Politics & Policy

Mike Lee: Keep Government Far Away from Social-Media Regulation

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In an interview with Guy Benson, Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee weighs in on President Trump’s new executive order: “[K]eep government as far away from it as you possibly can. Look, this may be attractive from a distance to some at any given moment, but it’s a very dangerous, slippery slope to start opening the door to having the government regulate these platforms.”

“Governments have force as their only real weapon,” Lee adds. “You don’t want force deciding the art of persuasion or deciding the art of communication with social media.”

Elections

Nevada Senator Withdraws from the Biden Veepstakes

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Nevada Democratic senator Catherine Cortez-Masto, a darkhorse to be Joe Biden’s running-mate, says she doesn’t want to be considered for the job:

U.S.

Minnesota Governor Calls in National Guard to Control Riots

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The looting and rioting, which began in Minneapolis in response to the police killing of George Floyd, has spread to St. Paul, and the state’s Democratic governor Tim Walz has mobilized the National Guard:

George Floyd’s death should lead to justice and systemic change, not more death and destruction. As George Floyd’s family has said, ‘Floyd would not want people to get hurt. He lived his life protecting people.’ Let’s come together to rebuild, remember, and seek justice for George Floyd,” Walz said in a statement.

Economy & Business

Sabotaging Aid for Businesses

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In Bloomberg Opinion, I write about some red tape that is making it even harder for small businesses to survive this economy:

Congress established the Paycheck Protection Program in late March to provide forgivable loans to businesses to help them through the Covid-19 crisis. The Small Business Administration is insisting that 75% of any amount forgiven has to be spent on payroll, as opposed to rent, utilities and other overhead costs. That requirement is not in the law, as the agency’s inspector general has pointed out in a report. The agency explained that it had consulted Mnuchin and determined this limit fit the law’s “overarching focus on keeping workers paid and employed.”

But the rule subverts the purpose of the program . . . .

Economy & Business

The SEC, ESG, and Unbundling

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A trader wears a mask on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as the building prepares to close due to the coronavirus, March 20, 2020. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Increasingly, those looking for “socially responsible” investments (to use the usual dishonest and self-congratulatory term) are checking to see how companies measure up to various (ill-defined) environmental, social, and governance (“ESG”) criteria.

But bundling these three criteria together makes little sense. A company can be, say, transparent (an element in the ‘G’) without being too concerned about the effect that its activities may have on the climate (part of the ‘E’).

And the SEC is now onto this.

The Financial Times reports:

Jay Clayton, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, said any analysis that combined separate environmental, social and governance metrics into a single ESG rating would be “imprecise”.

“I have not seen circumstances where combining an analysis of E, S and G together, across a broad range of companies, for example with a ‘rating’ or ‘score’, particularly a single rating or score, would facilitate meaningful investment analysis that was not significantly over-inclusive and imprecise,” said Mr Clayton.

The SEC has asked for feedback from asset managers about ESG ratings as concerns rise about the spread of so-called greenwashing by companies that make misleading claims about their environmental credentials to appeal to unsuspecting investors.

I agree that the SEC is right to worry, even if I see things from a different perspective. If I was looking at a company in which I might invest, the ‘G’ would matter to me, whether the company was carbon-neutral (part of the ‘E’), not at all. In fact, if it were a company where management spent time and money worrying about whether the business was carbon-neutral, that would (to me) be a very good reason to want to invest elsewhere.

Equally, if I did want to invest in a company dedicated to doing its bit to save the planet from a fiery finale, I wouldn’t want to find myself investing in a company where the high ESG score came from protecting shareholders (‘G’) rather than from its efforts to rein in the climate (‘E’).

The Financial Times:

The concerns expressed by Mr Clayton over combining E, S and G scores have previously been described as “aggregate confusion” by academics. One example of this is the electric car maker Tesla. The business, which scores highly on environmental metrics, has often been criticised for its record on workers’ rights. As a result, different ratings providers give it wildly different scores.

