Morbidly Obtuse: Pelosi and the Media versus Hydroxychloroquine

When US president Donald Trump mentioned that he’s taking hydroxychloroquine, he immediately got an extra dose of flak from both the mainstream media and noted medical experts such as US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

Trump has been using the drug prophylactically versus COVID-19 — which he’s likely been exposed to via a personal valet —  with the concurrence of his physician.

Pelosi chided Trump for taking “something that has not been approved by the scientists” (it has been) and worried that he’s at risk of side effects because he’s “morbidly obese” (he’s not).

A Bing search on the terms “hydroxychloroquine” and “unproven” returns nearly 28,000 results for the 24 hours following Trump’s statement. The media apparently want us to believe that there’s something sketchy and experimental about hydroxychloroquine.

Contra Pelosi, hydroxychloroquine was “approved by the scientists” at the US Food and Drug Administration in 1955.

Those scientists deemed it both “safe” in general and “effective” for certain disorders (obviously not including a virus which they couldn’t even know existed for anther 65 years), with doctors permitted to prescribe it “off-label” for other maladies.

As of 2017, hydroxychloroquine was the 128th most prescribed drug in the United States, at more than 5 million prescriptions. It appears on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. Nobody was calling it “unproven” in any way until Donald Trump mentioned it, and nobody would be calling it that now if he HADN’T mentioned it.

Is hydroxychloroquine effective either as a treatment for, or protector against, COVID-19? Various juries are likely to be out on that question for a long time.

Are there known side effects associated with the drug’s use? Sure. Find a drug with no side effects and you’ve probably found a drug with no effects at all.

Do any of the facts above really matter? No.

It’s none of the FDA’s business what drugs Donald Trump decides to take.

It’s none of Nancy Pelosi’s business, either, unless he feels like discussing it with her.

It’s only the media’s business because he decided to tell them about it.

And if you decide to take hydroxychloroquine, or any other drug, it’s nobody else’s business either.

It’s probably a good idea to consult your doctor before taking just about any medication, but that’s YOUR call, not anyone else’s, to make.

It’s YOUR body.

It’s YOUR life.

It’s YOUR decision.

Don’t let Nancy Pelosi, the media, or anyone else tell you otherwise.

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Ready or Not, the Lockdown Season is Coming to an End

On May 15, city officials declared Atwater, California a “sanctuary city.” Not for undocumented immigrants, but for businesses and churches who choose to ignore governor Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19-related shutdown orders. The city won’t be enforcing the governor’s edicts. Those edicts, mayor Paul Creighton told local businesses, are “between you and the state of California.”

“We’re not going to tolerate people starting to congregate,” mayor Bill de Blasio whined all the way across the country in New York City, center of the country’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak so far. Even as he spoke, crowds descended on area beaches and congregated for sidewalk soirees outside bars forbidden to do sit-down business but selling cocktails to go.

About the same time, I heard a store owner in my part of Florida explain to a customer that while there is in fact a county order (posted on every business enterprise’s door) requiring customers to wear masks inside stores, “I’m not a county enforcer.” Some customers wore masks. Some didn’t. Most stores I visited obviously had the same policy, whether they announced it quite so brazenly or not.

Americans, it seems, are collectively deciding amongst ourselves that COVID-19 lockdown time is over. Our  decision isn’t up for debate or subject to appeal. Politicians and their pet “experts”  are fresh out of veto power. For better or worse — almost certainly some of both — America is opening back up.

On the plus side, the economy, although taking a hit, may be cranking back up in time to avert severe food shortages and other potentially deadly supply chain problems this coming fall and winter.

On the minus side, the virus is still out there. We’re almost certainly going to see new outbreaks and spikes in old outbreak centers as time goes on.

A side effect of those outbreaks and spikes will be calls for renewed lockdowns. Those may even happen in a scattered way at the local level.

But America’s  Andrew Cuomos and Gretchen Whitmers and Gavin Newsoms presumably know that their political futures — and maybe even their physical safety — are on the line here and that they’re fresh out of shenanigans passes. There won’t be any more state-level Mussolini cosplay.

The Iron Curtain was drawn tightly shut for 45 years.

The Berlin Wall stood for three decades.

Lockdown America didn’t even make it to the three-month mark.

That’s a good thing. It’s a harbinger of hope for a freer future.

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Reopening isn’t Politicians’ Call

To open or not to open; that is the question. But it’s the wrong question.

While there’s plenty of debate and disagreement over allowing businesses to re-open; when and how it should be done, the discussion misses the point completely.

