The China Has Been Broken. Now We Have to Clean Up the Mess.

 

The Democratic Party pro-Chinese propaganda line is now:

The reason that we are in the crisis that we are today is not because of anything that China did, not because of anything the WHO did, it’s because of what this president did: Senator Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) said Tuesday.

Here is the truth:

There is increasing confidence that the COVID-19 outbreak likely originated in a Wuhan laboratory, though not as a bioweapon but as part of China’s attempt to demonstrate that its efforts to identify and combat viruses are equal to or greater than the capabilities of the United States, multiple sources who have been briefed on the details of early actions by China’s government and seen relevant materials tell Fox News.

This may be the “costliest government cover-up of all time,” one of the sources said.

The sources believe the initial transmission of the virus – a naturally occurring strain that was being studied there – was bat-to-human and that “patient zero” worked at the laboratory, then went into the population in Wuhan.

…What all of the sources agree about is the extensive cover-up of data and information about COVID-19 orchestrated by the Chinese government.

Documents detail early efforts by doctors at the lab and early efforts at containment. The Wuhan wet market initially identified as a possible point of origin never sold bats, and the sources tell Fox News that blaming the wet market was an effort by China to deflect blame from the laboratory …

U.S. Embassy officials warned in January 2018 about inadequate safety at the Wuhan Institute of Virology lab and passed on information about scientists conducting risky research on coronavirus from bats, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

..Sources point to the structure of the virus, in saying the genome mapping specifically shows it was not genetically altered.

…On Thursday, China’s foreign ministry pushed back on the suspicion that the virus escaped from the facility, by citing statements from the World Health Organization that there is no evidence the coronavirus came from a laboratory.

…China “100 percent” suppressed data and changed data, the sources tell Fox News. Samples were destroyed, contaminated areas scrubbed, some early reports erased, and academic articles stifled.

There were doctors and journalists who were “disappeared” warning of the spread of the virus and its contagious nature and human to human transmission. China moved quickly to shut down travel domestically from Wuhan to the rest of China, but did not stop international flights from Wuhan.

Additionally, the sources tell Fox News the World Health Organization (WHO) was complicit from the beginning in helping China cover its tracks.

We have done this to ourselves:

New Chinese export restrictions are exacerbating the chronic shortage of protective gear in the U.S. Face masks, test kits and other medical equipment bound for the U.S. are sitting in warehouses across China unable to receive necessary official clearances, some suppliers and brokers told The Wall Street Journal.

Chinese officials have said the policies, instituted this month, are intended to ensure the quality of exported medical products and to make sure needed goods aren’t being shipped out of China. They have created bottlenecks at a time of urgent need, according to the suppliers, brokers and the State Department memos.

I don’t want you to think that my conclusion about the Chinese Communist Regime is driven solely by their misbehavior about releasing COVID-19 into human populations and then lying about what happened. No, it is dozens of items. Here are just a few:

1. Espionage against the United States: Dozens of incidents such as the hacking of US government confidential personnel records. Suborning employees of US defense contractors to steal plans for US weapons systems. Spying on Chinese students at American universities. Stealing trade secrets of American businesses.

2. Leveraging US investments in China to mute criticisms of China by Americans. Most famously, pressuring the NBA to silence an executive of the Houston Rockets who had posted on social media his support for protestors in Hong Kong. Systematically expelling American journalists from China when the wrote stories the regime did not like.

3. Suborning freedom of expression and the rule of law in Hong Kong in violation of the treaty under which Hong Kong was surrendered to the Regime. And violently suppressing protestors against those actions.

4. Systematically destroying the culture and religion of Tibet. And attempting to displace the Tibetan people with Han Chinese. Going so far as to claim that regime has the power to appoint the next Dalai Lama. A task heretofore performed by Buddha.

5. Using gulags and systematic deprivations of human rights to destroy the religion and culture of the Uyghur people. Using them as slave labor in gulags.

6. Claiming that the South China Sea is Chinese territory. A claim that was decisively rejected by the World Court. A judgment that the Regime has simply thumbed its nose at. (Consider this when you listen to their protestations of support for WHO), And threatening US Navy ships exercising the right of innocent passage through those waters.

7. China has caused drought and the destruction of fisheries in the Mekong river valley by damming its headwaters. This has caused poverty and environmental damage in Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand. China has also caused flooding by unannounced releases of massive quantities of water from its dams. Nice.

8. Backed by armed Chinese Coast Guard ships, Chinese fishing fleets have been raiding Indonesia’s territorial fishing grounds. Chinese trawlers scrape the bottom of the sea, destroying other marine life. So not only does the Chinese trawling breach maritime borders, it also leaves a lifeless seascape in its wake. Indonesian officials have played down incursions by Chinese fishing boats, trying to avoid conflict with Beijing over China’s sprawling claims in these waters.

9. China claims sovereignty over Taiwan and refuses to respect the right of Taiwan’s people to determine their own future. China threatens Taiwan with violence if it continues to behave like an independent nation. “The world has entered an eventful period, during which Taiwan is ineligible to play an active role,” China’s state-run Global Times thundered in its anti-Taiwan editorial on Friday, 10 Apr. 2020. “Rash moves made by Taiwan will likely turn the Taiwan Straits into a flashpoint that will severely impact the world order in the post-pandemic era,” … “The island will face real danger at that time.”

10. China has used its “Belt and Road” plan to reduce recipients of its aid like Sri Lanka and Djibouti into debt peonage.

The bill of particulars could go on and on. The conclusion is clear China is imperialistic, arrogant, racist, oppressive, violent, bullying, and the enemy of freedom and the liberal international order. It is time we started treating China the way we treated Russia in the 1950s, as an aggressor and enemy. They are conducting a cold war against us. We need to fight back.

Endlessly Curious

 

“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” — Albert Einstein

I found myself laughing as I read this quotation because Albert Einstein made such great contributions to the world: no special talent? Then I realized that I was moved by his comment because it spoke for me and I expect for many others. Curiosity can be my best friend at times, leading me into exciting and unexplored directions.

Like Einstein (only more so!) I don’t think I have a special talent. I do a number of things fairly well, but I will not be a person who changes the world. Instead, I am a person of curiosity.