And the problems may go deeper that. In the course of a recent piece for Bloomberg on ESG John Authers noted this:

It is possible that ESG is undermining itself — or at least that the E and the S are in conflict with each other. Vincent Deluard, of INTL FCStone Inc., suggests that ESG funds are people-unfriendly. Tech and pharma companies tend to look good by ESG criteria, but they tend to be virtual as well as virtuous. These are the kind of companies that need relatively few workers and which churn out hefty profit margins. When Deluard looked at how the big ETFs’ portfolios varied from the Russell 3000, the results were spectacular. They are full of very profitable companies with very few employees . . . A further look at companies’ market cap per employee showed that investing in the current stock market darlings who are making their shareholders rich is a very inefficient way to invest in boosting employment. They include hot names like Netflix Inc., Nvidia Corp., MasterCard Inc. and Facebook Inc. . . .

The problem, Deluard suggests, is that ESG investing, intentionally or otherwise, rewards exactly the corporate behavior that is creating alarm. Companies with few buildings, few formal employees and a light carbon footprint tend to show up well on ESG screens. But allocating capital to them leads to a deepening of inequality, and intensifying the problem of under-unemployment. On the face of it, they aren’t the companies that should be receiving capital if employment is to recover swiftly. If investors want to behave with the interests of “stakeholders” rather than “shareholders” in mind, and that is surely central to the ESG philosophy, then their current approach is directly counter-productive. No good turn goes unpunished.

Another consequence of unbundling E, S, and G might be to give a clearer idea of what they meant for shareholder returns.

Writing for the IFC Review a month ago, Julian Morris:

A 2016 paper from group of researchers from the European Parliament and Bournemouth Business School sought to look more deeply at the relationship, using disaggregated data from Bloomberg’s ESG Disclosure form for the S&P 500 for the period 2007 to 2011. The researchers found that the relationship between ESG and financial performance in general was indeed U-shaped. However, they found that the environmental and social components were linearly negatively related to performance. It was only the governance component that drove the U-shape relationship. This governance-dominated U-shape relationship between ESG and financial performance has since been confirmed in other studies.

In other words, if it’s financial performance you are after, focus on the ‘E’.

Unbundling E, S, and G seems like an excellent idea.

Politics & Policy

Preventable Violence in California

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(Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters)

A homeless man named Peter Rocha is in San Francisco police custody after allegedly beating 94-year-old Leo Hainzl to death with a stick.

Hainzl, a refugee who fled Nazi-era persecution in Austria, was walking his dog near Glen Canyon Park when Rocha allegedly carried out the assault and killed the elderly man.

City supervisor Rafael Mandelman told a San Francisco news affiliate that Rocha “was clearly an unwell individual” who was previously the subject of several complaints:

We’ve been hearing from neighbors, he’s been out on the street threatening folks. They have called the police many, many times. Older folks felt very threatened in particular — older folks, kids — he had been a challenge in the neighborhood for some time, and the police had been out to talk to him, and, of course, offered him services on many occasions, and people knew he was suffering from mental illness. He was not taking his medication, but the police were not able to get him services, and nobody else was either.

Some advocates will say that this tragedy represents a failure to adequately fund “community mental-health programs,” but this sort of outcome is the natural conclusion of their aversion to involuntary commitment. Rocha was not, to our knowledge, denied “community-based services” due to a “lack of funding,” or turned away from “counseling” for his obvious mental illness. He instead refused treatment when offered by the police, and perhaps Rocha was unaware that he was sick at all.

Once he refused treatment, local authorities were effectively left without recourse to inpatient commitment, and Rocha was allowed to deteriorate to the point of violence.

Nearly 75 percent of California’s public psychiatric beds are filled by forensic patients, who have committed a crime and have been adjudicated not responsible by reason of insanity or mental defect. The state has neither the inpatient capacity nor the political will to involuntarily commit the seriously ill to state hospitals, and their revealed preference is to wait for the commission of a crime before taking such action. That preference can prove fatal, as it did for Leo Hainzl and countless others like him.

