Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Autarky: Further Considerations

     In all matters of economic analysis, it’s critically important – nay, vital — to keep Henry Hazlitt’s lesson at the forefront of one’s thoughts:

     The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.

     In applying this lesson, one must remain aware that economic analysis faces its severest difficulties in dealing with time. Economics is about objectives, incentives, costs, and constraints as they affect the thinking of producers, consumers, and governments. While the action of those things is predictable, the amount of time it will take for them to bear fruit is not.

     In my previous piece on this subject, I used the specter of potential enemies as the spur for my thesis. A nation that must ponder the possibility of warfare, whether of the “flying lead” variety or any other, must be braced for it. Its supply of necessities must not be in the control of any potential enemy. This much, at least, “should” be “obvious.”

     The meaning of the word necessities is, of course, subject to contention. The necessities of human life – i.e., those things absolutely required to keep people alive — are food, clothing, shelter, and energy. But very few Americans use the terms needs or necessities in that limited a fashion. This is a consequence of our prolonged enjoyment of a historically unprecedented degree of comfort and convenience.

     Comfort and convenience are sly seducers. Isaac Asimov knew that very well:

     "This is a Seldon crisis we're facing, Sutt, and Seldon crises are not solved by individuals but by historic forces. Hari Seldon, when he planned our course of future history, did not count on brilliant heroics but on the broad sweeps of economics and sociology. So the solutions to the various crises must be achieved by the forces that become available to us at the time.
     "In this case, – trade!"
     Sutt raised his eyebrows skeptically and took advantage of the pause, "I hope I am not of subnormal intelligence, but the fact is that your vague lecture isn't very illuminating."
     "It will become so," said Mallow. "Consider that until now the power of trade has been underestimated. It has been thought that it took a priesthood under our control to make it a powerful weapon. That is not so, and this is my contribution to the Galactic situation. Trade without priests! Trade alone! It is strong enough. Let us become very simple and specific. Korell is now at war with us. Consequently our trade with her has stopped. But, –notice that I am making this as simple as a problem in addition, –in the past three years she has based her economy more and more upon the nuclear techniques which we have introduced and which only we can continue to supply. Now what do you suppose will happen once the tiny nuclear generators begin failing, and one gadget after another goes out of commission?
     "The small household appliances go first. After a half a year of this stalemate that you abhor, a woman's nuclear knife won't work any more. Her stove begins failing. Her washer doesn't do a good job. The temperature-humidity control in her house dies on a hot summer day. What happens?"
     He paused for an answer, and Sutt said calmly, "Nothing. People endure a good deal in war."
     "Very true. They do. They'll send their sons out in unlimited numbers to die horribly on broken spaceships. They'll bear up under enemy bombardment, if it means they have to live on stale bread and foul water in caves half a mile deep. But it's very hard to bear up under little things when the patriotic uplift of imminent danger is not present. It's going to be a stalemate. There will be no casualties, no bombardments, no battles.
     "There will just be a knife that won't cut, and a stove that won't cook, and a house that freezes in the winter. It will be annoying, and people will grumble."
     Sutt said slowly, wonderingly, "Is that what you're setting your hopes on, man? What do you expect? A housewives' rebellion? A Jacquerie? A sudden uprising of butchers and grocers with their cleavers and bread-knives shouting 'Give us back our Automatic Super-Kleeno Nuclear Washing Machines.'"
     "No, sir," said Mallow, impatiently, "I do not. I expect, however, a general background of grumbling and dissatisfaction which will be seized on by more important figures later on."
     "And what more important figures are these?"
     "The manufacturers, the factory owners, the industrialists of Korell. When two years of the stalemate have gone, the machines in the factories will, one by one, begin to fail. Those industries which we have changed from first to last with our new nuclear gadgets will find themselves very suddenly ruined. The heavy industries will find themselves, en masse and at a stroke, the owners of nothing but scrap machinery that won't work."

     No casualties. No bombardments. No battles. War of the subtlest sort...yet the most savage. A war that turns the enemy’s habituation to comfort and convenience against it.

     Are Americans prepared for that sort of war in this Year of Our Lord 2020?

     In composing the list of necessities, one must not go too far afield...but one must not stop short, either. Food, clothing, shelter, and energy are end-user consumables. They’re made available to the consumer by a process of production and distribution that has many components. So we must look also to the supply chains that provide those components. Are they reasonably secure, or could they be badly disturbed by some hostile power?

     The item that deserves deep consideration is food. Our food supply chain involves major technological developments unknown a century ago. Agrochemicals make possible the great productivity of our farms. Massive machines do the bulk of the labor. And of course, the food must get from the farms to the supermarkets, which requires trucks and trains.

     In recent years we’ve heard several times about China’s dominance of the supply of rare earth elements. Several of those elements are important in electronics production. Do any of them figure into agrochemicals or the machines, trains, and trucks that bring the food to us? If so, what could be done about it?

     As I mentioned in the previous piece, much of the reason for the offshoring trend of recent decades has been federal over-regulation of our productive sector, particularly of an environmentalist variety. President Trump has already had some success in luring American firms back onshore. Perhaps he will succeed in reversing the flow – i.e., to make the U.S. a magnet for the productive enterprises of other nations, as it once was – but that remains to be seen.

     What also remains to be seen is whether the regulatory bureaucracy, like Tolkien’s Shadow, “takes another shape and grows again.” The bureaucracy is a favored destination for persons who like power but are ill-equipped to produce anything Americans actually want. Moreover, it offers that which the lazy and useless have favored throughout history: security. Changing the incentives involved by repealing the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act and once again outlawing public-sector unions would prevent the resurgence of this “fourth branch of government” nowhere contemplated in the Constitution.

     Expect the Deep State to fight with the ferocity of a wounded lion.

Ultra-Quickies: From The “Great Minds Think Alike” Files

     For decades Americans have enjoyed access to cheap goods, due in large part to the fact that we’ve outsourced our industrial and supply capacity to cheap, overseas markets like China and Vietnam. The free traders, roosting in their D.C. think tanks and on Wall Street, worry that the U.S.-China trade war is uprooting our supply chains and that Huawei (shown to have deep connections to the Chinese intelligence apparatus) is only a theoretical threat. They tell us that we must come to terms with China’s rise, that there is no other way. But what if there was?

     My critics will more than likely dismiss this idea either insane or reckless. But throughout the late 19th and 20th century, it was a policy that led to prosperity and self-sufficiency. I’m talking about autarky. In our over-globalized world, a policy of total autarky is infeasible. But a degree of autarky should be recognized as self-evidently in America’s national interest.

     [William Upton]

     Amazing how a major medical calamity can get people to re-examine their preconceptions, isn’t it? And once again:

     “Most people are willing to give up their preconceptions, once they’ve had them tattooed on their heads with a blunt instrument.” – Keith Laumer, in one of his “Retief” novels

Monday, March 30, 2020

Reading China Rx - Part Two

I'm about 28% of the way through the book. The chapter that currently has my eye is chapter 7 - dealing with chicken and beef sales during the Obama years.

It didn't start with Obama, but he didn't help America in the process of negotiating with China.

The problems are these:

  • Chinese food processing is notoriously filthy, uses levels of antibiotics that are not permitted in the USA, and actively works with the Chinese government to evade food inspections at the plants.
  • The Chinese played Divide and Conquer with the meat industry - they pitted the beef industry against the chicken industry, and strong-armed the FDA to approve import of chicken for the bribe of getting our beef producers to get a foothold in China.
  • The Chinese pretended that wild bird pathogens posed a danger to our farm-raised chicken, while ignoring the many pathogens that have infested Chinese chicken farms. So, they used that pretense to keep our chicken out, while pressuring the USA to accept their chicken.
  • One of the compromises that the USA made was to allow US-grown chicken to be shipped to China to be processed into patties, fingers, and nuggets, then shipped back to us. Of course, the Chinese assured the US that they would ONLY use the American-grown chicken in the final product. Right. We can completely trust the word of the Chinese government and business community - /sarc.
Why is chicken important?

Because the political maneuvering, pressure, and evasions of law and regulations that made use of Chinese facilities to process chicken a bad idea, also apply to allowing medications to be made in China. Inspections of foreign plants was eased in an agreement that was meant to facilitate trade with the EU. That agreement may be used - what do I meant MAY - it WILL - to allow China to bypass meaningful inspection of their drug processing plants.