No one had the right to shut down businesses they didn’t own. You don’t have the right to tell someone they must shut their business and you can’t delegate a right you don’t have. Not to a governor or anyone else. This means the authority to tell businesses to close shop, even temporarily due to an emergency, doesn’t exist.

The same applies to telling people they aren’t allowed to leave their house or to gather with groups of friends. To forbid people to gather is a clear violation of the First Amendment even if you agree and even if government employees are allowed to get away with it.

Nowhere does the Constitution say “unless there is an emergency and people are scared.” I know because I’ve checked.

Government employees can get away with making these rules because the people of America have been infected with a superstitious belief in political authority.

I understand the fears that lead people to accept such orders, even though I don’t share them.

I still believe you should be careful and shouldn’t do things that put others at too much risk.

Respecting liberty is always the right choice, but there are risks either way.

There is no policy that won’t cost lives. That option doesn’t exist, even in normal times. The best you can do with any policy is trade lives. Ignoring the virus would have cost lives; shutting the economy is costing lives; seeking some sort of middle ground costs lives, too. It’s time to stop this silliness.

The ethical thing to do is to remove government from the equation, let business owners decide when and how to re-open, and let individuals decide for themselves the amount of risk they are willing to accept.

If someone is not willing to accept risk to save America, they are perfectly free to self-quarantine inside their homes as I would assume they have already been doing.

This virus — or any other — is going to have to run its course, whether it happens in a month or in a year. It’s time to accept this and let it. I think you’ll discover the fear-mongering was overblown.

So, open or stay shut, but it was never the politicians’ decision to make.

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Sushi and Health Care

All sushi is not created equal.

If I brought you a tray of gas station sushi, you’d have a different experience than if we went to the best sushi chef in town. So different that it’s a stretch to even consider them the same food. One will probably make you sick, and the other is good for you.

The cartelized, monopolized, credential-driven world of health care operates under the fiction that all sushi is interchangeable. Except not sushi, but providers and specialists.

You see a doctor. They ask questions, don’t listen too well, check a few items off their list like robots, and do one of two things: tell you to take some drugs or go see a specialist. They don’t know much about the risks and effectiveness of the drugs, as they’ve outsourced most of their critical thinking to standards and practices imbibed in the system. And they act as if the specialists offer uniform ability and quality; like every source of sushi is the same.

Since you can’t see a specialist without a referral – a practice largely intended to give generalists more business and ration specialists time since price-rationing is all but non-existent in the quasi-socialized system – you need to see a general practitioner first. They send some paperwork to a specialist office and tell you you’ll get a call for scheduling. It doesn’t matter which office or which specialist within that office. They tell you nothing about their ability or quality and you’re not supposed to ask. The entire medical profession must maintain the fiction that each practitioner in their field – since they all memorized the same dated, badly incentivized, doubtful textbooks – is an interchangeable widget.

The absurdity of this notion may be better expressed with spouses than sushi. Is every woman an equally fit spouse for every man and vice versa? “Here, marry this person. They are a woman/man.” That’s pretty much how it goes in health care.

But the deviation in quality of care is extreme. Granted, a majority of doctors are likely to provide the same brand of WebMD quality disinterested regurgitation. But the right doctor can literally save your life, while the wrong can take it. This is not exaggeration. Medical error is the number three cause of death in the US. And that’s just direct error. How many lengthy treatment regimes result in a death that is not technically “medical error” but could’ve been avoided with a better doctor?

There’s not much in the way of market accountability, price transparency, or responsiveness to the customer. The health care industry is too intertwined with bureaucrats whose every edict is backed by threat of violence and who have the ability to confer massive money to anyone who jumps through their hoops, regardless of the outcomes they produce for patients.

Humans are radically different. Bodies are incomprehensibly complex and unique. The uniformity of the medical market is a government failure. Often a deadly one.

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Well Done, Billionaires

I ran into a neighbor on the street the other day and we chatted about life at home during COVID-19 and how we are all coping with social distancing. I mentioned how grateful I am that our nearby Whole Foods market seems well-stocked (except for toilet paper).

She made a comment about how billionaires like Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, which also owns Whole Foods, should really be less greedy and share their wealth. (She didn’t know that Bezos has donated $100 million to US food banks during the pandemic, but charity is beside the point.)

The dominant narrative that billionaires are greedy and big companies like Amazon are monopolistic, exploitative tyrants is not only misguided but deeply troubling for the future of prosperity and human progress. This rhetoric is nothing new. Successful businesspeople have long been smeared as robber barons who take and take, detracting from the “common good.” But this rhetoric and these smear campaigns fail to recognize just how much these billionaires give. And I don’t mean give in terms of charity.

