Chickens come home to roost

Pandemic chickens, crime chickens, election chickens and dead liberty chickens are coming home for the nearsighted and cynical government and media who let them fly.

All of a sudden, the CDC bent to the science. Perhaps it was David Leonhardt writing in the New York Times morning briefing on May 11, “There is not a single documented Covid infection anywhere in the world from casual outdoor interactions, such as walking past someone on a street or eating at a nearby table,” that spurred the cautious medical administrators to inch forward in the risk department.

What has followed is a flowering liberty, with locked-down states like New York and Massachusetts throwing all caution to the wind. Travel is blooming. Long lines of travelers snake through the rotunda at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. But this giant pivot from masked everywhere to wide open has led to many chickens coming home to roost.

Pandemic chickens

Matt Yglesias peeked with clarity into pandemic bailouts that should have been but weren’t. Airlines were bailed out and therefore we have airplanes ready to fly travelers, complete with crews who maintained their legal currency to operate the aircraft and maintenance techs who continued to keep the planes airworthy.

Contrast that with the car rental industry, which was eviscerated. Hertz filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Now there aren’t enough rental cars, and companies are rebuilding their sold-off fleets, further spiking the price of used vehicles.

Used car dealers at first sat forlorn as nothing moved, then families started buying cars with their stimulus cash. Now, with a shortage, they are gobbling up every deal possible, paying top dollar for used vehicles. A friend of mine told me she had never bought a new car, but the deal offered to her was almost impossible to pass up, and was in fact much better than buying another used car, dollar for dollar. Add to that the automotive chip shortage, and the scarcity problem becomes yet another price inflator.

When cars are more expensive, and in all sectors, many companies are competing with the government in attracting workers, then the goods and services provided by companies that use cars (and vans) get more expensive. It’s a ripple effect through the economy, like the one impacting new construction because of the wood shortage David Thornton wrote about Monday.

The government paid families directly, which is fine for a time, but it continued doubling down and redoubling the money paid in stimulus checks, pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA), and now this summer, the advance (and increased) payments on child tax credits. It seems the IRS is now better at paying government money to Americans than its primary role of collecting revenue for the government.

Restaurants are begging for workers, and some literally have shut down because they can’t run a business with nobody to cook or serve or clean. The terms of the PPP loans were restrictive and especially hard on restaurants, which would have been required to pay employees to do nothing, essentially handing the money to staff, until it was gone, and then they’d still have to close. And if they closed, they owed the money back.

Yglesias noted that 110,000 restaurants shuttered during the pandemic. He correctly concluded that “we underestimated ourselves.” I suppose that might be modified to “the government underestimated us.” Most of the mask mandates, heavy-handed policies on social distancing, and business-killing restrictions could have been eased in many places long before they were. Florida, Georgia, and Texas (especially Texas) show this to be true. State governments artificially dampening the economy, while the feds showered families with cash have led to this rather large spike in demand with no corresponding increase in supply.

Scarcity rules, and by the invisible hand of economics, it creates higher prices. Higher prices for gasoline, sparked by the pipeline disruption, are going to make everything briefly more expensive to transport in the eastern U.S. High wood prices make building things more expensive. Labor shortages make everything more expensive, or you just have to wait. But demand for everything remains strong, so prices will soar. And as anyone who watches the price of gasoline knows, prices go up, stay up, and rarely go down as quickly until competition forces it to happen.

The pandemic economic chickens are coming home to roost.

Crime chickens

Before and during the pandemic, the move to “defund the police” was a great political play to paint Republicans as jack-booted Neanderthals who give a pass to violent white supremacists in the ranks of the police. Anyone who thinks more deeply than the width of a dime will get what’s happening next.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms fired a popular but white police chief, while a corrupt former Fulton County DA opened a prosecution case against a white officer for shooting a black man, Rayshard Brooks, who had taken his taser and pointed it at him. The officer, Garrett Rolfe, has been reinstated by the city’s Civil Service Board. The DA, Paul Howard, lost his office to Fani Willis, and is under investigation for corruption by a federal grand jury. The mayor has declined to run for another term.

Atlanta Police Department has a critical shortage of officers, and has a major retention problem, as officers flee to greener pastures, retire, or simply decide “enough!” All this, and Mayor Bottoms wasn’t even one of the “defund” crowd. Meanwhile, violent crime is blooming in Atlanta.

It was another violent weekend in Atlanta, with multiple shootings leaving two dead and more than seven wounded. And the violence continued into Monday.

Another shooting: “A 15-year-old boy was arrested and faces multiple charges related to the shooting death of a man at Metro Mart USA on Metropolitan Parkway in southwest Atlanta, police spokesman Sgt. John Chafee said.”

Another officer-involved shooting: “A man was killed in a shooting involving Chamblee police officers in downtown Decatur on Tuesday morning, according to the GBI.”

