Sunday, May 31, 2020

Foreign Student Cheating

Campus Reform runs an article describing cheating by students from China during both the admissions process and after they arrive, in the classroom. This doesn’t surprise me, I found students from Asia more likely to cheat.

Getting someone else to take the TOEFL (test of English as a foreign language) exam is common. Many of my foreign students could read English reasonably well but were unable to understand spoken English at the level of a college lecture.

You may ask how I knew this. I tested knowledge of the assigned reading via multiple choice questions on which they did more or less okay. The tests also included a couple of short answer essays from my lectures, many of these they left blank whereas my domestic students normally aced them. My guess: their conversational English classes back home were taught by locals whose spoken English was badly mispronounced.

If I spoke to Asian students they smiled a lot and said “Yes” a lot. I never mistook that “Yes” for agreement or understanding. I understood it to mean “I’m listening and wish to seem polite to an authority figure.”

My students from India were another matter, their English was mostly quite good even if their accent sometimes put the emphasis on the wrong syllable. They too were prone to cheating, sometimes quite blatantly. I once had three women from India who sat together in class turn in identical homework papers. It didn’t work and their grades suffered.

On the other hand, one of the best MBA students I ever taught was Pakistani and another very good one was from India. Fine honorable men, both of them. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

Epitaph for the Mueller Probe

The excellent Andrew McCarthy writes for the Washington Examinerfine column - longish - summarizing the malfeasance of the Obama Administration, its Justice Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation under its appointees.

His focus is on the totally phony Russian collusion claim and its intentional government perpetrators. These ‘worthies’ told the public Trump and his people colluded with Russians and then in secret testimony under oath denied any such knowledge.

McCarthy argues that while high level people did very wrong things, it is unlikely any of them will face prosecution. I sincerely hope he is wrong in that judgment. It should be possible to get some clearly guilty underlings to roll on their bosses, in return for lighter sentences.

McCarthy believes prosecutions won’t happen because they’d have a banana republic flavor. Personally, I’d take that risk, the misbehavior had a distinctly third world flavor.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Ad Astra

Long time COTTonLINE readers may have guessed I read science fiction books by the hundreds as a younger man. Some years ago I donated my nearly 900 volume collection to the library at East New Mexico State University, which maintains an endowed Science Fiction collection.

From time to time I’ll make an oblique reference here to Blade Runner or Dune or maybe something by Robert Heinlein or David Drake. Just yesterday, some happenstance prompted me to intone conversationally, “The spice must flow.”

As a space travel fan, I naturally was delighted that the U.S. has ended an embarrassing period in which our astronauts had to buy rides on Russian rockets to go into space. Today two of ours are on their way to the International Space Station aboard an Elon Musk/SpaceX Crew Dragon, launched at the Cape.

It’s long past time we should have gone back to the moon and beyond, likely with Mars as a next stop, followed by a Jovian moon. We first get established as a multi planet species, then it’s on to the stars.

While I don’t much like the politics of tech billionaires, I do like that a couple of them are funding space ventures. One could wish they understood the capitalism that made possible their reach for the stars.

Afterthought: If I had no other reason to vote to reelect Donald J. Trump President, getting the U.S. back into space exploration in less than 4 years would be sufficient. Fortunately, I have lots of other reasons, beginning with getting tough with China and cracking down on illegal immigration.

Friday, May 29, 2020

U.S. to Leave WHO

Various news sources report President Trump is ending the U.S. relationship with the World Health Organization. WHO has colluded in the Chinese cover-up of their responsibility for spread of the Covid-19 virus beyond where it began in Wuhan, China.

As the U.S. has provided much of the WHO’s budget, it will be interesting to see how, or indeed if, it will function without our dollars. Perhaps a new organization can be created which will actually do what WHO was supposed to accomplish, but did not.

How nice it is to have elected a U.S. President who doesn’t imagine himself having all of humanity as his constituency.

Enemies and Friends

Instapundit links to a Yahoo News story with this headline:
Amy Klobuchar didn't prosecute officer at center of George Floyd's death after previous conduct complaints
Both Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar have the “former prosecutor” problem with African-American voters. The job of a prosecutor is siding with police against bad guys; that is tough to live down among voters who view the police as their enemy. The corollary of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is “the friend of my enemy is also my enemy.”

Later ... The Associated Press reports Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) has withdrawn her name from consideration as Joe Biden’s VP nominee. How important would you rate the following among the factors AP says she considered in making that decision? AP listed it last.
She is a former Nevada Attorney General who was recruited by former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to run for his seat in 2016 when he retired.

Before serving eight years as Nevada’s Attorney General, she was a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C.

Can Both Lose, Please?

Guest blogging at Instapundit, Stephen Green cites a headline at Business Insider:
Moscow is painting over the Russian markings on its jet fighters and sending them to fight a proxy war against Turkey in Libya
My first reaction: I’d like both the Russians and the Turks to lose. Not sure I’ll have a ‘second’ reaction. Libya is a mess, think “Benghazi.”

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Wrong Priorities

American Greatness writes about the problems power company Pacific Gas & Electric has in central and Northern California. The author takes the utility to task for under maintaining its infrastructure and for turning off power to customers when the wind blows during the fire season (mid-summer to the first significant rains, normally November, sometimes December).

I take issue with one serious omission that detracts from the column’s otherwise reasonable discussion. A major reason PG&E has skimped on maintenance is that the Public Utilities Commission - their regulatory body - has demanded they spend heavily on solar and wind power. Dollars put there can’t be spent on keeping up transmission lines and keeping trees and brush cut away from the lines and towers. Perhaps these priorities can be changed now that a whole town burned down and nearly a hundred died.

Quote of the Day

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, as quoted in a Quillette article on urban problems.
The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society.
That reminds me of my favorite corollary of this truth: some cultures “work” much better than others. Cultures are not all equally fine and wonderful; some are frankly awful. Others may have considerable charm while producing little economic growth.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Plight of the Accuser

Christine Blasey Ford accused Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh and her life was investigated to find material which detracted stature from her reputation or testimony. Now the same thing is happening to Tara Reade, see the Politico story.

These are only two recent examples of a long-time pattern of behavior. An individual does something that puts him or her in the public eye and then, when their former friends, associates, employers, ex-spouses, etc. are located and interviewed, material emerges which casts the individual in a bad light, and reduces their credibility.

If you experience this as new, you haven’t been paying attention. It happened during the McCarthy era, during Watergate, and repeatedly since. I seem to have been aware of it since my mid-20s.

What just struck me is that if this awareness is widespread, imagine all the scurrilous stuff people know but keep to themselves. They realize their backgrounds won’t stand up to what amounts to opposition research aimed at accusers, whistleblowers and ‘troublemakers.’

The suppression of testimony must be extensive indeed. It is surprising anyone ever comes forward. Whistleblowers likely feel they’ve nothing to lose, as their future in their present occupation is generally understood to be nonexistent.

A Milestone

Last night the DrsC ate their first dine-in restaurant meal since the CoV lockdown started over 2 months ago. It was at an Outback in Sparks, NV; we’re en route to Wyoming.

The staff wore masks, obviously diners cannot. The menus were one-use paper and there were no salt and pepper shakers on the table. Otherwise, it was the usual Outback experience. My ribeye was beyond good. I did have to send the potato soup back as it was lukewarm, but that was cheerfully dealt with and the replacement was piping hot.

We’ve missed being able to dine out a couple of nights a week. Not sure what the future will hold in this regard.

Blame the Density

The New York Times has become anathema among conservatives, with good reason for the most part. On the other hand, links to a NYT article which I found echoed at the Seattle Times (requires no registration) which takes the Miles Law approach COTTonLINE has favored.
The staggering American death toll from the coronavirus, now approaching 100,000, has touched every part of the country, but the losses have been especially acute along its coasts, in its major cities, across the industrial Midwest, and in New York City.

The devastation, in other words, has been disproportionately felt in blue America, which helps explain why people on opposing sides of a partisan divide that has intensified in the past two decades are thinking about the virus differently. It is not just that Democrats and Republicans disagree on how to reopen businesses, schools and the country as a whole. Beyond perception, beyond ideology, there are starkly different realities for red and blue America right now.

Counties won by President Donald Trump in 2016 have reported just 27% of the virus infections and 21% of the deaths — even though 45% of Americans live in these communities.

Part of the answer is population density. Nearly a third of Americans live in one of the 100 most densely populated counties in the United States — urban communities and adjacent suburbs — and it is there that the virus has taken its greatest toll, with an infection rate three times as high as in the rest of the nation and a death rate four times as high.

Overall, the infection rate is 1.7 times as high in the most urban areas of the country compared with nearby suburbs, and 2.3 times as high in the suburbs as in exurban and rural areas.
Miles Law: where you sit determines where you stand. Example: where you live determines your experience with, and attitude toward, Covid-19.

