President Biden's "Great Covid Success"

    In the main stream media's search for positives in the first six months of Bidenism - among the immigration fiasco, skyrocketing crime, recurring cybersecurity attacks, increasing inflation, and a hopeless legislative agenda - many latched onto a narrative about President Biden's successful coronavirus response:

    - CNN, April 26:  "How the US went from having one of the worst Covid responses to being a global leader in vaccinations under Biden"; 

    - USA Today, April 29: "Joe Biden's First 100 days: Covid vaccinatioin rate a heroic accomplishment"; 

    - Washington Post, July 2: "Biden and Covid Vaccinations: Inside the Successes";

    - Bloomberg, July 4: "Biden Declares Success in Beating Pandemic in July 4 Speech". 

    Let's pull on some threads of this false narrative promulgated by VP Harris that Trump left the cupboard bare, and that Joe has righted the ship.  

    1. The data: When President Trump left office, thanks to Operation Wharp Speed about 1,000,000 vacinations were being given per day. The rate peaked in April at about 3.4 million, but has since receded to about 500,000. As of July 20, 56.8% of the total population over 12 years old was fully vacinated, and 49.2% had received at least one jab. (67% of those over 18 had at least one shot, short of Biden's goal of 70%.) 

    As of July 21, there were 41,310 active cases in the United States (+171 % in two weeks), 26,302 hospitalizations (+49%), and 249 deaths (+42%). Some 97% of the hospitalizations and 99.5% of the deaths were not vaccinated.  While there is a small percentage of headline grabbing infection among vaccinated people, the impact of vaccination is overwhelmingly positive. 

    2. The technology. When President Trump left office we had conditional "Emergency Use Authorization" for Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and Moderna vaccines, with all three maximizing production ramp-ups. AstraZeneca (used globally) and Novavax had developed vaccines, but not submitted them for FDA approval. That is where we stand six months into Biden's term. 

    Notably, the New York Times has started to question why the FDA is still operating under Emergency Use Authorizations rather than full approvals, quoting  several experts who believe that the lack of full approval inhibits public acceptance.  While it is not the NYT intent, the criticism inadvertently points out the accomplishment of Operation Warp Speed in overcoming the hyper-caution of FDA bureaucrats. 

    3. The Messaging. It would be hard for the administratoin to be more muddled in getting out the simple message that the vaccines are safe and that everybody without severe medical problems should be getting vaccinated to protect themselves from serious illness, and to protect their family, friends, and neighbors. 

    Some obvious causes of resistance should be eliminated:

    - Dr. Fauci has outlived his helpfulness. His misleading denial about his agency funding research at the Wuhan Lab and the original political refusal to consider the likelihood of origin in the lab causes resistance among Trump supporters. His flip flopping on the wearing of masks (none, then one, then two) shows an intent to maneuver his audience rather than to speak about facts. He has become a negative focal point. 

    - Concerns about the safety of vaccines would be helped by full FDA approval, rather than the positioning that more data is needed to confirm that risks are de minimis. Full approval would be particularly helpful for school leaders who are trying to set policies for the fall semester, and for other government and business leaders who are trying to determine how much pressure to apply in managing employees and customers. 

    - There is much too much discussion about the few in a million instances of blood clots, nerve affecting Guillane-Barre syndrome, inflation of the heart muscle, or anaphylaxis.  It is hard for most people to judge relative probabilities - significant for serious Covid problems; almost non-existent for serious side-effects of vaccination.  

    - Consistent visible behavior is essential. VP Harris brushing off the implications of meeting with the non-compliant Covid-infected Texas Democrats feels much like Gavin Newsom's French Laundry outing of February.

    As was recommended by some back in December, the Biden team has needed a central communication strategy to match a distribution strategy.  What we have had is Biden claiming that Facebook is killing people by not adequately censoring content and criticism of Fox News hosts for not promoting vaccination. What we need is a team which includes libertarians and conservatives promulgating a simple message that vaccines are safe and essential for protection of individuals, their friends, and their families.    

4. Global leadership. Globally, about 13% of the world's population has been fully vaccinated, with much of the undeveloped world under 1%. About 8,000 people are reported to be dying daily, at the low end of a pattern which has been fairly stable since October, and which has resulted in a total of over 4,100,000 counted fatalities. There are almost 200 million confirmed cases in 220 countries with many undercounted.  

    Beyond humanitarian considerations, we will not be safe from recurring waves and dangerous mutations until the world is safe.  Vaccine diplomacy - with our superior vaccines - provides and opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of being a close ally to the United States.  

    Like other areas where people ask who is steering the administration's ship, the international dimension of the Covid reaction has been chaotic: an early proposal to void the patents of US vaccine manufacturers; a months-long delay in releasing to the world a stock of 60 million AstraZeneca doses which were not approved for use in the United States; remaining closure of borders with Canada and Mexico (except for illegal immigrants).  Despite commitments at the recent G7 meeting for the world's richest countries to send 870 million doses to poorer countries, actual American deliveries are small and uncertain - a recently-announced 25 million doses for 49 African countries; 2.5 million doses to Taiwan; 3 million doses to the Philippines; and a much mocked 80 vials to Trinidad and Tobago. 

