Thursday, April 30, 2020

Addendum

An additional thought concerning FBI harassment of the Trump campaign. The wiretapping, apparent intentional entrapment of Michael Flynn, and lying to the FISA court all happened during the lame duck days of the Obama administration, overseen by Obama appointees at Justice, CIA and especially the FBI.

Concerning this wrongdoing, a question exactly nobody is asking is what did Obama know and when did he know it? I've recently read no reporter has asked Obama about his involvement and knowledge. 

Those questions should be asked to put him on the record, at the very least. Who knows, maybe he will perjure himself.

Dirty Hands

The Federalist reports that documents from the FBI show their hands are dirty in the Michael Flynn case. Inappropriate political motivation appears evident.
Handwritten notes from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that had been inappropriately withheld from Flynn’s defense team for years show that a key goal of the agents investigating Flynn was “to get him to lie so we can prosecute him or get him fired.”

In early 2017, FBI agents planned to question Flynn under false pretenses and without his attorneys present regarding his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

The note-taker, whose identity was not made clear in the document production, wrote that an alternate goal is to “get [Flynn] to admit breaking the Logan Act,” a reference to a 1799 law restricting communications between private citizens and foreign governments. The law is widely viewed as unconstitutional and has never been used to successfully prosecute a single American citizen.
We begin to see more clearly why President Trump fired FBI Director Comey. Comey is abnormally tall, I wonder if they make orange jumpsuits in his size?

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Reynolds' Higher Ed Apocalypse Looms

Gap Year: " A one-year hiatus from academic studies to allow for nonacademic activities."

Instapundit links to a National Review article about students' college plans for the fall.
The gap year is suddenly a hotter topic, as colleges face the possibility that the fall semester and maybe the entire 2020-21 academic year could be done remotely, or could face serious restrictions on campus educational, extracurricular, and social activities such as sports, science labs, theater, music, clubs, and parties. A McKinsey Consulting report warns that normal campus life may not return until the fall of 2021.

ABC News reported that “Nearly one in six graduating seniors, according to a poll by the Baltimore-based Art & Science Group, now indicate that due to the coronavirus pandemic, they will likely revise their plans of attending a four-year college in the fall and take a gap year."

What happens if the richest students bail out? The entire economic model of campuses could be undermined, especially if nobody at all is paying room and board and there is no revenue to be had from athletic programs, while colleges are still paying for their sprawling real estate and the extensive bureaucratic overhead that supports modern campus life. (snip) Some schools on the margins may go out of business; others may finally face real pressure to trim back layers of administration and delay campus-life building projects.
What if close to half the kids are only there for the good times? In the absence of which, living at home and doing classwork on line may not appeal, and a fair number who don't continue will never finish.

This leaves them with large loans, no degree, and little way to ever repay. That worst-of-all-worlds predicament could elect a Bernie Sanders clone in 2024.

Caution Advised

Lucianne.com links to a Yahoo News article about Hydrochloroquine and Covid-19. The article quotes a group called the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons as claiming the following.
To date, the total number of reported patients treated with HCQ, with or without zinc and the widely used antibiotic azithromycin, is 2,333, writes AAPS, in observational data from China, France, South Korea, Algeria, and the U.S. Of these, 2,137 or 91.6 percent improved clinically. There were 63 deaths, all but 11 in a single retrospective report from the Veterans Administration where the patients were severely ill.
I'd really like to believe this is true, and it could in fact be true. However, Wikipedia describes the official-sounding Association of American Physicians and Surgeons in these words.
The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) is a politically conservative non-profit association founded in 1943. It is opposed to the Affordable Care Act and other forms of universal health insurance.[1][2] The group was reported to have about 4,000 members in 2005, and 5,000 in 2014.

The association is generally recognized as politically conservative or ultra-conservative, and its publication advocates a range of scientifically discredited hypotheses, including the belief that HIV does not cause AIDS, that being gay reduces life expectancy, that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer, and that there is a causal relationship between vaccines and autism.
That description suggests not viewing the AAPS as experts. Their beliefs, if accurately described, are bunkum. This group is exactly who you do not want an endorsement from.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Economic Intercourse?

CBS Miami interviewed presumptive Democrat nominee for president Joe Biden, during which he made the following comments, transcript at the Daily Wire.
I would get much more engaged in the world, we can’t step back. If in fact, for example, we solve the problem in the United States of America and you don’t solve it in other parts of the world, you know what’s going to happen? You’re going to have travel bans, you’re going to not be able to do, have economic intercourse around the world.
Biden's use of "economic intercourse" is absolutely correct English and makes perfect sense as used, as a synonym for "foreign trade." It could also accurately, if sarcastically, refer to prostitution.

You'd hope a candidate for president who stands accused of sexual assault by a former employee would avoid this sort of double entendre in laying out (pun intended) his foreign policy. His candidacy will be fun to watch and comment upon ... tres snarkalicious.

Shoes Dropping, and a Quote

If you've been following Tara Reade's #MeToo accusations against presumptive Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden, another 2 shoes have fallen. Her next-door neighbor in the mid-1990s, one Lynda LaCasse, says she remembers talking with Tara about the sexual assault, and telling Reade she should report it to the police.

The article also reports Lorraine Sanchez, who worked with Reade in CA, remembers hearing Reade's story too. It certainly appears the legacy media believe #MeToo only applies to Republicans.

My choice for quote of the day, Tara Reade about the Joe Biden groping encounter.
I wanted to be a senator, I didn't want to sleep with one.

The Antidote

Have you been experiencing unwarranted optimism about the Covid-19 epidemic? Altogether too cheerful, are you? I just read an 'antidote' to your cheeriness at The Atlantic.

A policy wonk with the unlikely name of Yascha Mounk writes that the pandemic outlook is gloomy. Mounk concludes we are far from herd immunity, have no useful treatments, no vaccine in sight, and our government is not being helpful.

He writes we have next-to-no chance of contact tracing (I agree) unlike smaller, more regimented societies. Like most leftists, he appears to regret our unwillingness to be surveilled, to do what our 'betters' believe we should. If only we had the hive mentality ... for which lack I thank Heavens.

Maybe Not “Policies”

Hospitals are in trouble, too many beds are empty, revenues are therefore down and layoffs of not-busy staff impend. I’ve seen several commenters blaming Covid-19 policies for this state of affairs.

Maybe they are correct, maybe not. I’d like to propose an alternate hypothesis. The same people President Trump and VP Pence keep praising for staying home and following the guidelines are avoiding hospitals which they view as places to catch Covid-19.

I ask myself, would I enter our nearby hospital now unless I felt in imminent danger of dying? I answer that question with a clear “No.”

What would it take to get me through its doors? Answer: a suspected heart attack, stroke, or massive trauma as from a car crash or fire. Something very painful or immediately life-threatening, including suspected CoV.

What would I avoid going there for? Anything even remotely elective, say a new knee or hip replacement, a colonoscopy, any procedure I can reasonably postpone.

What we’re learning is that a surprisingly large proportion of what happens at your local hospital is other-than-acute care, procedures to make people more safe, comfortable or attractive but in some sense “elective” or perhaps a better term is “postponable.”

We’ve been told that governments or hospitals have “banned” such activities. I suspect what’s really happening is that neither elective patients nor their physicians are very willing to go to a place where people are actively sick with, and dying from, the “killer cold.”

I predict a change in “policies” won’t bring ‘em back. We may need to create facilities for plague victims separate from those for “normal” hospital activities which involve less risk of cross-contamination, of shared infection.

The problem may be one of perception, but perceptions people act upon become realities we end up having to work around. Expect also to see empty beds in long-term care facilities, for the same reasons.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Kotkin: Sprawl Beats Density

Writing OpEd for The Los Angeles Times, Joel Kotkin compares the LA and NYC models of how a big city can be configured, as seen through the lens of the Covid-19 pandemic.
For nearly a century, Los Angeles’ urban form has infuriated urbanists who prefer a more concentrated model built around a single central core.

Yet, in the COVID-19 pandemic, our much-maligned dispersed urban pattern has proven a major asset. Los Angeles and its surrounding suburbs have had a considerable number of cases, but overall this highly diverse, globally engaged region has managed to keep rates of infection well below that of dense, transit-dependent New York City.

As of April 24, Los Angeles County, with nearly 2 million more residents than the five boroughs, had 850 coronavirus-related deaths compared with 16,646 in New York City.
My back-of-envelope calculation suggests NYC has had 20 times the deaths of LA County, with fewer people. Even the math-challenged can understand those numbers. Urban sprawl is healthier for people, if not for the planet, than is urban density, end of discussion.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Pseudoscience

Chris "Fredo" Cuomo of CNN is a well-known #neverTrump figure of the media. It happens that Cuomo's wife Cristina is a nutcase, check out what Ben Domenech of The Federalist quotes from her far-from-private blog.
“Here is a more affordable way of neutralizing heavy metals: Twice, I took a bath. I added ½ cup ONLY of Clorox to a full bath of warm water to combat the radiation and metals in my system and oxygenate it,” she suggests. “We want to neutralize heavy metals because they slow-up the electromagnetic frequency of our cells, which is our energy field, and we need a good flow of energy.”
Domenech has a bunch more of this total nonsense, but a sample gives you the flavor without automatically triggering your gag reflex. It's looney tunes time.

