53 Transcripts: How The Story Is Invented

 

I’ve now waded through 34 of the 53 transcripts. Still no evidence of collusion or conspiracy. For my prior post go here.

We’ve often talked at Ricochet about how the media and progressive echo chamber works and its power in the public imagination. Reading the transcripts provides yet another example. The interview of Evelyn Farkas (June 26, 2017) has already made news, at least in non-progressive circles (it appears to have been blacked out elsewhere). Ms. Farkas is a Democrat, a long-time national security policy person and a staff member of Senate Armed Service Committee and Deputy Asst Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia during the Obama Administration, and is now running for Congress in New York. Like so many Obama refugees she became a commentator, in her case, on MSNBC. In March 2017, she made headlines by urging all her former colleagues to get out all the information they had, even if classified, on Russian election interference and implied she had evidence of collusion with the Trump campaign.

Conservative commentary has focused on her responses to questions at the Intelligence Committee interview that she actually had no information regarding any collusion or conspiracy by the Trump campaign with Russia (see page 12 of transcript). In other words, she knew nothing of substance despite her claims on MSNBC. She even went further, telling the committee, “Russia has not interfered in our elections in the past” (p.16) despite the Intelligence Community Assessment of January 2017 which stated Russia had interfered in the past.

But what really caught my eye was this back and forth between Rep Trey Gowdy and Farkas (p.27):

Gowdy: You also didn’t know whether or not anybody in the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia, did you?

Farkas: I didn’t.

G: When then, why did you say what you said?

F: Because I had a strong suspicion.

G: Based on what?

F: Based on the media reports –

G: Dr Farkas.

F: – and reporters calling me.

. . .
G: What did you know at the time?

F: I knew what the public knew from reading the newspaper.

That is how it works. Someone is hired with the correct political views and credentials but who does not know anything more than the public. People inside the government leak things about their enemies and friendly media, with no interest in investigating accuracy, act as stenographers, and once one publication prints or airs it everyone else jumps in, and then the “credentialed expert” can act like it is real news. Soon, everyone is just repeating the same story to each other, and because that’s all they hear, it becomes the obvious truth. Economists talk about the multiplier effect of spending but this is the real multiplier effect in action.

The success around these narratives can be seen in the interviews of several witnesses regarding the alleged “softening” of the Republican Party platform on Ukraine, in order to supposedly appease Russia, a story that was an obsession with the minority members of the committee. It’s simply fake news that was planted in the media and became the accepted truth to such an extent the FBI referenced newspaper reporting on it as part of the Carter Page FISA warrant application, a subject I wrote about in January on Ricochet.

Unfortunately, the price of fake news can be heavy. Jeffrey (JD) Gordon, a member of the Trump campaign, and the staffer at the heart of the alleged Ukrainian platform controversy testified on July 26, 2017, “It’s an urban legend that the Trump campaign changed the platform . . . it was false” (p.83) as can be proved by examining the language as I did in my January post. Nonetheless, Gordon went on to say that his life had been destroyed by the allegations. Because of the investigations he had been unable to get a position in the administration, his reputation was damaged, and career prospects limited.

We may despise what the media is doing but cannot ignore the power they wield, particularly the New York Times and the Washington Post which set the agenda and tone for much of the rest of the media. If you don’t live in the Northeast it is easy to underestimate the impact their coverage has on everyone. Even Jared Kushner in his testimony (July 25, 2017), spoke of his father-in-law’s attention to the Times:

“I’d have discussions almost every day with the candidate saying, look: If the New York Times mattered you’d be at 1 percent”. (p.70)

Day 113: COVID-19 We’re All in Exactly What, Together?

 

The screengrab is from the Rt:Effective Reproduction website. I featured it before in Day 104: COVID-19 It’s Over, But How Do You Convince People That It’s Over?. That was a week ago and if you go to the site and click on older graphs you can see (at least according to their methodology) things are moving in the right direction.

And yet we are constantly serenaded on television with the public service announcements featuring persons who do not live in hovels talking about how “We’re all in this together.” That is, we stay at home, isolate ourselves, keep our shops closed (except for where they are beginning, unevenly, to open under new rules), and sacrifice ourselves for the greater good.

Mind you, I am not against self-sacrifice. Mrs Rodin takes the view that (intellectually) there is no such thing as “altruism”. I concur that people will do things for psychic compensation — emotional, religious, patriotic– that we view as altruism. So people do self-sacrifice for personal reasons, some of which we heartily approve as a society.

But in the strictest sense, it is clear that we are not all sacrificing in the same degree or to the same extent. Thus it is said that we are all in the same “storm” together, just not in the same “boat.” Accordingly, we need to have freedom to navigate through the storm in ways necessitated by the individual condition of our own “boat.” And when you overlay the question of what exactly is the “storm” in which we find ourselves together, things get even more complicated.

It is now evident in hindsight that there were multiple choices that could have been made. The decision to shutter “non-essential” businesses and activities started out as a simple (allegedly) short-term strategy but has now morphed into a power struggle between individual liberty and collective rights with a health component. The “storm” has morphed from a health emergency to a political battle.

If absent bad public policies everyone would live forever, that would be one thing. But the opposite is true: No one lives forever even with good public policies. So why are we destroying our future well-being in the name saving some unknown, incalculable increment of life. The same society that accepts millions of abortions cannot accept hundreds of thousands of premature deaths — the avoidance of which costs so much and gains so little?

If the virus were free to pick its victims unaffected by government policies but hindered only by the decisions and actions of individuals and private organizations, there would be winners and losers as there always are. Sadness would come to many, as it always does. But those victims would be victims of the natural order, not the often wrongheaded actions governments.

If it was really a choice between all tragedy incurred or all tragedy avoided, then broad-scale governmental action might be reasonable. But it isn’t.

This is a challenge to be met with conservative beliefs. Either you believe that life is what it is and people should have the broadest possible chances to make their way through it, according to their own predilections and beliefs, or you feel that populations should be managed toward some ideal goal. History shows that there are sorrows and joys in the former, and widespread despair in the latter.

Let our people go.

[Note: Links to all my COVID-19 posts can be found here.]

Veracity Dies in Darkness at the Washington Post

 

According to the Johns Hopkins data (here), reported COVID-19 deaths have been generally declining in the US. Here is my graph showing daily reported deaths, and the seven-day moving average, from April 1 to the present:

You can see the moving average peaked on April 18, 2020 (at 2,201.6/day), and has subsequently declined. It was 1,775.1/day on May 9, a decline of 19.4%. As of May 11, the seven-day moving average is 1,680.0, a 23.7% decline from the peak.

