Perspective

This blog is eighteen years old and counting. Granted, it’s been a hobby the whole time – other than my annual fund drive and the occasional Google Ads check, it’s never been a money-making proposition. There’s aways been something else to keep me much, much busier from 8-5 – initially a couple of kids, plus a career; these days, the career covers most of it.

But the goals have always been the same: talk about the things in this world where not talking about them would drive me completely crazy, and try to convince the “other side” that there’s another way.

Christian Toto – longtime journo, and conservative film critic – has been at it longer, with different priorities, and a story that resonates with me; a conservative in Saint Paul is a fish at least as far out of water as one in Hollywood.

The whole thing is worth a read, but here’s my pullquote:

What’s different now about me?

I’ve embraced more of Andrew Breitbart’s spirit, his vision. It IS a culture war, and one side has far more ammunition. I’m not looking for domination, though. Given the chilling clampdown on free speech I simply want all sides to be heard without, as Dave Rubin would say, being called a Nazi … and then punched.

Once upon a time that was the liberal’s default position. No longer. It’s time to act accordingly. Taking that basic stance makes me both an outlier and a culture warrior. Guilty as charged on both fronts.

If you’re a left-of-center movie buff, I hope you’ll stand by me, too. Let’s argue about the best, and worst, content streaming into our homes.

We can agree to disagree, assuming you acknowledge “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein” got stiffed by the Academy in 1948.

Worth a read.

Densely Packed People

“Politics is the least effective possible way to get things done” is a tight paraphrase of one of my favorite Kevin Williamson quotes. And it may as well be the theme in this piece, from far-from-right Pro Publica,

Pullquote from among many contenders:

[San Francisco Mayor London] Breed, it turns out, had sent de Blasio a copy of her detailed shelter-in-place order. She thought New York might benefit from it.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, however, reacted to de Blasio’s idea for closing down New York City with derision. It was dangerous, he said, and served only to scare people. Language mattered, Cuomo said, and “shelter-in-place” sounded like it was a response to a nuclear apocalypse.

Moreover, Cuomo said, he alone had the power to order such a measure.

For years, Cuomo and de Blasio, each of whom has harbored national political ambitions, had engaged in a kind of intrastate cold war, a rivalry that to many often felt childish and counterproductive. When de Blasio finally decided to close the city’s schools, it was Cuomo who rushed to make the public announcement, claiming it as his decision.

“No city in the state can quarantine itself without state approval,” Cuomo said of de Blasio’s call for a shelter-in-place order. “I have no plan whatsoever to quarantine any city.”

Cuomo’s conviction didn’t last. On March 22, he, too, shuttered his state. The action came six days after San Francisco had shut down, five days after de Blasio suggested doing similarly and three days after all of California had been closed by Newsom. By then, New York faced a raging epidemic, with the number of confirmed cases at 15,000 doubling every three or four days.

Being a leftist publication, the elephant in the room – population density is a key vector of transmission – got skipped.

But tinhorn imperial personality poiltics? That just plain killec.

Tone Deaf

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

600,000 Minnesotans lost their jobs this Spring. The $1.5 billion surplus is now a $2.5 billion deficit.  DFL legislators want to give 50,000 state employees a 2% raise in July.
 
My thought: there are 50,000 state employees?  That’s a lot of bureaucrats.  And it does not include all government employees – teachers, county or city – only state government.  Are we sure that’s as lean as we can get?  No fat to trim?  None?
 
The Republicans are holding strong, for now.  Let the state employees strike.  Give them a taste of their own medicine, going without pay like so many others.  
 
State employee unions hold Walz’ leash.  Time to give it a yank.  
 
Joe Doakes

Being a public employee union makes you not only “essential”, but more valuable to Tim Walz’s Minnesota than the people who are paying the taxes to support them.

If Daudt and the House GOP give up their cards on the bonding bill, I may go back to the Libertarians after all.