Those of us who are curious know it feeds our souls. Whether we are relentless in our pursuit of understanding the world and how things work; or whether we are infinitely curious about how people think or act the way they do, curiosity emboldens us, motivates us and engages us in the world. Those who are curious won’t settle for being observers, passively watching life pass by, without asking questions or wondering “why.”

On Ricochet, we are possibly the most curious people around! We want to know what others think, how they reach their conclusions and discuss how we reject their opinions or embrace them. We’ve spent weeks trying to get our arms around the coronavirus, for example, working with each other to comprehend the trends, the graphs, and the numbers, and analyzing the activities and decisions of government, as well as trying to understand human nature. We ask incessantly why and how we have arrived at this point and where we should go next. You might say it is in the DNA of Ricochet.

We are endlessly curious and it serves us well.

Member Post

 

NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio set up a line so that New Yorkers could rat out neighbors who were not properly “social distancing.” As you could imagine, many people did not like the idea. The responses were not classy but not surprising either . . . This is where Carlos Danger lives after all.

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Day 92, COVID-19: I Went to a #ReopenCalifornia Protest

 

I went to the Operation Gridlock protest in Sacramento yesterday. There were actually two separate protests that were scheduled: one was a “stay in your vehicle” protest similar to the Michigan one last week, the other was a gathering on the Capitol steps. This led to some confusion. The vehicle protest was really just surrounding the Capitol Square area with vehicles and signs and was to run between noon and 1 p.m. The Capitol steps protest was scheduled for 1 p.m. In some reporting, there seemed to be some confusion about what was supposed to be happening. The Governor apparently thought people would be staying in their vehicles.

The permit for planned protests was granted by the Capitol Protection Unit from California Highway Patrol. The governor said he thought it was allowed based on protestors staying in their cars.

“My understanding is the protest that CHP has supported has social distancing, physical distancing, that was allowable on the basis of people being in their vehicles and not congregating as a group,” Newsom said.

But there were two events and, as you can see from the photos, there were people walking around with signs on the Capitol grounds while vehicles sat on the roadbed. People were not leaving their vehicles to protest if they had not come for the second event.

Main Street is not a well-oiled protest machine. It is made up of people who spend their lives focused on everything but politics. The local public radio played up more of the fringe elements — the anti-vaxxers who I suspect were the more organized part of the group given their history of protesting school vaccination requirements before the current epidemic.

But the pain is real on Main Street —

Jill Young came to the demonstration from Galt, where she said the governor’s orders have destroyed the local economy. 

“In my little town, there’s a lot of businesses that are closed right now, people are losing their businesses and closing. It’s sad,” Young said.

Tom Orr, who owns a construction company in Rancho Cordova, says he laid off 60% of his workforce since the outbreak began.

“We need to reopen the state and stop this craziness and let people get back to work before the economy completely tanks,” he said.

I went, not because my income is directly affected (for now), but for the hairdressers and nail persons and food service workers and shop owners. It feels like these people are the ones we have asked to “go over the top” (a World War I trench warfare reference) and catch all the pandemic “bullets” in a terrible waste of lives from a flawed strategy. This was the first protest I or Mrs. Rodin’s mother, who accompanied me, had ever attended. Staying in the car and driving (or more correctly, idling) around the capitol was our speed. We went just to show up and add to the density. Unlike other vehicles, we had no signs or flags. We were just there.

I am unsure what impact the protesting will have. The politics of the state are decidedly collectivist. Gov. Newsom has little to fear from extending the lockdown. Voters in this state have been accepting deterioration and decay for years so long as it is not in the more tony zip codes in the Bay Area and Southern California or the coastal gems. Whatever you can’t see from the freeway or in your own neighborhood or work area doesn’t exist. If red states open up and life gets better there more quickly, the middle-class migration will accelerate, but ballot-harvesting will secure Newsom’s political future in the state regardless.

Do the protesters have it right? Well, yes and no. Certainly, there is an element of denial in some of the #reopen community. The people who get a serious case of COVID-19 are in a world of hurt and it is really important for us to better understand — to the extent we can — what set of factors put you at risk of not just getting the illness, but really having a bad outcome. Not just death, but serious chronic conditions even after recovery.

But our public pronouncements, broad as they are, are unhelpful. Those pronouncements seem to be designed to promote undifferentiated fear and caution, and justify health orders. But we need information upon which a free people can make personal choices. If not to the public, at least to our healthcare providers, so that people with individualized medical histories can make reasoned choices about how they are going to live their lives.

Government is supposed to be our servant, not our master. Our ancestors did not take the risks to come here for us to simply cower in our homes and wait for permission to live.

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

GW Bush: ‘I’m Not Leaving. If a Plane Hits Us, I’ll Just Die.’

 

Those who know me know that I am not a fan of George W. Bush. I was one of those conservatives who was against the invasion of Iraq and still think it was a big mistake. That being said, I own a copy of Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House because I wanted to get a measure of both men.

Thinking about this whole quarantine and how it continues to fall apart as I go for my daily walks brought me back to this passage from the book.

September 13th, 2001. (Page 138)

When the motorcade got back to the White House just after noon, Card jumped into Bush’s car before he could get out.

“We’ve got another threat on the White House,” Card said. “Were taking it seriously.”

Bush was mad. “Why are you telling me this in here?”…”You could have waited till I get to the Oval Office.”

He marched back into the building and continued the conversation in the Oval Office. He was tired and surly. Whatever intelligence they had, he was not going to respond. If they were worried, they could send non-essential personnel home, and make sure Cheney was at a separate location.

“I’m not leaving,” Bush said irritably. “If a plane hits us, I’ll just die.”

Then he turned to the Navy Steward. “And Ferdie, I’m hungry. I’ll have a hamburger.”

Karen Hughes: “You might as well add cheese.”

The fact is that is the sentiment that more and more people will feel in the days coming. We can’t just live in fear and hope for the best.

Much as we can’t let the terrorists win, neither can we let this virus.

I have some other reports coming in. I saw another 25 people violate social distancing yesterday. In fact, there were so many people walking on one street, it was impossible not to. I might take some photos later today of the rule breakers just to show it’s happening.

My conservative premier wants everyone to shelter in place until a vaccine is created. The fact is, we might never get a vaccine. I already see doctors saying that in The Guardian. They have been working on the AIDS vaccine for 40 years. They are breaking the rules to get us one, and I sure they hope they do. But even with a flu vaccine, thousands of people still die from the flu.