And, that will likely kill a few Americans, and cause others to become sicker then they should have been.

But, hey, cheap drugs!

Links to other posts about China Rx:

Reading China RX Intro

Ultra-Quickies: A Linguistic Grump

     To all those writing about the Wuhan virus:

Please Stop Using The Word Epicenter!

     Epicenter is a technical term from seismology. It refers to the point from which the temblors of a seismic disturbance appear to radiate. It is not a fancy synonym for center!

     Colloquially, epicenter is an approximate synonym for focus: the point on which attention concentrates in the course of an ongoing event. It would still be a distortion of the original meaning of the word, but not as bad a distortion as its use where center would be correct.

     You get no extra eloquence or erudition points for using a technical term incorrectly. Indeed, you lose them, with me and everyone else who believes words should be used according to their proper meanings.

China Rx Update

I've been reading, and posting on, the book It's China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America's Dependence on China for Medicine. It was actually published in 2018, long before the WuFlu hit. It examines how China's control of generics, along with their control of the base ingredients for about 80% of medications used by the world, puts our survival in jeopardy.

This article, on Breitbart, details China's plans to expand their control of the world's pills. The quotes below come from Xi Jinping, leader of China.
To benefit what Xi depicted as charitable actions by China, he demanded that “all G20 members take collective actions” that would benefit the Chinese Communist Party’s economy, such as “cutting tariffs, removing barriers, and facilitating the unfettered flow of trade.”
Xi also proposed a “global network of control and treatment,” also led by him, that would grant China full access to all medical data, presumably also including intellectual property related to the manufacture and development of medical technology.
If we give him that, it's game over for America. He would control our extremely profitable pharmaceutical industry (the parts he didn't already control through price undercutting, dumping pills at below cost to gain a monopoly, and industrial spying).

They're using the crisis to get money to fund their corporate take-over of the world by profiting off the disease.
RTHK, a Hong Kong television network, noted on Friday that China is already “printing money” from the sheer amount of profits coming from Communist Party-launched factories making sanitary masks. According to RTHK, the Party has built nearly 9,000 factories to manufacture masks alone in the past two months.
“A mask machine is a real cash printer,” Shi Xinghui, a sales manager in southern Guangdong, China, told the network. Guangdong borders Hong Kong. “The profit of a mask now is at least several cents compared to less than one in the past. Printing 60,000 or 70,000 masks a day is equivalent to printing money.” 
 And those masks are of extremely poor quality, as countries, as countries in the EU are finding. Spain has received some of their masks from China - but, much of the "assistance" is strictly a pay-for-play cash deal.

The EU is DONE - stick a fork in it.

Outrage Dept.

     I’ve wondered for some time why the residents of New York City elected Bill De Blasio their city’s mayor. I’ve wondered why they re-elected him after the damage he did to the city in his first term. I haven’t stopped wondering about those things...but about De Blasio himself, there’s no need to wonder:

     New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warned religious leaders that their places of worship could be shut down permanently if they did not follow the city's order to pause services during the coronavirus pandemic.

     "A small number of religious communities, specific churches and specific synagogues, are unfortunately not paying attention to this guidance even though it’s so widespread," the New York Democrat said Friday at his daily press briefing.

     "I want to say to all those who are preparing for the potential of religious services this weekend: If you go to your synagogue, if you go to your church and attempt to hold services after having been told so often not to, our enforcement agents will have no choice but to shut down those services," he added.

     De Blasio said that continued resistance of authorities to close religious services could mean a permanent shutdown.

     "If that does not happen, they will take additional action up to the point of fines and potentially closing the building permanently," he said.

     Those are not the words of an American mayor, exercising delimited powers under a Constitutionally conformant city charter that defines them strictly. Those are the words of a man who fancies himself a dictator, unbound by the Constitution of the United States.

     How does this vicious, contemptible creature, this unabashed totalitarian, continue to hold the mayoralty of the greatest of America’s cities – indeed, the greatest city on Earth? How is it that he hasn’t been bodily expelled from office? Indeed, how is it that he hasn’t yet been hanged from a lamppost, his remains left as a treat for the buzzards and a warning to those who would follow his example?

     If you’re not religious — don’t tell me how “spiritual” you are unless you want me to ban you — you might think this has nothing to do with you. You’d be wrong.

     People have been asking one another for some time, “Where’s the limit? How far can we permit them to infringe on our civil liberties in the name of this ‘crisis’?” The limit, Gentle Reader, was passed some time ago...and we’ve done nothing.

     What’s that? You disagree? Well, watch as the mayors of other cities, and the governors of states, emulate De Blasio. Success breeds emulation – and De Blasio, should be succeed in getting away with this, will be emulated. His power grab is the furthest any state or local official has dared to go. But don’t doubt for a moment that they’ll hesitate to do so, should De Blasio prove it safe.

     It’s odds-on that New Yorkers won’t even think to defy De Blasio’s ukase. That makes it highly likely that he will be emulated by the mayors of other, Democrat-controlled cities, and by no few Republican-controlled ones. Arbitrary seizures of property and police checkpoints where law-abiding-citizens are detained without cause will come next. All “for the crisis,” don’t y’know.

     Meanwhile, the scrofulous Andrew Cuomo has flipped his wig over Rhode Island’s recent moves to bar New Yorkers from the Ocean State. Emperor Andrew should look south rather than north and east. Rather than going to war with another state, he should consider reining in the criminal in Gracie Mansion. He won’t. As much as he dislikes De Blasio, he won’t. Democrats exhibit “party unity” under conditions such as these. Besides, De Blasio might be teaching Cuomo how far he can go in exercising forbidden powers and authorities never granted.

     It remains possible that New York’s police might choose to ignore De Blasio’s edict. Barring that, it’s possible that President Trump will act to halt De Blasio’s usurpations and protect New Yorkers’ Constitutionally guaranteed rights. It’s a longshot, but at this point, owing to their passivity up to now, longshots are all New Yorkers have left.

Quickies: Too “Informed” Too Fast

     It’s still rather early, I didn’t get much sleep, and I’m coping with a fair amount of pain, but duty calls with an iron voice...and an observation that deserves wider reflection:

     People should know better by now, yet they seem to fall for the hype every time—including many conservatives. The promise of the tech age and the ubiquity of smartphones and the internet was that it would arm people with relevant information and rational courses of action. Rather, it has done the opposite—magnifying doubts and fears about everything and everyone.

     In most cases, the only thing that information technology has done is cause people to become less tethered to reality. Screens now replace people’s senses, and the algorithms embedded in social media do people’s thinking for them.

     The author, Auguste Meyrat, is talking about public reactions to the Wuhan virus and developments in its propagation and remediation. While the virus itself is a problem of note, the problem Meyrat cites above is also significant.

     Yes: our senses, and information propagated by pre-Internet / pre-smartphone means, can mislead. However, the new informational realm, with its continuous “news cycle” and utter ubiquity, can do that plus instigate surges and panics. That danger was less before the current era simply because the pre-digital mechanisms were less prompt and (dare I say it) less efficient.

     While we are capable of turning it off, few choose to do so for very long.

     There’s already been a lot of talk about the effect of the smartphone on the cohesion of the microscopic societies of our families. My opinions are on record. The larger question of whether today’s hyper-intensified communications media are destabilizing macroscopic society is harder to address.

     I’m certainly not going to advocate being less informed. But leavening our communications gestalt with plenty of direct interaction with others seems imperative. The stubbornly persistent characteristics of “real life” are a sovereign antidote for fast-moving rumors, wild theories, and ominous speculations that can knock our thinking caps askew.

     Just now, owing to “social distancing” – which really must end soon if we’re going to have an economy and a society worth having after all this is over – it’s hard to get even a dollop of the “real life” I’ve prescribed. Indeed, our “real lives” are what the “social distancing” regimen is intended to thwart...and in that lies a seed that could easily blossom into a conspiracy theory of breadth, depth, and power. Once again, it’s time to call the Buddha macro:

     Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it – no matter if I have said it! – except it agree with your own reason and your own common sense. – Siddhartha Gautama, a.k.a. the Buddha

Reading China Rx - Part One

The background is rich with details, and manages to inform without losing you in the numbers.

