“Israel is under attack,” the Israel Defense Forces have declared.
With Israel under barrage of Hamas rocket fire, Israel Defense Forces have released this map, indicating all the sirens going off alerting residents to seek shelter as rockets are fired toward the southern and central parts of the country:
Hamas’s decision to exploit the current unrest in Jerusalem and shoot rockets into the highly populated Tel Aviv region is an escalation by the terrorist group that is likely to trigger a swift and forceful response.
It’s only a tweet, but it’s a nice little example of media bias nevertheless:
Colonial Pipeline, a vital U.S. fuel artery that was shut down by a cyberattack, said it hoped to restore most operations by the end of the week. Since the shutdown, there have been no long lines or major price hikes for gas.
“Since the shutdown, there have been no long lines or major price hikes for gas.” That isn’t true, of course. But, irrespective, why was it put in? There’s no way that the Times could know this so definitively, and there’s no way that the paper could prevent it becoming a hostage to fortune, either.
I understand why a defensive DNC might add that assurance into a tweet on the topic. I don’t understand why the Times felt the need to. Unless . . .
Would President Biden’s infrastructure plan — the American Jobs Plan — create around 3 million new jobs? Or 16 million? 19 million? All three numbers have been discussed. I’m quoted in CNN with a different estimate: zero.
Strain said it’s good that Biden’s plan aims to make long-term infrastructure improvements over a period of years rather than trying to give the economy a quick jolt through immediate spending on so-called “shovel-ready” projects. But Strain said that, because the economy is already likely to be at full employment over this extended time horizon, the number of additional jobs the Biden plan will create “is zero.” The plan, Strain argued, is likely to merely shift jobs toward industries “favored by the infrastructure plan,” such as clean energy, while shifting them away from other industries.
Presidents never get to choose events, and you can always count on their dreams of spending four years signing bills and doing other fun stuff being shattered as they instead spend unexpectedly large portions of their time running around with their hair on fire trying to manage various unexpected crises. Weirdly enough, Donald Trump’s presidency was just about crisis-free, for the first three years anyway. “President says something” isn’t an actual crisis, just a pretend one.
If Joe Biden doesn’t get out in front of the Colonial pipeline cyberattack that has shut down a major fuel pipeline for two days and is beginning to cause panic in some areas of the Southeast, it’s going to hurt him badly. People tend to closely tie the situation at the gas pump with the man sitting in the Oval Office. And guess what? In Biden’s case that is perfectly reasonable after his spokesperson blandly dismissed concerns about the ransom attack on a critical portion of U.S. infrastructure as merely a private matter for one business to hash out with their, I dunno, military and intelligence arms, I guess. You’re on your own, fellas! Good luck. Now Team Biden, the media report with uncharacteristic alarm, is “scrambling” to look like they’re doing something. Joe should ask his close pal Jimmy Carter how spending four years in perpetual scrambling mode worked out.
On Tuesday morning, more than 7 percent of gas stations in Virginia, 5 percent in North Carolina and nearly 4 percent in Georgia were without fuel, according to Patrick De Haan, an oil analyst at Gas Buddy. A number of stations in Florida, Alabama and South Carolina also reported dry pumps. De Haan said fuel demand in these states spiked 40 percent on Monday, and cautioned against panic-buying, which will only exacerbate the shortages.
If Biden himself were not on record as being himself a fan of shutting down fuel pipelines — Keystone XL not only was a menace to our American way of life by bringing us energy, Biden thought it had to be cut off before his first afternoon nap — this brewing crisis wouldn’t be so potentially damaging to him. Biden is an ardently pro-fuel-limits guy in a moment when fuel is limited. As one of his other first acts in office — “Let’s own Trump by endangering our energy future” — he also banned new fracking leases on federal land. Maybe it would be nice to have more energy supply rather than less given what’s happened since? Prices are already ticking up at the pump. The media can hide Hunter Biden’s influence-peddling and downplay Joe Biden’s lying, but they can’t hide gas prices.
It should be mentioned that the Chinese now rank 68th in per capita income according to the World Bank. The average Chinese worker is not nipping at your heels. They are nipping at the heels of the Romanians and Albanians. Some Chinese are gaining on us, mostly because the nation has adopted quasi-capitalistic institutions and created wealth. Which would be a positive development for the world if it weren’t for the slavery, ethnic cleansing, bellicosity, mass arrests, and generally tyranny.