A friend is asking why they are giving $800 tickets to families playing in the park, but hundreds of people queue around the local shopping mall and the cops go nowhere near them.

I answered that the cops know that a) those people don’t have any money, and b) they might start a riot if they tried.

I pointed out to a Warren supporter the protests in Sacramento yesterday. His response was “we will just have to increase the lockdown or get harsher on restrictions.”

To which I responded, “Do you think we have enough troops for that? There may be rioting soon, do you think American soldiers will fire on American Citizens who want their jobs back? ‘Cause that’s what it might come down to.”

It’s not like you can lock people up. They emptied the prisons so people wouldn’t get the virus, remember?

The quarantine is failing; our governments need to recognize that and start coming up with new plans. Ones that reflect the reality on the ground, not how we wish them to be.

Tennessee Reopens!

 

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has announced a phased reopening of businesses in the state beginning next week with the “safer at home” order officially expiring on May 1. In other good news, yesterday Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs tweeted that the county (population 470,000) had only 28 active cases with 161 recoveries. Our concrete construction contractor company has been deemed “essential” so we have continued working through all this, but I know it will be a relief to a lot of people who have not been.

The main takeaways from this post are:

  1. Yes, I am kind of a big deal since I am officially essential.
  2. The Knox County mayor is Glenn Jacobs, but you may also know him as WWE wrestler Kane! (See Jacobs below pictured with Governor Lee.)
  3. Most important, a lot of the country may be ready to put this stuff behind us. Hallelujah.

Midcourse After-Action Review

 

As we transition from the COVID-19 mitigation phase to the “COVID-19 mitigation” public health and national security consequence mitigation phase (shorthand “Reopening America”), it is appropriate, indeed necessary, to conduct a real after-action review. We need to accurately capture what was planned, trained, and resourced before 2020, and what actually happened because there will be a next time. That next time may be a wild bug or a bio-weapon. Shame on us if we squander this horrifically destructive wake-up call.

The real after-action review was perfected in the Army of the late 1980s as a key tool to outperform the Warsaw Pact with far fewer soldiers. For a brief period, when the stakes seemed highest, politics and careerism were thrust aside and every unit was trained to the point of repeated failure, with a structured after-action review system staffed by the very best sergeants and officers to help or drag the unit to the truth of why their plan or process failed. The expected, the required outcome was improvement on the next iteration, demonstrated ability to learn quickly from mistakes while under extreme pressure.

This training system found its highest expression, for tank and infantry units, at the National Training Center on Fort Irwin in the high desert of California. This was no dumping ground, no career sidetrack. It was a premier assignment for the Observer Controllers (think referee, umpire, and coach with complete tape and audio) and OPFOR, the soldiers trained in a unit to emulate the Russians on their very best day, with operational equipment and without a vodka haze. Indeed, commanders interviewed after they had directly engaged the Iraqi tank units in Desert Storm said that war had turned out to be easier than their NTC training experiences.

We likely need a team of the early 1990s generation “wise men,” retired generals, to come in and lead a whole of government AAR in June, preparing through May, so that we are better prepared to respond to the next threat. These were the OCs at the very highest level, “mentoring” general officers and their staffs through externally evaluated exercises. I propose that generation because they will be least likely to have been contaminated by national and institutional politics since then.

An after-action review might be roughly organized along the following lines:

Planning and preparatory phase: this goes back to the early 1990s, as massive scale bioterrorism was recognized as a threat after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It concludes around the end of January 2020, or perhaps at the point the “15 days to slow the spread” message was published. Focus should probably be post-2001.

  • Intelligence: What was our intelligence, our surveillance system? How was it expected to operate? How did it operate? Who had responsibility? Who had resources to perform these tasks?
  • Organization: What was our patient to national system of medical prevention and response? Did we have a plan to respond to pandemics? How had it performed in past public health crises?
  • Training: What was our training system at the national level for testing plans and procedures against enemies we hoped never to really fight?
  • Logistics: What was our logistics posture? What was the organizational structure? How did we plan to have the right equipment, beds, and trained personnel at the right place at the right time?

Containment phase: The early contact-tracing, treatment and quarantine phase, including the travel bans. Again look at intelligence, organization, training, and logistics.

Mitigation phase: Mid-March until at least 1 May 2020. Again look at intelligence, organization, training, and logistics.

This should all be on camera, no agency leader allowed to evade or engage in blame-shifting or avoidance. President Trump should open the first session with a clear statement that we are here to learn for next time, because we believe there will be one or more next times, nature or human-caused. He should point out that the whole of America came together in response, and direct that recommendations look at what has to be federal and what proved better at the state and local level and in the private sector. President Trump should direct that any reorganization recommendations be budget neutral, given the massive government-imposed hit on the American worker and family.

UK’s NHS: Bad for patients. Bad for staff. Just … bad

 

Nurses who wore bin bags due to PPE shortage all test positive for coronavirusA government-loving lefty Facebook friend posted the following and I could hear the sputters of #OrangeManBad outrage that must have accompanied hitting the “Post” button.

This is the article in question. Note that it’s published in metro.co.UK and concerns a hospital in Harrow, a London suburb.

By posting this, my “friend” made a point, but I don’t think it was the point she intended to make. It’s indeed a pity that the 26th-wealthiest nation in the world has the NHS, a government-operated single-payer health care system that cannot afford proper PPE for its staff.

NHS: Bad for patients. Bad for staff. Just … bad.

Member Post

 

@occupantcdn Stanford University’s random survey of 3,330 individuals in Santa Clara County indicates that approximately 63,000 residents of Santa Clara County are asymptomatic, still suffering, or recovered COVID patients, many of whom might never have realized they were actually ill. This number indicates that 33 times as many people have been infected as what the […]

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Well, the Sky Might Be Falling…

 

This coronavirus scare is not the same thing as the global warming scare. But one can’t help but notice a few parallels. Or perhaps, a lot of parallels…

First, someone notices possible early signs of a potential danger, makes a best guess on current data, enters that questionable data into an even more questionable computer model, writes and then re-writes the algorithm to confirm their suspicions, extrapolates to the worst possible outcome, and then tells the public that “science” says that’s exactly what’s going to happen unless you do as I say. And if you don’t do as I say, that doesn’t mean that you disagree with my view of the problem or the solution, it means that you don’t “believe in science.”

