Friday, September 11, 2020

A Tale of Two States: Who Handled Covid Better, New York or Florida?

With the initial Covid-19 surge in cases and mortality in the rearview mirror (thankfully) for both New York and Florida, we finally have a clearer picture of the outcomes in states that took very different policy approaches — especially when it came to nursing homes.

Overall, 32,585 have died in New York as of this writing, and 11,870 have died in Florida. In both states, deaths were highly concentrated among the elderly at about 80 percent of all deaths. But within that population, on a per capita basis, New York had almost four times the number of deaths compared to Florida. The mortality rate so far is 815 deaths per 100,000 seniors in New York versus 229 deaths per 100,000 seniors in Florida.

This is a figure that members of the mainstream media have not reported, most likely because it flies in the face of the false narrative they’ve been pushing for the past few months.

The Tallahassee Democrat’s Zac Anderson reports some have accused Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis “of standing by and doing little to halt the march of the virus in his state.” Meanwhile the press widely praised New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. As one New York news outlet wrote, “Governor Andrew Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic has shot him to a form of national stardom and popularity in New York.”

“This is journalistic malpractice,” said Rick Manning, President of Americans for Limited Government. “Members of the drive-by-media did a hit job on Governor DeSantis, meanwhile, they elevated Governor Cuomo to near sainthood. They need to circle back to this story and give us the truth.”

And as bad as New York’s numbers are, a new analysis by the Associated Press indicates they could be even worse. The official number of Covid deaths in New York nursing homes is 6,500. But the AP crunched the data and believes that deaths could be as high as 11,000. It’s a number President Trump tweeted.  “Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York has the worst record on death and China Virus. 11,000 people alone died in Nursing Homes because of his incompetence!”

According to the AP: “Another group of numbers also suggests an undercount. State health department surveys show 21,000 nursing home beds are lying empty this year, 13,000 more than expected — an increase of almost double the official state nursing home death tally. While some of that increase can be attributed to fewer new admissions and people pulling their loved ones out, it suggests that many others who aren’t there anymore died… For all 43 states that break out nursing home data, resident deaths make up 44 percent of total COVID deaths in their states, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Assuming the same proportion held in New York, that would translate to more than 11,000 nursing home deaths.”

Making matters worse, Cuomo has blocked efforts to investigate how many nursing home residents were transferred to hospitals and later died. Cuomo’s command-and-control approach to the virus was reckless and it killed far more people than did DeSantis’s measured, limited government approach in Florida.

Cuomo forced nursing homes in his state to accept COVID-19 patients, issuing an executive order on March 25, knowing those facilities could not treat them. His actions infected the most vulnerable populations in the state with the deadly virus and was in direct violation of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services guidance. The guidance directed nursing homes to only admit COVID patients if “the facility can follow CDC guidance for Transmission-Based Precautions” and to keep only those COVID-infected patients for which they could safely care for.

In contrast, Florida did the opposite, not transferring infected patients to nursing homes, and even with the additional protections, still 4,800 seniors died from assisted living facilities there — underscoring just how important those precautions are.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma on May 21 noted, “In the guidance, CMS urged nursing homes to dedicate a specific wing to patients moving to, or arriving from, a hospital, where they could remain for 14 days with no symptoms.”

The bottom line is despite having 1.1 million more seniors in Florida, New York had nearly four times the number of senior deaths per capita from the virus.

“As America continues to struggle with how to open up our schools, and businesses, we would be well-served to learn from this tale of these two states,” concluded Manning. “One state responded to the pandemic by protecting vulnerable populations and allowing everyone else to make their own risk assessments. The other state imposed draconian lockdowns on everyone and ignored federal safety guidelines. The outcomes could not be any more clear. Florida’s approached saved lives, while New York’s approach was a death sentence for thousands.”



The Democrats, Not the Republicans, May Face Reconstruction After This Election

The recent and current practice of overturning, decapitating, and defacing statues of famous men and women, requiring their removal, is a dangerous symptom of nihilistic tendencies, and without putting on the airs of the psychiatrist, implies the presence of collective suicidal impulses.

Statues of famous figures of the past in every field not only honor the individuals celebrated and promote pride among the living for the distinction of their forebears, but convey a reassuring hint of immortality. People die but their reputations don’t, and in many cases, they flourish, are reinterpreted, and the attainments and aptitudes that prompted people to put up statues to such individuals in the first place, are debated and often magnified.

Albert Camus, in his famous book “The Plague,” which was a metaphor for the Nazi occupation of France, wrote, “Only the mute effigies of great figures of the past remind the present of what man had been.”

Such Paris statues as those of Georges Clemenceau, Napoleon, and George Washington must have given some heart to Parisians in the dark days of the occupation.

When British Prime Minister Boris Johnson entered politics in 1997, he answered the questions of some of his fellow journalists, “They don’t build statues to journalists, do they?” He couldn’t imagine that statues could be taken down more easily than they could be put up.

Even Hitler, when he removed Marshal Foch’s famous railway carriage in Compiegne, where the armistice ending World War I was signed, and blew up the statues around it celebrating the defeat of Germany, ordered that the statue honoring Foch, the supreme commander of the Allied armies, be left undisturbed.

The French, he said, are entitled to revere their heroes. Hitler’s one act of kindness to France was to order that the coffin of Napoleon’s son, the so-called King of Rome, be moved from Vienna and reinterred at Napoleon’s tomb in the Invalides. Even he had some respect for the memorials and remains of the honored dead.

Honored Soldiers

It is, in the abstract, especially barbarous for people to destroy and vent their contempt upon statues of symbolic or unknown soldiers of past wars.

When Gen. Grant, immediately following Gen. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, halted a 100-gun salute of victory, he said that there can be no celebration of the defeat of “a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.”

The South fought for a society which they revered and romanticized (as in “Gone With the Wind”); unfortunately, slavery was at the heart of it, and as Britain and France and other advanced countries had already recognized, the whole concept of people owning other people as property is so repugnant that today, it’s practically unimaginable.

But as President Reagan said in his famous address at the German cemetery at Bitburg on May 6, 1985, young men drafted into the service of their country for which they gave their lives were also victims of Nazi oppression; and the sons of the South who died defending slavery were also, in some measure, its victims.

Their courage, though misplaced, shouldn’t be dishonored. The generals who commanded them have less excuse, but Lee, a former commandant of West Point, strongly recommended against secession.

It was then only 71 years since the former American colonies united “to form a more perfect Union” and it wasn’t uncommon for gentlemen from the older states such as Virginia and Pennsylvania and Massachusetts still to put the interests of their states ahead of those of the country.

Lee agonized over the decision and the consequences of the decision. Morally as well as strategically, he was mistaken, but he was a great general and a conscientious man, and an immensely important figure in U.S. history. He and Stonewall Jackson and others weren’t regarded by Lincoln as traitors; Lee wasn’t treated as a traitor, and doesn’t deserve to be reviled as one now.

‘Negative Discrimination’

There’s no conceivable argument for attacking the statues of Grant, Christopher Columbus, Frederick Douglass, or Abraham Lincoln. The statue of Lincoln with an African American kneeling before him captures the moment when Lincoln went to take possession of the Confederate capital, from which Grant had chased Confederate leaders a few days before.

