URLs du Jour


  • For some reason this news disgusts me: Democratic senators call for funding for local media in coronavirus stimulus. (No I can't follow the Costello rule: try to be amused.)

    More than a dozen senators are calling for any future stimulus package addressing the economic fallout from the novel coronavirus to include funding for local journalism, saying that communities across the U.S. are at risk of losing their source of news because of the pandemic. 

    "Local news is in a state of crisis that has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic," the senators wrote in a letter sent to the upper chamber's leadership on Wednesday.

    And, yes, our state's senior senator, Jeanne Shaheen, is one of the signatories.

    So, transforming journalists into de facto employees of the state? Of course they'll have to be vetted to ensure they're providing "accurate" and "reliable" information. What could possibly go wrong with that?

  • At the New York Times, Ross Douthat expresses the kind of incorrect thoughts that will be Officially Frowned Upon: In the Fog of Coronavirus, There Are No Experts.

    Since the election of Donald Trump, the American media has become invested in the idea that the modern information landscape is defined by a great struggle between truth and falsehood, facts and misinformation, the real news and the fake. In this drama, there are enemies of truth, and then there is a besieged edifice of expertise, which needs to reclaim ground — whether via better fact-checks or better Facebook regulations — that’s been lost to trolls, populists and scam artists.

    This has always been a dubious and self-regarding framework, but in the coronavirus era it has become particularly useless. Not because it misdiagnoses Trump himself: Our chief executive is, indeed, bumptiously dishonest, a manure-shoveler without precedent in the modern presidency, a man with little capacity to handle even a mildly inconvenient truth. No one expects a truthful and realistic appraisal of the crisis from this president; any sensible person should look elsewhere for the truth.

    But once you look elsewhere, it quickly becomes clear that no unitary and reliable edifice of truth exists. The only place you can find it is in fiction, specifically the cinematic anticipation of this outbreak, Steven Soderbergh’s film “Contagion” — in which the professional health organizations are admirable, nimble, evidence-based, with just enough rule-bending here and there to make the necessary leaps toward a vaccine. Meanwhile, the internet is terrible, embodied by a sinister blogger peddling a quack cure. Only institutions can be trusted; outsider “knowledge” leads only to the grave.

    Douthat will have to improve this attitude if the NYT wants its bailout.

  • National Review is an obvious loser in the grab for subsidies, what with Michael Brendan Dougherty recommending We Need More Libertarianism Too. Somewhat surprising, since MBD casts himself as one of those "national" conservatives:

    But this national conservative would like to acknowledge loud and clear that the COVID-19 crisis is also a libertarian moment. Just as nations seek out self-sufficiency, so too do individuals. And an individualist streak has been necessary for probing and rejecting the dubious or outright fraudulent advice of public-health authorities, corrupted by either Chicoms or groupthink.

    And libertarian insights are finally being applied to good effect. For instance, even in a national emergency, we need competition. The temporary monopoly of the federal government on developing a test for coronavirus was the greatest failure of all in the American response. Some university labs found creative ways to get around FDA and CDC red tape to develop their own tests. Eventually, regulations were relaxed and existing private labs developed better and faster tests, and even began developing COVID testing platforms that could grow to meet the insane demands of this crisis. An absolute free-for all of test development would have been much better, allowing private firms to race against the virus and compete with each other for the glory of beating it.

    There's a certain amount of looking for the pony in the room full of horseshit here, but I could do with a little optimism.

  • At City Journal, John Tierney is whistling past The FDA Graveyard.

    Critics of the Food and Drug Administration were long ignored as they tallied up the casualties in the “invisible graveyard” of Americans who died because of the FDA’s antiquated policies. But now one small part of that graveyard has suddenly become visible—and the need for reform has become glaringly obvious.

    Americans are dying daily because of FDA regulations that have repeatedly delayed testing for the Covid-19 virus and impeded the manufacture and deployment of masks and other protective equipment. The agency’s obstructionism has angered the public—and prompted a search for scapegoats at the FDA and the White House—but there’s nothing unusual about these deadly delays. They’re an inevitable consequence of the FDA’s rules and its charter to allow only medical treatments and devices that its cautious bureaucrats have decreed to be “safe and effective.” This philosophy is conservatively estimated to be responsible for tens of millions of deaths of people waiting for the FDA to approve treatments for cancer, heart disease, and other ailments.

    I'm undecided whether to reform or simply abolish the FDA.

  • In the "20th Century's Worst US President" competition, there's a clear frontrunner. At Real Clear Investigations, Eric Felten examines How Woodrow Wilson Let Flu Deaths Go Viral in the Great War.

    When the crisis hit, the country was led by a president viewed by many as among the most capable of American leaders, Woodrow Wilson. A favorite of progressives, Wilson has been hailed for expanding the federal government and celebrated for his commitment to international institutions. He has regularly been in historians’ polls of the top 10 presidents, an assessment that has only slipped in recent years as Wilson's unreconstructed racism has been publicized. Still, one would expect a skilled advocate of federal authority to have used every power of his office to confront a scourge that was killing Americans by the hundreds of thousands. Surely his response would be a model of presidential leadership.

    Not quite.

    “Frankly, I don’t think Wilson gave much attention to the flu,” John M. Cooper, emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, tells RealClearInvestigations. “From going through his papers, there just isn’t much there,” says Cooper, the dean of Wilson scholars.

    Wilson traded off the health of Americans in favor of massive American involvement in World War I.

  • And Rand Simburg provides an RIP for Linda Tripp.

    She was the only person in that mess who told the truth, or showed any integrity, and she paid a societal price for it. She was brutalized by the Clinton-worshipping media, and the “comedians” on SNL.

    True dat.