Great America

Freedom in the Face of the Plague

Going outside, meeting with those we love, and gathering to worship God may come at a cost. The decision to shut down large swaths of our public life by fiat definitely does.

Live free or die!” So cries a noble people in the face of danger. Our forefathers, who prevailed in the War of Independence, were such men. They faced danger with courage and resolute firmness.

Our modern leaders do not.

Instead, they cower. Out of fear, state governors across America dictated draconian shutdowns in response to the spread of the Chinese coronavirus. These acts are contrary to our way of life; we must repeal them.

The preservation of life must include the preservation of liberty. The cure must not inflict more damage than the disease.

I do not deny that the coronavirus poses a serious public health threat. Many thousands have died, and there is much our regime could and should do to confront this scourge.

The federal government could ban the arrival of infected foreigners. State and local officials could provide food and medicine to those who choose to self-quarantine. They could also facilitate the production of medical and protective equipment on American soil.

Each of these measures would mitigate the spread of disease. None of them violates the right of citizens to work, assemble, and worship.

But we didn’t choose those solutions. Instead, state and local leaders turned our country into an open-air prison camp.

In Florida, police arrested a pastor for conducting Sunday services. In New Jersey, officials arrested a couple for hosting a wedding. In Rhode Island, the governor dispatched the police and National Guard to go door to door ordering out of state travelers—sick and healthy alike—into quarantine.

In an especially egregious act, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a blanket order stating that, with little exception, “all public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring among persons not part of a single household are prohibited.”

Even the prisoners in Stalin’s gulags had the right to sit and converse in each others’ presence.

Even worse, these draconian mandates result not from legislation but from executive fiat. State governors cast aside the normal political process in the face of 8,000 deaths in one month. To put this in perspective, 7,600 Americans die from other causes . . . every day.

Hurricanes, tornados, heart disease, floods, suicide, cancer, drug overdoses, and car accidents together kill hundreds of thousands of Americans every year. As deadly as these things are, they are not potent enough to destroy our existence as a people. The Chinese coronavirus should not be different! As bad as the worst fearmongers make it out to be, it does not constitute an existential threat to our way of life by itself.

The same cannot be said of these totalitarian lockdowns.

How can we preserve our liberty when our rights disappear at the first sign of crisis?

Having tasted the power this state of emergency gives them, our leaders will invoke such excuses again. The precedent now exists that in times of trouble we must suspend all of our democratic and republican norms. Human activity itself—friendship, love, and worship—must also effectively cease.

Next Sunday is Easter, the holiest day on the Christian calendar. Tens of millions of Christians cannot attend services by law. Even the Soviet Union at the height of its power could not have stripped Americans of this right. And yet our own governments have done so without just cause.

A free people cannot accept this!

Mine is not an argument for government inaction, callous disregard for the elderly, or insipid worship of money-making. Instead, I embrace the right of the people to face this crisis on their own terms.

Going outside, meeting with those we love, and gathering to worship God may come at a cost. The decision to shut down large swaths of our public life by fiat definitely does.

As for myself, I will honor the spirit of my forefathers. I choose freedom—even in the face of coronavirus.

Great America

The Courage to Disrupt

Americans must heed more than survival instincts. We need a growth mindset.

When we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, America must seize this historic opportunity to transform its economy and the world through disruptive innovation.

Throughout history, pandemics have spawned periods of significant human advancement. The Black Plague ravaged the populations of Europe and Asia in just under five years, laying the groundwork for the Renaissance and unrivaled creativity. After the Spanish Influenza pandemic, America experienced a 25 percent increase in women’s workforce participation.

More recently, the financial crisis of 2008—an economic pandemic—ushered in cryptocurrencies, blockchain, and the gig economy—launching over 30 “unicorns” like Uber, Grubhub, and Airbnb.

Why do such crises trigger mass creativity? The structural drivers of innovation are powerful and profound, but subtle. Every act of creation, Picasso said, begins with an act of destruction, which should endow us with hope that a nation on pause is sure to flourish after this crisis.

To do this, however, Americans must heed more than survival instincts. We need a growth mindset.

Most organizations and institutions are performance-oriented, driven by quarterly numbers, and fear of failure. This hyper-focus on quantifiable productivity, while critical, hinders transformation by restraining forward-looking investment. Organizations, thus, become divided between transformation zone innovators and production zone operators.

Transformation zone innovators recognize the need for investing resources to adapt to changing market dynamics. Production zone operators resent investments that fail to yield immediate financial returns. Most of us operate in the production zone, which Geoffrey Moore in Zone to Win describes as a barrier to transformation.

In ordinary times, navigating these transformational waters requires extraordinary leadership. Companies either will adapt and catch the wave or get roiled under it. For example, Microsoft remade itself and avoided the production zone conflict by appointing its transformation zone lead, Satya Nadella, as CEO.

Nadella reimagined the most profitable franchise in software history to fuel Microsoft’s successful launch into the cloud. In a similar vein, Jeff Bezos transformed Amazon from online books to delivery of goods to the world’s largest provider of cloud services. For the nation not merely to survive but thrive in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, we must emulate Nadella and Bezos.

Extraordinary times like these clarify our vision and spur us to action. Today we see American ingenuity at its best: distilleries are mixing hand sanitizer; textile factories are making masks; automakers are producing ventilators; and honky-tonks are live-streaming Music City acts around the world, collecting tips via Venmo.

After the pandemic has passed, the next big wave of innovation is likely to occur in the processes that enable transformation. Not in online content, but in the pedagogy to enliven it; not in 5G communications, but in telehealth regulations and processes; not in onshoring drug production, but in transforming the way we manufacture. These disruptive innovations will enhance education, accelerate the gig economy, optimize the supply chain, and revolutionize pharmaceutical production.

Thanks to this crisis, from our new perch atop the transformation zone, we see clearly our precarious overdependence on China. Even before the pandemic, bi-partisan leaders, including both the Obama and Trump White House, warned of the dangers of having critical pharmaceutical supply-chains held captive by China, our biggest geopolitical adversary.

This pandemic is forcing government and industry leaders to rethink regulations and reduce our reliance on foreign suppliers.

Our government recognizes the need for the United States to secure the bio-economy, including through supporting significant pharmaceutical production innovations such as adopting continuous manufacturing, launching bio-foundries, and incorporating 3D printing.

When we return new factories to America from overseas, they will have the best, cleanest, and fastest technology available anywhere in the world. But, as we have seen repeatedly, government alone is incapable of solving our problems or propping up our markets.

Paralysis born of fear or neglect is unacceptable. Those who see this challenge as the opportunity of our lifetime shall reap its benefits. Our prosperity is not dependent on the government, but on American ingenuity and transformational action.

While the pandemic may have temporarily disrupted our lives, we will transform disruption into disruptive innovation. And when we do, history will look back at this event as America at its best.

Great America

A Howard Zinn Pandemic

How the Zinn Education Project is exploiting this crisis and inserting their left-wing propaganda into the education and curricula of even more young American students.

In the midst of a global pandemic, left-wing pundits and politicians spin the blame to comport with the propaganda coming from Communist China, the regime responsible for the virus’s spread in the first place.

And as students are forced to take classes remotely, companies such as National Public Radio, Newsela, and the Zinn Education Project—with the assistance of U.S. taxpayers—are ensuring they get the left-wing version of current events along with their history lessons.

Consider a March 27 email from the Zinn Education Project, the propaganda arm for the late Howard Zinn and his Marxist A People’s History of the United States. It began: “It feels impossible to start any email during this strange and scary time without first acknowledging our shared circumstances: a pandemic, an inept, untrustworthy, racist demagogue in the White House; and the disruption to almost every tiny square of our personal and professional lives.” This, by the way, one day after a two-day campaign that offered free e-books of A Young People’s History of the United States.

The Zinn project’s Soviet-style rhetoric serves to introduce new products for teachers and parents educating children at home. Offered were two lessons on pandemics that made connections between the coronavirus and climate change, and another was “The 1918 Flu: How Information Policing and Nationalist Propaganda Worsened a Pandemic a Century Ago.”

The Zinn Education Project also announced online mini-classes led by “people’s historians.” The first one, “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks,” was conducted by Jeanne Theoharis, a Brooklyn College professor who specializes in “civil rights and Black Power movements and the politics of race and education,” and by Jesse Hagopian, who teaches ethnic studies at Garfield High School in Seattle, where he also serves as co-advisor to the Black Student Union and an editor for Rethinking Schools, the nonprofit that produces and distributes materials for the Zinn Education Project.

The Zinn project also recommends a number of podcasts as “teaching tools”: The 1619 Project, “Democracy Now!” (a show to the left of MSNBC), Code Switch (which “explores overlapping themes of race, ethnicity, and culture”), Justice in America (on mass incarceration), Reveal (“in-depth stories,” such as on the coronavirus and the environment), Scene on Radio (podcasts calling “into question the United States’ claim to democracy”), School Colors (about “Ocean-Brownsville in Brooklyn where Black and Puerto Rican parents tried to exercise power over their schools”), This Land (how a murder case “opened an investigation into half the land in Oklahoma and the treaty rights of five tribes. . . . the Trump administration’s involvement, the larger right-wing attack on tribal sovereignty. . . .”), and Uncivil (profiles of “everyday people whose current circumstances are inextricably tied to the Civil War and its memory” like “Pa Shed, who escaped slavery, joined the Union Army, [and] led a daring and successful raid with Harriet Tubman”). In the line-up were also two products from publicly funded National Public Radio: Story Corps and Throughline.

NPR is not Big Bird, as proponents for funding, even during a national emergency, claim. NPR, through these two programs, is partnering with the Zinn Education Project. It seems to be a well-suited match: StoryCorps “interviews highlight people’s memories of movements and events in U.S. history, like the Stonewall riot, voter suppression, Japanese American internment, racial profiling, immigration, and more.”

Thoroughline is a weekly series that “explores the history of stories in the headlines today,” with recent episodes covering “the history of vaccinations in the United States, the biography and legacy of [Iranian terrorist] Qasseim Soleimani, LGBTQ activism before Stonewall, Andrew Johnson’s impeachment and more.”

The Zinn Education Project is also one of 100 partners of Newsela, a news gathering source that adapts articles to grade level and offers teachers labor-saving “assignment planning,” “writing prompts,” and “built-in assessments”—with multiple choice quiz questions devised and graded by Newsela staff.

On March 13, Newsela, which is already reaching “90 percent of all schools in the U.S.” (more than “20 million students and 1.8 million teachers”), offered “complimentary access” to help teachers “embrace distance learning” during school closures. As one headline brags, this “content repository” is “replac[ing] traditional textbooks.” And that content, ostensibly created to be “relevant” and to inspire “empathy,” is produced with the help of a “partner,” the Southern Poverty Law Center, which groups discussions around “identity, diversity, justice, and action.” Recently, Newsela added social-emotional learning (SEL) to their list of products and in their March 31 newsletter advertised “SEL content,” along with Distance Learning Collections and Student Reading Clubs, “to help your students adapt, one day at a time, to at-home learning.”

Newsela was founded by Matthew Gross, who today is CEO. Gross, a former Teach for America music teacher, claims he was inspired to found the company when he tried to find content to engage students, and help his son, a struggling reader. But Gross also had some connections: he was “Executive Director of the Regents Research Fund, a privately funded affiliate of the New York State Board of Regents and Education Department that helped lead the implementation of Race to the Top-driven education reforms.”

Recall that Race to the Top was the Obama-era stimulus program that dangled prize money before states in 2009 and 2010 in exchange for accepting the yet-to-be-written Common Core standards. This young music teacher, amazingly, “played a leadership role in the development of the Regents Research Fellows, a team of nationally recognized thought leaders.” These “thought leaders” helped lead “the implementation of the Common Core,” and next-generation assessments. The name Newsela combines “news” and “ELA” (English Language Arts). Under Common Core, ELA standards replaced much of the literary reading with nonfiction, and emphasized listening and discussion skills.

Last year, Newsela raised $50 million, some of it from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Newsela has more than 100 employees, and the highest paid executive makes $490,000; average executive pay elsewhere is around $215,000.

Newsela recently adapted six of the Zinn Education Project’s high school-level lessons for four reading levels—between the third and ninth grades. These are “Columbus Discovered the Taino People, Then Tried to Erase Them,” “Explaining the Summer of 1919” (i.e., the race riots), “What We Don’t Learn About the Black Panther Party—but Should,” “The Other ’68: Black Power During Reconstruction,” “Life in an Internment Camp Drove Yuri Kochiyama’s Commitment to Social Justice,” and “Education Project Aims to Set the Record Straight on Historical Myths,” the last a Washington Post column from 2017 that repeats Zinn talking points (which I have debunked) and describes how local students have used Zinn Education Project lessons for activism.

As examples, SEED Public Charter School students “joined hundreds of other students from throughout the Washington area in a show of support” for a protest against the Dakota access pipeline (#NativeNationsRise march to the White House). They also began a campaign to change the name of the Washington Redskins football team.

At Capital City Charter, students began a petition drive to rename Columbus Day “Indigenous Peoples Day” and asked the Washington D.C. city council to hold hearings (as the Zinn Education Project “Abolish Columbus Day” campaign kit instructs). As it turned out, the council and mayor agreed to change the name to Indigenous Peoples Day for 2019 (a vote by Congress is needed to make it permanent). Thanks to Newsela, third-graders can learn about the wonderful things the Zinn Education Project does!

Other Newsela partners include the Smithsonian (which hosted two ZEP teacher “teach-in” workshops last fall), The Undefeated (“premier platform for exploring the intersections of race, sports and culture”), and news outlets (who no doubt are happy to provide content to future consumers), like the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Guardian, Aljazeera, WGBH (Boston public broadcasting), PRI (Public Radio International), The American Prospect, and various local news gathering organizations. Only two—the Council of Economic Education and the Bill of Rights Institute—present non-social justice materials, but their positions rarely find their way into classroom materials. There are no right-leaning news outlets among Newsela’s more than 100 “partners.”

Newsela is no doubt hoping teachers and administrators get so hooked on their product that once schools are back in session, they will keep their subscriptions (paid by tuition and taxpayers, of course). Newsela will offer yet one more means by which the leftist disinformation that is called “A People’s History” can spread, like a contagion, among America’s youth.