Basically, this is a multi-year failure of government. Starting in the Clinton administration, those in charge in Washington got the "brilliant" idea of encouraging China to take over large sectors of the American economy, by:

  • Offering offshore JIT (Just in Time) response to need.
  • Undercutting the price per unit for meds, often with the encouragement and financial support of the Chinese government.
  • Engaging in price-fixing, again, with the active support of government - sometimes, with their specific orders.
  • Under the pressure of the competition, many American manufacturers went out of business, or sent the orders overseas.
  • After their American competition was eliminated, the Chinese raised the prices - often by amounts that many would consider "gouging".
  • Under continual pressure to compete, Chinese companies often took cost-cutting measures that led to contaminated or improperly prepared meds and food.
  • People, and their pets, died. The FDA and other sectors of the government reacted with weak punishments - if any.
  • Media ignored the scandals - they still do.
The American companies involved in this suffered little lasting damage to their reputation - Pfizer was one of them. The pet food adulteration that result in illness and death to many American pets caused more of an outrage than those that killed American people.

Rinse, repeat. Over and over.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Reading China RX Intro

I'm still reading the Roosevelt book, but this is a library book with a limited time to read.

It's China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America's Dependence on China for Medicine. Published in 2018, it's the book we SHOULD have read, long before the WuFlu hit the USA.

It discusses the problems with depending on another country for vital medicines and their component materials. It would have been bad enough with a relatively friendly country (Israel, India, or Canada, to name a few), but that strategy may yet be fatal for the USA.

Hopefully, the KungFlu Panic is a wake-up call to the population. If they are frightened sufficiently, a turnaround may happen before its too late.

I'll be posting updates on this book, as I read it. I'll try to aggregate the individual posts here, with links.

Part One.

China Rx Update - linked to a current story.

Part Two.

Quickies: An Important Historical Observation

     Much of the early history of the United States isn’t well understood even by persons who profess to be cognizant of it. The formation of the nation’s capital district and the peculair conditions imposed upon it by our Constitution are particularly obscure to many.

     However, Charles Hurt is here to remind us of part of it:

     The whole point of establishing the nation’s capital in Washington was that it was a dismal swamp uninhabitable most of the year. The mosquitoes alone kept Congress out of session for long months at a time. This narrowed the amount of time each year that federal legislators could be in Washington wasting your money and destroying the country with their ridiculous ideas and votes.

     Then along came air conditioning, and that ruined everything.

     The same logic dominated the placement of the majority of the state capitals. They were supposed to be difficult to reach and uncomfortable to endure for a long period. That would limit not only the damage legislators would do but the convergence of favor-seekers and lobbyists around the corridors of power. “Then along came air conditioning”...and public works, and highways, and air travel, and so forth.

     Maybe we should have made it illegal to heat or air-condition any building in which legislators convene. We didn’t, but perhaps it’s not too late for that, after all.

Age, Humility, And Wisdom

     A college classmate once said something extremely insightful to me. However, the insight only became apparent with the passage of much time. The irony in this will soon become clear.

     The classmate, whose name was Jay, opined that “old people” who don’t succumb to senility almost automatically become “incredibly wise.” I, being a sprat of no great wisdom at the time, let Jay’s statement pass “in one ear and out the other,” with no digestion occurring during the journey. (I was playing chess at the time, but that’s no excuse.) Today, with a few more years under my belt, I can see, more clearly than the college kid I was, not only that Jay was right but why.

     As the median age of Liberty’s Torch’s Gentle Readers is approximately 83.27 (5:30 AM Eastern Standard Time), I’ll bet you can see it too.

     The stimulus for this essay is, of all things, a tweet:

This is a good time to maintain some humility about how ridiculous it is to
believe any of us, including experts, know exactly the best thing to do and how soon to
do it. We’ll be guessing and correcting to the win. Some of us will later seem psychic,
but we don’t know who NOW.

— Scott Adams (@ScottAdamsSays) March 28, 2020

     Just in case you’ve been immured in an Anchorite’s cell or perched atop Saint Simeon Stylite’s pillar these past thirty years, Scott Adams is the creator and author of the Dilbert comic strip that’s delighted everyone in America (other than a few pointy-haired bosses) for decades. He’s 62 years old as of this writing: “getting old” but not yet “old” (except in the minds of younger ignorami). But though Adams might not yet be one of Jay’s “old people,” it seems he’s absorbed more wisdom than most from his years on Earth. The above is a demonstration thereof.

     In the last analysis, the essence of wisdom is humility.

     Given my own failing memory – yes, it was once better than it is today, really and truly – I can’t be perfectly certain about the attribution of the following:

     “Most people are willing to give up their preconceptions, once they’ve had them tattooed on their heads with a blunt instrument.” – Keith Laumer, in one of his “Retief” novels

     “Preconceptions,” as Laumer used the term above, might better be termed misconceptions: mistaken notions about people and causality formed by one of limited experience and inadequate humility. Limited experience tends to be a characteristic of youth, though an older person who has led what was once called a “sheltered life” could be equally limited.

     The correlation of limited experience with personal arrogance – the attitude of the “know it all” — is very strong. It takes extensive acquaintance with reality – with people in all their variety, and the myriad ways in which our enterprises and schemes can go astray – to teach most of us how little we really know. That requires more than a couple of dozen trips around old Sol.

     It is not recorded how old Socrates was when he said that “Only one thing do I know, and that is that I know nothing,” but I’ll bet he wasn’t in the bloom of youth.

     At this time, America, like the rest of the world, is coping with the Wuhan virus. It’s brought about a number of (hopefully) temporary alterations to our patterns of life. These have not been easy adaptations for most of us. Our vibrant economy is badly hobbled, our social mechanisms are largely idled, and our politics has...wait just a moment...great God in heaven! Nothing has changed about our politics!

     That’s right, Gentle Reader: Even though the whole nation is suffering, no one knows what’s going on epidemiologically, and no one is quite sure what can be done about it, our political squabbles continue unaltered and unabated. In the political realm, it’s still war to the knife.

     A couple of commentators have wished we could unite in resistance to this new threat, just as the terrorist attacks of Black Tuesday, September 11, 2001 seemed to bring us together. In retrospect, our surge of national unity after 9/11 was more illusion than actuality. It took about three weeks before the Democrats were in full and vicious cry against anything and everything the Bush Administration did or proposed. The pattern in recent political fusillades is comparable.

     Kim Hirsch delineates the media front in this conflict. Her piece is worth reading in its entirety, but it’s her closing I’ll excerpt here:

     Trump is doing what he thinks is best for the country. Dr. Deborah Birx, along with Dr. Anthony Fauci, are advising the President, based upon their examination of scientific data. They’re the experts, but they’re learning, too. And no one in the media knows what goes on when Trump meets with his advisory team, either.

     The media ghouls should shut up about things they don’t know about, and let the grownups do their job.

     If only! But the media have abandoned reportage and journalism in favor of political combat on the Democrats’ side, so the prospects for “letting the grownups do their job” are very poor.

     The humility deficit on display is one of the most garish on record.

     Mark McCormack, in his book What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School, wrote that the three sentences people in business have the most difficulty mastering are “I don’t know,” “I was wrong,” and “I need help.” Each of those three sentences is an admission of limitation, of fallibility – and a demonstration of humility. But if humility correlates with experience, it becomes plain that we should not expect such admissions from young persons...nor from persons who’ve been protected from the consequences of their arrogance.

     “Journalism” is a protected space in which you can be an arrogant idiot and get away with it. There are other such spaces, notably academia and entertainment. (See a pattern there?) None of the reporters or opinion-mongers slathering President Trump and his Administration with sarcasm and contempt will ever have to make decisions of great moment under the pressure of momentous developments. They’re safe, protected by their trades from having to make such decisions and answer for the consequences. The worst consequence they face is being termed “fake news:” a characterization they resent but richly deserve.

     It would be foolish to expect that such persons would have amassed the degree of humility that would militate them away from their current behavior pattern. They know how to do the boss’s job better than the boss. We don’t even need to ask them; they tell us so morning, noon, and night.

     Yet they wonder why private Americans deem the media far less trustworthy than the president they despise and habitually ridicule. It is to laugh.