    Covid 19 was largely responsible for the defeat of President Trump in 2020.  Unfortunately, President Biden is proving to be unable to expand upon Operation Wharp Speed to win the race between vaccinations and virus mutations which may eventually include a version which is resistant and more lethal. This is not theoretical. Strong, comprehensive leadership is needed, and is not being provided.  


bill bowen - 7/22/2021   





Chinese Lessons for America

    The recent 100 year anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party gave Chinese President Xi Jinping an opportunity to crow about the truly impressive rise of China in recent decades, and for the rest of us to reflect on lessons for the US of A.  The highlights:

    -  1921 - 1949, chaotic civil war and occupation by Japan;

    - 1958-1962, Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward with some 20 million dying of starvation in effort to transition from agrarian society to industrialized communes;

    - 1966-1976, Mao's Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, in which hundreds of thousands were killed in an effort to eliminate traces of bourgoise history and thinking;

    - 1978-1989, return to order under Deng Xiaoping, based on "socialism with Chinese characteristics", and a transformative affirmation that "to get rich is glorious";   

    - 2012-present, paramount leadership of Xi Jinping, in an era of increasing wealth and global status.  

    The violent sociopolitical purge of the Cultural Revolution contains many lessons for observers of societal change.  Launched by Chairman Mao, overseen by a shifting sub-set of the Politburo, and orchestrated by youthful Red Guard chapters throughout China, the intent was to sweep away the "four olds" - ideas, culture, habits, and customs - as anti-proletarian. Targeted were landlords, rich farmers, teachers, educated intellectuals, scientists, and resistant Communist Party officials who had survived the Great Leap Forward, but had lost their revolutionary fervor.  In the process sanctioned massacres occured in Beijing, Guangxi, Guandong, Yunnan, and Hunan. Millions of educated urban youth were sent to the countryside. Many religious and historical sites were destroyed. Following Mao's death in 1976, and a brief power struggle, Deng led a formal program of Boluan Fanzheng (translated "eliminating chaos and returning to normal"), in which millions were rehabilitated, and the primary focus of the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government changed from "class struggles" to "economic construction" and "modernization". 

    It has been a turbulent century for the world's most populous nation. A century of colonial humiliation has been emphatically ended. The introduction of capitalism has propelled economic growth and lifted some 850 million people from extreme poverty in the four decades following the Maoist period in which  unfettered communist ideologues caused more death and suffering than did a century of European and Japanese conquerors. There are lessons to be learned. 

    We are different: 

        - Our Revolution and Civil War were fought to further the egalitarian goals of the Enlightenment rather than the class goals of the Chinese Communists. In our traditional ideology, the individual is paramount rather than the collective.  

        - Our system was designed with a skepticism of governmental power, institutionalizing separation between independent legislative, judicial, and executive branches and between local, state, and federal authorities. The Chinese system is centralized with the Chinese Communist Party Politburo, frequently in the hands of one individual, controlling everything. Our individual rights are constitutionally protected; not so in China.  

        - We are a nation of diverse immigrants built around common ideas; China is overwhelmingly a nation of the Han ethnic group dominating the 10% or so minorities. 

    But there are some echoes in China's story, particularly the Cultural Revolution, that should be concerning in the United States of 2021: 

        - The zealous Left sees American society in terms of racial division, and would discard Martin Luther King's admonition to judge people not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Individuals are increasingly judged by the racial, gender, or class group to which they belong.  Rewarding and penalizing groups becomes easy when one group (even the majority group) is tainted. 

        - The Left in Mao's China and the Left in America would re-write history to vilify the middle and upper classes as oppressors in a flawed sociopolitical system which needs to be washed away or fundamentally changed.  Religion is to be minimized in a secular society.  Schools are to teach that racial injustice is fundamental to American institutions. 

        - Ideological purity is more important than human interaction and dialogue. People who disagree are to be shunned. Dissenting voices are to be silenced. Consumer product and service companies must conform to the policies of the Left in their marketing, personnel policies, and political contributions.  Colleges abandon merit-based admission. 

        - There is a revolutionary willingness to put society at risk -  in China's case by destroying the agricultural economy in the Great Leap Forward;  in our case by creating unmanageable debt as the role of government is expanded.  

      Despite his positioning during the 2020 campaign, Joe Biden has been unable to resist the advocates for an American Cultural Revolution - Bernie Sanders, AOC, and Nancy Pelosi with their media allies.  But the reality is that America belongs to a middle class which China did not have in 1966. Fortunately we have a Joe Manchin and a likely 2022 Republican House committed to defend a  few simple principles which are ingrained in 250 years of our history:

           1. America is a meritocracy. We all benefit if we get everybody to the same starting point, but we should not do away with differentiated results; 

          2. Each person is responsible for their own behavior, but not that of their ancestors or for others by dint of their race or gender. 
          3. The American story should be told (and taught) in the context of unfinished progress toward a set of ideals which elevate humankind. 
    The center will hold, and American common sense will prevail. 
bill bowen - 7/15/2021