World

The EU: Alexander Hamilton or George III?

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European Union’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier gives a news conference following the third round of Brexit talks with Britain, in Brussels, Belgium, May 15, 2020. (Francois Lenoir/Reuters)

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board takes a look at the way that the EU is trying to combine tackling the effects of the pandemic with a broader agenda:

Whatever else you might say about them, European Union mandarins aren’t short of ambition. They have long wanted to knit the EU into a true federal union, and they’re seizing the coronavirus as a €1.9 trillion opening.

That’s the combined size of the €750 billion one-time virus recovery package European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed Wednesday, and the €1.1 trillion seven-year budget the Commission also is proposing that includes a heavy dose of virus relief. This is on top of €540 billion in Covid-19 relief the Commission unveiled last month, and however many trillions the European Central Bank deploys in the crisis.

Brussels wants Europeans to focus on how the mandarins will spend the money. Much of it will go in grants to states, apportioned on such factors as youth unemployment . . .

Far more consequential is how Brussels would pay for this. The money from the seven-year budget would be provided in the normal way, as block grants from the EU’s 27 member states to the Commission. But Brussels also wants to borrow a large portion of the €750 billion emergency program — and then impose new, EU-wide taxes on everything from plastic waste to digital commerce to repay the bonds.

This new borrow-and-tax authority is the main point. The alleged inspiration is Alexander Hamilton, America’s first Treasury Secretary. His plan for the new federal government to assume Revolutionary War debt from the states, and then repay that debt from the federal government’s revenues, put the U.S. on track to become what it is today.

Some European leaders have hoped for decades that issuing eurobonds mutually backed by all members would knit the bloc together, or that new digital taxes might do the trick. Now they think the only way to keep the EU from splintering is to forge a new borrowing capacity that can transfer resources from richer nations to poorer.

This misunderstands American history. Before Hamilton wrote his First Report on Public Credit, he coauthored the Federalist Papers to persuade his fellow New Yorkers to ratify a new Constitution. He understood that a political union providing democratic accountability for the federal government was a precondition for fiscal union . . .

And there’s the rub. There is still no evidence that voters in the EU’s member states want to enter into a political union on anything approaching the American model. For fairly obvious historical reasons, the nascent American Republic was a nation, or proto-nation, in a way that the EU’s ungainly confederation is not. This is understood very well, if not widely admitted, in Brussels, but those steering the European project have always appreciated the value of, to use that entertainingly cynical phrase, a ‘beneficial crisis.’ The euro was built on a foundation of sand. To launch a currency union without the backing of at least a partial fiscal union was asking for trouble, but the necessary political support within the member states for a fiscal union simply was not there. No matter: The single currency was launched anyway. The thinking of at least some of those responsible was that, if trouble came, it would set off a crisis that would create the conditions in which some sort of fiscal union would become politically palatable, if only because the alternative was an economic catastrophe.

Trouble duly came calling, but, in the end, it turned out that the first euro-zone crisis was not enough (quite) to do the trick. The question now is whether the impact of COVID-19, particularly on the already weakened economies of the euro-zone’s south, will scare the currency union’s members into a fiscal union. Probably not (or not exactly) but the greater the taxing power that the EU assumes, the louder will be the demands for greater democratic accountability — no taxation without representation and all that. And logically, ‘representation’ would have to be at the EU, rather than the national, level, and it would be achieved by giving more power to the EU parliament at the expense of national parliaments.

The poorly designed currency will thus have led to an economic crisis that forced the pace of fiscal integration, and the crisis of legitimacy that could well ensue from forced fiscal integration will force the pace of political integration. See how this works?

The Wall Street Journal:

Perhaps the EU needs closer fiscal and political integration to survive this crisis. But then someone should tell voters, and persuade them to assent. They’re entitled to change their minds after 2005 [when a proposed EU constitution was rejected], especially if a new political organization for the EU gave voters more direct control over Brussels.

