It's Friday -- Let's Get Out Of Here

Random Friday Morning Thoughts

  • The Board. Beginning: 68,211 Added: 17,224 New Total: 85,435
  • Deaths. Beginning: 1,027 Added: 268 New Total: 1,295
  • Man, I got buried in emails yesterday for taking the Devil's Advocate position. There are lots of hots sports opinions out there, on both sides, about how bad, or not, this thing is.
  • On Monday, in a soon to be awarding winning edition of Random Thoughts, I conceived of the topic of the Rural Uprising™. I also said the resistance to social distancing will be drawn along political lines. Anyone notice how the current coronavirus map looks a lot like the Red vs. Blue counties map? 

  • Here's a wild stat: As of this yesterday in Texas, there have been 21,424  people tested with only 1,396 testing positive. That 6.5%  (Remember that you have to show signs to even get tested in the first place.)
  • Hot prediction: There is no way Wise County doesn't go 100% back to normal by May 1st, and I'm not sure we can even hold out that long. Second hot opinion (which might cause the county judge to walk across the street and hit me over the head with his guitar): Until then, there's also no way Wise County ever becomes a Shelter-In-Place county.  As with everything else related to the virus, I might feel 100% different in a week. 
    Wise County churches back in business by Easter?
  • Then again, maybe I need to rethink that. (From New Braunfels.)
  • What ever happened to that Google website we were promised that would direct us to the nearest testing station and "is going to be very quickly done, unlike websites of the past"?
  • Followup from yesterday: A faithful reader, who also is a researching fool, sent me the latest tax return for Wise County's W.A.R.M. food bank. Another faithful reader advised me that two other food banks in the county also receive contributions from people on probation, and that the exchange rate is $6.25 to satisfy one hour of imposed community service. (I had thought it was $8.)
  • The Ticket, since there are no sports, was reviewing the 1980 playoff game between the Cowboys and the Falcons yesterday which is available in its entirety on YouTube.  I watched part of it last night because I had never seen it. It's great. You know why I've never seen it? Because the game was played on a Saturday afternoon during Christmas season which means I was working in my dad's department store. I've been the hardest working man in show business since I was a teenager. 
    Now you know why the current Cowboys' doctor
    wears a cowboy hat. It's a throwback look. 
  • The great Curly Neal died yesterday. For those wondering, Meadowlark Lemon passed away in 2015.  
  • Last night at midnight Neil Young Bob Dylan released a 17 minute song about the JFK assassination, and I might be insane now. 
  • An editorial in the Dallas Morning News yesterday began, "On Monday, a cadre of law enforcement — a prosecutor, two Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents, at least five deputy U.S. marshals, and a U.S. magistrate judge — showed up to court to hold a detention hearing for a convicted felon who had been arrested with a handgun concealed inside his jacket." Oh my gosh! What's the back story?! What did he really do to get all of this attention? Is the gun charge just a way to get to him just like tax evasion got us Al Capone? Nope. We never even got an explanation about that guy. The whole piece was just the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District getting space in a major daily to promote how here office is still hard at work. But the lede told us about eight law enforcement officials showing up for a routine hearing? Too many cops. Too many prosecutors. 
  • As I write this, not a single person was arrested in Wise County in the last 24 hours. The  average is around eight to ten. 
  • The news about the shocking rise in unemployment claims was disturbing, but The New York Times had a great way of reporting it this morning. (Yep, that graph is accurate.)


