Monday, May 11, 2020

So I'm paying attention to the media....

I see a clip of a press conference where the governor of California says he's recruiting an "army" to start going door to door to check on people who are sheltering at home.  He says the next phase in that endeavor will be that, if someone tests positive but is living with people who test negative, the patient will be removed from his home and placed in some kind of care facility to..well I guess to ride out the disease and get what I hope to be actual treatment if necessary.

Got that?

During a pandemic of modest severity but significant (read:  self-inflicted) economic impact, a government official is recruiting civilian collaborators to round up people from their homes and stick them together somewhere.  Does this sound like anything students of history should recognize?

"Sticking people together somewhere," specifically nursing homes, is what got the governor of New York the worst infection rate in the country.  Maybe that was an honest mistake at the time, but in hindsight it was an obvious one and it needn't be repeated.

Meanwhile, next to New York we have Pennsylvania, and someone from that otherwise-fine state called in to Breitbart News to report that in her attempts to ensure treatments for the covid would be available to her mother who is in a nursing home, she was led via from facility management through the governor's office to the state department of health (whatever they call it), where they asked the mother's age and then said flat out that no treatment would be provided even if she tested positive.

To be fair, I don't know that this has been corroborated yet, but I can think of few dumber policies to enact.

Are you a post-Marxist communist who wants to get rid of some useless eaters this way?  It may well work, but if people start getting sick and not getting treatment, they will start infecting more valuable citizens, and there's your next wave of the pandemic.  You're just not going to be able to keep it under control by refusing to take certain obvious treatment steps.

But all that is not directly what my point is about.  I want to tie those things together with the other anecdotes we've heard about needless infractions on civil rights and thoughtless would-be concessions to people who want to reopen.

I'm talking people staying in cars in a parking lot and lone paddle boarders getting ticketed or arrested for violating social distancing.  I'm talking restaurants being told they can reopen but not with a seating capacity high enough to support a clientele that could provide enough custom for the restaurants to stay open.

The former is giving license to totalitarians in blue uniforms, to men who don't really want to protect and serve but just want to be able to drive fast and talk shit.  I'm sorry, I respect the institution and the badge, but there are people like that.

The latter is how how central planners failed to prevent bread lines in the Eastern Bloc (or possibly were able to deliberately effect them; I haven't looked at every case outside of Stalin and Mao).

So what I'm saying is this:

The natural goods are a lot like the moral goods that God gives us.  You can sacrifice a higher one for a more proximate one--lie to get out of jail, give up freedom for security--but statistically it will turn around to bite you in the ass.

"God will not be mocked" is not some warning that He is a bad sport who can't take a joke.  It is the insight that He cannot be without some blowback being put in motion--He's not just that vigilant; it simply can't happen.  It is the abstraction from the principle that if you burn your hand on a hot stove "I was only kidding" will not make it better.

So go ahead, criticize people who won't shut up about civil liberties if you want--again, I'll be fair, this is uncharted territory and we should all be patient with each other while we establish new precedents--but it's looking like they were right after all.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

What people don't want to look at

Every so often—too often, yes—there is a mass shooting, and usually it’s a massacre. And there is a cry to ban guns. And it is pointed out that banning guns won’t make violence just stop and it won’t stop would-be criminals from utilizing other weapons or improvised weapons.

And this is admitted, but it’s pointed out that at least it would help.

And conservatives point out it wouldn’t be enough to make up for the other problems that would come from flouting the second amendment and effectively taking guns away from law abiding citizens but not other criminals or the government.

These are worthwhile things to discuss, don’t get me wrong.

But there is an opportunity here, and I think the reason it is not taken advantage of is that it doesn’t actually achieve the real, unstated goal.

You want to make even modest efforts to restrict school violence? Okay. Gun rights advocates have pointed out things they think would work better than a gun ban. So you’re not going to get a ban rammed through Congress tomorrow. So why not try to achieve the things that nobody is opposing?

Maybe it won’t be as good as your pet project, sure, but you already admitted you’d rather achieve a partial victory than none.

So how about it? Willing to put your money where your mouth is?

Or do you want to keep blaming the other side for every failure that results from your preference for ideological purity?


Friday, May 01, 2020

On crying wolf over "dog whistles"

If you’re the only one who hears them—and we know this is true because you’re the one going around telling people what they’re not hearing—maybe it’s not the accused who is racist and trying to use them to send some kind of secret signals to other metaphorical dogs.

Maybe you are.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Letting a good crisis go to waste

A year ago the secprogs were praying, after their manner, for a recession that would get Trump voted out of office in 2020. It does happen in such a circumstance; look at Carter and George H.W. Bush and Herbert Hoover.

