What’s the End Game?

I, like a lot of people, have immersed myself in the COVID-19 pandemic and our reaction to it, including my friends’ reactions to it, which has been eye-opening.

Everything from conspiracy theories for overthrow of our government to big pharma or even the president staging it all to make a buck. On the left side of my friends there’s this idea that the US was uniquely caught flat-footed and had the worst reaction in the world, on the right this was cooked up by an evil cabal.  The Feds are “holding back” needed equipment, out of spite or wonton incompetence.  “We’re hearing …. ”   “People are saying ….”

Now … I would NOT rule out an escaped virus from the bio lab in Wuhan. But by that I mean if we found that to be true down the road I wouldn’t be completely shocked. I just don’t think that’s what happened. Not only have epidemiologists been warning us for decades about outbreaks like these, they’ve also been warning us about the almost perfect conditions some of the practices in Asian wet markets, particularly in China with respect to the wild animal trade in many of them — create. And we’ve seen it happen there before, recently, with a very similar virus, in 2002 in a different area of China. It was even a corona virus. SARS-COV. As with SARS-COV2, it broke out in November, the CCP was less than forthcoming about it through December and January. And it spread to many countries from there.

This one is worse, it appears to be more contagious, and is particularly nasty to the lungs in late-stage severe cases.

Countries all around the world have basically followed China’s and South Korea’s lead in implementing very strong social distancing measures, which has crippled the world economy — only not as severely as China did, especially in Wuhan.

That’s all for the most part, the facts. Now on to more opinion.  Mixed in with supporting facts.

I think the big social shutdowns were done largely because by the time symptomatic cases started breaking out world-wide, too many people were already infected and it was too late for early-outbreak contact tracing. This was largely due to China’s dragging its feet for 6 weeks, even destroying lab samples of the virus, arresting doctors who sounded the alarm to other doctors, not allowing Western epidemiologists to come in and both assist and learn about the virus, and denying human-to-human (H2H) transmission of the virus until late January. You know, about the time it was pretty obvious because cases started popping up in country after country and they could no longer deny it. Oh, and they kicked all at least Western journalists out of the country, if not all non-Chinese journalists.  That’s not fishy at all.

Ah, the journalists. If it bleeds, it leads, and the early predictions were bad. Really bad. 2.2-4 million dead in the US alone. Now of course this was a new virus and we had very little data on how it actually behaved outside of what we could garner from China and South Korea at first. There is no other way it could happen. As I’ve said many times, models are not reality. Dr. Fauci said it better yesterday. “Models are hypothesis. Data is data.” Good data makes your model more accurate. But you can’t have good data at the beginning of an outbreak of a brand new (to humans) virus.  Journalists make much out of saying “but two weeks ago, you said this, now you’re saying that.”  As if it were intentionally misleading.  Well, duh! we freakin’ know more about it now.  “At first you said it was nothing to worry about.”  Yes.  So did China, to which it was mainly confined and without foreign observers.  And the WHO said the same thing.  The we got more data.

I think Hollywood has a lot of people thinking that we can (maybe this is a bit of an exageration, but not much) merely ask, “Computer! How many people will die from this virus? “And the computer will quickly answer “if nothing is done, 2.2 million people will die” and that’s the answer and it is right because it came from a computer and computers “know”.

Well they don’t. They “know” only what we tell them. They can just do math faster than we can in our heads. That’s it. And if we tell them garbage, their answers will be garbage, only they can do it really fast and sometimes with errors exaggerated exponentially. Don’t confuse fast answers with certainty.

I can tell the journalists have no clue what’s going on by virtue of the questions they ask. For instance, there seems to be this idea that we can’t be safe until every single person is tested. All 330,000,000 of us in the US. Finally, yesterday one of the task force members essentially said, “we’re not going to do that”. Of course we’re not going to do that.  It’s impractical and unnecessary. We’ll test sample populations and model the rest, like we do with pretty much everything else.

I’ve said from the beginning that the so-called “lockdown” is simply a measure to buy us time to catch up to the virus. Not to stamp it out.  It was nearly two months before H2H transmission was confirmed, with tens of thousands of people from China flying all over the world during flu season with flu-like symptoms (sometimes) when nobody was looking for a new virus.

It had to have been sometime in January that our CDC started working on a test for it. They wanted to take it a step further and test for mutations in case this virus started to do that. That was a good idea. They shipped it out to 50 state and local labs in very early February, but only 8 of the 50 labs could get it to work. It turned out that it worked fine for detecting the virus itself, but the third vial, to test for mutations … was faulty.

Now government regulatory agencies are not built for speed. Regulation, by its very nature slows things down. Which is normally (within reason) a good thing (“Dont be hasty” – Treebeard). But not in an emergency. It took the FDA another 16 days to ok the test’s use without the third vial. THEN mass production could begin.

So we basically lost January to China, and February to a mishap and a slow regulatory response. Too late for contact tracing. And this thing happened all over the world.

By mid March, the NYC area was exploding with the virus. Mardi Gras. Spring Break. Ski-trips to Colorado. You know the rest.

The world economy is shut down, and we can’t keep it that way for too long or the cure may be literally be worse than the disease. Here’s the problem. We don’t know how bad the disease is. And we may never know how bad it is. If we do, it will be from looking back at what happened and piecing it together. Why is this?

Because it began as an unknown, and the more we found out about it, the more we were able to react to it, which in turn changes what we know about it because we are tinkering with R0 through social distancing and with mortality rates with new treatments.

So as a good friend of mine sincerely asked me yesterday, “What’s the end game?” — speaking to the economic shutdowns, specifically.

And here’s the bare, naked, honest answer.

We don’t know.     [yet]

Why don’t we know? We don’t have enough data to figure out what we’ll have to do, and to what extent — to contain this when we lift the restrictions. We’ve all basically agreed to stay shut down through April. In the mean time we are quickly getting that data and coming up with new ways to get more and better data, and developing medical mitigation (treatments) and developing and testing vaccines. Like I said, we’re buying time.

