Category Archives: Culture

Hartford to Reopen Despite Governor’s Unconstitutional Orders

Huzzah for the city leaders in Hartford and the Washington County Sheriff.

HARTFORD — In what Mayor Tim Michalak said could be the biggest decision ever made by the Common Council, aldermen on Tuesday night unanimously agreed to have city staff create a plan to reopen city buildings and services no later than Monday and try to gradually bring them back to normal levels.

“We want the local businesses to also know the police department will not be overtly enforcing the state ‘stay at home’ order,” Michalak said. “Our department will be enforcing criminal and traffic laws.”

City officials said local businesses could reopen after that date “at their own risk and after careful consideration and consultation with their insurance agent and with customers.” The decision comes despite Gov. Tony Evers’ recent announcement to extend the Safer at Home order and other state-imposed rules to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

[…]

“It’s time we do something. We can’t let this go on another month without opening up.”

Michalak said the city is not telling businesses to open up, but city officials are not going to kick in their door if they decide to do it and Washington County Sheriff Martin Schulteis has backed the city up in this decision.

“When it comes to the different communities he said he is going to follow ‘home rule,’ which means if they have their own Police Department he will allow that department to enforce the rules and or take action,” Michalak said. ‘We are saying we’re not going to be the boot that’s on their neck.’

The mayor said he has received numerous phone calls and emails from business owners who said they are faced with possibly closing their doors for good if the state-imposed orders are allowed to continue.

“We’re going to open the library and we’re going to open the public buildings,” Michalak said. “If we don’t do something soon to help our local

businesses we could see another depression. We need to bring freedom back to Hartford.”

Opening America

It feels like we are seeing those early rays of light before the dawn.

Suffering for thee, but not for me

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News yesterday.

As Governor Tony Evers extended his despotic rule for another month, abrogated our civil rights, and pushed Wisconsin further into an economic depression, he had the audacity to tweet, “we have to remember that we’re all in this together.” Nothing could be further from the truth and the heavy hand of government oppression puts the difference between public and private America into stark relief.

Throughout Wisconsin, private-sector employees are feeling the full brunt of Governor Evers’ haphazard and tyrannical rule. Every day, we wake up to see what new decree might have been announced from Madison to control or crush some other aspect of our lives. Many businesses have already been devastated and been forced to terminate people’s employment and cut back pay and benefits for the employees who remain.

Harley-Davidson laid off the majority of its production employees. For those who are still working, they had to cut salaries, cancel merit increases, and reduce other expenses. Kohl’s Department Stores has closed all of its stores and furloughed most of its store and corporate employees. Thousands of hotels, restaurants, and other businesses across the state have closed or drastically cut back operations. All of their employees are either out of work or seeing reduced wages.

The results of this are hitting families hard. An estimate from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development says that Wisconsin’s unemployment rate has reached 27%. For some perspective, at the peak of the Great Depression, the nation’s unemployment rate was 24.9%.

In response to the economic and societal devastation being wrought from the governor’s mansion (provided by the taxpayers), private- sector leaders are standing in solidarity with their employees. The CEOs of Harley-Davidson and Kohl’s are both forgoing their salaries. Boards of directors and executives across the state are forgoing or heavily cutting their salaries and benefits to help preserve money for more employees. For small-business owners, many of them do not have a choice. They are being bankrupted and seeing their life’s work obliterated underneath them.

All of these people are “in this together.” Is Governor Evers? Is his staff? What about other government workers?

While private-sector employees are feeling the pain, Governor Evers, his staff, and other government leaders are completely unaffected by the draconian orders they are issuing and enforcing. Their biggest pain is that they are slightly inconvenienced by not being able to go out to dinner or see a movie. That is the extent of their “sacrifice” during these unprecedented times. While Wisconsinites suffer, Governor Evers, his staff, Cabinet secretaries, their staffs, and virtually every other state employee continues to receive their full salaries, comprehensive benefits, and guaranteed retirements – all courtesy of the taxpayers that Governors Evers is subjugating. Last year, Governor Evers gave double-digit salary increases to many of his key Cabinet secretaries. They are all still cashing those bloated paychecks while looking forward to their cushy retirements.

Governor Evers continues to be paid his $152,756 per year with full benefits and a taxpayer-funded mansion. He hasn’t even offered to forgo any of HIS pay as he mocks Wisconsin’s unemployed with tweets saying “we’re all in this together.” Clearly, we are not. Some animals are more equal than others.