Poor Chris, imagine if your children got half their genes from someone this 'original' ... scary. He makes fun of Trump on air and comes home to her.

Later ... This person is also the sister-in-law of Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York who is often mentioned wistfully by those who don't like either Trump or Biden. If Andrew ever becomes president, she will fill the Billy Carter role in his administration. Hat tip to Ed Driscoll at Instapundit for the link.

Circling Torpedoes

Last Wednesday we wrote about #MeToo allegations against presumptive Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden by his former staffer, Tara Reade. Biden has denied groping her.

Now video tape has surfaced of Larry King taking a call from Reade's mother on his CNN show 27 years ago. She was asking how her daughter should have dealt with "problems" with her senator boss, short of going to the press.

CNN hates Trump, makes few bones about it, and hopes for a Biden win this November. Now it turns out call-in comments made on one of their shows could help torpedo Biden’s chances of beating Trump. I love the irony, CNN hoist by their own petard.

This pretty much proves Reade didn't just invent whatever problems she had with Biden since he's run for president. Standards have changed, it is easy to believe 27 years ago her mother didn't want to say explicitly her daughter was sexually assaulted. Victimhood wasn't so prized in 1993.

Etymological Note: Shakespeare’s elegant petard metaphor renders literally in modern English as blown up by one’s own bomb, self-damaging, or in modern slang, a self-own.

Later ... Link to the King video repaired, earlier link went dead. The reason: CNN acting like a cat who had an "accident" on a hard surface ... attempting a coverup.

A Tragicomedy of Errors

I support the U.S. military, my father. three uncles and an aunt served. That support doesn't mean I believe they never screw up, we have an unfortunate example before us.

Captain Brett Crozier of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt confronted a Covid-19 outbreak on his ship and believed, correctly or otherwise, that his superior wasn't taking it seriously. His behavior suggests his boss wouldn't let him take steps to ameliorate the situation.

So he wrote a perhaps intemperate email up the chain of command, someone leaked it to the media, and the Acting Secretary of the Navy relieved him from command. After which that Acting Secretary flew out to the ship, told the crew the former captain was "naive and stupid" and reportedly was booed by the crew. He has since resigned, likely under pressure.

Now CNBC reports that the Navy has recommended reinstating Captain Brett Crozier as captain of the ill-fated Theodore Roosevelt. It sits in port at Guam while they try to get the CoV outbreak under control. Social distancing simply isn't possible on a warship; reportedly over 800 of the nearly 4100 crew have tested positive for CoV.

This whole thing is a public relations disaster, start to finish. Nobody ends up looking good, not the Navy, not the Administration, and particularly not Captain Crozier's boss who seemingly told him to tough it out and not be a wimp. Whoever stonewalled Crozier should be thinking about taking retirement more or less yesterday.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Plague Diary

This time of year we live a couple of hours drive north of the CA state capital, Sacramento. We had occasion to go into our nearby small town this early afternoon to pick up a birthday cake and a few groceries.

We weren't quite the only people in the grocery wearing face masks. I saw a few others, but most were unmasked and somewhat half-hearted about social distancing too.

This was the first time the market had available a choice of toilet paper brands. When the lock-down started I believe I wrote that I'd believe it was ending when toilet paper reappeared in the stores. I guess I have to say we've reached that milestone. They were still out of yeast which a relative doesn't have and would like if we can send him some.

I look forward to taking a CoV antibody test sometime in the next few weeks, to see if I have had a mostly symptomless case. Neither result will surprise me; I'm genuinely uncertain if I had a brush with it or merely the spring allergies.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously called our nation’s states the “laboratories of democracy.” He wrote in New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann that a “state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”

President Trump is taking this approach with the Covid-19 crisis, allowing state governors, who are closer to the situation in their individual states, to decide what is right for their constituents. This is both wise, and politically expedient, as the blame for a too-early, insufficiently cautious opening of the economy then falls on the governor, not on the president. Unsurprisingly, governors like this policy and even Democrat governors have praised it and him for choosing to delegate.

Clearly, for instance, the governor of Wyoming whose state has the lowest population density in the lower 48 (6/sq. mile) deals with a vastly different situation than the governor of, for instance, New Jersey which is highest at 1218 people per square mile. In WY social distancing is how we live normally; in NJ or RI they have to work at it.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Farewell to Drudge Report

Matt Drudge, or at least the Drudge Report site, has gone from pro-Trump to #neverTrump. Various theories exist of why this is so; none has been proven to my satisfaction. In spite of its continued utility, as a supporter of the President I will no longer cite it.

Patronage, or the lack thereof, is the way the market signals a vendor whether or not s/he is on the right track. My non-patronage is my signal to whoever is now running Drudge Report I do not approve of the change.

I found a site - Western Free Press - which describes substitutes for DR one might use. I've checked out several and decided to give the News Ammo page a trial.

Luxury or Necessity

A continuing theme at COTTonLINE is the downside of urbanization; we are frank exponents of low density living. You’re either tired of us harping on the theme or in agreement with it.

If you favor low density living, Jim Geraghty of National Review has a column you’ll like. He thinks it’s possible the CoV scare will cause many urban dwellers to rethink that choice. Especially influential is the adaptation of office workers to working at home, which many including one nephew and another nephew’s wife, are today doing.
At some point the coronavirus crisis will end, but one of the extraordinarily difficult lessons of this ordeal is that the catastrophic scenarios that sound like something out of science fiction can happen in real life, and that the vast majority of us are at the mercy of fate in these scenarios. (snip) Someday, humanity could encounter one (virus) that is even worse

This outbreak is likely to accelerate the trend of seeing urban life as a luxury for the wealthy and young and a necessity for the poor and old.

Now we are learning, once again, that densely packed cities are particularly dangerous places to be during a disease outbreak.
I’d take issue with his judgment of “urban life” being a “necessity” for the old. It’s really only necessary for the old who are poor unless one is so frail one needs to be five minutes from an emergency room. Even then, small city life works.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Contact Tracing

People in positions of authority are talking about getting to a place where we can identify people with Covid-19 symptoms and a positive active virus test result. They then propose "contact tracing" to find out from whom they may have contacted the virus and to whom they may have passed it along. I doubt that will be possible, for two reasons.

First, something like 45% of those who have the disease never are sick, but are nevertheless contagious.  Short of testing everyone every week or two, how will you pick these up? Second, people who ride crowded public transportation - subway cars or buses - have no idea who they're riding beside or in front of; whose hand held the strap they're now hanging onto before they boarded.

Add those two together and contact tracing will only work for those who commute alone in their car and are face-to-face with a limited number throughout the day. Imagine trying to do contact tracing for a barber who takes walk-ins, or a cabbie who's flagged down by cash fares he encounters a single time. Or someone who works the counter at McDonalds or the DMV. Contact tracing is not feasible.

Sunshine

A very interesting presentation this afternoon at the now-daily White House briefing dealing with the coronavirus outbreak. The Director of a Dept. of Homeland Security installation at Fort Detrick located in Frederick, MD, reported on research they've been doing on how long the Covid-19 virus in human saliva or mucus survives on hard surfaces.

It turns out that more heat, higher humidity and direct sunlight (UV rays) drastically reduce the virus' survivability on hard surfaces. Not to zero, unfortunately, but they do shorten the 'lifespan' by a large factor. This was learned via lab tests varying these three factors.

A similar finding was reported earlier by Chinese researchers, but I've been more than cautious about putting much faith in what they're permitted to report. I'm inclined to trust our DHS people.

This finding suggests you are safer outdoors, in direct sunlight, if you must be around people with whom you are not sequestered. I would still try to stay 6' away from them if possible. It also suggests that UV sources may be helpful in reducing viral load indoors. Do not overdose on UV, however, down that road are sunburn and skin cancer.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Hemingway on the Biden Accusation

Scott Johnson at Power Line posts audio of an interview of Federalist columnist and Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway by DC radio host Larry O'Connor done five days ago. Her topic, how differently the media have treated allegations of sexual impropriety against Supreme Court nominee Bret Kavanaugh and presumptive Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden.

As Hemingway points out, the differences are night and day, black and white, "believe all women" vs. "boys will be boys." She is absolutely unsparing in her critique of the media's near-total failure to cover the Biden allegations, compared to the full-court press to which media subjected Kavanaugh.