As Fauci said yesterday when we do open up, it won’t be like flipping on a light switch and everything goes back to normal, ESPECIALLY not uniformly, everywhere. But the end game is starting to come into form out of the fog as we get data in. If you listened to Dr. Birx yesterday, she talked about smaller communities, specifically about our Inidan Nations, but smaller areas like where I live where there are now few enough cases where full contact tracing is plausible again. That’s PART of the plan.

The whole thing depends on 1) controlling the spread 2) making the disease less deadly with treatment 3) protecting our most vulnerable until we either (back to 2) have treatments that make it less deadly or (back to 1) we develop a vaccine.

But we’re not making nuts and bolts here. When you’re developing something, you can’t say, like you can with making nuts and bolts “We can have 50,000 nuts manufactured by Friday”. You can’t say “In 13 days, we will have a sure treatment that will keep people out of the ICU”. But we CAN be optimistic that we will get it figured out, and soon. We just can’t tell you what day that will be right now. Over the next few weeks, we will have a MUCH better picture and can start saying more definite things.

We have multiple people, multiple companies and organizations, myriad doctors in the field working to figure this thing out and how to beat it.

People are motivated. People are motivated right now, partially out of alturism (yes, we do have some semblance of it, despite what Ayn Rand says). And partially for profit. Yes, that’s right. It CAN be both. But the motivation is pushing hard on both sides of that coin right now and I’m confident it will be done.

Fauci and Birx and the other task force members have all given us a little glimpse of what the unfolding will look like.

Less infected areas will have stay-at-home orders lifted first. There will still be guidelines to follow when we’re out and about. These guidelines will be informed by the data that is rolling in and will continue to roll in over the next few weeks. Yes, you can go back to work BUT … you should do these things until we get a vaccine. Yes, you can have gatherings and concerts BUT … take these precautions. And in the more infected areas they will be lifted more slowly as the numbers get down to some sort of at least rudimentary contact tracing is possible.

The “end game” isn’t really an “end”.  It’s more like “the rest of this will be managable from this point forward”.

That’s why we must, as they are saying, keep our foot on the gas over the next couple of weeks to drive those numbers down as low as we can get it before we start lifting restrictions. It will most definitely NOT mean the disease is beaten. Only beaten back to where it can be better managed. It will flare up in spots. The forest fire analogy is not a bad one. And if good enough treatments come out, and I think they will, that make getting this thing literally “no worse than the flu”. At which point restrictions become less warranted, and things will literally get back to “normal”. But socially, at least, it may be a new “normal”, where we wash our hands more, are more encouraged to stay at home when we’re sick, etc.

If you want to know what’s going on, watch the daily briefings. Pay no attention to the press – most of their questions are not insightful at all. It’s stupid cat-and-mouse “gotcha” games mixed with sheer ignorance about how things work, and an inability to listen.  That’s because most of them didn’t come to listen. Some of them are clearly agenda-driven, and are statements rather than questions. Don’t get your information from the media. Yeah, I know Trump rambles and repeats himself. Just wait for the various task force members to get up to the podium. Watch the entire breifings. Trump is trying (badly) to echo what he’s gotten from them tempered with some of his own judgement, and he’s just not a good speaker. But the other task force members are. They will tell you what they’re thinking, individually, and those things are driving what direction the group is headed, and the president’s job is just to gather that and make decisions when you get to the point of “well, it’s either A or B, we can’t have both”. As a facilitator and decision maker, I think he’s pretty good, and I think that’s what task force members are saying when they say he’s doing a good job.

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Epic Pandemic

I know.  I really suck as a blogger anymore.  I haven’t posted here in … a year?  Time was, I was on it. I think part of it is there are a lot more conservative voices out there now than there were when I started in 2003, so I don’t feel as compelled to vent and “philosophise” as I used to be.  So many more people out there are better at it than I am.  (Not the least of which is our own resident blogger who suggested this blog in the first place, the venerable Severian.)

And that’s a GOOD thing.

I end up combatting people more on The Hello Kitty o’ Bloggin’, as our own Morgan Freeberg calls it … facebook these days.  I do most of my echo stopping there.  I really WANT to get back into this I suppose – it’s worthwhile.  But my voice is now drowned in a sea of better ones.

Still …  I made some observations today I’d like to share, and I’m gonna share them here.

I watched the President’s press conference from the Rose Garden today.

I’m just going to start out by conceding that our president is an ineloquent man. There’s no getting around that. And by nature he’s a bit of a carnival barker salesman, an optimist, and clearly he has a bit of an ego. I’d argue that all of our presidents, some more than others, have a bit of an ego. Don’t get me started on our last one, Trump has nothing on him when it comes to that.

All that being said, where this guy excels is … getting expert advice and making sound decisions.

For all the hand-wringing about his “slow” response to the virus … it isn’t HIS response. It is our system’s response. And I’m really not blaming the CDC, here, either – this is probably the most apolitical government organization we have, and it’s filled with professionals, many career, long-term professionals that monitor this stuff all over the world every day and make decisions based upon that vast experience. Yes, they can make mistakes — they’re human — and yes, there can be and are glitches in the system. But these are the best people we have, and they take their jobs very seriously.   And honestly, the response has been pretty fast given the realities under which we operate.

The President doesn’t tell them what to do, they tell the President what they’re doing, and sometimes what they NEED to do and what they need to do it if they can’t get it under the current system.

To my eye, the President listened to them and talked to a variety of private sector players and had them put together a plan that could be implemented quickly and effectively. Their plan required that he move some government regulations out of the way, and when the President was made aware of them, I’m sure in consultation with a lot of government agencies — he saw fit to remove those barriers.

THAT … is the President’s job. Not deciding when and whom and where to test or how fast a vaccine will be developed, or what events will be shut down or who will be quarantined. His job is to get advice, reccomendations, and remove obstacles in emergencies.

This is what Trump does best.

So despite his bumbling, repetitive and too often hyperbolic words … he’s doing his job, and doing it well especially in this case.

We’ve had, what, 40 some odd deaths from this virus. 22 of them in a single nursing facility. Average age of the dead — 80.

Population-wise, I’ll stack that up against any country. Yes, it will go up. Significantly. Don’t kid yourself. But it will go up in those other countries as well. This is what viruses do. We will minimize it here, especially considering our population and highly mobile infrastructure and numerous high-density population centers.

