Featured Post

An American Coup D'etat?

This has gotten completely out of control. I never thought I would see our country's politics reduced to the degrading levels of a Banan...

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Risky Business

All this ChiCom Virus insanity has me mulling over the idea of "risk" and its management.

There's a ton of stuff out there about "risk" and "risk management." I read a lot of it in my college econ classes and in the econ course I took at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI)--and, of course, every book about wars has at least an implied look at risk and the calculations made to deal with it. I have long had a fascination with the concept of "risk," and find interesting how humans in different endeavors try to manage risk, to balance it against gain or opportunity.

I will not get too philosophical or delve into complex models of "risk management." I have long expressed doubts in other postings about models that seek to explain a variety of human enterprises and predict behavior and outcomes. Let's face it, scientists can't even predict with any great accuracy the track of a hurricane, much less tell us about "global warming/cooling/change/ whatever." I am going to ramble a bit on some of my own experience with "risk management." Not very interesting, so you can stop reading right about now. Or maybe now. Or now.

One of the more unusual jobs I had in my Foreign Service career took place in Panama, 1997-2000. As we prepared to hand over the Canal and our military bases to the Panamanians in accord with the Carter-Torrijos Treaties, we ran into the issue of unexploded ordnance (UXO) on a few of the old firing ranges (some not very accurate leftoid articles about it: here, here, and here.) I got the job of leading the U.S. team negotiating with the Panamanians over the UXO issue. It was rough. The Panamanians proved extremely unreasonable and, at least, pretended not to understand the concept of "risk." I gave, even if I say so myself, some very good speeches and wrote some good papers on the topic. The point I sought to make to the Panamanians, and to the lefty commentators in the US, was that Panama was getting a great deal with minimal risk, a "risk" that could be easily managed. The risk of death from UXO was extremely low; the US military had done a terrific job cleaning up the old firing ranges. There were a very few, very isolated spots where it was not possible to certify the land as fit for human habitation. The military fenced those off, identified them with lots of signage, trained Panamanians in what to do with any UXO  they found, and often poured tons of dirt, gravel, and sand over the most "dangerous" areas. When, however, such a spot had been identified, the Panamanians almost always would announce that on that precise location they planned to build a school or a playground. One small and remote area, in particular, had some ten feet of sand poured on to it; we told the Panamanians that it was not possible to do anything more with that site; they immediately unveiled plans to place a school there, and to dig down eleven feet. I remember telling them in one raucous meeting, "Don't do that! You'll blow yourself up!" I was the pride of the diplomatic corps, yes, indeed.

In the end, nothing happened. We did not pay the billions the Panamanians wanted in "compensation" for the UXO; they took the billions worth of property and technology, instead, and, of course, nobody built playgrounds or schools on top of unexploded 60mm rounds. Not even the goofy Clinton administration would give the Panamanians even more than we were already giving. Risk identified. Risk handled.

In subsequent years, as DCM and Charge of a couple of embassies during the height of the war on terror, I had responsibility for thousands of people. We would get intel all the time telling us that the Embassy and Americans were being targeted. What to do? Should we shut down every time we got these reports? Shelter in place? Run screaming into the night and for the airport? No. We took sensible precautions and carried on with our mission. Combat veterans know about this much better than I: in combat, soldiers have to make rational decisions about risk in the midst of an irrational environment. They have to weigh the mission against the danger.

In recent decades, Western society has become increasingly risk averse. The legal codes of our societies are packed with regulations governing everything from seat belts and bike helmets to building codes and the running of nuclear plants. Some of that, of course, makes sense, some proves excessive. Overregulation, for example, appears hindering the search for a "cure" or a vaccine for the current ChiCom virus epidemic.

That brings us to perhaps the greatest example of grotesque "risk" aversion: the current economic shut-down in response to the ChiCom virus. We have closed down the greatest engine of prosperity in the history of the world in order to "fight" a virus that, while highly contagious, is not particularly deadly to the general population. This flight from "risk" is proving catastrophic: we will suffer the effects of this strategy for a long, long time. We have a political-technocratic class that will oppose ending the shut-down no matter when. They will bombard us with tales of this or that person who fell ill from the ChiCom virus after returning to work. The "experts" will lecture us on "science," and regale us with their increasingly discredited "models." They will tell us that we risk blood for money, profit over people. Yeah, yeah.

Well, as a member of one of the most "at risk" groups, i.e., old fart with underlying medical conditions, let me tell you something about creating massive poverty by closing the economy, "NOT IN MY NAME!" There you have it, a lefty slogan repurposed.