Random Thursday Morning thoughts

  • The Board. 13,355 new cases bringing the total to 68,211.
  • I can't remember anything that has caused so many internal shifting opinions in me than the coronavirus. And, along those lines, this thought really began to bug me yesterday: Do the "total number of diagnosed cases" have any significance at all?  Admitting that I don't know what to think, let me be a Devil's Advocate to those who believe this is the apocalypse. 
    • We know that the number of people tested in America is incredibly small. And, as a result, we all expect the number of diagnosed cases to skyrocket over the next two to three weeks as testing becomes more widespread. But let me ask this seemingly shocking question: So what if they do? Stay with me here. 
    • What would change if everyone were to magically get tested right this second and we determined that 50% of the population has the coronavirus. Just assume for the sake of argument that it turns out that half of us are walking around have the virus but almost all of us don't have any symptoms. Seriously, how would that change the seriousness of the virus? The number of people who currently feel sick, the number of people who are currently at the hospital, and the current number who have died would be exactly the same. The true impact of the virus would not change.
    • And if we knew the true, and much larger, number of people who have the coronavirus then the actual death percentage rate actually would go down. That's simple: One number (the diagnosed cases) goes up, and one number (the actual deaths) stays the same. Then this doomsday number of a 4% death rate would become absolutely a farce.  And if the death percentage goes down to well under 1%, this thing turns into, dare I say it, "just the flu" after all. Smarter people than me, who question our reaction to the virus, put it like this:
    • And I'm not alone in this Devil's Advocate position: There's an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal today, titled "Is the Coronavirus as Deadly as They Say?", which says: "The true fatality rate is the portion of those infected who die, not the deaths from identified positive cases.” And the graph I post every day shows the number of identified positive cases. So, to bring it back to the beginning, does that chart mean anything at all? 
    • Shouldn't the only numbers we care about be the number of deaths or those who require hospitalization?  And, everyone calls you heartless if you say it, aren't those numbers in the grand scheme of things shockingly small in a country with a population of 320 million?
  • Those current death numbers: 247 new deaths yesterday bringing the total to 1,027. 
  • More Devil's Advocate with a very simplistic "Look out that window" approach: When I was in sixth grade at Bridgeport Junior High school, one Monday I went to school only to find out that half of my class wasn't there. Where were they? They were all home throwing up with the flu. Everyone was a sick as dog because an epidemic had swept the town. Bridgeport ISD then took the dramatic step of shutting down the entire school for the rest of the week.  I thought about that yesterday when it occurred to me I hadn't heard one single person say to me, "There sure are a lot of people sick out there." One year from now, if someone asks me what's the worst outbreak of sickness I had ever experienced in my entire my life, I'll tell them about my experience in sixth grade on the mean streets of Bridgeport. Right?
  • Hey, I'm just a simple country lawyer, but that's the stuff I've thought about. I don't know what to think. Next week I'll think the world is ending. 
  • Speaking of being a simple country lawyer, I have a clarification from yesterday: Yes, a Texas county judge does trump city mayors on declaring what goes down once an emergency is declared. The Star-Telegram's Bud Kennedy pointed out to me - way too nicely, by the way - that it's right there in the statute: "[T]o the extent of a conflict between decisions of the county judge and the mayor, the decision of the county judge prevails." And that's why I need to stick to criminal law. 
  • But how then did the McKinney mayor declare a stay-at-home order yesterday when the Collin County Judge did not?  There's probably a workaround argument that a mayor can impose greater restrictions than the county judge. His position would be "I'm not in 'conflict' with the county judge at all. I agree there's an emergency, and I'm just imposing additional protections consistent with that emergency."
  • I've noticed the local food bank, W.A.R.M., was seeking actual food donations during this coronavirus shut down. I've been meaning to mention this for a long time: That organization has to be drowning in cash. It's been the policy of Wise County Probation - a policy a fully support - to allow someone to "buy out" their imposed community service hours by making a donation to W.A.R.M. And that's no small chunk of change. A standard probation order for being caught with weed legally bought in Colorado might impose 240 hours of community service. A person can buy that out at a rate of (I think) $8 per hour. So W.A.R.M. would collect over $2,000 from that one case alone.  Heck, look at a screenshot from its website below which allows a person to choose the an option of $1,000 to make the donation. And considering there are a ton of people on probation buying out their community service each year, that's an equal ton of money. They are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization so I suppose I could find out easily how much they collected last year. I'd like to know. 
  • The lawyer in the Wichita Fall's Sexual-Assault-Mom-Won-The-Lottery, whose strategy was to not put on a defense at trial, has withdrawn from the case which is now pending on appeal. Recall this is the case where the lawyers were reportedly paid $600,000 according to the Times-Record News.


