URLs du Jour

2020-12-09

[Amazon Link]

  • Jacob Sullum asks the musical question: Are Americans Insufficiently Alarmed by COVID-19? Eh. He looks at an NYT op-ed, threateningly titled It’s Time to Scare People About Covid by one Elizabeth Rosenthal. A telling criticism:

    "It's time to make people scared and uncomfortable," Rosenthal writes in the Times. "It's time for some sharp, focused, terrifying realism."

    Rosenthal suggests ads featuring COVID-19 patients struggling on ventilators or lying, "eyes wide with fear," in ICU beds, which would show "what can happen with the virus." But the "realism" of that approach is dubious, since those outcomes are hardly typical.

    The vast majority of people infected by the coronavirus do not have symptoms serious enough to require hospitalization, let alone ICU care or ventilators. Rosenthal dismisses that point, saying "most longtime smokers don't end up with lung cancer—or tethered to an oxygen tank—either."

    That's a pretty sloppy comparison given the enormous difference between these two health risks. Epidemiological research indicates that somewhere between one-third and two-thirds of cigarette smokers will die prematurely because of their habit.

    New York Times guideline: Sloppiness doesn't count when you are trying to terrify folks.

    Coincidentally, the WSJ had a special "Cybersecurity" section today. Lead article: Why Companies Should Stop Scaring Employees About Cybersecurity. Why? Because Fear Doesn't Work. Not in the long term.

    Ditto for Covid. Suggestion (for the Nth time): stop trying to scare people, give them accurate and complete information, and let them make their own decisions about risk.

    And since I slagged my friends at Granite Grok yesterday, let me offer some praise today related to this topic: Skip looks at the Covid Terror Porn pushed by our local TV station.


  • So: don't be afeared. But do be disgusted, because while we're losing a couple thousand souls per day to Covid, David Henderson says: We Could Have Had the Vaccine in Early Spring at the Latest. Quoting a (credible) New York magazine article:

    You may be surprised to learn that of the trio of long-awaited coronavirus vaccines, the most promising, Moderna’s mRNA-1273, which reported a 94.5 percent efficacy rate on November 16, had been designed by January 13. This was just two days after the genetic sequence had been made public in an act of scientific and humanitarian generosity that resulted in China’s Yong-Zhen Zhang’s being temporarily forced out of his lab. In Massachusetts, the Moderna vaccine design took all of one weekend. It was completed before China had even acknowledged that the disease could be transmitted from human to human, more than a week before the first confirmed coronavirus case in the United States. By the time the first American death was announced a month later, the vaccine had already been manufactured and shipped to the National Institutes of Health for the beginning of its Phase I clinical trial. This is — as the country and the world are rightly celebrating — the fastest timeline of development in the history of vaccines. It also means that for the entire span of the pandemic in this country, which has already killed more than 250,000 Americans, we had the tools we needed to prevent it.

    Eh, what's a quarter-million dead people? I suppose the FDA isn't a mass murderer on the scale of Stalin/Mao/Hitler. They might be a ways down the body-count list.


  • Speaking of shots… In our "Things That Make You Shake Your Head" department, Greg Piper at the College Fix reports: Cornell vaccine mandate only applies to white students.

    One of the amazing things we learned in 2020 is that the novel coronavirus can’t infect people who attend Black Lives Matter protests. Science!

    Apparently the seasonal influenza is even more considerate, at least at Cornell University.

    The Ivy League school offers a race-based exemption from its new mandatory flu shot, requiring only white students to get immunized before returning to the area.

    You'll have to read Cornell's justification for this odious policy yourself to believe it.

    It seems that nobody involved even raised the questions: "What's likely to happen? Who's likely to be harmed?"


  • It appears 1984 was only delayed. David Harsanyi at National Review describes the latest omen: Dictionary.com Changes Definition of 'Court-Packing'.

    During a recent social-media spat over the meaning of “Court-packing,” an intrepid person named J. D. Graham got onto the Wayback Machine and found out that sometime between November 1 and December 1, 2020, Dictionary.com, whose “proprietary source is the Random House Unabridged Dictionary,” changed the meaning of the phrase.

    Here it is before:

    an unsuccessful attempt by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937 to appoint up to six additional justices to the Supreme Court, which had invalidated a number of his New Deal laws.

    Here is the addition:

    the practice of changing the number or composition of judges on a court, making it more favorable to particular goals or ideologies, and typically involving an increase in the number of seats on the court: Court packing can tip the balance of the Supreme Court toward the right or left.

    “Language evolves. So do we,” was the reply from Dictionary.com.

    Indeed, language evolves organically over long periods of time. It does not miraculously transform one day after 60 years during a presidential election to comport with the new definition a political party has whipped up. Dictionaries are a resource that allows people to find out the meaning of words. They do not get to invent new meanings.

    Trump gets (mostly) rightly slagged for "eroding democratic norms". Exercise for the reader: what norms are being eroded by Dictionary.com?


  • At the Dispatch, Michael Graham asks What’s Next for Chris Sununu?.

    A few weeks ago, Gov. Chris Sununu made New Hampshire the 37th state to impose a statewide mask mandate, the last New England governor to do so. It was a decision denounced as big-government overreach by libertarian-leaning Republicans and dismissed as too little, too late by state Democrats.

    In other words, it was right in the political sweet spot, which is where Sununu spends most of his time.

    A good long article, full of details. (Including an interview with Chris's dad.) The possibilities mentioned are a run for the US Senate against Maggie Hassan, and the veep spot on the 2024 GOP ticket.