One of the many impacts of Evers’ forced shutdown is that government revenue has collapsed. The money the state confiscates in the form of sales, income, and business taxes will not be anywhere near enough to pay for Wisconsin’s distended government. Even knowing this, Evers has not lifted a finger to begin to lessen the cost of government to match the people’s ability to pay. There are only three things one can do to balance a budget – cut spending, raise taxes, or borrow money. Evers is already signaling that he will not cut spending – especially his own paycheck. Wisconsinites better prepare for the other two.

Thomas Paine, in his incomparable “Common Sense,” wrote that government is “in its worst state an intolerable one … our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.” Wisconsinites’ suffering is made all the more worse by the fact that while our livelihoods are being destroyed, we are being forced to pay the full cost of the government causing it.

Suffering for thee, but not for me

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Go pick up a copy and keep our local media in business. Here’s a sample of the column:

While private-sector employees are feeling the pain, Governor Evers, his staff, and other government leaders are completely unaffected by the draconian orders they are issuing and enforcing. Their biggest pain is that they are slightly inconvenienced by not being able to go out to dinner or see a movie. That is the extent of their “sacrifice” during these unprecedented times. While Wisconsinites suffer, Governor Evers, his staff, Cabinet secretaries, their staffs, and virtually every other state employee continues to receive their full salaries, comprehensive benefits, and guaranteed retirements – all courtesy of the taxpayers that Governors Evers is subjugating. Last year, Governor Evers gave double-digit salary increases to many of his key Cabinet secretaries. They are all still cashing those bloated paychecks while looking forward to their cushy retirements.

Governor Evers continues to be paid his $152,756 per year with full benefits and a taxpayer-funded mansion. He hasn’t even offered to forgo any of HIS pay as he mocks Wisconsin’s unemployed with tweets saying “we’re all in this together.” Clearly, we are not. Some animals are more equal than others.

One of the many impacts of Evers’ forced shutdown is that government revenue has collapsed. The money the state confiscates in the form of sales, income, and business taxes will not be anywhere near enough to pay for Wisconsin’s distended government. Even knowing this, Evers has not lifted a finger to begin to lessen the cost of government to match the people’s ability to pay. There are only three things one can do to balance a budget – cut spending, raise taxes, or borrow money. Evers is already signaling that he will not cut spending – especially his own paycheck. Wisconsinites better prepare for the other two.

13 Days Since Election and Still No Spike in Covid Cases

I note that it’s been 13 days since we held an election in Wisconsin and we have not had a spike in cases or deaths. What does this tell us? First, it tells us that the hyperbolic panic of some was unfounded. The panic was either based in irrational fear or purposefully misleading for political ends (I suspect some of both). Second, it tells us that we do have the ability to go back to our normal lives if we take some reasonable steps to limit the risk of infection. Wash our hands, maintain distance, wear a mask if you want, etc. We can absolutely go back to work in a reasonable fashion.

Open the state.

 

 

Using Covid to Push Socialism

One wonders if this is not the underlying motivation for why some are pushing us into a depression.

Speaking to CNBC via telephone, Morgan Housel, partner at venture capital firm Collaborative Fund and author of “The Psychology of Money,” said the U.S. had historically not faced any localized destruction deep enough to prompt a widespread shift in thinking. Although he noted the exception of Pearl Harbor and the huge human toll experienced during the Second World War.

“The U.S. did not face as much local devastation during World War II as Europe did — and I think at the end of at the end of World War II, most of Europe came together and said, ‘we just went through this incredible trauma, therefore we want more social safety net, we want less risk, we want a more predictable future,’” he said.

“So I think Americans were just more open to saying, ‘no, I want to swing for the fences and take risks, I don’t need a safety net,’” he explained.

However, the devastation wrought by the coronavirus could push U.S. voters to favor policies supporting social security measures like universal health care or stronger retirement schemes, according to Housel.

“I think maybe this is going to push the United States closer to where Europe has been for the last 60 years in terms of wanting a deeper and more structured social safety net than we currently have right now,” he told CNBC.

Favorite Protest Sign of the Day

Share the Pain. Cut Government.

Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. – Thomas Paine, Common Sense

I keep hearing how we are “all in this together.” Are we? The folks in Madison who are making the decisions to destroy our businesses, obliterate our savings, and take away our jobs seem to be doing just fine. They are all still employed with full pay. The government employees at the state and local levels are all still working. They still have their guaranteed pensions and great benefits. Evers is still enjoying the mansion that we provide for him and a full staff of people to do his thinking.