What disgusted me at the press conference was the presumptuousness of many the press corps, more interested in scoring political points than getting actual, useful perspective for their viewers and readers – the American public — about what we’re facing. Forunately, many of the professionals behind him, none of whom seemed to be the least bit concerned about being near the President even though he had apparently stood next to someone who later tested positive for a few seconds for a photo — filled in very well for him in this area.

Seriously, this is the damned President of the United States. If his physicians were concerned, they’d have him tested and isolated. Would it LOOK better if he’d been tested? Sure. But if there were reason to be concerned, trust me, that concern would be acted upon. The health of the President of the United States is closely monitored.  And honestly, if he HAD been tested, I’m sure the question would be wasn’t it selfish for him to be tested when others couldn’t be? I am tired of these people.

A lot of the questions centered around giving an exact date when “everyone” would be able to be tested. Last I checked, the population was 320 million people. No, we don’t have the capacity to test 320 million people. We will, shortly, have better capacity to test people who have a good reason to be tested, though. And we can’t say, “Sunday night at 7:43 pm”. Stupid, stupid questions.

There was even one stupid question someone asked as if we were looking into why this virus was worse for older people. As if this were unique to this virus. Anyone with any sort of a brain knows that ALL diseases are worse for older people. (I have to wonder if they were trying to paint the administration as “ageist” for not looking into this).

I also read somewhere that “We” refused a test offered by the WHO. I don’t know the details but I do know this. If “We” refused a test from the WHO, “We” — those experts, had a reason. The general we out here may not understand that reason. But it wasn’t arbitrary, and it wasn’t malicious or selfish.

So what I got out of this is that a decently large, but not TOO large (the bigger the group, the worse it is at coming to any concensus) group of people have been highly involved for the last two weeks, analyzing and advising and discussing what to do and how to do it. The widespread closing of many institutions for the next two weeks, at least for now — and other measures like it we heard yesterday and the day before, likely came out of this through back channel reccomendations before this press conference.

It’s not a bad idea. One of the questions was how quickly the president was going to have additional respirators necessary.

Although the President later said that they were requesting additonal respirators, it is clear the general approach here is to render extra ones unnecessary by dulling the epidemic peak. If we don’t have as many patients at a time, we don’t need more respirators. Though we’ll produce some just in case.

In short – I’d rather have an ineloquent guy up there who knows how to get people together and can make sound decisions based on input than some eloquent pie in the sky dreamer who will mandate sunshine from cucumbers.

I was skeptical of this guy at first. But man … he isn’t bad.

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In Diversity™ We Trust

Severian’s last post was on History vs the leftist narrative, specifically on Civil Rights.  Then Morgan asked on The Hello Kitty of Bloggin’,  after watching the Democrat Debates …

“Is there an agenda to popularize the Spanish language in the United States? If so, is the vision that more people should be knowledgeable about it, or that fewer people understand English? Or both?

Or, is the agenda to balkanize the country, get as many languages in active use as possible, so that there’s.more confusion, less clarity? What’s the goal here exactly?”

Well lemme ‘splain.

It’s because Diversity™, of course.  That is the whole purpose behind the United States of America.  Let’s review our history, shall we?

You see, centuries ago diversity was banned in Europe, so a bunch of enlightened people said, “Hey, I want to go somewhere where I can be diverse!”

And so they boarded rickety ships to bounce across the treacherous ocean for weeks, and when they landed they saw there were only Americans of Asian Descent (the land bridge between Asia and North America — before Lewis and Clark hegemonically traversed the continent in their SUVs).  They thought to themselves, “here, I can finally be diverse!” Indeed, Diversity™ doubled right then and there!

They wanted to be more diverse so badly that they imported brown people from diverse tribes in Africa. Sadly, in a dark era where no white person was even remotely against slavery, they were treated poorly and relegated to slavery because of a line Donald Trump had slipped into the Constitution in 1787.  This went on until JFK and the Democrats freed them in 1964. (when the Whigs and the Democrats switched sides after the Whigs lost a drunken bet with the Democrats in a bar the night before the bill was passed.)

Meanwhile people from other parts of the world had heard about this wonderful place where they, too, could come and be diverse, and they started coming… from China, from Japan, from Mexico, and the Middle East, with only the distant dream of Diversity™ on their minds.

We also created great UniDiversities to increase our knowledge and awareness of Diversity™ (especially after the Democrats freed the slaves!)

But in 1972, the Republican (aka, “Nazi”) Party was founded by Richard Nixon specifically to ban Diversity™ and put to everybody who wasn’t white into concentration camps. Fortunately, the Democrats came roaring back with Jimmy Carter in 1976, who created the Department of Education that has vastly improved Education in the United States by teaching us all to be more Diverse™.  Since then our education has become the best in the world! And! he graciously let 52 Americans be the guests of some nice Iranian students for more than a year just so they could become more diverse.

But then Ronald Reagan inexplicably won the election of 1980 (due to a clerical error at Trump, Inc*) and he immediately started a nuclear war with Russia. This was because he was not diverse and they were … well never mind, but it greatly reduced the Diversity™ in the world. Plus, Toxic Masculinity. Which is not Diverse™. Everyone should be more like women. That would be Diverse™.

After 12 years of cruel, oppressive Republican rule during which Reagan coerced some Germans to vandalize an historic, diverse wall, the great Bill Clinton was elected the First Black President™, which Americans thought finally ushered in Diversity™ once and for all.

But alas, it wasn’t to be, because G.W. Bush (aka “Hitler”) stole the election 8 years later by cleverly winning a majority of the votes in the Electoral College (like that was even legal!) and had the CIA fly planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon so that he could attack Iraq.  This was clearly because they were brown and he hated Diversity™, and also for oil. The United Nations had asked Saddam Hussein nicely 17 times to stop killing his own people, but it turned out he was doing it to reduce Iraq’s carbon footprint. Well this was the last straw (before California bravely banned them). Bush viciously attacked and removed Hussein from office because racism. And also blood for oil. Halliburton!!!! By the time he left office he personally had 100% control of all Iraqi oil, which he quickly lost to Dick Cheney (aka “Darth Vader”) in a drunken bet at a bar the night before the next election (Cheney then poured the oil all over Grand Teton National Park just so it could be drilled up again — also because he hates nature and especially fly-fishing).

