URLs du Jour

2021-10-24

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  • A conspiracy theory that's not just for dingbats any more. The NR editors weigh in on The Wuhan Lab Cover-Up.

    We still don’t know if a lab accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology caused the COVID-19 global pandemic. But now we do know for certain that there was a cover-up — and that private organizations and the U.S. government either hid information or misled the public regarding several key details about the kinds of research that the U.S. taxpayers were indirectly funding at the Wuhan labs.

    Lawrence Tabak, the principal deputy director of the National Institutes of Health and the deputy ethics counselor of the agency, wrote to Congress this week informing it that NIH had indeed funded “gain of function” research on coronaviruses found in bats, through grants to the private research group EcoHealth Alliance. Gain-of-function research takes existing viruses and makes them either more virulent or dangerous, more contagious, or both, toward the end of learning how to fight them. Quite a few virologists question whether the reward is worth the risk of deliberately engineering viruses that are more hazardous to human beings and could accidentally escape the laboratory and set off a pandemic.

    It's a cliché to say "the cover-up is worse than the crime", but that won't stop me. It beggars belief that this has been simply overlooked for the past year and a half. I suspect the only reason NIH admits it now is that it was about to come out from some other source, and NIH is trying desperately to control the narrative about it.

    As previously discussed, this means that Fauci's statements under oath to Senator Rand Paul were (um) "not quite accurate".

    For the record, I thought Fauci was a slithering creature of the healthocracy back in March 2020 when the Hill reported his comments on the (death-causing) delay of testing kits:

    "It was a complicated series of multiple things that conflated that just, you know, went the wrong way. One of them was a technical glitch that slowed things down in the beginning. Nobody’s fault. There wasn’t any bad guys there. It just happened," Fauci said.

    His gut instincts are to protect the bureaucracy at the cost of public health. He won't let anything get in the way of the narrative: (1) the State's job is to protect us all, and (2) it's "nobody's fault" when it fails to do that.


  • Feeling cheerful? I'll fix that. Reason's Eric Boehm "celebrates" 40 Years of Trillion-Dollar Debt.

    On October 22, 1981—exactly 40 years ago today—America's national debt hit $1 trillion for the first time.

    "If we, as a nation, need a warning," President Ronald Reagan said in a televised address a few weeks before the country surpassed the 13-figure debt threshold, "let that be it."

    Today, the national debt exceeds $28 trillion. In the fiscal year that concluded at the end of last month, the country added another $2.77 trillion to the pile, the Treasury Department announced just this morning. The Congressional Budget Office anticipates that the country will add at least another $1 trillion to the deficit for just about every year in the foreseeable future—and that's even without any new spending.

    To my fellow baby boomers: when you see kids under 20 out and about, make sure to be nice to them. After we're gone, they will need any reason at all to remember us kindly.


  • Decent Docents Despicably Defenestrated. In case you haven't heard, the Art Institute of Chicago unceremoniosly dumped 82 of its volunteer docents for the crime of insufficient diversity. You can read about that at Jerry Coyne's blog, who covers it from a media-critic perspective: At long last, the NYT covers the Art Institute of Chicago’s DocentGate. It's unconscionable, of course, but I really enjoyed the NYT headline:

    Art Institute of Chicago Ends a Docent Program, and Sets Off a Backlash

    Ah, a new angle on the venerable "Republicans Pounce" approach. The real story is that mean and nasty backlash.


  • Also dangerous nonsense. Jonah Goldberg looks at the Serious Nonsense emitted from one Phoebe Cohen, a paleontologist and an associate professor in geosciences at Williams College. Phoebe's remark was in defense of MIT's disinvitation of geophysicist Dorian Abbot on the grounds of his opposition to "diversity, equity, and inclusion" efforts in higher ed.

    She said:

    This idea of intellectual debate and rigor as the pinnacle of intellectualism comes from a world in which white men dominated.

    Jonah:

    Whoa. That sounds like a serious thing a serious person would say about a serious topic. And while it is a serious problem that people like Cohen believe this is an intellectually serious thing to believe, it’s sillier than a remake of War and Peace with an all-basset-hound cast. I’d call it nonsense on stilts, but Jeremy Bentham used that phrase about a very serious argument he disagreed with. This is nonsense on shrooms.

    Where to begin?  

    First, I think it’s worth noting there was a time when a lot of racist white men agreed with her to one extent or another. There was a time when elite universities—like the ones Cohen attended—believed that intellectual debate and rigor were the pinnacle of intellectualism, and that such intellectualism was reserved as the sole provenance of white, Christian (mostly Protestant) men. That’s why Harvard went so long without black, female, or Jewish students. The argument against admitting blacks and women was that they couldn’t hack it. The argument against Jews was that they were too good at it (and that the Protestant students didn’t like them).

    More at the link, recommended of course.

    You know, the "Reductio ad Hitlerum" fallacy has its own Wikipedia page. Maybe it's time for a fancy Latin term for the sort of argument Phoebe resorts to. Reductio ad Homme Blanc, I think.


  • It's a trap! At the Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf takes A Worrisome Peek Inside Yale Law’s Diversity Bureaucracy.

    Have you ever wondered what deans of diversity do behind closed doors? Until last week, the public had little visibility into their methods. Then covertly recorded audio emerged of Yaseen Eldik, Yale Law School’s director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and Ellen Cosgrove, an associate dean, pressuring a student to issue a written apology for emailing out a party invitation that offended some of his classmates.

    The Yale Law student in question, Trent Colbert, belongs to two student groups, the Native American Law Students Association, or NALSA, and the conservative Federalist Society. He emailed members of the former group that “we will be christening our very own (soon to be) world-renowned NALSA Trap House … by throwing a Constitution Day Bash in collaboration with FedSoc,” adding that refreshments would include “Popeye’s chicken, basic-bitch-American-themed snacks (like apple pie, etc.),” and various beverages. That is what offended some of Colbert’s peers, including the president of the Black Law Students Association, who reportedly likened Colbert’s references to “Trap House” and Popeyes to blackface.

    Things got very Kafkaesque very quickly.


  • I'm sorry, what? David Boaz is bemused by the spin New York Times reporter Shira Ovide puts on the latest news from Your Federal Government: Hearing Aids, the FDA, and Henry David Thoreau. Ovide writes of the potential of over-the-counter hearing aids, brought to you by "government and tech companies at their best" thanks to the "opportunity that the government created".

    What opportunity?

    1. The government has banned OTC hearing aids for 40 years.
    2. Congress authorized OTC hearing aids in 2017.
    3. Biden asked the FDA to authorize OTC hearing aids back in July.
    4. And now the FDA has issued a "proposed rule".
    5. Which means they might get around to issuing an actual rule… someday.

    David summarizes:

    So for more than 40 years, a period of tremendous medical and technological progress, Americans have only been able to get hearing aids from licensed providers, almost certainly raising the price. Indeed some experts say that hearing aids might become available for only a few hundred dollars. And after more than 40 years, Congress authorized over‐​the‐​counter hearing aids. Four years later President Biden told the FDA to get on it. And now the FDA is starting the process.

    So the “best efforts of government” that Ms. Ovide applauds are to stop blocking Americans from buying hearing aids. And once the government allows this “new market opportunity” to exist, we can hope for “new inventions from companies like Bose, Best Buy and Apple.” The way government and tech companies are going to work together is that the government is going to stop preventing the emergence of a broad market that tech companies may rush to serve.

    I am reminded of Thoreau’s comment in his essay “Civil Disobedience”: “This government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way.”

    Me too. Although not being able to hear can be a blessing when a politician is talking.