Simple Pure Defiance

Defiance is cool, and very British, so there are the ships – HMS Defiance (1588) was an 8-gun pinnace that took part in the action against the Spanish Armada in 1588, and HMS Defiance (1652) was a 10-gun ship captured from the Parliamentarians by the Royalists in 1652 during the English Civil War, and there were many more. Our ships of that name were more pedestrian – USS Defiance (ID-3327), a cargo vessel in service from 1918–1919, and USS Defiance (AMc-73), a coastal minesweeper that served during World War II, and USS Defiance (PG-95), a patrol gunboat that served from 1969 until 1973 when it was transferred to Turkey. They named it something else of course. And out here, down the hill at Paramount Pictures, the USS Defiant (NX-74205) is a starship in the television series “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” – but that takes place on a space station where defiant starships are a minor matter, and that one was a plastic model anyway. Defiance has fallen out of fashion.

But no more – Donald Trump has brought back pure defiance:

President Donald Trump claimed Monday he is taking daily doses of hydroxychloroquine, a drug he’s long touted as a potential coronavirus cure even as medical experts and the US Food and Drug Administration question its efficacy and warn of potentially harmful side effects.

Speaking at a meeting of restaurant executives, Trump said he began taking the antimalarial drug after consulting the White House doctor, though stopped short of saying his physician had actually recommended the drug.

This was his decision. Science is bullshit. Experts know nothing, and government experts know even less, and governments know even less than that. Remember, the CIA and NSA and all the rest never knew anything – Putin told him so. So this pandemic will go away on its own and this drug is the wonder drug that cures everything. Trust him. He knows.

This was pure defiance from the man who hates all authority, but it’s more complicated than that:

The admission was a dramatic development in Trump’s attempts to promote hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for coronavirus, which began earlier in the outbreak and has been met with resistance from medical professionals.

Because the drug is prescribed to treat malaria and other conditions, Trump has cast it as safe and suggested coronavirus patients have little to lose by trying it. But at least one study has shown the drug does not work against Covid-19 and could cause heart problems.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It follows a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that also showed the drug doesn’t fight the virus.

Even before these reports were published, the FDA and the National Institutes of Health issued warnings about using the drug for coronavirus patients.

 Well, there’s authority, and then there’s real authority:

Trump said he hadn’t been exposed, and that he started taking the drug because he had heard from frontline responders who sent him letters saying they were taking it preventatively.

“Here’s my evidence: I get a lot of positive calls about it,” Trump said.

He wouldn’t discuss those calls. But he gets those calls. Trust him on that. And he said that everyone on the front lines out there is taking this stuff. No one says they are. But they are. Trust him on that.

He was defiant, or he was frightened:

The President’s physician, Navy Cmdr. Sean Conley, alluded in a memo released Monday night to Trump’s personal valet testing positive two weeks ago for coronavirus. While Conley didn’t say directly that Trump started taking hydroxychloroquine in response to the valet testing positive, the timing mentioned by Trump and the positive test match up.

So perhaps this was no more than panic, but panic can be repackaged and marketed as defiance:

While Trump admitted he doesn’t know if the drug works, he claimed “if it doesn’t, you’re not going to get sick and die.”

It’s safe, or it isn’t:

The FDA has warned against the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat the novel coronavirus and said they should only be used in hospitals or clinical trials because they can kill or cause serious side effects. These include serious heart rhythm problems in Covid-19 patients treated with the drugs, especially when they are combined with the antibiotic azithromycin or other medications that can affect the heart.

Trump has a common form of heart disease, based on the results of his physical.

It was that coronary calcium CT scan – part of his routine medical exam. His score was 133 and anything over 100 indicates plaque is present and that the patient has developed a steady build-up of plaque in the blood vessels, so his score indicated moderate heart disease associated with a relatively high risk of heart attack, and so forth, so this could kill him:

Some of Trump’s closest medical advisers expressed caution, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, who voiced skepticism about touting hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for coronavirus before it could be adequately tested.

Recently, a US Health and Human Services whistleblower alleged he came under pressure from political leadership at HHS to make hydroxychloroquine widely available after Trump repeatedly proclaimed its potential benefits during his daily White House briefings.

He wouldn’t do that. Trump got angry. The guy lost his job, he was shown the door, and he sued, so some of this is about that, and some of this is about something else:

Fox News’ Neil Cavuto was so shocked by President Donald Trump announcing he’s taking hydroxychloroquine that he took a few minutes to explicitly warn viewers about the risks of taking it.

At one point the president asked “what have you got to lose,” but as Cavuto said, “A number of studies, those certainly vulnerable in the population have one thing to lose, their lives. A VA study showed that among a population of veterans in a hospital receiving this treatment, those with vulnerable conditions, respiratory conditions, heart elements, they died.”

Cavuto read from a number of other studies about the effects of hydroxychloroquine and said, “Those who took it, in a vulnerable population, including those with respiratory or other conditions, they died. I want to stress again – they died. If you are in a risky population here and you are taking this as a preventative treatment to ward off the virus or, in a worst-case scenario, you are dealing with the virus, and you are in this vulnerable population, it will kill you. I cannot stress that enough. This will kill you!”

