The leader of the American Gerontocracy trips and falls

By John Ruberry

Unless you tuned in at the right time and you get your news only from MSNBC or CNN you probably didn’t know that President Joe Biden, while climbing the stairs up to Air Force One, fell not once, not twice–but three times. Apparently he was not injured.

Biden, 78, is the oldest man to serve as US president. How old? The prior oldest commander-in-chief, Ronald Reagan was 77 years-old when he completed his second term. 

Biden has been president for 60 days–he has gone longer than any president without holding a press conference since Calvin Coolidge. But Biden will end that silence by holding an afternoon presser on Thursday. 

Many conservative commentators have made a similar observation. Joe Biden’s fastball, if he ever had one, has lost its spin. Biden’s tightly controlled appearances have gone beyond gaffes. In one appearance he clearly forgot the name of his Defense secretary and where he worked, referring to him as “the guy who runs that outfit over there.” Oh, his name is Lloyd Austin, “that outfit” is the US military and “over there” is the Pentagon.

What else?

He referred to his vice president as “President Harris.” Was Biden dropping a hint?

In Texas while discussing relief from the winter storm there Biden uttered, “What am I doing here?” He also botched the some names of dignitaries at that appearance.

An unsure Biden during a video feed said, “I’m happy to take questions if that’s what I’m supposed to do, Nance [Nancy Pelosi], whatever you want me to do.” But then the White House abruptly cut off that feed.

While Biden has been president for a brief time, I’m not cherry-picking these embarrasments. They have one thing in common. All occurred in the last four weeks.

Everyone knows of an elderly relative who one day just didn’t mentally have it anymore. There’s an unsteadiness in speech, in steps of too, the eyes aren’t focused, names are forgotten, or they are confused with others.

That’s Biden. 

It gets worse for America. Lots of other people in government leadership are really old. There’s speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who turns 81 this week, House majority whip James Clyburn, the kingmaker who arguably paved the way for Biden winning the Democratic nomination, is 80, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer is 70, his second-in-command, Dick Durbin, is 76, and Treasury secretary Janet Yellen is 74. Ah, but liberals cry out as they do about so many other political discussions. “What about Trump?”

Well, what about him?

True, until Biden’s win Trump was the oldest person elected to the presidency. But Trump regularly engaged the media in impromptu question-and-answer sessions. His energetic campaign rallies usually lasted more than an hour–where he spoke without notes–or a teleprompter.

Contrast Trump with Biden, with his shoulders slumped, squinting into a teleprompter as he struggles through his speeches. Yes, medical technology and healthier living habits have allowed people to live longer than ever. Age was a major issue for Reagan, who was 68 when he won his first presidential election in 1980 as it was for him four years later. But science–which of course we must follow at all times–has had less success battling cognitive decline and dementia.

Being old should not be a disqualifier to be president. Konrad Adenauer, 74, became chancellor of West Germany in 1949, a key reason he was chosen is that he was seen as a transitional leader for the new nation because of his age. But he served capably until he was 87. In 2003, German television viewers selected Adenauer as the greatest German of all time.

Coincidentally last spring, when he had clinched the Democratic nomination, Biden declared himself a “transition” candidate. Sorry, Joe, but you are no Konrad Adenauer. 

Biden is the head of state of the American Gerontocracy. That’s not a good thing.

In the 1970s and early 1980s the Soviet politburo was dominated by old men. After the long-ailing Leonid Brezhnev died in 1981, he was succeeded by Yuri Andropov, then Konstantin Chernenko, two sick old men. Finally a vigorous and relatively young Mikhail Gorbachev took the helm at the Kremlin in 1985. But by 1991 the Soviet Union was no more.

Back to Germany.

Paul von Hindenburg, a World War I hero, wanted to retire as president of Germany in 1932. He reluctantly ran for reelection after being warned that if he didn’t to so then Adolf Hitler would win the presidency. Hindenburg prevailed, but the next year he appointed Hitler as chancellor. Hindenburg died in 1934 at the age of 86; historians disagree whether he suffered from cognitive decline late in his life.

Hold on! I’m not saying, or even hinting, that because of Biden and the Gerontacracy that the United States faces imminent dissolution or a dictatorship. American democracy is still very robust. But a weaker America is already here. Whether by choice, inacation, or by incompetence, our southern border is no longer secure. At last week’s disastrous summit with China in Anchorage, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was lectured by our adversary over our human rights record. Yep, this is the same China that has concentration camps for Uyghurs and is stifling democracy in Hong Kong. Biden’s sole legislative achievement, the $1.9 billion stimulus, may bring back 1970s-style inflation. As I wrote last week there are winners and losers with inflation. The latter won’t keep quiet. 

