The World Series of Poker and the New Jim Crow

Every year the best poker players in the world gather in Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker, the largest and most prestigious tournament series there is.  I look forward to playing at least one WSOP event each June, and have three cash finishes to my credit.  This year the series was moved back from June until October, so I was planning to head out to Vegas for a few tournaments, and had already won a $1,500 seat into the “Monster Stack” event.  Then the discrimination began. 

On August 27 the WSOP announced that they would be requiring all entrants into this year’s tournaments to show proof of vaccinationReactions from the poker world were divided.  2003 WSOP main event champion Chris Moneymaker, who gave hope to millions and started the poker boom by winning without being a very good player, previously had planned to sit out the series because he doesn’t understand odds and was afraid to play, but now is thanking the WSOP for their intrusive decision.  On the other side of the coin, 2009 WSOP main event champ and four-time bracelet winner Joe Cada says he will now be staying home this year because of the rule.  Can you guess which one the media portrays more positively?

Remember that the left uses a playbook to make it seem like their position is the norm and any people who disagree with them are on the fringe.  They want you to feel like you are crazy if you don’t think the way they tell you to.  Because of this, I am going to predict the narrative that the media will push about the WSOP this year.  There will undoubtedly be smaller fields in the tournaments than normal and the media is going to lie to us about the reason.  My prediction is that we will soon see stories about how there are fewer entrants this year because people are worried about playing poker due to coronavirus fears and restrictions on international travel.  While there will surely be some players who do not play because they overestimate the odds of dying from Covid (the odds are nearly 100 times less likely than randomly drawing the 4 of clubs from a deck of cards), this will not be the main reason for the lower participation.  The real reason is actually the exact opposite.  People will not play because they are not living in fear like the left wants them to be.  A large number of would-be participants will not attend because they think that people should have the freedom to assess their own risks and make decisions without being bullied.

If it was just the World Series of Poker doing this, it would be a major problem, but this vaccine mandate situation is a lot bigger than that.  Somebody who I respect told me that she does not see vaccine mandates as a hill to die on.  She has been vaccinated so the mandates do not really affect her.  Here is the problem with that thinking.  This is not about the vaccine.  It is about government power and overreach.  Do you think that a tax on tea would be a hill to die on?  I’ll go out on a limb and guess that at least one of those people who threw tea into Boston Harbor didn’t even like tea.  This has as much to do with our opinions on the vaccine as the Boston Tea Party had to do with their opinions on tea.

There are only two directions this can possibly go.  We can choose liberty and allow people to decide for themselves whether or not to get vaccinated, or we can relegate anybody who will not do exactly as they are told by the bullies on the left into a permanent, Jim Crow style underclass.  These tyrants do not want unvaccinated people to be allowed to work, shop, enjoy entertainment, eat, or socialize.  They claim to care about people but are perfectly fine with firing millions of Americans who are willing and able to work.  These good, hardworking citizens will be pushed into poverty or into a growing black-market economy.  Is it strange that the left says they are doing all of this to save lives but seem to have no problem if you die of starvation because they forced your job to fire you?

You may be wondering what I plan to do about the WSOP.  Honestly, I considered pretty much every possible option, but ultimately decided that I do not want the WSOP to profit from me until they stand up for freedom and change this policy.  Not only is it invasive, but it is illogical.  If the vaccine works, then nobody in the building should be worried.  The people who would be scared are vaccinated, and the people who are not vaccinated would not be there if they were scared.  Neither the unvaccinated nor the vaccinated should play if they believe in liberty. 

Instead, I plan to take my $1,500 over to a tournament series at The Wynn and play an $1,100 buy-in event on the same day that the WSOP Monster Stack event is taking place, then go over to The Golden Nugget the next two days for $200 events.  I encourage any other poker players to join me.  Organizations or businesses that discriminate based on vaccine status should be treated the same way as you would treat places discriminating based on race.  In other words, they should not receive a penny from any of us.

What Is Liberty?

