If It Quacks Like a Doctor

Donald Trump Jr.’s Twitter account was restricted on Tuesday due to violations of the company’s policy against spreading disinformation about the coronavirus. His father spread the very same disinformation to q wider audience without consequences, but wound up looking justice as foolish.
Both Trumps shared a short video by a group calling itself Frontline Doctors, and emphasized a statement by a Houston pediatrician who said that there’s no need to wear face masks in public or practice social distancing or ban mass gatherings because she has used a mix of hydroxyclhoroquine, zinc and zithromax to cure 300 patients of the disease. There is no proof that a pediatrician with a small clinic in a strip mall has cured any COVID-19 cases, and o credible medical organization endorses these views, with the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization all having conducted studies showing it does not work and poses additional risks to people.
President Trump continues to tout the benefits of hydroxychloroqine, and seemed happy to hear from anyone share that view, and noted in Tuesday’s public health briefing that “I took it 14 days, and I’m still here,” and then endorsed Immannuel as “a woman who was spectacular in her statements about it.” When a reporter noted that Immanuel also believes many gynecological problems are caused by women having sex with demons in their dreams, and that pharmaceutical companies are using “alien DNA” to create medicines, along with other conspiracy theories, Trump backed off slightly.
“I can tell you this,” Trump said. “She on the air with many other doctors, they were big fans of hydroxychloroquine, but I know nothing about her.”
So Trump winds up admitting he’s basing public health policy on the word of someone he knows nothing about. Which is not reassuring.
Trump also criticized Twitter for restricting his son’s account, and groused about how many negative stories will appear on Google is you search for his name. Facebook and all the other major social media platform banished the Frontline Doctors, but Immanuel seemed unworried about it, “tweeting” “Hello Facebook put back my profile page and videos up or your computers will start crashing till you do. You are not bigger that God. I promise you. If my page is not back up face book will be down in Jesus name.”
Later in the press briefing Trump conceded that Dr. Anthony Fauci is more popular than himself, and wondered aloud why that might be, concluding “maybe it’s my personality.” We’re not at all fond of Trump’s personality, but there’s probably more to it than that. Fauci’s credentials as an epidemiologists are better than Trump’s and Immanuel’s combined, and most of what he says is the consensus of the world’s leading experts, and people might like Trump better if he followed the best advice rather than quackery of someone he knows nothing about.

— Bud Norman

Better Not to Know

President Donald Trump made another trip to a swing state factory that manufactures face masks on Thursday, once again declining to wear a face mask, and as usual he said some interesting things to the assembled media. He continued to brag about all the coronavirus testing that’s going on, but also said that testing “might be overrated, it is overrated,” and then mused it could even be the reason the United States has so many coronavirus cases.
“And don’t forget, we have more cases than anybody in the world. But why? Because we do more testing,” Trump said. “When you test, you find something is wrong with people. If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases.”
Which leads us to wonder why Trump is so often exaggerating the amount of testing that’s going on. If we weren’t doing any testing at all, Trump’s reasoning suggests, we wouldn’t have any cases at all and everyone could go back to work and resume drinking in crowded bars and the economy would again be robust by Election Day
Although don’t have any more medical credentials than Trump, we think it possible that we’d still have many hundreds of thousands of coronavirus causes but not know about it. That might suit Trump’s political purposes, for now, but eventually everyone in the country will know someone in increasing pile of corpses, and in the long run he’d be better off finding to actually stop coronavirus infections.
To do that Trump will need the help of the most excellent medically credentialed people in government and academia and the private sector, but they keep saying gloomy things that don’t jibe with Trump’s upbeat rhetoric. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s most respected infectious disease expert since President Ronald Reagan’s administration, told a Senate committee this week that schools might not be able to open in the fall, and Trump told the press “That is not an acceptable answer.” On Thursday Dr. Rick Bright, until recently in charge of the government’s effort to find a coronavirus vaccine, criticized Trump’s response to the coronavirus before a Senate committee, warning of the “darkest winter and quoted another official saying “We’re in deep shit,” so Trump dismissed him as somebody he never even met but heard bad things about and a “disgruntled employee” bent on revenge for a well-earned demotion.
Somehow we are not reassured that the president didn’t know the man he had in charge of finding a vaccine for America’s greatest public health problem in more than a century, or that he demoted him based on what he’d heard from some people. Bright was demoted after publicly disagreeing with Trump’s endorsement of hydrochloroquine as a cure for coronavirus, which Trump and his media allies touted until studies came in showing it does more harm than good, and hydroxychloroquine faded from the news, at one point supplanted by Trump’s suggestion that infections of household disinfectants might work on coronavirus patients, but Trump was back sticking to his claims on Thursday.
At this point, we’re inclined to stop the reading the news. If we did, perhaps our president wouldn’t be saying and doing such stupid things.

