Thursday, July 30, 2020

What If Conspiracy Isn’t a Theory?

We rational people are inclined to dismiss conspiracy theories. But what does that do for us when we come up against an actual conspiracy?

I don’t know, exactly. I’m just asking questions. Because I have lots of questions.

America's Frontline Doctors
screenshot from here
I’ve seen multiple videos this week of doctors, on the front lines, treating patients who come in with COVID-19 and testing positive. These doctors are having overwhelming—near 100%—success using the generic anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), typically in combination with zinc (the mineral, taken as a supplement) and Z-pak (azithromycin, an antibiotic, in a convenient dosage-divided package called a Z-pak). Here’s a starting list:

·         America’s Frontline Doctors video, that was taken down from YouTube, made available on The BlazeTV.
·         America’s Frontline Doctors video, redone, made available on their website. 
·         Dr. Simone Gold, one of the Frontline Doctors, talks with Glenn Beck.
·         Texas State Senator Bob Hall holds a townhall with doctors
HCQ has been used, safely, for around 80 years, for malaria as well as lupus and a couple of other conditions. While no drug is entirely without side effects, this one has few. One is listed as coronary problems. However, in standard dosages and usages, it is possible that no one has seen that side effect in many decades. In many countries HCQ is sold over-the-counter, so people can have some on hand in case they travel to places with malaria, as a preventative. It is inexpensive and widely available.

Back in 2005, studies showed chloroquine, a derivative of quinine, of which HCQ is a refined type, was found to be beneficial in treating SARS-type viruses. The current coronavirus, COVID-19, is a SARS-type virus (official name SARS-CoV-2), with something like 78% similarity to the last major SARS outbreak. It would seem obvious, then, that HCQ would be a first go-to drug for finding ways to treat the novel coronavirus we’re facing this year. And it was. Korea, Japan, and many African countries used it right away.

This chart shows the results of controlling the virus in countries that used HCQ early, as compared to countries that didn’t.

Comparison of countries using HCQ early to
those who did not. Image found here.
Oddly, in many major countries, there has been tremendous prejudice against using HCQ for COVID-19. To those of us in the US, it looked like yet another backlash against President Trump, because he mentioned it as a possible solution to the virus on March 19th in his daily pandemic briefing.

But that doesn’t explain the huge backlash to the drug in many other countries. I’m trying to figure out what’s going on. Why is there this prejudice against a drug that has been known to be safe, has been found to be effective against this virus, and could provide a solution that would allow the panic over the spread of the virus to recede so we could get back to something like normal life?

My first awareness of the drug came the day before President Trump’s mention on March 19th. The announcement I heard came out of a lab in France. This was one week into the shutdown of businesses here in Houston—which we were told would be only two to three weeks to prevent overwhelming the healthcare system (but are still hanging over us). Great news!I thought. I hope we learn more. The next day President Trump mentioned it, among other possibilities, and this sounded hopeful too.

Soon after, I heard an interview with a New York doctor, Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, who had had 100% success with, at that time, nearly 700 patients. He treated them early, as outpatients, using the combination of HCQ, zinc, and Z-pak. Zero deaths. None ever even needed hospitalization or ventilator.

I also heard a report from Dr. Robin Armstrong, in the Galveston area, a doctor I knew of, who had had dozens of nursing home residents test positive for the disease. They treated with HCQ (he didn’t mention the combination with zinc and Z-pak), and they had no deaths or hospitalizations. That’s with the most high-risk population. Backlash came against him because he is active in the Republican Party, and that supposedly made him lie for Trump’s sake? Even though any journalist could follow up with that nursing home and get corroboration.

In late May a study was published in The Lancet, supposedly debunking any and all reports of success with HCQ. That was big news, because it was a prestigious peer-reviewed journal. However, it wasn’t what it purported to be. In fact, the data could not be corroborated, and turned out to be simply a fraud, an embarrassment to major journals such as The Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine. Three of the four doctors signed onto the study withdrew their names, completely discrediting the report. The Lancet’s editor answered that the journal is prepared to examine methodology, but isn’t equipped to investigate the possibility that entire articles and associated data are fabricated; that kind of deception is unfortunately too easy to do.

The media narrative is still that HCQ has been discredited.

There’s a Dr. Didier Raoult, in France, who began showing HCQ’s effectiveness against the coronavirus as early as February. He reported in late May that he was finding HCQ with Z-pak helpful in the vast majority of over 1000 cases. He has so far treated over 4,000 using this protocol. It was his work that got the attention of the WHO to start a study, and yet they didn’t study what he reported.

The WHO study was first halted in late May, when The Lancet published its report. But, with its retraction, the WHO picked up again June 3rd, studying HCQ, Remdesivir, and two other drugs. In this study HCQ was withheld until patients were hospitalized, possibly on ventilators, and likely to die. At this point HCQ was given—not in the trio combination, usually not in combination with either zinc or Z-pak. And HCQ was given in high doses, possibly harmful doses, in fact four times the amount India was using in their HCQ study. And then the WHO reported the shocking news that, while using HCQ to treat, a third of patients had died, and they recommended against its use entirely.
Well, of course. You didn’t give it at the right time. You didn’t give it in a safe dosage. And you didn’t give it in the combination shown to be working.

Imagine, if you had the regular flu, which kills large numbers of people annually. Instead of taking Tamiflu at the outset, you have that withheld until you are in the hospital with pneumonia or whatever other symptoms people get when the flu kills them. And at that point you are given Tamiflu in very large, possibly toxic, doses. That is essentially what the WHO did, rather than study whether HCQ in combination could become the Tamiflu for COVID-19. Why did they do that?

The WHO is a worldwide organization. Trump Derangement Syndrome doesn’t explain this worldwide patient-killing study. Nor does it explain the prejudice against HCQ in France—from which I first heard the success story—and other countries.

Dr. Rob Elens, a general practitioner in The Netherlands, began using HCQ + zinc with his patients and had them fully recovering within four days—much faster than the 15-21 days for patients without the treatment. Then the government threatened to remove his medical license if he didn’t stop using the treatment.  Dr. Elens was censored in a similar way to Drs. Ericksen and Massihi, from California. Their videos get scrubbed, and no one is allowed to reference them on social media.

As we saw this week, with the doctors in Washington, DC, that continues to happen. One of the main ideas in the Frontline Doctors’ video was that HCQ could be used as a preventative. It could be a way for schools to reopen; at-risk teachers or students with underlying conditions could take a low preventative dose. Front-line caregivers have been doing that.

Wednesday night Glenn Beck interviewed one of the Frontline Doctors, Dr. Simone Gold.  She mentioned that, in France, where HCQ had been considered safe and sold over-the-counter for decades, they announced a change in status on January 2020, making it available by prescription only. So I looked into that. It was true.

