- Heartening stat for American civil liberties?
- On second thought, Americans left, right and center…
- …. embrace Big Brother in post-coronavirus world
- FEMA cartel: Seizure of N95 masks from private businesses
- Relatively awful unemployment
- YouTube, Google and the WHO gang up (censorship)
- McConnell’s derelict “Old Kentucky Home”
- Pelosi justifies Rep. Shalala’s paperwork oopsie-daisy
- A reader notices off-kilter “fair and balanced” news… another reader asks if The 5’s in Beijing’s pocket (or just coronavirus cases)… and more!
“More than seven in 10 voters fear losing freedoms due to the coronavirus pandemic,” reports The Hill — which commissioned a survey earlier this month from the Harris polling firm.
To be precise, the number is 74%.
"I think that's going to be one of the really important crossovers in the post-COVID era, between civil rights and public health," says Mohamed Younis, editor-in-chief of another polling firm, Gallup.
Perhaps you find the outcome of the survey reassuring.
But it doesn’t square with the outcome of another — one survey that should send chills up your spine.
Last month, just as the lockdowns began sweeping the land, four professors from Virginia, Dartmouth and Chicago surveyed 3,000 American adults.
“The survey reveals a remarkable willingness to tolerate civil-rights violations in order to confront the pandemic, regardless of party affiliation,” the scholars write in The Atlantic.
They presented the survey respondents with eight potential “policy responses” to the pandemic — “all of which may be unconstitutional,” they hasten to add.
The eight possibilities were presented in random order. Here’s what your fellow Americans said about each of them. It might take a moment to grasp how this chart was put together, but once you do, it’s an eye-opener…
[Click to enlarge]
“A majority of respondents supported all eight of these policies, most by considerable margins,” the scholars write.
Seizing businesses had the lowest support… but even there, half of Republicans were OK with it. Among the proposals with the highest support were “conscripting health-care professionals to work despite risks to their own health.” Forced labor in the Land of the Free…
Meanwhile, “about 70% of respondents supported restricting people’s ability to say things that may qualify as misinformation. Likewise, 77% of respondents support suspending all religious services and gatherings, thereby restricting religious freedom.
“And even when we explicitly told half of our sample that the policies may violate the Constitution, the majority supported all eight of them — even the speech restrictions.”
Did someone mention seizing businesses? Yeah, a fellow named George Gianforcaro would like to talk about that.
OK, his business is still intact… but per the Delaware News Journal, “Gianforcaro, owner of the small, Newark, Delaware-based Indutex USA, said the Federal Emergency Management Agency did not pay him when it took possession of two imported shipments of masks bound for customers across the United States.”
We’re talking hundreds of thousands of N95 masks. He was under contract to deliver them to customers including “Delaware nursing facilities, the state of Michigan and boat captains who steer foreign ships through U.S. bays.”
FEMA confiscated them. Gianforcaro says he’s out $4 million.
This is not the first report of FEMA mask seizures, and so the agency is hiding behind lawyerly butt-covering statements — which reporter Karl Baker is not afraid to call out in his story.
“In an emailed statement, FEMA appeared to deny Gianforcaro's charge without addressing the specific claims. It called reports of its officials commandeering or rerouting supplies of such critical equipment ‘false.’
“Protective equipment ‘being distributed internally within the United States is not being seized,’ FEMA said, while stating also that it is working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to keep medical equipment from being exported.”
“This is getting very, very expensive,” says Gianforcaro. “I don't have any money and I don't have any product and there's people that are asking for it."
This seems like an appropriate moment to pause for some (grim) comic relief…
Meanwhile, the CEO of YouTube is taking the prevention of “spreading misinformation” very seriously.
Speaking on CNN last weekend, Susan Wojcicki promised to remove any videos with “problematic” information about coronavirus.
What’s the yardstick for that? “Anything that is medically unsubstantiated, so people saying, like, ‘Take vitamin C… take turmeric, those cure you,’ those are examples of things that would be a violation of our policy. Um, anything that would go against World Health Organization recommendations would be a violation of our policy.”
Because the WHO nailed this thing from the get-go, right?