Certainly, there is no evidence that China is “gaining” on us — by any increment — because of their reliance on faster trains. Perhaps Murphy is unaware that the average worker doesn’t need to take the Acela from Boston to D.C. very often — or ever. And if they do, a shuttle plane from Boston to D.C. takes only an hour and a half, as I’m sure Murphy is aware. A plane ride from Beijing to Shanghai takes two hours and 20 minutes. China is now the second-largest aviation market in the world, but it will soon be first. No one wants to be cooped up in a train 4.3 hours.
Then again, as a practical matter, cars beat every other form of transportation. The motor-vehicle-per-capita list and wealthiest-countries-per-capita list, in fact, are virtually identical. Cars are flexible, comfortable, and safer than ever. Prosperous people drive cars — unless they are in dense urban areas. China is behind Iran in the motor-vehicle-per-capita category, though perhaps not for long. In 2005, China sold under 6 million cars. By 2018, they were selling over 27 million (with a slight dip the past two years). China wants to be more like us. Murphy wants to be more like China.
In communist nations, where the state chooses how you travel, trains can be built with complete disregard for economic reality or property rights. This is why Tom Friedman types have authoritarian daydreams about “being China for a day.” Democrats are selling their proposed giant state-run technocracies as a way to “out-compete” China. Forget that China has erected a network of ghost towns and empty airports. Its trains are also often empty. Only one in six of China’s high-speed rail lines are able to cover their operating and debt costs. Which, come to think of it, is kind of like Amtrak, which has lost money every year since 1971. The cost of California’s high-speed rail project has likely gone over a trillion dollars. As Murphy recently admitted, the Northeast Corridor is the only one in the entire country “that has any chance of making money.” And yet, he wants taxpayers to foot the massive bill for rail lines that few would ever use.
Senator Rand Paul asked Dr. Anthony Fauci about the United States’ role — and Fauci’s own as head of NIAID — in funding the Wuhan Virology Institute to study “gain-of-function” in coronaviruses. Basically, lots of outlets have reported that a subgrant to the EcoAlliance diverted U.S. tax dollars to study how to make bat coronaviruses more infective in humans.
.@RandPaul: “Dr. Fauci, do you still support…NIH funding of the lab in Wuhan?”
Dr. Anthony Fauci: “Senator Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely and completely incorrect…”
And, it’s hard not to see that Fauci is responding in a technically correct but ultimately misleading way. Notice the shift between definitions from one question to the next? We need public officials and the press to push much harder on this line of questioning.
I’ve been reading through Thomas Carlyle’s History of the French Revolution recently, one of the greatest cultural artifacts of the 19th century. In Chapter III of that great work, he offers his readers a few words of sage advice on how best to combat lies. It’s advice that we who inhabit this partisan and polarized place and time still need to hear:
Where thou findest a Lie that is oppressing thee, extinguish it. Lies exist there only to be extinguished; they wait and cry earnestly for extinction. Think well, meanwhile, in what spirit thou wilt do it: not with hatred, with headlong selfish violence; but in clearness of heart, with holy zeal, gently, almost with pity. Thou wouldst not replace such extinct lie by a new lie, which a new injustice of thy own were; the parent of still other lies? Whereby the latter end of that business were worse than the beginning.
“Think well, meanwhile, in what spirit thou wilt do it.” This is where most of us, myself included, tend to stumble when we argue and debate with friends who disagree with us. If we truly want to change minds, we all have to be mindful of the fact that we gain nothing by winning the argument and losing the person. What’s more, people generally try to avoid changing their minds on big subjects whenever they can. Psychologically, it can feel humiliating, disorientating, and doubt-inducing in other areas of life. “If I’m wrong about this, what else am I wrong about?” As a result, it can radically diminish one’s confidence and sense of self. If people have to choose between changing their mind on something that matters and preserving their sense of self, they will always dig their heels in.
This is why it’s so important, in the words of Sun Tzu, to “build a golden bridge for your opponent to retreat across,” when arguing over matters of substance. You have to express your point of view in such a way that allows your interlocutor to be persuaded without losing face or ceding status. There must be a way for them to climb down from their position while retaining their dignity.
That so little of our discourse takes on this character is a testament to the fact that we have long since ceased all attempts at persuading our neighbors of the truth, goodness, and beauty of our respective positions. Take, for example, the rank condescension and contempt exhibited towards anti-vaxxers in this “Public Service Announcement” that was recently aired on Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night show:
‘Grow the f*ck up and get the vaccine’ — These health care workers shared their honest thoughts about anti-vaxxers in this hilarious PSA on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live!’ pic.twitter.com/cT2pvUmPaZ
I, no less than the doctors in this video, am convinced that every eligible American should take the coronavirus vaccine. But the notion that a video like this would ever convince vaccine-hesitant Americans to change their position instead of entrenching it further is ridiculous. It’s clear that the video was never about persuasion in the first place. It was about servicing Kimmel’s progressive viewers with the intoxicating pleasure that all of us derive from having our priors confirmed and our self-satisfied sense of certainty fortified against all comers.