Rules for living.

H/t: Hans Voegli.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Panic Now, and Avoid the Rush?

Or, take a deep breath, center yourself, and look around your OWN neighborhood.

In my neighborhood (admittedly not a dense one - most people have 0.5 to 1 acre of property), most everybody is fine. We're an old neighborhood - average age is Senior - but generally healthy and getting around without a problem. The ones who might be most affected, should they contract the virus, are sensibly staying inside, shopping at less crowded times (or, having groceries/pharmaceuticals delivered), and staying away from others - even, if necessary, kin. That's hard for us in the South. Even harder, we're not generally going to church.

In my own circle:

  • Kids and grandkids are fine, staying close to home. ONE kid got the flu in February; he was tested for Type A, and had it. Not tested for KungFlu - no test available at the time. However, his symptoms - felt like he'd been hit with a brick, coughing (dry), headache, some fever - indicate that he very well could have had the virus (either together with regular flu, or because his positive test for flu was a false positive). My daughter and her husband imposed strict quarantine within the house. My son-in-law (heavily OCD about cleanliness) took care of disinfecting everything he touched, and no one else got sick. I told him he should make a video about his protocol for cleaning - he is ruthless!
  • Extended family good so far. A nephew had a different medical problem, and - 3 weeks after entering ICU - died. One other nephew with flu requiring hospitalization for several days, since recovered. Could it have been a mild case of WuFlu? Maybe - he's generally healthy and in his early 40s. Either way, we're so glad it wasn't worse.
  • Friends - very few on social media reporting infection (either them or their family). So, I'm cautiously hopeful.
So far, almost all of the sick are:
  • Older - 60+ is where the big jump in deaths seems to be
  • Sicker - have one or more co-existing conditions - this is where younger people succumb
  • Urban - I wouldn't be surprised to see a correlation between apartment living vs. single-home and infections
  • Traveled in crowds recently, or abroad
  • First responders or medical staff
No, that's not everyone. But, it's by far the largest group of those seriously affected.

NYC, NOLA, the cities of the Western Pacific mainland, and LA are hot spots. They have the majority of the cases. The other, less dense cities and suburbs have relatively few. Many of them had indicators like the ones listed above.

Loosening the shut-downs for areas outside of major urban areas might be a good idea. Of course, those that had jobs in nearby cities would have to either move into the city, or stay home. No commuting into the Hot Zone, and bringing it back to less-affected areas.

Sorry, guys. Not that is evident on the ground. Not for most of the country. Those places most affected are neck-deep in Democratic Governance. The incompetence of their administrations has taken what would have been a blip in the matrix into TEOTWAWKI - for THOSE places, and other nearby cities without the good sense to put a fence around them, and keep the disease within.

There are good people whose lives will be destroyed - either directly, through infection, or indirectly, through the economic collapse that will be necessary to bring this under control. Some of that could have been anticipated. Some of that is due to voting Left, and enjoying the "good times", while not caring whether provisions had been put aside for the hard times to come - like:
  • Emergency equipment and materials - rather than tossing all the available money into alternative energy and rail lines to nowhere.
  • Training on handling infected patients - many patients are still being transported in unsafe ways.
  • Incorporating proper isolation procedures within a home environment into school health classes (SO much more important to have them learn about anal sex and the wonders of trans identification!).
  • Coordination between the major cities and the state and national governments - too many Leftists are still wasting their time sniping at Trump, rather than discussing their NEEDS rationally. And, I say NEEDS, because, delightful as culture can be, it is NOT a need.

And, hard times ALWAYS come - sooner or later.

The worst outcome will be in those communities that swivel to blame the rest of us for their own feckless behavior. We warned them about allowing Leftists to take over. Some of their own saw the light, and left - BEFORE this all hit. 

I certainly do feel sorry for all of those who didn't manage to make it out; many of them were trapped by jobs, circumstances, or bad luck. Those who saw the problems of Leftist government, but were not able to leave, deserve our sympathy.

For the rest, those that sneeringly put us Normals down as crude, stupid, and paranoid, they will likely experience what you might call The Bitch-Slap of Hard Experience Over Unicorn Wishes (TBSHEOUW - call it Tib-She-OW!). 

Life, for them, is gonna be grim, hard, and without pity.

“The Same, But Different”

     I’d say there are plenty of writers blathering on about the Wuhan virus, our overreaction to it, and the political foofaurauw over it, wouldn’t you, Gentle Reader? So I’m going to deviate. Of course, what I’ve chosen for today’s topic might prove even less appealing, but that’s a risk you’ll simply have to take. Just remember to wash your hands frequently, drink plenty of fluids – I recommend Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry – and refrain from kissing random strangers, and you should be all right.

     First, The Warm Lands has already received a few positive reviews, though I could always use a few more, hint hint. The most striking of the official ones comes from my treasured colleague Margaret Ball:

     No Quest. No Chosen One. No adolescent discovering mysterious powers. No oracular ancient prophecies. And no magical MacGuffin... is this really a fantasy novel? Yes, and it brings a delightfully original take to a field in which too many of those elements have become virtually de rigueur. In a departure from his usual near-future science fiction works, Francis Porretto gives us strong and intriguing characters in a fantasy world with some surprising problems and even more surprising solutions. If I have any caveat, it’s only that the fascinating world of the Scholium is not always described in as much detail as I’d like. But one can always hope that future books will delve more into the Scholium and the Great Waste .

     That was very pleasant to read – and by the way, if you like genuinely original fantasy and science fiction, be sure to read Margaret’s stuff. I particularly recommend her Applied Topology, Language of the Dragon, and Harmony series. She and I share an affinity for departing from overly well-traveled paths, which made my discovery of her stuff a true delight.

     However, a statement from one other “reviewer” – my wife Beth, who was a large part of the reason I wrote the novel – has seized my attention in a rather immediate way:

“This is your best book yet.
There had better be a sequel.”

     And after some cogitation about how I could extend the ideas and conflicts without repeating myself, and a review of the various ways life with a disappointed wife could become...unpleasant, I have decided that a sequel there shall be. Probably two, in fact.

     Yeesh. So there’ll be yet another fantasy trilogy out there. Oh well. I doubt the prospect will cost Tolkien’s heirs any sleep.

     The title of this piece is one version of an editorial mantra that has tremendous force in conventional publishing houses (a.k.a. Pub World). It arises from the terrible difficulties publishers have in predicting what will sell. A business must succeed in selling its products to remain in business, and publishers know from history that most of what they put out will not “break even:” i.e., the revenues for most of their books will fail to equal (much less exceed) the aggregate costs of acquisition, production, promotion, and distribution.

     So publishers’ editors look for any indications whatsoever that a submission might sell profitably. There aren’t many such. The most reliable of all is the author’s name. If he’s well known and has a loyal following of adequate size, his latest book is a good bet. But of course, most submissions don’t come from the Stephen Kings and Tom Clancys of the world.

     The next most significant indicator is whether the submission resembles something that has sold successfully – and sufficiently so that it can be promoted to the readers of that previous success. Of course, the submission must not be identical to the successful book. However, the similarities must be marketable:

  • The same genres;
  • Comparable styles;
  • Comparable structures;
  • Perhaps some shared elements and motifs.

     ...all while maintaining sufficient differences from the predecessor to avoid being called an imitation. This is the publishing desideratum expressed by the mantra “the same, but different.”

     It’s also the reason genuine originality is more easily found among the offerings of indie writers than among those of conventional publishers.

     While I’ve harped on originality as a virtue, I must also admit that it has its downside. Most original ideas fall flat, in fiction as elsewhere. The writer determined to strike out on a completely untraveled path is taking a big chance. He might not click with any significant community of readers. So it takes a degree of daring – to say nothing of an adequate income stream from other sources – to put many weeks or months of effort into composing a tale that’s a true departure from all that’s gone before.

     For readers, too, have their expectations. That’s the reason for genre categorization. As the saying goes, some want elves, others want ray guns, and still others want trans-temporal interspecies sex. (You didn’t know that was a saying? I can’t imagine why not.) That’s a large part of the explanation for the arguments over genre hybridizations such as SF romance.