I give the data for May 9 because I want to rebut and criticize this Washington Post article released that day. I know that the authors were aware of the Johns Hopkins data, as they specifically cite it, and I deduce that they had the information through May 9, because their article cites a number of cumulative deaths (“past 78,000”) which did not occur until May 9 in the Johns Hopkins data.

This article is an exceptional example of what we’ve come to call “fake news” and promotion of “the narrative.” I find the Post, and most other outlets, to be extraordinarily mendacious, with an exceptional ability to paint a completely false picture while, usually, not stating anything that is technically untrue.

I guess it’s an impressive achievement, to mislead through a series of statements that are each true. Not admirable, but impressively deceptive.

The title of the Post piece is: “As deaths mount, Trump tries to convince Americans it’s safe to inch back to normal.” The opening paragraph is:

In a week when the novel coronavirus ravaged new communities across the country and the number of dead soared past 78,000, President Trump and his advisers shifted from hour-by-hour crisis management to what they characterize as a long-term strategy aimed at reviving the decimated economy and preparing for additional outbreaks this fall.

Again, it’s all technically true. The deaths will continue to “mount” until the number of newly reported deaths is zero. It’s more rhetoric than reporting to say that “the number of dead soared past 78,000,” when the daily total has generally been declining. It would be equally accurate for the title and first paragraph of the story to be:

As daily deaths continue to decline, Trump tries to convince Americans it’s safe to inch back to normal.

In a week when average reported deaths from the novel coronavirus declined to under 1,800/day, down almost 20% from the peak in mid-April, President Trump and his advisors continued their long-term strategy aimed at reviving the decimated economy and returning an estimated 35 million unemployed Americans to productive work.

But why let facts get in the way of the Narrative?  The Post will decide what facts are fit to print, and count on it, those facts will support whatever conclusion the Post wants you to reach.

There is an interesting part of the article quoting a statement by Dr. Birx about the favorable, downward trend line in reported COVID-19 deaths. But Dr. Birx was not careful, and her statement was technically false, though her point about the downward trend is true. The Post, with a skill worthy of the father of lies, manages to give a false impression that the number of deaths has not been declining, though a series of statements that are each technically true. The article states:

Birx said in a statement: “Mortality is slowly declining each day. To keep with this trend, it is essential that seniors and those with comorbidities shelter in place and that we continue to protect vulnerable communities.”

That assertion is contrary to Johns Hopkins data, which shows U.S. daily deaths hovering close to 2,000 most days for several weeks now, and climbing higher some days last week. Many experts also believe coronavirus deaths are actually being undercounted, with mortality data showing that U.S. deaths soared in the early weeks of pandemic, far beyond the number attributed to covid-19.

Let’s parse this.

Dr. Birx said “Mortality is slowly declining each day.” This is true of the seven-day average. It is not true of each and every individual day, at least if we rely on the reported data. (It is possible that actual daily deaths are declining, and that the daily ups-and-downs are the result of reporting delays. My graph above plainly shows a significant decline in reported deaths following a weekly cycle, with below-average figures on Sunday and Monday and above-average figures on Tuesday and Wednesday.)

So Dr. Birx was careless. She should have said something like: “The trend in daily mortality is down, though individual days may be a bit above or a bit below that trend. The seven-day average is down about 20% from its peak about three weeks ago.”

But look at the Post claim, which says that “the Johns Hopkins data . . . shows U.S. daily deaths hovering close to 2,000 most days for several weeks now, and climbing higher some days last week.”  That’s technically true — here is my graph again:

Ignore the downward trend. Just focus on the fact that “most days” are “hovering close to 2,000.” Don’t tell your readers that the weekly average is down about 20%.

Here’s where the Post goes the extra mile. Not content to mislead about the daily reported death figures, the Post proceeds to cast doubt on the validity of the reports. “Many experts believe coronavirus deaths are actually being undercounted . . ..” True enough, and maybe they’re right, maybe not. And many other experts believe that coronavirus deaths are being overcounted. They’re probably both right, as it seems difficult to believe that everyone is being 100% accurate in: (1) not missing a single death caused by COVID-19, while (2) not incorrectly attributing a single death to COVID-19 that was actually caused by something else. But the Post doesn’t explain this to its readers.

The issue of underreporting is a misdirection, too, as it does not rebut the fact that the number of fatalities is declining. Even if we were undercounting COVID-19 deaths by, say, 25%, this would not imply that there has not been a decline. Undercounting would only be relevant to the trend line if we were previously counting more accurately, and are now counting less accurately.

Again, not that it matters to the Post. The Narrative is what matters. Obscuring any good news is what matters. Making the Trump administration look bad is what matters.

My thanks to Stad (here) for linking this Post article, though his post was addressing another issue.

ChiCom delenda est. WaPo delenda est, too.

Member Post

 

1) Wearing a MAGA hat sideways or backward. Penalty: No apple pie. 2) When Indians are mentioned, performing the tomahawk chop for more than 3 Mississippi’s. Penalty: Deduct corn from your plate. 3) Mentioning of Fauxcahontas or Liawatha while children are in the room. Penalty: Lose the good seat at end of the couch during the […]

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Member Post

 

My next book project, with co-editors Dr. Rose Cothren, Kevin Neece, and Jaclyn Parrish. Representing the best of the Dallas Baptist University community, and written by friends, fans, and students of David Naugle. My own essay is a nice intro to accounts of faith transcending reason in Augustine, William James, Kant, and Kierkegaard. The book […]

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On Perspective, Context, and the Rational Response

 

It has been a while since I’ve posted anything… some (all of those “charter members”) might recall that I am often fairly long-winded. I recently added a series of comments to another post. Seems stupid to write 1,500 words in a comments section, so I’m just putting them all in this separate post. It’s not polished or written in essay form or anything like that. Just a very long comment all on its own.


I have recently engaged in some debate over how to correctly apply Thomas Sowell’s famous statement that “there are no solutions, only trade-offs” to our present situation with respect to COVID-19. I feel that it is being misapplied. Perhaps a more appropriate restatement in this context would be to say that “all solutions have a cost.”

I am not a doctor or a virologist, but I do spend every day working with a government system whose stated purpose is the mitigation of harm, and let me assure you, my views are not nearly so crass as “interventions are ok as long as they don’t impact my life!” Rather, taking a look at both the harm and the intervention, I am daily reminded that our best interventions are generally inadequate to eliminate the harm, yet they very often result in greater harms – like that old joke about punching you in the nose to help you forget the pain in your toe.

With respect to this virus, I tend to think of it in this way: I’ve represented three teenagers who ended up dying of cerebral palsy. All of them died as a result of some sort of infection or pneumonia. In talking with doctors about this, it really seems that that is what these sorts of diseases are all about. Everyone has to die of something, but rarely do people die of the thing they’re actually dying of. They die of pneumonia. Colds and flus, oddly, seem to serve that purpose. They are what gets you in the end. Or, rather, they are like the last straw.