The dispensation of this particular pleasure is what most of American news media is in the business of supplying to its consumers in 2021. In this respect, the Right is no better than the Left. The endless ream of YouTube clips that show Ben Shapiro “UTTERLY DESTROYING” a hapless college student a decade-and-a-half his junior are perhaps the most famous examples one could point to of how the schadenfreude-industrial complex can generate millions of dollars for conservatives as well as progressives. Nowhere in our national life today, for instance, are you likely to find any public conversation between Left and Right resembling the extraordinary debate conducted between William F. Buckley and Noam Chomsky on the April 3, 1969, episode of Firing Line, which you can (and should) watch in full on YouTube here.
This is primarily because productive debate depends on the willingness of both sides to attribute benign motives to their interlocutors. You have to start from a point of agreement that there’s some shared vision of the Good that you’re both aiming at, even if you think your opponent’s vision of it is refracted and obscured to the point of error while your own is much closer to the mark. A productive debate about abortion, for example, would depend on the willingness of pro-lifers to concede that their opponents do not see themselves as out-and-proud baby murderers, and on the willingness of pro-choicers to get beyond their suspicion that opponents of abortion care about nothing more that “controlling women’s bodies.” But we simply will not extend one another this courtesy.
This is a great shame, because changing one’s mind is a lot like a trust exercise. You have to be willing to step off the precipice on which you previously took your stand, convinced that those who were previously your opponents will catch you without jeering you, flouting you, and insisting you divest yourself of all your dignity and self-respect. There’s a kind of intimacy and an assuredness of unconditional friendship between conservatives and progressives that has to be in place before the mind of either can be changed by the other. Hence Carlyle’s emphasis that lies must be corrected “in clearness of heart, with holy zeal, gently, almost with pity.”
But how far we are from this kind of friendship today! In 2021, the relationship between progressives and conservatives in America looks a lot less like a trust exercise and a lot more like a violent video game. Both sides sit alone at home in front of a screen, stroking the prejudices of their ideological peers and congratulating one another as they “hit,” “slam,” and “destroy” their enemies, who in turn appear to them as little more than pixelated, two-dimensional avatars, tailor-made for recreational abuse.
There’s no remedy to this state of affairs, and no hope of creating a polity characterized by persuasion, until both sides emerge from their partisan bunkers and greet one another in the clear light of day with the words of our shared nation’s greatest son, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies.” We all must convince our political adversaries that this proposition is true — with actions as well as words — before we can expect to convince them of anything else.
I interviewed economist and demographer Lyman Stone for Bloomberg Opinion on the record-low U.S. birthrate. Among the topics we discuss: whether it’s a short-term consequence of COVID, what long-term effect it might have on our economy, and why more immigration can’t make up for it.
Colleagues the other day were lamenting the use of the word “liberal” to mean “statist.” In an older usage, still prevalent in Europe, it means the opposite. To its critics on the right, statism is a malady primarily of the Left. They call the Left “liberal,” at least in America. I’ve stopped using “liberal” in that sense. The far Left — call it the woke Left — is illiberal almost by definition.
So, alas, is the far Right, the other end of the horseshoe. The war between Right and Left is longstanding and traditional. Many of us know its rules of engagement well and have grown adept at the competitions in which they obtain. The war between liberalism and illiberalism is different. It has heated up in recent years, in Europe as well as in America, and is the more serious conflict, in my view.
Most scholars admit that there is a problem defining liberalism. They begin their work with an acknowledgment that it’s a slippery or elusive term. What’s strange, however, is that most of them then proceed to stipulate a personal definition and construct a history that supports it. This, I contend, is to argue backward. . . .
In colloquial parlance in France and other parts of the world today, being liberal means favoring “small government,” while in America it signifies favoring “big government.” American libertarians today claim that they are the true liberals. Somehow these people are all supposed to be part of the same liberal tradition. . . .
At heart, most liberals [in Europe through the nineteenth century] were moralists. Their liberalism had nothing to do with the atomistic individualism we hear of today. They never spoke about rights without stressing duties. Most liberals believed that people had rights because they had duties, and most were deeply interested in questions of social justice. They always rejected the idea that a viable community could be constructed on the basis of self-interestedness alone. Ad infinitum they warned of the dangers of selfishness. Liberals ceaselessly advocated generosity, moral probity, and civic values. This, of course, should not be taken to mean that they always practiced what they preached or lived up to their values.