The Coronavirus response is really highlighting the Two Americas. On the one hand we have government employees, who are being insulated from the full impact of the lock down orders. On the other hand, we have the private sector employees, who are feeling the full brunt while also paying for the government employees. Where are the furloughs in government? Where are the pay cuts? Where are the cut backs on benefits? Evers is issuing edicts and just telling private employers and employees to “deal with it.” Why isn’t our government sharing the pain?

Take a look at the list of State of Wisconsin agencies. How many of those could be shuttered right now and furlough or lay off the entire staff? We could live without the Historical Society for now, right? What about the Arts Board? Surely the Department of Tourism is pretty useless right now. State Fair Park? Women’s Council? Trials and prosecutions are being postponed, so can we furlough all of the expensive lawyers and investigators at the Department of Justice? What about judges? Are they being paid when there aren’t any trials happening? Legislative staffs? Legislators? Several agencies could be closed immediately and indefinitely – just like they are forcing many private businesses to do.

For those agencies that do need to remain open, how many employees are non-essential and could be let go? Why can’t we implement an immediate 25% across-the-board pay cut for all government employees right now – even if they are essential? Why can’t we pull back on some of the benefits? Many private employers are being forced to cut back on pay and benefits to stay alive during the government-forced lock down. Where is our government sharing the pain?

This goes for local governments too. Nobody wishes ill on our neighbors and friends, but it’s frustrating to be lectured by a government teacher or police officer about the need to lock down when they are enjoying their full compensation and benefits. The rest of us are suffering major cutbacks and job losses. If we are all in this together, then let’s actually be in ALL of it together.

Remember, too, that with all of the job losses and shut down of the economy, government revenues are WAY down. We can’t afford all of this government anymore. And even if they come back and seek to jack up taxes to pay for everything, who is going to pay it? The 20%-30% of Wisconsinites who are on unemployment?

We need our government at all levels to immediately make substantial spending cuts in line with what is being asked of the private sector. Yes, it will hurt. Yes, government employees will have to work harder and make do with less. Yes, government employees’ may have to work later in life before retiring. That is what is being asked of the private sector. We should expect nothing less from our government.

Unshackle the People

From the pen (keyboard) of former Washington County Sheriff Dale Schmidt.

On March 12th, Governor Evers declared a public health emergency.  While his reason for the declaration may have sounded sensible, the orders he issued changed life for Wisconsin’s residents and businesses drastically.  As we can see today, the orders were clearly a quick stop-gap response to the virus showing up in Wisconsin.  Initially, their reach may be understandable as it provided time for information gathering and intelligent analysis of the problem.  However, in America, when you make the decision to shutter businesses and restrict civil liberties to this extent, the next immediate priority must be finding a way to repeal that decision.  That does not appear to be a priority for the Governor right now as the apparent strategy is to control the people and let the virus run its course where it can.  We played defense enough, now we should be on offense.

This virus, and maybe more in the future, will be present for some time.  Our economy, livelihoods and civil rights cannot accept these intrusive government restrictions any longer.  We need to figure out how to have what we had before even with the virus present in our population.  For this to happen, government needs to immediately transition from control of people, to a resource for the people.  At this point, the only way to repeal that declaration is to cede the problem that caused it to the people and let them solve it organically.  In other words, unleash the people and business owners to figure out the new normal.  The state’s greatest resources, it residents and businesses, have been benched when needed the most.

Governor Evers needs to significantly refine his orders and repeal all parts that restrict individuals and businesses.  The orders, updated frequently with recent data, should contain only meaningful “guidance” on best practices with reasons why they are important.  The rest should only have to do with utilizing state resources and rules pertaining to government services such as unemployment.

Let’s have faith in our people and businesses.  They will voluntarily follow guidance that makes sense.  We have already seen exempted businesses make their own adjustments so customers feel safe enough to patronize them, and employees come to work.  If the artificial government restraints are lifted, businesses will take whatever measures their customers expect, or there won’t be customers.  Medical facilities will figure out what extra measures are needed to begin routine care again.  Restaurants, theaters and other entertainment venues can decide if there is a feasible manner to operate that is responsible to customers, yet beneficial to their business. Even school districts can decide through their elected boards on how to proceed, or not, with classes for the next couple years.