The problem with that is that the EU Parliament cannot, as things currently stand, in any true sense of the word, be democratic, for the simple reason that there is still no EU ‘demos’. One day there might be, but it doesn’t exist now, and it’s not going to be created overnight by transferring more powers to a parliament that represents everybody, but nobody. ‘Control’ will not in any real sense lie with the voters, but with a technocracy that will use the illusion of increased democracy to produce exactly the opposite result.

And there are a good many reasons to think that, in the end, the technocrats will get away with it.

U.S.

Lindsey Graham Encourages Originalist Judges to Take Senior Status

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In an interview with Hugh Hewitt, Senate judiciary committee chairman Lindsey Graham encourages originalist judges eligible for senior status to take it now so their successors may be confirmed before the November elections: 

Graham: This is an historic opportunity. We’ve put over 200 federal judges on the bench. I think one in five federal judges are Trump appointees. If you can get four more years, I mean, it would change the judiciary for several generations. So if you’re a Circuit judge in your mid-60s, late 60s, you can take senior status, now would be a good time to do that if you want to make sure the judiciary is right of center. This is a good time to do it.

Hewitt: If they are an originalist eligible right now and they are listening to Lindsey Graham, chairman, can you assure them that their successor will indeed be confirmed before the election?

Graham: Well, if you wait, you know, November the 1st, no. So do it now.

Hewitt: Do it now. Loud and clear.

Politics & Policy

Spinning Some Golden Oldies

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Vice President Spiro T. Agnew shakes hands with President Richard M. Nixon as the president begins his trip to China, February 17, 1972. (National Archives)

My Impromptus today begins with those characters you see above: Richard Nixon and his vice president, Spiro T. Agnew. Nixon’s first vice president, I should say. We wound up with Ford, a nice winding up.

Can I tell you something kind of interesting about Nixon’s ’68 choice? Agnew had been governor (of Maryland) for only a year and a half. The same would be true of Sarah Palin, in ’08.

Gerald R. Ford was a seasoned fellow, who had served in Congress since 1949 and was House minority leader.

Anyway, I continue my column with “Karens.” Do you know that the name “Karen” has been appropriated as an epithet? I have known many wonderful girls and women named “Karen” in my life. I object to this appropriation and abuse of their name.

(Yeah, I know: Tell it to the Dicks.)

I take up the subject of masks — recalling a book that was a huge bestseller when I was in high school: Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche. Is that true of masks? Do real men not wear masks?

I also have an item on social-media initials, or texting initials: “idk” for “I don’t know”; “jk” for “Just kidding”; etc. I received a note this morning from a reader, who says that he hates those initials: “I always pretend I don’t know what they mean as a disincentive to my daughter.”

lol

Finally, I write about college basketball in the 1940s and the NBA in the 1950s. Some interesting stories and personalities.

Let me go back to Agnew for a minute. A few years ago, a reader sent me an LP, still wrapped. It had sold for 39 cents, according to the sticker on the cover. The album is called “Spiro T. Agnew: The Speeches that Stirred America.” It was published sometime during Nixon’s first term.

Is “published” the right word, for an LP? Anyway, the record was made by Podium Records, located at 43 W. 61st St. in Manhattan, not far from where I am sitting right now.

The back cover calls Agnew “America’s Most Outspoken Political Personality.” There is also a bio of him, which ends,

Mr. Agnew, 6’2”, under 200 lbs. and a natty dresser, enjoys playing golf, ping-pong, and the piano.

When he has time, he likes watching the Baltimore Colts on television, and listening to standards and show tunes, especially when performed by Lawrence Welk and Mantovani.

The front cover lists the topics that Agnew addresses in these speeches: “Vietnam,” “Student Unrest,” “The Economy,” “The ‘Silent Majority,’” “Cambodia,” “School Bussing” (I would have said ‘Busing,” reserving “bussing” for kissing), “The Media,” “Pornography,” “Integration,” and “Campus Disorders” (apparently different from “Student Unrest”).