Great America

Church and State in Virusland

The guilt-tripping of the religious as not caring about public health is dishonest and dangerous. It is religious persecution in disguise and contrary to the American tradition.

As state governments all over America outlaw “social gatherings” except for “essential services” such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and liquor stores, the implications for religion become obvious. Last Sunday, a minister in Florida was arrested for holding a normal church service and thereby endangering public health.

But a church worship service is not just a public gathering; it is a holy assembly. Our Faith tells us that God blesses and honors the prayers of His people in His House and that may well give comfort, healing, and peace to millions. The current discussion over this virus is almost exclusively scientific and economic, ignoring the psychological and spiritual dimensions of the crisis.

Put simply, in the American tradition of religious freedom, the state is not supposed to close the church. That easily could be an excuse for persecuting Christians, under the devious logic of “saving lives.”

The Aristotelean “golden mean” approach to the issue, which most churches left to themselves would apply, is a moderate, balanced stance between the “blind faith” of taking no precautions and believing in God’s complete protection, and the “no faith” of shutting down all on-site church services, denying the divine direction, protection, and favor of God.

This would mean that churches would allow for social distancing, reduced contact, sanitation, and ventilation. It would leave to individuals and their consciences to choose whether to attend church. But the state dictating complete closure is contrary to American principles of separation of church and state and about 2,000 years of church teaching.

The First Amendment of the Constitution specifically forbids the denying of the right to “assemble”—which referred to congregational meetings as well as political gatherings. This derived not only from historical experience of suppression of worship services, but Christian political theology.

St. Augustine, the earliest Christian theologian on religion and politics defined it in terms of “The Two Cities”: “The City of Man,” or all earthly governments and the “City of God” or the heavenly kingdom. The Church resides, like Christ, “in, but not of,” the world—on earth in buildings, schools, clergy, believers, and so on, but referenced to the kingdom of God and infused with the Holy Spirit. The Church, in this sense, is “above” the State and the government is not to dictate to it. Most Catholic and Protestant churches hold to this part of Augustinian theology.

St. Thomas Aquinas adapted Aristotelean philosophy to Christianity resulting in a Church-State formulation of “The Three Laws: Divine, Natural and Human.” The first is “highest” and encompassing the “lower” laws. If the state presumptuously dictates to the church, it is “out of its place”—like a mouse dictating to a lion. If the government makes human laws that do not conform to natural law and divine law, they will not work and will actually make the problem worse.

In the largely reformed, Calvinist theology of early America, this was presented in terms of two authorities: ministry and magistrate; separate but working together for the common good. The state should seek the advice of the church for just, moral laws, but it must not interfere with the Church.

I understand that the mayor of New York City has banned the gathering in churches and synagogues, threatening Orthodox Jewish congregations with permanent closure if they continue to meet. I can hear the murmurings, “Hasn’t he ever heard about King Nebuchadnezzar or Pharoah?”

One of the saddest aspects of this situation is the anti-religious charge that holding worship services means you don’t care about killing people. It reminds me of the Title IX-driven political correctness in the universities that claimed if you defended due process of law and freedom of speech, you must be for rape. The guilt-tripping of the religious as not caring about public health is dishonest and dangerous. It is religious persecution in disguise and contrary to the American tradition.

Great America

Layoffs Anyway?!

In a time of national crisis, the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts begged the government for a $25 million handout before ungraciously kicking its staff to the curb. This is reflective of D.C.’s culture, certainly. But it does not at all mirror the rest of America.

The ink is barely dry on the $2.2 trillion congressional relief package and companies who received funding in the bill—which is designed to help keep people employed—have begun announcing layoffs, anyway.

On March 27, United Airlines announced that, despite taking some of the $58 billion in funding earmarked for the airlines, they’d be laying off staff as soon as the law allows.

And on Tuesday, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, recipient of $25 million in funds provided, among other things, to cover employee payroll, announced it would be furloughing 250 administrative staffers for five weeks, bringing the organization’s total layoffs to more than 1,100.

The Kennedy Center already announced it would be cutting the paychecks for musicians at the National Symphony Orchestra on Friday, and will kick them off their health insurance if concerts do not resume by May.

According to leaked emails, the Kennedy Center leadership actively lobbied Congress to be included in the $2.2 trillion bill, despite the obvious fact that the plight of the Kennedy Center, which is already federally supported in annual spending bills, didn’t seem to most Americans to be in the same league as struggling small businesses, families that suddenly lost their primary means of income, and hospitals short on life-saving ventilators and other supplies.

Still, the Kennedy Center ended up receiving $25 million from Congress. Admittedly, this is a pittance compared to the $500 billion in loans that mid-sized and big businesses will be able to access. But it’s become emblematic of Congress’ inability to focus on those truly in need.

As families struggled, small businesses shuttered, and hospital staff went without protective gear, congressional relief stalled for weeks, in part due to disagreement about how the relief loans to large corporations should be structured—but also so congressional appropriators could pick and choose their favorite projects to fund during a national emergency.

It’s why, in a bill with the stated purpose of helping families, small businesses, and health care providers, a water project in Utah got $500,000, sex-ed funding was extended by $48 million, the U.S. Forest Service got $3 million for “rangeland research,” and “innovative sunscreens” got special FDA review.

But there is something about that $25 million for the Kennedy Center, in particular, that highlights the divide between Congress and the rest of the country.

Though established to be “the nation’s cultural center,” the Kennedy Center is more often seen as the playground of D.C.’s bureaucratic elite. It’s most notable event, the Kennedy Center Honors, features celebrities giving awards to other celebrities while making overtly political statements against President Trump and anyone who supports him. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calf.) gets standing ovations, though, obviously. And celebrities use the platform to push their own woke causes that honestly have very little to do with anyone who is just trying to put food on the table.

The Center’s management says it’s all about the arts. But it’s really about elite celebrity culture. It’s not like they want the general public there. A seat to attend its 40th-anniversary production started at $6,000.

And that’s what makes the Kennedy Center’s treatment of its own employees—the administrative staff, the janitors, the parking assistants, and even its own orchestra—so revolting.

The Kennedy Center is not some small-town restaurant operating on a thin margin, where three weeks of government-mandated closure is the difference between mustering basic survival and losing everything.

According to their most recent annual report and publicly available tax filings, the Kennedy Center is sitting on $500 million worth of net assets, including over $140 million in expected donations. In 2017, they reported $150 million in revenues from programming. Their endowment is around $120 million.

This is an organization that can afford some generosity in a national crisis, particularly since they’ve just been given a $25 million cash infusion, courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer, on top of the $41 million they’ve already received.

Yet, there is a striking difference between how the Kennedy Center, the “nation’s cultural center,” has responded versus the many other multimillion-dollar organizations that have chosen to put people over profits during a national pandemic.

Hanes has retrofitted its factory to produce surgical masks, which are in short supply. Starbucks is paying its workers for 30 days, regardless of whether they can come to work. The grocery chain Wegmans is giving its employees a raise through March and April. Distilleries are now making hand sanitizer.

In Texas, Houston millionaire Jim McIngvale is offering free meals to families in need in the parking lot of his furniture store. Mike Lindell, the CEO of My Pillow, is retrofitting his million-dollar company to make surgical masks. Walmart is paying cash bonuses to its hourly workers. McDonalds is extending paid sick leave to quarantined employees. Marc Benioff, the CEO of SalesForce, has made a 90-day no-layoffs pledge and is urging other CEOs to do the same.

True, the Kennedy Center isn’t a billion-dollar for-profit organization, but it’s sitting on a heck of a lot more assets, not to mention a $100 million endowment, than the ordinary not-for-profit.

But, as Kennedy Center board chairman David M. Rubenstein made clear, those assets aren’t for employees. The Kennedy Center intends to “preserve as much capital as we can,” he said this week.

In other words, the musicians, parking attendants, and cleaning staff may not be able to make rent, but too bad, because those self-congratulatory celebrity bashes aren’t going to pay for themselves.

In a time of national crisis, the so-called “national cultural center” begged the government for a $25 million handout before ungraciously kicking its staff to the curb. This is reflective of D.C.’s culture, certainly. But it does not at all mirror the rest of America.

One of this country’s most celebrated poets, Maya Angelou, said that when someone shows you who they are, believe him. The Kennedy Center has made its priorities clear. It’s a move we shouldn’t forget. And it’s the kind of thing Congress cannot continue to reward.

Great America

What a Year! The Coronavirus Crisis in Retrospect

The crisis led to a new appreciation of contingency—an appreciation of the fact that our world is beset not only by the fragility of normality but also the normality of fragility.

December 31, 2020. What a roller-coaster of a year it has been.

In January, congressional Democrats were busy trying to impeach the president of the United States. That same month, news of a new, highly contagious virus leaked out of China and began to circulate in the West. The stock market stumbled, then recovered and went on to new heights, flirting with the magic number 30,000. Unemployment was at historic lows.

Then more worrying news about the virus emerged from China. It was difficult to wrest the facts from the secretive Communist Party. At the end of January, President Trump suspended all flights from China, a decision for which he was roundly condemned as “racist” and “xenophobic.”

It was not until March that the narrative shifted. In January, Trump had overreacted. By mid-March, he was accused of under-reacting. For weeks on end, there was only one subject: coronavirus, the “Wuhan virus,” the CCP flu.

It seems long ago now, but the dual onslaught of the new coronavirus and the resulting economic meltdown turned the world upside down.

For a brief period, hysteria reigned. The stock market plunged by thousands of points, erasing trillions of dollars of wealth. Whole states went into virtual lockdown. People started parading about—to the extent that they went out at all—in latex gloves and medical masks. All businesses deemed “non-essential” were shuttered for weeks. Many schools and colleges closed, first for weeks, then for the rest of the semester.

Suddenly, millions were out of work. Unemployment claims soared, and people began asking who it was who determined what counted as “essential.” (Some wags even wondered why it was that the people assigned with making such determinations never seemed to lose their jobs. Why was that?)

President Trump began holding near-daily press briefings. It became clear that some government intervention would be necessary. Trump at first mentioned the figure of $2 billion. Congress said $8 billion. When all was said and done, the aid package exceeded a staggering $2 trillion.

You could practically see some Democratic politicians salivating at the prospect of so much money floating about. Representative James Clyburn (D-S.C.) spoke for many when he said so much federal money provided “a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.” Was this not an opportunity to fix “climate change,” support wind mills, solar panels, and all the other items of the menu of the Green New Deal?

But where was the House of Representatives? It was not in session at all from March 13 to March 22. From March 23 to March 26, it was in session for 10 minutes. The “rescue bill” was finally passed on March 28, a week late. Only a week, but see if landlords and grocery stores regard getting paid on time as “nonessential.”

A new, vaguely Orwellian argot cropped up as the phrase “social distancing” was everywhere employed to describe the anti-social practice of shunning friends and neighbors. Books like Daniel Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year and Albert Camus’ The Plague enjoyed a new vogue. Aspiring Jeremiahs predicted mass death and societal collapse. CNN commentators rubbed their hands in glee at the prospect. “The ratings, Darling, the ratings!”

Then, around Easter, things began to change, gradually at first, and then suddenly.

New cases of the virus peaked and then began to decline. People began taking a harder look at what became the epicenter of the epidemic, New York City. The demographics were illuminating. In early April, Julie Kelly noted something that the so-called mainstream media was reluctant to acknowledge. Queens was the hottest spot of the hotspot New York.

“[T]he borough of Queens,” she wrote, “now represents nearly 10 percent of the total number of coronavirus-related fatalities in the entire country. In most neighborhoods in Queens, at least 50 percent of COVID-19 tests came back positive; several ZIP codes in the borough have positive results upwards of 60 percent.”

Why? Well, the hardest-hit area, Elmhurst, includes one of New York’s three Chinatowns. Some of its residents had recently traveled back from Wuhan, China, where the virus originated. The area is densely populated and, as Kelly reported, quoting John Liu, a state senator for the district, many households include multiple generations or groups of single workers living “on top of each other” under one roof.

But that was a long time ago. As new cases plateaued in April, aggressive testing showed that many more people had been infected with the virus than was originally thought. Millions upon millions. But since many are infected without getting sick, or suffering only minor, flu-like symptoms, they did not know they had the virus.

One result of this new understanding was a sharp decline in the projected fatality rate. At one point in late March, it was predicted that without full-bore “mitigation” (keeping businesses closed and “sheltering in place”), there would be more than 2 million deaths from the virus in the United States. With full mitigation, the projected number of deaths was between 100,000 and 240,000.

But April came and went with a much lower number of fatalities. People began to reflect on the fact that, since the overwhelming majority of fatalities occur in elderly people with serious underlying health issues, the claim that someone died from the coronavirus had to be taken with a grain of salt. There was a big difference between dying from the virus and dying with the virus.

But, again, it all seems so long ago now. As soon as it became clear that this was not a modern-day reenactment of the bubonic plague, normality began to reassert itself.

People calmed down. They appeared in public without medical masks, then without latex gloves. They still were cautious. They washed their hands more often and more thoroughly than they had before. Some researchers noticed that the hand-soap industry was doing very well, and stock in those companies soared.

Soon, in fact, the market generally soared. Donald Trump was reelected handily in November, and that was another shot in the arm for the market. It will take a while, however, to repair the damage of this extraordinary assault on the economy, not to mention the wounds left behind on the national psyche. How long it will take to address the incontinent discharge of fantasy money into the nation’s lifeblood is an outstanding question.

There is no question, however, that the extraordinary events of the winter and spring 2020 had many lessons to teach.

One sobering lesson concerns the world’s relation to the Chinese Communist Party. As we got a handle on the disease and then the economy, it became clear that the CCP, to a large extent, was to blame for the world’s subjection to this epidemic. They blatantly lied about its extent and severity, and their decision to let millions of people travel from Wuhan to celebrate the lunar new year endangered populations around the world.

In a more general sense, the Wuhan virus caused many countries to reconsider their taken-for-granted assumptions about the risk-free beneficence of the new-world globalist order in which nations were to be subservient to the ideology of transnational progressivism (and all were meant ultimately to be subservient to the “inevitable” rise of Chinese hegemony). By the end of 2020, people were rediscovering the importance of nation-states, and therefore of borders.