     So the fledgling writer, contemplating the architecture and key elements of his new novel, has to decide on his level of risk tolerance. He’s about to invest a lot of time and energy in something that might not produce a return. Should he “follow his passion” and boldly go where no novelist has gone before, or should he “play it safe” until he’s established himself as a reliable purveyor of entertainment worth its purchase price?

     It’s a tough call, and no mistake. I’ve certainly struggled with it. I can’t imagine that other indies have found the nut any easier to crack. There are so many of us that getting even a little attention from adventurous readers – persons willing to take a chance on an inexpensive novel from someone they’d never heard of before – is a major challenge. It’s why book giveaways, which eliminate all risk from a potential reader’s acceptance of the book, are popular promotional tools.

     But that publishers’ mantra can be of service. You want to get established before you start defying the norms with your brain-twistingly original concepts? If you find it congenial, pick a hot sub-genre and start by writing something that fits in it. Balance the chance that it will please readers who love that category against the possibilities that the category is already overcrowded, or that your book will be dismissed as “just an imitation of the great Harry Glumph.”

     Most important, resolve to stay rigidly within your chosen sub-genre. Don’t introduce cyclotrons into your medieval fantasy. No ray guns in your Regency romance. Save that for when you’re a household word.

     Publishers’ editors aren’t stupid, after all. If you desire fame and fortune, you might do well to use a little of what they already know from long and dreary experience. Not that there are any guarantees, of course!

Friday, March 27, 2020

Legitimate Authority And The Wuhan Virus “Crisis”

     One of the most valuable books in my collection is Robert Higgs’ magnum opus Crisis and Leviathan. Higgs, a scholar of many parts, agreed that the swelling of governments could not be fairly attributed to any single cause. His purpose was to delineate the role of crisis in enabling America’s federal government to exceed its Constitutional authority – and he did a yeoman’s job of it.

     The problem is that once a government has successfully asserted a particular authority, it partakes of a “force” that’s got a momentum like unto Juggernaut’s carriage: tradition.

     “This is the way it was done” easily morphs into “This is the way it has always been done.” The progression is straightforward, as people tend to emulate methods that have demonstrated an adequate degree of success. “Success,” of course, is contextual: it depends on criteria whose selection can be rather dubious. Those criteria sometimes undervalue the costs involved in attaining the “success” goal. Sometimes they omit consideration of the costs entirely.

     Over time, “this is the way it has always been done” undergoes its own transformation: into “this is the way it must be done.” That’s the peculiar effect of tradition, reinforced by another effect that’s generally well understood but difficult to keep in mind: “The victors write the history books.”

     The late Poul Anderson observed, in his novel The People of the Wind, that the phrase “legitimate authority” hides somewhat more debatable meanings. “Legitimacy,” he wrote, derives from tradition; “authority” derives from force. And indeed, in most societies those are the true inner meanings of "legitimate authority."

     Tradition tends to amplify both the perception of an authority as legitimate and the amount of force the government can marshal to assert it. Consider the federal government’s seizure of the authority to regulate what Americans put into their bodies. That authority is instantiated in the Food and Drug Administration, a branch of the Department of Health and Human Services.

     The FDA has existed for over 113 years. Where did the federal government get the authority to regulate what we ingest? There’s nothing in the Constitution of the United States that would nod toward such an authority. But how many Americans would be disposed to listen to the Constitutional argument against it? How many would be willing to consider its abolition?

     The usual response to anyone who dares question the FDA is that it’s “necessary.” Necessary to whom? By what standard? At what cost, and to whom? Those questions are almost never addressed. As for Thomas Sowell’s sharp thrust, “Compared to what?” virtually no one even thinks to mention it. As for Constitutionality, in these days of post-Constitutional government in which a Speaker of the House of Representatives said openly — to a gaggle of reporters with live cameras and microphones — that “Congress has the power to do anything,” who dares to argue that?

     Through the “logic” of tradition, the FDA has attained governmental immortality, despite being the plainest imaginable example of a usurped authority our Founders never even contemplated, much less granted. And it is but one of a myriad examples I could cite.

     Constitutionalism was a radical departure from previous governmental schemes. A Supreme Law written out in plain English, to which all other law must conform, was intended to prevent usurpations of un-granted authorities and to put a brake to the progression of “this is the way it's always been done” into “this is the way it must be done” that had afflicted previous societies. Yet owing to successive governmental usurpations of authorities never granted — some, indeed, that had been expressly forbidden — that were not challenged at the time, we have lost the protections of America’s Constitutional tradition. From that perspective, what's happened to us is largely “our fault.”

     But crises have a way of throwing new light on a situation. The major crises Robert Higgs narrates in Crisis and Leviathan — the Great Depression and two World Wars — persuaded many Americans that certain extra-Constitutional authorities could be justified by the need to meet the exigencies of the moment. Today the dynamic is reversed: many are questioning the sudden and severe seizure of many authorities never granted, such authorities being deemed “necessary” because of the Wuhan virus. If we're lucky, the discussion won't be confined to professional talking-heads this time; it will penetrate to private citizens who will understand the gravity of the subject. We shall see.

     (See also David L. Burkhead’s essay on this subject.)

Plan A.

Yes indeed. Printing new money out of thin air so companies, governments and individuals already drowning in debt can borrow more money is the prescription for saving the economy! Free money for everybody!
"With Heroes Like This, Who Needs Villains?" By SchiffGold.com, ZeroHedge, 3/27/20 (emphasis removed).

Pearls of expression.

People are in full-blown headless chicken mode. . . .

The British tabloids are publishing horror stories about “doctors” standing by and helplessly watching as patients slowly suffocate to death. According to such stories, . . . these “doctors” [are] unable to treat roughly 400 patients with any of the UK’s over 8,000 ventilators . . . .

"Welcome To The War On Death." By CJ Hopkins, ZeroHedge, 3/26/20.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Reading "The Roosevelt Myth" - Part One

It's from the category of improving my mind reading, found in this list (towards the bottom).

I've just started, and already learned something new. Pelosi's "you have to pass the bill to find out what's in it" is not a new thing. Roosevelt started it.
The bill was not ready. But the swift-moving processes of legislation could not wait in this new order for a bill to be prepared. A folded newspaper was tossed into the hopper to serve as a bill until the document could be completed. The bill was then sent to Congress by the President. Congress passed it instantly and gave the President full powers over foreign exchange.
 One of the first things that Roosevelt railed against was deficits - yes, DEFICITS. Then, after declaring them bad, he proceeded to run one up with alacrity.
He declared "the credit of the national government is imperiled." And then he asserted: "The first step is to save it. Recovery defends on that" The first step was a measure to cut government payroll expenditures 25 per cent. The second step, incredible as it may sound, was to authorize a bill providing in effect for the biggest deficit of all—$3,300,000,000.
 Trump's government-cutting doesn't sound so radical now, does it?

Roosevelt wasn't content to just send the legislation to Congress. He also meant to blacken the reputation of his opponents - Gee, why does that sound familiar?
...committees were in session investigating the crimes of the past—the sins of big business, of the bankers, the railroads, of Wall Street and of the power barons. Washington had become a headline-writer's paradise.
 The media of that time colluded happily to put a rosy shine on Roosevelt's actions. The distance between rosy dreams and harsh reality was gigantic.
The "spendthrift" Hoover was in California at his Palo Alto home putting his own affairs in order, while the great Economizer who had denounced Hoover's deficits had now produced in in days a deficit larger than Hoover had produced in two years.
 I'm only 25 pages in - I'll continue this in later installments.

The Second Coming Of The Edith Wilson Administration

     Now and then, the masks come all the way off. Now and then, the Left makes plain what it has in mind for us. And now and then, a major Leftist bastion blurts it out in an unforgettable fashion:

     In the annals of political history, the week leading into Biden’s 30-point margin of victory on primary night in South Carolina will likely be recorded as the one that ultimately determined the course of the nominating battle. That Saturday night, Biden showed his unmatched power among black voters, and began to dispense with his rivals. But you sure wouldn’t have known it from the guy on the campaign trail.

     Voters seem to have coalesced around Biden for his past—who they have known him to be for the past four decades in American politics—rather than for anything in his present. It’s as if Biden exists primarily as an idea, rather than an actual candidate....