Biden is already the weakest American president since Jimmy Carter, who was just 56 when he left office. Yes, age isn’t everything.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was an ill man in the last year of his life. Shortly before his death he was duped by Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference, eastern Europe was gift-wrapped for the communists.

A weaker America means a more unstable world. 

Right now the symbol of America to the rest of the world is a frail Biden falling on a set of stairs.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

COVID-19 lockdowns must end for the sake of our overall health

Outside a store in Wisconsin earlier this month

By John Ruberry

Who else besides me is fed up wearing a mask when shopping at a supermarket?

Or at work?

Or a restaurant? 

I haven’t eaten inside an Illinois restaurant–or in a tent–since Governor JB Pritzker instituted his first lockdown in March. I’ve picked up take-out meals only.

Who has had enough of lockdowns?

As a person with a strong libertarian bent I don’t like being bossed around, pestered, or nagged. 

But I’ve been coping with all of that for months. 

I know ten people who’ve contracted COVID-19. Only two of them told me they were very ill. Two were asymptomatic. All of them are still with us–in fact, they’ve all returned to their jobs as if nothing happened. 

Last month the Centers for Disease Control released the survival rates for those who have contracted COVID-19.

  • Age 0-19 — 99.997%
  • Age 20-49 — 99.98%
  • Age 50-69 — 99.5%
  • Age 70+ — 94.6%

So if you are over 70, and most people already know that seniors are more prone to death from COVID-19 than everyone else, you have a 94.6 percent of surviving. President Trump is one of those septuagenarians who has recovered. Yes, COVID-19 is serious, because those stats also say those 70 and over have a slightly higher than 5 percent chance of dying from it. 

Here’s another situation where that percentage, 94 percent, comes in to play. Nearly two months ago the CDC said of those deaths from the novel coronavirus, 94 percent had “multiple chronic conditions.” In other words, they were already unhealthy. Every death is tragic. But part of life is getting sick, getting injured, getting old, and yes, passing away. You can fool, perhaps, your neighbors or co-workers about your true age with hair dye and plastic surgery, but never can you hoodwink Father Time. 

Humans are intensely social animals, as are all primates. It’s in our genetic makeup. The most watched television shows and movies are centered on personal interactions. One of the most popular TV programs ever aired is “Friends.” There is not a show entitled “Hermits,” there is no interest in producing such a program because few people would want to watch it. 

The death rate from COVID-19 is very low for the very young. Yet many of our schools are closed except for cold and impersonal Zoom sessions.

Usually our first and most lasting impressions with others of our species is by way of their faces. But the mask requirements in many states, especially blue ones like mine, take those connections away from us.

The lockdowns have led to an increase in drug overdoses and possibly suicides. Among young people, the CDC says, the death rate for young people is higher for overdoses and suicides than for COVID 19.

That wave just might be beginning. For instance, Chicago, which is just south of where I live, just instated another curfew because of an uptick in COVID cases. All businesses deemed non-essential for the next two weeks must close between 10pm and 6am. Bars and restaurants, already reeling from being closed down this spring, will be hit especially hard. Some of these businesses, especially those struck by looting this summer, will never re-open. Which means of course more people will be prone to suicide and drug and alcohol abuse. The workforce in the food and beverage industry is disproportionately young.

Mrs. Marathon Pundit was an early victim of the COVID-19 lockout layoffs. She’s fine–she has a new job in a different field. But her former boss was forced to downsize his business, which I believe his home mortgage was tied into. He sold his home this summer and moved into a much smaller residence.

There are millions of former business owners facing similar situations across America. And not all workers, such as Mrs. Marathon Pundit, will be able to land on their feet. 

One “fix” to the drop in revenue for brick-and-mortar restaurants is to set up plastic tents next to them. Diners instead of eating indoors will be eating, sort of, outdoors in these tents, but still breathing each other’s air. Alongside them in cold weather climates, in the winter, will be space heaters, which are a well-known fire hazard. 

Follow the science. 

Take a deep breath before reading this next paragraph.

Based on my current age, overall health, and family history, I’ll probably live another 25-years. I do not want to spend those years wearing a mask. I don’t want to go running outdoors–and this really happened–as I run 50 yards past a couple who, in horror, hurriedly put their masks over their faces as I move, maskless, down the street that I live on as if I am Typhoid Mary. According to federal government data, there have been 624 positive cases of COVID-19 in the town I live in, Morton Grove, which has a population of 23,000.

Who frightened that Morton Grove couple? Not me, well not initially that is.

Will the mask mandates return–if they ever go away–when a more virulent than usual strain of the flu strikes?