Lincoln’s security was provided by an African American battalion, and as he walked two miles into Richmond, Virginia, many newly emancipated slaves knelt to thank him and, in each case, he helped raise them to their feet and said they must no longer kneel to anyone except God.

It’s not only ignorance and malice that possessed radical members and sympathizers of Black Lives Matter (BLM) to seek to remove and destroy that statue of Lincoln in Washington.

What we are now dealing with isn’t any semblance of Martin Luther King Jr. and his collaborators and followers demanding the civil and human rights that had been withheld from the emancipated slaves for a century of segregation. We have anti-white racism, just as malignant, just as insolent, just as violent, as the evils of Jim Crow and the Klan, no less so when the perpetrators are themselves white.

There are now frequent anecdotal reports of what is now called “negative discrimination,” meaning, in the South, African Americans in stores, restaurants, and elsewhere declining to serve whites on racial grounds.

As Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) told the Republican convention last week, in one lifetime, his family had gone from baling cotton as black tenant farmers to his membership in the U.S. Congress; the negative side of that is that some of the descendants of those African Americans who had to sit at the back of the bus and couldn’t get service in diners and cafeterias now withhold that service from descendants of those who denied it to their ancestors.

There is some vindictive logic in this, but it quickly comes up against the demographic reality that African Americans comprise only 12 percent of the entire U.S. population.

King learned from Gandhi that among a people steeped in Judeo-Christian tradition, gross mistreatment of ethnic minorities could only be conscientiously endured if the minorities resorted to force to take what they were owed.

In India, though the British could technically have clung to their possession and generated a terrible bloodbath among the population, they recognized that they had no ultimate right to govern there, and withdrew, powerless against mass nonviolent noncooperation.

In the United States, former segregationist President Lyndon Johnson saw that segregation was the evil legacy of the greater evil of slavery. He was sincere when he told the Congress in 1965, “It is not just blacks but all of us who are the victims of racial prejudice and bigotry … and we shall overcome.”

Figuring It Out

The country has now recognized that BLM isn’t principally an organization that mourns the fate of victims of mistreatment such as George Floyd; it’s more notably an anti-white racist and urban guerrilla movement that is going to have to be dealt with as a threat to the elemental rights of all citizens of every pigmentation and to public security.

Destroying statues is symbolic; burning down and trashing cities is a premeditated assault on American civilization, not hot-headed and aggrieved impetuosity. The Democrats, to judge from Joe Biden’s address in Pittsburgh on Aug. 31, seem to be having a poll-driven grace of hasty conversion, but if they don’t put some real and explicit distance between themselves and BLM, they will pay a heavy price at the polls for sitting at the back of the wrong bus.

Their two chief allies in this campaign, black radicals and the COVID hysteria that they and their media lackeys have generated, are becoming serious handicaps.

Every week, BLM is more clearly seen as the infestation of looters and arsonists and rioters that it chiefly is, and as COVID fatalities decline, the masked, self-distanced, virtual-school cowardice and silliness of the Democrats becomes more obvious. In racial as in public health matters, the country, including all ethnic components of the country, are figuring it out more quickly than the Biden-Sanders Democrats.




GOP proposes $500 billion in "targeted" virus aid, but Democrat spendthrifts — naturally — say it's not enough (AP)

Unlike his predecessor, President Trump is legitimately nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by a Norwegian official, citing Israel-UAE peace deal (Fox News)

Memo to Democrats: 1,000 Georgia voters face prosecution for casting multiple ballots in June primary (National Review)

On Labor Day, Joe Biden touted "pro-labor" bill that would kill millions of jobs (Washington Examiner)

Industry study: Biden drilling ban would cost one million jobs and cause $700 billion drop in GDP (Washington Examiner)

You know the thing: Biden walks back national mask mandate over "constitutional issue" (Fox News)

Kamala Harris told alleged sexual deviant Jacob Blake she's "proud" of him (The Daily Wire)

Biden and Harris preemptively sow doubt on Trump vaccine announcement (Washington Examiner)

The guy who stabbed an AutoZone worker two weeks ago because he wanted to kill a white person has now killed his white cellmate (Not the Bee)

Rochester police chief and entire command staff step down following death of Daniel Prude (NBC News)

Dallas police chief resigns after criticism of department's actions against protesters (Fox News)

Minneapolis City Council now unlikely to defund police after "momentum slows" on proposal (The Daily Wire)

Jamal Khashoggi killers have death sentences overturned in Saudi Arabia: Five men will now serve 20-year jail terms after journalist's sons "pardoned" them (Daily Mail)

U.S. records less than 25,000 daily coronavirus cases, lowest count since June (The Hill)

Trump to withdraw more U.S. troops from Iraq, where 5,000-plus soldiers are currently deployed (AP)

Policy: Trump is right to remove critical race theory from diversity programs (The Federalist)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Thursday, September 10, 2020

First major post-coronavirus cruise sets sail with new safety rules

Cruise ships are coming back online after coronavirus outbreaks erupted on numerous vessels back in the spring, bringing the multi-billion dollar industry to a grinding halt. 

Switzerland-based MSC became the first major cruise company to welcome customers in several months when the Grandiosa set sail from the port of Genoa in northern Italy for a seven-day trip around the Mediterranean on August 16.

MSC implemented a slew of safety precautions to prevent the ship, which was christened last year and can carry more than 8,000 passengers and crew members, from becoming a breeding ground for the virus. 

As other companies prepare to re-enter the high seas, new rules on the Grandiosa offer a look at what customers can expect for post-coronavirus cruises - including pre-boarding COVID-19 testing, face masks and social distancing in common areas and strict restrictions for port excursions.

The ship managed to complete its journey without any reported coronavirus cases - providing hope that the cruise industry could safely return sooner than most people expected. 

'We've created sort of this bubble,' Ken Muskat, chief operating officer at MSC Cruises USA, told The Points Guy last month.

On its first post-coronavirus voyage, the Grandiosa welcomed 3,000 passengers who were each tested for COVID-19 via a primary antigen test and a secondary molecular test prior to boarding.

Anyone who tested positive, had a fever or exhibited other coronavirus symptoms on a mandatory health questionnaire was barred from the boat.

One embarking passenger tested positive at both screening stages, according to MSC Cruises representative Luca Biondolillo.

'In accordance with the protocol, the passenger, as well as his traveling party, were denied boarding,' Biondolillo told CNN.

'Additionally, other passengers who had reached the ship with the same van were denied boarding as they were close contacts of the one passenger who tested positive.'

Crew members were also tested prior to boarding and spent time in quarantine on the boat before passengers arrived.

Cleaning protocols on the ship were ramped up with the additions of hospital grade disinfectant and the use of UV-C light technology to detect the virus.

All on-board activities were limited to smaller groups and passengers were required to wear masks in areas where social distancing isn't possible.

Each guest and crew member was be given a wristband that 'facilitates contactless transactions around the ship as well as providing contact and proximity tracing', MSC said.

The Grandiosa made stops at the Italian ports in Naples, Palermo and Sicily and at Malta's Valletta port - where passengers could disembark for the day, but were kept on a tight leash.

Each off-board sojourn was pre-planned and no one was allowed to stray from the group. Biondolillo said one family that broke the rules during a day trip was not permitted to re-board. 

