Borders have been closed and my city is filling up with morgues-in-tents and with refrigerated trucks for corpses. How medieval is this?
by Phyllis Chesler
In a dizzying instant, we have traveled back in time to the Middle Ages. For now, and for who knows how long, we are living in small, fearful, and semi-contained villages. If we had moats, we’d be pulling the drawbridges up right now.
Borders on every continent have been closed. When this awful siege is over, I doubt the European Union will reconstitute itself. European countries which, in the past, have refused to close their borders to economic migrants and Jihadists, have now been forced to do so for another kind of life-threatening reason.
As for the United States—one Anti-Trumper actually said this to me:
“That crazy Mexican President is advising people to carry on as usual. He’s presiding over a Dance of Death. I wish Trump had put up that wall!”
My city is filling up with morgues-in-tents and with refrigerated trucks for corpses. How medieval is this? Well, not that much, not yet, we are not yet dumping bodies into pits and/or burning them all. The police have not boarded up our dwellings.
But how is this madness affecting the doctors and patients in my personal life?
I have a very dear friend, practically a family member, who is a physician. Colleagues with whom she has been working on the front lines have fallen; one has just died. She now fears that she, too, may have the Wuhan (Corona) Virus.
I have another close friend who’s trapped in a Rehab facility at the worst possible moment in history. He has cancer, he fell, and perhaps he also suffered a stroke. No one was allowed to visit him in hospital and the doors are also shut to visitors at the Rehab Center. His medical records and health care proxy seem to have fallen by the proverbial wayside. I am distraught over his fate.
I’ve been asked whether or not he’s safer in a facility than at home. Here’s how I answered: All hospitals and all Rehab facilities are hellholes in normal, non-pandemic times. One always needs a private aide, if not a nurse, and that is very expensive. A family member can take an 8-hour shift, but cannot be there around the clock. Hospital and Rehab facility staff are overworked, underpaid, sullen, surly, resentful, incompetent, neglectful—and occasionally, they are angels. They do not have the time or the inclination to change bedsheets all that often or to get someone up to use the bathroom.
One can only imagine how many more patients are in his position. And how hard the front line workers—the ambulance drivers, paramedics, pharmacists, physician assistants, nurses, doctors, and volunteers—must be working, and at such risk. One cannot imagine how overwhelmed they must be.
We are not only back in time, but in some ways, the West has now become more like the “developing” world. (That’s the politically correct phrase that must be used to describe failed states or tyrannies, mired in enormous poverty, where no law applies.) In parts of the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and South America, families are expected to provide the bedsheets and blankets, as well as the food for their hospitalized relative; they often have to buy the medicine, too—if it is available. There are few doctors and even fewer nurses. Family members either desert their ailing member or mount shifts of watchfulness themselves. Will New York ever become a bit more like Kabul?
Every evening at 7pm large crowds gather (hopefully, maintaining social distance), to cheer for these brave souls. I hear it from almost a block away, coming from where a Sports Bar stands. All day, and all night, I also hear the alarming sirens of ambulances.
Super-rich Americans will always be alright. But here are some unsettling questions.
How will those of us who used to have jobs and safety nets manage psychologically to adapt to limited horizons for a good long while?
What if the so-called “underclass,” which is now growing daily, has no money for food? Will chaos break out? Will there be looting?
What can we do about the fact that so many people are still insisting on attending large religious services?
What will the criminals, released from jails, do?
Will terrorists use this moment of enormous vulnerability to strike? It’s the kind of thing that terrorists do.
What do you think?
On the other hand, I spoke to a front line physician who assured me that the number of new cases each day in NYC is lessening.
The problem is that we were not duly warned in advance and we did not have a structure in place to deal with a pandemic. This will never—or should never—happen again.
Our world has been plagued by epidemics many times before. The human race has survived. The sun still rose each and every day. No doubt, it will do so again and again.
The president fends off ankle-biting Democrats in Congress and the media.
by Conrad Black
Even in such a worrisome and dangerous time as the current public-health and economic crisis, there are some entertaining election-year maneuvers. The Trump-hating media have been reduced to desperate weaving back and forth in their search for a plausible alternative to the incumbent. And President Trump’s domination of prime-time television every day with a demonstrably competent executive performance, even if it has not been without its Trumpesque flourishes of hyperbole and shifts of position, is propelling the practicing, wildly-out-of-the-closet Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi to severe lapses of judgment. I don’t watch much television, but out of duty and in order to make an informed comment when necessary, I do a reasonable survey of the television, Internet, and national print news. Striding to the front of a dense congestion of thundering hooves as the media charge to the November election finish in their competition to smear the president, Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC told his viewers last week that the president had said that if the country wasn’t on its way back to work and school by Easter Sunday, it would be “dead.” By this alarmist proposition, he apparently meant that the president had said that the whole country would be on suicide watch. The president was always clear that April 12 (Easter) was “aspirational,” and all he said about suicide was that financial difficulties do increase the probability of extremely depressive and hopeless thoughts.
When the president was assuring everyone that the danger was overrated, the media magnified terror stories of the spread and possible lethality of the coronavirus. The usual opinionated talking (air) heads empurpled the airwaves with gloom and accused Trump of disregarding and scoffing at scientists, and of being a militant know-nothing who disparaged science in general. When the president executed a 180-degree turn on two wheels, they tried to shadow him by swarming the television studios and op-ed pages predicting six- to seven-month shutdowns that would bring the entire population except Bernie Sanders’s “millionaires and billionaires” (such as, in the first category, Bernie Sanders) forward to feast off the destruction of the wealth of the middle and working classes. When Trump appeared to be impudently dodging that bullet by saying that the shutdown was necessary but need not be prolonged, this was the signal for former Labor secretary Robert Reich, former Treasury secretary Larry Summers, and the lamest duck in American history, New York mayor Bill de Blasio, none of whom knows enough about epidemiology to fill an eye-dropper, bravely to prepare the nation for six or seven months of quarantine, and, implicitly, grinding poverty and societal chaos. In de Blasio’s case, this descent to an economic Stone Age was to be supervised by the armed forces, though what their role, apart from contracting the coronavirus themselves, was to be has not yet been explained.
The president has trimmed his sails again and extended the present lockdown conditions to at least April 30. He appears daily with Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, renowned authorities in this field, squashing all the nonsense about disagreements between them and Trump’s animosity to science, and in the latest attempt to mobilize the moral outrage that his enemies consider must be in a constantly febrile state, they have accused the president of changing his mind. No one can claim that he has not assembled, with the vice president, an outstanding task force; no one can say he has not been guided by its counsel. No one can say he has not moved swiftly and decisively to increase testing ability, distribute possible ameliorative medication, raise the country’s supply of ventilators and distribute them fairly, and increase hospital capacity. And with a six-trillion-dollar financial-assistance and liquidity-assurance plan, he has responded and led effectively in a way no one can dispute.
But the most unmistakable sign of the Democrats’ desperation was House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s appearance on CNN on Sunday, in which she announced that the administration’s delay in recognizing and addressing the coronavirus crisis would have to be “investigated.” The president’s polls have risen steadily, and all polls show public appreciation of his leadership in the crisis, yet the speaker not only demurs, but flops backwards into the Democrats’ helpless addiction to trying to criminalize policy differences and personal antipathy towards Trump. The country awaits the results of the Durham special-counsel investigation of the origins of the Russian-collusion fraud by which Trump was belabored for over two years, and it was on Pelosi’s miraculous conversion to the agitations of her extreme leftist House of Representatives colleagues that the most spurious impeachment attempt in the country’s history was limply played out. (None of the previous three — Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton — was justified, but the Trump impeachment was unfounded and unconstitutional, a disgrace and a mockery from A to Z.) Speaker Pelosi is technically the highest-ranking Democratic office-holder, though in protocol terms she would rank behind former presidents Carter, Clinton, and Obama, and if she is reaching for an investigation, like a drunk in the extremity of alcoholism reaching for the bottle, the Democrats really are gasping, biting the carpet, and scratching the walls.