Other cities that did go down the “defund” hole are faring just as badly, if not worse. Portland, Oregon is averaging two murders a week this year. In Minneapolis, the violent crime rate increased 21 percent in 2020. Chicago’s murder rate spiked 50 percent higher in 2020 than 2019: 774 murders versus 506. With a progressive, anti-police DA, Philadelphia experienced a 32 percent increase in homicides, reaching 100 by March 16.

Some of this is attributable to a general increase in violent crime during the pandemic, but it’s definitely made worse by racial unrest, incidents of police brutality, and a confidence problem with police, who sometimes are afflicted to alternately act with reckless abandon of individual rights, or cautious indifference as they fear consequences of saving their own lives or the lives of others.

We have plenty of time to track down all the threads that wove this tapestry of crime and violence, but for now, we have a problem that needs to be solved. Politicians who need to solve it tend to walk away like Bottoms did when the chickens come home to roost.

Conspiracy chickens

People are so suspicious of the media that messaging to get everyone vaccinated may well be impossible right now. Fox News, for months, covered every circus show coronavirus briefing that President Trump conducted, with unwise and sometimes crackpot statements regarding hydrochloroquine, sunlight in your veins, and making the mask a symbol of oppression.

CNN highlighted the Cuomo brothers, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo covered a up a deadly decision to put nursing home residents at tremendous risk. The left-leaning mainstream media pilloried Republican governors like Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott, and Brian Kemp for relaxing restrictions, which was really following the science when the media and liberal wings wanted more restrictions contradicting the science.

The Biden administration’s messaging on masks, vaccinations, and ending the COVID-19 era has been horrible. Both the mainstream, and the Fox News-wing of the media (along with the fringe of OANN and others) have fueled vaccine skepticism, either from a safety viewpoint, or from a masking-forever-so-why-bother viewpoint.

The truth is that everyone needs to get vaccinated, everyone but a very small number of people with a legitimate medical reaction to the ingredients. But the conspiracies have so overwhelmed the actual message that nobody will believe it.

It would be great if Hollywood could latch on to this and come up with something to spur us on. But as I tweeted, they good at inventing fantasies like superheroes; not so good at getting us to believe in a vaccine.

Election chickens and dead liberty chickens

The conspiracy chickens laid eggs, which have hatched into election chickens, and the ones that didn’t hatch are dead liberty chickens.

Politicians are either clearing the way for the GOP to go full Trump in 2022 and 2024, which will be an unmitigated election disaster in all but the Trumpiest districts, or they’re getting out of the way to do something…else.

Georgia’s Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan decided not to run, but to work on something called “GOP 2.0.” I’m hoping to talk to him more about that. As I mentioned, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is also not running again, but she may go after other opportunities. Gov. Brian Kemp has a few challenges from within the GOP, which may weaken him against a Democratic challenger (likely Stacey Abrams). Former Congressman Doug Collins has decided to sit the Senate election out, which will either confirm Sen. Raphael Warnock for a full six year term or unseat him.

This is a trend all over the nation, where Republicans are deciding whether they want to weather the storm of Trumpism, stand against it like Rep. Liz Cheney, or get out of the way and work on the next thing after it.

Trump, for his part, is sticking to his “stolen election” schtick, as, it appears, is Congress, still scared of the perpetrators of the January 6th insurrection. Congress is about to vote on making the fenced-in enhanced security around the Capitol permanent. If they err, it will be on the side of their own personal security, and against the free movement of citizens. This dead liberty chicken may be the saddest part of all.

Finally, Gaza chickens

I won’t spend too much time on this, because it’s not really related to the other topics, but I can’t help commenting.

A “story” based on a tweet is going around the media that the entire uprising in Gaza started with Israeli police “cut the wire” to the speakers in the minarets in the Dome of the Rock mosque because Israel President Rivlin was giving a speech a the Western Wall.

The New York Times treats this story as true, and said they’ve corroborated it from various individuals who saw it. Of course, they were all Palestinian mosque officials who told this story, and we have no idea if they’re telling the truth.

The incident was confirmed by six mosque officials, three of whom witnessed it; the Israeli police declined to comment. In the outside world, it barely registered.

The Israeli police actually denied the incident, then backed off and said they’d look into it. If that means it happened, I can’t say. But this is just another example of the one-side speaks truth and Israel lies bias present in the coverage of this latest violence.

Blame Israel for doing something so incredibly stupid as cutting the wire to the speakers during the prayer time at Ramadan. Except Israel and the Jerusalem Police are not that stupid.

The mosque leadership, which is overseen by the Jordanian government, had rejected an Israeli request to avoid broadcasting prayers during the speech, viewing the request as disrespectful, a public affairs officer at the mosque said.

So that night, the police raided the mosque and disconnected the speakers.

“Without a doubt,” said Sheikh Sabri, “it was clear to us that the Israeli police wanted to desecrate the Aqsa Mosque and the holy month of Ramadan.”

Why would they do this? It’s incredibly cynical to think that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would want a war, but really, that’s what the NYT is implying by quoting Sheikh Sabri.

If Israel did this, then the Gaza chickens are all roosting because of them. But I tend to think that the chickens have flown the coop, and the NYT (along with the AP) are full of guano.


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