Random Wednesday Morning Thoughts

  • What city is that?
  • The Board:  You know, I might need to find some other graphic because I'm beginning to feel this doesn't do it justice. There were 11,100 new cases yesterday bringing the total to 54,881. Exactly two weeks ago, on March 13th, we were concerned there were 531 new cases. It doesn't feel like this graph reflects that with the necessary punch.
  • There were 225 new deaths yesterday bringing the total to 780.
  • Does anyone for a minute think Texas actually has only 857 cases when New York, where they are testing left and right, has over 25,000? Aren't we about to be in for a major shock once Houston and the Metroplex get tested properly?
  • Notable new cases: Prince Charles and Jackson Browne. Both are 71.
    I miss album covers.
  • New Orleans has exploded with cases. Is that the effect of Mardi Gras? 
  • Sheesh, my "Rural Uprising" theory is being put into place by Trump. Yesterday he said he would "love to have the country opened up and raring to go" by Easter on April 12th and see  “packed churches all over our country."  Just how is this going to go down? Is he going to proclaim Texas open while county judges declare it to still be "shelter-in-place"? Will Republican county judges go along with him? Will Democratic judges not? And if that's the case, isn't the public just doing what they want anyway?  This is going to get wild. 
  • Speaking of counties, the following ones are now shelter-in-place: Tarrant, Dallas, and Denton. Throw in Hunt County, too, which is on the other side of Collin County with a population of 90,000. Wise County is not. I absolutely support out county judge J.D. Clark, but I wouldn't want to be him right now. 
  • As for Collin County, they are doing something interesting and, frankly, deceitful: They have imposed shelter-in-place but declared all businesses essential so they are all free to open. Practically speaking, that's no restrictions on anyone at all.  If every job is essential and every product or service they provide is essential, everyone can go to work and everyone who goes and patronizes them is doing something essential, too. 
  • All of these county judges firing off emergency orders gives rise to a great legal question I don't think anyone has the answer to: Can county judges hand down an edict which controls incorporated cities within the county? In Texas, the county judges and the county commissioners normally have jurisdiction over unincorporated areas. Mayors and city councils run incorporated cities and the land within its boundaries. You want to build in the city of Decatur? You go to the City of Decatur to see what rules apply. You want to build in Cottondale? The county controls the rules for your septic system. Does all of this suddenly all go out the window just because it's an "emergency declaration"? 
  • And, I'll say it again, all of these "orders" are nothing more than recommendations that, for now, everyone is going along with. If every restaurant in, uh, hypothetical Bridgeport wanted to open up today, no one is going to do anything about it. You think hypothetical Chief Steve Stanford is going to write every business owner, and every customer in it, a ticket? You think the hypothetical mayor would want him to? Heck, no. All we are doing right now is engaging in voluntary compliance for the greater good. That is, until the "Rural Uprising" changes what we define as the "greater good." 
  • And here's the problem for counties like Wise County right now: How long can this voluntary compliance hold when there hasn't been a single case, much less one single death, from the coronavirus? How quickly does it all become a particular Game of Thrones meme?:

  • Let me be 100% clear: I don't know the answer. You look around Texas and everything seems fine. Then you look at New York, and especially what it's about to look like, and you think its the Apocalypse that could happen here. But one thing that has served me well my entire life is know what I don't know. With that, I'll rely on smarter people than me and go along with it.  
  • Then again, I expect to see a "Social Distancing Is For Libs" bumper sticker on an F-250 on 380 this afternoon. 
  • After this very extended Spring Break, I wonder how many parents have thought, "You know, maybe it wasn't the fault of the teachers and the coaches after all."
  • Stolen from Update: "NO MARRIAGE LICENSES – Due to COVID-19 (coronavirus) health concerns, the Wise County Clerk’s office will not issue marriage licenses because they are considered non-essential service and the office currently has limited staffing." (Emphasis added.)
  • Messenger: Above the Fold