The Trump-hating media have, successively, accused Trump of calling the coronavirus a “hoax,” when in fact he used that term to describe criticism of his response to the pandemic (Politico), and falsely claimed that the U.S. resisted purchasing test kits from the World Health Organization (NBC, CNN, NPR). The Washington Post published an op-ed that falsely accused the president of having closed the White House pandemic office, and this was taken up; MSNBC suggested Trump is guilty of homicidal negligence because of his handling of the issue; the media generally accused him of calling the coronavirus “the China virus” for racist reasons; MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Rachel Maddow and others have advocated not covering Trump’s daily press briefings; ABC accused him of causing the death of a man who self-medicated with something purported to be chloroquine (which Trump has suggested, with professional concurrence, could be potentially beneficial) that was in fact fish-tank cleaner.
As the president rises in the polls, meets the crisis, and walks the line between an over-hasty lifting of the shutdown and a rigid posture that would invite fearmongering about the enforced reduction of commercial activity continuing into the autumn, the Democrats have to face the implications of their position as, in their favorite phrase, “the walls close in.” Trump gets the credit for acting promptly opposite China (for which he was reviled by officeholding and media Democrats as a “racist” and “xenophobe”), for launching a skillful containment of the coronavirus, for producing a mighty financial-assistance package, and for maintaining hope for a reasonably timely reopening, and the Democrats are reduced to trying to hide their presumptive candidate. Joe Biden cannot opine coherently on public-policy issues and seems like someone running for a position as a rural public-health commissioner, demanding a voice for the elderly, not as the 44th direct successor to George Washington. No civilized person takes pleasure in a man’s serial embarrassment, but those who drafted Joe Biden for this role cannot possibly imagine that he can do more than spare the Democrats the utter annihilation they would suffer if they nominated Bernie Sanders.
The Coronavirus Shelter-in-Place and the Israeli Curfew
by Hugh Fitzgerald
The New York Timeshas for a long time had a “Jewish problem.” In the 1930s and during the Second World War, the Times paid scant attention to the Nazi murders of Jews. Laurel Leff’s study of how the Times failed so dismally to properly cover the Holocaust, Buried By the Times, notes that between 1939 and 1945, the New York Times published more than 23,000 front-page stories. Of those, 11,500 were about World War II. Twenty-six were about the Holocaust. The Times buried the bulk of its coverage of the Nazi murders in stories of a few paragraphs deep in the paper between advertisements. Leff describes a story published in the paper on July 29, 1942, about the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto. The story bore the headline “Warsaw Fears Extermination,” was published on Page 7, and was not even a stand-alone story, instead consisting of a handful of paragraphs nestled next to an ad for Emerson spinet pianos. When the last of the Jews of Warsaw were deported on May 14, 1943, the story appeared at the bottom of Page 6 of the Times the following day.
This failure to adequately describe the greatest crime in history, and to help alert the American people, and their government, as to what was happening, no doubt contributed to many deaths. How many people might have been saved had readers of the Times been properly informed so that, grasping the enormity of what was going on, they would have pressured the White House to let in Jewish refugees who were being turned away? The antisemites in the State Department, led by the infamous Breckenridge Long, who described Hitler’s Mein Kampf as “eloquent in opposition to Jewry and Jews as exponents of Communism and chaos,” were determined to keep Jewish refugees out of the U.S. Had the Times, as the newspaper of record, provided better coverage of what the Nazis were doing, others in Washington might have created countervailing pressure and forced the government to act, despite the cruel opposition of Long. Furthermore, had the Times more fully reported on the Holocaust, and given those reports more prominence in the paper, American public opinion might have demanded that the railroad lines to Auschwitz-Birkenau be bombed, possibly saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Without that coverage, it was easier for Deputy Secretary of War John J. McCloy, another one of those unspeakable officials, a pillar of the American Establishment, who was supremely indifferent to what was happening to Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe, to oppose the bombing, claiming it would have been too dangerous – even though American bombers had repeatedly been bombing German factories at Buna, only five miles from Birkenau – and then asserting, preposterously, that such bombing would only make the Nazis “speed up” their killing, when they were already going as fast as they murderously could.
The Times was (and is) owned by a Jewish family, the Sulzbergers, who were determined to make sure the paper would not be seen as engaging in special pleading for Jews; instead, they minimized Jewish suffering both in Nazi Germany from 1933 on, and in Nazi-occupied Europe, during the Second World War.
Fast forward to the last decade, when the Times has been scandalously unfair in its coverage of Israel and of the attempts by the Jewish state to defend itself from the violent Jihad waged against it by Muslim Arabs. There is scant history in that Times coverage: almost never, in the thousands of articles on the Arab-Israeli conflict, has the Mandate for Palestine been mentioned, much less quoted. Nor has the text and significance of U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 been given its due. Instead, there has been plenty of admiring coverage of J Street, of IfNotNow, and of other leftwing Jewish groups opposed to the Israeli government. And the “plight of the Palestinians” will always find sympathetic coverage, in the news reports, on the opinion page, and in the editorials, at the Times.
The latest example of tawdry treatment of Israel is the opinion piece by the anti-Israel activist Raja Shehadeh that recently appeared in the Times. It was ostensibly about how to live through the coronavirus scare. Shehadeh, you see, had some experience with being confined to his house. In March 2002, Palestinians on the West Bank had been told by the IDF to stay home, just like Americans are now doing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Shehadeh refers to a month –March 2002 – “when my neighbors and I had our movement severely restricted by an Israeli military siege.” But why? He doesn’t say. And it was not really a “military siege.” Manhunts for terrorists were going on. It made no sense to have others out on the street, where innocents might be hurt.
His piece is magisterially eviscerated here by Gilead Ini of CAMERA.
The piece, by anti-Israel activist Raja Shehadeh, uses the coronavirus scare as a pretext to attack the Jewish state. The hook is that American cities are ordering people to stay at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.The pitch is that cruel Israelis ordered Palestinians to remain indoors for no reason at all. Shehadeh strains to squeeze anti-Israel talking points into his ostensible lesson about the coronavirus. Or is it the other way around? “Unlike the Israeli guns that posed an equal threat to anyone moving outside of their homes without permission, the virus discriminates by age.” He writes of Israel’s “strangulating roadblocks.”
Shehadeh claims that the coronavirus is more deadly for the elderly — “Unlike the Israeli guns that posed an equal threat” to Palestinians of all ages. Really? Did the Israelis, during what Shehadeh misleadingly calls a “military siege,” but was merely a confinement to living quarters, simply shoot anyone they found outside during the curfew, whether they were babies or the elderly? Of course not. In fact the IDF kept people indoors for their own safety, as the soldiers combed the West Bank for terrorist murderers on the run, during a period of intense terrorist activity.
Gilead Ini again:
And for what [were Shehadeh and other Palestinians confined]? Apparently nothing. In what is the piece’s most disingenuous and offensive passage, Shehadeh writes:
“In 2002, when my neighbors and I had our movement severely restricted by an Israeli military siege, I tried my best to continue living as normally as I could. It was springtime then, as it is now. I would look out the window and lament my inability to venture out to the lush hills all around covered with wildflowers. But the danger lurking outside my house back then was readily recognizable: armed soldiers enforcing the stay-at-home orders. Only Palestinians were under threat. While we suffered, normal life continued elsewhere, indifferent to what we were enduring.”