Hemingway notes that, unlike Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford, Biden accuser Tara Reade told people (who remember it) what happened to her when it happened, not decades later. The interview lasts about 16 minutes and is worth your time.

Good News in a Time of Bad News

Power Line's Steven Hayward links to a Boston Herald article that, honestly, you gotta love.
Harvard is grudgingly giving up nearly $9 million in coronavirus relief after President Trump called out the elite university over federal aid awarded to schools as others are fighting for their economic lives.

The university announced Wednesday afternoon the school “has decided not to seek or accept the funds allocated to it by statute” as part of the nation’s Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.

Harvard’s decision to walk away from the money comes a day after Trump lambasted the Cambridge university for even considering the stipend — especially with the school sitting on a $40 billion endowment.
I join Hayward in adding we aren't yet tired of the winning, Mr. President.

Suspension of Immigration and Related Thoughts

Huge numbers are unemployed as a result of coronavirus shutdowns of their workplaces. In reaction, President Trump intends to turn off legal immigration for some period during the Covid-19 crisis.

His goal is to block new green card foreign workers competing with laid off American workers. How is this anything but sensible?

Tech firm leaders love the H1b visa because it nets them malleable low-wage programmers and engineers from India, China, and elsewhere, and saves them salary money. Belt-tightening in Silicon is the least we can ask of billionaire technerds. They can do their part in this pandemic too.

And of course, continued enforcement of illegal immigration is needed to protect our out-of-work blue collar folks. Illegals compete with them for less-exalted jobs.
----------

Former SecState John Kerry was quoted on MSNBC as saying Trump is not the leader of the free world, and he's probably correct that there isn't one. Trump is elected by us to lead the U.S. and, where it is mutually beneficial, work with those chosen to lead other nations.

Trump understands The Wizard of Id version of the Golden Rule, namely that he who has the gold, makes the rules. Nations want to sell things to the U.S. and Trump can either facilitate or impede their ability to do so, meaning he can turn on or off the "gold" in the form of dollars.

Unlike some other presidents, Trump is willing to use this leverage to improve the "deal" we get from trading partners in return. More power to him.

CoV and the Cytokine Storm

Writing in The Atlantic, staff writer James Hamblin, M.D., tackles the issue of why some get so sick with Covid-19 while others experience it as "like the flu" or have no symptoms whatsoever. Some of what he writes you already know.

What I found new and interesting - but definitely scary - was his description of something called a "cytokine storm" which is the patient's immune system being over-stimulated to the point where it makes the patient sicker or kills them. Not every sufferer experiences this "storm."
A cytokine is a short-lived signaling molecule that the body can release to activate inflammation in an attempt to contain and eradicate a virus. In a cytokine storm, the immune system floods the body with these molecules, essentially sounding a fire alarm that continues even after the firefighters and ambulances have arrived.

At this point, the priority for doctors shifts from hoping that a person’s immune system can fight off the virus to trying to tamp down the immune response so it doesn’t kill the person or cause permanent organ damage.

But treating any infection by impeding the immune system is always treacherous. It is never ideal to let up on a virus that can directly kill our cells. The challenge is striking a balance where neither the cytokine storm nor the infection runs rampant.
Through most of the article, Dr. Hamblin grinds few axes. With the exception of the final paragraph, which I recommend skipping, he focuses on the medical, not the political.

The lefty message is confined to his wrap-up. As you might expect, he tediously ignores economic (which is to say, human) reality. Feel free to return the favor by ignoring his socialist "commercial."

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The China Connection ... Again

Lucianne.com links to a Daily Mail (U.K.) article about the closure of a South Dakota Smithfield Foods pork packing plant because of a major outbreak of CoV cases there, amounting to nearly half the cases in SD.
Smithfield Foods blamed the migrant workers' ‘living circumstances’ that are ‘different than they are with your traditional American family.’
The article never mentions that Smithfield Foods is “a wholly owned subsidiary of WH Group of China.”  What are the odds that a Chinese-owned plant in rural South Dakota would have a major outbreak of a disease originating in China?

Wouldn’t you imagine that regular visits by representatives of the Chinese owners might well have brought the virus to Sioux Falls, SD?  Perhaps “WH” is an acronym for Wuhan.

Monday, April 20, 2020

A Great Interview

Scott Johnson of Power Line has posted a podcast of the Hoover Institution’s Peter Robinson interviewing Stanford Med School’s Dr. Jay Bhattacharya.  Bhattacharya did the study of Covid-19 in Santa Clara County. The interview is 42 minutes long and is excellent, I recommend it without reservation.

Understanding that you may not have that much time or interest, I propose to summarize what seemed to me the important findings. First, it appears the death rate from CoV is actually around 1 per 1000 who contract it, not the 1-3 per 100 that has been reported. Thus it has a slightly higher fatality rate than the “regular” influenza.

Nevertheless, CoV is more dangerous than flu because (a) no one has immunity to this new disease, and (b) we have no vaccine to generate immunity without infection. Thus, unlike influenza, just about every person has a chance of contracting the coronavirus. With 1 per 1000 dying, our country of 330 million could see 330,000 CoV deaths.

Drastic measures help with CoV but will cause deaths from other causes. Dr. B points out hospitals are avoiding doing so-called “elective” procedures plus people fear going to hospitals for anything less than immediately life-threatening symptoms. Thus, people with colon cancer who avoid hospital colonoscopies will die because they're diagnosed late, ditto breast cancer and mammograms.

Asked about the chosen "federalist" model of decentralizing decision-making to governors and mayors, Dr. B says it makes total sense as different regions have had widely varying impacts. A "human anthill" (my characterization, not his) like New York City needs much different rules than rural Nebraska, to take two extreme examples.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Home Schooling Ban Advocated at Harvard

Lucianne.com links to an article at The Daily Wire which reports that Harvard Law Prof. Elizabeth Bartholet really doesn't like home schooling even a little.
In a shocking essay for Harvard Magazine, a professor of law and director of Harvard Law School’s child advocacy legal clinic, claims homeschooling is a threat to children’s rights, a method of promoting white supremacy, and a drain on democratic society — and even goes so far as to suggest a national “presumptive ban” on the practice.

"Many homeschool precisely because they want to isolate their children from ideas and values central to public education and to our democracy. Many promote racial segregation and female subservience. Many question science. Many are determined to keep their children from exposure to views that might enable autonomous choice about their future lives,” she claims.

The central argument seems to be that children should be wards of the state, and that the state — not individual parents — should be charged with deciding what is best.
My question: did her children, if any, attend public schools? Most people cannot afford private academies. (Note: Details of Elizabeth Bartholet's personal life are not readily found online.)

Does Bartholet care that home schooled kids generally do better in college than K-12 grads? Her ban on home schooling would effectively estop the "Benedict option" for Americans with children. Thus it won't happen in the current political climate.

Ambassadors of Death

The irrepressible Rudy Giuliani speaking on NYC talk radio, as quoted by the Newsmax site. His topic - China's culpability in the Covid-19 pandemic.
China not only unleashed the deadly coronavirus pandemic on the world, but they "protected themselves" while doing it, closing down travel in their country from the city of Wuhan but permitting it internationally, according to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

"They sent over a million people around the world – 1.5 million – almost like ambassadors carrying the disease," Giuliani told host John Catsimatidis on Sunday's "The Cats Roundtable" on 970 AM-N.Y.
The internal travel ban combined with denial of human-to-human transmission so foreign nations would not shut their borders, could be interpreted as intentional spread. Such intentionality, if it could be proven, would become a casus belli.

Weird Hydrologic Science

I like ingenuity, and Instapundit links to a UPI article describing an excellent example, something called a "fog harp."
Engineers at Virginia Tech University have developed a new, more efficient fog harp capable of harvesting water from even a light fog.

The fog harp looks like a harp, with parallel wires that collect the fog's ambient water droplets. Similar devices use screen mesh, but analysis by engineers at Virginia Tech showed parallel wires more efficiently collected water and encourage drainage into the collector.
I like the fact the fog harp requires no power of any sort to operate, and produces relatively pure water clearly meeting third world drinking/ cooking standards. I bet it works somewhat wherever there is dew, where the ambient temperature falls below the dew point.

Star Wars fans remember Luke Skywalker's aunt and uncle ran a windstill operation on arid Tatooine, likely a not-entirely-dissimilar technology. Dune fans recollect the Fremen did the same on dry Arrakis and stored the water they captured in underground reservoirs.

Good News During a Bad Time

Lucianne.com links to Business & Politics Review which reports some good news. The Republican legislature in KY overrode a veto by the state's Democrat governor.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear tried to veto a proposed bill requiring voters to present photo ID at their polling location.

Governor Beshear earlier stated he vetoed the bill since it created an obstacle to voting rights and was “undermining our democracy.”