From a two-part story from Life Site on Dr. Raoult and hydroxychloroquine, there’s this:

When Raoult announced “game over” for the Chinese coronavirus on February 25, it came to public attention that hydroxychloroquine, a safer and better tolerated derivate of chloroquine which is itself a pharmaceutical drug derived from quinine, was no longer available over-the-counter in France since January 13, following a regulation published by delegation for Health Minister Agnès Buzyn by the General Director of Health, Jérôme Salomon.
Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), known as “Plaquénil” in France, was developed in Germany roughly at the same time as chloroquine in the 1930s and has been efficiently used as an anti-malaria drug since then until resistant forms of malaria appeared. It is currently used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Doctors have more than 80 years experience with prescribing this cheap molecule that was never considered to be a dangerous medication—until the beginning of this year.
The surprising inscription of HCQ on the list of poisonous substances, only dispensable with a prescription, only weeks before the coronavirus was identified as having entered into France, led many to wonder whether the move had been deliberate in this context.
It was underscored in particular that Buzyn’s husband, Yves Lévy, until recently head of the INSERM (National Institute for health and medical research) was a member of the French delegation present at the opening of the Wuhan P4 “high security” laboratory that conducts research on dangerous viruses, and that he also had a personal axe to grind against Didier Raoult who was one of the first to complain about a conflict of interests when Buzyn was named Health Minister and became supervisor of the INSERM—and of her own husband. These accusations were brushed aside by the mainstream press.
The timing does seem suspicious. With further looking I learned that France had actually made the status change to HCQ some months earlier, in late 2019, and just hadn’t made a formal announcement until January. But I can’t find an explanation for the change in status in the first place.

A drug being sold over-the-counter is considered safe under recommended use and dosage. That doesn’t mean that such drugs aren’t poisonous in the wrong amounts. In fact, most are. The one time I had to contact poison control was when my toddler got into a bathroom medicine cabinet (where she had previously been unable to reach) and got into some Sudafed, a decongestant. They looked like little red candies. And I had to use Ipecac to get the poison out. Another common poison is the very safe acetaminophen, brand name Tylenol. It’s one of the most common accidental and purposeful poisons.

The fact that it can be consumed in poisonous amounts does not mean it isn’t considered safe for over-the-counter sales. What evidence was used to push for the change in France? And why then? Why just before it’s needed worldwide, when it had been used safely for eight decades?

I’m sure there’s an explanation. But I don’t think it’s science based.

Here in the US, HCQ has been by prescription all along, although considered quite safe. Using it in an off-label manner should be a decision between patient and doctor. But it has gotten so that doctors are pressured not to prescribe it, pharmacists are pressured to inquire as the to purpose and not dispense it for the coronavirus, and some states have outlawed its use in treating the coronavirus. Ohio’s State Board of Pharmacy made a rule earlier this week banning the use HCQ for coronavirus, but at Governor Mike DeWine’s insistence they backtracked today and called for more data before enforcing such a rule. 

Is this apparent conspiracy against HCQ because of money? Maybe in part. Remdesivir, for example, is new and could be lucrative if found helpful, so there’s no surprise it was favored—including by Dr. Fauci, who was invested in its producer.

But I don’t think that explains it enough. Why the uproar over something that could help people, is cheap to try, and has been shown not only to not cause harm but to bring relief? And why the outcry over other remedies as well that might be useful immediately? Unless there’s a desire to keep the pandemic going, the economies of the world shut down, and society controlled—until a vaccine is developed that can be further used to enforce control?

Because I have other big questions. This is the first outbreak in which it became almost immediate policy, in countries around the world, to quarantine the healthy, rather than the sick and vulnerable. How did that become such a widespread policy, when it was in contrast to world experience and history?

It turns out that there has been planning going on for quite some time. A pandemic respiratory virus was thought to be inevitable.

Bill Gates talked about the possibility in 2018. Coincidentally, he has invested heavily in vaccines, providing them for different purposes worldwide. Some of his vaccines have been shown to cause significant vaccine injuries, often to the poor and underprivileged he has provided them to, such as India. Gates, a financial supporter of the WHO, wants to connect vaccination with basic freedoms. He has suggested that people who forego an eventual vaccination for COVID-19 should not be allowed to travel or attend school, meetings, or work. And he favors a digital ID to verify and track such data on citizens.

Coincidentally, he sent out a tweet on December 19, 2019, saying, “What’s next for our foundation? I’m particularly excited about what the next year could mean for one of the best buys in global health: vaccines.”

In September 2019 Gates participated in a “pandemic exercise,” called Event201, which was specific about response to a coronavirus outbreak—one month before it appears to have begun in Wuhan.

In 2018 a video called “A Simulation for a Global FluPandemic,” was made by The Institute for Disease Modeling, posted courtesy of the Gates Foundation, showing a flu virus originating in China and spreading across the globe, killing millions—eerily similar to what has actually happened. 
In 2017, just as the Trump administration was beginning, Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke at a conference, predicting that sometime during this administration’s term there was a high likelihood of an infectious disease outbreak. He was pushing for funding in preparation. 

Oddly, fiction appears predictive. A movie called Dead Plague (I haven’t seen it) mentions use of hydroxychloroquine. HCQ had been tried on SARS in 2005, so a good researcher probably found that for the script. The movie Contagion (very popular lately on Netflix, but I haven’t watched it either) is about a coronavirus, and it shows lockdowns, facemasks, handwashing—essentially preparing the public’s expectations for our current reality.

There’s a 2010 document, put out by the Rockefeller Foundation, called Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development, with a chapter called “Lockstep,” describing a response to a global pandemic. It’s written as though it were describing a past event, but is actually predictive. Here’s a quote:

The pandemic also had a deadly effect on economies: international mobility of both people and goods screeched to a halt, debilitating industries like tourism and breaking global supply chains.
Even locally, normally bustling shops and office buildings sat empty for months, devoid of both employees and customers
The report goes on to describe a future even after the pandemic has been quelled:

Even after the pandemic faded, this more authoritarian control and oversight of citizens and their activities stuck and even intensified. Citizens willingly gave up some of their sovereignty—and their privacy—to more paternalistic states in exchange for greater safety and stability.
In developed countries, this heightened oversight took many forms: biometric IDs for all citizens, for example, and tighter regulation of key industries whose stability was deemed vital to national interests.
Is this the actual plan, laid out a decade ago? I’d be inclined to believe it was a type of war gaming—playing out scenarios in order to come up with various plans. Except that so much has actually happened. And we don’t have a good explanation for why so many governments imposed control over citizens in otherwise free countries—in unprecedented ways.

I’m not an investigative journalist. I’m just a blogger, trying to piece together an understanding from what I read and hear and see. But from where I’m sitting right now, my best guess is that there is an actual conspiracy, on a large scale, attempting to take away freedoms from free people and impose tyrannical control over them.

I don’t know whether it’s organized. As “Marty” said in the movie Sneakers, in reference to organized crime, “It’s not that organized.” That doesn’t mean there isn’t something that attracts power mongers to act in concert toward an end that freedom lovers must resist with all our might.