Let's get back to work. We can handle the "risk."


Thursday, April 2, 2020

Broken Record

From the beginning of this ChiCom virus crisis (here, for example, a posting from January 27) this humble blog has expressed great doubts about the seriousness of the current epidemic/pandemic. I have been shouting to the computer screen that the data, as biased as they are, DO NOT show what the media and the "experts" are telling us.

That data produced by "experts" screaming about DOOM do not comply with the models produced and relied upon by those very same "experts." Simply put, people are not and have not been dying at the rates and in the numbers the models have been predicting. The mortality rate, even if we accept the highly improbable assumption that all who die with the ChiCom virus in their system died from the ChiCom virus, is about the same for a bad flu season, and is declining. The hospitals in the USA are not overwhelmed, not even in New York, the so-called "epicenter" of the virus in America. In fact, CBS news, pioneers in fake news drama of our times, had to rely on footage from an Italian hospital, and pass it off as that from an American hospital.

Yes, if you are an old fart with underlying conditions--such as your humble blogger--you are at greater risk from this virus than if you're a young'un. That, however, is true with just about any illness you care to name.

The Communist Chinese lied about the origins and contagiousness of the virus. No doubt. They withheld critical data that could have helped Western "experts" see how serious or not of a problem we might face in countries with modern medical services. As I have noted before, the cover-up was worse than the crime; the ChiComs could not let the world see how bad China's public health and medical services are. Living conditions in most of China are dire, miserable, really. No matter what Bernie Sanders claims, China remains a poor country.

Western leaders, quick to panic, immediately shut down our economies to "fight" the virus. Instead of adopting common sense measures, and making sensible recommendations to the public, our leaders, bamboozled by the "experts" and the hair-on-fire media have begun dismantling our economies and societies in an effort to "protect" us.

Save us from our saviors!

From watching the latest White House Corona Virus press conference, it seems obvious that President Trump is realizing that his initial skepticism was correct. Notice how he kept interrupting Dr. Birx to stress that the infamous "curve" is not the same everywhere in the USA, and that measures appropriate for one part of our vast country might not be for another. I still have a slight hope that the President is going to start to turn this around.

We cannot keep waiting for another "rescue" package. We already see the Dems licking their chops about another multi-trillion dollar pork-fest concentrating on infrastructure. Great. Let's have the government take over the entire economy. Right. They are going to give us the Green New Deal whether we want it or not. The green, by the way, comes from the color of dollars and has nothing to do with saving Gaia.

Yes, without a doubt, keep insisting, demanding, requiring that basic manufacturing be returned to the USA. Let, if you want, the Communist Chinese keep their global dominance of the flip-flop market and cheap luggage. We'll take back the rest.

It is time to switch the lights back on before it is too late.

PS: I should have added this reference; it is from the always entertaining and educational No Pasaran blog which has an excellent piece on the bad math being used in the crisis.

Monday, March 30, 2020

"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."

Thoroughly depressed.

Never thought it would come to this, not, at least, here in the USA.

Almost the whole country's, nay, the world's economy on lock-down because of a not particularly deadly virus? In the West a long tradition of human rights and freedom thrown out the window? Hunkered. Bunkered, Blinkered. All this because of a virus imported from the lying ChiComs?

We see the best U.S. President in our lifetimes stampeded by twisted, incomplete data, by floundering "experts," and by a twisted, completely worthless mass media and political class: the triumph of Pennsylvania Avenue politico-technocratic madness over Main Street commonsense.

Never forget, there is science and there are those who call themselves scientists. Not the same thing.

Disgusting.

The President gave up on his hope that we could begin restarting the economy by Easter. The "lockdown" continues in our Quixotic quest against a not very particularly deadly virus; a quest headed by people wrong before about previous "existential" threats. Remember North Korea? SARS? MERS? HIV/AIDS? Ebola? Recurrent flu epidemics/pandemics? The last Rebel Wilson movie?

We survived them all without causing incalculable damage to our economy, life-styles, and basic freedoms. In the US, we have thrown out our Bill of Rights, in particular, the First Amendment. Yes, yes, before somebody chimes in, I realize that this legal opinion is probably accurate (h/t Instapundit): "the simple reality is this: federal courts will not enjoin temporary measures that are facially calculated to save lives." Doesn't mean that this is Right in the real sense, or that damage has not been done to the Constitution, and, of course, "temporary" is in the eye of the promoter, i.e., the bureaucracy and its multi-trillion dollar "rescue" packages using our money. If these "temporary" measures and "rescues" continue, soon we will not need to scrounge for toilet paper, we will use worthless $100 bills.