It was not an Israeli military siege, with weapons drawn, forcing everyone to come out with their hands up. That’s a siege. This was different — a confinement to homes, in order to make it more difficult for terrorists to move about, and to make sure that the innocent were not out in the streets when gunfire might be exchanged between the IDF and the terrorists they located. It’s normal police practice in the U.S., too – people are told to remain in their homes when a manhunt is going on in the neighborhood, so as not to impede or complicate the operation. It makes perfect sense.
It is a flagrant distortion of history — a stark example of terrorism denial — to claim that, in 2002, “only Palestinians were under threat” while “normal life” continued in Israel. That year was the single deadliest in history for Israelis in terms of terrorism deaths, as a campaign of Palestinian suicide bombings targeted Jewish civilians. Life was turned upside-down for Israelis, many of whom wouldn’t dare enter a restaurant or city bus. The curfews imposed on parts of the West Bank, which the Op-Ed focuses on, was the direct result of a Palestinian terror campaign, which the Op-Ed dishonesty ignores, and which claimed over 400 lives in the time period Shehadeh discusses, a suicide bomber murdered 11 Jewish civilians, including a 5-month-old, a one-year-old, a three-year-old, a seven-year-old, and three other children waiting for prayers to end outside a Haredi yeshiva. At a café across town, 11 more were murdered. Five 18-year-old Jews were shot dead in Gush Katif. A 9-month-old infant was among the dead in an attack along the Mediterranean coast. Seven passengers on a bus were killed by a suicide bomber in the north of Israel. Sixteen Israelis were killed while dining in a Haifa restaurant. And 30 mostly elderly Jews, including Holocaust survivors, were slaughtered while celebrating Passover in a Netanya hotel.
These attacks were in March alone, and represent only a portion of the deadly terror attacks that month. “Normal life”?
It’s one thing for the author to use the coronavirus in the service of anti-Israel activism. That’s his prerogative — though editors might be expected to balk at such cynical treatment of the crisis. But to inform readers that the curfew was arbitrary, that only Palestinians were under threat, and that normal life continued elsewhere is to show an egregious disregard for the truth.
In his Times piece, Shehadeh was merely being a good Muslim, emulating Muhammad, who in a famous hadith insisted that “war is deceit.” Of course he wants his readers to think that there was no reason for the Israelis to confine Palestinians, in parts of the West Bank, to their homes for a month. It was just one more hideous example of their motiveless malignity, the IDF’s wanton cruelty. Shehadeh never mentions a single terrorist attack on Israelis during that month. He doesn’t even offer something like this: “In March, 2002, at a time of great communal tension, Israeli soldiers decided to confine Palestinians to their homes on the West Bank.” That could pique the curiosity of some readers as to why there was that “great tension”; they just might do a little unwelcome digging online .
Shehadeh wants you to believe that the Israelis were callously leading “normal lives” while the Palestinians were locked up. But as Gilead Ini says, how “normal” is your life when you are afraid to enter a restaurant, or a café, or a hotel, are afraid to wait at a bus stop or ride on a bus? How “normal” is your life when you could be murdered, just as other Israeli Jews have been murdered, while at a café, or a restaurant, or a Passover celebration in a hotel, or while waiting with babies and toddlers outside a yeshiva, or while hiking with friends through a nature park. Terrorism? What terrorism? Shehadeh didn’t see any terrorism. He only knew that he was inexplicably forced to remain in his home for a whole month, along with other Palestinians, while Israelis were being allowed to lead their “normal lives,” that is, lives of well-justified fear of being shot, or stabbed, or blown up, by fanatical Muslims conducting their Jihad.
Perhaps someone on the Times will have the decency to supply a “correction” to Shehadeh’s piece. Here’s what that lengthy “correction” could say:
“In the opinion piece (“Stay Vigilant, Says A Curfew Veteran”) by Raja Shehadeh that appeared in the March 24 issue, mention was made of Palestinians in the West Bank being confined to their homes for a month in the spring of 2002, as part of an Israeli “military siege.” There was no military siege, but rather a series of manhunts for terrorists. People were confined to their homes in order not to impede, by their presence on the streets, those ongoing operations by the IDF, and also to ensure that they were not harmed by being caught in a crossfire. Mr. Shehadeh offered no explanation as to what had happened to cause the Israelis to engage in such manhunts.The month when that curfew was imposed was the deadliest month for terrorist attacks in Israel’s entire history. Mr. Shehadeh fails to mention this, but readers should know that more than 400 Israelis were killed during that period.
“A very partial list includes these victims:
“A suicide bomber murdered 11 Jewish civilians, including a 5-month-old, a one-year-old, a three-year-old, a seven-year-old, and three other children waiting for prayers to end outside a Haredi yeshiva. At a café across town, 11 more were murdered. Five 18-year-old Jews were shot dead in Gush Katif. A 9-month-old infant was among the dead in an attack along the Mediterranean coast. Seven passengers on a bus were killed by a suicide bomber in the north of Israel. Sixteen Israelis were killed while dining in a Haifa restaurant. And 30 mostly elderly Jews, including Holocaust survivors, were slaughtered while celebrating Passover in a Netanya hotel.
“The Times is sorry for the errors and omissions.”
Will The New York Times do the decent thing and publish something to that effect, taking special care to include that incomplete list of the Israeli victims from that month’s wave of terrorism? Send the Times editors a link to Gilead Ini’s article. It just might provoke some soul-searching.
A HERD of goats have taken over a deserted town sparking a cop callout as officers tried to remove the animals.The 12-strong group was spotted on Friday evening running around Llandudno, North Wales, as locals obeying curfew laws.
Andrew Stuart spotted them outside his pub window and dialled 101 as the goats were “going to run riot” in the town as no-one could come out to herd them away.
North Wales Police arrived in a patrol car and tried to chase them back to the Great Orme where they are believed to have come from.
He said he “thought I was seeing things” when he spotted them munching on a hedgerow outside his pub and “as they weren’t moving from their midnight feast” he called the cops. Andrew added: “They sent a patrol car down who turned on the big red lights. So, I’m sorry if the goats got arrested. But they were being very naughty. Also, close the gates behind you on the Orme. And stay 2m apart at all times.”
Despite North Wales Police moving the herd out Andrew tweeted again on Saturday to show they had returned.
He joked: “They’re back and they’re gathering in groups of more than two.”
Footage showed them wandering around the ghost town and nibbling on locals’ hedges as no-one could come out to stop them. The Great Orme goats are well known troublemakers in the area
At this writing, we don't know how long this Corona virus is going to be with us and when we can get back to normal life. One thing is certain. This can and most likely will happen again, and world leaders need to have a plan in place to deal with the next virus especially if, as some suspect, it is man-made. Not only can we not accept situations like the deaths occurring in countries like Italy, we cannot go into lock down mode and shut down our economy every time this happens.
Since most all fingers point to China for this outbreak, the US-and the world- must reconsider its relationship with China. Whether this was a result of eating strange animals, like bats, an accidental escape of a virus from a Chinese lab, or a deliberate act by Chinese intelligence services, China must be held to account and must realize that future outbreaks from their country are unacceptable.
Incidentally, there is an interesting (albeit) unverified story coming out of Italy based a 2015 Italian news program that reported that Chinese chemists had conducted an experiment in connection with the Sars virus. Supposedly, they extracted a protein from bats which they grafted onto the Sars virus and concluded that the virus could be transmitted directly from bats to humans without passing through mice as an intermediary. The report continues that the virus may have escaped from the lab and might be connected to today's Corona virus. It should be noted that many scientists are disputing this story as to any connection with the Corona virus. Just this past week I translated a news article and video on this story from Il Giornale, which can be viewed here.