As I noted in a previous post about Harrison Ford’s views on global warming, “Those who accuse others of not believing in science tend to be those who don’t understand science.”

Another similarity between the global warming panic and the coronavirus panic is that those computer models that were designed to show a looming catastrophe end up being incorrect. Like, way, way, way off. Initial estimates of American deaths from coronavirus ranged as high at 1-4 million. So far we’ve got around 40,000 dead. We think. I’ll come back to that. But anyway, the computer models which guided early decision making on the coronavirus may end up being off nearly by a factor of 100. That’s not an error of 5 or 10 percent.  That’s an error of 10,000 percent.  That’s incredible.

The next step, of course, is to change how you measure the outcome that is not living up to the flawed computer models. For global warming, you shut down rural temperature stations, and have more temperature stations in cities and on the tarmac at airports, so you can get higher temperatures.

With coronavirus, they started telling doctors and hospitals that anyone who swabbed positive for coronavirus and then later died should be classified as a coronavirus death, regardless of whether the coronavirus actually contributed to their death. Now they’re telling doctors and hospitals that is a patient dies and the doctor suspects that coronavirus may have been a factor, that should be classified as a coronavirus death, even if the patient was never tested.

By the time we get to this stage of the show, even those who seek to take an honest look at the problem cannot do so. The data has been corrupted and thus becomes close to worthless. We are left wondering how many of those 40,000 Americans who are listed as coronavirus deaths actually died of coronavirus. Probably a lot of them. Maybe a vast majority of them. Hard to say, I suppose.

The next step is to go back and change data from the past. The global warming people go back and “correct” the data sets from previous decades, to make them colder (their thermometers were probably off, or the data was probably compiled differently than we do it, or whatever). Thus, as previous temperatures magically become cooler, modern temperatures look warmer in comparison.

The CDC just changed the number of influenza deaths from two years ago – it was 80,000, now it is 61,000. Why would they do that? Presumably because they were getting sick of people pointing out that coronavirus is not as bad as the flu.

Throughout this process, of course, we are told to drive Priuses, or wear surgical masks to Walmart, or something. And if we don’t do as they say, it’s because we “don’t believe in science,” or we actually want to kill people, or we’re so self-centered that we don’t consider the global significance of our choice in cars, or whatever.

But again, if we disagree with their recommended course of action, it’s not because we disagree with them – it’s because we’re evil. Or stupid. Or, most likely, both.

When global warming doesn’t work out they way they want it to, and the polar bears don’t die like they thought they might, then naturally, they make adjustments to the algorithms, and say that they weren’t wrong – it’s just that global warming will become an obvious crisis in 2032 rather than 1995.

Forgot to carry the 1 – sorry about that – but you still should do everything I say. I’m right this time. Don’t you believe in science?

With coronavirus, if the death toll is disappointing to some, it’s not that they were wrong, it’s just that the real threat is going to be the second wave. Or next winter. Or the surge from opening the beaches. Or whatever. It’s coming, and it’s just around the corner. You should still do everything I say. I’m right this time. Don’t you believe in science?

I could go on and on. And so could you, probably. But I think you see my point.

And just to be clear, my point is not that coronavirus is not dangerous. People are dying from it, and perhaps even more are dying from our response to it. So this is clearly a serious problem.

But I think this illustrates one of the real downsides of the centralized control fans using every crisis – real and imagined – as a tool to increase government control. Once we start to understand their playbook, we start to roll our eyes as we watch them go through it yet again, with yet another crisis. It’s almost fun to watch.

Unless one of their “crises” ends up being an actual crisis.

If that were to happen, the actual, real crisis could easily get away from us, because we’re too busy chuckling about all the same stuff from all the same people.

Crisis mongering is dangerous to us now, because it leads us to do foolish things today. But that’s nothing. It will cause real harm someday if one of these crises turns out to be the real thing. Someday, that is likely to happen.

I hope that day is not this day. I guess we’ll see…

Free Joe Biden

 

I was working in my backyard workshop converting some of my wife’s old thongs into anti-C-19 face masks, when the door burst open.

I reached for my Clorox and vinegar spray gun and began to hose down the balaclava-and-glove-clad intruder.

“It’s me,” the burglar exclaimed through the mask’s tiny mouth hole, “E!”

I held my fire when I realized the excited interloper might actually be my longtime lawyer and friend E. Hobart Calhoun, whom I had not seen since he and I visited San Francisco’s Chinatown on February 24 after being invited by Nancy Lugosi, Bela’s older sister.

“Back out slowly,” I said to the alleged E., pointing my spray gun. “Take a position outside at least 20 feet from my shop door, then remove the mask.”

“Come on, man,” E. said after baring his face. “We got to do something to help this old guy being held hostage in a cellar.”

E. reached in his pocket slowly. I wasn’t sure of E.’s mental state, so I kept my sprayer on him. He removed his phone and held it out for me.

“Put it on the ground and back away slowly,” I said.

When he was at a safe distance, I knelt beside his phone and started the video by touching the screen arrow with a fake rubber finger I keep in my pocket since the ChinaVirus invasion for just such emergencies.

“That’s Joe Biden,” I said after watching. “Making a speech from his basement.”

“The former V.P.? It can’t be. This guy looks like he’s a hundred.”

“It’s old Joe,” I said. “He’s only 77.”

“But the skin on his face is almost transparent.”

“It’s been stretched by plastic surgeons.”

“His hair looks like a halo of cotton candy,” E. said.

“His plugs are aging out,” I said and backed away from E.’s phone.

“It looks like he’s trapped in a vise or something,” E. said, fighting back tears. “He doesn’t move.”

“That’s the El Cid body cage the DNC puts him in to prevent toppling over.”

“That’s cruel,” E. said. “And if you listen to what he says, it makes no sense.”

“His advisers and the DNC are encouraging him to end every sentence with ‘you know the thing’ as a catchall to give the impression old Joe is aware of what he’s saying and thinks the audience knows, too.”

“That’s not a bad campaign slogan,” E. said. “I can see it on a poster: “Joe Biden—You Know the Thing.”