     Through it all—the fairly awful campaign events and confusing statements and garbled debate performances—the idea of the former vice president has somehow remained consistent, and apparently convincing, as both Trump’s inverse and co-equal. Senator Bernie Sanders may still be in the race, but this is a detail. Democrats have chosen Biden as their vessel for Trump’s defeat, and that choice is the entire point: The vanquishing matters more than anything else.

     Let’s leave aside for the moment the seemingly trivial matter of who and what Biden is at the moment. The core thesis of the essay is that the Democrats would prefer anyone else to another four years of President Donald Trump. Biden is their strategists’ choice not because of who or what he was or is, but because, of all the candidates the Democrats have entertained, he strikes them as having the best chance to win.

     But what if Biden were to win? He’s so patently unfit for office, mentally and physically, that no one with three functioning brain cells can imagine him actually wielding the powers of the presidency. Therefore...?

     Therefore, Biden would not wield the powers of the presidency. A power or powers behind the throne would do so, using Biden as a figurehead for as long as necessary. How long that might be is difficult to determine. It might depend on the identity and character of Biden’s vice-president.

     The historical precedent for this horrifying vision is the second term of Woodrow Wilson’s presidency, after his stroke. Wilson became completely unavailable. Completely! No one but Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, his wife, was able to see or speak to him. Mrs. Wilson listened to his Cabinet secretaries, other executive-branch subordinates, and Democrat Party bigwigs. She then went to Wilson’s bedroom and closed the door, to emerge some time later with “the president’s” wishes. No one could access the president himself but Mrs. Wilson and a couple of doctors.

     Even then, the arrangement engendered suspicion, but no one was strong enough to break through Edith Wilson’s “stewardship” of the presidency of the United States.

     That state of affairs lasted a little more than a year. It ended with the election and inauguration of Warren Harding. No one dared to question what had transpired for decades afterward...even though the Democrats would foist another badly afflicted president upon the nation only twelve years later.

     So I have some questions. If Joe Biden were, by some evil miracle, to defeat Donald Trump in November:

  • Who would be Biden’s vice-president?
  • Who would choose Biden’s running-mate?
  • Would the VP be the real power behind Figurehead Biden, or would it be other, unelected persons?
  • How long would Biden be allowed to live?

     Those questions are forced upon us. They compel us to look at the upcoming election in a light notably different from previous contests involving a first-term president. Trump has a strong position, but no politician’s position is impregnable. Current national difficulties will be laid at Trump’s feet, fairly or otherwise. Persons will “come forward” with accusations about Trump’s dealings, both during his presidency and beforehand. The major media will have their say – and we can foretell whose side they’ll be on. And we must expect at least one “October surprise.”

     As the title of Alex Wagner’s article says quite openly, the Left needs two things from Joe Biden:

  • Stay alive;
  • Win in November.

     All else is being plotted out behind a closed and securely locked door.

Photo Evidence of Biden's Ill Health

I was just looking at a picture of Joe Biden this morning (it's 2:15 am - I'm subject to Old Person's Walkfulness at Night - OPWN). I realized that his facial muscles only work properly on the right side.

Look at that use of facial muscles. I can think of no reason why BOTH that lopsided smile, AND that curious lack of movement of the muscles near the left eye. If the left side of the face was affected, then, the speech and language parts of the brain have likely been also impaired.

That would go a long way towards explaining his difficulties expressing himself in public speeches.

Would that be a valid reason for not voting for him? Absolutely. Not only would it make doing his job more difficult, but the chances of his having another stroke, under the stresses and pressures of both the campaign and the job of president, increase dramatically.
New research shows that people who are quick-tempered, impatient, aggressive, or naturally hostile may be more likely to have a stroke, compared to their more laid-back counterparts.
Naturally hostile?

The above list matched Hot-Headed Joe to a T.

The dismal performance by the political class.

"Dismal performance by the political class" is the author's characterization but it's heartily endorsed by me. Bad as this all is, it is nonetheless gratifying to see the CDC toads and toadettes fall flat on their faces after chasing the will-o'-the-wisps of our indigenous maroon class whose net contribution to the health and security of the nation is exceeded by your average deplorable Zamboni driver. (Thank you for your service, brother!)
President Donald Trump's adversaries blame this [coronavirus] mess on his proposed [imaginary?] cuts in funding at the National Institutes of Health and the CDC. But those cuts never happened. Trump must take some of the blame because he was president when the CDC failed us. But it's doubtful more money would have averted this crisis. The CDC was too preoccupied looking into gun control, climate change, and gay and transgender issues.

* * * *

How indefensible that in this advanced technological age -- over 50 years after we put a man on the moon and a time when we have cellphones for less than $100 with the computing power of all the computers used during the World War-era -- the central government planners had no contingency plan to deal with a pandemic? So, we have been stuck with a Soviet-style shutdown of the entire American economy with curfews, food rationing and the equivalent of martial law in major cities such as San Francisco.[1]

They were not on the job and, like the entire political class itself, from FDR on, chased after nothings while driving this wonderful country to the brink of disaster, if not beyond. What did all that debt and fiscal diarrhea buy us over the decades except rejectionist, parasitic minorities, 40 million foreigners inside our borders (most of whom hate our guts while laying claim to our wealth), a gutted industrial sector, and a culture that can charitably be called merely lunatic.

[1] "$5 Trillion Down The Drain." By Stephen Moore, ZeroHedge, 3/25/20.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

I Feel G-o-o-o-o-d!

I've not been sick, but - just not well for some weeks. Easily fatigued, needing lots of naps, no physical or mental energy to do things.

Today, after 7 days on my new RA drug (hydroxlchloriquine - yes, the Coronavirus med), I woke up refreshed, less sore, and with a good, positive mental attitude. It may just be coincidence, but, I'll take it. I'm hoping it lasts, but, whether this is a one-shot, or a turn of the page, I'm taking advantage of it.

I'm also taking cortisteroids once a day, which also has the result of giving me a quick "up" boost - a kind of euphoric sense of well-being, short-term. So, that might be a part (or all) of my good mood.

When my husband got up (he's a late sleeper), we spent some time talking finances. We're already planning for the future - investment in low-priced stocks, where to take the money from, and other household minutia. He had to take some money out of his retirement investments (Required Minimum Distribution), so chose to send the money received to different charities. He had some fun figuring out which ones, and how much. Kind of like choosing Christmas presents.

I'm starting to feel more confident that this interim period will be relatively short. Trump has an inherent preference for action (unlike most of Washington, that prefers to pontificate for the cameras and dither on decisions until the possible choices are all useless). The stock market, apparently, agrees with him - good news for my retirement money (both that which I've invested personally, and that which I receive from pensions).

I'm anticipating that the public employees are going to be the ones dragging their feet. They're still getting paid, and have few obligations other than to sit on their asses (so, what else is new). Teachers have been discovering the joys of NOT dealing with recalcitrant little buggers. Their parents will likely push for the return of school, however. SOON!

Concerning The CARES Act

     As I said yesterday, I’m of two minds about this “bailout” bill, which appears to provide relief for immediate financial obligations at the price of an inflationary surge. Most people don’t understand inflation – some very smart individuals, with well established records of achievement in their chosen fields, have insisted to my face that it’s “big business’s fault” – but that doesn’t keep it from following a law more reliable in operation than anything else in political economy.

     Some years ago, financial guru John Pugsley explored this subject from the perspective of financial self-defense: i.e., what one can do to protect oneself against inflation. His discourse on it remains both enlightening and compelling. It’s too long to reproduce here, but the key observation is compact and striking:

Money Is Not Wealth.
Goods And Services Are Wealth.

     The victims of Germany’s Weimar inflation could tell you.

     Under the current “lockdown” conditions, goods and services are being produced and provided at a sharply reduced rate. This has brought about a temporary impoverishment of the nation. No amount of money, whether cash in hand or electronic bank balances, is relevant to that consequence. It can only be remedied by getting back to business: each of us to his particular post in the American productivity machine.

     That must happen fairly soon. The transition to “just in time” inventory practices has reduced our standing reserves to a level not seen since pre-money barter economies. Pretty soon we’ll have “spent our savings.” Then what?

     Not to put too fine a point on it, more money wouldn’t help.

