URLs du Jour

2022-04-19

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  • No, it doesn't have anything to do with Covid. Well, not directly. Corbin K. Barthold discusses one of our current favorite topics, how Elon makes the Elect freak out: Musk Makes the Mask Slip. But first, he urges us not to view Musk as a messiah:

    Though he has just offered to buy Twitter for around $40 billion, it’s far from clear that Elon Musk knows how to run a social media platform. Speaking about his bid at an event last week, Musk mused that people should be “able to speak freely within the bounds of the law.” But a social media product that came to be dominated by anti-Semitism, porn, coordinated abuse, virulent racial animus, and bot-generated foreign propaganda—all forms of speech “within the bounds of the law”—would soon have little value. During the same interview, Musk announced that his “top priority” is to eliminate spam—perfectly lawful communication. Musk does not seem to have thought this through yet.

    Twitter is not necessarily a well-run business. Mark Zuckerberg once described it as a clown car driven into a goldmine. It has drawn scrutiny from activist investors before—a fact that likely played a role in Jack Dorsey’s recent departure—and is thus in a poor position to reject Musk’s offer on grounds that the company’s stock is undervalued. Still, from a business perspective, Musk has not explained how he would finance his purchase (he’s incredibly rich but not liquid), and he has yanked investors’ chains before (a few years back, he was about to take Tesla private, until he wasn’t).

    If Musk is trolling the humorless progressives who dominate our institutional and cultural heights, though, he has already achieved a coup. That Musk might buy Twitter has caused a meltdown among Twitter elites. “Today on Twitter feels like the last evening in a Berlin nightclub at the twilight of Weimar Germany,” wrote one blue check. “[This] could result in World War 3 and the destruction of our planet,” exclaimed another. Robert Reich has equated Musk to Vladimir Putin.

    That first paragraph is important. Content moderation is both (1) insanely difficult and (2) absolutely necessary unless you want your social media site to turn into a dysfunctional sewer.

    Why I remember (old man reminiscence warning) when I was a member of the BYTE Information Exchange (BIX). Soon after I joined, the BIX administrators adopted a policy imposing a "be nice to your fellow users" rule.

    I remember thinking at the time: "So you can lie all you want about people outside BIX, but you can't tell the truth about BIX users."


  • OK, this is a Covid item. The NYPost editorialists have it right: COVID case counts are total nonsense — hospitalizations, deaths are what matter.

    Congratulations to our public health masterminds for finally catching up with the reality that raw COVID case numbers are worse than useless as a metric. 

    A new survey of adults in New York City suggests that our testing regime may have missed more than 1.3 million cases between January and March of this year. The numbers also suggest that an astonishing 27% of the city’s adults may have been infected during that time. 

    This massive statistical whiff also means that the official positivity rate — the number by which entire sectors of our economy lived and died for two years, the number that shut schools and sent paroxysms of terror through the media — was near-meaningless as a measurement.

    It's easy to generalize outside New York City. The Portsmouth (NH) Public Library still (as I type) requires masks for people over 6 years old. Their reasoning is opaque. They state their policy is "based on a number of public health factors", but they don't say what those factors are.

    Occam's Razor tells us to look for the simplest explanation, which is: Portsmouth is a very "progressive" city, and (as the WSJ editorialists say) progressives believe in their superior moral virtue, and they like to order other people around.


  • Speaking of Covid… Michael Graham Is There Still a COVID 'Crisis' in NH? Dems, Media Make Confusing Case.

    Every morning, WMUR viewers get the new number: How many new cases of COVID-19 in New Hampshire?

    On Friday, the story was that positive tests “have risen above 2,000 for the first time since late February.”

    “New Hampshire is now averaging 237 new cases per day, the most since March 1,” WMUR added.

    And as long as viewers keep in mind the word “cases” actually means “a positive COVID-19 test” and not an illness, the reporting is accurate.