It seems to me that COVID is essentially a new addition to that group of last straws. It will either burn out on its own, or it will become less virulent and stick around forever, acting like a seasonal bug. There is precious little we can do about that. It is not attacking indiscriminately, it is attacking elderly and infirm, just as other respiratory illnesses tend to do. It’s not that I consider human lives to be a “trade-off,” it is that I consider this disease to be, very likely, a newly-discovered part of our lives about which we can do very little. When we react as we have, the primary foolishness is in the idea that this is something we can actually control or eliminate. Also, we seem to be grossly overstating the impact that it actually has.

Yet, for some reason (and I think it is almost entirely media and social-media driven), we are reacting to this illness far more like the zombie apocalypse or invasion of the body snatchers than anything else. Our interventions are extreme, and our desperate need for interventions is unprecedented. Our willingness to give up basic freedoms and allow centralized control to self-interested politicians with no better access to data than anyone else, and our trust in self-proclaimed “experts” whose primary expertise is trial-and-error, and who tend to live in a very specialized bubble is, again, unprecedented. We have for some reason decided to compartmentalize, and magnify this single problem of human existence to far beyond every other problem we currently face, at the expense of our ability to deal with any of those other problems.

And consider the scale of what we’re actually dealing with. It is probably roughly on par with the flu – something that is hardly nothing, but (importantly) something that we have come to accept as a part of our lives. Saying that it is 2X “deadlier” than the flu is virtually meaningless, as it serves primarily the same function, seems to operate in roughly the same way, and again, “twice as deadly” must be taken in context. Twice as deadly as the flu (for a disease with no vaccine and few well-tested treatments) is still statistically on par with the flu. Not something to be totally ignored or disregarded, but also within the bounds of something we are going to need to consider to be a part of our lives for the foreseeable future.

But more importantly, what about the extremity of our actions? Here is where “everything has a cost” comes in. We could control the flu and even the common cold (which is also not 100% benign) in the same ways we are attempting to control COVID. We could cancel all sporting events, ban large gatherings, all deck out in PPE everywhere we go, wash our hands, sanitize, etc. It is up for debate whether this would do any good in the long run (our immune systems, for instance, are important), but we could do these things for illnesses we already have, and we don’t. Why don’t we? We recognize that the cold/flu operates as I discussed above. It is an inconvenience to most, and it is the last-straw that kills many. It is a problem that we keep in mind – but on the long list of problems (poverty, depression, cancers, domestic violence, heart attacks, obesity, international politics… domestic politics like immigration, abortion, etc…), it is not nothing, but neither is it so important that literally everything else is brushed aside.

So why are we doing this with COVID?

My response may seem selfish or callous or heartless… but that is only because this is right at the forefront of everyone’s minds, and it is being discussed in a vacuum. It is no more callous or heartless than our response to literally any other problem. Why are 70K lives lost to COVID an appropriate test of humanity while 60K lives lost to any other respiratory illness are simply a part of life? The only difference is that this is where our focus currently is, and when this newly-ADD-riddled global population gets its mind set like a laser beam on one problem, it loses all context and perspective. But context is everything.

So what would I do? What would I recommend with respect to COVID? That all depends. I would say that people need to think of COVID in exactly the same way they think of any other respiratory illness. If you are overweight, lose weight. If you are diabetic or have hypertension, get it under control (and probably lose weight). If you live in a big city, slap yourself in the face, get a life, and realize that stress is probably going to kill you… then, move out of the big city, start voting republican, and get a concealed-carry permit. If you are extremely old, realize that you have entered the phase of life where death is lurking around every corner. Enjoy every moment with your family and try to dust off the Bible that you received 70 years ago at your baptism. All of that sounds heartless, no? Not really. It is the approach we take with virtually everything, because we simply cannot live our entire lives in fear of death and illness. This latest illness is one that has just been added to the list of things that are trying to kill us. For the old and infirm, they should treat this exactly the way they do the flu – both can kill you. Half as deadly as “dead” isn’t much better…

But what should our national response be? I don’t think our response to COVID should be any different than anything else. It is a reminder to hospitals and governments that it would be a good idea to be better prepared for disaster and pandemics. Maybe we shouldn’t be so heavily in debt, such that we can actually afford to provide limited relief when something like this flares up. Maybe instead of spending billions on ridiculous pet projects, graft, and personal favors for individual politicians, we should incentivize research and innovation through grants and so forth (which will still be subject to graft and favors). When we see a massive problem in nursing homes (as COVID seems to indicate), maybe we should be attempting a more targeted response… there are books of regulations (and as a lawyer, I’ve read them!) for these facilities, and it may be that they need to be improved. Maybe, as individuals, we should focus less on our own careers and think about the extent to which we rely on these sorts of facilities to care for our elderly.

All that to say – what we really need to do is [expletive]-ing snap out of it. We are experiencing a major panic that is largely driven by media/social-media and fear of the unknown. This latest unknown has somehow led us into forgetting that our lives are absolutely chock full of unknowns, and whether this is twice or three or five times as deadly as the well-known and already accepted flu, that difference still exists on the margins, and COVID still falls into roughly the same category.

Somehow, we have decided that this latest hazard necessitates a complete shift in our way of thinking – it reminds me of the first Bolshevik revolution in 1917, which bubbled and stewed, and then just spread like a tsunami, resulting in decades of misery. COVID is the earthquake out in the middle of the ocean that started that wave, but the tsunami is now a thing all its own.

Consider what we’re doing. We’ve started with the absolute most extreme. Essentially, house arrest. Whether this is effective in stopping the spread of this particular disease is up for debate, of course, but I don’t think that is the most important consideration. If we were to look at anything in a vacuum, we could start to solve the problem the way we’re “solving” COVID. We could ban driving to cut back on automobile accidents, we could ban all guns to cut back on violence (whoops… I guess that’s a different post). So, people are pretty fed up with this solution, right? People suffering from other ills are fed up with this notion that we’ve taken this one problem and elevated it above literally all other problems. But we don’t get to open up that vacuum and let in the rest of life. This becomes a negotiation process, for some reason. What are you willing to compromise? What are you willing to give up? We still, apparently, need to stay laser-focused on this one problem… ok, so let’s start talking about privacy rights. You willing to give those up? We need extreme contact tracing, we need large-scale testing. Let’s start talking about individual rights. We need you all to put on this mask. Complain? Well, you don’t complain about having to wear pants, do you?! Nevermind that the two are in no way comparable. Do you want off this house arrest, or what?

All this over what? No – you can’t say that! If you say that, you are basically sacrificing lives. Too many wish to put it in those overly simplistic terms. My freedom at the expense of lives. Intervention is OK just as long as it doesn’t impact me directly, right?