'The health and safety protocols are put in place for the benefit of every single person,' the MSC spokesman said. 

'There can be no breaking of the rules. These people risked jeopardizing everybody else's holidays and health.'

Most passengers appeared to appreciate the precautions that made them feel safe throughout the journey.

'I think cruises could be the safest holiday right now,' Valeria Belardi, who was on the cruise and owns a travel company, told CNN.

The Italian government gave cruise companies the green light to resume service last month, but limited capacity to 70 percent. 

Cruise ships and the business they bring to many Italian cities during port excursions make up an important segment of Italy's vital tourism industry. An estimated 12 million cruise ship passengers arrived or departed from Italian ports last year.

MSC chose to limit its guests to the residents of Europe's 26-nation Schengen visa free travel zone.



Don’t Run Away, Conservatives

In case one has not heard, there is a culture war going on outside from which no man, woman, or child is safe. Even seemingly innocuous facets of life—including one’s choice of razor, home improvement store, or canned beans—have been converted into active fronts where boycotts, hashtags, and innumerable opinion pieces are mercilessly deployed by the Left and Right.

Conservatives are happy to forgo Starbucks or stock up on black beans in a show of solidarity. But when it comes to the fights that actually matter, those over the cultural institutions upstream of politics, increasingly, the Right seems to have taken to strategic retreat—or at least that is how conservatives are selling it to themselves.

A little over a month ago, “controversial” New York Times opinion writer Bari Weiss resigned. Her somewhat-acrimonious resignation letter depicted a hostile work environment and confirmed what many have suspected for a while: that there is tremendous pressure to conform to progressive doctrine from The New York Times staff and online readership, as well as that the Overton Window at the “paper of record” is rapidly shifting as a result.

Three days later, former New York magazine columnist Andrew Sullivan wrote his farewell column, describing a similar work environment. Unlike Weiss, Sullivan did not leave his post of his own accord, but he was quick to look on the bright side, announcing that he would be reincarnating his old blog, The Dish, as a weekly newsletter. As Sullivan noted, his decision to leave blue chip media and publish independently is part of a trend: “There is a growing federation of independent thinkers and writers not subject to mainstream media’s increasingly narrow range of acceptable thought.”

Because Weiss and Sullivan’s exit stories align with their suspicions of mainstream media, conservatives and others concerned about the growing ideological imbalance and rigidity of the industry have largely found their departures cause for celebration—or, at least, cause for a cathartic I-told-you-so.

I am not so sure the elation is warranted.

Weiss and Sullivan will be fine. Their lives may even improve—not least because they have removed themselves from unwelcoming work environments. Both have large followings and may gain some notoriety as high-visibility victims of cancel culture. Maybe their future success will even serve as a rebuke to The New York Times and New York. But it feels myopic to interpret this as a larger victory or cheer for more of the same, especially if the ultimate goal is to restore some sense of ideological pluralism to mainstream institutions. In reality, both reputable publications were further homogenized by Weiss and Sullivan’s departures.

It is a mistake to assume that just because legacy media and other institutions are losing currency with conservatives that their perceived legitimacy is in decline across the board. They still matter, and their status cannot be replicated by upstart outlets. These institutions do not simply relay information; they shape truth, to an extent. Withdrawing from them voluntarily—or encouraging the few heterodox thinkers who remain in their employ to do so—is an own-goal, a forfeiture of cultural influence that will leave the Right sequestered to niche or overtly ideological publications, while allowing progressive activists to inherit the mantle of presumed viewpoint neutrality unopposed (provided they are so interested).

Can retreat in the face of institutional adversity ever make sense? I think it can, provided a realistic goal to structurally reorient an institution and the possibility of support from beyond activist circles. Writing at the American Mind, Inez Feltscher Stepman outlines such a plan, advising parents to join what she believes will be a large exodus from public schools, which she characterizes as anti-American propaganda mills. But, crucially, she does not simply want conservative parents to opt out of the public school system: She wants to leverage their departure (and others’, for it must be said that dissatisfaction with public schools is not limited to conservatives) to pressure legislators to reallocate resources from school districts to parents. She writes:

“Conservatives should step directly into this opening. If parents are being asked to shoulder the duties of actually educating their children, the tax dollars allocated for that purpose should flow directly to them to use for learning pods, private school, homeschooling equipment and curricula, tutors, or any other educational purpose they see fit…

Providing families with a portion of the state funds that currently flow directly to districts, whether they’re serving families or not, would allow parents of all income levels to hire teachers for small-group, in-person learning, alleviating both fears about risk from the virus and some of the equity concerns now raised by unions and The New York Times.”

Whatever one thinks of this idea ideologically, it is strategically superior to a fit of quixotic martyrdom that results in a loss of power and influence over American institutions. If the cultural Right thinks it has something valuable to offer to America, it should make its case and try to exercise some influence over institutions. Or, at least, it should stop confusing retreat with victory.



Democrats And ‘The Big Lie’

If Democrats have the truth on their side, why do they need to lie so much? It’s a question for the ages. Every time you turn on the news or open a paper, some headline is blaring about how President Trump is a disaster. You name it – Coronavirus, trade, the economy, race relations, the military, schools – and there is a liberal Democrat with a press credential telling you how those things and more are bad, and have never been worse, no matter the evidence to the contrary.

Adolf Hitler called it the “Große Lüge,” or “Big Lie,” and the political left has embraced it once again, this time flooding the zone with it.

The idea of the big lie was once again laid out in a 2017 column by the detestable Charles Blow of the New York Times. Blow was using it to accuse Trump, ironically enough, of using the tactic (Democrats are always doing what they accuse Republicans of doing).

Quoting a more recent translation of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” Blow wrote, “It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.”

Blow’s conclusion, that the President’s strategy is, “Tell a lie bigger than people think a lie can be, thereby forcing their brains to seek truth in it, or vest some faith in it, even after no proof can be found,” is like a vampire staring into a mirror and convincing himself he has nothing in his teeth.

Democrats have lied to the American public for decades, all politicians do, to one degree or another. But lies, to the degree that they work, only work when mixed in with the truth – the pill mixed in some raw hamburger to get a dog to eat it. They’re the burnt chip that gets past quality control, not the whole bag. For the left, it’s all they offer now.

“There aren’t riots, they’re ‘mostly peaceful’ protests.” “Donald Trump wants people to die.” “Donald Trump hates the military.” “President Trump is a puppet of Vladimir Putin.” “The President is trying to start a race war.” You name the lie and there’s a Democrat telling it.

Big lies always come with delusions of grandeur and a martyr complex. “I’m the only one willing to tell you the truth, and I’m risking my life to do it,” is the trick used to garner credibility. “I said several weeks ago, the man would shoot us if he could,” Joe Scarborough told his audience last week. The implication being he and his current wife, Mika Brzezinski, are such heroes willing to “speak truth to power” that the powerful would like to take them out. (Why would anyone want to put Joe and Mika out of their misery? They deserve each other, at least for as long as they can make this marriage last.)

There is no lie too big or small to tell about the President, each serves the role of reinforcing the others. The echo chambers created by those telling the lies and those desperate to believe them is a testament to just how they hate the man’s existence.