Follow the science. 

This is not a distress from me call but instead a call for action. For the sake of our overall health–while maintaining strict safety controls in places such as senior homes and hospitals–these lockdowns must end. But I suspect many politicians–such as Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago–don’t want the lockdowns to end. They are too in love with power. Lightfoot and Gov. Pritzker told us we needed the lockdowns to “flatten the curve” in the spring so hospitals wouldn’t be overwhelmed. Now they want to prevent all of us getting sick, which as we know is not possible.

The goalposts keep moving.

Years ago I read in a book about marathon training that stated that distance running, all things being equal, does indeed lead to a longer life expectancy. But more importantly, those extra years on this planet for runners usually mean they are enjoyable years. Who is going to sign up for an additional ten years of life if those years will consist of living in a nursing home in need of 24-hour care?

The quality of life for myself and millions of others is diminished because we are ordered to wear masks and to avoid each other.

End the lockdowns.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

My Wuhan Virus Regimen

by baldilocks

So, this is how I’m maintaining my physical health during the LA lockdown.

My daily intake:

  • Calcium 1000 mg
  • Vitamin D 3000 units
  • Zinc 15 mg
  • Aspirin 325 mg
  • Old person multivitamin (age 50+); two things of special value in this: vitamins B6 and B12

Home juicer squeezed fruit juice consisting of:

  • Strawberries or beets
  • Orange
  • Lemon
  • Grapefruit
  • Tomato
  • Apple
  • Ginger
  • Lime (sometimes)
  • Kiwifruit

Home juicer squeezed juice consisting of:

  • Carrot
  • Tomato
  • Garlic

I drink that last concoction when I’m not going to be near anyone for a bit. A friend told me that it knocks down cold/flu symptoms, but I haven’t had either one since I started drinking it … that may or may not be proof of its effectiveness.

(Disclaimer: I am not a vegetarian and have no plans to become one.)

Nighttime: big glass of water with a spoonful of food-grade diatomaceous earth. Allegedly this stuff does a lot of things, but it does one very important thing: it makes everything come out right in the morning, if you get my drift.

Daily output:

Recently I was diagnosed with a condition called spondylolisthesis. It is literally a pain in my butt on the right side, but that wasn’t what caused me to have it checked out. It was this: if I lay on my back for more than about a minute, my right foot starts to tingle.

It stems from an injury I received many years ago while helping someone move a heavy object. So, that diagnosis has resulted in three things.

The first is physical therapy, during which I learn how to strengthen my core, how to properly stretch and where a cute young guy gives me a back(side) massage twice a week. And, yes, they are open during the lockdown.

The second is power walking; 45-60 minutes, roughly 3 miles, 5-6 times a week. When I reach a speed that puts me under 45 minutes, I increase the distance the next day. It’s a good time to listen to audiobooks, but I don’t do it that often. I get out and walk very early and I like the sound of silence.

I’ve been doing this for about a month and I had thought about doing some jogging, but because of the spondy-blah-blah, that’s out. Good thing, too. In spite of my Kenyan heritage, I hate running.

Walking while wearing a N95 mask: I keep it on the tip of my nose unless I’m near someone. It’s more for their peace of mind than mine.

The third thing: planking. This practice has greatly increased the length of time that I’m able to lie my back before my foot starts to tingle. And it has noticeably decreased my computer hunch.

I feel really great after I finish, both physically and emotionally.

No claims on whether this regimen cures or prevents anything, but it can’t hurt.

I was taking almost all the vitamins and the home-juice long before the onset of COVID-19, so I’m not making any claims on effectiveness against that or any other virus. Mostly I began taking these things to ward off pain, anxiety and lethargy. I have only one prescription – the vitamin D – and I plan on keeping it that way for as long as possible.

And I top all this off with a big dollop of prayers for success. God rewards action.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng has been blogging since 2003 as baldilocks. Her older blog is here.  She published her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game in 2012.

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Bloodletting the American economy

By John Ruberry

I am living in the third week of Illinois’ shelter-in-place order in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The streets are quiet, the parking lots in many retail spots are either empty, if it’s a mall, or less crowded if that shopping area has a grocery store.

At home there are three of us. I’m the only one with a job. I’m a commission sales person but income is down. Mrs. Marathon Pundit, after getting laid off a month ago, drove Uber until the shelter-in-place order was put in place on March 21. She filed for unemployment for her first time the following week. Little Marathon Pundit’s employer shut down when the shelter-in-place order went into effect. She was paid until she was informed by a letter yesterday that she was furloughed–then she promptly filed a jobless claim. Hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans have done the same recently.

We are holding up okay. We are healthy and not suffering from anxiety. I’ll have more on mental health later.