“DNC confines Joe to his cellar,” I said, “so he doesn’t have to take questions or face the media like Big D. does every day.”

“Those media questions for Big D. are so accusatory and hostile,” E. said, “I think it’s a good strategy for the DNC to confine Joe to his basement, but it’s cruel that he doesn’t get to smell young women’s hair down there.”

“There’s a plug-in-odor thing for that now,” I said. “It simulates the nubile hair smell.”

“Still,” E said, “I don’t know how he’ll get his message out.”

“He doesn’t have to,” I said, “because he doesn’t have one.”

“Oh,” E. said, “I get it now.”

“Besides,” I added, “you know the thing.”

Let Us Do It

 

What should government do about the current epidemic caused by the Wuhan virus? I say, as the French used to say back in the nineteenth century, “laissez-nous faire“: “Let us do it.”

This was abbreviated to “laissez faire,” meaning, roughly translated, don’t you, the politicians, bureaucrats, academics, and media types-you supercilious, really somewhat stupid, ignorant, arrogant, power-crazed, meddlesome, self-righteous, interfering bastards–do anything. Just let us do it. Just laissez-nous faire.

Now, I understand that government today doesn’t ask us “what should we, the government (not we the people) do?” about the economic problem.  About the permanent, all-encompassing problem of scarcity, including the incremental problem of scarcity created, it turns out, by the Communist Party of China (ChiCom delenda est!): Wuhan virus.

They don’t ask us, they just do it.

In today’s case, they forbid any human physical social interactions that have not been specifically pre-approved by them, the politicians and bureaucrats. (The most prominent of the latter group are the justly name “educated ignoramuses,” epitomized by Dr. Fauci, who, as Ludwig von Mises pointed out, are deeply educated in their specialties, like epidemiology, medicine, or economics, but profoundly ignorant of every other area of human knowledge.)

If I want to paddle a kayak, I can learn by reading the papers that the government has given me permission to do so. This way of spending these irreplaceable hours of my life is one of those that is preapproved, therefore I may consider spending these hours doing it.

But if I am an anesthesiologist in Michigan and want to provide a needed surgery to a patient–like a lung transplant, or heart surgery, which requires putting him on a ventilator, which in case you don’t know it is a very tricky business that most aspiring anesthesiologists aren’t very good at, except in easy cases–I may not. I must stay home and try to stave off boredom doing social media. If I am exceptionally good at this rare, much-valued skill, and have been offered a job doing it after my residency, I find that my job offer has now been suspended. I will need to sit at home, unpaid, while people whom I could have helped with my hard-earned, half-million-dollar, rare skill, suffer needlessly. While ICU beds and ventilators, which government claims it is making available, are unavailable for no other reason than that they have unconstitutionally and dishonestly dictated that they not be provided to those who need them.

If I wish to spend some of the hours of my life today going out in a motorboat, rather than a kayak, I discover that this is not on the list of ruler-approved actions.

It’s immoral and it’s also stupid, which is why I say this:

Laissez-nous faire.” Or, in short form, “laissez faire.

Or in plain English: Let us do it.

Member Post

 

Live right now.Sacramento to shut down 10th Street in Sacramento “Our rights do not end when your fears start!” “All workers are essential workers.” Shut Newsom tyranny way down!!” “Truths” are lies when the gubmint is tyranny!” “I am a registered Democrat!” (What? Hoot!!)   If you are a facebook user and want updates, pls […]

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The Governor of Michigan has recently created a task force to investigate why the coronavirus disproportionally affects blacks: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/michigan-governor-whitmer-sets-up-coronavirus-racial-disparity-task-force Here’s my question for the Gov: “Are you going to create a task force to find out why blacks commit crimes disproportionate to their percentage in the population?” Didn’t think so.  That would be “racist” . […]

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One of the ironies of the current clash over the federal government’s response to COVID-19 is that while MAGA voters increasingly resist, the Resistance has become stridently submissive. To the latter, face masks aren’t so much a means to protect against infection as merely the latest fad in conspicuous virtue signaling. In that vein, look […]

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Day 91: COVID-19 #ReopenCalifornia

 

Short post today. I am headed to Sacramento for Operation Gridlock to show support for #ReopenCalifornia. I take COVID-19 seriously, but I cannot support extended government control over the activities of a free people. Emergency powers involve extraordinary action, but also an extraordinary moral constraint in leadership. In California, we do not have such leadership, and sadly too many of our federal representatives from this state range from merely reprehensible to incredibly evil.

For those who get seriously ill from COVID-19, it is a terrible experience and even those that survive may have long-lasting chronic conditions. That means it should be taken seriously and that the public needs to be educated about who is most likely to get seriously ill or die. Strategies that are voluntarily followed need to be developed to protect those who are most at risk. But general population control is not that strategy.

I trust my fellow Americans. I may be in the “at-risk” group, but I need more information than simply my age, being overweight, and having “coronary artery disease” for which I take statins and have no hypertension or active symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath. If I need to take special care — that is on me. Main Street need not close to extend my life. Wall Street is no substitute for Main Street. If Main Street stays closed eventually so, too, will Wall Street. We pensioners while not suffering today from a lost paycheck, will surely do so in the future if Main Street is not set back on its feet.

This must happen now.

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

Divine Mercy

 

I once heard that a parent can only be as happy as one’s least happy child. It’s good and natural that we focus on those most in need. Though as a society we have long been so fortunate in many ways compared to civilizations of history, still we worry about the poor, the sick, the lonely, and the abused.

Today, the first Sunday after Easter is Divine Mercy Sunday for Roman Catholics; so declared by Pope John Paul II. As suggested by visions of Jesus to Sister Faustina of Poland, on this day we pay special attention to the Lord’s immeasurable mercy. From the image of blood and water poured from Christ’s heart, symbolizing the terrible Passion and the beautiful Resurrection, we remember the gifts we have received without merit.

Every day, Christians pray to be forgiven “as we forgive those who tresspass against us.” His two greatest commandments link love of God and love of neighbor, so that true love of one is the expression of the other. Likewise, acceptance of mercy and sharing of mercy go hand-in-hand.