The Washington Examiner’s Byron York correctly pointed out the absurdity of a “study” trying to claim that 93 percent of protests were peaceful by highlighting there were 570 riots over the last 3 months. “Investigative reporter” David Kay Johnston replied it was “typical” of York’s “mendacity” to highlight the real number rather than a meaningless percentage. Attorney John Huber highlighted the absurdity of Johnston’s argument by pointing out, “4 flights out of 40,000 on 9/11 means 99% of flights were peaceful.”

Nothing the left claims stands up to even basic scrutiny, which is why the echo chamber is so important to them. Should anyone wander outside it they risk being exposed to reality, and reality is their kryptonite. Ever wonder why other outlets spend so much time attacking Fox News? This is why. They are desperate to convince anyone snared in the web that someone like Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, or Laura Ingraham are racists so they won’t bother to see for themselves. “We watch so you don’t have to” is really “We show short, out of context clips and lie about them in the hope that you’ll never watch yourself.” They’re terrified their audiences will catch an unfiltered look at the world.

Dorothy and the gang truly believed in the Wizard, right up until they caught a glimpse of that man behind the curtain. Everything Democrats are doing now is in a frenzy to prevent anyone from being exposed to the reality they’ve so hysterically spent 4 years obscuring. The election is so close now they can taste it. But they’ve got a queen-sized blanket trying to cover a king-sized bed; too much of that reality is creeping through. Too many people are seeing the mob burning cities and beating people, liberal politicians preaching one thing and doing another, and the economic comeback. But it’s too late to change tactics now, they’ve already pushed all their chips into the center of the table. With 2 months to go, the big lies are only going to get bigger.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Here's How We Know The Atlantic's Hit Piece on Trump Is Pure Fiction

The Left are putting into Trump's mouth their own thinking

A report published Thursday by The Atlantic cited anonymous sources claiming that President Donald Trump didn’t want to visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 because the troops there who died in battle were “losers” and “suckers. The media has largely reported on this story as though it were true or at least likely to be true.

“The Atlantic Magazine is dying, like most magazines, so they make up a fake story in order to gain some relevance,” Trump tweeted on Friday. “Story already refuted, but this is what we are up against. Just like the Fake Dossier. You fight and fight, and then people realize it was a total fraud!”

Even CNN’s Brian Stelter seemed to acknowledge that the claims of anonymous sources aren’t as convincing.

“But it is also incumbent on the sources, on the people that are talking to [Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey] Goldberg, on the people that are talking to other outlets — the president’s denying it explicitly, so it’s put up or shut up time,” Stelter said. “Why aren’t these people coming forward and putting their names to these quotes?”

Perhaps because it’s a lot easier to lie when your name and reputation aren’t on the line. But there are at least five witnesses who have gone on the record disputing the allegations made in The Atlantic.

Coincidence? Hours After The Atlantic’s Hit Piece on Trump Came a Pre-Produced Commercial
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s former press secretary, called The Atlantic story B.S. on Twitter, “I was actually there and one of the people [who were] part of the discussion – this never happened. I have sat in the room when our President called family members after their sons were killed in action and it was heart-wrenching,” she said. “These were some of the moments I witnessed the President show his heart and demonstrate how much he respects the selfless and courageous men and women of our military. I am disgusted by this false attack.”

Dan Scavino, White House deputy chief of staff for communications was also with the president that day. “I was with POTUS in France, with Sarah, and have been at his side throughout it all. Complete lies by ‘anonymous sources’ that were ‘dropped’ just as he begins to campaign (and surge). A disgraceful attempt to smear POTUS, 60 days before the Presidential Election! Disgusting!!”

Jordan Karem, personal aide to President Trump, also denied the allegations made in The Atlantic story. “This is not even close to being factually accurate. Plain and simple, it just never happened.”

He tweeted about the allegations again, saying, “I was next to @POTUS the whole day! The President was greatly disappointed when told we couldn’t fly there. He was incredibly eager to honor our Fallen Heroes.”

Also present during the event was Trump’s former deputy White House press secretary, Hogan Gidley, who called the allegations “disgusting, grotesque, reprehensible lies.”

“I was there in Paris and the President never said those things,” Gidley said. “In fact, he would never even think such vile thoughts because I know from firsthand knowledge that President Trump absolutely loves, respects, and reveres the brave men and women of the United States military. He always has and always will. These weak, pathetic, cowardly background ‘sources’ do not have the courage or decency to put their names to these false accusations because they know how completely ludicrous they are. It’s sickening that they would hide in the shadows to knowingly try and hurt the morale of our great military simply for an attack on a political opponent.”

White House Senior Advisor Steven Miller called the story a “despicable lie.”

“The president deeply wanted to attend the memorial event in question and was deeply displeased by the bad weather call,” Miller said in an interview with The Washingon Examiner. “The next day, he spoke at Suresnes American Cemetery in the pouring rain and refused an umbrella. No one has a bigger, more loving, or more loyal heart for American veterans and fallen heroes than our president.”

But perhaps the most convincing evidence that The Atlantic’s absurd story is completely false comes from a rather unlikely source: Former National Security Advisor John Bolton. Bolton is someone who undeniably has had an axe to grind with Trump and he even wrote about the event at which Trump allegedly made those comments in his anti-Trump memoir, but made no mention of them.

While Trump’s supporters have countered many claims in Bolton’s memoir, it’s beyond dispute that, had Trump actually made the remarks alleged in The Atlantic‘s smear piece, Bolton would have had every incentive to include them in his description of the events.

Documents released as the result of a FOIA request also debunked the allegation that weather wasn’t the true reason behind his canceled visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery.

Despite the story being debunked, former Vice President Joe Biden pounced on the anonymous allegations. “When my son volunteered and joined the United States military as the attorney general and went to Iraq for a year, won the Bronze Star and other commendations, he wasn’t a ‘sucker,'” Biden said Friday. “The servicemen and women he served with, particularly those who did not come home, were not losers.”

“Quite frankly, if what is written in The Atlantic is true, it is disgusting. It affirms what most of us believe to be true — that Donald Trump is not fit to be the commander in chief,” Biden added.

Rather than move on to address other issues, Biden pressed on as though the allegations were true. “President Trump has demonstrated he has no sense of service, no loyalty to any cause other than himself. If I am honored of being the next commander in chief, I will ensure that our American heroes know I will have their backs.”

Joe Biden should apologize to President Trump for being so desperate as to rely on a debunked story based on anonymous sources to launch an attack.



What you need to know about "promising" convalescent plasma and COVID-19
President Donald Trump announced on Sunday that the Food and Drug Administration has issued an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma in the treatment of COVID-19.

Convalescent plasma is the fluid component of blood that is isolated from the donated blood of those who have contracted and recovered from COVID-19.

This fluid is rich with the antibodies that previous patients had produced to fight the virus and is transfused into current patients to aid their immune systems and help them to recover as well.

The announcement of the emergency use authorization came at the end of several months of convalescent plasma’s use in clinical trials and as part of an expanded access program, also known as “compassionate use.”

To date, more than 100,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients have been treated with convalescent plasma as part of the expanded access program at the Mayo Clinic. The data from the program “shows promising efficacy,” according to FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, and it helped to justify the emergency authorization.

The study of this data, available as a preprint, included 35,322 patients who received a transfusion of convalescent plasma between April and July.