At any rate, this entire Corona story illustrates the need-the urgent need- to stop doing business as usual with China, a country either unable or unwilling to act in the world's interests and safety. It is all too clear that we and other first world countries have enabled China to grow in power economically, militarily, and politically. They are an expansionist country, and their chief weapon is their economic power. Their greatest resource is their people, an unusually talented people I might add. And there are a lot of them. That said, we should not direct our ire at the Chinese people themselves. They are innocent and should be not be targeted in the West. It is their government we need to punish. And it is not racist to call this what it is - a Chinese virus.
I am no economic expert, but any fool can recognize that China wields too much power economically. It is absurd that so many of the products we use and wear everyday are made in China using cheap labor toiling in near slave-like conditions. It is unconscionable that at the very time we are dealing with their pandemic, we depend on China for most of our pharmaceuticals. It is to President Trump's credit that he has started to reverse the unfair trade advantage we have with China. More needs to be done, however.
In my humble opinion, China needs to be isolated. How gradually the corrective measures need to be done, I will leave to the experts (yes, the same experts who have gotten us into this mess over the last several decades). If we deem it unwise and reckless to bring China down to its knees, it should at least be brought back down to earth. They cannot be allowed to dominate the world-just as Islam cannot be allowed to dominate the world. Just as with Islam, if we have the will, we can and will prevail. If we don't have the will, all is lost. I am certainly not advocating war with China. It is to everyone's advantage that we live in peace and harmony with them. But not on their terms.
Anyone who has been to church in France will have noticed that the direction of the tide of evangelism has reversed. It used to be from France to Africa, but now it is from Africa to France. Many of the priests are African: they come to serve or convert the heathen who once colonized them.
It would be easy to discount the importance of this fact in as irreligious a country as France, but it surely points to a loss, not only of faith but also of cultural confidence. The very idea of Europe preaching to the world—except, perhaps, about sexual matters and capital punishment—now seems ridiculous. Europe has lost the mandate of heaven, as the Chinese might say, and it knows it.
Who would have thought, even 30 years ago, that China would be sending humanitarian assistance to Italy, both in the form of medical material and technicians? It’s difficult not to read into this a sudden reversal of what we in the West, for so long, took as the natural order of things: an advanced West and a backward East. But the epidemic has revealed what we would have preferred not to know: we are no longer in the forefront.
We console ourselves that if we have not responded to the pandemic with the slightly unnerving efficiency of South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore, at least we are still free. After all, we do not live under authoritarian rule.
Of comfort let no man speak, as Richard II put it. Walking out to do her shopping on a recent morning in Paris, my wife was stopped twice by the police, who demanded that she show her obligatory laissez-passer (admittedly, a document that she printed and signed herself). But talking to a young man this afternoon—at a distance of at least three feet—we learned that he had been fined $150 because he had put the wrong date on his laissez-passer. Taking a short walk in Paris, I half-expect someone to jump out of a doorway and demand papieren!
A French newspaper crowed that the epidemic heralded the return of the state to the national scene, after years of what is almost always called neoliberalism. As public expenditure represents about 56 percent of GDP in France, one wonders whether the newspaper was staffed by a host of Rip Van Winkles, who had all been asleep during the expansion of the French state after World War II.
Was it for lack of funds that the French state was unable to provide necessary masks and other protective wear for workers in hospitals? If so, what proportion of the GDP has to pass through its hands for the hospitals to be equipped enough?
It is surely of some interest that those Asian states that—for the moment, at any rate—are believed to have done well during this epidemic, while more authoritarian than we would like, also have relatively small public sectors as a proportion of their economies as a whole (a third or less that of France). The size of a bureaucracy is not necessarily a sign of its strength or efficiency, any more than the selling of an oedematous leg is a sign of its strength and efficiency; rather the reverse. A small bureaucracy concentrates intelligence, while a large one disperses it.
The great gravelly-voiced Bob Dylan, one of our nation’s premier troubadours and poet-singers, just released a new spoken song, accompanied by a piano and a piercing violin and it is one hell of a powerful and mournful elegy for America, beginning with the assassination of President Kennedy, a “murder most foul.” There would be other assassinations in that decade and all the while the bands played on producing the most extraordinary and memorable American music. Dylan brings the past to life by calling out the music which accompanied the stories of our lives wherever we were in the 1960s and 1970s.
The Beatles, Wolfman Jack, “St. James Infirmary,” Etta James, “I’d Rather Go Blind,” Nat King Cole, Patsy Cline, John Lee Hooker, Stan Getz, Theolonius Monk, Charlie Parker, Stevie Nicks, Jelly Roll Morton and “Lucille.” He names other songs and singers too, “What’s New Pussycat,” “”Wake up Little Susie,” “The Old Rugged Cross,” “All That Jazz,” “Nature Boy,” “The Rising Sun,” “Stella by Starlight,” “Misty,” “That Old Devil Moon,” “Anything Goes”—even Moonlight Sonata in F#.” He names so many songs, singers, bands, films, and concerts which together re-member his and our America at that time: Woodstock, Altamont, the age of Aquarius, the Beatles, Marilyn Monroe, “Gone with the Wind,” Gospel, Jazz, folk, Hollywood, Country, and Rock n’ Roll.
No doubt, one can interpret why he chose each song, each singer, in deep and resonant ways. I’ve no time to do that just now. Without doing that, Dylan’s spoken art, all rhymed poetry, still creates a haunting lament for the “slow decay” of our country, which, in his view, has “lost its soul” and which he pegs to Kennedy’s assassination.
It is a moving piece, perhaps a great piece, and yet: I remember other music, female music, from that time too, music that is not part of Dylan’s tapestry and I wonder why not. He does call out to Etta James, Patsy Cline, and Stevie Nicks but Dylan makes no mention of Joan Baez, Judy (“Blue Eyes”) Collins, Aretha, Ella, Nina Simone, Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, Dusty Springfield, Barbara Streisand, Janis, Big Momma Cass, Tina Turner—all of whom had the most profound effect on my generation of American women.
On the other hand: Even Stevie the Wondrous is absent, as are Johnny Cash, The Rolling Stones, Willie Nelson, The Doors, Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, and Jimi Hendrix to name only a few. Can’t fit ‘em all in, the musical richness of that time constitutes too huge a legacy to fit into one brilliant song.
Hey Mr. Tambourine Man, Play A(nother) Song for Me...
The world succumbed to a pandemic of hysteria, more than a virus
There is a case to be made for draconian measures to reduce the overall number of infections and thus deaths, but putting the entire economy into abeyance and immuring the population rather than focusing on the vulnerable may cause more harm than good
by Conrad Black
The Canadian government’s management of the coronavirus crisis, if judged by what it does and its leaders say, is completely inadequate. Their relief bill is probably not sufficient in quantum or in efficiency for those unemployed or under-employed as a result of the public health crisis, and the relief for small businesses is also probably insufficiently liquid and too bureaucratic. The closing of the U.S. border is nonsensical. And if the U.S. Army is moved to deploy significant numbers of its personnel to the border, as was briefly suggested earlier this week, it will be a demoralizing, as well as an absurd, event. The last time we had armed uniformed people on that border was when George-Etienne Cartier, as Canada’s first minister of defence and militia, placed the formidable force of 50,000 along the Quebec and New Brunswick borders with the U.S., and near the Thousand Islands and at Niagara Falls and around Windsor, in 1870, to deter the Fenians. These were Irish-American malcontents who wished to repay the British Crown for the Irish famine of the 1850s by seizing Canada. At least there was a legitimate reason for having armed force at the border; there has been none since for 150 years.