I said that normality began to reassert itself. That happened in late May. But it was a new, more skeptical normal that asserted itself. For the crisis had led to a new appreciation of contingency—an appreciation, that is to say, of the fact that our world is beset not only by the fragility of normality but also the normality of fragility.

Great America

Why the Shutdown Is Necessary

This is not just a bad flu.

Let me start by saying I’m very hopeful about treatments, which may come any day, reduce all these numbers, and quickly resolve this mess. I hope they do. But since we can’t count on that, we have to make decisions now based on the best numbers we have.

Everyone wants to know what will be the final mortality rate. This is a combination of the attack rate (how many will get it), and of those, the case fatality rate (how many will die).

All of these numbers are in flux but let’s try to tighten our understanding of each:

Attack Rate: The attack rate is doubling every three days. It’s still very low—with only Spain at over 0.25 percent—but it has been doubling unabated in all but a few countries like South Korea (a nation we should be emulating). The current low attack rate is of little solace, however, because in cases where we have had an isolated population, we see much higher numbers. Diamond Princess had an attack rate of 19 percent, the staff at a Washington state nursing home (average age 43.5) had a rate of 29 percent, and a 60-person choir in Washington state had an attack rate of 75 percent. Attack rates in the 20s are common for flu (despite 37 percent of people having been vaccinated each season) and for other coronaviruses like the common cold. We have seen no examples where natural immunity protected people at a better rate. Therefore we must start with 20 percent as a minimum assumption and just hope it doesn’t go to over 50 percent. The nominal case fatality rate (CFR) in the United States, using Worldometer’s numbers, is currently at 2.57 percent. This nominal number is very rough and we have to look at four factors to adjust it. One of these factors will dilute it down but three factors will push it up.

1) Down: Undetected cases, if found, would drive the percentage down. If we really have 10 times the number of cases than we think, our CFR is really only 0.255 percent. But do we? Well, the country with the fewest undetected cases is probably South Korea. They are testing like crazy with over 50 tests per detected case. Plus, they have contact-traced and have almost slowed down new infections so they aren’t hitting a moving target anymore. I would say that undetected cases largely have been baked into their numbers. Their CFR is 1.73 percent and rising (the rising part is explained by the next factors). Their denominator is solid and clearly points to a CFR over 17 times that of the flu.

There has been some talk that the virus has actually already spread undetected widely throughout society and that most people have already gotten over it. This question can and should be resolved over the next few weeks with a new test. The current swab test looks for the antigen (the virus which is present in your nose). A new blood test looks for the antibody (the cure that your immune system creates once it’s beaten the virus and which floats in your blood thereafter). If this conjecture were to prove true, it would be great news—although cases are still rising, the virus would be about to run out of new people to infect. The sick ones we see now would be about all we’d get.

This conjecture likely won’t hold up. Consider the Diamond Princess Cruise. Of 3,700 people, 19 percent got the virus, and eight died (and some are still sick). The conjecture says the virus is already widespread in society, so 19 percent detected on the Diamond Princess is not unusual.

But do similar populations all have 10 pneumonia deaths to match? We’d expect any group of 3,700 Americans with similar ages to have about 0.16 flu or pneumonia deaths per month. Instead the Princess got 10—60 times higher. The Diamond Princess is not typical. It only got 60 times the number of deaths because its 19 percent attack rate was 60 times higher than society’s. Therefore, society may have a long way to go before the virus runs out of victims.

2) Up: Falsely Detected Positive Cases and the “Bayes Theorem.” Many, and perhaps most, of the detected cases don’t actually have the virus and this drives the denominator back down. This is confusing math, but it’s well known among researchers and very common among all tests.

Let’s say you have 1,000 infected people and you mix them with another 100,000 who are not infected. So your universe is 101,000 people.

Let’s say you have a test that is 97 percent accurate. If you test positive, given that the test is 97 percent accurate, you are naturally going to assume there is a 97 percent chance you have the disease. But surprisingly, the odds that you have it are only about 25 percent.

How is that even possible? Here’s how:

  • 100,000 are in fact negative: 97,000 test negative and 3,000 (incorrectly) test positive.
  • 1,000 are in fact positive: 970 test positive and 30 (incorrectly) test negative.

So even though you only have 1000 infected people, you have about 4,000 positive tests (3,970 to be precise).

Thus if you tested positive you have a 25.2 percent chance (1000/3970 = 25.2) of really being infected. Some studies have indicated that the current test is allowing for about half of the positives to be wrong. So if we have 200,000 positive tests reported on Worldometers, we might have found 100,000 infected people. Of course, this plays off the first factor of untested people and so the number goes up again. So if we have 200,000 positive tests with 4,000 dead, what’s the CFR? Well, if only 100,000 of the 200,000 actually have the virus, then our “real” CFR is 4 percent. But if there are 400,000 infected out in the world (which might require 800,000 positive test results to find), then our real CFR is 1 percent. So these first two factors make the denominator hard to know, but just realize that while undetected cases are often cited, they are offset by false positives which are rarely mentioned.

3) Up: Unresolved Cases. Also known as counting chickens before they’ve hatched. Yes, in the United States, only 2.57 percent of the detected people have died, but another 2.2 percent are in serious condition, and 64 percent, were just diagnosed in the last week! They are hardly out of the woods and many will die—only 4.5 percent are listed as fully recovered. This disease kills 1-2 weeks after being detected. You can’t just hand everyone with a positive test at a drive thru an “I survived corona” t-shirt and dump them into the “didn’t die” bucket.

Worldometers distinguishes between active, serious and resolved cases, but people just want to jump to the deaths/cases number to get a quick and dirty nominal CFR. By this nominal method, South Korea was looking great for a while at 0.6 percent—that is, until they stopped getting many new cases to artificially dilute their CFR. Once the cases they already had were given time, the CFR began, predictably, to inch up. It’s now up to 1.73 percent and rising every day.

The same is true of Germany. They looked to be at 0.3 percent as recently as late March, and a Stanford professor claimed that by finding almost all undetected cases, Germany had revealed the “true” CFR of only 0.3 percent. But it was wishful thinking. Germany’s CFR had been diluted by prematurely counting unresolved cases. In just a week it more than quadrupled to 1.40 percent and is rising so rapidly that I had to adjust it up five times while editing this article. Similarly the United States has drifted up from 1.5 percent last week to 2.57 percent today, despite discovering tens of thousands of undetected cases, which otherwise would have brought those numbers down.

Even as I review these numbers, notice that the 0.1 percent CFR of the flu is less than the daily rounding errors. COVID-19 isn’t just a bad flu.

4) Up: Overwhelm—COVID-19 has one of the highest hospitalization rates, longest hospital stays, and requires very difficult PPE. It’s exhausting and nerve racking for medical personnel to suit up, disinfect, go home to the family and hope you aren’t contagious. Even getting a drink of water or going to the bathroom are big deals. This is a war for the medical profession. On April 1, 1,049 people died of COVID-19 in the United States, making it the third leading cause of death at the moment. Heart disease and cancer are at about 1,700 per day but those are nowhere near as taxing on the staff. Remember that 1,049 died from an attack rate at only about 0.1 percent, not the 20 percent or more we might see soon.

Right now we are within our medical capacities and we are growing those capacities. But if we were to let the attack rate continue repeatedly to double, which it surely would absent the shutdown, we would overrun our capacity. To be conservative, I’m actually downgrading overwhelm as a factor in the United States. Recent data is showing that the ventilators, while lifesavers for some patients, aren’t helping as many as hoped. Perhaps one-third of ventilated patients are saved. So, for every two that die today, a third patient might die for lack of a ventilator—a 50 percent jump for that subset. I think that we will be able to keep up with demand for other treatments.

Where does this leave us?

The nominal (not adjusting for any of the above factors) global CFR is 5.37 percent but is too muddled to be predictive of the United State’s final CFR. Our best guides appear to be South Korea and Germany. Having already extensively tested and contact-traced, newly detected cases are unlikely to bring their CFRs down further than their current 1.73 percent and 1.4 percent respectively. In contrast, the other three factors have been and will continue to drive up their numbers. Remember that Bayes Theorem means that we will likely never see a correct denominator and that those two CFRs would already calculate to well over 2 percent if they could be Bayes-corrected. But ignoring that factor (as everyone else will) and looking only at the nominal method that most will use, we will continue to see the South Korean and German CFRs trend higher towards 2-3 percent, primarily because active cases will become resolved.

So, this argues that if treated in modern hospitals and in manageable numbers a 2-3 percent CFR is the “natural” effect of the disease itself. Deviations from that are the result of how a country handles it in bulk.

If we were to fully reopen the economy, we would experience an unchecked attack rate and this threatens to overwhelm the system. The overwhelm factor is an escalating factor. That is, if you have a natural CFR of 2 percent, the overwhelm might jump that to 2.4 percent, but if the CFR is naturally at 3 percent, the overwhelm might kick in even more and jump the CFR to 4.5 percent.

First World countries such as Italy and Spain will probably see their numbers drift down (if they test) because undetected cases are likely a larger factor than unresolved cases. After weeks of quarantine their new infections are trending down, so further overwhelm may not occur, but some overwhelming damage is already done. Their final CFRs will probably be in the 4 percent range—if they figure out how to prevent new outbreaks, stave off civil unrest, and restart their economies (piece of cake).

Undeveloped countries will likely see the overwhelm factor dominate throughout the pandemic and see CFRs of 5-6 percent or more. We are unlikely ever to know their denominators and will eventually switch from CFRs to overall population mortality numbers and won’t allow us to distinguish the CFR and attack rate separately. Sadly, developing countries might be better off accepting a high attack rate, as any methods used to lower it may trigger a famine and an even higher death rate. There may simply be no solution for those countries other than to hope for treatments. For them it may be 1918.

If we were to lighten up our controls and let the attack rate rise to its natural biological level, we easily could end up with 20 percent or more being infected (65 million), with 2-3 percent CFR, plus an overwhelm factor. So 1.5 million to 2.5 million fatalities. To be honest, I’m still being conservative here because there’s no evidence that the attack rate couldn’t be 50 percent if unchecked. Then you are talking about 4 million to 6 million deaths. In the event of 200 million cases with 2 percent CFR overwhelmed to 3 percent and boom—you are at 6 million. That’s hard to think about but it’s in the realm of possibility. But even 1.5 million is too high for the public to accept, just to save the economy.

This is why there is a shutdown. Letting the attack rate hit its natural biological number without quarantine is just not acceptable to most people. I’m very hopeful that effective treatments can drive the CFR way down, but with no guarantee of that, I’m pointing out what I consider to be the most reliable current math, if we were to immediately resume the economy as normal. This is nothing like a bad flu. I notice a lot of shutdown opponents who are comparing predicted fatalities with the shutdown and saying that the shutdown isn’t worth it. But they are mixing apples and oranges. The 100,000-200,000 fatalities that National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci is talking about will not hold if we remove the measures.

What I fear the “don’t panic” advocates are missing is that once people start dying, individuals aren’t going to want to go to Las Vegas or to ballgames, anyway. They won’t want to go out to eat or go to shopping malls. Either we shut down with a plan, or we half shut down by individual decision, ruin the economy anyway, but then don’t stop the spread.

To halt the attack rate now, we are using a full shutdown—a very blunt instrument. We might be able to implement a far more precise instrument and get a decent result with only a partial shutdown. The “flatten the curve” strategy actually assumes we arrive at the natural biological attack rate, just slowly, preventing only the overage deaths from overwhelm.

We are in this predicament because we let the horse get out of the barn. Painful as it is, we have to put it back inside by using this shutdown and testing. Then we can look at how we can partially operate while keeping R0 (the replication number) below it’s “chain reaction” number. That is, the attack rate will grow, but it will not be allowed to engage in regular doublings. We have to do that while we wait for a vaccine or treatments.

How can this be done? South Korea and Japan are already succeeding. What to do next will be the subject of a future piece.

Stay safe and healthy.

Great America

Why the Media’s Coronavirus Campaign Is Failing

The president’s enemies may think he’s a joke, but it’s not too late for Trump to surprise everyone.

The corporate media misunderstands the role of a president during a crisis. Above all, people look to their president for hope. Right now, whatever Donald Trump is doing seems to be working. To the consternation of his foes in the press, Trump’s approval ratings are up, while theirs are down.

That must be awfully frustrating. After all, Trump is a buffoon who doesn’t respect the scientific experts. Trump, as everyone knows, blundered in the early stages, letting a critical month go by while Democrats were laser-focused on impeach . . . er, the coming pandemic.

Reasonable people won’t pin all of the blame on the president. America is, after all, a federation of states, with a massive and sprawling bureaucracy. And the most inveterate Trump critics must admit that nobody saw this pandemic coming. People don’t care about what steps could or could not have been taken a month ago. They care about what’s happening right now.

In times of emergency, people look to their leaders for stability. Even liberals, while claiming to oppose authoritarians, have found themselves bewitched by the ersatz authoritarianism of New York’s sleazy governor, Andrew Cuomo.

If at first President Trump was careless—a shameful mistake, to be sure—he is now taking the crisis seriously. Things are dark and they will get darker, but if Trump can play the part of “wartime president” convincingly, many will be ready to forgive him.

The coronavirus is a psychological event, something that works to the advantage of someone, like Trump, who has a big personality and who understands human psychology better than most people. The media are convinced that Trump is a misanthropic monster, but the truth is that the president has a rough humanity. Trump, though you’d never know it from the news coverage, obviously likes people. He has a social genius that will help him weather this crisis, whatever may come.

The coronavirus will test his competence as a president, sure. But Trump’s detractors vastly overestimate the significance of policy expertise and underplay the importance of social skills.

A confused class of technocrats assumes that average people judge presidents as they do—on whether they make perfect, expert-approved decisions. But most people are more attuned to intangibles, such as likability, confidence, and an ability to lift the public’s spirits—in short, they judge the president as a moral figure, whether he’s someone who inspires them, not on whether he’s a genius in a lab coat.