     If President Trump understands this, it would mean that he backs the CARES Act because its distribution of funds would make possible the satisfaction of millions of formal requirements to pay: mortgages and rents, salaries, contractual obligations to pay, and so forth. The private citizen who’s currently without an income because of the shelter-in-place regime would not face the blow to his credit that would come from not being able to pay his bills. The small business owner who must rent a storefront, or meet a schedule of accounts payable, would be relieved of worry in the near term. But the supply of goods and services available would not magically increase...and the consequences for the further diminution of the dollar’s purchasing power would be foreordained.

     Chess players know that it doesn’t matter how good your long-term strategy is if your tactical situation is fatal. Your Queenside pawn majority will never matter if you get checkmated before you can capitalize on it. From that perspective, the CARES Act makes sense as a “Band-Aid® bill:” it would close a wound that must not be allowed to bleed further. But we must not look to further monetary “stimulus” for salvation. We must get back to work.

     President Trump has named Easter Sunday – April 12 – as the drop-dead-decision date for lifting the shelter regime. I hope that’s soon enough. Our supply lines are already under stress. There are things we can do without, surely, but that doesn’t include everything that’s currently not being produced. Ask the homeowner whose plumbing is leaking whether he can afford for America’s plumbers to remain unavailable for another two weeks. Ask the mother whose newborn needs diapers she doesn’t have on hand. Ask the retail store owner who, even if he were permitted to open his doors to customers, couldn’t get the goods to populate his shelves. I’m fairly certain I can predict their answers.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Quickies: Insight Is Wherever You Find It

     And I’ve just stumbled over a big chunk:

     “What’s the role of bioweapons in war?”
     “To bring low an enemy who values freedom but not the tools of its preservation, by such means as may strike at any point without warning or restraint.”
     “That one sounds like Mu Zhang. Meaning?”
     I had to think for a moment. “Meaning…a society that tries to be open and unarmed at the same time is stupidly vulnerable to infiltration weapons. There’s all kinds of ways to turn civilians into horrible time bombs using mind control and nanotech. If they don’t do proper security screening, and they’ve all got access to fabricators, and no one is armed, that kind of thing can kill off a whole colony overnight. But even if it doesn’t, places like that don’t adapt well to an internal threat that invalidates their whole political philosophy.”

     [E. William Brown, Perilous Waif]

     Okay, okay: At this time we don’t have mind control, military nanotech – at least, I hope not – or fabricators (which SF writers used to call “pantographs,” and whose ancestors would probably be today’s 3D printers). But we do have a moderately free and very open society: a society whose openness and naivety toward its enemies courts destruction.

     The naivety is best expressed in this: our widespread aversion to becoming an armed society once again.

     The threats against the United States are diffuse. That is: owing to our openness, they can move among us with ease, and can strike without warning at any point or time. The only possible counter to a diffuse threat is a diffuse defense: an armed and patriotic population whose individual citizens are willing to fight for their country even at mortal risk. It’s how Switzerland stood off the rapacity of the surrounding nation-states for several centuries. It’s how Israel has stayed afloat since 1948.

     America’s enemies are more numerous, more cunning, and better armed than Switzerland’s or Israel’s.

     Does this have application to the Wuhan virus, the Kung Flu, the Chi-Com Crud? Perhaps not...but it will apply to some future threat. Count on it.

What's the REAL Point of Forcing Social Isolation?

Is it, as Sarah Hoyt suggests, to keep us dependent on the government and the media (but, I repeat myself)?

This is premium PJ Media content - you will have to sign up to access it (discount code Hoyt). I'd been toying with signup for a while, but dithered around with the decision, until this morning.

For me, it's worth it. In these times, most of the blogging world has been hit, as have all of us, by the job shutdowns. It's a relatively small amount to pay to support the Dissident Media.

The conspicuous antics of the Congressional Dems leads many to speculate that the real point of the WuFlu Panic is not to protect the health or well-being of the American citizenry (when have they EVER cared about us?), but to:

  • Tank the economy, thereby ushering themselves in as the heads of the New Order.
  • Keep us frightened and helpless inside our houses.
  • Keep us from hearing or reading non-approved media.
  • Put a stop to any talk of actually using our Constitutional rights of Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Assembly, and Right to Bear.
What would once have seemed like Conspiracy Theory is looking more and more prophetic.

I've not seen this level of fear-mongering - ever. Not even with AIDS in the 1980s. Not with "Hillbilly Heroin". Not with #MeToo.

You can't get away with it, if you turn on your TV. It's dominating the news. It's the sole topic on most talk shows. If you attempt to escape through watching other programming, it's on a crawl ticker at the bottom of the screen.

And, although the hysteria is occasionally interrupted by one of Trump's news conferences, the Talking Heads quickly leap from that attempt to rein in the Progressive Message, breaking into coverage of the conference midway, to ask their woefully uninformed colleagues to pontificate on the science.

Which, most of them don't understand. So, they resort to their fallback, We Hate That Bad Orange Man.

Even the social media that many of us are using is heavily censoring any dissident messages. I've never experienced that before this month. I recently received a message that Facebook was "letting" my message through. I hadn't known that I'd been censored. There was no indication that any posts were not getting through, until I saw this.

What other unapproved communications are not getting through?

They took a drug meant for FISH - which contained Chloriquine PHOSPHATE, not Hydroxychloriquine. Completely different drug. You wouldn't know that from the headline, which is:

Arizona man dies after self-medicating with chloroquine to treat coronavirus

This is why buying your meds from online vet pharmacies or from online suppliers (not those approved by your insurance plan) is a very bad idea. Small details count. Similar-sounding doesn't cut it.

But, it's not only Fox News that's peddling the idea that hydroxychloriquine is scary-dangerous. Guys, the drug (brand name Plaquenil) has made it through FDA testing for malaria, RA and other autoimmune diseases. It's not without its side effects or hazards, but almost all of the problems arise with LONG-TERM use.

Which, COVID-19 treatment is not.

Quickies: Ransomware, Democrat Style

     I’m of two minds about the proposed distribution of checks to essentially everyone in the U.S. It wouldn’t magically increase the supply of any good or service, though it would allow people and small businesses to meet immediate financial obligations. The price, of course, would be more federal debt and more inflationary pressure on the money supply. What does the Ouija board say? Ask again later.

     But I am sure about the Democrats’ attempt to hijack the measure. Nina Bookout at Victory Girls has a good piece on it:

     There is nothing but crap in the Pelosi Schumer bill that Democrats oh-so condescendingly inform Americans is MUCH better than the Republican CARES Act.

     Remember, as I noted this morning, Democrats decided to once again [choose] politics over the needs of Americans right now. As the day has progressed, what I have seen is sheer arrogance from the Democrats.

     The essential details are in Bookout’s piece.

     The thrust of the Democrats’ effort is simple to discern: Prevent President Trump from doing anything that Americans generally might see as a constructive, compassionate measure to ease their Chi-Com-Crud-caused miseries. Can’t have Bad Orange Man doing anything that might enhance his re-election chances! To that end they’ve blocked the GOP’s relatively simple CARES Act and have proposed a wholly unacceptable bill as an alternative.

     They’re quite up-front about their aims. James Clyburn (D, SC) made it explicit:

     House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) worked to scupper the phase-three coronavirus relief package on Sunday after Majority Whip James Clyburn (D., S.C.) told caucus members last week that the bill was “a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.”

     It’s disgusting. Disgraceful. And they who have engineered it – Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer – deserve to be turned out of office, tarred, feathered, and run out of the country on a rail for it. But what are the odds?

     This is what they are. This is what they do.

     Remember in November.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Re-Examining An Old Tenet Of The Free Economy

     “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” – attributed to John Maynard Keynes, possibly apocryphal

     Changes in circumstances bring about changes in convictions, and why shouldn’t they? If our understanding follows from the evidence before us, and that evidence is later shown to be inaccurate or incomplete, to re-examine our previous beliefs is the only rational course.

     Some people refuse to do that. They retain their undermined – sometimes utterly refuted – prior stances with a quasi-religious tenacity. They become vitriolic when challenged on them. It can make things rather difficult for their relatives, friends, and occupational colleagues.

     Consider, however superficially, the requirements for fielding an army – a meaningful army, that can actually fight. What does such an effort require?

  • Men;
  • Mobility;
  • Munitions.