Even more regrettable was the brief effort of the federal government to have a stump Parliament, reduced almost 80 per cent in numbers, approve the allocation of unlimited powers for the government to tax, borrow and spend in any way and amount the cabinet might choose with no recourse to parliament until the end of 2021. This was apparently more an act of panic than of usurpation, but was no less an outrage for that. When Winston Churchill was invested with practically absolute powers by King George VI on May 10, 1940, as prime minister of a government of national unity comprising all substantial parties and supported by almost everyone in the country, he was facing world war, which was now almost at the English Chanel and overhead and in the sea lanes. Britain was in a declared state of unlimited emergency, and all legislative authority was delegated to the war cabinet by both houses of parliament except the power to tax. For the regime in Ottawa to ask for even greater and more arbitrary authority to deal with a nasty virus shows both mediocrity of knowledge and judgment in the senior civil service and a painful and disquieting lack of any constitutional perspective or sense of proportion by the prime minister and the minister of finance (who on his record deserves less and not more liberty with the fiscus).
The fact that the proposed measure was hastily withdrawn after opposition objections, especially by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, doesn’t offer much consolation. The hero of parliament was Conservative MP Scott Reid, who crashed the session and tweeted purposefully. (His confusion of Henry VIII with Charles I was more than compensated for by his stirring invocation of William F. Buckley “standing athwart history and shouting ‘Stop.’ ”) When a friend telephoned to tell me of this astounding initiative I took the unusual step of watching the CBC to see how the public broadcaster played it. My stupefaction was considerable when this illegal and autocratic proposal was not referred to at all. Whatever its shortcomings, the CBC can usually be relied upon to take any Canadian government to task for completely preposterous acts. The apparent silence could not possibly have been censorship (although if totalitarian fiscal powers had been let through, censorship of the media would be the logical sequel); nor could it have been exaggerated deference to authority. It had to be simple indifference, the opinion of the national broadcaster’s senior news editors that this scandalous development was unworthy of comment.
I wrote above that the government’s management of the coronavirus appears incompetent, and it does, except for the fact that the crisis shows no signs of remotely approaching a scale that justifies the emergency measures that have been taken. At time of writing, in a country of 38 million, we have 37 deaths from about 3,800 identified cases. The public health system is sufficiently sophisticated that if there were significantly more fatalities from this cause, they would have been identified, even if our testing capacity is inadequate to be confident that there is not a larger number of infected people. Of advanced countries with reliable statistics, only Germany has a lower percentage of fatalities among reported cases, about half of one per cent, and the United Sates, which in medical terms is demographically similar to Canada and leads the world in testing, about half a million people by late Thursday, comes third, with 1.4 per cent of cases resulting in fatalities.
If Germany, Canada and the United States are the leaders in limiting mortal coronavirus cases, the Netherlands and the United States are the hero-nations of public policy. The Dutch have refused to be spooked and have not seriously tried to reduce travel or rights of assembly, or attendance at schools and workplaces, though they are trying to protect the elderly and unwell. Yet their fatality percentages are almost exactly the same as France’s, which is on shut-down imposed by the armed forces. The Dutch are reporting only one per cent more fatalities over confirmed cases than the U.K., and two per cent less than Spain and 4.5 per cent below Italy. The Imperial College of Medicine (London) projections that were so widely circulated a few weeks ago, of 500,000 deaths in Great Britain and 2.2 million in the U.S., have been revised downwards by over 95 per cent, in line with the changing public health responses in those countries. Even that reduced level of expected fatalities is surely an exaggeration. There is a case to be made for draconian measures to reduce the overall number of infections and thus deaths, but putting the entire economy into abeyance and immuring the population rather than focusing on the vulnerable may cause more harm than good. America’s status as a hero pandemical nation rests on the administration’s brilliant relief package, which will actually make this crisis a profitable experience for most of those economically affected by it (in an election year), and for pushing for an end to the current social distancing measures, at least in parts of the country, by Easter, April 12. By then the U.S. will have tested over two million people, and all advanced countries should soon have sample indications of the percentage of people who have had the coronavirus without reporting, or possibly even knowing it.
If this pandemic was anything like as dire a threat as it has been claimed to be, the Canadian government’s handling of it would have been an unimaginable fiasco. Rather more than 25,000 people have died from it in the world and that is a great tragedy, but China, the country of origin, despite grossly bungling the first two months of the illness, and not believable in its officials accounts of events, appears to be largely through it. The world succumbed to a pandemic of hysteria, more than a virus, and it is time to follow the American, if not the Dutch, lead, starting with bringing back the elementary schools. Information from every study thus far shows that children seem largely immune to the virus, so the danger to them is minimal. And although children can be carriers, strict social distancing measures in the classroom, such as those in place in Taiwan, can allow classes to resume relatively unhindered.
Since New York City, as it is in many things, is now the coronavirus epicentre, a metaphor from the 1960s television sitcom “Car 54, Where Are You” comes to mind. Two rather awkward policemen were the principals and in one episode, they accidentally misreported something, and by the time they corrected this with their staff sergeant, the report had shot upwards in the city government, and the two unwitting originators listened with astonishment on the regular radio of Car 54 as the chief of police, and then the mayor, the governor of New York and the president of the U.S. came on the air to reassure the nation. There were skilful simulations of the well-known voices of the last three office-holders (John Lindsay, Nelson Rockefeller, and Lyndon Johnson). One policeman said to the other resignedly: “What are we doing? Is everyone crazy?” The coronavirus isn’t a laughing matter, but when the Canadian government tries to abolish the rights of parliament and U.S. armed forces are nearly dispatched to the Canada-U.S. border, and most of the work forces of the world’s principal countries are hiding in their homes, those questions are reasonable; and someone in Ottawa should try to answer them.
The organizer of the Iranian regime’s contest of caricatures trivializing the Nazi Holocaust has seized on a new theme — promoting the conspiracy theory that the US is behind the coronavirus pandemic.
Masoud Shojaei-Tabatabaei — an artist and veteran propagandist on behalf the Islamic Republic ‘s ruling clerics — told media outlets in Tehran on Wednesday that more than 2,000 submissions had been received from cartoonists in 68 countries for the regime’s “We Defeat Coronavirus” competition.
The accusation that the US deliberately unleashed coronavirus on an unsuspecting world and is now withholding medical and financial assistance to the same end appeared in many of the cartoons.
One entry showed a coronavirus missile being launched from the US with an accompanying note from US President Donald Trump that read, “To China and Iran, with my love.”
Another showed an Iranian man coughing while carrying a coronavirus microbe on his shoulder, as an enlarged hand draped in the American flag snatches vital medication away from behind his back.
Shojaei-Tabatabaei was the main organizer of the two contests staged by Iran in 2006 and 2016 showcasing cartoons that variously denied and mocked the Holocaust. More than 150 cartoons from the latter contest were exhibited at the headquarters of the Islamic Propaganda Organization in Tehran in May 2016.
“We held the Holocaust Contest to raise the question of why the Holocaust cannot be discussed in the West despite its claims of freedom of expression,” Shojaei-Tabatabaei explained at the time. He went on to praise the “pure nature” of the artists who submitted entries to the Holocaust cartoon contest, saying they were motivated by opposition to the “child-killing regime of Israel.”…
The contest is being sponsored by Iran’s Ministry of Health, which earlier this week summarily ruled out any role for foreign organizations in dealing with the chronic outbreak of coronavirus in the country….
Nothing signals the “pure nature” of “artists” like their ability to have some fun with the Nazi treatment of the Jews. It’s the stuff cartoonists dream about, to be able to poke a little fun at sacred cows, like the Holocaust, that you’re never supposed to joke about. But why not? That’s what we Iranians wanted to know. Why should one group of people, “the Jews,” be able to use the Holocaust for their own ends – which is to talk endlessly about their supposed suffering, in order to make people too embarrassed to bring up the “child-killing regime of Israel”? If you dare to discuss the Holocaust without any presuppositions, you are made to feel guilty. Why?