The back cover has a little glossary, listing “Famous Agnew Alliterations, Catch-phrases and Definitions.” All in all, this is an amazing political and oratorical artifact.

Wanna see a picture?

Science & Tech

Why Does the CDC Think the COVID-19 Fatality Rate Is So Low, and Why Won’t It Tell Anyone?

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President Trump and CDC Director Robert Redfield answer questions during a White House press briefing in Washington, D.C., April 22, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Last week I was searching the Internet for some COVID-19 statistic or other, and I came across a new CDC website. The site featured some numbers the federal government is using to model the spread of the epidemic. One in particular caught my eye: 0.4 percent, the “current best estimate” of the disease’s “case fatality rate.” The document also said that 35 percent of infections are asymptomatic, which suggests the infection fatality rate is just 0.26 percent.

These numbers struck me as low for several reasons. For one thing, the virus has already killed 0.2 percent of all New Yorkers, and obviously a much higher percentage of those who’ve actually been infected in the city. For another, if we’ve had 100,000 deaths nationwide and a CFR of 0.4 percent, that means we’ve had 25 million symptomatic cases; including cases without symptoms, more than 10 percent of the entire country has been infected, which seems out of sync with what we’re hearing from serology tests. Individual studies and reviews of the evidence tend to put the infection fatality rate somewhere around 0.5 to 1 percent, though there’s at least one dissenting review that puts it lower (while managing not to include any studies finding a fatality rate above 0.5 percent, of which there are plenty).

I put out a tweet expressing my confusion, and things spiraled quickly, as they often do on social media. A follower alerted the prominent biologist Carl Bergstrom, who wrote a thread criticizing the CDC’s numbers. The next morning he was featured in a CNN story about the issue. There have been many media reports since, with the narrative predictably varying from “Heroic Scientific Experts Hammer Corrupt CDC for Fake Low Fatality Rate” to “CDC Finally Admits COVID Is Basically Harmless.” (I exaggerate, but only a little.)

I don’t have a scorching hot take on the number. But I do want to know where it comes from, which is not clear from the site itself. It says the information is based on data about a month old and names the source “Preliminary COVID-19 estimates, CDC,” which I have not been able to locate (if indeed it refers to a specific document at all).

I have contacted the CDC several times in the past week to no avail. Both the Center for Public Integrity and BuzzFeed similarly report that they sought comment and received no reply.

If the fatality rate of this thing is 0.26 percent, that is fantastic news. If the CDC has evidence this is the case, it should share it with the rest of us.

Politics & Policy

Five Thoughts on the George Floyd Story

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People gather at the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct station to protest, after a police officer was caught on video pressing his knee into the neck of George Floyd, who later died at a hospital in Minneapolis, Minn., May 27, 2020. (Eric Miller/Reuters)

After a night of riots, looting, and arson in Minneapolis to protest the police killing of George Floyd, five thoughts spring to mind:

One: It is always hazardous to draw sweeping conclusions about society from individual criminal cases. Every individual case involves individual facts, and those facts often turn out to be quite different from the initial media narrative, as happened in the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown cases. Far too many people jumping on this case, or the case of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, did so without bothering to look into the facts. Sometimes the facts are what they seem: the Arbery case by now looks like a clear case of murder, and I have no reason at this point to believe that the Floyd case will turn out to be much different. But even though experience should counsel some caution, the same people jump to the same conclusions every time.

Two: Overdrawing conclusions from individual cases can mislead us about how common things are. This is a nation of 330 million people. Any event that happens, say, a dozen times a year or even a hundred times a year can be made into a national epidemic if you report each instance with wall-to-wall coverage; any event that happens tens of thousands of times a year can seem uncommon if individual incidents are thrown into the statistics pile. We see this with school shootings, or in the abortion and death-penalty debates, in which hundreds of thousands of abortions are placed on an equal footing with fewer than fifty executions a year.