Researchers measured the different mortality rates at seven and 30 days between groups. Although there was no control group that received either a placebo or standard of care, researchers divided the patients into either those who received transfusions before or after three days, or into three different groups that received transfusions with high, medium, or low levels of antibody. Those levels were not known at the time of transfusion.

Researchers found that mortality was lower among those who received the transfusions earlier and among those who received the highest antibody titers, or concentrations.

Comparing those who received transfusions before and after three days, mortality on Day Seven was 8.7% in the early group and 11.9% in the later group.

In other words, earlier transfusions were associated with a 27% lower risk of mortality than later transfusions.

On Day 30, the difference was smaller, but still associated with about a 21% mortality-risk reduction for those receiving transfusions earlier, compared with those receiving transfusions later.

Mortality was also found to be inversely proportional to levels of antibody (as measured by antibody titers). That is, the higher the antibody levels in the plasma, the lower the risk of mortality. Comparing the mortality from the high-titer group, which was 8.9%, to the low-titer group, which was 13.7%, there was 35% relative risk reduction in mortality. 

These are all extremely promising numbers, but do not yet prove definitively that convalescent plasma is an effective treatment.

With more than 35,000 patients involved, there is a tremendous amount of data that showed statistically significant improvements in those who received transfusions earlier with higher antibody titers.

This is certainly enough to justify an emergency use authorization—but still not that “gold standard” of medicine, which is the randomized, controlled trial.

As an example of potential confounding, those who were enrolled in the study later in its course were more likely to be treated concomitantly with remdesivir, which has been shown to decrease the time to recovery and may have affected the clinical outcome of patients in this study.

And getting to the bottom of that information might be difficult because more than 1,800 sites were involved in this study, each with different attending physicians treating their patients based on compassionate use, rather than on strict study protocols.

Still, the vast number of patients involved in this study helps to negate confounding factors and gave the FDA enough information to determine that convalescent plasma met the requirements to issue an emergency use authorization to it.

Prior to the emergency use authorization, patients could have access to convalescent plasma as part of a clinical trial or through the expanded access program.

An expanded access program treats the drug as an investigational drug and is intended to allow severely ill or near-dying patients to have access to the drug outside of a clinical trial setting.

In that setting, the focus is on the potential benefit of the drug, and safety may become a secondary concern. Using the drug as treatment requires approval by an institutional review board, which is a formal committee mostly concerned with biomedical research.

In contrast, now that convalescent plasma has an emergency use authorization, it can be used as part of the practice of medicine and outside of a research context. Normal consent is required, and there is no need for approval from an institutional review board. Furthermore, the emergency use authorization is only granted if the FDA thinks that a drug is safe relative to its potential benefits.

In short, as a result of this emergency use authorization, it will be much easier for more patients in more institutions to be treated with convalescent plasma, which is showing great promise.

But as always with COVID-19, optimism should be guarded. The trials are still underway that will show for certain whether convalescent plasma is effective or not.

While we wait for more information to come back from clinical trials, the large amount of existing data we have suggests that we may have another option in the fight against COVID-19.

This emergency use authorization now makes it easier for patients to have access to it




"President Trump has made it crystal clear that he has our backs": Trump receives endorsement from the the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation's largest cop union (National Review)

Stars and Stripes funding won't be cut, Trump says (Military Times)

Shoring up a faux narrative: Russian interference could cost us the election, Harris claims (Washington Examiner)

Portland police declare riot on 100th straight night of protests (Washington Examiner)

Portland DA: Antifa shooter "appeared to be targeting" counterprotesters, allegedly stalked murder victim (The Daily Wire)

Iraq War veteran likens Portland to living in a war zone (The Daily Signal)

BLM protesters riot and vandalize in Rochester, New York (Sharyl Attkisson)

Thirty-nine photos capture America's summer of riots, arson, and looting (The Daily Signal)

Here are 31 times the media justified or explained away rioting and looting after George Floyd's death (The Daily Signal)

The sheriff of southern Indiana's largest county has switched to the Republican Party, accusing Democrats of endorsing flag burning, failing to acknowledge God and not supporting police (AP)

Seems legit: Kansas state Democratic candidate says abuse of ex-girlfriend could have been prevented by "Medicaid for All" (Washington Examiner)

Gender reveal party sparked wildfire now burning 7,000 acres in California (Fox News)

Policy: In order to defeat COVID-19, the federal government must modernize its public health data (The Heritage Foundation)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Why Is the West So Powerful—And So Peculiar?

I don't find the Henrich theory (below) plausible at all.  I see the Catholic church as a conserving influence, not an innovative one, though I admit that the Dark Ages were not wholly dark. Some innovations did occur then.

I have expounded on my view of Western uniqueness elsewhere but, in brief, I see modernity as being ultimately due to two influences, Germanic traditions and the Reformation.

The Germans lived in the far North of the world so were never overtaken by the despotisms of the ancient world.  Tribal democracy appears to have been normal throughout Europe initially and perhaps even in Mesopotamia.  It was notably present in ancient Greece and Rome.  It could be argued that consultative government in some form is natural but tends to evolve with encroaching complexity, which in turn runs together with increasing prosperity

As is universally held, however, the opportunities and demands of irrigation in Mesopotamia soon led to the deveopment of kings, princes and emperors

And Europe was always in some touch with the despotisms to the east -- principally through trade -- so Eastern ideas were long well-known there.  And when the Roman warm period made Southern European agriculturalists prosperous, Eastern ideas and Eastern prosperity began to look like the new best thing.  So principally in the persons of Phillip of Macedon and Julius Caesr, despotisms arose in Southern Europe. But the Southern despots had little reach Northwards, as the Schlacht im Teutoburger Wald, when an alliance of Germanic tribes ambushed and destroyed three Roman legions, firmly established

So ancient forms of tribal democracy persisted only in Northern  Europe and that underlay the Saxon strike for independence led by Martin Luther and his king.  Saxony was already a kingdom by that time but it had substantially consultative forms and Northern kingdoms were often elective rather than hereditary.  So the independence of mind that Protestantism embodied was simply a reassertion of underlying Germanic democratic values.

As the name implies, Protestantism is a rejection of centralized authority.  In some Christian churches, democratic government persists to this day -- principally among Presbyterians.  I grew up as a Presbyterian so my own extreme independence of mind could be partly cultural

But how do we get to the Industrial revolution from the Protestant reformation a couple of centuries later?  There have been various proposed answers for that but again the influence appears to be religious.  Gradually increasing properity in England, due in part to its "splendid" isolation from Europe's wars, eventually led to a coming of the Puritans and their extreme independence of mind -- and the Puritan role in early English industrialization of England was large.  Their disregard for how things had always been done in religion led to a previously unthinkable openness to innovation generally

And the development from that goes on to this day.  We are all extreme Protestants now.

I have written elsewhere about the political implications of the Henrich theory

Henrich, who directs Harvard’s Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, is a cultural evolutionary theorist, which means that he gives cultural inheritance the same weight that traditional biologists give to genetic inheritance. Parents bequeath their DNA to their offspring, but they—along with other influential role models—also transmit skills, knowledge, values, tools, habits. Our genius as a species is that we learn and accumulate culture over time. Genes alone don’t determine whether a group survives or disappears. So do practices and beliefs. Human beings are not “the genetically evolved hardware of a computational machine,” he writes. They are conduits of the spirit, habits, and psychological patterns of their civilization, “the ghosts of past institutions.”