The week before California’s recall election I had the privilege of meeting the world’s greatest athlete from 1976.  That title was traditionally bestowed on the winner of the decathlon, and at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal Bruce Jenner won the gold medal for the United States while setting a new world record.  In 2015 Bruce Jenner shocked the world in an interview with Diane Sawyer in which he told Sawyer that he was now a she.  (Disclaimer:  So as not to be a science denier I am using the scientifically correct gender pronouns in this article.  That is not the focus of the article.)  Jenner, who now goes by the name Caitlyn, ran in the California recall election as a Republican to replace the inept Governor Gavin Newsom.  The Friday before election day Caitlyn Jenner was the guest speaker at a discussion group that I have been attending for the last couple of months.

Caitlyn’s talk was impressive.  He was personable, friendly, and funny.  Jenner said that after the Sawyer interview there was more criticism for coming out as a Republican than there was for coming out as transgender.  Jenner also told a funny story about being in the weight room at the Olympics when a female East German athlete came in and started lifting heavier weights than him, ironically causing him to leave because he felt emasculated.  Jenner genuinely cares about California and wants it returned to the greatness it once had.  I did not expect much talk about actual policy positions, but Jenner has a pretty solid grasp of many of the problems Gavin Newsom and years of Democrat control have caused, including sky-high tax rates and backbreaking regulations.  A lot of ideas that Jenner had to fix some of these problems were good, including a sunset provision which would require regulations to be reevaluated by the legislature every ten years or else they would fall off the books. 

There was, however, one major point that Jenner made that stood out to me because it was based on a flawed premise.  Jenner said that he decided to run because of his belief that California needs a moderate Republican to fix the state.  Specifically, he said that people should vote for him because he is conservative on economic issues and more liberal on social issues.  Jenner also said that the candidate that I endorsed, Larry Elder, is “far-right.”  The premise of that argument ignores the fact that conservatism comes with a built-in solution to people disagreeing on social issues:  liberty.

Jenner’s reasoning assumes that the choice you have is between voting for a left-wing government controlling your life or a right-wing government controlling your life.  In actuality, the choice is between a left-wing government controlling your life or you controlling your life. 

For example, as a conservative Republican, I believe that the country would be much better off if every single American attended church weekly.  I would agree with Jenner if a governor who is “far-right” was going to mandate church attendance.  As much as I think we would all be better off if everyone went to church, I only believe that to be true if it was done voluntarily instead of under coercion.  If the Right operated like Democrats this might be something to worry about.  Imagine, the government forcing all businesses with over 100 employees to require proof of church attendance to be employed there.  Jenner’s argument only works if the Right did that kind of thing.  Instead, the Right wants people to be free to choose, even if we disagree.  That is what liberty is. 

Conservatives, especially Christian conservatives, are often accused of telling people what to do on moral issues.  The truth is, we do care about your moral decisions and we want you to choose what God wants for you.  Notice, however, that I said: “choose.”  Except on the issue of abortion, where the choice directly harms another person, we do not want to take the decision away from you.  The difference is huge.  Conservatives may try to persuade you to do certain things, but that is not the same as using tyrannical power to force those things.  This is what Caitlyn Jenner was missing.  The further to the left a politician gets, the more parts of your life they want to control.  Being a moderate Republican still means they want to have more control over you than a “far right” candidate does.  That is not a good selling point. 

Jenner was asked if he would run for office again if he lost this election and answered that he wasn’t sure about running again, but he would definitely work with the Republican Party to become more of a big tent party that is more inclusive.  I hope that he does, but it needs to be done by explaining clearly that the way to do it is to push for a return to limited government and personal liberty.  We can agree to disagree.  You are welcome in the Republican Party even if you want to use your God-given liberty to do things we may not agree with.  I certainly do not agree with many of Caitlyn Jenner’s lifestyle choices, but I also do not want the government to force him to do what I would prefer.  The Right has no interest in taking away your liberty.

Why Romans 13 Is Inapplicable to What Is Happening Now

In the Best Picture winning film from 1965, The Sound of Music, the von Trapp family lives in Austria when it is annexed by Germany during World War II.  The main conflict arises when the father, Captain von Trapp, is ordered to accept a commission in the German Navy.  Did he quietly comply because the powers that be gave him a command?  Should he have?  No!  He concocted a plan to disobey the rulers and flee the country.  What a different film it would have been if he had done what so many of our churches have done and obeyed his orders.

