Friday, July 24, 2020

Selective coronavirus reporting creates confusion

As time passes we become aware of more and more “oddities” related to the coronavirus pandemic. Cutting appropriate slack for the doctors and other healthcare authorities who advised President Donald Trump and the nation on how to respond to the crisis, it was a new virus and little was known about it. We can hardly get huffy about the mistakes made early on, and to some extent, even those that persist.

Even so, dramatic mistakes were made, and playing Monday morning quarterback shows that the reactions were — and are — over-the-top, and quite harmful, in many instances.

The shutdowns closed thousands of businesses, many permanently, put tens of millions of people out of work, and contributed to deaths and other health problems not directly related to COVID-19, as elective surgeries were cancelled, and needed appointments were cancelled by people afraid to go to see a doctor, or who were afraid to go to the hospital when they were ill.

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 48 percent of Americans said they or a family member canceled or delayed medical care because of the pandemic, and 11 percent said the person’s condition worsened as a result of the delayed care. Some died.

We have problems with the reporting of COVID-19 data. Media reports focus on “cases” and “deaths,” to the near exclusion of negative tests and recoveries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rules allow people who die “with” the virus to be counted along with those who die “because of” the virus, expanding the number of deaths attributed to the virus by some unknown amount.

Furthermore, according to the CDC, a positive test allows for the chance that antibodies from a virus in the same family of viruses as COVID-19, like the common cold, were found. And, if a person tests positive for the virus, and is tested periodically to determine when he/she is no longer positive, each of those positive tests goes into the positive test count until the person tests negative. How many of the positive tests result from this repeat testing practice?

A virus test that is positive is called a “case.” That implies to many people that each “case” is an illness, that people who test positive are sick. But many who test positive experience only mild symptoms, or no symptoms whatsoever.

And then, there is this: The Florida Department of Health released its daily coronavirus testing report on July 14 showing a statewide positivity rate of 11 percent. But WOFL-TV (FOX 35) in Orlando reported, “Countless labs have reported a 100 percent positivity rate, meaning every single person tested was positive.

“Other labs had very high positivity rates. FOX 35 News found that testing sites like one local Centra Care reported that 83 people were tested and all tested positive. Then, NCF Diagnostics in Alachua reported 88 percent of tests were positive. How could that be?”

An investigation into these hard-to-believe results showed that Orlando Health’s 98 percent positivity rate was wrong. When the station contacted the hospital, it corrected the positivity rate to only 9.4 percent.

Orlando Veteran’s Medical Center reported a positivity rate of 76 percent. But, again, a spokesperson for the Medical Center told FOX 35 News that the positivity rate for the Center is actually 6 percent.

How often do such “errors” occur?

Florida, of course, has seen dramatic increases in actual positive tests, but on the positive side, the state’s nation-leading increase in positive tests is not matched by a nation-leading increase in deaths, so far.

One Florida death was a man in his 20s who died in a motorcycle accident, but was classified as a COVID death. FOX 35 News received a statement from the Florida Department of Health attempting to clarify how a "COVID death" is determined. If, "COVID19 is listed as the immediate or underlying cause of death, or listed as one of the significant conditions contributing to death. Or, if there is a confirmed COVID-19 infection from a lab test – and the cause of death doesn’t meet exclusion criteria – like trauma, suicide, homicide, overdose, motor-vehicle accident, etc."

Despite the latter point, this death was classified as a COVID death.

Here are some relevant data from as of July 19, 2020. The overwhelming majority of data comes from local or state/territorial public health authorities:
Total tests = 44,968,536
Positive tests = 3,962,061
Negative tests = 41,273,443
Test results pending = 3,032
Total hospitalized = 276,439
Total deaths = 132,395

These data show that only 8.3 percent of total tests are positive; that only 7.5 percent of those testing positive become hospitalized; that 3.6 percent of those testing positive succumb to the virus.

Also, fewer than half of those hospitalized — 7.5 percent of those testing positive — succumb to the disease, and 96.4 percent of those testing positive survive.