No – the problem is that this is a fundamental shift in the way we solve problems…

The problem is not that I fail to recognize that this particular respiratory illness is to some degree more deadly than the other respiratory illnesses that we accept as a part of our lives… it is that we really do need to start focusing on limiting principles, because the fact is, this particular respiratory illness is not different enough from those other accepted illnesses to necessitate so drastic and fundamental a change in our underlying views of what are and are not appropriate responses to this category of harm.

So what’s my solution? Let grandma die? Shrug our shoulders just as long as we’re not personally impacted? No, you don’t get to accuse me of that, because the exact same accusation could be levied against anyone who isn’t fully on board with pushing every other harm aside in favor of your preferred harm. My solution is that we should handle this exactly the same way we handle literally everything else that we face on a daily basis. Smart people who are motivated to do so should continue attempting to work on the problem. Profit-driven drug companies should still hope to capitalize on people’s fears by providing effective treatments, innovating, and solving problems regardless of their motives for doing so. Doctors should continue to abide by the Hippocratic oath and do their best to save lives, continually updating treatment methods and discovering new ways to address not just this problem, but every other problem that their individual specialties point them toward. People in at-risk categories should continue to protect themselves from all the final-straws, perhaps keenly aware that some are more dangerous than others. People with at-risk loved ones should help out as much as they can. And all of us should focus our time and energy on trying to solve our individual problems, whatever they may be.

As a lawyer, I spend my time working with teenagers who are abused or neglected. That’s a problem. It has lasting effects on their lives. Some will die because of lifestyle choices resulting from trauma or despair. Some will grow up and abuse their own spouses or children. If we all put down everything we’re doing and worked together, maybe we could help these kids. Maybe, though, we’d do more harm than good. Undoubtedly, we’d be putting down whatever else we otherwise would be doing. If a doctor stopped seeing patients in order to help me solve my problem, he wouldn’t be solving his own problems, and people would suffer as a consequence of that.

Interestingly, the free market still works, even with pandemics. There are still a million and one problems that need to be solved, the result of which lives are very much at stake. This notion that we should stop everything we’re doing to solve this one particular problem is taking us back to that Bolshevik revolution mindset that has been stewing for the past decade. My own governor, Jay Inslee, released his four-phase plan for release. We see posters up everywhere, ads on TV… everyone needs to work together.

He may just as well call it a five-year plan, and we can start producing the Yugo all over again, all in it together, all solving just one problem.

Fundamental Critique of the 1619 Project

 

On NRO right now is a piece by Allen C. Guelzo, Senior Research Scholar in the Humanities Council at Princeton University. He takes the 1619 Project’s foundational premises apart and exposes the absurdity. This piece isn’t that long and well worth your time to read. This is the response of a real historian to this malignant Marxist wishful thinking contrivance called the 1619 Project.

1619 and the Narrative of Despair

On August 14, 2019, the New York Times Magazine dropped something of a historical bombshell on its readers. It was not some new conspiracy theory about the Kennedy assassination or some breathtaking revelation of the secret life of Millard Fillmore. It was much more dramatic. It was called “The 1619 Project,” and it consumed an entire special 100-page issue of the magazine. It also aimed at nothing less than a complete overhaul of how we understand American history. It did not, however, meet with entire agreement by American historians: At least two very diverse groups of American historians and political scientists, one headed by myself (and including eleven others) and another by my Princeton colleague Sean Wilentz, wrote letters to Jake Silverstein, the editor of the New York Times Magazine, to question a host of gaffes and misstatements in The 1619 Project. All of these were summarily waved away, and last week, The 1619 Project’s lead essay sailed merrily to a Pulitzer Prize for commentary — although if “sailed” is the right metaphor, the ship in question resembles the Bounty more than the Cutty Sark.

Mr. Guelzo point by point lays bare the corrupt nature of this pseudo-history. He also makes clear the size of the threat it poses.

… Already, 3,500 classrooms and five major urban school systems (including Buffalo, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.) have adopted The 1619 Project for their history curricula. As they do this, the results will be that we teach schoolchildren that:

  • capitalism is a form of totalitarianism . . . so that we may then think kindly of socialism.
  • we should pay reparations for slavery (and Hannah-Jones has stated frankly that “the project is an argument for reparations”), as though, to reverse Lincoln’s formula in his Second Inaugural Address, every drop of blood drawn by the lash had not been paid for by one drawn by the sword.
  • history is nothing more than a web of narratives and interpretations, so that any connection of history to historical fact can be ignored. As one enthusiastic backer of The 1619 Project confessed, “often reading straight history doesn’t get us deep into emotion and perspective and feeling,” and as we all surely believe, “emotion and perspective and feeling” are infinitely more important than truth.
  • the America that Lincoln described as the world’s “last, best hope” becomes a swamp of guilt, resentment, accusation, and lethal mistrust.

The 1619 Project is false, sick, and evaluated by its real intentions just plain evil. The Goofy Woke New New Left is very very dangerous and needs to be stopped.

Confidence in Times of Peril

 

What does it mean to have the courage to carry on, to act decisively even in the face of deep uncertainty and unknowable risks? This is, of course, hardly an academic question even in the best of times, and today’s environment of mass-hysteria is not the best of times.

Nevertheless, uncertainty and doubt are the banes of human existence. They are the reasons people do not take risks in love and in capitalism. They stop us from growing into what we are capable of becoming. And so belief systems are “sold” in part because they help people cope with – or merely accept – the fears and risks that otherwise can paralyze any thinking person.

There are, of course, more than enough unknowns to paralyze anyone’s decision-making processes even in everyday life (again, magnified by the current virusmania). What is crazy about Judaism is that the Torah does not merely offer a coping mechanism: the text actually requires uncertainty, forcibly putting us into a place where we are not sure where our next meal is coming from.

Every seven years we are forbidden from planting or harvesting from the land, and the Jubilee forces bulk property reversions. The Torah tells us explicitly that we have no choice: follow the law and trust that G-d will take care of us.

Why?

I think the Torah first makes us insecure, and then actively gives us a means of coping with that very same insecurity. Here is how:

You shall observe My laws and faithfully keep My rules, that you may live upon the land in security; The land shall yield its fruit and you shall eat your fill, and you shall live upon it in security. (Lev: 25:18-19)

The word “security” is not – actually – security. If you look at a range of translations , the word is usually translated as “security” or “safety.” But it is not used that way in the Torah, so to translate it this way is erroneous. The Torah is self-referential for language: we look at how words are used elsewhere in the text to understand what they mean.

How is the word normally translated as “security” (in the Hebrew, “betach”) used? Incredibly, the word “betach” is only found in the Torah one place earlier than this Leviticus usage: when Shimon and Levi go out with swords to kill all the men in Shechem, recapturing their sister from the prince who had taken her.

