Readjusting the Overton Window


The Overton Window is the range of ideas which are considered acceptable for public consideration and debate. It moves around as the climate of public opinion changes.

President Trump’s speech at Mt. Rushmore was an attempt to move the window upward to include a more respectful view of the Enlightenment principles generally held by the Founding Fathers and away from the Postmodern Neo-marxist worldview underpinning much of the turbulence in America these days. I hope he was successful. I’m not sure that he was. Oh, he did a fine job of rallying the people who already agree with him, but he was preaching to the choir.

Let me extend that metaphor a bit. I’m not sure how effective he was as an evangelist, one who brings good news to the unconverted. There are a large number of Americans who have come to believe the marxist fallacy that everything can be defined as a power struggle among various identity groups, and that someone else’s is the result of privilege and oppression. They want what they see as their turn controlling the levers of power, and many of them are willing to tear down the current system in order to change things.

What many of them don’t understand is the difference between the ideals of the American Revolution and so many others—the people have granted power to the government so it may serve them not rule over them. Those who wish to be change things so that they can become part a new ruling class need to look at the history of those other revolutions. Only a few of the revolutionaries become part of the nomenklatura, and even fewer make it into the Inner Party. The rest become the proles in a failing society.

The good news these folks need to hear is that the American Revolution produced a melting pot society where everyone’s positive contribution has a chance to prosper. It’s not a perfect society, but it’s the best humanity has come up with to date. Events such as the Minneapolis riots or the failure of Antifastan in Seattle are hitting some with a dose of Reality that may show them the folly of their worldview.

It will be interesting to see how they react.

Meanwhile, I hope President’s speech successfully framed some of the questions to be considered by the public between now and the Third of November.

I’m Not Making This Up, You Know


The Democrats’ official party Twitter account sent this tweet—
The rally referred to in the tweet is a fireworks display at Mr. Rushmore on Independence Day. They took it down, but not before it was archived.

So now, the Democrats are on record saying that celebrating the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July is an act of white supremacy.

Thomas Jefferson was unavailable for comment,

“New” Jobs


The Bureau of Labor Statistics is reporting that the unemployment rate is down because 2.5 million more people were working in May.

I’ll bet that very few of those people were hired for new created jobs. Most of them were rehired or recalled to an old job that was put terminated because of the Wuhan virus shutdown. I suspect that there will be a fairly rapid recall of employees to businesses that were able to withstand the shutdown. The unemployment rate is now around 13 or 14 percent, and I’m guessing that it will drop to 7 or 8 percent by Labor Day. At that point, we’ll need to be creating new businesses to replace those killed off by the pandemic shutdown in order to create the new jobs necessary to restore the 2021 economy to a level comparable to 2019’s.

It’s going to be easier to rebuild in those places where the residents haven’t trashed their communities’ physical and moral resources.

A substantial number of communities will now have to make hard choices. The cost of rebuilding housing, businesses, and public facilities and the cost of restoring standards of public behavior will undoubtedly make some previously fashionable luxury opinions untenable. It will be interesting to see who engages in what sort of bitter clinging.

Lawyers File Amicus Brief in Support of Michael Flynn


A group of lawyers have filed an amicus brief with Judge Sullivan in support of the Government’s motion to dismiss the criminal case against Michael Flynn. Here’s their brief and a list of their names.

I’ve had the privilege of working with a couple of these lawyers on First Amendment related issues.

Who Wants To Go To Work?


I don’t especially want to go to work. I’m doing just fine, sitting in my office at home and telecommuting. As long as I keep getting paid with money that has sufficient purchasing power in the economy, I’d just as soon not have to drive to someone else’s office to do what I can to across the hall from my kitchen. (And my coffee is better than the Folger’s junk that seems to infest so many workplace coffee pots.)

Looking around the neighborhood, I can see several other professionals who have moved their work into their homes and who are continuing to do well economically. Other neighbors aren’t doing so well. They normally engage in businesses, trades, and professions that require close one-on-one interactions with people. Some of them haven’t earned anything for weeks.