Individuals will be mindful of their hygiene and be careful about their contact with at risk people, and at risk people will be more careful about their behaviors.  Government’s role is to provide accurate, meaningful, and common sense guidance about our behaviors, not orders.

For the long term, only “voluntary” changes to our behavior will provide the environment necessary for an orderly and productive society.  Only the people, by their knowledge, ingenuity, choices, and freedom can give us back, “…the pursuit of Happiness.”

A devastating cure: Weighing liberties, security in the age of coronavirus

I’m going to repost my column from a few weeks ago. As our government continues to tighten the screws, it seems even more apropos.

In the future, when we remember the liberties we once had and explain to our grandchildren why we surrendered them, some old man will slowly look down at his shoes and mutter, “We did it out of an abundance of caution.”

The global Coronavirus pandemic is a severe health concern that requires a response from our government. We need our government to aggressively work toward a vaccine and treatments, inform the public with the latest prevention methods, act to provide resources where needed, and provide the legal and regulatory safety net for the private sector to join in the fight. We do not need or want our government to arbitrarily suppress our civil rights, undermine the rule of law, and intentionally destroy our economy and our livelihoods.

It is breathtaking the speed at which our government leaders resorted to totalitarian extremes to combat the spread of a disease. The government ordered thousands and thousands of businesses to close indefinitely. This has forced millions of people out of work. Many of them do not have the financial cushion to get by without an income for weeks on end. Many small-business owners are losing their life’s work and their families’ entire net worth by order of the government.

With millions of people are struggling to get by, the inevitable wave of foreclosures and bankruptcies will follow. The government may try to halt this by decree or throw stimulus money at the problem, but the financial realities make the long-term impact of these decisions unavoidable.

Meanwhile, some governments are ordering people to remain home, forbidding people from assembling, and even closing churches. In California, people who are caught outside of their homes for nonessential reasons are subject to arrest, fines, and imprisonment for violating the order. At the same time, jury trials (a constitutionally protected right) are being postponed, elections are being delayed, prisoners are being released, and the government is ignoring private contracts — for example, the government ordering that landlords can’t evict people — in lieu of the judgment of politicians.

The impact is more than just financial or an inconvenience. The government restrictions have caused a massive shortage in donated blood for hospitals, crime is sure to rise, people are postponing necessary medical care for fear of leaving their homes, and an increase in depression, addiction, and suicide will result from mass unemployment and economic destruction.

Americans should be following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control to maintain a physical distance from others, cover sneezes, avoid touching faces, wash hands, sanitize surfaces, and reduce unnecessary travel. But there is an abyss between free Americans taking steps to mitigate the spread of Coronavirus of their own free will and our government using police power to enforce those steps. In most cases, it is a single man — a governor — making these incredible decisions to upend our lives.

If the response to Coronavirus has taught us anything, it is that our government officials will strip us of our liberties at a moment’s notice on the justification that it is for our own good. Instead of relying on the collective wisdom of a billion individual decisions made by free people, our government officials instantly supplanted their own judgment for that of the people they were elected to represent. They immediately assumed that they know better and are not only empowered, but obligated, to micromanage our lives “out of an abundance of caution.” And then, when the inevitable negative effects are being felt, these same people will mortgage our grandchildren’s future too with another boondoggle trillion dollar stimulus.

This is a very old debate about the balance of government power between liberty and safety. The way in which so many Americans surrendered their liberty for the dubious promise of safety with little more than a shrug and a muffled bleat is testament to how far we have strayed from our roots. For all of the “don’t tread on me” stickers and “live free or die” machismo, too many Americans have become fat and docile.

Coronavirus will ravage the world and leave devastation in its wake, but we will find workable treatments and a vaccine. It will pass. The devastation to our economy and liberties will be far longer lasting.

Spring is sprung

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. I needed to smell the roses a little. I hope you will too.

Spring is such a wonderful time in Wisconsin. While this spring has opened under abnormal conditions for the people of Wisconsin, nature pays no attention to the travails of humans. The days are lengthening. The days are getting warmer. Critters are emerging. Plants are greening. The long, dark days of winter are coming to an end.

As a child of warmer climes, it took me a while to fully appreciate spring for all of its glory. The boundary between winter and summer in warm-weather climates is often crossed with little notice and even less regard. Spring is more of a notion than a season. It is like something you heard as a child and vaguely remember.