As of Easter morning there have been nearly 20,000 confirmed novel coronavirus in the Land of Lincoln with 677 deaths. Each person was loved and will be missed. Each death is a tragedy.

Yet most of the COVID-19 fatalities already had illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. Or they suffered from unhealthy underlying factors such as high blood pressure and obesity. Or they smoked. Let me repeat, each death is a tragedy.

Two weeks ago in this space I wrote about what I still believe is an overreach in Chicago in response to coronavirus. Mayor Lori Lightfoot, among other things, has closed Chicago’s sprawling lakefront to even solitary walkers, runners, and cyclists. Barbershops and hair salons, along with many other businesses, have been viewed as non-essential by Governor JB Pritzker, although that didn’t stop Lightfoot from getting her  hair done.

But Lightfoot’s reaction is mild compared to what is going on in a nearby state, Michigan. Governor Gretchen Whitmer is a Democrat like Lightfoot and Pritzker. While she hasn’t run out of things to ban or shutter, Whitmer, who is supposedly on Joe Biden’s shortlist of running mates, might reach that millstone.

Travel between homes–even walking across the street–is banned in the Great Lakes State, unless it involves checking on someone’s health. Stores deemed essential are open, but in a bizarre overreach, garden center sections in those open retail outlets are cordoned off, including seed displays. Gardening, generally a solitary pursuit, is a fabulous mental health salve.

Yes, Michigan has one of the highest coronavirus rates in the nation. Cases are concentrated in the Detroit area, which by all accounts has disproportionately more residents suffering from the underlying health issues I mentioned earlier.

There is speculation over a second wave of COVID-19 coming later this year. If that’s the case in between there will be a mental health crisis. Joblessness and money troubles are a reliable predictor of suicides

Not every family is a happy one. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has already decried the “horrifying global surge in domestic violence” now that much of the planet is enduring a lockdown. Alcohol sales are up since the shelter-in-place orders began. Will this lead to a higher rate of alcoholism? Will problem drinkers who kicked the habit suffer a relapse? Will there be a hike in narcotics abuse?

Liquor stores are open in everywhere where they were before the pandemic–I’m not calling for their closure. In Michigan you can buy booze and visit a marijuana dispensary. But stay away from that seed aisle at the local big box store! Governor Gretchen Whitless is watching!

Lee Chatfield, a Republican, is the speaker of the Michigan House.

Flint, which is no stranger to economic turmoil, issued a 9am-6pm curfew as long as Whitmer’s shelter-in-place order is effect. Violators face up to $2,000 in fines and six months in jail. Even the ACLU is rolling its eyes over the Flint curfew. I’ve been to Flint. Take my word for it, most residents of the Vehicle City don’t have $2,000 lying around. 

Two hundred years ago  bloodletting was viewed by most physicians as a valid and effective medical treatment for a variety of illnesses. George Washington, a believer in bloodletting, was arguably killed by his doctor who bled him as he was suffering from a throat infection. That cure for Washington and countless others was worse than the disease. 

Now I fear we are bloodletting the American economy. I fear the wide-ranging shelter-in-place orders could trigger an economic depression with the horrible health repercussions I described above. And more. 

President Donald Trump is right. We need to re-open the American economy as soon as possible. 

Our collective health depends on it. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Corona-basics

When I first learned how to drive a manual transmission car as a teenager, my dad made me go back and forth on the driveway. I’d put my car into first (grinding the hell out of the clutch), move it down the driveway, then stop, shift into reverse, and go back. Back and forth, hour upon hour until I had mastered the basics. Once I had that down, shifts into other gears were easy. I couldn’t be a good driver until I had mastered the basics.

Mastering the basics is why the world is struggling with the corona-virus. Everyone is talking about the corona-virus. Everyone. It’s tanking the stock market, ravaging cruise lines, and putting people into a panic. We now have governments bleaching streets to try and stop the spread.

Yet, all the things that we (as in the populace) need to actually do are pretty simple:

  • Get your flu shot
  • Wash your hands
  • Cough into your elbow
  • Keep your kitchen clean
  • Cook your food properly

(Yes, I realize the flu shot doesn’t cover the corona-virus. But if you’re sick with regular flu and then get the corona-virus, it has a higher chance of killing you.)

Despite all this, I guarantee I’ll see someone walk out of a restroom without washing their hands, sneeze without covering their mouth, and leave a kitchen messy for more than a day. I also bet that China won’t stop open food markets either.

We don’t have a corona virus outbreak problem. We have a culture problem, in that too many people aren’t doing the basic things right. If you can’t do basic hygiene, the best medicine in the world can’t help you.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.