Gentle Reader, can you guess which group is more favorably disposed to reopening the economy quickly?

On the leading edge of the Wuhan virus pandemic, most Americans were willing to put up with some significant disruptions in their personal lives in order to protect the public health. There really was a sense of “we’re in this all together,” but that has dissipated as people who want to feed their families are told by a governor that they can’t buy seeds to plant in their gardens because of a virus lockdown. Another governor’s sending Covid19-infected patients to old folks’ homes has not increased the public’s trust in government’s competence either. Thus, we have a large group of Americans who are wanting to and are ready to go back to work—and who are losing or have lost patience with the “experts.”

Meanwhile, those of us doing “essential” work have been paid all along—at least so far—but now, the lack of tax revenue is eating away the ability of many states and localities to make payroll. Oh, and advertising is now down, resulting in media layoffs. It may be that some of the less protected members of the “essentials” may begin to favor reopening the economy as well.

So, who is still in favor of broad, non-targeted lockdowns? Cui bono?

That should be an interesting topic for research by a good investigative reporter.

You know, I once saw a movie about investigative reporters. The line in the film that helped them put their big story together was the advice, “Follow the money.” I’ll bet that would be good advice for this story.

Crudely Modeling Herd Immunity


So what is this “herd immunity” that people keep talking about?

It works something like this:

Adam becomes infected with some disease. We’ll call it Batpox for this example. It turns out that the statistics of Batpox’s transmissibility are such that it is about as contagious as measles. Measles has a basic reproduction number (R0) of about 12. When Adam goes to visit his friends Betty and Chuck, the odds are high that they will both become infected as well—unless they are already immune because of a previous encounter with the disease or a vaccine. OTOH, if enough of the people Adam contacts while he’s sick are immune to Batpox, the disease isn’t likely to spread any further. A population has reached herd immunity for a disease when enough of the population is immune to prevent the disease from easily spreading.

The percentage of population required for herd immunity is greater for larger values of R0. The formula for the approximate percentage of immune individuals necessary for herd immunity is

X = (1 – 1/Ro) X 100

For measles X is about 92 %. That’s why it’s important for kids to be vaccinated in order to get the number of immune individuals as high as possible.

The initial estimate of R0 for the Wuhan virus was around 2.7. That would imply that we’d need about 63 % of the population to be immune in order to achieve herd immunity. However, the Real World data for Covid-19 shows much lower values for R0. That’s values, plural, because different places have different factors that affect transmissibility.

Take a look at these charts of how R0 has varied over time in various states. (Source: rt.live) The solid lines represent the calculated values for R0 and the shaded areas around the lines show the confidence intervals for the calculations based on the amount and quality of the data. These plots are for entire states; the New York and Michigan numbers would be even lower with the effects of New York City and Detroit removed.

Note that these states have all achieved an R0 of about 1. Plugging that value into our formula for herd immunity gives a required immunity percentage of … pokes at calculator …  zero.

Now, I’ve been engaged in modeling here, and we know how problematic that can be, but I believe this gives us a hint about why people are ready to get back to their normal lives in large swaths of the country. Certainly, a value of R0 below 1 explains why the death toll hasn’t spiked in Georgia.

There are still places in the country struggling to contain the Wuhan virus outbreak, and they should be supported in their efforts. However, the data support letting the rest of the country get on with our lives.

Phone Calls With Foreigners


Audio of what appears to be a telephone call between Vice President Biden and Ukrainian President Poroshenko has been posted on YouTube.

Biden was captured on another video bragging about using a threat to cut off aid to Ukraine in order to get a prosecutor fired. In the video below, Poroshenko says that they can’t find any evidence of corruption to use against the prosecutor who was investigating a company called Burisma Holding. Hunter Biden, the Vice President’s son, was on the board of Burisma making over $80k a month.

