URLs du Jour

2020-03-21

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  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File this week is titled The Moral Heroism of Our Coronavirus Response.

    The simple fact is that this country is doing something morally heroic. I hate metaphorical war rhetoric, but we’re taking the “millions for defense, not one penny for tribute” approach to this.

    It may not work. It may not last. It may not make the most sense economically. But we’re doing it anyway. And that is something that should be appreciated not just for the “We’re all in it together” platitudes but as a rebuttal to the slanderous way many Americans describe this country.

    He may have a point there. I also enjoyed this:

    It’s sort of like Star Trek. In the show(s) the captain and the top officers go on all the dangerous away missions while the vast crew stays behind to be props and walk through the hallways like the cast of West Wing. I’ve long joked that if Gene Roddenberry wrote the story of World War II, FDR and Ike would parachute behind enemy lines to take out Hitler and Himmler all by themselves. 

    I'd watch that show too.


  • And at the WaPo, George F. Will has some good news for us. Or maybe just you: You are not a teetering contraption.

    “Worrying,” wrote Lewis Thomas, “is the most natural and spontaneous of all human functions.” Thomas — physician, philosopher, essayist, administrator (dean of the Yale and New York University medical schools, head of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center) — thought we worry too much about our health, as though a human being is “a teetering, fallible contraption, always needing watching and patching, always on the verge of flapping to pieces.”

    So at this worrisome moment, fill your idle hands with Bill Bryson’s 2019 book, “The Body: A Guide for Occupants.” It will fill your mind with reasons for believing that you are not flimsy, even though “we are just a collection of inert components.” Including seven billion billion billion (7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) atoms, not one of which cares a fig about you. In the time it took to read this far into this sentence, your busy body manufactured 1 million red blood cells that will surge through you every 50 seconds — 150,000 times (a hundred or so miles) before, in about four months, they die and are replaced for the greater good, meaning: for you.

    Mr. Will is 78 years young, and I'm probably more worried about him than he is himself.


  • Back to Jonah at the Dispatch, where he notes that China Is Waging a Very Effective Propaganda War.

    If there’s one thing worth knowing about China—in terms of geopolitics and American national security at least—it’s that its rulers are almost as afraid of the people as the people are afraid of them.

    Think about it. Why would a government place secret cameras everywhere? Censor any criticism of the government? Mount massive propaganda campaigns to defend the infallibility of the ruling Communist Party?

    If the people were all in for their form of government and their way of life, this wouldn’t be necessary.

    “In 2013 the party issued a list of seven topics that could no longer be discussed with students: universal values, a free press, civil society, civic rights, the party’s past ‘mistakes,’ corruption and an independent judiciary,” veteran China correspondent Isabel Hilton wrote in The Economist in 2018. “This speaks of fear rather than confidence.”

    Want insight into what powerful people are most afraid of? Find out what you can't say around them.


  • Via Rand Simberg, an interesting point from David Zaruk, writing at Science 2.0: Coronavirus Shows Our Reliance On The 'Precautionary Principle' Has Ruined Our Ability To Manage Risk.

    With locusts ravaging East Africa and a coronavirus plague shutting down Western economies, maybe it is time to go back and see how the precautionary principle has fared as the (only) risk management tool in our policy toolkit. With a population naively assuming they were living risk-free lives having been reassured how their personal safety was managed by others, the coming crisis is going to hit hard.

    Whatever happened to personal risk management, accountability and autonomy? Populations that have lost an understanding of risks are now incapable of dealing with simple hazard reduction measures. COVID-19 has taught us that two decades of precautionist-driven risk aversion has left an untrusting public without the capacity to protect themselves. Times of mass panic as we’re seeing today are not ideal periods to re-teach simple risk management skills, but perhaps once the outrage has passed and the bodies have been removed, a bit of risk reality education will be welcomed.

    We've been told for decades that we didn't have to worry about taking precautions ourselves, because it was government's job to decide what level of risk was acceptable. See where that's got us.


  • And we noticed last year the semi-coherent writings of one Jim Baer, an occasional op-ed columnist for the Concord Monitor. The Google LFOD alert let us know about his latest "thoughts" on Politics, pandemics and the New Hampshire way.

    In the past, I registered my opinion in the Monitor about the foolishness of replacing the old motto on our New Hampshire vehicle registration plates from “Scenic New Hampshire” to the cavalier “Live Free or Die.” In lieu of the morbidity rates of the COVID-19 virus, it may be wise to return “Scenic New Hampshire” on our plates. Most people do not feel the need to be reminded about dying.

    Cavalier, huh? What's more cavalier than dumping a motto because it might remind people of things they'd prefer not to be reminded of?

    'Twas a mere six months ago when Baer referred scornfully to "the 'Live Free or Die' crowd" in one of his columns. His attitude to the motto might be most charitably described as "mixed". Or, less charitably, "hoplessly confused."