Republicans outnumber Democrats 29-9 in the senate and 61-37 in the house.

On April 14, Republicans overwhelmingly overrode the governor’s veto in both chambers.
The first sentence is retrospective, looking back after the fact he did try to veto it and that attempt failed. Other states need to make the photo ID requirement a part of their election law.

Swing and a Miss

Lucianne.com links to a lengthy Quillette article by Joel Kotkin on the long term fallout of the CoV pandemic. Regular readers know I’ve often linked to his work.

Here that work is frankly uneven. He does a good job of describing the different impact of coronavirus on the urban and not urban, on the poor and not poor, even on different regions of cities. And he reflects on impacts of historic plagues.

He claims there will be long term impacts of CoV but does a not-so-good job of predicting what those might be for CoV. Frankly, I was disappointed.

What’s worse, the article is entitled “Viral Politics” and deals with politics almost not at all. Alas, not every at-bat results in a home run.

A Modest Proposal

Through cover-up and malfeasance, if not malevolent intent, China appears to have major responsibility for the Covid-19 pandemic. Said pandemic has cost the U.S. billions in direct costs and foregone economic activity.

China holds billions of dollars of U.S. Treasury debt - bonds and the like. Somehow there should be a way to use that debt to reimburse the U.S. for problems caused (or made worse) by China. Effectively a lawsuit for actual and punitive damages, or the nation-to-nation equivalent, whatever that might be.

Even the threat of doing so should cause the Chinese to sell debt instruments at a huge discount, meaning we could buy it back at pennies on the dollar. The downside is that a China which no longer holds billions of U.S. debt and no longer views us as its major customer may be freed up to engage in belligerent foreign adventures that risk war.

Current events make autarky more attractive, globalism less so.

Later ... A British paper, the Express, reports Germany has sent China a "bill" or invoice for supposedly owing Germany £130 billion for death, damages and lost revenue resulting from the coronavirus epidemic. Expect this trend to spread to other countries.

Do I need to add no one expects China to pay up? Unlike virtually every other country, the U.S. actually has a way to collect.

EU Another CoV Victim?

Writing for the Gatestone Institute foreign policy website, Italian journalist Giulio Meotti effectively calls the European Union a “dead man walking.” It seems the CoV has revealed once again just how little solidarity the EU has in practice, when things get difficult.

Apparently the wealthier northern nations of Netherlands and Germany have basically said to Italy and Spain, “we’re not financing solutions to your CoV and illegal immigrant problems” under conditions those southern nations can accept. Solidarity is in short supply.

Instead of “an ever closer union,” current trends suggest Schengen may be history and the EU will devolve back to a more-or-less free trade zone. I wonder what will happen to the vast palaces the EU has built to house its many bureaucrats, and to those minions when their continued employment makes no sense. Perhaps some remnants will persist as aspects of the forlorn League of Nations did for several years after its demise.

It turns out that so long as Germany remains unserious about becoming once again a military power, the EU has little reason for existence beyond a customs union.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Plague Irony

The DrsC are fans of the 1997 science fiction/comedy film The Fifth Element, with Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich, and recently rewatched it. Later the other DrC saw another film with Ms. Jovovich scheduled on TV and recorded it, a film neither of us had heard of, Ultraviolet.

Tonight, we decided to play it, and watched perhaps 7 minutes. At which point we said to each other, "No way in blazes," turned it off and deleted it.

What turned us off so severely? That it is about an engineered virus and attempts to defeat same. We both said roughly, "We're living through this, a movie about it won't be entertaining."

When Ultraviolet came out in 2006 a man-made plague was hypothetical, and perhaps therefore a nice doomsday plot line. Today it is too "on the nose."

A Genetic Factor in CoV?

Researchers are trying to understand the Covid-19 infection, and why it kills some and doesn't even sicken others who contract it. Bloomberg has a good article on the possible genetic factors influencing coronavirus seriousness in a patient.

From it I learn I have a couple of risk factors, namely age and weight. Others I don't have include breathing issues, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Since half or more of our population is overweight, that isn't a happy situation but it can't be dispositive. Why? Because much fewer than half of those who get CoV are dying. Hang in there, dear readers, most of us will survive this nastiness.

Two Views

Something odd going on at one of my favorite websites, Power Line. Two of the senior guys seem to be in more than a little disagreement about Covid-19.

Paul Mirengoff weighs in with discouraging numbers, which strongly suggest the disease keeps on killing Americans at a serious rate right through May. Meantime John Hinderaker is all for opening up the economy and getting the country back to work.

If we could figure out how to keep the coronavirus from killing those who get sick, then opening up the economy would definitely make all kinds of sense. Treatment modalities don't appear to have achieved that level of success yet.

While recognizing the economic impact, I'm with Mirengoff this time. The fact that I'm not young could have something to do with that caution.

Prosecutorial Backbone Needed

The New York Post reports a new ugliness, criminals there are spitting on police and jail guards. Their obvious hope is to (a) create fear of CoV infection and/or (b) sicken or kill the officer by means of infecting him or her with the sometimes fatal disease.

It is likely NYC has a liberal prosecutor who will probably choose to look the other way. The NYPD should work to rule* until such individuals are prosecuted for (a) attempt to do great bodily harm, or (b) attempted murder if the perp is sick at the time he spits. At minimum, police should be authorized to respond to spitters with a blast of pepper spray in the face.

*Working to rule means doing nothing discretionary, doing the minimum required by union contract to avoid disciplinary action. Refusing overtime is an example, calling in sick ("blue flu") is a more extreme example.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Nature Defeats Nurture

Lucianne.com links to a Scientific American article which takes up the nature vs. nurture conflict and announces, unambiguously, the following as its conclusion.
DNA isn’t all that matters, but it matters more than everything else put together in terms of the stable psychological traits that make us who we are.

The nature-nurture war is over. Nature wins, hands down.
Analysis: True. This finding has policy implications progressives hate, a lot.

Poison Pill?

As a kid who grew up on science fiction, authors Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, and Anderson were my entertainment. It follows therefore, I’m someone who wonders “what if...?”

This early morning I’m wondering what if Angela Merkel admitted a million Islamic immigrants to Germany because it was the easiest way to make her country unattractive to the Russians? Let me explain.

Germany spent the Cold War decades worrying about Russian tanks pouring through the Fulda Gap into Germany. With U.S. and NATO help, that didn’t happen.

Then the Germans watched the Soviets have difficulty with their Islamic minorities; all who were able opted for independence from Russia upon the Soviet breakup. Russians weren't sorry to see them go.

What I’m wondering this a.m. is whether Merkel viewed Germany admitting a substantial Islamic minority as a “poison pill” to keep the Russian bear at bay? That could be high order devious statecraft, but maybe also a case where the cure is worse than the disease. It does explain the German unwillingness to spend on defense.

You could interpret the neighboring Visegrad Group’s resistance to Islamic immigration as a mirror image of this policy. As former “beneficiaries“ of Soviet hegemony via the Warsaw Pact they saw up close the problems Soviets had with Islamic citizens and concluded they wanted no part of that briar patch.

However, before reunification Merkel was an East German and, as such, should have the same insight the Visegrad four developed. Clearly she and they drew different lessons from the Soviet breakup. Maybe my “what if” isn’t so logical after all.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day honors go to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), speaking on the Fox & Friends program on Fox News, as reported by Breitbart.
This effort to destroy Trump no matter the cost of the country is getting a bit old and it’s pissing a lot of people off.
Count me among those P.O.-ed.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Remembering Pearl Harbor

The DrsC just finished watching the season finale for NCIS, numerically it is Season 17, Episode 20. We'd recorded it earlier.

In addition to the usual ensemble, the guest star is Christopher Lloyd, best known for playing Dr. Emmett Brown opposite Michael J. Fox in the Back to the Future series of films. Lloyd plays a quirky old guy better than anybody.

If you haven't seen this NCIS episode already you might check it out. It's a real tear-jerker and quite well done.

A Gloomy Near-Term Future

Part of the fallout from CoV-19 will be greatly increased resistance to living in nursing homes and assisted living/congregate care facilities. During this pandemic they've famously been charnel houses. Stock in such operations is not something I'd want to hold for the next several years.

Density is only part of their problem. It is also the case that most residents have preexisting conditions which jeopardize their well-being, before any infectious agent makes an appearance.

Preexisting conditions are often the reason they no longer live on their own. The getting-old gig isn't a barrel of laughs.

Into the Danger Zone

Spring TV is dreary so, cooped up at home, the DrsC have been watching some well-loved old films on DVD. A couple of nights ago it was the original Tom Cruise Top Gun.

