All posts for the month May, 2020

There has been a lot of crime and violence during the recent protests. As a white man I am not going to claim that I understand the experience of African Americans in this country – I do not. However because of recent experiences in my life I have had a very small glimpse of what it feels like to be helpless against a legal system, a society, and a government that seems to not care at all about you. This experience has given me the ability to better empathize with those who are currently protesting.

I’m old enough to recall the LA riots that occurred after the Rodney King arrest. This was in 1992 when I was 22 years old and just about to graduate from college. I could not understand why people resorted to crime during these times. I assumed the crimes were committed by criminals that simply saw an opportunity during the chaos to steal and vandalize, but my views have very much changed since that time. While I certainly do not condone vandalism, looting, arson, or any kind of crime (particularly violent crime) I have a very different picture of what might be going through the minds of the people committing these crimes during a protest. I believe one huge motivator for these outbursts is revenge. Almost everyone understands the desire to seek revenge. At some point, most people have been treated unfairly and had vengeful thoughts.

What I think most people have not experienced is the desire to seek revenge against something and not someone. When you feel like society and our legal system as a whole have wronged you, it is hard to focus your anger on a particular individual or group of individuals. When it is society against which you want revenge, that anger can come out in very different ways, and when it is a large group of people feeling they’ve been wronged you see many different acts of defiance. For example, I saw a Target store being looted. Maybe some people simply saw this chaos as an opportunity to steal a nice television. However, you have wonder if some of those people felt they’d been wronged by that Target. Maybe a security guard was following them around for no reason, or maybe they were treated poorly. But, how do you get revenge against Target? You can stop shopping there but that would likely have little effect. Plus, that is really not a satisfying way to get revenge. You could picket in front of Target, write letters, make blog posts, or publish what happened in other forums, but maybe you lack the time and resources for these pursuits. Even if you are able to take these actions, you may fear that no one would truly listen and nothing would be done.

I experienced first hand that desire for revenge about seven years ago. If you’re aware of what’s happened in my life over that period you may think it’s actually a person or a few people against whom I’ve thought about seeking revenge. I can assure you that it is most definitely not true. Although there were a few individuals that contributed to my suffering, I don’t blame any individual(s) for the things that happened. It is really a system and institutions that I blame the most. I have had many many hours and days with nothing to do but ponder ways in which to get revenge against these institutions, and I came up with plenty of ideas. I’m not going to disclose my ploys, as I never carried any of them out and have no plans to do so. While I may be intelligent enough to have come up with some really good plans, most acts of revenge against an institution involve doing something illegal. I am no master criminal and am under no delusion that I’m smarter than the combined experience and intelligence of law enforcement. Thus, no matter how “brilliant” I think a plan might be, I would never think there is no way I’d get caught. Plus, while none of these plans ever involved hurting someone, I could always envision how an individual might be harmed, and that was something that was simply not acceptable to me. I have a lot to look forward to in my life and getting caught and punished would severely hamper those things.

You may be wondering then how I can say I understand the actions taken by some individuals during these protests. It’s really simple; the risk-reward trade-off for me is probably very different than for most of the people taking these actions. While I’m sure none of them want to get caught, I suspect many do not see a bright future ahead. While a few months in jail is certainly no fun, when you really have nothing else to look forward to for those few months and think it’s not going to have a negative impact on your future, the calculus changes and the rewards start to outweigh the risks. Plus, when part of the reward is the feeling of getting revenge, it is much easier to justify your actions in your own head.

Part of the risk of getting caught for most people is the possibility of going to jail or prison. It’s not only that people don’t want to be incarcerated, it’s that there’s a huge fear of the unknown; you have no idea what it will be like or how you might fit in. However, once you’ve been in jail or prison that fear is gone, and I suspect for most people the experience is likely not nearly as bad as they imagined. In fact, your life incarcerated may not really be much worse than your life free. I certainly heard this from quite a few inmates.

