It’s time to erase the Thin Blue Line. (part 3 of 3)

In his book, Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen, by Dan Heath, he recounts the story of carpet manufacturer Ray Anderson who demanded his staff act as if they were 100% responsible for any environmental issues they caused as a company. He goes on to say, what if a married couple both told the story of their relationship problems as if they were solely responsible? What if teachers told the story of high school dropouts as if the teachers were 100% responsible for every student that dropped out? What difference could be made if people accepted full and complete responsibility for problems they’re maybe only partially responsible for? What if, instead of feeling trapped in an unwinnable situation we were forced to explain the situation as if we were the ones fully responsible? Could we go from feeling like victims of the problem to feeling like co-owners of the solution? What if police officers accepted full responsibility for the killings of unarmed citizens, and what if they worked together to develop a plan to bring an end to it without assigning any blame to anybody else? 100% their fault. And, what if the black community accepted full 100% responsibility for the deaths of the members of their community at the hands of the police, and they had discussions to find ways to stop these deaths that had nothing to do with the police changing, but they themselves changing. What if society said, “Hey, all these deaths at the hands of police officers is entirely our fault. What can we do to fix it?” And, what if all of them did this independently? How many good things could happen? What if all three parties said, I choose to fix this problem, not because it’s someone else’s fault, but because it’s my fault, I can fix it, and it’s worth fixing? Imagine the possibilities if all three parties could look at the root cause of the problems and implement strategies and procedures to fix these upstream causations with downstream correlations.

Let’s start with what the police could do in looking upstream for solutions. Remember, police officers, we’re approaching this as if this is all your fault. All the problems we’re experiencing are entirely on you. YOU must make the necessary changes to fix the problems.

  1. The first thing would be to weaken the power of their unions and guilds. This is going to be infuriating to some cops because when officers get fired spuriously, maliciously, and injudiciously, as with the firing of Atlanta PD officers Garrett Rolfe and Devin Brosnan last week, they need the collective bargaining agreements that protect their jobs. However, I know there are a lot of good cops who are right now working alongside bad cops who only have a job because of union protection, and those good cops are appalled and scared for their own safety and the safety of the public because of these protections. Union protections often don’t even allow supervisors to move an officer from patrol duty to desk duty if they feel he’s unsafe, and this is pretty much a travesty that has certainly contributed to many unnecessary deaths.
  2. End the preference point system in the hiring process. We should be striving for the smartest police departments possible. The absolute best candidates are the ones who show intelligence and critical thinking skills, something reflected in your final score on the civil service exam. Some people get extra credit added right to their final score, and this extra credit is known as preference points. Right now, preference points are given to candidates for any number of things including legacy preference, residency preference, foreign language fluency preference, and military preference. Some of these things like residency and legacy preference are absurd. Just because you currently live in a jurisdiction does not mean you will be a better cop. Just because your father or grandfather was a cop does not mean you will be a better cop. I can get on board with foreign language proficiency because that is a valuable street skill, but education preference is also worthless. You can have a college degree and still be dumb, and in fact there’s little evidence that a college degree has any value whatsoever to police work. However, the real preference point issue I want to discuss is military preference points.Prior to 1997 our police departments were soft and officers were dying at a high rate, and somebody decided it would be better to supplement police ranks with soldiers. And this was a good idea.

    Tactically, prior to the North Hollywood shootout, police had little or no training in any weapons other than revolvers and shotguns, and our streets were ripe for the kind of criminal domination we saw in that event. Now, however, our police departments are overrun with retired military veterans, and, thanks to this 20-year war on terror quagmire we’ve been mired in, a huge number of them have actual combat experience. Although it’s good to have some solid tactical police officers with military training, there are too many right now. In fact, there probably aren’t statistics to prove this, but I would bet there are more police right now who have actual combat experience than there have ever been, maybe with the exception of the mid-seventies right after the Vietnam war ended. When all of your training for your entire adult life has been tactical decision making, every problem looks like a tactical problem. Every solution you arrive at is a tactical solution. Military vets tend to have a war mentality along with a blind obedience to authority, and both of these traits should be undesirable in modern policing. Compassion, critical thinking, and outside the box problem solving become back-up options. Instead, everything becomes a military-style movement with maximum force and minimum empathy.

    Contrary to popular police opinion, combat skills translate quite poorly to the civilian policing world. There are very few situations in which combat skills are necessary in policing. The times when those skills might be needed are so limited that we can certainly conduct our own training that is specifically pointed toward civilian combat instead of military combat and arrive at better officers than those who receive their training from the military where civilian casualties are an accepted cost of war.

    This is not meant to disparage veterans in any way. I love the idea of our veterans becoming our police officers. They bring a lot of quality skills to policing, however, intelligence and ability to think critically should be the number one priority in police hiring. A person should not be able to jump over a more qualified candidate for the sole reason that they get extra credit for serving in a war. This practice lowers the overall IQ of the department.

  1. Police officers need more training in both de-escalation tactics and in defensive tactics. When you’re confident in your training you’re less likely to escalate situations. If someone is attacking an officer and he feels entirely confident in his ability to fight hand-to-hand without weapons or tools, he won’t feel the need to quickly escalate the situation to more dangerous use of force levels. Police officers do not receive near enough training in either of these things, and academies should be expanded to enhance them. Additionally, in-service training should be expanded to include instruction in martial arts. If you’re going to give preference points to anything during hiring, let’s give them to masters of defensive martial arts disciplines. Imagine how many fights would end in the suspect being pinned instead of dead if all cops held black belts in Judo. Fear is a primary reason why officers escalate uses of force. Fear that they’re going to lose the fight, fear that their weapon will be taken from them and used against them or the public. Fear is the killer of rational thought. It is what has caused so many of the murders and accidental shootings we’re seeing. Making officers more confident, more capable of handling themselves reduces fear, and that will reduce the number of these critical incidents. Police academies need to stop instilling fear in recruits through the constant barrage of imagery of officers being murdered, and instead focus on making recruits more confident, more capable, and better at de-escalation tactics.
  2. Officers should call their sergeants and command staff by first names instead of titles and get rid of the titles “sir” and “ma’am” completely when addressing senior officers. If you work for a small department or a progressive department, maybe you’ve already done this, but this is still incredibly prevalent in large agencies. This really goes back to the hierarchical nature of policing and the need to implement a program similar to CRM for the airlines. It is now commonplace for captains to insist to the first officer that he call them by his first name as opposed to, “Captain.” The reasoning is that a junior officer feels more comfortable asserting a problem to “Bob” than he does to “Captain Robertson.” The same applies to police. Take a look at this video showing Buffalo police shoving a 75-year-old man to the ground. As a long-time supporter of police, seeing some of the videos of police violence against non-violent protestors during these riots is absolutely infuriating. It’s not that police are making many of these decisions, it’s that they’re following orders. The two officers in this case have been charged with assault, but I can’t help but notice the man behind the two officers. The two officers have actually stopped their advance to have a discussion with the citizen when the officer behind them steps up and says something. I can’t prove it, but it seems like he gives them an order. Maybe just, “Let’s go!” or “Move him along!” or something of that nature. I doubt he says, “Shove him to the ground!” but whatever he says, these officers react instantly, and they shove him to the ground. If they reacted to an order from a superior officer here, part of this responsibility lies once again in the hierarchical nature of police work. Smarter officers with more advanced critical thinking abilities might have heard that order and grabbed the guy by the arm, moving him along firmly but gently. Instead of “Yes, sir,” smarter officers in a less hierarchical organization might have said, “Easy Bob, he’s an old man,” when Sergeant Robertson ordered them to move the man along. Now, it is important to note that there’s a fine line here, and police departments, at least on the west coast have taken some pretty big strides to mitigate the militaristic lean of their forces. It is important for officers to obey orders in most tactical situations. Police training just needs to implement some sort of CRM program for when those orders create a dangerous situation to the public.
  1. Police officers need to be in better shape. Unions have regularly put a stop to physical conditioning standards which exist in hiring criteria but often are considered a violation of contractual rights for fully employed officers. This is why there are so many fat cops out there. Peak physical conditioning should be an absolute requirement of the job. Police officers who cannot pass a rigid physical need to be removed from the streets. Being out of shape endangers both your life, your partners’ lives, and the lives of the community. Being unable to fight because you’re in such poor cardiovascular health leads to lethal force being your only option. This is atrocious, and police departments need to put an end to it. Bring back physical standards for police officers. Every six months make yourselves pass a physical agility test that is equal to the standards for hiring (which, by the way, is a pretty atrociously low bar.) If an officer can’t pass the physical, give them a month to get there, then pull them off the street until they can pass it. It’s so embarrassing to see so many fat cops out there. If you’re a police officer and you’re in shape, I know you agree, so quit protecting the bargaining agreements that allow this. You’re contributing to dangerous conditions for yourselves and for the public. Strive to make the next generation wonder where the inspiration for this image came from:
  2. Police officers need more days off, PTO days without having to give a reason. When you’re having a bad day at work at Amazon, you might punch a package, argue with a co-worker, perhaps cause breakage during package delivery because you’re more careless. When you’re having a bad day as a cop, you write tickets for things you might have given a warning for otherwise. You arrest in situations where you might have cited and released. More importantly, you go hands-on with suspects sooner, your fuse is shorter, your temper is quicker to rise, you become more aggressive, and you escalate situations faster. Police officers have personal lives too, and when they’re having a bad day due to personal issues, they should be able to take the day off without any fear of reprisal. We expect them to be perfectly professional all the time, yet they have bad days just as frequently—and probably more frequently due to the nature of their work—then people in other jobs. And yet, they are still expected to put that behind them, to act professionally, to accept a constant barrage of verbal abuse on the job without snapping. No other job requires you to take abuse like that. This is an impossible expectation to set.
  3. Stop hiring so many young people. In many departments police officers are hired as young as 21 years of age. It costs a lot of money to hire and train an officer, and departments want to get as much time as they can out of them before retirement. However, this is a ridiculous strategy. The immaturity of a 21-year old, or even any officer throughout their twenties is very difficult to measure. People are still growing emotionally and learning during that time, and it often isn’t until something truly awful happens that we discover that this young person was not cut-out for the job. Young people tend to be more into the job for the power and the thrill of driving fast, shooting guns, and arresting bad guys. In this day and age, these are undesirable traits that are quite easy to cover up. Every department asks candidates why they want to be a cop, and every candidate answers that they want to help their community, however, how many 21-year olds truly want to help their community? I’m sure these unicorns exist, but the vast majority of them are lying. They want the badge. They want the authority. They want their friends to look at them with awe. They want to fly down the street with lights blazing and siren wailing and slam a bad guy against a wall to hook him and book him. They want the adrenaline rush that the job provides, and anything else they claim is pure B.S.
    In addition, cops get lied to all the time. Literally every day, with the vast majority of their contacts. This wears on a person, particularly a young person. Immaturity plus a callous indifference brought on by constant deception creates the veteran officers who couldn’t care less about the community and think every single person is a scumbag. Departments need to strive for maturity in their hiring process, and young applicants should be considered completely immature out of hand with a tough bar for them to prove otherwise.
    In addition to this, departments should strongly consider ending the desire for a racially and sexually representative department. Police chiefs are passing up qualified candidates to hire candidates who check a sexual or racial box, and it’s a terrible practice. In addition, they are pushing officers through the training who have no business passing just because they need to fill that quota. I don’t give a rat’s ass if Safeway hires terrible cashiers in an effort to have a racially or sexually diverse workforce. In fact, I’m all for enacting laws and regulations like Affirmative Action that ensure that type of hiring practice. But not in critical jobs where the lives of citizens are at risk. If you want to hire more black officers or more female officers, then target your recruiting efforts toward those citizen demographics, but stop pushing these check-mark candidates through training in situations where they otherwise would have failed. There are so many examples of officers getting into situations where they are so clearly out of their element, so clearly incapable of competently handling the situation, that you wonder how they could have possibly passed the stringent hiring process. The answer, nearly every time, is that they passed because of some external element like sex, race, or nepotism. This needs to end! This is killing people out there. You can see video examples of this here, here, here, and here. There are a hundred more I could link to, but hopefully this illustrates the point. It’s highly probable that none of these people should have ever become cops. There’s little chance they showed competence in simulated stress situations, and yet, here they are.
  4. Stop referring to each other as warrior, or sheepdog. Police need to bring an end to the mentality that they are the protectors of civilians who are all sheep. They need to stop looking at the population as if citizens are merely serfs or the hoi polloi who have no ability to defend themselves and are entirely reliant on the police. Even if this is true, this way of thinking is creating a mindset that is psychologically detrimental to police-community relations. If citizens are sheep then so are police officers. Police are simply sheep who have some training, and there are a lot of civilians who are better trained than the police! In fact, this article states that the average civilian concealed pistol permit holder has more pistol training than the average police officer and is actually a better shot. So, while civilians may indeed rely on the police to protect them from the occasional wolf attack, far more often we are simply relying on the police to be either impartial witnesses for our disputes, or to be agents of the state who are capable of deploying the state’s mechanisms, i.e. dusting our stuff for fingerprints to be run through the database when we get robbed. Police need to drop the mentality that they are warriors and sheepdogs and that civilians are merely clueless sheep who would all be dead if the officers weren’t there to protect them because that is such a miniscule part of what they actually do day in and day out.
  5. Police need to attempt to get the average time of their contentious encounters with civilians way down, particularly with minorities. Recognize the perception, right or wrong, that is out there, and fix it. Multiple studies have shown that the longer an officer spends in confrontation with a suspect, the greater the chance that it will go bad. Police can fix this. They can start by choosing to not enforce some of the more ridiculous laws out there. Police have discretion in most of the enforcement they do, and it’s time to start using that discretion. If someone rolls through a stop sign on a street with no traffic, coming almost to a complete stop but not quite, are you seriously going to tell me that you enforcing that infraction is making the streets safer? If somebody doesn’t use their turn signal while making a turn from a TURN ONLY LANE, have you seriously helped save lives by stopping and warning or citing for that? If someone has a license plate light out, or a tiny crack in their taillight with a wink of white light showing, are you seriously going to tell me that this is a safety hazard? Or, are all of these things just legal fishing expeditions, justified solely because the law is on the books, bored officers looking for warrants, drugs, or whatever else? These traffic laws exist for public safety. Officers enforcing them when there is CLEARLY no safety issue needs to end. Marijuana laws? What a joke. Stop enforcing them. Stop arresting primarily minority perpetrators of minor drug offenses. When you encounter marijuana on a routine encounter, ignore it or destroy it rather than citing or arresting for it, and, even more importantly, let the subject know that’s what you’re going to do right from the start. De-escalate the situation before it even begins to escalate.
  6. Stop lying to citizens in your everyday encounters. I’m not talking about lying during interrogations of detainees suspected of violent felonies, I’m talking about the lying that happens so often during routine traffic stops and encounters. Things like, “Just be honest with me and things will go a lot better for you.” So many times, I’ve seen police encounters where something like this is stated, followed by honesty from the suspect, followed by an arrest for some minor misdemeanor crime like marijuana possession. Let that shit go. Quit trying to get suspects to confess to something in a complete fishing expedition. Not only are you extending the time of contact with the person, you’re eroding what little trust remains. This is the era of video. Everything you do is being recorded. Why then, do you keep doing things that are optically terrible just because you’re legally allowed to? Start thinking about how your actions are going to LOOK to the general public not what the intent of your actions actually is.

Let’s talk about what Black Lives Matter and the black community needs to do in looking upstream for a solution. Remember, BLM, we’re approaching this as if this situation is all your fault. All the problems we’re experiencing are entirely on you. YOU must make the necessary changes to fix the problems.

  1. Acknowledge that the entire Black Lives Matter movement was based off of poorly interpreted data, and that the entire platform was a scam in the beginning. Admit that when Colin Kaepernick was kneeling in protest to what he claimed were racially motivated and disproportional police killings of African Americans, he was wrong and was fooled by badly manipulated data. Even now with recent events there’s a widespread movement trying to convince people that Kaepernick was correct after all, that police were killing blacks in a plethora of racially motivated murders. BLM has convinced people that cops are killing black people in extraordinary, racist-driven numbers, and it’s simply not true. There is no epidemic of racist cops. Take a look at this study titled, An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force from the National Bureau of Economic Research. I suggest reading the entire study which is incredibly informative, but here’s an excerpt:

On non-lethal uses of force, blacks and Hispanics are more than fifty percent more likely to experience some form of force in interactions with police. Adding controls that account for important context and civilian behavior reduces, but cannot fully explain, these disparities. On the most extreme use of force – officer involved shootings – we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account. We argue that the patterns in the data are consistent with a model in which police officers are utility maximizers, a fraction of which have a preference for discrimination, who incur relatively high expected costs of officer-involved shootings

There is plenty of ammo in this study and dozens of similar studies such as this one for Black Lives Matter to acknowledge the auspicious nature of their beginnings and to shift their platform to a more data-driven narrative that complains about police use of force against minorities instead of police killings of minorities.

  1. Acknowledge and attempt to fix the actual problem of blacks perpetrating violence against law enforcement officers. In the three examples at the very beginning of this article, all of the officers were killed by black men. These are the three deadliest attacks against law enforcement since 9/11, and they were all three perpetrated by black men. In 2019, 48 police officers were feloniously killed, 15 of them, or 31% by black men. In 2018 56 police officers were feloniously killed, 23 of them, or 41% by black men. In 2017, 46 officers were feloniously killed, 16 of them, or 36% by black men. In fact, in the last decade, almost 40% of all police officers killed in the line of duty were killed by African Americans. For a demographic that makes up only 13% of the U.S. population, these are atrocious numbers, and the black community needs to acknowledge it. Even looking at this from a police contact perspective, black Americans make up about 28% of all arrests in the U.S., so the number of blacks who murder the officers who contact them is significantly higher than for any other demographic even with that standard. This is a problem, and it falls on the black community to address it.
  2. There is an overall problem of violence in the black community. We’re going to address this as a societal problem as well, but remember, for this exercise we’re using the Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen idea of fully accepting all blame and using that to come up with solutions. The last weekend in May, when protests were flaring up over the police killing of George Floyd, there were 92 people shot and 27 of them died in Chicago alone. Almost every single one of these consisted of black men killing black men. In the past, BLM activists have scoffed at the idea that there’s a black on black violent crime problem, asserting that there’s also a problem of white on white violent crime, and Asian on Asian violent crime. They’ve argued that people tend to murder people of their own race, and that’s partially true. In 2017, 2970 blacks were killed, and of the known offenders, 2627 of them were black. That’s 88.5% for black on black murder. 264 of the offenders were white, or just under 8.9% for white on black murder. 3567 whites were murdered in 2017, and of the known offenders, 2861 of them were white. That’s 80.2% for white on white murder. 576 of the offenders were black, or about 16.2% for black on white murder. This isn’t an anomalous year either. 2018 statistics show almost identical numbers. Although white on white crime is definitely a problem, black crime, both against whites and against each other is markedly and detrimentally worse, and it’s a problem the black community could acknowledge and work on solving. Just acknowledging the problem and addressing it rather than denying and deflecting from it would be a good start.
  3. What is the common denominator in every one of these police shootings of unarmed black men? All of the victims were resisting, fighting, or fleeing. Remember, for this exercise these deaths are not the fault of the police. They bear no responsibility at all. If we look at this as the sole responsibility of the black community, then how do we stop all of these killings? Simply comply. That’s it. All these guys had to do was comply. The black community has ingrained into their youth that the police are bad, and if they get stopped or if they get arrested, they’re going to die. This simply isn’t true, as I hope I’ve illustrated with the surfeit of links to studies throughout this article, but the perception that the police are going to kill them absolutely is true. Parents of these youth and leaders of the community bear a huge portion of the responsibility. Marching with chants of “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and “I can’t breathe,” and deluging our youth with images and videos of African Americans dying in police hands has done the same thing that inundating police recruits with images of cops being murdered has done. It has instilled fear in both parties of these contacts. Fear is killing us. And irrational fear is killing us irrationally. So many of these shootings didn’t have to happen if the victim had simply complied. When a police officer decides to arrest you, comply. Argue later, sue them for false arrest, take your day in court. Adopt the motto that I’m trying hard to get the police to abandon. “I’d rather be judged by twelve than carried by six” needs to become the new motto of Black Lives Matter.
  4. Accept responsibility for racism. I suspect this will be the most contentious and difficult item of this entire exercise. The black community needs to take a look at why people are racist. It’s important to understand that generational racism is going to take a long time to erase. Many, many generations, but we are moving in that direction. There’s little the black community can do to erase generational racism that is passed from parents to children, but what they can do is focus on people who become racist without an education that instills it. We need studies into why people become racist during adulthood, and the black community needs to look at those studies and figure out what they can do to fix it. If it’s stereotypical perception, then let’s take a look at ending those stereotypes. If it’s cultural misunderstanding, then let’s take a look at how you can help educate people about the culture, how you can get them to embrace it and accept it. Racism can go both ways, and hate and vitriol begets hate and vitriol. If racism is being created by media portrayals of the African American community, then insist that those portrayals end, both with the media and with the subjects of the media report. I don’t know what it is that creates institutional racism, but if the black community figured that out and took responsibility for fixing it, those efforts would leach out to the sufferers of generational racism, cutting down the number of iterations it will take to end that ugliness.
  5. End the false narrative that police forces are rampant with racism. Of course there are some police officers who are racist. Nobody is denying that. What they are denying is that there is a systemic problem of racism in the police profession, and the data seems to back that up. Just the statistic that black officers shoot black people at a far higher percentage than white officers do should back that up. White officers are objectively terrified to shoot when the person at the other end of the gun is black. And this fear is contributing to far more white officer deaths than it should. BLM needs to end this narrative. When you have a solid platform for change, and that platform is fully supported by statistics and facts, then why do you need to augment it with narratives that are half-truths at best and quite possibly outright lies? This objectivity should be a priority for the black community.
  6. Stop deriding those who propagate All Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter. Yes, they have appropriated your platform and undermined it. However, acknowledge that they’ve done this out of anger. They’ve done this because your platform was based off of misrepresentations and falsehoods that YOU disseminated. Allow them to feel vindicated, particularly with regard to Blue Lives Matter. Police officers and their friends and family are suffering. Remember, the blue community has suffered more felonious losses at the hands of the black community than the other way around. And their platform was actually based on facts and data. They are feeling unsupported, unappreciated, and left behind, and they’re still showing up and putting their lives on the line every day. Instead of deriding Blue Lives Matter, acknowledge them. Support them. Make your community understand that this is a two-way problem that requires support, compassion, and an open mind.
  7. End the usage of the n-word. Retire that word completely. I know it means “friend” to you. I know that you use it because you’ve, “re-appropriated it.” I know it’s important to your culture, but this word is POISON. I’ve read this article from tolerance.org (and I hope everyone will read it) that explains why you use it, but, as the author says, “The word is inextricably linked with violence and brutality on black psyches and derogatory aspersions cast on black bodies. No degree of appropriating can rid it of that bloodsoaked history.” In addition, very few people, white people in particular, are able to understand exactly why you use it. Why is this problematic? Because it’s really divisive. Division keeps us from coming together. Division keeps us from solving our problems, and we need to consider losing the things that are both unnecessary and divisive. The n-word is a relic of a brutal past, and, much like the statues and monuments we’re erasing all over the country, this word should be erased from our vocabulary. Let this word finally die, completely and utterly.

Let’s talk about what society needs to do in looking upstream for a solution. Remember we’re approaching this as if this situation is all our fault as members of society. All the problems we’re experiencing are entirely on us. WE must make the necessary changes to fix the problems. If you’re a police officer or you’re black, you’re obviously also a member of society, but I would rather you focused on your individual responsibilities above more than on the ones listed below. If all police officers and blacks accept blame in the society category, then there will be nobody to accept in the others, and this approach requires full cooperation from all three points of the triangle.

  1. How is it possible that there are still 24 states in this country where marijuana possession is still criminalized? How is it possible that there are 8 states where you can’t even use it medically, where it is 100% illegal and criminal? This is insanity, and we as a society have to fix this. END THE WAR ON DRUGS. It is a confirmed massive failure. Hundreds of studies have been done on the effect of marijuana legalization in places like Washington, Colorado, and California. Not only has it increased tax revenue and decreased police contacts and arrests, not one of the concerns of fear-mongering right-wingers has come to fruition. There is no increase in property crimes, no increase in DUIs, there is actually a decrease in underage possession, and there is a marked decrease in opioid use, and this last one is true in every state that has legalized medical marijuana as well. Decreasing opioid use and addiction ALONE is a very good reason for marijuana legalization. Minorities have been unfairly targeted for marijuana use, and crime begets more crime. White people have a tendency to use and abuse alcohol. Black people have a tendency to use and abuse marijuana. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3419382/) Alcohol is legal. Marijuana is illegal. Laws that shouldn’t exist or that are racist by either design or by application are OUR responsibility to fix. A young man gets arrested and booked for possession, and that leads to a warrant which leads to another arrest and booking, which leads to him being fired from his job, which leads to crime, which leads to further arrests, which leads to not wanting to go back to jail, which leads to running from the police, which leads to his death. THIS NEEDS TO STOP. This is not the fault of the police, and it’s not the fault of the black community, it’s the fault of society, and we need to fix it! I don’t even use marijuana, but it is incomprehensible to me that in 2020 it hasn’t been fully legalized, and the fault for this lies in right-wing extremism, the same people who brought us Blue Laws that prohibit alcohol sales on Sunday. This is nonsense. We must end this. We need to insist that our lawmakers pass legislation to change these archaic laws.
  2. Police are there to enforce our laws. We task them for that job. How then, do we blame them for doing the job we’ve tasked them to do? If we don’t like the laws, there are mechanisms to effect change, but let’s not blame cops because they wrote us a speeding ticket for going 7 over the limit, or they arrested us for possessing drug paraphernalia or having a suspended license. That is LITERALLY their job. They are LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS. We need to treat them with respect when they’re doing their job, the job we literally pay them to do. The courtroom is where you have the ability to argue your case and prove your innocence. Police officers are mandated to enforce laws, and sometimes they get them wrong. Berating them or attacking them makes us part of the problem. This needs to end.
  3. Acknowledge white privilege and acknowledge that there is systemic depression in minority communities and that is the primary cause of black crime. It’s our job to fix this, and nobody else’s. Let’s talk about reparations for a minute. You don’t have to agree that slavery continues to have a detrimental effect on African Americans 150 years later to agree that these communities need a hand. You can agree that pumping money into depressed, primarily black communities will decrease crime and murder, and that reparations can be in the form of investments, both private and public, in the areas that need the most help. A compromise of this type hurts nobody, and it helps our communities heal and thrive.
  4. Allow me two paragraphs of soapboxing and then I’ll stop. I voted for Obama. I have never felt excluded or ridiculed when I’ve announced that to a group of conservative friends. I also voted for Trump, and when I admit that to my liberal friends, I am often ridiculed, demeaned, and my opinions after that point are dismissed out of hand. When I post something negative about Trump to social media, my conservative friends engage me in discussion without resorting to ad hominem attacks. When I post something positive about Trump to social media, I have been blocked, unfollowed, and called racist by acquaintances on the left. Liberals will attempt to justify this type of behavior by exclaiming that any and all support for Trump is misguided or intentional evil, and that he represents the absolute worst of society whereas Obama was a great man. They will attempt to explain to me that siding with righteousness even when it’s misguided is always acceptable behavior. The problem is, they have no ability to see the haughty, patronizing, condescending nature of their stand. The left is incredibly and detrimentally intolerant of any dissenting opinion. They tend to be completely lacking in compassion for anybody who doesn’t share their beliefs. Intolerance of racism is honorable, but it has led to complete fear of criticizing this cancel culture that is destroying us. Leftists have spun themselves into a funnel of righteousness that has made it impossible to criticize even the most ludicrous of stances by the fringe lunatics because of fear of reprisal. They have propagated this culture of calling so many people racist, that even when they see behavior that is so clearly cultural exclusionary extremism as opposed to racism, they are afraid to criticize it lest they be thought of as racist themselves. As a society, we have got to end this.
    We have to stop letting the far-left and the far-right control us. Think I’m picking on the left? As I said before, the far-right is just as bad. They are just as exclusionary and just as judgmental. They thump their bibles and declare their righteousness and moral superiority while often engaging in some of the most egregiously hypocritical behavior our society has ever seen. They will rail against sexual proclivity while lying in their mistress’s bed, or downloading child pornography. They will tell us how evil abortion is, how it’s murder, while they sneak their girlfriend off to another state where she can have an abortion anonymously. They will willfully and wrongfully misinterpret bible verses to declare alternative sexual preferences as morally wrong, while they carry on gay love affairs in secret. The far fringes of our society are the absolute worst of us, and yet we kowtow to them, not just allowing them to have the loudest voices, but actually encouraging them, propagating and fulfilling their lunatic ideas in an effort to ensure that we are not misperceived by those on our side of the centerline. The far-right will deny scientific near-certainties such as global warming or the Covid Pandemic and disseminate obviously fake, thoroughly debunked “news” articles from completely disreputable organizations as their source. As a society, we have to stop this. We have to be reasonable, tolerant, and less rigid with our beliefs. We have to be more open-minded, more thoughtful, and more empathetic to anybody who thinks differently. We absolutely need to approach our decision-making with logic, facts, and science instead of with emotion. We need to rid ourselves of the echo-chamber that our lives have become.
  5. We need to reduce the burden on police officers by developing agencies to deal with non-priority, non-dangerous calls for service. Our police officers have too many hats to wear. Now, don’t mistake what I’m saying. I’m absolutely not calling for a defunding of police in any way. In fact, I think police officers should be paid more money for the sole reason that it helps attract better applicants. Be honest—do you seriously want your police officers to be the type of person who fights that hard for a job that pays $40k a year? What does that candidate pool look like? I want my cops making serious bank. I want it to be a job that intelligent people, critical thinkers and people able to use logic and common sense are flocking to, not just young guys looking to flex. Whatever salary that requires, that’s the salary I want my police officers making. No, the budget for these other agencies should not come from the police unless it’s determined that shrinking the police department because of the reassigning of calls can be done with community safety in mind. I’m not versed well enough in state and local budgets to say where the money should come from, and I’m not naïve enough that I think it’s going to be an easy task, but I do know that our police officers are expected to perform too many tasks, and this is causing unnecessary deaths. It wouldn’t surprise me if the bandwidth existed for these social workers or whatever we would call them to be a volunteer corp. Citizens trained to perform specific tasks on a volunteer basis. There certainly seems to be enough interest in the idea and the desire for change that this is at least a plausible plan.
  6. Take full responsibility for racism. Racism is our fault as a society. We have long lauded ourselves for fighting a war to end slavery, but the rest of the world did this just by deciding it was wrong. Now we’re in another war, and it’s a war to end racism. Unfortunately, some people have taken this too far. They’ve made it their crusade to white-knight themselves and call out even the vaguest hint of racism, and this has had the reverse of the desired effect. It has resulted in a society that has descended into cancel culture, and it has only widened the divide as people compete to see who can discover the most subtle hint of historical racism in present-day objects. You end racism not by screaming and berating and destroying, but by changing people’s hearts and minds. You end racism not by tearing down statues and rebranding syrup bottles, but by having honest conversations. You end racism not with name-calling, insulting, and abusing, but with empathy and understanding. We have failed in our mission to end racism, and this one truly is our fault.

 

These lists are nowhere near comprehensive, and I recognize that the number of bullet points are not equal. I can certainly think of other things to add to the BLM list and to the Society list, but I’m actually hoping that YOU the reader will help me add things. As a member of one of those two groups, what can you add to the list of ways that we can accept full responsibility for the devastating divisiveness in our society today?

How far upstream can we plan in an effort to change our problems before they’re arriving at us? There’s a fable in the book “Upstream” that talks about a child drowning in a river and two citizens that jump in to save it. As they’re dragging the child out of the water, another one floats downstream flailing and choking and they jump in to save that one. Before they even get to shore, another child appears, and then another child and they have their hands full trying to save the children from drowning when suddenly, one of the men jumps out of the water. “Where are you going?” the other screams. “I’m going to kill whoever is throwing these kids in the water,” he answers.

Our society is drowning right now, and the problems are all developing upstream, around a bend, out of our sight, and we are overwhelmed with trying to stop the problems as we see them. What we need to be doing is looking upstream for the source of our problems and finding solutions there. In what way can you contribute to upstream thinking?