After that, America came to its senses and elected Barack Obama, Savior of the Universe™, to be the Second First Black President™. Under his wise and kind rule, Americans began to get along Diversely like never before. Some people in Ferguson, Missouri even burned and looted a bunch of minority owned business just so they could get insurance money which they were owed by their former oppressors, who were now forever banished. It was almost the Paradise that Michael Moore proved Iraq was before G.W. Bush (aka “Hitler”) went in and started terrorism as we know it today (and stole all their oil).

Obama even stopped the oil that Halliburton had re-drilled out of Grand Teton from covering the Gulf of Mexico with his bare, diverse hands.

But it wasn’t to last forever. She Whose Turn It Was to be the Third Black President™ and The First Female President was stunned by her totally unfair loss to Donald Trump (aka “Hitler”), a Russian agent who was heretofore known only for grabbing pussies, and whose wife’s arms could never measure up to the previous first lady’s.  She was also an immigrant who spoke only 6 languages, plus she immigrated legally, which really isn’t very Diverse™.

She Whose Turn It Was to be the Third Black President™ graciously left her supporters waiting while she drank the entire wine supply just to save them from themselves when she gave her concession speech the next morning after drinking 163 cups of coffee in 21 minutes. This was very diverse of her. It was a sad day because this meant that no woman could ever be elected president. Ever. This was indeed confirmed when Donald Trump (aka “Hitler”) decreed it was so as he squashed a kitten under his foot, because kittens represent Diversity™. Crunch!

Hitler (aka Donald Trump) had the audacity to try to faithfully execute the laws of the United States, which included putting people who crossed the border illegally – including children — in the cages Barack Obama (Savior of the Universe™) had diversely built for people who crossed the border illegally. Building them was diverse, but actually using them for their intended purpose was not. And it was just like Auschwitz, only 50 times worser.

All brown people began leaving the United States in droves, fearing for their lives, but they were overwhelmed by the flood of poor confused brown people coming in the other direction. Why were they coming? Didn’t they know?

Ah, but this was all part of Trump’s (aka “Hitler’s”) evil plan to End Diversity™ Forever! – to cleverly keep brown people from leaving by encouraging more brown people to come in to his concentration camps. Plus he outlawed being gay, and ordered all bakers NOT to bake wedding cakes for them, and he and his evil minions began driving Democrats out of restaurants and spitting on them for being so Diverse!

Since America was founded specifically to be The Most Diversest Country, Ever!™, he must be stopped at all costs, even if it means going through the Russians to procure a fake dossier to spend two and a half years in the headlines telling everyone proof he colluded with the Russians — was JUST around the corner!

Therefore it is more important than ever that we rally around our national motto,

“In Diversity™ We Trust!”

 * This was an error on Trump’s part as a Russian agent, which proves his incompetency.
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Fake Hate Crimes in the Trump Era

Think about this. If it’s the list I’ve seen, this is a list of 27 fake hate crimes since Trump was elected.  That’s an average of about one every month that are thrust into the headlines — at first as being real — and something that all [conservatives] should be ashamed of, and evidence that Trump inspires division and hate.

Jussie Smollett case the latest in a long line of hoax attacks

You hear it again and again in TV interviews and around the water cooler that Trump is hateful and inspires hate and hate crimes against the usual “protected” groups, with the “evidence” being the stories in the news.  “His tone”, or whatever, inspires these things.

Well in a twisted way, it does. But not from the right. Because in general, that’s not who we on the right are. How many of these big “news” stories have actually turned out to be true? Can you find me five of them? Five. Racist, or “homophobic”, or “trans-phobic” attacks on people. From the right. That actually happened.  Since Trump was elected. Can you find them? How deep did you have to dig? But “everybody knows” it’s true. And how do they know this? They hear it in the media, constantly.

If only 0.2% of these hate crimes are fake as one source put it, you should be able to find at least 99 real ones for each fake one reported. Shouldn’t be difficult, the media is all over these when they happen. But you can’t.  Find them.  We’ll give ourselves a break and say 20 per.   Still can’t. That speaks volumes.

You can punch a kid in the face for smiling while wearing a MAGA hat. Because it’s hateful, and stuff. You can hound people out of restaurants, or refuse to serve them because of their political views. If they’re conservative ones. Because Trump=”H8″.

Antifa targets the right, because the right is “hateful” so it’s justified, even mandatory — and the anecdotal evidence is …. all of these #FakeHateCrimes that are perpetrated by the left. The accusations get massive press coverage and fanfare, the retractions almost none. The left kind of looks at it’s shoes, at best, when Antifa comes up, and often outright defends their actions. “You’re against Antifa? That means you’re *for* ‘fascism'”

Not if Antifa is really a bunch of brown shirt fascists who don’t know what the hell “fascism” means. But the left doesn’t want to go there. They’re rooting for them. A fascist by any other name is still a fascist. Even if you put “anti” in front of it.

Frustrated SJW’s who get their sense of self-worth by “raising awareness” and labeling people they disagree with as “___-ists” or “____-ophobes” can’t find Americans that actually act this out, so they act it out themselves or hire Nigerians to do it for them.

Stop the slander. We’re on to it.

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In and Out

Confession time: I’m what you might call a Trump agnostic. Some of what he’s done pleases me, some things about him I find frustrating, and almost everything he does I find entertaining. Someone once asked me who I would vote for and I answered at the time that whatever my disagreements with the man, I had no doubts in my mind that Trump loved America and wanted to do right by her – I still believe that and for me it’s not nothing in consideration for a president.

Still I do try to listen to both sides of the Trump issue on the right, and here I will admit that I find both sides – his fans and his haters – frequently obnoxious. Indeed my feelings towards the man himself are too often influenced by who I read last. If a super-fan, Trump is annoying. If a hater, Trump is the GOAT. Thus i try not to rely on my gut or feelings on the matter but ever seek out the truth. Thus listening to both sides.