Meanwhile, back in the US more of a memo by Susan Rice relating to the shame investigation of Michael Flynn’s phone call with the Russian ambassador has been declassified. John Hinderacker has an excellent summary over at PowerLine of the newly exposed paragraph’s significance.

Rice foresaw that despite the Obama holdovers’ best efforts, the truth about their “Russia investigation” could come to light someday. If that happened, she wanted it to be on record that President Obama had authorized her to lie, on advice from James Comey. This is not surprising, but it fills an important gap in our understanding of the corruption of the Obama administration.

We haven’t heard the end of the Obama Administration’s corruption—both foreign and domestic. That briefcase Acting-DNI Grenell carried to the Justice Department was bulging. As Ambassador Kosh once said in an episode of Babylon 5, “The avalanche has already started; it is too late for the pebbles to vote.”

Unmasked Intelligence


There are several theories floating around the Interwebz about how Michael Flynn’s unmasked name might have turned up in an FBI transcript of a phone call with the Russian ambassador. The recently declassified unmasking record doesn’t appear to show a timely request to unmask Flynn during the period between when the call was made and when other evidence suggests the FBI had the transcript. So how did the get it?

One possible explanation is that the FBI was working with information from a non-U.S. source.

The Five Eyes is a signals intelligence alliance among Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the US. Documents leaked by Edward Snowden in 2013 revealed that the Five Eyes has been spying on one another’s citizens and sharing the collected information with each other in order to circumvent their domestic legal restrictions on surveillance of citizens. Thus, if the Australian Signals Directorate successfully wiretaps a Russian, overhears something said by an American, and tips off the FBI, no laws have been broken—just severely bent. I picked the Aussies for that example because of another Australian connection to the Russian Collusion Hoax, but such a signal intercept could have been made by Canada’s Communications Security Establishment, New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau, or the UK’s General Communications Headquarters.

There’s another explanation floating around suggesting the use of a Presidential authorization of a wiretap without a FISA warrant (something that is allowed under FISA). However, such a warrantless wiretap is still supposed to be subject to the same masking requirements as a court authorized one.

Obamagate raises some serious issues. Corruption of public officials is one. An unnecessary weakening of the Fourth Amendment is another.

I’m So Old …


… I remember when they taught this sort of stuff in ECON 101.

What happens when people are out of work and lots of stores are closed? Income tax and sales tax revenue drops. Bloomberg is reporting that New York’s tax collections have dropped by over two-thirds. Meanwhile, over on the left coast KPIX reports that Governor Hairgel is proposing pay cuts for California state workers because state revenues are down over 20 percent.

As the old Russian proverb says, “Го́лой овцы́ не стригу́т. (One doesn’t shear naked sheep.)” I suspect that we’re about to see a large portion of the bureaucracy begin to favor an expeditious reopening of the economy.

Fighting the Last War


There’s an old adage which states that most armies are prepared to fight the last war. It has a deep basis in Reality. After our 1892 medium-power Krag rifles were outclassed by the full-power Mausers used by the Spanish in 1898, we adopted the Mauser-clone 1903 Springfield for World War I. The lessons learned about firepower in that war led to the adoption of the M1, which would have been a superior weapon in WW1, but was outclassed by the German Strumgewehr 44 (the original assault rifle) by the end of WW2. We entered the Viet Nam War armed with the M14, which would have been a great weapon for WW2, only to be outgunned by the other side’s AK47s, true assault rifles. I went through basic training with an M14, but was finally issued an M16 in Viet Nam.

Armies aren’t the only bureaucracies that cling to outdated “solutions.” The public health response to the Wuhan virus pandemic is a case in point.

The 1918 influenza pandemic was worse than it had to be, in part, because of the failure of some communities to take proper measures to prevent rapid spreading. The proper lesson from that pandemic is that dangerous communicable diseases must be contained by reducing interpersonal contact until other means of fighting it are available.