On the Karpman Drama Triangle of our current situation, the triangle itself is spinning out of control. The police, the black community, and society itself are in constant flux between The Victim, The Rescuer, and The Perpetrator. The metaphorical triangle is spinning so fast that it’s often difficult or impossible to discern which is which, and that means that we need to all look at the situation as if we are all of these things. We need solutions and ideas for how we can be none of these things, how we can move all of our groups completely off the spinning triangle before we’re thrown off into chaos.

What can you do to help?

 

Thin Blue Line article source material:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Walter_Scott

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/14/us/fort-worth-police-officer-charged-murder.html

https://www.cardiovascularbusiness.com/topics/practice-management/medical-errors-lead-more-250k-deaths-year-us-are-often-unreported#:~:text=Medical%20errors%20contribute%20to%20more,figure%20as%20high%20as%20440%2C000.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/09/03/us/the-race-gap-in-americas-police-departments.html

http://clearlycultural.com/geert-hofstede-cultural-dimensions/

https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/ucr/leoka

https://www.ag.state.mn.us/Office/Communications/2020/docs/Complaint_Lane.pdf

https://www.ag.state.mn.us/Office/Communications/2020/docs/Complaint_Kueng.pdf

https://www.ag.state.mn.us/Office/Communications/2020/docs/Complaint_Thoa.pdf

https://lawandcrime.com/george-floyd-death/two-of-the-ex-cops-charged-in-the-killing-of-george-floyd-were-on-the-job-for-less-than-4-days/

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B005RUM8E4/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1 Upstream, by Dan Heath

https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-3.xls

https://www.statista.com/chart/21872/map-of-police-violence-against-black-americans/

https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2017/crime-in-the-u.s.-2017/tables/table-30 Crime and arrest rates by crime and race.

https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012/tables/42tabledatadecoverviewpdf/table_42_arrests_by_sex_2012.xls

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karpman_drama_triangle

https://blog.alaskaair.com/alaska-airlines/company-news/sisters-of-the-skies-pledge/

https://abcnews.go.com/US/indiana-police-release-body-cam-footage-officer-accidentally/story?id=60329163 Officer grabbed her gun instead of her taser

https://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2019-12-09/accidental-shootings-by-police-expose-training-shortfalls

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTCLV31e9WI Video of officer grabbing gun instead of taser

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKQqgVlk0NQ Video of shooting of Walter Scott

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRMYVFmEmx8 Hispanic officer shooting a mental health worker

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07THBM1M6/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmgxtcbc4iU Sam Harris making sense podcast

http://mwkworks.com/onsheepwolvesandsheepdogs.html

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZV9qPrPj8bQ) Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs excerpt from American Sniper

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-06/race-and-police-shootings-what-new-research-says

https://www.pnas.org/content/116/34/16793

https://www.pnas.org/content/116/32/15877 National Academy of Sciences study of racial motivation in police shootings.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001ANYDAO/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i2 Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avianca_Flight_52

https://lessonslearned.faa.gov/ual173/crmhistory.pdf Crew Resource Management manual

https://www.nber.org/papers/w22399.pdf AN EMPIRICAL ANALYSIS OF RACIAL DIFFERENCES IN POLICE USE OF FORCE – National Bureau of Economic Research

https://www.city-journal.org/reflections-on-race-riots-and-police?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Organic_Social

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/investigations/police-shootings-database/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/police-shootings-year-end/

https://law.yale.edu/sites/default/files/area/workshop/leo/leo16_fryer.pdf Yale study on police shootings between 2000 and 2015

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/18/business/cream-of-wheat-racist-brands/index.html

https://disa.com/map-of-marijuana-legality-by-state

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=up2jUCgcaFY Buffalo police shoving 75-year-old

https://havokjournal.com/nation/the-average-civilian-pistol-permit-holder-is-a-better-shot-than-most-cops/

https://ucr.fbi.gov/leoka/2017/tables/table-42.xls Perpetrator profiles for officers feloniously murdered

https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2017/crime-in-the-u.s.-2017/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-6.xls Murder offenders by race 2017

https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2018/crime-in-the-u.s.-2018/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-6.xls Murder offenders by race 2018

https://reason.org/wp-content/uploads/does-legalizing-marijuana-reduce-crime.pdf

https://norml.org/marijuana/fact-sheets/item/marijuana-regulation-and-crime-rates

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3419382/ Alcohol and marijuana comparison study by race

 

It’s time to erase the Thin Blue Line. (part 2 of 3)

There’s a book by Erik Larson called, “In The Garden of Beasts.” It’s a chilling depiction of an entire society—Nazi Germany—that descends from relative normalcy into almost universal madness in just about a year. Unfortunately, as interesting a story as this would be were it fiction, it is instead devastating in that we know it actually happened. And I see it happening again. We are freefalling into almost universal madness and we need to slam on the brakes before we crash.

This three-pronged approach that I’m suggesting is going to require acceptance and change from all parties, the police, the black community, and society as a whole. There’s a social model of human interaction known as the Karpman Drama Triangle. It maps a type of destructive interaction that can occur between people in conflict. In this model, which when mapped out is shaped like an inverted triangle, Karpman assigns the three points of the triangle the names, The Victim, The Rescuer, and The Persecutor. The Victim’s stance is “Poor me!” The Victim feels victimized, oppressed, and helpless. The Rescuer’s stance is of someone who is here to help. The Rescuer feels guilty if they don’t help. In reality, the Rescuer is simply avoiding his own problems by deflecting his energies under the guise of concern for the Victim. The Persecutor insists that everything that is wrong is someone else’s fault. The Persecutor is critical of both parties, angry and oppressive, rigid in his beliefs, and sure that he’s right.

Where do police officers, the BLM movement, and society fall in these roles? Depending on your current rigid and unflexing stand, you may think that The Victim is BLM, The Persecutor is the police, and The Rescuer is society. Or, you may think that The Victim is the police, The Persecutor is BLM, and The Rescuer is society. Or, if you’re sitting at home watching the riots with anger, you may think The Victim is society, The Persecutor is BLM, and The Rescuers are the police. The truth is that in my version of this Karpman Drama Triangle the roles are completely interchangeable. The police, BLM, and society are each, at varying times and to varying degrees, The Victim, The Rescuer, or The Persecutor.

I’m going to start with the police.

Most police officers think they’re good cops. Probably close to 100% of cops you asked would tell you they’re a good cop, and most of them unequivocally believe that they are. Many of them actually are. However, an incredibly high number are really just victims of their own observation bias. They’ve genuinely convinced themselves they’re good cops even when they aren’t. When they have a true and rare moment of introspection, when they ask themselves if they’re good cops, they tend to remember the things they’ve done well as a cop. The things that have made them “heroes.” The time they gave CPR to the four-year old girl floating face-down in the pool. The time they comforted the victim of domestic abuse, spent hours with her getting her resources, walking her through the process of getting away from the abuse. The time they bought food for the forlorn family with a cart of much needed groceries and a debit card that was declined. The time they spent hours talking to a troubled teen with an abusive family, gave him their personal phone number, told him to call 24/7 if he ever needed anything at all. The time they conducted a death notification to a parent of a dead child, and sat in their living room crying with them. The times they went above and beyond, when many officers would have just filed a report and moved along, but they didn’t quit, working a case and getting justice for a victim who might not have otherwise received it. The hundreds of times they risked their own life running toward danger as fast as possible, putting themselves in harm’s way for a stranger who doesn’t even appreciate them until they’re needed, and will trash them as soon as they’re gone. And these are the things that do make them a good cop, but what they don’t remember, or what they tend to gloss over, to shove to the dark corners of their minds, are the things they’ve done that make them bad police officers, and in some cases bad people.

Sure, maybe they’ve never stolen from a crime scene, never planted contraband on a suspect just because he deserved to go to jail, never accepted a bribe. But they have done things like pretended they heard a shout for help so they could enter a private residence illegally, or watched another officer claim he heard that plea and said nothing, despite knowing it was a farce. Looked up an obscure law so they had a reason to cite or arrest someone just because he was mouthing off. Stacked charges or infractions just because they were having a bad day and it felt good to spread the misery. Written criminal citations for completely unnecessary or arbitrary violations, knowing the citizen would never show up for court and it would end up in a warrant and the officer would be able to arrest and book the person in the future. Made up a reason to conduct a traffic stop, like improper lane travel, or failure to signal a turn at least 100 feet prior to the turn just as an excuse to check the driver for warrants because he looked shady. Engaged in competitions to see who could write the most tickets under the auspices of keeping the streets safe, but really just to win a bet at the financial expense of a number of people who probably would have been better off with a warning. Spent every day breaking the very laws they’re citing people for, under the color of their authority, laws like speeding, failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign, or failure to wear a seatbelt. Intentionally escalated a situation with a scumbag just so he’d take a swing so that they could beat the shit out of him while yelling, “stop resisting” and then they could book him into jail on a serious felony charge of assaulting an officer. Profiled people based on race and actually justified the profiling because crime statistics back it up. Used unnecessarily painful pressure points and holds that leave no marks, that are impossible to notice on video, and then laughed about it afterwards with their coworkers. Justified stretching the truth or outright lying in court or on a report because they knew the guy was guilty, the truth was unknowable, and the scumbag deserved to be punished. Used an “ends justify the means” mentality and carefully worded a report around that theory to increase the odds of a conviction. Let their friends, coworkers, acquaintances, other civil servants like firefighters, and local celebrities off with a warning when any other citizen would have received a ticket or been arrested. Intentionally targeted minority citizens for specific offenses simply because they’ve seen so many other minorities of the same persuasion committing those same offenses that the officer has lost all ability to be compassionate and objective about that minority class. Enforced laws unequally, giving warnings to people who were polite and citations to those who were rude based solely on those criteria. Escalated situations that they knew could have been deescalated just because they were pissed off and the guy deserved to be punished. Invoked the Thin Blue Line and “It’s us vs them” principles to turn the other way at co-worker wrongdoing. Invoked the “I’d rather be judged by twelve then carried by six” mentality to justify violating someone’s civil rights in some form or another. Celebrated their own or a co-worker’s first citizen complaint under the justification that “if you aren’t getting citizen complaints you aren’t doing your job.” Used the power of their badge to bully, harass, intimidate or threaten, knowing the subject could do nothing about it, knowing there was no legal, civil, or departmental violation that could actually be pinned on them for these actions.

When do the good things someone does as a police officer override the bad things? When do the bad things tip the scales that are precariously balanced on the pivot point of right or wrong? The answer is that even a very few of the bad things can outweigh an enormous amount of the good. If an officer has done every good thing on this list and a hundred others, and only a few of the bad things, he’s probably a bad cop. He has contributed to the anger that has boiled over in society and is currently spewing forth in cities all around the world. He has contributed to the problems that plague our democracy. He has helped to solidify the narrative that cops are all bad actors. If you’re a cop and you know that you fall into this category, it’s okay. You can change things now. Society can be myopic when it comes to looking at the past, as long as the future is in bright focus. When an officer acts inappropriately, uncompassionately, or unnecessarily violent just one time, the victim of that action tells that story. Sometimes it’s on video and the story goes out to the public, inflaming them and solidifying the wall that the Thin Blue Line has become.

The Thin Blue Line is a concept that’s been around for more than a century. It’s a construct by police to assert that THEY are all that stands between organized, peaceful, productive society and an anarchical vast chasm of chaos, death, and destruction. It originated from the Thin Red Line, a Crimean War battle where a small group of Scottish Highlanders fended off a much larger contingent of Russian cavalry. The Thin Blue Line is a novel concept. A heroic construct that allows police officers to feel as if they’re heroes, and allows them to justify poor behavior in the name of the public good. And, at one time it probably was a novel and benevolent idea. But now it has turned from a line into a wall. It’s become the kind of wall that Donald Trump could only dream of, impenetrable, foreboding, and unbreachable. It’s become the very chasm it was devised to prevent. A chasm that separates the police from the citizens they are sworn to protect.

“On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs” is an article by retired lieutenant colonel Dave Grossman, the author of the book “On Killing.” In the article, he describes the idea that the general public are sheep, incapable of violence and even incapable of imagining violence, unable to defend themselves against attack, and completely reliant on their guardians. Wolves are the predators, the criminals, the corrupt, heinous, evil people of society who prey on the sheep and seek to do them harm. Wolves are constantly circling the flock, looking to pick off the weak and vulnerable. Police officers are the sheepdogs, the designated saviors of society, always on watch over the flock, guarding them against the wolves, even when the sheep don’t want them there. To the sheep, Grossman says, the difference between the sheepdogs and the wolves can be difficult to discern, and the sheep may tend to lash out at the sheepdogs thinking they’re going to do them harm. The sheep may not think that they have any need for sheepdogs, that the wolves don’t actually exist, or that their numbers are so small as to be of no concern. The sheep live in denial and that is what makes them sheep.

This concept was glorified in the movie American Sniper with Bradley Cooper where his father quotes him this article, telling him he better never be a sheep and he damn sure better never be a wolf. Police officers have seized ahold of this concept as well, using it much like they use The Thin Blue Line to glorify their role in society. The problem is, this article and this construct are complete bullshit.

True sheep are completely helpless, completely reliant on others to protect them from violence, with zero natural defenses. People are not like that. Sheep are born to be sheep, they have no choice, they can never change. People have full choice in what role they want to play. The analogy sounds great if you’re evil. A wolf is a badass creature with no compassion, no morals, and an appetite for soft flesh. What villain wouldn’t want to be described as a wolf? If you’re a cop, the idea that you’re a sheepdog is incredibly enticing. You are elevated above society, sitting on the hill above the serfs, watching over them. It’s glorious and you’re the unrecognized, under-appreciated hero who does his thankless job day in and day out. Not a bad way to present yourself. But, if you’re a member of society, you’re one of the sheep. Who wants to be a goddamn sheep? There might be no better analogy propagated by police officers to completely isolate, divide, and disconnect themselves from the rest of the population than this stupid fable by LTC Grossman. Much like the Thin Blue Line construct, this story has done incredible harm to the perception of police officers by society and of society by police officers. If you’re a cop and you buy into this propaganda, then everybody you contact is nothing but a sheep. When citizens are sheep who can’t make good decisions and can barely even manage to stay out of their own way, when they can not fathom the idea of danger, or of evil, or they don’t understand that people want to hurt them, then it becomes very easy for police officers to justify all manner of actions against society, under the color of doing it for their own good and protection.

When police officers divide all of society into binary roles of either sheep or wolves, decisions become black and white instead of the multiple shades of gray that actually exist. This type of binary view of society combined with the elevated self-assigned role of protector, leads to abuses on both a micro and macro scale, and contributes greatly to a perception by society that police departments are not just infected by a few bad apples, but that the entire orchard has been poisoned.

And the fact is, police officers are draping this perception upon themselves.

Let’s talk about Black Lives Matter.

Black Lives Matter is an organized social movement that sprung up after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012. It became a widespread, national movement after the police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and Eric Garner in New York City. They claim inspiration from the Black Power Movement and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The platform for BLM is that police officers are inherently racist and that they kill black people at a much higher rate than they kill white people. Now, they have other platforms and movements within the movement, and I’ll talk about some of those in a minute, but their primary objective is to stop what they see as a rash of racist killings of African Americans by white police officers.

And that entire concept is a manipulated scam.

BLM seems committed to peaceful protest despite the escalated violence we’re seeing right now that has been manipulated by extremists’ causes. As a general statement of fact, I agree that black lives matter. In fact, I identify more with that slogan than I do with “All Lives Matter,” because I definitely do not believe that all lives matter, and they objectively don’t all matter on the same scale. It’s hard to say that you don’t agree with BLM without sounding racist, because how can you possibly think that black lives don’t matter unless you’re a racist. Sort of like with Antifa. It stands for Anti-Fascist. How can you not be against fascism? The problem with Black Lives Matter (and with Antifa) is not that their cause doesn’t matter, it’s that the catchy name is hiding a deeply and fundamentally flawed platform and credo.

Supporters of Black Lives Matter point to the data: On a per capita basis, police officers kill 2.5 times as many black people as they do whites. This is true. African Americans comprise about 13% of the population, and they comprise a little over 31% of unarmed Americans shot dead by the police. Taken in the abstract, this statistic seems horrifying, and many supporters of BLM have pointed to this as a demonstrable example of the existence of a systemic racial bias in police. I would like to point to another stat that will show that the police, in addition to being very racist, are also incredibly sexist. Men make up just under 50% of the U.S. population, but they comprise more than 93% of all unarmed Americans shot by cops. If one of these conclusions is true—that police are racist—than the other also has to be true—that police are sexist—according to these comparable data points. So many people would scoff at the idea that police are inherently sexist and kill men at a higher frequency because of sexism, but they happily accept that the correlation exists with race. They refuse to believe the data that shows that black people commit homicides and violent felonies at a much higher rate than white people do. BLM supporters make justifications for this, citing systemic racism in the justice system and unfair targeting of minorities as the reason for the elevated statistics. Even if you could make this argument in support of petty crimes like theft, DUI, or simple assault, it’s pretty hard to find the correlating path that leads to murder and other violent felony convictions. It’s like the principles of Occam’s Razor and even those of logic and reason are shoved right out the window by emotion when it comes to these police shootings of black men.

However, like so much of the data that has been manipulated and cherry-picked by organizations and even by the media in order to forward a narrative, police do not kill men because of rampant, systemic sexism in the ranks. They kill more men because men commit more violent felonies than women do. A lot more. According to FBI statistics in their homicide database, men commit almost 90% of all murders and more than 90% of all violent felonies. Men also resist arrest and escalate the violence and scope of that resistance far more often than women do, and this leads to more shootings.

Here’s an excerpt from an article from the National Academy of Science that disputes the idea that there is racial disparity in police shootings:

26% of civilians killed by police shootings in 2015 were Black even though Black civilians comprise only 12% of the US population. According to this 12% benchmark, more Black civilians are fatally shot than we would expect, indicating disparity. News organizations and researchers using this method find robust evidence of anti-Black disparity in fatal shootings.

However, using population as a benchmark makes the strong assumption that White and Black civilians have equal exposure to situations that result in FOIS. (Fatal Officer Involved Shootings.) If there are racial differences in exposure to these situations, calculations of racial disparity based on population benchmarks will be misleading. Researchers have attempted to avoid this issue by using race-specific violent crime as a benchmark, as the majority of FOIS involve armed civilians. When violent crime is used as a benchmark, anti-Black disparities in FOIS disappear or even reverse. *bolding is mine.

African Americans commit about 30% of all rapes, about 55% of all robberies, and 33% of all aggravated assaults. Again, this is despite consisting of only 13% of the population. I won’t go into the lessor crimes like burglary and theft because it is almost certainly true that blacks are charged with those crimes at a higher rate than whites are, but the violent felony numbers are appalling. If these numbers make you uncomfortable, don’t worry, it’s not entirely the fault of African Americans. One of the platforms of BLM is that blacks have been discriminated against for so long that they find themselves in a position where economically one has no choice but to resort to crime to stay afloat, and this is absolutely true. Our circumstances in life lead to our decisions, and it’s tough to stay on the right side of the law when the alternative is a life of misery. If your family is starving, burglary or theft seem like easy decisions comparably. If life is continually beating you down, it might be easier to resort to drugs for a release. If you feel constantly wronged by systemic racism, it can feel right to lash out at the apparatus of that racism. Any of these decisions can lead to arrest, conviction, and jail or prison. When you are a convicted felon, society makes it nearly impossible to succeed further, especially when you’re plopped right back into the very soup of despair that cast your original decisions. And so, these decisions escalate and compound and the vicious cycle repeats itself until you feel that you have no choice but to resist arrest because prison is unbearable. Until you feel that the system is stacked against you and there is no escape, and so you embrace the darkness.

It’s a nauseating cycle, and Black Lives Matter is absolutely correct about this type of systemic problem in our society. If you don’t agree with this, you are approaching it from a perspective that comes from true white privilege. Citing examples of blacks who have pulled themselves from the wreckage of the ghetto and become successful is simply pointing to what are indisputably outlier events in denial of the incredibly tough life and circle of bad decisions that encompass the existence of the vast majority.

Poverty will absolutely create criminals out of otherwise law-abiding citizens.

This is a society problem on my Karpman Drama Triangle and society needs to address it, but Black Lives Matter needs to own up to the fact that they have a part to play in this as well. Right now, BLM is The Victim and the police are The Perpetrators. Society is acting as The Rescuer with all of the marches and rioting. But the narrative is flawed and destructive actions based on flawed narratives only serve to widen the divide. BLM needs to stop the false narrative going out to our children that police officers are bad. “Hands up, don’t shoot.” “I can’t breathe.” These mentalities and teachings become self-fulfilling prophecies. When black people are convinced from childhood that cops are racist pigs and that they’re going to get killed on a routine traffic stop, they become much more nervous. When they’re nervous they look suspicious. This extends their interaction time with the police officer which extends their nervousness, which draws more questions, which leads to panic. How many of these videos we see of police shooting black men started out with a fairly calm interaction only to escalate into the black person fleeing or fighting? Why are they fighting or running when the cop first makes physical contact for the simple reason that they’re going to either pat them down or to restrain them? Why are so many of them fleeing or fighting when they’re completely innocent of criminal wrongdoing? Why do we see so many black people run from police and then, when they’re caught and sitting in handcuffs and they’re asked why they ran, the answer is, “I don’t know.”? It’s because of fight or flight syndrome. The instinct is kicking in because the confrontation starts with such high energy already. The suspect/victim isn’t able to control that instinct because it has built to the point where it has become a fog and they are no longer capable of good decision making. It derives from an ingrained, indoctrinated idea for their entire life that interactions with the police are going to end in violence or death for them, and this is a tragedy.

BLM needs to educate the public. When a cop decides to arrest you, it is not a negotiation. You are going to be arrested. Whatever that takes. When you resist, the level of violence escalates, and it can escalate quickly. When people fight with the police, it’s not the cop’s job to make it a fair fight. When a cop is getting punched, it’s not his job to just punch back—to stand there in a slugout. He’s going to escalate the level of violence because he doesn’t know what’s going to happen if he loses this fight. He can’t lose this fight for the simple reason that he’s carrying a gun. If he’s knocked out, pinned down, beaten to the ground and incapacitated, and his gun is taken from him, this is a situation where he or a member of the public is often going to be murdered. This is always on his mind. So, he must escalate the violence. He needs to assure that he will not lose this fight. Pepper spray applied to a suspect can scatter in the wind and end up incapacitating the officer. A taser is often ineffective at close range. His asp/baton/nightstick may work, but that can be a deadly weapon too, especially if it’s taken from him. If a cop is losing a fight, particularly if he’s outmatched and outmuscled, he might have no choice but to resort to his gun. It’s not his job to be a champion bare-knuckle brawler, or a Judo blackbelt. It’s a citizen’s job to not resist arrest. When a cop makes a decision that he’s going to arrest you, you will be arrested, regardless of your opinion on the matter, or even of your guilt or lack thereof. And when you decide to resist, you are often going to get hurt, and sometimes you’ll get killed. That’s on you, not on the cop. We are cultivating a culture of resisting arrest which means we’re going to see increased violence in police/civilian encounters.

In his incredible Making Sense podcast #207, “Pulling back from the brink,” Sam Harris says this:

“When a cop goes hands on a person in an attempt to control his movements or make an arrest, that person’s resistance poses a problem that most people don’t seem to understand. If you haven’t studied this problem…if you don’t know what it physically takes to immobilize a non-compliant person, who may be bigger and stronger than you are…and if you haven’t thought through the implications of having a gun on your belt when attempting to do that…a gun that can be grabbed and used against you or against a member of the public, then your intuition about what makes sense here, tactically and ethically are very likely to be bad. If you haven’t trained with firearms under stress, if you don’t know how suddenly situations can change, if you haven’t experienced how quickly another person can close the distance on you and how little time you have to decide to draw your weapon…if you don’t know how hard it is to shoot a moving target, or even a stationary one when your heart is beating out of your chest, you very likely have totally unreasonable ideas about what we can expect from cops in situations like these.”

(By the way, this podcast is one of the best podcasts I’ve ever heard, and I highly recommend giving it a listen. It’s about two hours long, but if you’ve read this far into this article, you obviously have a lot of time on your hands. This excerpt was from around minute 53, but you can find the full podcast here: https://bit.ly/2AGumUR)

People often complain when they see multiple cops taking someone into custody. “How many cops does it take to arrest one guy? Come on!” They’ll shout. What they don’t realize is that swarming a combative person is for the suspect’s own good. You should want to see multiple cops making arrests in these situations. The more cops there are, the more likely it is that they’ll feel confident enough that they will win this fight that they don’t have to resort to lethal options. When police get into a fight, citizens expect them to be fair about it and that’s ridiculous. This isn’t a sanctioned boxing match. This isn’t the wild west days where two men meet on the street at noon and draw at a prescribed moment. The cop didn’t ask to be in this fight and he’s not going to make it a fair fight. He’s going to do everything possible to ensure it’s NOT a fair fight. Because, no matter what, he can’t afford to lose. It’s not a bar brawl where the loser goes home with a shiner, a bloody lip, and some hurt pride. The result of losing a simple fistfight when you’re openly carrying a weapon, and, if you’re alive to give a description of the person who won the fight that person will go to prison for a long time, can be deadly. The cop may, and often does, lose his life when he loses the fight. And he didn’t start it. He doesn’t want to be fighting. He wants to go home to his family, so he’s going to make sure that he can do that. He’s going to win the fight however he needs to.

Black Lives Matter should make this clear to their followers. They should encourage people not to resist, to allow themselves to be arrested, even if you know for a fact that you are innocent. If you are falsely arrested, you will have a chance to defend yourself. In some cases, you may be eligible for compensation for false arrest. At the very least you’ll still be alive, and it’s a lot easier and more rewarding to defend yourself from above ground than below it.

The evidence is overwhelming that African Americans receive harsher sentences for similar crimes than whites do. This is a massive problem with the justice system, and this part of the BLM platform is absolutely justified and supported by fact. This is a problem that society needs to solve, so let’s discuss the third point of the Karpman Drama Triangle, society.

Society:

There is NO QUESTION that somebody, probably multiple somebodies, will label me a racist for my regurgitating of facts that definitively shows fundamental flaws in the BLM platform. This is a society problem. We as a society have absolutely lost our collective minds. So many people today have made it their mission to tear down the very fabric of our society and remake it more to their liking. They have assigned themselves a quest to silence any and all opposing opinions and to make a world in which they won’t have to hear any opinion that is at variance with their own little echo chamber. They are attempting to force their own will and vision on the rest of society under the umbrella of being “woke” and pure and righteous, with intolerant indignation toward anybody who dissents.

This tweet by my friend, Liv Boeree says it better than I ever could:

Greyscale – and indeed any colour scale – is beautiful because of its nuance. Like all things in this complex world, there is so much more to it than just right and wrong, good and evil, black and white.

But social media is the antithesis of nuance, forcing us to oversimplify complex ideas and points of view into basic hashtags and memes – a dangerous path, because complex problems require complex answers.

Don’t let the dark side of social media suck your mind into this cartoonish good guy vs bad guy view of the world, because it is making us lose sight of the intricacies of people and reality.

I recently saw this article by Alaska Airlines that claims they’re taking steps to increase the number of African American female pilots in their fleet in an effort to bring that percentage closer into line with their representation in society.

Why? I don’t care about the racial makeup of the cabin crew on my flight, I care about having the safest, most competent pilots available. I think this is fine to do in general, as long as your only efforts along this path have to do with recruiting, but I suspect that what they will do is what every company has done in an effort to diversify…they will push through underqualified pilots just because of the diversity goals they’re trying to reach, and this will make us all less safe. I’m not saying that black females are not every bit as capable of being superb pilots as white males, or white females, or whatever, I’m saying that when you decide that competency is less important than racial characteristics in a role as important to public safety as commercial airline pilot, you compromise all of our safety. If there were qualified black female candidates out there, why aren’t they already pilots? Alaska Airlines is either admitting that they have employed racist hiring policies in the past, or they’re admitting that they’re going to intentionally alter their hiring practices in order to conform to public perception, and either one of these is really bad. Now, in their defense, they do say in the article that they’re focused on recruitment to forward this goal, and that’s great, but what recruitment practices have they been employing already that didn’t encompass black females? These types of knee-jerk responses when public safety is on the line are concerning.

The brand, Aunt Jemima, which features a picture of a black woman on its label, just rebranded to remove that labeling from its products, and it was closely followed by brands like Cream of Wheat, Uncle Ben’s, and Mrs. Butterworth’s. What is going on here? These are more examples of companies deciding that the feelings and opinions of a tiny minority of the country—the fringe far-left—matter more than common sense. Nobody wants a picture of a black person on their label because that is now deemed racist? This is cancel-culture and lunatic appeasement. It takes a true stretch of the imagination to link these brands to detrimental activities against African Americans in any way, and yet, these companies are so terrified of the screaming minority that they want to be seen as enlightened.

Everybody seems to be in a massive competition to try to prove how racist they aren’t, and the way to prove this seems to be constant and vocal virtue-signaling. Facts and logic are being overshadowed by the narrative, and the overwhelming majority of this is spewing from the far-left. Don’t get me wrong, the far-right isn’t any better. In fact, the political fringes of our society have created what is probably the most daunting, most destructive, and existential threat our civilization has ever faced. However, the far-left is unequivocally the most vocal and therefore the most dangerous. It’s easier to side with the left than it is to side with the right if for no other reason than bullying. The left is full of vocal bullies and purveyors of righteous indignation, while the right simply sneers and calls you a snowflake, usually in a message full of misspellings and punctuation errors. The far left will pander to anybody who agrees with them with sickening levels of sycophantic fawning and a complete inability to find any level of criticism. The far right will tell you that they are better than you because both of their lords and saviors, Jesus Christ and Donald Trump have told them that theirs is the path of the righteous.

Both sides are idiots.

If you’re over the age of three-and-a-half and you’re spouting that Donald Trump is the best president of your lifetime, you need to reexamine your history. Actually, you need to rethink your life choices. His divisiveness alone objectively disqualifies him from that honor, not to mention the hundred other things he does and says that make him both a terrible person and a terrible president. If you say that he’s the worst president to ever live, you’re also delusional. There are quite a few good things that he has accomplished and just that fact alone elevates him over a few presidents who accomplished nothing at all for the good of America. If you’re unable to even objectively view the good that he has accomplished, or the bad that he has propagated, then you’re part of the problem. Unfortunately, neither side of this argument seems capable of objectively looking at any fact without spinning it into their narrative, and this is destroying us.

With regard to the police, we as a society expect too much of our police officers. We expect them to be medics, grief counselors, family counselors, teen counselors, domestic abuse advocates, firefighters, targets, and shields. We expect them to be fair and impartial, but at the same time cut us some slack when they pull us over. We expect them to make perfect decisions every single time. We expect them to be robotic, to show up for work every day and never let their own personal problems affect their job performance. We expect them to see the horrors of pure evil, and never let those sights affect their mentality, objectivity, or job performance. We expect them to be emotionless robots who never lose their temper. We expect them to take a barrage of verbal abuse that would have made Ghandi throw a punch. We expect them to know every single law every single time and to never make a mistake in their interpretation of those laws when even the Supreme Court often can’t agree on what the laws exactly mean. We expect them to accept that we will file a complaint or sue them every single time they get something wrong. “I screwed up, I’m sorry,” is NEVER acceptable to us, even for minor, correctable mistakes, and we expect police to live with that and go about their jobs with a smile on their faces.

As of June 15th, 27 police officers have already been feloniously murdered this year. 22 others have been accidentally killed in the performance of their duties. Can you name a single one of them? Unless you’re a cop or a close relative of one, I bet you can’t. For that matter, can you name a single one of the unarmed white people killed by police this year? There are more of them than there are unarmed black people killed, but I’ll bet you can’t name one of them either. However, I bet you can name at least 3 or 4 of the unarmed blacks killed this year or last. And that’s okay, there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem lies in the media portrayal of these killings. Is it a surprise to you to learn that police officers kill more unarmed whites—twice as many, actually—than unarmed blacks every year? It was to me, and that’s because of perception driven by both the media and by social activists.