But they can't seem to stick to one script, and in the era of social media, it's a lot harder to talk out of both sides of your mouth without the same audience hearing opposing stories from the same person. When there was a little less information and a lot more control, a lot of people will hear one bad story, and a lot of other people will hear another bad story, and most of the rest will hear both but only in small enough parts that it will seem less like a contradiction and more like a complex mass of bad news. The few who grok both prongs of the conspiracy for what they really are, were few enough not have much electoral impact.

Not anymore. Now most of us have the whole story at our fingertips. There's still more information and disinformation than we as a society are savvy enough to see all the way through yet, but the genie is out of the bottle.

So now when false rape accusations get made against high profile political appointees, we still have people picking sides based on inadequate evidence, but everybody can see how embarrassing the process of sausage making is. Faith in the old institutions is eroded, but not just in the targets that those who stooped to low tactics hoped to disparage.

And when a potential crisis arises in Hubei, the Dems poo-poo Trump for overreacting and don't let him do anything but cut off trade with China, and say "go to the Chinese New Year parade or you're racist."  When that turns out to be inadequate, they poo-poo him for not having done enough, and cite as evidence a bunch of watery out of context quotes that were intended to give people some hope and instill peace, and stay mum about having discouraged social distancing at a critical time because it may have been too early to know but racist signaling in retrospect is really not a fair counterpoint to a public health concern. When the damage that was done continues to blossom, they poo-poo him for his optimistic naïveté and start doing their Chicken Little impressions.

So now we're basically in a recession. If this all ended tomorrow, maybe it wouldn't qualify as a real recession; it's not so much that people are fiscally battening down the hatches to weather out a storm of low confidence, but everybody just putting their business on hold.  The demand is pent up, not gone, and the big companies that operate a lot on LTAs are stuck between trying to get out of them and just trying to manage them in the new situation.  But after a while people run out of the capacity to keep waiting, and businesses do board up, and workers do try to find alternative sources of income, and after a while longer the chances of the band getting back together start pointing at zero.

But even now this isn't really a recession. The stock market's behavior is just a symptom. What this is, is a crisis. And a crisis is like a war: the leaders who demonstrate the willingness and intent, in word and deed, to help America survive and thrive, are the ones who will keep or gain the reins of power until normality returns.

But the Dems have been telling us for over a decade now that, either by name or by effect, America needs to end, and we either ought to be subsumed in either some kind of global identity or anonymized under a swarm of immigrants and intersected identities that still think the brass ring known as the American dream is still here to be grasped.

Whatever the world as a whole is going through, these considerations are a luxury that Americans are decreasingly willing to indulge in. We finally have a real taste of toilet paper shortages and bread lines, and "well, at least the billionaires can't hoard any more than the rest of us" no longer sounds so comforting.

In the end, who is more likely to keep the power?  The known quantity, or the challenger who has no relevant experience (remember when that was a meaningful criticism)?  In the end, who is more likely to win the election?  The guy who stumbles along the way but at least tries to remind us that this isn't the end of the world and is actually trying to do something, or the guy who still thinks pronouns and replacing convicts in prison with socially distant paddle boarders are more pressing concerns than toilet paper and access to food?

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Governor Whitmer, if you were trying to recoup your executive failure by appealing to Trump to shut down Michigan for you...

...this was not the way to do it.

See here for my original, recent post on the Michigan governor's "audition for VP" theory.

But she ran primarily on a "fix the roads" platform, which to be fair was a high priority before the pandemic.  That's kind of like Ralph Nader running on an airbags platform, except she won.  Now what, though?  This is harder than a state infrastructure crusade, isn't it?

Maybe the powers that be are thinking "ja wohl, she might be our kind of people after all," and hope that in seven or fifty-five months people will only remember the name and face when they go into the booth.

Monday, April 13, 2020

So they for three years periodically accused Trump, by dint of doing anything they didn't like, of being a dictator, as if exercising his duties in well precedented ways they didn't approve in his particular case, constituted by itself or in any degree tyranny.

But then the Wuhan virus hits and after poo-poohing him for overreacting, they "suddenly" panic and demand martial law, they demand shelter in place rules, they demand money be printed (or at least taxed) to support people who can't go to work and then divert some of it to the Kennedy Center, which lays off performers anyway.

My favorite example: the governor of Michigan begs after a fashion Trump to do the things I enumerated above, and then does them herself when she gets tired of waiting.  She should have done it herself immediately; if she has the power now, she had it when this all started too, and it was her duty to tend to Michigan more than it is his.