Because the problem with humans is that our senses alone collect so much data that our brains can’t possibly store and process all of it. So we have to constantly shift through and analyse this data, our brains prioritizing some while ignoring the rest. But what is really important? The color, make and model of nearby cars? The color, style and make of the shoes everyone around you are wearing? Some data is objectively important (like who is shooting at you) but a lot of data out there is… debatable. That’s why we communicate with others – because the data I picked up and retained is going to be a bit different from what you picked up. By combining all our datasets we can craft a larger picture of the whole truth, like a jigsaw puzzle.

This then is the frustration when I listen to a Trump fan (like Andrew Klavan) vs a Trump skeptic (like Jonah Goldberg). Both sides often make relevant points about important data, and both sides seem to avoid what the other one is addressing leading to a frustration of everybody talking past each other. Yet I couldn’t help but notice that the fans seemed to make an effort to confront the counter arguments a bit more often – the skeptics rarely so. In fact the skeptics seemed to go out of their way to even acknowledge competing evidence. Things just weren’t adding up. Now I’m also a big believer in Occum’s Razor which should be summed up as “don’t add additional factors without evidence.” , so I prefer to take the folks at their word rather than inventing some kind of conspiracy theory.

Let’s then think about like in programming. At root we only have 3 factors: the input, the process, and the output. If the output is wrong, there’s only 2 other places to look. What can we tell about process? Fundamentally – nothing. We can’t read minds so there’s no way to really be sure what’s going on inside another’s. We’ll have to accept their claims about their own process at face value for right now. So let’s look at input.

In fact, let’s look at what happened this weekend.

In case you haven’t heard, there was a March for Life on Washington DC at which point a video & image of an original-American drummer and a boy in a MAGA cap went viral. Shortly after the viral spread, the other shoe dropped.

Turned out there was a lot more to the story and everyone was reacting to pretty much the opposite of what was the truth.

Let’s look at the National Review’s article on it.

Oh wait, that’s actually the SECOND article NRO published. There was a first article before that. It’s captured under “Update IV” at this link.

Now it all began to make sense. The trump-skeptic side was having faulty input. They are believing the media.

There’s actually a term for this: Gell-Mann Amnesia. Michael Crichton described it as:

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them. In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

This somehow seems to make it all worse than a simple betrayal.

See, I’m old enough that for most of my political life, conservatives have been bitching about the media. That whenever an article was written about Reagan or Bush or Bush or whatever politician, so many of these figures would be there with an article pointing out all the facts overlooked and complicating factors ignored. Always and forever if the media reported on a congressman’s tie, the conservatives would double check it. Now? Now when they complain about Trump, you can quickly piece together that it’s because they’re accepting the media’s basic premises.

Never mind that nothing’s changed over those years save the republican targeted. Never mind that a few months ago the press did the exact same thing to Kavanaugh (with many of these figures rightly objected to). No this time a video and image go up about a kid in a red hat, and the people who should know better accept the media’s premises unquestioned. It’s a movement-wide Gell-Mann Amnesia.

If you’re a skeptic reading this: Imagine it’s a few years ago and you came across one of your conservative colleagues or heroes complaining about how misogynist Romney was being with his “binders full of women” line. Imagine that no matter how much you tried to correct that person, get them to see the fuller context, they objected. Said they saw all they needed to. Called you a cultist – a blind Romney follower. I remember how most of you fought against that little media deception back in the day. So imagine how you would feel in that situation.

That’s how we feel now.

You don’t have to like Trump. You don’t have to agree with Trump. You don’t have to excuse the worst excesses of his followers.

But MAYBE you could try reapplying your old skepticism, and stop buying what the media is selling. You above all people should know better. Stop and ask yourself why this time you think the habitual liar is being truthful.

As we say in programming.  Garbage in, garbage out.  So if leftism in…

…no self-awareness out.

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The Cold Civil War is Going to Get Worse

People say America is right now stuck in a cold civil war and so far it seems like a fair assessment of the nation.  Many who have noticed this are wondering what we can do to improve the situation.

 

The problem is: nothing.

 

Why?  2 factors.

 

Think a moment about actual, real war. One factor about it is that there is an objective, undeniable metric available to all sides: death.  The side with more deaths, tends to be the side that loses (unless there is a huge population difference but let’s keep things simple right now).  So if your side had several battles in a row where your deaths X > their deaths Y, you’re probably losing.  Conversely if X < Y, you’re on the way to victory.  This also means there is a very clear, well defined end point to the conflict: one side (or both) is entirely dead.

 

However cultural conflicts do not have such a neat, easy metric to them.  Without a clear metric, things get confusing.  For examples just go around on the web right now to both right-oriented and left-oriented sites.  You will be able to see both sides arguing that they’re losing the culture war.  Now just take a step back and think about it dispassionately (maybe pretend you’re Mr. Spock visiting earth) – how could you tell which side is correct?  Which side is wrong?  Or are both sides correct about losing?  Or wrong?  Which factors and considerations of society & culture matter, and which don’t?  It’s not an easy question to answer and with no obvious end state, it may be one that is not answerable.  Without a clear metric, and both sides convincing themselves they’re losing, it’s easy for both sides to conclude they have nothing to lose.  Desperation has never been much of a motivator in lessening conflicts nor in granting mercy.

 

The second factor can also be explained by thinking about real war.  How do two sides come to agreements about the “rules” of the conflict?  Why would two sides agree against using poison gas on each other? (for example)  Really think about it – how does that even work when two groups are trying to kill each other?  It works because if one side breaks the treaty, there is an understanding that the other side will do so as well.  If army X uses poison gas, army Y will do the same.  If the consequences are horrible enough there is incentive for both sides to follow the agreement.

 

But there’s a complication isn’t there?  Modern militaries are made up of thousands – millions of soldiers and support.  Just because the generals agree to not use poison gas, what keeps a random colonel or grunt from using it?  How can the ones in charge keep the rest of their group in line?  If a soldier disobeys the treaty, what usually happens is that the offender is captured by his own side and handed over to the enemy.  This signals to the opponent that the attack was not an official decision, but a rogue choice.  Handing him over is a signal that they want to maintain the treaty and lets him face justice as the enemy sees fit – an enemy that will probably not be as interested in mercy or due process as the offender’s countrymen would be.  (This is what is implied by the line “disavow any knowledge of your actions” in those movies & TV shows – “if you get caught, the enemy can do as they wish.”)  Thus there is incentive in the ranks on both sides to obey the rules and the treaty is maintained.