Police officers in this country make about 10 million arrests every year. Approximately 1000 of those result in the suspect being killed by the police. Taken without any further information, you have about a one in ten thousand chance of being killed by the police if you’re arrested. However, this isn’t the abstract, and the fact is that not all arrestees are equal. You see, many of them are armed and decide to use that weapon against the police or a citizen. Of the 1000 people killed by police last year, only about 50 of them were unarmed. Of those 50, the majority were actively fighting with the police, or at least actively resisting arrest. While quite a few of those deaths are tragedies, and a couple might actually be murders, as a percentage of the 10 million total arrests each year, the number is staggeringly low.

And here’s the thing: This number will never be zero.

If you had a magic machine and could somehow completely eliminate racism in its entirety from our civilization, and if not a single person ever resisted arrest, there would still be people killed by police. 10 million arrests is a staggering number, and some percentage of those will end up dying. We as a society need to find a way to accept that. No matter what changes we make, it will never be zero.

What we can do to lower the fatality number though, is to lower the number of arrests that police make each year. 10 million arrests is ridiculous. A huge number of those arrests are due to drug charges, and many of the fatalities stem from probable cause arrests that are drug related. This is absurd. There is a plethora of information out there that proves that this forty-year war on drugs is an absolute, unmitigated failure, and it needs to end. By decriminalizing drugs, we can instantly cut the number of arrests by a huge number. In fact, just by decriminalizing possession alone, we can chop 1.2 million arrests each year—12 percent of them—and save tens of billions of taxpayer dollars. Going into a comprehensive discussion of all the problems of the war on drugs is well beyond the scope of this article, but aside from the far-right extremists, most people agree it needs to change.

Right now, the Defund the Police movement is gaining strength and traction. This is a fringe-leftwing movement. It is not a position held by most liberal people. In fact, it’s such an absurdly lunatic position, that liberals have tried to control the narrative and soften the stance by claiming that Defund the Police just means “moving some resources around.” However, this was not the original intent of this movement, and it is not the current platform of the demented segment of the population that occupies so much of our time and our social media timelines. They truly want to abolish the police entirely, or at least disarm them, under the premise that the police do more harm than good. It is our job as civilian members of this modern society to strongly disavow this concept. It is the job of police officers to figure out how to alter the perception that they do more good than harm, and it is the job of BLM to say, “Hey, this is not our platform. We want change, not anarchy.” But instead, everybody seems to be elevating this concept through their actions or words, and it’s absolutely incredible—and entirely our fault—that it has gained as much traction as it has. Quoting Sam Harris from his Making Sense podcast again, “If you think a society without cops is a society you would want to live in, you have lost your mind.”

In part three of this three-part series of articles, I’m going to talk about how each group: the police, Black Lives Matter, and society, need to accept responsibility for change, as well as how we need to be looking for solutions upstream, a concept taken from the book, Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen, by Dan Heath. You can read part three by clicking HERE: https://wp.me/p7aEcB-xM

It’s time to erase the Thin Blue Line. (part 1 of 3)

On March 21, 2009 in Oakland, California, Lovelle Mixon killed two police officers on a routine traffic stop, and then two further officers who attempted to apprehend him during a SWAT raid.

On November 29, 2009, four police officers in Lakewood, Washington were murdered by Maurice Clemmons at a coffee shop while they worked on laptops.

On July 7, 2016, in Dallas, Texas, Micah Xavier Johnson killed five cops and wounded nine others in an ambush designed explicitly to kill white police officers as retaliation for what he felt were unlawful killings of black men.

All three of these perpetrators were black. All of the murdered cops were white.

On October 12, 2019, in Fort Worth, Texas, Atatiana Jefferson was murdered by Officer Aaron Dean who shot her through her bedroom window while she was in her house playing video games with her nephew.

On April 4, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina, Walter Scott was murdered by Officer Michael Slager who shot him five times in the back while he was running away.

On October 20, 2014, in Chicago, Illinois, Laquan MacDonald was murdered by Officer Jason Van Dyke who shot him sixteen times, fifteen of those while he was laying on the ground unmoving.

All three of these victims were black. All three of these officers were white.

Why are these shootings so important? What do they all have in common? What makes them all so contentious and so critical to our understanding of the issues our nation is currently facing? Why is the race of both the perpetrators and the victims in all six of these cases of vital importance?

In this article I’m going to talk about police officers, the Black Lives Matter movement, and society as a whole. I’m going to discuss the problems with each of these organizations along with the perspective that each has for the other. Parts of this article are going to be difficult for some people to read, especially if you are the type of person who is dead-set in your opinions, with no ability to keep an open mind. If you’re that type of person, you might as well quit reading right now because this is a long article, and agreeing with everything I say that matches your current view of the world while scoffing at everything I say that is at odds with your current beliefs serves absolutely nobody, including yourself. I ask only that you keep an open mind, read through everything, and discuss with each other and myself anything you may not agree with. My goal with this article is to help pull us back from what I see as a precariously balanced position on the edge of a chasm that is growing exponentially wider and deeper. It won’t be long before we as a society tumble into that chasm with no chance to drag ourselves out. This article was heavily researched and in these days of so much fake news, I believe all of my sources are considered quite credible and well-vetted for authenticity. There are links in the text for everything I’m citing, and all sources are listed at the end of the article.

Before I get started, I want to explain something about the police profession. No matter what your opinion of the police, you have to admit that it is not an easy job. It’s the only job I can think of where you can do everything right and still lose everything that matters to you as a consequence of your actions. It’s the only job where the same people you will put your life at risk for hate you for it. It’s the only profession where true mistakes in decision-making can get you sued for everything you own, fired from your job, and prosecuted criminally. As an example, according to a study by Johns Hopkins University, doctors kill more than 250,000 people every year through medical mistakes. A quarter of a million fatalities because of bad decisions every single year! Somehow this rarely gets mentioned. I would bet that you had no idea it was this many. I know I didn’t. Society understands that doctors do a very difficult job under high stress and that they have to make the best possible decision in a snap moment. We know that medicine isn’t perfect and doctors do the best they can, so we shrug off statistics like this and go about our day. Police officers have the same problem, but people don’t seem to understand or accept that. Police officers are expected to be perfect every time, to make the right decision 100% of the time, to never make an error in judgement, often in snap decisions under high stress conditions, in poor weather, darkness, and completely chaotic circumstances where information may be incomplete or even intentionally false. Police officers kill 1000 people every year and only a handful of those are accidental, malicious, or illegal. Doctors kill 250 times as many, and all of them are accidental, malicious, or illegal. Police officers receive incredible press and scrutiny for these deaths. Doctors complain that their malpractice insurance is too high.

Police departments and public officials want their police forces to closely resemble the racial makeup of their city or county, and there are many good reasons for this that mostly have to do with public perception. Predominantly black neighborhoods want predominantly black officers patrolling their streets and responding to their problems. But this manifests into even more problems. This kind of selective recruitment makes our departments dumber. I don’t mean departments are dumber because black officers are dumber. I mean they’re dumber because this type of race-based hiring means that better-qualified candidates are passed over for lesser-qualified candidates simply because they check a race box. Think this isn’t true? According to an article in the New York Times, there are hundreds of police departments across the country that have more than a 30% positive disparity between white officers and the number of white citizens in the community they serve. Police departments have been actively trying to shrink this disparity for decades because of studies that have shown there is a huge image problem when departments are racially out of sync with the composition of their communities.  This means that they are very often taking extraordinary steps to both hire and, more importantly, to retain officers simply because of their race. This is a dangerous practice when we’re talking about giving someone the power to take your freedom away. Or your life. Police departments should be striving to attract and hire the most intelligent critical thinker and decision maker possible. Bypassing a candidate who scored higher on the civil service test for one who scored lower but is of a certain skin color cannot be good for the quality of the department. Retaining an officer who routinely shows poor judgement or decision-making skills, or passing them through field training just so you have that percentage to an acceptable level is incredibly detrimental to public safety. And this is happening all over the country every day.

When police officers are hired, they’re sent to the police academy where they theoretically learn a massive number of things needed in order to enforce the laws of the land and keep the peace. One of the biggest focuses of the academy is officer safety. Recruits are inundated with a barrage of videos showing officers being murdered in the line of duty. This is a problem because it sets a mindset in the recruit. It tells them that the streets are dangerous, and that’s true, but it makes that cop think that everybody is out to get them. It establishes an ingrained doctrine of fear when it comes to dealing with the public. Recruits are taught how to use instruments of force like pepper spray, tasers, and asps or batons. They spend a hundred hours or more learning firearms. They spend dozens of hours learning defensive tactics like pressure points, limb control maneuvers, and hand-to-hand combat techniques. They also learn how to follow orders. They learn military-like policies and procedures. They learn how and when to salute, how to address a superior officer, how to stand at attention. They learn how to follow orders and they’re taught to not question orders from superiors during critical incidents. They learn how to act in a quasi-military command structure that doesn’t allow dissenting opinions.

This last statement is a huge problem in modern policing.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s New York Times bestselling book, Outliers, he describes a study into a strange phenomenon in aviation. Asian and Latin American based airlines were crashing. A lot. Korean Airlines was leading the pack, experiencing a deluge of fatal disasters, and the underlying cause of these crashes was a mystery. Investigators knew from flight recorders that pilot error was a major factor, but why they were experiencing such a huge number of pilot-caused crashes was perplexing. And the crash frequencies were atrocious. In 1977, a KAL 707 wandered into Russian airspace and was shot down. Two years later, a 747 crashed in Seoul. Three years after that, another 747 crashed in Russia, then a 707 went down in the Andaman Sea in 1987. Two planes crashed in 1989, one in Tripoli and another in Seoul, and then yet another crash in 1994 in Cheju, South Korea, followed by a 747 that slammed into a hillside in Guam in 1997. For perspective Gladwell goes on to report a comparison using United Airlines. Between 1988 and 1998, the UAL crash rate was .27 fatality incidents per million departures, or about one crash for every 4 million flights. In that same period, the crash rate for Korean Airlines was 4.79 per million departures, almost 18 times higher than a comparable US airline!

The question was, why? There was no obvious answer. Pilot training was up to standards. The planes were not outdated and maintenance records showed that all maintenance was performed as per regulations. If you haven’t read Outliers, I highly recommend it, and the story for how this unfolds is incredibly interesting, but the answer to why Korean Airlines was experiencing such a high crash rate had to do with the hierarchical nature of Korean society, in particular with mitigated speech in the cockpit. In Korean culture, deference to authority is so deeply ingrained into the psyche, that it was inevitable that it would carry over into the cockpit. Interestingly, investigators looking for an answer to the crash rate found that most of the KAL crashes occurred when the captain was flying the plane as opposed to the first officer. At first this seemed ridiculous. How could the more experienced pilot be responsible for more crashes? The answer was that when the captain made a mistake, the first officer was, almost without exception, afraid to speak up. In fact, he was culturally unable to speak up. Doing so would have been tantamount to questioning the authority of the captain, an unthinkable act in a culture like Korea. If the first officer was flying and made a mistake, the captain would immediately speak up and take control of the plane. In fact, studies found incidents where captains would actually slap their first officers across the face if they made a mistake! And the first officers would bow and feel ashamed to have disappointed their superior. This seems absurd to western society, but was commonplace and completely accepted in Asian society.

The only recourse a first officer had if they saw the captain making an error was to hint around the issue. Things like, “Boy, trying to deice these wings seems like a losing battle sometimes” when the first officer has noticed an alarming amount of ice building on the wing. Or, “Our weather radar sure is useful, isn’t it Captain?” when the first officer has noticed they were about to fly headlong into a dangerous thunderstorm. Or, “It’s amazing how accurate these fuel gauges can be.” when the first officer noted the plane was dangerously low on fuel. As absurd as these examples might seem, these are the types of mitigated statements that investigators found in black box recordings during crash investigations. And it wasn’t just Asian based flight crews either. Latin American flight crews were experiencing similar problems, as with the crash of Avianca flight 52 from Medellín, Columbia to New York City in 1990. This Boeing 707 literally ran out of fuel on approach to JFK because the copilot used mitigated speech in his conversations with the control tower despite the captain telling him to declare an emergency. The tower was completely unaware of their low fuel state as the controller ordered them to circle out for a long approach to landing. The tower remained unaware of the fuel state right up until the moment both engines flamed out and they crashed, killing two-thirds of the passengers onboard.

After these findings, combating mitigating speech became one of the great crusades in commercial aviation. Cockpit Resource Management or CRM training was first initiated by United Airlines in 1981. Slowly, this training migrated to other parts of the world including Asia and Latin America. This training was later renamed Crew Resource Management, and Delta Airlines developed a comprehensive course on the subject in 1993. Mitigated speech is just one of many components of CRM training which is heavily focused on error management, but it also teaches junior officers how to be assertive, clear, and concise in their communications with the captain. It teaches flight crews how to work together in a hierarchical system and standardizes procedures for all of them when something goes wrong. First officers are allowed one attempt to use mitigated speech to address an error, but they quickly escalate that to clear and concise speech, followed by arresting physical control of the aircraft from the captain to correct the error. A decade prior, this type of action would have been unthinkable in Asian and Latin American aviation. This kind of training changed aviation for the better. Korean Airlines went from an airline that was a national disgrace and was under a State Department warning for U.S. travelers, to one of the safest airlines in the industry, with a spotless safety record for more than twenty years now.

Much of what we know of culturally significant hierarchical issues comes from studies done by Dutch psychologist Geert Hofstede. He created what’s known as Hofstede’s Power Distance Index (PDI). This measures a country’s attitude toward hierarchy and how much they value and respect authority. In low PDI countries, power is something they’re almost ashamed of, something they try to downplay at every possibility. In higher PDI countries, authority is shoved down an underling’s throat, and they are happy to accept verbal and even physical abuse by superiors. The lowest PDI countries are Austria, Israel, and Denmark, all with a score under 20. The highest PDI countries are Malaysia, Guatemala, and Panama, with scores of 104, 95, and 95 respectively. The United States scores a 40, making it the 15th lowest country score. South Korea scored a 60 and Columbia a 67, putting those two countries well above the median score.

So, what does all this have to do with police work? Well, police departments in the United States are a rigid, top-tier hierarchy inside a rather low PDI country. Police chiefs in Malaysia and Guatemala have no issues with teaching police recruits order, control, and chain of command respect because the citizens recruits are quite comfortable in that role. In the United States however, that subservience often has to be drilled into recruits and cadets, and that conditioning begins even before a new hire is sent to the police academy. It is such a pain to teach this kind of conformity and deference to superior officers, that police departments are very over-represented in their ranks by former military veterans. This is intentional and even desired. Military members are very comfortable with authority and power structures. They are grounded in subservience to superiors, a core part of military life. This quality is so desired in police departments that preference points are given to former military members during recruitment. That’s right—smarter more qualified candidates are often passed over in favor of candidates who served in the military and were honorably discharged.

Is this a problem? Yes. I believe this is one of the biggest problems in policing today. Let’s take a look at the killing of George Floyd by Officer Derek Chauvin in Minnesota a couple of weeks ago.  As we all know, Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, an action that seems to have at least contributed to his death if it wasn’t the actual proximate cause. For this action, Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder and third-degree manslaughter. Three other officers were involved in this incident, and they’ve all been charged with aiding and abetting Chauvin in both of those felony crimes. The other three officers are Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Keung, and Tou Thao. We’re going to talk about hierarchical structures in police work so it’s important to understand who was in charge of whom on this crew of four officers. And, unfortunately, that’s not entirely clear. What is clear is that Derek Chauvin was the senior officer on the scene with almost nineteen years of service. Tou Thao had eight years on the job, and Keung and Lane were both rookies, with six months or so on the job for Keung and apparently only four days for Lane. What’s interesting is that there seems to be some real discrepancies here, particularly with regard to Keung and Lane. There are conflicting reports about Keung’s time of service, with some reports that he was hired in February of 2019 but that he graduated the academy in December 2019, though his lawyer has made the claim that this was only his third week as an actual patrol officer. No matter what’s true here, there’s no doubt he was a rookie with no more than six months on the job. The real issue is that all reports I’ve read from the city and from the prosecutor’s office, including the charging documents for all four officers and the probable cause statements indicate that Keung and Lane were patrolling together in the same car when they responded to the initial call. The records also indicate that Chauvin was Keung’s training officer, but nobody seems to know who Lane’s training officer was. It seems clear from the video evidence and written reports that Derek Chauvin arrived in the car with Tou Thao several minutes after Keung and Lane had arrived and had already taken Floyd into custody. None of that makes any sense whatsoever. There’s literally no department ever that would have two brand-new rookies riding in a car together with their training officers in a different car, and there’s zero indication that Lane, who was on his FOURTH DAY ON THE JOB even had a training officer on the scene. It’s really bizarre, but we’ll just have to ignore this unexplainable phenomenon until MPD decides to clear it up for us.

None of the officers were official supervisors, that’s not in doubt. There was no sergeant or lieutenant on the scene when the incident occurred. When there are no supervisors on a scene, the most senior officer is almost always the one who has tactical command of the scene. Even in departments where this isn’t the case, Lane, with four days on (if that’s indeed correct,) and Keung with six months on (same caveat) would have deferred to Chauvin. Even Thao with eight years on the job would have possibly deferred to him, though certainly to a much lesser extent. Eight years on the job makes an officer “experienced,” “a veteran,” and Chauvin and Thao would have likely considered each other near equals in the scheme of the hierarchy. For Lane and Keung though, this would definitely have not been the case. Those two would have deferred to either of the others and would have followed orders almost blindly. Now, don’t get me wrong, they’re not Nazis in Hitler’s military and wouldn’t have pulled out their pistols and executed all Jew witnesses on Chauvin’s order, but they would have followed all “lawful” orders, and would in fact have been expected to do so, under the implied threat of punishment up to and including suspension or termination.

Police departments are quasi-military organizations with full command structures. Things like insubordination, lying, failing to follow orders, violating grooming standards, malfeasance, failing to adhere to uniform standards, failing to follow protocol, disrespecting a senior officer, are all grounds for discipline up to and including termination. On the Hofstede PDI scale, while the United States is a low-end 40, police departments themselves would be well over 100, just below actual military ranks. Senior police officers have the authority to give orders to junior officers, and junior officers are required to follow those orders—as long as they’re reasonable and lawful—without questioning them. Obediently and blindly. This is especially important in police departments when they’re on an active scene or a call. This obedience is drilled into recruits right from the beginning.

When a police officer applies for the position, they go through a battery of tests and background checks often performed by specialized cops. Interviews with an oral board and with senior command, polygraph, medical, psychological testing, all conducted with superiors who expect the recruit to treat them deferentially, with “yes, sir,” and “no, sir,” responses. When the academy starts, students are expected to adhere to a rigid set of guidelines that include saluting the flag as well as instructors, and jumping to attention whenever anybody who might be even a lowly rookie commissioned officer steps into their presence. They’re required to maintain perfect grooming standards with regular inspections for meticulously ironed and creased uniforms and shoes polished to a mirrored finish. They’re required to stand for inspection with yelling officers routinely, and to maintain a perfectly organized dorm room at all times. Everything from the very beginning of the training is highly militarized and hierarchical, and any sort of rebellion is quashed immediately. This is done under the umbrella of the importance of (almost) blindly and obediently following supervisors’ orders during an active, high-pressure scene where lives are on the line. And, there’s certainly some justification for this rationale. There is no democratic process during an active scene, and trainees are taught to obey orders immediately and ask questions later. Asking why a given order was made during a debriefing is thought of as a good learning experience—a training opportunity—but it’s never allowed in the moment.

If a superior officer tells a junior officer to “arrest that man,” the junior officer will put the man in handcuffs without having any idea why he’s doing so. This is absolutely compulsory. Officers are taught to trust their superiors, and even to trust their partners of similar or even lesser status. If Officer A tells Officer B to arrest a subject, Officer B trusts that Officer A has probable cause for the arrest, regardless of his experience, and even if Officer B doesn’t know what that probable cause is.

This can even extend as far as applying force against a suspect, up to, and even including deadly force. I happen to know that there are training officers in academies who suggest that if your partner fires his weapon at a suspect, you should fire yours at him as well, because you should trust that your partner saw a valid reason to shoot. This is pretty atrocious, but it has been taught. A more plausible scenario, and one that gives cops nightmares because of the potential ramifications to blind decision-making, is what if your partner yells at you, “Shoot him! Shoot him, he’s got a gun!” What do you do then, if you don’t see a gun? What if its your sergeant or your training officer who’s yelling that to you? What if you’re a rookie, on your fourth day on the job, and you hear that order? What do you do? Are you willing to put your career, your freedom, your house, your family, maybe your life on the line because of pure trust that a fellow officer has made a good observation and a good decision? There is no clear answer to this, and no training can prepare you to make decisions like this. You are forced to make a snap judgement call in a situation where either decision might end in a fatality at your hands.

Back to the death of George Floyd. Charging documents indicate that on two occasions, Officer Lane asked Derek Chauvin if they should ease up on Floyd and roll him to his side. Here’s an excerpt from the probable cause statement for the charging document for Officer Lane:

You can see that Lane is concerned. He’s aware of the dangers of excited delirium, a condition that can cause death after vigorous, strenuous, or stressful exertion in combination with drugs or medical issues. He’s probably also aware of positional asphyxia, a condition where a person may not be able to breathe while flat on their stomach. He asks Chauvin, a training officer with 19 years on the job, if they should roll him to his side. He mentions excited delirium. Chauvin assures him that he’s considered that possibility and having Floyd on his stomach is the best position. Lane is presumably fresh out of the police academy where he has learned all about excited delirium. He has been taught that when excited delirium is a concern, the subject should be placed on their side. But now Chauvin is telling him that he’s keeping Floyd on his stomach precisely because of concerns over excited delirium.

Nobody but Lane can know what he’s thinking right here, but we can speculate. When a police recruit graduates the academy and hits the streets with the training officer, its very common for the training officer to make some sort of statement along the lines of, “You’ve learned how police work should be done by the book, now you’re going to learn how its ACTUALLY done.” It seems likely that Lane is running his mind back to what was probably about a 15-minute slide show or lecture on excited delirium. 15 minutes out of 800-1000 hours of training. He’s thinking to himself, “Damn, am I wrong? I thought they said put him on his side, but maybe it was leave him on his stomach.” More importantly, he’s got a 19-year officer telling him that they’re doing the right thing, and Lane has been on the job FOR FOUR DAYS!

This is a tough position for a rookie to be in. Don’t get me wrong, at some point Lane should have INSISTED that they roll him, ease the pressure holds on him, and even start life-saving measures like CPR. Particularly when Officer Keung checked for a pulse and COULDN’T FIND ONE! Their failure to step up here is a truly massive breakdown of civic and legal responsibility. They deserve some blame for this. However, THE SYSTEM also deserves blame. Although officers are taught that they have a “Duty to intercede” in training, this mandate is often in conflict with their duty to follow orders. It’s rarely black and white, particularly when an order seems like it might be dangerous but maybe doesn’t rise to the level where duty to intercede would be invoked.

What Officer Lane did was to make MITIGATED STATEMENTS to Officer Chauvin, just like the junior pilots did in all of the Korean Air flights that crashed. “Should we roll him onto his side?” is a suggestion. It’s a mitigated question designed to express concern while remaining deferential to the superior knowledge and tactical awareness of the much more experienced officer. This is the same thing as, “Boy, trying to deice these wings seems like a losing battle sometimes,” that the pilot of the doomed Korean airliner said to his captain. “I’m concerned about excited delirium or whatever,” was his next statement. Note the “or whatever.” This is mitigation in its extreme form. He’s telling the superior officer that he’s concerned, and he knows he’s already expressed that concern once, so this feels like escalation to him. He’s uncomfortable with escalation so he mitigates it with the “or whatever.” Now he’s expressed his concern twice and he’s been overruled both times. It’s expressly because of the inflexibly rigid structure of command hierarchy drilled into them throughout their training that Lane and Keung did not feel as if they could override Chauvin’s decision. This is why Lane stopped at his two mitigated statements. This is why Keung stopped at his single mitigated statement, “I couldn’t find one,” in reference to having checked Floyd for a pulse.

Its frustrating as observers to see these officer stop here, knowing that had they taken action at any point in here, Floyd would be alive today. And while they have a huge share of the blame here, perhaps even the lion’s share, I can’t help but assign a large portion of blame to the system that drilled this culture of mitigation into them.

Crew Resource Management in the airlines has forced a cockpit culture that has eliminated these types of problems, and an unknown but significant number of lives has certainly been saved because of it. Pilots are allowed one mitigated statement of concern. If the senior officer doesn’t act on that first statement, they are required to forcibly state their concern and the remedy they deem necessary. If the senior officer STILL doesn’t act, the pilot is required by policy to physically take control of the aircraft and make the necessary correction. If police officers had a policy like this, Officer Lane would have felt comfortable changing his second statement to a more forceful, “Hey, Derek, get your knee off his neck and let’s roll him, I think he’s actually in serious trouble here.” Had Chauvin still refused to move his knee, Officer Lane would have been fully justified and confident in physically shoving him to the side and taking control of the situation.

With the current training, there was almost no chance that was going to happen. And that’s tragic, as we all know from not just George Floyd’s death, but from the disastrous aftermath. Lane made the best decision he could with the training provided to him. It’s his training that was lacking. Officer Lane’s attorney agrees:

“I’m not claiming that he was following orders,” (Lane’s attorney,) Gray said in response to a question from CNN’s Josh Campbell. “I’m claiming that he thought what he was doing was right. Because he asked a training officer: ‘Should we roll him over?’ Twice. You’ve got to have criminal intent for second-degree murder. And, frankly, this is bullshit.”

There are other problems with officer training that I’m going to spend time discussing later, but I want to move on for now and discuss the great divide in this country between police supporters and Black Lives Matter supporters who seem to be completely at odds with one another. A line has been drawn in the sand, and it has never been more defined or sharper. You either side with the cops or you side with BLM, and there is no middle ground. If you side with the police, BLM supporters brand you a racist. If you side with BLM, police supporters dismiss you out of hand. If you try to straddle the line, or try to articulate support or criticism of both sides, or try to claim you’re neutral on the issue, both sides will ridicule you. It is, however, without question the fringe left that is the most vitriolic with their criticism of dissenting opinion. If you try to bring logic, reasoning, rational thought, or science and data into the argument with someone from the far left, you’ll be told in no uncertain terms to shut your racist mouth. You’ll be told that you’re white, brimming to overflowing with the privilege that comes with your skin color, and that your opinion has no place in these discussions. The country has descended into irrational madness driven by the spurious screaming of the culturally woke, and there is no room for logical, fact-based argument. Well, I for one do not accept this. I do not conform to what I view as a massive competition to prove who can show the world that they’re the least racist person out there. All information has become weaponized. Confirmation bias is destroying objectivity. When logic, science, and data are discarded for emotion-based irrational and unending action, then we find ourselves teetering on the brink of a chasm of destruction, and rational voices are necessary to pull us back.

In order to make things right in this country, it’s going to require the cooperation of the police, the African American community, and society in general. A three-pronged approach, and I’m not talking about the approaches that have already been tried and have failed. I’m talking about a new approach, one that has never been implemented. One that will be incredibly difficult to actualize partly because of the extraordinary community cooperation required, but mostly because of the anarchical barbarians of extremism who have deluged both the mainstream media news cycle and social media with their irrational and preposterous screaming.

In the next article, I’m going to talk about the role of police departments, Black Lives Matter, and society using a social model known as the Karpman Drama Triangle. Read part two by clicking HERE: https://wp.me/p7aEcB-xI

Is Elon Musk really a Bastard?

Elon Musk is a bastard.

At least, that’s what Robert Evans, the host of Behind the Bastards thinks. Behind the Bastards is a podcast that focuses on the worst people in the history of mankind, both present-day and historical. Their tagline reads, From Hitler’s love of YA fiction to Saddam Hussein’s shameful romance novels, this podcast sheds new, weird light on history’s monsters. The format is simple; Evans, teamed up with some random comedian, spends from one to four hours, often split over two shows, trouncing an either well-known, or somewhat obscure person from history who Evans feels is deserving of the title “Bastard.”

“Wait,” you’re probably asking. “Elon Musk made that list? The CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, the man who’s going to take us to Mars and back to the moon, the only person to ever successfully make a viable, affordable, and desirable fully electric car?”

Yup.

In the eyes of Robert Evans, Elon Musk is apparently on equal footing with bastards like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Rodrigo Duterte, Saddam Hussein, Jeffrey Epstein, cocaine queens, child molesters, and Harvey Weinstein.

You’re probably thinking, “How can this be?” and I was asking myself the same thing, which is why I decided to take three-and-a-half hours and listen to the latest Behind the Bastards drop, “I do not like Elon Musk very much.” Now, I listened with quite an open mind. After all, I don’t know Elon. I have—or had—little knowledge of his background, his lifestyle, his personality, his leadership style, or his ethics. I only know that his companies are among my favorites and that he has accomplished some absolutely incredible, jaw-dropping, world-changing things in science, business, and philanthropy. I follow him on Twitter, and I watch nearly every launch of SpaceX with utter fascination. I’m a huge fan of Tesla, both the company and the car, and someday I hope to actually be able to afford to own one. But, if he is truly a bastard, I kind of want to know. I mean, I sort of idolize the guy, at least as much as it’s possible for me to actually idolize a living person, and I hate to be duped.

So, I listened to the podcast with an open mind, prepared to have my image shattered of the man who I truly feel is changing the world for the better.

The guest comedian for this episode is Sofiya Alexander, someone who I knew absolutely nothing about, and the producer, who seemed to chime in often, is someone named Sophie, so with a Sofiya and a Sophie, it tended to get a bit confusing who was talking, though it didn’t much matter in the long run as they all seemed to share the exact same sentiments with no dissenting opinion.

The podcast literally starts with Robert yelling “CUCKKKKK!!!” to open the show. He then goes on to explain that Producer Sophie decided that Elon was a cuck before they started recording. No explanation is given as to why Elon was called a cuck, and no apology is given for using such a preposterous invective, but Robert then says that he hates “cuck” as an insult because the worst people on the internet use that term and Nate Silver (of fivethirtyeight.com fame I’m guessing) is one of the worst people on the internet. Again, there is no accounting for this slanderous statement, the listening audience is left wondering just what in the world is going on, and this podcast is not off to a good start.

 

The underlying theme of the premise that Elon is a bastard is apparently that “It’s bad to be a billionaire.” This is a ludicrous premise of course. There are obviously bad billionaires but being a billionaire doesn’t automatically make you evil, despite the far-left socialist narrative that would have you believe this blanket characterization.

Robert goes on to say, without apparently even recognizing the carelessly prejudicial nature of the statement, “I will try to be scrupulously fair as I outline why he’s a piece of shit.” He says the main source material for this episode is a book called “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future,” by Ashlee Vance. This mention then becomes quite memorable as Robert and Sofiya spend the next 3+ hours quoting from this book that Robert allegedly studied, while referring to Ashlee Vance dozens of times as “the woman,” “her,” and “she.”

Ashlee vance is a man. And not the kind of man who uses alternative pronouns.

What’s especially humorous about this gaffe, is that they use a passage from Ashlee Vance’s book to try to suggest that Elon is exhibiting some sort of sexist behavior in his interview with the man that they think is a woman:

 

It’s apparent that this negligent blunder is brought to Robert’s attention sometime between the drop of part one and the drop of part two a couple of days later. He has his producer, Sofie, edit in a blurb at about the eight-minute mark of part two where she passes along Robert’s apology for calling Ashlee a female. He does not have Sofie apologize for his failure to perform even the most basic of research into the author of the primary source material for his podcast. I checked Robert’s Twitter account to see if he bothered making a public apology to Ashlee for such a blunder, and though it may be hidden in the thousand or so tweets he’s sent in the last two weeks, I was unable to find any actual apology from him. He did, however, find time to apologize to a woman at the Portland riots whom he referred to in Tweets as “her” and “she” before finding out that she uses the pronouns “they” and “them,” so it was apparently more important for Robert to apologize for calling a woman “she” instead of “they,” then it was to apologize for calling a man “she” instead of “he.” Makes sense, right?

Sofiya Alexandra took it a step further when she was informed on Twitter that Ashlee was a man.

Yes, that’s right, Sofiya apparently found this lack of research integrity to be funny, and actually blamed Ashlee for having his name end with ee. As if he had a choice in the matter of his naming? As if it would have been much easier to discern his sex if he spelled his name Ashley? As if it was impossible to consider that Ashlee may be a sort of portmanteau of Ash and Lee? As if it’s his fault that the two of them couldn’t even bother to flip the book over and read the back of it, with the picture of Ashlee and his biography, or to type the name of the author of their primary source material into a simple Google search to check his background, even if to just make sure he was actually a credible source? Complete disgraceful social and journalistic behavior on both their parts, and definitely not a good way to convince their audience of the reliability of their premise.

