What Goeth Down
So the president pulled an amazing volte-face just the other night, and I admire the chutzpah involved so much that I wanted to write about it for a little bit. After we all get tired of that, I want to write about some other stuff for another little bit. And by the time we are done, I trust that we will all be a little bit wiser.
I am not praising or blaming here, just describing. I want everyone to see what is going on, so they can better understand the nature of this fiasco that we have pulled down on our very own heads.
I need to say first off that I do not believe there is a master conspiracy, or anything like that. I do not believe that George Soros is a James Bond-type villain who said, “Curses! The old reliable Russian collusion ploy failed. Release the virus!” Rather, sheer incompetence coupled with conflicting interests can explain a great deal of what we are seeing. But whenever a crisis breaks out, political opportunists are going to opportune, which they all started to do about fifteen minutes in. As Rahm Emmanuel put it, you never let a crisis go to waste.
And so the central thing Trump had going for him going into the election in November was the economy, the best economic numbers we had seen in years. And now where are we? We have the worst economic numbers we have seen in years — the number of the newly unemployed is now at 10 million. Trump had a beauty pageant economy going into November, but alas. Now Miss Economy is lying on the floor of her dressing room with a bullet hole in her temple.
Now I don’t believe for a minute that Trump is a principled worldview conservative, but he is a canny survivalist, he knows exactly what his opponents are doing, and so this is what he did. One of the early factors that spooked our ruling class was the computer model out of Imperial College that said we were going to see 500K deaths in the UK and up to 2.2M deaths in the US. And so when the ruling class got spooked, they turned around and spooked the populace, and when the populace spooked, that spooked the ruling class straight into some More Decisive Action. But then the developer of the Imperial College computer model revised his estimates downward to less than 20K deaths in the UK, crediting aforesaid Decisive Action. The timeline for that doesn’t add up, but leave that aside for nonce. What matters is that he revised his estimates way down. And then Drs. Fauci and Birx, just a few nights ago, painstakingly tried to explain the limitations of that kind of computer modeling to a roomful of reporters, which was like trying to explain quantum physics to a King Charles Cocker Spaniel. But then, just a day or so after that, Trump came to the podium, accepted the initial Imperial College numbers, and took credit for having saved the lives of 2.2 million Americans.
It was a breathtaking Machiavellian move, fully in line with the old adage that if they are trying to run you out of town, get out in front and make it look like a parade. They had determined that they were going to wrap a big lie around Trump’s neck, and so he wrapped it around theirs. Or, to change the image somewhat, he dubbed the lie a garland, and wrapped it around his own neck. But he only did this when it became apparent that under no scenario were 2.2 million people going to die. And the people with all the models, charts, graphs, and projections can’t come out and say that he didn’t actually save them because they could only do that by revealing the true nature of all their initial scaremongering.
It is like there was this cute girl in third grade, see, and you had a crush on her, see? And so you gave your lunch money to some tough looking fourth graders to jump out of the bushes to threaten her on the way home, so that you could run up and chase them all off, and be her big hero. And the plan was going perfectly, but just when the cute girl got her fright, Donald J. Trump, a fifth grader big for his age, walked up and told the thugs to beat it, which they promptly did. The analogy is inexact.
In the meantime, we are all dealing with the kind of situation that none of us has ever dealt with before. The first step is to understand it, and you cannot understand anything unless you are willing to ask hard questions. My friend and colleague Toby Sumpter recently posted five clusters of questions which I would like to reproduce below, with just a few comments of my own interspersed.
How can we trust data projections for Covid19/Coronavirus if we do not know the total number of cases? Antibody tests are in the works, but to my knowledge they have not yet been widely used. Aren’t we missing a very important denominator for our calculations?
The answer is yes. We are missing the denominator, and you cannot establish ratios without the denominator. Until you have the denominator, you do not know what has gone on, or what is going on. And that means that all the modeling in the world is only going to be glorified guesswork.
If many cases are apparently mild or even symptom-free, how can we trust projections of the spread of the virus if we do not know how many people have already recovered and are immune? If the virus has been in America since late 2019 or at least early 2020 (as some doctors believe), doesn’t a wide swath of immunity significantly reduce the rate of spread?
The answer here would reveal that we are dealing with more guesswork.
