URLs du Jour


  • The LFOD Google News Alert continues to cough up vast amounts of nonsense. Sixteen today! Many pointing me to that new Sean Hannity book! No thanks!

    I think I can filter those out, but the other major contributor is the ongoing, interminable, lockdown debate. Alert number one was an LTE in the Conway Daily Sun from one Randy Hilman of Moultonborough who offers advice we didn't know we needed: Don't confuse NH's state motto with Darwinism.

    Our local chat forums are abuzz lately with some folks arguing that it’s acceptable under the circumstances to let people die from COVID-19 if it means the rest of us can return to work to help get our economy moving again.

    “The virus will fade, but our bills won’t,” said one recent poster, invoking our state motto. “It’s time we started living free again.”

    The ignorant corruption of “Live Free or Die” troubles me. There is more than one way to die an ignoble death. Geo-political conflicts, like Vietnam, are one way. Pandemics are another.

    Our motto, adopted in 1945, does not embrace the notion that needless, preventable death is a hero’s triumph over tyranny.

    What became our motto was written by New Hampshire Revolutionary War hero Gen. John Stark in an 1809 letter to veterans commemorating the Battle of Bennington.

    Stark, borrowing the popular phrase from the French Revolution (Vivre Libre ou Mourir) wrote: “Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.”

    Let me just break in here and note that Randy's history down to here is correct. But then he starts going off the rails:

    Stark’s exhortation to his fellow militiamen conveyed that tyranny is worse than death; that death is a fitting, even noble demise in the cause of and struggle for self determination (freedom). His letter was not at all about a Darwinian theme of survival.

    As the kids say: Duh. Randy is refuting a point nobody is making. Darwin was born on February 12, 1809; he was (therefore) a mere 5 months old when General Stark penned his regrets for being unable to attend the commemoration of the Battle of Bennington.

    So, no, Stark was not making a Darwinian argument. But Randy continues as if his chatroom antagonists were doing so:

    The battle cry put forth today that it is now acceptable to let innocents die so that others can get on with their lives is neither consistent with New Hampshire’s motto, nor is it to be found anywhere in the lexicon of America’s founding values.

    I can appreciate that people are fearful of what they view as governmental encroachment on their activities in this difficult time, but they’re wrong to raise up “Live Free or Die” as their “cause celebre” when, in reality, “Survival of the Fittest” is their banner.

    Or not. Randy seems to think that the lockdown must continue until we can reliably expect zero deaths of "innocents".

    It's not Darwinism to observe that this will never happen.

    It's difficult to say for sure what Randy's chatroom nemeses were claiming; we only have his caricatures to go on. But I'd submit that they weren't operating from a surfeit of Darwinism, but perhaps (for lack of a better word) adultism: the idea that you should provide responsible people with accurate, relevant information about their risks. And let them make up their own minds about how to deal with them.

    I'll point out that the entirety of Carroll County, NH (Conway's and Moultonborough's county) has had 31 cases total. Randy, get a grip.

  • On a related note, John F. Harris writes at Politico with advice. Which is to Admit It: You Are Willing to Let People Die to End the Shutdown.

    CNN’s Jake Tapper was brutally direct in his question to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who recently lifted his state’s stay-at-home order, in favor of a gradual reopening of business. Are you worried, Tapper asked, that a premature move could “cost your constituents their lives?”

    Polis was blandly indirect in his answer. While he might wish to have “next week’s information and next month’s information available to me today,” the Democratic governor said, “that’s not the world we live in.” During a pandemic that likely will continue for months, he’s looking for a path forward in “an ongoing sustainable way,” one that takes into account citizens’ interests “psychologically, economically, and from a health perspective.”

    Polis is an adult. I'd quibble with Harris's labeling this "moral relativism". Nor (sorry, Randy) is it "Darwinism".

    Jim Geraghty doesn't label it, but his observation is apt: we need to, like Polis, deal with "the fact that people will die if we are to continue the lockdown, too."

  • Kevin D. Williamson (in an NRPLUS article, so…) thinks Hillary Clinton’s Endorsement of Joe Biden Is Irrelevant. Sorry if you can't Read The Whole Thing; I'll just pick out this tidbit:

    The conservative writer P. J. O’Rourke in 2016 offered a mock endorsement of Mrs. Clinton over Trump, saying: “She’s wrong about absolutely everything, but she’s wrong within normal parameters.” Don’t expect Biden to take that up as a slogan, but the former vice president implicitly is offering himself as a “return to normalcy” candidate on similar lines — a creep, a liar, a feckless time-serving hack of the lowest and meanest kind, but within normal parameters. That fits in with the basic bedrock dynamic of 2020: For Democrats, it’s anybody but Trump, and, for Republicans, it’s anybody but any Democrat. With a severe economic contraction on the way and an epidemic still raging, Trump’s argument for himself right now is, “Boy, things were great, right up until they weren’t!” Biden’s argument is that the worst day with Biden will be better than the best day with Trump.

    KDW, as usual, makes me grimly happy.

  • At AEI, James "Thanks, Cut and Paste" Pethokoukis demurs from the latest analogy: We don’t need a Manhattan Project to beat COVID-19. We need something better.

    It’s understandable to analogize today’s anti-pandemic campaign as some sort of modern-day version of the World War II effort to build an atomic bomb. There are some things in common, including big collaborative research efforts dedicated to solving a massive technological problem as soon as possible. That’s probably what pops into most people’s heads when they hear the phrase “Manhattan Project.” It’s a powerful descriptor, but also a bit of a misleading one. Operation Warp Speed will need to move faster than the Manhattan Project, be more transparent, and pursue a far more diverse set of potential solutions. And the role of Washington will be less of a central planner and more of a coordinator and a bulldozer of roadblocks and bottlenecks.

    Those even slightly familiar with Manhattan Project history will chuckle a bit at the "more transparent" desire. There were few things in history less transparent than the Manhattan Project.

  • Veronique de Rugy looks at the wacky politics in the City of Rice-a-Roni: Economics, a San Francisco Treat? She notes the admirable alacrity the food service industry has exhibited in adjusting to new realities, ramping up meal delivery. At a price, of course. But:

    This has caused a surge in demand for drivers to deliver the food. Precoronavirus, many restaurants didn't deliver at all, so they had to create home-delivery capacities from scratch. Others have had to step up capacity by adding more drivers. And many restaurants now increasingly rely on delivery services like UberEats and Grubhub. Following this sharp increase in demand for driving services, delivery fees have risen. This increase in fees is exactly what economics predicts will happen and recommends should happen. The higher fees reflect the increased demand for delivery services while simultaneously giving stronger incentives to more people to become delivery drivers.

    However, San Francisco legislators don't get it. On April 10, the city of San Francisco issued an emergency order mandating that delivery companies that wish to continue to operate in the city cap the fees they charge restaurants at 15% of each order's amount. Mayor London Breed explained, "These fees typically range from 10% to 30% and can represent a significant portion of a restaurant's revenue, especially at a time when the vast majority of sales are for delivery. This commission fee can wipe out a restaurant's entire margin."

    But you know what else was predictable: (1) the cap caused certain deliveries to be money-losers; (2) such deliveries were curtailed; (3) and pols got outraged about that.