Part one of I do not like Elon Musk very much is all about Elon’s childhood and upbringing, with an emphasis on the amount of abuse and bullying that Elon was subject to as a withdrawn and socially awkward youngster. Elon grew up bullied, beaten regularly and often severely, a loner, an outsider, mocked and ridiculed at school before going home to a dysfunctional family and a dad who was a terrible person. In an era where such kids sometimes decide to shoot up their schools and murder their classmates, are we seriously going to trash Elon for what he made of himself?

Apparently so.

Robert directs the narrative to Elon’s familial history, discussing his namesake grandfather’s decision to move the family from Canada to South Africa. The stated reason by Grandpa Elon was that, “he felt the moral character of Canada had started to decline.” Robert makes a strong implication that this statement meant that Grandpa Elon was a raging racist, saying, “He thought Canada was too immoral in 1950 and moved to South Africa. Do some math.”

There’s no doubt that South Africa was smack in the middle of it’s brutal Apartheid in the 1950s, however, there are probably a few alternative reasons other than rampant racism that might incentivize a man to move his family from Canada during this time period. To draw the conclusion that grandpa was an unrepentant racist based on nothing more than this life decision to change his residence, in what’s becoming a theme of unremittent speculation by Robert Evans is a blatant violation of journalistic ethics.

Grandpa Elon was a pilot, and he ends up dying when our Elon was a baby. Here’s how Robert describes that:

“He died when Elon was like a baby. In a plane crash, because he hit some shit, because he was flying like an asshole, I guess.”

It’s probably safe to speculate that the cause of Grandpa Elon’s death was that he “hit some shit,” as that is the ultimate cause of most plane crash deaths, however, the journalistic integrity hole continues here as he adds that Grandpa Elon was, “flying like an asshole, I guess.” Because, obviously a suspected racist could never have an airplane crash caused by anything other than flying like an asshole, right? Not satisfied with the speculative nature of his racist assignation of Elon’s maternal grandfather, Robert makes several further utterances to make sure that the audience knows that he thinks Grandpa Elon was a racist, calling Elon’s mother, Maye Musk, “Elon’s mother, and obviously that cool, probably a gigantic racist plane dude’s daughter.”

Robert goes on to discuss Elon’s father, Errol, who, by all accounts, including Elon’s, is not a good dude. Elon himself claimed in an interview that his father has committed every crime on the books and that he’s evil. Robert, of course, can’t help but add a racist slant to the shadowy story of Errol by completely making up facts, albeit with the disclaimer that he’s making them up:

 

Robert isn’t a dummy; he’s just completely lacking in ethics. He knows that by stating the three men Errol killed were probably black, the sentiment of racism will be instilled into the listener and will contribute to the subconscious idea that if Elon’s entire family is racist, it’s likely that Elon himself is as well. Now, I have no idea if Grandpa Elon was a racist who came to South Africa to become part of the Apartheid movement. I have no idea if Errol is a racist who killed three black men under the guise of home defense. The point is, that Robert doesn’t know this either, and to insinuate such is abhorrent behavior, particularly on the part of a professional journalist. To continue the theme of racism in the Musk family, and to further insinuate that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Robert ends part one with a statement about Elon being on President Trump’s economic advisory council in 2016:

 

He’s criticizing Musk’s decision to leave the advisory council after Trump removed the United States from the Paris Climate Accords, stating that Elon drew the line in the sand with this climate-change denying decision but didn’t draw a line on what Robert felt were racist decisions by the Trump Administration on the southern border, separating Mexican illegal immigrants from their families and “putting children in cages.” His premise is that Elon, as an immigrant to the United States, should have left the council at that decision point instead of waiting. He barely notes that Elon spoke out loudly against both the immigration policies and the climate change denial that he felt was rampant in the Trump administration.

Part one is terrible, and certainly doesn’t in any way make listeners think that Elon is a bastard deserving of the company of the subjects of Robert Evans’ other podcasts, but he assures the listeners that he’s just getting started, and that we’ll feel differently when we hear part two. Okay.

Part Two

Interrupted awkwardly by the post-edit interjection of Producer Sophie at the eight-minute mark where they acknowledge they’re now aware that Ashlee Vance is a male, part two of the podcast starts off with complete nonsense that somehow made it past the less-than-stringent cutting room floor at Behind the Bastards Podcasts. By the time they get back to the actual subject, Elon Musk, I was rapidly hitting the “forward 30 seconds” button and growing rather frustrated.

When they finally roll around to Elon, they start with his first business endeavor, a partnership with his brother Kimbal Musk called Global Link Information Network, a name they eventually change to Zip2. Sofiya, who, as seen with Ashlee, apparently loves to utilize the comedically genius strategy of making fun of peoples’ names, has some input on this name change:

 

To Elon Musk fans, the romanticized nature of his business background has its roots in this first company, Zip2. Elon and his brother started this business from scratch, and they worked incredibly hard, spending days straight without leaving the office, ordering in food and not showering as they coded through the long hours. Robert, of course, makes fun of this and attempts to delegitimize Elon’s auspicious beginnings by quoting the debunked statement from Elon’s estranged father that Elon started the business with a $28,000 loan from dad. Robert tries to make us think that this is an enormous amount of money:

 

First of all, as anybody who has actually started a business could have told him, $28,000 is nothing. If you try to start a business any more ambitious than a snow cone stand in your front yard with $28,000, you are going to definitely be on a shoe-string budget and you’ll be constantly one mistake or poor decision from bankruptcy. In addition to this obvious fact, Elon didn’t actually get any such loan from his father. Elon debunks this in a Rolling Stone article that I know for a fact Robert Evans read as he himself quotes from it several times in the podcast. Here’s the quote from Rolling Stone:

After Musk became successful, his father even took credit for helping him – to such a degree that it’s listed as fact in Elon’s Wikipedia entry. “One thing he claims is he gave us a whole bunch of money to start, my brother and I, to start up our first company [Zip2, which provided online city guides to newspapers]. This is not true,” Musk says. “He was irrelevant. He paid nothing for college. My brother and I paid for college through scholarships, loans and working two jobs simultaneously. The funding we raised for our first company came from a small group of random angel investors in Silicon Valley.”

Now, since we know that Robert read this but chose to ignore it because it didn’t fit into his narrow narrative and this correction does in fact undermine his thesis that Elon’s past is shadowed in hyperbole and overstated anecdotes, we can ascertain that Robert Evans is a terrible journalist who’s astonishing willingness to completely negate the concept of integrity in journalism in the name of entertainment is a stain on the industry. Robert’s underlying theme of this podcast is privilege. He’s convinced that Elon was able to succeed because he grew up wealthy, and the fact that he fled that wealth to start with nothing is irrelevant. He wants to convince us that despite Elon being broke at this time, he was never at risk because he could always flee back to his wealth, and this type of privilege makes what Elon achieved almost insignificant. How did Elon succeed? He knew how to talk to investment bankers and financiers. How did he know this? He grew up privileged, in a rich household, surrounded by his father’s banking buddies.

Not convinced that Robert is wrong? Okay.

Robert next decides to take on the entire field of tech engineering and to broadly mischaracterize them as disgusting pigs with the following statements in regard to Elon’s work ethic at Zip2 that resulted in him showering at a less than optimal frequency. Robert says:

“I’ve read a lot of biographies about a lot of tech guys and they all smelled terrible, and so did their little offices. They were all fucking nasty. It’s not hard to shower once a day, guys.” “They get their best ideas by forming a, like a fucking crown of scrotal sweat around their fucking drawstring pants.” “There’s a smell that engineers have, we all know that. Its engineer stank.”

If this characterization isn’t bad enough, Robert and Sofiya spend an inordinate amount of time discussing Elon’s passion, work ethic, and dedication to his goal. They quote Elon during one of his early investor pitches:

“My mentality is that of a samurai. I would rather commit seppuku then fail.”

Robert and Sofiya find this incredibly funny, and they spend some time laughing and making fun of Elon for this statement. Here’s an audio clip where they make fun of his work ethic:

 

If I’m an investor and I’m considering putting my money into a start-up company, this is the mentality that I want my horse to hold. The seppuku quote is sentiment only, obviously, and not to be taken literally, but this must-succeed attitude is what makes Elon so special and so undeniably successful. This is how you’re going to show us that he’s a bastard?

In February of 1999, Elon and Kimbal sold Zip2 to Compaq for $307 million and Elon himself walked away with $22 million. Robert makes a big deal about how Elon left the company immediately instead of staying on to run it, adversely stating that Elon obviously only cared about the money and not the company itself. Okay, so what? It should be obvious to all that Elon had bigger fish to fry than staying on to run an online advertising company for another owner. He wanted to use his money to do bigger things, and that’s supposed to be bad?

Elon spent $1 million dollars and bought a McLaren F-1 sports car, one of only 62 in the world. Three years earlier, he had been (not often, apparently) showering at the YMCA and sleeping in his office, and suddenly, he’s a kid with $22 million in the bank. Yes, objectively this is an ostentatious purchase, and an incredibly irresponsible amount, both in actual dollars, and in percentage of wealth to spend on such a ridiculous display of prosperity. However, Elon was 27 years old. Who among us can say we were fiscally responsible at such a young age, particularly with such an incredible influx of previously unknown wealth, the culmination of incredible discipline and determination? I have no doubt that Elon is probably embarrassed by this video showing a young and objectively immature Elon Musk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3tlVE_QXm4

Here’s the clip where Robert and Sofiya make fun of Elon without regard to the circumstances surrounding this purchase:

 

Within months of selling Zip2, Elon invested the vast majority of his newfound wealth into X.com, an online bank that eventually merged with Paypal. Robert and Sofiya spend a lot of time making fun of Elon for the name X.com, and discussing the takeover that got him ousted and Peter Thiel installed as the CEO of the merged companies. This is mostly nonsensical background that does nothing to further the thesis that Elon is a “piece of shit,” so I won’t go into all of the obtuse takes they come up with in this segment.

In July 2002, Ebay purchases Paypal for about $1.5 billion, and Elon walks away with $250 million, a more than 12x return on his investment in just about three years. Now, this is the point where many people would and have simply walked away from the business world to retire in extravagant luxury. $250 million is an enormous amount of money that allows living in comfort on the interest alone without ever touching the principal. Elon didn’t do this though, and this is what makes him special. He took the money, $180 million after taxes, and invested nearly all of it in three companies:

$100 million into SpaceX

$70 million into Tesla

$10 million into Solar City

With additional investments in other, smaller projects, Elon took the vast majority of his wealth and spread it around into businesses that he felt were going to change the world. Robert and Sofiya spend a lot of time complaining that Elon gets credit for starting these businesses when, particularly with regard to Tesla, they were actually started by others, but what they choose to ignore is that Tesla was almost certainly doomed to failure without the drive, vision, ambition, and capital funding that Elon brought to the table. Here’s a quote from Robert:

“What’s not debatable is how fucked up it is that Elon Musk gets credit for building all these wonderful devices that he did not build. A January 2020 Fortune article got the title, “How Elon Musk built a Tesla factory in China in less than a year.” Obviously, he didn’t, he’s never built a factory in his life.”

Robert is saying that Elon has never physically built a factory. That he’s never operated a welder, poured concrete, installed windows. He’s taking the “built a Tesla factory” literally and taking the stand that Elon shouldn’t have gotten credit in the title of the Fortune article because he didn’t LITERALLY construct the building! It’s incredibly hard to imagine how obtuse this line of thinking is, but Robert somehow gets there. He continues:

“Musk gets a lot of credit in general for the wonders that his companies have produced.”

Seriously, no kidding? The CEO and in many cases founder, innovator, designer, decision-maker, and engineer of a company gets a lot of credit for the wonders that the companies produce? This is supposed to be some kind of revelatory statement that’s supposed to make me feel that Elon is a bastard of history?

Robert triples down on this idea by quoting this passage from the Rolling Stone article:

But what he has done is something that very few living people can claim: Painstakingly bulldozed, with no experience whatsoever, into two fields with ridiculously high barriers to entry – car manufacturing (Tesla) and rocketry (SpaceX) – and created the best products in those industries, as measured by just about any meaningful metric you can think of. In the process, he’s managed to sell the world on his capability to achieve objectives so lofty that from the mouth of anyone else, they’d be called fantasies.

Robert adds: “That’s frustrating to me because he did jump in without any experience…but he didn’t create those fucking products.”

It should be obvious that people who start companies with hundreds, or thousands, or tens of thousands of employees do not necessarily “create” the products they deliver. What people like Elon do is bring people together, design a vision, implement the strategies and procedures to recognize that vision, and inspire and drive their employees. When all of these things come together and a brilliant product is created, the credit goes to the person who made all of that happen, and this is Elon Musk. Yes, credit needs to go to the engineers and the line workers and the architects, the team that actually builds the product, but Susie Samsonite pushing the button that activates the robotic arm that attaches the brake calipers on the Tesla Model 3 is not going to get recognized by Rolling Stone magazine, and to suggest that she should is completely ludicrous. To further suggest that Musk is a bastard for accepting this credit is asinine.

Now, Robert and Sofiya make a tremendous effort to get us to hate Elon by claiming that he assigns blame when things go wrong, and accepts credit when they go right. As evidence, they cite the explosion of SpaceX’s first rocket, Falcon 1 shortly after launch from Omelek Island in March 2006:

 

While it might be true that Elon and SpaceX did assign blame to the tech at the time, the idea that Musk didn’t accept the blame is not entirely true. Once again, Robert fails to show any sort of journalistic integrity by presenting both sides of the equation, but rather, only cites from the source that casts Elon in the worst light possible. A simple Google search brought me to a video where Elon accepted full blame for the failure of all three of the first Falcon 1 launches, and where he discusses that had the fourth launch failed, that very likely would have put SpaceX into bankruptcy and there would be no SpaceX today. This is Elon explaining his role in those failures to the International Astronautical Congress:

“And the reason that I ended up being the chief engineer or chief designer, was not because I want to, it’s because I couldn’t hire anyone. Nobody good would join. So, I ended up being that by default. And I messed up the first three launches. The first three launches failed. Fortunately, the fourth launch which was – that was the last money that we had for Falcon 1 – the fourth launch worked, or that would have been it for SpaceX.”

You can view the full video of his speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdUX3ypDVwI&t=12m04s

Robert goes further in his efforts to convince us that Elon is a terrible manager. He decides to quote a section of Ashlee Vance’s book that talks about Elon’s firing of his secretary Mary Beth Brown. Robert says that Brown asked for a pay raise and Elon told her to take a vacation and he would do her job then decide if she was worth it upon her return. When she got back, he told her she was unnecessary and fired her without ceremony.

Sofiya Alexandra chimes in on this: “I remember reading about that and being like, that is the most insulting way to fire someone that’s given so much of their time and life to you. To just make sure that they know that you think they’re worthless before you let them go. That is so shitty for no reason.”

The problem here is, this fable is probably not even true. Here’s an article where the story originated. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/elon-musk-assistant-fired-pay-rise-ask-took-job-tesla-mary-beth-brown-biography-ashlee-vance-a7888061.html

Elon addressed this in a series of Tweets to Business Insider: “Ashlee Vance’s biography is mostly correct but also rife with errors and never independently fact-checked, despite my request that he do so. Of all the bogus anecdotes, this one troubles me the most. Ashlee never actually ran this story by me or my assistant. It is total nonsense. Mary Beth was an amazing assistant for over 10 years, but as company complexity grew, the role required several specialists vs one generalist. MB was given 52 weeks of salary and stock in appreciation for her great contribution and left to join a small firm, once again as a generalist.”

His mother, Maye Musk, also joined in the conversation on Twitter and added: “I agree. Some of the facts were glaringly wrong, but altogether the “bio” was interesting.”

It would seem that once again Robert Evans has chosen to cherry-pick his anecdotal evidence to fit the narrative he’s trying to front. To my knowledge, Mary Beth Brown has never stepped forth to either confirm or deny these claims, and Robert Evans certainly made no mention that he made any effort to contact her before simply spewing out the slanderous claims without regard for any dissenting evidence. It seems incredibly unlikely that Elon would take a public stance that this story isn’t true unless he was being honest, afterall, it would be incredibly embarassing to him if Brown came forth and confirmed it.

Despite wanting to continually deride Elon Musk, at a few points they can’t help but allow the deeply suppressed admiration they hold to shine through. Robert talks about how Elon had enormous input on the development of the Tesla design, saying that one of his big contributions was insisting that the door handles on the Tesla pop out, which he calls “Silly and unnecessary but cool as hell and that it makes people happy and loyal to the product because it delights them.”

Sofiya then says, “My husband has a Tesla and he fucking loves it. They amount of joy he gets from driving it, I’m like, this is stupid but it is cool.”

This is absolutely laughable. They are trying to deride a man who creates a product they both agree is incredibly innovative and cool. Robert goes on to compare Elon to Steve Jobs, saying that he understands what people want and he puts out a product that delights people. This is an incredible talent and Robert can’t help but recognize that. Robert also mentions that Elon insisted that SpaceX create the vast majority of their rocket components inhouse rather than using external suppliers. This allows them to bypass the bloat that a lot of the heavily regulated space industry has. Robert admires this, calling it a “good idea” and “a policy that was successful in reducing the cost of shooting shit into space.” His issue is that Elon gets too much credit and uses the world-saving goals of his company to treat his employees like shit whenever they get in his way, sentiments that don’t seem to be supported by the evidence presented.

Next, Robert and Sofiya move on to Elon’s personal relationships, trying to show the world what a scumbag he is because of the way he treated his wives. They point to an article in Marie Claire magazine written by Elon’s first wife, Justine, titled, “I was a starter wife.”

https://www.marieclaire.com/sex-love/a5380/millionaire-starter-wife/

Robert reads from this article, pulling passages that attempt to fit his narrative while ignoring the passages where Justine praises Elon and states her lack of regrets. One passage he pulls is this one:

After graduation, he’d moved to Silicon Valley. He was sharing an apartment in Mountain View with three roommates and building his first dot-com company, Zip2. I soon flew out for the first of many visits. One night, over dinner, he asked me how many kids I wanted to have. “One or two,” I said immediately, “although if I could afford nannies, I’d like to have four.” He laughed. “That’s the difference between you and me,” he said. “I just assume that there will be nannies.”

This despairingly poorly edited podcast then skips backward a few minutes to repeat a previous story about Justine and Elon dancing at their wedding, before it skips forward again to this story about him assuming they’ll have nannies. Robert and Sofiya spend some time implying that he’s a scumbag for assuming they’ll have enough money to hire servants as if that kind of financial dreaming is nothing but thinly veiled satanism. They then make fun of Elon asking Justine to dye her hair:

And no matter how many highlights I got, Elon pushed me to be blonder. “Go platinum,” he kept saying, and I kept refusing.

Sofiya chimes in sarcastically about this passage: “It’s hot when someone you love just tries to change you all the time. I love it. It’s completely healthy and dope…People just want to be told that they’re garbage and they need to change.” So, Elon wanting his wife to change her hair blonde is somehow evil? This is the best you guys can come up with? Well, they go on to discuss how Elon tricked Justine into signing a postnuptial agreement that obliterated her rights.

Elon disputes many of the statements and claims in Justine’s exposé, particularly those about the postnuptial agreement, with an article in Business Insider. Once again, Robert chooses to completely ignore any evidence contrary to his thesis in what seems to be a routine lack of journalistic integrity: https://www.businessinsider.com/correcting-the-record-about-my-divorce-2010-7?IR=T

Elon says, “Given the choice, I’d rather stick a fork in my hand than write about my personal life. Unfortunately, it seems that I don’t have any other option. Several awful things have been widely reported that are simply false, but a falsehood uncorrected may as well be truth.” Justine tried to dispute the separate property agreement that we signed in March 2002. This agreement said that any separate property we created would remain separate property, so the novels she wrote would be hers and any companies I created would be mine. We began negotiations two months before marriage with separate legal counsel and an independent mediator drawing up the agreement, and signed it six weeks after marriage.” According to multiple reports, Justine got $2 million cash, $6 million for child support and $80,000 per month for alimony, plus 10% of his SpaceX stock, along with a Tesla Roadster.

After divorcing Justine, Elon met and quickly proposed to Talulah Riley, a British actress. She is 14 years Elon’s junior, 22 years old to his 36 years at the time they meet. Sofiya is, of course, appalled by this:

“Ugh, so gross and just like cliché, I’m like dude come on.”

Quoting again from the Rolling Stone article by Neil Strauss who wrote “The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists” they discuss Elon’s emotional turmoil over his recent (at the time of the article) breakup with Amber Heard. Musk tells Strauss that he’s lonely and afraid of being alone, and Strauss suggests to Elon that he might want to work on the reasons for why he exhibits what he says is clear co-dependent behavior.

From the article:

I explain that needing someone so badly that you feel like nothing without them is textbook codependence.

Musk disagrees. Strongly. “It’s not true,” he replies petulantly. “I will never be happy without having someone. Going to sleep alone kills me.” He hesitates, shakes his head, falters, continues. “It’s not like I don’t know what that feels like: Being in a big empty house, and the footsteps echoing through the hallway, no one there – and no one on the pillow next to you. Fuck. How do you make yourself happy in a situation like that?”

Robert and Sofiya somehow find humor in this sad and honest introspection. They even go on to suggest that Elon find a sex worker to comfort him instead of looking for a relationship. These people are sick:

 

Another four-minute editing blunder where the recording loops makes listening to this professional podcast excruciating, but it’s almost over and I power through as Robert goes into the closing Anecdote of the podcast, how Elon Musk destroyed the small town of Boca Chica, Texas. This section is based on an Esquire article which is found here:

https://classic.esquire.com/article/2020/3/1/the-day-the-rocket-came-to-boca-chica

Robert and Sofiya discuss how Elon came to town with the intention of launching SpaceX rockets from the beach near this small town with only two permanent residents and a few dozen snowbird part-time residents. In an effort to make sure nobody was killed in a devastating rocket explosion, SpaceX attempted to buy up everyone’s homes, offering three times the market value and attaching a deadline to the offer, the unexpressed and underlying threat of Eminent Domain backing the offer. Although there’s no question that Eminent Domain seizures suck from the perspective of the homeowner, they happen, and they are historically necessary for the good of the country. Regardless of how you might feel about such an action, there’s no doubt that an offer of three times the market value was a generous offer, particularly if the backup to such an action is an Eminent Domain seizure. Robert and Sofiya disagree of course, and they make several very unfair assessments of the situation. They also choose to completely ignore any contrary evidence even from the very source they’re citing. As the author of the article, Rachel Monroe, states:

And so when I returned to Boca Chica in late December, I imagined I’d find a depressed, depleted place. Instead, after a tumultuous year, the community seemed infused with a fresh spirit. Residents seemed to have come to terms with SpaceX’s presence, for better or worse. The rocket might be intrusive, but it was their neighbor, and unlike them, it was here to stay. For some, that was an incentive to hash out an agreement with the company.

Sofiya, of course, sinks to crudity reminiscent of how they started the episode when they called Elon a cuck: “What’s a few hundred thousand, however many people in pursuit of one man’s, probably with a tiny dick’s, dreams.”

Robert chimes in: “We’ve all become worse because of our exposure to Elon.”

This podcast was filled with crude name-calling, ad hominem attacks, half-truths, and flat-out fabricated nonsense in some perverted desire to disparage a man who is openly trying to save humanity, a man with lofty goals of elevating our species to the stars, halting global warming, and safely guiding us into the future with a carefully planned immersion into creation of artificial intelligence. Along the way, he has risked everything, succeeded through determination, hard work, excellent ability to surround himself with great people, and certainly a decent amount of luck. Although I tried to listen to this podcast with an open mind, it didn’t take long to recognize this for exactly what it was; a hatchet job perpetrated by a man with a desire to espouse the evils of anyone who has risen to a success he’ll never achieve. Perpetual desire to bring attention to articles spouting statistics that have been debunked for the simple fact that people may remember only the debunked fact as opposed to the truth is beyond wrong, it’s abhorrent.

I have no doubt that Elon Musk is not a perfect man. I don’t doubt that he has occasionally screwed people over, acted inappropriately, impetuously, and petulantly. Name one person who has achieved Elon’s success who hasn’t occasionally acted in these ways. That Elon is socially awkward is obvious. That he has repressed resentments from childhood that affect his relationships and decision-making is probable. Are these reasons to call him a bastard? Are these reasons to disparage him, mock him, and scorn him? I heard a quote once that at a certain intelligence level, this world is mostly unbearable and the IQ level where that sentiment manifests is not really that high. Elon Musk is uncommonly intelligent, and I suspect he mostly finds this world oppressive and intolerable. The fact that he navigates it so successfully is admirable and laudable.

Robert ends the podcast by quoting an article that said Elon Musk hates the color yellow and that he won’t allow yellow safety lines to be painted in the factories, an obsession that has caused dangerous conditions to exist. This is something that is simply not true, and it was debunked thoroughly, something brushed off by Robert in his quest for complete disinterest in impartiality or objectivity. Robert Evans is either incapable or uninterested in critically evaluating some of the negative, slandering propaganda that has been published about Elon, rather choosing to add to the sewage and filth with a three-and-a-half-hour podcast full of gossip-rag worthy faux journalism, disinformation, and fabrications.

Robert Evans should be ashamed. Actually, he’s kind of a bastard.

 

8 minutes and 46 seconds that changed the nation?

On May 25th, 2020, at approximately 2025 hours, George Floyd, an African-American citizen, was killed by Officer Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis Police Department. The incident was captured on multiple cell phone videos and body-worn cameras and widely distributed. The images are disturbing: Officer Chauvin with his knee pressed on the back of the neck of Mr. Floyd while Mr. Floyd moans and complains that he can’t breathe, begging the officers for relief.

In an incredibly swift and judicious action, the Minneapolis Police Department fired Derek Chauvin and three other officers who were at the scene the very next day. This wouldn’t be enough to mollify the public though, as rioting, looting, and burning would commence that night and for the next several nights, turning downtown Minneapolis into a war zone, protestors even capturing and burning the MPD 3rd precinct where the four officers were assigned. Protests and riots would spread across the country in cities large and small. The protestors’ demands? The arrest and charging of the four officers involved.

The clear video and facts of this case are indisputable. Or are they?

On May 29, 2020, four days after the killing, former Officer Derek Chauvin was finally arrested by the BCA—the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, an agency with which fans of novelist John Sandford will be very familiar. The BCA is a state police force, tasked with investigating the actions of the officers involved. In addition to the BCA, the FBI and the Justice Department are running parallel investigations into potential federal charges under the “color of law” statutes.

The charges filed against Chauvin are: 1) Murder – 3rd degree, and, 2) Manslaughter – 2nd degree. The charges were filed by Michelle Frascone, a Special Agent with the BCA, and Amy Sweasy, a prosecuting attorney for the State of Minnesota.

Upon filing the charges, the public erupted in anger once again, insisting that the charges were too lenient, in what would seem at first glance to be a rather humorous flip of the normal complaint that prosecutors tend to overcharge suspects.

Was the charging appropriate? Let’s take a look at the specific Minnesota statutes involved here.

609.195 MURDER IN THE THIRD DEGREE.

(a) Whoever, without intent to effect the death of any person, causes the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life, is guilty of murder in the third degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 25 years.

At first glance, this seems a completely appropriate charge. I had to look up what “evincing a depraved mind” means because I’ve never heard that term, however, it’s apparently a fairly common term in several Midwest states. Here is what it means, according to the Minnesota Supreme Court: “The phrase “evincing a depraved mind, regardless of human life” as used in these instructions means conduct demonstrating an indifference to the life of others, that is not only disregard for the safety of another but a lack of regard for the life of another.”

There is little doubt that Officer Chauvin’s actions showed a complete indifference to Mr. Floyd’s life, as we’ll see a little later, so after some review, this charge seems completely appropriate. As a prosecuting attorney, you definitely want to charge as high as possible. This gives you maximum flexibility, lending strength to your negotiating platform for plea bargains, and giving juries and judges maximum flexibility during sentencing. When the arresting officer and the prosecutor decide on charges, even though this charge seems to fit the crime, they definitely want to take a look at the next higher charge to see if that one might possibly fit. So, let’s take a look at the statute for Murder – 2nd degree.

609.19 MURDER IN THE SECOND DEGREE.

Subdivision 1. Intentional murder; drive-by shootings.

Whoever does either of the following is guilty of murder in the second degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 40 years:

(1) causes the death of a human being with intent to effect the death of that person or another, but without premeditation; or

(2) causes the death of a human being while committing or attempting to commit a drive-by shooting in violation of section 609.66, subdivision 1e, under circumstances other than those described in section 609.185, paragraph (a), clause (3).

Under subsection (1) we see that the key word “intent” comes into play once you charge murder in the 2nd degree (as well as murder 1st degree.) Subsection 2 doesn’t apply here, obviously, nor does Subdivision 2 which deals with protection orders and other felonies, but you can read them HERE if you’d like.

So, the question becomes, did Officer Chauvin intend to murder George Floyd?

Despite the outrage of the public, despite mayors, governors, and dozens of other elected officials calling this murder, implying or outright stating that this was blatant, intentional murder, objectively this seems absolutely ridiculous. In order to believe that Chauvin intended to murder Floyd, you would have to think that a cop—someone who ABSOLUTELY, DESPERATELY, under all possible circumstances wants to avoid the inside of a prison, where really bad things tend to happen to cops, decided, with multiple cameras rolling, in broad daylight, “Fuck it. I’m just going to go ahead and murder this dude right now.” This seems so completely implausible that it’s laughable, yet that is what “intent” would require. Even if you’re somehow allowing emotion to cloud your judgement and you think that’s exactly what happened, as a prosecutor, you still have to PROVE this in a court of law. You have to prove that Officer Chauvin thought exactly that, that his full intention was to murder. A defense attorney would have a field day with this charge, and the prosecutors know it, so it would seem that Murder – 3rd degree is absolutely the appropriate charge.

Now, prosecutors like to stack charges, and they like to be comprehensive and thorough, so they also tacked on the charge of Manslaughter – 2nd degree. Let’s take a look at that statute:

609.205 MANSLAUGHTER IN THE SECOND DEGREE.

A person who causes the death of another by any of the following means is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than ten years or to payment of a fine of not more than $20,000, or both:

(1) by the person’s culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another; 

Culpable negligence. Negligence that is deserving of blame. Negligence that creates an unreasonable risk and consciously takes chances of causing death to another. Yeah. I think this is pretty clear, and the video would seem to indicate that Officer Chauvin definitely acted in this manner. So, Manslaughter – 2nd degree seems like a good charge, particularly if Murder – 3rd degree doesn’t end up holding up. By charging both, prosecutors can hope for a conviction on Manslaughter if the defense gets an acquittal on Murder. Could they have charged Manslaughter – 1st degree? Let’s take a look at that charge.

609.20 MANSLAUGHTER IN THE FIRST DEGREE.

Whoever does any of the following is guilty of manslaughter in the first degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 15 years or to payment of a fine of not more than $30,000, or both:

(1) intentionally causes the death of another person in the heat of passion provoked by such words or acts of another as would provoke a person of ordinary self-control under like circumstances, provided that the crying of a child does not constitute provocation;

(2) violates section 609.224 and causes the death of another or causes the death of another in committing or attempting to commit a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor offense with such force and violence that death of or great bodily harm to any person was reasonably foreseeable, and murder in the first or second degree was not committed thereby;

(3) intentionally causes the death of another person because the actor is coerced by threats made by someone other than the actor’s coconspirator and which cause the actor reasonably to believe that the act performed by the actor is the only means of preventing imminent death to the actor or another;

(4) proximately causes the death of another, without intent to cause death by, directly or indirectly, unlawfully selling, giving away, bartering, delivering, exchanging, distributing, or administering a controlled substance classified in Schedule III, IV, or V; or

(5) causes the death of another in committing or attempting to commit a violation of section 609.377 (malicious punishment of a child), and murder in the first, second, or third degree is not committed thereby.

As used in this section, a “person of ordinary self-control” does not include a person under the influence of intoxicants or a controlled substance.

