovery. After all, in a pre-covid world, the problem-solvers were celebrated and the cowering compliant were tolerated. 

Thank You Hospital Workers – You Flattened the Curve – But!

I understand the levels of stress put on the medical community must be mitigated for us to be released. It appears that the medical community has reached that stage. The original intent of the policy was not to eradicate the virus. It was to buy time for the hospital system, to flatten the curve, for them to function properly.

They succeeded in this objective. Our hospitals have been servicing patients that have become infected, and have continued with their normal operations of caring for those who are acutely ill, who suffer from accidents, chronic illnesses, or are victims of violence. They have done yeoman’s work to prepare our community for the Covid-19 crisis.

In other words, the medical system is functioning very nicely. The hospitals are functioning enough so that we can start to get back to our lives. The hospital has given us assurances that effective treatments are available to everyone and the hospital capacity is not close to being exhausted. 

They succeeded in the, “flatten the curve,” mission. Their mission has never been to wait for a cure. They have basically assured us that their treatments and facilities are prepared, if necessary, for added demands from COVID-19. They have been our heroes but it is time for individual risk management strategies to be returned. Pass the baton back to the individual.

A reasonable evaluation of the most recent COVID-19 calculations would indicate that we are entering the backside of the peak in COVID-19 cases. I am not an expert but the signs are pointing in the direction of returning to normal.  Let us return to the social spaces of work, play, and live with one another like we did once upon a time. 

Return to Normal

There are trade-offs when plans to reopen the economic system are at stake. The peaceful cooperation of our resources is ready and willing to solve problems. The USA has always looked to the entrepreneur for discoveries to improve the human condition. Now is the time to create expectations that will guide the local businesses and entrepreneurs in the desired direction.

Free people are not helpless people. We will adjust, we will adapt, and we will take on the responsibility of being architects of our own fate. Society must be judged by how well it minimizes human suffering; physically, emotionally, and economically. It is time to allow the stakeholders to initiate the activities and opportunities that will promote recovery.

Am I foolish to hope that the truth of reality will be our guiding light and not the politics of the state and those compliant with their narrative? Critics will continue to use this crisis to slander classic liberalism and libertarianism. Maybe we all would be better served by embracing the fact that if freedom is allowed to flourish it will provide answers in these turbulent times.

I hope that my presence, at that rally, will help to neutralize the viciousness of the social media clique, fear of the unknown, a corrosive mob mentality, and the divisiveness of the COVID narrative.

Let’s begin our return to normal!

RussMac  OB

#54 -Washington’s “Musketeers” In Venezuela

Washington’s Three Musketeers

Since Attorney General William Barr’s, March 26th, inditement and $15 million bounty on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Washington’s Musketeers have been busy preparing for a “transitional government”.

On March 31, the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, presented the White House proposal for a “transitional government,” in Venezuela, until the holding of new elections. The plan would exclude both Maduro and opposition leader Guaidó from holding power.

The phrase “transitional government” appears to be Washington’s newest buzz word for a coup. You may recall, the White House also used “transitional government” describing Bolivia’s Añez illegitimate administration they helped to impose.

Añez came to power in November thanks to the U.S. supported a coup against President Evo Morales. That “transitional government” has since massacred protestors, pulled Bolivia out of multiple international treaties and indefinitely suspended elections.

Earlier in April, President Trump announced U.S. Navy ships being deployed to waters near Venezuela. This move initiated one of the largest U.S. military operations in the region since the 1989 attack and invasion of Panama.

On Saturday, April 11th, the American envoy for Venezuela, coup specialist *Elliott Abrams warned that if Maduro resisted the implementation of the US proposed “transition government” plan it will be more “dangerous and abrupt”. If you do not move ahead, “you will see more pressure on Caracas from the United States and I think from others,” he specified.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced, “the goal is to replace [President Nicolas] Maduro’s illegitimate dictatorship with a legitimate transitional government that can hold free and fair elections to represent all Venezuelans. It is time for Maduro to go.”

Failed Previous Attempts

Trump has been ramping up the Obama sanctions. These sanctions are responsible for over 100,000 Venezuelan deaths. The American U.N. Special Rapporteur recently compared the sanctions to a medieval siege and declared Trump guilty of crimes against humanity.

April 11th just so happens to be exactly 18 years after the U.S. supported a briefly successful coup against Hugo Chavez, the predecessor to Maduro. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the April 2002 coup leaders had traveled back and forth to Washington D.C. several times in the months leading up to the event. Those coup leaders had received counsel and training from American officials.

The U.S. coups attempt did not end in 2002. Since then, Washington has been targeting Venezuela’s national election in attempts to remove the United Socialist Party from power. The US has refused to accept the validity of the presidential elections in 2013 and 2018. Washington has funded the domestic opposition parties for two decades and has approved several other, less successful, coups attempts. The 2014 and 2017 waves of terrorist violence, a failed 2018 assassination of Maduro, and four separate coup attempts last year by self-declared president Juan Guaidó.