    But, many public health experts say, it is also largely irrelevant. Positive tests for asymptomatic people aren’t a problem. The significant number is the one that is also more rarely reported: Hospitalizations.

    To their credit, the New York Times's Covid summary page is pretty good, although they emphasize case-counts over hospitalizations and deaths.


  • And it's a good case. Bari Weiss hosts Katherine Boyle at her substack, and Boyle makes The Case for American Seriousness. I really like her list of "unserious" things. Excerpt:

    It is unserious to pour six trillion dollars into failed nation-building—more than three times what has gone into American venture-backed technology companies in the same two decades—only to let a nation collapse in a jumbled weekend withdrawal. The U.S. military is still the most trusted institution in America, but has experienced a precipitous decline in trust with only 45 percent of Americans claiming to have “a great deal of confidence in the military,” down 25 points in three years. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have allowed this trust to decay, going so far as to claim “Mission Accomplished” 18 years too early—or to pretend there was never really a war happening at all.

    It is unserious to prioritize the old over the young, to shut down public schools for two years in the name of safety, sacrificing the needs of children for the neuroses of adults. Twenty years of educational gains and investment in schooling were “wiped out” by Covid policies, according to the United Nations. This is the real, lasting effect of long Covid.

    It is unserious to have the business district of our most innovative city lay empty, swallowed by an open-air drug market that thrives in the name of “compassion.” San Francisco has the country’s worst office reoccupancy rate and slowest job recovery, but it hasn’t lost its accommodating spirit: Fly into San Francisco airport and you’ll notice the dirty needle deposit box right across from the baby changing table in the women’s bathroom. (Though perhaps there’s some logic to this in a city where there are more dogs than children.)

    There's more, much more. I'm a little iffy on her recommendations:

    Building is a political philosophy. It is neither red nor blue, progressive nor conservative. It is averse to the political short-termism and zero-sum thinking that permeates our aging institutions that won’t protect us in this era. There is no fixed pie when it comes to building. Building is an action, a choice, a decision to create and move. It is shovels in the dirt with a motley crew of doers who get the job done because no one else will. Building is the only certainty. The only thing we can control. When the projects we believed were Teflon strong are fraying like the history they toppled, the only thing to do is to make something new again.

    Build housing for the middle class. Build schools for the kids who want to learn math. Build next-generation defense capabilities with young people who grew up coding. Build PCR tests so that a nasal swab stops the nation from closing businesses at the mere sight of Covid case increases. Build trade schools. Encourage men and women to work with their hands again. Cut the red tape that stops us from building infrastructure fast. Build factories in America. Build resiliency in the supply chain. Build work cultures that support mothers and fathers so they can have more children.

    That's a mixed bag, and I'm pretty sure that many of those ideas can't be accomplished via a top-down command-and-control mentality. I think we need to (in Deirdre McCloskey's formulation) reinstitute a new respect for liberalism and bourgeois values. I don't know if that's possible, let alone likely.


  • Donors to the Lincoln Project, here's where your money is going. The Washington Free Beacon reports: Lincoln Project Shells Out $100K in Mystery Legal Settlement With Cofounder.

    The Lincoln Project shelled out another six-figure payment to a founding member of the super PAC who accused the organization of ignoring allegations of sexual misconduct within its ranks.

    The scandal-plagued PAC paid $100,000 to Jennifer Horn in the first quarter of 2022, according to campaign finance records. The Lincoln Project has paid Horn a total of $475,000 in mystery legal payments since she resigned from the group amid allegations that cofounder John Weaver made unwanted sexual advances to more than 20 young men. Horn accused leaders of the Lincoln Project of ignoring allegations against Weaver.

    The Lincoln Project is still chugging away at its "anti-Trumpism" task, although it seems that involves mindless pro-Biden propaganda; one of the first things I noticed was a post claiming We Have To Have Joe Biden’s Back.

    Why? Isn't it possible to despise both Trump and Biden?