None of these sections would seem to apply to this scenario save section (1). You might be able to argue that Mr. Floyd’s actions provoked Officer Chauvin in such a way that it caused him to retaliate by maliciously killing him. However, this is a slippery slope for the prosecution. This argument would require the prosecution to shine Mr. Floyd in a negative light, something that would be detrimental to the prosecution and favorable to the defense, so this seems like a poor prosecutorial strategy. Which means that Manslaughter – 1st degree would be a poor choice of charges, which means that it seems they charged appropriately here as well.

Let’s go back to the statement above that shining Mr. Floyd in a negative light is detrimental to the prosecution. This seems really obvious, right? The prosecution should be attempting to downplay his criminal background, his crimes at this scene, his efforts to resist arrest. The defense will want to bring all of these things up; it will be their job to paint Mr. Floyd in as poor a light as possible, to vilify him in subtle ways that may turn jury opinion to the favor of the defendant. This is super clear to everybody, right? Apparently it’s not that clear to the Minnesota Prosecutor’s Office.

Let’s take a look at the Probably Cause charging document for the arrest warrant for Officer Chauvin.

This document was likely prepared as a coordinated effort between the prosecutor, Amy Sweasy, and the BCA agent, Michelle Frascone. They should be stating the facts of the case and establishing probable cause for the issuance of an arrest warrant for Chauvin. That’s it. This document does not need to be lengthy. Extraneous information is not necessary. It needs only to establish probable cause.

So, what does it say? Let’s pull a couple passages from the document. You can read the entire thing HERE if you choose.

BWC (this is body worn camera) video obtained by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension shows that the officers approached the car, Lane on the driver’s side and Kueng on the passenger side. Three people were in the car; George Floyd was in the driver’s seat, a known adult male was in the passenger seat and a known adult female was sitting in the backseat. As Officer Lane began speaking with Mr. Floyd, he pulled his gun out and pointed it at Mr. Floyd’s open window and directed Mr. Floyd to show his hands. When Mr. Floyd put his hands in the steering wheel, Lane put his gun back in its holster.

Here, prosecutors are laying out the facts of the case. They’re using footage not yet available to the public to establish their PC. At this point in the document, Officer Chauvin hasn’t even arrived onscene. So, why are they describing actions taken by other officers prior to his arrival? Why are they outlining that another officer, Officer Lane, drew his gun and pointed it in the direction of Mr. Floyd, in a document to establish probable cause for the arrest of Officer Chauvin? This is extraneous information. It’s irrelevant to the probable cause. The only purpose that I can ascertain for its inclusion would be to shine the light that Mr. Floyd was a dangerous subject, whose very presence, or the nature of his crime, or actions in the vehicle caused enough alarm in Officer Lane that he felt the need to draw his weapon. This is a bizarre inclusion in a probable cause statement. It would seem to be something the defense would draw attention to during trial, actions they would be trying to get included in their evidence, actions that the prosecution might object to on the grounds of relevance since the defendant wasn’t even present at the scene at this point. Why is it included in the probable cause document?

Let’s look at another section.

Once handcuffed, Mr. Floyd became compliant and walked with Officer Lane to the sidewalk and sat on the ground at Officer Lane’s direction. In a conversation that lasted just under two minutes, Officer Lang asked Mr. Floyd for his name and identification. Officer Lane asked Mr. Lloyd if he was “on anything” and explained that he was arresting Mr. Lloyd for passing counterfeit currency.

Officers Kueng and Lane stood Mr. Floyd up and attempted to walk Mr. Floyd to their squad car (MPD 320) at 8:14 p.m. Mr. Floyd stiffened up, fell to the ground, and told the officers he was claustrophobic.

MPD Officers Derek Chauvin (the defendant) and Tou Thoa then arrived in a separate squad car.

The officers made several attempts to get Mr. Floyd in the backseat of squad 320 from the driver’s side.

Mr. Floyd did not voluntarily get in the car and struggled with the officers by intentionally falling down, saying he was not going in the car, and refusing to stand still. Mr. Floyd is over six feet tall and weighs more than 200 pounds.

In the first paragraph, the state points out that Officer Lane asked Mr. Floyd (sic for the original) if he was “on anything.” Again, the defendant, Officer Chauvin is not even on the scene at this point. Why is the prosecution establishing a basis for the defense to argue that Mr. Floyd may have been acting under the influence of drugs? This is such a bizarre inclusion in a probable cause document that is supposed to be concise and brief. In the last paragraph, the prosecution points out Mr. Floyd’s resistance to being placed into the patrol car. This is not that unusual as they’re establishing a basis for him being proned out on the ground where the incident occurred. What is odd though, is that they describe him as “over six feet tall and weighs more than 200 pounds.” Why are they including this line? Once again it seems like they’re trying to establish a basis that the officers’ actions were appropriate, that they were dealing with a large, strong, bull of a man, and that they had no choice but to elevate to the level of force they used. This is such an odd description to put in the PC document. It seems like a point the defense would want to make at trial, not something the prosecution would want to point out, and certainly not something necessary for the establishment of probable cause for Chauvin’s arrest.

The rest of the PC document is very telling. It describes how Chauvin refused to turn Mr. Floyd onto his side, even when Officer Lang suggested they should do just that. It describes how he kept his knee on his neck through multiple pleas that he was suffering. This plea is not too terribly unusual, by the way. Defendants often complain they can’t breathe, even when they can clearly breathe. However, positional asphyxiation is incredibly dangerous, and I suspect that Mr. Floyd could breathe just fine, however, he could feel the asphyxiation building, and that was the feeling he was trying to describe when he used the term, “I can’t breathe.”

The most sickening part of the PC document is this paragraph:

BWC video shows Mr. Floyd continue to move and breathe. At 8:24:24, Mr. Floyd stopped moving. At 8:25:31 the video appears to show Mr. Floyd ceasing to breathe or speak. Lane said, “want to roll him on his side.” Kueng checked Mr. Floyd’s right wrist for a pulse and said, “I couldn’t find one.” None of the officers moved from their positions. At 8:27:24, the defendant removed his knee from Mr. Floyd’s neck. An ambulance and emergency medical personnel arrived, the officers placed Mr. Floyd on a gurney, and the ambulance left the scene. Mr. Floyd was pronounced dead at Hennepin County Medical Center.

At 8:24:24, BWC video shows that Mr. Floyd stopped moving. At this point, how does Chauvin keep applying a neck hold to him? The suspect had quit resisting many minutes earlier. The neck hold should have been released at the latest when the resisting ended. De-escalation as the suspect de-escalates is just as critical, lawful, and important, as appropriate escalation is. Officer Lane again asks to roll him on his side. Apparently, this again doesn’t happen. Officer Kueng checks for a pulse and can’t find one. What do the officers do at this point?

“None of the officers moved from their positions.”

WHAT? They can’t find a pulse and Chauvin (I’m done using the title Officer Chauvin here, he doesn’t deserve it) continues to use the knee to neck hold??? Nobody starts CPR? Nobody takes responsibility for a suspect in their custody who doesn’t have a pulse?

At 8:27:24, exactly three minutes after he stops moving, Derek Chauvin finally removes his knee from Mr. Floyd’s neck. Why? Because an ambulance has arrived and it’s time to roll him onto a gurney.

This video, and the statements in the PC document that describe video not yet released, is sickening. It’s so disturbing. As a former cop, I’m appalled and saddened. As a human, I’m disheartened and repugnated. The actions of Chauvin in particular, and the other officers in general, are vile, abhorrent, and so unworthy of the badge that so many officers take so much pride in.

So, what will happen to Derek Chauvin? You’re not going to like this…

I don’t think he will be convicted of either of the crimes to which he’s charged. There are many reasons for this, and I’ll outline a few:

For starters, as I have shown in the PC document, it really seems that the fix is in here. The statements made by the prosecution in that warrant application are bizarre, and I’m struggling to find a beneficent reason behind their inclusion. Additionally, neck holds are authorized uses of force in the Minneapolis Police Department. This will change obviously, and probably like next week, but as of this moment, they are completely legal holds. From that point of view, Chauvin did nothing wrong by applying the hold. Where he went wrong was the length of time he applied it, and his wanton disregard for the life of Mr. Floyd. But this is going to be so difficult to prove. Once the defense is granted a change of venue, away from the jury pool immersed in this scene, once they go through a rigorous voir dire process, where they will weed through jury members who might have any knowledge of the incident, once enough time has passed for people to forget, years down the road, they will be able to argue so many points in their favor. They will be able to include Mr. Floyd’s criminal record, his history of resisting arrest, his size, his demeanor. By the time they’re done, they will make him look worse than Hannibal Lector. They will make it seem as if extraordinary measures were necessary for the safety of the police officers and the public. They will villainize Mr. Floyd and elevate Chauvin to the status of guardian hero. They will point out Chauvin’s commendations and his awards. They will exemplify his nineteen years of service to the community.

Here is the second to last paragraph in the Probable Cause document, in my opinion, the biggest smoking gun for my theory that the prosecutor really doesn’t want to try this case and is simply acceding to public pressure:

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner (ME) conducted Mr. Floyd’s autopsy on May 26, 2020. The full report of the ME is pending but the ME has made the following preliminary findings. The autopsy revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation. Mr. Floyd had underlying health conditions including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease. The combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death.

What?? Why is this paragraph in a document whose sole purpose is to establish probable cause for the arrest of the officer? THIS IS THE OPPOSITE OF PROBABLE CAUSE! THIS SAYS THAT IT REALLY WASN’T CHAUVIN’S FAULT AT ALL! Once again, this seems like ammunition for the defense. It feels like the prosecution is trying to help them make their case! I have NEVER seen a statement like this in a probable cause document. With this statement in the PC document, I’m kind of surprised the judge even approved the warrant!

The prosecution is always facing an uphill battle when they charge a police officer. When they start that battle in what seems to be a completely half-hearted, almost seditious manner with the most simple and basic of documents, it feels like they will completely blow the prosecution, intentionally or apathetically.

Don’t be surprised if Derek Chauvin ends up being convicted of some lessor charge. Something like Assault in the third degree, or Misconduct of a Public Officer. When this happens, get ready for cities to burn again. Because if this happens, they should burn. We need change, and there’s another article coming sometime soon that will describe what I think needs to happen to effect that change.

Let’s hope George Floyd’s death has meaning. Let’s hope his 8 minutes and 46 seconds of suffering results in meaningful change. Let’s hope America can finally rise to the challenges of racism and brutality. Let’s hope police departments can throw aside the heavy net cast upon them by the tiny percentage of officers who give all the good ones such a bad name. Let’s hope Derek Chauvin gets a fair trial followed by swift and appropriate justice. Let’s hope this never happens again.

How about some good news on the Covid-19 coronavirus front?

The last time I teased this there was actually no good news, but this time there really is just a small glimmer of hope for the near future, as well as a couple of benefits to our current, abysmal state of affairs. Let’s start with a couple of the beneficial results of this forced lockdown.

Currently, somewhere around 90% of Americans are under some sort of stay-at-home or shelter-in-place lockdown order. With a population of about 330 million, that’s 297 million people. According to data provided by the NHTSA, in a normal year, Americans drive an average of 13,500 miles, which equates to about 1125 miles per month. Now, April and May tend to be slightly higher than average driving months, with the summer months significantly higher and the winter months significantly lower than that average. We’ll call a typical April average to be about 1150 miles.

The United States has approximately 685 drivers for every 1000 people, a number that is decreasing from the last report due to the prevalence of ride sharing. In a typical recent year, those drivers would clock up 3.223 trillion miles on U.S. roads. Obviously right now, that number is significantly less.

If 90% of people are under orders to stay home, and 90% of them are following those orders at least 90% of the time, taking into account trips to the grocery store, the doctor, driving aimlessly around, and just plain idiocy that is occurring on a daily basis, that means that Americans are currently driving only about 27% of the miles we would normally drive. That means, if this were extrapolated to a full year, we would drive 873.4 billion miles. Obviously, this isn’t going to last for a year, but let’s take a look at just the month of April.

In a normal April, we would drive approximately 270 billion road miles, but this April, Americans will probably drive closer to 73 billion miles. We are most likely going to drive around 200 billion fewer miles for every month this goes on. A reasonable time estimate for analysis would be mid-March to mid-May, so we’ll call it two months of basic lockdowns, and 400 billion fewer road miles driven.

Where am I going with this?

The death rate from all automobile accidents in this country is right about 1.13 deaths per every 100 million miles traveled. With 400 billion fewer miles traveled, that results in right around 4500 fewer deaths over these two months. That means that there are 4500 people walking around this country right now who would already be dead, or would have been dead in the next six weeks or so, who now won’t be. And these are, for the most part, young, healthy Americans who would have died tragically. Many of them would have been children; in fact, about 20% of them on average would have been fourteen years old or younger.

That’s 900 children walking around this country right now who would have been dead by Mother’s Day were it not for Covid-19.

Now, I know that we’re going to lose more than 4500 people from the coronavirus; probably a lot more if the models hold true. If you’re looking for a silver lining though, this is a pretty good one to grasp onto. Most of the dead from Covid-19 are the elderly and infirm. If you were God, what multiple would you allow for the deaths of those aged 70+ in exchange for the lives of those aged under 14? This is a tough, tough question, and impossible to answer outside of the abstract as no two lives have the same meaning, and a value is very difficult to assign. There are some who would say that all lives are equal, and others who would probably say that a young life is worth at least ten elderly lives. I don’t know the answer, but, again, the silver lining is there if you choose to see it. This year, we very well might see the fewest traffic-related fatalities in this country since the 1940s.

Another statistic in the same vein as lives saved due to fewer auto-related deaths, is those that will be saved due to decreased level of noise pollution from both vehicles and airplanes. This is a tough one to nail an exact number to, but it may surprise you to learn (it certainly surprised me) that the World Health Organization has calculated that at least one million healthy life-years are lost every year in western European countries because of environmental noise, with cardiovascular disease contributing to the vast majority of these deaths. In America, that number may be even higher. Most of those deaths are the result of high blood pressure, heart attacks and coronary heart disease. It is thought that continuous noise, even at a low level, triggers the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which damages blood vessels over time.

The decrease in noise pollution for those who live near busy roads or in crowded cities may save thousands of additional lives, or at the very least extend those lives by orders of magnitude longer than the shutdown will last.

A third benefit is the amazing things happening with air quality right now. Take a look at this chart of air quality levels a month ago, when most of China was still in shutdown and most of the rest of the world was still living normally.

And now look at the air quality readings today.

You can see that in Asia, air quality has decreased tremendously today with China ramping back up in its major cities, air quality there going from only a few areas of moderately unhealthy, to many areas of extremely dangerous: the orange spots to the maroon colored spots. In America, most of the country is in the green, with the yellow, elevated risk levels switching away from the coasts in March, to the center of the country in April, with the coastal states shutting down and quite a few southern interior states continuing life as normal.

Earth observing satellites have detected a significant reduction in nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere, and this reduction is a direct result of drastically lower emissions from automobiles around the world. Not only does this make breathing—something we all enjoy—much more pleasant, but it is also going to save a lot of lives. How many? Well, according to at least one analyst, Marshall Burke, a professor in Stanford’s Earth-system science department, a pandemic-related reduction in particulate matter in the atmosphere has probably saved the lives of 4,000 young children and 73,000 elderly adults in China over the two months they were shut down. He thinks that worldwide, around twenty times the lives lost as a direct result of the Covid-19 virus will be saved by the decrease in air pollution, at least in those areas where air pollution is typically at its worst. The article linked above is pretty fascinating to read.

In addition to the lives that will be saved, the doubling time of the fatality rate seems to be slowing in many parts of the world, the United States included. Take a look at this chart:

This is the linear line of fatalities as of yesterday when the United States ended the day with 8451 total deaths, an increase of 1350 from the previous day. As bad as that is, projections from just last week showed that we were on track to hit 10,000 deaths by the end of the day on April 4th. We’re probably going to hit that repugnant number tomorrow, but adding two days to the doubling time is a really good thing. It means—cautiously speaking—that the pandemic may be slowing.

Although it’s difficult to see the decreasing rate from the severely vertical fatality line in the above linear chart of fatalities, let’s look at the logarithmic chart.

This chart shows a track of fatalities on a logarithmic scale. Basically, this is a convenient way of looking at the doubling rate of the deaths. A 45-degree line from left to right would be true doubling, meaning that it would take the same number of days to go from 1000 to 10,000 deaths and from 10,000 deaths to 100,000 deaths as it took to go from 10 deaths to 100, or from 100 to 1000. We don’t want to see a 45-degree or sharper angle to the line when we look at this chart.

As you can see, while we did see a line that was very close to 45-degrees between 100 and 1000 deaths, right here near the top, circled below, over the last four days, this line has really flattened out. I am cautiously optimistic here. Cautious because four data points is not very many from which to draw any real conclusions, and there are many signs that point to things getting worse in the days to come. However, if we’re looking for encouragement, this is it.

When we do hit 10k deaths tomorrow morning, what will be very telling will be the time it takes to reach 20k deaths. If that doesn’t happen next week, we will be able to say with a much better sense of certainty that we have reached the peak of this pandemic in the United States. Let’s hope that’s true.

Until then, give your kids an extra hug tonight. Thanks to the shutdown, 900 of them who were supposed to be dead, will instead be around for Mother’s Day this year.

A look at the current status of air travel

With all of the stay-at-home and quarantine orders around the world, I thought it would be fun to take a look at Flightaware.com and see what the sky looks like from a worldwide air traffic control standpoint. Here’s what Los Angeles International airport looks like right now.

The GREEN planes are all the flights that are currently in the air having departed LAX. The BLUE planes are all the flights currently inbound to LAX. This might look like a lot of flights, but it’s not even close to the volume that would be seen at one of the busiest airports in the world on a typical Saturday at 11:00 a.m. Even more noticeable is the lack of international flights, both arriving and departing. There are only four flights in the air right now inbound from Europe, two of which are coming from the United Kingdom–one Aeroflot flight from Moscow, and one Air France flight from Paris. I’m not sure why those last two are still flying when Trump has shut down all travel from Europe outside of the UK, but there they are.

Even more interesting is this look at Las Vegas’s McCarran International. On a typical Saturday morning, LAS would be swamped with arriving and departing flights, with a multitude of international flights as well. As we know, all casinos in the state are closed, along with most of the hotels attached to them. This makes Las Vegas decidedly undesirable. Here’s what LAS flights look like.

Again, green planes are outbound from LAS (fleeing the wasteland of a city that offers nothing at all when things are closed.) and blue planes are inbound to LAS. (I’m assuming mostly empty flights?) This is a pretty amazing look at the real status of things. There are around 25 flights inbound to Vegas, and the same number outbound. Normally right now there would be hundreds. Those hundreds would typically be completely full flights as well, and from what I’m hearing, many of the flights you see in the air right now are only flying to fill an FAA slot, operating at a big loss.

One thing you can see here is that there are no international flights save two from Mexico, one commercial flight from Guadalajara, and one private flight from Los Cabos. That’s it, everything else is domestic.

Looking at international flights, let’s take a peek at the normally jammed North Atlantic flight corridor between North America and Europe:

This is every flight in the air over the Atlantic right now. Normally, this area would be a huge mess of planes looking like an almost solid line of traffic going both directions. There are still plenty of flights traveling back and forth between the U.S. and Great Britain, but most of the other traffic is completely gone. It will be interesting to see what effect this travel ban ends up having on the total carbon emissions in the upper atmosphere, particularly if this ends up lasting for months.

Maybe at least something good will come from this?

What are Germany and Switzerland doing right in the fight against the coronavirus?

I want to get right into this one and take a look at some of the numbers behind both Switzerland and Germany’s apparent success in controlling coronavirus fatalities. This has been all over the news lately, with a lot of people trying to figure out what it is that those countries are doing right. Let’s start by taking a look at mortality growth rates for Germany and Switzerland, as well as some of the countries around them, with the United Kingdom and the United States also thrown in for comparison.

Germany

First recorded fatality: March 9th

Date 3/14 3/15 3/16 3/17 3/18 3/19 3/20 3/21 3/22 3/23 3/24 3/25
# of deaths 9 13 17 26 28 44 68 84 94 123 159 206

 

As Europe has become the epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic, Italy’s fatality rate hovers around 10%, France’s is around 5%, and yet right next door, Germany’s fatality rate from COVID-19 has remained remarkably low since cases started showing up there more than a month ago. As of March 25, there were 206 deaths and 37,323 cases, representing a fatality rate of .55%. Of course, this number is fairly meaningless, but it’s one being heavily quoted by those trying to figure out what Germany is doing right.

“I believe that we are just testing much more than in other countries, and we are detecting our outbreak early,” said Christian Drosten, director of the institute of virology at Berlin’s Charité hospital.

Drosten reported that Germany’s low fatality rate is because of his country’s ability to test early and often. He was part of a team that developed the first public domain Covid-19 test, and he estimates Germany has been testing around 120,000 people a week during the monthlong period from late February to now. That’s significant. It means that they are testing a significant number of the country’s youth, those much more likely to survive the coronavirus infection.

“We have a culture here in Germany that is actually not supporting a centralized diagnostic system,” said Drosten, “so Germany does not have a public health laboratory that would restrict other labs from doing the tests. So, we had an open market from the beginning.”

One of the problems with these low numbers is that they are likely to result in false premises and increased infection rates as people ignore lockdown orders because of a lack of awareness of the dangers. Just three days ago, on the 22nd of March, Germany finally implemented a national curfew, well behind those issued by most surrounding countries.

It was President Trump’s travel ban of March 11th that was actually the first wake-up call to Germany, surprising them and putting them into a scramble to catch up. It wasn’t until the 16th of March that the first German state (Bavaria) declared a state of emergency to be put into place for the next 14 days. Restrictions on restaurants began that same day, but were quite lax, just limiting dine-in options to any time after 3pm with five feet required separation between diners.

Bavaria was the first German state again to implement a curfew, this happening on March 20th.

It wasn’t until March 22nd, just three days ago, that Germany began forbidding group gatherings and closing businesses.

 

Switzerland

First recorded fatality: March 5th

Date 3/14 3/15 3/16 3/17 3/18 3/19 3/20 3/21 3/22 3/23 3/24 3/25
# of deaths 13 14 19 27 33 43 56 80 98 120 122 153

 

Switzerland has the second-highest rate of coronavirus infection per capita in the world, after Italy. However, this is incredibly misleading as a stand-alone stat because they’re also testing more people than any country except South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and Norway.

There’s no doubt that they have a very low death count at a current 153, but that is also very misleading. This is the problem with death counts by country. They don’t take into account so many factors, which I’ll go into in just a bit.

What steps has Switzerland taken to control the spread of the virus? The government has issued a recommendation to all citizens to stay at home, especially the sick and the elderly. It has announced a countrywide ban on gatherings of more than five people. An “extraordinary situation” has been declared, resulting in a ban on all private and public events and closing bars, restaurants, sports and cultural spaces; only businesses providing essential goods remain open. Schools are closed nationwide. The measures are in force until April 19. (https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/covid-19_coronavirus–the-situation-in-switzerland/45592192) Entry into the country was effectively banned starting just today. Only Swiss citizens, Swiss residents, those entering the country for professional reasons (e.g., those who work there and have a permit to prove it), and those transiting through, can enter. Even foreign partners of Swiss citizens, who do not have a right of residence in the country, will be turned away at the point of entry.

Fairly severe for a country that has only 153 fatalities.

One of Switzerland’s biggest problems is that there are only 1000 ventilators in the entire country. At a critical infection rate that is probably 5%, that means with just 20,000 infections, their ventilator capacity will be at maximum. And that’s assuming some aren’t already in use by people with other illnesses, which obviously is not the case. In fact, a large number of their ventilators are likely already in use. Switzerland currently has about 11,000 cases of Covid-19, which means they’re about to be in trouble if they can’t get more ventilators. And those aren’t too easy to find these days.

 

Spain

First recorded fatality: March 3rd

Date 3/14 3/15 3/16 3/17 3/18 3/19 3/20 3/21 3/22 3/23 3/24 3/25
#of deaths 196 294 342 533 638 831 1093 1381 1772 2311 2991 3647

 

Most of daily life in Spain was fairly normal from the first fatality on March 3rd, until they reached almost 200 just a week-and-a-half later. On Saturday the 14th, Spain instituted a national quarantine. Everybody was ordered to stay home for the next two weeks. Things started to move quickly. All land borders were closed the next Monday, the 16th. Fines were implemented for quarantine violators. One person was interviewed by NPR about the restrictions. “Starting Monday, starting yesterday, we could face fines of more than $1,000 for not cooperating. And there are already – already seeing police all over the country patrolling streets, telling people to go home, to hurry up and, you know, when their dog does their business, to go back home immediately.” https://www.npr.org/2020/03/17/817021997/spain-hard-hit-by-coronavirus-pandemic-shuts-down

Things are pretty rough already in Spain. There are reports that the Spanish military—who have basically taken over law enforcement duties there—have found older residents of some care homes completely abandoned and even dead in their beds. Defense Minister Margarita Robles told television reporters that soldiers disinfecting homes and providing emergency health care services to residential homes across the country are finding dead bodies. She was unable to give an exact figure for the abandoned dead, but it sounds nightmarish. (https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/03/24/820711855/spanish-military-finds-dead-bodies-and-seniors-completely-abandoned-in-care-home)

Here’s a report from Madrid of one elder care home where twenty people were left abandoned and dead by health care workers. It’s not a pretty picture in Spain, and it’s only getting worse.

France

First recorded fatality: February 15th (This seems to be an anomaly though, so we should use the date of their second fatality, February 26th for comparison purposes.)

Date 3/14 3/15 3/16 3/17 3/18 3/19 3/20 3/21 3/22 3/23 3/24 3/25
# of deaths 91 127 148 175 264 372 450 562 674 860 1100 1333

 

On Saturday, March 7th, 3550 people in France set the Guinness World Record for largest gathering of Smurfs. Yeah, those Smurfs, the blue little creatures from the old cartoons. While the rest of the world looked on in shock, French Smurfs were being interviewed at the gathering.

“We figured we wouldn’t worry and that as French people we wouldn’t give up on our attempt to break the record, and now we’re champions of the world!” One attendee told the AFP news agency.

“There’s no risk — we’re Smurfs! Yes, we’re going to Smurfize the coronavirus!” said another.

“(This) was more important. The coronavirus is no big deal, it’s nothing,” another said.

Some people in France finally got it when the first actual lockdown and movement restrictions were put into place on Saturday, March 14th. Unfortunately, some people—probably the same ones from the Smurf gathering—decided to flood social media with videos of themselves out and about in parks and squares and plazas on Sunday the 15th. That forced the French government to institute even stricter rules starting Monday the 16th. Today, anybody outside their home must have a signed document detailing their reasons for being out. French police drones fly overhead monitoring the quarantine orders. Exercise is allowed only as long as you remain within one kilometer of your home and you only do it for one hour maximum, one time per day. Many southern French cities have curfews in place that completely restrict movement during hours of darkness. Fines are progressive, starting at €135 and going up to €3700, with 4-time violators heading to prison for up to six months.

Sound severe enough? These restrictions are quite an upgrade from just a week or so prior when 3500 alleged adults put on blue paint and danced in a square. You think maybe, just maybe, France is regretting their flagrant little Smurfcapade? How many people will die in the chain-reaction of Smurfpidity that led to that gathering? Why didn’t anybody listen to any of the hundreds of Papa Smurfs, who surely could have told them all what an abso-smurf-ly stupid endeavor this world record attempt was? I know I’m being tough on them for this, but there’s no nice way to put it. And this is not hindsight. I tweeted about it and I talked about how dumb it was in an article the day after it happened. This was stupidity on the highest level possible.

If they held this rally today, I have a feeling there would be a disproportionate representation of Sneezy Smurf and Respiratory Failure Smurf in the group.

 

Italy

First recorded fatality: February 21st

Date 3/14 3/15 3/16 3/17 3/18 3/19 3/20 3/21 3/22 3/23 3/24 3/25
# of deaths 1441 1809 2158 2503 2979 3405 4032 4825 5476 6077 6820 7503

 

A lot has been written about Italy, so I’m not going to go into detail here. They are immersed in an absolute disaster right now, the worst in the world. Unfortunately, I think the rest of the world isn’t too far behind.

 

United Kingdom

First recorded fatality: March 5th

Date 3/14 3/15 3/16 3/17 3/18 3/19 3/20 3/21 3/22 3/23 3/24 3/25
# of deaths 21 35 55 71 104 144 177 233 281 335 422 466

 

In the UK, fatality rates are increasing at an alarming rate in relation to their population. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has only recently come to this realization, just a few days ago taking steps to close all of the UK’s bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms, cinemas, and schools. Why did it take so long for him to act, with the very obvious troubles the world was facing? According to this article in BuzzFeed, there were dayslong “heated” and “extremely difficult” arguments between top British scientists and high ranking members of the government over what steps needed to be taken to get control of the infection.

While the scientific debate raged between experts, officials, and ministers, Johnson’s government was publicly insisting that the scientific advice showed the UK did not yet have to bring in more stringent measures to fight the virus. They realized how wrong they were when this chart was published showing a comparison of the path of infections in the UK and the very obviously hellish conditions in Italy:

This is pretty unequivocal evidence that the UK is headed right into an Italian-level crisis and Johnson finally took steps to stop it. Within the next few days, we’ll see if those steps are going to be successful. It’s almost certain they won’t be.

United States

First recorded fatality: March 1st

Date 3/14 3/15 3/16 3/17 3/18 3/19 3/20 3/21 3/22 3/23 3/24 3/25
# of deaths 57 69 87 110 150 206 255 301 414 555 780 1042

 

The United States hit 4-digit death numbers today and is clearly following a doubling path that is three days or fewer. I had somebody ask me today what I thought of the over/under on maximum number of U.S. deaths in any one day would be, with the total being set at 1947 deaths. I would never bet on such a thing, but, if I was going to, over. Way over. I’ve written plenty about the state of the coronavirus in the U.S., and don’t want to rehash it, but with 362 deaths yesterday, it seems we are only two weeks away from days of 5000 or more deaths, and we are nowhere near reaching the peak of our mortality rate curve.

***

As you can see in the above charts, both Germany and Switzerland would seem at first glance to be doing something correctly. There have been many explanations for this, from a younger population, better quarantine procedures, better and more readily available testing, and better medical care. The problem with just looking at the total fatality numbers though, is that they don’t tell the whole story. We really need to look at a bunch more numbers in order to determine if the fatalities in these countries are truly better than they are in others.

One of the things that many people point to when they laud Germany and Switzerland for impressively low fatality rates, is the actual Case Fatality Rate (CFR). This does indeed appear to be very low in these two countries when compared with Italy, for example. In Germany, the CFR is just under .5%, whereas in Italy it is over 10%. This number is basically meaningless though, without knowing the demographics of everyone being tested. If you want a good primer on CFR, check out this article. Obviously, if Germany is testing a huge percentage of the youth of their country, and they’re finding a large number of people who are positive for Covid-19, those people are going to have a low fatality rate and it will skew the number downward. Conversely, perhaps Italy is testing an inordinate number of elderly people, or an inordinate number of people (as a percentage of the whole number of tests given) who are checking themselves into the hospital, already sick. This would cause their number to skew upward in an inaccurate manner.

There’s just not enough accurate information regarding the demographics behind testing metrics for us to make any valid assumptions. For that reason, I think all numbers regarding testing and positive case numbers should basically just be ignored. Even if those numbers are accurate, they’re fairly inconsequential without knowing exactly what percentage of the population has actually been tested, and then comparing countries using those numbers.

Although we don’t have accurate information for that, we do have mostly accurate information on fatality numbers, and we have completely accurate information on country-specific demographics, so let’s take a look at those numbers.

 

  United States United Kingdom Germany Spain France Italy Switzerland
Total population 331 million 67.8 million 83.7 million 46.7 million 65.2 million 60.5 million 8,600,000
Density (per sq mi) 94 727 623 243 309 532 567
Median Age 38.3  years 40.5  years 45.7  years 44.9 years 42.3 years 47.3 years 43.1 years
Percent urban population 82.8 83.2 76.3 80.3 81.5 69.5 74.0
Percent of world’s total fatalities 4.47 2.20 0.97 17.21 6.30 35.40 0.72
Fatalities per 1 million population 2.86 6.87 2.46 78.09 20.44 124.02 17.79

 

 

It’s fairly obvious from this chart that Switzerland at least, is not doing as well as it might appear by looking only at fatality numbers. The number of fatalities is certainly low, (currently at 153) but as a percentage of their entire population, with 17.79 deaths per million citizens, they are significantly ahead of the UK, the U.S., and Germany.