    Random Tuesday Morning Thoughts

    • The Board. We had 10,168 new cases yesterday bringing the total to 43,734.   New York has obviously become ground zero with 20,875 cases on their own. 
    • Man, this puts the exponential rise in context (and it is current only through March 20th):
    • I might as well go completely morbid and start posting death numbers since it's important in its own right. We had 140 new deaths yesterday taking the total to 553. 
    • Let me tell you something. My post yesterday, which I shall nickname "The Rural Uprising" of those who believe we are severely over-reacting to the coronavirus, struck a big nerve. I've never been hit with so many emails telling me I hit the nail on the head. I was hearing from multiple complete strangers all with the same theme: "I normally disagree with you, but are exactly right on this one."
    • Trump was basically expressing the Rural Uprising yesterday at the afternoon press conference.
    • And the right wing politicians in Texas really ramped it up last night in much more blunt terms than I used. As someone told me, "Your theory has hit warp speed.": 
    • And this morning Trump is expressing a "let's get back to work because the death count would be a small and acceptable level" sentiment with this retweet of Ann Coulter. This is going to get wild. 
    • It's handwritten, but it's true. The chances of this impacting Trump's mindset is, I don't know, about 100%.
    • I wonder what the City of Fort Worth will announce this morning. She certainly can't keep a secret: 
    • Wise County and the City of Decatur joined the party yesterday, but I think the orders aren't any significantly different that what Gov. Abbott had already announced for Texas. It was not a shelter in place order.
    • Sorriness from a DPS driver's license office:
    • Mrs. LL went to Home Depot this weekend and the store was limiting the occupancy to 125 people. They had an employee stationed at the only entrance with a counter to impose the restriction. For example, as two people left she'd let two people in. (I was more shocked when she added, "Oh, and I replaced the outdoor keypad for the garage door opener.")
    • One thing I am sure of is that we need a word other than "disaster" for these situations.
    • Changing gears . . . 
    • Kenny Rogers has died, and I'll offer my respects by saying Islands in the Stream is one of the worst songs ever made. And I found out why yesterday: It was written by Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees  -- maybe the worst band in the history of ever. 
    • The Joe Exotic series on Netflix is 100% insane. Heck, every character in it is insane. When Texas Monthly had a long article on him last year, the story was so good that I gave it a full bullet point. But this Netflix series takes it to a whole new level. (Side note: He can really, really sing.) 
    • Jack County Judge Keith Umphress had filed a lawsuit saying that being forced to perform same-sex marriage violates his constitutional rights. "Umphress says he is a member of a 'Bible-believing church' that 'adheres to longstanding Christian teaching that marriage exists only between one man and one woman, and that homosexual conduct of any sort is immoral and contrary to Holy Scripture.' He says he will run for re-election in 2022 on a platform that opposes same-sex marriage." Platform? That's the platform for a county judge? I've always said it: If you think Wise County is conservative, just go west for a short distance. (Shout out to my friends over there. I haven't been in that courthouse in a while.)
    • I've always thought his mysterious illness that kept him out of the 2018 season was suspicious. And he's walking away from a $7 million contract next year. It's certainly his right and I don't necessarily blame him, but he simply doesn't want to play. 
    • Wise County Jail population as of this morning: 135.  I'm guessing that the average daily population for 2019 was 180 inmates. The number has plummeted as of late. 


