URLs du Jour


Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Remy:

He is a Great National Treasure.

  • The Google LFOD News Alert brought, once again, a slew of hits. Unfortunately typical was the "My Turn" column in the Concord Monitor featuring the downhome wisdom of Millie LaFontaine: Abandoning caution carries the steepest of prices.

    However, the tangled mess we are in now is more dire than some childish adults among us are willing to believe. They choose willful ignorance over prudence. They figure that if they feel okay then they should be free to do whatever they want: “Live free or die!” What they fail to see that their careless disregard for those around them could easily result in “Live free AND die!”

    The first time I noticed this "clever" play on the state motto was back in January 2018. And I suspect that's only because I started paying attention. I would wager it's been a overused lazy cliché for longer than that.

    Millie's talking about her fellow citizens. In addition to the insults above, she believes they are exhibiting "human obstinacy and sheer pig-headedness".

    Because of masks, of course. The hijab of the Church of Shutdown. And Millie's not fond of heretics who dare to make their own risk decisions.

    Sometimes she's unintentionally amusing: "Parents and a nearby school board member bring their children to a playground and flaunt [sic] stay-at-home orders." Where were the Monitor editors?

  • I sat up and took notice for this article in National Review on masking, which promised a Libertarian Case for Their Widespread Use.

    The irony is that civil-libertarian objections to masks make draconian measures more likely. The more people refuse to wear masks, the greater the risks of reopening. Where mask-wearing has taken hold — in Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea, for example — life has proceeded in quasi-normalcy: Many businesses and schools are open, and people are free to socialize. The comparatively repressive East Asian democracies have retained more civil liberties than the U.S. thanks, in part, to the rational behavior of their citizens.

    The efficacy of masks strengthens the anti-lockdown case. It is exactly the kind of spontaneous decision-making that often renders government intrusion needless and inefficient. The “invisible hand” of the free market depends on rational individuals acting in their self-interest. We’ve seen this phenomenon in jurisdictions that did not lock down but nonetheless saw sizable reductions in economic activity. People did not want to contract COVID-19 and took reasonable steps to minimize their risk.

    Well. I'm not sure how "libertarian" it is to argue, essentially, "if you don't put up with this mandate, you'll get really worse mandates."

    My weighted reasons for mask-wearing, if you're interested:

    • 63%: keep Mrs. Salad happy, or at least non-frantic;
    • 34%: avoid getting hectored by busybodies like Millie LaFontaine;
    • 2%: avoid getting infected myself;
    • 1% (or less): avoid infecting others.

    Those numbers could change.

  • Jonah Goldberg has an interesting speculation: The Pandemic Is Going to Shake Up Higher Education.

    For years, critics of higher education have predicted that the pattern of ever-rising tuitions for a product that hasn’t really improved in innate value is unsustainable. And yet, nothing changed. 

    That may be coming to an end. COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the equation. In an interview with New York magazine, Scott Galloway, a Silicon Valley veteran turned professor at New York University’s Stern Business School, argues that, thanks to the pandemic, “There’s a recognition that education—the value, the price, the product—has fundamentally shifted. The value of education has been substantially degraded.”

    Universities now contend that the price of the sheepskin shouldn’t change even if kids can’t go to campus. Every school is saying, “This is unprecedented, and we’re in this together.” Galloway jokes that this is Latin for: “We’re not lowering our prices, b**ches.” 

    The University Near Here will probably survive. (It has a "long tradition of existence.") But if even 10% of the kiddos just don't show up in September? Hm. Big changes. Might have to trim back some of those Assistant Vice Deans.

    Just kidding! It's the Assistant Vice Deans who decide on what to cut!

  • Jim Geraghty has been a consistent voice of sanity and balance throughout the years, and he's taken on the pandemic with those same virtues. Example: Being Wrong Is Human and Will Happen. But Staying Wrong Is a Choice.

    All of us, from the president and Fauci to the kids down the street are trying to grapple with the unknown. Just about all of us are going to get something wrong at some point. Here we are, May 15, and we’re still not entirely sure whether children are largely immune to this virus, or whether some portion will develop “multisystem inflammatory syndrome” some months or weeks later. (The current leading theory is that this is some sort of delayed reaction by a child’s immune system after fighting off the virus.) Thankfully, this syndrome appears to be unlikely to kill children.

    We think we’re less likely to catch the virus outside — it may be much, much less likely. Vitamin D might be a factor — or maybe it’s a more general sense that the vitamin is just good for your immune system in general. We’re not sure how long the antibodies against this virus will stay in human bodies. We’re pretty sure masks help, but we’re not sure how much, or how effectively people will wear them. A prominent virologist thinks he caught the virus through his eyes on a crowded flight because he was wearing a mask and gloves the entire time. It appears humans can spread the virus to dogs, but dogs cannot spread the virus to people.

    What we know can change. Perhaps our appetite for rubbing someone’s nose in their getting something wrong has created an enormous disincentive for anyone ever admitting they’re wrong — and an inadvertent incentive for stubbornly clinging to an assessment, even in the face of mounting counter-evidence.

    Something to take to heart more generally. God grant us all the willingness to change our minds when the facts change out from under us.

  • Of course, there are certain things that reinforce my priors. Here's one from the New York Times: F.D.A. Halts Coronavirus Testing Program Backed by Bill Gates.

    An innovative coronavirus testing program in the Seattle area — promoted by the billionaire Bill Gates and local public health officials as a way of conducting wider surveillance on the invisible spread of the virus — has been ordered by the federal government to stop its work pending additional reviews.

    The program involved sending home test kits to both healthy and sick people in the hope of conducting the kind of widespread monitoring that could help communities safely reopen from lockdowns. Researchers and public health authorities already had tested thousands of samples, finding dozens of previously undetected cases.

    The tests are safe and seemingly accurate. Sho what's the problem? The program told people and their doctors their test results. The FDA has different rules, different hoops to jump through, if you want to do that.