 And it came to pass … that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brethren, took each his sword, and came in against the city “betach,” and slayed every male. (Gen. 34:25)

Shimon and Levi were just two men taking on a city. They had a weakened opponent (who had all been circumcised three days before), and they had the element of surprise on their side.

But without the benefit of hindsight, they had no way to know that they would emerge victorious and unharmed. Indeed, two men against an entire city probably looked to them very much like a suicide mission, or at the very least a plan with quite long odds.

But they went ahead anyway. To pull it off, they knew they had to eliminate self-doubt because any second-guessing in combat when outnumbered is sure to be fatal. That is why they were “betach” – they squashed whatever doubts a reasonable person would have in that situation, and they did what they felt was right.

(Note, of course, that their brothers and father did not participate in the attack, and their father was furious after the fact – though notably not because killing a city of men might have been wrong, but because it might add to the family’s list of enemies. Jacob’s objection was pragmatic, not moral. It was Shimon and Levi who showed confidence in the face of this risk.)

It seems to me that the Torah, by using the very same word, “betach,” to describe existence during the fallow and jubilee years, is endorsing Shimon and Levi’s state of mind, and quite possibly the act itself: the decision to confidently and fearlessly proceed, even in the face of deep uncertainty and insecurity is something that the Torah clearly considers to be an extremely valuable trait, something so important that later in the Torah every single person is commanded to try, in the face of food insecurity, to achieve that very same state of mind.

Judaism is not big on digging deep into the soul, inquiring into deep beliefs or faith. Instead, the Torah cares a great deal about what people actually do – their words and deeds. We have few words in Torah for belief, but even in Modern Hebrew we use the same root word as “betach” – bitachon is “having faith.” It is a belief that somehow things are going to work out for the best, even if we cannot see how. And because we can muster that belief, we can move out of the paralysis that strikes people when they are overwhelmed by the fact that they cannot predict the future.

We seek to have that same confidence. Abolish self-doubt. Do what is best, secure that somehow it must work out. Even – or especially – when G-d Himself is the source of the underlying insecurity and doubt.

[This has been another @iWe and @Susanquinn production]

Beauty and Beast-Mode

 

Scanning YouTube yielded three starkly contrasting videos:

  • The First Lady extended Mother’s Day greetings and best wishes.
  • The Donald J. Trump official campaign rolled out a 30-second ad with over 30,000 views already, that the leftists controlling the metrics will admit.
  • Finally, my new favorite classical guitarist offered up another lovely garden session.

That is a beautifully shot video. Any decent human being can appreciate the sentiments and understand this is what First Ladies traditionally do. The elegance is on another level from any other since, perhaps, Jackie O. If her husband is known for over the top design and presentation, here you have considered style.

From beauty, we get to beast-mode. If the left and the media, but I repeat myself, are weaponizing panic, Donald J. Trump will use the tools at hand. It is not quite the daisy and mushroom cloud, but the message, using real footage, is as stark: electing Biden will get people killed.

Everyone knows that President Trump has been criticizing past deals made with China, and criticizing dependence on China while calling for manufacturers to bring plants and jobs back to America. The Democrats cannot help themselves as they reflexively respond with identity politics. That yields images and sound bites that are not helpful outside their echo chamber.

We will get plenty more of the back and forth, and can take comfort that this time there will be a real back and forth, not a hard-hitting Democrat campaign dunking on the oh-so dignified designated loser. The campaign will heat up through the summer, with all manner of twists and turns. As a simple mental health measure, it is worth turning away from the political brawl to reflect on beauty.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

— Philippians 4:8, KJV

Here, then, is something lovely to start the week:

Ricochet COVID Symposium: I am not a victim.

 

I am still getting up early in the morning, having breakfast, and driving in my car to work in the aerospace factory where I am a buyer.  Our business has been affected adversely by the Wuhan coronavirus, and that has affected all the employees.  We had a two-week involuntary furlough, where the entire factory was closed.  We had exactly three hours’ notice on Friday that we would not be coming back to work for the next two weeks.  Employees were told that they could use accrued vacation time, or take leave without pay.  I had ample vacation time available so I used it.

During the furlough period, I received via FedEx letter a “voluntary separation package” that was offered to all employees over 60 years old.  I definitely qualified, since I am 71 years old.  The package was very generous, but we had exactly seven working days to make our decision, since our last day at work was supposed to be April 30.  I had decided to accept the package, but when I returned I asked my supervisor if I could negotiate a real retirement, say at the end of summer, but was told no.  Funny how things changed.  About three days later, my supervisor came by my desk to tell me that she had won me an extra month, so I could train all the buyers and planners that will be taking over my duties.  I thought that was very fair, so I signed and submitted my voluntary separation.

My own job has become rather uncomfortable since all the buyers are tasked with pushing out and canceling a large number of existing orders with all of our suppliers.  No one gets out unscathed.  Many suppliers pushed back and refused to cancel orders.  Many line items get escalated to higher management.  We have to do this because our customers have been doing the same-pushing out and canceling orders right and left.  Our order backlog has been reduced by nearly 50%.  And on May 1, the day after those who accepted the separation package were gone, the company had a rather large reduction-in-force.  Our department lost a buyer and a commodity manager (both of whom were circuit-card-assembly buyers, like I am).  It was a huge shock to everyone in our department, and we knew that the first thing that happened would be the allocation of those individuals’ work to all the other buyers.  We were correct.

Then, things changed yet again.  Last Thursday, we were notified that our Strategic Sourcing Manager had given his notice, and his last day would be the next day.  Shock!  This time, my supervisor, and her boss both visited me at my desk.  They asked me if I was willing to delay my retirement by another three months to give them time to backfill my job or the commodity manager’s job.  I didn’t have much time to think, but I said yes, I would stay for another three months.  All they had to do was check with HR and make sure they could actually make the offer.

One final shock was yet to come: The next morning, my supervisor came to see me, and said that, now, I would have FOUR additional months!  So now, instead of leaving at the end of May I’m good until the end of September.  That should be ample time to rebuild my 401(k) which had been decimated by stock market losses and train my successors.  And I will get to keep the separation package with all its nice perks.

So I, at age 71, in excellent health, will be working until the end of September, getting my temperature checked every morning on the way in, and training those who will be carrying on when I formally retire.  Instead of “early” retirement, I will be able to really retire.  The Wuhan coronavirus was going to see me leave before I was ready, but circumstances change, and now the Darned Virus won’t be really affecting me much.  Yeah, it’s a pain to have to walk all the way to the lobby in the morning to have my temp checked, but that’s a small behavior change.