COTTonLINE concludes: Urban living is also bad for your mental health.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

An Insider Critique of Media News

Former CBS News chief Van Gordon Sauter has written an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal (behind paywall) which is summarized at The Hill. Sauter takes a dim view of the current state of news coverage.
“The highly influential daily newspapers in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and Boston are now decidedly liberal,” Sauter wrote.

“On the home screen, the three broadcast network divisions still have their liberal tilt. Two of the three leading cable news sources are unrelentingly liberal in their fear and loathing of President Trump," he added, appearing to refer to MSNBC and CNN.

“The news media is catching up with the liberalism of the professoriate, the entertainment industry, upscale magazines and the literary world. Recent arrivals are the late-night TV hosts who have broken the boundaries of what was considered acceptable political humor for networks," he continued.
Sauter had a long career at CBS News, eventually heading it in the 1980s. Those were the days when journalism was an honored profession. Nowadays, it’s propaganda.

Monday, May 25, 2020

New Estimates

Reason reports something new:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the current "best estimate" for the fatality rate among Americans with COVID-19 symptoms is 0.4 percent. The CDC also estimates that 35 percent of people infected by the COVID-19 virus never develop symptoms. Those numbers imply that the virus kills less than 0.3 percent of people infected by it—far lower than the infection fatality rates (IFRs) assumed by the alarming projections that drove the initial government response to the epidemic, including broad business closure and stay-at-home orders.

The CDC estimates that the CFR for COVID-19 falls to 0.05 percent among people younger than 50 and rises to 1.3 percent among people 65 and older.
In other words, it is no bubonic plague, it won’t decimate our society. So many having it without symptoms makes it look like a “designed virus” as this feature makes tracking carriers nearly impossible.

I’m not certain we’ll ever know if it was created or happened naturally. It’s possible all but one or two people who know the truth of that have been murdered, and those one or two will never say.

I wish I was more confident of CDC’s estimates proving out, their track record hasn’t been stellar.

Covid Comparisons

Power Line’s Paul Mirengoff does an interesting comparison of Covid-19 death rates per million population in Europe, the U.S. and various U.S. states. Some excerpts I liked:
It might be interesting to compare death rates in Europe with those in various American states. Belgium, with 804 deaths per 1 million, is the hardest hit European country. We have four states that have been hit harder — New York (1,503) New Jersey (1,254), Connecticut (1,036), and Massachusetts (924).

States with per capita death totals comparable to Spain, Italy, the UK, and France include Louisiana (579), Rhode Island (574), and Michigan (523). The District of Columbia, at 612, also falls within that range.

Wyoming (21), Montana (15), Alaska (14), and Hawaii (12) fall well below the 30-51 range. But, of course, the demographics of these states, as well as many of those mentioned in the paragraph above, make them less conducive to the spread of the virus

I conclude (1) that our experience in the U.S. with this virus has so far been comparable to, but a little less severe than, heavily populated European nations and (2) that, so far, outside of the Northeast, the comparison between this virus and the flu probably does not deserve the derision it has received from some epidemiologists and many mainstream media commentators.
As Mirengoff writes, draw your own conclusions. My conclusions? If I lived in the northeast, I’d move elsewhere. We are headed back to healthy WY for the summer and early fall.  Natural social distancing, here we come. Plus some of the cleanest air in the lower 48.

Breaking News

You only have seven shopping months until Christmas.

Conflicting Perspectives

It has become common among certain observers on the right to disparage Dr. Fauci, as for example here. I don’t share that view although I will allow he isn’t always correct in his predictions.

He is frequently asked to predict things he honestly has no way of knowing, and too often he gives what has to be his current opinion, or guess. I suppose he does this because he feels he ought to know or wishes he did know the answer.

What we have to remember is that Fauci’s focus is the disease, not the economic havoc the preventative measures have caused. He answers as a doctor - which he is - not as an economist - which he is not.

We need to take his recommendations and those of Dr. Birx as medical advice, then we need to factor in the economic and social aspects of the situation before deciding what to do. It makes no sense to get mad at Fauci for being a medico, that’s what we hired him to do.

If you think the President or, for that matter, your governor has an easy task sorting through all the conflicting pressures and advice, think again. Because Murphy’s Law works overtime, it turns out the needs we have are often, if not diametrically, at least partially opposed.

We need to stay well and we need to have a functioning country when this disease goes away or becomes routine. We need to balance deaths from Covid-19 against so-called “deaths of despair”- suicide, drug or alcohol overdose, etc. We need to mostly protect old people and not so much others, and we need to figure out how to do this when many fortunate older Americans are not in long-term care but living among us at least semi-independently.

Japan’s Good Fortune

I forced myself to read a longish, tedious article at Japan Media Highlights so you won’t have to. It addresses the interesting question of why Japan, a high-density country, has had relatively few Covid-19 deaths. Hat tip to Power Line for the link.

The short answer is that they’ve been housing an atypically large percentage of their long term care residents in actual acute care hospitals. Thus fewer live in euphemistically named “convalescent hospitals.”

A fair number of the Japanese elderly infirm live full-time in places where control of the spread of infectious agents is routine, everyday practice. Where issues of cross-contamination are considered a big deal and the wearing of PPE is routine, neither being common in nursing homes.

The author treats this as a quirk of the Japanese system. It is claimed Japan has too many acute care beds and uses the overflow to house long-term care patients.

Excess beds may be an inadvertent result of Japan’s shrinking population. Whatever the cause, it has worked out well for those oldsters so housed.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Weird Neurological Science

United Press International reports some very strange medical research results.
City-dwellers are nearly 30 percent more likely to be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis than those living in more rural areas, a study presented Friday at the European Academy of Neurology Virtual Congress has found.

Based on the results, which will also be published in European Journal of Neurology, air pollution could be a risk factor for the development of the disease, according to the authors, who conducted their research in Italy.
Urban living is unhealthy and should be avoided, if possible.

Honoring Heroes

Tomorrow is Memorial Day, the day when we remember those who fought and died to preserve our freedom and way of life. We celebrate these heroes during this entire weekend, and rightly so.

As we have noted here on many occasions, freedom isn’t free. It is purchased with the blood and lives of patriots who gave the last full measure of devotion in turning back our enemies, those who would enslave or kill us.

I’d ask you to include in your remembrance not just fallen members of our military, but also our first responders who died in the line of duty. Not all of our society’s enemies are overseas or foreign, sadly some are home-grown or imported.

Thinking About Why

Over at the other DrC’s blog, I get an honorable mention for helping her wrangle some truly cantankerous plastic packaging, in a post she calls “Shrink Wrap H*ll.” As she notes, the shop vacuum which the battery powers was in an easy-to-open cardboard box, while the battery and charger were in a big, awkward, nearly indestructible plastic thingy (see photo).

The “why” of all this? Shoplifting, plain old theft. The battery is small enough to slip in a pocket or purse, though a mite heavy, and it is expensive enough to be worth stealing.

Small, expensive things tend to be stolen unless bracketed by packaging that makes them too big or awkward to hide. Vendors tend to demand the packaging so they don’t have to keep such items under lock-and-key, accessible only by sales associates.

The absolutely intractable nature of Milwaukee’s packaging, which probably cost several dollars, is evidence they had a serious “walk away” problem. One they went to relatively extreme (and expensive) lengths to solve.

Such are the musings of a retired Business school prof. There is always a bottom-line reason for this sort of seemingly awkward, customer-irritating action, it isn’t done on a whim.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Careerism Among the Clerisy

Instapundit posts an excerpt from a rant at Ace of Spades that makes a lot of sense. Let me share it with you.
This is about class. This is all about class.

This is about, specifically, the careerist, cowardly, go-along-to-get-along mores of the Upper Middle Class, the class of people whose parents were all college educated, and of course are college educated themselves; the class that dominates our thought-transmitting institutions (because non-college educated people are more of less shut out of this industry).

It is a class which is deathly afraid of social stigma, and lives in class-based fear being grouped with the wrong people, and which is more interested in Career, quite frankly, than in the actual tradecraft of that Career, which is clarity of thought and clarity of expression.

Thus, our institutions of thought propagation are dominated by the very people who can be easily cowed by the Social Justice Warriors, and who will, therefore, adjust their speech in order to not run afoul of the thoughtless — and frequently lunatic — thugs of the censorious left.

The very people we need to be most immune to the menaces of stigma, and the blandishments of career advancement, are, due to the absolute primacy of the Upper Middle Class imperative of advancing one’s career and avoiding scandal, stigma, and controversy, the very people most sensitive to such distortions.
Here we see the downside of a meritocracy, and it is really a downer. Hat tip to Joel Kotkin for the loan of his term “clerisy” to describe the Upper Middle Class thought-transmission folk.

I was one of the clerisy for 30 years and was very careful not to trip over liberal shibboleths in any dramatic way. COTTonLINE began after I retired and could be my own person.

