Category Archives: Jenkins

How to Have More Police Shootings

WSJ  4/24/2021 By Holman Jenkins

By now enough facts have been reported in enough places that it has dawned, if grudgingly, on many Americans that the cavalcade of CEOs who denounced Georgia’s election law didn’t know in the slightest what they were talking about.

The law’s mix of provisions, in sum, were more permissive than in many blue states ruled by liberals for decades, more expansive than almost any state’s laws as written, and showed at least one way of codifying some of the unlegislated improvisations hurriedly put in place during the pandemic emergency in 2020.

Instead a bunch of business leaders simply adopted Democratic talking points not knowing what the law contained. And, more importantly, not caring.

This is becoming a habit in America. Let me correct one misconception in recent New York Times reporting on whether the newspaper you’re now reading needs to widen its appeal. Whatever the merits of a debate supposedly under way in our news division, newspapers now are niche businesses—built on narrow appeal, not broad. If you think the New York Times and Washington Post mind in the least that their coverage is off-putting to a large number of Americans, you misunderstand the business they’re in.

Once upon a time, broad reach really was our industry’s goal, to meet the desire of our advertisers for as many customers as possible. In turn, this drove our need to cover the news in a way that we could defend to all comers as “objective” and straight down the middle.

That was a world that leaned against tribal partisanship being the measure of all claims. Sorely missed in this regard too is the old ACLU, which has lately morphed into a pro-censorship promoter of progressive causes. Recall how it used to work: When the ACLU defended the right of neo-Nazis to hold a public demonstration, other Americans felt safer in sticking up for free speech too. Even the most fainthearted and tremulous of our fellow citizens—our CEOs—could stick up for free speech without being called Nazi sympathizers.

A general proposition: Most of what people say isn’t about true and false, but about self-protection and advancement.

The scope that has shrunk is the scope today in the public arena for saying anything that isn’t for the purpose of self-protection and conformity.

The New York Times can’t find a serious person who denies a human influence on climate. As long as the universe consists of matter and energy, even a single human being—exhaling, moving around—will have some effect, however infinitesimal. Yet the Times devoted Tuesday’s science section to a stale framing about believers and deniers rather than inquiring into really interesting questions about the extent of human influence and the cost and benefit of curbing it. Why? Because to admit any nuance would get the Times accused of denialism, when it would much rather be the one accusing.

Or take Joe Biden : Until very recently, I doubt it would have been his instinct to issue a prejudicial comment about a pending jury verdict. He did so out of fear.

When Rep. Maxine Waters urged a crowd to reject any Derek Chauvin verdict it didn’t like, her motive was the reciprocal one: to instill fear.

In the America of just a few years ago, it would have been sayable, and widely said, that no matter how badly the police sometimes perform their duties, it’s exceedingly foolish to resist arrest. No lawyer would advise you to do so. You create a situation for yourself that can’t possibly end well. You commit a chargeable offense when you might have ended up facing no charge at all. You put police, who are public employees, in a terrible position, of having to apply force to vindicate the lawful authority of the state, which all of us rely on for our personal security (that is, unless the left wants to give everyone in America more incentive to arm themselves).

The press now plays up the “oh no not again” angle whenever police shoot a black person, as an Ohio officer did to stop a knife assault on Tuesday. This will quickly become absurd. There’s always going to be a next time and soon. Sixty million Americans have encounters with police every year, 10 million are arrested, and two million of these episodes involve officers threatening or using force (all according to Justice Department surveys).

While punishing police misconduct is eminently desirable, making martyrs out of people who resist arrest only encourages others to make the same foolish, self-defeating decision. The results will be predictable unless police stop trying to apprehend lawbreakers altogether: more deaths in custody like that of George Floyd, more accidental shootings like that of Daunte Wright, tens of thousands of injuries to suspects and officers each year, more situations of the sort that produce an estimated 2,000 officer-involved shootings (fatal and nonfatal) annually.

But don’t try saying so in the America that we are busy making for ourselves today.


