DeSantis Covid Vindication by Inspector General

The media got it wrong, again. The Wall Street Journal editorial board reports the big story the media avoided because it didn’t fit their narrative.

We’re talking about Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, described as public-health enemy number one by the media for defying the left’s lockdown consensus early in the pandemic. When former state health department employee Rebekah Jones claimed she was fired for refusing to fudge state Covid data to support the state’s reopening in spring 2020, national and local media outlets reported her allegations as fact. They were only too happy to report anything negative about Governor DeSantis.

“Florida Dismisses a Scientist for Her Refusal to Manipulate State’s Coronavirus Data” reported National Public Radio (NPR). After the Florida Department of Law Enforcement executed a search warrant of her home, Ms. Jones claimed Mr. DeSantis had “sent the gestapo” to silence her. “FDLE raid dramatizes Florida’s Covid-19 Coverup” the South Florida Sun Sentinel editorialized. Never let the facts get in the way of a good story!

But according to the Governor’s office, Ms. Jones was fired for repeated “insubordination” and making “unilateral decisions to modify the Department’s Covid-19 dashboard without input or approval from the epidemiological team or her supervisors.” Police searched her home because of a data breach traced to her home IP address. She was charged with a felony for accessing and downloading confidential health department data, including personal information of employees. She has pleaded not guilty.

The big news now is that the Florida department of Health Office of Inspector General has exonerated Governor DeSantis. The IG interviewed more than a dozen people who worked with state Covid data, including Ms. Jones’ supervisors. None of these corroborated her claims. Some said she had told them she was pressured to alter Covid case and death counts, but her allegations didn’t make sense to them, not least because she didn’t have access to the raw data to do so. Furthermore, to refer to her as a “scientist”, as NPR did, is an exaggeration. She is a geographer by training who previously worked on hurricane tracking systems, and her job was merely to assist with the Covid data’s online dashboard.

“If the complainant or other DOH staff were to have falsified Covid-19 data on the dashboard, the dashboard would then not have matched the data in the corresponding final daily report,” the IG explained, adding that “such a discrepancy” would surely have been detected by Bureau of Epidemiology staff, researchers or the media. The IG found no truth to any of Ms. Jones’ accusations.

Governor DeSantis was hailed as the most informed of all governors by Scott W. Atlas, M.D. in his recent book, A Plague Upon Our House. In a chapter called “The Florida Success Story,” Atlas says, “Governor DeSantis stood out among governors, because he was one of the very few who actually knew the data. And when I say he knew the data, I mean he personally sought out, critically analyzed, and truly understood every important detail about the pandemic. It was all about attention to detail, critical thinking, and a willingness to question the prevailing narrative when it did not pass the test of common sense.”

Don’t look for this exoneration of DeSantis to appear on the nightly news or in your favorite newspaper, apart from The Wall Street Journal. The media is quick to take up the story of a conservative who doesn’t go along with their narrative, but slow to own up to their own amplification of misinformation and made-up scandals. Personally, I believe we need more politicians, like DeSantis, who are willing to question Washington when things don’t make sense.

Marijuana and Violence

Cultural attitudes toward marijuana are changing. In 1992, when Bill Clinton was running for president, he was asked if he ever smoked marijuana and replied yes, “but I didn’t inhale.” More recently, Vice President Kamala Harris was asked during the 2020 presidential campaign about her use of pot in college and she replied marijuana “gives a lot of people joy” and “we need more joy in the world.”

But what if marijuana is leading many young people down a dark road toward mental illness and violence? Alysia Finley, writing in The Wall Street Journal, says we need to take another look at the use of cannabis, the active ingredient in marijuana. Nineteen states have legalized cannabis for recreational use and politicians of both parties increasingly treat it as harmless. But this attitude is mistaken.

Alex Berenson, author of “Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence,” pointed out that the New York Times had curiously removed from an article about the Uvalde school shooting a former co-worker’s recollection that he complained about his grandmother not letting him smoke weed. (He shot his grandmother just minutes before he went on the school shooting rampage.) The Times didn’t append a correction to the story as it might be expected to do when fixing a factual inaccuracy.

Finley says a pattern is emerging. Mass shooters at Rep. Gabby Giffords’s constituent meeting in Tucson, Arizona (2011), a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado (2012), the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida (2016), the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas (2017), and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida (2018), were all reported to be marijuana users.  Is this a coincidence? Maybe not.

The use of marijuana today is different. This isn’t your grandfather’s pot he smoked during the 1960s. Youth today are consuming marijuana more frequently and in higher doses than their elders did when they were young. This is leading to increased addiction and antisocial behavior. THC, the chemical that causes a euphoric high, interacts with the brain’s neuron receptors involved with pleasure. Marijuana today is on average about four times as potent as in 1995 (let alone the 1960s). But dabs – portions of concentrated cannabis – can include 20 times as much THC as joints did in the 1960s.

That means it’s much easier for young people to get hooked. One in 6 people who start using pot while under 18 will develop an addiction, which doctors call “cannabis use disorder.” As they use the drug more frequently to satisfy cravings, they develop psychological and social problems.