I do, nevertheless, understand the President's predicament. He will get blamed by the howling lefty mob for each and every infection and death, no matter what he does.

All you have to do is hear how Pelosi and Company are lying and distorting his previous words to know that politically he is in a bind. The fact, remains, however, that the data upon which we allegedly rely to drive our decision-making is horribly flawed. Do you really believe there are no new ChiCom virus cases in China? If so, do like the Dutch and the Spaniards have done, i.e., get testing kits and PPE from China . . . and then find they are worthless.

Per the data of the WHO, if the Communist Chinese have, in fact, stopped the virus dead, how'd they do it? What secret formula have they uncovered to stem the number of cases? I will tell you what it is: LIES. Simple, no? They lie, and the horribly compromised WHO and the media repeat that lie.

Even if we accept the data from more reliable countries, we find that the mortality rate appears heading south, down to flu-levels or below. This seems so even when you consider that just about anybody dying who has the virus gets listed as having died from the virus--something patently false.

Anyhow, keep washing your hands.

Hoppes 9 is a great cleaner . . .

Thursday, March 26, 2020

ChiCom Virus and the Left's Glee: Carter Energy Crisis Redux?

Looks like the Congress is going to pass that massive, $2.2 trillion (what does that sum even mean?) economic "rescue" package. We already see some Dems warning us that this is only the beginning and that more will have to come from the Feds to avert DISASTER.

Really? Last night I was mildly encouraged that the "rescue" thing would not pass, and would get hung up--as our Founders intended--in a complex game of checks-and-balances, with countervailing interests and demands nuking each other. But, alas! The Senate passed the monster kidney stone, and now it goes to the House of Reps for likely passage there.

Sigh . . . We don't need massive "rescue" packages from the Feds.

We need the Feds and the Staties and the Munis to get out of the way, re-open the economy, and stop suppressing our rights and freedoms. We are not in some horrid war wherein our homeland has suffered invasion. We do not face an existential threat from a virus. We face a virus, another one in a long line of viruses, apparently not more fatal than any other in the recent past; we can deal with this disease without destroying our society, without turning us into docile wards of the all-powerful and beneficent State, obeying the dictates transmitted to us by the so-called news media. By the way, if there is any existential threat, it comes from the draconian actions called for to "defeat" a ChiCom virus.

All nonsense in the pursuit of permanent damage to the USA and the West.

Folks, wash your hands; don't cough on people; avoid large crowds as much as possible; don't shake hands willy-nilly, but go back to work! This ChiCom virus will pass. Create! Produce! Invest! That's what this country does so well. We are not a nation meant for sealed bunkers, bunkers to which we have ceded the keys to the bureaucrats and the "experts."

We are not Eloi! There are no Morlocks--unless we allow them to take up residence here.

You and I, the ones with the gray hairs, have lived through this insanity before.

Remember the Great Energy Crises of the 1970s? We had then some calamitous leadership--Republican and Democrat--which bought the line that we were running out of energy; oil was finished; industry was dead; the "experts" and their media echo chamber told us that we had to ration, and, above all, to lower our standard of living. In particular, that uber disaster known as Jimmy Carter lectured us on our "national malaise," told us to wear an extra sweater, to turn off the lights, not to drive our cars, etc. I remember the barely concealed glee of the lefties of that era, as they predicted the end of capitalism, called for more and more power for the Feds, more programs, always shouting about THE IMMINENT END OF THE WORLD. It was all hogwash, political agenda driven hogwash. No insult meant to hogs.

It is happening again.

The media, the lefties, and the "experts" clearly want to keep the economy shuttered. They want widespread misery as some sort of comeuppance for our Gaia-defying greed and prosperity. They want to make the "workers," you and me, dependent on the State. Soon will come the calls to nationalize this or that industry, to prevent some businesses from ever opening. They will claim it's global climate change, that it's hunting, that it's gun ownership in Georgia, that it is Trump--of course--to blame. They will produce and distort whatever data needed to keep us in a constant state of anxiety and crisis. They will cite science, although they don't really believe in it--check their positions on the number of "genders" and whether the unborn are human--and accuse those of us who are skeptical of being anti-science, of being flat-earthers, etc. Well I say, let the insults commence, and let them roll off our backs like water on a duck . . . we will be wealthy and happy.

