Jim Geraghty Told Ya So

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Like nearly every other website, I'm pointing out this WSJ article: Lab Leak Most Likely Origin of Covid-19 Pandemic, Energy Department Now Says.

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Energy Department has concluded that the Covid pandemic most likely arose from a laboratory leak, according to a classified intelligence report recently provided to the White House and key members of Congress.

The shift by the Energy Department, which previously was undecided on how the virus emerged, is noted in an update to a 2021 document by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines’s office.

The new report highlights how different parts of the intelligence community have arrived at disparate judgments about the pandemic’s origin. The Energy Department now joins the Federal Bureau of Investigation in saying the virus likely spread via a mishap at a Chinese laboratory. Four other agencies, along with a national intelligence panel, still judge that it was likely the result of a natural transmission, and two are undecided.

The WSJ adds that the DOE made this judgment with "low confidence". Make of that what you will.

Hans Bader, blogging at Liberty Unyielding, recounts the opprobrium visited upon those who dared utter lab-leak hypothesis (LLH) "too early":

[…] when people like evolutionary biologist Bret Weinstein suggested the possibility that the virus leaked from a Chinese government lab in 2020, they were dismissed by the mainstream media as kooks. In February 2021, Facebook banned any mentions of the lab leak, following “consultations” with “the World Health Organization.”

But the possibility was always obvious to experts. In private, Anthony Fauci and NIH officials worried about the possibility of a lab leak they publicly denied as a “conspiracy theory.”

Yet, in a fact-check it later retracted, PolitiFact gave a Tucker Carlson guest a “Pants on Fire” for the “debunked conspiracy theory” that COVID came from a lab. MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace similarly claimed that “Donald Trump [is] turning his intelligence community to now investigate a conspiracy theory about COVID coming from a lab in Wuhan.” And when Republican Senator Tom Cotton suggested the virus came from a lab, the Washington Post similarly implied that it was a conspiracy theory, reporting that “Sen. Cotton (R-Ark.) repeated a fringe theory suggesting ongoing spread of a coronavirus is connected to research in the disease-ravaged epicenter of Wuhan.” A New York Times reporter dismissed the possibility of a lab leak, saying that the lab leak theory has “racist roots.” In 2020, the Associated Press dubbed the COVID-19 lab leak theory a debunked conspiracy theory.

LLH: it's not just for right-wing racist conspiracy theorists any more:

"Embarrassed" is way too mild a judgment. That "certain cadre of scientists" did incalculable damage to the credibility of scientists in general, those in public health positions in particular.

We now need to view any public health effort as invariably intertwined, and usually tainted, with politics. And, of course, that increased skepticism could have very very bad results. I think good old Aesop had a point to make here.

Finally, let me point out National Review's Jim Geraghty, who very tentatively and responsibly floated the LLH back in April 2020.

For fun, see this June 2020 New Republic article that pooh-poohs the LLH as "an outlandish theory" and a "rabbit hole" that Geraghty too-eagerly jumped down. And besides, Trump might try to use it to his political advantage. Case closed!

Briefly noted:

  • It's not just Covid, of course. John Berlau at CEI points out: Study from Fed Economist Shows Danger of Government-Mandated Financial Misinformation.

    The “Twitter Files” have made some shocking revelations about government entities muscling social media companies to deplatform people in the name of preventing so-called misinformation. My colleague Jessica Melugin, director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Technology and Innovation, decried “the use of government coercion to pressure these companies to make politically-motivated decisions they might not otherwise have made.” And as many observers have noted, much of what the bureaucrats called “misinformation” is actually legitimate debate about the science surrounding Covid-19 and other issues.

    Ironically, when it comes to spreading genuine misinformation (a phrase that’s kind of an oxymoron) with harmful effects, one of the biggest culprits is the government itself. One big example of this is federal government policies that for decades have mandated that financial firms exaggerate the interest rates that most borrowers actually pay on short-term, small-dollar loans. These inflated interest figures have dominated policy debates around consumer credit, leading to interest-rate caps that a new study co-authored by a Federal Reserve economist confirms have hurt lower-income borrowers who have few alternatives to obtain credit.