Hindsight Unhelpful

Think of all the things we know now about Covid-19 that we didn’t know on March 1, and all the things we still don’t know. Yet our leaders, the Prez and VP, the governors, the mayors, etc. had to make real-time decisions about how we would react to a disease about which little was known.

Inevitably many of their decisions were less than optimal, based on guesses about what we faced and its severity. Exercising the proverbial 20-20 hindsight to second guess them is unfair and petty.

Some guessed right and some guessed wrong. Do I think any of them were wrong on purpose? No, I don’t, and that includes some who made decisions that hindsight shows were awful.

For example, I suspect truly awful decisions were made because long-term-care facilities are sometimes euphemistically called “convalescent hospitals.” The title is misleading because hardly any residents ever convalesce and they clearly are not hospitals in any meaningful sense of treating illness or maintaining sterile conditions.

Had Gov. Cuomo of NY thought of them as “assisted living facilities,” he probably wouldn’t have mandated they accept people with active Covid-19 cases. Particularly if, when the decision was made, he had understood the news from Washington state which showed that the residents of these facilities were particularly at risk of getting very sick and dying of Covid-19.

Do I suspect that today some Democrat governors are prolonging the lockdown to create economic hardship and thus help Biden beat Trump in November? I’m beginning to, but I believe that is a thought that came upon them in say the last month. I don’t think that was on their minds in March when the big decisions were made.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Super Snark

A leading candidate for the day’s snarkiest comment on the news, a headline from The Babylon Bee:
Florida Ruled To Be in Violation of Science For Not Having More People Die
Gov. DeSantis is rightfully furious at the negative press treatment successful Florida has received.

CoV a Created Pathogen?

Contrary to earlier views, a group of Australian scientists has preliminary findings that the Covid-19 virus shows signs of human intervention and manipulation, according to The Washington Times.
Five scientists who conducted the study discovered an unusual ability of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, as the pathogen behind COVID-19 is called, to easily infect humans.

The scientists said there is no sign so far that the virus can be found in other animals, including bats or the exotic wildlife sold for fresh meat at a market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus was first identified and where China maintains a major laboratory studying such viruses.

The preliminary report of the study, which is now being peer-reviewed, is based on computer modeling of the virus’ ability to infect various animals, including humans. It was published May 13 on the Cornell University website, which is used for discussion of pre-publication papers.
Most scientific opinion has held the opposite view, so some caution with these findings is indicated. We’ll know more after the peer review is complete.

However, the part of me that takes a snarky interest in conspiracy theories likes it a lot. It fits the Trump narrative and is from a source over which he has no control.

A Higher Ed Apocalypse

You’ll recollect I wrote about what happens when students stop coming to a campus which was not predominantly a commuter campus. I particularized it to the university at which I spent most of my faculty career.

It occurs to me this same phenomenon can occur at every campus which has a large contingent of non-commuter students who come to the campus to live while going to school. If the students aren’t there to rent the apartments clustered around the campus, the landlords will find other renters and these are likely to be poor and on public assistance of various sorts.

A sort of reverse gentrification occurs, the neighborhood deteriorates, and may not recover. It seems likely hundreds of campuses face this dilemma as a reluctance to offer face-to-face classes in an era of contagion tempts schools to segue to on-line instruction.

I’ll bet enrollments and student loan applications will be significantly lower this fall. The ripple effects will ricochet through campus communities, hitting bars, pizza joints, fast food, and more. The higher ed bubble-bursting predicted by Glenn Reynolds may be upon us.

Poll: Antecedents of Happiness

Gallup looks at Americans’ happiness and finds demographic differences in those who are and are not happy.
U.S. adults with household incomes under $36,000 per year are more likely than those in higher-income groups to experience daily worry, boredom and loneliness -- and are much less likely to say they experienced happiness during a lot of the previous day.

Democrats report less happiness and more worry and loneliness than do Republicans.

Married and widowed Americans are happier, worry less and are less lonely than those who are single or divorced.

Women are more likely than men to report worry and loneliness.
We’ve observed this pattern before, the GOP is of, by, and for winners. The Democrats represent the not-winners. If you would be happy, you need to be married, Republican and employed at a non-throwaway job.

Later ... I had an afterthought about women being more worried and lonely. I hypothesize it is because they are, on average, more social than men. The lockdown has interrupted their more social lives to a greater extent.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Weird Animal Behavior Science

The Hill has a story about a pod of dolphins in Australia who are accustomed to interacting with humans at a tourist attraction (and not incidentally being fed).
The pod has been bringing us regular gifts, showing us how much they’re missing the public interaction and attention.☹️

Since the restrictions have eased we have been able to reopen the dolphin feeding & cafe.

Put a smile on someone’s face and come spend some time and feed these beautiful creatures, they are definitely missing you all🐬
This behavior reminds me of the primitive South Sea islanders who became accustomed to the stuff the military brought to their island during WW II. The war ended, the military went home, and a “cargo cult” sprang up where natives would build crude replicas of airplanes in hopes of decoying the military and their largess-laden planes back to the island.

It wouldn’t surprise me if dolphins are trying to use their version of ‘magic’ to lure tourists and their snacks back to the lagoon, a sort of pelagic ‘cargo cult.’ Oddly, it just might work for the dolphins, it didn’t for the islanders.

Weird Epidemiological Science

Originally published in the Sacramento Bee and echoed here at, a finding by Kaiser Permanente that during the Covid-19 outbreak, fewer than normal people have been showing up at emergency rooms with cardiac symptoms.
The rate of hospitalization for heart attacks was nearly cut in half, falling by 48% from the beginning of January until mid-April. The study used data from Kaiser Permanente’s 21 medical centers in Northern California and the Central Valley and measured the rate weekly.

There was no significant decrease in trauma cases either and only a moderate decline in the number of strokes in April.

“We’re trying to protect people from COVID-19, but because of the fear that people aren’t utilizing 911 and they’re avoiding symptoms that they have and should be seeking medical attention for,” Weivoda said.
Early in the epidemic I remember writing that it would take something serious like a heart attack, stroke or serious injury for me to go to a hospital during the pandemic. Are people so afraid of hospitals as places to catch Covid-19 that they’re ignoring cardiac problems? Bizarre, if true.

Miles Law - 1, Vox - 0

Vox is reliably liberal in its philosophy, in spite of which, when RealClearPolitics linked to an article purporting to examine why conservatives are more risk-taking with respect to Covid-19 than liberals I was curious. As this seems counterintuitive, I decided to give it a look.

The article does the whole personality theory thing, then examines political motives, and ends up muddled, as you might expect. The answer, of course, lies in Miles Law which whimsically states that where you stand depends on where you sit.

Red states are low density, blue states mostly high density. And, the high density parts of red states tend to vote blue while the low density parts of blue states vote red. Absent living in long-term care, low density places are safer as much social distancing happens naturally, without conscious thought.

My nephews report the high density Bay Area is still pretty serious about mask-wearing and avoiding others. My rural part of CA, not so much although the other DrC and I continue to mask those few times we go out as we are, sadly, no longer young. 

Plus many of those agitating for reopening the economy are small business owners, entrepreneurs in other words. That’s a tough life in the best of times, which these are not. Again, it’s where they “sit” meaning what they do for a living motivates them to take risk by opening.

An Aging Population

The often-excellent Michael Barone considers the Covid-19 epidemic from the perspective of a long life, these days writing for the Washington Examiner. He notes that the death rates from the earlier imported-from-Asia outbreaks - the Asian flu and Hong Kong flu - were as great or greater than what we’re experiencing with this corona virus, but we didn’t shut down our economy.

Barone is an old-fashioned journalist who tends to have his facts correct and his spin at least somewhat muted, so I admit that he makes a good point when he concludes:
You can argue that Americans in the Midcentury Moment* were too willing to accept pandemic or battlefield deaths, just as they were too willing to accept racial segregation or to stigmatize uncommon lifestyles.

But there’s also a strong argument that they had a more realistic sense of the limits of the human condition and the efficacy of official action than Americans have today. Certainly more than the governors stubbornly enforcing lockdowns till the virus is stamped out, and deaths fall to zero.
* Midcentury Moment is Barone’s label for the quarter-century following World War II, 1945-1970.

All respiratory illnesses - flu or corona virus - afflict the elderly and those with comorbidities more seriously than the young. Barone doesn’t take into account that, in today’s aging population, lots more of us are old crocks with a lifetime’s accumulation of both ills and wealth.

Covid-19 puts seniors at risk of dying before we get to spend our money on long-deferred gratification. No wonder we’re being extra careful this time around.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

I Have a Question

There is some controversy currently over Trump firing an Obama-era holdover who has continued as the Inspector General of the State Department. SecState Pompeo is clear that the firing was done at his instigation.