The Kenny Loggins vocal theme Danger Zone is very appropriate right now when anytime we leave home during this CoV Spring can be ...
Highway to the Danger Zone
Ride into the Danger Zone
The Loggins video, appended to my DVD, tries to evoke the early scene from Apocalypse Now where Martin Sheen lies on a sweaty Saigon hotel mattress hallucinating. It doesn't succeed, I prefer the music as background to F-14 catapult launches amid swirling steam and roaring afterburners.

Why NYC Has Most CoV-19 Deaths

Power Line's John Hinderaker has numbers which explain why New York City has roughly 40% of the coronavirus deaths in the whole U.S. The underlying factors are population density and public transportation.
Densely populated areas create more contacts with others and more opportunities for a virus to spread. And New York City, with more than 28,000 people per square mile, is by far the most densely populated major US city. San Francisco is second at around 18,500, and cities like Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington are in the 11,000 to 12,000 range.

New York’s mass transit system–mostly its subways–is, by a huge margin, the most relied-upon public transportation system in the U.S. It carries a remarkable 2,275,000,000 riders per year. The second most-used public transit system is the Washington Metro, which carries only 238,000,000 riders per year, just over 10% of New York’s total. Chicago’s “L” carries fewer than 10% as many riders as New York’s subways.

When a new disease like COVID-19 comes along, a virus to which no one has built up immunity, the population density and public transportation factors come to the fore and New York becomes a very sick city, compared to anywhere else.
It turns out urban planners have been unwittingly trying their level best to get us killed via plague and pandemic. Their policy prescriptions - high density and public transport - are exactly what you'd call for to get an infectious disease to spread like wildfire.

COTTonLINE readers know our view of Hell is a zillion people jammed together like sardines, breathing each other's effluvia and holding the same handrails and doorknobs. In addition to disease, it makes Noo Yawkers cranky. Give me fresh air, elbow room, green fields, and my own wheels.

Monday, April 13, 2020

The Mental Illness Component of Progressivism

Power Line's Steven Hayward has a look-in at some data which shows:
Liberals are more than twice as likely as conservatives to be found to have a mental health condition.
We already understood this anecdotally, but it's nice to have data to buttress our impressions.

The findings seem to be based on self-report. You could argue the difference is the result of progressives being more willing to seek treatment,  more willing to admit a diagnosis of mental "difficulties," or both.

Chloroquine CoV Effectiveness Known Since 2005

Power Line's John Hinderaker cites an article published in Virology Journal in 2005 which documents the apparent effectiveness of chloroquine in both prevention and treatment of coronaviruses. It worked in the proverbial Petri dish. That was and is a big deal and we knew it FIFTEEN YEARS AGO!
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is caused by a newly discovered coronavirus (SARS-CoV). No effective prophylactic or post-exposure therapy is currently available.

We report, however, that chloroquine has strong antiviral effects on SARS-CoV infection of primate cells. These inhibitory effects are observed when the cells are treated with the drug either before or after exposure to the virus, suggesting both prophylactic and therapeutic advantage. In addition to the well-known functions of chloroquine such as elevations of endosomal pH, the drug appears to interfere with terminal glycosylation of the cellular receptor, angiotensin-converting enzyme 2. This may negatively influence the virus-receptor binding and abrogate the infection, with further ramifications by the elevation of vesicular pH, resulting in the inhibition of infection and spread of SARS CoV at clinically admissible concentrations.

Chloroquine is effective in preventing the spread of SARS CoV in cell culture. Favorable inhibition of virus spread was observed when the cells were either treated with chloroquine prior to or after SARS CoV infection. In addition, the indirect immunofluorescence assay described herein represents a simple and rapid method for screening SARS-CoV antiviral compounds.
And as Hinderaker notes, Covid-19 is another coronavirus, like SARS. I wonder how many thousands of Americans have died because TDS made considering chloroquine use so very unPC?

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Governors Warned

The Conservative Treehouse website posts a transcript of part of a speech Secretary of State Pompeo made on Feb. 8, 2020, to the National Governors Association. His topic was how China is trying to manipulate state governors by offering "to invest big money in your state, perhaps in your pension, in industries sensitive to our national security." The former CIA Director adds:
Last year, a Chinese Government-backed think tank in Beijing produced a report that assessed all 50 of America’s governors on their attitudes towards China. They labeled each of you “friendly,” “hardline,” or “ambiguous.”

I’ll let you decide where you think you belong. Someone in China already has. Many of you, indeed, in that report are referenced by name.

So here’s the lesson: The lesson is that competition with China is not just a federal issue.
Pompeo infers he's read the report and knows who the fellow travelers are, who has sold out. In the event that conflict with China becomes more open, those quislings could end up in orange jumpsuits or hanging from lampposts.

Do you suppose there were some tight sphincters in that room? It appears to have been Pompeo's intent.

Easter Sunday Snark

Christian satire site The Babylon Bee has Easter snark to lighten your mood. Here is the title.
Roman Authorities Investigating Jesus For Violating Stay-In-Tomb Order
Hat tip to Ed Driscoll, who regularly blogs at Instapundit, for the link.

A Political Must Read

A quick search of COTTonLINE shows the first time I cited the work of Andrew Klavan was 13 years ago, and I've done so repeatedly since. A similar search suggests I've designated something a "must read" fewer than twice a year in the 13.5 years we've done this site.

Writing at The Daily Wire, Andrew Klavan has a must read column for anyone who believes Donald Trump has been a decent-or-better president. Klavan's format is to remind the reader of all the times hindsight has shown President Trump to have been right, when some half-hearted Republicans and nearly every Democrat said his choices were (a) either crazy or evil and (b) certainly wrong.
Trump has not always been articulate in his rightness, and often it has been instinctive rightness rather than philosophical, which has made it easy to dismiss. But he has been right so often and about so much that it is time to confer on him what no one but his most mindless followers have conferred on him yet: the benefit of the doubt.
If you go back and view his 1990 TV interviews, available on Youtube, you'll see Trump has thought deeply about national affairs for decades. What looks like "instinct" is actually stuff he's understood for so many years he assumes incorrectly it's as obvious to us as it seems to him.

Prepping for Next Time

In the modern world where the distribution of nukes tends to damp down hot wars among major powers, pandemics may be a larger threat than actual warfare. A big threat calls for a robust response.

We cannot count on all countries to be candid about disease flare-ups. For reasons of both internal politics/ideology and external posturing, coverups will happen. And UN based agencies are nearly useless.

Our various intelligence gathering agencies plus the State Department should be tasked to watch for local disease flare-ups in addition to the eye they keep on military and ideological developments. We could develop ways to ‘predict’ disease outbreaks in the same way we predict adverse weather events.

Not that we’d always be accurate, but advance warning would help. When many hundreds of people travel vast distances every day, we can do no less. Events happening halfway around the world can trigger outbreaks in our entrepĂ´ts. We’ll need to accept targeted travel bans on people arriving from “hot” zones as a necessary “evil.”

A Doctor Reflects

Power Line regular Scott Johnson shares a column written by Seth Corey, an OH medical school prof/researcher reflecting on the Chinese virus mess we’re currently living through. All of it is thoughtful, I particularly liked his conclusion.
Lesson to be learned by all: All models are wrong, but some are useful.

Either one is dead or alive (none of the Schrodinger’s cat business). Either one is employed or not….Lesson to be learned not soon enough: economic and mental health concerns need to be factored into public health policy. This is not just an infectious disease pandemic.

Keep calm. Wash your hands. Avoid sick people. Avoid physical contact with high risk people. Get rest. Eat well. Keep hydrated. Take zinc. Wear a mask. Support your local businesses. Thank a healthcare worker. Be kind.
To which I’d add, avoid crowds and thank the cashier at your supermarket and those who’ve kept the food pipeline filled. As a society we need to be better prepared next time, see above.

Happy Easter

Easter is our spring holiday. For Christians it marks the resurrection of Christ after his crucifixion two days earlier.

For North Americans generally it marks a time of optimism, bare trees leafing out, lawns beginning to green, birds nesting, temperatures becoming decent for outdoors activities, and baseball. It has traditionally been marked by new clothes, parades, religious services, big family dinners, hunts for dyed eggs, and candy.

The Chinese virus has curtailed many of the things people do at this time, but the seasons march on inexorably. Plants are greening up, snow is melting, temperatures are warming, and the hours of daylight are increasing. The songbirds don't know there's a pandemic, so they're doing what comes naturally.

The biggest question in my mind is whether coronavirus will behave like influenza and take a summer hiatus. We can hope it will so economic activity can resume.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

CA Gov. Newsom Benefits

Drudge Report links to a PBS survey of governors' popularity since the virus went bonkers in March. California Governor Newsom is doing very well indeed, with an 83% approval, that's up 41% since late 2019. His is the largest gain in popularity among the 15 governors listed at the site.

I wonder if Newsom realizes that complimenting President Trump on his leadership and timely aid to CA, when doing so is unpopular among Democrats, is a big part of why his approval zoomed. It appears to have cost him little support in his own party, and it's clear Republicans both noticed and liked it a lot.