    Once government regulation, based on misinformation, has destroyed the finance markets available to low-income people… well, it's not surprising that the real point of that might have been setting up a socialist "solution": Post Office Plans to Offer Some Bank Services.

  • The blogfather, Glenn Reynolds, has long shared his blog with a mixed bag of contributors, including one diehard election truther. Sad! Although I still read it, because it's only like 30% crazy.

    But Glenn started a substack! So far, entirely respectable. Sample: Mike Pence, Dick Cheney, and the Constitution.

    Mike Pence is arguing that the Vice President is a legislative, not an executive, officer. Mike Luttig has a piece in the NYT calling that crazy. (Link is to Josh Blackman's blog post on same. Luttig’s piece is here, but it’s paywalled.)

    Well, as it happens, I had a piece on the topic in the NYT over a decade ago, and I've also authored a piece in the Northwestern University Law Review on the topic, and I say he's not crazy.

    Glenn points out (at length) that the Veep's only ongoing duties specified in the Constitution are in the legislative branch. And, unlike every other executive-branch employee, the President can't fire the Vice President. I'm very much not a lawyer, but those seem to be good points.

  • Arnold Kling often blogs the same way I (mostly) do: digest-style posts that point to articles by others, with Arnold adding his own comments. Here is a bit of his commentary on a John Cochrane post about the Social Security "trust fund". An inconvenient truth:

    Trust fund, schmust fund. It does not matter whether you pay benefits out of payroll taxes, income taxes, or borrowing. There are only so many bushels to go around. When you keep giving more to retirees, the growth in what workers receive becomes low, or possibly even negative.

    I have been saying for more than two decades that the “retirement age” (I prefer to call it the age of government dependency) should be indexed to longevity. That policy was never enacted. Perhaps it never will be. Your grandparents vote. Your children and your children’s children do not. All I can say to a young worker is—have a nice day.

    That's what I tell my kids. Maybe one day they'll say "Gee, I guess Dad was right all along." Unfortunately, that will be due to my gloomy forecasts coming true.

  • Phillip W. Magness provides a review of a recent book: The Big Myth Is Full of Recycled Anti-Capitalist Cheap Shots.

    Historian Richard Hofstadter once wrote that "the paranoid is a double sufferer, since he is afflicted not only by the real world, with the rest of us, but by his fantasies as well." A compelling case could be made that this affliction has taken hold among the highest ranks of Hofstadter's own profession. New academic "histories" now appear on a near-monthly basis, each blaming a variety of social ills on the conspiratorial machinations around a single idea: the free market.

    Almost everything in this genre follows the same formula. When the American electorate fails to embrace the political priorities of an Ivy League humanities department, these disheartened authors cast about for a blameworthy culprit. They settle on "market fundamentalism" or "neoliberalism." The explanation then takes a paranoid turn, declaring the targeted theories a "manufactured myth" arising from the "inventions" of 20th century business interests, which allegedly hoodwinked voters into accepting the "magic" of the free market as a matter of received wisdom. Certain that they have found the source of their political obstacles, these historians then claim to uncover a "secret" history that has been hiding in plain sight. All eventually settle on a mundane conspiracy of business interests and libertarian economists, who allegedly derailed America from its progressive path by convincing people that markets work better than government at solving problems.

    At some 550 pages, The Big Myth: How American Business Taught Us To Loathe Government and Love the Free Market is among the most loquacious entrants into this crowded literature. Harvard University's Naomi Oreskes and California Institute of Technology historian Erik Conway lay out their conspiracy theory with formulaic precision, but their book is atypical in one significant way. While most of the other works in the anti-neoliberalism genre manage at least to excavate some interesting archival findings about libertarian economists (before badly misinterpreting them), this book is remarkably light on original content.

    Caltech? Oh, man… Worse, it turns out he's adjacent to actual rocket scientists.

Last Modified 2024-04-18 10:47 AM EDT