I don’t know how many of these protesters have spent time in jail/prison (old statistics from the Department of Justice show about 20% of African Americans have been incarcerated by the time they are 30), but given the unfair treatment by law enforcement that they are protesting, I would guess that the number is unfortunately high. Thus the fear of the unknown that is prison may not be a consideration for many of these people. Sadly many may very well feel that they have nothing much to lose, and that this last resort behavior is justified.  Additionally, it is also human nature to somewhat mute bad experiences, making someone’s time being incarcerated not seem nearly as bad as it was at the time. I can certainly related to this.

The final reason I can understand the destruction is that it is so frustrating to feel like your voice is not being heard. You say over and over that there is a problem and no one listens. You say over and over that something is unjust and no one listens. The news pays attention for a news cycle which lasts at most a couple of week. For example, when was Ahmaud Arbery last in the news? The frustration builds as you see more and more injustice happening and no one in power doing anything about it, even if it’s not clear what the best course of action is. Destruction is one way of making your voice heard even if no one actually hears your voice. It keeps the media’s attention. While I do not suspect there is some larger, deeper plan to destroy things to keep the focus on the problem, I can understand the desire to act out when you feel your needs are not being met and think no one is listening; this is a natural and very human reaction that we are all born with.

Another part of the problem here is also that those who are supposed to be there to protect people (law enforcement) are the ones that are causing harm. The sense of betrayal here is immense – it’s a similar dynamic to a child that is being abused by a parent or teacher.  Over time the relationship gets extremely warped and the child will likely lash out eventually.  Unfortunately, this aggression is often not directed at the person that abused them, but at their own children or others around them.

I will leave you with a clip from a show I saw in early 2013 when I was feeling a lot of hate and anger.  It really resonated with me then and it still does.

A private (or public as Twitter is) is free to respond to someone’s post and to a limited degree delete posts and accounts, but only if they seek protection under the Communications Decency Act. Companies do it all the time. 
While the legal maneuver is to try to undermine the protections given to social platforms, the previous posts were also referencing the tweets Trump made about Twitter limiting free speech. 
While AG Barr has said the DOJ had been looking into that particular section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act, and there are some good arguments that it should be altered, I believe the timing of this is simply a result of Trump’s vindictiveness.
The executive order is really not that complex and could have easily been written in a couple of days and even a matter of hours by someone versed in the particular law under scrutiny. It also clearly shows the vindictive nature that he’s expressed in tweets following Twitter replying to his tweet. See, which I have embedded for reference below.  What I find truly amazing is the introduction to the executive order which clearly shows its vindictive origins.  They actually use “whataboutisms” in it referencing Adam Schiff and the “Russian Hoax”.  I’m not exactly sure what Schiff tweeted but I doubt it had anything to do with Trump colluding with Russia.  I suspect it was about Russia’s attempted interference in the 2016 election.  If so, then that has clearly been proven if you read any of the warrants issued for Russians.  They really didn’t even try to hide it and left a very clear digital trail back to them.  Just read the indictment for yourself; it’s quite interesting once you get into the details.
Of course, the executive order will need to withstand legal scrutiny of the courts, but I think that is part of the ploy–make social media platforms “waste” money in drawn-out legal battles in which it seems lawyers are typically the only winners.
There is a lot to debate about section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act but I believe it actually allows free speech more than it hampers it. Without it, say, Lori Klausutis’ husband could sue Twitter about the posts the president made concerning her death. That just does not seem right to me. Plus, if Lori Klausutis’ husband sued Twitter, would Twitter not then sue Trump?  Who wins then besides lawyers?
It would be like a store being sued because someone besides the owners posted inflammatory material on a bulletin board they’d set up for public announcements. If you want to go even more extreme, I don’t think it’d be right to allow a business to be sued because someone spray-painted inflammatory things on their building. Are all blogs that allow comments now going to have to worry about being sued for something a commenter might say?  If so, I think a lot of places that once offered platforms for discussion will simply shut down, or ban that discussion.
Social platforms need to maintain a balance between allowing people to express their opinions and the need to prevent misinformation, and harmful and/or indecent material from spreading, and maybe they go too far sometimes; the law is not clear on the line of what is okay and what is not.  However, what Trump is doing is essentially trying to kill or hamper the platform that gives him so much of his voice.  It is honestly quite strange and a very perplexing move.