Germany, however, is doing well, the lowest mortality rate on this chart while having one of the higher population median ages, and the highest total population in Europe. If one of the given reasons for Italy’s high mortality rate is their aging population at a median of 47.3 years, then Germany at 45.7 years ought to be doing nearly as bad as Italy. A year-and-a-half isn’t too far off with regard to median age. So, what is the reason for their low mortality numbers?

Germany has a fairly high density rate, and we know the virus thrives on high population densities, so that would again indicate they’re doing something right. The U.S. has a very low density rate, but that number is very misleading because huge states with small populations like Alaska, Texas, and Montana really skew those numbers. If you look a little closer at some of the worst-hit states in the U.S., New York has a population density of 421 per square mile, with New York City at a staggering 26,400 per. California is at 251 per square mile, and Washington State, the original U.S. viral epicenter has an average density of 750 per square mile in its three most populous counties where the virus has hit the hardest. Earlier, I mentioned evidence of the trajectory that the UK was on, matching Italy’s fatality chart, and so, with a population density nearly as high as the UK, and a median age even higher, why has Germany been so successful?

I don’t think they actually are. I think they’re just behind most of their neighbors through nothing more than pure variance or luck. And, I think they’re going to catch up quickly.

Germany didn’t hit 30 coronavirus deaths until March 19th. France and Spain both hit that number on March 9th, ten days earlier. A week after hitting the 30-death mark, France had 148 deaths, and Spain had 342. Today, on the 25th, a week after hitting the 30-death mark, Germany has 206 deaths, putting them right near the middle between France and Spain. The worst hit country in the world, Italy, had 30 deaths on February 29th. A week later, March 7th, they had 233 deaths. That’s very close to Germany’s 206 deaths.

Germany doesn’t seem to actually be far behind Italy or Spain, and they’re well ahead of France when looking at first coronavirus fatality to total deaths a week later, the most recent comparable figure for Germany. In the next week or so, we’ll be able to track this line further. If Germany is going to see a mortality explosion, it’s going to start happening early next week, and their fatality line will project upwards at the same rate as the countries around them. With the lack of isolation efforts and the lackadaisical attitude of a population that has been convinced by the media that they have some kind of special immunity, it’s likely that Germany is going to actually end up being the hotspot of Europe in about two weeks.

This Covid-19 virus is the same virus everywhere. The people in Germany are sick with the exact same virus as the people in Italy, as the people in China, as the people in the United States. If you see CFR numbers that don’t seem to match, it has nothing to do with arbitrary land borders. There’s usually going to be a reasonable explanation if you just look at the math and analyze the situation.

Maybe with the exception of France. Their numbers are going to be off the Smurfing charts before this is over.

Will President Trump actually decide to reopen the United States on Easter Sunday?

Setting aside the semantical difficulties of declaring a grand re-opening of a country that isn’t actually closed, the real question is, will President Trump make the decision that American lives are worth less than the economy?

And, it’s actually a legitimate question.

If you’re one of those people who says, “You can’t put a price on a human life,” please just stop reading now. This article is not going to go your way. In fact, nothing I write is going to go your way. The reason, of course, is that that line of thinking is just ridiculous. If plunging this nation into a recession, and quite possibly a depression, required signing a death warrant on one single person for example, the choice would be obvious. Bad luck for you, random person that I hopefully don’t know.

So, as long as we agree that human life does indeed have a monetary value, then we just need to figure out what that value is. I think that everyone still reading would agree—though they may not like admitting it—that if the cost of saving the entire United States economy was that .00001% of the population (33 lives) would have to die from Covid-19, we should probably get the lottery process started. So, how about .0001% (332 lives)? How about .001% (3320 lives)? How about .01% (33200 lives?) Or, how about 10% (33.2 million lives)? It’s like the old joke with the guy asking a woman if she would sleep with him for increasing dollar amounts, and when he gets up to 100 billion dollars and she finally says that she guesses she would sleep with him for that amount, he replies, “Okay, ma’am, so we’ve determined that you are indeed a prostitute, now we’re just negotiating price.”

Right now, Donald Trump is just simply trying to figure out how expensive of a prostitute he is.

At some number of lives it’s definitely time to pull the plug on this economic shutdown. You see, as dumb as he may be, President Trump certainly has the intelligence to hear the words that the experts are speaking, and the ability to interpret those words and come to the inevitable conclusion that this coronavirus is not going to be marching down the primrose path to obscurity come the completely arbitrary date of Easter morning, April 12th, 2020. No, in spite of the sunny picture he portrayed in the town hall and press conference yesterday, President Trump can’t possibly believe that lunacy.

I believe he’s actually currently trying to decide how many American lives are worth sacrificing in order to save the economy from disaster. And, more importantly, he’s trying to decide how many American lives he can sign death warrants for and still win reelection in November. Because, whatever you think about him, when it comes to winning another four years in the White House, he’s pragmatic, and let’s face it, politicians gonna politic, and sadly, reelection is really all most of them care anything about.

I don’t know at what conclusion he’s going to arrive. I’m actually really glad it’s not me that has to make that decision. Because, in spite of media reports that seem to think he truly believes things will be better by April 12th, I’m just not buying it. Basically, I’m operating on the “nobody is that dumb” principle, particularly not somebody with every available expert resource on the planet at his fingertips and his beck and call. Trump surely understands the enormity of his upcoming decision much the same way that President Franklin D. Roosevelt understood the magnitude of his decisions preceding the news out of Hawaii on December 7th, 1941. Roosevelt knew that voluntarily going to war in Europe would be tantamount to signing hundreds of thousands of American death certificates. He was spared the brutal weight of making that painful decision by the Japanese forcing his hand that fateful day.

Nobody is going to be there to bail out President Trump in this upcoming, monstrous decision.

This decision will ultimately be his alone. Though governors across the nation will fight him on that decision, whichever way it falls, it will still be his call in the end. And let’s be clear, it’s not an easy call to make. Both decisions—to maintain the status quo and fight the virus through social isolation while our economy slips into oblivion—or to tap out, to retire to the corner and concede victory, hoping to recover and regroup, will result in many fatalities. People will die as we remain in isolation and our economy tumbles into the gutter. Suicide rates will skyrocket. Homelessness will soar. Jobs will be lost, some forever. Domestic violence murders will rise. There’s a real chance of civil unrest, riots, looting, murder, and mayhem. The ramifications of pulling us out of the bonds of our isolation orders are obvious.

The only decisions that land on the president’s desk are the tough ones though. When you run for the presidency, you accept that you’re going to have to make very difficult decisions. Decisions that will cost many lives.

If he does decide to “reopen” and return to business as usual, the death rate will be higher than the current 1% or so estimated fatality rate from the virus alone. Health care systems will be overloaded, even if we do get more than two weeks to prepare. Our health care infrastructure is just too decimated to handle an influx of the magnitude we’ll see with a full return to normal function. People that otherwise could have been saved had there been resources available, will instead die. It will be ugly. As if 1% of the population (3.32 million deaths) wasn’t ugly enough.

The good news behind a return to normalcy is that it’s very likely the second wave of infections that’s almost certainly coming next November will be much more controllable. Both choices are going to result in many, many deaths. Remaining in lockdown is just going to make that next viral infection surge another national emergency. And that national emergency will be much more difficult to control, with the economy already in full decimation due to the effects of this current lockdown. Not to mention, the election is next November. What chance will Trump have of winning another four years if the economy is in shambles, America is in a recession, and a second wave of coronavirus infections is decimating the population?

What’s a number that’s close to zero?

Since reelection and the economy are Trump’s primary concerns at all times, what decision will he make?

I have a feeling this lockdown is going to last exactly another 18 days. I suspect we’ll get the news on Good Friday, the 10th of April, that all isolation orders are canceled and that the population should return to a normal routine effective Easter Sunday. Possibly there will be requests for the elderly and the vulnerable to remain quarantined in place, an attempt to keep the most susceptible of our population safe. The rest of us though, will be released. I suspect this will be the decision that Trump eventually makes. You see, because as the economy goes, so does Trump’s electability. And that’s going to mean that the decision makes itself. I guess there is a bailout for him—the economy, in tandem with the election. In that case, the decision seems already made.

I just don’t know if it’s the right one.

See you guys on April 12th.

 

What the F**k is going on with Italy’s coronavirus nightmare?

Although the Covid-19 coronavirus started in Wuhan, China, and ran rampant through the entire Hubei province, it is quickly becoming obvious that Italy has overtaken China as the current viral hotspot of this outbreak. Why is this? What happened in Italy that caused this historical tourist destination full of vibrancy and joie de vivre to see a such a virulent outbreak that is decimating their country?

When a 38-year-old man with severe flu symptoms and respiratory problems walked into the emergency room at a hospital in Codogno, a small town in the Lombardy province of northern Italy on February 18th, medical professionals were not too concerned. Despite the well-documented and dangerous spread of what was then called the Wuhan Coronavirus in China, this man reported that he had not recently traveled nor had any direct contact with anybody who had recently traveled to China, with the exception of one friend who had returned from China but had already tested negative for the coronavirus.

Unfortunately, despite not traveling out of the country in recent weeks, this patient had had an incredibly busy month.

In the last couple of weeks, he’d attended at least three very social and busy dinners with numerous guests. He’d played soccer a few times and traveled with his team to different matches. In between, he had maintained an active and full social life full of meetings with friends for drinks, coffee, and lunch. When, on February 14th, he finally began developing symptoms and feeling unwell, he visited a local doctor where he was prescribed standard treatments for influenza. He resumed his lifestyle on a slightly muted level. It was later discovered that during all of this time and through all of his social contacts, he’d been Covid-19 positive and asymptomatic.

Even after his initial visit to the emergency room on February 18th, he didn’t isolate himself, perhaps lulled by the false sense of security in doctors telling him he just had the flu. He declined hospitalization and decided to get better at home. Later that same day, he was much sicker and returned to the hospital where he was admitted into a general medical ward. He was kept in close proximity to other patients and had a constant stream of nurses and doctors checking on him. Two days later, on February 20th, he was finally transferred to the intensive care unit where he finally received a positive test for the coronavirus and was put into isolation.

His wasn’t the first case of the coronavirus in Italy. On January 31st, two Chinese tourists in Rome tested positive, and a week later, an Italian who had been repatriated from Wuhan also tested positive. The Italian government had already suspended all flights to and from China, and there had been an uneasy silence as the health ministry waited to see if the virus had been contained. The case in Codogno squashed those dreams quickly.

Because of his very active lifestyle, specialists began calling this man a Super Spreader. It’s estimated that he personally infected scores, if not hundreds of people prior to his diagnosis. Although identifying Patient Zero in Italy has been impossible due to open borders in the European Union, Italian authorities have determined that this man is probably Patient One in the spread chart, having likely contracted the virus from another unknown European.

Without a traceable source of the contagion, and with the incredibly high number of contacts from this patient, Italy had no chance of containing the virus.

Doctor Walter Ricciardi, the scientific adviser to Italy’s Minister of Health, said that it was incredibly bad luck that this man, the Super Spreader, lived such an active lifestyle in one of the most densely populated and dynamic areas in all of Italy, and that he went to the hospital in Codogno not once, but twice, infecting hundreds of people including many doctors and nurses. “He was incredibly active,” Ricciardi said.

On Sunday, February 23rd, just a few days after the Super Spreader was officially diagnosed, Italians watched as the number of infected clicked stealthily into triple digits and authorities began to get worried. Eleven municipalities in Lombardy province were identified as coronavirus clusters and were placed under quarantine, locked down by police and military roadblocks. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte canceled all sporting events in Lombardy Province.

Police man a roadblock in a sealed off town in northern Italy. credit…Piero Cruciatti Agence France-Presse

The next day, infections climbed over 200, seven deaths attributed to the virus had been recorded, the Italian stock market was in freefall, and PM Conte was looking for a scapegoat. He blamed the hospital in Codogno for contributing to the spread by not isolating the Super Spreader immediately, and also blamed them for instituting aggressive testing of even those patients without symptoms, something he claimed was exaggerating the severity of the problem by falsely bloating the case numbers. His concern? The economic damage to the country through what he thought was an unfair representation of the severity of the problem.

Sound familiar, Americans?

On February 27th in Milan, the largest city in the Lombardo region, only about forty miles from the center of the outbreak in Codogno, the mayor, Beppe Sala, began publicizing a campaign with the slogan, “Milan Does Not Stop.” He shared a Milan promotional video he’d had created that contained images of people hugging each other, eating in restaurants, walking in parks and waiting at train stations. The most famous square in Milan, Duomo Square, anchored by the landmark cathedral that is a major tourist destination, had been closed since the February 23rd lockdown instituted by PM Conte. Sala reopened it, declaring that the Milanese people would not let the virus interfere with their way of life. People came out of their homes and resumed their lives.

Duomo square in Milan credit Flavio Lo Scalzo/Reuters

Additionally, Nicola Zingaretti, the leader of the co-ruling democratic party in Italy began his own campaign of disinformation. On February 27th, he traveled to Milan where he posted pictures to his Instagram account that showed him eating and drinking with people in Milan with the following translated slogan, “Let’s not lose our habits, we can’t stop Milan and Italy. Our economy is stronger than fear: we go out to drink an aperitif, a coffee or to eat a pizza.” On the 28th of February, he returned to Rome where he met for hours with party leaders, jammed together in a close room, shaking hands and quite possibly discussing the overreaction of the Prime Minister. On March 6th, he held a press conference about the virus in a crowded room with associates and reporters.

On March 7th, he announced he had tested positive for Covid-19.

Drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may be dead.
Hmmm…why does my throat feel so scratchy?

By March 8th, it was readily apparent that Italy had a huge problem on its hands. Total confirmed cases had blossomed to almost 6000. Deaths grew in a 24- hour period from 233 to 366, an increase of more than 50%. Prime Minister Conte ordered the entirety of Lombardy province and 14 other provinces in the heavily infected northern Italy to be quarantined. The news of the imminent quarantine leaked before it could be fully implemented, and thousands of southern Italians who were on holiday in the north fled in a panicked rush to their homes in the south, jamming onto trains and furthering the spread of the infection throughout the country. Holding an impromptu press conference at 2 a.m., Conte urged the population not to panic. He was optimistic about the future and the success they would have in defeating the virus. He warned them to isolate and practice good social distancing. He urged them not to be clever and look for loopholes, but to do what they must to protect their aging population.

The quarantine was instituted and the 25% of Italians were completely locked down.

Police check travel documents and enforce quarantines at a train station in Italy credit Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times

It didn’t work. A day later, Italians were basically ignoring the orders and going about their business, huddled up in coffee shops and restaurants for their daily breakfast and lunch meetings, packing public squares, and hugging and kissing each other in greetings on the streets.

On March 10th, fatalities had nearly doubled from two days prior, hitting a total of 631, and Conte put the entire country into a national lockdown. A few days later, bars, restaurants, theaters, and all other non-essential businesses were finally ordered closed across the country. Conte addressed the nation and thanked them for their sacrifices in a very somber tone, far different from the earlier optimism he’d exhibited.

All the steps he’d taken had been reactionary, and those measures had lagged behind the lethal explosion of the infection rate. Italy was in a lot of trouble and Conte knew it.

“It is not easy in a liberal democracy,” said Doctor Ricciardi, at a press conference. He argued that the Italian government acted on the scientific evidence made available to it, and that they took the appropriate steps. Italy’s efforts to contain the virus were piecemeal though, shutting down first small towns, then provinces, then finally the entire country, while slowly closing businesses in the same lackadaisical manner, leaving enough loopholes to make the U.S. tax code look as sound as the vaults of Fort Knox.

All of their efforts just seemed to constantly lag slightly behind the virus’s lethal trajectory.

Sandra Zampa, the undersecretary of health in Italy admitted as much. “Now we are running after it. We closed gradually, as Europe is doing. France, Spain, Germany, the U.S. are doing the same. Every day you close a bit, you give up on a bit of normal life. Because the virus does not allow normal life.” Although she admitted they’d been constantly chasing the virus and had gotten caught in a complacency rut, she said she didn’t know what steps they could have taken differently given the difficulties faced by a democratic republic in instituting drastic and draconian measures.

Other Italian officials agreed, responding defensively to criticism, stating that they had done as much or more than any other democratic state to attempt to stop the coronavirus from spreading. They claimed they immediately acted on the advice of scientists and specialists and implemented unprecedented steps sooner than anyone. They’re only partially right of course, as the examples from earlier have shown. And the fact is, most of their drastic steps were reactive instead of proactive, and they missed many opportunities out of complacency.

And this coronavirus thrives on complacency.

In the United States, the population has much the same problem abiding by shelter-in-place and quarantine orders as Italy. In fact, it’s possible we have an even bigger problem. We’re far less family-centric than Italy, where grandparents live in generational family units and are revered. Much of the youthful population of the U.S. seems decidedly unconcerned with the effect of the coronavirus on the elderly of our community. They also seem to resent the authority of government to enforce stay-at-home orders, flauntingly ignoring the isolation pleas of governors by congregating on beaches, parks, and underground clubs. The complacency seen here in the United States seems to top that seen in Italy at the beginning of their growing struggle, and, as mentioned earlier, the coronavirus thrives on complacency.

The steps taken in Italy are arguably much more stringent than those taken in the United States. Here, we have only instituted shelter-in-place or stay-at-home type lockdowns in sixteen of our fifty states, with Washington State instituting that policy as I type this. Italy locked down their entire country. In the U.S., enforcement of the lock downs is sparse or non-existent. In Italy, travel authorizations are being checked by police at train and bus stations, and the military has been called in to support police with quarantine roadblocks around cities and towns. Will those militaristic and oppressive steps be implemented here in the U.S.? It seems really likely that our near future lies on exactly that path.

The inability of our leadership to present a unified front doesn’t help, much like it didn’t help in Italy with the Prime Minister telling people to isolate while the democratic leadership and the mayor at the epicenter of the outbreak declared, “We Won’t Stop.” President Trump tweeted the following on March 9th, just two weeks ago today, comparing the coronavirus to the flu in an insinuation that the flu was worse:

Just TODAY in a press conference to the nation, he made mention again of the death rate of the flu and even threw in the death rate of automobile accidents in order to minimize the fatality rate of the coronavirus. He also has been hinting that this lockdown will not last more than another week or so, the magical “fifteen-day” mark when he will reevaluate the impact on the economy and decide how best to proceed, hinting that he will probably choose to end the lockdown and restore the status quo. This is incredibly dangerous as studies like the one in one of my previous blogs shows. This lockdown will need to last for months, not a couple of weeks in order to be successful.

So, the real question is, what is the likelihood that we’re going to see a coronavirus path similar to the one seen in Italy? It’s a little difficult to make a true comparison because of a number of differences in our population:

  1. The median age in Italy is 47.3 years, where in the U.S. it is 38.3. Since the virus infects older people at a higher rate and more severely, it is less likely the U.S. will see the same fatality rate. On the other hand, people in Italy are generally healthier than in America, with obesity and heart disease issues significantly higher here. The coronavirus feeds on the unhealthy at an even greater disparity than it feeds on the elderly. That may mitigate the age spread factor, however, it’s impossible to do more than speculate as to how much.
  2. The population of Italy is 60.5 million while in the U.S. it is 331 million. The U.S. has about 5.5 times as many people, which means when comparing numbers, it’s necessary to multiply Italy’s numbers by 5.5 to get comparable numbers for the U.S.
  3. Although the population is significantly lower in Italy, the population density is higher. The virus spreads more merrily through a dense population, so while the results of cities like New York and L.A. may mimic the numbers of the population centers of Italy, taken as a whole for the country, it’s not likely the United States will see comparable fatality figures, especially away from the coastal population centers.

Let’s take a look at a weekly chart of cases and fatalities in both Italy and in the United States. Keep in mind that Italy was way ahead of the U.S. with regard to testing. As the U.S. finally ramps up testing, we can expect to see our confirmed case numbers explode in a way that’s difficult to compare. They’re still listed here for information, but mainly we should focus on the deaths as opposed to the cases.

 

Weekly growth of cases and fatalities in ITALY Weekly growth of cases and fatalities in the U.S.A.
February 23rd 157 cases and 3 deaths February 23rd 35 cases and 0 deaths
March 1st 1701 cases and 41 deaths March 1st 75 cases and 1 death
March 8th 7375 cases and 366 deaths March 8th 531 cases and 22 deaths
March 15th 24747 cases and 1809 deaths March 15th 3680 cases and 68 deaths
March 22nd 59138 cases and 5476 deaths March 22nd 33566 cases and 413 deaths
March 23rd 63927 cases and 6077 deaths March 23rd 43718 cases and 552 deaths

 

It’s somewhat difficult to see here on a weekly scale, but the fatality doubling rate in Italy has an average time span of about four days. The United States has about the same doubling rate. If you multiply Italy’s fatalities by a factor of 5.5 to account for total population difference, you can see that at the current number as of the time of this writing, the U.S. at 552 deaths would be equal to Italy at 100 deaths, which (not on this chart) was reached on March 4th, putting us 19 days behind them. Our death total yesterday, March 22nd, was 413, which would equal Italy’s 75 deaths which occurred on March 3rd, again, exactly 19 days behind them. Going back further, the U.S. had 68 deaths on March 15th which would equal Italy’s 12 deaths, and that occurred on February 26th, exactly 19 days earlier.

It’s impossible to say if this 19-day trend is going to continue, as there just aren’t enough data points to be certain, but the fatality rate sure seems to be following the exact path with the few data points that we have. In fact, if you look at a graph of fatality rates on a logarithmic scale, you can see that they look very similar, as you can see in this not-very-well-constructed overlay. In fact, though the comparison is not quite to the exact scale, the U.S. log track actually appears steeper, and that’s pretty terrifying.

If this rate remains identical, Italy’s 6077 deaths today, March 23rd, will mean 33,423 U.S. deaths 19 days from now, on April 11th, a number that is significantly higher than the number expected through the 4-day doubling average I observed and recorded in earlier blogs. 33,423 would represent a doubling average of about every three days instead, and the rapidly exploding numbers we’ve seen in the last five days or so would seem to support that rate.

If this holds true, it puts us on track to hit 1 million deaths here in the U.S. on April 26th, a good two weeks earlier than the mid-May timeframe I predicted for that ghastly number just two weeks ago.

This is not a prediction, it’s just simply an overview of the mathematical rate of expected fatalities, and a warning of what we might expect after analyzing what’s happening in Italy right now. It’s what we can look forward to if it is indeed true that the actions of the Italian people seem to mimic very closely what has taken place here in America. In Italy they are stacking up bodies because the morgue can’t handle the number of dead. There are reports of bodies lying in apartments for days, with nobody to pick them up to even take them to the morgue. There are reports of hospitals running out of supplies and instituting triage efforts to try to care for those they can still save. Doctors and nurses are catching the virus and dying, leading to even more desperation. It’s not a pretty picture and it’s been really bad there for at least the last 7 days.

If our infection rate and mortality path mimics theirs, it’s going to start getting really bad here about the middle of next week. That’s going to be right around the time Donald Trump is trying to get restrictions eased and isolation orders lifted. If he’s successful in that endeavor, things will be even worse.

It’s not going to be a great time to be anywhere in a major metropolitan center in America.

Let’s hope the numbers flatten out and don’t continue along this hellish and alarming path.

 

 

What exactly is MARTIAL LAW and will we see it declared during the coronavirus crisis?

There have been a lot of whispers lately about a possible declaration of Martial Law as a way of responding to the coronavirus crisis in which we currently find ourselves immersed. In order to get in front of fake news or misconceptions about what this means, I thought it might be a good idea to talk a little about what to expect if we do see such a declaration. Knowledge is power, and martial law can be incredibly frightening if you don’t understand what it means. Camouflaged military vehicles and armed soldiers in urban camo fatigues patrolling the streets with military weaponry is NOT something most Americans are used to seeing, and without knowing what those things actually mean, there’s a good chance that panic could erupt into chaos.

This article is going to deal with martial law as it is defined and implemented in the United States only. If you live in another jurisdiction, the implications are probably similar, particularly if you live in a democracy, but many things may be different, especially with regard to powers of the governors of the individual states here in the U.S.

Martial law is simply some form of military control over all of a country’s activities, mostly with regard to law enforcement and peacekeeping, and only during wartime or due to an emergency or widespread disaster. Martial law can be absolute, or it can also be limited in nature or scope for example, to a particular state only, or even to a county or small area within a state. Per United States law, martial law for the entire country can only be ordered by the president as commander-in-chief and must be limited to the duration of the emergency. The president has the power to use either the U.S. military to enforce martial law, or to co-opt the National Guards of each state to take control.

In addition to a full declaration of martial law in the United States by the president, governors of each state can impose full or limited martial law in their jurisdictions by utilizing the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard troops under their command to take control of law enforcement duties within their states or a portion of their states.

The reason that a declaration of martial law is needed to deploy guard or military troops is because those forces are prohibited from taking any legal action on U.S. soil or against U.S. citizens by the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.  The Posse Comitatus Act was written into federal law expressly to limit the powers of the federal government to use federal troops to enforce domestic policies in the United States. Posse Comitatus applies specifically to just the U.S. Army and Air Force, which is why you see the Coast Guard, and sometimes even the U.S. Navy doing things like making arrests during drug interdiction and Customs enforcement along oceanic borders. There are some exceptions to Posse Comitatus such as the Enforcement Acts which were bills written to protect the rights of African Americans. Eisenhower used those exceptions to send federal troops into Little Rock, Arkansas to protect civil rights in 1957. A declaration of martial law in an emergency situation suspends Posse Comitatus during the time frame of the emergency.

If we see martial law here in this country, the main thing we’ll notice will be that military troops will take the place of police officers to enforce the law or to keep the peace. In most instances they will work alongside the officers, supplementing their forces, however, the civilian police officers will be subject to the orders of the military commanders in this case. They most likely will implement some sort of curfew or forced quarantine of the population as well. These things become legal, and, in fact, martial law is usually declared in order to make these things legal, because the very important thing that a martial law declaration does is suspend habeas corpus.

It is this suspension of habeas corpus that makes martial law such a daunting declaration. Habeas corpus is the basis of our rights against unlawful arrest and detention. It is in fact, one of the underlying cornerstones of our democracy and our constitution, and represents one of the fundamental rights that we recognize as American citizens. Habeas corpus is the writ of law that guarantees us protection against unlawful arrest and the right to contest that arrest in an impartial court of law. These guarantees are so important that the writers of the constitution limited the ability of the government to suspend them right in Article One, Section Nine, which reads,

“The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.”

So basically, if martial law is declared, in addition to military troops enforcing laws, they’ll also be able to arrest and detain people for pretty much any reason they want, and there will be no legal recourse like a court hearing or trial to dispute that arrest. So, yeah, declaring martial law is a pretty big deal.

Now, that’s not likely to be what happens in such a declaration. The troops are still accountable to their commanding officers, who are accountable to the governor, and military tribunals will still be convened to deal with any malfeasance, however, this suspension of habeas corpus is what allows them to enforce things like curfews or quarantines. With a state of martial law, civilian courts are shut down and military courts take over. This means that all citizens are subject to military law and can be tried in military courts. So, if you do see a martial law declaration you might want to get those shoes shined up, soldier.

Martial law has been declared several times in this country in the last hundred years:

West Virginia Coal Wars of 1920-1921. Governor Cornwell dispatched federal troops to deal with striking miners. This was a prime example of the suspension of habeas corpus as many striking union miners were arrested and jailed without any sort of trial or court order, and without having violated any written law.

In San Francisco, California in 1934, Governor Frank Merriam placed a very limited area of San Francisco under martial law, mostly relating to the area around the docks. This was in response to the riots resulting from a dock worker’s strike. The National Guard was used in this case, as opposed to federal troops.

In Hawaii, the state was held under martial law for almost three years following the Pearl Harbor attacks of December 7th, 1941. For those three years, Hawaii was effectively governed like enemy territory with the Army taking full control of all state government and law enforcement.

In Russell County, Alabama in July of 1954, Governor Persons declared limited martial law due to vast corruption by law enforcement officers in that county. The entire police force of the county, including the cities in that county were forced to stand down and the Alabama National Guard took over those duties. Major General Walter Hanna disarmed the citizenry, closed down illegal gambling establishments and businesses serving alcohol, and helped to bring about free elections, an establishment that had been corrupted for decades by the police force who were apparently all on the take from the illegal gambling rings.

So, will we see martial law declared during this coronavirus crisis?

I think the most likely scenario for a declaration of martial law would be the inability of police forces and emergency personnel to respond to developing scenarios. This could happen for a couple of reasons:

  1. The coronavirus could begin to spread through police or fire departments, cutting down on available manpower. This is a big possibility. As we all know by now, Covid-19 is highly contagious and spreads asymptomatically. If a single officer contracts the virus, he or she probably spreads that to others in his division, and those officers spread it on to still others. This could result in quarantine or isolation of huge chunks of these infected departments. We saw this in Kirkland, Washington, the epicenter of the virus in the United States. Twenty or more police officers and firefighters were quarantined for two weeks when a couple of them tested positive. We’re seeing it right now in other jurisdictions like NYPD, and in Washington D.C. where over 200 emergency personnel are currently being quarantined. If coronavirus begins to spread through large police and fire departments, the governors will have no choice but to begin sending in national guard troops to help out. This will be a limited declaration of martial law.
  2. If we start to see rioting and looting as this lockdown continues, and police forces are unable to keep up with peacekeeping, or they start to become overwhelmed with the additional responsibilities in enforcing quarantine/shelter-in-place orders in states that implement them. Currently, as of this writing, California and New York have issued such orders, and I expect we’ll see them in many more states, likely starting with Washington State and maybe Florida after that.
  3. If we start to see the health care system become overloaded and surge capacity of those systems is breached or ventilators become unavailable to people who need them. This will create panic, and guard troops may be needed to maintain order or to supplement security at existing and temporary hospitals. Presumably, the national guard medical units could also be called up to assist in providing care under a martial law declaration as well.
  4. With the borders being shut down completely as of today, there is a possibility that federal troops would be needed to supplement the Border Patrol and to help secure them. This would involve a limited federal declaration of martial law by President Trump.

I see a situation where one of these scenarios happens as quite likely to very likely. I do not foresee a total national declaration of martial law where U.S. Army troops are called in to enforce the peace, however, it seems very likely to me that governors will soon have no choice but to enforce at least limited martial law in sections of their states. It’s just impossible to stop this virus from spreading through emergency services personnel as they can’t be isolated and need to remain out in the public. When that happens, national guard troops are really the only recourse.

In conclusion, it might be a good idea to start doing some pushups and situps while you’re sitting at home. Those staff sergeants who are about to run our lives ain’t gonna put up with no slovenly behavior from the likes of you!

Sometimes there actually is a monster under the bed

Now that most of the world is officially in strongly-urged or forced lockdown and isolation, it’s time to look forward to the end of this viral pandemic. Thoughts of late spring days in the northern hemisphere when we can all get back to our normal lives, enjoying time with friends and family as these dark days slowly fade from our memories, will keep us sane over these weeks of isolation.

Of course, most of us are under the impression that this will last no more than a few weeks. Our companies told us we were being laid off just for two weeks, right? The governor of Nevada told us the casinos were all closed for just 30 days. Schools told us kids would be returning to school at the end of March, maybe the first week of April. This is all just a fun distraction with the end just around the corner, right?

Don’t count on it.

If you’re wondering why the world seemed to suddenly wake up to the incredible dangers we’re facing and took the dramatic steps we saw implemented globally yesterday, it’s very likely it was because of this report from the Imperial College of Medicine in Great Britain that was published two days ago. It’s twenty pages long and rather dense, so to save most of you the time of reading it, I’m going to summarize some of the most important (and quite terrifying) findings.

This first chart of infection hospitalization and fatality rates at first glance looks somewhat promising. After all, if you add all these numbers up, the actual fatality rate appears to be just under 1% across the board. That would be a miracle if that holds up to be true, as that rate was feared to be double that number just a short time ago. Another good number is the hospitalization rate, which at only 4.4% means it’s at least 2-3 times lower than many feared at first glance. These numbers have both come way down to the new estimation of the rate of infection, which has gone way up, as we’ll see a bit later. The concerning element of this chart though, is the percentage of cases requiring critical care, which averages out to about 30% of all hospitalizations.