Counting the dead- covid

Not for you if you dislike honest, factual reporting. mrossol

3/13/2021  WSJ  by Homan W Jenkins

New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan and New Jersey erred gravely by directing nursing homes to receive recovering Covid patients, but the bigger mistake was sending caregivers home rather than quarantining them between shifts. The workers—not the infected patients from hospitals—were the real (unwitting) channel for thousands of deaths thanks to Covid’s nasty capacity for asymptomatic spread.

This error was part of a larger one, trying to minimize Covid’s impact by controlling everyone’s behavior rather than pouring resources into protecting the most vulnerable.


Even the Albany think tank that did much to reveal New York’s nursing-home scandal, the Empire Center for Public Policy, doesn’t claim the March 25, 2020, directive contributed more than a single-digit percentage to the state’s 15,000 nursing-home deaths, never mind careless polemics in the media implying it caused all 15,000.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ignominy was earned the old-fashioned way, through the coverup. What’s more, someone insensitive to current minefields might notice that the sexual allegations started to be taken seriously only after he was blowing up. Some might even wonder if Mr. Cuomo’s heavy-handed way of letting women know of his sexual availability became ingrained because it didn’t always fail.

Judging from my emails, many readers sighed at coverage of America’s 500,000th Covid death, a tragedy unrelated to the Vietnam War, any number of jumbo jet crashes, or how many buses parked end to end would reach from Philadelphia to New York (a comparison cited by the Washington Post).

Far from the cable studios, happily, researchers are seeking a more serious understanding of the pandemic’s toll. One study finds that those who died of Covid-19 lost on average 9.3 years of life, equal to the remaining life expectancy of a 78-year-old.

The highest-cost deaths, it follows, were likely those not directly caused by the illness. In separate studies, U.S. government and Virginia Commonwealth University researchers say a third of “excess deaths” might fall into this category—delayed medical care, unemployment stress, substance abuse, suicide, depression, etc. One study looked at the effect of unemployment and predicted 30,231 additional deaths over a 12-month period.


What does this mean? Suppose half of these were unrecognized Covid deaths. Even so, the remaining half—accounting for 15% of excess deaths—would have to be no younger than 53 on average for fully one-third of the years lost in the pandemic to have been lost by somebody who didn’t die of Covid.

Lesson: The world is complicated. In Japan, Covid seems to have led to a decline in deaths overall, thanks to fewer respiratory infections due to social distancing (a Covid outcome foreshadowed in this column more than a year ago).

Mr. Cuomo is being undone by his own presidential ambition. He stacked his chips recklessly on his Covid response: The unscripted TV briefings. The on-air antics with his CNN brother. His quickie book proclaiming victory while his state’s ragged response was still unfolding. These all had the potential to blow up in his face and now have.

If Donald Trump hadn’t been president, Mr. Cuomo might already have been gone thanks to a 2018 bid-rigging-and-bribery scandal that engulfed two of his closest associates.

My one conversation with Mr. Cuomo took place 21 years ago when he was Bill Clinton’s housing and urban development secretary. He called to promote, in the sarcastic, overconfident, streetwise tone he affected, an initiative to pay public-housing residents to surrender their guns. I pointed out housing projects weren’t dangerous because people had guns, people had guns because housing projects were dangerous. Guess what—he dropped the tone for a moment and agreed.

Such moments are always welcome from public officials and now journalists might want to drop their own act. In a career that lasts 40 years, a reporter should expect a 158% chance of covering a pandemic as bad as 1968’s and a 39% chance of covering one as bad as 1918’s or 2020’s—i.e., he or she should be able to understand the emergence of a novel communicable disease on its own terms without resort to absurd analogies or hyperbolic death attributions as seen in some reporting on New York’s nursing-home disaster.


Unfortunately algorithm-based reporting is about 150 years older than Twitter or Facebook. If it bleeds, it leads. Play up the local angle. Exaggerate the importance of whatever is being reported. It feels good to feel bad—so accentuate the negative.

The bad news is that artificial intelligence can do these algorithms better than we can. To survive, we in the media might have to become what we’ve always pretended to be—factual and analytical.

Appeared in the March 13, 2021, print edition.


