The arrival of COVID-19 has brought with it an unprecedented and uncertain situation in many ways. One uncertainty is that because the disease is novel, we don’t know its future trajectory. Another uncertainty is how rapidly governments will move to lift restrictions on economic activity. That is something government officials can choose. Yet another uncertainty is how the economy will respond to changes in government mandates. This is an unprecedented economic situation, because it is the first time government has deliberately engineered a recession to be imposed on a healthy economy.
Nearly three months later, millions are still desperate to get back to their lives. Protest rallies held to “reopen the economy” have emerged across the country, even when gathering can result in criminal charges.
The Stand at Paxton County, an independently produced drama now streaming on Netflix, has a surprisingly straightforward message: Our freedoms and property rights are at risk when dogmatic special interests use the legislative process to achieve their goals. Moreover, poorly designed legislation opens the door to corruption.
The movie, produced by Forrest Films (founded by entrepreneurs Forrest and Charlotte Lucas), does something else unusual for contemporary films: It raises awareness and makes relevant the plight of ranchers and farmers under a gun from political activists. Many of these advocates know little, or don’t seem to care, about this industry, its culture, and its values.
Since last July 1, California has required background checks for those purchasing firearm ammunition. As we noted, by December 2019 the state had run 345,000 background checks and rejected 62,000 Californians legally entitled to purchase ammunition, including off-duty sheriff’s deputies purchasing shotgun shells to hunt ducks. Officials blamed glitches in the system, but for Ari Freilich of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the system was working as intended, as a “red flag” law allowing seizure of weapons from those who have committed no crime. As it turns out, Freilich was on to something.
I thank Dr. Edwin G. Dolan for taking the time to critique my recent Independent Institute Executive Summary, A Pandemic is Not a Recession, in his April 15th blog posting for the Niskanen Center, “The Shaky Logic Behind Hopes for a Quick Recovery.”
Criticism is valuable and necessary—though inaccuracies need to be cleared up first.
Draconian measures to “flatten the curve” were implemented to prevent the healthcare sector from becoming overwhelmed with infected patients. Now, as many states reopen for business, it seems relatively few healthcare facilities are overwhelmed.
However, much of the healthcare industry is still struggling. Becker Hospital Review finds that more than 250 hospitals are furloughing employees to stay financially solvent. Medical practices are also experiencing significantly less patronage.
As of May 20, Australia has 7,079 coronavirus cases, with 6,444 recoveries and 100 deaths from COVID-19. New Zealand has 1153 coronavirus cases, with 1147 recoveries, 21 deaths and one person in the hospital. Also as of May 20, Argentina has 9,823 coronavirus cases, 2933 recoveries and 403 deaths from COVID-19. As it happens, these numbers hold special significance for the United States.
The southern hemisphere is now heading into winter, and if that hemisphere experienced a surge, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci of the White House coronavirus task force, the United States would see a new outbreak in the fall.
********Author’s note: Given the rapid deterioration of common sense in California, I feel obligated to declare The Emperor Has No Clothes: the following is satire.*********
Gavin Newsom recently called on California’s taxpayers to voluntarily enter indentured servitude to the state or face death by unchecked crime and fire.
“Look,” said Governor Newsom. “California already has the highest state income tax in the country, and with the passage of AB5 and my mandated shut-down of the economy, millions of formerly productive workers have now been removed from taxpayer rolls. We’re facing dire economic prospects, and there is simply no other way to cover the costs of goldplated pensions for retired state workers now living in Nevada, the train to nowhere, converting our cities into homeless encampments, and so much more, than to lay off police, firefighters, and health care workers.”
Newsom did hold out hope against this dire scenario: “If sufficient manna falls from heaven that can be sold to cover my every wish and whim, California taxpayers can go back to enjoying working for themselves two-thirds of the year.”
OK, maybe not Babylon Bee-worthy, but such patent nonsense cannot be left unremarked.
Nearly 20 years after its hurried passage, key components of the USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001), are currently up for renewal. Yet despite no evidence that its sweeping surveillance powers have prevented any acts of terrorism, Section 215 of the Act looks certain to be renewed without amendment.
At its passage, Americans were assured the PATRIOT Act would be used only in surveilling dangerous foreigners. Yet Section 215 provides for the blanket collection of Americans’ communications. As NSA whistleblowers Thomas Drake, J. Kirk Wieber, and William Binney–and most famously, Edward Snowden–have revealed, all electronic communications of all Americans are under constant surveillance and are permanently stored so security agencies can look through them whenever an urge strikes.
In addition to Snowden’s revelations, William Binney, a 30-year veteran of the NSA, has detailed, in print, on TV, and to USA Today and the New York Times, that the NSA has spied on “everyone in this country” since 9/11, laying a lie to President Obama’s claim that NSA only stores “metadata.”
The other key component of Section 215 is the mis-named Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court, which recent headlines have also shown is routinely used to target and entrap Americans. Citing the Flynn case, Rand Paul had the audacity to propose an amendment that would restrict the use of the FISA Court to–wait for it–foreigners, directing investigators to use regular courts for warrants on Americans.
To the surprise of no one, Paul’s amendment has been rejected, as has another that would have prohibited warrantless surveillance of internet search and browsing records.
The risk to the average American of a terror attack is essentially zero, and mass surveillance by the government on Americans is not the reason: there is absolutely no evidence that any of our private data thus captured and stored has prevented a single terror attack.
Officials ranging from top federal security agencies to local police have repeatedly said that mass surveillance of all Americans is useless. FBI field agents said of the “tips” being generated from NSA’s bulk email collection: “You’re sending us garbage.” Obama’s outgoing NSA director General Keith Alexander testified that the NSA does not need “the whole haystack” of U.S. phone data.
What has prevented further terrorism since 9/11?
traditional investigative tools. The most common was a community or family tip to the authorities. Other methods included the use of informants, a suspicious-activity report filed by a business or community member to the FBI, or information turned up in investigations of non-terrorism cases.
Conclusion: Congress is renewing these powers because they and the Deep State love having these powers. Once they have the Ring they won’t relinquish it unless we wrench it out of their greedy hands: It’s time to call the fearmongers’ bluff and stop the spying.
From 1977 to 1983 on the television crime drama series “CHiPs,” Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox played California Highway Patrol officers patrolling the freeways on motorcycles in pursuit of criminals. Some of that still goes on in real life, but now the CHP also patrols the California Capitol to keep non-criminals from holding public protests.