Critical care in SARS related illnesses means a trip to the ICU for a date with a ventilator. A stay in the ICU means a longer overall stay in the hospital. In addition, the average fatality rates of those in the ICU is 50%, which is very high, but inordinately weighted toward those over the age of 80. The real worry about the ICU rate is the number of beds and ventilators required, and the critical surge capacity of our hospitals. Remember, the fatality rate of those who need a ventilator and don’t get one will be 100%, or very close to it.

The study estimates an R-naught rate of 2.4, which is incredibly high. This means that each infected person infects almost two-and-a-half others on average, which is significantly higher than most of the viral outbreaks we’ve seen recently. This R₀ rate, would result in an infection rate of approximately 81% of the population, with an estimated 2.2 million deaths in the United States alone, had we decided to take no action, or very limited action in response to Covid-19. These numbers do not take into account all of the additional deaths that would occur due to an overload of the surge capacity of our healthcare system. The study estimated that the peak required ICU admissions would reach more than 30 times the national capacity. That would have resulted in a secondary fatality rate that might have been even higher than the deaths from the virus alone.

Good thing we took serious action, eh?

Now, here’s the problem with taking serious action against the spread of this virus. In order to prevent a secondary outbreak before a vaccine is ready, it’s necessary to establish “herd immunity.” Herd immunity means that people need to get sick and then recover in pretty big numbers in order to make sure that the R₀ rate falls below 1 on the next wave of infections. Any R₀ rate of 1 or below ensures that the coronavirus remains under control and does not become a pandemic. The sooner we implement isolation requirements that control the spread of the virus, the fewer infections we have and the greater the likelihood of a reinfection when restrictions are lifted.

What a fun little circle-jerk game this virus is playing with us!

This chart shows us the effect that various isolation measures will have on the surge capacity of our hospitals, represented by the red line at the very bottom. It’s quite obvious by looking at this that none of these measures on their own are anywhere near effective enough, which means that a combination would be required to avoid overloaded hospitals and huge numbers of secondary deaths from triaging those who need advanced care. The “things that make you go hmmm” moment for me with this chart was the blue shading. This shows the period of time that would be needed for each of these measures just to result in the deadly peaks shown here. More on that later.

Above this chart we see this line: Our projections show that to be able to reduce R to close to 1 or below, a combination of case isolation, social distancing of the entire population and either household quarantine or school and university closure are required (Figure 3, Table 4). Measures are assumed to be in place for a 5-month duration.

The key here, obviously, is reducing R₀ to 1 or below, and they’re basically saying that it’s going to require all of the measures listed to be working and in place at the exact same time. The scary part of this though, is the last line. Measures are assumed to be in place for a 5-month duration. Five-month duration. That blue shading represents five months under these conditions. Not two weeks, like we were told at first. Not 30 days, or 60 days like a few are saying. Five months. Through the summer. We can say that we began this around March 15th. That means we can come out of it on August 15th. How many of you think we can maintain this for five months? No frickin’ chance.

If we do somehow maintain these conditions for five months, notice the green and tan lines in Figure A stay right around the red Surge line. This basically means we don’t overload the ICU. We don’t run out of ventilators and begin triaging the worst cases and sending them home to die a very miserable death. This is really important, but again, it’s going to take five months of combined strategies and at home isolation.

Also, notice those spikes of both the green and brown lines in late November / early December. What this means is that we’re going to see another spike of this disease next fall. This is very likely going to require yet another stretch of isolation. Interestingly, the green line, which represents what we can expect if we implement the easiest of the measures, school closure, social distancing, and case isolation, will give us a much higher spike in critical cases than if we implement household quarantine without school closure. That means that it may be correct to allow the kids to go back to school in the fall while the adults all stay quarantined, as counter-productive as that may seem. Oh, and by the way, if you thought your kids were heading back to school this spring…spoiler alert—they’re not.

Short of a complete lockdown, which is the absolute best case scenario for stopping that first spike (although that will result in a much more difficult secondary infection—more on this in a bit) applying all four isolation measures is the most important way to minimize the impact to the healthcare system. The problem — again — is that they need to be held in place for a minimum of three months, five months ideally, and that seems absolutely impossible, at least here in the United States.

***Just as an FYI if you’re looking closely at these charts, all the numbers represent expectations for the UK, not for the US, however, our medical and health care ratios mimic each other with the US at a 5x rate. So, basically multiply every number you see by five, and you’ll get the expected numbers for the US with the lines remaining identical.***

This chart is fairly self-explanatory, so I won’t go over it in detail. The R₀ number on the left represents the most likely infection rates they could estimate with the data available. “On Trigger” is the number of critical ICU cases that trigger the isolation efforts. Obviously, the earlier we trigger those the better. “Do nothing” is number of deaths if we take no isolation steps. PC=school and university closure, CI=home isolation of cases, HQ=household quarantine, SD=social distancing of the entire population, SDOL70=social distancing of those over 70 years for 4 months (a month more than other interventions). The percentages represent the percentage decline in the death rate from the “Do Nothing” category. Again, these number are for the UK, so multiply them all by FIVE to get the numbers for the U.S.

Once these interventions are ended, infections begin to rise again, as we saw in the new curves on the previous graph, resulting in a predicted peak epidemic in late November. What’s really interesting though, is that the more successful a strategy is at temporary suppression through the isolation efforts, the larger the later epidemic is predicted to be because of what they call “herd immunity.”

When we isolate everyone and fewer people get sick, fewer people develop immunity to it. Even in a best case scenario, the virus doesn’t disappear altogether once we have it under control. It’s still out there in the wild, waiting to be picked up again, and that’s why we’re going to see another large spike in cases in the late fall. There’s no avoiding it, short of an immunization being developed, and the better we are at controlling the virus now, the worse that next outbreak will be. The more people who get sick now, the more will have immunity later. The key is to not overload the health system and the ICU capacity while allowing the maximum number of people to get sick right now. It’s an incredibly tricky balancing act.

This shows the number of deaths and ICU bed occupation we can expect to see with the various interventions. Let’s take a low-medium R₀ of 2.2, so the second block of cells. ***Again, remember that for the U.S. we need to multiply these numbers by five because this is for the UK.***

I feel like the most accurate number for the on-trigger death toll is about 200, which represents 1000 deaths here in the U.S. Although we’re currently at only 155 deaths, we’ll be at 1000 in a little more than a week most likely, and, I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen very few people actually taking this seriously. In fact, today I saw video from spring breakers partying it up in Miami, saw pictures of people in bars, restaurants, airports, and coffee shops, and saw lots of traffic: street, pedestrian, and aviation, despite so many desperate pleas from authorities to stay home and avoid going out as much as possible. So many people have adapted a blasé attitude toward this, that I feel quite comfortable using that number, and it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to use the bottom number of 400, representing 2000 U.S. deaths, or even a number that’s completely off the chart, quite honestly. But we’ll be conservative.

Using the 200 deaths number and extrapolating through the chart by multiplying by 5, we see that if we did nothing, we’d expect 2.1 million U.S. deaths. This is in the next five months, by the way, and doesn’t even take into account all the added deaths from ICU triage overruns, and the spike next fall (which, in defense of “do nothing,” would be significantly lower, possibly even compatible with an R₀ under 1) which would all result in a number at least double that. Now, looking to the right, you see that the most effective step is to take all four isolation steps (PC=school and university closure, CI=home isolation of cases, HQ=household quarantine, SD=social distancing of the entire population, SDOL70=social distancing of those over 70 years for 4 months) Of course, let’s be honest, this here is the good old U.S. of A., and there’s no chance we’re doing HOUSEHOLD QUARANTINE for three months, so let’s move one box to the left where we see an expected fatality rate of 30,000 times 5 = 150,000.

That’s 150k deaths if we keep up what we’re now doing, and if the idiots stop doing Jaeger bombs in Miami, and if the businesses all close down, and if people stop hugging each other, shaking hands, working in close proximity and going out to eat. Oh, and if we keep all that up for the next three months. So, yeah, basically we’re screwed. I would guess we can easily expect double that death number.

If the R₀ rate is higher, we’re looking at 350k deaths, and double that is 700k deaths, plus, that number will overload our ICU capacity so we can probably call it a million flat. And, quite honestly, I think this is being incredibly conservative based on the behaviors I’ve seen all over the internet from the multitude of people who just don’t give a flying fuck about what’s happening. I’m talking mostly to you millennials, though I know the percentage of you who made it this far into this read is as close to zero as (insert name of your favorite IG star here)’s intelligence. To be fair, it’s not just the millennials. So many Americans just don’t get what’s happening here, and, I don’t know what it will take to wake them up.

Every sports league, done. Las Vegas shut down completely. Borders basically closed. Domestic flights mostly shut down by the end of next week. (Another prediction, there’s no sign of this yet, but if you’ve read my previous blogs have I been wrong yet?) When will people start to realize what’s happening here?

I’m afraid it won’t be until we reach 100k deaths in the U.S. I’m afraid that’s when it will finally start to sink in.

Either way, we’re in this situation for at least another three months, possibly as long as five months. And then, just when we think we’re out of it, we’re going to get hit with another wave in November. There’s some hope there will be a vaccine by then, but I’m not counting on it. There’s probably another blog in here to explore a scenario where we rush a vaccine to market and get to experience all the angst with regard to the incredible dangers being taken by skipping animal trials and moving right into the human trial phase, which, astoundingly, is what seems to be happening, from what I’ve read. I’m not sure even I want to explore the possible nightmarish scenarios behind that decision. After all, I understand that the monster under the bed is now real. I hear him stretching and stirring, his claws ticking on the hardwood floor, and I know he’s about to unleash his full wrath.

I’m not sure I really want to get out of bed to peek at the noises I’m now starting to hear coming from the closet.

*BTW, here’s that full report in case any of you want to read it. I’d love to know if I misinterpreted or misstated anything in my synopsis. Thanks! https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/medicine/sph/ide/gida-fellowships/Imperial-College-COVID19-NPI-modelling-16-03-2020.pdf

The fictional story of our lives under the reign of the Covid-19 coronavirus

If I was writing a novel, the plot of which was a worldwide pandemic involving an exotic, novel coronavirus, here’s what the story would entail:

The novel would open on a late fall day in a thriving city of fifteen million in central China. A tourist would be strolling through a bustling city center. The tourist would come across a gigantic market in the center of town. At more than half-a-million square feet, it would be hard to miss. As he entered the market, he would be astounded—in a state of shock as great as if he’d stepped onto the surface of an alien planet. The noise and the smells would overload his senses, and his eyes would dart around at all of the stalls, the vendors hawking wares that this westerner had never imagined.

As he worked his way to the western end of the market, he would stumble upon the truly otherworldly stalls. He would see cramped crates of live chickens stacked on top of weasels, parrots on top of ferrets, giant centipedes on top of pangolins, and more. He would see stalls selling ostrich, camel, bear, deer, and dogs, many of those animals alive and waiting to be carefully chosen and slaughtered on site. He’d see a stack of crates with live civet cats stacked over rabbits, stacked over peacocks, bats with folded wings hanging over all of them. To the westerner, it would be like a scene from a PETA member’s personal hell. A jungle that would have made Upton Sinclair retch. He would want to leave, but, much like a bad car wreck, he’d find himself unable to tear his eyes away. He would watch as the bustling crowd of mostly Chinese citizens chose their live animals, the clerk butchering the animal for them, craftily cutting it into portions, bagging and wrapping it, and calling the customer’s number to pick it up when it was ready.

He would elbow his way through the crowd, carefully stepping around puddles of water, blood, chicken guts, fish scales, feces, and unknown, unthinkable slimy objects, trying not to get his shoes filthy, while at the same time, trying to ignore the cacophony of screeches and pitiful mewling from the doomed animals in their cramped and squalid cages.

Eventually, he would find an eating area, picnic tables with peeling paint packed with locals and tourists alike eating food from some of the vendors who cook it to order. Wearily, he’d take a seat in one of the few open spots, settling in next to a local man eating a thick, creamy soup with chunks of unidentifiable meat. As he leaned back to take in the sights, the person next to him would sneeze, turning his head toward the westerner to avoid spraying his food. The westerner would jerk, then, remembering his manners, would say, “bless you” before realizing that the local likely didn’t understand the sentiment.

As he left the market, the westerner would not notice that at the other entrance now far away, the one he’d casually strolled through an hour earlier, Chinese soldiers had arrived in droves, many wearing white hazmat suits, whistles and shouts clearing out the shoppers, authoritarian figures shutting down each stall in a brazen display of brutal efficiency only possible in a dictatorship.

The westerner would go back to his hotel, oblivious to the disruption in his wake. A few days later, having just missed all of the excitement, and having seen absolutely no news on television, or in one of the many English language newspapers about the militaristic shutdown of one of China’s largest and most lucrative markets, he’d board a flight, scrolling through his pictures on the plane, excited to share the stories of his travels with loved ones and friends.

The plane would land in Seattle, where the tourist would be greeted by his wife and children. The next day, he would return to work in a downtown office building where he would regale his co-workers with stories about the exotic animal market. A few days later, the tourist would notice some phlegm in his throat, an itchiness in his nose, and a cough. He’d ask his wife to check his temperature and she’d discover it had climbed to 101. Not overly concerned, he would crawl into bed, take a shot of Nyquil, and hope he felt better in the morning.

The novel would then move back to China, from the viewpoint of a Colonel in the Ministry of State Security, the intelligence service of China. This Colonel would be in charge of a top-secret division of the Ministry, responsible for maintaining order during any incident likely to cause civil unrest. Reporting only to the Deputy Minister for State Security, his powers would be broad ranging, and near absolute. He would be a hard man in his sixties, with iron hair and hawk-like eyes. A career military man, he would have a well-documented but top-secret history of trouble-shooting and problem solving.

The release of a novel coronavirus would be a scenario that his division is incredibly and almost uniquely well-prepared for. The first step would be to lock down the suspected source of the virus, the Wuhan wet market. The second step on the long-refined checklist, would be to control any leaks. Already there have been a few, one from a journalist who managed to send out a tweet about a strange, flu-like sickness befalling a bunch of locals, and one from a doctor at the local hospital, this one a query sent out to both the CDC in the United States and to the World Health Organization regarding an unknown novel coronavirus. The colonel had intercepted the sample the doctor had tried to send out, but had not been able to intercept the electronic query. He had, however, notified both the offending doctor and the journalist in the strongest terms that this type of communication with the outside world was forbidden. In fact, the journalist would be currently under arrest and awaiting trial for spreading false propaganda against the state, a charge falling just short of treason. The doctor would have been allowed to return to work after strict orders to keep things under wraps.

The colonel would muse about how difficult his job was actually going to be. With already more than 1,000 cases in this city of 15 million, plugging all the leaks was getting more and more difficult. In top secret meetings with experts, he would have been notified that the strange sickness had already undoubtedly spread around the world. Wuhan was a bustling city with industry centers that had probing fingers in vast global trade. Already, there was certain to be cases of the virus percolating in the bodies of many of the passengers of the hundreds of long-haul flights leaving the city each day. The colonel would chew on some aspirin or antacids, trying to calm the sickening feeling of stress and fear that probed at his stomach. It wouldn’t be long before Western nations would begin making queries, and he would know the suspicions they undoubtedly already had. Three years earlier, a noted American public health specialist and infectious disease expert named Doctor Michael Osterholm, had published a book titled, Deadliest Enemy: Our war against killer germs which named China as the most likely origin of the next global pandemic involving a novel coronavirus. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Netflix, just three weeks earlier, had released a documentary called Pandemic: How to prevent an outbreak that also labeled China as the most likely source of a SARS-like novel coronavirus, even going so far as to pinpoint the likely origin as one of the many wet markets throughout the country. He would know that the eyes of the world were already on China, and that control of information was critical.

Of course, the meat of the novel would be centered on what we now know is actually taking place. It would discuss the colonel’s failure to contain the information, the world’s waking knowledge of the Wuhan coronavirus. It would discuss the anger of the Chinese Politburo at the inability of the Ministry of State Security to contain the leak. It would discuss their refusal to allow western doctors and virologists into the country to examine patients and sequence the virus. It would explore their efforts to lock down true information and disseminate misinformation. It would follow their herculean efforts to isolate the city of Wuhan, their draconian measures to control the spread of the virus through brutal and uncaring police actions against the population. The government would order full quarantine of the city, shoving boulders in front of apartments to trap the citizens, patrolling the streets with heavily-armed soldiers in full bio-hazard gear. They would build two dedicated hospitals in less than a week, ordering doctors from around the country to converge on the hot zone. Huge military tankers would crawl every street spraying a thick fog of disinfectant over entire blocks. Their efforts would result in a containment of the virus that would give the world hope that it wasn’t as serious as most experts warned.

In the meantime, the rest of the world would go about their merry way, ignorantly failing to heed the warnings of experts, doctors, virologists, and on-site witnesses, including the original whistle-blower, the doctor who tried to warn the world before he himself perished from the virus. China’s withholding of pertinent information, their failure to warn other countries, and their refusal to allow in doctors from the WHO and the CDC to study the virus would retard any possibility of containment. The virus would spread, passing from one person to another asymptomatically as western civilization plodded unknowingly forward toward doom — a never before seen and rarely imagined catastrophic scenario on a global scale.

Every continent on the planet would slowly waken to the danger and begin taking steps toward containment. Despite the obvious nature of the threat, there would still be many who would ignore it. Despite having a mortality rate twenty times, and an R-naught infection rate two to three times that of influenza, and despite having asymptomatic spread, a rare condition long exploited by end-of-the-world novels and apocalyptic films, there would continue to be an overwhelming roar of people denying the dangers and making comparisons to influenza. The Flu-Truthers. The American president would use Twitter to tell Americans that there was nothing to fear, that the virus was not dangerous, and that they would be fine. The French, while the rest of the world was going into full lockdown, would set a new world record for the gathering in one place of 3500 people dressed as Smurfs, many of the blue faces shouting in posted videos that they weren’t scared of a little virus. Americans would pour onto the beaches of Florida and Mexico in spring break festivities that decried any fear whatsoever, and across Europe, people would enjoy the warming weather in congregations of tens of thousands at concerts, shows, and sporting events.

Of course, the incredibly dangerous nature of the coronavirus would finally be realized in nations around the globe. As China’s cases began to decline due to their herculean and oppressive containment measures, the rest of the world would experience a heart-stopping surge of cases and fatalities. Everything would shut down, the smoothly oiled machinery of the entire planet grinding to a halt. Nearly every country in the northern hemisphere would lock down their borders and institute forced quarantines.

Of course, the virus would continue to rage unchecked, barely slowed. Because this virus, this heartless, perfect little killing machine, would have an incubation period and infection time that stretched out to two or three weeks, which, combined with that rare little pleaser known as asymptomatic spread, made it one of the most dangerous viruses the planet has ever seen.

Sure, like most of the apologists and deniers would point out, it’s mortality rate would be lower than MERS, EBOLA, and the Spanish Flu, and its R-naught rate would be lower than the SARS epidemic of a decade earlier. But, what so many of them would choose to ignore would be the combination of perfect elements in this microscopic, unseen, devastating, globe-stopper. The high, though not unique R-naught rate. The middling mortality rates. The long incubation and infection period. And, the deadliest of all, the asymptomatic spread capability.

I know this seems like a stretch of fictional credulity, but bear with me…

The virus would get a name of course, and the name would be intentionally lacking of any tag of origin, so as not to seem unsympathetic or racist. Despite many viruses having names that point to their origin, MERS—Middle East Respiratory Syndrome—being one of the more recent, this virus would not for long be called the Wuhan coronavirus, but would be called the very bland and unassuming Covid-19, a portmanteau of coronavirus disease 2019. Any mention of the origin after receiving its official name—things like calling it the Wuhan virus, or the Chinese virus, would be met with an onslaught of furious social justice advocates decrying the racism of terminology hinting at the origin.

China would seize hold of those calls of xenophobia. They would encourage that kind of thinking. They would be thrilled.

You see, because back in China, the government and politburo, headed by a person named Xi Jinping, a dictator in all but title, would begin to recognize an incredible opportunity. As the rest of the world shuts down and flounders under the weight of the devastatingly fast, wildfire-like spread of the virus that originated in the middle of his country, thanks to his severe and heavy-handed approach to containment, China itself is on the rebound. The rest of the world sees cases and fatalities blow by China’s totals in just weeks, the United States taking the brunt of it as deaths soar over a hundred thousand. The novel at this point would switch to the viewpoint of this militaristic president as a plot begins to grow in his coldly-calculating and highly intelligent mind.

Already a dominating superpower with controlling interests in so many of the basic necessities this planet relies on, things like Rare-Earth Elements which power nearly every electronic item in the world, and which China controls more than 95% of, and with a stranglehold on the supply chain of so many medicines relied on by western civilization, he’s in a rare position to increase China’s power and status to unseen levels. To once and for all thrust China into their rightful place as the one world superpower.

The Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges would begin to soar as the Chinese industry got back into running at full strength. As the rest of the world’s markets began to collapse, driving the planet to the brink of a full and brutal recession, industry in a complete coma in all western markets, China would begin driving so many of the industries where they’d once, in a better time, lagged behind, while at the same time, tightening their stranglehold on the all-important Rare-Earth and medicinal markets. While the rest of the world watched trillions of dollars of market cap disappear nearly overnight as cases of the coronavirus soared out of control and fatalities followed an exponential doubling curve that was unstoppable, China would suck up that market cap, exploding into a domestic bull market never before seen, as their own Covid-19 fatalities hit zero and new cases dried up.

Back in America, a sailor onboard a U.S. Navy destroyer would open a piece of mail from a loved one back home, unknowingly picking up the virus from the contents before rubbing his eye and infecting himself. Within weeks, the virus would spread through the ship, then to others in the fleet. Despite all containment efforts, before long, the Navy would be damaged severely with sick and dying sailors, a condition that would spread throughout the military, not just in America, but all over western civilization. Xi Jinping would notice this of course, and his plan would begin to come together.

China would begin withholding the critical components used in every major electronic in the world, including every military guidance system and complex weapon, citing increased domestic consumption. With the full might of the Chinese military power, at the moment when the rest of the world was at its sickest, Xi Jinping would launch an attack on Japan, exacting long-awaited payback for the Sino-Japanese war of 1937. The Chinese military would then drop into Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Burma, plowing through the Asian countries with little resistance from the sick, disabled, heavily-weakened militaries. The rest of the world would wait powerlessly with their own depleted militaries. Of course, this territorial aggression could not stand unchallenged, so, with no other options, the angered and unhinged leaders of both America and the United Kingdom would form a coalition. United threats of nuclear war would be made, because really, what other option was left?

Would those threats be carried out, plunging the world into nuclear Armageddon? How would I know? It’s just a novel, and the ending has yet to be written. Besides, this whole scenario has become entirely far-fetched.

Right?

The true Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic is SELFISHNESS

When I was a kid, my family went hiking a lot. When we were hiking a steep trail with switchbacks, I always wanted to cut the corner, to hike off the trail up to the tantalizing visible trail above us, to blaze my own stubby path and traverse an area where no one had gone before. My dad never let me.

“Stay on the trail. No cutting the corners.”

“Why?” I would whine. “The trail is right there!”

“Because you’ll damage the forest. The trails are here to keep people from walking wherever they want,” he would patiently explain to me.

It took me a long time to understand how my ten-year old shoes could seriously cause any damage to the forest by cutting across the corner of a switchback trail.

The truth is, I wouldn’t damage a frickin’ thing by cutting across the trails. But, as my dad always tried to explain to me, if everybody did what I wanted to do, the forest would be irreparably damaged. My selfish behavior was fine in a vacuum, but if everybody was as selfish as me, it would ruin the whole experience. It’s great to be a trailblazer in business or life, but when trailblazing causes damage to the things society wants to enjoy, it’s usually better to just stay on the path.

I forged this lesson forward when I taught my daughters about littering. It’s absolutely true that if you throw a wrapper out your car window while driving down the highway, it’s not a big deal. It won’t ruin anything for anybody if some paper container with ketchup and three slices of dill pickle that makes your mouth tingle is sitting half-buried in the median. So why does littering provoke such a steeply fined civil penalty in nearly every jurisdiction?

My dad could tell you. It’s because if everybody did it, this world would be a disgusting pigsty of strewn garbage. Actually, it would look a lot like the Pyramids of Giza complex in Cairo, Egypt.

Social distancing is the only thing that is going to slow the spread of this Covid-19 coronavirus. I’m seeing a plethora of people on social media making plans to get together for lunch, to grab a drink, or to see a movie this weekend. The Southpoint casino here in Las Vegas tweeted out this photo last night, bragging about how busy they are:

Image

There are far too many people who still think this is all just a big joke. There are far too many deniers — Flu-Truthers as I like to call them, spewing their vocal ignorance to the masses. I guess I kind of get it. There are 55 deaths from this virus in the United States right now. But not seeing what is happening all around us—having the extreme myopic tunnel vision to focus only on that number—is so incredibly ignorant, asinine, and obtuse that it’s like the driver of JFK’s limo deciding to take another lackadaisical lap around Dealey Plaza after hearing a few loud bangs.

So many people are freaking out right now about the lack of available tests for the virus here in the U.S. There’s no question that this was a colossal failure on the part of the CDC. However, at this time it just doesn’t matter. Governments love to know data and numbers in order to make decisions, but we have all the data we need. We can extrapolate from findings in other countries which have somehow been light-years ahead of us with testing for Covid-19 cases.

The exact number of infected is going to be vast, distressing, uncomfortable–and also completely irrelevant.

If I get sick with Covid-19 symptoms, I’m not going to the hospital to get a test. Why should I? What difference does it make what the test results are? Whether its Covid-19, or just the regular flu, the treatment is the same. I’m going to remain isolated. I’m going to eat soup, drink Nyquil, and try to get lots of fluids. I’m going to stay home and make sure I don’t infect anybody else. Above all, I’m not going to go to a hospital and stand in a waiting room with a bunch of other sick people and healthy people trying to get care for their sick loved ones, and either infect someone else, or actually catch the coronavirus myself when I didn’t actually have it.

I will only go to the hospital at this point if I’m in dire medical need.

Unless you are elderly, in poor health already, or immune-deficient, I suggest you do the same. In the end, the result of the test doesn’t matter. ALL THAT MATTERS RIGHT NOW IS SOCIAL ISOLATION.

Testing and compiling data is not going to save a single life at this point. It is CRITICALLY IMPORTANT that people stop going out. Stop congregating, stop meeting your friends for drinks, stop “supporting local businesses in these tough times.” This will be so much worse if we don’t adhere to the guidelines the doctors and health officials are laying out.

I know you’re all young, healthy, strong as an ox, and not worried about contracting this virus. I know you think this is all overblown and it will be over in a week or two. I know you think even if you get it, it won’t be that bad and won’t matter. And, if you just toss your plastic Starbucks cup out of the car window on your way home from brunch with your friends tomorrow, that act of littering won’t matter either. It’s the same thing.

Unless we ALL stop acting so goddamned selfishly and stop pretending that this disruption to our lives is so inconvenient, we are truly screwed. If attitudes don’t change, we are going to have the biggest economic, medical, and social disaster the world has ever seen. STOP going out unless you absolutely have to. You are being SELFISH. You are contributing to a devastating global pandemic with your absolutely narcissistic and egocentric behavior, all in the name of “it won’t affect me so why should I care?” Would you destroy a national landmark you had no intention of coming back to just because you never have to see it again? Would you toss your garbage bags into the neighbor’s swimming pool just because he won’t know and you won’t have to clean it up? I know my examples are ridiculously bombastic (thanks, Eric) but I just don’t know how to get this message through so many thick skulls.

If we don’t self-isolate in exponentially larger numbers than what’s happening right now, the U.S. government is going to have no choice but to enforce some quarantines. My most dire predictions will come true within a week from today if we don’t collectively and voluntarily make some serious changes. Get ready for martial law and civil unrest, because I don’t see this egocentric collective behavior changing, despite news from around the globe that should be absolutely terrifying to the vast majority of this country.

Spread the word. If your friends ask you to have brunch tomorrow, to go out to dinner, or to go see a show, tell them you’re not going. And, more importantly, tell them WHY you aren’t going. Ask them to follow your lead. Make them understand the importance of curbing this self-centered behavior.

My dad wants you to stop trailblazing. Please don’t be 10-year old me. Please listen to him.

How about a good, uplifting, light-hearted coronavirus blog for a change?

Just kidding. WE’RE ALL DOOMED!!

Okay, not really, settle down! I actually just want to talk about panic.

There’s a lot of posts out there right now decrying the panic. “Stop panicking, everyone!” “Everybody needs to stop fear-mongering and spreading panic!” “Panic does nothing people, be smart!”

Actually, I disagree. Panic can be a good thing. Panic causes people to take action. Panic has already caused so many of the flu-truthers — those people who have been loudly and proudly proclaiming this is just the flu — to delete their posts. Panic is removing dangerous disinformation from the world.

Panic is what is causing people to stock up on supplies. Those supplies are going to save lives. Panic is causing companies to cancel conventions. Panic is what sends people into isolation, what causes travel to stop, what ignites social distancing measures that will keep us all safe.

Panic will be what flattens the infection and mortality lines that are so devastatingly steep right now.

There’s a reason we have the panic gene in our DNA. Panic is an instinct in our evolutionary makeup that causes us to take actions for our survival. Why did our ancestors flee from the giant cave bear? They panicked. Every one of our ancient ancestors panicked many times. That’s why we’re here today. Sabre-tooth tigers once used Cro-Magnon non-panicking truthers’ bones as toothpicks.

As long as panic doesn’t turn into hysteria, we can utilize that primal fear to take actions for the good. We can harness the fear and the adrenaline and the stress to make decisions that will result in our survival. Embrace panic and let it drive you to taking action. Without it, humans turn into quivering, gelatinous masses incapable of action.

What we need to avoid is hysteria. We’re seeing it already, with the melee in Georgia this morning where a man was stabbed over a case of water. This is just the beginning. Be ready for a lot more of this. This is where healthy panic turns into criminal hysteria, and this is what we need to avoid.

People have told me my blogs are causing them to lose sleep. Although that wasn’t my goal or my hope, I’m kind of glad. Because that means you’re realizing the dangers and (hopefully) you’re taking steps to mitigate those dangers. Anxiety is never fun, but, like panic, it can shock us from our shell of denial and make us wake up to the dangers we’re facing. Once you’re protected—once you’re prepared for what’s coming, anxiety will fade away and you’ll sleep soundly.

One must wrestle FEAR to the ground.

Going back to hysteria and how it’s going to get worse: In Italy right now, doctors are beginning to triage. They are sending people home because they have no ability to treat them. They have no empty beds, no available ventilators, no way to ease patients’ pain. They are looking people in the eye and effectively telling them, “Go home and die.” They’re having to make very difficult decisions because their healthcare system is overwhelmed. They cannot treat everybody. I just want to remind everyone that our trajectory is fully pointing toward worse than this happening here in the United States. We are days behind Italy with regard to isolationist steps to control the upward trajectory of the infection and death lines. Triage is going to mean the most vulnerable of our society, the elderly and sick, are eventually going to be turned away from critically needed medical care. This is going to be devastating. We need to mentally prepare for it now.

The other real danger area for us right now is our national blood supply. According to the Red Cross, our nation is critically low on supply because of a number of unfortunate compilations of events that culminated in this viral outbreak. This is the season when blood supply is typically low anyway, but now a bunch of blood drives around the country have been cancelled.

Anybody know any vampires who might be stockpiling supplies?

At some point in the very near future, the Red Cross and other blood banks will need to begin triaging the blood supply. Every two seconds in this country, somebody needs a blood transfusion. Some of these people are going to get turned away. The good news is that less travel equates to fewer accidents which lowers demand, however, exponentially increased sicknesses may blunt that benefit. If you can get out there and donate blood, please do. There is no risk of contracting coronavirus through blood donations, so don’t let that fear stop you from doing everything you can to help mitigate this impending disaster.

It’s almost noon, Pacific time, and President Trump is about to address the nation. He’s very likely to declare a national emergency. This will cause more panic, and that’s a good thing. Somehow, some way, there are still deniers out there. There are still people saying the world has gone mad. Once those final truthers actually start to feel panic instead of anger and bewilderment, we’ll be able to finally all get on board with the steps we need to take to control this thing.

Only by panicking while avoiding hysteria will we “Flatten the Line.”