. . . The idea that liberalism is an Anglo-American tradition concerned primarily with the protection of individual rights and interests is a very recent development in the history of liberalism. It is the product of the wars of the twentieth century and especially the fear of totalitarianism during the Cold War. For centuries before this, being liberal meant something very different. It meant being a giving and civic-minded citizen; it meant understanding one’s connectedness to other citizens and acting in ways conducive to the common good. [My emphasis]
The New York Times’ David Leonhardt has a piece this morning to set the record straight about the CDC’s outdoor-transmission number. The CDC said 10 percent, which seemed incredibly high to me last month based on evidence I had seen, and which Leonhardt says today is “almost certainly misleading”:
It appears to be based partly on a misclassification of some Covid transmission that actually took place in enclosed spaces (as I explain below). An even bigger issue is the extreme caution of C.D.C. officials, who picked a benchmark — 10 percent — so high that nobody could reasonably dispute it.
That benchmark “seems to be a huge exaggeration,” as Dr. Muge Cevik, a virologist at the University of St. Andrews, said. In truth, the share of transmission that has occurred outdoors seems to be below 1 percent and may be below 0.1 percent, multiple epidemiologists told me. The rare outdoor transmission that has happened almost all seems to have involved crowded places or close conversation.
Saying that less than 10 percent of Covid transmission occurs outdoors is akin to saying that sharks attack fewer than 20,000 swimmers a year. (The actual worldwide number is around 150.) It’s both true and deceiving.
The whole thing is worth reading. By the way, Leonhardt has been very good at holding public-health experts accountable recently in a way that few in the media have been willing to, and he is playing an important role in calming those Americans panicking over this virus, or at least helping them to assess the risk better.
Finally, not so long ago, Tevi Troy — a wonderful presidential historian, author of the book Fight House, and a public-health expert — was interviewed by Jonah Goldberg on The Remnant about the United States’ COVID response. It is worth listening to, as it highlights very clearly the permanent damage done to the public perception about the usefulness of and trust in our public-health community. Troy reminds us that the public-health community is a nanny state-ish group, as well as detailing some of the strategic mistruths about mask-wearing, the BLM protests, and other matters.
Troy recommends reading this piece in the Washington Post by two public-health experts about how public-health experts make a real mistake by alienating large swaths of the population, such as conservatives. A tidbit:
Our credibility was nonetheless damaged by what seemed to be double standards. There’s a difference between trying to reduce harm wherever people are gathering during a pandemic, no matter their cause, and deciding that one cause is worth more risk than another. Americans need to know that public health professionals will not allow our political views regarding the second question to color our enthusiasm to engage the first set of challenges.
We cannot allow the public health enterprise to become estranged from conservative America. We can do better, starting with a reaffirmation that our shared values are more important than what sets us apart. No one wants their parents or grandparents to become sick from covid-19. Diabetes, substance-use disorders and cancer strike across every political line. The public health watchwords to do “nothing about us without us” apply just as surely within conservative religious communities as they do anywhere else.
In the most recent issue of The Economist, discussing the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, and the challenge of growing Chinese influence in global technology supply chains: “The plan, at present, appears to be unfinished. People close to Mr Biden’s staff say that policy on China and technology remains undecided.”
The Brookings Institution: “much is still publicly unknown about the Biden administration’s North Korea policy. Indeed, much is still probably undecided within the administration.”
It is mid May 2021. How many times in 2019 and 2020 did Joe Biden assure us that he and his team would be “ready from day one”? It is not like the issues of China’s increasing leverage in the international market of high technology or how to handle North Korea just popped up out of nowhere. These are two of the preeminent foreign-policy challenges of this era.
Hey, you can’t expect a guy like Joe Biden to know what he wants to do on complicated issues like these. He’s barely had any experience with the federal government, right?
President Biden has yet to name any nominations for 351 executive branch positions. At the State Department, Biden has yet to nominate an ambassador to China, NATO, Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Holy See, India, Israel, Mexico, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, United Kingdom, or special envoy to North Korea.
I can’t wait to see what happens when Joe Biden becomes president.
The CDC has published a technically true — but profoundly misleading — statistic about the chance of outdoor infection. The story is brought to us by New York Times journalist David Leonhardt in his daily, “The Morning Newsletter”:
When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines last month for mask wearing, it announced that “less than 10 percent” of Covid-19 transmission was occurring outdoors. Media organizations repeated the statistic, and it quickly became a standard description of the frequency of outdoor transmission.
So, what’s the actual number?
The number is almost certainly misleading. It appears to be based partly on a misclassification of some Covid transmission that actually took place in enclosed spaces (as I explain below). An even bigger issue is the extreme caution of C.D.C. officials, who picked a benchmark — 10 percent — so high that nobody could reasonably dispute it.