In Wisconsin, spring is the welcoming of a new beginning. It is filled with hope and promise. After months of cold, big coats, ice, dead car batteries, chapped lips, sore joints, dirty snow piles, tired backs, and all of the things that make winter unbearable once the novelty of that first snowfall wears off, spring in Wisconsin is that first ray of warm sun lighting your face after a long, dark night.

March and April are interesting, and sometimes exasperating, months in Wisconsin. Each beautiful sunny day seems to be balanced by a cold night. Every week brings with it the threat of an early-spring thunderstorm or a late-winter blizzard. But gradually, slowly, like a flower opening, spring finds its way and crowds out the winter gloom.

One of the things I love about spring is how all of us embrace it. The sidewalks and trails become filled with people. Smiles are abundant as people just enjoy the warming breezes and fragrant foliage. This weekend I heard the hum of a distant lawn mower as one of my neighbors gave his lawn its first trim of the year. It was probably an effort more of anticipation than utility, but I think all of us can appreciate that. Spring also ushers in the hustle and bustle of all of those chores that were waiting on better weather. Even without the current circumstances, the local hardware stores are busy with people buying supplies to complete their lists. Decks are getting stained. Trees and bushes are being trimmed. Houses are being painted inside and out. As people clean out their basements and garages, it looks like most people will forgo their annual spring rummage sale this year, but the summer rummage sales are going to be epic.

As we watch winter relent to the advances of spring every year, it is a reminder that the world is so much bigger than whatever is oppressing our minds at the moment. Before human foot trod the Kettle Moraine, the snow would melt to fill the streams and the green would fill the fields and bellies of animals. Long after we are gone, the same cycle will repeat. We are truly witnessing a speck of time in an eternity that is not ours. A little bit of humility and awe are not inappropriate at such a time.

Spring in Wisconsin reminds us of that economic principle of scarcity. The value of something in demand increases drastically when it is rare. This is why Wisconsinites enjoy spring so much more than people in warmer parts of the world. But while spring is short-lived, it is infinitely abundant for the few short weeks that it is here. Let us rejoice in it.

Republicans Call for Religious Freedom During Pandemic

And Evers said “no.”

Assembly Republicans are calling on Gov. Tony Evers to allow in-person services for Easter and Passover amid the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

“It is more important than ever that we allow Wisconsinites to observe their individual faiths,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and the other members of the Assembly GOP caucus wrote in a Friday letter to Evers. “To that end, we ask that you work with Wisconsin churches and temples to allow them to hold Easter or Passover services, even if it’s outside.”

Evers declined the request.

“As a state and as a nation, we are heading into the worst of this public health crisis,” Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said. “The governor understands that for many Wisconsinites their faith is a source of comfort, especially in these difficult times, but in order to protect the health and safety of all Wisconsinites he will not be rolling back the provisions of the Safer at Home order.”

Jenna Ellis has some interesting thoughts on this at The Federalist.

Church is essential, and the free exercise of religion is specifically enumerated in our First Amendment because the founders understood how essential spiritual activity and religious liberty are to people and society. For a state government to take any action that specifically distinguishes churches as “non-essential” is contrary to the First Amendment’s purpose. It’s a dangerous precedent that government could consider itself the arbiter of private essential services.

Government’s action to prohibit mass gatherings, including church gatherings, is constitutionally sound for the temporary timeframe that the Wuhan coronavirus provides a compelling state interest rationale for stay-at-home orders. The virus is highly contagious, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations are the best-known ways to stop its spread. Because the virus does not distinguish between mass concert gatherings and mass church gatherings, the government can properly issue a neutral order that does not intentionally target religious groups.

 

 

Naked Bike Ride Called Off

At least some good came out of this.

Local organizers of the World Naked Bike Ride have called off the annual event, adding to a growing list of Madison-area events that have been postponed or canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Before the cancellation, the clothing optional ride through Madison was set for June 20. The next one will be held on June 19 of next year.

In these challenging times, our local businesses need your support. Find out how to get food, goods, services and more from those remaining open.

“Current conditions throughout the world have made it difficult for us all to make plans for the coming months,” organizers said in a statement. “When it will again be safe and practical for people to gather in groups is a matter of uncertainty. In view of this, local organizers have decided not to hold the World Naked Bike Ride this year in Madison.”

Air Force Academy Relaxes Social Distancing After Suicides

There are consequences to these decisions. Humans are social mammals. Most people don’t do well in isolation. That is why so many lefties consider solitary confinement to be a form of torture.