Yes, I am in a supposedly “high risk” population (old folks), but I refuse to cower at home in fear.  I will continue to live my life as I see fit, not as the Royal Highness in Olympia directs.  I am staying productive, going to work every day, doing my own grocery shopping, and carrying on as normally as possible.

The Long And Winding Road Ends

 

Fifty years ago, on May 11, 1970, The Beatles released their final single, The Long And Winding Road (for you kids, singles once had a physical manifestation). Like most of its predecessors, it became #1 in the United States. It’s one of my least favorite Beatles songs, suffering from Phil Spector’s post-production layering on of strings and other instrumentation and much preferring the more stripped-down original version recorded (below) in early 1969 during the abortive Get Back recording sessions. The prior release, the classic Let It Be, should have been their farewell.

The hold and influence the Beatles had on pop music over a more than six-year period was phenomenal. The first six months of 1964 saw Beatlemania explode across the U.S. – on April, 13 of the top 100 singles were by the band and 65% of all records sold were by The Beatles. They had four #1’s in that time frame (She Loves You, I Want To Hold Your Hand, Can’t Buy Me Love, Love Me Do) along with two at #2 (Twist & Shout, Do You Want To Know A Secret) and Please, Please, Me reached Number 3. After that initial flurry of releases, things calmed down to a more steady pace for the singles.

Though I’d seen their Ed Sullivan appearances in February and March of 1964 and occasionally heard them on our car radio, it was only in February 1965 when sick at home, that my parents gave me a radio to have next to my bed, I became an avid listener, so the first single I distinctly remember debuting was Eight Days A Week, released on the 15th of that month. From then through the release of Get Back in April 1969 I still have memories attached to most of the singles, though by the time Abbey Road was released that fall I was in college and my taste had turned to the rougher sound of the Stones who were reaching their peak (on December 5, Let It Bleed was released).

Of fifteen Beatles albums released in the U.S. between 1964 and 1970, thirteen topped the charts, the others being Something New (1964) which got to #2 but was blocked from the top spot by the soundtrack album for A Hard Day’s Night, and the soundtrack for the movie Yellow Submarine, which also reached #2 in early 1969, blocked by the White Album, released only seven weeks earlier and which topped the charts for 9 weeks (going on to spend 186 weeks on the Billboard 200). The Beatles still hold the record for most cumulative weeks at #1 on the album chart with 132 weeks (second is Garth Brooks with 52). Since the beginning of the Billboard charts in the early 1950s, the Beatles have more #1 albums than any other artist.

From July 13, 1964, with the release of A Hard Day’s Night, through May 11, 1970, The Beatles released twenty U.S. singles of which 16 (including the final three) hit #1. The only exceptions were Nowhere Man (#3), Yellow Submarine (#2, though its B-side, Eleanor Rigby reached #11, so probably a #1 if you counted both sides), Lady Madonna (#4), and The Ballad of John & Yoko (#8) – released while Get Back was still #1, with only John and Paul appearing on the song.

The B-sides of four #1 singles were also hits – She’s A Woman, the flip side of I Feel Fine, which was #4; Day Tripper, flip of We Can Work It Out, reaching #5; Strawberry Fields Forever, the #8 flip of Penny Lane; and Revolution, hitting #12 as the flip of Hey Jude, The Beatles’ best-ever selling single which topped the charts for eight weeks in the fall of 1968.

The longest intervals between single releases were the 7 1/2 months between Hey Jude (8/26/68) and Get Back (4/11/69) and six months from Yellow Submarine (8/5/66) to Penny Lane (2/13/67). As teenagers we were well aware of both gaps, wondering what was up with the boys, and if Paul was dead.

During the 32 months between Yellow Submarine’s release and that of Get Back, The Beatles released only five singles but finished with a flourish, releasing five more singles from April 1969 through May 1970.

As for staying power, 1, the Beatles album released in 2000 and containing all of the group’s #1 singles in either the U.S. or U.K. was the best selling album of the first decade of the 21st century worldwide and the 4th best selling album in the U.S. over the past thirty years, with 31 million copies purchased to date.

And now our daughter plays lullaby versions of Beatles songs to help our 5-month-old grandson fall asleep.

Letter to the Paper

 

I have been very impressed with the Coronavirus in One State series written by Powerline’s Scott Johnson. It has made me search for the same diligence in the Virginia press. Unfortunately, I haven’t found it. I finally ended up writing two of the reporters at The Daily Press/Virginian Pilot (they are both owned by the same company) asking them about it. Here’s what I wrote:

Mr. Coutu and Ms. Matrey:

I am writing to you since you are listed on the byline for the last two reports in The Daily Press covering reported COVID-19 deaths in the Commonwealth. I am concerned with a lack of granularity in the information that’s being reported. We have a number of deaths: twelve reported today and fifteen yesterday. What I haven’t seen reported is the demographics of who is dying. We don’t know if those who have died are terminally ill patients or 20-year-olds struck down in their prime. Below is an excerpt from a report today by Scott Johnson of Powerline. He’s been covering the response in Minnesota:

“[Minnesota] reported 20 new deaths that they attributed to the virus, bringing the total to 578. Sixteen of the 20 new deaths occurred among residents of long-term care facilities [LTC], bringing the total of LTC deaths attributed to the virus to 464 and keeping the share of all such deaths at slightly in excess of 80 percent. The median age of all decedents remains 83.

“The state authorities do not regularly update us on the share of deaths attributable to residents of long-term facilities and those with significant underlying conditions. When asked recently, Infectious Diseases Division Director Kris Ehresmann provided the answer to two decimal places: 99.24 percent…”

This is the level of detail that I wish we had in Virginia.

  1. How many of the new deaths occurred in LTC facilities?
  2. The median age of those who have died.
  3. Deaths were attributable to LTC residents and those with significant underlying conditions.

I went on the Virginia Department of Health website today and tried to get those three numbers. The best that I can do is find the number of deaths associated with outbreaks in LTC. I have to assume that all the LTC deaths occurred in an outbreak. If so, then 57% of all deaths occurred in LTC (503 out of 880). I cannot determine the median age. The VDH only breaks the ages down by decades. Using that information, it comes out to 75% of all deaths occurred in those 70 and older.

The third statistic is not available at all. Last week, I emailed the VDH and asked about it. Lauren Yerkes told me that they do not have information on underlying conditions. Why don’t they have that information? I feel that it is vital for that to be reported.

We are currently experiencing an economic shutdown mandated by Richmond. We are under a stay at home order until early June. We need to know the full picture of whom this virus is the greatest threat. We need to hear Richmond justify exactly why this is necessary. We need more than just vague apocalyptic predictions used to scare us into complying. We need the press to ask the uncomfortable questions to our elected leaders who are imposing these restrictions.

Thank you for your time.