“They get some things right, but have made many mistakes,” says Balaji Srinivasan — whose CV includes launching a biotech startup and teaching bioinformatics at Stanford. “For YouTube to censor rebuttals of WHO is a global public health hazard.”
As always, we have to include a disclaimer: While YouTube is a private company, a division of Google since 2006… the social-media giants routinely knuckle under to government demands to “curb misinformation,” usually in an attempt to fend off government regulation. That’s how Alex Jones got “de-platformed” in 2018 and Zero Hedge was booted off Twitter earlier this year.
As we said of the latter incident, the best remedy for “misinformation” is vigorous debate in the marketplace of ideas.
But that’s not good enough for the control freaks and the power trippers. Not when they see their moment has arrived and legions of Americans will cheer them on…
To the markets, where both stocks and gold are in rally mode.
At last check, the major U.S. stock indexes are all up at least 1%, the Dow taking the lead at nearly 23,800.
Gold, meanwhile, is rallying firmly — the spot price up nearly $25 to $1,738 and front-month futures at $1,757. The “spread” between the two is now less than $20, much less than the insane $70 disconnect a few weeks ago. (If you want actual physical metal in your hand, you’re still liable to pay a steeper premium than usual, though.)
Crude is likewise rallying, a barrel of West Texas Intermediate only pennies away from $18.
Meanwhile in the real economy, the watchword is “not quite so awful”…
This week, we’ll spare you the chart of first-time unemployment claims going back to 1967; a 12-week chart conveys plenty of horror on its own, albeit at a decelerating rate from the peak three weeks ago.
With 4.4 million first-time filers this week, the total since the shutdowns began is now 26.4 million. That’ takes the unemployment number to 16.4% of the U.S. labor force.
Meanwhile, the April “flash PMI” number is just in from the IHS Markit research firm. Numbers above 50 suggest economic growth; below 50, contraction. March was already looking terrible at 40.5 and April has tanked to 27.4.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell isn’t serious when he suggests state governments should file for bankruptcy rather than count on federal aid.
“I think this whole business of additional assistance for state and local governments needs to be thoroughly evaluated,” McConnell told radio host Hugh Hewitt. “There’s not going to be any desire on the Republican side to bail out state pensions by borrowing money from future generations.”
The governors of California and New York are spewing outrage. But McConnell’s just jawboning.
For years, The 5 has kept close tabs on the fiscal health of state governments… and McConnell’s Old Kentucky Home is a basket case.
The state’s per capita debt burden is staggering. At $25,700, it’s worse than California and New York, according to figures from the Truth in Accounting think tank. And as we noted last year, Kentucky’s pension system for state employees is the worst-funded in the country, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Is ol’ Mitch really going to let them twist in the wind? Didn’t think so. And if he caves when it comes to his home state, that means New York and California will get federal rescues too…
Meanwhile, the impunity from the other side of the aisle is breathtaking.
From the “congressional ethics reporter” at Roll Call (not much to cover on that beat, heh…)
As a reminder, this is the commission that’s supposed to oversee how the Treasury and the Federal Reserve dole out $454 billion in big-business bailouts. (Once the Fed performs its banking trickery, it’s actually $4.54 trillion, but who’s counting?) Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Florida) owns shares in many companies that could benefit from those bailouts.
But to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, it’s just an “oopsie” with the paperwork. “Rep. Shalala has taken responsibility for her mistake in missing filings required under the Stock Act and has been working [with] the Ethics Committee to address this issue since she became aware of it."
“It is pure irony to see the ‘awful mainstream media’ and Fox News on the same page!” a reader writes after yesterday’s 5 — picking up the ball and running with it.
“Promoting mass hysteria, crazy models and unvetted ’science.’ Let alone supporting a national lockdown and lockup. Ironic, too, that it is The Washington Post, of all people, now questioning these trillions of dollars of spending and debt.
“Maybe their objectives really are no different? This pandemic, and our response, is revealing the crumbling infrastructure of the American experiment and our constitutional republic.
“Perhaps we were unprepared to defend against this latest virus (it is, after all, one of about 200), but neither was Fox News prepared to defend our liberty.”
“What happened to The 5? You guys infected with the WUHAN VIRUS?” reads a less charitable take.