We now know that’s what happened to Colorado teenager Johnny Stack. His mother, Laura, wrote a harrowing book describing his descent into cannabis addiction. He started smoking weed at 14, after Colorado legalized it, and progressed to using more-potent products such as dabs. He gradually withdrew from social activities and developed psychosis. Substance-abuse treatment and a stay at a mental hospital failed to cure him because chronic marijuana use permanently rewired his brain. Delusional, he jumped off a six-story building and killed himself.

“People who have taken large doses of the drug may experience an acute psychosis, which includes hallucinations, delusions, and a loss of the sense of personal identity,” reports the National Institutes of Health. Roneet Lev, an addiction specialist who previously led the Emergency Department at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, said in a recent interview with the American Council on Science and Health that California cannabis emergency-room visits climbed 53% in the three years after the state legalized recreational marijuana in 2016. Daily marijuana E.R. visits in San Diego nearly quadrupled between 2014 and 2019.

Cannabis-induced psychosis is fairly common, says Lev. Countless studies have also linked chronic cannabis use to schizophrenia. A meta-analysis in January examining 591 studies concluded that early marijuana use among adolescents was associated with a significant increase in the risk of developing schizophrenia. While a causal relationship has not yet been established, the weight of evidence is hard to dismiss.

Proponents of legalization claim other countries where marijuana is widely available have fewer mental-health problems than the U.S. This information is inaccurate. A study from Denmark last summer found that schizophrenia cases associated with pot addiction have increased three-to- fourfold over the past 20 years as marijuana potency rose 200 percent.

Clearly, use of marijuana is ruining the lives of many young people, but does it make them violent? A study last year found that young people with such mood disorders as depression who were also addicted to pot were 3.2 times as likely to commit self-harm and die of homicide – often after initiating violence – than those who weren’t. A meta-analysis found the risk of perpetrating violence than twice as high for young adults who use marijuana.

Finley says it’s possible that pot can trigger dangerous behavior in youths who may be predisposed to it for other reasons such as prenatal exposure to drugs. The use of pot in pregnant women is rising. About 20% of pregnant young women in California tested positive for marijuana in 2016. Since THC crosses the placenta and can impair neurological development, this is a serious finding.

There are legitimate reasons for doctors to prescribe marijuana for treatment of chronic pain in cancer patients and those with debilitating disease or injury. But recreational use of marijuana may be leading to mental illness and even violence in young people. That’s a prescription that society cannot tolerate.

Medicaid Sick with Long Covid

The pandemic is winding down as the latest variants of Omicron cause less serious, though more widespread, disease. Many are sick, but few are hospitalized and even fewer are dying. The emergency situation declared two years ago has now evolved into an endemic situation, much like the seasonal flu. Remember back to three years ago when seasonal flu only meant the elderly and immunocompromised got shots and no one wore masks? Life should be returning to a similar situation – but it won’t. The reason is politics.

The latest example of this is Medicaid. Medicaid is suffering from long Covid symptoms – and it won’t get better until politicians end the state of emergency. The Wall Street Journal editorial board tells us Congress temporarily boosted the federal government’s Medicaid contribution in one of its 2020 Covid-aid bills. As a condition to receive the extra money, states can’t disenroll Medicaid beneficiaries who become ineligible – except if they die, opt out, or leave the state. No matter how much their financial situation improves, they remain eligible for Medicaid as long as there is an official Public Health Emergency.

This situation is sure to remain the same until at least mid-July, under the current regulations, but the Biden Administration has already declared they intend to extend the emergency and has promised to give states 60 days notice before any plans to terminate. That means it might be October at the earliest before this emergency ends. By then, according to an estimate from the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA), “states will have an estimated 98 million Medicaid enrollees, including as many as 23 million people no longer eligible.” (That’s nearly one in three Americans on Medicaid.)

Medicaid is supposed to be a healthcare system for low-income Americans who cannot afford their own private insurance. The enrollment of Medicaid has skyrocketed ever since ObamaCare was instituted in 2014 when eligibility criteria were expanded. Now, with this Covid Public Health Emergency declaration, the rolls of Medicaid continue to escalate, regardless of financial prosperity. This is clearly just another way the left wants to bring more and more Americans under the umbrella of government-controlled healthcare. It’s a back-door to socialized medicine. This is just another example of a government handout that was intended to be temporary, but now the Democrats want to make permanent. (see Making ObamaCare Temporary Subsidies Permanent)

Congress can make Medicaid eligibility rules permanent if it can find the votes, and the White House is free to argue for that. But using an emergency situation as an excuse interminably undermines our democracy and the credibility of our government.

WSJ says, “As with other makeshift pandemic assistance, such as the eviction moratorium, the media will focus on hardship cases. But the emergency has to stop sometime, and an economy with a 3.6% jobless rate is a good time to do it. The Labor Department also said this week there were 11.4 million job openings in April, with only about half that many available workers.”

What is the cost of this expanded Medicaid to the taxpayers?

By October, “ineligible enrollees will cost taxpayers nearly $16 billion per month,” the FGA predicts, “with states picking up nearly $6 billion of those costs when the public health emergency ends.” State officials would be wise to think through what to do next, and remember that every dollar spent on an ineligible Medicaid beneficiary is a dollar that’s not spent on other priorities, including those who need help the most.

Between this expanded eligibility for Medicaid, and the expanded subsidies for ObamaCare, the government is slowly but surely enticing more Americans into government-controlled healthcare. That’s been the plan by progressives for a very long time, whether Congress approves it or not.