Coronavirus social distancing measures on the Colorado Springs Air Force Academy campus will be relaxed following the back-to-back deaths of two cadets in suspected suicides, officials said.

While all underclassmen are learning online, the senior class has remained on campus. The students were spread throughout dormitories and each was given their own room as part of quarantine measures.

One cadet tested positive for COVID-19 last week, the academy said.

Since those measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 were put into place weeks ago, two cadets have died within days of each other. The first death was reported Thursday and another on Saturday. USAFA said the deaths were not related to COVID-19 and investigators did not suspect foul play.

“These are deaths from despair,” Katrina Knight, the mother of a class of 2020 cadet, told FOX21 Colorado Springs. “Our hearts are grieving as a community because a couple of class members have already suffered the impacts to the furthest extent that they could.”

The senior class was kept on campus because “our Air and Space Forces have deemed us essential to their missions,” USAFA superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria said in an email sent Monday to students and later obtained by local news outlets.

Now, seniors will be allowed to venture off campus for food and hold on-campus events, according to the email. Silveria said that he met with the senior class and spoke with top Pentagon officials before changing the policy.

“We are working several morale events like golf or an outdoor movie that allow them to connect and keep them healthy,” the email said. “We continue to provide round the clock access to mental health services and support through this tragic loss.”

WalMart Sees Sales Surge for Tops, but Not Bottoms

There are a lot of teleworkers sitting in their underwear.

(CNN)With more and more people working from home, Walmart has picked up on an interesting trend: Tops have seen an increase in sales, while bottoms haven’t.

The reason? Teleworking.
That’s what Walmart’s executive vice president of corporate affairs Dan Bartlett told Yahoo Finance on Thursday. Later, a spokesman for the company told CNN the same thing.
As officials try to control the Covid-19 pandemic, millions of white collar workers — normally bound by dress codes and expectations in the office — are trading business trousers for sweat pants, and stiff blazers for that hoodie they would only ever allow their family, roommates or dog to see.

Prominent Epidemiologist Revises Death Estimates Sharply Down

Hopefully he’s right this time. If so, this is positive news.

Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, who created the highly-cited Imperial College London coronavirus model, which has been cited by organizations like The New York Times and has been instrumental in governmental policy decision-making, offered a massive revision to his model on Wednesday.

Ferguson’s model projected 2.2 million dead people in the United States and 500,000 in the U.K. from COVID-19 if no action were taken to slow the virus and blunt its curve.

However, after just one day of ordered lockdowns in the U.K., Ferguson has changed his tune, revealing that far more people likely have the virus than his team figured. Now, the epidemiologist predicts, hospitals will be just fine taking on COVID-19 patients and estimates 20,000 or far fewer people will die from the virus itself or from its agitation of other ailments.

Ferguson thus dropped his prediction from 500,000 dead to 20,000.

Chicago Mayor Threatens Arrest for Being Outside

This is, by definition, a police state.

Lightfoot added that spending long periods of time outdoors, anywhere, is not allowed. And neither is going into closed spaces, like playgrounds.

“You cannot go on long bike rides. Playgrounds are shut down. You must abide by the order. Outside, is for a brief respite, not for 5Ks. I can’t emphasize enough that we abide the rules.”

[…]

“The public health order is not an advisory. It is a mandate. If you violate, it your are subject to a fine of $500. If you continue to violate it, you will be subject to arrest,” Beck said.

[…]

But Lightfoot reiterated that not following the stay at home order will bring serious consequences.

“At worst, we will take you into custody.”

A devastating cure: Weighing liberties, security in the age of coronavirus

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Go pick up a copy!

In the future, when we remember the liberties we once had and explain to our grandchildren why we surrendered them, some old man will slowly look down at his shoes and mutter, “We did it out of an abundance of caution.”

The global Coronavirus pandemic is a severe health concern that requires a response from our government. We need our government to aggressively work toward a vaccine and treatments, inform the public with the latest prevention methods, act to provide resources where needed, and provide the legal and regulatory safety net for the private sector to join in the fight. We do not need or want our government to arbitrarily suppress our civil rights, undermine the rule of law, and intentionally destroy our economy and our livelihoods.

It is breathtaking the speed at which our government leaders resorted to totalitarian extremes to combat the spread of a disease. The government ordered thousands and thousands of businesses to close indefinitely. This has forced millions of people out of work. Many of them do not have the financial cushion to get by without an income for weeks on end. Many small-business owners are losing their life’s work and their families’ entire net worth by order of the government.

