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John Livingston

Time to just take a shower?

Who are we more likely to follow, the smartest person in the room, the cleverest presenter, or the most attractive person? What makes people believe what someone else says? Is it a credential after their name or an association with an ideology or who they are associated with or represent? If a political, cultural, or economic narrative is being offered, are we captivated more by facts or by the emotion of the presenter? Do you believe the person who is the most confident, or do you believe a person who understands their skeptics and accommodates the contra argument? Do overconfident people express more certainty than they should when they try to influence others? Why do big pharmaceutical companies hire young attractive female liberal arts graduates in preference to “nerdy” STEM major young men fresh out of college when they detail drugs and pharmaceuticals to middle age paunchy male doctors, and why do the same companies hire young men to peddle their wears to female doctors? Are these “people of science” more likely to sample a drug from someone that is physically attractive, or do they sit and listen to “the science”? Ans: Whichever drug rep offers them a free trip to Cancun as an “expert” or “consultant” will be the ones whose samples they will offer to patients. No matter the credential, people from all walks of life seem to offer their souls for a price

I have been a big fan of Dr. Hahn as she has provided guidance to the people of Idaho throughout the pandemic. She has often counseled the Governor’s Advisory Board about “the unknown”. She has recognized that her advice about “science” is only part of the process of producing an “operational plan. The other two parts are probabilistic thinking and an assessment of risk. Not recognizing that there is no such thing as “settled science” other members of the Governor’s Advisory Board and several of the District Health Districts officers failed to see the difference between explaining the science and recognizing the fact that everyday people are far better at exercising their own assessment of risk and to think problematically in designing mitigation strategies of what is best for themselves and their families.

In a world where each moment is determined by an infinitely complex set of factors, probabilistic thinking helps us identify the most likely outcomes. When we know these our decisions can be more precise and effective. A centralized command and control approach that public health experts used to define individual risk—when the “commune” became more important than the individual and replaced the doctor patient relationship, and when the small nail of individual risk was struck with a public health community benefit sludge hammer, both society and the individual have been hurt.

A good scientist understands that science is a process, she understands that there is no such thing as “settled science”. A good scientist understands the things they don’t know. The great scientist, businessman, teacher, (husband wife), rancher, politician, all understand “The problem isn’t the things you don’t know, but the things you do know that aren’t right” Has that ever proven to be true throughout the “political pandemic”.

In a recent article in the magazine “the ONION” —America’s Finest Newspaper— not, but more accurate than the WSP or the NYTs, a joke headline proclaimed—”CDC Announces Plan to Send Every US Household Pamphlet on Probabilistic Thinking”. The joke was that everyday people are more likely to understand complex issues because they are more likely to be open to uncertainty than “the experts”.

When combined with their being more understanding of their own and their family’s unique individual risk, and because they have “skin in their own game” their ability to make a best judgement on what is best for themselves is more likely.

“Experts” understand their own little area of expertise. They too often extrapolate what they know to be true in one area, into areas where they know less than “We the People”. They can’t consider all the variables that are unique to families. Are there elder members in the family or people with immune compromised or preexisting conditions? In my family my daughter in law had recently undergone chemotherapy, so we chose to isolate her, and close family members were vaccinated. Those who were “antivax” weren’t allowed into our little bubble. If all in the family were young without preexisting conditions our mitigation strategy would have looked very different. A government “one size fits all” strategy hurts many people in many ways. Many of those ways should have been considered prior to the deploying of universal masking, and social distancing, and the closing of churches and schools. Seasonal flu has proven to be more serious in young people than the Covid, and neither reached “pandemic” levels the past 3 years.

Look at how government functioned at the State and Local levels in Florida and Texas and how the State of California and Idaho functioned. Did our “expert” government commissars act more like Governor Newsom or more like Governors Abbot and DeSantis? Look at the outcomes. What impact did mitigation have under any of the State Emergency orders? And here is the real question. Did mitigation strategies enforced by State Agencies have any different impact on clinical outcomes than strategies that could have been and in many cases were deployed by individuals? Did coercive government policies under emergency orders prove to be more efficacious than individuals operating in their own individual self (not selfish) interest? And speaking of “selfish interest” did members on advisory boards who recommended for extending emergency orders do so for the benefit of citizens, or did they do so to avail themselves and the organizations they represent and lobby for more access to Covid Coding and funding that increased revenues while decreasing quality and access to care?

And one final question. Do any of the people representing us in our legislature care? After all the people that they are supposed to be regulating are the very people who take them out to lunch at the ARID CLUB and contribute to their campaigns and pay their fees to the Governor’s Cup. I saw at least a dozen legislators this week being entertained by large insurance carriers and hospital lobbyists at nice restaurants and clubs. None were conservatives. None were Democrats. All were RINOs.

See if any Republican legislator has the courage to offer a Bill requiring an outside audit of the Department of Health and Welfare that has been identified as being the fourth most fraudulent in the country with a 39% false billing and enrollment rate. I know of one and maybe two Democratic legislators that would be willing to sponsor such a Bill. I know of no Republicans that would “risk” doing so. Who do they answer to— their constituents, the lobbyists or “leadership”? What about auditing the large non-profit providers and carriers who pay for those fancy lunches and who make over $100million per year in transfer payments? What about people in the press like Betsy Russell and Brian Holmes who claim to be concerned about fraud and corruption in government, yet they won’t touch on any of the issues regarding Medicaid fraud and abuse? What about organizations like the Idaho Freedom Foundation, an organization that I am proud to be part of, that fail to address this issue because “it is so big and so corrupt” that it is more than can be addressed. The beast is so big that we just capitulate. The smell of capitulation and the stink of corrupt cronyism are indistinguishable to my olfactory senses and sensibilities.

Maybe we should all just take a shower and OBEY—don’t forget your mask!

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