I am unclear why any Obama appointees, who serve at the pleasure of the President, are still employed in the Executive Branch. It seems logical to me one would fire them all upon taking office and get busy appointing new ones. Leaving these individuals, whose loyalty is to the other party, on payroll seems highly counterintuitive.

Perhaps someone can ask Trump this question?

Another Shoe Drops

Recorded phone calls of then-VP Joe Biden talking with then-President of Ukraine Poroshenko are surfacing. They corroborate Biden’s on-video claim that he coerced Poroshenko into firing a prosecutor whose work Biden didn’t like. Said prosecutor was investigating the firm - Burisma - of which Biden’s son Hunter was a director.  The Daily Wire has the story.

It is truly interesting how little attention the legacy media is giving this evidence of the Biden family’s corruption. Their lack of attention is evidence of the media’s own corruption and lack of professionalism.

A related story is a judge in Ukraine demanding that Joe Biden be listed as an alleged perpetrator in the prosecutor firing. Just the News has that story.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Comparing the 4 Most Populous States

Power Line’s John Hinderaker reprints a tweet from TX Governor Greg Abbott. In it Abbott compares the four largest states: CA, TX, FL, and NY.

Abbot notes TX and FL have no state income taxes, balanced budgets, and lower Covid-19 death rates. CA and NY have substantial state income taxes, large debts, and higher Covid-19 death rates. And he notes that FL and TX have opened businesses while CA and NY have not yet.

It is also true that people are moving from CA and NY to TX and FL in large numbers. I’ve not lived in FL, but the other DrC and I spent a year in TX, near Dallas, as visiting faculty.

In many ways TX is an easy transition for people from CA. One thing that people from CA will find creates culture shock - the pervasive religiosity. Texans don’t really practice the separation of church and state.

Imagine the president of a state university saying a non-perfunctory Christ-centered grace at a dinner welcoming new faculty and their spouses. We sat there wondering how the new faculty with Jewish names felt about that.

Texans are genial people normally, sort of anti-New Yorkers. On the other hand, there is a distinct tendency for Texans to make their real friends at church. If you don’t go to church people will be pleasant to you but don’t hold your breath waiting to be invited to their homes or to do things together.

Close relationships are made at church, among fellow congregants. I could once again live comfortably in TX but as a “none” I wouldn’t expect to make close friends there. I’m okay with that, many would not be.

Weird Animal Behavior Science

The New York Post reports on research which looks at why otters play with rocks. The researchers guess it is a hunger distraction mechanism, but are far from certain.
Otters don’t really “juggle” in the true sense of the word, but they do like to shuffle rocks around while kicking back in the water. They toss them around and manipulate them with surprising dexterity and scientists really wanted to figure out why. Otters in captivity have been observed carrying out this act frequently, though it remains unclear if that is at all related.
Otters are well-known to be playful critters, and this certainly seems like play, like fun. Who says fun is a uniquely human emotion?

Why shouldn’t animals have fun?  Anybody who has watched a flock of birds swooping around the sky in graceful but non-purposeful ways believes animals experience fun.

Monday, May 18, 2020

New Poll Results

Today, The Hill reports a new study of voter feelings.
One-third of Democratic voters believe the sexual harassment, assault allegations against Joe Biden, a new Hill-HarrisX survey finds.

Thirty-four percent of Democrats in the May 11-12 poll believe the harassment claims made by former Senate staffer, Tara Reade, and 30 percent believe the sexual assault accusations.
If you assume slightly more than half of those believing-Reade Democrats polled are women, you have to ask yourself how many of them will decide they can’t vote for either Biden or Trump. I’d guess about half of the half, say 8%.

Now ask yourself what proportion of the “Bernie bros” won’t vote for Biden? Add those two together and factor in the Trump lead in battleground states. You’ll like the answer, but many unforetold things can happen in the next six months.

If we’re making this calculation, you can be sure the DNC is doing the same. Don’t be surprised if Biden is urged to step aside.

That action, of course, is contingent on there being someone more electable who can step in. Who might that be?

Granny-killing Cuomo? Convict-loving Newsom? Someone who ran and was turned down by primary voters? The horizon is surprisingly free of white knights riding to the rescue of the Democrats.

Quote of the Day

Actor James Woods quoted in BizPacReview as having Tweeted the following assessment of President Trump.
Let’s face it. Donald Trump is a rough individual. He is vain, insensitive and raw. But he loves America more than any President in my lifetime.

He is the last firewall between us and this cesspool called Washington. I’ll take him any day over any of these bums.
To his credit, #realdonaldtrump took that to be a heck of a compliment. Hyperbolic to be sure, but correct in essence, like Trump.

Trump understands the heart of this great land as the coastal elites do not. I stand by my earlier assessment, he’s a sort of amalgam of Teddy Roosevelt and Andy Jackson, with a bit of FDR’s media savvy on the side.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Editorial Note

You may have noticed that COTTonLINE pays what might seem undue attention to California, especially for a blogger domiciled in Wyoming. On a slow news Sunday I concluded it would be useful to explain the “why” of this extra interest.

It begins with me being a CA native, having lived and worked there most of my life. I suppose I consider myself a CA expat, part of the CA ‘diaspora’ now happily resident in WY.

I have a genuine fondness for CA - the vastly varied physical place. It has world class scenery, mountains and beaches, and next-to-no sticky humidity. Snow is something most Californians visit, not live with.

Fondness for CA - the political structure of the last several decades? Not even a little. For CA - the inhabitants - less and less as time passes.

CA is the residence of fully 1/8 of the U.S. population plus it has long-time reputation as a trend-setter. What happens in CA is hard to ignore. Sadly, these days, it is often even harder to like.

Comes to mind an updated version of an old pick-up line, “What’s a nice place like CA doing with such sleazy politics?” It’s becoming Argentina Norte, which is extremely sad.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Criminal Folly in CA

The Associated Press reports CA Governor Gavin Newsom intends to shrink the CA prison population.
Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing to significantly shrink the footprint of California's prison system, partly because of massive budget cuts prompted by the pandemic but also because of philosophy.

The revised budget he sent to state lawmakers this week envisions closing two state prisons in the coming years; cutting nearly one in five of the 43 inmate firefighter camps; and eventually closing all three state-run juvenile prisons.

He's also seeking unspecified increases to sentencing credits that allow inmates to leave prison more quickly. And he proposes to shorten parole to a maximum of two years, down from five years for felonies, and let ex-felons earn their way off supervision in just a year, or 18 months for sex offenders.
For what segment of the California electorate will these actions improve the quality of life? For criminals and their families. Having more criminals on the street, instead of behind bars, makes the quality of life worse for everyone else.

Imagine for a moment Gavin Newsom hates law-abiding, middle-class Californians. Wouldn’t this be exactly the sort of thing he’d do to them, infest their neighborhoods with thugs, child molesters and pushers?

It’s time to revive snark which, first time I heard it, related to a Boeing layoff in the Seattle area. The 21st century CA version is, will the last middle class family leaving CA for greener pastures please turn off the lights.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Peter Principle - on Steroids in LA

The folks at Red State post a blurb about Los Angeles’ Public Health Director, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, taken from a bio published at USC:
Dr. Ferrer received her Ph.D. in Social Welfare from Brandeis University, a Master of Arts in Public Health from Boston University, a Master of Arts in Education from the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and a Bachelor of Arts in Community Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
What isn’t obvious to those not au courant with higher education in California, is that UC, Santa Cruz is not on a par with Berkeley and UCLA. Instead compare it to Reed in OR or Evergreen State in WA. It is a place where self-selected snowflakes go to hang with fellow travelers, in a drug-mediated haze while reading Marx, Mao, Marcuse, and Alinsky.

It is surmised the UC system established the Santa Cruz campus to drain the worst weirdos out of its more serious campuses (campi?). Done so those can get on with research without being distracted too much by social justice whining.

Like Barack Obama, Ferrer became a community organizer, aka paid trouble-maker. Now LA pays this aging hippie (see photo) over $500,000 a year, and she isn’t even a physician but claims to be Hispanic. Hat tip to Ed Driscoll at Instapundit for the link.

News You Can Use

Power Line’s Scott Johnson this morning has a detailed list of the pre-existing conditions that put one at greater danger of dying from Covid-19. In Minnesota at least, just over 1% of the deaths from it (6 of 499) are people without one of these who do not live in a long-term care facility.
What are the significant underlying medical conditions that place one at risk of death from the virus? They are set forth in paragraph 2 of Walz Executive Order 20-55: chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma, serious heart conditions, immunocompromised systems (caused by cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, or prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications), severe obesity (body mass index of 40 or higher), diabetes, chronic kidney disease requiring dialysis, and liver disease.
It must be said that if you aren’t in the above group you could still get very sick but will likely survive after much misery. Nobody is saying so but I suspect this same group of people are at elevated risk of dying from influenza. The Walz referenced is MN Governor Tim Walz.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

CNN: Trump Leads in Battleground States

First, a few definitions. “Battleground states” are those in which either party has a decent chance to win a majority of the presidential votes. States like CA and NY will vote Dem., while WY and TX will vote GOP, pretty much regardless. They are not battleground states.