Mercy is always an offer waiting to be fulfilled by acceptance. Thus, the unrepentant are held to account by their own choice. But mercy is offered for all. To love our enemies includes this offer of mercy to our enemies. Are you ready to forgive everyone?

On Ricochet, there is always much justifiable anger. We speak of people who despise and mock us, who despise our families and our most sacred traditions, who lie to us, who steal from us, who seek to rule over us, who turn to corrupt delights and despoil so much that was beautiful, and so on. Evils abound, as they always have.

Christ came for sinners. That means all of us. But, like that parent of a wayward child or like the person who finds a grumbling addict in a place of beauty and bounty, Christ especially concerns Himself with those in most need of mercy and care.

It’s the persons who tax us most, the ones who do us wrong and shatter our calm, blocking every affection, who most need our offers of forgiveness and reconciliation. No villain has hurt you so much as he or she has hurt God — the one who makes all things for beauty and knows the fullest tragedy of every rejection.

Who do you need to forgive today? Begin with the ones who make you the angriest. Begin with the worst; the most hardened and most detestable. How wonderful it will be when any one of them unexpectedly accepts the graces you have requested on their behalf. The pains you endure today for love will be forgotten in the overwhelming light of God’s divine mercy.

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I just read an article that states that you are 79 years old.  Since your guidelines for the elderly state that they should be sheltering at home, why do you not take your own advice?  Why do we see you in the company of many people every day to give the latest information on the […]

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Coronavirus Update 4-19-20: New Data from NYC

 

I have a new report for you today, based on a new data source from the New York City health department, which is now reporting COVID-19 deaths by date of death. This is information that I’ve been hoping to see for some time. I’ll also show you the difference it makes, comparing the date of death data to the prior data set that I was using, which was based on the date of the report of the death.

There are limitations to any data set. One obvious limitation of the date of death data is that it is not necessarily complete, particularly for the most recent few days. In addition, as Mark Camp and others have pointed out, there is a possibility of overcounting because a person might be counted who died with the virus but not of the virus, and as Kozak has pointed out, there is a possibility of undercounting as well, as some COVID-19 deaths could be missed.

NYC is reporting “confirmed” and “probable” COVID-19 deaths. “Confirmed” means the decedent was an NYC resident with a confirmed positive lab test. “Probable” means that the decedent was an NYC resident with COVID-19 (or equivalent) listed as a cause of death but without a know positive lab test. It appears that testing continues and that they periodically update the data when a “probable” death becomes “confirmed.”

The NYC data source is from GitHub (here). I will compare this date of death data with the prior data set I was using, from USAFacts (here). Since I am not comparing NYC to any other location, I have not adjusted this data by population, so the graphs will show the actual number of reported deaths. The data is through April 17 for NYC, and through April 16 for USAFacts. Reporting at USAFacts is delayed at the moment, as several states (including NY) have changed their method of reporting.

On to the graphs. The first is daily deaths, with the red, orange, and blue lines representing the date of death figures from NYC, as follows: total deaths (red), confirmed deaths (orange), probable deaths (blue). The yellow line is the date of report data from USAFacts.

You can see that the reporting was significantly delayed and that actual deaths peaked earlier than reported deaths; the actual peak was April 7, while the reported peak was April 10 with a secondary peak on April 14. Remember that the data for April 15-17 is probably incomplete, so we don’t know if there has been a notable recent decline or if this is the consequence of reporting delays. (If you’re looking carefully, you’ll also notice a strange negative figure on the y-axis label, because the USAFacts date of report data actually reported a slight negative figure on one day, presumably a correction.)

The next graph shows you the real extent of the underreporting, as it shows cumulative deaths through the date indicated. Again, the red, orange and blue lines are the date of death data from NYC, and the yellow line is the date of report data from USAFacts.

Once again, remember that the last few days are probably underreported.

Notice how much more quickly both the red (total) and orange (confirmed) lines increase, compared to the yellow (reported). At the height of the crisis, the reporting was about 4-5 days behind. This generally means that the rate of increase in deaths was faster in the earlier period, and has been slower more recently.

I am not being critical of anyone for these reporting delays. They are inevitable, and the folks in NYC seem to be doing a fine job in very difficult circumstances. But when better information becomes available, I think that it’s important to focus on how it changes what we previously thought.

To demonstrate the extent of the underreporting under the old system, here is a graph showing the ratio between total actual cumulative deaths (on a date of death basis) and total reported deaths.

As you can see, prior to April 5 the number of reported deaths in NYC was less than half the number of actual deaths that had occurred.

The next graphs will show the statistic that I have focused on with my prior reporting, which is the daily % growth in total reported deaths. For completeness, I’ll start with the entire period, though it won’t be very helpful.

As you can see, there are very large spikes in the early period, especially in the trend line based on the date of the report. The graph is dominated by the yellow spike on March 16, which is a 400% daily increase — but it is from just 1 reported death to 5. To show the actual trend, I’ve started the next graph on March 22, and I’ve omitted the date of the report line.

As before, remember that the data for the last few days is probably incomplete (probably after April 14, where you can see a bit of a downward departure from the trend line). I think that this is a very important graph, showing that the real crisis in NYC is probably over.

It’s hard to tell whether the lockdown had an effect. The trend line was downward before the lockdown would be expected to have any effect, as you can see. It is possible that voluntary social distancing had some effect before the formal lockdown, which would make it more difficult to identify any change attributable to this policy.

The big question, of course, is whether this is the result of the current lockdown, or whether the NYC is at (or near) herd immunity at this point. This question is not answered by the data in this post. NYC currently has 129,788 reported cases and a case fatality rate (CFR) of 10.1%. It would be extremely useful if someone would do the type of study in NYC that Drs. Bendavid and Battacharya did in the SF bay area.

ChiCom delenda est.