That this should mark the beginning of a trend to bipartisanship in the face of real peril is probably too much to hope for, alas. Regardless, bravo for expressing deserved gratitude and praise, Governor.

Friday, April 10, 2020

About Models

The President and his Corona Virus Task Force have used models to predict how bad the pandemic may be in the U.S., how many will sicken and how many will die. Governors have used them as well. Many have criticized the models and modelers, ergo we need to understand the process.

In some ways modeling future events is just a way to systematize your guess. Building the model, you make explicit your estimates of future behavior and states that a person making a seat-of-the-pants guess does intuitively.

Are there reasons to believe modeling provides better answers than SWAGs? Yes. Should you assume the modeler was better able to estimate "future behavior and states" than yourself? Not necessarily, although thinking things through in an orderly way should help

The "garbage in, garbage out" principle is very much operative in modeling. A model is no better than the completeness of the list of factors influencing outcomes, the estimates of the relative strength and directionality of such factors, and the degree to, and fashion in which, they interact. 

In modeling something like the corona virus pandemic in the U.S., most minor variables are omitted. Plus, predicting human behavior is, needless to say, a very, very inexact thing to attempt. And different regions will cross-contaminate differently, depending on urbanization, use of public transport, etc.

Will people take social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing seriously? Will different subgroups of the population do so differently? And if you believe they will, is it something you can admit without destroying your reputation or career? 

A factor that gets built into disease contagion models is the need to be gloomier than necessary to get people to take contagion-reduction steps seriously. As a modeler you know you'll be in worse trouble if you predict a thunder shower and experience a hurricane, than vice versa. 

Did you ever notice that predicted rainstorms tend to arrive a bit later than the TV weather guesser says? That is no accident, if rain comes 2-3 hours late no complaints, if it come 1 hour early, you'll hear about the ruined picnic, the rained out ballgame. Predicting disease behavior is similar in its need to be pessimistic.

I won't be surprised if we end up with fewer deaths, fewer hospitalizations, etc. than predicted. I won't be displeased but also not surprised, as I understand why it needs to be that way.

Dumbing Down

Dystopian novelist Kurt Vonnegut understood the world the progressive left wants us all to inhabit. He described it in his short story Harrison Bergeron, it is the second story in his 1968 collection Welcome to the Monkey House. Wikipedia summarizes the dystopian ethos.
In the year 2081, the 211th, 212th, and 213th amendments to the Constitution dictate that all Americans are fully equal and not allowed to be smarter, better-looking, or more physically able than anyone else. The Handicapper General's agents enforce the equality laws, forcing citizens to wear "handicaps": masks for those who are too beautiful, loud radios that disrupt thoughts inside the ears of intelligent people, and heavy weights for the strong or athletic.
In 2081, those who refuse "handicaps" can be shot by a government equality bureau. Wikipedia describes the plot in some detail, Harrison Bergeron is as bleak as Orwell's 1984, but shorter.

Next time you hear a progressive bemoan inequality, understand he or she wants to dumb us all down to the level that the least of us can achieve. It is excellent that some are beautiful, some are talented, some are athletic, some are saintly and some are smart. Imagine how dreary life would be if all were mediocre nobodies.

Good Friday Thoughts

COTTonLINE hopes that, for all our readers, Good Friday is in fact “good.” That involves staying well, following the distancing guidelines, and washing hands thoroughly.

It begins to look like most of us will survive Covid-19, with a little bit of luck and a generous amount of care. Perhaps that is what to keep in mind when reaching for a bit of the optimism we normally associate with spring whilst in the midst of the biggest systemic shock this society has experienced maybe since Pearl Harbor.

—————

Many have asked, “Did we overreact?” implying that we have done so. I disagree. We did what an epidemic with substantial morbidity demands, take cover and keep our heads down.

It may be true that eventually most of us will contract the coronavirus. However by being careful we postpone the event while the medical/scientific community work hard finding palliatives, cures and vaccines. If we can postpone long enough, the danger will be reduced when it happens, maybe nearly to zero.

----------

The Harris poll reports results of a recent survey of American opinions toward China.
Outside the Beltway, the coronavirus crisis is actually bringing Americans together on the China issue. Republicans and Democrats now largely agree that the Chinese government bears responsibility for the spread of the pandemic, that it can’t be trusted on this or any other issue, and that the U.S. government should maintain a tough position on China on trade and overall, especially if Beijing again falters in its commitments.
If nothing else good comes out of this miserable pandemic, the coalescing of negative opinion toward the current leadership of China is a very good thing.

Poll: Dems Prefer Cuomo to Biden

The New York Post has results of a poll asking Democrats whether they prefer their party to nominate Governor Andrew Cuomo instead of former Vice President Joe Biden.
The national poll found 56 percent of Democrats prefer Cuomo, with 44 percent wanting to stick with presumptive nominee Biden — a 12-point margin well outside the 4.8 percent margin of error for the Democratic sample.

Hispanic voters, young people, women and self-identified liberals are most likely to favor dumping the former vice president for Cuomo.
Black voters, an important Biden constituency, also preferred Cuomo. Regardless of preferences, given party rules it is unclear how this could come about unless Biden voluntarily withdraws for “health reasons.”

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Why a Wide Variation in Covid 19 Severity?

Steven Hayward of Power Line does a very good column looking at the question of why some people get very sick (and die) from Covid 19 (corona virus disease 2019) while others experience it seemingly symptom-free (or don't contract it at all?). Many answers have been hypothesized, none is proven as yet.

He devotes the most space to a report from Science concerning multiple studies underway to determine if DNA variations are involved.
"We see huge differences in clinical outcomes and across countries. How much of that is explained by genetic susceptibility is a very open question,” says geneticist Andrea Ganna of the University of Helsinki’s Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM).

Italian geneticist Alessandra Renieri of the University of Siena expects at least 11 hospitals in the nation to give ethics approval for her team to collect DNA samples from willing patients. “It is my opinion that [host] genetic differences are a key factor … for susceptibility to severe acute pneumonia.”
To which Hayward sagely adds:
Woe unto the researchers if they find any racial differences emerging from the data.
Because DNA is definitely racist? Or because we choose to ignore science when it conflicts with what is politically correct?

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The Trump Doctrine

Charles Lipson looks at the longer-term impact of the Chinese coronavirus epidemic on various world arrangements, in a piece written for RealClearPolitics. You should read the whole thing, but I particularly like this observation about President Trump and the “integrated world order.”
Trump is the first president to challenge that order in principle. His practice has been more interesting. In negotiations with Mexico, Canada, and China, the president has used the credible threat of closing America’s huge market to pry open theirs, giving American producers fair access. Europe is next in line for that bracing treatment. Although Trump’s rhetoric has been nationalist, the net effect has actually been globalist.
At the end of World War II, the U.S. was the only large developed nation which sustained essentially no domestic damage. We could afford to settle for disadvantageous-to-us trade arrangements as a subsidy to the many bombed-all-to-hell nations elsewhere, effectively as a part of our Marshall Plan for post-war reconstruction. European (and other) nations were only too glad to take advantage of these arrangements, became accustomed to them, and over time assumed they were permanent.

Places that needed help in 1945 no longer do so, and haven’t for some decades. I’ve seen 1990 video of a young Donald Trump, as a budding tycoon, interviewed about this issue and his views then and now are the same.

Namely, Trump believes it is time for Uncle Sam to stop being everyone’s patsy. We’re no longer the only “adult” in the room, the other nations have grown up and its time we dealt with each other as independent adults. And like adult children living in their parents’ basement, they resist self-sufficiency - both economic and military. He gives ‘em the tough love they need, but don’t want.

Interesting Speculation

Lucianne.com links to an opinion piece at Medium by someone writing as Libertymavenstock. That individual offers an explanation that could explain why anti-malarial drugs appear to be helping Coronavirus sufferers.

It has to do with the mechanism the malaria parasite uses in the human bloodstream having similarities to the actions of the corona virus. The logic seems interesting, perhaps persuasive, but requires knowledge I do not have.

Two caveats: First, the author admits to not being a physician. Second is this header the site puts at the top of the column:
Anyone can publish on Medium per our Policies, but we don’t fact-check every story. For more info about the coronavirus, see cdc.gov.
In other words, the connections made are interesting, seemingly logical, but perhaps no more than guesses. As we noted weeks ago, Coronavirus has a lot of people guessing about how it does its damage, us included. Some of those guesses will prove accurate, most won’t be.

A reason to question this hypothesis is that African-Americans, who often carry sickle cell as a recessive gene, should gain some anti-Covid protection from its anti-malarial properties. On the other hand, they seem to be dying from Covid at a greater-than-average rate, exactly the opposite of what this author’s theory suggests.

