Hat tip to Oleg Atbashian, the former Soviet agitprop-painter whose cheerfully satirical website, the People’s Cube, reminds us of the Soviet nature of popular propaganda. Atbashian had recognized the Leftist nature of the media long before I realized that he was not kidding or exaggerating. Though I had long realized the leftist nature of CBC, the Globe or the Toronto Star, it took me several decades to realize the depth of their commitment to the “we are always wrong” interpretation of world events. Have you ever had one of those conversations where the words “campus rape culture” was used seriously? Atbashian has carefully summarized the tropes by which any conversation may be derailed. The point is never the point. It is always the Revolution.
Senior educated white male.
Oh, the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we’re feeling no pain
Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain
–with apologies to Dean Martin
The recent confinement to quarters has for many people been something of a blessing. Parents who have not seen their children for a decade are seeing them every night at dinner. Many people are reporting they have cleaned out closets and cupboards they scarcely knew existed. Yesterday I insulated a hot water pipe that had escaped attention for sixty years, since the construction of the house, since it was difficult.. The workshop is being organized. I have thrown out obsolete tools from the 1950s.
I got a call from a somewhat drunk friend last night who told me she had been in quarantine with a new boyfriend for the past 14 days. Things had gone swimmingly.
Eventually these minor projects will have been finished, but by then we will be thinking of much bigger ones. I am not concerned. I always said to myself I needed more time. Now I have it.
And when the day’s tasks are completed, there is always the woodstove in the living room, the giant orange house cat sleeping in my spot, and my wife doing the same as me, working and loafing at a comfortable pace.
A little money, a lot of time, some wine in the racks, some meat in the freezer. When I tire of this, I will let you know.
The interview with Freeman Dyson is a magnificent review of the effectiveness of WW2 bombing, the ending of World War 2 with Japan, science policy, what to do with surplus nukes, too many science labs focused on nukes, how to control the spread of nuclear weapons, and he reveals a careful, sensible mind. I cannot believe I said that. I know he is wrong but I am not sure why. I may be coming around to many of his views.
God has heard us and answered our prayers. We said: too much carbon dioxide being spewed into the atmosphere. We must cut back on carbon emissions. The planet is heating at an unusual rate. The Lord, tiring of the whining, and knowing full well an ice age will shortly arrive (as reckoned in celestial time), put forth His hand and said: let there be a pernicious virus that will keep everyone at home. I will not make it too deadly, but I will make it as contagious and surreptitious as possible. The carbon dioxide will be cut way back. Families will be forced to play board games, and mothers will be forced to educate their children, such as by making up new rules for creating property rights in Monopoly or by teaching them not to cheat (or how to cheat). Travel will virtually cease. Skies will clear. China will be disgraced. Trump will be humbled (greatest miracle of all). The mighty will be brought low, and the poor truck drivers and store clerks exalted. And great shall be the joy in heaven thereof.
The clangour of global warming hysteria has finally creeped Him out. He has determined to put an end to Greta Thunberg’s pernicious moral influence.
Does this sound plausible? Once you grant a Supreme Deity, the interpretive possibilities are much richer.
I thought the readership of Barrelstrength would be informed and spiritually refreshed by an Andrew Camarata video. This one involves changing the track on a skid-steer. Maybe as many as half of you will have never heard of a skid steer. As you contemplate the world from inside your sealed compartments, just imagine needing to have a skid steer to get your work done. It is not a form of software download or a protocol translator.
Also, in terms of cool forestry equipment, there is a company in Sweden call Kranman making cranes and haulers that work from an ATV rather than from a tractor. The idea started as a toy for kids until the builder began to receive interest from adults, and voila, a small industry was born.
I am sure there is thesis for a business school in this story somewhere: innovation, small business, marketing, youtube, market need. I know that if I were rich I would definitely get one. Though I would not dress up as a Korean riot policeman to go into my woods.
William Briggs is a statistician, and he blogs at www.wmbriggs.com. I wish he were better known, but he does go off for pages on Thomas Aquinas when he is not commenting about numbers. This is his latest posting about coronavirus. His take? The fear is exaggerated. The reaction outlandish. I will say no more and let him speak for himself.
- In Wuhan itself, the City of Doom, some 2,446 souls departed their fleshly existence earlier than expected. Google tells us the city has between 11 and 19 million, depending on whether you count the entire metro area as “the city”.