Getting a majority of the votes cast nationwide is not how one is elected president, as Ms. Clinton discovered in 2016. Getting a majority in enough states to add up to a majority in the so-called “electoral college” is how one is elected president. Donald Trump did this.

Campaigns focus their efforts on states which are thought to be winnable, the battleground states. Now for a new CNN poll that must be causing heads to explode at that #NeverTrump network.
In the new poll, 51% of registered voters nationwide back Biden, while 46% say they prefer Trump, while in the battlegrounds, 52% favor Trump and 45% Biden. Partisans are deeply entrenched in their corners, with 95% of Democrats behind Biden and the same share of Republicans behind Trump. The two are close among independents (50% back Trump, 46% Biden, not a large enough difference to be considered a lead).
The article looks for and finds a number of dimensions on which Biden is ahead. None of those matter except as one likes to understand how Americans are feeling about this and that. It is just descriptive sociology, or if you prefer, demographics.

The individual who wins the battleground states becomes the president, end of story. A seven point Trump lead in the battleground states is huge.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Two Good Omens

Yesterday Republicans won two special election House seats, one in Wisconsin, one in ... wait for it ... California! Both will have to keep running as all House seats are “up” this November, but both will have the incumbent’s advantage which is considerable.

The Wisconsin seat was previously held by a Republican. The CA seat was held by Democrat Katie Hill who resigned after nude photos of her combing an aide’s hair surfaced on the Internet. Given the Democrat edge in the House, the victory is valuable mostly symbolically, as a momentum marker.

Believe it or not, CA still sends some Republicans to the House. My CA place is in a county that has been represented by the GOP in the House since 1975, though the county was shifted from CA district 2 to CA district 1 in 2013.

Can you imagine how this conservatism P.O.s the liberals infesting the small college town where I worked? Given their sicko druthers, they’d turn the town into SFnorth - they’re half way there - but the district keeps electing Republican farmers.

Miles Law Strikes Again

In “Democrats Have Bad Luck” we cited findings about which party controls the state government in the 10 states with above-average Covid-19 deaths per million. Mostly Democrats it turns out.

Further reflection suggests people living in conditions of high-density urbanization tend to prefer the sort of quasi-socialist policies Europeans choose, and Democrats aspire to implement. It appears to be a further example of Miles Law, that where you sit (in this case “reside”) determines where you stand (politically). And perhaps determines from what you die.

If fear of contagion causes deurbanization, will it likewise cause political preferences to move rightward too? Odder things have happened.

Striking a Balance

The Covid-19 epidemic poses a dilemma. We are unfortunate this has happened in a presidential election year, which greatly increases the incentive to politicize things which shouldn’t be. A conspiracy theorist would exchange “It is no accident...” for “We are unfortunate...” in the preceding sentence.

As a society we need people to live, not die; and we need people to continue economic activity, not idle at home. If, at one extreme, we almost all live but end up impoverished - in a Great Depression-style mess - we lose big time.  If we go gung-ho back-to-work and many die who would have lived, we also lose a lot.

I suggest a natural experiment is going on right now that can help us plan what to do. We decided early on that grocery store employees were essential so they kept working right through the Covid-19 epidemic. Some wore masks, many stores put plastic shields between checkers and customers, but they kept working and do so today. A store we patronize has a clerk standing outside wiping the handles of returned carts with a disinfectant, mostly “cosmetic” but reassuring.

Someone needs to examine the store clerk population and determine if they have had greater serious illness incidence than those who stayed home, or worked from home. My impression is that they have had very little more hospitalization than a stay-home control group. If that is the case, then returning to work while taking precautions makes sense.

Schools - because of the human density - are another matter and perhaps require more rethinking. Maybe going to half-day sessions with half as many desks and pupils per room, a disinfectant wipe-down after each half-day and a focus on a pared-down 3Rs would do the trick.

My greater point: life has to go on, including economic life and for kids, growing up continues. We have to find the balance that works and keep moving. We need most pieces of this economy to function on a regular basis, and we need to identify and double-protect the most vulnerable who, evidence shows, are largely those in long-term-care facilities, including nursing homes.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

I’ve Heard This Story Before

Let me tell you a story that happened many years ago. In the years leading up to the Berkeley free speech movement and the subsequent anti-Vietnam War movement, San Jose State College was a major California party school.

Students came there from all over CA to go away to school while paying in-state tuition. Most lived in thousands of apartment units clustered around the campus, I was one of them. We got a decent undergrad degree and had a blast doing it. I stuck around for an MBA.

When “the troubles” came to Berkeley, they happened at SJSC as well, though less publicized. The result, students looking for a fun place to get a degree stopped coming to troubled San Jose from distant parts of California.

By the time it became a university in 1972, SJSU had become largely a commuter school whose students lived in the various Bay Area communities in which they grew up, or where their current jobs were located. They drove to the campus and back home, and the apartments weren’t needed.

Apartment owners expect a return on their investments; being a landlord isn’t philanthropy. When the students stopped renting their apartments, they found other renters who were, on the whole, on various forms of government assistance. The neighborhood around the campus became effectively a slum - something it was not in the 1960s.

Fast forward 50 years to the present. I just learned the campus I spent most of my career teaching at, another CA state university party school with many campus area apartments, will host almost no in-person classes and be largely online next year as a result of Covid-19.

I’m wondering if the same thing will happen to it that happened to San Jose State, the deterioration of the neighborhood ruining the campus ambiance and sending the go-away-to-school kids elsewhere. In this case, however, the rural setting will mean an enrollment crash if the campus has to rely on commuter students who live within an hour’s drive of campus.

I’m reminded of a snarky thing Karl Marx wrote, namely, “that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.” This outcome would be some combination of the two.

Democrats Have Bad Luck

Instapundit links to a blog by someone with the pretentious name of Seth Barrett Tillman. Mr. Tillman shares some interesting facts on the subject of Covid-19 and partisan state control.
There are 10 states above the national average in deaths per million.

There are 21 states with Republican governors and where both legislative houses are under Republican control. Not one of those state’s deaths per million is over the national average.

Again, there are 10 states above the national average in deaths per million. 5 of those 10 states are under exclusive Democratic control (among 15 states under exclusive Democratic control). And 5 of those 10 states have divided partisan control between the legislature and governor (among 13 states with divided partisan control).

Of the top-3 states, with the highest deaths per million, all 3 are under exclusive Democratic control.
This doesn’t feel like a series of coincidences or bad luck.

Biden Was There

Ed Driscoll, who guest-blogs at Instapundit, links to an MRC NewsBusters transcript of a George Stephanopoulos interview with presumptive Democrat nominee Joe Biden on ABC. The subject matter was the extent of his involvement in the attack on Michael Flynn.
Stephanopoulos: What did you know about those moves to investigate Michael Flynn and was there anything improper done?

Biden: I know nothing about those moves to investigate Michael Flynn, number one. Number two, this is all about diversion....The country is in crisis....He should stop trying to always divert attention from the real concerns of the American people.

Stephanopoulos: I do want to press that. You say you didn’t know anything about it, but you were reported to be at a January 5th, 2017 meeting where you and the President were briefed on the FBI’s plan to question Michael Flynn over those conversations he had with the Russian Ambassador Kislyak.

Biden: No, I thought you asked me whether or not I had anything to do with him being prosecuted. I’m sorry. I was aware that there was – that they had asked for an investigation, but that’s all I know about it, and I don’t think anything else.
Two thoughts:
  • Very weird, Stephanopoulos almost acted like a real journalist. Will it cost him his job? 
  • Ol’ Joe, the innocent bystander, letting his boss take the rap. Biden’s “I know nothing” above sounds like dim-bulb Sgt. Shultz of Hogan’s Heroes. Playing dumb isn’t a good look for someone who would be elected president.

Most At Little Risk of Death?

Scott Johnson, one of the four principals at Power Line, has done a semi-tedious series of 37 columns about Covid-19 in Minnesota, most of them taking a dim view of the Governor’s responses to the disease. Today, he summarizes the MN experience, after noting that in MN roughly 80% of the deaths have been among long-term care residents and the average age of those dying is 83.
Minnesotans also fail to understand this: outside of long-term care facilities and absent an underlying medical condition such as obesity, diabetes, respiratory or cardiac disease, they are essentially at no risk of death from the virus.
I wonder just how true this appraisal might be nationally? Especially when over 40% of Americans are obese. The behavior of people in semi-rural CA, where I reside at present. suggests many have privately drawn this conclusion and gone about their work and lives, to the extent possible.