Liberals were enormously indignant when the wall-to-wall coverage thing was done with the Willie Horton case or the Kate Steinle case. It is, in fact, a practice I find both distasteful and misleading when some segments of right-wing media publicize every violent crime allegedly committed by an illegal immigrant, sometimes with the same jump-first-check-facts-later modus operandi. Yes, it is necessary to put a human face on problems in society, but when you choose to make one category of violent deaths matter more than any other, recognize that this is what you are doing. The excessive use of deadly force by police is a legitimate concern, and so is the question of whether unjust uses of force are more common against African-American men. But painting this as a runaway national epidemic that dwarfs other sources of violent death in our society is just innumerate.

Relatedly, there’s a meme going around that contrasts Colin Kaepernick kneeling in protest and one of the cops kneeling on George Floyd, saying something to the effect of, “If you’re more upset about Kaepernick than Floyd, you’re the problem.” As with so many memes, however, this is a substitute for thought that doesn’t stand up well to scrutiny. It compares an individual, local act of violence to a national, public argument. These are two different categories of thing. Objectively, as a matter of principle, any individual act of violence is worse than any idea or argument. I loathe both of them, but in different ways and for different reasons, and they call for different responses. As a matter of priority, does every individual have an obligation to dwell at length on every single act of violence before being permitted to argue about any idea? The Kaepernick protests were a legitimate matter of public debate because other people praised and followed him. Anyone praising the cops in the Floyd case and arguing for imitating them is worthy of being argued with, and denounced, too, because their ideas are bad.

Three: I agree with Jim Geraghty that there is no justification for looting, rioting, or destroying the homes and businesses of innocent people. Peaceful protest is one thing; public protest can be ugly and uncomfortable, and it can be done for bad causes as well as good ones, but it is an essential part of America. Protests are like criminal-defense lawyers, guns, negative ads, or investigative journalists: You don’t have to like them, but they are necessary to keep the system honest.

Riots, arson, and looting, however, are not, especially when they are just an excuse for heisting a television. As I wrote about the Ferguson riots in 2014, the people who try to excuse them are typically unwilling or unable to say openly what they are advocating. Our country was founded on the idea that there’s a time and a place when armed revolution against the government is justified. But violent protest is legitimate only in that situation. There remains a vigorous debate about whether John Brown was justified in trying to start a revolution over slavery; there are still some extremists in the anti-abortion movement who see nearly a million deaths a year as a high enough bar to justify revolutionary violence. But those are the extreme cases, and I remain skeptical even in those examples that the violent destruction of civil order could be justified. A society ruled by law, with civil order and a democratic process for seeking change, is a valuable and fragile thing, and societies that throw it away often find it cannot be rebuilt.

Moreover, in terms of media coverage, we should insist on a clear distinction between peaceful protest and violence, and we should insist on that distinction no matter what side or faction the violence comes from. When right-wingers engage in violence, the media conflates the two in order to delegitimize protest; when there are race riots, the media conflates the two in order to legitimize rioting. Only when you have left-wing assassination attempts such as the congressional baseball shooting or the Family Research Council shooting, or violence by Islamist radicals, will the media really hermetically seal the two. Let us be consistent. Free speech, even angry, overheated, and misguided speech, is not violence and is not responsible for violence. Speech that calls directly for violence can be responsible, but it is still not violence. Violence is not speech, it is violence.

Four: Liberals have a habit of advocating the ever-increasing passage of laws, while being knee-jerk hostile to the enforcement of laws. But the two can never be separated. A War on Guns would look like the War on Drugs. Enforcement of cigarette laws is how you get Eric Garner. More laws inevitably mean one or both of two things: more enforcement, or more selectivity in enforcement. If you want fewer interactions between cops and non-violent citizens, stop passing so many laws against non-violent citizens.