One culture, however, is different from the others, and that’s modern WEIRD (“Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic”) culture. Dealing in the sweeping statistical generalizations that are the stock-in-trade of cultural evolutionary theorists—these are folks who say “people” but mean “populations”—Henrich draws the contrasts this way: Westerners are hyper-individualistic and hyper-mobile, whereas just about everyone else in the world was and still is enmeshed in family and more likely to stay put. Westerners obsess more about personal accomplishments and success than about meeting family obligations (which is not to say that other cultures don’t prize accomplishment, just that it comes with the package of family obligations). Westerners identify more as members of voluntary social groups—dentists, artists, Republicans, Democrats, supporters of a Green Party—than of extended clans.

In short, Henrich says, they’re weird. They are also, in the last four words of his acronym, “educated, industrialized, rich, democratic.” And that brings us to Henrich’s Big Question, which is really two linked questions. Starting around 1500 or so, the West became unusually dominant, because it advanced unusually quickly. What explains its extraordinary intellectual, technological, and political progress over the past five centuries? And how did its rise engender the peculiarity of the Western character?

Given the nature of the project, it may be a surprise that Henrich aspires to preach humility, not pride. WEIRD people have a bad habit of universalizing from their own particularities. They think everyone thinks the way they do, and some of them (not all, of course) reinforce that assumption by studying themselves. In the run-up to writing the book, Henrich and two colleagues did a literature review of experimental psychology and found that 96 percent of subjects enlisted in the research came from northern Europe, North America, or Australia. About 70 percent of those were American undergraduates. Blinded by this kind of myopia, many Westerners assume that what’s good or bad for them is good or bad for everyone else.

[Read: How a focus on rich educated people skews brain studies]

Henrich’s ambition is tricky: to account for Western distinctiveness while undercutting Western arrogance. He rests his grand theory of cultural difference on an inescapable fact of the human condition: kinship, one of our species’ “oldest and most fundamental institutions.” Though based on primal instincts— pair-bonding, kin altruism—kinship is a social construct, shaped by rules that dictate whom people can marry, how many spouses they can have, whether they define relatedness narrowly or broadly. Throughout most of human history, certain conditions prevailed: Marriage was generally family-adjacent—Henrich’s term is “cousin marriage”—which thickened the bonds among kin. Unilateral lineage (usually through the father) also solidified clans, facilitating the accumulation and intergenerational transfer of property. Higher-order institutions—governments and armies as well as religions—evolved from kin-based institutions. As families scaled up into tribes, chiefdoms, and kingdoms, they didn’t break from the past; they layered new, more complex societies on top of older forms of relatedness, marriage, and lineage. Long story short, in Henrich’s view, the distinctive flavor of each culture can be traced back to its earlier kinship institutions.

The Catholic Church changed all that. As of late antiquity, Europeans still lived in tribes, like most of the rest of the world. But the Church dismantled these kin-based societies with what Henrich calls its “Marriage and Family Program,” or MFP. The MFP was really an anti-marriage and anti-family program. Why did the Church adopt it? From a cultural evolutionary point of view, the why doesn’t matter. In a footnote, Henrich skates lightly over debates about the motivations of Church leaders. But his bottom line is that the “MFP evolved and spread because it ‘worked.’ ” (Henrich’s indifference to individual and institutional intentions is guaranteed to drive historians nuts.)

Forced to find Christian partners, Christians left their communities. Christianity’s insistence on monogamy broke extended households into nuclear families. The Church uprooted horizontal, relational identity, replacing it with a vertical identity oriented toward the institution itself. The Church was stern about its marital policies. Violations were punished by withholding Communion, excommunicating, and denying inheritances to offspring who could now be deemed “illegitimate.” Formerly, property almost always went to family members. The idea now took hold that it could go elsewhere. At the same time, the Church urged the wealthy to ensure their place in heaven by bequeathing their money to the poor—that is, to the Church, benefactor to the needy. In so doing, “the Church’s MFP was both taking out its main rival for people’s loyalty and creating a revenue stream,” Henrich writes. The Church, thus enriched, spread across the globe.

Loosened from their roots, people gathered in cities. There they developed “impersonal prosociality”—that is, they bonded with other city folk. They wrote city charters and formed professional guilds. Sometimes they elected leaders, the first inklings of representative democracy. Merchants had to learn to trade with strangers. Success in this new kind of commerce required a good reputation, which entailed new norms, such as impartiality. You couldn’t cheat a stranger and favor relatives and expect to make a go of it.

By the time Protestantism came along, people had already internalized an individualist worldview. Henrich calls Protestantism “the WEIRDest religion,” and says it gave a “booster shot” to the process set in motion by the Catholic Church. Integral to the Reformation was the idea that faith entailed personal struggle rather than adherence to dogma. Vernacular translations of the Bible allowed people to interpret scripture more idiosyncratically. The mandate to read the Bible democratized literacy and education. After that came the inquiry into God-given natural (individual) rights and constitutional democracies. The effort to uncover the laws of political organization spurred interest in the laws of nature—in other words, science. The scientific method codified epistemic norms that broke the world down into categories and valorized abstract principles. All of these psychosocial changes fueled unprecedented innovation, the Industrial Revolution, and economic growth.

If Henrich’s history of Christianity and the West feels rushed and at times derivative—he acknowledges his debt to Max Weber—that’s because he’s in a hurry to explain Western psychology. The bulk of the book consists of data from many disciplines other than history, including anthropology and cross-cultural psychology, to which he and colleagues have made significant contributions. Their Kinship Intensity Index, for instance, helps them posit a dose-response relationship between the length of time a population was exposed to the Catholic Church’s Marriage and Family Program and the WEIRDness of its character. Henrich gets amusingly granular in his statistics here. “Each century of Western church exposure cuts the rate of cousin marriage by nearly 60 percent,” he writes. A millennium of the MFP also makes a person less likely to lie in court for a friend—30 percentile points less likely. Henrich anticipates a quibble about what he calls “the Italian enigma”: Why, if Italy has been Catholic for so long, did northern Italy become a prosperous banking center, while southern Italy stayed poor and was plagued by mafiosi? The answer, Henrich declares, is that southern Italy was never conquered by the Church-backed Carolingian empire. Sicily remained under Muslim rule and much of the rest of the south was controlled by the Orthodox Church until the papal hierarchy finally assimilated them both in the 11th century. This is why, according to Henrich, cousin marriage in the boot of Italy and Sicily is 10 times higher than in the north, and in most provinces in Sicily, hardly anyone donates blood (a measure of willingness to help strangers), while some northern provinces receive 105 donations of 16-ounce bags per 1,000 people per year.

To go further afield: While Europe was first compiling its legal codes, China was punishing crimes committed against relatives more harshly than those against nonrelatives; especially severe penalties were reserved for crimes against one’s elders. As recently as the early 20th century, Chinese fathers could murder sons and get off with a warning; punishments for patricide, by contrast, were strict. Asymmetries like these, Henrich writes, “can be justified on Confucian principles and by appealing to a deep respect for elders,” even if the WEIRD mind finds them disturbing.