 

Where is the equivalent in the modern culture war?  For a culture to exist, there has to be agreed upon boundaries within it and ways of enforcing them.  Modern social networking, has made this impossible.

 

For a hypothetical example, let’s suppose there was an agreement in politics that the families of politicians should be off limits (especially their kids) unless that family member is also involved in politics.  Sounds fair, right?  Everybody left, right, and center should be able to agree on this, yes?  Of course it will be understood that this is all operating under the treaty example above: if one side goes after family, then it’s fair for the other side to do so, otherwise what’s the point of the agreement?  This should all work perfectly!

 

Except it won’t.  Why?  Because we have millions (if not billions) of people on social networks with capable search engines.  Name me any rule society wants to agree on and within an hour we can find an example of someone violating it.  Thus the aforementioned rule of decorum would last about one day (probably 30 minutes) until a random somebody would be found violating it.  Which side they belong to would quickly be determined (whether accurate or not is irrelevant) and then the opposite side will begin returning the sentiment in kind.  It won’t stop nor can it ever be stopped because there’s no “general” for one side that can “hand” the offender over to a “general” on the other side in order to maintain the treaty.

 

Then to top it all off, let’s add in the factor that there is low cost and effort needed to join and use social media.  If anybody can sign up within 5 minutes, then even if we assume that 100% of a side in the culture war behaved according to the decorum treaty with 100% fidelity, the opposing side can have an impostor perform a false flag at minimum cost and set off the cascade of rudeness.

 

Do you want a practical example?

 

Recently Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had a video of her college days… I’ve seen some report this was “leaked” but it’s more accurate to say it was already posted to youtube and somebody linked it on twitter where it gained renewed attention.  Let’s look at some quotes from a few articles on this:

An attempt to humiliate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as she was sworn in as the youngest ever US congresswoman has backfired impressively, prompting a huge outpouring of support for her.

There’s nothing remotely scandalous about the video, but that hasn’t stopped right-wing Twitter users from attempting to weaponize it against Ocasio-Cortez, who is a Democratic Socialist.

It’s amusing to think about the mindset of the weirdo conservatives who leaked this, thinking it would make people poke fun at her.

The latest example involved an old video of her in her late teens doing some goofy dances (including a Breakfast Club homage that ought to have been endearing to Gen X-ers).

So some “right-wingers” reacted badly to this video.  Who?  Is this story on instapundit?  Drudge report?  Twitchy?  Not at the time of this writing.  So who “on the right” is saying anything about this video?  Where are the links or examples?  The guardian seems to be the only one to put in that much effort and this is the sum total:

A 30-second video was posted by a Twitter user called AnonymousQ, showing Ocasio-Cortez dancing on the roof of a building while in college.
“Here is America’s favorite commie know-it-all acting like the clueless nitwit she is,” read the post, with the user, who has since deleted their account, claiming it was a “high school video of ‘Sandy’ Ocasio-Cortez”.
But instead of embarrassing Ocasio-Cortez, who was elected to represent New York’s 14th congressional district in November, the video has bolstered her popularity, with many people on social media praising her for being joyful and having fun.
. . .
With the clip, she [AOC] wrote: “I hear the GOP [Republican party] thinks women dancing are scandalous. Wait till they find out Congresswomen dance too! Have a great weekend everyone :)”

“Conservatives” attempted to humiliate Representative Ocasio-Cortez – and by “conservatives” we mean a single recorded tweet from an account which is now deleted so nobody has any way to check whether that user was really conservative or not.  How old was the account?  What was its posting history?  How many followers did it have?  How many likes or retweets did that tweet get?  What were the general replies?

 

Hm.  We don’t have that information any more.   Instead we just have “conservatives” reported as reacting negatively.  From a single tweet.  By someone that could just as easily have been “liberal” playing the Wounded Gazelle Gambit.

 

That is why the cold civil war is not going to be getting better any time soon.

 

Further Reading:
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The Right to Flip Off the President

In an Op-Ed in the Washington Post by about “her right to flip off president” by one Juli Briskman who was photographed doing just that and got fired by some company called “Akima”, she concludes thusly (sounds deep, but it’s not):

“Let’s call this “autocratic capture.” Autocratic capture is not new to the world, but it is new to this country, and it is up to all of us to keep it from taking root. Our democracy depends on it. As James Madison warned in the early days of the United States, the “value and efficacy” of free elections “depends” on Americans’ “equal freedom” to examine the “merits and demerits of the candidates.”But if Americans can keep their jobs only when they refrain from criticizing the president, then that freedom is lost. And once the freedom to speak is lost, then the rest of our constitutional rights will not be far behind.”

Wrong, lady. You already have a right to flip off the president. The president isn’t retaliating against you. The government isn’t retaliating against you. And your employer has a right to hold you to certain standards of behavior to remain in its employ (I know this is a opinion that’s increasingly frowned upon, but that’s the way it ought to be.)

Now, you weren’t fired for “criticizing” the president. Flipping someone off isn’t criticism. “Criticiizing” involves pointing out where you differ in opinion with someone and providing an argument supporting your position over theirs.

Flipping someone off is just rude, especially in public. You weren’t “examining the merits and demerits of a candidate”.

An employer has the right to look at that behavior and say, “hmmm, if people know she’s one of my employees and she’s this rude in public and millions of people find out, that reflects poorly on my company. I don’t hire rude people. I hire well-adjusted adults. I don’t need this.”  Which is why the company had the policy you violated in the first place.

Your right to free speech does not protect you from the social consequences of that speech. It just means *the government* can’t do anything about it. That is the extent of your constitutional(ly protected) right.

Now that right is increasingly put in danger, but not from the direction you think it is. “Hate Speech” laws, which people are attempting to morph into “Compelled Speech” laws — that’s where the real danger is. And regardless of what you think of the rest of his politics, that is not coming from the President.

Since you brought up James Madison, yes, he would agree you can’t be fined or put in jail for flipping the president off. But he would not agree your employer couldn’t terminate you over it. In fact, I suspect he himself would have terminated you over it.  People didn’t tolerate public rudeness very well back then, and that was not a bad thing, IMHO.