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1.  Policy.  Free speech is the bedrock of American democracy.  Our Founding Fathers protected this sacred right with the First Amendment to the Constitution.  The freedom to express and debate ideas is the foundation for all of our rights as a free people.

In a country that has long cherished the freedom of expression, we cannot allow a limited number of online platforms to hand pick the speech that Americans may access and convey on the internet.  This practice is fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic.  When large, powerful social media companies censor opinions with which they disagree, they exercise a dangerous power.  They cease functioning as passive bulletin boards, and ought to be viewed and treated as content creators.

The growth of online platforms in recent years raises important questions about applying the ideals of the First Amendment to modern communications technology.  Today, many Americans follow the news, stay in touch with friends and family, and share their views on current events through social media and other online platforms.  As a result, these platforms function in many ways as a 21st century equivalent of the public square.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube wield immense, if not unprecedented, power to shape the interpretation of public events; to censor, delete, or disappear information; and to control what people see or do not see.

As President, I have made clear my commitment to free and open debate on the internet. Such debate is just as important online as it is in our universities, our town halls, and our homes.  It is essential to sustaining our democracy.

Online platforms are engaging in selective censorship that is harming our national discourse.  Tens of thousands of Americans have reported, among other troubling behaviors, online platforms “flagging” content as inappropriate, even though it does not violate any stated terms of service; making unannounced and unexplained changes to company policies that have the effect of disfavoring certain viewpoints; and deleting content and entire accounts with no warning, no rationale, and no recourse.

Twitter now selectively decides to place a warning label on certain tweets in a manner that clearly reflects political bias.  As has been reported, Twitter seems never to have placed such a label on another politician’s tweet.  As recently as last week, Representative Adam Schiff was continuing to mislead his followers by peddling the long-disproved Russian Collusion Hoax, and Twitter did not flag those tweets.  Unsurprisingly, its officer in charge of so-called ‘Site Integrity’ has flaunted his political bias in his own tweets.

At the same time online platforms are invoking inconsistent, irrational, and groundless justifications to censor or otherwise restrict Americans’ speech here at home, several online platforms are profiting from and promoting the aggression and disinformation spread by foreign governments like China.  One United States company, for example, created a search engine for the Chinese Communist Party that would have blacklisted searches for “human rights,” hid data unfavorable to the Chinese Communist Party, and tracked users determined appropriate for surveillance.  It also established research partnerships in China that provide direct benefits to the Chinese military.  Other companies have accepted advertisements paid for by the Chinese government that spread false information about China’s mass imprisonment of religious minorities, thereby enabling these abuses of human rights.  They have also amplified China’s propaganda abroad, including by allowing Chinese government officials to use their platforms to spread misinformation regarding the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to undermine pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

As a Nation, we must foster and protect diverse viewpoints in today’s digital communications environment where all Americans can and should have a voice.  We must seek transparency and accountability from online platforms, and encourage standards and tools to protect and preserve the integrity and openness of American discourse and freedom of expression.

Sec2.  Protections Against Online Censorship.  (a)  It is the policy of the United States to foster clear ground rules promoting free and open debate on the internet.  Prominent among the ground rules governing that debate is the immunity from liability created by section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act (section 230(c)).  47 U.S.C. 230(c).  It is the policy of the United States that the scope of that immunity should be clarified: the immunity should not extend beyond its text and purpose to provide protection for those who purport to provide users a forum for free and open speech, but in reality use their power over a vital means of communication to engage in deceptive or pretextual actions stifling free and open debate by censoring certain viewpoints.

Section 230(c) was designed to address early court decisions holding that, if an online platform restricted access to some content posted by others, it would thereby become a “publisher” of all the content posted on its site for purposes of torts such as defamation.  As the title of section 230(c) makes clear, the provision provides limited liability “protection” to a provider of an interactive computer service (such as an online platform) that engages in “‘Good Samaritan’ blocking” of harmful content.  In particular, the Congress sought to provide protections for online platforms that attempted to protect minors from harmful content and intended to ensure that such providers would not be discouraged from taking down harmful material.  The provision was also intended to further the express vision of the Congress that the internet is a “forum for a true diversity of political discourse.”  47 U.S.C. 230(a)(3).  The limited protections provided by the statute should be construed with these purposes in mind.