That benchmark “seems to be a huge exaggeration,” as Dr. Muge Cevik, a virologist at the University of St. Andrews, said. In truth, the share of transmission that has occurred outdoors seems to be below 1 percent and may be below 0.1 percent, multiple epidemiologists told me.
That is not merely an exaggeration. It’s what is known as a whopper.
Leonhardt makes an apt point:
Saying that less than 10 percent of Covid transmission occurs outdoors is akin to saying that sharks attack fewer than 20,000 swimmers a year. (The actual worldwide number is around 150.) It’s both true and deceiving.
He also takes a generous view of the CDC’s motivation:
This isn’t just a gotcha math issue. It is an example of how the C.D.C. is struggling to communicate effectively, and leaving many people confused about what’s truly risky. C.D.C. officials have placed such a high priority on caution that many Americans are bewildered by the agency’s long list of recommendations. Zeynep Tufekci of the University of North Carolina, writing in The Atlantic, called those recommendations “simultaneously too timid and too complicated.
Let’s assume that Leonhardt’s analysis of this profound and intentional inaccuracy as simple, good-faith, precautionary-principle self-protection — rather than making risk appear greater than it actually is toward the end of accruing power in the technocracy — is right. It doesn’t matter.
Vastly overstating the risk of COVID transmission outdoors causes profound societal harm. As Leonhardt writes:
Erring on the side of protection — by exaggerating the risks of outdoor transmission — may seem to have few downsides. But it has contributed to widespread public confusion about what really matters. Some Americans are ignoring the C.D.C.’s elaborate guidelines and ditching their masks, even indoors, while others continue to harass people who walk around outdoors without a mask.
All the while, the scientific evidence points to a conclusion that is much simpler than the C.D.C.’s message: Masks make a huge difference indoors and rarely matter outdoors.
“Follow the science” requires that the people can safely trust that “the scientists” will communicate facts accurately. The CDC has failed in this basic task abysmally.
Thanks to David Leonhardt for setting the record straight. The CDC should revise its communication accordingly.
I’ve spent much of the last week arguing that the federal government needs to stop: to stop undermining the miracle that is the COVID-19 vaccine; to stop sending money to people who don’t need it and preventing them from returning to work; to stop borrowing trillions of dollars during an expansion and risking utterly disastrous inflation.
Now we learn that California — which received $42.3 billion in the Democrats’ recent “relief” bill, as a “bailout” of its supposedly damaged budget — has an enormous budget surplus, thanks mostly to the stock market having boomed last year and driven up capital gains tax revenues. From Politico:
California expects a staggering $75.7 billion surplus despite a year of pandemic closures — an amount that surpasses most states’ annual spending and prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday to propose sending cash back to residents as he faces a recall election.
California’s coffers are bulging thanks to the high-flying Silicon Valley, surging stock market and a large share of professionals who were able to continue working remotely during Covid-19. The state has a progressive income tax structure that leans heavily on top earners, allowing the state to enjoy record revenues despite widespread job losses in the travel and service industries that have kept California’s unemployment rate among the nation’s highest.
I’ll say it again: Stop! California’s government is now so flush with cash that it is considering spending more than 11 billion dollars sending every single Californian a $600 check.
Or, to put it another way: The Democratic Party has used its control of the federal government to borrow billions and billions of dollars so that the Democratic governor of California can try to bribe his way out of a recall election by sending his voters cash. There are many words for that sort of behavior, but “relief” is not among them.
Patients now are treated with twice-weekly doses of antibiotics and germ-fighting antibodies, but it’s not a permanent solution.
Doctors think gene therapy might be. They remove some of a patient’s blood cells, use a disabled AIDS virus to insert a healthy version of the gene that the kids need, and return the cells through an IV.
Gun buyback programs (GBPs), which use public funds to purchase civilians’ privately-owned firearms, aim to reduce gun violence. However, little is known about their effects on firearm-related crime or deaths. Using data from the National Incident Based Reporting System, we find no evidence that GBPs reduce gun crime. Given our estimated null findings, with 95 percent confidence, we can rule out decreases in firearm-related crime of greater than 1.3 percent during the year following a buyback. Using data from the National Vital Statistics System, we also find no evidence that GBPs reduce suicides or homicides where a firearm was involved.
Of course, this won’t surprise anyone who’s paid attention to these programs. They collect very few guns — typically 1,000 or fewer — and by definition they collect only unwanted guns, which tend to be old or even broken. The U.S. has about as many guns as it has people, so destroying 1,000 unwanted guns isn’t going to make any meaningful difference, even in a pretty small city.