Trump is approaching the crisis with wartime bravado and surprising balance. His concern for the economy, doubtless tied up with his reelection, is completely sensible and humane. But he is extending the lockdowns by another month (at least) anyway, guaranteeing weeks of further financial and psychological suffering for the American people in order to limit the death toll. No one can say that he isn’t taking this seriously.

Trump has shown restraint, too, or at least a lack of concern about making the most of the moment politically. The coronavirus is proving Trump right about an awful lot. This could have been a big “I-told-you-so” moment. He’s now demonstrably right about China, about globalism, about the decadence and corruption of “the swamp” and in the permanent bureaucracy and in Congress —which could not even muster itself to throw more than a few breadcrumbs from the high table, even as millions of Americans lost their jobs.

For years now, the president’s detractors (and some fans) have likened Trump to an American Caesar, a would-be tribune of Middle America who had ridden to power on the resentment of an angry underclass of “deplorables.” If Trump is really a “strongman” as they say, then surely this is the moment for the American Caesar to step out of the shadows.

With Roman resonance, a corrupted aristocracy is failing its people from the halls of the Senate while celebrities offer insipid reassurances from inside their mansions. Hospitals in some places are overwhelmed, millions are in distress, and despite all of this chaos and misery, a major political party finds sympathy to spare for migrant workers and “diversity” initiatives.

The media, meanwhile, are preoccupied with nipping at the president’s heels for “racist” rhetoric and doing everything possible to depress the public. “Enemy of the people” has never sounded more accurate.

If there ever was a time to “drain the swamp,” it’s now. Trump has been given a golden opportunity to strike a contrast between himself and the failures of the bipartisan ruling class and the corruption of the times, more generally. He has an opportunity to be the people’s champion.

Outside of feuding with the media and rattling some stuffed shirts with “Chinese virus,” however, Trump strangely has responded to this crisis as an aloof federalist.

Of course, he’s right that the states have their role to play. But the heavy-handedness that some expected from this “dictator” has hardly materialized. That may come as a disappointment to the most committed ideologues in the Trump camp, who have long seen Trump as a solitary champion for the “forgotten Americans” who single-handedly would transform the GOP into a party for working people.

If that was the hope, then the $2 trillion coronavirus rescue bill fell short. Trump seemed more concerned with signing a bill than with making sure it was a good one. Trump might have used the bully pulpit to keep the Republican party—of late said to be his personal cult—in line with working-class prerogatives.

Nowhere has Trump looked more laissez-faire than in his clashing with Cuomo. Why would a nationalist hesitate to mobilize the production of critically needed medical supplies?

But Trump is no ideologue. He goes by instinct, and his instincts are often smart. His presidency may well survive the coronavirus without his ever becoming the populist revolutionary many said he was, and the sort the moment appears to be demanding. He may succeed while disappointing his bitterest enemies and his most ideological supporters alike.

The president’s enemies may think he’s a joke, but it’s not too late for Trump to surprise everyone. He may even win over some of those who, in peacetime, otherwise would hate his guts.

Who in his right mind would want him to fail?

Great America

Maybe It’s Time To Unfriend People Who Eat Bats?

What Americans ought to keep in mind is that China is not America and China’s problems don’t warrant Chinese “solutions.”

Remember Bat Boy? He was the mascot of the old supermarket tabloid, The Weekly World News. He’d appear on the cover every now and then, allegedly because he had appeared somewhere again.

He’s been gone for awhile now.

Maybe the Chinese ate him. They eat practically everything else. Cats, dogs, owls, salamanders—and bats (not, apparently, interbed with boys).

Raw—and still alive—fish and snakes, cut-up on the spot and still writhing on the plate. The concept of cooking food—to kill bacteria—is not firmly established in the land of Wuhan, where one can dine on practically anything, cooked or not. Living or not. Served up in back alleys teeming with rats and bugs—also on the menu, if caught—by the anti-matter opposites of Wolfgang Puck and Bobby Flay, sans not only hair nets but sans hand sanitizer, too.

If it moves, it’s what’s for dinner. They would probably eat Bruce Wayne, too.

There is a reason why WuFlu flew out of control in Wuhan—and China, generally. Many digestive reasons, actually.

The first may have to do with the menu of awfulness on the table in China. Not just the awful things that are eaten but the appalling conditions in which they’re prepared and served. A diet of Civet cat, golden retriever, and still-twitching snake is probably not conducive to good health. It is certainly a way to spread a plethora of nasty things and—critically—the way things aren’t spread here in the United States. This is not the South Beach Diet.

You might get the runs from something you bought from a food truck, but the odds of getting dead are right up there with getting polio—which is to say, low.

Americans are much more careful about how they eat—as well as reluctant to eat the things eaten in the Hidden (and not-so-healthy) Kingdom.

There is another reason Americans ought to keep in mind, a compounding factor, for the greater lethality of the WuFlu in China—where several thousand Chinese have died.

It is that many Chinese live in squalor that makes the scenes portrayed in “Deliverance” seem hygienic. The crazed hillbillies in the movie at least had outhouses. In China, there’s a bowl—or a hole in the ground. In their houses.

According to the World Health Organization, 329 million Chinese—equivalent to the entire population of the United States—“lack access to at least basic sanitation.” Imagine the entire population of the United States doing number one and number two in bowls and holes.

The Coronavirus outbreak can be traced to the Huanan Market in Wuhan, China. An aerial view of the place speaks volumes. And leaves one speechless. It is a densely packed warren of shanties with scrap metal roofs, with dirt floors being as common as the absence of bathrooms—or even a place to wash your hands.

Stacked cages and filthy pens crowded with live animals—chickens and hogs, for instance—which are notorious disease-spreaders. Little airflow. No sanitary precautions. And people are surprised that people got sick? I am getting nauseous just writing this.

Many of these Chinese already were. And prone to getting sick.

In addition to the filth all around them, there is an almost unimaginable amount of filth in the air—from pollution—which is much worse in authoritarian countries like China (as well as the old Soviet Union; see Chernobyl) than in free countries like the United States, where the government is restrained from fouling the environment.

This is an irony perpetually lost on the Left, which worships environment-fouling regimes such as the one in China.

There the people have been wearing masks for years—long before anyone outside of epidemiological circles had even heard of “Coronavirus.” They have been doing so to keep the soot and other unhealthy-for-living things out of their lungs. Including the airborne dung and cremated remains of millions of swine-flu-infested swine, burned up in a chimney without filters, the hash allowed to rain like snow upon the populace.

No one knows for sure how many of these infected swine were eaten before they could be cremated. Nor whether the source of the infection which migrated to the human population came from the swine.

Or the bats. Maybe the felines.

What Americans ought to keep in mind, however, is that China is not America and China’s problems don’t warrant Chinese “solutions.”

The government doesn’t control our diets and we are doing just fine.

Great America

Don’t Downplay the Wuhan Virus—the Real Story Is China

Instead of directing our anger at the shutdowns or our president, we should direct our anger at the politicians—both Democrats and Republicans—who allowed China to become the menace that it is, and happily allowed countless American jobs to be outsourced there.

In confronting COVID-19, there are two connected but distinct contagions—one medical and the other financial. We need a balanced and informed policy that grasps the seriousness of the medical problem and addresses it even at the cost of damage to the markets and economy.

But in addressing the disease we cannot inflict deep and lasting damage to our way of life: 35 percent unemployment is just not tolerable.

Faced with this dilemma, some have tried to minimize the danger of the disease, comparing it to a seasonal flu. They are wrong.

On the other hand, some advocates of taking all medical precautions are heedless of the suffering that a prolonged shutdown would cause—particularly to vulnerable groups among the elderly and unemployed. They are wrong, too. Each of the extremes in these opposing views is unbalanced and uninformed.

Further, at a time when there is an overriding need for national unity, the debate over governmental responses to COVID-19 is intemperate and politicized. This is also wrong.

It is pointless and destructive to play the blame game. America’s current health crisis is not the fault of President Trump or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). It cannot be pinned on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (D-Ky.) or New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Want to point an accusing finger? Point it at China.

We Should Reopen Soon

Without question, we should reopen the economy at the end of this month. People need certainty. A long term shutdown is not an option, and does nothing to stop the ultimate spread of the virus. The only purpose of a shutdown should be to prepare the economy for the eventual re-opening, which means stocking up on medical supplies and creating programs so at-risk persons can get the added help that they may need to maintain their distance from the rest of us.

It’s also true that there’s been some hysteria about the Wuhan virus. Surely, the initial estimates of deaths have probably been overstated. Yet—in order to make the case that we should reopen the economy sooner than later, which is more-or-less correct—many on the Right have been downplaying the danger of the Wuhan coronavirus.

For example, in a post by Scott Johnson on Powerline, former United Health Group general counsel Kevin Roche writes, “The average person has basically a zero chance of having a serious illness from the virus, even if they were in heavy contact with it.” Because of this, “the threat is actually low, consistent with a serious flu year.”

To come to this conclusion, Roche cites the example of the Diamond Princess cruise ship that experienced an outbreak as this whole thing was getting started:

There were over 3,700 passengers and crew on the vessel. Every one of them undoubtedly had constant, heavy exposure to the virus in close quarters. Using gold standard testing, less than 20% of the 3,711 people were positive, meaning they were actually infected. And out of those positive tests, a little over half were actually symptomatic. [Eight] people died, or about 2% of those with symptoms or .2% of percent of the vessel population.

But this approach is wrong. The Wuhan virus didn’t spread to all 3,711 people on board the Diamond Princess ship precisely because the ship locked down as soon as the outbreak was discovered. If Roche is arguing against a shutdown, he can’t assume only 20 percent of the population will get the virus.

The Death Rate Is Likely 5 to 10 Times Worse Than the Flu

This virus is so spreadable that most everyone will eventually get it, especially if we return to business as usual. That’s not an argument for an eternal shutdown, however. Even if we keep shutting down, it just delays the fact that the majority of the population will get this virus eventually, and things won’t be better until most people have already gotten the virus.

In fact, the most positive case right now is that many more people have the virus than authorities can know, and most of these people were asymptomatic, while the rest had symptoms that didn’t require hospitalization (you only get tested if you go in, and even then tests have been short in supply and rationed).

Again, all this is why we shouldn’t shut down forever, and we should use the shutdown to prepare for opening back up. Yet if we want to open back up, and be smart about when we do that, the correct question is: Out of those who were infected, how many experienced severe symptoms and what was the death rate?

Take the same Diamond Princess example. Of the 3,700 aboard, around 700 were infected. Out of the 700 infected, 400 were asymptomatic, and eight died, while around 300 experienced symptoms, often severe. Eight dying out of 700 is around 1 percent. And while the population on the cruise ship was relatively older, they were also relatively healthier and possibly received a degree of medical attention that many would not.

The answer as to the death rate is that on the ship it was about 1 percent, and looking at the broader population as low as 0.5 percent. But that’s still (ballparking a bit here) 5-10 times worse than the seasonal flu.

It’s not the bubonic plague, but it’s still 5-10 times worse than the flu, which kills in the tens of thousands every year. For those who experience severe symptoms, they often include severe fever, headache, and breathing problems. In bad cases the virus often hits a person with a fever, then comes back, several days after they recover from the initial fever, worse than before. While it’s true that being older greatly increases the risk of death from COVID-19, young and healthy people can still experience these severe symptoms.

Other odd symptoms abound. Many people lose their sense of taste and smell right before they get sick. While sick, many have severe joint and nerve pain much unlike the normal aches and pains of the flu. There are also some concerns the virus can have long-term effects, including on a person’s fertility and lung capacity.

Of course, many more experience mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Yet Roche saying that “The average person has basically a zero chance of having a serious illness from the virus, even if they were in heavy contact with it,” and that “the threat is actually low, consistent with a serious flu year” is completely untrue. We are seeing otherwise young and healthy healthcare workers experience a disproportionate number of severe cases, precisely because they are being exposed to such large quantities of it.

Trump’s Response Is the Correct One

But the point isn’t to pick on Kevin Roche, who is a highly accomplished and intelligent man. A large number of other conservatives are needlessly downplaying the Wuhan virus.

On Fox News, for example, only a handful of personalities—including Tucker Carlson—have been consistent in taking the virus seriously from the get-go. This widespread downplaying of COVID-19 is both politically wrongheaded, and bad for the country—just like overblowing the virus is bad for the country.

It is politically wrongheaded because politicians, including Trump, have an incentive to err on the side of caution during times like these. Voters will forgive a bad economy in times of crisis, at least momentarily, but they won’t forgive a leader who doesn’t appear to be taking action in the face of death. That’s why Trump’s plan—to continue suppression measures through April and then move to mitigation—is the correct course of action. His rising approval numbers that the media is trying hard to ignore show this to be the case.

It’s also worth pointing out that the narrative suggesting the economy was perfect before the shutdowns came along is wrongheaded. America was sitting on the highest-ever corporate debt load to GDP before the virus hit, and the global economy has been slowing since 2017—this possibly explains why the market has reacted as it has. This isn’t Trump’s fault, and the president’s policies have kept the economy chugging along in spite of this. But business cycles, which seem to end about every 10 years, exist. And neither tax cuts—nor anything else for that matter—can eliminate them.

Aren’t Trump’s reelection odds now in shambles? It’s not unlikely that the economy, absent the virus, would have slowed throughout the remainder of this year. But now with the virus, the economy could actually come bouncing back (albeit from a lower level) during election-time. When it comes to elections, the direction of the economy is much more important than the absolute level. And the president can blame all economic problems on the virus . . . and China.

Which brings us to the most important point: Don’t miss the real story.

The Real Story—the China Menace

The real story is that this virus may have escaped Wuhan’s biosafety level-4 lab, one of the only such labs in the world, by accident. Here, Chinese scientists likely were sloppily messing around with things they shouldn’t have been messing around with, which included studying bat viruses.

The mainstream media has called this a conspiracy theory, but even a paper by researchers at the South China University of Technology in Guangzhou said that the virus “probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan,” after a researcher was infected by a bat in the laboratory. That wouldn’t be the first time, as China had a SARS outbreak in 2004 that originated from a lab. And after this Wuhan virus outbreak, China just happened to pass a new “biosecurity” law.