True, restaurants and many shops are closed, and most of us need a haircut, but mask-wearing is now reduced to a sizable minority and keeping 6’ apart isn’t being particularly observed. Traffic is back to maybe 70% of normal, although some large stores (WalMart, Home Depot) are making customers enter in elaborate, off-putting ways.

Our nephews in the Bay Area report a more strict adherence to social distancing guidelines there. Doing so may make sense in that higher density environment.

Monday, May 11, 2020

A Single Robin

The meme #Obamagate is trending. I judge it is too soon to get one’s hopes up, and yet ....

Ripples of Consequences

Forbes is a long-time go-to source for business insights. One of their contributors, Stephen McBride, has identified three industries he believes will not make a comeback after Covid-19 has abated. They are (1) movie theaters, (2) department stores, and (3) office space operators. I wonder if he might not add cruise lines, but that’s just a guess.

If McBride is correct about “office space operators” which is to say landlords, it also has big-time implications for those who build and furnish office buildings.

Think of the long-term implications for urban home prices. If people don’t need to commute to work everyday, why live in high-rises or on cramped suburban lots? The premium for being close to rapid transit will be much less, although being within an hour’s drive of a serious airport will likely continue to have relevance for many.

Some enterprising science fiction author should be writing a tale about what happens when high-rise cities are literally abandoned and stand there like Mayan pyramids, overgrown relics of an earlier age, barely understood by the builders’ great grandchildren living nearby.

Playing Their Game

For quite a few years, White House press secretaries have answered media questions as though they were serious efforts to gain information for stories. For much that time, during Republican administrations, the questions were obviously not intended as solicitations of information or policy, but were in fact attempts to make the incumbent president look bad.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders began to respond combatively. Her successor decided (or was told) to hold no press conferences and thereby frustrate the would-be grandstanders. Which had the desired effect.

Now comes Kayleigh McEnany who has, so far, decided to treat the press briefing the same way the media does, as a “gotcha contest” in which the game is to make the opponent look bad. So far, she’s doing well; the press is shocked the White House ‘punching bag’ is punching them back, hard and accurately.

RealClearPolitics this morning has links to two stories (here and here) about McEnany and her combative approach. It turns out she is practiced in debate as a combat sport, having been the paid designated conservative on otherwise liberal CNN panels for a couple of years (so I hadn’t seen her work). Excellent training for the new role.

Once again, progressives are stupefied when the opposition decides to play by their rules.

Later ... Ms. McEnany needs to lose the fake eyelashes, they can’t handle closeups.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Hyperbole Alert

Writing at Power Line, Paul Mirengoff quotes political observer Norman Ornstein as Tweeting that Attorney General “Bill Barr is a fascist.” Which is hyperbolic nonsense, of course.

The last time a real fascist was head law enforcement officer of a developed country - which position Barr holds - people with names like Ornstein were in boxcars headed for camps with mottos like “Arbeit Macht Frei.”

It appears Ornstein remains very much a free man, angrily making mischief at his keyboard. Ergo, Barr is no fascist but Ornstein does have his panties in a twist.

Gut Check Time

RealClearPolitics has a transcript of Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo interviewing Michael Flynn’s attorney, Sidney Powell about how the FBI worked to frame her client. Here is the conclusion.
POWELL: The whole thing was orchestrated and set up within the FBI, Clapper, Brennan, and in the Oval Office meeting that day* with President Obama.

BARTIROMO: So, you think this goes all the way up to the top, to President Obama?

POWELL: Absolutely.

BARTIROMO: Who is going to be charged?

POWELL: I have no idea. That's up to John Durham and Attorney General Barr.
It would take enormous courage to charge Obama. I remain skeptical either Durham or Barr is willing to make charging Obama the hill they choose to die on. The day (*) Powell refers to is January 5, 2017.

Happy Mother’s Day

COTTonLINE wishes all moms a happy Mother’s Day. Bless you, every one. You make the world a better place. 

A fair few of you moms will spend months-to-years in long-term care facilities. To honor you, we need to ensure these become safer and healthier places. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the Florida model is a great place to start this effort. When the panic is over, let’s commit to getting this upgrade done.

All Lies, All the Way Down

Instapundit posts a Tweet by someone whose screen name is Carpe Donktum, meaning I suppose “seize the Donkey.” I share it with you because it is both true and snarky-as-heck.
Revealed this week about RussiaGate:

Everything the MSM told you was a lie

Everything Congressional Democrats told you was a lie

Everything the "Intelligence Community" told you was a lie

Everything we told you about the Russia Hoax was the Truth

Nobody on the left cares
Everyone on the left is a nobody. Collectively they constitute a posse of vicious pygmies.

Fatal Mistakes

National Review’s excellent Jim Geraghty has written a valuable column on how unfortunate state policies in a handful of blue states have added fuel to the fire that is Covid-19. The states’ concern was acute care hospitals becoming overloaded with desperately ill coronavirus patients.

A number of states therefore required nursing homes to accept or readmit patients with still-active cases of the disease. This exposed residents and staff to the disease while ignoring that such facilities are neither trained or equipped to isolate the contagious.

The result has been a disaster for both elderly residents and staff. Nursing home residents and staff have done a disproportionately large share of the dying attributed to this pandemic.

It turns out that governors like Cuomo, Pritzker, and Newsom have a lot of deaths to answer for. Other states like Florida have had policies that specifically banned what NY and NJ specifically required.

As the “laboratory of democracy” the states have tried different policies with differing results. Those trying policies that spawned tragedies will have to shoulder the blame for “choosing poorly.”

An Interesting Factoid

Matt Margolis writes at PJ Media the following concerning the poll numbers of our two most recent presidents. Hat tip to for the link.
According to Rasmussen Reports, Trump’s approval rating for May 8, 2020, stands at 49 percent amongst likely voters. Eight years ago, when Barack Obama was up for reelection, his approval stood at 47 percent.
Obama had excellent, positive media coverage but was a mediocre president; Trump has mostly terrible, negative media coverage but has been a largely successful president. That they are as close as this is a measure of the impact of press coverage, which is virtually always in the tank for Democrats.

Presidents normally get reelected for a second term. In my long memory, only two elected presidents tried but failed to win a second term: Carter and Bush I. Obama got reelected with a 47% approval, it’s likely Trump can get elected with a 49% approval.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Media Bias, with a Side of Conspiracy

Twenty years ago Bernard Goldberg wrote a book entitled Bias in which he argued there was no media conspiracy against conservatives, only a collective liberal mindset or groupthink among journalists. Today Goldberg writes at The Hill that he no longer holds that charitable view.
What I wrote and spoke about then — mainly about how there was no conspiracy to inject bias into news stories — seems no longer to be true today.

Yes, liberal groupthink is still a problem in America’s newsrooms. But now, in the age of Donald Trump, I believe there actually is a conspiracy.
I particularly like his conclusion:
In the age of Trump, the media no longer try to hide biases; they embrace them. The so-called mainstream media have joined “The Resistance.” And the worst part is that they’re not troubled by it.

Do journalists actually go into dark rooms and conspire to bring down the president? I have no idea if the room is dark or not.

Can We Afford NYC?

Writing at PJ Media, Tyler O’Neil asks the question, how much do the hot cluster of Covid-19 cases in greater New York City skew the number for the U.S.? The short answer: A lot.
The vast majority of U.S. coronavirus cases either happened in the Tri-State Area or came from the Tri-State Area.

If the New York City area were its own country, it would rank high at the top, both for cases per million and for deaths per million. In terms of coronavirus cases per million, America drops to eighth place without the New York City area.

In terms of deaths per million, New York City again blows other countries out of the water — and without the New York City area deaths, America no longer ranks in the top ten.
And O’Neil concludes evidence shows most cases in the rest of the U.S. arrived there by people leaving NYC. As Instapundit reminded us recently, in a pandemic density and mass transit are killers, and NYC is our poster child for both.

Highly contagious, dangerous respiratory illnesses erupt out of China on a once-every-decade schedule. Can we afford to have an ‘open sore’ like New York City as a magnet, a virtual ‘invitation’ to every contagion that comes along? Or is it too great a risk?

Flynn Discussed by Obama in Oval Office

In a column at PJ Media, Matt Margolis reports that documents released yesterday by the Department of Justice show that President Obama, while still in office as a lame duck, knew details about the wiretap of Michael Flynn’s call with Russian ambassador Kislyak. He writes:
Obama’s direct knowledge of the details of Flynn’s wiretapped calls even shocked his then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. Obama had fired Flynn as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014 in order to protect Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. Obama’s knowledge of Flynn being wiretapped raises significant questions about what Obama knew and when he knew it with regard to the attempt to railroad Flynn and prevent him from serving as Trump’s national security adviser.
An optimist would conclude we are one small step closer to seeing the former president in an orange jumpsuit. A pessimist would say he’s untouchable, regardless of what he knew or ordered done.