— Bud Norman

Who to Believe? The So-Called “Experts” or What Some People are Saying?

To hear the government’s top experts tell it, the coronavirus crisis is very dire and likely to get worse if states prematurely lift restrictions on businesses and public gatherings and reopen schools.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified before a Senate committee on Tuesday, via a video link due to his possible exposure to the coronavirus inside the White House, and warned that it might not be safe to open schools next fall. On the same day Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control, made the same warnings. Dr. Rick Bright, until recently the head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development in charging of finding a coronavirus vaccine, previewed his testimony on Thursday with a written statement warning that due to a lack of needed testing and tracing efforts a premature reopening could result in “the darkest winter in modern history.”
Which is why President Donald Trump and his spokespeople at Fox News and on talk radio would prefer you not listen to the experts, and instead hear their happy talk about a quick end to the epidemic and a rapid economic rebound in time for Election Day.
Trump told reporters he was surprised by Fauci’s answer to a question about reopening, and that “To me that is not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools.” He went on to say that Fauci “wants to play both sides of the issue,” then predicting in the same run-on sentence that next year’s economy will be “phenomenal.” Redfield somehow escaped similar criticism, even through Trump and his spokespeople have been plenty critical of the CDC for allegedly over counting the coronavirus death toll. Bright was recently demoted from his job leading the government’s efforts to find a vaccine for coronavirus, so Trump dismissed him as a “disgruntled employee.”
None of which is quite convincing. Presidents probably shouldn’t find expert opinion unacceptable just because it’s bad news, and we have no idea what Trump means when he says Fauci “wants to play both sides of the issue.” Trump has been touting the extraordinary measures he’s taken against the epidemic but also insisting that it’s not really such a big deal and that states should defy his administration’s guidelines, while insisting he has “total authority” over the states’ restrictions but that it’s up to the governors and “I take no responsibility at all.” That’s what we call playing both sides of an issue.
The CDC can be justly criticized for a slow response to the crisis, but that might well be because its leadership was afraid of offending Trump, who was bragging that the coronavirus was contained and that cases would soon be down to zero and that the stock markets shouldn’t be spooked. Since then the Trump administration has been refusing to release more dire CDC reports, and was probably furious about the leaking of a White House task force report finding an astounding 1,000 percent — that’s right, 1,000 percent –increase in infections in the rural areas of rural states where Trump still enjoys political support. Bright was demoted after he publicly demoted after he disagreed with Trump’s endorsement of hydrochloroquine as a miracle, and subsequent studies have vindicated his judgment, so we can’t blame him for being a disgruntled employee, and don’t worry that he’s lying before Congress to exact his revenge.
These guys all have excellent academic credentials, and have been rewarded for good work by steady promotions to the top of their profession during decades of Republican and Democratic administrations alike, with Fauci’s distinguished career going all the way back to the good old days of President Ronald Reagan, and they seem unlikely conspirators in a conspiracy to prevent America from being great again. Trump’s scientific credentials are an uncle who was a professor of physics at the Massachussets Institute of Technology and as a genetic result he has “a very big, uh, brain” and how he wowed all the doctors at the CDC were by how much he knew about virology and epidemiology, and what some people say about his very stable genius, but he also went on live television and urged the government’s scientists to investigate the possibility of injecting household disinfectants into the human body.
So far all the public opinion polls show that a vast majority of the public is more inclined to believe the so-called experts than Trump, but that the Republican portion of the populace is increasingly siding with Trump. We attribute this partly to the normal human aversion to bad news, but also a populist resentment of pointy-headed government officials telling thrm what to do, and mostly to the average Republican’s blind faith in whatever narrative is most helpful to Trump’s political fortunes. No matter what happens during Trump’s time in office, even in the bleakest scenarios, they’ll always have someone else to blame.
Sorry to sound so gloomy and doomy, but we expect to be hunkering down for at least a few more months of the unbearable status quo, and aren’t counting on it all magically going away in time for school and Trump’s reelection. Our many Republicans friends are entitled to differ, and to act accordingly, but we’d advise them not to be over-confident.