Of course, the Guangzhou paper immediately was taken down by the Communist Party, and China vehemently denies the virus has anything to do with its biosafety level-4 lab in Wuhan. Yet this is the same government that forces abortions, interns millions of Uighurs, and packs warehouses in residential areas full of explosive chemicals. China’s government-run economy pollutes so much that a huge chunk of its farmland is toxic. The Chinese Communist Party is equally indifferent to human life, corrupt, dangerous, and sloppy.

Lab outbreak or not, once the virus started spreading late last year, Communist Chinese officials persecuted the medical professionals there who spoke out about it. China, after suppressing information about the outbreak and blatantly lying to the world, went on to blame a seafood market, the pangolin, and then the U.S. military. Although the U.S. media still repeat the seafood market claim, the Lancet called that explanation into question immediately.

China’s behavior and lies wasted the little time we had to react to the virus. We closed our borders to China, but we didn’t close them to Europe until it was too late. China spread the virus to Europe, and Europeans spread the virus to the United States. To top it off, we now know that Xi Jinping, China’s president, allowed 5 million people to leave Wuhan and infect the rest of the world.

Today, to add insult to massive injury, China is attempting to ship shoddy medical supplies to the rest of the world. European governments are saying that the equipment is uniformly “below standard or defective.” China has also launched meaninglessly small amounts of aid to boost propaganda efforts at home.

Be Angry at China, Then Do Something About It

Instead of directing our anger at the shutdowns or our president, we should direct our anger at the politicians—Democrats and Republicans alike—who let China become the menace that it is, and happily allowed countless American jobs to be outsourced there.

We don’t even make essential medical supplies in our own country anymore, including antibiotics. Incidentally, China has threatened to cut supplies of antibiotics to America unless we tone down the criticism.

It seems even our media is in the pocket of Communist China’s dictatorship. For example, they’ve consistently repeated Chinese propaganda about how well China is handling the virus compared to America, even though China’s infection stats are quite literally unbelievable.

Not focusing on the China threat is bad for the country. Our policymakers, at the least, should be frantically working to get the production of these critical supplies back onto American shores. Next, organizations that have close ties to China, and repeat Chinese Communist Party propaganda, should face repercussions—not just in the court of public opinion. This includes corporations, universities, and media outlets.

Finally, America should be rethinking the benefits of globalization, all the more after this crisis. That doesn’t mean totally abandoning the rest of the world, it means the launch of a new working-class conservatism and middle-class capitalism here at home.

Great America

Why is Queens the Hotspot of Hotspots in the Nation’s Coronavirus Crisis?

While failing to offer an honest explanation about how this disease continues to consume New York City, Cuomo nonetheless is demanding the rest of the country surrender to tyrannical and punitive government “cures” to do what he did not.

According to reports, the death toll from coronavirus-related illness in the United States, according to some sources, reached 6,000 on Thursday. The country remains in lockdown and the economy is in freefall after the White House warned this week that between 100,000 to 200,000 people will die in the United States over the next few months from the Wuhan flu.

The country’s main hotspot remains New York City. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is holding daily press briefings to riff about how we are “all in this together,” whine about the dearth of critical supplies his administration failed to secure as the crisis unfolded overseas, and wisecrack with his brother. Nearly half of all U.S. fatalities have occurred in New York state, according to tracking reports.

Cuomo insists that New York is the “tip of the spear” of COVID-19 cases; it’s only a matter of time, Cuomo predicts, before the rest of the country is under siege by the lethal virus.

But New York is not the tip of the spear—it is the spear.

As I detailed here, Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio failed to prepare for the inevitable spread of coronavirus until it was too late. There were warning signs dating back to January that the disease would sweep through certain areas of the city, endangering the lives of health care workers, state residents and people across the country.

A January 27 article in the New York Times sounded an early alarm. “With isolated cases of the dangerous new coronavirus cropping up in a number of states, public health officials say it is only a matter of time before the virus appears in New York City,” Joseph Goldstein and Jeffrey Singer reported.

Goldstein and Singer described how city residents returning from Wuhan—the source of the outbreak—were worried they had been infected with the contagious disease before coming back to the states. “In Queens, some who recently returned from China have even self-quarantined. But officials have urged calm,” they wrote.

Calm. New York City officials urged calm. (As late as March 11, DeBlasio was encouraging people to go out to eat and downplayed the risk to the general public.)

It’s hard to underestimate how dangerous and deadly that approach has been. With a population of about 2.3 million people, the borough of Queens now represents nearly 10 percent of the total number of coronavirus-related fatalities in the entire country. In most neighborhoods in Queens, at least 50 percent of COVID-19 tests came back positive; several ZIP codes in the borough have positive results upwards of 60 percent.

One area particularly hard hit is Elmhurst, Queens and surrounding neighborhoods. (One, ironically, is named Corona). It is home to one of New York City’s three Chinatowns; nearly half of its residents are Asian. It also is home to Elmhurst Hospital Center, which has been besieged by coronavirus sufferers and victims. (This video shows how the facility is located in a neighborhood populated with Chinese retailers and signs in Chinese.)

A March 25 article in the Times described the harrowing conditions inside and outside of the facility; 13 people died in one day at Elmhurst, although the reporters did not confirm each victim succumbed to COVID-19.

“Elmhurst, a 545-bed public hospital in Queens, has begun transferring patients not suffering from coronavirus to other hospitals as it moves toward becoming dedicated entirely to the outbreak,” the Times reported. “Doctors and nurses have struggled to make do with a few dozen ventilators. Calls over a loudspeaker of ‘Team 700,’ the code for when a patient is on the verge of death, come several times a shift. Some have died inside the emergency room while waiting for a bed.”

Videos and photos of overwhelmed health care workers from Elmhurst flooded social media. A truck parked outside the hospital awaited dead bodies. People were lined up at dawn for testing.

President Trump referred to Elmhurst Hospital last week in an emotional statement during a daily press briefing. “Body bags all over, in hallways. I’ve been watching them bring in trailer trucks, freezer trucks, they’re freezer trucks, because they can’t handle the bodies, there are so many of them,” Trump said.  “This is essentially in my community, in Queens, Queens, New York. I’ve seen things that I’ve never seen before.”

So, aside from a high population of Asians, some of whom had traveled back to Queens after visiting parts of China, including Wuhan, what else is driving the high infection and death rates there?

John Liu, the state senator who represents the area, explained that his district is densely populated “with multiple generations living under one roof, or a group of single workers living together.” Liu said the fact that so many people “live on top of each other” makes it nearly impossible to abide by CDC-mandated social distancing guidelines.

Oddly, the news media is incurious as to why Queens—and the Elmhurst area in particular—is overrun with coronavirus activity. New York City officials are just as sly. The city’s health department releases daily reports that include figures for both U.S. citizens and “foreign residents treated in NYC facilities.”

But city officials refuse to indicate whether a victim is an American citizen or someone who traveled here from an infected region such as China and spread the virus throughout an overcrowded city that failed to institute any precautions until just a few weeks ago.

That’s why it is so galling to hear Cuomo lecture America each day. While failing to offer an honest explanation about how this disease continues to consume New York City, Cuomo nonetheless is demanding the rest of the country surrender to tyrannical and punitive government “cures” to do what he did not. But Topeka and Des Moines and Scottsdale aren’t Queens or the Bronx: people in flyover country, a target of scorn for Big Apple elites, nonetheless, are paying the price.

Further, as the economy crashes, millions lose their jobs, and politicians on both sides imprison citizens in their own homes to “stop the spread,” Cuomo and De Blasio need to give specific answers about how coronavirus took hold and why it continues to spread. The truth might not be comfortable—then again, neither is living in a locked-down country separated from family and friends because a few politically correct officeholders dropped the ball and now want to shift blame.

Great America

Petit Tyranny

The drastic measures needed for this “chemotherapy” against a serious disease have unshrouded the suppressive nature of a hearty minority. Watch “Karen” and learn what she’s capable of doing.

It’s perhaps surprising to learn just how many of one’s fellow citizens would thrive in modern-day Belarus or latter-day East Germany.

The Great British lockdown this week has given succor to those inclined to the petit tyrannies common to countries of our curious pity.

Facebook groups have sprung up, leaping with the caps-locked indignations of women named Karen. “My neighbor has been outside TWICE today.” Such statements spin with exclamation marks, and interrobangs—“Should be locked up, if you ask me.”

One gentleman called the police on his neighbor, demanding his arrest for a suspected second jog of the day.

We are allowed out for an hour once per day. It’s like a Danish prison. Our neighbors, some at least, have adapted this lockdown into a Stanley Milgram experiment in which they swing the truncheons.

No, I won’t call it a police state. I’m not a libertarian. This shutdown, if kept short, is chemotherapy for what is a serious disease. Yet, such drastic measures have unshrouded the suppressive nature of a hearty minority.

Why one would be bothered enough to “report” another going for a second run is beyond me. That runner, by the very nature of running, is unlikely to break the six-foot social-distance rule, unless, of course, someone chases him.

Though, I’m sure some would give chase, if only to force-feed their righteous indignation.

Police officers have taken government guidelines and added a dose of North Korea. Derbyshire Police, armed with drone footage, lockdown-shamed a couple walking their dog on the Peak District.

“Nonessential!” shrills the charge. And it’s one too readily chanted by those peacocking their righteousness, and denouncing their neighbors on Facebook groups birthed for purpose.

Humberside Police have taken note. They set up an online portal so Karen can denounce lockdown traitors in a manner more officious to her thickened tastes.

Some police officers are giddy, drunk on what must pose the ultimate dose of their authoritarian inclinations. (Many police officers possess but conceal this trait, much as nightclub bouncers conceal a Freudian daddy issue.)

One lawmaker broke the articles of social pariahdom. Stephen Kinnock visited his father Neil, ex-Labour leader, for a socially distanced birthday celebration.

The police, red-meating the hounds of Twitter, deemed such travel “nonessential.”

Yet British people have listened. Traffic is down two-thirds, three-quarters are complying with guidelines, green shoots are sprouting. There is no need for this Stasi-era tribute act.

A neighbor might have forgotten something he deems essential. Someone buying an Easter basket alongside their essentials is not dicing with lives.

Neither should anyone care if another goes for a drive. Drivers are essentially cocooned in a moving lump of steel and glass.

To break the social-distance rule would be possible only if they, in a mad fit of Corona-jihad, rumbled along the sidewalk, windows and rooftop down. The problem? There’s nobody on the sidewalk.

Everything has changed. And nothing has changed. To charge that lockdown has impulsed authoritarians is to clamp an ether rag around the mouth of cancel culture. It hasn’t gone away. It’s mutated into a novel strain of petit tyranny.

Not long ago, police officers dragged a YouTuber to court for teaching his pug a fascist salute. The same police interrogate for “hate crimes” including “liking” a “transphobic” poem.

Now those same police seethe the streets they hitherto didn’t “have the resources” to patrol, stopping cars, rustling through shopping bags, shaming lone walkers.

They’re bolstered by their gleeful little helpers. Those who in idle times report others for suggesting men can’t morph into women.

We’ve endured for some time with this Salem culture. And it has much greater sway than you’d think.

This is the culture that forced Prime Minister Boris Johnson to change tact from arms-length to lockdown.

His original “herd immunity” strategy dissolved after Imperial College, London, released a doomsday report charging the current course with 510,000 British deaths, and 2.2 million dead Americans.

Boris bottled it. The cries of The Guardian and their ilk slamming shut businesses and effectively placing more than 60 million people under house arrest.

The great irony is those who’ve spent years calling democracy a “coup,” impelled the man they deem a “fascist” to shackle controls on where citizens can go, for how long, and with whom they can congress.

The Imperial College study has suffered its own curious mutations.

The death count first plummeted from 510,000 to 20,000. Then it suggested 5,700 deaths. Now, as it stands, that figure is “wrong.”

Intensive care units, it is hoped, will now not repeat the fate of Italy. This mild dystopia could compare to an average flu season.

Two-thirds of those, Professor Neil Ferguson said, will “likely have died this year anyway.” A remarkable turnaround, or a hasty retreat.

Ferguson’s revision takes account, he says, of our lockdown strategy.

Perhaps his revision also took account of a rival Oxford University study suggesting the Wuhan virus hit these shores as early as December, spreading invisibly for months before the first case recorded itself in late February.

Professor Sunetra Gupta’s model suggests half of us may have had coronavirus, that 1-in-1,000 will need hospital treatment, that most have mild symptoms or none at all.

This would mean significant herd immunity has already taken place, that lockdown was an option for December, not April, and that millions are out of work and locked at home with a hidden immunity to what keeps them there.

Now, I am not a scientist. But, the violent conflicts between these two studies suggest someone has got this drastically wrong.

Which is a charge leveled at the Swedes. They have changed little about their lives. Bars and restaurants remain open, children still stream into school, those with symptoms must stay home for two days before returning to work. As the virus shifts its course, so do the guidelines.

The Swedes haven’t frozen an entire economy or placed an entire nation under house arrest.

Yet, they’ve limboed the ire of Guardian-types for the strategy they pilloried Boris into abandoning.

Of course, nobody knows who is right. A brief shutdown, to me, seems a sensible dose in lieu of a Swedish gamble.

President Trump’s face said it all as he steeled Americans to 200,000 possible deaths. This is no joke.

But we need better options than those presented.

Is it really a choice between the second Great Depression (one in which 10 million Americans in two weeks have signed up for unemployment insurance) or the second Spanish Flu?

Wouldn’t a sensible, moderate course be to ramp up testing, cocoon the vulnerable, and allow the immune back into a cautious and distant normality? Albeit one in which petit tyranny is never cured.

Great America

Doctors, Doctored Numbers, and Democracy

Many of our so-called health experts are acting less like good doctors and more like bad politicians.

The New York Times on Tuesday reported: “The numbers the health officials showed President Trump were overwhelming. With the peak of the coronavirus pandemic still weeks away, he was told, hundreds of thousands of Americans could face death if the country reopened too soon.”

These numbers, many millions of infections, hundreds of thousands of deaths, were ones that “health officials” had been spreading through a sensation-hungry media for some time. Together with a poll question that framed the choice just so, they had already helped produce another set of numbers: “Voters overwhelmingly preferred to keep containment measures in place over sending people back to work prematurely.”