Defiance of experts and science and proven verifiable facts, and what everyone everywhere says, may be heroic, in its odd but very American way, but this could kill people. Sure, the president doesn’t ever wear any dorky face mask, so no one in his base does, defiantly. He’s shown them how to defy authority. They gather in groups in public places, armed to the teeth, breathing right in your face if they think you’re a liberal snowflake. You fools – you cowards – you who hate America – no one’s gonna die!

Someone will die, of course, and perhaps many will die, but the dying will start two weeks later. This is more immediate. Do what Trump does here, take the mystery pill, and you, not that other person, might be the one who dies. And now Trump will really hate Fox News:

Cavuto also brought on Dr. Bob Lahita, chairman of medicine at St. Joseph University Hospital, who said he has seen “no effect whatsoever with this drug” on patients with COVID-19.

Lahita continued warning viewers about the serious risks, and at one point Cavuto just straight-up asked him, “The president says, ‘What have you got to lose? It sounds like what you’re saying is that you have a risk of losing your life if you do about the president just recommended.”

“That’s correct,” Lahita said. “Everything has a trade-off. And these drugs can be very dangerous. And if they don’t have any effect, there’s no reason to take them.”

That not true. There are political reasons:

Trump said he had received a letter from a doctor in New York who had treated patients with the medication and who asked that he “keep pressing” the drug.

“The only negative I’ve heard was the study where they gave it – was it the VA? People that aren’t big Trump fans,” Trump said. He was referring to a report released by the Department of Veterans Affairs that indicated the drug didn’t help in treating covid-19 and, in fact, correlated to higher death rates. This report, he said, was a “very unscientific report” – conflicting with the “tremendously positive news” he gets personally on the drug.

In short, those who say this drug doesn’t work obviously hate him, and thus, in turn, his base will hate them, for hating him, and rally to him and get out to vote for him, every single one of them, and he’ll win in November in a landslide, because he took this drug that all the asshole “experts” said didn’t work and might kill him.

Is that clear? Don’t worry. Steve M at No More Mister Nice Blog can clear this up:

Trump might simply be lying about this – he knows that the announcement will be headline-grabbing, and he knows that advocating hydroxychloroquine is an effective way of needling the libs.

But he was elected president because he’s exactly like the Fox-watching voters to whom he appeals. They’re all in on hydroxychloroquine. They sing its praises at Free Republic and in Gateway Pundit comments sections. Why wouldn’t Trump be just as persuaded of its value as a COVID-19 cure-all? Democrats hate it! It must be good!

But is he really taking it?

After all, consider this:

Trump’s doctors haven’t been honest and forthcoming about his health, but it was revealed in 2018 that he has cardiovascular issues. If you were one of the president’s doctors, would you give him a drug that can disturb heart rhythms? I think you’d give him a placebo and let him think it’s hydroxychloroquine.

That does make a sort of sense:

There’s a risk that if he’s not really taking hydroxychloroquine and he becomes infected with the coronavirus, then suffers serious illness (or dies), you’ll be pilloried by the right-wing media for failing to protect him with this marvelous wonder drug. You’ll be harassed by conservatives for the rest of your life. Some will want you charged with murder or treason.

But I think your average White House doctor doesn’t realize how people think in the right-wing fever swamps. I think whoever is making this decision simply doesn’t want to be the person who administers a fatal dose of a drug to the president, against sound medical advice.

So my guess is that Trump believes he’s taking hydroxychloroquine, but he’s not actually is taking it.

Or else it’s this:

Conley is the physician to the president and an officer in the Navy. Maybe, when the president asks for a dangerous drug, he thinks he has to follow his commander in chief’s orders.

Perhaps so, but the team at Politico notes this:

Monday’s disclosure mixed the defiance Trump has displayed since the early days of the pandemic with a heightened sense of vulnerability. The president has insisted the country can reopen for business as the virus continues to spread, questioned death tolls and dismissed some assertions by his health advisers. And yet he appears willing to take an unproven drug he insists is effective as the virus spreads to his inner circle.

He’s not defiant. He’s panicked. But he’s panicked that people might see that he’s panicked, so he will be defiant. In fact he’ll be one nasty bastard:

President Donald Trump threatened to permanently cut off U.S. funding of the World Health Organization, in a letter dated Monday that he shared on Twitter. Trump said that if the WHO “does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of United States funding to the World Health Organization permanent and reconsider our membership in the organization.”

This is fairly simple. Someone is to blame for what happened. It cannot be him in any way at all. He has said he “accepts no responsibility at all” for any part of anything that has happened. So it must be them, although the timing was a bit awkward:

Last month, Trump halted U.S. funding for the WHO as his administration conducted a review of the agency’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. At the time, the agency said “We are still in the acute phase of a pandemic so now is not the time to cut back on funding.”