People Will Die

 

As the country starts to breathe a sigh of relief and emerges from the lockdown that is devastating our economy, people will use this opportunity to attack those who have supported the country’s efforts to re-open. They will cry out that people are dying. And they are right.

Whether the country began to re-open this month, or next month or in September, in other words, no matter when we strive to return to normal lives, people will die. Some will die from heart attacks, or pneumonia, or simply old age. And some will have contacted COVID-19. We will probably never know how the virus actually contributed to their deaths, but even now it has been implicated as the source of many deaths. And people who supported opening up will be called out for conspiring with those who are greedy, those who lack compassion and concern for other human beings.

In all fairness, some of those who are determined to assign blame will not necessarily be politically motivated; their fear, grief, and a desire to make meaning of the last few months will distort their ability to think clearly. They will feel compelled to incriminate anyone remotely connected to the disease because otherwise the thousands of deaths will have no meaning. Or so they think.

Others who find fault with the decision to open up the country will be politically motivated. Deaths that happen over the next several months will lie at the feet of anyone who is even remotely connected to the Trump administration, according to his enemies. A version of, “Bush lied, people died,” will be shouted from the rooftops. The drumbeats of outrage will resonate across the country, even the world. And you can be certain that it will be a prime 2020 election issue.

We need to anticipate these reactions and consider ways to deal with them as constructively as possible. For those who are not political, but are suffering painful grief for the lives lost and that will continue to be lost, rational arguments will likely be unsuccessful. A way to let those people know we can relate to their pain and also know that life is unpredictable, as was the virus, will be key. You will not be able to talk people out of their misery and sense of loss. But you can be a compassionate ear, a consoling voice. And plan with them ways that you both can move on.

I find discussing death with people who are determined to make them a political cause even more difficult. Maybe asking them open-ended questions: “How long would you have waited?” “What do we do if the economy collapses?” I suggest you ask these, not as rhetorical questions, but as curious inquiries about their answers. You would need to ask them sincerely, not sarcastically. If they try to dodge the questions, gently draw them back. And try to keep in mind that although they may have the worst motivations for criticizing the decision-makers, they are probably frightened, too. And that is where we all have something in common.

The last suggestion is that for those people who are religious, you can try to relate to them through their faith. This response might be the most challenging because trite, heartless comments are often made out of our discomfort regarding the topic of death. I’d be open to your thoughts regarding spiritual and religious support for those who are in pain.

We are all grieving. And we are all, to some degree, afraid.

Those reactions can be our unifying cause. We are not alone.

Obama Is Back

 
Barack Obama

Photo Credit: Evan El-Amin / Shutterstock.com

The COVID-19 pandemic is the latest crisis that the Left in America, its experts in Academia, and enthusiasts in the Press cannot waste. And it is also yet one more opportunity to serially skewer DJT, Republicans, and conservative Americans. Let’s face it: when you are President, there is no causation required in this calculus; you hold the office, you get the credit, or bear the blame. There is only the Obama exception to this; if you are Obama, the previous president is responsible for all ills that occur on your watch. Likewise, if things improve subsequent to your presidency, you can justifiably take credit because, well, your positive influence was sustaining.

Forget the noble idea that ex-presidents rise above retail politics when they leave office. Barack Obama stepped back into the political spotlight yesterday. Perhaps he must preserve his legacy. It is obvious that Barr and Durham are tarnishing and even threatening that legacy. So he tossed a massive Obama stink bomb at Trump for his alleged mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, alleging that it has been chaotic, ineffective, and incompetent. The fact that Trump has led an unprecedented response to a deadly, unknown pathogen thrust upon us by an irresponsible, totalitarian adversary, is completely lost in this criticism. The object here is not to help determine the next course of action, or to critique the possible missteps taken over the last few months to bring clarity to an otherwise untenable situation. The object here is not to help. Far from it. The object is to vilify and to sever Trump from his support.

Obama and the Democrats are perfectly willing to step away at this point and simply toss bombs at the Trump administration. Whatever the Trump administration does will result in another rocket directed over the wall. Facts be damned, Trump bears responsibility. Boom. BOOM. BOOM!

To his credit, Trump has been incredibly transparent during this crisis; even blue state governors took lessons from him in this regard. A federal task force was enlisted, including both political and expert members. Daily briefings were held. The data was released as compiled. Models were released, modified, and exposed for all to see, even as they turned out to be completely wrong or foolishly pessimistic. As Trump learned and the crisis unfolded, we were invited to watch; it was not pretty, but Trump trusted us to pay attention and sort it all out. Trump even pointed out the federal government’s limitations in this response. He rallied the governors and helped them, but let them take their constitutional responsibility. They even lauded him for it, even those from the hardest-hit blue states.

Was this all chaotic? Yes, but that is an apt description of war, which is what this is, a war against an unseen foe which we still, and may never, truly understand. Keep in mind, 20% of all common colds are caused by coronaviruses and to date, we have no answer for those pathogens either.

So what is really going on? With respect to COVID-19, no one really knows. We shut down the economy and sent everyone home. The expectation, according to the experts, was that our health care system would be overwhelmed and perhaps as many as two million citizens would die. We would run out of hospital beds and ventilators. Then we learned that ventilators were not really that effective, even, dare we say, harmful. Our hospitals were not overwhelmed. Ventilator requirements were vastly overestimated. In fact, our health care system likely contributed negatively to the spread of the disease among the most vulnerable by concentrating infection. Now we learn that an overwhelming number of newly infected patients in NY were sheltering at home. What does one make of this information? Florida, on the other hand, a state with a very high concentration of “vulnerable” citizens, took a different approach to the virus, one centered on limiting exposure among the elderly, and this has resulted in far fewer infections and deaths. What does this mean? Could it point to sunlight, vitamin D or warm temperatures as protective?

No one knows the answer to that question. The only thing that we have learned from this ordeal is that SARS Cov 2 is a nasty contagion and can be fatal to those with other severe, underlying health problems. This is really all we need to know in dealing with this disease. We need to protect the most vulnerable and the rest of the population can make their own judgments regarding movement, work, masks, homeschooling, etc. COVID-19 is not a threat to healthy citizens. Unemployment and destitution are a threat to healthy citizens. I think President Trump has come to this conclusion as well, but he cannot order governors to open their states. He can, and should, however, refuse to bail out states whose financial failure was largely written in policy long before COVID-19 arrived.

In the meantime, I expect that Obama will continue to step further into the limelight, but not because of COVID-19. He hears the footsteps of Barr and Durham. He can only stop them if the Democrats take control in November. Expect the bombings to accelerate as we get closer and closer to indictments. The corruption did not end with the IRS scandal, with Fast and Furious, with Ukraine’s prosecutor, with Benghazi, with Uranium One, with Hillary’s emails or with Weiner’s Laptop. Those were just warm-ups to the insurance policy that was operation Crossfire Hurricane. This one will punctuate Obama’s legacy and its effect will be sustaining.