In particular, subparagraph (c)(2) expressly addresses protections from “civil liability” and specifies that an interactive computer service provider may not be made liable “on account of” its decision in “good faith” to restrict access to content that it considers to be “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing or otherwise objectionable.”  It is the policy of the United States to ensure that, to the maximum extent permissible under the law, this provision is not distorted to provide liability protection for online platforms that — far from acting in “good faith” to remove objectionable content — instead engage in deceptive or pretextual actions (often contrary to their stated terms of service) to stifle viewpoints with which they disagree.  Section 230 was not intended to allow a handful of companies to grow into titans controlling vital avenues for our national discourse under the guise of promoting open forums for debate, and then to provide those behemoths blanket immunity when they use their power to censor content and silence viewpoints that they dislike.  When an interactive computer service provider removes or restricts access to content and its actions do not meet the criteria of subparagraph (c)(2)(A), it is engaged in editorial conduct.  It is the policy of the United States that such a provider should properly lose the limited liability shield of subparagraph (c)(2)(A) and be exposed to liability like any traditional editor and publisher that is not an online provider.

(b)  To advance the policy described in subsection (a) of this section, all executive departments and agencies should ensure that their application of section 230(c) properly reflects the narrow purpose of the section and take all appropriate actions in this regard.  In addition, within 60 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary), in consultation with the Attorney General, and acting through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), shall file a petition for rulemaking with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting that the FCC expeditiously propose regulations to clarify:

(i) the interaction between subparagraphs (c)(1) and (c)(2) of section 230, in particular to clarify and determine the circumstances under which a provider of an interactive computer service that restricts access to content in a manner not specifically protected by subparagraph (c)(2)(A) may also not be able to claim protection under subparagraph (c)(1), which merely states that a provider shall not be treated as a publisher or speaker for making third-party content available and does not address the provider’s responsibility for its own editorial decisions;

(ii)  the conditions under which an action restricting access to or availability of material is not “taken in good faith” within the meaning of subparagraph (c)(2)(A) of section 230, particularly whether actions can be “taken in good faith” if they are:

(A)  deceptive, pretextual, or inconsistent with a provider’s terms of service; or

(B)  taken after failing to provide adequate notice, reasoned explanation, or a meaningful opportunity to be heard; and

(iii)  any other proposed regulations that the NTIA concludes may be appropriate to advance the policy described in subsection (a) of this section.

Sec3.  Protecting Federal Taxpayer Dollars from Financing Online Platforms That Restrict Free Speech.  (a)  The head of each executive department and agency (agency) shall review its agency’s Federal spending on advertising and marketing paid to online platforms.  Such review shall include the amount of money spent, the online platforms that receive Federal dollars, and the statutory authorities available to restrict their receipt of advertising dollars.

(b)  Within 30 days of the date of this order, the head of each agency shall report its findings to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

(c)  The Department of Justice shall review the viewpoint-based speech restrictions imposed by each online platform identified in the report described in subsection (b) of this section and assess whether any online platforms are problematic vehicles for government speech due to viewpoint discrimination, deception to consumers, or other bad practices.

Sec4.  Federal Review of Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices.  (a)  It is the policy of the United States that large online platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, as the critical means of promoting the free flow of speech and ideas today, should not restrict protected speech.  The Supreme Court has noted that social media sites, as the modern public square, “can provide perhaps the most powerful mechanisms available to a private citizen to make his or her voice heard.”  Packingham v. North Carolina, 137 S. Ct. 1730, 1737 (2017).  Communication through these channels has become important for meaningful participation in American democracy, including to petition elected leaders.  These sites are providing an important forum to the public for others to engage in free expression and debate.  CfPruneYard Shopping Center v. Robins, 447 U.S. 74, 85-89 (1980).

(b)  In May of 2019, the White House launched a Tech Bias Reporting tool to allow Americans to report incidents of online censorship.  In just weeks, the White House received over 16,000 complaints of online platforms censoring or otherwise taking action against users based on their political viewpoints.  The White House will submit such complaints received to the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

(c)  The FTC shall consider taking action, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to prohibit unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce, pursuant to section 45 of title 15, United States Code.  Such unfair or deceptive acts or practice may include practices by entities covered by section 230 that restrict speech in ways that do not align with those entities’ public representations about those practices.