Five: proposals to change the process by which we enforce the law — against individual citizens, cops, or other government officials — should always be considered in terms of evenhandedness: that is, making sure that people you like and people you dislike get the same justice. There is a systemic difficulty with asking killings by police officers to be investigated and prosecuted by local district attorneys. But asking federal authorities to automatically jump in is the wrong answer, as is setting up the feds as a do-over when state juries don’t get the answer we want. Federal investigations should be confined to either clear cases of violation of the federal civil-rights laws, or pervasive and systemic command problems with particular police departments. The right answer, which a number of states already do, is to hand off the first responsibility to state attorneys general, who can use the broad police powers of state law, are not tied to the local police, and are in many cases directly accountable to the voters of the entire state rather than the voters of a particular pro- or anti-cop local community.

U.S.

We’re Enduring a Calamity, but Rarely Actually Seeing It

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A doctor in protective suite waits for patients in a special tent for coronavirus disease cases near a hospital in Lublin, Poland, March 23, 2020. (Jakub Orzechowski, Agencja Gazeta/Reuters)

I periodically write that if the growing national debt manifested in the form of Godzilla or some other giant monster, Americans would mobilize in droves, and make great sacrifices, to stop it, reverse it, and overcome it. We move pretty quick, and are pretty cooperative, when we can see a threat. We’re visual creatures; some studies indicate that 90 percent of the information processed by the brain is visual.

When something visibly threatens us, like terrorists crashing airliners into skyscrapers, everyone instantly grasps the danger and swings into action. After 9/11, Americans were hungrily looking for ways to help and do something and feel useful: blood donations, charitable donations, volunteering, memorial services, enlisting in the military. (“Not Knowing What Else To Do, Woman Bakes American-Flag Cake” is one of my all-time favorite Onion stories, a perfect expression of how so many wanted to help in some way and couldn’t quite figure out how.)

But we can’t see the coronavirus, except through a microscope. If this virus manifested as a visible green gas, people would see it and run from it. There would be little or no dispute about wearing masks. Crowds would instantly disperse at the sight of a forming green cloud. No one would enter a building or room with any discernable green haze.

Americans mobilized — or in many cases, de-mobilized — on a massive scale to respond to the threat of SARS-CoV-2. (In the first week of April, U.S. residents spent 93 percent of their time at home.) They donated to charities and food banks. They canceled events, they put on masks and gloves, they socially distanced. Industries reorganized their assembly lines to make masks and protective gear and ventilators. At the Braskem petrochemical plant in Delaware, 43 men worked 12-hour shifts all day and night for a month straight, “producing tens of millions of pounds of the raw materials that will end up in face masks and surgical gowns worn on the front lines of the pandemic.” All of this for a threat that cannot be seen, and whose effects are not immediately or easily visible.

I suspect that many people expected 100,000 Americans dying from a virus in less than three months to look like something out of apocalyptic fiction — bodies in the streets, soldiers in bio-chem suits, giant scary biohazard signs everywhere.

But the coronavirus deaths are almost entirely occurring far away from cameras. This is not a request or a demand that Americans witness their countrymen breathing their last breath and succumb to the virus, just an observation that for most human beings, seeing is believing. A significant portion of America’s coronavirus victims are dying in nursing homes and long-term care facilities — locations that felt shut away from the rest of society and easily forgotten before the pandemic hit our shores.

Cities with empty streets looked eerie, but a vocal contingent on the right concluded, with some accuracy, that the emptiness of the streets was driven by the lockdown, not from the virus. It is easy to see politicians, such as the president, or Bill de Blasio, or Andrew Cuomo, or Gretchen Whitmer, or Ralph Northam bumbling through, shutting things down too late or maintaining the shutdowns too long, ignoring rules and recommendations they expect others to follow. They are all visible targets for frustration, disappointment, and ire. The virus SARS-CoV-2 is the root of all of our problems, but there’s no point in holding a rally or protest against a microscopic entity with no mind.

As for those who doubt the danger of the virus, no number of skeptics dying will convince other skeptics; the not-so-subtle glee at the irony in the ranks of the media just makes the other skeptics dig in deeper.

We are forced to muddle through as the real fight against the virus occurs behind closed doors — in hospitals, in medical-research facilities, with only brief, fleeting glimpses.