    Random Monday Morning Thoughts

    • Before I give you a hot prediction, let's check the Board from this weekend: 33,546 total cases with 9,339 cases added yesterday. The total number of cases seems to be doubling approximately every two days. There were a big jump in deaths yesterday at 117 bringing the total to 458.
    • Warning: What follows is what happens when I start writing and can't stop. Stay with me here. Or not. 
    • Here is my hot prediction:  There is about to be a major uprising -- if not an outright revolt -- against the complete shutdown of the economy from those portions of the country not severly impacted by the coronavirus like New York and California has been.  Why? 
      • The "We Are Destroying The Economy Over This?" Argument.
        • Over the last month, there has always been a small, or at least silent, portion of the population who thinks the shutting down of the country over the coronavirus is flat out silly. The argument, on its face, sounds harsh: Sure, deaths will occur if we went back to normalcy, but the number of deaths are relatively small.  People die all the time, they say. It's nature. Heck, maybe it's even "God's plan." 
        • It's a gut-wrenching question that they are really willing to ask: Just how far are we willing to go to save x number of lives? 
        • I can't dismiss this argument outright because I've always laughed at and mocked Draconian measures based upon the "if it saves one life" argument. I've given the example before: It would save one life if every car manufactured was a safe as a NASCAR and that we were required to wear flame retardant suits and a helmet. Would it save lives? Absolutely. Are we willing to be forced to pay $200,000 for an ultra safe car and be inconvenience by a helmet? Absolutely not. We are all simply willing to accept some deaths by having cars as-is. 
        • You still think that argument should be dismissed outright?  What if the prediction for the total number of deaths, if we let the cornavirus take its course, was univerally agreed to be 50 in the United States. Would you support the current measures being taken? And what if it was just one life? Would you still support the ongoing measures? If you say yes, you're not wrong. But if you say no, I can't say you're wrong either. Let's face it. We all have our number. 
        • And there are some smart people who think our approach is silly. The New York Times ran this opinion piece yesterday.
      • That Small Minority Is About To Grow Naturally
        • I mentioned my theory about the potential upcoming uprising both to Mrs. LL and my dad yesterday. I can't put my finger on it, but it seems like it has gained a great deal of traction over the last few days.
        • But why would the Uprising gain traction? People are about to actually feel it in their pocketbooks. It's one thing to have some fears about struggling financially, but it's a lot different when you are actually looking at a rent bill or a car payment or a cell phone bill, and you can't pay it. That will happen over the next one to two weeks.
        • And no one wants to say this, but this shut down we experienced over the last week has had a little bit of a "snow day" feel that's about to end. Hey, work just got a lot easier. Kids don't have to go to school. But that's about to change. It takes about one week at home before this ain't fun any longer. Nerves fray. Unhappiness sits in. We want to go back to normal. 
        • Bottom line: Americans can only have a kumbaya moment for a very short period of time. Maybe a week. Maybe two. But then our old ways naturally set in and we want are drawn back to the way things were. And it happens fast. Remember post-9/11?
      • Another Reason The Uprising Will Grow: God and Civil Liberties
        • I began to notice these rumblings on Saturday when Tarrant County imposed its stronger restrictions of no gathering of 10 or more which specifically included churches.  Heck, to specifically name churches in the "order" fired off my civil liberties warning bells. 
        • Never in my lifetime did I think I would see the government ordering a church to be closed down.  I think that's nuts. And even a fifth grader can read the First Amendment and know that's unconstitutional. 
        • But my "concern" is nothing like the reaction of some people. The government infringement on the church is a call to war for some. It's a call to revolt. Couple that with a growing feeling of "Is this shutdown really necessary," and the Uprising picks up speed. 
        • And you think I'm kidding? Look at this tweet by Chris Putnam yesterday who took on Kay Granger in the election earlier this month. 
      • And then last night, BOOM! You think an Uprising isn't coming? Look what has happened in the last nine hours. 
        • Trump, who I believe has always thought the experts were over-reacting to the coronavirus, finally exploded and put the wheels in motion to get back to normal ASAP: 
        • Fox and Friends was running with it this morning: 
        • And, now, holy cow. Look what Trump is retweeting this morning as I type this! Let's get back to normal and then isolate the "high risk groups". 
      • Does the Uprising break along party lines? It's looking like it. The bail-out and checks to every American? That's socialism, they say. And the shut-down had already killed the economy (stock market crash, unemployment headed to 30%) and the economy was what Trump was going to run on (and an anti-socialism platform). If you want Trump re-elected, that's another reason to rush back to normalcy. And this political divide can be seen through what happened yesterday when Dallas County ordered shelter-in-place.
        • County Judge Clay Jenkins, who I've always thought was dumb as a box of rocks, cited some statistics which are basically a flat-out lie: He said if all of Texas doesn't go shelter-in-place that there would be 430,000 deaths in our state alone.
        •  Make no mistake, Dallas County is a Democratic county, and conservatives are already jumping all over him.
        • And Tarrant County, a Republican County, specifically refused to order shelter-in-place last night with one county commissioner specifically saying, "Just because Dallas County does something doesn't mean we should."
        • That, my friends, are the seeds of an Uprising as to how we are handling the coronavirus. 
      • Hey, I want to be clear: I have no idea how to handle the coronavirus. But I also want to be clear: This unity isn't going to last. All of these "orders" from governors, county judges, and mayors are nothing more than suggestions. They aren't enforceable. No one is going to jail. No one is getting fined. And once, say,  5% of the population ignores all the orders and goes back to work and normalcy, the rest of the Uprising will follow. 
    • Quick hits:
      • All evictions have been stopped in Texas.
      • A county commissioner in Florida tells everyone in an open meeting to direct a hair dryer at your nose to kill the virus. His source? He says he heard it on the reputable OANN. 
      • And I wasted so much time on the "Uprising" that I've run out of it. I'll get back to "normal" tomorrow. 
    • Messenger: Above the Fold