(d)  For large online platforms that are vast arenas for public debate, including the social media platform Twitter, the FTC shall also, consistent with its legal authority, consider whether complaints allege violations of law that implicate the policies set forth in section 4(a) of this order.  The FTC shall consider developing a report describing such complaints and making the report publicly available, consistent with applicable law.

Sec5.  State Review of Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices and Anti-Discrimination Laws.  (a)  The Attorney General shall establish a working group regarding the potential enforcement of State statutes that prohibit online platforms from engaging in unfair or deceptive acts or practices.  The working group shall also develop model legislation for consideration by legislatures in States where existing statutes do not protect Americans from such unfair and deceptive acts and practices. The working group shall invite State Attorneys General for discussion and consultation, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law.

(b) Complaints described in section 4(b) of this order will be shared with the working group, consistent with applicable law. The working group shall also collect publicly available information regarding the following:

(i) increased scrutiny of users based on the other users they choose to follow, or their interactions with other users;

(ii) algorithms to suppress content or users based on indications of political alignment or viewpoint;

(iii) differential policies allowing for otherwise impermissible behavior, when committed by accounts associated with the Chinese Communist Party or other anti-democratic associations or governments;

(iv) reliance on third-party entities, including contractors, media organizations, and individuals, with indicia of bias to review content; and

(v) acts that limit the ability of users with particular viewpoints to earn money on the platform compared with other users similarly situated.

Sec6.  Legislation.  The Attorney General shall develop a proposal for Federal legislation that would be useful to promote the policy objectives of this order.

Sec7.  Definition.  For purposes of this order, the term “online platform” means any website or application that allows users to create and share content or engage in social networking, or any general search engine.

Sec8.  General Provisions. (a)  Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i)    the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii)   the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b)  This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c)  This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

The debate about executive orders is a long and intricate one, and I personally believe that over the years both parties (when in power) have expanded executive power too far. There is obviously a reason to allow executive orders, i.e. when something needs to be done quickly in an emergency. Whether the COVID-19 outbreak was/is an emergency is of course debatable. However, I feel it was/is far more of an emergency than Twitter’s ability to respond to tweets on its platform.
What you have to remember is that all the executive power Trump normalizes can and will be used by the other party when in power. I see these as very short-term wins for the Republican party that generally weaken the checks and balances our government depends on to be a democracy.

A collection of great articles about capitalism, cronyism, and counterfeit-capitalism… They’re all quite interesting.  From September 2019:

I really wonder how the gig economy is going to shake out after things open back up. Will people continue to get stuff delivered and/or pick things up curbside more? All these were options BC-19 (before COVID-19) but I’m sure more people have tried them now. What’s the consensus?

A private (or public as Twitter is) is free to respond to someone’s post, and to a limited degree delete posts and accounts. They do it all the time. See my follow-up post about the actual order. Of course, that’s the legal maneuver.

I’m talking here about his follow-up tweets about the situation and his general sense that what Twitter did somehow violated his right to free speech.

While Barr has said the DOJ had been looking into that particular section of the law, and there are some good arguments that it should be altered, I do believe the timing of this is simply a result of Trump’s vindictiveness.

The document is really not that complex and could have easily been written in a couple of days and even a matter of hours by someone versed in the particular law under scrutiny. It also clearly shows the vindictive nature that he’s expressed in tweets following Twitter replying to his tweet. See:

Of course, this will need to withstand legal scrutiny of the courts, but I think that is part of the ploy–make social media platforms “waste” money in drawn-out legal battles in which it seems lawyers are typically the only winners.

There is a lot to debate about section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act but I believe it actually allows free speech more than it hampers it. Without it, say, Lori Klausutis’ husband could sue Twitter about the posts the president made concerning her death. That just does not seem right to me. It would be like a store being sued because someone besides the owners posting inflammatory material on a bulletin board they’d set up for public announcements. If you want to go even more extreme, I don’t think it’d be right to allow a business to be sued because of someone spray-painting inflammatory things on their building.