Government By Slogan

Gym class is one of few parts of high school – mostly junior high – that I’ve actively tried to blot from my mind. Don’t get me wrong – some of the gym teachers at my high school might not have been sadistic sociopaths. Some of them may have grown as human beings. I’ll leave it to divine judgment.

I do remember that many of ’em, when they weren’t articulating the humor they found in making the less team-sports-inclined kids feel like fish out of water, communicated primarily in slogans, to the depth of “no pain no gain” and “loooong slow distance” and other such repositories of the wisdom of Western Civilization. I don’t remember much, but I remember the slogans.

I thought about that when Governor Walz explained his new testing policy on Friday. Emphasis added by me:

Gov. Tim Walz coined the phrase “Minnesota moonshot” to refer to his goal for COVID-19 testing in the coming weeks.

It’s a “moonshot” because the level of testing he says is necessary is hard to imagine in current conditions.

Over the past six weeks, Minnesota labs have run more than 39,000 total tests statewide. Before the state begins returning to normal, Walz said he was aiming for some 5,000 tests per day or 40,000 a week.

And another story came out Friday as well, spelling out the details. I’ve added some emphasis:

Walz has said that a massive increase in testing — both tests that diagnose people who have the virus and tests that determine whether someone has developed antibodies to fight the virus — is necessary to restart parts of the economy.

Walz is planning to use $36 million from a state COVID-19 fund for the first phase of a several-step process: A three- to four-week period in which Mayo Clinic and the U of M will create a central lab to accommodate the expanded testing. Clinics and hospitals around the state will also be ramping up their efforts to take samples from potentially infected patients, which they will then send to that new central lab

The state is also planning to establish a virtual command center, to coordinate the state’s response with health care systems across Minnesota. The center would help determine where the tests are needed most on a given day, and how best to quickly address outbreaks that occur.

A new website, in which patients can see exactly where all the testing sites are among other resources, is also in the works.

Well, I”m glad there’s a plan.

Or was, anyway.

The sharp-eyed among you, and those that still pay attention to the Minnesota media, may have noticed something – the first story, announcing the Governor’s “moon shot”, was a month ago, and the bit with the “details” – really, a list of aspirations fit entirely for public relations use, which is all it takes for most Twin Cities media to run the story – came out a week later. A month after the “moonshot”, after the “three to four weeks” the governor called out for getting the state – with its formidable concentration of hospitals and immense public health bureaucracy – up to 20K tests a day, we’re noodling along around 5,000, on a good day, and that’s pretty recent.

And you can scan the Twin Cities media every day looking for any sign that a single reporter is going to follow up on the complete flop that Walz’s slogan turned into.

Not only are we testing at 3/4 the rate of South Dakota, and 1/3 the rate of North Dakota – we’re lagging every Minnesota “progressive’s” rhetorical punching bag, Mississippi, by a solid quarter.

Governor Walz is a gym teacher. God love gym teachers – but chanting “no pain, no gain” isn’t going to move any needles.

Not outside of Twin Cities newsrooms, anyway.

Representative Karen

Tina LIebling, representative from…

…well, it might as well be Eastasia, given her attitude about, well, the role of the elected legislature, especially the part that’s in opposition., But I digress.

Here’s the representative, talking about GOP Senators who were doing the – let me make sure I’m perfectly clear oh this – actual job they were elected to do, standing up for their constituents’ interests.

No matter, to Rep. Karen:

Hey, at least state rules forced her to unblock me!

Confidence

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

When people have confidence in the ability and willingness of the government to protect them, they don’t buy guns to protect themselves.

Second straight month of record gun sales.  Forget what they tell the poll takers on the phone – what does that sales figure tell us about the public’s confidence in the local officials they formerly trusted?

Joe Doakes

But…I’m toldthe polling numbers are stellar…

Imbalance

Bob Collins’s descent into madness notwithstanding, Minnesota Public Radio is in general the best, least systematically biased newsrooms in the Twin CIties. It’s a low bar, but they get over it by a hair or two. On a good day or the right issue, Tom Hauser at Channel 5 might join ’em above the bar – but I digress.