Ever since the California government terminated our liberty last year, I have been disappointed that so many churches quietly complied.  This past week I received an email from a local church, once again saying that they were going to keep their doors shut until we are endowed by our government with some liberty.  (That sounds wrong, doesn’t it?)  The reason given has been inappropriately used since the beginning of the lockdowns to justify compliance with tyrannical edicts… Romans 13: 1-7.  It says this:

1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. 5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

Let me be clear.  I believe the Bible completely, from Genesis to Revelation, including Romans 13.  In fact, I talk about the importance of Romans 13 multiple times in my book, The God Bet.  There is, however, a big problem with hiding behind these verses to justify weakly complying during this fight between good and evil.  While we are not supposed to “resist the authority,” our government DOES NOT HAVE the authority to do what it is doing.  There are two main reasons for this.  The first is found in our founding documents.  The Declaration of Independence acknowledges that liberty is endowed not by the government, but by our Creator, and is unalienable.  That means that the government does not have the authority to take away our freedom on a whim. 

I know.  Some of you are saying, “Wait a minute.  The government does have the authority to take away our liberty in certain situations, like when they put a thief in prison.”  You are absolutely correct.  There are instances where the government can take away our freedom.  That leads us to the second reason this is not one of those instances.  Romans 13 not only tells us that we are subject to the governing authorities, but it also tells us what those authorities are authorized to do.  Verse 3 specifically tells us that “rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.”  Verse 4 explains that “he (the ruler) is God’s minister to you for good.  But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.”  As you can clearly see, the rulers have the authority to punish you or take away your liberty if you do evil, but NOT for doing good works.  Stealing is evil; thus, the government is authorized to execute wrath on that thief.  Opening the doors of your church, on the other hand, is a good work.  If a church quietly closes its doors and cites the government as the reason, they are implying that a father who wants to take his family to church and sit inside is doing evil.  Any thinking person can see that the rulers who are putting these crazy dictates on churches are being a terror to good works and Romans 13 does not authorize them to do that. 

Why does it matter since California Governor Gavin Newsom is going to allow churches to open on the magical date of June 15?  It matters because these lockdowns and regulations were just the first major battle in the fight to remain a free country.  It was a test to see how many of us would stand up for each other’s liberty.  Unfortunately, the answer was, “not enough.” 

To those of you who are on the side of good, you may be tempted to write off the churches and Christians who sat on the sidelines during this battle and say, “you’re dead to us.”  I urge you not to do that.  We must be forgiving of churches or individuals who were complicit in our loss of rights when they realize what their complacency is leading to.  It is better that they are late to the party than miss it altogether.  Things will get worse and we need more churches to see the light and speak up before it is too late.  We need to pray for these churches to come around, and when they do, we need to welcome them to the fight with open arms.  They need to loudly declare that they will never again remain silent when the government acts as a terror against good works, which is against what Romans 13 says.  Never again will they close the doors of our churches, or limit who or how people can attend.  Our founding documents do not allow it, and the Bible does not allow it.  

In Defense of Naps, Golf, and Cancun

I am going to defend Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Ted Cruz from some undeserved criticism.  As you can see, I am very consistent on this stance whether the person involved is someone I generally agree with or someone I almost never do.  Both the right and the left are guilty of this attack and should both stop it. 

Let’s start with the latest example.  Recently, Texas Senator Ted Cruz was predictably blasted by the left for going with his wife and two daughters to Cancun during a terrible ice storm in his home state.  My first thought was, “That sounds like a pretty good idea to me.  If I had a choice between sitting in an ice storm with no electricity and sitting on the beach with a margarita, I know which one I would choose.”  My next thought was, “Is that my reaction just because I like Senator Cruz?  Would I have a different reaction if it was Bernie Sanders?”  This is a normal question for me because we as conservatives should not have double standards like the left does.  You know, like how Democrats cheered on rioting thugs for a year and then started denouncing rioting thugs on January 6 when they thought they could win political points.  My conclusion:  No.  I would not feel differently if it was a political opponent. 