Social platforms need to maintain a balance between allowing people to express their opinions and the need to prevent misinformation from spreading, and maybe they go too far sometimes.

I believe Trump’s original travel ban from Arab counties did not pass the legal challenges, but the revised version did by a party-line vote in SCOTUS. But the debate over the courts becoming too political is for another time.

I guess he went through with it. If it has any effect it will only stifle the ability to express oneself. You allow Twitter to be sued over what users post and you think they wouldn’t immediately take down many of Trump’s tweets, especially the ones about Scarborough. Honestly, I think Twitter should in response simply delete his account saying it’s too much of a liability for them now.

I seriously wonder how courts will rule on this… if they rule for Trump our society will be permanently altered, for the worse I believe. Trump is trying to limit Twitter’s freedom of speech. Can he possibly not see that? Are the “advisers” he has surrounded himself with too afraid to point out the obvious inconsistency? Does he think his followers will not see this obvious inconsistency?
No newspaper is under any obligation to publish every letter they receive, and Twitter is under no obligation to publish every tweet they receive. Likewise, a newspaper is free to publish a letter and then respond to it. Twitter is free to do the same.
Please, SOMEONE, rent a room in a Trump hotel and hang a banner critical of Trump from the window and see what happens.

It appears that our president’s vindictiveness towards anyone that he perceives as disagreeing with or slighting him goes even deeper than I previously thought.  He also clearly does not understand that companies, public or private, are under no obligation to protect free speech.  Do you think Trump would not have banners hung from the windows of his hotels saying “Trump Sucks” removed?  Companies are also under no obligation to not have an opinion.  Twitter did not remove his tweets; they only officially responded to them with counterpoints.  Is it not THEIR right to do so?  We have a narcissistic, vindictive bully as a president that is willing to use all the power we’ve given him and power we did not give him to protect his ego, belittle and oppress his opponents, and take revenge on anyone that disagrees with him.

We cannot allow this man to continue dismantling the government we have so he can take revenge on his enemies.  He and the Republican party are establishing some dangerous precedents that can and likely will be used by both parties in the future.  To those that applaud him for taking these actions, please remember that future presidents will also take advantage of these precedents and implement policies through executive orders and/or with no oversight that you may very much not like.

Okay, I couldn’t help myself…

“Make no mistake…I’m not posting this for debate. I don’t seek or need commentary. Unfollow or unfriend me if it makes you feel better.”

Not posting for debate? Give me a break. Plus, you should be seeking commentary because that’s how views and opinions evolve, and how you learn.

“Just consider this…when you think the President is a jerk; he is.”


“He’s a New Yorker. He’s crude and can be rude. He gets his feelings hurt and he’s a hot head. He hits back; harder. And he should Tweet less.”

Agreed. Not sure about the hitting back harder. Often seems a lot like flailing and tantrums to me.

“Let me tell you what else he is.”

Please do…

“He is a guy that demands performance.”

As long as you agree with him, and the performances he demands appear to be mostly to entertain him. He also seems to demand a lot from his accountants and lawyers to bail him out of bankruptcies and paying taxes.

“He is a guy that asks lots of questions.”

Because he doesn’t understand a lot of stuff which is not necessarily bad. Asking questions is good, but asking if we can test injecting people with disinfectants is not. The bigger problem is he doesn’t seem to pay any attention to the answer unless it agrees with him.

“The questions he asks aren’t cloaked in fancy “political” phrases; they are “why the hell…” questions.”

No, they are just cloaked in self-grandeur and boasting about how great he is.

“For decades the health industry has thrown away billions of face masks after one use. Trump asks, “why the hell are we throwing them away? Why not sterilize them and use them numerous times?””

There’s a simple answer to that. It’s cheaper and more cost-effective that way. It’s why almost all medical supplies are “single-use”. Sterilizing things regularly costs a lot. Why doesn’t he ask why we all don’t carry a nice straw with us instead of using a disposable one?

“He’s the guy that gets hospital ships readied in one week when it would have taken a bureaucrat weeks or months to get it done.”

That hospital ship had almost zero impact on the situation in New York. It was great symbolism and showmanship but very little real benefit.