If the Holocaust existed at all – and of course no one is saying it didn’t, just that there might need to be more convincing evidence than we’ve been given so far – let’s face it, we still have no idea how many victims there were. Some people say a few hundred thousand, mostly from typhus in the work camps, which of course doesn’t excuse it, while others say a million or even more, and the estimates go all the way right up to six million as the tippety-top figure. We should always question authority. How do they come up with these numbers? One million, two million, four million, six million—come on, does anyone really know? We can all agree, can’t we, that some things were done by some people? Bad things, no question about it. But isn’t that enough? It was so long ago.
Now we wanted to give cartoonists a chance to focus on the coronavirus, to give us all a little comic relief at a time when so many people are walking around with long faces, or hiding in their houses until they get the all-clear. Ayatollah Khamenei, our Supreme Leader, spoke for a lot of us when he said “it’s not such a big deal.” And it isn’t. It will all be over way before the end of the year. He also said that he had a hunch – no, he was sure — that the Americans had created a kind of coronavirus that would attack only Iranians. Do you put it past them? Isn’t that worth bringing to the world’s attention? Why should that subject be off-limits to discussion any more than the Holocaust should be? We felt that the cartoon contest was the perfect way to focus the world’s attention on this matter. And if the Americans want to debate the issue, let them present whatever evidence they can come up with to prove that Ayatollah Khamenei’s claim was wrong. It’ll be a frank and honest debate. Just like what it says in your Declaration of Independence: “Let facts be submitted to a candid world.” Meanwhile, you can see many of the coronavirus cartoons on social media and can judge them for yourself. Enjoy!
Albatross by Fleetwood Mac, written by Peter Green, one of the best guitarists of his generation. The original line up from 1968. Peter Green, Danny Kirwan, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie. Jeremy Spencer played with the band live during this period but wasn't involved in the recording of this piece.
In Gaza, Israel Will Be Held Responsible for Keeping the Coronavirus in Check
by Hugh Fitzgerald
Some 55 Palestinians in the West Bank are currently positive for coronavirus, and last Thursday [March 19] the first two cases were reported in the Gaza Strip — both Palestinians who returned to Gaza from Pakistan, via Egypt, and are now quarantined at Rafah.
Prof. Eyal Zisser thinks the coronavirus threat may bring Israel and the Palestinians closer together. His argument – which has not convinced me – is here.
The Gaza Strip faces a very problematic combination of third-world healthcare, one of the highest population densities in the world, and difficulty in enforcing instructions issued by the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
The Palestinians are being pushed into Israel’s arms by the arrival of the epidemic, since they are entirely dependent on the medical aid Israel provides them with to stop the spread of the virus. But the coronavirus crisis has turned the spotlight on a familiar and complicated truth, which many still deny — that it is difficult and maybe impossible to separate the Palestinians and the Israelis, and that the 2005 disengagement from Gaza did not truly “disengage” Gaza from Israel.
Day-to-day life in Judea and Samaria, where Jewish and Palestinian communities exist side by side, along with the fact that tens of thousands of Palestinians make their living in Israel, make any attempt to separate the two populations in an attempt to stop the virus impractical. But Gaza, too, which is supposedly cut off from Israel, is becoming Israel’s responsibility since Hamas can fire on Sderot or Tel Aviv but cannot care for the residents of Gaza in a humanitarian crisis of the kind the world is currently facing.
Hamas long ago made its choice. It chose to spend time and money and attention on making life as difficult and dangerous as it could for Israelis. Almost every Friday, for the past two years, it has staged the Great March of Return to try to breach Israel’s security fence. The script never varies: Israel first tries to head off the marchers by firing rubber bullets and tear gas. Those who continue and get very near to the fence then are subject to non-lethal fire, but the Israelis aim below the knee only in order to temporarily prevent ambulation.The protesters who get right up to the fence, throwing Molotov cocktails, grenades, occasionally gunfire, at Israeli soldiers, and let loose incendiary kites to set Israeli farmland on fire, are the ones whom soldiers fire at above the knees, in the most threatening cases, shooting to kill.
Hamas has spent a lot, too, on hundreds of terror tunnels it has built from Gaza into both Israel and Egypt. These tunnels are very long and very deep – many built at a depth of 100 and reaching 2640 feet in length. They were to be used by Hamas fighters who, it was planned, would emerge at the Israeli opening, to kidnap or kill Israeli civilians, then quickly disappear into the tunnel and back to Gaza. Life for Israeli civilians near the Gaza border, with such a threat a constant possibility remains tense even in times of quiet.
Had Hamas given up its Jihad against Israel in 2005, today Gaza would be a very different place, and so would its ability to withstand the spread of the coronavirus. When the last Israeli pulled out of Gaza in 2005, the Israelis left intact 3,000 greenhouses, which they had built and with which they had established a thriving business growing, and exporting to Europe, vegetables, fruits, and flowers. These greenhouses were turned over to the Palestinians, who then proceeded to vandalize the greenhouses, with individual looters stripping away the copper pipes and anything else of value they could take. The Palestinians didn’t care. They had grown used to living on foreign aid, chiefly supplied by the Infidels in Europe and the United States.
Much of that aid was stolen by Hamas leaders. Two of them, Khaled Meshal and Mousa Abu Marzouk, are each believed to have amassed fortunes of $2.5 billion dollars. Some of those stolen billions should have gone to improving the wretched medical system in Gaza. Some of the aid that was not stolen was used not as its Western benefactors intended — on the medical system — but instead went to pay for weaponry – rockets, missiles – as well as for terror tunnels, and for financial support for terrorists (if they were in prison) and for their families (if they had been killed)– the infamous “Pay For Slay” program. Again, the medical services in Gaza were scanted; new hospitals were needed but not built; instead the existing hospitals were often places where rockets were stored, or from where rockets were fired into Israel. This naturally made them targets of Israeli bombing. And many medical personnel in Gaza who could practice their skills anywhere naturally preferred to emigrate, to the Gulf Arab states, to Europe, to North America.
As for claims about Israel causing shortages of medicines in Gaza “because of the blockade,” Israel has never blockaded any medicines for Gaza. It is the Palestinian Authority that retains the power to order medicines for Gaza. Since 2017, as part of the sanctions it has placed on Gaza in its ongoing contest for power with Hamas, the PA has sometimes blocked even critical medicines from being transferred to Gaza. The PA has also made a major reduction in Gaza’s overall health budget. Little of this is ever reported in the Western press.
So Israel is shouldering responsibility for the Gaza Strip, both because it wants to contain the epidemic in Gaza and because it wants to avoid criticism at home and abroad for not taking responsibility for the health of the residents of Gaza. In fact, Israel is already supplying coronavirus testing kits to the Hamas government and preparing to provide medical aid, including field hospitals, for thousands of Gazan corona patients if the situation takes a turn for the worse, as has happened in many places all over the world.
Have you heard or read anything, until just now, about Israel supplying test kits to the Hamas government? No. And did you know that Israel has already been preparing to provide medical aid, including field hospitals, for thousands of potential corona patients in Gaza? No, you have not. And when that aid is deployed, what are the chances that it will be mentioned on the BBC, on CNN, in The New York Times or the Washington Post? Israel’s help will likely be mentioned only if something goes wrong, such as if Israel-supplied test kits are found defective, or Israel is accused of “not providing enough ventilators” or of “failing to provide the same level of care for patients in Gaza as Israelis get,” or some such predictable, and predictably baseless, accusation.
When it comes to the PA in the West Bank, for now Israel is just stepping up coordination between the IDF’s Civil Administration and Palestinian authorities. But it’s clear that if the coronavirus situation there worsens, Israel will need to get more involved in attempts to stop it from spreading throughout Judea and Samaria, or across the Green Line.