Is it true that many people who are dying WITH Covid19 did not necessarily die FROM Covid19? There are reports that there may be various state-mandated reporting policies related to this, perhaps even financial incentives to reporting deaths this way. How can we trust data and projections if we do not make this distinction in our mortality rates? An 90-year-old with emphysema who tests positive for Covid19 shortly before dying isn’t in the same boat as the occasional (outlier?) healthy 35-year-old who gets the virus and clearly dies FROM the virus.
You have all heard that the most vulnerable are the elderly, and people with underlying conditions.
Do the mainstream data projections and models take into account differing qualities of healthcare systems or greater or lesser government bureaucracy/regulation/bottlenecks? Is the quality of healthcare projected neutrally between China, Italy, the UK, and the US? Again, if they do not distinguish differences in healthcare systems, how can we trust these projections?
In other words, a health crisis is a stress test for a health-care system. Because not all health-care systems are equal, why should we expect the results of the stress tests to be equal?
Finally, do the mainstream data projections take into account demographic differences, density of population, average age of population, and other underlying medical factors, such as higher percentage of smokers or other pre-existing conditions? And if not, why should we trust these data projections?
In short, Italy is not Singapore, and Singapore is not Sweden.
And to these five questions I would add a sixth. Across a number of countries, there have been a range of strategies to deal with the virus. We have copied the strategy of China, a tyrannical and closed society, which is ineffective and of necessity buries the data you actually need. We have not copied the strategy of Singapore, which appears to have been far more effective on a number of fronts. When are we going to compare and contrast the relative effectiveness of these different strategies?
The Three Threats
There are three basic threats we are facing, and I am going to list them here in order of ascending importance.
The first is the virus itself, the sickness that has, on any reckoning, killed thousands, The second is the crushing effect of economy-wide shut downs as a means of combating the virus. I am convinced that the economic consequences of our ill-informed responses will be far more devastating than the virus itself — which is not to dismiss what is happening in New York City right now. That really is a crisis, and if the city had done more preparing for an epidemic like this, and less time preparing for the melting of the polar ice caps, they would be a lot better off right now.
The third is the threat to our civil liberties. I have written a great deal on the first two, and so I would like to spend just a bit of time in this section on the threat posed by governmental assumption of emergency powers. This is not in any way a hypothetical concern. Let me put it to you this way. Are there any people running for president, who stand a chance of winning the presidency, who would affirm that climate change is a true emergency? And what do governments get to do when there is a “true emergency”? Well, among other things they can talk to us as though we were all Beth Moore and tell us all to “go home.”
The conditions under which such emergency powers may be granted without creating the danger that they will be retained when the absolute necessity has passed are among the most difficult and important points a constitution must decide on. ‘Emergencies’ have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded—and once they are suspended it is not difficult for anyone who has assumed such emergency powers to see to it that the emergency will persist. Indeed if all needs felt by important groups that can be satisfied only by the exercise of dictatorial powers constitute an emergency, every situation is an emergency situationFriedrich Hayek, Law, Legislation and Liberty, Vol. 3, ch. 17
This same reality was referred to, a little more bluntly, by H.L. Mencken:
“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”H.L. Mencken, A Defense of Women
Clubbed by Rome
The Club of Rome, that indefatigable pest house of bad ideas and misinformation, has been pounding away at us for years. Among other things, they have persuaded us that sustainable is a good word, and they have also persuaded us that the Greens are not the enemy of mankind. This was quite an achievement, because one of the things their mainstream leaders say over and over again, out in public and everything, is that the presence of humanity is THE problem.
The environmental movement is not to be understood as Friends of Bambi and Thumper. The environmental movement has to be understood rather as a pagan death cult. And they have been able to do this having stolen Karl Popper’s lab coat, which they wear with aplomb as they use a little laser point to highlight how the graph goes up and down.
From a propagandist’s perspective, the brilliant thing about computer models is that they can be made to “predict” whatever fantastical scenario you want them to “predict” while yet embueing the exercise with a plausible yet entirely spurious air of scientific authority.James Delingpole, Watermelons
I have written before that the progressive left has a ground game, and that ground game is climate change. They want to rule the world, down to when and where you can throw that banana peel away. They are doing this for our own good, to be sure, but their intentions do not make the world they intend to create any less hellish.
And this toxic brew has been in the making for decades. And so my final exhortation to you (at least for this morning) is, in that little Romans 13 space in your brain, that you not cede to today’s cockamamie computer models the kind of authority that you will not cede to tomorrow’s COCKAMAMIE computer models.
Okay. I will quit now.