(And we’re referring to the newsroom, here – not their programming, which is largely Democrat PR).

So one of the greater injustices of this whole epidemic is that MPR and American Public Media (APM) are buying out a slew of long-time staffers, including some fairly decent reporters…

…but Keri Miller – who may be an even more sycophantic DFL toady than Esme Murphy – just keeps jabbering on.

Yeah, We’re In The Best Of Hands

About a month or so ago, I wondered – why is the Minnesota Department of Health treating its “model” like the plans for a nuclear submarine?

One guess – because it was cobbled together over the weekend by a couple of graduate students.

Before Friday, March 20, Marina Kirkeide was a part-time research assistant at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health (SPH), working on human papillomavirus transmission for associate professor Shalini Kulasingam. On a gap year before starting medical school at the University in fall 2020, the College of Science and Engineering alumna also had a second job as a lab tech at St. Paul’s Regions Hospital.

That Friday, Kulasingam called her and two other research assistants to ask if anyone could “work through the day and night” to get a COVID-19 model to Minnesota Governor Tim Walz the following Monday. They all jumped at the chance.

“I don’t think a lot of researchers get to work on something over the weekend and have public figures talk about it and make decisions based on it three days later,” said Kirkeide, a four-year recipient of the Patrick F. Flynn Scholarship.

Oddly, no grad students in economics seem to have been similarly engaged.

Personally I’m less concerned that it was produced by grad students in a weekend.

I’m more concerned by who reviewed it, how, and via what standard. Because science is about questioning hypotheses. Who questioned this model? How?

More than that? I want to know why the Walz Administration treated this model like a state military secret for the past two months.

Science Fiction

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Pretend Covid is a Science Fiction/Fantasy story.

***

President Trump is at the table with his senior advisors, discussing how
to deal with Covid.  Suddenly, a being appears in the room.  Eight feet
tall, red, horns and tail, leering.  People scream, Secret Service try
to rush the President out but the doors won’t open.  They shoot but the
bullets fall to the floor without harming the being.  Eventually, the
being flicks his fingers and everyone freezes in place.

“Enough.  I’m here to collect my due.  You – Orange Man – you’re going
to do exactly as I tell you.  Understand?”

The Orange Man does nothing.  “Oh, my bad,” the being says, flicking his
fingers at the Orange Man, who is suddenly able to move.

“Who are you?  What do you want?”

“I’ve been known by many names but I like the first one, best.  I am the
Light Bringer.  I brought you the opportunity for total power, through
the Covid virus.  And you wasted it!  You idiot – you had the perfect
chance to declare martial law, drain the swamp, clean out the Deep
State, cripple your enemies, restore your country’s greatness and
establish a world-wide empire – but instead you let those morons in the
state capitols run around like idiots ordering people to Stay Home and
now the economy is in such bad shape you’re in danger of losing
everything I gave you.  Well, that’s going to change.  You’re going on
television.  You’re going to announce that you can cure Covid,
completely.  That nobody will ever die from that virus again, anywhere,
in the whole world.  And all it’s going to take is one small favor.”

“What favor?”

“I want you to sacrifice your son to me.  Kill that one person, and
everyone else is saved.”

“Are you kidding?  That’s ridiculous.  I’m not doing that.”

“Why not?  There’s historical precedent.  Abraham was willing. Ivan the
Terrible and Peter the Great both did it,  Herod killed two of his
sons.  What’s the problem?  Any sacrifice is worth it, if it saves even
one life, right?”

***

If it saves even one life.  Now we know where that idea comes from.

Joe Doakes

After the news about the state’s Covid modelers, it doesn’t even seem all that terribly far-fetched.