I reached this conclusion by looking at times when Democrats have been criticized for wasting time on leisure activities instead of “doing the work of the people.”  The example that came to mind was something that Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and many other presidents have been criticized for:  golf.  I specifically remember those three presidents being attacked for spending too much time on the golf course during their term in office.  In every case I defended them, whether they were Republicans or Democrats, for this simple reason:  the less politicians do, the better it is for us.  As another golfer president once said, “government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.”

Both the left and the right need to stop with this criticism.  Ideally, politicians would spend more time, not less, golfing or on vacations.  Pondering this reminded me of one of our very best presidents.  Calvin Coolidge was known for sleeping 10 to 11 hours a night and then taking a long nap in the afternoon.  How much better off would our country be if politicians spent more time sleeping and less time interfering with our lives?

This gave me an idea.  As you know, I almost always oppose government regulations, but I actually want to propose a rule for anyone elected to public office.  Upon election, each office holder must take up a new hobby that occupies at least 5 hours per day.  It’s a brilliant law because nothing would help the American people more than to keep politicians busy and out of our lives.

To help get them started I even have some ideas for current politicians. 

Senator Elizabeth Warren – Gardening:  Senator Warren famously claimed to be an American Indian, earning her nickname, “Pocahontas.”  Since American Indians taught the settlers how to plant corn, gardening would be the perfect hobby for her to reconnect with her roots.

Representative Adam Schiff – Writing:  I don’t mean writing political op-eds for the Washington Post.  I mean writing fiction books.  Mr. Schiff is known mostly for pushing imaginary claims that President Trump colluded with foreign countries to interfere with the U.S. election in 2016.  I think his wild imagination could come up with some crazy international political thrillers.  He could be the next Tom Clancy!

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer – Poker:  One of the skills that makes a good poker player is bluffing.  Bluffing is simply the ability to look right at people and lie with a straight face.  Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer have been perfecting this skill for years.  They wouldn’t have any trouble setting up games either.  We could fill the Amazon Room at The Rio with lying politicians!

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – Yodeling:  Honestly, I just want to see this.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo – Calling bingo at senior living communities

Senator Mitt Romney – LARPing:  LARPing stands for Live Action Role Playing.  Basically, a group of guys get together and pretend to be people that they’re not, like knights, elves, and wizards.  Senator Romney should be good at that since he has pretended to be a Republican for years.

Senator Bernie Sanders – Stand-up comedy:  I hear he looks a lot like Larry David.

Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib, aka “The Squad” – Start a band: “Performing next on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, singing their hit single, “Israel Has Hypnotized the World,”… The Squad!” 

Joe Biden – Massage therapy:  We all know that Joe Biden has already been known to massage women who cross his path.  He may as well take some classes and get a little side gig going. 

Ultimately, whatever they decide to do it will be better for the country than anything they are doing now. 

Give Us the Same Courtesy That We Gave You

The first paragraph of this article is here for a very specific reason. To promote the article on social media I had to make sure that there was no political speech in the first couple of lines so that it wouldn’t be censored. The original started here:

Democrats now control the White House and both chambers of Congress.  They are calling for unity, but what they mean by that is, “Now everybody needs to agree with us.”  That is not going to happen.  I am not saying that in an obstinate way.  I’m just being realistic and honest.  People disagree and that is alright.  Republicans were in charge for the last four years and many people disagreed with them, and I expected that as well because that is how life works. 

This leads me to my one request to Democrats.  Now that you’re in charge please give us the same courtesy that we gave to you when we were.  That courtesy is this:  When people disagree with you, don’t force them to do what you want. 

This may surprise some of you after being told by the media for four years that President Trump was a fascist dictator, but I cannot think of anything that he forced us to do during his term.  If you disagreed with President Trump and the Republicans, they did not make you do anything against your will.  Republicans let people agree to disagree.  