The selective choosing of which data to report can — and does — create a particular response: fear.

It would be far better — and far more responsible — to report the whole range of data so that the public will have a broad set of data on which to base its reaction.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Sometimes it is good to know a bit more about the people serving us

If you follow politics, you know that politicos are in the news all the time, and they are highlighted for the supposed good and the alleged bad they do. Much of the bad they allegedly do, unless they are Republicans, is kept quiet, however.

Herewith some of the insider info on two of them.

Rep. Ilhan Abdullahi Omar, D-MN, says America is a giant “system of oppression” needing an immediate “dismantling” far beyond current calls for criminal justice reform. She told constituents recently that most national conversations fail to realize the size and scope of change she envisions, as reported by the Washington Times.

“We can’t stop at criminal justice reform or policing reform,” she said during a press conference. “We are not merely fighting to tear down the systems of oppression in the criminal justice system. We are fighting to tear down systems of oppression that exist in housing, in education, in health care, in employment, [and] in the air we breathe.”

She wants the US to “guarantee homes for all,” due to what she thinks are racial disparities in home ownership. And she supports the Green New Deal because “we know that environmental racism is real.”

“As long as our economy and political systems prioritize profit without considering who is profiting, who is being shut out, we will perpetuate this inequality. So, we cannot stop at [the] criminal justice system. We must begin the work of dismantling the whole system of oppression wherever we find it.”

These aren’t the words of your every-day regressive liberal/socialist, these are the words of someone whose family fled their home country, lived as refugees for four years, and eventually came to America and earned asylum. Why did her family choose America?

Omar was born in Mogadishu, Somalia. Her family fled the country’s civil war when she was eight-years-old, lived in a refugee camp in Kenya for four years before coming to the United States in 1992. Her father drove a taxi for some time before getting a job with the US Postal Service. They secured asylum in 1995 and eventually settled in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Omar became a citizen in 2000.

Having been in such horrible circumstances that they had to flee their native country to another poor African country, and then coming to the United States, where so many in similar circumstances yearn to be, it is an interesting question as to why she wants to change everything in the country her family worked so hard to come to for relief. It would not be unfair to expect her to be a thankful immigrant.

But she is not.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, also a Democrat, has generated a great deal of news since the pandemic began. But who, exactly, is this guy?

De Blasio wasn’t known as “Bill de Blasio” until January 2002. He was born Warren Wilhelm Jr., but changed his name in 1983 to Warren de Blasio-Wilhelm. The reason he gave was to honor his mother’s Italian heritage. He received court approval to officially change his name again in 2002 to a name he had been using, and became the Bill de Blasio we have all come to know and love.

He has indulged in some things along the way that would cause many folks to raise an eyebrow. For example, he supported the socialist Sandinista government in Nicaragua during the 1980s.

De Blasio opposed the Supreme Court’s decision to allow corporations, political nonprofits and trade associations more freedom to donate to political campaigns. But he is less fervent against labor unions, like the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), donating to campaigns. In fact, the 1199 SEIU New York State Political Action Fund and the SEIU Local 1957 Committee of Interns and Residents supported de Blasio to the tune of $14,850 in 2017.

And while he decries big money in politics, he quietly collects money from anti-American George Soros and his family. A large group of the Soros clan helped him win his first mayoral campaign to the tune of $29,875. Soros and two of his sons gave $12,400 to a subsequent mayoral campaign.

The way he operated his campaign earned him a healthy fine from the New York City Campaign Finance Board, of nearly $48,000 in 2016. The violations included failing to report transactions, accepting over-the-limit contributions and taking contributions from unregistered political committees.

De Blasio ran for the Democrat presidential nomination beginning in May of 2019, was critical of fellow candidate and former vice president, Joe Biden, but dropped out in September when his candidacy failed to get traction.

It is also interesting to note the number of media people associated with the Democrats.