Henrich’s most consequential—and startling—claim is that WEIRD and non-WEIRD people possess opposing cognitive styles. They think differently. Standing apart from the community, primed to break wholes into parts and classify them, Westerners are more analytical. People from kinship-intensive cultures, by comparison, tend to think more holistically. They focus on relationships rather than categories. Henrich defends this sweeping thesis with several studies, including a test known as the Triad Task. Subjects are shown three images—say, a rabbit, a carrot, and a cat. The goal is to match a “target object”—the rabbit—with a second object. A person who matches the rabbit with the cat classifies: The rabbit and the cat are animals. A person who matches the rabbit with the carrot looks for relationships between the objects: The rabbit eats the carrot.

You have to wonder whether the Triad Task really reflects fundamentally different cognitive bents or differences in subjects’ personal experience. Henrich cites a Mapuche, an indigenous Chilean, who matched a dog with a pig, an “analytic” choice, except the man then explained that he’d done so for a “holistic” reason: because the dog guards the pig. “This makes perfect sense,” Henrich muses. “Most farmers rely on dogs to protect their homes and livestock from rustlers.” Exactly! A Western undergraduate, probably not having grown up with dogs protecting her pigs, sees dogs and pigs as just animals.

Henrich is more persuasive when applying his theory of cumulative culture to the evolution of ideas. Democracy, the rule of law, and human rights “didn’t start with fancy intellectuals, philosophers, or theologians,” Henrich writes. “Instead, the ideas formed slowly, piece by piece, as regular Joes with more individualistic psychologies—be they monks, merchants, or artisans—began to form competing voluntary associations” and learned how to govern them. Toppling the accomplishments of Western civilization off their great-man platforms, he erases their claim to be monuments to rationality: Everything we think of as a cause of culture is really an effect of culture, including us.

Henrich’s macro-cultural relativism has its virtues. It widens our field of vision as we assess Western values—such as objectivity, free speech, democracy, and the scientific method—that have come under sharp attack. The big-picture approach soars above the reigning paradigms in the study of European history, which have a way of collapsing into narratives of villains and victims. (Henrich forestalls the obvious objections with this jarringly offhand remark: “I’m not highlighting the very real and pervasive horrors of slavery, racism, plunder, and genocide. There are plenty of books on those subjects.”) He refutes genetic theories of European superiority and makes a good case against economic determinism. His quarry are the “enlightened” Westerners—would-be democratizers, globalizers, well-intended purveyors of humanitarian aid—who impose impersonal institutions and abstract political principles on societies rooted in familial networks, and don’t seem to notice the trouble that follows.

It should be said, though, that Henrich can make a person feel pretty helpless, with his talk of populations being swept along by cultural riptides that move “outside conscious awareness.” Cultural evolutionary determinism may turn out to be as disempowering as all the other determinisms; a WEIRD reader may feel trapped inside her own prejudices. But perhaps some comfort lies in Henrich’s dazzling if not consistently plausible supply of unintended consequences. Who would have imagined that the Catholic Church would have spawned so many self-involved nonconformists? What else might our curious history yield? Henrich’s social-scientist stance of neutrality may also relieve Westerners of some (one hopes not all) of their burden of guilt. “By highlighting the peculiarities of WEIRD people, I’m not denigrating these populations or any others,” he writes. WEIRDos aren’t all bad; they’re provincial. Henrich offers a capacious new perspective that could facilitate the necessary work of sorting out what’s irredeemable and what’s invaluable in the singular, impressive, and wildly problematic legacy of Western domination.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Sunday, September 06, 2020

Going to school ‘does not increase risk of young children catching coronavirus’

Children going to primary school or preschool are at no greater risk of picking up Covid-19 than those staying at home, according to the first results of a national surveillance programme.

Public Health England (PHE) said they had detected only three positive cases — two staff and one pupil — out of more than 12,000 people tested in English primary and preschools in June and early July.

All three had only mild or no symptoms and when their households, class bubbles and wider schools were tested, the researchers did not find any additional cases.



Sweden has the last laugh

Lockdown-free Sweden's coronavirus case rate is now lower than Nordic neighbours Denmark and Norway with just 12 new infections per million people over the past week

In comparison, Norway saw 14 new infections per million people, and Denmark saw 18, meaning Sweden had an average case rate over seven days lower than its neighbours for the first time since March.

'Sweden has gone from being one of the countries with the most infection in Europe, to one of those with the least infection in Europe,' the country's state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said at a press conference earlier this week.

Meanwhile, 'many other countries have seen a rather dramatic increase,' he added. 

At the height of the pandemic, Sweden's infection rate dwarfed that of its neighbours, who did implement a lockdown.

At its peak on June 19, Sweden was seeing 108 new infections per million people, compared to Denmark and Norway's eight and three respectively.

The number of deaths in Sweden is now averaging at two to three per day, compared to a peak of over a hundred per-day it suffered in mid-April.

To add to positive signs in Sweden, a test last week of 2,500 randomly selected people found not one had coronavirus.

In comparison, in a similar test, 0.9 per cent were found to have the virus at the end of April and 0.3 per cent at the end of May.



New Zealand records first Covid-19 death in over three months

New Zealand recorded its first Covid-19 death in more than three months on Friday when a man in his 50s succumbed to the virus.

Health officials said the man was part of a second-wave cluster of infections that emerged in Auckland last month, ending a spell of 102 days free of community transmission in the South Pacific nation.

The death at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital on Friday afternoon takes New Zealand's death toll from the virus to 23, with the most recent previous fatality on May 24.

The man was reportedly the youngest to die from Covid-19 in New Zealand.

Health authorities did not say whether he had a pre-existing medical condition.

The Auckland cluster emerged in a family of four and has since grown to 152, including three new cases recorded on Friday.

While Aucklanders were allowed out of their homes this week, the government limited non-school social gatherings in the city of 1.5 million to 10 people and made masks compulsory on public transport nationwide.

Authorities said earlier on Friday, before the latest death was announced, that the restriction would remain in place until at least September 16.

The source of the Auckland cluster remains unknown but genome testing indicates it is not linked to the virus strain that New Zealand experienced earlier this year, which was largely eliminated in a seven-week lockdown that began in late March.

New Zealand, with its low death rate of 23 in a population of five million, has been hailed as one of the countries most successful in handling the virus.

Its response to the latest outbreak has included a blitz of around 600,000 tests in recent weeks, accompanied by extensive contact tracing and the pre-emptive quarantine of close contacts linked to confirmed cases.



Latest Data Proves COVID-19 Doesn’t Justify Postal Bailout

A stream of apocalyptic predictions and strained conspiracy theories have turned the once-sleepy world of U.S. Postal Service operations into front-page news.

Lawmakers focused on the topic are being confronted with an approaching deadline. By the end of 2021, the Postal Service is on pace to run out of funds needed to continue current operations.

Several proposed and potential pieces of legislation would provide a bailout worth tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to the Postal Service, supposedly justified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yet there’s a big problem with this line of thinking: The pandemic has had a minimal effect on the Postal Service’s bottom line.

As a result, a COVID-19 bailout would be the equivalent of giving someone a blood transfusion while ignoring gaping wounds.