“He’s the guy that gets temporary hospitals built in three days.”

How did HE do that? It seems like he left that up to states and their leadership.

“He’s the guy that gets auto industries to restructure to build ventilators in a business that’s highly regulated by agencies that move like sloths.”

After people kept pushing him to use his powers to do this. I also wonder how many ventilators the auto industry has built. Plus, they still need to be tested and certified. There’s a reason medical equipment is highly regulated. It needs to work!

“He’s the guy that asks “why aren’t we using drugs that might work on people that are dying; what the hell do we have to lose?””

Drugs have side effects and a limited supply. Injecting disinfectants “might” work also.

“He’s the guy that restricted travel from China when the Democrats and liberal media were screaming “xenophobia” and “racist.” Now they’re wanting to know why didn’t he react sooner?”

Do you know how many American businesspeople got stuck in China? He’s a selective xenophobe, much like Hitler was come to think of it.

“He’s the guy that campaigned on securing the border – protecting America – in the face of screaming Democrats and the liberal media. When he shut down borders in the midst of the coronavirus virus, they screamed louder. Then the rest of the world followed suit, including the European Union with travel between their member countries.”

The rest of the world was shutting things down too. Securing the border isn’t really protecting America. And from what I’ve seen he’s not done anything to actually do that. Why aren’t we securing our northern border? The thing is, immigration from Mexico, legal and illegal, has been declining for decades. The standard of living between there and here is still very different but not as different as it was 30 years ago. Do you personally know anyone that has lost their job to a Mexican?

“Has he made mistakes? Yes.”


“Everyone I know has and does.”

Also agreed.

“The “experts” wouldn’t and haven’t done any better.”

It depends on the “experts” you listen to and if they are really experts. Are they also trying to sell a book, promote their podcast, or get elected? Experts are experts because they’ve studied a field extensively and probably have a more informed opinion than non-experts. Do you listen to everything an auto mechanic tells you as gospel? Do you get second opinions? Experts disagree all the time, it’s what keeps fields advancing. Most experts are making educated guesses because things are complicated. I’d rather have an educated guess than a non-educated one.

“Trump is working harder than I’ve ever seen a President work. Twenty-four hour days. He isn’t hiding in his office; he’s outdoor front – Briefing – every day.”

He’s outdoors briefing because he’d rather be in front of the cameras than actually working. I’m not sure why him “briefing” reporters ever day is working. It seems like he spends an awful lot of time simply bragging about himself and his genius, tweeting, and watching TV.

“When he offers hope, he’s lying and when he’s straight forward, he should be hopeful. It’s a no win situation, but he’ll not be deterred.”

Sometimes we need a cheerleader and I think it wasn’t necessarily bad that he tried to calm fears at the beginning of this. However, as he saw the rapid exponential growth and problems it was causing he should have quit saying things like “the cases will be zero soon”. The thing is, he is lying, or bullshitting (there’s a difference) most of the time. There’s a way to calm fears and not lie. Politics is really by its very nature a no-win situation. Every politician deals with that. I think Trump does it very poorly because he’s simply too arrogant to listen to anyone.

“I’ll take this kind of leadership six days a week and twice on Sunday over a “polished, nice guy” politician who reads prepared speeches from a teleprompter and answers pre-scripted questions.”

Polished, nice guys are not great either. As George Carlin said about Bill Clinton, “The American people like their bullshit right up front, where they can get a good, strong whiff of it. Clinton might be full of shit, but at least he lets you know it. Dole tried to hide it, didn’t he? Dole kept saying, “I’m a plain and honest man.” Bullshit! People don’t believe that. What did Clinton say? He said, “Hi, folks! I’m completely full of shit, and how do you like that?” And the people said, “You know something? At least he’s honest!”” (…)

“He is my President.”


“Copy and share if you agree.”




I have updated the plots with the data up to May 24, 2020, and highlighted Wisconsin since people seem to be interested in what’s happening there.

While I haven’t lived in Michigan in 27 years, I still have many friends and family members that live there, and I go there fairly regularly.  It seems many people are upset with how their governor has handled the shutdown and enforced social distancing, although it appears from polls that the majority of people support her policies.

