Just a few things while contemplating the fact that with 3.28 million people filing unemployment claims compared to 83,000 cases of the Wuhan virus going around, it seems the cure is 39.5 times worse than the disease.
1. Neil Ferguson Is Canceled
You probably know Ferguson’s name by now; he’s the wunderkind epidemiologist data modeler from Imperial College London whose masterstroke study was touted as the “game-changer” that got policymakers in America and the UK to become “serious” about dealing with the Wuhan Bat-Eaters’ Disease, or WuBED-19, if you like. The study, hailed by everyone as the first serious step toward recognizing what a threat the virus is to the civilized world and largely responsible for imprisoning everyone in their homes, claimed that without an economic lockdown Great Britain would suffer some 510,000 dead and the U.S. more than 2.2 million.
This was acknowledged by our betters as the gold standard of data modeling, and anyone who questioned whether the lockdown was sound public policy Hates Old People You Guys. Against such momentum there was little question but that a trip to the nail salon, barber shop, or hardware store down the street, much less the neighborhood watering hole, simply was too great a risk to allow the general public to take.
Except a funny thing happened on the way to Armageddon. On Thursday, Ferguson suddenly poked his head up out of the ground and gave us all a Emily Litella-esque “Never mind.”
Did he say 510,000 stiffs in the UK? Well:
A scientist who warned that the coronavirus would kill 500,000 people in the United Kingdom has revised the estimate to roughly 20,000 people or fewer.
Scientist and Imperial College author Neil Ferguson said Wednesday that the coronavirus death toll is unlikely to exceed 20,000 and could be much lower, according to New Scientist. He added that he is “reasonably confident” that Britain’s health system can handle the burden of treating coronavirus patients.
“There will be some areas that are extremely stressed, but we are reasonably confident — which is all we can be at the current time — that at the national level we will be within capacity,” Ferguson said.
The ironic thing is Ferguson supposedly has the virus himself.
Guess when he first got it, his main symptom was the loss of his mathematical faculties. Those have recovered. He’s feeling much better now.
There were 3.28 million Americans, at least, whose jobs went away at least temporarily because public policymakers listened to Neil Ferguson.
Does this mean the virus isn’t a serious thing? Of course it’s a serious thing. Three million people are out of work because of it — anything capable of doing that is a serious thing. But the more we see of the Chinese Wet-Market Grippe, the more it looks like previous Chinese imports, viral or otherwise: they cause politicians to do dumb things, spread everywhere, cause people to lose their jobs, and then underwhelm as to their quality.
Here’s hoping Neil Ferguson makes a full recovery from the virus — and that no one ever listens to anything he says again.
2. Joe Biden Creeps Out on Cable TV
This deserves mentioning, but not too much — because it isn’t really news, is it?
Wednesday, Joe Biden’s handlers (nurses? governesses? orderlies?) decided they had to bring him out of hiding, following last week’s attempts to present Biden in a tele-Town Hall format that went excruciatingly badly, and ran him through the cable TV car wash.
You already know that didn’t go well.
And while he was flubbing his way through segment after segment, an interview surfaced with Tara Reade, a former Senate staffer who accuses Biden of having sexually assaulted her with a penetrating finger in an X-rated orifice back in 1993. It turns out that Reade, who backed Elizabeth Warren back when she was a thing, tried to tell her story back in January and went to Time’s Up, a feminist legal foundation that pushes Me Too cases, in order to get help with her allegations.
She was rebuffed, ostensibly because the Time’s Up people were worried about losing their nonprofit status if they went after Biden while he was running for federal office. That was absurd, of course; the real reason was that Time’s Up is tied in with the Democrat public relations firm SKDKnickerbocker, which is where Anita Dunn works.
And Anita Dunn is on Joe Biden’s team.
It makes you wonder whether Ol’ Spreading Bull shouldn’t dust off those campaign signs, finish her beer, and get back into the race. The Democrats are going to throw Sundown Joe overboard sooner or later, and it won’t be Bernie Sanders who gets the nomination dropped in his lap when they do.
3. Media to Trump: Uncle! Uncle!
The one thing we could have told Democrats who thought they’d be able to use the Chinese Croup as a cudgel against Trump was that when you create a crisis the guy in charge then has the opportunity to look like he belongs there, and it really isn’t all that difficult to pull that off.
What do you think the whole Wag the Dog meme comes from, anyway?
So they blow up the If-You-Notice-This-Virus-Comes-From-China-You’re-a-Racist outbreak into a frenzy for everyone to lose their mind over, and Trump proceeds daily to bring the top people in his administration out to brief the public on what they’re doing, and lo and behold the public is generally satisfied. They’re good with the steps he’s taking. They generally like the surgeon general, the vice president, Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx. They largely approve of his expressing optimism about drugs doctors are using to treat the Pangolin Plague, they generally agree it would be a good thing if the country could go back to work by Easter, and Trump’s approval rating soars. On the virus, he’s polling as high as 60 percent.
Well, that won’t do. So now the alphabet soup networks and NPR are saying they’re going to pull back from live coverage of those press conferences and only show “highlights.”
What did you idiots think was going to happen? That the pajama boys and bimbos you trot out to ask him whiny questions about how racist he is to call a Chinese virus a Chinese virus were going to energize the public against him? Trump got better ratings than any of you when he was a TV star who hadn’t run for office yet — did you think you were going to beat him?
4. The Pathetic #FakeNews New Orleans Advocate
You might have seen the awful story of a 39-year-old social worker at a New Orleans HIV clinic who died while waiting for the results of a test for the Sino Syndrome, as it was picked up by a host of media outlets across the country. It was originally reported by the New Orleans Advocate, the local successor to the former New Orleans Times-Picayune, which it ate last year (one of these days I’ll have to do a whole column on what a colossal cockup that has been).