The "experts" and the bureaucrats made this mess, and now they pass huge budget-busting "rescue" packages to "save" us from the mess they made. The ChiCom virus did not shut down the economy, just as a real shortage of oil did not during the Great Energy Crises of the 1970s. It was the "experts" whatdoneit in both cases.

Mr. President, re-open the economy.  We will wash our hands. Promise.


Monday, March 23, 2020

The ChiCom Virus: A Glimmer of Hope?

President Trump's press conference today gave me a bit of hope, just a bit as I am an old pessimist, that we might be moving on from the current almost total economic shutdown to something more tolerable. The conference also confirmed for me--yet again--that most of the "journalists" covering the White House are either infantile or evil, slithering vipers.

The President made clear what many of us have been saying for some time, to wit, that we cannot let the "treatment" for the ChiCom virus prove worse than the effect of the virus itself.

He also stressed, to the obvious chagrin of the aforementioned "journalists," that he cannot and will not listen to only one advisor or one set of advisors. The "journos" kept hammering him on whether Dr. Fauci or some other medical personnel had concurred with a possible reopening of the economy in a week or so. Their game is brutally obvious. They want to portray Trump as having declared victory over the ChiCom virus, despite expert advice, and then, of course, play up continued infections and even deaths after the economy has restarted. They seemed not to understand--yeah, right--the President's point that as President he has to balance a number of factors and advice.

I would also note that there is no perfect decision, one free of all negative or unintended consequences.

The public health dimension is an important factor but it is not the only one, particularly, as we have discussed before, in light of the falling mortality rate for the ChiCom virus, a rate that seems headed for levels of the flu or less. DR. FAUCI IS NOT THE PRESIDENT, any more than any of the other public health "experts" of our enormous bureaucracy; they have a view which should be heard and considered, but it is not policy unless the President says it is.

A leader of the United States must factor into his decisions the national security, the overall economic health of the country, the future of that economy, and the impact on society of keeping the country idle. He also must ward off the destructive "rescue" efforts launched by the DemoCommunists who seek to take advantage of this crisis to inflict great portions of their insane social, economic, political, and environmental agenda.

I hope and pray that President Trump makes the right decision in the coming days, and puts an end to the ongoing destruction of our economy and society.

Friday, March 20, 2020

China Virus: Know Means No?

Stir crazy. Horrible shock to the system.

The world's greatest hot bar located at the Harris-Teeter supermarket in New Hanover Square in Wilmington closed today "until further notice."

This is war. I've had it.

It's one thing to shut down airlines, cruise liners, shops, restaurants, dog parks, government offices, and factories, it's quite another to cut me off from my salmon and prime rib.

This reaction to the China virus has gone totally insane.

The more you learn, the more you know, and, hence, the more you have to say "No" to what we are doing to the global economy and society. The mortality rates on this virus thing are falling as we get more and more data. The initial horrendous mortality hype was based on a relatively small "N," just like a bad political poll that seeks to tell you national trends by polling 325 people on the phone in Manhattan--ask Hillary.

As the testing expands, and the number of "infected" people grows dramatically, the overall mortality rate falls. Surprise! Not. The denominator gets bigger and the size of the fraction goes south . . . It seems as though the mortality rate will prove about that of any flu or other epidemics/pandemics we have had in recent years.

Perhaps, I am right? The horror of that thought . . .

We have shut down the economy all over the world in a fit of mass hysteria. More people will die from that, than from the Chinese disease. It appears (that word) Trump's initial skeptical stance seems to have proven right. Unfortunately, in my view, he got stampeded by the "experts" and the media's low rent Jeremiahs into freezing the economy.

The further we go down this rat hole, the harder to crawl our way back.

But . . . there is a growing realization that the Chinese Communist Party is responsible for fomenting this hysteria by lying and trying to cover up the existence of the virus; as we all know, the cover up is often worse than the crime. So, if there is a bright spot to all this, we will re-evaluate our relationship with China and the insane policies that made China the center of the world's manufacturing. Delink from China: that should be our motto for years to come, yes, delink.

Back to cleaning my guns. Haven't fired my new Ruger 57 or my new STI Staccato. The suffering I have endured . . .


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

And the Next Time? More of this Nonsense?

Hunkered. Bunkered. Shuttered. Furious.

OK. Everything is shut down because of the new flu. We have tanked the economy and all over the world we are seeing massive increases in government power and control. This to "fight" a virus.

Just a quick thought before I sneak outside to walk the dogs.

What about the next time?

Are we going to keep doing this every time there is some "virus"? And there will be another one and another one and another one.