If you want to do more of your own research, you can add these resources, in addition to what I’ve linked within my post:

·         Dr. Risch on Laura Ingraham’s show 
·         Sharyl Atkisson report on hydroxychloroquine from May 18, 2020
·         California doctor, Dr. George Fareed, suggests prophylactic (preventative): 
·         Two-part story I mentioned above, about Dr. Raoult, of France: “The “strange” fight by world-leading infectious disease doctor to continue “spectacular” results saving covid-infected patients”
o   part I 
o   part II 
·         I hesitate to recommend this, because it reads like a long and involved conspiracy theory, but I did find the citations at the end, and some of the information, quite useful: “Stop World Control” 

Monday, July 27, 2020

The Neverending Convention, Part III

About the neverending Texas State Republican Convention, (see part I and part II) I don’t know whether the report of the Platform Committee will ever happen. It would normally happen on Friday and Saturday of a convention weekend—usually the last major piece of business. But this year’s convention was anything but normal.

The Eventual Schedule

Thursday was a full day of delay because of technical difficulties related to doing a planned in-person convention suddenly online. All contingency plans that had been underway for months turned out to be inadequate, especially when you add denial-of-service attacks into the mix. Thursday evening an emergency meeting of the State Republican Executive Committee—the SREC: two representatives from each of the 31 senatorial districts—made the decision to postpone all business until Saturday morning and try to do all that would have happened Thursday through Saturday instead on Saturday and Sunday.

That might have worked, if everything had gone smoothly. But online issues continued. Even people who had been able to participate in earlier meetings were shut out of later meetings. Congressional District (CD) and then Senatorial District (SD) caucus meetings went late into the night.

The Permanent Platform Committee would normally have met on Thursday. Instead, most committee members drove home that day. And Friday we were on hold. Then we had to be ready to go all day Saturday, adjusting each time the schedule got pushed back. We eventually met at 9:00 AM, under a tight timeline; we were supposed to present the final report at noon on Sunday.

The online meeting of the Platform Committee was livestreamed.
Screenshot from here

Online meetings are difficult to begin with. There was the added difficulty that SD caucuses met late Saturday night—at which time they elected permanent committee members. During mine, my computer froze and I was unable to vote, although we made all temporary committee members permanent, so I didn’t feel disenfranchised. That was a personal technical issue not caused by the convention’s typical issues, most of which did not affect me.

Anyway, not all of the SD reports got to the committee chair in time. So invitations for the Sunday morning Zoom meeting went out to the temporary committee members—without the knowledge that some of them had been replaced for the permanent committee. Three people showed up who shouldn’t have been there, and three people didn’t immediately get the invitation when they should have. When that was straightened out, we hadn’t gone much beyond roll call. There was debate about a plank, with amendments proposed by a temporary committee member who did not belong there—and she knew she did not belong but acted as if she had authorization.

There was a need for a break for technical reasons—because the livestream wasn’t yet working. During the break, that huge membership issue was corrected, new members were welcomed, and business backed up to the debate of that plank. The original plank was proposed again; the friendly amendment was proposed again and accepted. And the amendment, by the unauthorized committee member who was attempting to infuse LGBT sensibilities to the plank—insisting that the Republican Party was leaving her out—was not proposed. I suspect it was her push for LGBT issues throughout the process that got her replaced by her SD.

There were only a handful of planks and amendments that got handled in permanent committee, and then testimony was taken. The committee had been told there would be no time for testimony, but then complaints about that being against the rules pressed for inviting testimony. I’m glad. I think testimony is an essential element of the process, although it’s not nearly as easy to accomplish online as in person. Time was supposed to be limited to 20 minutes. With getting started, plus additions to the time added, testimony took up about 45 minutes.

Much of the meeting looked like this, with the document shared on the screen.
Screenshot from here

At that point we were already supposed to be getting ready for the report in the general session. And at that point, my challenge is to make the document ready for floor debate (strikes and edits removed, make the document clean—and we still hadn’t had the opportunity for a full careful edit).

Anyway, the meeting handled maybe one more proposed amendment before the meeting was called to close. There were issues people felt strongly about and wanted to handle (an issue I’ll talk about below) that may end up in a minority report—an alternate platform version—which is a fairly rare thing usually handled during floor debate.

General session was postponed from noon until around 4:00 PM. Eventually all committees except Rules and Platform were able to give their reports. And then an hour or more was spent on a proposal to postpone all except the essential business of another SD caucus to some future day, to be determined by some ad hoc committee chosen by the body. (I never saw the choosing happen. While I was watching, the RPT people were handling an onslaught of suggested names—nearly as many as there were delegates—which was yet another denial-of-service attack. How and when that got resolved, I did not see.)

Technical problems were disenfranchising too many in my SD, so we did not gavel in that night; we met around 10:00 AM Monday, getting our voting for State Party Chair and Vice Chair done hours after the vote was in (from the SDs that met Sunday night, and all the way up until 5:00 AM, I heard) and the winners declared. So our vote was irrelevant. But we did get to choose our SREC members, which was important business.

That left Platform and Rules on hold. Yesterday we got word that the ad hoc committee has recommended that these two reports will be approved “pending 60% line-by-line voting by the delegates.” This will be done by a “Survey Monkey-style” survey to delegates and alternates, allowing three days for completion. This will include the proposed language of the Minority Report.
There will be no floor debate. No ability to amend. No ability to add any planks or language. I don’t know if this can be done without a legal challenge, but it might be the best reasonable compromise, since there’s no guarantee that a newly scheduled online meeting won’t meet with the same denial-of-service attacks and resulting credentialing issues that caused the original delay. Any way you look at it, people have been disenfranchised
Now, on to the content discussion.

Pandemic Response

The pandemic is on everyone’s minds. There are several new planks related to lockdowns and pandemic response. It was my impression, reading through the resolutions that came in, that just about every subcommittee got proposed ideas related to pandemic response. But two new planks came out of Constitutional Issues and three came out of Health and Human Services. I think you can tell Texas Republicans really don’t like our inalienable rights to be alienated. Platform planks of course do not have the power of law; they are intended to direct our elected officials in what we want the law to say.

Constitutional Issues

Lockdowns Never Again: The Republican Party of Texas calls upon our elected officials to never again implement mass lockdowns on the people, our businesses, and churches in the name of communicable disease response; nor should Texas officials ever again presume they know better how to treat or prioritize the medical treatment of Texans and to make command and control edicts that dictate to healthcare providers how to do their job. We oppose funding or implementation of any form of contact tracing.
Limit Executive Power: In the event the State Executive Branch activates the emergency powers for a disaster, the Legislature will automatically be convened two weeks later for a session to take up whatever matters deemed necessary for the Legislature.