Like a friggin' cop who shows up and then calls 911.  Call for backup if you want, but you still have a job to do while you're waiting.

Apparently her strident posturing is to win the electoral affections of Biden, but I think it worked the other way. I'll explain in a minute.

Trump has the authority to impose martial law. He does not have the authority to violate the peaceable assembly clause. Whether groups of ten in this circumstance don't meant the peaceable criterion is debatable, but either way it's not the president's purview to regulate such things.
A governor, on the other hand, can make the state national guard enforce her will to some degree, including forcing large groups of people to disperse. It's been done before.

Ms. Governor of Michigan, the Mayor Ray Nagin Memorial Bus Depot is on line one. They'd like to interest you in some ironic optics about exercising executive power.




So it's weird how the Left seems so ready to invest more and more power in authorities and then when they have an opportunity to exercise some power, they run crying to daddy.  Even if daddy is a Republican.  Do they think they can bait and frame him with something more unpopular than their esoteric political aesthetics?  Do they still fail to understand they don't have the clout to overcome all the Constitutional checks and balances and electoral memory that would prevent them first from inventing tyrannical laws and then preventing the other side from ever getting the chance to use them?

Best I can figure is it's sort of a litmus test. Nagin failed; he did provide an opportunity to score some cheap points against Bush (but in those days that was like open mic night), but he did not show that he could step up and set an example. The governor of Michigan failed in the same way; she screamed her rhetoric but seems angry only because orangemanbad didn't do as soon as she wanted what she should have done, by her own power at any time, until she was I guess forced against her will to stand in the breach.  Lucky for her Trump's not running for governor of Michigan.

Pols who can take the reins in a crisis have a chance of a national career. Some people who never have the opportunity of such a crisis get there anyway. But pols who don't, finish their careers like varsity athletes who peaked in high school, periodically calling to the public mind what was so important about them but never accomplishing anything greater ever again. And I wonder if the DNC looks at it exactly that way.

Which is not to criticize. It's not uncommon to see people make a professional error of some magnitude and then find themselves, whether they ever realize it or not, off the career track. But it's interesting and it makes me wonder to what extent such figures are merely tolerated for what little they can contribute after all, and not "encouraged" to move on and let newer blood prove itself.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

This is a little more politically hot than I usually like to get into, but...

...have you seen #filmyourownhospital?

I suppose there will always be a few hospitals that aren't as busy as the ones that we keep seeing footage of on the nightly news, but after a while it will be fair to ask "is the real crisis ever really going to happen?"

It may still be premature on my part, true, but I'm starting to smell a parallel between a couple things.

The first is three years of "the proof of Trump's collusion with Russia is imminent."

The second is "the coronavirus surge is no longer racist paranoia but imminent."

The scientist in me is interested in seeing what kind of data we'll get from this epidemiological experiment.  But the historian in me wonders how many patriotic sheriffs are out there who will refuse to support the encroachment on civil liberties that is happening because of all this.

I'm not talking about real threats to public health.  I'm talking about one guy paddle boarding by himself getting accosted by two boats and arrested.  I'm talking about 19 year old Pennsylvania girls getting $200 tickets for driving after "curfew" despite being socially distant from everyone except the cop that pulled her over in the first place.  

I'm also talking about the strange policies that sound like they're supposed to reduce human contact but in effect only make it worse.  Does a store get 100 customers during the ten hours it's open each day?  That's about ten customers an hour.  Cut that down to five hours and the hundred customers now have half the time to go shopping, and if it's an essential business like a grocery store, people on average aren't going to stop coming.  In the short run it may, since people will binge shop and then stay home, but when people come back to find empty shelves, they'll come back more often hoping for a restock, and thus we have more shopping trips than we would have seen otherwise.  So we have 100 customers coming in five hours instead of ten, and thus instead of ten customers per hour, we have twenty.  Twice as many.  Was this just stupid, or was it irrelevant to the real goal of the exercise?

The historian in me also wonders if the patriots who are staying at home for now and issuing warnings about post-Weimar Germany on social media will notice when the last chance to stand up, to draw the line in the sand, comes and passes.

I recently heard...

...that, due to the economic slowdown from corona, about 1/3 of all investment wealth (I think in the US) has been lost.

 This predominantly affects the wealthy, since they not just invest more in terms of absolute number of dollars, but tend to invest a larger proportion of their income or otherwise-liquid assets in businesses, the stock market, etc.

 Is this considered an acceptable mode of wealth redistribution?