Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Kobayashi Maru

As the 2nd Star Trek movie (and we don't talk about the first one) The Wrath of Khan opens, we see a Starfleet trainee, Saavik (played by a much slimmer Kirstie Alley), leading the starship Enterprise during a simulation where as the captain she is faced with two bad options: rescue a ship in the Klingon neutral zone and violate the peace treaty between the Federation and the Klingons or ignore the distress call and allow the ship to be destroyed, leading to the death of 381 people.

In the movie, the Vulcan trainee Saavik elects to enter the neutral zone only to be confronted by three Klingon cruisers. Outnumbered and outgunned, the Enterprise is quickly destroyed. The cadet Saavik is as irate as a Vulcan can get because she believed the test was unfair as there was no way to win. Admiral Kirk points out that a no-win scenario is something every commander might face.

I am not the first to see the connection between this fictional event and the coronavirus pandemic we are in. President Trump faces a number of choices and all of them are bad. Compounding the problem, we are in an election year and the House of Representatives is "led" by an evil, decrepit old bat named Nancy Pelosi who is quite willing and perhaps eager to see the American people suffer if it means gaining an electoral advantage over Trump and the Republicans.

The choices faced by Trump come down to this:

- There is no way to completely halt the spread of the Chinese virus. People will get it and people will die from it. Fewer than the regular flu perhaps but still every American that dies is one too many.

- The more we do to try to slow the spread means potentially fewer people dying but it also means throttling the economy. A collapsing economy and a recession or even a global depression can kill far more people than the Chinese virus.

It is a tradeoff. Fewer deaths means more economic hardship, loosening the restrictions likely means more deaths. There isn't a perfect solution here. If you lose your job or if your grandma dies, you will likely think Trump did the wrong thing. So Trump is trying to thread the needle, with sufficient restrictions on the American people to minimize the spread while not cratering the economy in an election year. So far I guess he is doing the best he can.

Every public policy involves tradeoffs but few are quite so clearly life or death decisions. Adding an extra layer of difficulty, the American people are notoriously stubborn and independent. In China when you were told to stay indoors, you did so unless you wanted a bullet in your head, a system that is praised by some of the controlled opposition shills on dissident right social media. In America people are going to the beach, having "pop up" weddings and house parties and generally doing whatever they want in spite of endless pleas to stay home and maintain "social distancing". Trump has left a lot of this up to the individual states, and the states are slowly going into lock-down one after another. Many "experts" are urging Trump to declare a national lockdown but that would smack of martial law. Again, there isn't a "right" answer and the media can be counted on to declare whatever Trump does to be the worst thing ever.

On the other hand, imagine Hillary Clinton trying to lead us through this crisis. When she wasn't falling down after a 7 martini lunch, she would be hoarsely screeching and coughing at us for getting sick. Or imagine a President Joe Biden next year battling the effects of a serious recession. Sure Biden has the advantage of thinking it is still the 1930s so he has a fresh perspective on dealing with a new Great Depression but he also thinks we should keep an eye on that new German chancellor with the little mustache. That guys seems sketchy.

Who knew that after three years of endless "Russian collusion" nonsense, then Ukrainian nonsense, a bogus "impeachment" and acquittal, what will define the Trump presidency and largely determine whether he is a one or two term President will be a virus from China and the decisions he makes in his own version of the Kobayashi Maru.

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