Here’s a thought question… flipping someone off is a sign of disrespect. Perhaps the ultimate sign of disrespect. And I, at least, think everyone (including you) has the right to show disrespect for people they don’t like. That being said .. isn’t that “hate speech”?

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Race and Science and Culture (Oh My!)

Over on the Hello Kitty of Bloggin, as Morgan puts it, a friend posted:

“The very concept of race has no genetic or scientific basis.” — Craig Venter, DNA sequencing pioneer.

I guess I don’t see race as a bad or good thing, so I scratch my head when I see stuff like this.

On its face, the statement has an absurdity to it. I’d heard it or something like it before, so I looked it up to see what they were trying to say. And there is SOME truth to it, when you look at it in a purely scientific (read: genetic purity) way. But there is more to the universe than science. And this oversimplification appears to be *trying* to do something good, though the effect comes off more like a poke in the eye, which isn’t helpful. So I took this as an opportunity to stop a few echoes with one stone.

What they’re basically saying is that there isn’t enough genetic difference to call people of different relatively subtle, at some level, yet relatively uniform physical characteristics to call us different subspecies – that we’re all basically the same when it comes to biological makeup and mental capacity. Which is true.

There’s speculation (probably true) that eventually there will be enough intermixing to where a lot of those differences are blended out in most areas of the world. Which will be fine by me, but I’ll have been dead for centuries by that time. Maybe millennia.

Now, we call a set of people of different relatively subtle, at some level, yet relatively uniform physical characteristics from the same basic genetic background a “race”, and this is not a useless distinction no matter what geneticists say.

The problem comes when we start pre-judging people based on those characteristics, say, on sight. Evolutionarily speaking, it’s not a bug, it’s a feature. But biology isn’t fair, and culturally, we’ve developed this idea of fairness as important. Which is a GOOD thing. And this, at the core, is why racism is wrong. It’s fundamentally unfair to the person being judged. Regardless of the race of the person being judged. (There are people trying to define that last bit out of the word “racism”, but in doing so, they lose the moral core of why it is wrong in the first place.)

Different groups of us have evolved (and every one of them in the same way) to view humans who look drastically different with skepticism at a level much deeper than our intellects reside. It’s a defense mechanism. An instinctual reflex. This, like many of our other instincts, is something we have to teach out of our offspring — or to put it more correctly, to overrride this instinct — to be what we have come to know as “civilized”. That’s never going to stop. We will need to do this with each generation going forward. It won’t “evolve out” in a generation or two or five or fifty.

We will have to deal with this as a species.

Now this recognition of differences goes beyond physical appearance — and there are differences that register much more strongly than initial reaction to physical appearance. And this is the realm of culture.

A lot of the reason racial prejudices have persisted is — for essentially the same reason these physical differences evolved (genetic isolation of different populations of people), different cultures evolved along with them. And cultural similarities are very very important to how people get along with each other. It’s how we recognize, “hey, this person has basically the same beliefs I do, so I know what to expect from him. He’s not a danger to me” (mimicking this can also be the way sociopaths, even of the same race, gain people’s trust — but I digress). A population of people needs to be consistent enough so that the people in that population know what to expect from others. When we don’t know what to expect, our brains go into chaos mode and our defenses go up.

Here’s the cool thing. It turns out all of that cultural stuff … is software. And it can run in the brain of anyone from any race.

Therefore — there is no such thing as “White” culture or “Black” culture. THESE are the social constructs, far more than are the minor genetic differences that developed among genetically isolated populations that we call “race”. What we see as “race” is real categorical physical differences. What cultural characteristics we project onto those differences … if they’re calling *that* a social construct I’d agree.

I can pluck a baby from anywhere in the world, and raise him here in America and by the time he’s 8 everyone who actually engages with him will indentify him as an American. He will act in a manner that will reassure the people who interact with him that he is not a threat to them or the order of their lives. Depending on how he dresses and cuts his hair and the amount of hardware he has or doesn’t have sticking through his skin in various places, most people will pick up on that before they ever say a word to each other. Or I can raise him in France or any at least western country… same thing.

Contrary to popular belief in some circles … we have come a very VERY long way, especially in America. The [main] reason we see so much of it in America, and in some other western countries is because it is in these countries that we actually have significant racial diversity. So the issue gets pressed in these countries more than in others.  (The other reason is that there are certain political interests that benefit from cultivating cultural division.)

As I was saying earlier, fear of significant difference is an evolved response. I would speculate that … when it comes to race … we will all look much more similar as we intermix before that response evolves out of us — if it ever does — because that response is just a part of a much bigger evolved response — the general fear of the unknown, the uncertain. And at that point … the point will be moot.

Fortunately, we have culture, and if we can come to a point where just about everyone in our country, at least, is culturally similar enough so that we can act as a cohesive group of people. Remember, there is no such thing as white culture or black culture. Culture is not based on skin color. Culture is how we learn to act, and about shared idioms and traditions that glue us together, that help us relate to each other.

In this light, I cannot say I’m on the “diversity is what makes us great” bandwagon. It is not. Diversity is a symptom of greatness, not the cause. The greatness … comes from the culture.

And culture has no color.

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Trump Fires the Entire NFL!!!!! (Wait’ll you read the 6th paragraph!!!!)

I’m always curious when people say “it’s got a national conversation going” … when, exactly, did the national conversation stop? Because it seems to me like we’ve been talking about this for years on end.

To me the real issue is peoples’ perceptions on why there appears to be disparities between police action, including police shootings, of non-whites. There are lots of explanations, and racism on the part of individuals within law enforcement can never (and will, as long as humans are involved) be ruled out. But there are a LOT of other factors to look at, the vast majority of them cultural and exactly zero of them genetic save the genetic correlations (which we all know does not mean causation … and that can be pretty much proven in this case) between the victims and the shootings.

The biggest problem is, no matter how much “whites” acknowledge the issues and how unfair it is to innocent non-whites, the fact remains that as long as the cultural issues prevalent in certain non-white populations persist, a sane and natural correlation between appearance and behavior will continue to exist – and this will contribute to even the most conscientious people, even non-white people will continue to subconsciously use the correlation to make an unfair judgement on an individual (ask Juan Williams … he gave a real, personal illustration of this several years ago and got canned from NPR for being honest about it) .