If, for example, you disagreed with the tax cuts that were passed, Republicans did not force you to go along with it.  They implemented no penalties for people who wanted to keep paying the higher tax rates voluntarily.  Yes, you can do that.  Surprisingly, wealthy Democrats who complain that rich people don’t pay their fair share do not opt to pay more themselves when given that choice.  Alright, maybe not so surprisingly.

Ultimately, this is the main thing that Republicans want:  to be left alone.  We want to control our own lives and let others control theirs.  Another example; we may understand that homosexuality is immoral, but we do not block people from the practice.  In fact, the Trump administration started a global effort to end the criminalization of homosexuality.  (In contrast, Democrats kowtow to countries like Iran who put homosexuals to death.)  Republicans also disagree with divisive groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter, yet do not want them prevented from speaking or kicked off of social media.  Another Republican belief is that God is central to the American way of life and necessary for our success, but we do not want to require church attendance.  In other words, Republicans would like everybody to act in particular ways but think that people should be free to choose for themselves.

This approach is not a new one.  It is actually one of the principles that our country was established on.  Our Founding Fathers were wise men who understood that people would not always agree as to what should be done.  They also knew that throughout history, when the powerful forced those who disagreed with them to conform to their will it sowed contempt, division and conflict.  Their solution was liberty.  If one group wants to do “A” and another group wants to do “B,” the answer is not to have the group in power force the other group to do what they command.  Instead, the first group can do “A” and the second group can do “B.”  They can try to use persuasion to win the other side over but they should not use coercion.

If Joe Biden really wants unity this is what he should do.  Refrain from taking away our liberty.  Allow people to have free will and do what they think is best for themselves.  He can disagree with our choices but he should not overrule them.  Here are ten great suggestions that the Democrats can do to respect the liberty of Americans:

  1. If you decide to raise taxes, make it optional to pay the old rate like the Republicans did for you. 
  2. If you want people to wear masks, make it optional like the Republicans did.
  3. Let scared restaurant owners who want to shut down do so, and let the ones who want to remain open choose to do that.  If patrons want to show up they can but if they are afraid they should also be free to stay home.
  4. Let churches decide whether to remain open or close down.  If congregants do not want to attend they should not be forced to, but those who do should be allowed in.
  5. President Trump stopped enforcement of the Johnson Amendment, which threatens to take away tax-exempt status from churches if the pastor endorses a political candidate.  Continue with that policy and allow pastors to decide for themselves what to say from the pulpit without threat of retaliation from the government.
  6. If somebody wants health insurance that covers pregnancy and drug rehabilitation they should be allowed to purchase it.  If another person wants less expensive insurance that does not cover those things they should be allowed to choose that.  If someone else prefers to pay out of pocket for medical care instead of buying insurance they should be able to do that.
  7. Do not force law abiding citizens to buy guns.  Likewise, do not prohibit them from buying guns.
  8. If someone wants to do a job for $8 per hour, do not prohibit them from doing so and force them out of a job.  Let people decide for themselves what wage to accept.
  9. Do not force people who are against murdering babies to pay for the murder of babies.  Do not use taxpayer money for Planned Parenthood.
  10. Refrain from banning or restricting us from using certain products like incandescent light bulbs, straws, grocery bags, soda, and shower heads with good water pressure.

These are all things that Democrats have tried to dictate in the past.  If they truly want unity this list would be a solid first step.  Instead of using tyrannical power to control those of us who disagree with them, try going back to our founding vision of liberty.  It’s the least they can do after Republicans did it for them the last four years. 

Updating History

America has a rich, long history of inspiring speeches and eloquently written documents.  As I sat here contemplating this history, it became apparent to me that most of those words are out of sync with the values of our country today.  We need to update them to reflect the enlightened views of modern America.  After all, the coronavirus should teach us that these ideas are far too risky to let stand the way we learned them as kids.  They often even led to people dying!

Let’s start by updating a short one so you get the idea.  Some of you probably know the state motto of New Hampshire.  It actually comes from a quote by Revolutionary War General John Stark.  “Live free or die:  Death is not the worst of evils.”  Obviously, that concept is terribly dangerous, but we can fix it.  Instead, “Live free and you’ll die.”  With just a slight, barely noticeable adjustment, New Hampshire license plates go from being a reckless endangerment to a somber warning.