This, the Times crowed victoriously, had stampeded President Trump to abandon his goal of restoring normal life by Easter.

Trouble is, though, these numbers come from just some doctors—they reflect neither reality nor broad medical opinion. They are synthetic products that hide the (often ignorant) assumptions that they reflect, substitute for reason, foster panic, and ruin the country.

The following shows how “soft” and hence divorced from reality these numbers are, what it would take to produce “hard” numbers—i.e. ones reflective of reality—and the manner consistent with self-government in which such matters should be debated and decided.

All admit that the numbers that are scaring the sense out of the country are mathematical projections. All projections are based on assumptions about the ever-changing numbers of “confirmed cases” of COVID-19, as well as of deaths resulting therefrom. But few—and here it seems we must include many “health officials”—consider that the latter numbers are themselves “soft” and tell us next to nothing about how much, how little, or what kind of dangers the virus poses to us.

Certainly, they give no guidance about what restrictions any of us should apply to ourselves, never mind what the government should do to the country.

How’s that? Because the number of “confirmed cases”—meaning cases that have come to the attention of the medical profession—tells us nothing about the number of people infected. Nor does that number tell us what happens to the gamut of those infected. Nor is the number of deaths “hard,” because it does not distinguish between those who die of the virus and those who die merely with it (that is, they might have died even without it).

To make intelligent decisions about countermeasures, we would need have hard data about all these matters. Yet, for two months, doctors such as Anthony Fauci have messed up millions of lives and commandeered trillions of dollars while scaring the hell out of people and watching curves based on projections based on meaningless numbers. Watching the several curves resulting from the testing that is now ongoing and that is projected to continue as the country suffers will provide only more guesses, that will feed more models and more disputes.

The most important fact about COVID-19, its true mortality rate, is the number who die of the virus divided by the number infected by it. No algorithms. Simple arithmetic.

In short, Fauci, et al., are showing themselves to be typical of our bureaucracy: over-credentialed, entrusted with too much power, and dangerously incompetent.

Learning the true figures about precisely what danger the virus poses to whom must begin by taking into account one thing we know for sure about COVID-19: that many, if not most, of those infected by this unusually contagious virus show few or no symptoms. This suggests eventual near-universal contagion.

But we don’t know how many of these asymptomatic people there are. Hence, meaningful epidemiological testing must include a random representative sample of the population, regardless of whether they are presumed to be infected or not. The numbers resulting from monitoring what happens to the health of individuals in this sample over a few weeks would tell exactly what percentage of people in each category and subcategory suffer what consequences from whatever contact with the virus they happen to have.

As it happens, a sizable chunk of such data is about to come into existence. The virus is rampant among the 5,000 or so personnel aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. Everyone aboard is being tested. By the time that is done, as the ship sits off Guam, and it returns to the United States, we will have a good idea about the rate of infection and some factual notion of what happens to those infected—at least among the sailors’ demographic group.

The question of lethality is not resolved by mere counting of individuals who test positive and die. We have some data showing that COVID-19-positive people who suffer from certain diseases are likelier to succumb than others who suffer from other diseases or who are otherwise healthy.

Sorting out causes of death is properly a medical judgment. The doctors who are scaring the hell out of the country in general might better spend their time using their medical skills to sort out the virus’s specific consequences—and recommending what currently available drugs may keep the sick from dying.

President Trump, as well as the governors of some states, have been stampeded out of their common sense into shutting down the country until further notice. The bureaucratic-media complex has done this on the supposed basis of medical authority. But the doctors have not been speaking as doctors on the basis of knowledge of the human body while offering cures or even palliatives. No. Their judgments are based on speculation about the meaning of mathematical models.

They are not acting like good doctors but rather like bad politicians.

Fauci showed how thoroughly he and his cohorts have subordinated common sense to bureaucratic authority. Having strenuously campaigned to deny the usefulness of hydroxychloroquine, having been confronted by the fact that physicians on the front lines of the battle against the virus are using it themselves, and having been asked whether he—were he to come down with illness from the virus—would use it, he weakly conceded that he would but only as part of an approved study. He cared less about describing what the drug can do and can not do than about affirming his agency’s and the FDA’s prerogatives.

Backed by the media, Fauci and company have contended that actions by anybody, ordinary citizens, elected officials, or physicians that do not follow proper bureaucratic procedures are illegitimate. Who the hell do they think they are? We belong to ourselves. Not to them.

Decisions affecting each and all of us rightly belong to ourselves directly and indirectly through elected representatives. Congress and the legislatures should be making decisions on the basis of open debate and recorded roll call votes.

Surely, President Trump’s low point came when he supported bypassing roll call votes in the passage of a $2.2 trillion bill as part of his and other executive officials’ decisions to shut down the country. Making decisions on the basis of meaningless curves and bureaucratic authority rather than through open debate about hard facts followed by roll call votes is not just undemocratic. It’s stupid.

Great America

A Letter to an Ailing Friend

A few words of gratitude and thanks as a childhood mentor lies sick with COVID-19 in a New York City hospital.

It’s hard to write a story about someone else without injecting yourself into the story. But I feel compelled to write about this: for my mother, for those alone in the hot zones, in hospitals scared to death, and to those who are close to death.

For the candy man in a New York City hospital room alone in and for his wife who prays at home in isolation. Know the candy you offered was just candy to some, but for some like me, it offered a reprieve from our childhood hardships and sadness. You weren’t just offering Lifesavers; you were unwittingly saving young lives. (In the interest of full disclosure you didn’t offer Lifesavers—they weren’t kosher—but I thought it was a good line.)

As you lie in bed alone, I want you to know although you never had your own children, you helped raise many. There were the lentils, the kosher M&M’s—and, yes, they are kosher now. There were the aspirin candies, the lollipops, and the dearth of other treats I have forgotten about. Oh! And the Peanut Chews!

But more than the candy, it was the moments when we were real young sitting on your lap, and as we got older the moments sitting beside you. It was candy you offered, but sanity, love, and safety were the true treats.

Then there was that time of year, Simchat Torah, the giving of the Old Testament that you truly raised your game. There were the big suckers and the candy apples offered, not just to the young but there was always a candy for my mother and her dry mouth. She was your close friend, how close I didn’t realize until a certain fog was lifted from my own life.

You instinctively knew which one of your children needed extra candy, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

I hadn’t seen you in years and sadly, for a while, I had switched the type of candy I consumed and changed the people I sat by for the “comfort” and “love” that I desperately sought. I was newly sober when I saw you again at a family event. I remember the massive smile you had on your face. What I didn’t know was that you and your wife were confidants of my mother’s throughout my struggles, always giving her all the support (and candy) she needed. What I also remember was there was no judgment, no questions, just a silent welcome back. It was never “Oh, Yehuda,” it was always, “Ohhhh, Yehuda.”

It’s been more than 22 years since that day, and we have seen each other only a handful of times. I just want you and your wife to know, you have raised many children, some more difficult than others, and it takes the most special of people to offer the more difficult more candy.

I know many a kid has come in between the time you helped me and today, but just know that all your children are praying for you right now, and it is imperative that you get better because we both know there is so much more candy that needs to be given.

Your name in English means life, you have enriched so many, saved so many, and we in turn at this moment are praying for yours. L’Chaim!

Great America

The Wu New Deal

How Democrats intend to use the Wuhan virus crisis to restructure government and society according to their whims.

In his survey of the Great Depression and World War II, Freedom From Fear, historian David Kennedy makes the point that the New Deal—which manifestly failed to end the Depression—was only a failure if you assume that its purpose was, in fact, to end the Depression.

Likewise, the Democrats’ attempt at pushing their wish list of a Wuhan virus rescue bill.

If you assume, instead, that the purpose of the New Deal was to restructure the government’s relationship to the people and to society, then it was certainly a success. This is especially true of the so-called Second New Deal, passed mostly in 1935, which included Social Security, the Banking Act, the Wagner Act, other workplace protections, and unemployment insurance. Designed to provide a measure of security to periodically unemployed workers, it also made sure that people—for the first time—habitually looked to the government as the source of that security.

If you assume that its secondary purpose was to cement an emerging Democratic Party political coalition, then it was potentially an even greater success.

From the outset, Roosevelt had wanted to bring liberal Republicans into the Democratic fold, while marginalizing the more conservative southern Democrats who generally opposed his agenda. The prelude to World War II cut that short, as progressive Republicans from the west and Midwest—most prominently, Hiram Johnson, George Norris, and William Borah—stayed true to their isolationism. Nevertheless, blacks, urbanites, and union workers began voting for Democratic candidates in numbers that persist even to this day, though the current reshuffling of the parties threatens to undo some of that.

And there were people in the Roosevelt Administration who were sorry to see the economy recover because it closed the window on that restructuring.

Do you want to know where Rahm Emanuel got the idea for never letting a crisis go to waste? Look to the New Dealers.

Restructuring to “Fit Our Vision”

Which brings us to the Democratic version of the Wuhan coronavirus stimulus package. Now, the original idea—a payroll tax holiday, bridge loans to small and medium-sized businesses—wasn’t bad.

The eventual idea—trillions of dollars of helicopter money in an economy where there is less and less to spend it on, combined with some side-pork for votes—is less appealing. But at least it’s still geared toward doing something about the problem at hand. It seeks to tide over individuals and small businesses until the restrictions relax, and economic activity recovers.

The House Democrats had their own ideas, however. Via Senator Tom Cotton’s (R-Ark.) Twitter feed, we know that these included:

  1. Corporate pay statistics by race and race statistics for all corporate boards at companies receiving assistance;
  2. Bailing out all current debt of the postal service;
  3. Required early voting;
  4. Mandated same-day voter registration;
  5. A $10,000 bailout for each and every borrower with federal student loans;
  6. For companies accepting assistance, one-third of board members must be chosen by workers;
  7. Provisions on official time for union collective bargaining;
  8. A full offset of airline emissions by 2025;
  9. Greenhouse gas statistics for individual flights;
  10. Retirement plans for community newspaper employees;
  11. A $15 minimum wage at companies receiving assistance;
  12. Permanent paid family leave at companies receiving assistance.

None of this makes any sense if you assume that the purpose of the bill is to forestall or soften the economic effects of government action to combat the virus.

But if you assume that the House Democrats don’t really see the purpose of the bill as aiming at any of those things, but rather as Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said, “a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision,” then it all makes a lot of sense.

I admit, I made the mistake myself. I assumed at first that, facing a collapse of in-person retail, a 33 percent drop in the stock market, a mother of all margin calls centered on international banking, and the prospect of the credit of the U.S. government being in play, Clyburn meant that he wanted the bill to fit their vision of economic aid.

No such luck.

Every item on that wish list is geared towards remaking society, directly grabbing political power, or solidifying what they see as their emerging coalition. And just because they didn’t make it into the bill that ultimately passed doesn’t mean those proposals are dead.

Democrats happily would insert the Justice Department into board elections, giving political hacks another tool to extract favors and money. They would replicate the damage caused by public unions, by putting private unions on both sides of the bargaining table. The inevitable green mandates would pay off the Tom Steyers of the world. Elections would become even more suspect. And they would include payoffs to universities (what, you thought unconditional student loan forgiveness was for the students?) as well as to increasingly liberal community newspapers.

In other words, restructuring things to fit their vision.

Great America

Is the U.S. Media Parroting China’s Propaganda?

America’s mainstream media outlets like to lecture us that “democracy dies in darkness,” but the truth, too often, is buried in their own greed.

Are U.S.-based media companies and journalists deliberately pushing Communist China’s propaganda and disinformation about COVID-19 to protect their Chinese media partners and profits?

Regrettably, it wouldn’t be the first time American media entities served as willing dupes for America’s strategic enemies.

In 1931, New York Times reporter Walter Duranty wrote a series of articles praising a strategic threat and rival model of governance to the United States and liberal democracies everywhere—namely, the Communism of Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union.

One, headlined, “Stalinism Solving Minorities Problem,” claimed “racial favoritism” was banned, and that Stalin’s policies offered “hope to all sections.” This hideous piece was published at the very time Stalin was slaughtering ethnic minorities, starving millions of Ukrainians, and sending hundreds of thousands to work camps.

In the end, Stalin perpetrated one of the most horrific democides in human history: between 6 million to 10 million men, women, and children died as a result of Stalin’s reign of terror.

Few Americans knew what was actually happening in the Soviet Union, however, in large part because Duranty, whose sympathies were with the Communist regime, abdicated his journalistic duty to be objective and report about the facts of the appalling slaughter.

Duranty perpetrated one of the greatest journalistic frauds of the past century. The American public was lied to by omission and commission, all because of Duranty’s support for Communism, abetted by his editors’ laziness and, perhaps, similar sympathies toward the hideous ideology. Ultimately, the Russian and all the captive nations of Europe threw off the Soviet yoke, put the lie to Duranty’s propaganda, and liberated an entire continent from Communism.

Unfortunately, another strategic threat and rival model of governance to the United States and the free world has emerged today—Communist China. And the American media has learned nothing from Walter Duranty’s disgraceful behavior.

But it’s more than just amnesia and a refusal to learn from the past. And it isn’t just ideology that is driving the media’s aid to the Communist Chinese. It’s profit.

It’s not just big tech companies, Hollywood, the NBA, and academia that are kowtowing to Beijing’s whims. Virtually every major media entity in the United States has some form of Chinese investment or is invested in China. Comcast, the parent company of NBC News, has significant business ties to China, yet its reporters and commentators never disclose those relationships—which, naturally, significantly shape their coverage of China. Recently, an NBC News reporter was used in a Chinese government propaganda video to tout the regime’s “success” in controlling COVID-19.

None of this is news to those Americans paying attention to Communist China’s insidious influence campaign.

For more than 20 years, the Washington Post and New York Times, among others, have had a business relationship with China Watch, an offshoot of China Daily, a Chinese-government newspaper. The newspapers for more than 30 years have run pages of propaganda in special “advertorial” inserts in their print editions, at a reported price in excess of $100,000 per page, adding millions to the papers’ ad revenue.

This relationship expanded over the past decade, with the Washington Post actually sharing content from China Daily via a Post-managed website that is no longer active (fortunately, plenty of media outlets have screenshots).