The poor woman’s name was Natasha Ott. She was found dead on her kitchen floor. Whatever killed her came on very fast — much faster than the Wuhan virus does. But she had been feeling unwell for some time, and had been tested for the virus.
The story strongly implied Ott had died of the virus. But she didn’t. The test came back negative, and the Advocate had to report their initial story was bogus on Tuesday — which they did with a “but her doctor is ‘skeptical’ ” caveat.
On Wednesday, the Advocate‘s editor, Peter Kovacs, started blasting out e-mails begging subscribers and former subscribers to donate money to the paper to keep its “great” journalism afloat.
Louisiana’s Attorney General, Jeff Landry, who last month was the target of a ridiculous series of hit pieces by that paper alleging a staffing company that he owns and his brother manages skirted immigration laws to hire welders for a liquefied natural gas plant construction project south of Lake Charles — an allegation made on the strength of statements by a convicted fraudster currently in federal prison — couldn’t pass up the opportunity to lay waste to the paper for its preening about good journalism while begging for money.
Here was Landry’s diatribe, posted on Facebook Wednesday, in all its glory:
THE ADVOCATE NEWSPAPERS MUST STOP PUBLISHING FALSE INFORMATION TO SCARE THE PUBLIC OVER THE CORONAVIRUS. Right now I, and other elected officials, are working hard to inform the public with accurate information to fight the virus pandemic. But the Advocate newspapers seem interested in grabbing headlines with false information to create fear and drive readers to their newspapers. Several days ago Advocate newspapers published a story about a younger woman found dead in her Orleans Parish apartment with headlines and a spun up tale linking the death to the Coronavirus. The Advocate pushed it. A quick internet search shows over 88,000 stories with this woman’s name worldwide, as The Advocate spread fear and panic to rack up links in other media publications driving traffic to their sites. Now days later the same Advocate newspapers had to admit the story was false, she has tested negative for the virus. Their explanation? They raised suspicions over the test. NOW THE SAME ADVOCATE NEWSPAPERS ARE ASKING PEOPLE TO HAND OVER THEIR HARD EARNED MONEY BY DONATING TO KEEP THE NEWSPAPERS ALIVE. But the same Advocate Newspapers are now owned by a businessman and politician whose wealth is literally hundreds of millions of dollars. The papers are owned by a man who does deals in the billions of dollars and was the largest video poker distributor in Louisiana, a politician who ran for Mayor of New Orleans as a Democrat and Governor as an Independent (losing twice). Last year a Gallup poll showed only 13% of Americas trust the mass media “a great deal.” That is not surprising with the continued tactics of The Advocate newspapers.
5. What’s Worth Watching While You’re Bored Stiff in Lockdown?
Ideally, you’d find something else to do but watch TV now that you’ve been essentially put in time-out by the local or state Powers That Be. Realistically, if you’re like me, you’re going to run out of those things, and at some point during the day you’re going to reach for that remote. You can only look at so many things on the internet before you’re driven crazy by the WuFlu frenzy, the dog suddenly refuses to go for a walk because he’s exhausted, the house is spotless, and the tube beckons.
And no, you can’t watch cable news for one more second.
So what’s worth watching?
Well, here are a handful of suggestions.
First, 1917 is now available to rent on demand. The Sam Mendes-directed classic is well worth watching, if perhaps it isn’t an all-time great film. It’s good, but it isn’t quite the World War I version of Saving Private Ryan. The story is similar, though simpler. What 1917 brings to the table is a very innovative cinematographic approach, in which most of the 111-minute movie looks like it was done in one shot. And the visuals are stunning — trench warfare is vividly brought to life (a clue: it sucked to be in the trenches in World War I).
That’ll kill two hours of time. What else?
I found a show on Netflix I’d never heard of: The Sinner. It originally appeared on the USA Network, and the third season is on TV now, but I’d missed it before last week. The first season starred Jessica Biel as a woman who brutally murders a young doctor on a riverside beach in upstate New York and Bill Pullman as a local detective who gets to the bottom of why she did it — she didn’t even know at the beginning. The second season, involving a kid who poisons the two adults he’s traveling to Niagara Falls with, also has Pullman reprising his role as the detective who unravels a hidden mystery.
There are better whodunnits out there, but The Sinner does manage to hold your attention. It’s decent, especially if you’re down to a choice between it and some Belgian show about outlaws in the woods or a Russian series about walking, talking sex dolls. Yes, you can find both of those on Netflix.
But speaking of obscure European TV shows available via streaming services, the third season of Babylon Berlin dropped on Netflix not long ago. It requires a little bit of patience, as it’s dubbed — and the voiceovers aren’t the most dramatically compelling — but the show is worthwhile simply for its satisfaction of historical curiosity. It’s set in Berlin in the late 1920s and early 1930s — how on Earth could a first-world country like Germany end up being run by a bunch of Nazi thugs?
Babylon Berlin isn’t exactly a documentary about the Weimar Republic, but it does manage to capture a sense of what it was like there — an incompetent, out-of-gas regime built out of the remnants of the Kaiser’s Germany, trying to play the Nazis off against the communists it saw as the real threat, with a decadent, crumbling civil society replete with gangsters and desperate ordinary people everywhere just trying to get by. The message the show gives off is an interesting one; namely, that people are going to do what they have to, and rough times make for rough folks. It’s almost like a Western, except it doesn’t quite deliver a John Wayne or Clint Eastwood to save the day. And, of course, in that it’s historically accurate, because Germany didn’t have those two to counter Hitler.