Models: Garbage In, Garbage Out

I watched Governor Walz’s presser last night. My impressions (borrowing a bit from David Strom):

Old And In The Way – The data used in this model is 3 weeks old. The pandemic is three months old in Minnesota at this point. That means the model is ignoring a solid quarter, almost a third, of the data available – and, being most recent, very possibly the best data. I hate to throw the word “useless” around willy-nilly – but if this alone doesn’t make the model useless, I’m completely bumfuzzled.

Older And Out Of The Way – The model don’t distinguish between populations in hotspots like Hennepin County and the rest of the state. In Minnesota, at present,99% of the Covid deaths are concentrated in 3% of the population. 80+% of the deaths involve 1% of the state. And yet they apply those percentages to the entire population. This is the sort of thing that’d get sent back for rework in the private sector.

And basing mortality predictions across the entire population on numbers that are so flawed at the concept level is bad math at best, dishonest at worst, and a tool used to deceive the people either way – the equivalent of a Star-Tribune poll that draws statewide conclusions based on a massive oversampling of Minneapolis DFLers.

Under Bus Shoved – And since the overwhelming majority of deaths involve people in long term care, the model tacitly assumes that nursing home residents will do nothing whatsoever to protect their population. Which is possible, although there are a whoooole lot of lawyers out there who will likely impel them to try to do a lot better than they are, sooner than later.

The model banks on long-term incompetence – natural, perhaps, for bureaucrats, but not necessarily representative of the population at large.

Conclusion – the Walz administration is using this model to flim-flam a state that, signs show, is getting tired of being lied, condescended and talked down to.

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words…

…and a video is worth a million of ’em.

Kevin Portnoy:

What we’ve seen in California re Covid is that Big Left will keep moving the goalposts until they’ve gotten what they need – until they’ve “not wasted the crisis”.

Now, say what you will about Minnesotans and the often-bovine sense of communitarianism that the left has been exploiting for 100 years. But Governor Walz’s potemkin “reopening” news conference yesterday was largely a reaction to Minnesotans starting to disregard government they don’t respet – spontaneously (cell data shows “shut-down” Minnesotans are less socially-distant than “re-opened” Georgians) and deliberately (some businesses and cities in Greater Minnesota are resolving to ignore the shutdown, and some police departments and sheriffs are openly saying they’ll not be enforcing any shutdown-related provisions).

I suspect an awful lot of people – including me, who’s been self-isolating since before it was cool – are coming around the the same conclusion. I suspect Walz is trying to defuse a rebellion in time for November.

You Get The Government You Pay For

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Campaign contributions for exemption. Nice.

There is speculation that the revelation that the “World’s Largest Candy Store”‘s getting rated as “essential” because their owner is friends with and a donor to Waltz created optics that were starting to hurt Walz, and between that and the fact that Minnesotans are actually acting less sociallyi-distant than Georgians (who opened up to great calumny a few weeks back, and aren’t dying off in droves) led to yesterday’s modest, token relaxation of the shutdown.

We certainly see what it takes to get the governor’s attention.

Shot In The Dark: Today’s News, Two Years Ago (Again)

The Babylon Bee – America’s most accurate source of news – defines “Karen”, who is sort of the anti-“Rosie The Riveter” of the current crisis.

Watch carefully. Anything look/sound familiar?

“Karen’s” hairdo – it’s “ELCA Hair“.

If you read Shot In The Dark, you’re years ahead of the hoi-polloi.

Lack Of Consent

A just government governs by the consent of the governed.

Which, in a pluralistic society (shaddap about Denmark), it’s not a high school civics class platitude. It’s not easy. Few large, pluralistic societies pull it off well.

And we’re getting worse at it.

I’m going to pullquote the conclusion from this Kevin Williamson piece on the subject – but I suggest reading the whole thing:

It is hardly surprising that, as we have seen in recent weeks, the two major tribes of American life cannot achieve widespread consent to a policy consensus during a time of acute national emergency — because there is no consensus about the facts of the case, which is itself the result of there being no consensus about who it is we can trust to document and adjudicate those facts. The falling dominoes of institutional failure and intellectual malfeasance have left standing very little of the institutional credibility we need to develop and implement useful and necessary public policies. The dangers and harm resulting from that are obvious even to a fringe libertarian like me. I do not want government to do very much, but I want government to do the things that we need it to do, and to do them effectively.