— Bud Norman

The Perils of a Know-It-All President

President Donald Trump is a self-described “very stable genius” with “a very, very large, uh, brain,” and he knows more than anybody about many things, but we’ll not be looking to him for medical advice. During Thursday’s press briefing he urged the government’s top experts to explore the possibility of treating COVID-19 by injecting patients with disinfectants and shoving ultraviolet lights inside their bodies.
The remarks came after William Bryan, the head of science at the Department of Homeland Security, told the assembled press corps how government research had found that sunlight and disinfectants can kill the coronavirus on surfaces in a little as 30 seconds. Clearly excited by the news, Trump took the podium to say “Supposing we hit the body with a tremendous — whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light — and I think you said that hasn’t been checked, but we’re going to test it? And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, either through the skin or some other way.” After getting a seemingly reluctant nod from Bryan, Trump went on to say “And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute — one minute — and is there a way we can do something like that injection, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.”
The videotape clearly shows Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, with a rather inscrutable look on her face. When she took to the podium she said, in carefully chosen words, that Trump’s suggestion was not a promising avenue of research. “Not as a treatment,” she said. “I mean, certainly fever is a good thing when you have a fever. It helps your body respond. But not as, I have not seen heat or…” At which point Trump cut her off, saying “I think that’s a great thing to look at, I mean you know, OK?”
We’re piling on the huge heap of ridicule Trump has endured partly for the fun of it, but also because Trump’s worrisome tendency toward wishful thinking and pseudo-scientific hunches have impeded his response to the coronavirus crisis. He delayed a coordinate effort to secure and family distribute medical equipment for weeks he spent assuring the public that it would all go away with the warmth of April and one day miraculously disappear, and continues to resist calls for testing on a per-capita scale that more than 20 other countries have already achieved. On a visit to the Centers for Disease Control Trump boasted that all the doctors were in awe of his scientific knowledge of virology and epidemiology, although he also admitted he’d been surprised to recently learn that the seasonal flu can be deadly, and it does not bode well that he clearly believes he knows more than anybody about almost everything.
Trump has lately abandoned his advocacy of hydroxychloroquine as the miracle cure for COVID-19, after three recent studies from three countries indicate it is not an effective treatment and can have deadly consequences, but he’s still urging his scientists to pursue time-wasting research and resisting calls for the widespread testing that might reveal some numbers Trump does not want to hear. The daily press briefings are intended to reassure a frightened American public that the nation’s best and brightest are on the job, and on a day when the national death toll surpassed 50,000 and the unemployment rate hit Great Depression levels Thursday’s performance was counter-productive.