Health and Human Services

Contact Tracing: We strongly oppose contact tracing, tracking, or surveillance, and we also strongly oppose any action similar to the federal TRACE Act. Contract tracing, tracking, or surveillance or not core functions of public health. No government entity, nor private entity, nor combination thereof, nor the Texas National Guard, shall ever be employed to violate the natural rights of Texans.
Pandemic Release: The Republican Party Texas opposes the release of convicted felons from prison due to a risk of infection within the prison system during a pandemic.
Pandemic Business Fines: The RPT supports prohibiting fines or imprisonment of business owners for operating their business during pandemics and call for the legislature to pass these protections into law.

Convention of the States

The Minority Report, which I haven’t seen, I believe will relate to the Convention of States plank. This has been a plank for some time. But the Texas Legislature accomplished its call for an Article 5 Convention of States two sessions ago (if I’m right, it was in 2017). Our platform is long, and one thing that can be done is remove planks that are no longer needed, because the legislature wrote it into law. That’s on a case-by-case basis, because sometimes the law only accomplishes in part, and sometimes the party wants to keep proclaiming the idea, even though it is law in Texas. For example, I think we’ll always say that we want Texas free from any state income tax, even though that is the law—just in case some future legislative body isn’t aware of our absolute declaration against it. But sometimes we can delete a plank. For example, in 2018 we had a plank called Abby’s Law, referring to a woman who testified at convention about the need for swift processing of sexual assault evidence (rape kits). The law was passed in 2019, so this year’s platform doesn’t include it.

About the Article V plank: in 2018, even though the legislation had been passed, it was recent, and the platform committee didn’t want to delete the idea that the Republican Party supported it. So the wording was changed from calling for it to reaffirming our support for it:

Article V Convention of States: We reaffirm our support for our Texas State Legislators’ call for a limited Article V Convention of States for the specific purpose of reducing the power of the federal government, including fiscal responsibility, balanced budget, and term limits. Any proposed amendments must be ratified by three-fourths of the states.
This time around an odd thing happened. It was expected that there would be a decision about whether to still keep this reaffirming language or not, since it wasn’t necessary to say this many years after it was accomplished. Either in or out, Texas is one of the states calling for a convention of the states.

But in subcommittee it got turned around entirely. Some temporary committee members were against the Convention of States and were attempting to convince everyone of its danger, to call for the Texas legislature to undo—rescind—their call for it. While I know people of goodwill on both sides of this issue, I would not say that the rescind side actually represents the will of a strong contingent of Republican voters, let alone a majority. In other words, the call to rescind was the opinion of a relatively small faction. Here’s their wording:

Article V Convention of States: We support the rescission of the State of Texas application to Congress for a convention under article V for proposing amendments to change the current limits on federal spending, jurisdiction, and terms of office. Our Constitution is the firewall guarding our unalienable rights – but it is a document, not self-enforcing. We petition our elected officials at all levels to support, enforce, and give effect to the Constitution and to Interpose between The People and the federal government, as required under Article VI, and resist any efforts to enforce it via changes. This is the remedy espoused by James Madison to “runaway government.”

Article VI is added in, and various other things. Here’s where politics comes in. What I believe happened was this: the temporary committee people who favored the rescind idea planned, got themselves appointed (usually this happens by volunteering to whoever handled the platform at the SD level), and then expressed interest in the Constitutional Issues subcommittee, where they could put forth their ideas and persuade the rest of the subcommittee.

Their SDs were made aware—because the Convention of States people were paying attention—and those temporary committee members were replaced Saturday night at their respective SD caucuses. Then, in the Sunday morning meeting, the debate was to delete the plank—the rescind version above. That passed, meaning no Article 5 plank remaining. But there was confusion by some on the committee, because they thought that this would automatically mean it would revert to the 2018 wording. With more time for debate, that could have happened. A proposal could have been made to add a plank containing the 2018 wording. But the motion to delete happened just before the break to begin testimony. And the short time before close of meeting after testimony didn’t allow for it.

Again, with or without, Texas has already expressed its favor for a Convention of States by passing the legislation. And we haven’t changed that in any official expression. Removal of that plank from the 2020 platform can be seen as just housekeeping. But I believe the Minority Report is asking to restore the 2018 wording.

I was concerned that, bringing it up during floor debate would open an opportunity to the rescind people to express their message to the whole crowd, and it might do more harm than good to the Convention of States cause. (Personally, I lean slightly in favor of COS, but with some reservations. I have experts to turn to, but I don’t know for certain that it is safe. Mark Levin’s book on this issue is on my reading list. There’s time while we wait for additional states to make their call.)

However, the way it stands, being able to bring it up in a survey, without floor debate, may just accomplish what Convention of States people want without the downside of a floor debate.

Notes I scribble to myself to document each
editorial change as I make it permanent,
collaborating with the committee chair.
Glamorous work, I know.

As for my work, it’s nearly done. I was finally able to do a careful edit this week, and go through each and every jot and tittle with the committee chair. There are still a few questions outstanding, where I’m waiting for feedback. Meanwhile that latest edited version is available for viewing on the convention website, as it has been all along (with some formatting problems inherent in Google Docs that look perfectly fine in the master document in Word). I hope when/if they do the survey, it is using the post-careful-edit version, instead of the quick and dirty one the RPT has had in hand since Sunday afternoon in anticipation of floor debate.

What I thought was going to be a week-long commitment has eaten up much of my month. And that was with the help of a good team. So I’d like this neverending convention to be over. If you still find errors in the final product, please forgive me. But I think it’s worth reading. And, if you find an issue you’re passionate about, consider doing some citizen lobbying when we get to the next legislative session, just a half a year away.

Friday, July 24, 2020

The Neverending Convention, Part II

I’m still (maybe just beginning) to debrief the Texas State Republican Convention. Part I is here.

On Monday, July 13th, temporary committees began meeting, in person, in downtown Houston. I was serving as an editor for the Platform Committee, and my duty that day was to type up the material in the Health and Human Services Subcommittee. One of the committee members kept minutes, so I wasn’t doing that.

Serious work got underway shortly after noon. It took us until around 9:30 PM to finish up and get out of there. Then I went home and cleaned up the file and began formatting that one and the work of one or two other subcommittees. I got to bed about 4:30 AM (a schedule I repeated again the next two nights).

The HHS Subcommittee of the Platform Committee, plus me,
doing battle, with words, to protect our freedom.

While I didn’t get to have input into what went into the state party platform, I did get to hear discussion and testimony. There were a couple of people testifying that day that I’d like to share with you today. Both of these were on controversial topics—but not actually controversial in that room. We already had wording that I think satisfied them. Still, I found the testimonies enlightening.

Reintegrative Therapy

My very unofficial record shows the HHS subcommittee heard testimony from 16 people. The first was David Pickup, a licensed marriage and family therapist from here in Houston. He was speaking in favor of planks related to counseling and therapy, homosexuality, and parental consent. He shared with us the versions coming out of Collin County, around McKinney and Plano. While we didn’t end up with the same wording, I think the platform covers all the ideas he brought.