Education

Education Department Sides with Teen Girls against Trans Sports Policy

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From the Associated Press: 

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut policy that allows transgender athletes to compete in girls sports violates the civil rights of female athletes, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights has ruled.

It’s about time.

Politics & Policy

Human Capitalism and Its Sometime Critics

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As Rich Lowry points out, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez idiotically attacked White House adviser Kevin Hassett for using the term “human capital,” which she erroneously but confidently claimed to have “roots in slavery.”

Naturally, it turns out that AOC has used the term herself.

Most Popular

The 1619 Distortion of the Second Amendment

Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Nikole Hannah-Jones had some thoughts on the Second Amendment yesterday: https://twitter.com/nhannahjones/status/1267604715434639360 It’s not really a “head scratcher” to comprehend why Americans want to protect their property and lives from looters and the mob. Why a ... Read More

The 1619 Distortion of the Second Amendment

Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Nikole Hannah-Jones had some thoughts on the Second Amendment yesterday: https://twitter.com/nhannahjones/status/1267604715434639360 It’s not really a “head scratcher” to comprehend why Americans want to protect their property and lives from looters and the mob. Why a ... Read More

‘Dominating’ the Streets

Since the revolution in policing that began in the early 1990s, we have had a generation of peace and prosperity. Without the rule of law -- i.e., without order, without the presumption that the laws will be enforced -- that kind of societal flourishing is not possible. We are seeing now what happens when the ... Read More

‘Dominating’ the Streets

Since the revolution in policing that began in the early 1990s, we have had a generation of peace and prosperity. Without the rule of law -- i.e., without order, without the presumption that the laws will be enforced -- that kind of societal flourishing is not possible. We are seeing now what happens when the ... Read More

The ‘Institutional Racism’ Canard

About twice as many white people as black people are killed by police. In fact, in about 75 percent of police shootings, the decedent is not black. Of course, that is not what you would grasp from consuming media. Take the website statista.com, specifically its breathless focus on “Hate crime in the United ... Read More

The ‘Institutional Racism’ Canard

About twice as many white people as black people are killed by police. In fact, in about 75 percent of police shootings, the decedent is not black. Of course, that is not what you would grasp from consuming media. Take the website statista.com, specifically its breathless focus on “Hate crime in the United ... Read More

Yes, Meet Rioters with Overwhelming Force 

Restoring order to America’s cities isn’t a complicated proposition. All it requires is resources and determination and a firm rejection of the longstanding progressive fallacy that an overwhelming police presence is “provocative” and “escalatory” and must be avoided. As has been established ... Read More

Yes, Meet Rioters with Overwhelming Force 

Restoring order to America’s cities isn’t a complicated proposition. All it requires is resources and determination and a firm rejection of the longstanding progressive fallacy that an overwhelming police presence is “provocative” and “escalatory” and must be avoided. As has been established ... Read More

We Need Law and Order, but Not Necessarily Federal Troops

In the Rose Garden yesterday evening, President Trump threatened to deploy the U.S. military to restore order in the American cities if mayors and governors fail to do it. In his brief speech, Trump said the appropriate things about the George Floyd case (he called it a “brutal death”) and about the legal ... Read More

We Need Law and Order, but Not Necessarily Federal Troops

In the Rose Garden yesterday evening, President Trump threatened to deploy the U.S. military to restore order in the American cities if mayors and governors fail to do it. In his brief speech, Trump said the appropriate things about the George Floyd case (he called it a “brutal death”) and about the legal ... Read More

The Left Should Be Careful with Its Riot Rhetoric

Last week, the nation was stunned by the senseless murder of George Floyd at the hands of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Politicians and pundits on both sides of the aisle decried the slaying, and it didn’t take long for protestors across the country to take to the streets. Sadly, some recent ... Read More

The Left Should Be Careful with Its Riot Rhetoric

Last week, the nation was stunned by the senseless murder of George Floyd at the hands of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Politicians and pundits on both sides of the aisle decried the slaying, and it didn’t take long for protestors across the country to take to the streets. Sadly, some recent ... Read More