Trump, however, knows that this was the time to do that. No money for these people – millions will die now – unless WHO says they were awful and everything is their fault, all of it, and say that Donald Trump has been perfect, because he is a perfect man. He’s got them right where he wants them. Say that, or millions die.

It’s that simple, but nothing is simple:

It’s not immediately clear how Trump would withhold those funds, much of which are appropriated by Congress. The president typically does not have the authority to unilaterally redirect congressional funding.

The renewed threat also comes as the Trump administration faces criticism for how it has handled the crisis. The United States is the worst hit country with more than 1.5 million coronavirus cases reported and at least 90,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

That cannot be his fault, but nothing is easy:

Trump himself faces scrutiny over misleading statements about the coronavirus as well as treatment and vaccine candidates. In January, he told CNBC’s Joe Kernen that he trusts the information coming out of China on the coronavirus. In February, Trump said the coronavirus was the Democrats’ “new hoax” intended to damage him and his administration.

This man needs to keep his stories straight, and he does need to ease up on the defiance:

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates is defending the World Health Organization, blasting President Donald Trump’s decision to halt funding for the U.N. agency in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Microsoft co-founder and his wife, Melinda, voiced support for the WHO in separate Twitter posts early Wednesday, a day after Trump announced that he is halting U.S. funding while the administration reviews the agency’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

“Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds. Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever,” Gates tweeted.

Yeah, well, cry me a river:

The White House defended Trump’s announcement.

“Any suggestion that the President is putting the health and safety of the American people or global health aid in jeopardy is false,” deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in a statement. “The WHO’s response to COVID has been filled with one misstep after another, and President Trump is standing up for the American taxpayer to ensure we hold WHO accountable for their flawed actions.”

Millions in the third world may die, but China must be punished, and kiss Trump’s ring too, but there’s more. The New York Times’ fancy new skyscraper is at the west end of 42nd Street, and the old blue UN skyscraper is at the east end. That’s where this story started earlier in the day:

A meeting of the World Health Organization that was supposed to chart a path for the world to combat the coronavirus pandemic instead on Monday turned into a showcase for the escalating tensions between China and the United States over the virus.

President Xi Jinping of China announced at the start of the forum that Beijing would donate $2 billion toward fighting the coronavirus and dispatch doctors and medical supplies to Africa and other countries in the developing world.

The contribution, to be spent over two years, amounts to more than twice what the United States had been giving the global health agency before President Trump cut off American funding last month, and it could catapult China to the forefront of international efforts to contain a disease that has claimed at least 315,000 lives.

They’ve screwed up far too much in this mess, everything went wrong, but Trump’s defiance just handed them a gift. He can fuss and fume and in white-hot anger demand respect if not adulation. They can chip in double what Trump was supposed to pay but now defiantly won’t ever pay. Even if they screwed up, and they have, they can be the good guys now:

Mr. Xi made his announcement by videoconference to the World Health Assembly, an annual decision-making meeting of the WHO that is being conducted virtually this year because of safety considerations during the pandemic. Mr. Trump declined to address the two-day gathering, providing the Chinese president an opening to be one of the first world leaders to address the 194 member states.

“In China, after making painstaking efforts and sacrifice, we have turned the tide on the virus and protected lives,” Mr. Xi said. “We have done everything in our power to support and assist countries in need.”

Late Monday, Mr. Trump responded in a scathing letter…

So that explains the letter. He defiantly refused to speak to this gathering of the leaders of the major nations to discuss how the world working together could best respond to a worldwide plague and its matching worldwide economic collapse. He was being defiant. China had screwed up! The World Health Organization had covered that up! They were working together to make him look bad! So why the hell should he even show up, even virtually, to talk to these people? But then he had to write that letter. He knows he’s losing:

Mr. Trump’s retreat from the global stage has created openings for China, which has been seeking to reshape multilateral institutions long dominated by Washington.

Ryan Hass, a China scholar at the Brookings Institution, said a familiar pattern had emerged. “Whenever Trump withdraws the U.S. from international leadership, Xi announces that China will step forward,” said Mr. Hass, who was a senior Asia director on President Barack Obama’s National Security Council. “Xi has been ruthlessly opportunistic about seeking to exploit America’s withdrawal from global leadership for China’s advantage.”

Why shouldn’t Xi be opportunistic? Trump’s presidency of defiance is an opportunity for anyone even halfway reasonable to seem a calm and measured thoughtful leader, not a crackpot who keeps sneering that everyone is wrong – doctors and scientists and generals and experts – all of them – they’re all wrong – but he’s right, always. And now he’s showing the world. He’s popping hydroxychloroquine tablets every day, in an act of pure defiance. But that might kill him. That might kill all of us.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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1 Response to Simple Pure Defiance

  1. Bob Bancroft says:

    Great article. However, if one wants not to risk being hauled in front of a medical ethics board, “my patient told me to give him X (any prescription drug)” does not fly. Any person who is not an MD or Nurse Practitioner prescribing any drug, is committing a crime.

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