Fox News has a longer story about these documents and what they show, including that Biden was present at these discussions.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

1996 Document Backs Tara Reade Claim

The Sacramento Bee is reporting that documents filed with the court in San Luis Obispo County in 1996 confirm Tara Reade‘s estranged husband believed she had filed a sexual harassment complaint against someone while working in Sen. Joe Biden’s office in 1993. He adds she “eventually struck a deal with the chief of staff of the Senator’s office and left her position.”

The article quotes the then-chief of staff as having no recollection of this deal-striking whatsoever, alleging it didn’t happen. Whatever happened or didn’t happen, Ms. Reade has been convinced of its reality since the mid-1990s.

Flynn Charges Dropped

PBS carries an Associated Press report that the Department of Justice is dropping their case against former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. He admitted lying to the FBI before asking the court to withdraw his guilty plea.

Documents recently released appeared to indicate the FBI attempted to entrap Flynn because of political malice. They did this after concluding he had done nothing wrong vis-a-vis the Russians.

It is widely believed that after their investigation determined Flynn had broken no laws, they set out to get him to break the one about lying to the FBI in order to get him fired or, even better, jailed. The motive was hatred of president-elect Trump and a wish to hobble or destroy him, which they failed to accomplish.

The Obama administration, in the waning days of which this all happened, appears to have very dirty hands, so much so that it was likely the Flynn case would not succeed. As we all know, judges throw out cases where the prosecution or police can be shown to have exceeded their authority or acted corruptly. That seems to be the case here.

Occam’s Razor Wins

Regarding the post we did about the ethnically Chinese CoV researcher in Pittsburgh who was murdered by a Chinese-American fellow who, police claim, committed suicide almost immediately thereafter.  Police are now saying there was a long term disagreement between the two men concerning a third person who was the love interest of one of the two, or possibly of both.

The police won’t say who that person was, which makes me suspect it was Dr. Liu’s wife. It is hard to imagine who else the police would try to protect, unless that third person was a minor - a scary thought. Old homicide squad truism: suspect love and/or money as the motive for murder.

A Major Riposte

The Daily Wire has a transcript of Trump’s new Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany taking a snarky personal question, reversing it, and ramming it down the collective throats of the assembled media. The schadenfreude is amazing.
Reuters reporter Jeff Mason asked McEnany, “In a previous life, before you were press secretary, you worked for the campaign and you made a comment, I believe on Fox, in which you said President Trump will not allow the coronavirus to come to this country. Given what has happened since then, obviously, would you like to take that back?
Her obviously pre-researched answer is a killer:
I guess I would turn the question back on the media and ask similar questions. Does Vox want to take back that they proclaimed that the coronavirus would not be a deadly pandemic? Does The Washington Post want to take back that they told Americans to get a grip, the flu is bigger than the coronavirus? Does The Washington Post likewise want to take back that our brains are causing us to exaggerate the threat of the coronavirus? Does The New York Times want to take back that fear of the virus maybe spreading faster of than the virus itself? Does NPR want to take back that the flu was a much bigger threat than the coronavirus? And finally once again The Washington Post, would they like to take back that the government should not respond aggressively to the coronavirus?

I’ll leave you with those questions and maybe you’ll have some answers in a few days,” McEnany concluded. “Thank you very much.
I believe that’s referred to in modern parlance as her “owning” the #NeverTrump media. Do you notice that Reuters is not among those whose earlier reporting she criticized?

Jeff Mason is a decent guy, often on Bret Baier’s panel on Fox News. I‘m devious enough to wonder if he collaborated with McEnany to ask that question? Hat tip to Stephen Green guest blogging at Instapundit for the link.

Identifying the Problem

I’d like to call your attention to an article by Rod Dreher at The American Conservative on the topic of the bad situation in public schools. He reacts to a letter a middle schoolgirl wrote to the New York Times about how superior her online schooling is to the chaotic public school she attended before the CoV lockdown. Some key Dreher quotes:
What if the problem is not the system, but the kids, and the families that send them to school without the character qualities necessary for their success?

Education is not a mechanical process (inputs + process = outputs), but an organic one. It requires students, teachers, and parents working together, in harmony. The role parents play is to create a habitus in which the student is prepared to learn, and to acquire the self-discipline to participate in the process. If parents do not or cannot do that, the system breaks down.

A friend who teaches at a very poor rural school here in Louisiana told me at length that the biggest obstacle to his students learning is the culture they bring with them into the classroom. It is a culture of natural hatred of authority, of chaos, and in the worst cases, contempt for schooling. He said that when you meet the parents of these kids, you know exactly where it comes from.
Amen, brother. Much of what is wrong with the schools, as opposed to with the students, is the result of well-meaning but ineffectual attempts to counteract the lack of parental support and structure, to have the schools somehow try to do what the parents can’t or won’t do, which task the schools are unable to accomplish.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

What We’ve Learned

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds writes a weekly column for USA Today, today he explains there four things we have learned from the Wuhan virus epidemic. They are these:
Density kills.
Mass transit kills.
Bureaucracy kills.
Censorship kills.
Reynolds explains each of the four to my satisfaction. If any is unclear to you, see his reasoning. NYC is the poster child for the first two. The federal bureaucracy is the villain for the third. And Chinese government censorship is the fourth example.

Weird Biological Science

Talk about setting a thief to catch a thief, check out an article at Science Alert about a way to keep mosquitoes from passing along malaria. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.
The team discovered that a new type of spore-forming single-celled microbe found in mosquitoes, which they've called Microsporidia MB, has the amazing ability to stop the transmission of Plasmodium falciparum – the parasitic protozoan which causes most malaria cases.

It also doesn't seem to hurt the mosquito, meaning that if we can increase the prevalence of Microsporidia MB in local mosquito populations, it could be a good way to stop malaria in its tracks without having to mess up the rest of the ecosystem.

Because Microsporidia MB is passed down the maternal line, once it's in the mosquito population, it's unlikely to be going anywhere. The team found that some areas they tested already had nine percent of the mosquito population with the malaria-busting microbe.
And the article adds something already underway that I’d not seen.
We are already using a transmission-blocking symbiont called Wolbachia to control dengue, a virus transmitted by mosquitoes," University of Glasgow microbiologist Steven Sinkins says.

"The Microsporidia MB symbiont has some similar characteristics, making it an attractive prospect for developing comparable approaches for malaria control."
This is some neat science, both dengue and malaria are things we could easily do without.

Ban Cruises? Not So Fast

One of my news aggregators links to a Gizmodo article with the abrupt title “Ban Cruises.” The author really thinks we should stop the whole cruise ‘thing.’

Some of the criticisms are valid, they do burn junk oil, stuff so thick it has to be heated before it will fuel their diesels. It is sooty and smells nasty when burning. On the other hand, most cruise ports are windy and the pollution is blown away before it grosses out the locals.

And the ships are, in effect, giant Petri dishes where a cold or a norovirus will get passed around easily. I have come off a cruise ship sick too often to minimize that risk, it is real and I wish it wasn’t.

On the other hand, don’t feel sorry for the crew. Every one is a volunteer, and many are the sole or major support of an extended family back in the third world country from which they’re recruited, often the Philippines, Indonesia or India.

Yes, they work long hours but they also have a couple of months vacay after every contract. They leave an unsanitary third world environment which is potentially dangerous and spend 6-8 months living a bare-bones first world life: decent food, clean quarters, actual drinkable water, flush toilets, plenty of hot water, laundry facilities, medical care, entertainment, WiFi, uniforms to wear, and normally a whole bunch of other folks from back home to hang with off duty.

I’ve chatted with many crew and they often call what they’ve got a “dream job.” They aren’t “trapped” as the article’s author claims, each time they come back for another contract they volunteer anew and particularly after the first contract, they know what they’re getting into.

Crew life is normally a step (or several) up from what they’ve got at home. When they go home for a couple of months they are big heroes who bring their families hard currency and first world goodies. While they’re gone they Skype or FaceTime their families so their kids don’t forget them. And another plus that doesn’t get talked about, like carnies, some have a sex partner on board as well as a spouse and kids back home.

If they weren’t cruise crew most would live less well, in less healthy conditions. Respiratory infections go around the ship, and norovirus too, but there is no malaria, no dengue, no river blindness, no cholera, no yellow fever, most third world diseases are not aboard and not missed, either.

Young Russians: We’re Not Europeans

A survey of young Russians found that some 58% either strongly or somewhat agree that Russia is not a European country. Only 36% believe it is European. Hat tip to for the link.

It is certainly true geographically that a majority of Russian territory is located in Asia, although a majority of Russians reside in the European part, that is, west of the Ural Mountains. These mundane facts were not what was measured.

I suspect what the poll discovered was that most Russians understand their country’s interests to lie elsewhere, rather than as part of something loosely defined as “Europe” or more specifically with the EU. In this understanding they are most likely correct.