Different planks accomplish different things. But the ideas emphasize the purpose of giving freedom—to therapists, and to those seeking therapy. And beyond that, there is wording to prevent giving special legal status to people based on their LGBT identity.

Dr. Pickup talked a bit about the type of therapy he does, called Reintegrative Therapy. I wrote about this in September 2018. I learned about it from hearing Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, Jr. He discussed it only in reference to people with unwanted same-sex attraction. It isn’t designed as “change therapy,” although it can have that outcome. The concept is that there is a high likelihood that same-sex attraction is a reaction to a childhood trauma, causing—in my lay terms and probably not fully accurate—a sort of dissociative disorder, a separation from a reality that seems unacceptable in the child’s mind.

As I wrote in 2018,

The term reintegrative refers to the idea that, when the young person is developing thought patterns, he (or she) separates out parts of the self, can’t see their own gender in a healthy way, and in a way dissociates from their wholeness. The therapy helps them reintegrate, or bring back together those hidden or buried parts of themselves, making it safe for them to be wholly who they are.
The therapy deals with healing for the childhood trauma. After that, the results can range from an easing of multiple mental health symptoms, on up to and including the lessening of same-sex attraction, or even the alleviation of those symptoms. You resolve the trauma, and the issues caused by the trauma are resolved. The goal is mental health, not necessarily ridding a person of unwanted same-sex attraction, which is why this therapy hasn’t undergone as much attack as other “change” therapies.

To repeat Dr. Nicolosi,

In the work that we do, in Reintegrative Therapy, the client is in the driver’s seat. The licensed psychotherapist uses evidence-based mainstream treatment approaches, the same treatment approaches used in other clinics throughout the world to treat trauma and sexual addiction. And as those underlying dynamics are resolved, the sexuality changes as a byproduct. Our clients notice significant and lasting decreases in their same-sex attractions and increases in their heterosexual attractions.

At the time I wrote about it, I thought the description of how the therapy worked made it very likely to be helpful to people with gender dysphoria. Dr. Pickup is the first validation I’ve heard that that is true. He talked about his experience dealing with both people with same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria. He said it was his experience, without exception, that every person with same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria has an underlying trauma to deal with. When they heal from the trauma, their brain heals, and the issues are resolved.

This is not something that can be forced on someone who does not want it. Always, this is intended as an option for someone seeking the treatment. As public policy, we just have to keep government from interfering with that voluntary therapist/patient relationship.

The difficulty in the world today is not just an attack on our beliefs, but an attack on our ability to act on our beliefs, even when the facts back us up. As I said before,

In a sensible society, the obvious answer would always have been, “Let’s help you heal, and then we’ll see what you want to do,” rather than, “Let’s indulge your delusion and change the world and its reactions to you.”
But, as is increasingly clear, we do not live in a sensible society.

I have believed all along, the kinder and more accepting approach to people with same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria is to recognize that they are functioning with damage. Some are doing well enough, regardless of their issues, that they see no need for treatment. But many want relief. Allowing freedom in that search is better than insisting there is no relief to be had.

While I had known about Dr. Nicolosi, I hadn't known where one would go to find another such therapist. I'm not sure how one would find the nearest such therapist, but I was pleased to know that there is one in Houston, so I assume Reintegrative Therapy is available in a growing number of places. 

Vaccination Choice

The other testimony I wanted to mention today was from a woman named Jackie. She was speaking in favor of a plank calling for informed consent concerning vaccines. Informed parental consent is a big issue in several areas; healthcare issues such as vaccines is only one part. So we were on the same page. Not anti-vaccine; rather, pro-freedom of choice following plenty of accurate information.

Vaccine reactions are rare. But Jackie’s daughter is one of those rare vaccine injured. She has been living a severely disabled life since that vaccine reaction, and her family, including parents and siblings, must dedicate their lives to caring for her. It is a labor of love, but it is not the choice Jackie would have chosen for her daughter had she known the outcome of simply getting the standard list of vaccines.

One of Jackie’s concerns—and this was also the concern of several others who testified in that subcommittee—was that, once there is a vaccine for this coronavirus, that the entire public would be forced to get it.

I’ve been thinking through the math. I don’t have all the numbers I need to verify this, but I think the rare vaccine reaction, such as Jackie’s daughter suffered, is less rare than, or on par with, children dying of the coronavirus.

graphic from here

A Canadian report this month showed that Canada has had only one death in a coronavirus patient under age 20, and there wasn’t data to show whether the patient actually died of coronavirus or some other reason. Numbers in the US, China, and Italy are similar. Children rarely contract the disease. I don’t have an accurate number for that. But if you accumulate 10,000 of these rare children who get it, 1 is likely to die—but that child will have an underlying condition such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, or immunosuppression such as in cancer patients undergoing treatment. And with that one casualty, it will be uncertain whether COVID-19 was the cause of death or simply an additional or possibly contributing factor. 

A piece I found concerning vaccine injury, from 2017, noted that in the previous year 48,000 Americans reported adverse reactions and side effects to vaccinations. Most were mild. These include things like soreness at the injection site and fever.

A vaccine injury, as opposed to a reaction, is more rare and more serious. I don’t remember which type Jackie’s daughter had, but my guess would be Transverse Myelitis. Other serious injuries might be Guillain-Barré Syndrome, Encephalitis, Anaphylaxis, Chronic Arthritis, shoulder injury ranging from temporary ache to complete loss of use. Most sources simply refer to the risk of these injuries as “rare.” But I did find one estimate as “on the order of one per thousands to one per millions of doses.”

A parent is to be faced with balancing two risks:

1.     a child contracting COVID-19, which is relatively rare compared to adults contracting it, and then getting a severe case, which is much more rare, and then dying of the disease—a disease for which we’re getting better treatments—let’s call this a likelihood of 1/10,000 (which is probably higher than actual).

2.     a child reacting to a vaccine to prevent an illness that is both rare for the child and even much less likely to cause severe illness or death. 
image from here

Add to this the lack of data concerning the vaccine’s efficacy at preventing the disease, and lack of data on how frequent vaccine injuries might occur from it. That will be the situation when a new vaccine for this coronavirus comes out. Its effectiveness is likely to be in the range of the annual flu vaccine, which is not exactly a guarantee of protection.

You can argue for the vaccine or against it. But if you’re that parent, do you want the decision about what risk to take on behalf of your child to be in your hands or in the hands of your government?

If you’re a free Texan, you want to be the one making that decision.

One thing we’ve learned during this pandemic is that government officials aren’t all that good at gathering data and wisely interpreting it in order to make the best healthcare decisions for all of us.

There may be a theme related to this Republican platform discussion: Decisions about our lives ought to be in our hands, not the government’s. I think I can share a part III with more planks on that.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Neverending Convention, Part I

I’ve been away from this blog for the last week and a half, doing work associated with the Texas Republican Party state convention. As I did two years ago, I’ve been doing editing work on the platform. At this level, I don’t have input into content, just in how it looks. And even at that, much is beyond my control.