They give by doing, by building, by creating, by inventing. They give by making products or offering services that people want to buy at a price they want to pay in pursuit of things they want to do, and employing thousands of people who choose to work for a wage they choose to accept.

They give by creating value for people, free of force and in an open marketplace of voluntary exchange. In the case of Amazon and Bezos, it got big and he got wealthy by building a superior product that millions of people freely choose to use because they can get goods they want at lower prices and faster speeds, freeing up their precious time and resources to devote to their own personal pursuits.

Amazon is a marvel of modern enterprise, and is one of the few companies keeping our emaciated economy from completely collapsing during this public health shutdown. Instead of disdain, the people who built these companies deserve our respect and appreciation. They are the builders and the creators, the thinkers and the doers. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt reinforced this point recently in a virtual presentation to the Economic Club of New York. He said:

Think about what your life would be like in America without Amazon, for example. The benefit of these corporations — which we love to malign — in terms of the ability to communicate … the ability to get information, is profound — and I hope people will remember that when this thing is finally over. So let’s be a little bit grateful that these companies got the capital, did the investment, built the tools that we’re using now and have really helped us out. Imagine having the same reality of this pandemic without these tools.

Yes, imagine. In her classic book, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand did just that, showing what life would be like if we mistake success for greed, achievement for exploitation, and progress for oppression. Billionaires, like Bezos, who have built great companies contribute daily to the “common good”—not only through charity, but through human ingenuity and the progress and prosperity that produces for all of us. During this pandemic, Audible, an Amazon company, is offering hundreds of its children’s audiobooks, and many of its adult books as well, for free. Atlas Shrugged is one of them.

We can, and should, balk at attempts to corrupt the process of voluntary exchange when business and government become entangled. That isn’t capitalism, it’s cronyism and it poisons the promise of free markets.

Economist Dan Mitchell describes the difference as being pro-market or pro-business, with the former acting as a champion of free enterprise and trade while the latter relies on government handouts and business buffers in the form of subsidies and bailouts.

Government officials trying to woo Amazon with subsidies and preferential treatment to build additional headquarters in a particular city is an obvious example of being pro-business at the expense of a dynamic free market.

Entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos assume enormous risk and invest significant time, energy, and resources into inventing products and services that people want and need. They spot an opportunity to create value for others, and build a business around that idea using their own originality and will. If they succeed in creating something that others value, they will be rewarded financially; but even Jeff Bezos isn’t as rich as you think. Most billionaire wealth is inextricably linked to the companies they built, continuing to generate value for others, continuing to give.

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Coronaggravation

Thursday I had my first almost-explosion over this coronavirus shut-down nonsense. My patience is running low.

I’m getting tired of businesses not being allowed to open normally, and I’m also getting tired of “karens” who think it’s their business to point accusatory fingers at those who have had enough of the ridiculous (and counterproductive) rules and have begun to ignore them. I said a few weeks ago that people had reached “peak panic” and were going to stop responding to fear-mongering.

No, a group of people sitting in the park is NOT the reason the pandemic shut-downs are still with us. They may be our only hope of getting past this in a reasonable amount of time. Sure, health care workers and cashiers (in those businesses allowed to be open) are heroic, but so are those ignoring the “social distancing rules” and risking interaction with legislation enforcement officers. Especially when those in the group appear to be old enough to be in the higher risk group. Thank you!

As I watch just about all my earliest predictions and observations come to be grudgingly admitted as likely truth by more and more “experts” (and others saying they knew this all along), the stupidity of the shut-downs gets more and more obvious.

No, I wasn’t “downplaying the risk”; I was being more realistic about the situation than any of the well-paid “experts”. Time is telling who was more right. Confirmation bias? Maybe. But the posts are here to read.

There is still no rational alternative but to open up everything normally and let the virus spread naturally so it can fizzle out on its own. As viruses do. No rational alternative AT ALL! The longer this is delayed, the more harm that is done.

Yet, politicians can’t stand the thought of giving up their newfound power to control. They feel growing pressure to ease away from some of the restrictions they love, which are growing more unpopular every day, but they are going to drag their feet as much as they can. Can’t back off of DOING THE WRONG THINGS too quickly, or…? “Something bad“…? I feel a growing hatred for those political vermin… and there was no love there before.

You can depend on politically-oriented people to always do the wrong thing, for too long, and to resist ending it in the face of evidence that they are wrong and making things worse. Their precious power is more important to them than just about anything else. Your life is just a speed-bump– and not a very noticeable one in their eyes.

It would be one thing if this were a natural disaster and there were actual reasons businesses couldn’t open or that people couldn’t gather, but this is a natural event turned into a disaster by politics. Politics makes people stupid!

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