Besides simply being upset that small business owners are being hurt by this, it seems that many people are upset that they were/are not allowed to go to vacation properties that are usually located in rural areas of northern Michigan.  I suspect the thought here was that this was part of an overall limiting of travel.  I can understand this from a health perspective as it would keep the spread in areas where there are far more healthcare resources.  I can also understand that at a time when people are social distancing, they would like to be able to get away for a bit, and in many ways increase social distancing.

I have also heard many complaints about not being able to go out in boats, and I have to say I really do not understand the reasoning for this.  Maybe it’s to limit the number of people that need to monitor boating and/or needing to respond to emergencies.  While boating isn’t a huge thing in Pennsylvania, I don’t think there are any limitations here, and I’ve not heard of this in other states; but I may be wrong.

Finally, it seems people are particularly concerned with barbershops and salons.  I’m not sure what the particular concern is with these places other than that many are indeed small businesses.  However, there are all kinds of other small businesses that are also being hurt.  I can understand the government’s stance to keep them closed to enforce social distancing which is hard to do when you’re getting your hair cut.  If we’d have built up our testing capabilities faster, then maybe barbers and beauticians could be regularly tested and given some certificate to ensure customers of this.  It also seems like barbers and beauticians have made very public statements about their feelings.  However, it seems to me that there are just as many small gym owners and personal trainers as there are barbers and beauticians.  I don’t hear about them complaining, although I’m sure they are, at least privately.

So, let’s take a look at the data (with all the caveats attached) for Michigan.  First, let’s look at the ratio of day-to-day changes in the number of infected; this is often called R.  The plot below shows this for all states with four highlighted for comparison.  The points above 1.45 at the start that aren’t highlighted are from Missouri.  It’s clear that things started off in Michigan with the virus spreading very fast, and there’s plenty of speculation on why that was.

If we look at the new infections each day averaged over a week, we see that, as suggested by the plot above, the infections spread in Michigan very fast.  Sometime in the first half of April things changed dramatically, as they did in Louisiana.  New infections have now steadied for both states.  Note that Michigan’s population is about twice that of Louisiana’s and slightly more than New Jersey’s.  Although the infection rate seems to be increasing slightly in the last couple weeks, I suspect the attitude is from a healthcare perspective, “Whatever we’re doing is working, so let’s keep doing it.”  From an economic perspective it’s really hard to say, but it’s certainly realistic to think that there could be another explosion in the number of cases.  If there is one I suspect it’d be less severe than the first time because people are simply more away and taking precautions.  Illinois now has the most new infections of any state, and California is catching up to New York.

Linear scale
Logarithmic scale

Now let’s take a look at deaths each day, again average over a seven day period.  I think this is the one that got the Michigan government/governor very concerned.  While the number of daily new infections mirrored that of Louisiana closely, the number of deaths each day was more than double for many days.  It’s hard to determine why this was besides maybe an older and less healthy population.  Louisiana’s infections were concentrated around New Orleans like Michigan’s were concentrated around Detroit.  I doubt the medical care in the Detroit area is any better or worse than in the New Orleans area.  Likewise I would think that per capita the capacity would likely be the same.

Linear scale
Logarithmic scale

I have no idea if the actions Michigan’s governor took and is taking are the best strategy overall.  It certainly seems to be from a healthcare perspective.  The big questions that will never be answered are:  How many people would have died or gotten severely ill without the actions taken?  And, how much better would the economy be without those actions?  My personal feeling is that a couple thousand more people would have died and the economy would probably not be a whole lot better.  New data from Politico says that “…that Georgia now leads the country in terms of the proportion of its workforce applying for unemployment assistance. A staggering 40.3 percent of the state’s workers — two out of every five — has filed for unemployment insurance payments since the coronavirus pandemic led to widespread shutdowns in mid-March, a POLITICO review of Labor Department data shows.”

I’m not really sure of a good way to look at the life versus economy tradeoff.  Maybe the best way is to think that we (you) saved 2,000 lives but lost 2,000 small businesses.  That’s still a hard one to judge, but I would think many small business owners would trade their business for the life of a loved one.