It’s likely to take me a number of blog posts to debrief the whole thing. Today I’ll focus on the overhanging issue: Houston’s Mayor Sylvester Turner invoked the Force Majeur clause of the contract five days before the start of convention—that was Wednesday, July 8th. A week prior to that he had given his “final” word that he would not interfere with the convention because of the pandemic.

There were multiple efforts put into preparing the intended location, the George R. Brown Convention Center (owned by the city, run for the city by an entity called Houston First) to meet any and all guidelines for safe meeting. These included using larger spaces with chairs spread out, larger rooms for caucus meetings and committee meetings, temperature scanners at each entrance. There’s no competition for space right now, and that convention center encompasses 1.8 million square feet indoors, and can accommodate 55,000 people. The typical state GOP convention is around 9,000-10,000 people. It’s typically the largest GOP gathering in the country, even bigger than the national convention. But last time we held the state GOP convention in Houston we shared the space with two or three other conventions.

The convention was originally supposed to take place in May, but it was rescheduled because of the pandemic. City businesses were glad to host, since their usual business clients have been curtailed. The full convention was rescheduled to July 16-18, but committee work actually gets underway on the Monday before.

When Mayor Turner broke the contract just 5 days before committees were to meet, the State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) which is made up of a man and woman from each of the 31 state senatorial districts, met in an online meeting to decide how to proceed. The two options were in person nearby the original plan, or online. A combination is not possible, according to Roberts Rules of Order, because it isn’t possible to know whom to recognize and in what order.

The Marriott Marquis, a large hotel across the street from the convention center, offered to accommodate as needed, so the official meeting would happen on the sidewalk in front of the convention center, as required in the rules, and then temporarily adjourn and reconvene in the hotel. That is the option the SREC chose, in a 40-20 vote. People recognize the value of meeting in person.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party of Texas (RPT) lawsuit against Mayor Turner went forward quickly. On Thursday, a local democratic judge ruled against the RPT, who then appealed directly to the state supreme court for a quick ruling. Those justices met over the weekend and gave their ruling Monday morning.

It was while I was driving downtown Monday morning that I heard on the news that the ruling had gone against the RPT. The committees, already set and able to meet in person, went ahead with the downtown plan, but it meant that on Thursday, once the official convention gaveled in, everything would move to online.

There was one non-negotiable deadline: Monday, July 21st, by the end of the day, the names of those elected as delegates and alternates to the national convention, plus those elected to be electors (the ones who physically vote in the electoral college in December) had to be turned in. If nothing else happened, we could recover, but law required that business to be completed.

There was also a state party chair race, vice chair race, plus election of permanent committee members and State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) races.

It took much of Saturday to accomplish the essentials. Late in the evening permanent committee members got elected. So, we had to be poised and ready all day, but the meetings the committees were to have held did not take place that day.

The Platform Committee Meeting took place Sunday at 9:00 AM, with a tight deadline—originally one hour, but we ended up taking until past noon, with many complaints about not enough testimony time, or time to change anything after the testimony. Maybe I’ll talk more about that another day.

We got through the Legislative Priorities report in a Sunday afternoon general session, but not the Rules or Platform reports. There was an effort to try to reschedule the rest of the business to another time and place. That discussion took up more than an hour that could have been spent accomplishing business. And the proposal included a request to develop a committee from among the body to come up with a plan. Suggestions were open, electronically. They came in and didn’t stop. There were more than 5,000 suggestions the last time I heard it announced. This was a DDOS attack (denial of service). It’s a purposeful disturbance. A hack. And DDOS attacks explain much of the difficulty of Friday through Monday with credentialed delegates being unable to get electronic credentials to join meetings and have voting rights.

People were patient much longer than in an in-person convention, probably because they were in their kitchens and living rooms with creature comforts available—albeit little sleep. But the fact is, Mayor Turner indeed deprived people of rights. My senatorial district didn’t manage to convene for its final caucus until Monday morning—after the state party chair and vice chair races were a done deal.

US District Judge Lynn N. Hughes ruled
July 17, 2020, in Hotze v. Abbott
image from here

While the Texas Supreme Court ruled against the RPT’s lawsuit, there was an additional personal lawsuit filed in federal court from individual delegates who can show harm caused to them. RPT has since joined in that suit. But it went to Federal District Judge Lynn R. Hughes, who ruled against Mayor Turner on Friday, July 17th. The case is Hotze v. Abbott (because it was Governor Abbott’s limited lockdown order GA-29, supplementing GA-28, which led to the Force Majeur). The 7-page ruling is a thing of beauty to read. 

Son Political Sphere tells me it’s more of a great op-ed, but legally it isn’t likely to stand up on appeal. Nevertheless, I want to pull out a couple of points.

One is about standards. This relates to letters from Dr. David Persse, director of Houston’s Emergency Medical Service, who served as the Mayor’s chosen medical “expert.” Judge Hughes writes:

In court, high standards restrict technical data offered in evidence. That kind of opinion testimony must have rigorous science applied to precise data in a recognized method. Persse’s letter abounds with emotion and assumptions. His letter uses the phrase “clear and present danger.”
…He presented no dispassionate analysis; he only recast odd pieces of what is in the papers.
I’ve been looking at numbers. The horrendous spike in cases, the way the press talks about it, you’d think bodies were lined up in the street. In reality, the 7-day rolling average for Harris County, where Houston is located, a population of over 4 million, reached 12 and hovered there for about a week, but was lower than that by a couple of deaths per day when Mayor Turner broke the contract. That is a total of 12 per day. The total for the county to date (as of today) is 560. That’s a lot of people. But New York city has had 18,800, with an additional 4,624 probable COVID-19 deaths that weren’t verified by testing. Their population is 8.3 million, roughly double Harris County. Their number of deaths is 34-42 times the number of deaths in Harris County.

Let me say that another way, for each death to date in Harris County over the entire time since the disease caused its first death in Texas, 34-42 people died in New York City. From first death to today (so, not counting the many zero death days prior to that first Texas death on May 18th, that’s 128 days, an average of 4 per day in Harris County. Regrettable, painful to those experiencing the loss, but not an all-out emergency.

Getting data is still a challenge. The Houston Chronicle had been providing daily deaths in Texas, so I could continue to chart that. The paper used to show deaths in the Houston region, including surrounding counties. They stopped doing that on June 23rd and started emphasizing new cases by county, not 8 counties together, plus positive test rate and hospitalizations. But no county death info. So I started going daily to the county public health site. I don’t know how to get anything there but the current day’s data, so I have taken a snapshot every day to build up some data to draw a picture from.