I’m Shaking My Head…

 

I get mailed a couple of alumni magazines from NC State: one from the School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (Physics undergrad) and one from the College of Engineering (Nuclear Engineering grad). It’s interesting to see what’s going on at the school, and with other alumni (astronaut Christina Koch did that all-woman spacewalk a while back). I was enjoying reading until I got to the end, when I saw this:

Now, if students really need to play with puppies to relieve final exam stress, what’s gonna happen with stress in the real world?

Jumbo Jet Pilot: Looks like our engines have failed! We’re going to crash unless I do something — but what?

Co-Pilot: Sir! How can I help?

Pilot: Go down in the cargo hold and fetch me that puppy I saw the baggage handlers load earlier. I think it’ll help.

Co-Pilot: Roger that, Sir!

When I was in school, I relieved the stress of taking a final exam by studying for the next one. Heck, I studied so much during the semester, studying for the final was really a recap to keep my memory fresh. When the last final exam was completed, I got together with friends and grabbed some pizza and beer.

Oh, I tried to provide a link to the article but the online magazine didn’t have one. However, I downloaded the PDF and the article was still there. I took a screen pic, and that’s what you see.

While We’re at It….

 

The talking heads agree on one thing—the country will be vastly different on the other side of the COVID-19 crisis. While there’s a consensus to embrace the changes, I say—while we’re at it—let’s implement the following:

  1. Death Penalty for any lawyer who advertises on television/radio for any car wreck, mass tort, malpractice, or pharmaceutical lawsuits.
  2. Deficit Spending by any local, state, or federal government will result in the seizure of the enabling legislators’ assets to offset excess spending.
  3. Mandatory Lie Detectors and IQ Tests for every reporter or pundit before publication of any story. Third lying offense or IQ under 85 results in total laryngectomy and surgical removal of all fingers.
  4. Party Affiliation disclosure by any judge at any level or any person talking or writing about any event occurring in the universe, e.g., “story by Chris Wallace (Dem. Fox News);” or “opinion by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Radical Leftist Dem. SCOTUS).
  5. Lobbyists Banned from contacting anyone about anything.
  6. Mandatory Gun-Toting to make everyone a bit more careful about what they say or do.

I’ve got plenty more, but right now I’ve got to go to the bathroom. It may take a while, so feel free to add whatever changes you think are necessary to improve our country post-Coronavirus.

By the way, nice talking to you again.

Day 112: COVID-19 Missing Correlations?

 

“We know everything about Sars-CoV-2 and nothing about it. We can read every one of the (on average) 29,903 letters in its genome and know exactly how its 15 genes are transcribed into instructions to make which proteins. But we cannot figure out how it is spreading in enough detail to tell which parts of the lockdown of society are necessary and which are futile. Several months into the crisis we are still groping through a fog of ignorance and making mistakes. There is no such thing as ‘the science.’” — Matt Ridley

Hat tip to Al French of Damascus for directing my attention to the Matt Ridley piece from which the quote starts the entire discussion of where we are in this epidemic.

Ridley introduces a new word into my vocabulary: nosocomial. That is the word that medical personnel use to refer to infections acquired within a medical facility or place where one receives medical care. Another quote from Ridley’s piece:

The horrible truth is that it now looks like in many of the early cases, the disease was probably caught in hospitals and doctors’ surgeries. That is where the virus kept returning, in the lungs of sick people, and that is where the next person often caught it, including plenty of healthcare workers. Many of these may not have realised they had it, or thought they had a mild cold. They then gave it to yet more elderly patients who were in hospital for other reasons, some of whom were sent back to care homes when the National Health Service made space on the wards for the expected wave of coronavirus patients.

The evidence from both Wuhan and Italy suggests that it was in healthcare settings, among the elderly and frail, that the epidemic was first amplified. But the Chinese authorities were then careful to quarantine those who tested positive in special facilities, keeping them away from the hospitals, and this may have been crucial. In Britain, the data shows that the vast majority of people in hospital with Covid-19 at every stage have been ‘inpatients newly diagnosed’; relatively few were ‘confirmed at the time of admission’. The assumption has been that most of the first group had been admitted on an earlier day with Covid symptoms. But maybe a lot of them had come to hospital with something else and then got the virus.

When we think of the nosocomial phenomena we tend to think of hospitals. But nursing homes and any form of group elderly care would also qualify. Are we missing some correlations?

The other day Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York issued a report citing 66% of those hospitalized in New York had been “staying at home” before they became ill. How many of these patients’ “home” was a nursing home or other form of group care for the elderly? They did not say.

There is another report back on April 13 that 2,400 of the deaths in New York from COVID-19 occurred in nursing homes or assisted living facilities — not at hospitals. That was about 25% of recorded deaths from COVID-19 at the time. Did that pace continue? If those deaths are counted as “hospitalizations” before death and those nursing home and assisted living residents who were actually hospitalized are segregated out of the “home” statistics for the hospitalized in that report, what percentage of total COVID-19 illness is attributable to nursing homes, assisted living, and hospital care as opposed to all other infections?

A final note from the Ridley article:

Once the epidemic is under control in hospitals and care homes, the disease might die out anyway, even without lockdown.

Could it be that simple? If not simple, could it at least conform to the 80-20 rule — focus our attention on these facilities and gain most of the benefit?

[Note: Links to all my COVID-19 posts can be found here.]

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Why the Left Thinks We’re Evil

 

I think that it’s easier for people on the right to understand that leftists mean well than it is for leftists to understand that people on the right also mean well. In his book, Economics in One Lesson, Henry Hazlitt wrote:

The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.

In Thomas Sowell’s phrase, a good economist must go beyond “stage one” thinking.

Unfortunately, people on the left tend to get stuck at stage one. They see, for example, that a high minimum wage will make minimum-wage workers better off. Additional thought is needed to understand that increasing the cost of low-skilled labor will reduce the demand for that labor.

Even more thought is required to see that the people helped by the increase – those who keep their jobs or can still find jobs after the increase – are likely to be the most employable. That is, they have the most knowledge and experience and they are the least discriminated against. Those hurt by the laws will be the least employable – the least educated, least skilled, and the most discriminated against. In other words, minimum wages help those who need help the least and hurt those who need help the most.

To someone who can’t, or won’t, go beyond stage one thinking, it’s so blindingly obvious that an increased minimum wage will help the poor that they believe that anyone who disagrees must hate poor people – that is, they must be evil. Someone who can see to stage two or three also understands stage one and is unlikely to believe that someone who can’t get beyond stage one is evil.

Moreover, people who truly believe that an election brought evil people into power are more likely to take to the streets than are those who believe that an election merely put stage one thinkers in office.