The study also found most young Russians are not fond of NATO. Since NATO was conceived to keep “the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down,” their attitudes are both logical and well-founded.

Mind you, as originally conceived, the slogan referred to “the Soviets” instead of the Russians. The two were often used interchangeably by non-Soviets who understood the USSR to be a Russian empire, flying the false (or at least misleading) flag of ideological unity.

Putin’s rather famous characterization of the Soviet fall in 1991 as one of history’s grand tragedies certainly underscores the reality of the USSR being a Russian empire. His eulogy could just as well been given by Churchill bemoaning the loss of a British empire upon which the sun never set, until 1946 when it rather conclusively did.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

About Fake Meat

I was rereading the post below about vegans being depressed, or depressed folk being vegans, and I was reminded of something that happened earlier today. The other DrC and I are in the habit of watching an old YouTube episode of either America's Test Kitchen or Cook's Country (they're near-identical) as we eat lunch.

Maybe every 5th episode they'll do a vegan main dish, today it was a spaghetti "meat" sauce with no meat. They did several things to give it the appearance and (they claimed) flavor of a real meat sauce.

They added roughly ground crimini mushrooms, roughly ground chickpeas, and soy sauce, all with the aim of increasing umami flavors. They browned things and worked hard to create a no-meat dish that tasted like it had meat.

My question: why would people who reject the idea of eating meat want food that seems to have meat in it? If you've (a) had big-time heart trouble, (b) been put on an almost no meat diet to save your miserable life, and (c) you have no moral scruples about killing and eating animals, I get it, you miss the meat.

But for those who avoid meat for moral or ethical reasons, it seems crazy. I suspect most non-meat eaters are in this second category.

To them I say, if you like meat flavor, nothing does it quite like actual meat. The reason you miss the meat flavor is that we are the omnivore ape, meat is a core part of our diet. Doing what is necessary to get meat is what our heritage is all about, from the hunter-gatherer days on. Life without bacon? Be serious.

Afterthought: Read the diaries of the Lewis and Clark expedition. They lived on almost nothing except meat for two years and were remarkably healthy, even by today's standards, wildly so by the standards of the time.

A Suspicious Murder

An ethnically Chinese researcher - Dr. Bing Liu - at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, was working on sussing out the nature of the Covid-19 virus. It is believed he was murdered at his home by an older Chinese man who subsequently committed suicide (or was himself killed). Daily Mail (U.K.) has the story.

Liu leaves behind a wife in Pittsburgh. His parents still live in China. Police say Liu knew his killer but won't say how.

Everybody in the comments thinks it was a CCP hit job, where the killer was ordered to kill himself to avoid questioning or was killed by a second guy to "tie off" the inquiry. The police seem to think otherwise, unclear why.

Liu's employer - UPMC - is a highly respected, extremely professional outfit. I've been treated there. They obviously liked Liu's work a lot.

Depressed Folk Predisposed to Avoid Meat

It’s time to revisit that old chestnut “a substantial correlation does not answer the question of causation.” The Daily Mail (U.K.) describes a meta analysis done at the University of Alabama, looking at the relationship between vegetarianism or veganism and mental health.

The very first sentence shows DM doesn’t understand causation.
A vegetarian or vegan diet may be increasing the likelihood of depression, a US-based study suggests.
It is equally likely that depression may increase the likelihood of following a vegetarian or vegan diet. In fact I’d suggest it is more likely, although the data don’t support my conclusion either. The article continues:
People with a plant-based diet were twice as likely to take prescription drugs for mental illness and nearly three times as likely to contemplate suicide.

The report, which looked at more than 160,000 people, also found that a shocking one in three vegetarians suffer from depression or anxiety.

Researchers reviewed 18 studies examining the relationship between mental health and eating meat, involving a total of 160,257 participants.
Finally, we get close to the truth, which the researchers understood all along.
The researchers suggest that avoiding meat may be a 'behavioural marker' indicating people already with poor mental health.
Unhappy people, including the clinically depressed, cast about for ways to lessen their "down" feelings.  Changing diet is one of those ways, and it may create a "placebo effect" for some whose depression isn't severe. They feel they're doing something to feel better, providing a sense of control.

Still, it's a fine excuse to have a nice medium-rare ribeye steak, calling it a mental health activity. Hat tip to Ed Driscoll who guest blogs at Instapundit for the link.

Thoughts About Covid-19

There has been a lot of argument and gnashing of teeth over the pace at which we stop sheltering-in-place and begin acting more normal. People have correctly said that if we begin going about our lives more or less normally, additional people will be infected and a few of those will die.

On the other hand, there are plenty of behaviors we continue knowing that they increase the risks of dying. Something like 35,000 people die in auto accidents every year, that dissuades few people from traveling by auto. Obesity is a negative factor for health, yet nearly half of us are overweight. You get the point.

It is clear older Americans in long-term care facilities are at extreme risk, they are doing most of the dying. Such places need to continue to take serious precautions, if only to keep their customers alive and paying.

Doing so is complicated by the reality that most employees of these establishments are low-wage minorities. Evidence suggests minorities are at increased risk of contracting CoV and unwittingly bringing it to work. I'm not sure how we solve this issue, maybe replace them with friendly robots?

If doctors can focus on managing the cytokine storm in sick patients, it is likely CoV is no more dangerous than influenza. Which is not to say it's safe, but flu is a risk we all take, and most of us will suffer from a few times in a long life, without it greatly disrupting our living patterns.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Fake Headline

Interesting example of a misleading headline at USA Today. The headline:
Fact check: Obama administration did not send $3.7 million to Wuhan lab
Then, if you read the article, it turns out that they gave the money to an NGO - EcoHealth Alliance - which they knew would send it to the Wuhan lab. Their reasoning:
“It's hard to do this work in other countries. Very complicated. It requires a lot of traveling. It would be so convenient if we could do it in our own backyards,” Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance, told USA TODAY. “The viruses that are a high risk to public health are not in the U.S., they are in China. If we want to know anything about the next pandemic, we need to be working in the countries where these viruses are.”
Seems to me there are plenty of bats in North America including some in swampy places - think Louisiana, for example. I read somewhere the real reason it was being done in China is that the U.S. had banned gain-of-function research after some modified viruses leaked out of a U.S. lab putting Americans at risk.

Claiming our government didn't fund virus research in China is like claiming you didn't buy drugs if you had your friend buy them with your money. No court would buy that alibi. I fear this relatively feeble attempt at fact checking doesn't exonerate Dr. Fauci.

May the 4th Be With You

To COTTonLINE readers who are Star Wars fans, today is the special day each year when we wish each other, “May the 4th be with you.” Sure, it’s corny, so is Star Wars, so what? It was and is great fun nevertheless.

I’m remembering a long ago colleague who was the quintessential dorky college prof, with the classic dorky prof’s wife and a couple of jerky kids. When the first Star Wars film came out (you’ll remember it was no. 4 in the chronology of nine), they went nuts, saw it repeatedly and basically made it their religion-substitute.

He retired several years before I did and moved to Oregon (a perfect choice for dorks) so I lost touch. I wonder if they stayed with Star Wars or lost the magic? As noted above, I found SW fun, but not magic. The original Blade Runner or Dune are more my style, though neither was a born-again experience.

A beginning is a very delicate time. Endings OTOH are brutal, those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Fauci at Fault?

Meanwhile at Power Line, John Hinderaker likely is the angriest of the four who post there. He writes about the recently famous Dr. Anthony Fauci funding research on viruses at the Wuhan lab during the Obama administration, in 2015.

At the very least, Fauci should be asked to explain his reasoning. Why he believed gain-of-function research should be done at all? Why we should fund it in a lab run by a nation unfriendly to us? And whether or not the research he funded there (with our money) could have produced the coronavirus with which we now struggle?

Fauci isn't being asked these questions because neither Trump nor the Democrats, for quite different reasons, want him discredited while we're still in the pandemic hot zone. Once it quiets down I expect GOP senators will subpoena his testimony on this matter before their committees.

This history is unfortunate, because he and Deborah Birx have been decent spokespersons for a scientific but human approach to this respiratory plague.

Blaming Cuomo

Power Line's Paul Mirengoff writes of the Covid-19 pandemic in the U.S. He isn't the most angry of the guys who post there, but he sure does enumerate the recent mistakes of stumbling NY Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Cuomo’s most egregious error was his approach to nursing homes, which are, in a real sense, the epicenter of this pandemic. On March 25, after Cuomo issued the lockdown order, the New York State Department of Health ordered that nursing homes and rehabilitation centers admit and readmit patients sick with the coronavirus.
Mirengoff quotes the first two sentences of that order as follows:
No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. Nursing homes are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.
And he concludes:
New York and nursing homes are the epicenter of this pandemic. Cuomo’s incompetence and stupidity are at the center of both disasters.
Those "orders" make one wonder whether many secretly view nursing home deaths as a feature, rather than as a problem?