 

Are you part of The Walking Dead? (Coronavirus update and new predictions!)

As I write this, a gigantic construction expo called Construction Con is happening at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The Bay 101 casino in San Jose is playing down to a final table in their Shooting Star tournament. Kids in Nevada are finishing up homework for school tomorrow, and the Wynn Casino is advertising their poker tournament coming up this weekend.

There are still a lot of people who don’t quite understand what is going on right now.

Covid-19 is the most dangerous virus this world has seen since the Spanish Flu of 1918, and possibly even more dangerous than that. If you don’t get that, despite being first-hand witnesses to the most unprecedented and abrupt halt of the well-oiled machine that is the entire freaking planet, then I just no longer know how to talk to you. You’re already dead to me because you will soon be exactly that.

Just last night, I had an argument with a couple people on the internet who insisted that everybody was just overreacting, and this would all go away with simple handwashing and taking your vitamin C. If anybody had told me that last week, I would have done my best to patiently and persistently convince them of the danger of their way of thinking, to try to get them to see why this virus was dangerous. I would have done my darndest to minimize the spread of dangerous ignorance and misinformation. But to tell me that nonsense last night, after the NBA and NCAA canceled their seasons, Trump closed all travel from Europe, and nations around the world were going dark like curtain call time at a Nickelback concert, I just don’t have the patience to make you see that you are very, very stupid and dangerously incompetent.

I’ve fielded a bunch of calls and texts in the last couple days from people congratulating me on being right about my predictions in the previous two blogs. The fact is, I wasn’t right. Here are just a few things I got wrong:

  1. I projected the Dow Jones would lose 1,000 points on Monday. (It lost 2000)
  2. I projected the Dow Jones would lose 3,500 points by Friday. (Its Thursday right now, and the Dow is down almost 4800 points for the week already.)
  3. I predicted the WHO would declare this a Global Pandemic by the end of the week, middle of next week at the latest. (This happened on Wednesday, three days after my prediction.)
  4. I predicted NBA and NCAA games would be played without fans in the stands. (They flat out cancelled them all.)
  5. I predicted the U.S. would begin to prohibit all public gatherings greater than 500 or 1000 people within two weeks. (This began happening just two days later.)

I’m being credited with being right about all these things (and others) but the truth is, this is all happening even faster than I predicted it all would. Many people thought I was crazy with these predictions, calling them “bombastic,” (I had to look that one up), “doomsaying,” “ridiculous,” and “completely nuts.” Or, my personal favorite, “I don’t have time to read that long shit, stop blowing this out of proportion.” Yet, the fact all my predictions have come true at a speed that leaves even me flabbergasted doesn’t seem to have convinced some people that things are much worse than they have ever considered.

Now, some of the dire things that have happened are really good for controlling the spread of this virus. The travel industry is pretty much grinding to a halt. Planes are being parked. Cruise ships are being docked. Most public gatherings are being cancelled. Governors around the country are declaring emergencies. Schools are closing. Businesses are shutting down and letting employees work from home. Legislation is being rammed through Congress to deal with the financial impacts. People are waking up and taking extraordinary steps. Even President Trump is admitting we have a big problem (after downplaying and minimizing it all last week) and is taking historic steps to try to fix it.

However, although extraordinary and unprecedented steps have been taken in the last two days, its quite possible that these steps are too little, too late.

The virus is here and it has been spreading for weeks, and it is much, much worse than most people want to believe. The governor of Ohio, Mike Dewine seems to get it at least:

This virus is currently spreading like wildfire throughout the country, and the population in general hasn’t yet woken up to that fact. Life as we’ve always known it is going to change drastically in the next few weeks. Somebody told me today that it feels like we’re living in a dystopian movie. We are.

Right now, there are tens of thousands of people walking around this country who will be dead in eight weeks, and they don’t know it yet. The Walking Dead are among us. They are our friends, co-workers, and our loved ones. As terrifying as this sounds, I am comfortable predicting that this is the truth. They either have Covid-19 already, and it is multiplying in their bodies, or they are about to contract it either by being stupid, from bad luck, or from bad decisions by somebody close to them.

I don’t mean to sound like an alarmist or a doomsayer even though I use words like “dystopian.” We are going to be fine. We will recover. This is NOT The Stand, or Mad Max, or The Road. Society is not doomed from this virus. However, things are about to get very uncomfortable, distressing, and painful for many, many people.

So, what do I think is going to happen?

I’ve already said this, but I’ll say it again. The economy is going to collapse and we will be in a recession by April 15th. The Dow will lose 10,000 points (40%) from its value by April 15th. People are going to be in devastating shape financially. There’s a very good chance this will result in a global depression, or at least a very difficult global recession. If you’re one of the ones who is already, or will soon be in dangerous financial shape, curb spending right now. One of the things you can do, if it comes down to the possibility that you won’t be able to buy food, is stop making your house payment. Nobody’s house is going to get repossessed during this crisis. You won’t get kicked out by the bank. The Federal Government will enact legislation to protect people in this time, ordering financial institutions to work with people to save their homes. Stop paying your power bill. Nobody is coming around to shut off your power, not when people are dying. The government will not let them. As incompetent as you think they are, they will take those very minimal steps.

People are going to die. We are all going to know somebody who will die from this virus. Be as ready as you can be for that eventuality. Last week I thought it was possible we would see 250,000 deaths from this virus. Because of the extreme steps that have been taken this week, I think it will be less now, but I still project over 100,000 deaths. Not worldwide deaths. U.S. deaths.  This is going to be a big problem. Healthcare systems are still going to be overwhelmed, and that will happen by mid-April. This is going to cause civil unrest in large cities around the country. Are you prepared for that?

Police officers and emergency responders are going to start getting sick. What happens when this virus makes its way into our emergency services agencies? Just today Las Vegas Metro tweeted an invitation to the public to meet up tomorrow for “Coffee with a Cop.” Great idea in normal times. Terrible idea now. (I tweeted to them telling them it was an awful idea to not cancel that for the next couple months, and ten minutes later they tweeted that it was cancelled. I’m not taking credit, but…)

When police officers get this virus, they will have to quarantine. If it moves through the ranks, patrol shifts will begin to suffer. Calls will begin to go unanswered. People will die because officers are stacking calls and can’t arrive on time. This will result in more civil unrest. There is a very good chance that you will see martial law either actually declared, or prima facie instituted in at least a few jurisdictions by the end of March. Governors will begin calling in the National Guard to maintain order against desperate looters and panicked sick people who can’t get urgently needed medical care.

Are you prepared for this to happen?

I already wrote about the dangerously unprepared state of our hospitals to take on patients. You can read about that in my first blog here: https://wp.me/p7aEcB-q3

It is far more desperate than most people realize.

I see stats that 80% of people will only experience mild symptoms. This is true. This number makes us feel comfortable. It stops us from panicking. It gives us a warm feeling that we’re going to be okay. Well, the other 20% will require hospitalization. One-quarter of those will need a ventilator. Three quarters will need supplemental oxygen to breathe. To avoid a feeling that will be the same feeling as drowning to death. How many ventilators do you think we have? What happens when you need one and they’re all occupied? What will you do to get one? How far will you or your loved ones go to get one when you’re dying?

I’m not saying this terrifying scenario will happen for sure. Obviously, nobody can make that prediction. I’m saying that the odds of this happening has drastically increased from this time last month. Mid-February, I would have said there was about a .1% chance of the above happening. Now, I think it’s about 100 times more likely. I’m putting it at 10% right now. I don’t know about you, but I make serious preparations for 10% likelihoods when its my life, and the lives of my loved ones on the line.

Take a look at these charts from Worldometers.info:

This is a linear graph of the growth of the number of cases in the United States. This is not unexpected, as we did a criminally poor job of implementing testing in the beginning of this pandemic (and really still are doing terrible) and everybody expected confirmed cases to grow exponentially as testing became more and more prevalent. But take a look at this one:

This chart shows the exponential growth of deaths in the United States. This is much more accurate because the number of confirmed cases of the virus is almost certainly much higher than the first chart will ever show, at least until this pandemic is over. We just won’t be able to keep up.

This mortality chart and this line in particular is scary. This is not going to slow down. This exponential growth is our future for at least the next 4-6 weeks, and possibly longer. On March 1st, there was one death in the U.S. On March 7th, there were 19. On March 12th, there are already 41. This last week showed exponential growth, exactly what we saw in China and Italy. This doubling is happening faster than the report I made on Sunday that predicted it to double every six days. Even at that rate, which is now very conservative, on March 18th we will have 80 deaths. 160 on March 24th. 320 on March 30th. 640 on April 5th. 1280 on April 11th. 2500+ on April 17th. 5000 on April 23rd. 10,000 on April 29th. This is when it gets really scary. This is when the conspiracy theorists will finally stop saying “it’s just the flu, guys.” Because…

By late-middle May we will hit 100,000 deaths.

These are conservative numbers. Let that sink in. And, if warmer weather doesn’t slow the virus down, it will be much worse.

Are you prepared for somebody close to you to die and nobody to show up to collect the body? Are you prepared to handle medical emergencies when the aid cars don’t arrive? Are you prepared for stores to be out of food or to limit food purchases? Do you have at least thirty days of food and supplies on hand? Because if this virus doesn’t start to go away as summer approaches and the northern hemisphere warms up, doubling from this point on gets truly scary. Exponential growth is great when you bought 10,000 Bitcoin in 2002 for 12 cents. It sucks when we’re talking about people dying.

I don’t want to be right about these numbers. I’ve already fed my overblown ego plenty from all of my earlier predictions, thank you very much. But, if I am right, are you prepared for the worst? Do you have neighbors, family, friends, coworkers who can’t take care of themselves, who shouldn’t be out of their house right now, who are elderly, who don’t have enough food to get through the next month? If so, can you help them out? Because, if you can’t, there’s a good chance they will be dead next month.

Life as we knew it is on hold for the next few months at least. Everything is different right now. Get comfortable with this new reality so that you aren’t left shaking your head in denial, at risk of more than just the coronavirus; a victim waiting for somebody to wake you up from your nightmare.

Be prepared for the worst-case scenario. If it doesn’t come, you have a little extra food and supplies laying around. If it does come, you just might survive it.

Bay 101 is being negligently irresponsible

Right now, hundreds of poker players are making their way to the Bay 101 casino in San Jose, California to play in the annual Bay 101 Shooting Star event, one of the favorite and most fun events on tour, and one that many in the poker world look forward to each year. At a time when most large gatherings are being canceled around the world, management at Bay 101 has decided to spit in the face of science and logic and run their event anyway. I think this is an incredibly irresponsible decision.

Already in the city of San Jose, gatherings of 1000 people or more are banned, and Bay 101 expects their numbers will be well below that, even counting staff, observers, and other casino patrons.

But just because you can legally do something doesn’t mean that you should.

Just up the road in San Francisco, gatherings of just 250 or more people are banned. What’s the difference between San Francisco and San Jose? Well, about fifty miles and apparently decision makers who are much more proactive. Banning gatherings of 1000 people or more is a good start, but kind of a joke if our desire is to slow the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. Having hundreds of people gathered together right now is more than just irresponsible; its negligence, denial, and selfishness.

I understand that cancelling an event that is going to bring a lot of money to your company is a tough decision. It’s a decision that many companies have already had to make and one that many, many more will be making in the near future. Caesars hasn’t yet spoken about what’s going to happen to the World Series of Poker, but there’s no way it’s going to play out as scheduled. And that is going to cost a lot of money to a lot of people. If Bay 101 cancels this tournament there will be financial ramifications to more than just the casino. Dealers, staff, cooks, valets, maids, janitors, waitresses, and many more will all suffer. That’s unfortunate, but that’s the decision that should have been made.

A poker table is a virus’s wet dream. At a time when Harvard has canceled all classes because their original decision, to cancel lectures of 150 or more students, was not aggressive enough, Bay 101 is going to have hundreds of people sitting shoulder to shoulder and passing little, round, clay petri dishes and small, rectangular, plastic virus condominiums back and forth between them for 10 hours straight. They’ll be coughing, sneezing, eating at the table, licking their fingers, and spraying microbes directly into their neighbors faces with every conversation.

This is utter lunacy.

To completely ignore what’s happening in the world right now, this PANDEMIC that is spreading unchecked in this country, is pure negligence. Harvard doesn’t think 150 people should sit in the same room for 45 minutes, but Bay 101 thinks it’s fine to jam hundreds together playing pass-the-germ-frisbees for 10 hours a day for several days straight.

Extrapolating on some numbers here: Last year there were 440 entrants in the main event. Assuming this year will be lower because at least some people out there aren’t stupid enough to go to a poker tournament right now, there will nonetheless be hundreds of players, dealers, waitstaff, other gamblers, observers (it’s the most popular tournament on the tour for observers too) and others in the room. If there is only a 1 in 10,000 chance that any one person in this country has the virus, then there is about a 10% chance that somebody in that room right now is carrying the coronavirus. If someone in there has the virus, they will infect many others. And if it’s one of the players or dealers who has it, they will infect dozens if not scores of others. There’s no getting around it.

This is a novel virus. If you come into contact with it, you catch it. There’s no, “Oh, I’m healthy and my immune system is tops, bro,” with a novel virus. Nobody has immunity, everybody gets it. 100%. A lot of older people are poker players and dealers, wait staff, etc. If this virus spreads to just a dozen people in that casino, those dozen will spread it to scores, those scores will spread it to hundreds, then to thousands, etc.

There’s a real chance that people will die because this tournament runs for the next few days.

It’s time to wake up, people. This is happening and it is real. It’s time for some real tough decisions to be made. This is not one of those tough decisions. This should have been an easy one.

Bay 101 should have been cancelled.

Coronavirus update and predictions, part two!

It’s Tuesday, March 10, 2020 at 1800 PT, and the U.S. response to the Covid-19 outbreak has improved drastically. Unfortunately, there are still many people in denial. Still many people posting flu death numbers and comparing them to the currently minimal number of deaths from this coronavirus. This includes our president, who almost certainly doesn’t actually believe this, but is (rightfully) very concerned about his election chances if the economy crashes.

Unfortunately, too many people just don’t understand why a good number of reasonable people are so concerned. They say its news generated fear, Democratic driven panic designed to undermine Trump so they can win the election. They don’t believe in science and math and the idea that viruses are not all the same.

The problem is that people don’t quite understand that the numbers we’re seeing RIGHT NOW are not what is actually happening right now. We have a time machine here. When we see the infection and mortality numbers, we’re actually looking 7-14 days into the past. And, looking into the past and extrapolating forward with no concept of the power of exponential growth is just dangerous. People are starting to get it, but unfortunately, not enough people are understanding it quickly enough.

As I write this, the NCAA has just announced that there is no plan to change any aspect of March Madness, including the massive crowds expected at every venue. Trump literally announced less than an hour ago that he would be holding a Catholics for Trump rally in Milwaukee in 9 days with Catholics from around the country. (Spoiler alert and prediction number one…it won’t happen!) The denial is just scary.

So, in an attempt to put more of my reputation on the line, I have a few more predictions. These are in addition to the predictions I made in my last blog here: https://authorrickfuller.com/2020/03/08/donald-trump-doesnt-want-you-to-know-this-critical-information/

My new predictions:

  1. Airlines will stop selling middle seats in an attempt to get people to feel more comfortable flying.
  2. Fast food restaurants will start closing their dining areas and offering drive-through service only. The window servers will wear masks for appearance sake.
  3. Major sporting events that will postpone/cancel:
  4. The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500
  5. The Kentucky Derby
  6. The Masters
  7. The NFL draft will still happen on schedule but will be closed to the public.
  8. The NCAA will finally make the decision to play March Madness without spectators. People will be angry because they waited so long to make the call.
  9. States will commandeer stadiums and convention centers to start setting up temporary Covid-19 only hospitals.
  10. Congress will extend its Spring Break next week and will not return to session until at least the middle of April out of, “an abundance of caution.”
  11. Governors will release low-level offenders from prisons in order to limit the chances of a massive infection happening in the crowded quarters. This will happen after the first reports of an infected prisoner, probably next week.
  12. Trump will float the idea that the election might need to be postponed. He will face backlash from both sides. He will say that he was only joking.
  13. Bodies will begin to pile up as infected patients die and there’s nobody to transport them because of a lack of protective equipment and protocols. This will be a huge wakeup to everybody.
  14. State unemployment agencies will begin issuing benefits to those who are quarantined.
  15. Churches? No services for a while, folks. They will be broadcast on live streaming applications.
  16. There will be a community in America that has zero cases. It’s mathematically certain to happen, yet it will be big news and some talking head will decide a report needs to be done on why there are no cases in that one area. Locals in that community will come up with some crackpot concept like, “We have really good water here,” or, “Coal miners are tougher than your average folk.”

Now, a few things that will be implemented in Las Vegas, one of the areas that will be absolutely devastated by this outbreak. After all, Vegas is nothing but a mirage, providing nothing of value but entertainment and built on a lie that you might get lucky and rich. We rely on crowds and crowds are about to become as appealing as licking a cube of plutonium.

  1. Resort fees will be eliminated (temporarily of course)
  2. Blackjack tables will be limited to two players per table to maintain separation
  3. Dice will be changed and disinfected between shooters at every craps table
  4. Every other slot machine will be closed. Employees will be designated to clean machines after every gambler quits.
  5. Employees will be designated to stand at elevator banks and entrances with sanitizer in an effort to pretend they’re taking steps to control things.
  6. “This room has been thoroughly sanitized” signs will appear in all rooms.
  7. McCarren airport will reduce or eliminate landing fees (subsidized by the casinos) for all commercial flights.
  8. Massive hiring of doormen will occur. No casino door will need to be touched by a patron.
  9. Unfortunately, all Vegas shows that seat more than 100 will be canceled, and probably very soon. It’s possible that larger venues will try to sell every other seat or something along those lines, but they’ll quickly realize that doesn’t work.
  10. Casinos will understand that summers are hot in Vegas. They will begin a massive marketing scheme to encourage visitors to show up starting in July. They will write off quarter two and stocks will suffer temporarily. Casinos will turn up their A/C in an effort to make the place warmer and less conducive to viruses. The LVCVA will come up with some type of brilliant marketing tag similar to “What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas” in order to bring people in.

The bad part of making predictions is that although in a vacuum it’s devastating if these things happen, I still feel validated when my prediction comes true, which means I end up secretly hoping for them to happen so I can get that validation. It’s not a good feeling, but luckily I’m fully stocked on alcohol so I can drown the confliction nightly.

Signed,

NostradamRick

Donald Trump doesn’t want you to know this CRITICAL INFORMATION!!

Today is Sunday, March 8th, 2020 and it’s 1500 hours PST as I write this. This is important because at the end of this, I’m going to make some predictions and I want to make sure everybody can reference this so y’all can laugh at me if I’m wrong. (Which I dearly hope that I am.) I know your cousin Bob, who once banged a nurse who told him everybody was overreacting and the regular flu is much worse, believes that the news media are the ones driving this panic in an attempt to undermine his Savior, Donald Trump, but I’m hoping to show you why he’s wrong.

It has now been just three months since a newly mutated virus began sickening people associated with a live, wild-animal, “wet market” in the city of Wuhan, China. This virus was quickly identified as “novel” – a new strain of Coronavirus, a family of viruses that cause respiratory sickness in animals and humans. Coronaviruses themselves are not new – we’ve seen them migrate from animals to humans in outbreaks like MERS and SARS in the last couple of decades. None of those previous outbreaks have been as dangerous as this new one, now called COVID-19. (which is simply short for Coronavirus Disease 2019)

I’m writing this because of the incredible amount of disinformation that keeps getting shoved into the faces of the public on social media platforms. I should state up front, that I’m not an alarmist. I didn’t worry too much about MERS, SARS, H1N1, Ebola, or any other outbreaks of infectious disease in my lifetime. I’ve never bothered to get a flu shot. I went to the doctor last month for the first time in twenty years. I just simply don’t worry about many of the things normal people do. When I first began tracking this latest outbreak while it was still confined to China and there were not yet any cases in the rest of the world, I wasn’t any more concerned than I had been from any of the previous viral outbreaks.

Right up until the end of January when I first heard the rumblings that this virus could possibly spread asymptomatically. This made it immediately different.

Asymptomatic spread of a virus is rare, unusual, and deadly. It’s the kind of scenario that doomsday books like The Stand are based on. I took a few basic steps. I stocked up on supplies, began washing my hands multiple times a day, disinfected doorknobs, remotes, and light switches, made plans to get out of Las Vegas if I needed to, and began warning loved ones that this virus had the potential to be a pandemic. It’s not that I had any inside information, just that I had the time to actually study all of the first-hand reports coming out of Wuhan, and I extrapolated information from the suspicion that it was incredibly likely China was not being completely forthcoming with statistics.

As of this writing, there are now more than 500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in America, and more than 100,000 around the world, with deaths having just reached 3500. Big deal, right? As many, many people have loudly informed me, influenza, the common flu, kills many times more people than that each and every year, yet we hear nothing about that, we don’t worry, we don’t stockpile toilet paper, and the stock market doesn’t crash. These people ultimately come to the conclusion that this is nothing more than media-generated hype and unwarranted panic. There are so many problems and fallacies with that line of thinking that I’m astounded at the naivete of otherwise smart people who keep spouting it. Here are the problems with comparing this virus to influenza:

The problem with comparing COVID-19 to other viruses such as Influenza:

One of the biggest problems here is that influenza tends to kill only those who are already very sick or immune-compromised. It’s very difficult to actually catch it if you’re a healthy person who takes even the slightest of precautions. We also have a vaccine for it. It’s called the flu shot, and doctors have been recommending that people get it for decades. We have NOTHING to stop the spread of COVID-19, and most doctors agree that a safe, tested, effective vaccine is at least a year to eighteen months away.

The mortality rate of influenza is about .1 percent. That means one person will die for every 1000 who contract the common flu virus. The mortality rate of COVID-19 is probably around 2%, however, estimates vary greatly between 1.5% and 3.5%. (more on this later) This means COVID-19 kills at a rate at least 20 times that of the common flu, and that alone should be enough to scare you. (virologists say the death rate of the flu in the U.S. last year was more like .05%, which means COVID-19 is at least 40 times more deadly.) However, people rightfully point out that the death rate of SARS was about 10%, and the death rate of MERS was a terrifying 35%. This means that the death rate of COVID-19 is really unconcerning to them. So, why do I think this is a dangerous and naïve way to think about this?

It has to do with what’s known as the R-naught (R₀) rate.

R-naught is a complicated mathematical formula that takes many factors into account and derives a number that signifies the number of people a sick person will infect. For influenza, the R₀ is 1.3, so each infected person will infect 1.3 people on average, however, R₀ really only applies when a population is completely vulnerable to the disease, meaning nobody has been vaccinated and there’s no way to control the spread of the disease. This doesn’t really apply to the common strains of the flu virus, so this number is a bit misleading.

It DOES apply to COVID-19 though, as it is a new (novel) Coronavirus that has never before been seen. Nobody has immunity to it, and there is no vaccine. The R₀ rate of COVID-19 is estimated to be in the range of 2.2 to 3.0. This means every infected person will pass the Coronavirus on to between 2.2 and 3 other people.

THIS IS WHAT’S MOST TERRIFYING ABOUT THIS OUTBREAK.

To put this number into perspective, H1N1, the Swine Flu in 2009 had an estimated R₀ of 1.4-1.8.

H1N1 ended up infecting one-fifth of the entire population of the world.

The only reason many of us are alive to read this today was that the mortality rate of H1N1 was about .02 percent, meaning that even though more than 1.5 billion people caught the virus, only about 2 in every 10,000 died.

               If a virus like H1N1 can infect one-fifth of the world with an R₀ of 1.6, imagine how many people will be infected from a virus with an R₀ that might be double that?

An argument that many people make when faced with some of these numbers is that the numbers must be off because China has controlled the spread of the virus with relatively few deaths. And, if we assume that China is being forthright (which they probably are…WHO doctors are in the epicenter and are now confirming most of China’s numbers) these people have a point. However, here’s what China did to control the spread of COVID-19.

  1. They built two brand new Coronavirus-only hospitals in the epicenter of Wuhan in just over one week. These hospitals added 2300 dedicated beds and were staffed with hundreds of healthcare workers from all over the country.
  2. They initiated an ambitious and aggressive plan to account for every single person who had contact with every single known infected person. This involved at least 1800 teams of 5 or more persons whose sole responsibility was to track down every single person an infected person had had any contact with, interview them, test them for the virus, and isolate them if they had symptoms or tested positive. By most accounts, these teams were able to track down and test more than 99% of the people who had any contact with an infected person. In some jurisdictions they found every single contact, 100% of them.

I need to repeat that because it’s incredible. More than 1800 teams of at least 5 people per team tracked down more than 99% of all contacts from each infected person and gave them instant tests. They have administered more than 100,000 instant Coronavirus tests to date and continue to implement this strategy.

  1. They instituted compulsory lockdown and quarantine of more than 60 million citizens. This lockdown was enforced by police, military, and a bunch of government tracking apps that exist in China. These apps are widely used by Chinese citizens and utilize a traffic light type system of color codes, green, yellow, and red, that lets guards at checkpoints, railways, bus depots, airports, metro stations, etc., immediately see if that person is supposed to be out and about or is restricted from traveling.
  2. They implemented aggressive and forced social distancing measures for anybody not under quarantine that kept people from congregating. They canceled sporting events, shuttered theaters, and closed schools and holiday celebrations. They forced anybody who had to go outside to wear masks, utilizing an incredible stockpile they had on hand.

Can you imagine any of these things happening in the United States? I can’t. So, when you tell me that China was able to control the spread of the virus so the U.S. ought to be able to do at least as good a job as they did, it makes me literally laugh out loud. At the risk of being compared to Bernie Sanders’ love of authoritarian dictatorships, there are some benefits to having full government control of a population. We will never be able to implement the draconian measures we see the Chinese doing, and constitutionally, I’m not sure we’re even legally capable of some of them, regardless of the state of emergency we may find ourselves in. We aren’t remotely implementing any of the steps they took so quickly, despite our advanced knowledge of the problem. While China and Italy are locking down their citizens in a panic to stop the spread of this disease, hippies in California are meeting to decide whether or not Coachella should still happen!

Talk about denial. We aren’t tracking down any contacts of infectious persons except in the most severe cases. We aren’t testing anybody unless they’re admitted to the hospital with severe symptoms. As of last week, symptomatic people were being denied testing because there still weren’t enough tests available, and all tests needed to be confirmed by the CDC, a process that took days. We can’t even get people to quarantine themselves even when the health department orders it. Just today there was a report of a quarantined person who decided to leave his house to attend a school function for his child, and nothing happened to him legally! There’s little doubt in my mind that we will soon have a significantly worse outbreak than China ever saw.

Part of the problem for the U.S. is that our leadership is downplaying the significance of this threat, and too many people take that at face value. In Italy just in the last few days, they’ve implemented forced quarantines and lockdowns of infected areas, measures that are considered mostly unthinkable in democratic countries, but something that is absolutely necessary if we’re to avoid disaster. Remember, H1N1 infected one-fifth of the world with an R₀ rate that’s probably half what Covid-19 has. Even if Covid-19 has the same R₀ rate of 1.6 and it ONLY infects one-fifth of the globe, the mortality rate of H1N1 was 1/100th the (conservative) estimated mortality rate of Covid-19. H1N1 killed an estimated >200,000 people worldwide. Based on these numbers, Covid-19 might kill as many as 20 million people in the next year.

So, I’m healthy, young(ish) and probably not going to be one of the ones who dies if I contract Covid-19. The virus mostly only kills the elderly, immuno-compromised, or the already sick, so why am I worried?

Well, it’s been shown so far that approximately 20% of the people who contract the Coronavirus require hospitalization. Of those, 25% need full-on respirator life-support function, and the other 75% need supplemental oxygen. Since we refuse to accept the severity of this outbreak and we can’t even test people who want to be tested, or enforce any kind of quarantine, it won’t be long before we have thousands of people on respirators in isolation ICU’s around the country.

The doubling rate for infections for this disease seems to be about every six days. There’s little doubt in my mind that a reported confirmed case number of 550 in the U.S. when we’re only testing those who are admitted to a hospital, signifies an actual number of infections that’s at least 10 times that. Let’s say there are 5000 infections currently, and that doubles every six days. By next Saturday, March 14th, there will be 10,000 infected persons (though the official number will be much lower, we aren’t testing anybody not in a hospital right now.) By March 20th there will be 20,000, by the 26th, 40,000, and by the end of May there will be 80 million people infected in this country. This is the power of exponential growth that so many people undervalue, sort of like that game you played as a kid where you told your buddy, “I’ll give you a million dollars in thirty days if you give me one penny and double it every day for a month” and the moron jumped at that chance and still owes you millions of dollars today.

Doubling can’t happen forever of course, so let’s say that there are only 10 million cases by the end of May. Two million of them will need to be hospitalized. How many of you think our health care system can handle an influx of two million people (conservatively) in the next two months? The U.S. has about one million hospital beds total. At any given time, about 65% are in use. That means there are approximately 350,000 beds available at any given time. With the numbers above, we can expect hospitals to start turning patients away sometime around the end of April, right when things are reaching their most dire. Not a good time to be in need of a respirator, that’s for sure.

Of those 10 million infections, approximately 250,000 will die, and that’s before we take into account the thousands more who will die because they can’t get the life support they need because hospitals have had to resort to taking only the most dire cases, leaving many thousands to die gasping for breath, or of other diseases that might have otherwise been treatable in saner times.

Still think the regular flu is worse?

In addition to this, our economy will collapse. The stock market is already in a slump and the Fed pulled the plug on a 50 bp drop that was designed to stop a crash but was premature, not well thought-out, and completely ineffective. There aren’t many bullets left in that chamber, and besides, there’s no way they’ll keep up with the exponential growth we’re going to see with this infection.

Earlier I claimed I would talk more about the wide spread in the mortality rate, estimated at between 1.5 and 3.5 percent. This rate is so wide because we don’t have very good numbers of infections. Many of the infections very well may result in only mild symptoms and can easily be mistaken for a bad cold, or for the common flu. Many of the symptoms of Covid-19 mimic those of the regular flu, and it isn’t until severe respiratory symptoms set in that many people end up being admitted to the hospital and given the actual test. Since most of the people who get infected don’t have symptoms severe enough to be admitted to the hospital and get tested, the number of infections are almost certainly much higher than reported, which means that the mortality rate is lower. Our hope is that the mortality rate is much lower. Anything under 1% would be a godsend. If it truly is as high as 2 or 3 percent, we’re pretty much fucked.

So, what’s going to happen?

Here are my predictions, bold, loud, and public. (Dear God, I hope I’m wrong about all of these.)

  1. The WHO will declare Covid-19 a global pandemic by the end of this week, middle of next week at the latest.
  2. Within two weeks, the U.S. will begin prohibiting all public gatherings of greater than some random number like 500 or 1000. This means that sporting events, including March Madness, NBA games, MLB games, PGA tour events, etc., will be played for TV only, with no audience. Festivals like Coachella will be cancelled. The World Series of Poker will be postponed, probably until August to start, in the hopes that the warm weather of summer helps to control the spread of the virus.
  3. The U.S. will pass China in number of confirmed infections by April 15th.
  4. The Summer Olympics in Japan will be postponed until next year.
  5. The stock market is going to crash. I predict it will lose 1000 points tomorrow (Monday, March 9th, 2020) and 3500 points by the closing bell on Friday. I predict it will be down 10,000 from its current price of 26,000 by the end of May.
  6. We will officially be in a recession by the 15th of April.
  7. Globally, we will be in a depression by June 1st as markets everywhere crash.
  8. Summertime in the northern hemisphere will greatly curtail the virus and numbers will begin to decline. The economy will begin to recover.
  9. The democrats will defeat Donald Trump in November, a man whose only real redeeming quality has been the economy, and whose administration has massively bungled and downplayed the response to this epidemic, a big swing from the incredible foresight that went into prohibiting entry to all travelers from China so early in this disaster. The polarization in his decision-making here is actually kind of astounding.

Like I said, I really hope I’m wrong about all of this, because this could be the worst pandemic in living memory, possibly as bad, or worse, than the Spanish Flu, another H1N1 virus in 1918 which infected about 27% of the world, and may have killed as many as 100 million people at a time when the global population was one-quarter of the population of today.

I really hope I’m wrong, but in case I’m right, are you at least as prepared as OJ Simpson?