COVID-19: Resist Much, Obey Little, and Never Forget

The COVID-19 outbreak isn’t over yet, but we’ve reached a turning point: American politicians and bureaucrats are beginning the tricky process of trying to simultaneously walk back their predictions of catastrophe, while awarding themselves the credit for those predictions not coming true, and avoiding the blame they deserve for inciting headlong irrational panic.

I’m no more immune than others to seeing confirmation of my views in outcomes on the ground. I might just as easily have titled this column “Confirming My Priors” or “That Rug Really Tied the Room Together.” But I’m gonna roll with temptation. I think this episode HAS confirmed my priors.

For nearly three decades, I’ve been pointing out to my readers that politicians are expensive serial killers who pose unacceptable risks to our lives and liberties.

We can usually “afford” their depredations.  The US government only openly steals about one out of every five dollars you earn, and its Food and Drug Administration (as an example) only murders about as many Americans each month as were killed in the 9/11 attacks.

But every once in a while their antics boil over into a Holodomor or a Holocaust or a Great Leap Forward. And that should keep you lying awake nights trying to think of a better way.

For those same three decades, I’ve been pointing out that you don’t actually need the politicians, that they don’t serve any useful productive purpose — and that they will go to any length to keep you from NOTICING that they’re useless and that you don’t need them.

I’d like to believe that COVID-19 will make these points so obvious that I can retire.

For example, it seems to me that people should just naturally notice that countries (like South Korea) and US states (like Florida) that are maintaining relative freedom of movement, assembly, commerce, etc., are coming through this thing in much better shape than countries (like Italy) and states (like New York and New Jersey) that went into full-on fascist “lockdown” mode.

And I’d like to think that having noticed, Americans will do the right thing:

Rise up.

Get back to living.

Ignore the politicians.

I’m not saying don’t be careful. I’m saying that you know better than any politician what being careful entails for you, and what risks are acceptable to you.

And if the politicians send uniformed thugs to enforce their dictates? Leave a few of their bodies lying in the streets, or hanging from lamp-posts, as a warning to the wise.

Yes, you just read what you thought you just read.

Resist much. Obey little. Never forget that the politicians tried to exploit this pandemic to reduce you under absolute despotism. And stop giving them such opportunities.

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After the Pandemic: Back to School, or Forward to a Better Future?

Anyone who tries to tell you that the COVID-19 pandemic, and its associated social, political, and economic panics, are good things is  an idiot, or trying to sell you some kind of snake oil, or both. Society-wide disasters are always net negatives, or we wouldn’t think of them as disasters in the first place. Silver linings are never as shiny as the clouds they run through are large.

That doesn’t mean silver linings don’t exist, though. They do, and some of them are significant.

One major silver lining in the United States is that the nation’s  patchwork of government-operated daycare centers / day prisons / drone worker boot camps, aka “public schools,” have temporarily shut down as part of the effort to slow the spread of the disease.

That’s a silver lining in itself: Even if the kids only miss a quarter-year of classroom confinement, most of them are probably going to advance at least a full grade level where real life skills are concerned. Yes, they’ll lag in terms regurgitating whatever propaganda they’re spoon-fed, but that’s a feature, not a bug. They’re getting a glimpse of what real freedom might look like.

But when the pandemic and its associated panics end, parents are going to be faced with a wrenching choice: Continue educating their kids, or hand those kids back over to the professional parasite class that’s monopolized “education” in America for more than a century?

The tax burden imposed by that parasite class has increasingly forced both parents in most households to work outside the home over the same time period.

But a second silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the discovery that working from home is practical for millions who were previously fooled into thinking it wasn’t.

And a third silver lining has been new attention — beyond even that cast by mass school shootings — to the fact that packing dozens of children into single rooms and hundreds or thousands into single buildings on a daily basis would be a bad idea even if the purpose WASN’T to stunt their intellectual growth and turn them into obedient robots.

Millions of American parents just became homeschoolers. That’s a good thing regardless of the reasons. And homeschooling just became more practical as well.

Instead of handing our kids back over to the parasite class when this crisis is over, let’s not.

And let’s stop handing our money over as well.