If you aren’t an expert on American history you might not even notice some of the subtle changes.  See if you catch this one from the Declaration of Independence.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their government with certain Rights that may only be rescinded if exercising those Rights carries any risk, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

A lot of that crazy fringe of people who still want to do things have been using a famous quote by Patrick Henry.  They fail to point out that life expectancy back in that era was only about 38 years, so people wouldn’t have lived to be old enough to die of coronavirus anyways.  That means his words are obsolete and need an update.  Possibly, “Give me a mask or give me death!”  It now becomes a practical health advisory instead of a dangerous demand for freedom.

Here’s one for the kids to recite before they watch school on the computer.  “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with social distancing and unemployment benefits for all.”  And while we’re on things that you stand up for unless you’re a washed up quarterback, we also have to change the last line of our national anthem.  Actually, sports aren’t allowed anymore so we don’t need to worry about that.

The next one comes with some challenges.  Did you know that the inscription on the Liberty Bell comes from the Bible?  It currently reads, “PROCLAIM LIBERTY THROUGHOUT ALL THE LAND UNTO ALL THE INHABITANTS THEREOF LEV. XXV X.”  Coming up with the rewrite is easy enough.  “PROCLAIM STAY-AT-HOME ORDERS THROUGHOUT ALL THE LAND UNTO ALL THE INHABITANTS THEREOF.”  In fact, since we obviously have to change the name of the bell, we might as well call it the Stay-At-Home Bell and people can ring miniature replicates to report their neighbors who are playing at the park.  Now, the hard part.  You might think the difficulty would be telling millions of Americans that their Bibles are wrong, but that has been a favorite pastime of Democrats in our country for years now.  The real problem is figuring out how to change the inscription on a 267 year old copper bell that has already been cracked once.  Fortunately, figuring stuff out is only for the scientists now.  Maybe Dr. Fauci can handle it.

This brings us to probably the two most famous speeches in American history.  The first one is a big problem.  I don’t think Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech can be salvaged.  He speaks far too much about freedom ringing.  If we censor out all of that unsafe talk about freedom, the speech would sound like The Wolf of Wall Street edited for network televisionIt just cannot be done.  I think the whole thing has to be stricken from the record.

The other one can be rewritten, and it was a short speech so we can do the whole thing.  Just picture the Great Emancipator, President Lincoln, when he first said these words at the battlefield in Gettysburg:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived to protect us from ourselves, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.  We are met, six feet apart, on a great battlefield of that war.  We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live safely hidden in their homes.  It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate – we can not consecrate – this ground.  The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.  The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.  It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.  It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under the experts, shall have a new birth of dependence – and that government instructing the people, monitoring the people, and regulating the people, shall not perish from the earth.

I will leave you with this one.  For those of you who are not sufficiently scared by coronavirus simply because the odds of dying from it are incredibly small, you need to remember what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in his first inaugural address, “The only thing we have to fear is being around people!”

A Cure Worse Than The Disease?

I feel alone.  Not just because the coronavirus quarantine is shutting down the country and forcing us to stay in our homes, but because it seems like such a large majority of the country is willing to just accept it and go along with it.  Then when somebody disagrees, or God forbid, goes outside for something deemed “non-essential,” they are vilified as a horrible, selfish person who doesn’t care about people dying. 

One instinct that I have is to simply turn it around on those people and vilify them as horrible, selfish people who don’t care about millions of people being put out of work, retirement accounts being wiped out, and people becoming more lonely and depressed.  The thing is, I don’t think that’s true.  I think the people in favor of the shutdown do care about the economic and emotional impact of the quarantine but they don’t know how to weigh it against the fear that has been instilled in them about the coronavirus.  Instead of arguing or accusing, I decided it would work best just to clarify my rationale and hope that people can see that it is neither selfish nor illogical.