     Now, those are very broad categories. For example, the “men” category would include many specimens I wouldn’t want in a field army: men too old to fight; men too small or weak to fight; men disinclined (whether from allegiance or self-centeredness) to defend their country; men incapable of using a weapon; or seriously sick men.

     So a nation that maintains a standing army would perforce require that those enlisted in its ranks be young, at least moderately large and strong, patriotic, and healthy. Could such a nation afford to allow its source of important pharmaceuticals to lie outside its borders? I think not, especially considering that men at arms tend to be packed together more closely than civilians, and thus are more prone to communicating infectious conditions.

     A nation can afford to allow the manufacture of many things to lie outside its borders. Consumer electronics; video games; durians; T-shirts – all very well. But a nation that has enemies, or that has had them recently enough to imagine that it might have them again one day, cannot afford to allow the requirements of maintaining an adequate armed force to be withheld from it.

     Maximum economic efficiency does require that goods be made under those conditions where their price to the consumer will be minimized. This is a basic tenet of free-market economics. For example, if your T-shirts are being made by PhDs in physics, they’re likely to be prohibitively expensive, and thus will sell poorly. Alternately, if they’re being made by relatively unschooled, low-skilled workers, then all other things being equal they’ll be more affordable, and will sell much better. Of course, “all other things” are seldom equal, as companies that have tried to save money by exporting their software development and support activities to foreign lands have learned. Still, the core observation remains sound.

     But economic efficiency is merely one desideratum among many. It’s not nearly as important as life, freedom, or national sovereignty. In a world where two hundred quarrelsome States constantly vie to impose their wills on one another, in some contexts economic efficiency must defer to national preparedness. While this is maximally clear during wartime, even in times of widespread peace it never quite fades away. We’ve received a lesson in this from the Wuhan coronavirus, a.k.a. the Kung Flu or the Chi-Com Crud.

     Once the processes for manufacture and quality control have been sufficiently refined and automated, the production of most drugs can be relegated to less-educated, less-skilled workforces. That doesn’t make it a wise policy to allow the complete export of production to other lands. No, not even other lands that have been allies of long standing. Yet we have permitted exactly that to occur. With biological warfare concepts rising ever higher in sophistication, the notion approaches madness.

     The lives and well-being of Americans have depended for some time on drugs whose production lies outside our borders. Much of that production resides in Communist China, with which the U.S. is currently at loggerheads over trade, currency manipulation, and intellectual-property matters. This, to put it gently, is not good.

     Perhaps we are fortunate that as mild an affliction as the Chi-Com Crud appears to be has delivered the wake-up call. The openness of the world to international travel has made far worse biowar scenarios appallingly plausible. Yet some object to the reimportation of pharmaceutical production, among other things, to the United States. It will make the price of those drugs go up, they say – and they could be right. But it would be wise to remember the tale of the pork chops.

     The world market contains many thousands of internationally traded goods. We don’t often think the ones we routinely purchase and consume in a strategic context. But it’s becoming important that we learn to do so. The counterpoised thesis, the condemnation of autarky, still has merit; just not in all contexts and things.

     A large part of the reason so much physical production has left the U.S. is over-regulation in pursuit of some unattainable goal: typically, “perfectly clean” air or water. There’s nothing that’s currently made abroad that can’t be made by Americans in American workplaces. Fanatical “pro-environment” regulations are often the reason some operation has gone offshore.

     Thankfully, President Trump understands this and is doing what he can, as fast as he can, to correct the situation. With luck and the good sense not to be terrified away from this eminently sensible policy by terms like autarky and protectionism, we’ll get back to a tolerable level of pharmaceutical self-sufficiency soon enough. The consequences of not doing so could be grave, including the specter of having to conduct a war by un-warlike means.

     Verbum sat sapienti.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

“Which Side Are You On?”

     The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. – H. L. Mencken

     I’ve already said it many times, most recently in this piece. Frightened people who believe they cannot defend themselves are the most easily subjugated of all. Subjugation – the fascistic arrogation of unbounded power over us that the Left seeks – would ultimately be far deadlier than the Chinese coronavirus (which I’m thinking of re-christening the Communist Chinese coronavirus). While many Americans realize this, many others have closed their eyes to the danger, their good sense overwhelmed by the media-powered panic over a disease that’s not even as dangerous as common influenza.

     It must cease. The panic must be countered. There’s excellent evidence that the Chi-Com Crud, while irritating and more communicable than we’d like, is easily defeated with American-quality medical care. Granted that seniors with other diseases are at some risk, the rest of us, given some ordinary precautions, are not. That makes the principal urgency of the day a swift return to business as usual.

     The alternative isn’t just subjugation; it includes impoverishment as well.

     This morning, Independent Sentinel presents a letter from a professor at Bard College. It’s a must-read piece, of which I’ll excerpt only the tiniest snippet:

     Fellow Americans,

     Look at the front page of the New York Times. It screams about depression and paralysis in the United States. It announces that the coronavirus recession is in full swing. It is a war, folks, a war on America. This war is not with some foreign power; it is not a war among Americans. It is a war that American elites wage on American people.

     Please, please read it all, I beseech you! The writer, Professor Gennady Shkliarevsky, knows whereof he speaks: his concentration is in Russian and Soviet history.

     The Soviets controlled their media in their time. Pravda and Izvestia could only publish what they were allowed to publish. Our media aren’t under such constraints; they’re merely serving the wishes of the Democrat Party, which is so avid for a return to federal hegemony that it will plunge the nation into poverty, if necessary, to get it.

     It’s time to ask them, in a place, a time, and a format which will compel them to answer candidly: “Which side are you on, boys?”

     By now my Gentle Readers have read about the exchange of fire between NBC’s Peter Alexander and President Trump. Trump was plainly angered by Alexander’s obvious agenda. That anger was expressed in his response to Alexander’s tendentious “question.” But of course the media and the NeverTrumpRump have proclaimed that “question” perfectly legitimate, deserving of an ordinary answer, while Trump’s reply was intemperate and evasive.

     For three years the media have attacked this president. They’ve denied him credit for his achievements and have laid every negative development they can think of or concoct at his doorstep. They’ve questioned his character, his self-command, his agenda, his marriage, and his preferences in cuisines. (Was any other president ever held up to ridicule for preferring his steak well done with ketchup?) Yet Trump has soldiered on through it all, in a performance in office that entitles him to the highest of praise.

     Certain Trump-versus-the-media events have taken on an iconic status. The antagonist featured in many of them is CNN’s detestable Jim Acosta. Consider the famous event that got Acosta ejected from a Trump press conference. Consider Acosta’s public dressing down by Kellyanne Conway. Consider Acosta’s relentless badgering of Sarah Sanders, the first White House press secretary ever to need Secret Service protection.

     Fascinatingly, those events are viewed in completely opposite ways by pro-Trump and anti-Trump persons...in other words, by American patriots and enablers of Left-wing fascism.

     At this point it should not be necessary to ask which side the media are on...yet too many Americans still believe what they read in the papers and see on TV news.

     There isn’t much more to be said about all this. The fear-mongering by the media over the Chi-Com Crud, when counterpoised to the objective evidence about the virus, makes it plain that the press has an agenda other than the well-being of the American people. The NeverTrumpers who defend them are complicit in their offenses against the body politic and equally deserve to be shunned. They cannot and must not be forcibly silenced – that would be un-American – but it is imperative that these open enemies of the most effective, pro-American administration since Calvin Coolidge get no more of our credulity.

     Similarly, the various governors and mayors who’ve arrogated authorities never delegated to them in any constitution or charter must be sharply rebuffed. For each of them to be dragged from his mansion, tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a rail would be fitting. While that’s unlikely, at the very least we can turn them out of office at the next opportunity, before they can do more harm.

     If we’re to get back to business as usual before this becomes more than a minor inconvenience, it’s high time to know our enemies and name them. Grant their fear-mongering no more credence. Sensible precautions only:

  • Keep clean;
  • Cover when you cough or sneeze;
  • Minimize physical contact with non-family members;
  • No kissing random strangers!

     End the paralysis! Ordinary Americans – especially those who work in and own America’s four-million-plus small businesses – must take their freedom into their hands and insist on it. The hour is late indeed.

     No power is strong enough if it labors under the weight of fear. – Marcus Tullius Cicero