“All For One, One For All”

Barr, Abrams, and Pompeo have given the three musketeer motto “All for one, One for all”, a different meaning.  Alexandre Dumas’ musketeers were heroic, chivalrous swordsmen who fought for justice. Washington’s musketeers fall short of that!

 

*For decades, Elliott Abrams’ has been abusing the power of the U.S. government, overtly and covertly, to overthrow sovereign states through coups, sanctions, and genocides. From his first accomplishments as Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs when he covered up the El Mozote massacre in El Salvador, conducted by a death squad created, armed and trained by Washington to his architectural work in the “dirty wars,” genocides and regime changes in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia, and Panama.

https://www.mintpressnews.com/18-years-after-us-coup-against-venezuela-us-warns-another-attempt/266598/

 

 

 

#53 – U.S. Constitution – How About A “Do-Over”

Alexander Hamilton spoke about the reactive ingredients of populist sentiment during times of crisis. The people will allow, perhaps demand expanded government and the government will gladly respond. The problem is, the government rarely contracts once the crisis is over. There is a pattern of assumed power that never fully gets annulled after the crisis ends.

We recognize our vulnerabilities as citizens in times of crisis, vulnerabilities that political demagogues know how to exploit. Passion during a crisis is not political, it is human nature. But the exploitation of a crisis is political.

Today we need leaders committed to the principles of liberty and a version of power described in the Constitution, representatives who possess a true affection for freedom and who will lead with an insistence that the people and nation come first. 

However, our form of government has been fundamentally misaligned with its founding principles. The American president has become the “leader of the free world” and “party leader”  as we morph closer to nationalism and further away from federalism. The roles of Congress, the judiciary and the states have all relinquished many of their duties to Washington’s executive branch.

The founding fathers documented an American president as the nation’s chief of state, as its symbolic head. The president was never intended to be the head of a political party or ideology. In a divisive, winner-take-all mentality, where the president is “campaigner in chief” we now have a political system that has virtually eliminated the ability of a president to respond in nonpartisan terms. Both in the White House and in Congress every decision is determined by political benefit.

Our governmental process has jumped the track, we have created a political split that needs to be healed. COVID-19 has provided us with an opportunity to restore our government and the presidency back to the principals outlined in the U.S. Constitution. We need to return to that institution that deliverers stability and calm, not authority and panic.

Then, and only then, would we see a Congress that would resume its intended responsibilities: balance and oversight. Then, states would be newly empowered to make local, independent decisions—free from the threat of political retribution.  Then, we would see a return to a more dignified office of the president, elevated to protect the unity, the welfare and liberty of a nation.  

After all the Constitution was written,  “… to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”

Maybe we need a “Do-Over.”

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/with-each-crisis-potus-becomes-more-powerful-and-partisan/

#52 – Julian Assange, Sentenced To Death?

Julian Assange, ex-publisher of Wikileaks who has been indicted with 17 counts under the US Espionage Act related to WikiLeaks’ 2010-11 publications: concerning US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, embarrassing US diplomatic details, US torture in Guantanamo Bay Prison and the publication of the Collateral Murder video, exposing war crimes and killing of innocent civilians including two Reuters journalists, may have been sentenced to death.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with the world screeched to a halt, the prosecution of Julian Assange continues. Assange, who has significant dental problems along with a lung condition, life is at great risk if exposed to coronavirus. Assange’s lawyers made an emergency bail application two weeks ago for his temporary release. On March 25 Judge Vanessa Baraitser, rejected the bail application, stating that “No cases of COVID 19 having been confirmed in HMS Belmarsh.”

Assange, being held (bail violations) for the US extradition request in southeast London’s high-security Belmarsh prison, is “unwell,” and was unable to attend this hearing. COVID-19 has now hit Belmarsh prison. It has been alleged that there have now been four coronavirus cases among prisoners at Belmarsh, with one of them having died.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the British Ministry of Justice (MoJ) announced that they were preparing to release thousands of low-risk inmates in England and Wales. Yet Assange was excluded from this temporary release. A Belmarsh prisoner list showed Assange being one of just two inmates of the 800 at London’s Belmarsh maximum-security prison who are being held for violating bail conditions (20% of prisoners are murderers, with nearly 2/3 violent offenders).

Dr. Jill Stein, the former Green Party Presidential candidate, has noted:
“Assange is at dire risk in UK prison. Even before #Covid_19 nearly 200 @Doctors4Assange called for his release due to health emergency. As a nonviolent prisoner awaiting trial he should be released on bail. If he dies, how is this not premeditated killing of a political prisoner?”

Assange has been rendered defenseless as the freedom of the press has been given a death sentence. COVID-19 maybe attacking mankind but an oppression contagion is killing journalism.