The near-total quiet on the Gaza and West Bank borders does not necessarily mean that the Messiah has arrived and the Palestinians have turned into Zionists because of their increasing dependence on Israel. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh, for example, is demanding that terrorists be released from Israeli prisons to keep them from contracting coronavirus in Israel, and Hamas isn’t doing anything to reduce tensions, either. But the facts on the ground speak for themselves, and reflect the reality of intertwined lives that cannot be changed by rhetoric.
The lion is not lying down with the lamb, either in Gaza or the West Bank. But there is relative quiet; no rockets are being fired at Sderot, the Great March of Return as of now has been cancelled. The Palestinians know that they are counting on Israel to rescue them from this invisible plague. They can hold off on violence for now. There will be time, once the pandemic has ended, to renew their Jihad against the Jewish state. But that renewal of violence doesn’t mean that the next time there is a health crisis, the Palestinians won’t again be expecting Israel to come to their rescue yet again. They will.
Prof. Zisser is hopeful:
The corona crisis could turn out to be a positive turning point in Israeli-Palestinian relations, in which the latter acknowledge the importance of their ties to Israel, making them not only difficult to cut, but also in the Palestinians’ interest to maintain.
I doubt that Palestinians will feel any lasting gratitude to their Israeli Samaritans. The most morally advanced Palestinians may recognize that the Israelis have treated them well, but theirs will be a small minority of voices, and for their own safety they may not express such sentiments in public. Most of the Palestinians will treat Israeli medical and humanitarian aid as theirs by right; they are entitled to it, they deserve it. Let’s not forget that “the Jews” owe it to them for stealing the Palestinians’ land in the first place and besides, “the Jews” almost certainly created the virus, tested it out in China, and then made sure it arrived in the West Bank and Gaza, so they could then treat the stricken Palestinians and get credit for this from a gullible world that yet again falls for the schemes of the wily Zionists.
That’s too crazy a notion, even for these past masters at conspiracy theories, you say? I think that in the bizarro world of Muslim Arabs what is crazy is the perfectly sensible belief of the eminently sane Prof. Eyal Zisser, that the “corona crisis could turn out to be a positive turning point in Israeli-Palestinian relations.” How will we know who was right? Let’s just keep checking back with MEMRI.
China Article V: We will never be quite the same again.
Oh, where is Dr. Freud when one needs him?
by Phyllis Chesler
Who would ever have thought that anything could knock the pandemic of Jew hatred off the front pages?
Well, the Chinese government has managed to do so. All day, every day, perhaps with the exception of some particularly malevolent media in Iran or Gaza, most English-language TV broadcasts all, all, focus only on the Wuhan Virus—the escalating rates of infection and death; the absence of adequate equipment; the consequences to our economies; tips on keeping safe—on and on, as if nothing else matters. And, for the moment, nothing else does, the world has come to a hard standstill.
We will never be quite the same again. Now, countless millions, all those who do not get sick or who do not die, are experiencing what it is like to be a shut-in, to be unable to go out, or to go out very often, or alone, or with ease. Perhaps when this siege is over, able-bodied people will remember it and reach out with a new kindness to those who have been permanently left behind.
We will never be quite the same again—and yet: Families who are now shut in together have probably never before been in such close contact for so long and with so few reprieves, no dashing into the surf, no walking along the beach, no amusement park rides. Nothing. Nada. Young children may someday remember this as a War in which their parents (if they are not doctors or nurses) were able to stay home; as a memory they may treasure in the distant future.
We have time-traveled, at least partly, back to previous centuries, when one worked at home or nearby and did not go far beyond one’s own village. Were it not for electricity, plumbing, the internet, live-streaming, and television (how lucky we are!), we might time-travel back even further, when only a mere handful dared risk long and always dangerous ocean voyages.
People are saying that divorces will escalate due to such cramped confinement—perhaps, but the birthrate may also escalate.
We shall see.
We will never be quite the same again, but now everyone might better appreciate the fact that child-diarist Anne Frank and seven others (!) all hid together for two years in a 450-square-foot space in what was known as the “secret annex.” Anne was murdered by the Nazis when she was fifteen years old. Only her father, Otto, survived—and he subsequently went about universalizing and de-Judaizing her diary.
In the mid-1970s, the late Meyer Levin walked with me up and down the beach in Netanya, imploring me to understand exactly why Otto, together with Lillian Hellman and “the left-wing Broadway and Hollywood Jews” participated in this obscene bid for commercial success. I believed him, but for years Levin was considered a crackpot. Only in the mid-1990s did Cynthia Ozick, in the pages of The New Yorker, expose this drama-within-a-drama.
All around me, people are terrified of falling prey to the Wuhan Virus. Some are quite hysterical. One woman, who merely had a cold but had no fever, was not coughing, and had no trouble breathing, nevertheless told all her colleagues that her doctor had diagnosed her as “mildly positive” for the virus—and he did so over the phone. Oh, where is Dr. Freud when one needs him?
One woman seems to have gone a little stir crazy. Laughing, she proudly told me that she takes walks in the middle of the night, and she marveled at the deep quiet on the darkened and deserted streets. She is prone to falling and refuses to use a cane or a walker. I was aghast but remained silent.
Everyone is also worried about economic free fall. Will small business owners have to lay off staff? How many? And for how long? How quickly and how seamlessly will the American government’s two trillion dollar Bill which just passed actually come to our rescue?
When this is all over, the world has got to hold the Chinese government fully responsible—economically, legally, socially, criminally, and morally. Their failure to warn us in a timely fashion has led to great death and devastation.
This has got to be a wake-up call in terms of American corporations having outsourced all our manufacturing to China for the sake of greater profits due to cheaper labor. But now, see how at risk we are. The Chinese government can withhold pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, and technologies if the West makes threats or denounces them too loudly.
I know a successful fashion designer, who for years has been bemoaning the fact that she’s had to travel to China twice a year for the sake of her clothing line. She’d been asking why American manufacturers refused to read the writing on the wall, were willing to shut down plant after plant, textile mill after textile mill, merely for the sake of more and more profit for their stockholders with no sense of danger or responsibility to American workers. And believe me, this woman is a super, uber capitalist; however, she is also well aware of unintended consequences due to greed.
While diplomacy with China is essential right now, we may have to rethink and retool our relationship to such a country.
Which, if any, expert estimates should we take seriously?
by Theodore Dalrymple
I never listen to the radio, but back in 2008 I was in a taxi when I could hardly avoid doing so. A world-famous economist was being interviewed about the effects of the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
‘There might be a recession,’ he said, ‘or there might not. If there is, it might be long or short, deep or shallow.’ I thought to myself that I could be a world-famous economist, interviewed and feted everywhere, if only I had the self-confidence to utter banalities or tautologies as profundities.
Epidemiological modelling seems hardly more trustworthy than the economic variety. It is not very difficult to see why, or why one model should tell us that the end of the world is nigh and another that we are already saved. Those are, very broadly, the respective conclusions of two recent headline-grabbing models, one from a team at Imperial College, London and another from Oxford. You pays yer money and you takes yer choice.
The present epidemic so preoccupies us that we think of practically nothing else. But because we do not know how many people have been infected, we have no idea of the lethality of the infection. Models must make assumptions, and in the absence of knowledge, assumptions must be given in ranges. Even as few as two variables can give a huge range of possibilities.
Knowledge of the lethality of the infection can only be attained when we have proper epidemiological evidence of how many people have been infected and how many people have died of as a result. For the moment we can only guess.
Suppose that the death rate from the infection is near to that of the death rate of ascertained cases, that is to say (for ease of calculation) 5 per cent. Suppose also that the ascertained cases have been 100 per cent of all the cases that there have been, and also that the rest of the population is certain to be infected. There have so far been about 8000 cases in Britain with 400 deaths. The population is 66,000,000, the vast majority of whom, ex hypothesi, remain to be infected. That means that there will be a further 3,299,600 deaths.
