Accelerating Vaccine Approvals/Production

Like you, I have no idea whether the Coronavirus will become a worldwide pandemic. I’m not feeling panicky about it, though; in my view, that possibility is just another of the innumerable incalculable risks that always beset humanity, whether or not they’re on our minds. Even so, the outbreak (like SARS and Ebola before it) provides us with an opportunity to think through how we should address pandemics.

Some people who know a good deal more about viruses than I do believe that the Coronavirus may become this century’s version of the Spanish Flu that killed something like fifty million people during the first world war. A virology professor from Harvard was quoted in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal as believing that 60%-70% of the world’s population could be exposed to the vir...

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Two Presidents?

Over the last few days, I have been responding to questions about my support for Trump in the comments section of the most recent post. Both of the exasperated questioners are friends of mine who can’t quite believe that I would support a president whom they (with varying degrees of passion, I think) consider loathsome. It seems that though we share the same citizenship and love of country – to say nothing of our friendships with each other – we have completely different presidents.

Their president is a compulsive liar, an unstable man whose childish antics might be amusing if he didn’t have executive power. He was plainly guilty of abusing his office for political gain and almost certainly has been playing footsie with Putin for years...

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Deradicalizing The Democrats?

In spite of the fact that polls have never consistently shown Trump having as much as a 50% approval rating, most Republicans are highly confident that he will be re-elected, and the presumably policy-neutral international betting market agrees. If you think Trump’s going to win you have to lay down $150 to possibly win $100. In the case of the Democrat currently perceived as having the best shot – Bernie – a $100 bet on his chances today could win you between $400 and $450; the other Democrats face much longer odds.

Given the polls – and the overwhelming lineup of media voices that are openly working against Trump – one might think that the betting market would anticipate another very close race. Why doesn’t it?

The three most common answers to that question are, first, t...

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The Dogs That All Barked

You’re probably just about as sick of focusing on the now-concluded presidential impeachment as I am. Irrespective of which side of the Great Divide you’re on, you surely had known more or less how it was going to turn out for quite some time, and while the show was underway you probably engaged with as much commentary from pundits (most or all of them on “your” side, natch) as you wanted, so now, presumably, you would rather turn your attention to fresh topics.

I have no desire to relitigate the partisan points that have already been rehashed innumerable times; but I do feel compelled to make a final observation about today’s votes that you may not have considered.

I see the two articles of impeachment put forward by the House as having been very different from each oth...

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Communist Viruses II

Communist Viruses was the least popular Civil Horizon post in a long time; to date, it has been read by only 39 people. The many regular readers of this blog who didn’t read it were wrong. Just sayin’. In Communist Viruses I introduced an idea about the parallels between the Chernobyl and Coronavirus disasters that gets to the heart of the differences between free and unfree systems of government.  

Today’s New York Times has an excellent, richly detailed front page article on the mistakes that were made by the Chinese authorities during the first seven weeks of the Coronavirus outbreak...

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Communist Viruses

It has long been perfectly clear that neither Hong Kong nor Taiwan wishes to be ruled from Beijing, and few can be surprised by that. The people of those semi-independent polities enjoy strong traditions of respect for individual rights, the rule of law and market-based, broadly capitalist economic systems. They are also, not coincidentally, much better off economically than the great majority of their relatives in the PRC.

What’s more, as is the case with about 30% of the PRC’s population, most Hong Kongers speak a language (in their case, Cantonese) that is quite different from Mandarin-speaking Beijing.

(Entirely apart from issues specific to Hong Kong or Taiwan, I would guess that many non-Mandarin speakers within the PRC (certainly the Uighurs and Tibetans) feel more like ...

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Affirmative Action II

In a 2013 post, I took aim at Affirmative Action, describing it as immoral, because inherently racist, and un-American, because it runs counter to the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. I argued that both simple justice and our nation’s ideals require that we treat each other as free individuals, equal in rights and before the law, rather than as members of groups to be favored or disfavored based on innate, involuntary and irrelevant considerations.

Since then, I’ve come across some ideas that have pushed me to think about the likely adverse individual consequences, and about the shifts in social paradigms, that have come about as a result of the widespread promotion of skin-color diversity as...

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A Third Rate Drama

The banner headline in this morning’s New York Times was Trump’s Trial Opens as New Evidence Emerges. That paper’s editors desperately want us to take this show seriously. Apparently, nobody told them that it’s a third rate drama and that everybody already knows how it ends.

In contrast, a Supreme Court seat was at stake in the Kavanaugh hearings. Were Blasey-Ford’s accusations credible? Were the Democrats and the media giving too much airtime to unsubstantiated allegations from the media-celebrated porn-star lawyer Michael Avenatti? Would Kavanaugh be confirmed? If confirmed, would he be terribly wounded by the accusations? Everything depended on a few conspicuously undecided Senators. Both sides were genuinely angry. The outcome hung in the balance. America was riveted...

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Truth-Teller Trump

I recently had a somewhat testy email exchange with a friend. I was asserting that a well-known progressive columnist for The New York Times had demonstrated an unmistakable affinity for authoritarian governance – when my friend, unhappy with my quotations of the columnist’s own words, switched topics suddenly to the hated (by him) Trump, writing:

“Once the Prevaricator-in-Chief leaves office, either by hook or by crook (pun intended), I will be much more open to differing political viewpoints.”

In order to preserve our friendship without conceding the point, I de-escalated as best I could by noting simply in response that on that, too, we differ.

I couldn’t help but wonder, though, about the substance of my friend’s Trump outburst...

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Freedom, Constrained

Laws and culture constrain our freedoms; at the heart of most political issues is the question of just how constraining they should be. Those on the left generally argue for more constraints – higher taxes, tighter laws and punitive social disapproval for violations of “PC” norms and expectations – all in the name of the common good. Those on the right favor fewer such constraints, seeing a freer society as both more creative and more individually just than ones that are less so.

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George W. Bush famously said that “The desire for freedom resides in every human heart.” Well, … sorta.

Bush’s statement was undoubtedly true in the narrow sense that everybody wants freedom of action for him or her –self; but not everybody is happy for others to be similarly free...

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