Which is, lest we forget, what is wrong with racism. It causes us to make unfair judgement on people. It’s the unfair judgement that is actually wrong, the fact that in the case of racism it’s based on ethnicity is actually incidental. I think we’ve gotten so far down the road from this that too many forget this, and try to cure the disease by infecting a different population with the very disease they are allegedly trying to cure.

The answer cannot be arrest quota — as multiple studies have shown, police action corresponds to reports of crime to police, as do subsequent arrests and the occasional shooting. A disproportionate number of reports come from areas dominated by minorities, and they’re generally other people of the same ethnic background as the alleged criminals doing the reporting. Thus it is quite understandable that arrests and shootings are going to be lopsided in that direction. Police haven’t declared open season on minorities, that’s just the narrative given by those who wish to divide us — and believe me, those who wish to divide us do not wish to see this problem solved. There is too much hay to be made from it.

So fast-forward to a football game, where people have come to have a good time. And before every football game there is this tradition that the national anthem is played and everybody gets up and does this ritual action of … unity … honoring the symbol of that which we all supposedly believe in. It’s the one thing, now that the country has been sold on the religion of multi-culturalism, that is left that we can all stand up and say “yeah. THAT.” Even if we sometimes fail to live up to it, that is what we strive for.

Now before I continue, I need to make one thing very clear. The protesters have the inalienable right, protected by the First Amendment – to do whatever they want to do during the National Anthem. I absolutely support that right, and to my knowledge nobody has proposed getting rid of the right to do it.

On the flip side … when you sit it out, when you don’t join in the ritual, what you are telling the 70-100K people in the stadium and the millions of people watching is, “I am not one of you”. Further, since they know why you’re doing it, you are telling them “I think this thing you believe in is fundamentally racist (which means it’s evil), and that means you are all fundamentally racist for believing in it.” That is the worst kind of insult you can hurl at a decent human being. It’s heinous.

Again, they have every right to do it, but  that is the message they are sending regardless of the message the mean to send.

When you tell people, “I am not one of you, and you all suck”, they are probably going to have a negative reaction to that. AND … they have the same right to that reaction as the protesters had in their action.

You cannot simultaneously reject society and expect it to embrace you.

Most of the people in the stands and watching TV are decent human beings who don’t want to see innocent people wrongfully harrassed, accused, arrested, or especially shot. The people behind this movement are telling them that deep down, they don’t really care.

You know how we just went over that wrongful accusation is a bad thing? People tend to have a really negative reaction to it. And when they have a really negative reaction to it, they’re going to stop listening to you.

Trump, for his part, did not cause this division. The rise of the most recent flareup in this happened right here in Missouri in 2015 while Obama was president. Trump … just picked a side. And he was his usual ham-handed self about it. Picking a side in and of itself wasn’t bad. Many valid arguments exist in support of the side he chose. But his language and his tone certainly have been lacking which is no shock to anyone who’s paid attention to him at all.

The NFL’s reaction has been equally bad, because they made it about Trump instead of the issue at hand, and their fans lose here. And they also lose fans.

And the division is made worse, and we are no closer to solving the root cause of all of these problems.

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Mob Justice and Defense of the Rights of Detestables

It’s stupid that I have to prefix this with “I completely reject the KKK and *any* racial supremacy ideology” — that should just be understood, but such is the environment we live in today. That being said …

There was an incident in St. Louis a couple of nights ago … video is below.  Watch it.

I have this nagging suspicion that a similar thing triggered the guy in Charlottesville and that he didn’t really go there with the intent of mowing people down with his car.  But the organizers of the counter-protest and the left-wing media saw an opportunity to spin a narrative that was politically advantageous to them.  It’s what they do.

Update: Nope.  I’ve seen other videos of the incident, now I’ve just seen this one. This dude needs to go to jail.  There is definitely zero excuse for what he did.  But at least I asked the question. The day we are routinely threatened with our livelihoods for asking questions, it’s over.

But here, in St. Louis, a guy driving down the street is stopped by a protesting mob in the street. Several of them surround his car and start beating on it.

It is not unreasonable to believe the driver was in fear for his life or serious bodily harm.

Over the last 8 years or so, a new narrative has gained a foothold … and it spreads farther than the hard-core people in these groups — that violence is justifiable in a protest where oppression is the alleged issue. This is something new as far as any sort of “mainstream” understanding of what America is about. So agitators in leftist mobs have been encouraged if not deployed … to cause fear and chaos, to promote violence.

The shamelessness of the spin that is put on these things … for instance, Dana Loesch’s NRA video where she talks over actual footage of leftist mob violence where people are actually wounded – often pretty badly — and says we must fight this with “the clenched fist of truth”.

The spin was focused entirely on the metaphor she used, “clenched fist”, not on the actual … documentary … content of the ad itself. To hear the media response, one would think (because this is what they told us to think) that she was showing something akin to revellers whacking pinatas and was encouraging armies of white knuckle draggers to go bust some heads. What the ad was was showing leftists actually busting heads, and encouraging people on the right to speak the truth about it.

But until Charlottesville, virtually all of the head-busting had been done by left wing groups, who were given a pass, because they’re on “the right side of history” as Obama put it several years ago when excusing Joe Biden’s remark about Asians and 7/11’s. See, he’s a Democrat, so his racism can be excused.

The same rationalization is used here. These are Nazis, so violence against them can be excused. Who is a Nazi? Anyone who disagrees with left-wing ideology. Wait… what? Who gets to decide this?

The Democrats and the media (but I repeat myself) used the Charlottesville incident — which was perfect because nobody (especially me) will defend the KKK or other White Supremists, but they can, have, and will continue to — spin any defense of their rights… as defense of their ideas. It’s like Christmas to the left.

But defending peoples’ rights is what the Republican Party and the modern Right in America has been about all along. Yes, we have our morons like everyone else. And we don’t defend our morons. But we do defend their rights. Because their rights … are our (everybody’s) rights.  Preserving ours means preserving theirs.

Time was everybody knew this.

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