Despite the attempt to cloak it, the relationship remains, with China Watch continuing to call the Post a “media partner.” The Post is often the most widely cited U.S. publication in China Daily coverage of American news. See, for example, this opinion article about last year’s Las Vegas shooting rampage.

The South China Morning Post—owned by Alibaba, a company with significant ties to the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese military establishment—also shares Post content and has a content-sharing agreement with Politico. Recently, the SCMP published an article that attempted to re-write the timeline of the global pandemic.

Apparently, these media outlets’ calls for “transparency” have fallen on deaf ears—their own. None of these U.S. media outlets have divulged how extensive and profitable their business ties are with the Chinese government’s media outlets; nor have the Chinese entities shared such required, detailed information in their filings with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Still, the Post doesn’t hide all of its business relationships with companies tied to the Chinese regime. For instance, the Post’s digital marketing company touts the work it does for Huawei, a Chinese communications equipment manufacturer that has been accused by a number of governments, including that of the United States, of building equipment to advantage its Chinese government investors; and is considered as a potential threat to America and her allies’ national security.

Recently, ProPublica, a U.S. investigative reporting nonprofit, revealed in a detailed study how Chinese propagandists had launched a significant campaign on Twitter and other social media platforms to spread misinformation about the coronavirus via a Chinese government-controlled marketing company called OneSight. Its clients, among many others, include China Daily and Huawei. Some of those social media posts were shared by U.S. media outlets and reporters (almost all of which have now been removed).

The Washington Post and New York Times have stated on a number of occasions their business relationships with Chinese government-controlled entities in no way influence their reporting—which may well be true since reporters from both publications had their media credentials pulled by the Chinese government last month.

But the months of coverage in those papers raising doubts about the true risk of Covid-19, and attacking those citing its origins in Communist China, leave one skeptical if, for no other reason than that for these media giants the profit motive remains.

For example, the Post reported on February 2, “The flu is a much bigger threat than coronavirus, for now.” Then this on February 3? How about this from February 5: “The coronavirus reawakens old racist tropes against Chinese people,” which has been a new theme for the Post over the past two months?

In fact, in the midst of a pandemic caused by Communist China’s malfeasance and disinformation that cost untold thousands of Chinese lives, the Post has encouraged other media outlets to cover rumors to smear the Trump Administration with claims of anti-Asian bias with little or no evidence.

Fake news is bad enough; but one would have hoped parroting Communist Chinese propaganda was beyond the pale even for them.

But for that hope to have been plausible, one would have had to forget how, for three years, these same media outlets peddled the Russia-gate lie, claiming the duly elected president of the United States was a puppet of Vladimir Putin, due to Russian influence and propaganda infiltrating the 2016 U.S. elections. Ironic, isn’t it, that at the very time hundreds of thousands of Americans are suffering from the effects of a virus media outlets like the Washington Post downplayed for weeks, these same outlets continue to condemn others for citing its origin and refusing to place the responsibility for the pandemic where it rightly belongs: on Communist China.

These media outlets need to shine a light on their ties to China and, we can only hope, prove their objectivity to the American public. Because if “democracy dies in darkness,” the truth should never be buried by greed.

Great America

Social Media in the Time of Quarantine

This coronavirus pandemic should serve as a moment of unity and fortitude in which politics are put aside, and transparency prevails online. Now must be a moment of international cooperation and digital information flow.

The historic sweep of COVID-19 across Asia, Europe, and now the United States simultaneously has gone “viral” digitally and across social media, effectively becoming the biggest news story on the planet overnight.

As is the case with any major developing news story, social media users quickly took to their platforms of choice not only to stay informed but also to share experiences related to the virus and updates from quarantine with their audiences. If the growing pandemic can be seen as one repercussion of globalization’s ubiquity, then the reaction online can and should be seen as a manifestation of Big Tech’s omnipresence in the digital era.

It is imperative in this time of crisis that so-called social media truly be a platform for the people, serving the best interests of users who may have no other way to connect with each other and the rest of the world. While Big Tech has drawn ire in the past for banning users who do not conform to executives’ standards, it is critical that social media actually serve as a platform for all in these trying times.

Politicians, policymakers, journalists, and other public-facing leaders use the major tech platforms not only to find out about breaking news, but also as their chief distribution tools to disseminate official information, statements, and press materials to constituents and stakeholders.

With “social distancing” and quarantine measures in place intercontinentally to contain the further spread of the virus, so-called social media is taking on an even greater importance: serving its primary function of connecting friends and family who may be isolated from one another, either miles or continents apart.

In mainland China, for instance, Hubei province—a region roughly the size of the entire country of France—was under a hard quarantine for weeks on end over the Lunar New Year. At one point in time, Chinese authorities had nearly 700 million people—one-tenth of the global population—under some form of quarantine.

Now, the virus has reached crisis levels across the Atlantic. As of this week, the UK finds itself under a full lockdown for the next three weeks. Still, the number of cases there and throughout Europe continues to balloon, with no end to the quarantine in sight.

In the United States, the virus has spread to all 50 states. Our southern border has been shut off to nonessential travel, and California Governor Gavin Newsom along with New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio have implemented shelter-in-place mandates. Most states are turning to some form of quarantine, if not hard shutdown, and nonessential businesses are shuttered for the time being.

As we have already seen with most universities asking that students not return from spring break, and major corporations such as Walmart and Amazon mandating remote work, there is a very real possibility, for the first time in American history, that citizens will be homebound for the foreseeable future. Real human interaction may forever be altered as a result.

During this time, citizens will be turning to social media not only for news, but also for comfort, solidarity, and connectivity. Big Tech firms should be looking for innovative new ways to streamline remote work for companies, while also providing users with a human experience they may otherwise have to go without.

This coronavirus pandemic should serve as a moment of unity and fortitude in which politics are put aside, and transparency prevails online. Now must be a moment of international cooperation and digital information flow. Big Tech should be leading that push for openness and collaboration.

Companies like Parler are at the forefront of facilitating this crucial transmission of information: history will look back on our role at this time as even more important than that of news and media outlets responsible for reporting fairly on the pandemic. Social media content in this time of “social distancing” is about to serve as the chief record and digital archive for this novel moment.

Great America

Plastic Bags and the Recycling and Reuse Scam

Americans are correct to recognize the perils of reusable grocery “tote bags” during this time of heightened disease risk. May they also realize the entire concept of reusable grocery bags is flawed, along with most recycling programs, and adapt accordingly.

Back in 2014, the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 207, which banned grocery stores from offering customers “single-use” carryout bags. Permanent implementation was delayed by a November 2016 voter referendum, Proposition 67, which unsuccessfully attempted to repeal the measure. Today it is well-established law.

The only way SB 207 was sold to the grocery industry was through an incentive that permitted them to keep the 10 cents per “reusable” bag that they would be required to charge customers.

California’s pioneering ban is touted by environmentalists as an example for the nation, and progressive cities and states have enacted similar laws. But in reality, it is a misguided policy that does more harm than good.

Today, instead of reusing the free single-use bags to line their trash cans and dispose of their cat litter, Californians now pay 10 cents every time they exercise that privilege. And how does this help the environment, when reusable plastic bags have 11 to 14 times the mass of disposable plastic bags, and hardly anyone reuses them that many times?

Further evidence of the absurdity of laws banning single-use plastic bags is found in a study commissioned by the United Kingdom’s Environmental Agency, which estimated reusable grocery bags made of cotton fabric to have 131 times greater “global warming potential” than conventional disposable plastic bags.

And now consumers have fewer reasons than ever to reuse their reusable bags, because it turns out they’re germ carriers.

This isn’t new information. Common sense would dictate that when consumers purchase grocery items, and allow them to knock around inside a plastic bag, pathogens will be transferred from the surfaces of the grocery items onto the surface of the bag.

Similarly, when consumers set those bags down, such as on the seat or floor of a bus or subway car, or in a shopping cart that someone else is about to use, any pathogens on that surface or on that bag will transfer back and forth—presumably over and over.

And even among those who reuse these bags more than 11 times, or 14 times, or 131 times, how many people disinfect them, every single time?

A recent article entitled “Greening Our Way to Infection” appearing in City Journal, provides an excellent summary of the disease risks attendant to reusable grocery bags. John Tierney exposes the absurd denial of public health authorities, both before and since the COVID-19 outbreak, to the risks of using reusable grocery bags. He writes:

A headline on the website of the New York Department of Health calls reusable grocery bags a “Smart Choice”—bizarre advice, considering all the elaborate cautions underneath that headline. The department advises grocery shoppers to segregate different foods in different bags; to package meat and fish and poultry in small disposable plastic bags inside their tote bags; to wash and dry their tote bags carefully; to store the tote bags in a cool, dry place; and never to reuse the grocery tote bags for anything but food.

This is the world the green extremists want us to live in. Not only shall we reuse our reusable plastic bags more than eleven times, just to break even on the “carbon footprint” vs. a disposable plastic bag, but we shall “segregate different foods in different bags; to package meat and fish and poultry in small disposable plastic bags inside the tote bags; to wash and dry tote bags carefully; to store tote bags in a cool, dry place; and never to reuse tote bags for anything but food.” And cat litter.

The Irrational Extremes of Recycling and Reuse

While recycling is both profitable and green in certain cases such as with newsprint and aluminum, for most garbage it is neither. Plastics, bags and all, are a compelling example of this. For starters, there is no factual basis for the argument that plastic must be recycled because we may eventually run out of petroleum. This is easily documented.

According to OilPrice.com, in 2012 “plastics production accounted for about 4 percent of global oil production.” Four percent. According to the BP Statistical Review of Global Energy, over the past 20 years, proven oil reserves increased faster than consumption. In 2018, there were 1.7 trillion barrels of proven oil reserves worldwide, up from 1.1 trillion barrels in 1998. Plastic, which can also be made out of natural gas or coal, will never run out of the raw materials required for its manufacture.

As for plastics accumulating in the environment, the ocean in particular, much of it comes from fishing nets. One of the largest accumulations of ocean plastic is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a collection of concentrations of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean created by ocean currents. According to Sea Shepherd Global, nearly half of the plastic in these areas come from discarded fishing nets, and “more than 70% of marine animal entanglements involve abandoned plastic fishing nets.”

As for the source of ocean plastic coming from sources on land, a report in USA Today cites a study published in the journal Science that estimates 242 million pounds of plastic waste are discharged by Americans into the oceans each year, and that the total discharge of plastic waste into the oceans, worldwide, is between 8 to 12 million tons.

A quick, somewhat innumerate read of those numbers might incline one to believe that America is the prime offender, but that would be wrong. Once pounds are converted into tons, it turns out that plastic waste from America, at most, constitutes only 1.5 percent of the plastic trash currently going into the world’s oceans.

This is where it becomes problematic to focus on recycling and reuse, rather than containment in landfills. Because even in America, it is a costly indulgence to recycle most of the waste stream. To emphasize recycling in developing nations is futility. The scarce economic resources of developing nations in Africa and Asia would instead be much better used to develop landfills.

There is No Shortage of Landfill Capacity

One of the earliest serious intellectual revolts against the modern recycling industry came in an in-depth 1996 essay in the New York Times Magazine entitled “Recycling is Garbage.” Authored by the same John Tierney who recently joined City Journal after more than two decades as a reporter and columnist with the New York Times, it exposes how misguided environmentalism and government subsidies corrupted the waste management industry.

In his 1996 essay, Tierney described how environmentalist journalists and activists convinced the nation that if something wasn’t done, and soon, Americans were destined to be “buried alive” under the mountain of trash they were creating. He explained that most materials in garbage are not worth recycling, but that politicians are now afraid to oppose recycling. He explained that modern landfills are now required by federal law to be “lined with clay and plastic, equipped with drainage and gas-collection systems, covered daily with soil and monitored regularly for underground leaks,” but the perception remains that opening new landfills will poison the local populace.

Nearly 25 years later, for most Americans, all of these misconceptions still constitute conventional wisdom. The biggest misconception of all is the claim that there is no room left in America’s landfills. Today more than ever, there are plenty of alarmist reports making that claim.

From Waste Business Journal: “Time is Running Out: The U.S. Landfill Capacity Crisis.” From Global Citizen: “Where Will The Trash Go When All the US Landfills Are Full?” Perhaps the biggest scare story of all appears on the website “How Stuff Works,” where they visualize what America’s roughly 258 million tons of municipal solid waste each year would look like if it was dumped onto one pile, year after year for 100 years. The estimate takes into account a doubling of the U.S. population over this hypothetical century, apparently assuming the annual waste flow would also double during that period as well.

If you keep filling up this landfill for 100 years, and if you assume that during this time the population of the United States doubles, then the landfill will cover about 160,000 acres, or 250 or so square miles, with trash 400 feet deep. Here’s another way to think about it. The Great Pyramid in Egypt is 756 feet by 756 feet at the base and is 481 feet tall, and anyone who has seen it in real life knows that it’s a huge thing—one of the biggest things ever built by man. If you took all the trash that the United States would generate in 100 years and piled it up in the shape of the Great Pyramid, it would be about 32 times bigger. So the base of this trash pyramid would be about 4.5 miles by 4.5 miles, and the pyramid would rise almost 3 miles high.

That sounds like an awful lot of garbage, and an awful burden on the land and the people. But it isn’t. Compared to the size of the lower 48 states, compared to the size of America’s urban areas, compared to the area of America’s reservoirs, or mines, or the footprint of its freeways; compared to pretty much any other major category of American infrastructure, it is negligible. To counter the scope insensitivity of the average American journalist, here are some calculations:

A “trash pyramid” 4.5 miles by 4.5 miles, rising three miles high, if it were to be poured into America’s roughly 2,000 active landfills, would require each of those landfills to accommodate 100 vertical feet of garbage, over a surface area of 341 acres. Altogether, these 2,000 landfills would consume about 1,066 square miles of land. Notwithstanding the fact that some landfills are designed to accommodate up to 500 vertical feet of trash, or the fact that parks and other amenities are often built on the top of landfills once they reach capacity, 1,066 miles is a trivial amount of land compared to other impacts of human civilization.