Suppose instead that 80 per cent of the population has already been infected, that is to say 53,280,000 people, of whom 400 have died, giving a mortality rate of 1 in 133,200 infected people. That means that there will be another 95 deaths from the disease.
Assumptions make the model, and ignorance of the justification of assumptions means that a model can as easily mislead as inform, without any ill-intention on anyone’s part
Obviously, I have used very crude assumptions that no one would actually use. But I hope that the above illustrates how assumptions make the model, and ignorance of the justification of assumptions means that a model can as easily mislead as inform, without any ill-intention on anyone’s part. The more variables that are taken into account, the greater the possible range of outcomes. We have no option but to pay our money and take our choice.
A model from Oxford University comes to a completely different conclusion about the severity of the present epidemic from that of Imperial College, though of course it can no more claim to knowledge the true lethality of infection than can that from Imperial. It concludes that the epidemic will be self-limiting at a much lower level than that predicted by Imperial if nothing were done to halt it.
Which model should be taken more seriously? Since catastrophism comes naturally to people who have lived in security all their lives, we believe in the precautionary principle (or Sod’s Law). We must act on the worst-case model.
This would be all very well if acting on the worst-case model were itself incapable of producing a catastrophe, but it is not. Indeed, it might in the future be possible for people to argue that the Imperial College model caused more deaths than the disease it modelled.
I am not saying that this is, or will be, the case, only that it could be. What we need, then, is a really good economic and epidemiological model.
Democratic Party bosses are sending an infirm and elderly mouse to bell a big, tawny, roaring cat. Anyone can see how it will end.
by Conrad Black
President Trump has met and passed his supreme test. This has left his Democratic opponents desperately espousing gloom and demanding that the economic shut-down continue, according to frequent semi-high-brow Democratic ideologue and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, for up to seven months.
Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers took to the Washington Post to preach epidemiological defeatism. While the choristers of fear and despair are clinging to a prolonged economic melt-down like drowning men clutching a raft, their presumptive presidential candidate is disintegrating in the midst of friendly interviews and struggling to get a little attention while the man he wishes to unseat takes one to two hours of prime-time television every day announcing the success of his plan of action to deal with the country’s greatest public health crisis in a century.
When Trump realized that his breezy assurances that everything was under control and that the spring weather would vanquish the problem weren’t cutting it, and that he was wide open to blistering criticism from his opponents, he imperturbably executed a 180-degree turn and became, in FDR’s phrase, apt for a public health crisis, “Dr. Win-the-War.”
The Democratic Party spokespeople for a few days were feeling very sufficient, settling into a long siege with the entire economy of the country descending into desperate straits, and then carrying their recently resurrected nominee, the ill-assured and quavering Joe Biden across the finish-line against the new Herbert Hoover.
Democrats had been incredulous at Trump’s appearance as a candidate, judged him unelectable, were so astonished by his victory they convinced themselves and corrupted the Justice Department and the intelligence agencies with the monstrous falsehood that he had won by enlisting the support of the Kremlin. And when that enormous canard came down in flames—like the Hindenburg at Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1937—out of terror-induced distraction, they impeached him for unimpeachable offenses and with no believable evidence that he had committed them anyway.
The unelectable Trump had given way to the impeachable Trump, who was replaced by the distinctly beatable Trump, a vision it was increasingly hard to believe in as the economy disobediently boomed and the president’s poll numbers rose. Then, like the Seventh Cavalry guided by a beatific apparition, the coronavirus pandemic descended. It wasn’t quite the Trump exit his enemies had wished, but it would do and it was providential. Trump would shut everything down after being pilloried for overconfidence and ineffectiveness, the economy would wither, the pandemic would do to him politically what the Iran hostages did to Jimmy Carter, and the Democrats could claim in the autumn that if he had just acted more quickly, all would be well, and the disease-driven poverty of America was Trump’s doing.
The president had the grace of conversion. He shut down all the bunk about his philistine animosity to science by recruiting a blue-ribbon scientific and public health administrative team. He stopped most of the Democratic officeholders by cooperating closely with all the governors, including some he had quarreled with publicly and acidulously. People in the front lines, like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and California Governor Gavin Newsom, were fighting for the lives of the people in their states, as well as for their own political futures, and all those who were trying to cope with the pandemic, rather than exploiting its political consequences, had the same interest.
The eminent scientists and other specialists on the president’s task force appeared with him at his press briefings and spoke in solidarity with him. Trump more or less shouldered the vice president aside and took the podium every day with the whole country watching. He brought in the private-sector leaders and a collaboration somewhat reminiscent of the brilliant cooperation between government and industry in World War II instantly came into being as many corporations threw their energies into producing and distributing vital equipment for combating the scourge.
Medical supplies were moved quickly and with almost no red tape. The astounding incapacity to test in serious numbers and promptly was replaced in two weeks with mass testing that almost anyone could perform with results coming in 40 minutes. This week there have been 65,000 tests a day and by next week there will be 150,000 tests a day.
Trump was solid, not rattled, by the questions and entirely believable as he handled the press every day, and fully corroborated by his experts. The anticipated fatality rate between 5 and 10 percent of those afflicted, and a majority of those apparently with coronavirus symptoms, narrowed out after about 10 days and it emerged that only about 15 percent of those who seemed to have the symptoms tested positive, and of those, fatalities were about 1.5 percent of infected people.
If the immuno-compromised portion of the population could be segregated and protected, the fatality rate came down to about half of 1 percent of the 15 percent of the tested and symptomatic people who actually had contracted the coronavirus. And there are large regions of the country where the penetration of the virus has been minimal, and this condition was generally conserved by drastically reduced travel.
The independent medical and epidemiological experts confirmed that the president’s actions in closing down flights from China in January and from Western Europe on March 11 had undoubtedly saved many American lives and that without these measures, the United States could have had fatality rates like Italy’s distressing 10.5 percent of infected cases—scores or even hundreds of thousands of dead if replicated in the United States. At the time of the move on flights from China, Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer fired the usual Democratic charges of “racism” and “xenophobia” at the president—the charges didn’t wear well.
The president championed the malarial remedy Hydroxychloroquine, and when one unfortunate tried to self-medicate but with the phosphate version (an aquarium tank-cleaner) he died so CNN billed it a virtual manslaughter by the president. Laughable. And the actual remedy does appear to be promising. As this new and less terrifying picture emerged, a rising focus among commentators was on the economic damage of a prolonged shut-down of the country.
Although this was essentially what the Democrats were counting on, they had to concur in the president’s relief package, an awe-inspiring two trillion dollar direct relief bill supplemented by a four trillion dollar liquidity facility. The Democrats squandered their ability to take much credit for it by trying to pack in nonsense about solar panels, windmills, abortions, carbon emissions of grounded airliners, and back-handers for trade unions. Too late. They realized that Trump and the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, had layered in tax benefits that would outlast the public health crisis and its consequences and would be of tangible pleasure to the voters as they went to their election places.
And so the Democrats arrive at their last line of defense: Bill de Blasio, the failed, lame-duck mayor of New York, pathetically wailing for the deployment of the armed forces (for no evident purpose and as if they were immune to the virus) and predicting that the pandemic would rage everywhere in the country at the highest New York City rate, for six months. Reich and Summers and the others charged out of the firehall one more time demanding a long shutdown, but it won’t fly. They’ve run out of dirty tricks they’re finished.
The Democrats have a presumptive candidate who can hardly utter a coherent sentence in response to a friendly questioner, live-streaming from a little podium in his living room, an absurd, and objectively sad spectacle. The Democratic bosses are sending an infirm and elderly mouse to bell a big, tawny, roaring cat. Anyone can see how it will end.