Jay Carney went from Time to the White House press secretary's office. Shailagh Murray went from the Washington Post to the Vice President's office while married to Neil King at the Wall Street Journal. Neil King left the Wall Street Journal for Fusion GPS. Linda Douglass went from ABC News to the White House, then to the Atlantic. Jill Zuckman went from the Chicago Tribune to the to the State Department. Stephen Barr went from the Post to the Labor Department.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Seattle, Washington’s CHAZ/CHOP experience: A cautionary tale

The takeover of six blocks of Seattle, Washington early last month as a protest of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis, Minnesota police was allowed to stand by the Seattle mayor, Jenny Durkan.

Perhaps she truly believed that allowing a group to hijack an area of her city, given the current riotous atmosphere in the country, was the best way to address the problem. Maybe the protesters would get tired in a few days of living without the normal comforts of life, and the small price those who lived, worked or owned businesses in the area had to pay was worth it. Or, perhaps she was just afraid to do her job, as she was expected to do.

Durkan characterized the Capitol Hill area as a place where people often express themselves. Defending her decision, after visiting the area where she had spoken with organizers, she said it was a place where people, including police officers, come and go freely.

She is not the only one who attempted to paint a rosy picture of the goings-on. A reporter for MSNBC termed the atmosphere there as “almost like a street festival.” His characterization was immediately disputed by an unhappy protester who said, “No, it is not a street festival! It is not a street festival! It is not a street festival! Do not say that!”

The mob of thousands that took control of the area -- which included a police precinct that was willingly abandoned by the mayor, in a move to defuse the situation -- called the area the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ). Later, the CHAZ was renamed the CHOP, which had two different, but similar translations: Capitol Hill Occupied Protest or Capitol Hill Organized Protest.

As should have been expected, what Durkan called “a summer of love” turned bad rather quickly. The takeover should have been met with immediate action by the city’s elected leaders and the police department. But the takeover was allowed to stand.

Judging by what transpired in the CHAZ/CHOP, a more appropriate name for it would have been the Capital Hill Anarchy Zone.

The mostly peaceful daytime hours devolved as darkness fell, with violence growing as time passed. Graffiti on streets and buildings, trash and other things left in the street, robberies, assaults and other violent crimes, including three serious injuries from shootings, and two black teenagers who were shot to death.

Horace Lorenzo Anderson, Sr., the father of Lorenzo Anderson, Jr. the 19-year-old boy who was murdered on June 21, said that neither the mayor nor anyone in the city administration notified him of his son’s murder. He heard about it from two of his son’s friends who happened to be in the area. He criticized local officials for failing to stop the violence sooner.

Durkan reacted to the shootings by noting that the CHAZ had grown less safe instead of safer over time, and the effect on the surrounding community had not been positive. Was that not absolutely predictable?

“The cumulative impacts of the gatherings and protests and the nighttime atmosphere and violence has led to increasingly difficult circumstances for our businesses and residents,” she said. “The impacts have increased and the safety has decreased.” She ordered the area cleared.

Seattle police chief Carmen Best said: “This order, and our police response, comes after weeks of violence in and around the Capital Hill Occupied Protest zone, including four shootings, resulting in multiple injuries and the deaths of two teenagers.”

And so, the end of something that should never have started finally came about. At least 13 people were arrested.

And, guess what? Durkan called for charges to be dismissed against those who were arrested for misdemeanors. She also said that the community garden and artworks that protesters created would be saved.

However, businesses and property owners affected by the CHAZ have filed a federal lawsuit against the city claiming officials’ tolerance of the CHAZ deprived property owners of their rights by allowing the zone to exist.

Perhaps it was just a coincidence that the mayor awakened to the problem shortly after the “summer of love” street party rioters showed up at her home. A female member of the BLM mob told KING-TV, "We came down to Jenny Durkan's mansion to bring the demands of the movement and of the families who have been impacted by police violence, uh, to her doorstep and she seems to not be able to hear our demands any other way."

The leftists in Black Lives Matter and Antifa seem to think mob violence is the way to control the narrative. And, based upon many non-responses to mob violence, it seems to be working.

Giving in to the mob in Seattle and elsewhere has allowed much destruction and many injuries, and two deaths. But the complacency that allows the riots to continue seems at last to be waning.