The financial status of the Postal Service burst into view in March, when leadership of the House Oversight and Reform Committee warned that bankruptcy was imminent due to COVID-19. Congress included a $10 billion loan to the Postal Service in the CARES Act based on these fears.

Just a few weeks later, it became apparent that warnings of an immediate collapse were unwarranted. While revenue from letter mail was down, demand for package deliveries increased strongly enough to compensate, meaning that the organization is not going belly-up in 2020.

This trend was confirmed in the latest quarterly report detailing the Postal Service’s performance from April through June. At first glance, the numbers appear grim: In just three months, the organization suffered a $2.21 billion loss.

However, placing that number in context tells a different story. The Postal Service lost $2.26 billion during the same period of 2019, and $4.52 billion for the first three months of 2020.

If COVID-19 were the reason for the Postal Service’s difficulties, we would expect the losses to be worse during the first months of the economic lockdown, not better.

The Postal Service has lost money every year since 2007, even during periods of strong economic growth. There are two big reasons for this troubling trend.

First, as communication increasingly moves online, the number of letters has plunged from its peak in 2001. That means less revenue to maintain postal facilities and pay employees.

Second, Congress has handcuffed the Postal Service when it comes to controlling costs. The largest expense, employees, can be reduced only through layoffs, rather than through lowering the generous compensation of $97,588 per worker.

Many potential operational changes, such as switching from six deliveries per week to five, also are barred by law.

Even when the Postal Service does have the ability to cut costs, it can result in a swift backlash from Capitol Hill. That was evident in recent weeks as lawmakers chastised Postmaster General Louis DeJoy regarding the removal of sorting machines, which was set in motion before he arrived and has been taking place for years.

Rather than drafting legislation to reform the Postal Service and make it financially sustainable, both chambers of Congress seem intent on the shortsighted approach of a taxpayer-funded bailout.

The House passed a $25 billion bailout that wrongly includes further restrictions on cost-cutting. A bipartisan Senate bill provides up to $25 billion to cover postal losses “resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” a definition that could potentially be used to cover any postal losses during the pandemic, regardless of the actual cause.

Senate leadership is considering whether to turn the $10 billion CARES Act loan into a grant. That would improve the Postal Service’s bottom line at the expense of adding to the national debt.

DeJoy has requested supplemental funds from Congress to cover additional expenses related to COVID-19, such as providing masks to employees and installing transparent dividers at retail locations. The amount needed to address those costs would not be $10 billion or $25 billion, but instead closer to $1 billion.

Another common justification for a bailout is the upcoming election, which is expected to feature record levels of mail-in voting. DeJoy has repeatedly explained that there’s no need for extra funding to cover mailed ballots.

Even if every vote this year were sent by mail within a few days, that would amount to about 5% of a typical week’s volume. Since mail-in ballots are sent over the course of months, and since letter-mail volume is down this year, the Postal Service will have no problem delivering ballots.

Tackling the Postal Service’s many problems will be no small task. However, this is precisely the sort of problem that we should expect our nation’s leaders to address in a responsible manner, rather than temporarily “fixing” it through pricey bailouts.



Trump economy adds another 3.7 million jobs in August with 13.8 million total jobs recovered since April as rapid recovery continues

The U.S. economy added another 3.7 million jobs in the month of August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ household survey of Americans reporting they have jobs, bringing the total up to 13.8 million jobs that have been recovered since labor markets bottomed in April, something almost nobody but President Donald Trump was predicting.

The news comes as COVID-19 cases continue to stabilize nationwide, including in Texas, California, Florida and Arizona where cases saw a brief uptick this summer.

At the worst of the coronavirus recession, as many as 25 million jobs were lost by April, and now more thanhalf of those jobs have been regained, as a V-shaped recovery has clearly formed.

In just four short months, almost 14 million jobs have come back in the Trump-Pence economy — thanks to President Trump’s leadership to stabilize the pandemic and get the U.S. economy safely reopened for business.

For perspective, in the Obama-Biden economy, it took almost five years to recover the 8 million jobs that were lost in the financial crisis and Great Recession.

The reason is President Trump had the considerable foresight to work with Congress to implement necessary economic supports, including payroll protection for 5.2 million small businesses that Trump credited with the recovery in his acceptance speech stating, “Thanks to our Paycheck Protection Program, we have saved or supported more than 50 million American jobs. That’s one of the reasons that we’re advancing so rapidly with our economy.”

In addition, unemployment benefits were expanded, critical industries such as airlines were supported and state and local governments were reinforced. Foreclosures and evictions were postponed, and banks were encouraged to grant homeowners forbearance on their mortgages. All this in a bid to encourage Americans to temporarily stay home while an adequate pandemic response including testing and ventilator production was put into place.

Also of note, on the establishment survey which asks employers how many people are on the payroll, businesses report 10.6 million jobs recovered since April. The difference between the two surveys is the establishment survey doesn’t count everyone like those self-employed. For that reason in February before the pandemic closures, the household survey reported 158.75 million Americans having jobs, while the establishment survey reported 152.46 million Americans working. Those differences are well-known, and it might mean the household survey is more relevant to the American people.

With more good news, an additional 765,000 Americans left unemployment the week of Aug. 22, according to the latest data from the Department of Labor. Because that is occurring later in the month, it may not fully factor into the monthly data until the September jobs report out the first week of October.




Trump campaign bracing for legal battle over election, forming "coalition" of lawyers (Fox News)

Washington Post op-ed suggests Americans may need to prepare for war if Biden doesn't win in a landslide (The Daily Caller)

Protesters gather outside Nancy Antoinette's San Francisco home, hang blow-dryers and curlers in a tree (The Daily Caller)

Pelosi and Steven Mnuchin agree on plan to avoid government shutdown (Politico)

U.S. pulls $62 million in funding from the ChiCom-supporting World Health Organization (The Washington Free Beacon)

"A publicity stunt": Kenosha locals give lukewarm reception to Joe Biden (Washington Examiner)

Kenosha speech showed that the difference between Biden with a teleprompter and without a teleprompter is scary (The Federalist)

With the Supreme Court MIA on the subject, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit says "large"-capacity magazine bans are OK; last month, the 9th Circuit said the opposite (Reason)

NPR walks back pro-looting story (The Daily Wire)

CBS censors Andrew Cuomo threatening physical harm to Donald Trump (NewsBusters)

Federal task force kills Portland antifa murder suspect; man pulled gun on agents during arrest (AP)

Body camera footage shows Deon Kay was brandishing a gun when shot by DC police (The Post Millennial)

Cleveland police officer fatally shot; search underway for suspect (Fox News)

Colorado woman beats up child for carrying Trump sign (PJ Media)

Yet another white cultural appropriator: White George Washington University history professor admits she lied about being black (Fox News)

Discover blocks donations to site raising money for Kyle Rittenhouse defense (Fox Business)

In foreboding ruling, appeals court says transgender students may use restroom of choice (The Daily Signal)

Justice Department plans to file antitrust charges against Google in coming weeks (The New York Times)

Court rules NSA phone snooping illegal — after seven-year delay (Politico)

Seems legit: Hot temperatures in minority inner-city neighborhoods are caused by systemic racism, new study says (Campus Reform)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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