Daily deaths in Texas, over the entire length of the pandemic, shows there has indeed been a recent rise (7-day rolling average):

Deaths in Texas, rolling average, as of July 21, 2020

Starting when I began charting the data, daily deaths in Harris County, starting June 24th, look like this:

Deaths in Harris County, rolling average, as of July 21, 2020

It's not an exponential curve. It's not a reason for panic. Or for cancelling contracts.

Out of curiosity, I look at data for my zip code. We have a population of a little over 37,000. So far we have had 3 deaths. I couldn’t pinpoint on which days each of those were reported, but I do know we had had 2 by June 10th, and we had had 3 by June 25th, when I started looking daily. So we have gone essentially a month or more since the last COVID death in my zip code. The 7-day rolling average is a flat line.

I’m here, alive, to let you know that those several hundred of us who met for committee meetings downtown: it has been a week, and so far we have a spike of—wait for it—zero. Zero cases. So zero deaths.

The next point in the lawsuit is about what qualifies as essential. The ruling says,

The meeting is not a classic-car show nor a quilting exhibition. The Texas Election Code requires it—and requires it now. This convention is the source of a party’s officers for the next two years and delegates to this year’s presidential convention among other administration.
The governor’s orders frequently use the word essential to specify exclusions from the full impact of the limits. In GA-29 [Governor Abbott’s order], for example, the rules do not apply to election-related gatherings nor the mask rule to someone giving a speech. Department and grocery stores are open and excluded as essential. The individual stores in some cases will exceed the few thousand delegates expected at the convention. It exceeds their essentialness, because critically it is a single event—not repeated every day.
And he adds that our founders did what they did because of arbitrary government. Further down he notes that the Texas Attorney General wrote a letter May 29, 2020, instructing “the secretary of state that political conventions are excluded from the strictures of the executive orders.” That seems pretty clear.

Then the judge describes the mayor’s actions the way a prosecutor might. After the Republican Party of Texas had already agreed to all the precautions, the mayor piled on:

The contractor was told [by the mayor] to require a cluster of additional precautions. The Party agreed. Frustrated, four hours after he imposed conditions that he thought would cause the Party to abandon its plans, Turner told the contractor to cancel the event. The city doctor furnished defective smoke-screen letters.
The contractual clause allowing First to cancel the use of the building says exactly what First and the mayor say it does. What it does not mean is that the cancellation may be based on reasons extrinsic to the virus rules and, instead, be based on raw political sabotage.
As for fear of risk to the city, he says,

Allowing the Republican Party to meet its responsibilities does not cost the city. All it has to do is stop interfering. Comparable numbers of people will patronize many places as the Party meets. Its contribution to viral risk is no more than another large grocery store.
In case anyone missed the mayor’s intent, the judge says,

Sylvester Turner worked to get First to cancel the license to the Republican Party after 18-odd months of preparation and cooperation under the guise of public safety based off twisted readings of the governor’s orders.
I don’t know how this will all play out. But one thing is very clear: Democrats are underhanded and untrustworthy, and they’ll go to great ends to thwart the will of good, America-loving citizens.

We cannot let such people win their war in what they see as a right to rule over us.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Politics Is Viral

The virus is political. It does exist. It does not discriminate based on political party. But the response to it has been totally politicized.

Yesterday, Houston’s Democrat Mayor Sylvester Turner decided to cancel the State GOP convention, which was rescheduled from May to July at the George R. Brown Convention Center. The main business starts on Thursday, July 16th, but the committees begin meeting Monday, July 13th, just 5 days after Turner’s breaking of the contract. All parts of the state are represented on the committees. People have to get here from Brownsville and El Paso, not just Austin or Dallas or San Antonio. They need to set out for their week-long commitment early enough to be in place Monday morning.
As of today, State RPT (Republican Party of Texas) Chair James Dickey is seeking immediate legal redress, including forcing the city to keep its contractual agreement.

That's us, and the grandkids, at the 2018 State GOP Convention

Timing is urgent. Earlier today a district judge ruled against the RPT, so tomorrow an appellate court judge will rule. If that judge rules in favor of RPT being able to hold the convention, I am told it will happen in person on Monday. If not, it gets appealed to the Texas Supreme Court; it may be appealed either way. A ruling there would have to happen on Saturday in order for plans to go forward. I don’t know whether a ruling that quick is possible.

About 9 days ago the Mayor amended the contract to remove his ability to shut down the convention at the last moment. He had previously listed a number of requirements that would have to be met to make the meeting “safe.” All of those were met. Based on the Mayor’s removal of his own authority over the decision, the State Republican Executive Committee met last Thursday to decide whether to go ahead with an in-person convention or change to an online distant convention. There was debate both ways, but the vote went strongly in favor of in-person: 40-20.

There are several factors involved in the decision, beyond that it’s nice to see one another in person. We have business we’re required to do, no matter what. And in Texas we do it the grassroots way. Individual involvement is necessary.

For example, the platform—which I help work on. It starts at precinct conventions, where each precinct has the opportunity to meet and put forth resolutions. There is more input at the senatorial district level, including personal testimonies. Then that happens again at the state convention, in the subcommittees, in the committee-as-a-whole, and then when the platform is brought to the whole body. With thousands of people there, individuals have a voice.

Similar work, and similar floor discussions, happen for Rules and Legislative Priorities committees.

Is it possible (i.e., something other than impossible) to do this through Zoom meeting? Sort of. Floor discussion can use the “raise your hand” feature. But there’s no way to separate out points of order from points of information, or arguments in favor from arguments against whatever is being discussed. And, if there’s a vote, and you use “raise your hand” as a way to indicate, you no longer have a place in line for discussion.

In other words, it’s a lot harder to get grassroots input. I’m not sure yet how they’ll handle taking testimony in committee meetings.

There has been a plan B in the works for weeks, in case the Mayor or the County Judge tried to pull the rug out at the last minute. Ten thousand people can’t turn on a dime, so we had to have ways lined up. The convention will happen. Either in person, or online.

But, was this about safety, to keep the medical services in the state from being overwhelmed? No.

Consider this: we held our senatorial district conventions June 13th. Ours had a very high turnout, in one of the largest districts in the state. It was held in a large church, but with that many people it was fairly close quarters. I spent much of the day in a conference room. We had about 3 feet of separation, chair to chair, and were facing our computer screens, not the person next to us for the most part. It was a situation where I wouldn’t normally feel at risk of getting a cold, unless someone sneezed directly on me. But in a Covid-19 world, it was somewhat risky. So, I was looking for word that anyone got sick in the weeks following. Never heard. Then our SREC Chair verified that, out of that convention of some 600+ people (whose names we have a list of), we had zero cases of Covid-19. Zero.

And it turns out, the other SD conventions had the same outcome—no uptick in cases among those who attended the conventions.

A week or two earlier, the protests (and some riots) happened downtown. In fact, Mayor Turner got out there and marched with them—no social distancing.