QOTD: The Forest Service vs Your Soul

 
“The Forest Service is worse than the Internal Revenue Service. Those Revenue fellows are only after the money, while our Feds are running a fulltime all-out campaign for your soul.”
That’s a quote from A River Went Out of Eden by Chana B. Cox, @iwe’s mother. I got a Kindle copy after @iwe told us about it back on March 6 in Crazy Things My Parents Did.
I had an entirely different quote picked out until I came across this one today, near the end of the book. I thought it might be helpful in understanding some of the more bizarre behaviors of our government in dealing with Coronavirus. Perhaps the comparison will become more obvious if I quote a few more explanatory paragraphs:
It’s one thing to be photographed by the FBI, to have your phone conversations monitored by the CIA, or to be hounded by the IRS. It is quite another thing to have to put up with all of these things from Smokey the Bear. There is just no dignity in it. How do you tell your friends you are being harassed by the Department of Agriculture? What possible glory is there in fighting Smokey the Bear?
We are always being caught in some sort of Catch 22. For example, we live in a technically uninhabited area, so it follows that we do not really exist. I kid you not. The logic is impeccable.
Since we do not exist, it follows that the Feds cannot be spying on us. And so on.
And what possible glory is there in defying the authorities to walk through the flooring aisle at Lowe’s? And what does it profit a man to acquiesce to nonsensical words about “essential” and “non-essential” and lose his own soul in the process? Quarantines are one thing and are sometimes necessary. The nonsense we are expected to repeat is something entirely different.
Several Ricochetti s have already read Chana Cox’s book, but I hate to give any of the rest of you the impression that the book is political. You can be assured that politics is left in its proper place. But I don’t know how to do justice to it. I am closer to the generation of @iwe’s parents than to @iwe, so the idea of the two parents-to-be going off to live in a place where there was no electricity or running water is not completely foreign to me. I’ve known crazy people myself. And the inhabitants of their uninhabited place are fascinating, from Sylvan the mountain man (and uncle of Chana’s husband), to Houston (who observed that horses do sex differently than humans–they play around first), to the chickies, and to the workers who figured that when the boss man and boss lady weren’t “working” (working with paper and books didn’t count, to their way of thinking) that it was time for them to knock off for the day, too.
I highly recommend the book, and now want to get back to it and finish it.

Quotes of the Day on Flowers

 

“I cannot say exactly how nature exerts its calming and organizing effects on our brains, but I have seen in my patients the restorative and healing powers of nature and gardens, even for those who are deeply disabled neurologically. In many cases, gardens and nature are more powerful than any medication.”

“I have a number of patients with very advanced dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, who may have very little sense of orientation to their surroundings. They have forgotten, or cannot access, how to tie their shoes or handle cooking implements. But put them in front of a flower bed with some seedlings, and they will know exactly what to do—I have never seen such a patient plant something upside down.”

Oliver Sacks, Everything In Its Place: First Loves and Lost Tales

“[The toy garden] made me aware of nature—not, indeed, as a storehouse of forms and colours but as something cool, dewy, fresh, exuberant.”

“[The Castlereagh Hills] made me for good or ill, and before I was six years old, a votary of the Blue Flower.”

–C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

“That is not easy to envision while standing in the dark shadow of the viaduct . . . . But it becomes clearer on the deck, where trees, weeds and wildflowers among rusting tracks and switches create a verdant swath through Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea and the Gansevoort Meat Market.”

–David Dunlap writing on the High Line in the New York Times here

Obviously the world needs a good essay analyzing these quotes. It should also cover some G. K. Chesterton, don’t you think? And, for good measure, some Alexander Schmemann. And, of course, it ought to talk about the biblical gardens of Eden and Gethsemane.

No, I didn’t write it. Good grief, do I look like I have that kind of time? Not to mention that I would have done a terrible job writing that essay. No, I’m just an editor. The essay will be a chapter in my next book project. We’ve got three other editors, and I haven’t even counted the writers, maybe 15-20.

Why are we writing the book, and what exactly is the book as a whole supposed to be about? And who wrote the lovely essay on gardens?

All in good time, all in good time. It’s a bit hush-hush for now. But it’ll be good, and it should be pretty affordable, and it should be available later this year. Meanwhile, here’s my new Augustine book again.

Myths About COVID-19

 

A number of false ideas are circulating about this disease.

They surveyed 3000 people and found that 1.5% were positive for the antibody to COVID-19. This means that 80 times more people are asymptomatic with COVID-19 than symptomatic. So the lockdown wasn’t necessary.

Nope. 1.5% doesn’t exceed the false positive rate for this type of test, so it doesn’t prove any excess of asymptomatic cases at all. If, say, half of the people screened were positive it would be significant, but not if it’s just 1.5%. There is other evidence of asymptomatic cases, but not nearly 80 times as many; maybe twice to 7 times as many.

The projections for numbers of people infected have been repeatedly wrong and had to be revised repeatedly. We should pay no attention to them. 

No, the projections have been reasonably accurate. (How could they miss? The range of uncertainty they published was huge.) Also, it’s normal to make revisions as data comes in. The worst mistake in interpreting these projections occurred early on when the Imperial College group published projections for various scenarios in the US. The first such projection of 2.2 million dead in the US hit the news and, understandably, captured the imagination. It was only later when the rest of the same study was considered that people found out that there was another scenario studied that predicted 60,000 deaths. People thought that this was a revision of the first, higher projection, but that was wrong. It was a scenario that estimated deaths if strong measures to suppress the virus were used. The first number was the estimate for what would happen if nothing was done. (And this was academic anyway since there was no way people would continue to act normally.) And so it has gone, with one failure to understand what the epidemiologists were saying following another. The epidemiologists said that the stricter the efforts of virus suppression the more the lives saved. What choice did politicians have? There’s no question that the efforts to suppress the virus have been successful. The decline in the daily death rates started just about when one would expect them to, 10 to 14 days after suppression efforts started. And there is nothing that will keep the virus from flaring up again if we try to go back to normal.

Efforts to suppress the virus are causing economic harm. We must end these measures to save the economy.

The damage will not entirely end if the economy is suddenly “opened” because people are not going to act normally. Especially not if the virus flares up again. The economic damage is going to continue, hopefully at reduced levels, until the virus is gone or nearly so. To be sure there are a number of unnecessary restrictions that can be dispensed with now, but things are not going back to normal any time soon. You can argue that the government didn’t need to act at all, that people would know to avoid dangerous activities, but people expected the government to act.  Most of the work of opening the economy is to convince people that it’s safe to go out again, and to do that we’ve got to make it truly safe.

We’ll have a vaccine in 12-18 months.

Maybe, but don’t count on it. As it turns out they have been trying to produce a vaccine for coronavirus since 2003 when SARS broke out. It’s apparently very tricky. Vaccines strong enough to confer immunity so far have killed the monkeys. We have the advantage right now that there are far more people and labs working on it, but it may take more time or may never happen at all.