With the economy cratering, unemployment at unthinkable highs, tens of thousands dead and thousands more to die, it is almost impossible to write this, but: We are lucky that this epidemic is not a great deal worse than it is, because we are not ready for it and do not seem to have the capacity to get ourselves ready for it.

The whole point of politics – the very root of the word – is the art and craft of getting people to agree well enough on what needs to be done.

And we’re doing very badly at it.

Pass This Around, Part II

It was Sunday, October 20, 1985. I was a scrawny, 22 year old kid who’d been relocated to the Twin Cities – at this point, a couch in Burnsville – for exactly five days. I’d already had a couple job interviews (for jobs I would not get), and had just finished looking at a rental room in Powderhorn Park (which I also didn’t get), and was taking a brief culture day, visiting the old Northern Lights (long gone), First Avenue and Seventh Street Entry and Schinders.

I walked up Sixth Street, a little hungry, but willing to part with a little bit of my small supply of cash for my first big city meal. I wandered over past Hennepin, and saw a neon sign beckoning to me: Murray’s, home of the Butterknife Steak.

To a 22 year old enamored of the forties, of Casablanca, of guys in felt greatcoats and fedoras driving 1946 Buicks, it was one of those things my dreams of the big city were made of.

But not quite yet. Not on my budget.

I turned and walked into Lyon’s Pub and had a burger and a Bass Ale. And I plotted – someday, when I’ve “made it in the big city”, I was gonna go into Murray’s, in a nice suit, with my improbably gorgeous and out-of-my-league girlfriend, and have a waiter treat me like I was something other than a flea-bitten recent college grad in a rust-bucket 1973 Monte Carlo, and order exactly anything we wanted.

Someday. Not that day – but someday.

Well, I didn’t “make it” quite to the extent of my fantasies at that age. Although in some ways, I did a lot better than I’d imagined. And in recent years (especially now that I can fit into a much better -looking suit), about a year ago I started thinking – maybe that someday is here?

And I’m hoping I didn’t wait too long:

Hang in there, Mr. Murray.   I’ll be there ASAP when this nonsense is over.  

Anecdotal Evidence

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

When people have confidence in the government’s ability and willingness to protect them, people do not stock up on toilet paper, bottled water, or bullets.

My Permit to Carry is up for renewal. Went to several stores for ammo to go practice. The shelves are bare. .38 Special, 9 mm, 10 mm . . . all the self-defense pistol rounds are gone.

Long gun is no better. .223 are gone. I suppose it could be urban terrorists stocking up for their assault rifles, getting ready to commit an atrocity; but that doesn’t explain why all the deer rifle rounds are gone. The .243, .308, 30-30, and shotgun slug shelves are empty, too.

Ignore the polls telling you how much everyone loves being locked down. Their shopping habits tell a different story.
Joe Doakes

I don’t like going all conspiratorial.

But if I did, I’d almost say that:

  1. The polling showing all the acceptance (and, shortly, the approval for the DFL’s positions) is to invoke the bandwagon effect, suppressing Republican turnout
  2. The state plans on pushing mail-in balloting to take advantage of the mass of fraudulent registrations around the state.

Someone prove me wrong.

Techno Peasants, Arise!

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

There’s definite technological and age bias in the Governor’s Stay Home order.
Sure, curbside and drive-thru are open. But to pick up at the curbside, you must place an online order, and I can never make their menu website work. Old people are less tech-savvy. The order is age discrimination.

And to go through the drive-thru takes a million years because all the people who formerly parked to go inside and talk to one of the three order-takers at the counter, are now waiting to talk to the one order-taker on the tinny box. Cars at Chick-fil-A are backed up all around the parking lot, out across the driving lane, all the way to Barnes & Noble. I can never understand what the order-taker is squawking. Probably slight loss of hearing, what with being old and all. Again, more age discrimination.