One news story interviewed a woman who attended and then got Covid-19. This Houston resident told KRIV News that she took part in a march to Houston City Hall attended by an estimated 60,000 people around the beginning of June. She later tested positive, as did several friends who attended with her:

Despite the illness, she said she has no regrets about her decision to march.
“I actually got sick the day after the march… I could not move out of the bed. I was in the bed just sighing,” [she] said. “I definitely don’t regret getting the COVID, because I was out there doing the right thing for the right cause.” 
The story goes on to imply that maybe the disease wasn’t spread at the protests, because incubation periods are usually 2-14 days.

So, they’re saying, as ought to be obvious, this individual didn’t get the illness at the protest; but they fail to note, she spread it there.

She wasn’t risking getting the disease there, because she already had it. But she had bravely gone out there, risking getting it, “because I was out there doing the right thing for the right cause.” Spreading the illness. Not getting it there; spreading it there. The story includes her name, but I am not, because I don’t think I want to blame the subsequent uptick in cases that followed the protests on one person not bright enough to know the difference between 1 day and 2-14 days when she’s proclaiming her virtuous bravery to the media. She was certainly not the only one.

Despite our lack of cases coming out of the SD conventions, the RPT had arranged an amazing array of precautions at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

·         Limited entry points—and fever scanners at each one.
·         Touchless hand sanitizer convenient to everywhere.
·         Larger that usual rooms to allow social distancing.
·         Additional cleaning—deep cleaning of each room between uses.
·         Masks encouraged (not mandated by RPT, but by the county, and not disputed).
·         SWAT teams to protect attendees from protesters.
What we had the opportunity to do was show that a large gathering could happen safely in the time of the pandemic. All it takes is people being individually responsible.

But, as I said, Mayor Turner, among many others, has made this disease political. And he timed it to inflict the highest amount of damage. There’s a pandemic clause in the contract, but he will have to prove that the conditions were so much worse this week than last week that there was no way to provide the services. If he fails to do so, he has not only deprived the city of needed income and tax revenue that the convention would have brought, he has cost city taxpayers around half a million for broken contracts—for which the city and taxpayers gain nothing. But he doesn’t care about taxpayer money.

In case you’ve been hearing that Houston is the country’s new hot spot, note that new cases have been going down, now that the spike caused by the protests has run its course.

Data from Harris County Public Health July 9, 2020

Death rates, which lag one to three weeks behind a spike in cases, are up, but only slightly. We had 7-day rolling averages this high in mid-May. And the trend is moving back down, as the trend in new cases is doing.

What about hospital beds? That’s the important thing, right? The reason for any shutdown whatsoever? Despite what you’ve heard, no, our hospitals are not on the verge of running out of space or ICU beds.  They’re operating at about 97% capacity—which is their goal, and what they were at last year at this time. Hospitals are businesses. They try to fully use facilities. That does not mean we have suddenly filled them up with coronavirus cases. In fact, coronavirus cases are between 12-17% in the various hospitals. Most other beds are taken up by people in for a day or two because of a surgery or other issue and are likely to open up a bed soon. If things start looking dire, hospitals have ways of adjusting—postponing less urgent care, transferring to hospitals with more openings, opening up a mobile center if needed. There’s no cause for alarm—and the hospitals have apologized for not making that clear.

And more good news on the disease in general: recoveries are increasing and deaths rates are going down

Death rates are going down for a couple of reasons. One is that those getting it lately are younger; the average age of those contracting the disease this past month is 31. It is extremely rare for a healthy person in that age range to die of Covid-19. Another reason is that we have better treatments. Less ventilator; more hydroxychloroquine with z-pac and zinc, for example. 

Dr. Jeffrey Barke, left, and Will Will
screenshot from here
In a PragerU interview, Will Witt talks with Dr. Jeffrey Barke, about Covid-19. It’s about 22 minutes, and I suggest watching the whole thing. But one of the things they did was give Will a finger prick test that tests for memory antibodies, IGG, which means you have immunity; and also for antibodies showing your body is fighting off a current infection, IGM. He did it on camera, and showed us the results later in the interview. No sending it off to a lab. It takes ten minutes or less. (Witt tested negative for both, by the way.) I hope these become widespread soon—and I hope they’re accurate.

Dr. Barke said the risk for young people is so low, it’s hard to even put a number on it. I saw on a teacher’s thread this week a great deal of hand-wringing about starting school in the fall. “Think of how many children will die!” one teacher lamented. I have the answer. Zero. The odds of a single child falling to this virus by going to school is immeasurably low. Dr. Barke suggested their odds of getting hit by a car on the way to school are much much higher. And yet no one would consider stopping a child from attending school because of the risk of an accident on the way. (Should people this uninformed and risk averse be teaching young people anything? Yet another reason to homeschool.) Teachers who are of an age or health status to be at risk, he suggests could have their needs handled individually.

Another good piece of news is that the herd immunity threshold (HIT, the point at which enough people have immunity that the virus no longer has a new host to jump to) for this virus is much lower than previously thought. We were told that somewhere between 60-80% of the population needed to contract it before herd immunity was reached. Not so. Because we all have had so many coronaviruses—common colds—in our lifetimes, many of us have developed antibodies that make us immune to this one. So, you add in the already immune to those who develop antibodies by contracting the virus, and it turns out you only need about 20% of the population to contract the disease before HIT is reached.

An example of why we should have seen this was the Diamond cruise ship, early on. The enclosed population, facing this new virus, in an environment in which spreading was inevitable—only 17% got it. That means 83% already had enough immunity to protect them. Later studies show the number in the population as a whole is probably 81%.

Sweden has given us an example; they reached about 20% of the population, and now their death rates are plummeting. So, yes, for now their death numbers are higher than other countries that shut down to prevent the spread. But that just means it will take longer for those countries—whose death tolls aren’t that far behind—to reach the HIT of 20%. By the time they do, then you can compare death rates. In the meantime, Sweden did it with some personal responsibility and without economic devastation.

South Dakota has been doing that too. So, while they have higher rates for now than some other states (they’re 35th), they’ve done it without suspending individual rights and without economic devastation. Please take note, Governor Abbott.

J. B. Handley, in a blog post on HIT—and full of data—shares this CDC chart of Covid-19 deaths in the US: 

CDC Official US Weekly COVID Deaths
from here

Even if we have slight rises here and there, the overall US trend is down.

Further into the article he recommends this video, particularly noting a part starting just before 11 minutes in. A scientist from Stanford, Dr. Michael Levitt, discusses the failures of science in this whole situation. It’s because scientists, who are not used to dealing with things in real time, were too scared of non-scientists breaking protocols to make informed decisions. They failed utterly to give adequate, accurate information on which policy could be based.

A vacuum will be filled. In a political climate such as we’ve been in, power mongers use the vacuum in good knowledge to exert their coercive powers.

We might all have been better off if our governments had simply provided information and protected our rights, instead of pretending they could protect us from a virus by taking away our liberty and property. Funny how just following the Constitution would have led to much better outcomes.