The pandemic will follow a bell shaped curve.

Maybe, but there is no guarantee of that. It may be like the Spanish Flu, with multiple waves, or like HIV/AIDS, with a long fat tail that simmers on and on.

Hydroxychloroquine…

This is being used in various places. Other than the occasional testimonies, which are hard to interpret, the evidence that this stuff really works is thin. The history of medicine is repleat with examples of promising treatments with many testimonials of effectiveness that turned out not to work when tested carefully. Our ability to fool ourselves that way is huge. Some antivirals like remdezivir have proven to suppress the virus in animals and show more promise.

 

Member Post

 

Do you ever feel like you’re living in some kind of an alternate reality? How could you not? The United States of America, the most powerful and dynamic country in world history, along with most Western countries, is almost totally shut down because of . . . a virus! That’s right, the country is not […]

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Fragile and Breakable Things

 

Some things that break in society cannot be easily fixed.

I came to this topic in an ordinary way. I’m a klutz. Klutz is not quite the right word. Some in my family would say disaster or catastrophe, at least when it comes to handling physical objects. By physical objects I mean breakable anything that can break, bend, crush, shatter, disintegrate, rupture or explode. I’m out of verbs.

So now I have a garden, or budding garden (no pun intended). The last time I planted a garden was in 1974 unless you count a few patio plants. Unknowingly, then, I planted a garden big enough to feed six families.  I was one person and everybody else had a garden too. Think bushels of unconsumed produce.

This garden in our home in North Carolina is about the right size (I do learn from my disasters). And because North Carolina has moderate weather and regular rain, there’s a high probability that tomatoes, cantaloupes, peppers, onions, and squash will grow. But so far I have only rows of fragile plantings, although they are doing well, I think.

So when I got word of a freeze on Wednesday night, with specific advice to cover my baby plants with pots, buckets, boxes, or anything I could find, I decided, on a poorly reckoned whim, to take out a bunch of my glass bowls to flip over the most vulnerable plants. For the requisite four minutes it took to gather them, it seemed like a good plan: solid, waterproof, insulating covers until Thursday’s mid-day sun rings the “all-clear.”

Except, being the not-very-good-with-breakable-things person I am, I carried too many down the deck stairs, lost my hold, jostled them trying to set them down in the dirt, and, boom, my favorite vintage Pyrex mixing bowl shattered.

Now if you’re thinking I had no business bringing that special bowl out in the first place—or any of these bowls—you are right. And did I know that? Of course, I knew that. The cadence in my head the whole time I gathered them was “Carol, this is not a good idea. Carol, this is not a good idea.”

Perhaps you never do such ill-advised things. Hopefully, you always listen to the smart, moderating counsel inside of your head—those spinning words that, otherwise, you will wish you had heeded.

Staring at the shattered shards I nearly cried. Except this was a bowl, and with all that’s going on in the world now, do you cry about a bowl?

What I do want to cry about, though, is the failings of our human nature. In this case, it is my stubborn human nature that doesn’t listen to my own good counsel.

But a darker side of human nature is unleashing itself across our society as people attack each other on social media in ways that are scarily reminiscent of eras we’d hoped never to revisit.

I am not speaking solely about the crudity and viciousness of today’s political discourse. That’s an abomination, one of those phenomena where I think “I’m glad my parents are not alive to see all this.” Political viciousness has always existed. The present levels are unconscionable and probably beyond repair at this point (sorry to be a pessimist).

No, I’m talking about the spread of such viciousness to places that ordinarily are benign venues: specifically neighborhood sites like Nextdoor.com.

Neighborhood groups, the traditional ones and the new ones online, are intended for positive purposes. They exist to ask about a plumber or restaurant, to seek a specific piece of furniture, to find a lost dog, or to clear up confusion about when bulky items will be picked up by the city. I love neighborhood groups. Once, I asked our Nextdoor.com community if anyone wanted to sell an old globe—something nicer than available in today’s stores. I got responses from several neighbors, with the first person three blocks over offering us a gorgeous vintage globe on a wooden stand gratis! They were downsizing and happy to get rid of it, and we were ecstatic to get it.

But right now, groups like Nextdoor.com are degenerating into forums for unbridled nastiness. Far too many people are shattering breakable things (goodwill, mutual trust, mutual cooperation, and much-needed encouragement). I suspect these indignant folks sense what damage will be done, yet they do not listen to the moderating counsel in their heads, so they race full-steam ahead with their emotional reactions.

If you’ve read extensively about the way ideological poison infects society, or lived in Communist countries (I have), or spent time in regions ravaged by the damage of Communism or similar oppressive systems where “inter-personal relationships” are manipulated by open and hidden agents like the Stasi or the KGB (I have), then you know why even a hint of this type of social interaction chills a person.

This is not an America I know. It saddens me and worries me deeply. I refer not to legitimate, if controversial issues like racial inequity or institutional corruption that always need threshing out. I refer to a neighbor (admittedly bored, cooped up, but still) looking out the window and counting whether one member of an already large family talking near the fence with a member of another large family next door could be standing only 5’ apart, rather than 6’, so the police receive a report of a gathering of more than ten people and a violation of social distancing. I wish I were joking.

I refer to a situation where a thoughtful neighbor alerted others online that a few people might beep their horns (from their own cars, on the street) between 2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. to wish her 5-year old son a happy birthday. She wanted to apologize in advance if people heard beeping. Someone else on the neighborhood site brought the police into the situation, who came to say those well-wishers could not drive by and beep their horns. The family would be cited if they did. Happy Birthday, son.

Yes, there are things worth telling the authorities. Worrisome things. Drastic things. Always. I could make a list and so could you. Would these same virtuous neighbors report domestic violence they know goes on next door? Or child neglect and hunger? But, hey, people do not want to get involved, right? It’s none of their business.

Over time I hope those who were safe in their houses, derailed by a sense of panic or with too much time on their hands, might reevaluate their actions and the destructiveness of their verbiage and apologize. They know better. They do.

It’s not the same story as me knowing I should not have carried all those glass bowls. But listening to the moderating voice of our own good counsel is needed right now to keep our communities from shattering.