What was wrong with going to Keys, sitting in a booth where the nice lady would take my order for meatloaf, bring me some water and bread, I could relax and read a book until my order came?

Joe Doakes

I’m thinking about building a replica of Mickey’s Diner (the one on West 7th, not downtown) in my basement.

Pass This Around

Jax is sort of a family tradition.

Not my family, per se -but my ex in-laws and their side of the family has celebrated their major milestones, including my kids’ major milestones, there for 50-60 years.

And so I watched this:

To continue one of Mr. Kozlak’s point – he may be able to make it at 50% capacity in the short term. The long term is more dubious.

So – do the people in the “shut it down until there’s a vaccine” crowd think that a government can survive with half its taxpayers any more than a business can survive with half its customers?

I’d love some “prog” to explain that in terms that don’t involve “unicorns descending from the skies with chests of gold coins on their backs”.

I’m still waiting.

Bad Timing

I was working in clubs and Top40 radio when Milli Vanilli rose, conquered…

…and slinked a way in a cloud of shame when it became known that they hadn’t sung their album, and had lip-synched their “live” performances.

And it was about this time thirty years ago that the “scandal” blew up, wrecking the careers of most everyone involved…

…and about 3-5 years before it became pretty clear that it was more the rule than the exception in top-40 pop music, and probably ten years before technology started doing the things that Milli Vanilli’s producer had to get humans to do.

Just saying – had Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan come along ten years later, they’d still be megastars.

The New Normal

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Remember going out for Sunday brunch on Mother’s Day? Thats illegal now. But you can still get an abortion. 
Welcome to the Democratic Socialist Republic of Minnesota.
Joe Doakes

He’s not wrong.

Or especially hyperbolic.

Shot In The Dark: Today’s News, Over A Month Ago

With all due respect to Professor Glenn Reynolds – who may have done more than any single person to launch this blog, a third of a lifetime ago – I was observing that three of the biggest killers of the Covid plague, density, transit, bureaucracy and censorship, well over a month back.

But they all deserve repeating.

Density:

The coronavirus has been much more deadly in places like New York City or Boston than in rural settings. As demographer Joel Kotkin notes, Los Angeles has done much better than other big cities, because it’s less dense. “L.A.’s sprawling, multi-polar urban form, by its nature, results in far less ‘exposure density’ to the contagion than more densely packed urban areas, particularly those where large, crowded workplaces are common and workers are mass-transit-dependent…

Transit:

Kotkin mentions mass transit, and an MIT study found that NYC subways were a ”major disseminator” of the coronavirus in New York. This is unsurprising: New York City subways are crowded, poorly ventilated and filthy. The city is only just now starting to clean them every night. (A bit late.) Cars come with built-in social-distancing: With a car, you’re riding in a metal and glass bubble with filtered air. Subways and buses, not so much. Whether this virus sounds the ”death knell” for mass transit or not, people will be far more reluctant to ride packed vehicles in the future.

Minnesota’s favorite, Bureaucracy:

Early on, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared COVID-19 a public health emergency, which raised the bar for testing requirements. As a result, hospitals and universities faced significant barriers to getting alternative tests approved by the Food and Drug Administration. 

Censorship:

The Chinese government censored reports of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, punished doctors who talked about it and lied to the world for weeks — while allowing flights from the infected area to carry people from Wuhan all over the world. Now some authoritarian types are claiming that the spread of virus misinformation on social media offers a new justification for censorship of ordinary people.

And let’s not forget perhaps the most insidious form of censorship of all – the notion that “science” is is an orthodox canon of knowledge bestowed upon the proles by high priests of knowledge, more like the medieval Catholic Church than a framework for relentless questioning and skepticism. That – and the media and social media establishment’s efforts to stymie dissent – could wind up being the biggest killers of people and destroyers of freedom of all.