With millions of people are struggling to get by, the inevitable wave of foreclosures and bankruptcies will follow. The government may try to halt this by decree or throw stimulus money at the problem, but the financial realities make the long-term impact of these decisions unavoidable.

Meanwhile, some governments are ordering people to remain home, forbidding people from assembling, and even closing churches. In California, people who are caught outside of their homes for nonessential reasons are subject to arrest, fines, and imprisonment for violating the order. At the same time, jury trials (a constitutionally protected right) are being postponed, elections are being delayed, prisoners are being released, and the government is ignoring private contracts — for example, the government ordering that landlords can’t evict people — in lieu of the judgment of politicians.

The impact is more than just financial or an inconvenience. The government restrictions have caused a massive shortage in donated blood for hospitals, crime is sure to rise, people are postponing necessary medical care for fear of leaving their homes, and an increase in depression, addiction, and suicide will result from mass unemployment and economic destruction.

Americans should be following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control to maintain a physical distance from others, cover sneezes, avoid touching faces, wash hands, sanitize surfaces, and reduce unnecessary travel. But there is an abyss between free Americans taking steps to mitigate the spread of Coronavirus of their own free will and our government using police power to enforce those steps. In most cases, it is a single man — a governor — making these incredible decisions to upend our lives.

If the response to Coronavirus has taught us anything, it is that our government officials will strip us of our liberties at a moment’s notice on the justification that it is for our own good. Instead of relying on the collective wisdom of a billion individual decisions made by free people, our government officials instantly supplanted their own judgment for that of the people they were elected to represent. They immediately assumed that they know better and are not only empowered, but obligated, to micromanage our lives “out of an abundance of caution.” And then, when the inevitable negative effects are being felt, these same people will mortgage our grandchildren’s future too with another boondoggle trillion dollar stimulus.

This is a very old debate about the balance of government power between liberty and safety. The way in which so many Americans surrendered their liberty for the dubious promise of safety with little more than a shrug and a muffled bleat is testament to how far we have strayed from our roots. For all of the “don’t tread on me” stickers and “live free or die” machismo, too many Americans have become fat and docile.

Coronavirus will ravage the world and leave devastation in its wake, but we will find workable treatments and a vaccine. It will pass. The devastation to our economy and liberties will be far longer lasting.

States Move to Halt “Non-Essential” Abortions

It’s hard to argue with the logic.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The governor and attorney general of Texas are moving to ban most abortions in the state during the coronavirus outbreak, declaring they don’t qualify as essential surgeries.

Attorney General Ken Paxton said Monday that the order issued over the weekend by Gov. Greg Abbott barred “any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.”

Failure to comply with the order can result in penalties of up to $1,000 or 180 days of jail time, Paxton said.

“No one is exempt from the governor’s executive order on medically unnecessary surgeries and procedures, including abortion providers,” Paxton said. “Those who violate the governor’s order will be met with the full force of the law.”

[…]

“If abortion is a ‘choice’ then abortion is an elective procedure,” said Mark Harrington, president of the anti-abortion group Created Equal.

Not so Entertaining Entertainers

Ouch.

For evidence, turn to the instantly infamous clip of stars singing John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Or rather, don’t turn to it; you’ll be happier having not watched. The Wonder Woman actor Gal Gadot rang up a famous crew including Natalie Portman, Jamie Dornan, Sia, Pedro Pascal, Zoë Kravitz, Sarah Silverman, Leslie Odom Jr., Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell, Norah Jones, and Cara Delevingne to record clips of themselves singing lyrics about a world without war or possessions. Most of these people are not vocal talents; most of them very much enjoy that we live in a world of possessions. Literally and figuratively tone-deaf, edited with the finesse of a middle schooler making a vacation slideshow on 2002 software, this “Imagine” somehow made a global pandemic feel even more hopeless than it already does.

One thing to hope for in these dark times is that coronavirus #content will one day be forgotten as we resume our regularly scheduled programming. For now, Hollywood’s elite personas have isolated in spacious and well-stocked estates from which they are posting videos attempting to cheer up the masses. It’s interesting, if not always reassuring, to see these folks ply their crafts unmediated, without the screenwriters and film editors and cinematographers who typically help shape their images. Millions are tuning in. But often what they are finding is no more remarkable than whatever is happening in the viewer’s own living room.