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Neither Pandemic nor Panic Supersede the First Amendment

Rodney Howard-Browne, pastor of The River church in Tampa, Florida, strongly believes that God wants his church to continue holding live services for hundreds of parishioners even in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hillsborough County sheriff Chad Chronister and state attorney Andrew Warren strongly believe that they’re entitled to threaten Howard-Browne with arrest for holding those services, then follow through on that threat.

Howard-Browne is obviously willing to go to jail for his belief. Are Chronister and Warren willing to go to prison for theirs?

Whether Howard-Browne is correct in his assessment of God’s commands isn’t something I’ll pretend to know. But Chronister and Warren are, beyond a shadow of a doubt, incorrect in their claims of authority.

The First Amendment to the Constitution protects both the “free exercise of” religion and the right “peaceably to assemble.” While that amendment initially bound only Congress, the 14th Amendment has generally been construed to extend its strictures to the state and local levels of government.

And then there’s 18 United States Code, Sections 241 and 242.

Section 241 provides for up to ten years of imprisonment if “two or more persons [for example, Chad Chronister and Andrew Warren] conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same.”

Section 242 adds another potential year of imprisonment for doing the above “under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom,” including “stay-at-home” or “lockdown” orders issued by local and state political officials.

I double-checked, just to make sure. Neither the First Amendment nor either of those US Code provisions include an “unless someone jumps up and down and screeches that there’s an emergency” exception.

Rodney Howard-Browne may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer (many churches are holding services online and I haven’t heard of any divine smite-downs over it), but he’s within his rights.

Chronister and Warren may be genuinely concerned about the spread of COVID-19, but they’re also lawless hooligans operating well beyond any reasonable claim of legitimate authority.

Sadly, they’re far from unique. Once the immediate danger is past, we should proceed immediately to Nuremberg-type tribunals to deal with them and the hundreds or even thousands of temporarily over-empowered scofflaws like them.

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By The Time We Notice We’re Hungry, It May Be Too Late

“[A]s the top U.S. watermelon-producing state prepares for harvest, Reuters reports, “many of the workers needed to collect the crop are stuck in Mexico …. Without the workers crops could rot in fields throughout the country,” starting in Florida and California where major harvests begin in April and May.

As you can probably guess, the problem stems from the COVID-19 panic. The US State Department has halted routine visa applications and consulates are limiting both staff numbers and staff contact with applicants. That’s making it difficult for the quarter million migrant workers who normally pick America’s crops to get here and get to work.

Most Americans aren’t hungry. Yet.

But unless something changes, we’re going to start GETTING hungry in a couple of months.

And by then, it will be too late. Planting cycles don’t turn on a dime for our convenience and ripe crops don’t wait. They get picked when it’s their time, or they go to waste. We get the food while the gettin’s good, or we don’t get it at all.

There’s a non-trivial chance that Americans are rushing headlong into a horror we haven’t seen since the Civil War — mass starvation — or, at the very least, malnutrition on a scale we haven’t suffered since the Great Depression.

We can’t avoid that outcome with stimulus checks in our mailboxes. All the money in the world won’t buy you a cantaloupe if there aren’t any cantaloupes to buy.

We can’t hold it off with corporate bailouts, either. It’s not money Big Agriculture’s lacking for, it’s permission for its workers to come pick the crops.

If we want to keep eating, our politicians are going to have to knock off this “shutdown” nonsense and let people get back to work.

Yes, even if that means that COVID-19 remains a problem or becomes a bigger problem.

The varying probabilities of catching the disease, and the varying probabilities of dying from it, pale next to the absolute, indubitable, 100% certainty that if we do not eat, we WILL die.

Politicians can’t just shut down major parts of an economy at will, start them back up, and expect things to go well. They can’t throttle the food supply chain without consequences.

We gotta eat.

Which means we’re going to have to insist that the politicians hang their Mussolini costumes back up in the closet and magnanimously permit us to get back to our lives.

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Congress Declares Itself Non-Essential

Around the US, “essential” workers are going to work everyday and doing their jobs, COVID-19 pandemic or not. Factory workers are producing things. Truck and delivery drivers are transporting those things. Grocery store employees and food service workers are making sure food reaches our tables.