“I have been a longtime reader and enjoy The 5, as you have provided mostly reasonable criticisms of both sides. But yesterday’s issue sounds like an article straight from a Chinese Communist Party daily! It is absolutely shameful to infer [sic] that China is innocent of any crime in this pandemic that has destroyed lives and ravaged our beautiful economy/stock market!
“Looks like this EVIL VIRUS has infected your brains? BTW, are you for real… what's the stake in the South China Sea? We don't have a quarrel? Really?
“Please… you are definitely smarter and I know that. Lastly but not the least, it is time to stand together as AMERICANS and stop indulging in partisan politics while our enemy is salivating to make things TERRIBLY WORSE! God bless America!”
The 5: Partisan politics? Read again and you’ll see we’re standing apart from bipartisan consensus (always the worst kind).
And how, sir, do you propose to hold Beijing accountable for its “crimes”? (We never suggested the regime is blameless for the outbreak.)
Apparently the reader’s email is 2020’s version of the correspondence we got starting in 2016 asking why we were supposedly in the tank for Russia. (“Are you or your ancestry from Russia, or are you married to a Russian lass?” said one.)
Then as now, our primary concern is a potential outbreak of nuclear war. China isn’t anywhere near the nuclear power that Russia and the United States are, but that doesn’t alter the likelihood of a horrendous miscalculation during a dustup between Beijing and Washington. The economy and the markets will become rather secondary concerns in that scenario.
“War is not imminent, but it is an ever-present danger, with the potential to produce a nuclear exchange between China and the United States,” said the veteran diplomat Chas Freeman during a speech in February 2019.
Freeman ought to know — having been Richard Nixon’s interpreter on his landmark visit to mainland China in 1972, among other accomplishments.
The danger has only grown since. Could Beijing seize upon the virus chaos to try reclaiming Taiwan? Very possibly. And then what? Are you willing to sacrifice Los Angeles or San Francisco to save Taipei?
As we said last month… when any society finds itself under stress, its leaders become tempted to point fingers at a foreign villain.
And they usually yield to that temptation, as we’re seeing with Trump and Biden trying to top each other with being “tough on China.”
A modest proposal: Wouldn’t it be better to remedy the obvious failings that took place within our own shores?
Why hasn’t anyone at the CDC been fired for refusing to let private labs use testing kits that were proven to work overseas, insisting on spinning up its own kits (that didn’t work)?
Why hasn’t anyone at the FDA been fired for failing to relax its byzantine rules for production of masks and respirators — which has done so much to fuel the shortages?
Why hasn’t the surgeon general been fired for his outrageous flip-flop on masks?
Why hasn’t the rock-star governor of New York been held accountable for downplaying the risks in the early going and then making promises he couldn’t keep about contact tracing?
Why isn’t the president being held accountable for saying states with Democrats for governors should be “liberated” but states with Republicans for governors must remain under similarly draconian controls?
Long before lashing out at foreign devils we desperately, urgently, need to tend our own garden.
The 5 Min. Forecast
P.S. Oh, and we didn’t even get to why the risk of nuclear war is especially high this year, just based on the calendar and the cycles of history. More in the days ahead…
“Millennials are just aging to their PEAK buying years,” says Zach Scheidt. This industrywide shift — and others — makes homebuying a trend to watch… Read More
“This trend isn’t going anywhere,” says our tech maven Ray Blanco. “So how can you invest in SPACs for profit?” Read More
Our biggest beef with GDP is that it’s a nigh-meaningless statistical abstraction. Now for a new spin on one of our long-standing complaints… Read More
The global power elite are set to declare a crisis of confidence in the U.S. dollar… Not that they’ll put it in those terms… Read More
Like it or not, a “greener” world will require more electricity, and — surprise — environmentalists are resorting to nuclear power. Read More
Per the Reddit/GameStop controversy, Ray Blanco says: “The culprit was a short squeeze.” Sure, you can short stocks (and profit), just be mindful of biased information. Read More
Everywhere you look, the business press is telling you the market is a bubble on the verge of bursting — which is almost a sure-fire indicator that it’s not. Read More
Sometimes the people who presume to exercise political power over us become a little too honest about their motives…. Read More
We knew the silver-squeeze story wasn’t over. But we didn’t figure on a new chapter being written so quickly… Read More