 

https://original.antiwar.com/Nozomi_Hayase/2020/04/09/assanges-extradition-covid-19-brings-death-sentence-to-free-speech/

#51 – “I Don’t Work There Anymore”

 

In business, the customer is the paying public and the merchant is the provider of service or goods. At the executive level, the merchant must make decisions based upon being able to provide those goods and services at competitive prices. To ensure the store’s doors remain open the executive must find a supplier of the desired goods of the customer.

A local grocery store will offer; can goods, frozen foods, fresh produce, bread, cereals, and meats. The store will also offer soaps, paper goods, cleaners mops, sponges, and disinfectants. Most local grocery stores even offer some over the counter medical supplies and dietary supplements. The fact is that in the local grocery store you can buy almost everything you need or want. Why? Because the merchants know that if they do not offer these products at competitive prices the customer will go elsewhere.

The mode of purchase that takes place in the grocery store is yet another issue. The customer voluntarily enters the store knowing that they must have something of value to purchase the goods that they desire. The thing of value is usually cash or a credit/debit card. After they go through their selection process they will voluntarily hand over that thing of value to complete the deal, goods for money.

That is a very simple description of an open market economy where most of these exchanges end with the satisfaction that the value you gave up was worth the product you received.

In a governmental situation, we elect people to shop for us. We usually choose at least three shoppers; at the central/national store, at the state store, and at the community store.  The governmental stores exist due to the patronage of the taxpayers. If the taxpayer is truly the customer, shouldn’t they determine the inventory being offered? It is time for the customer to evaluate the inventory that the government has on its selves. 

Ideally, this system should work due to the concept that our shoppers have an allegiance to those that “hired” them. However, the system has been corrupted by human flaws, greed and hubris have intervened. The government grocery stores are now filled with handlers that influence our shoppers. The products that they have purchased are not the ones that I desire or want.

The customers necessities have been discarded due to the influence levied upon our shoppers. The influence comes from fellow shoppers and from outsiders paid to influence all shoppers. Promises of prestigious committee membership, support toward reelection, financial rewards to reelection war chests and personal benefits now determine what we consume.

Take a good hard look at the goods in the shopping bag that we receive from the money they take from our paychecks. Here are just a few of the items that we find in our shopping bag: a $23 trillion deficit burden, numerous wars in the Middle East, military bases spread over the globe, a medical system so weak that covid-19 shut down the economy in order to “lower the curve”, a war on drugs used to employ millions but can’t even keep them out of prisons, empty airlines in service while unemployed citizens ration food and “non-essential” small business forced to shut-down while big “essential” corporation are bailed out so they can buy-back stock.

The government, due to the covid-19 crisis, has shown its hand. It has exposed its value system, the essentials, and non-essentials. Essential customers are bailed out while the “non-essentials” are disregarded. Over the past few months, the “non-essentials” have been cut loose. They have declared that the “non-essential’s” services are no longer required.

I’m retired, one might argue that I choose to be a non-essential, but I work from the age of 15 to the age of 62 in order to be a non-essential, it was voluntary and planned. If I was forced into the “non-essential” before my time I would probably be a lot less comfortable or maybe be struggling to make ends meet. If I was declared non-essential at the age of 20, 30, 40, 50 or even 60 I would have been downright angry.

Any authority that has the ability to enforced a stop-work order against the “non-essentials” is dangerous. They have basically “implied” that the “non-essentials” will; not be able to buy food, not be able to pay rent, not allowed to roam outside their boundaries and basically incapable of making prudent decisions concerning their own safety.

However, the authority does have a vetting process to identify acceptable “non-essentials.” Those that qualify will be allowed into a club, a club where Big Daddy will take care of them. This is a governmental authority on steroids. It is clear that they have seized the power to choose, both in industry and the individual, who is essential, and who is non-essentials.

Meanwhile, the Washington shoppers of both parties heap praise upon themselves for their “bipartisan” efforts, to issue IOUs to the “essentials” of their choice. The airlines will receive about $50 billion in cash and loans, while Boeing will receive a share of $17 billion earmarked for industries favored by Congress. Another $500 billion will go to cruise lines, hotels, and other firms that have lost business because of travel restrictions and the economic shutdowns.

In the current economic market, the “non-essential” might see things a little differently. Their priority may be a bit more mundane than flying to some resort location to embark on a luxury cruise. Maybe restarting jobs and services may be a higher priority. The only influence left for the non-essential is their feet. They must walk away from the governmental tyranny store and shop for liberty.

Bail-out the non-essentials by calling this off and restart the economy. We must begin to assess the damage caused by the covid-19 shutdown and proceed to rebuild the economy that has been destroyed. It is time to entrust the “non-essentials” to decide the extent of protection they want.

I am reminded of a rugby song we use to sing at the beer saturated post-game celebration:

I use to work in Chicago

In a department store

I use to work in Chicago

I don’t work there anymore

 

A lady came in for liberty*

Liberty from the store

Liberty she wanted

*Tyranny she got

I don’t work there anymore 

 

*This version is an adaptation from a verse we use to sing. The rugby version had a similar concept but included words like curtains and a rod, instead of liberty and tyranny.