COVID19 Pandemic: What Went Wrong, What Went Right, and Why?

A must watch video by Dr. Amesh Adalja, “Looking Back on the Pandemic: What Went Wrong, What Went Right, and Why?” recorded at OCON 2021.

Dr. Adalja, a board-certified physician in infectious disease, critical care medicine, emergency medicine and internal medicine, specializes in the intersection of national security with catastrophic health events. He publishes and lectures on bioterrorism, pandemic preparedness and emerging infectious diseases. He is a frequent guest on national radio and television programs. During the Covid-19 pandemic, he has been treating patients, engaging in high-level policy discussions, advising various organizations and communicating extensively with the public. Views expressed are Amesh Adalja’s alone, and not those of Johns Hopkins University, the USG, or any other entity.

Trump Booed For Recommending Vaccines

From NBC News (Aug. 22, 2021):

Former President Donald Trump was booed at a rally Saturday in Alabama after he told supporters they should get vaccinated.

“And you know what? I believe totally in your freedoms. I do. You’ve got to do what you have to do,” Trump said. “But I recommend take the vaccines. I did it. It’s good. Take the vaccines.”

Some boos rang out from the crowd, who were largely maskless.

“No, that’s OK. That’s all right. You got your freedoms,” Trump said, echoing rhetoric from opponents of mask and vaccination mandates. “But I happened to take the vaccine. If it doesn’t work, you’ll be the first to know. OK? I’ll call up Alabama, I’ll say, hey, you know what? But [the vaccine] is working. But you do have your freedoms you have to keep. You have to maintain that.”

Such is Trump’s alleged power to control and determine the views of his supporters.

Trump is viewed as a cause (as opposed to an amplifier, or effect) of the rise of populism and nationalism, when he, like most politicians who seek power, is simply responding to concerns of the electorate — legitimate (vaccine mandates) or not (anti-vaccination on principle) — that are out there. Trump being booed is an illustration of this principle of the horse being driven by the alleged cart.

Salsman: The Success of Gold-Based Monetary Systems

Writes Richard Salsman in “Honest Money Will Require Rediscovering America’s Founders” (NY Sun):

“The fact is that it worked efficiently, elegantly, and nearly automatically, especially when least managed or manipulated by monetary authorities. I contend that gold-based monetary systems were known for facilitating price discovery, profit calculation, private planning, saving and investment, international trade, and — consequently — economic prosperity. Efficient, practical success was most evident in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

“Gold-based systems were less successful when government hoarded and debased gold under the gold-bullion standard, which obtained between 1914 and 1948, and even less so under the gold-exchange standard. That, of course, was Bretton Woods, between 1948 and 1971, when the dollar alone was directly redeemable in gold (for foreign central banks) and then further debased.

“The history illuminates how these three distinct versions of the gold standard tracked closely to the prevailing size, scope, and power of the United States government. A more limited government prevailed under the classical gold-coin standard; it was four decades with free trade, no income tax, no central bank, no welfare state, and no major wars. Subsequent versions were accompanied by massive increases in the welfare-warfare state.”

Read the full article.

Related:

The Philosophic Basis of Capitalism by Leonard Peikoff

What explains the rise of statism in America, a nation founded on laissez-faire capitalist principles? Leonard Peikoff takes up this question in this 1980 lecture to a group of businessmen. After considering popular yet insufficient explanations, Peikoff identifies the ideas dominating Western philosophy as the crucial determinant.

Tracinski: The Case for the U.S. Staying in Afghanistan

  • World

Robert Tracinski, author of So Who Is John Galt Anyway? A Reader’s Guide to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, makes a compelling case for staying in Afghanistan.

He correctly notes that leaving Afghanistan was not a good idea badly executed, but that withdrawing from Afghanistan was a bad idea, to begin with, and will only embolden America’s adversaries.