First, let me clarify my position.  I do believe that coronavirus is real and will kill people.  I think that there are reasonable responses for us to take to combat the virus.  I think that everyone should practice good hygiene. I think that it is reasonable for the elderly and people with medical conditions that make this virus especially dangerous to them to stay at home.  I think that we should lock down nursing homes, and that we should put money and resources into our medical response to the virus.  I just think that shutting down the whole country is not reasonable, rational, or consistent, and will hurt more than it helps. 

We first have to be rational and agree that people have always died, and will continue to die in the future.  This is nothing new.  There is obviously a certain level of risk that we deem reasonable to keeping the country running.  Otherwise, to save around 40,000 lives per year we would lower the speed limit to 10 mph.  We have to decide what level of death is reasonable to us, and what level justifies the effects of shutting down our society. 

As a baseball guy and a poker player I know a lot about probability and odds.  I think a lot about how likely things are to happen.  Considering that 98% of the people who are dying of coronavirus have underlying medical conditions and half of them have at least three, the odds of a young healthy person dying are pretty astronomical.  But what are the chances that I will even know anybody who dies of the virus?  The estimates on the number of deaths vary pretty widely.  Nobody actually knows the real death rate because most of the people who have coronavirus don’t count in the numbers because they can’t even tell they have it.  What is for sure is that it is much lower than the number that gets reported.  As of this moment the reported number comes out to about 1.7%.  As this report says (https://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2020/03/24/science.abb3221), it is likely that for every reported case of coronavirus there are 10 other cases.  That would, of course, move the decimal point one spot to the left for a death rate of about 0.17%, or very slightly higher than the 0.1% death rate of the flu.  Ask yourself, how many people do you know who died of the flu this year?  In fact, if we use Dr. Fauci’s doomsday guess that we could have “between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths,” and even if we go with the higher figure, we have lost 200,000 to the flu in the last 6 years.  (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/index.html)  How many people do you know who have died of the flu in the last 6 years?  I would guess for most people the answer would be the same as mine, zero. 

The point is, the numbers we are hearing are likely far worse than the actual numbers.  They may sound big, but we need to have some perspective.  This is where comparing numbers with other situations is actually useful.  The Black Plague famously killed half of the population of Europe and it took about 200 years to get back to the population level it was at before.  I wondered, “what percentage of the United States will this kill and how long will it take us to get back to our current population level?”  So, I looked it up.  The United States population is 327,200,000.  200,000 deaths would be 0.06% of the population.  Then to find out how long it would take for us to recover and get back to our current population level I had to look up how many people normally die each day.  7,452. If we then average out the coronavirus deaths over a year, it would add 548 a day, making it an even 8,000 deaths per day.  Next, we have to look at how many people are born each day to see how long it will take to replace those 8,000 people a day.  There are, on average, 10,388 births per day in our country.  So the answer to my question?  Zero days.  In fact, not only is coronavirus not decimating our population as badly as it is being made out to be, but our population is growing by around 2,388 each day.

This is certainly lower than the threshold of a reasonable level of death to shut down our country that we were looking for, especially considering the damage the quarantine is causing economically and emotionally.  While we have already established that you probably won’t know anybody who dies of coronavirus, you almost certainly do know somebody who has lost their job.  I know several.  You definitely know people who have seen their retirement accounts plummet.  The high school seniors that I coach at baseball have worked hard for four years and will likely never get to play again.  Addicts are unable to attend meetings and many are relapsing.  People who have issues with anxiety or depression are struggling more than ever.  Many businesses and restaurants will go out of business.  There is less joy in the world because sports and concerts are shut down.  Maybe the biggest loss will be the loss of our liberty.  What ever happened to “give me liberty or give me death?”  Yes.  There was a time when Americans valued their freedom even more than their lives.  I fear that I am alone in still believing that.

Let me finish with another comparison.  If we figure out the odds of any random person dying of coronavirus based on the numbers above we get 1 in 1,636.  To put that in perspective, that’s about the same as the odds of dying from falling down the stairs (1 in 1,662) (https://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/facts-statistics-mortality-risk).  In other words, it does happen, but it’s very, very unlikely.  I suggest we treat coronavirus the same way as we treat stairs.  We have Grandma take the elevator but let everyone else keep climbing.