The Slow Birth of Covid Realism

If the censorship doesn’t get totally out of control, it will be a fascinating tale of just what caused this event, this virus, to literally turn the political forces on their heads.  mrossol

WSJ 12/29/2020

Italy, last seen trying to prosecute government scientists for failing to forecast an earthquake, is now pioneering the use of criminal prosecutors to examine the country’s Covid-19 response. Italy as a country ranks low on every index of efficient, accountable governments and effective legal systems. Criminalizing policy disappointments and managerial errors is a symptom of this failure, not its cure.

Still, the particulars of the indictment being sought by relatives of early victims will ring bells for many Americans: the shipping of infected persons to nursing homes, failure to test patients who couldn’t be connected to China, failing to order lockdowns sooner, worrying about the potential impact on businesses.

The U.S. remains in a similar phase of denial, with every failure related to testing, mask promotion, etc., spun as a missed chance to extinguish Covid altogether. When the reality principle intrudes, here’s suspecting the greatest failure will be the one we are least willing to acknowledge or even understand: It began with our strange reticence to acknowledge the reality of mild (and, as it turned out, asymptomatic) Covid.

Any alert person knew from the get-go that, amid the exigencies of Wuhan, Chinese doctors were failing to detect mild cases, and that thousands of these cases were likely being exported to the world. Whatever the horrors in Wuhan’s hospitals, they happened not because Covid-19 is an extravagantly deadly respiratory infection. They happened because a flu-like disease had been allowed to spread unrecognized for months in an urban population unprotected by any prior immunity or vaccine.

Yet it instantly became a U.S. journalistic trope to accuse anyone mentioning the flu of “downplaying” the new disease—downplaying anything being the worst sin in journalism.

Inexplicably, authorities, including the World Health Organization, insisted on promoting a fatality rate they knew was exaggerated because of the failure to account for mild infections. To this day, U.S. officialdom and the media dwell on a nearly meaningless “confirmed” case count, knowing full well that doing so is innumerate and unstatistical. It’s a mystery and my only explanation is that they are afraid to stop because it portrays the disease as more deadly than it is (supporting the case for urgency) and also less prevalent than it is (supporting the case that it can somehow be contained).

A parade of conclusive contrary indicators is not so much unreported as simply unintegrated into the picture sold to the American public. To give the latest example, a Johns Hopkins study finds that in late spring in Maryland, when “confirmed” cases were less than 1% of the state’s population, 10% of autopsies showed evidence of Covid infection—a rate that applied equally to auto-accident victims and people who died of natural causes.

As the pandemic has unfolded, only deeper has become media revilement of anyone who pointed out that the death risk was being exaggerated, that the lockdowns were not sustainable due to the costs they imposed on people who were at low risk, that our efforts would be better invested in shielding those at high risk of a bad medical outcome.

The hostility is even greater now that these views have been adopted implicitly and unavowedly almost everywhere in obedience to the reality principle. The lockdowns were unsustainable. Low-risk people were unwilling to maintain energetic social distancing through the summer and fall. Vaccines are being rolled out now expressly to protect the most vulnerable first.

For all their talk that no cost is too great to save a life, the actual behavior of our elected officials has made clear that the one thing they believe their careers can’t tolerate is a breakdown in hospital care for Covid patients and others.

I’ve informally adopted Brown University’s Ashish Jha as my metric for realism’s gradual unfurling. In his latest media appearances, he invariably now stresses unseen spread, the impracticality of the lockdown solution, a role for herd immunity in supplementing vaccination to end the pandemic—even if he also occasionally utters imprecations against these opinion pages for making the same arguments months ago.

When it’s over, countries like Germany and Sweden, which have hardly been spared Covid’s ravages, I suspect will be seen as the least-bad models. And for reasons American leaders will be loath to admit: They treated their people like adults. They leveled with their citizens about Covid’s inevitable spread. They skimped on the baby talk, virtue signaling, or any resort (especially prevalent in the U.S.) to trying to mislead a supposedly infantile public for its own good.

These countries worked no public-health miracles nor any miracles of the self-isolating sort that appealed in the antipodes. Where they succeeded was in eliciting the intelligence of their peopletheir intelligent adaptations, to make the Covid trial as bearable as possible.