Writes Tracinski:

Advocates of staying in Afghanistan are usually accused of acting on the “sunk cost fallacy,” of throwing good money after bad on a failing venture. But in fact maintaining the status quo, with pre-withdrawal troop levels or even elevated troop levels, would have required a commitment of a few thousand troops, mostly acting in support of our Afghan allies, and a few tens of billions of dollars a year—a rounding error in our recent multi-trillion-dollar appropriations bills. In exchange, we would have gotten what we came to Afghanistan for in the first place: assurance that it never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists.

By contrast, what happens when we leave? Afghanistan is certain to become a base for terror again, and it will now be a hundred times harder to go back in again when we need to. After all, we can no longer make any credible assurances about our ability to protect people or our willingness to follow up on our commitments. They are entitled to conclude that if they help us again, we will sell them out again and then add insult to injury by implying, as President Biden did in his Monday speech, that they are cowards who aren’t willing to fight—even after they’ve been doing the bulk of the fighting and dying for years.

[…]

As one Afghan negotiator put it, “The slogan now of every single terrorist group with the jihadist mind is ‘now that we have defeated the United States and its 42 allies in Afghanistan, we can go after them anywhere.’” 

[…]

No jihadist success story can compare with the triumph of the Taliban, which faced the full might of the U.S. military only to have us slink away ignominiously. Remember that the Taliban now control more of Afghanistan than they did on September 10, 2001. How many fanatics worldwide will be inspired by this proof of the success of their cause?

Moreover, the repercussions of our abandonment of Afghanistan will be felt far beyond the Middle East. Already, Chinese propagandists are crowing that they expect an equally swift victory, with an equally ineffectual American response, when they invade Taiwan. Notice that they say “when,” not “if.” And what must the Russians be thinking right now about NATO security guarantees for the Baltic states?

This is an emboldening of our adversaries on a scale we haven’t seen since the 1970s. It is comparable to the period from 1975 to 1980—from the fall of Saigon through the Iran Hostage Crisis. It is a period of weakness that is provocative to all of our enemies.  [“Real Afghanistan Withdrawal Has Never Been Tried,“August 18, 2021.]

Read the entire essay at The Bulwark.

Peikoff & Chayes: Democrats Using Big Tech To Control ‘Misinformation’ Is Totalitarian

Write Peikoff and Chayes on this issue in Democrats Using Big Tech To Control ‘Misinformation’ Is Totalitarian (The Federalist):

Not so long ago, a “Ministry of Information” was an institution unique to socialist “utopias,” which required rigorous establishment and enforcement of official truth to maintain state power. As absurd as such an institution may have once seemed to us in the West, we are unfortunately seeing signs that it can indeed happen here.

The authors examine how the bill might work — banning open discussion on “settled topics” and replacing it with “the party line”, and concluding:

In times of fear and insecurity, the pull to appeal to authority might feel irresistible. But if we keep our wits about us, we will recall that we in the West have largely resisted this fallacious approach, both in science and politics, since the time the Catholic Church censored Galileo. (As if Socrates being forced to drink hemlock wasn’t enough!)

Are we now ready to feign amnesia once again and to obediently accept a truth proclaimed from the top down? Or is intense debate and controversy — ah, those uncomfortable disagreements that we experience in abundance in a pluralist society — an integral component of the scientific mindset, and approach which has brought us unprecedented wellbeing?

[…]

Government officials telling private companies to censor disfavored viewpoints on vital issues is the stuff of totalitarian regimes, not of a free country built on the homage of reason.

The entire article is required reading.

The recently proposed “Health Misinformation Act” can serve as a stepping stone for a total “Misinformation Act” once the principle is accepted that it is the government’s job to determine the “official truth.”

It must be opposed on principle.

There is no “no-man’s land” between opposite principles, no “middle of the road” which is untouched by either or shaped equally by both. The fact is that man cannot escape the rule of some kind of principles; as a conceptual being, he cannot act without the guidance of some fundamental integrations. And just as, in economics, bad money drives out good, so, in morality, bad principles drive out good. To try to combine a rational principle with its antithesis is to eliminate the rational as your guide and establish the irrational. If, like Faust, you try to make a deal with the devil, then you lose to him completely. “In any compromise between food and poison,” Ayn Rand observes, “it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit.” [Leonard Peikoff, Why Should One Act on Principle?]