Congress, not so much.

When US Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) tried to require his fellow politicians to actually show up at the Capitol to vote on the biggest one-off welfare handout in human history, and to  record their votes for posterity, all hell broke loose.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called Massie a “dangerous nuisance” for having the gall and temerity to suggest that the House get the constitutionally required quorum (216 members) together and put them on record instead of just pretending it had such a quorum and holding an undifferentiated voice vote.

US Representative Peter King (R-NY) said it was “disgraceful” and “irresponsible” of Massie to imply that King should show up for work instead of sitting at home in New York collecting his $174,000 salary, his lavish fringe benefits, and his comfortable retirement package.

President Donald Trump called Massie a “third-rate grandstander” and advocated his expulsion from the Republican Party. I mention this only to acknowledge Trump’s expertise in third-rate grandstanding, and to suggest that he’s not otherwise qualified to so much as carry Massie’s briefcase.

And so it went down on March 27:

Massie called for a recorded vote. The chair pretended to count those standing in favor of a roll call vote and announced there weren’t enough.

Upon Massie’s further objection that the House lacked a quorum, the chair spent four seconds pretending to count to 216 in a nearly empty chamber before asserting that yes, there was a quorum, and declaring the bill passed.

If any other body pulled that kind of stunt, its members would find themselves in court answering to charges of honest services fraud. But when Congress lies, even as openly and arrogantly as it did here, it usually gets away with doing so. Massie presumably lost this battle.

But there’s a larger war on over the credibility of American politicians and political institutions, and if we listen to what Congress is actually saying, it just shot itself in the foot in public.

Here’s the message Congress just sent America:

“We as individual members of Congress are far too important, and Congress itself is far too un-important, for us to be expected to do our jobs if doing our jobs entails any personal risk, or even inconvenience.”

Or, to put it a different way, “we’re far more important than Subway sandwich artists, and the House of Representatives isn’t nearly as important as a Subway  store. Our safety and comfort is paramount and the job we do isn’t important enough to do right.”

I’m not sure I agree with Capitol Hill’s (when they bother to be there) perfumed princes and princesses as to just how very special and important they are, but I think they’re onto something with the second part.

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Decarceration: COVID-19 is Opportunity Knocking

On March 23, 14 US Senators from both major political parties asked US Attorney General William Barr and Michael Carvajal, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, to “transfer non-violent offenders who are at high risk for suffering complications from COVID-19 to home confinement.”

It’s a smart idea, and one local jails and state prisons around the country are already implementing. But it raises an important question and also points to an important opportunity.

The question: If the prisoners in question pose no threat of violence, why were they sent to jail or prison in the first place?

The opportunity: The COVID-19 outbreak should mark the beginning of mass decarceration, not just a temporary exception to a dumb and damaging practice.

More than 2.3 million Americans live in cages.

The vast majority of them are not murderers, rapists, armed robbers, or kidnappers.

In fact, many of them didn’t victimize anyone at all — they didn’t pick your pocket or steal your car, they just got caught disobeying this or that arbitrary government edict (for example, laws against using or selling marijuana).

But instead of letting them pay their own rent, buy their own food, and provide for their own medical insurance — not to mention earning money to pay restitution to their victims if they have any — American politicians extort nearly $200 billion a year from American taxpayers to confine them in institutions that provide those already criminally inclined with higher educations in their chosen fields while simultaneously promoting the spread of every malady imaginable from anti-social behavior to substance abuse to, yes, infectious disease.

That was crazy before the pandemic. It’s crazier now, as even the most dim-witted among us (our politicians) are beginning to understand. And it would be bat-feces insane to go right back to it once the COVID-19 panic ends.

We already have at our disposal, and are already using, the  technology and manpower we need to do away with incarceration for all but the most violent and dangerous criminals: The electronic tracking devices already used to enforce “house arrest” and “work release” convicts, and correctional institution staff who can be transitioned into jobs as tracking monitors and/or probation and parole officers.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. We’ve had the way for ages. COVID-19 has at least temporarily created the will. Let’s hold on to the lesson permanently instead of falling back into error  when this present crisis ends.

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