Why not real data on COVID?

I still don’t understand how many supposably intelligent human beings in the US (and elsewhere) cannot seem to understand this.  mrossol

WSJ 10/30/2020. By Holman W Jenkins, Jr.

There is no conspiracy of silence in India. Confirmed Covid cases are reported as they are in the West, but reporters enthusiastically stress seroprevalence surveys that show the real infection rate to be a multiple of confirmed tests. Example: On Thursday, the Hindustan Times noted in its headline a 40% positive antibody rate from the latest survey of the Srinagar district. Only far down in the story did it indicate this was 25 times the “confirmed” case count.

Why can’t our press do the same? In the U.S., the reality principle is not blacked out only if you look hard enough. A New Jersey survey in August found 14.7% of the population infected, seven times the confirmed cases. A New York survey in late March suggested two million infections; the official count was 76,000. An Orange County, Calif., survey in August found true infections seven times the official case count. A national survey of dialysis patients in July showed a similar ratio. I could go on.

Any single study might be flawed, but the findings are echoed in every country. Maybe our press imagines that our testing is so voluminous and efficient that it now is converging with the underlying infection rate. Wrong. Voluntary testing is inherently biased. Last month, a U.K. study should have put a stake in any delusions on this point. Relying on random, rather than patient-initiated, testing, the report estimated that daily new infections were running about nine times the official rate as of late September.

Nearly half of Covid infections are believed to be asymptomatic. From previous research, 80% of people with flu symptoms and 95% with cold symptoms don’t seek medical help. Though 150 million total tests given in the U.S. so far, and 1.2 million new tests a day, sounds like a lot, it’s not when 330 million Americans can be negative one day and infected the next.

Unfortunately, because our press wasn’t in Mr. Stuppy’s science class, it doesn’t understand that while confirmed cases might be data, they aren’t a sample in any meaningful scientific sense.

Not to be dramatic, but when I refer to a conspiracy of silence, I really mean a mosaic of misrepresentation required by a certain mood. Our press this week reported, with hair on fire, that confirmed cases exceeded nine million. Would its hair be more aflame or less if it acknowledged true cumulative infections are likely between 50 million and 100 million?

A realistic picture would suggest tens of millions of Americans have encountered the virus without fuss. It would suggest the death risk for any individual is flu-like—as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, and many other experts have been telling us since February.

The bigger numbers might suggest we are grappling with a natural phenomenon over which we exercise little control.

Let’s recap. Unlike the flu, 160 million of us of aren’t vaccinated against the new virus. None of us, school age and up, have resistance from previous encounters. Local hospitals face a Covid challenge two or three times bigger than their annual flu challenge simply because so many more of us are susceptible. Plus there’s the non-negligible risk of a severe reaction when our immune system encounters a virus it hasn’t encountered before.

All of us would rather not get the disease. All of us benefit from putting it off until hospitals learn how to treat it—even though the risk for each of us is flu-like.

But the reality principle doesn’t ignore us even if we ignore it. The test-and-trace silver bullet, which epidemiologists once promoted, Dr. Fauci now admits is impractical because of a large number of asymptomatic cases. Germany, once a role model, admits it has been able to trace only 25% of confirmed cases, which probably means 5% of true cases.

Our politicians have had to become realistic about withholding their interventions unless and until hospitals become overwhelmed. For many of us, especially the young, it makes no sense to impoverish our lives to suppress Covid.

When Joe Biden calls this running up the white flag, he’s prepping you to believe that Donald Trump could have stopped Covid and now a President Biden is stuck with a mess. Whoever is president next year will need to introduce more realism than this into the discussion as a vaccine rolls out.

Once again India is ahead of us: Its Business Standard newspaper jauntily warned its upscale readers that they can expect to be screened out because “the government does not wish to waste the precious vaccine shots” on millions who already have antibodies the natural way.

In the meantime, Americans respond to information. Masks will go back on. The barhopping is being curbed. Some herd immunity may kick in to help with the winter surge. We battle the virus, though, while being fed a colossally distorted picture of the epidemic and its progress by an incompetent and sociopathic press.