- The city had 49,995 cases. The case rate was 0.26% to 0.45%, depending on what China called “the city”. The total dead rate was 0.01% to 0.02%. The case dead rate was 4.9%.
- People fixate on that last number, forgetting you first have to get the bug before you can die from it. But everybody now seems to believe they’ll get it with certainty. Review Bayes Theorem & Coronavirus!
- If everywhere will eventually be as bad as Wuhan, then, given 7.7 billion of us now speak with authority on “social distancing” and “flattening the curve”, as if we’ve been using these neologisms from birth, from 20 million to 35 million the world over will get the bug, and from 1 million to 1.7 million will croak from it. (Fifty million died from 1918’s Spanish flu.) ….[clip]
CDC estimates that so far this season there have been at least 36 million flu illnesses, 370,000 hospitalizations and 22,000 deaths from flu.
- That’s in the United States alone, friends. Mostly pneumonia and old folks (God bless them). Worldwide at least ten times that number.
- If the Wuhan numbers apply globally, losing a million or two of us worldwide is not welcome news, but it’s not panic-level, end-of-the-world, buy-every-roll-of-toilet-paper-in-sight news. It’s wash-your-damned-hands, stay-at-home-if-you’re-sick news.
There is much more that follows at the original site.
I have been reading Twitter a lot these past few days and have decided that, for most commentators, the advice and commentary is as significant as what is heard in the hen coop. Cluck, cluck, cluck.
Rebel Yell and I were speaking yesterday (he from his castle, I from mine) about what the current plague will mean, does mean, for ideas and institutions that have wandered the landscape these many years that will disappear as snow in spring.
I predict the following will be gravely diminished or are about to be finished:
- calls for open borders will be dismissed
- tighter immigration policies will be more politically palatable
- global supply chains will be much diminished
- the EU will be largely cast off . (Notice especially that Italy’s call for medical aid to fellow EU members went unmet by every EU country.)
- China’s reputation, if it ever had one, as the coming force.
I think that all social institutions will be gravely hurt – which is bad – and that a lot of activity will have to move on-line if the isolation lasts more than four months:
- masons, fraternities, knights of columbus etc
- sports leagues
How are courts to function? How will witnesses be heard? How will lawyers argue?
Are universities necessary if they do not perform the function of educating students?
There is a part of me that figures this is all a plot of Satan (fill in your favourite force of evil in the spot occupied by Satan, but why not go to the top?) to further isolate people in their cells, to confine them to quarters, to have them willingly surrender their freedoms for a bit of security. We are becoming like the former Soviet Union, where zero trust is the operative condition; where you must have known people from high school before you are able to trust them with political discussion. We are nearly at that stage now in Ottawa. Or maybe we have been in that stage for thirty years and I am finally noticing the political repression.
Here is a piece of music written in equally fraught times by the Catholic composer William Byrd at the time of the English Reformation. Two pieces actually: Ne Irasceris Domine (be not wrathful, O Lord) and Sancta Civitas (Holy City) with its great line “Ieruslaem desolata est”. Jerusalem is indeed desolate this morning. But I am feeling quite well.
It is a rare day that I disagree with the courageous, and particularly with Heather MacDonald. Today is one of them. Miss MacDonald published an article in the New Criterion, entitled “Compared to What?” which argues that the response to the coronavirus is overdone by far.
“Even if my odds of dying from coronavirus should suddenly jump ten-thousand-fold, from the current rate of .000012 percent across the U.S. population all the way up to .12 percent, I’d happily take those odds over the destruction being wrought on the U.S. and global economy from this unbridled panic.”
She then compares Covid19 deaths to the 38,000 traffic deaths across the United States in 2019 to the slightly over 5,000 deaths from the virus worldwide, and makes other reasonable arguments that the reaction to the virus has been overdone by far. She then says
“Rather than indiscriminately shutting down public events and travel, we should target prevention where it is most needed: in nursing homes and hospitals.”
This attitude is really quite foolish, for a number of reasons.
Covid19 is highly infectious, and is transmitted by breathing the same air as an infected person. The virus hangs about in suspension. One is infected for days before one shows symptoms. Some people will never experience any negative symptoms whatever, just as there were a few people who buried their families at the time of the Black Death in 1348 and went on to live long after the bubonic plague. Those people unaffected by Covid 19 are still infectious. So whether a person has symptoms or not, they can be transmitters.