 

United Nations: “A Hotbed of Undemocratic, Unaccountable Far-Left Activism”

  • World

Writes Donna Laframboise on the moral status of the United Nations:

“Pardon me, but the UN has no right to tell any of us what we must do. UN officials aren’t elected by the public. They’re bureaucrats. Careerists who hop from one UN post to another. Even more to the point: they are a special, protected class. Their diplomatic immunity renders them untouchable – wholly unaccountable for their actions.

“UN personnel have no skin in the game. They pay no price when they mess up. The UN was supposed to help rebuild Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake. It failed miserably. Then it made matters worse. UN peacekeepers introduced cholera to that already-traumatized nation. As 10,000 cholera deaths followed, the UN spent years denying responsibility.

“We the people have no mechanism by which to unseat UN officials – even when their incompetence kills. We have no way of turfing them from office – even when they promote harmful public policy. One day humans may achieve fulfilling lives without the aid of fossil fuels. But that day is not yet here. Much of the world is still struggling to feed itself, to access clean drinking water and medical services. Those basics depend on affordable, reliable energy – the kind that fossil fuels provide.

[…]”It’s time we ended our absurd naivety about the UN. This is a hotbed of undemocratic, unaccountable far-left activism. Its reports are best ignored.” [“Code Red Climate Hype“]


Related:

 

WSJ: The Return of ‘America Held Hostage’

  • World

From the WSJ, The Return of ‘America Held Hostage’:

“As Taliban forces consolidate their control of Kabul, the nature of the new regime remains somewhat veiled. On the positive side, the jihadist group issued a general pardon to all government workers, some female broadcasters have returned to the air, and prominent ex-officials like former President Hamid Karzai appear to have elected to remain in the country. On the other side of the ledger, Taliban spokesmen would say only that Afghan women will enjoy their full rights under Shariah; girls’ schools have been shut down in parts of the country; teenage girls have been forced into marriage with Taliban fighters; and residents report that armed soldiers are searching apartments and taking names. A widely circulated video purports to show the jihadist group’s soldiers executing 22 unarmed Afghan army commandos after their surrender.

“One thing, however, is clear: The Taliban hold the lives of thousands of U.S. citizens—and the future of the Biden administration—in their hands. The collapse of the Ghani government left as many as 15,000 Americans and permanent residents along with an unknown number of other Westerners and foreigners trapped behind Taliban lines. Tens of thousands of Afghans employed by the old government, allied military commands and Western-oriented nonprofits are, with their family members, also desperate to leave. While U.S. forces control the Kabul airport, American citizens—and Afghans with U.S. visas—must run a gantlet of Taliban roadblocks and checkpoints to reach the American perimeter.

“As for the thousands of Americans, citizens of allied nations and endangered Afghan nationals stranded in other parts of the country, at press time U.S. officials had no plan in place to bring them to safety. Congressional offices report being deluged with pleas for help from Americans behind enemy lines and from veterans seeking help for Afghan contacts and friends.”

The White House did release this tweet:

Shouldn’t this discussion have occurred before the U.S. military pulled out?

High school students could have planned this better:

“Shouldn’t we get our friends before we bail?”

(Well at least the ones not hyper-focused on “structural racism” and the forthcoming “environmental apocalypse.”)

There seems to be more strategic planning in the dreadful Kathleen Kennedy/JJ Abrahms/non-George Lucas Star Wars sequels (and there was apparently “no plan”) than in the Biden Administration’s Afghanistan withdrawal.

The Book Club: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand with Professor Eric Daniels

  • Books

Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, named by readers in 1991 as the most influential book after the Bible, is a novelized warning about the allure and evils of socialism. What happens when the most productive members in society give up? How much can be asked of them before they do? Who is left to support the rest? Michael Knowles and Eric Daniels take you through Rand’s prophetic masterpiece.