— Bud Norman

A Rainy Day of Gloomy News

Wednesday’s weather here in Wichita was rainy and chilly and gray, so there was little to do in a shut down city than stay at home and read the equally gloomy news.
One prominent story was about the forced departure of scientist Richard Bright from his head post at the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which Bright said was prompted by his public warning that “government should invest the billions of of dollars allocated by Congress to address the Covid-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that that lack scientific merit.” One needn’t have a Ph.D. in immunology, as Bright does, to know that he was talking about hydroxychloroquine, a drug that President Donald Trump and the prime time lineup of Fox News opinion show hosts have touted as a cure for the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Hydroxychloroquine has proved effective against malaria and other diseases, but no studies have shown it can cure Covid-19 and recent studies have suggested it can cause fatal heart arrhythmia in patients suffering from that disease. Trump has a tendency to defenestrate anyone who dares publicly disagree with him, and officials ranging from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to former national security advisor H.R. McMaster to the commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt have all been ousted not for the mistakes they made rather for things they did right. The president’s penchant for dismissing not only expertise but the experts themselves is especially worrisome in the time of a global pandemic that is killing thousands of Americans each day.
In happier story, Trump was apparently persuaded to criticize the Republican governor of Georgia for lifting all the shutdowns and stay-at-home orders in that state earlier than what the consensus of expert opinion recommends. Trump hasn’t recanted his advice to protestors in Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia to “LIBERATE” their states from restrictions imposed by the Democratic governors of those states, but his willingness to criticize a Republican governor is nonetheless encouraging. It’s most likely a preemptive move to avoid blame for the outbreak of new coronavirus cases that is almost certain to ensure, but at least he’s listening to knowledgable advisors rather than trusting his gut instincts for a change.
Elsewhere in the news, Trump also stated that Naval officers are authorized to “shoot down” any Iranian ships that continue to harass the American fleet. Trump apparently isn’t hep to military lingo, in which you “shoot down” enemy aircraft and “sink” enemy vessels, but otherwise we can’t criticize the statement. Longstanding policy allows American ships to defend themselves against any imminent deadly threat, but Trump was probably wise to emphasize it to the erratic Iranian mullahcracy. The story got bottom-of-the-page coverage because the top of the page is all about the coronavirus, but it is related to the extent that the Iranians might have decided to exploit America’s current preoccupation with coronavirus to harass American ships. There are already conspiracy theories on the left that Trump is itching for a war with Iran to divert attention from his handling of the coronavirus, but we doubt it, as Trump was eager to run for reelection on a peace-and-prosperity pitch and would like to have at least one of the two to brag about come November.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also made headlines by telling a radio interviewer that he’d rather let states running debts dealing with coronavirus while their economies are collapsing as a result of the epidemic declare bankruptcy rather than receive more federal aid. Trump and numerous other Republicans quickly disagreed, another encouraging development, but it was another reminder of the expensively unprecedented mess the country is currently in.
Via Facebook we learned that one of our favorite people is losing her brave battle against pancreatic cancer, and there were no baseball box scores to pore over, so it was a rather desultory day. Our Okie relatives on Facebook shared a picture from Tuesday of a tornado with a rainbow clearly visible in the background, so we’ll take some hope in that and try to get a good sleep and wake up this afternoon to a better day.

— Bud Norman

Blind Trusts Versus Blind Faith

For some time now President Donald Trump has been touting a drug called hydroxychloroquine as a possible miracle cure for the disease caused by the coronavirus, despite warnings by his top experts that the drug has not been proved effective. Perhaps it’s a mere coincidence, but it turns out Trump owns stock in the company that makes the drug.
We’ll not come right out and accuse Trump of endangering American lives to make some money, and even his antagonists at The Washington Post concede that his investments in the company are so small they constitute only a tiny fraction of his estimated wealth, but even his most ardent admirers should admit it looks bad.
There is anecdotal evidence that hydroxychloroquine might be an effective remedy for the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus, so Trump argues that people infected with the virus have “nothing to lose.” A French hospital has recently ceased using the drug because of cardiac problems it seems to be causing in patients, however, and Trump’s salesmanship seems to have caused such a rush on the drug that patients with malaria and lupus and other diseases the drug has proved effective against are now unable to acquire it.
Trump’s unexpected apologist at The Washington Post rightly notes that Trump’s investments in the drug only amounts to a nickel of the average American’s net worth, but Trump is an admittedly greedy man, and we wouldn’t put it past him to do almost anything for another nickel. We also note he has no medical training whatsoever, despite having an uncle who taught at the Massachusetts Institute o Technology and his unproved that all the doctors at the Centers for Disease Control were astounded by his knowledge of virology.
Such cynical suspicions are precisely the reason presidents have traditionally released their tax forms and other financial documents and put all their assets in blind trusts for the duration o their presidency, to avoid even the possible appearance of a conflict of interest. Trump refused to do so, and has flouted numerous other presidential norms as well, so we figure his critics are entitled to cast whatever aspersions they wish.We’re hoping Trump’s hunch about hydroxychloroquine proves right, abut otherwise it looks bad.

— Bud Norman