Second, washing of hands may reduce the infection rate, but has no effect on the main transmission path, which is airborne. Increased vigilance about cleaning surfaces is welcome, for many reasons, because it gives people a sense of agency, but it will not do that much to prevent infection. This point was made clear in an interview by Joe Rogan with an epidemiologist, Michael Osterholm. (around minute 6 of the interview).
Third, you will have heard by now of the idea of “flattening the curve”, which means slowing the incidence at which the infection burns through society so that hospital facilities are not overwhelmed. I found this graph at Steve Sailer’s post in Taki Mag.
The dreadful assumption behind this graph is that eventually everyone, or sixty, or eighty percent of the population will get Covid19. The purpose of isolation measures is to slow the rate of infection so that medical resources are not overwhelmed.
Here is Stave Sailer on the topic:
“Fortunately, a new idea has emerged from the data released last Friday on new coronavirus cases in Wuhan up through Feb. 18. Back in January, each person with the disease was passing it on to an average of 3.86 other people. An R0 (the “basic reproduction number,” which is pronounced “R-nought”) of 3.86 represents exponential growth nearly to the power of four, a catastrophic rate.
“Mathematically, as long as R0 is greater than 1, the epidemic spreads. When R0 falls below 1, however, it starts to die out.
“Via heroic shutdown measures (basically, confining most of the population of this huge city to their apartments), the Chinese cut the R0 in Wuhan by more than an order of magnitude down to 0.32. New infections fell by almost 95%.”
As Michael Osterholm said in the interview with Joe Rogan, this is not a Coronavirus blizzard, this is a Coronavirus winter. Expect months of this. Whether the measures of isolation that have been ordained will work, and will be sustained, is a matter of social discipline.
So far every social and religious organization to which I belong has shut down. There are no church services in my denomination, no Masonic Lodge meetings, no fraternal or voluntary gatherings. Meetings of the condominium have been cancelled. More will follow.
The response in North America has been fully compliant. We have evinced a great measure of social cohesion in obeying what will be seen in a short while to be a significant burden.
Just as Canadians were climbing out of our burrows and sniffing the spring air, we have been sent back for more winter. It is enough to try the souls of men, and more such trials are coming.
Heather MacDonald has never written anything so silly, but until you come to grips with the mathematics of airborne plague – the doubling time of infection – it seems plausible that we have over-reacted. We have scarcely reacted enough, according to the epidemiologists, and maybe we are in time.
Do we do more harm than good by closing schools? Discuss.
At the moment the only appropriate response to slowing the rate of infection is to slow the rate of human interactions. Thank God for the Internet, because you will be spending a lot of alone time in the coming months. PornHub’s offer of reduced rates to Italians was actually insightful and wise. Italy is our future. Empty shopping malls will be the new normal.
Two very Orthodox Jews perform a creditable “Shine on you Crazy Diamond” in Jerusalem, to the delight and amusement of the crowd. Cultural appropriation as it ought to be. Take the best and leave the rest.
Hat tip to Ghost of a Flea, which is always interesting.
I came across this paragraph as I ate breakfast this morning:
“In 1848, revolutions broke out again in Europe. For several years economic recession and hunger had provoked food riots in parts of Germany and France. By early 1848, almost a third of the workers of Paris were unemployed. In February, as the crisis rapidly worsened, the Parisians rose and overthrew the July monarchy”.
The citation comes from David Gress’ fascinating “From Plato to Nato: the Idea of the West and its Opponents” (at page 327).
Now that the Covid-19 plague is upon us, and as everything shuts down to slow the rate of infection, we can read paragraphs like that with fresh eyes:
one third unemployment
As recently as 1848!
Our current crisis is being met with cancellations of large meetings, shutdowns of sporting events, self-monitoring, isolation, quarantines, and concerns for whether the wine collection would last more than a week. My pension continues to arrive via electronic transfer. I may be seriously inconvenienced. Mrs. Dalwhinnie may not be able to visit some of her aged patients. The crisis is serious, but it not catastrophic.
In the duration I may finally be able to finish Gress’ book. It is highly recommendable for anyone whose interests include western civilization: does it exist? (yes) What does it stand for? (quite a lot) Has its meaning changed over time (yes). I thought I was learned in history before I read this book; clearly I was in error. Gress appears to have read and remembered everything since the pre-Socratics. A tour de force.