Bye-Ku for Bernie

Bernie Sanders is “suspending” his campaign for the Democrat nomination to run for president in 2020. With our by-now customary hat tip to James Taranto, its popularizer, we offer Sen. Sanders a bye-ku, which is to say a haiku of farewell.

Fare thee well, Bernie.
Your analysis is good,
This is Donald’s year.

Coronavirus has done to the presidential campaign what it does to the human bloodstream, cut off the oxygen supply. With no one else left in the race, the Dems can skip the problematic face-to-face convention and nominate Biden by acclamation.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Plague Diary

Power Line's John Hinderaker has been, if not exactly a coronavirus skeptic, at least a guy concerned about the major economic setback it has triggered. He has a chart from the Centers for Disease Control that appears to show a plateau in the number of new cases reported. I hope he is interpreting it correctly.

It would certainly be fine (a) if a plateau proves to be the case and (b) if there isn't a big second wave of infections/deaths that follows on as we go back to work and school. I am confident you join me in hoping for that two-part outcome. Before I go there, however, I need to see a month's more data.

----------

Later ... It would appear that the plateau is happening, not just here but in other countries as well. This is what Dr. Brix was relating at the afternoon Coronavirus news conference; I tend to think she's a straight shooter. 

The President freely admits he is a booster, a glass-half-full kind of guy. He said it isn't his job to tell us we can't win, it's his job to convince us we can and will win. He agreed that there are hopeful trends in the data, while warning this week and perhaps next will be very tough weeks with a lot of already-sick people dying.

----------

One new thing got a lot of attention at the press conference this afternoon is the disproportionately large number of African-Americans among those dying from coronavirus. U.S. News & World Report writes:
In both Louisiana and Chicago, for example, recent statistics showed that roughly 70% of COVID-19 deaths occurred among blacks, even though they are a minority in both areas.

In Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, blacks make up about 27% percent of the population but comprised almost half of all COVID-19 infections – and, as of data early Tuesday afternoon, 71% of all fatalities.
Reading several stories with this focus, and hearing what was said on TV by the President and others this afternoon, I found fascinating the clear PC effort being made to avoid blaming the victims for their plight. I expect all to say the disparate impact is the result of racism. I wonder whether many of those blaming racism believe what they're saying?

Monday, April 6, 2020

Plague Diary

Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force told a personal anecdote at this afternoon's briefing. It really made the point of how seriously Task Force members are taking their jobs.

Over the weekend her grandchild ran a 105 fever and the child's mom called her for advice. Birx described trying to coach the mother about how to listen to the child's lungs, etc., but did not go check out the grandchild.

She said, "I couldn't risk bringing the disease back to these people who are doing vital work" as she gestured toward the people on the podium with her, including the President, Vice President, and Dr. Fauci. She added, "We're all making very difficult sacrifices during this time."

Imagine a grandmother who is a physician doing what she did ... I'm impressed.
----------

Remember how awed we were with first responders - firefighters and police - who rushed into the World Trade Center on 9-11 with the building burning above them and about to fall? I'm starting to feel the same way about medical personnel who day after day go to work at hospitals where people are coughing and dying of Covid 19. 

The doctors, nurses, and the specialized technicians whose job titles we only learn if we're under their care, all these deserve our admiration and thanks. Theirs is some serious bravery, and sadly hundreds of them will die as a result of their professional commitment.

A family friend's daughter will soon graduate from a university nursing program in Texas. She won't have trouble finding work. Imagine how her mother feels about now ... both proud and terrified, at a guess.

----------

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who won the struggle to take the U.K. out of the EU and a clear majority in parliament, has been taken to Intensive Care with Covid 19. To win so much was wonderful, to then become the first national leader to succumb to the pandemic is likely an honor he'd rather not win. 

I've been impressed with Johnson's nationalism, energy and style. I wish him well, in every sense.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Anti-CCP Snark from Oz

Instapundit links to a letter-and-rebuttal published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph. The letter is the Chinese Consulate General channeling his government's negative reaction (in italics) to the DT's reporting about the Wuhan virus, to which the paper's Tim Blair makes a biting point-by-point response. Here are three choice examples:
Recently the Daily Telegraph has published a number of reports and opinions about China’s response to COVID-19 that are full of ignorance, prejudice and arrogance.
If a state-owned newspaper in China received this kind of complaint, subsequent days would involve journalists waking up in prison with their organs harvested.

The origin of the virus is still undetermined, and the World Health Organization has named the novel coronavirus “COVID-19”.
The World Health Organisation also appointed Zimbabwean murderer Robert Mugabe as its Goodwill Ambassador and declared on March 2 that the “stigma” of the coronavirus “is more dangerous than the virus itself”. The World Health Organisation does a lot of stupid stuff.

The effectiveness of China's epidemic prevention and control has fully underlined the people-centred philosophy of the Communist Party of China and the strong advantages of the Chinese system.
In 2018, Amnesty International reported that China executed more citizens than the rest of the world combined. Please tell us more about your “people-centred philosophy” and how many bullets it requires.
Nice how un-PC Ozzies are, China loses face big time. The rebuttal is both bitterly funny and substantially accurate, go read it all. Note: Oz uses the Brit spelling of "organisation" while the Chinese use the American spelling - "organization."

Plague Diary

One of the ideas floating around concerning Covid 19 is that the concentration of virus to which one is exposed, a little versus a lot, is related to how severe the resultant disease becomes. That is, if you contact a few viral particles you may become less ill than if you get a whole slug of them. Nobody is claiming this is the only factor, preexisting conditions - age, diabetes, COPD, high blood pressure, etc. -  clearly have some input as well. It’s an argument for wearing face masks in public spaces.

—————

We normally spend a lot of time at home, but go “in town” every couple of days at least. During the Covid 19 ‘lockdown’ we’ve cut back the trips to town by more than half, to maybe one every 4 days. Cabin fever begins to be an issue for me; it feels like life is “on hold” minus the terrible, tinny music-while-you-wait. I’m thankful for the Internet.

—————

The other DrC has been making cloth face masks, first for us, then for relatives who said they’d like them. She uses a sewing machine that was the first serious present I bought her after our wedding rings. It’s an old and heavy Sears portable model that still works great and looks like the day it was bought several decades ago; it’s totally analog too, not digital or electronic.

----------

Power Line's John Hinderaker posts analysis done for their site. It appears to indicate increasing the number of tests done will not help slow/stop the pandemic. It further suggests wearing masks does help.

Countries where mask-wearing is most prevalent seem to be seeing a quicker drop-off in new cases. This analysis seems to be supportive of the first item in this post, concerning the amount of viral matter one breathes in; less being better obviously.

Will We Get a Summer Respite?

An interesting question about the Covid 19 pandemic is whether it, like the various influenzas, will tend to abate during summer. David Bernstein, a regular guest blogger at Instapundit, provides a brief summary of the conflicting evidence, here in its entirety.
Following up on yesterday’s post on the low level of Covid-19 infections in Australia… Hawaii, population 1.5 million, has only 351 confirmed Covid-19 cases, and three deaths, despite Honolulu being a densely-packed urban area and tons of tourist traffic from Asia in December and January. Puerto Rico, population 3.2 million, has only 452 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 18 deaths, despite a huge amount of traffic between the New York area and the island, and San Juan being a densely-packed city.

Like I said, I’m not an epidemiologist, but I’d love to know if someone who is has provided an explanation for these statistics beyond sunshine, humidity, and hot weather. (Note: New Orleans has been consistently hot since March 10, and if that doesn’t slow the spread of the virus, it would definitely throw a monkey wrench into the weather theory, though not necessarily into the “protective nature of Vitamin D” theory, as I suspect residents of San Juan and Honolulu get a lot more sun in the Winter than do residents of New Orleans.

P.S. I’m aware that Mardis Gras was likely a “super spreader event,” but if hot weather is protective, the rate of spread in March and April should be slower than in colder climates).

UPDATE: Yes, I know that Guayaquil, Ecuador, right on the equator, has been hard-hit. But conditions in a Third-World country (per capita GPD $6,000) are quite different than the U.S. and Australia, and it’s doubtful in any event that we can get useful data out of their public health system.
I’ve left out the links to the various sources for his data, which are in the Instapundit original if you would like to check them. At the risk of over generalization, I’d characterize Bernstein’s view as “hopeful but far from confident.”

Many summer plans, including those of the DrsC, are on hold until we get a better answer. It is a question COTTonLINE will continue to pursue, stay tuned.

Later ... On the other hand, Paul Mirengoff at Power Line writes:
Temperatures in Singapore have been around 80 degrees lately. Yet, the virus is making a comeback. Hot weather doesn’t appear to be bringing Singapore relief from this particular virus.