The initial restrictions imposed as public health measures dealing with Covid-19 were reasonable and cautious responses to a potentially catastrophic situation. They would have been excellent in combating the 1918 flu, but it appears that they’ve been overkill in vast swaths of America with disastrous unintended (I hope) consequences. For many the cure is worse than the disease.

Most Real World situations don’t track well with our attempt to model them because we never seem to be able to understand all of the ways that things interact. Experience and common sense and a willingness to take risks are necessary live in the Real World. Credentials are not the same thing as experience, and non-expert expertise has failed. It’s time to get back to living in the Real World. That will require that public health concerns take their rightful place among other factors to balances with economic realities and civil rights.

A Karen Named Patricia


Reason has a post up about what happened in St. Louis when the identities of the tipsters who had reported businesses operating in violation of a shutdown order were posted on Facebook. Their complaints were matters of public record and were obtained under Missouri’s sunshine law by Jared Totsch, who was interviewed by a local TV station.

“I’d call it poetic justice, instant Karma, a dose of their own medicine,” he responded. “What goes around, comes around. They are now experiencing the same pain that they themselves helped to inflict on those they filed complaints against.”

The station also interviewed one of the tipsters, a woman named Patricia.

“I saw a lot of businesses that were non-essential that were open and had lines outside, parking lots filled as if the order didn’t matter to them,” she explained to the station. “And that was kinda frustrating.”

Patricia says she has lupus and is particularly at risk during the Wuhan virus pandemic. She may be, but lots of other people are also especially at risk, including me. I’m elderly and have heart problems. However, I need to weigh my risks against the risks of the people around me; I need to take reasonable precautions for my own health while imposing the least possible bother on others.

People like me may have special risks, but everyone has general risks caused by curtailing “non-essential” activities for too long.

People are being impoverished by layoffs and business shutdowns, and that artificially induced poverty is stealing away resources required for healthy living. Children are missing well-child medical visits, delaying vaccinations and increasing their risk of childhood diseases. Taxes needed to finance the operation of public health infrastructure won’t be paid on income that isn’t generated. The list goes on.

The time has come to begin moving to more targeted responses to the pandemic. There are probably communities and activities that still should remain locked down, but most of the country is ready for less heavy-handed measures.

The Karens have had a nice run for the past couple of months. It’s time for them to let go.

Bending the Curve


Earlier this week, I posted day-by-day graphs of the Wuhan virus cases and deaths reported for Maryland by the state’s Department of Health. Here are updated charts.

First, the daily new confirmed cases—Over the past few days the curve was trending downward, but the large spike of new confirmed cases on 1 May has pushed the moving average up again. I don’t have any information about the 1 May data other than the raw number. It may have been caused by the state’s testing program finding a large at-risk population, or it there may have been a burst of new cases.

OTOH, the number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths is beginning to trend down.

If the spike in new cases is just noise in the data, then Maryland may have turned the corner on the pandemic.

We shall see

And In Other News …


… there are things happening that aren’t related to the Wuhan virus pandemic.

Perhaps the most significant political development over the past few days has been the release of FBI and DoJ paperwork, including handwritten notes, about the Flynn case and how that investigation was handled. At first blush, the documents seem to paint a picture of official corruption, suggesting not only that General Flynn should be exonerated, but that some government officials may deserve disbarment, jail time, and other sanctions.

The optics of the story aren’t good for the Deep State, but they could be even worse for the Democrats who are on the verge of nominating a key figure of the administration that corruptly used the Deep State for its political ends. The opposing sides campaign ads almost write themselves.

On The Other Podcast last Saturday I suggested that the smarter members the Democrat/Media/Deep State complex will use Tara Reade’s accusations against Joe Biden as the way to prevent his nomination (“See. We believe this woman.”) now that he’s served the purpose of stopping the Bernie Bros from seizing the party. The process has started; WaPo has published an opinion piece calling for Biden to address Ms. Reade’s claims. The coming fight for control of a brokered convention should be interesting to watch. I have no idea who will crawl out from under which rock and grab the nomination.

Buy more popcorn.