It is perhaps too much to hope that the leftists will learn from this cautionary tale, but the country will certainly be far and away better off if they do. In any case, the lawlessness must be stopped.

Friday, July 03, 2020

The cancel culture judges America by her mistakes, not her strengths

As the nation watches the riots and criminal behavior that evolved from protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, Black Lives Matter (BLM) has turned its attention to removing monuments to personalities from the Civil War that led to the end of slavery in the United States with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1865.

But the mission to take down these monuments was confused from the beginning. It could have been a civil effort to have the “offending” items removed legally by petitioning the appropriate government agencies or property owners on which the statues reside, which is the proper way to do things. The statues could have been moved to museums or other places, if the proper authorities agreed with the petitioners.

But that wasn’t good enough for the cancel culture, which felt that the things must be removed now! And so, rioters — not protesters or demonstrators — turned their criminal behavior to destroying these historical items.

In addition to the monuments to southern Civil War personalities, they also blindly go after some who were on the same side of the slavery case as they are.

The statue of Ulysses S. Grant is one example. Grant was the 18th President of the United States following the Civil War, from 1869 to 1877. But more illustrative of what a magnificent error it was to take down his statue, Grant was the Commanding General of the U.S. Army that defeated the hated Confederates — the targets of BLM — and won the Civil War, leading to emancipation of the slaves.

An even more astonishing mistake is the threatening to take down the Emancipation Memorial. Because this memorial features the likeness of Abraham Lincoln with a black man, Archer Alexander, in chains at his feet, it is regarded by the rioters as a symbol of slavery.

The former slave and now-famous American Frederick Douglass, however, predicted that members of his race “will think of [the Memorial] and speak of it with a sense of manly pride.”

Rather than being a passive, submissive slave, the Memorial was in fact designed to show Alexander at Lincoln’s feet exerting his own strength to break the chains that bound him.

Douglas said, “We have done a good for our race today. In doing honor to the memory of our friend and liberator [Lincoln], we have been doing highest honors to ourselves and those who come after us,” and “we may calmly point to the monument we have this day erected to the memory of Abraham Lincoln.”

And then there is Charlotte Scott, a former slave freed by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, who said upon hearing of Lincoln’s assassination, “the colored people have lost their best friend on earth! Mr. Lincoln was our best friend, and I will give five dollars of my wages towards erecting a monument to his memory.”

Her contribution sparked a movement among freed slaves to raise money for a memorial to Lincoln which totaled more than $12,000. At that time $12,000, and even $5, was a lot of money.

Female RE-Enactors of Distinction (FREED) is a group of actors that is committed to accurately depict the role of African Americans, including the U.S. Colored Troops and their families during the U.S. Civil War.

Marcia Cole is a member of FREED who portrays Charlotte Scott. Regarding the Memorial, she told Washington, DC TV station WJLA, “I’m here to speak on behalf of the legacy of Charlotte Scott. I understand there’s a big campaign trying to raise money to either take it down or mend it, and I say ‘no’ on behalf of Ms. Charlotte.” 

But the rioters don’t know this history.

So, the historical figures and sites that the BLM wants removed will not be decided by the American people and their governments, but by a relative handful of the people, who don’t know history and don’t care about history. They care nothing about what others think and willingly, eagerly, turn to criminality to accomplish their goal.

That isn’t the American way. But America and her ways are a foreign language to most of these folks. They judge America by her mistakes only, ignoring her strengths. They apply his same myopia to Civil War figures. They see only a part of the lives of the individuals that they target. That small part is all that matters to them.

That sentiment was fairly clearly stated by Hawk Newsome, president of the Greater New York Black Lives Matter. “If this country doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down this system and replace it,” Newsome said in an interview on Fox News’ “The Story” with Martha MacCallum.

And so, what we really have is not merely a crusade by a relatively small group to cleanse the land and remove elements they dislike and that stain our history, it is to wreak havoc and impose their will on the rest of us.

In the wise words of Marcus Aurelius: “How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.”

Order must be restored, and those committing crimes must be held accountable.