I kind of wish I hadn’t looked into the Singapore experience. To me, it suggests the futility of even best practices to combat the spread of this virus over the long term. Singapore beat it back, only to be treated to a second wave.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

A Light Moment

Did you happen to see President Trump's afternoon Covid-19 press conference yesterday? He said something funny, sorta under his breath, as a throwaway line. I'll try to reprise it for you.

Some media person asked a question that caused one of the task force persons other than POTUS to speak about various models of how the disease might progress through our country. Then the President came to the microphone and said something like, "I don't have a lot to do with models ... well this kind of model anyway...." and he went on to say something serious about the government's work to try to help localities deal with the disease.

As he said it the camera cut away to a media person grinning, and quickly cut back. Trump had obviously made a sly reference to his well-documented, never denied fondness for great looking ladies, including former model and current FLOTUS Melania.

It was pretty clear he heard himself claiming not much involvement with models and realized how the multiple meanings of the word "model" made that statement laughable. It was a light moment in an otherwise heavy discussion of very serious stuff. I certainly wasn't offended, but imagine Democrats were incensed as always.

Balz: Government Chronically Unprepared for Crisis

Dan Balz, whose home is WaPo, has a column echoed in the Stamford (CT) Advocate concerning the shortcomings of government in dealing with unexpected catastrophes like the Covid-19 pandemic. He takes the obligatory shots at Trump, at least some of which are justified. He fails to point out that Democrats have done their level best to keep Trump from staffing political appointee jobs in the various agencies.

He also notes that the last president who got the bureaucracy staffed properly was Bush I and identifies various crises for which the government dropped the ball since. Most of his somewhat long column deals with the structural shortcomings of the federal bureaucracy, which are legion.

Balz notes civil servants' operating out of hard-learned reluctance to go "beyond the book" when a crisis demands it. Doing so is much more likely to bring punishment, during or after the event, than praise, even if the irregular action helps.

He also notes how difficult it is for governments to allocate resources to events that have yet to occur, and may not occur for decades, if ever. There are always more immediately pressing needs crying out for resources, and politicians anxious to assuage constituent demands to "do something."

Balz cites Stephen Goldsmith, a former NYC deputy mayor and current faculty at Harvard's Kennedy School.
Goldsmith assesses the situation this way: "I think we've gotten relatively good as a country - local, state and federal government - at the professional performance of routines. Our ability to accomplish the important routines of government on a daily basis is very high."

But there are limitations, he said. "One is, are they conducive to imagination? Second, do they value the exercise of discretion throughout the system? And third, are they good at calculating the risk across agencies? What are the trade-offs of closing a country?"
Balz concludes, somewhat vaguely, that as a nation we're not as good at "getting the job done pragmatically" as we once were. No kidding.

Interesting Times

There are locusts in Africa, stinkbugs in Turkey, Covid-19 most everywhere, and saber rattling in the South China Sea. All of these happening now.

I'm hearing the hoofbeats of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Don't they sound a bit closer than normal?

It's Sir Austen Chamberlain's supposedly Chinese ironic curse in action: "May you live in interesting times." Sadly, we do.

Debates Now Over

Instapundit posts something he found on Facebook. Here it is:
The debate over immigration is over: restriction wins.
The debate over borders is over: they are needed.
The debate over globalization is over: the era of autarky begins.
The debate over Europe is over: it is a geographic expression, not a polity.
The debate over global warming is over: it is irrelevant.
The debate over international institutions is over: only nations matter.
The debate over the People’s Republic of China is over: it is a menace to the community of nations, not a member in good standing.
Crisis is clarity.
I see much there with which to agree. Perhaps a few international institutions have limited utility. Reynolds doesn't give us a link to his source, so we'll 'credit' him with it.

Assuming Senicide

You ever ask yourself if the European Union will survive? Perhaps you should. Check out what a nice immigrant from Portugal wrote while responding to an article (in French) claiming:
Without sanctions or restrictions, Portugal is (relatively) spared by #coronavirus.
Her reaction is 'interesting':
Portugal has far fewer fatalities than Spain or Italy, which is inexplicable. Unless you assume that the Portuguese aren’t throwing grandma from the train, that is taking the opportunity to rid themselves of elders, while the other two nations almost certainly are.
However obnoxious I find many New Yorkers, I'd never accuse them collectively of senicide. Her attitude reinforces our view that, unlike the US, the EU hasn't much future.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Standing and Sitting

A number of different sources have reported that Democrats and Republicans are experiencing the Covid-19 pandemic differently. Democrats have claimed that Republicans "reject science" and thus don't take it seriously.

RealClearPolitics' Sean Trende has a different explanation, one that comes naturally to a professional election analyst like himself. He writes:
The coronavirus is experienced in a fundamentally different way in densely populated urban areas than it is in exurban areas. (snip) In non-urban areas, social distancing doesn’t necessarily change one’s life much.

If you live in the type of densely populated urban areas where coronavirus fears are at the forefront of your mind as you go about your daily business, you’re also disproportionately likely to be a Democratic voter. On the other hand, voters in rural and exurban areas are more likely to be Republican, and are simply experiencing a different reality right now. 
This relates to what we wrote on Tuesday. All of which reminds me of a wise saying - Miles' law - I learned years ago while doing consulting in the DC area, "Where you stand depends on where you sit." Trende has essentially modified this to read, "Where you stand depends on where you live," an obvious extension of the original.

An Ambulance to Chase

Among American conservatives (and Hungarians), a generally held belief is that international financier and backer of liberal causes George Soros is the living person who most resembles a Bond villain. Which makes the following news item roughly as fascinating to conservatives as catnip to your basic moggy or truffles to a chef.

Lucianne.com links to a post at Gateway Pundit by Jim Holt who writes:
Documents from the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2011 show Soros Fund Management LLC invested heavily into WUXI Pharmatech Caymen, Inc.

WuXi AppTec, as it is now called, has a facility in Wuhan, China. The company provides validated research including in vitro (HTS, SAR screening support) and in vivo disease models in cardiovascular, respiratory, metabolic and infectious diseases.

In 2010, before Soros invested in the company WuXi Pharmatexh announced plans to build a $100 million R&D center in Wuhan, China.

In the specific case of WuXi AppTec, it is almost certain that their work was supervised by the Chinese Intelligence services because of the company’s tight business connections to the US.
Holt reproduces what are alleged to be photocopies of the relevant SEC documents as well as WuXi advertising copy (in English) plugging the services they offer. I'm not sure what this means exactly, maybe nothing except a financier making money.

It appears Soros financed something that could possibly prove to be (a) genocidally unsafe, (b) genocidally nefarious or (c) both. Imagine the potential for recovery of civil damages.

Time To Get Serious

"Double doc" (MD, PhD) Matthew Meyerson from the Harvard Medical School - 3 impressive credentials - has written sobering words about the Covid-19 pandemic specifically for the readers of Power Line, of which website he is a fan. I summarize below something you should probably read in its entirety.
1. Covid-19 is very highly transmissible. There are numerous news stories of a single event where probably a single infected individual caused dozens or hundreds of infections and numerous deaths.

2. Covid-19 causes severe illness in medical professionals and otherwise healthy young people. (snip) This almost never happens in other diseases.

3. It is hard to compare deaths from COVID-19 to deaths from influenza. The data on influenza deaths are of limited value as we do not routinely test for influenza virus infection or other respiratory infections.

4. I do not believe that we are overreacting to COVID-19. (snip) A stronger response today could still save far more people than a more mild response.

5. Until we have treatments and vaccines, preventing transmission is the only way to go. Every blocked transmission could be a life saved—or many lives, given how transmissible the virus is.
When my mom was a little girl in 1917, she had the Spanish flu and was so sick all her pretty straight hair fell out. It grew back in curly and stayed that way the rest of her long life.

Pandemics are no joke; that one wasn't, neither is this. Survivors will be talking about Covid-19 for the next century.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Evidence of Climate Change

Sarah Hoyt, a regular guest blogger at Instapundit, links to a New York Post article which reports research findings from the American Association for the Advancement of Science's EurekAlert and the publication Nature. EurekAlert writes:
A team from the UK and Germany, which includes experts from Northumbria University's Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences, discovered a forest soil from the Cretaceous period in the seabed near the South Pole.

Their analysis of the pristinely preserved roots, pollen and spores show that the world at that time was a lot warmer than previously thought, with rainforests in Antarctica similar to the forests we have in New Zealand today.

The international team's findings are published today (1 April) as the lead story in the scientific journal Nature.
The soil dates to 90 million years ago. If you're not familiar with New Zealand, think of the forests of the Olympic peninsula in Washington State or the coast of British Columbia, which are similar.

If you need hard evidence of dramatic climatic variation in the absence of human activity, this is it. Climate varies naturally, with or without human help, get over it. Be mentally prepared to do what humans are good at - coping with whatever comes.