For example, America’s lower 48 states occupy 3.1 million square miles. This means that if by 2120, 650 million Americans were still producing the same per-capita quantities of garbage that they produce in today’s throw-away society, those 1,066 square miles of landfills would only occupy 0.03 percent of the available land. America’s urban areas consume just over 100,000 square miles; these hypothetical landfills only increase that by one percent.

Just America’s 10 largest reservoirs occupy 2,670 square miles; the entirety of America’s reservoir inventory would occupy a far larger area. America’s open pit and surface mines occupy thousands of square miles as well, and if America is to innovate its way into the electric age, rare earth mining will increase that footprint. As for America’s 46,000 miles of interstate highways, even at a conservative estimated average width of 300 feet, taking into account all interchanges and not counting all the other national and local roads, these interstates consume 2,600 square miles.

Civilization Requires Tough Choices

The evidence supporting containment in landfills versus recycling is unambiguous. Last month in National Review, Kyle Smith pointed out not only the excessive cost of recycling but reminded us that it’s a good time for a fundamental reassessment of our waste management policies.

“It costs $300 more to recycle a ton of trash than it would to put it in a landfill,” Smith wrote. “When the next budget crunch hits New York—and that’s due approximately ten seconds after the next stock-market crash—recycling would be an excellent program to cut.”

That budget crunch has arrived. And even if the markets and the economy come roaring back, New York City taxpayers have better ways to spend their money than supporting a parasitic industry that does nothing, absolutely nothing, to help the environment.

But the moral argument doesn’t end there. Americans who support environmentalist policies need to think about the example they’re setting for the rest of the world.

The message that needs to go out to developing nations—along with “develop clean fossil fuel and quit poisoning your air with genuinely harmful pollutants”—is build landfills and sequester your solid waste. Americans need to show by example how modern landfills are built, not how to painstakingly “recycle” everything regardless of its utility or affordability.

Eventually, just as eventually American innovators will commercialize fusion power, American innovators will commercialize plasma waste converters, turning solid waste into valuable feedstock to generate energy and building materials. When that day comes, not only will waste management no longer leave an expanding footprint, however trivial it may be, but we can mine the landfills if we wish.

In 1996, in his essay for the New York Times about recycling, Tierney arrived at the ultimate reason for its persistence as policy despite its negative economic impact and despite being of dubious environmental benefit. He wrote:

The leaders of the recycling movement derive psychic and financial rewards from recycling. Environmental groups raise money and attract new members through their campaigns to outlaw ‘waste’ and prevent landfills from opening. They get financing from public and private sources (including the recycling industry) to research and promote recycling. By turning garbage into a political issue, environmentalists have created jobs for themselves as lawyers, lobbyists, researchers, educators and moral guardians.

Doesn’t that sound familiar? It’s as true today as it was in 1996, and it applies to so many issues of public policy where environmentalists have formed an alliance with powerful financial special interests. It is wonderful when one may reward his psyche and his pocketbook at the same time, but when delusion and corruption are the prerequisites for such rewards, society loses.

Americans are correct to recognize the perils of reusable grocery “tote bags” during this time of heightened disease risk. May they also realize the entire concept of reusable grocery bags is flawed, along with most recycling programs, and adapt accordingly.

Great America

We’re All Preppers Now

The coronavirus pandemic is a reminder that we live in an uncertain world. A lot of frivolous things are likely to go away when this is over.

Doomsday prepping has always been a controversial, minority pursuit. While it has occasioned some curiosity from the general public—and even some reality shows—generally speaking, it is not in keeping with America’s culture of optimism and consumerism.

No one likes the bearer of bad news, and preppers suggest that American security and prosperity are fragile things, and that the future may look very different and require an entirely different set of skills than the ones rewarded today. There’s not much need for “marketing assistants” when the end times cometh.

The Left Doesn’t Like Preppers

The Left takes a particularly dim view of preppers. After all, at least one dimension of leftism is faith in government and in uniformity. Hodge-podge self-help, inequality, and being armed all go against the Left’s cult extolling the virtues of government and central planning. Prepping is inherently individualistic, and those of means have a leg-up in their ability to prepare.

In the words of a 2017 article from the scam artists at the Southern Poverty Law Center, “Doomsday preppers’ emphasis on ‘preparedness’ appears to make sense. Family preparedness may even be advisable. Nevertheless, beyond a few legitimate reasons, doomsday prepping, for the most part, represents a dark worldview that combines, to varying degrees, end-times apocalyptic views, an obsession with firearms (and other weaponry), conspiracy theories and too often an anti-government sentiment. When combined, these radical views become toxic and lead unsuspecting followers down a funnel of despair, which perpetuates fear, paranoia, and extremism.”

While the SPLC’s own motives appear to be rooted in “fear, paranoia, and extremism” in the service of their prodigious fundraising, there is no doubt prepping can become an unhealthy obsession. I suspect, for some, it is a “first shall be last fantasy,” where people currently very low in social prestige are elevated if the current social order disappears.

A similar nihilistic “accelerationism” is common among far-right figures, some of whom have expressed total indifference over the stock market and recent economic troubles.

These are not healthy approaches to prepping, nor for the foundations of a good life.

Prudent Prepping

Prepping at its best is conceived of as a type of insurance. We don’t expect the 1-2 percent chance of various disasters, because the future most likely looks like the present. In such a scenario, we’re more likely to die from metabolic syndrome or a car accident than in confronting a horde of zombies. So, like other insurance, it’s probably not something about which people should be obsessed. You have to prepare for retirement and good health much more than you prepare for a six sigma event.

But right now we’re in the middle of a six sigma event, and the preppers are a step ahead.

Many people, even wealthy people, have been caught flatfooted. Friends are reaching out with advice on firearms and other matters. Before the official advice on preparing for a quarantine came down, many had no food or ability to survive even a few days without dipping into the economy and its elaborate supply chains. It pays to prepare for a rainy day before it rains.

The mad rush to grocery and gun stores are showing the differences between preppers and the unprepared, as well as the haves and have nots more generally. Those who thought ahead could focus on topping off their existing supplies. The wealthier could pay extra to get what they need. Even the preparations ordinary people are choosing—eggs, toilet paper, bottled water—show a lack of appreciation for what this particular emergency looks like.

FEMA and others have for many years counseled the need for a 72 hours kit. Here in Florida hurricanes happen regularly. In other parts of the country, there are earthquakes or blizzards. Yet most of us, even those who can afford to prepare, put these events out of mind in between bad years.

In spite of our collective prosperity, we live in a country where many of our countrymen have no wealth accumulated: no emergency funds, no food, and no resources. A great many others have spent their small piece of the pie on the good life: vacations, concerts, and the latest smartphone. They have little to show for it, and right now they wish they had that extra money to provide for contingencies.

There is a reason “Rent-a-Wheel” is a thing. Wisdom comes late.

No One Is Coming To Save You

We have seen the fruits of being unprepared in events like Hurricane Katrina. It was a total disaster. The failure to evacuate often stemmed from a lack of appreciation for the storm or the lack of resources available for people to get out of town. The failure extended to individuals and the government.

In addition to flooding, New Orleans experienced “the storm after the storm,” as desperate people and the existing criminal class took advantage of the disorder or were holed up inside the Superdome. The media made this a story about George W. Bush, but even an American president cannot get people to take simple, affordable steps to maximize their chances of survival.

At the moment, disorder appears to be less of a problem. But we are seeing something like what Sam Francis called anarcho-tyranny. Some police departments have told their communities that they’re on their own, and that they will not respond to calls for theft or even 911. Others have released jail inmates. At the same time, they are enforcing curfews, closing public parks, and protecting the government and its officials, as well as those adjacent to the government.

While there is always talk of the government keeping down a restive population with bread and circuses, it seems the circuses are unnecessary. Various sports leagues have shut down amid the coronavirus threat, concerts have been canceled, and it seems it takes little more than Netflix to keep people’s appetite for entertainment sustained.

One admittedly disheartening aspect of this virus is the “social distancing” counsel. One of the most important forms of social support, time with family and friends, is now fraught with risk.

That said, a lot of frivolous things are likely to go away when this is over.

In addition to making globalist pursuits like international travel less popular, the shutdown will likely make all of us realize that many jobs and huge sectors of the economy are completely optional. Sure, we miss the restaurants and being able to buy things at the store, but how much worse off is the nation when the various marketing hacks and financial engineers can’t do what they do? How many face-to-face meetings have proven to be totally unnecessary? People will learn to cook at home, travel less, maybe even read a book, and otherwise enjoy the simpler things in life.

While there has been a mass push to load up on debt spending nationally, those who didn’t already figure it out are realizing that personal debt can be a great vulnerability. Perhaps some of the prudent savings culture that arose after the 2008 economic crisis will reemerge.

Finally, in spite of its pretensions of ability, most of us are realizing that no one is coming to save us. The $2 trillion package out of the Congress—which amounts to about $6,000 per American—is only distributing about $1,200 per person. Money for small businesses has been severely delayed, and many will fail over the next few months without cash flow. Most of those who are on the higher end of the income scale—though hardly rich—are getting nothing. There is little help and little willingness to help from public authorities, in spite of our gargantuan federal budget.

The coronavirus pandemic is a reminder that we live in an uncertain world. Far from being laughable curiosities, we’re all preppers now.

Great America

Even on COVID-19, Left and Right Are Divided

Even COVID-19 has brought no cease-fire in the ongoing American civil war.

If there is one thing on which you’d think left and right could agree, it would be the proper response to the present coronavirus. After all, COVID-19 doesn’t distinguish between left and right: Conservatives and liberals are just as likely to contract and even die from it.

Yet, it’s amazing how consistently left and right differ on even this issue.

Virtually every opinion piece in The New York Times, The Washington Post and every other mainstream, i.e., left-wing, journal share two characteristics: a sense of foreboding (millions will die) and an unshakeable conviction that to prevent mass death, the world’s economy must be shut down.

Meanwhile, virtually every opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal and on just about every conservative website contains less foreboding and asks more questions about whether the cure may be worse than the disease. To cite some examples:

March 11: Ben Shapiro published a piece titled “Our Fears About Coronavirus Are Overblown.”

March 16: The Hoover Institution published a piece by Richard A. Epstein whose thesis was: “I believe that the current dire models radically overestimate the ultimate death toll.”

March 16: City Journal published conservative thinker Victor Davis Hanson’s piece whose thesis was: “Our response could prove as harmful as the virus itself.”

March 17: My column titled “Why the Remedy May Be Worse Than the Disease” appeared on many conservative sites.

March 19: The lead Wall Street Journal editorial was titled “Rethinking the Coronavirus Shutdown.”

March 19: A column titled “Will the Costs of a Great Depression Outweigh the Risks of Coronavirus?” appeared on The Federalist‘s website.

March 24: The Wall Street Journal published a column by two Stanford professors of medicine titled “Is the Coronavirus as Deadly as They Say?”

Meanwhile, the liberal and left-wing media published hundreds of articles warning us of millions of deaths if we don’t shut down the American economy.

Or take the example of President Donald Trump’s announcement at a press conference on March 19 that hydroxychloroquine had “shown really good promise” in helping to cure COVID-19.

Virtually every left-wing news medium mocked him for making that claim.

March 21: “AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s Breathless Takes on Drugs for Virus.”

They implicitly or explicitly blamed the president for the death of an Arizona man who ingested a fish tank cleaner because it contained chloroquine phosphate (because the name sounds similar to hydroxychloroquine).

March 24: CBS News published a story headlined “Arizona Man Dies, Wife Ill After Taking Drug Touted as Virus Treatment: ‘Trump Kept Saying It Was Basically Pretty Much a Cure.'”

March 24: The left-wing site BuzzFeed simply lied about that story in order to blame the president: “A Man Died After Self-Medicating With a Form of a Drug That Trump Promoted as a Potential Treatment for the Coronavirus.”

March 24: The left-wing St. Louis Post-Dispatch did the same in its headline: “Man Dies After Taking Chloroquine Phosphate, Additive in Drug Touted by Trump as COVID-19 Treatment.”

March 24: The Democratic governor of Nevada, Steve Sisolak, issued an order that, in the words of the Nevada Health Response, “prohibits (the) prescribing and dispensing chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for a COVID-19 diagnosis.”

A particularly egregious example of the left-right divide on the coronavirus response appeared in The Washington Post on March 27. One of its columnists, Max Boot, wrote:

“Radio host Dennis Prager bemoaned our unwillingness to sacrifice lives as we did during World War II, saying ‘that attitude leads to appeasement’ and ‘cowardice.’ The United States lost 418,500 people in World War II … but it would be far worse to lose 2.2 million civilians—the worst-case estimate of the U.S. death toll if we let the novel coronavirus spread unimpeded.”

On my radio show and in my weekly PragerU “Fireside Chat,” I criticized New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the way he defended shutting down his state: “I want to be able to say to the people of New York: I did everything we could do. … And if everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.”

It is hard to imagine a more morally absurd sentiment. Anyone who thinks rationally knows it is not worth depriving millions of people of their incomes, forcing thousands of companies to go out of business, causing recovering addicts to lapse back into addiction and much more economic and social damage to “save one life.”

As we are fighting a “war” against the virus, I used a war analogy to make my point. I noted that if we had fought World War II with the attitude that we cannot lose one life, we would never have fought the Nazis or the Japanese. I further noted that we do not make any social policy based on saving one life. For example, every time we raise the speed limit, we know thousands more people will die.

But the left went nuts. Max Boot in The Washington Post is only one example.

So, then, why this left-right gulf?

One reason, as I have written previously, is that hysteria is to the left what oxygen is to biological life. Leftists pride themselves on being rational. But the further left one goes, the more feelings displace reason.

A second reason is hatred of Trump. On the left, damaging Trump is more important than truth and more important than the welfare of the American people. If Trump believes hydroxychloroquine offers hope, let’s debunk its usefulness.

A third reason is leftists are afraid—of life and of death. Fear of life is why they build “safe spaces” on campuses for students who cannot handle a visiting speaker with whom they differ. And they are afraid of death. They undoubtedly find Patrick Henry’s famous cry, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” incomprehensible, if not downright foolish.

Even COVID-19 has brought no cease-fire in the ongoing American civil war.