Pave Paradise, Put up a Parking Lot

Vets are considered essential services, so the local animal clinic is practicing social distancing by seeing pets in the parking lot. You stay in the car with the animal and the vet comes out with a little doctors’ bag. Drive-ins, but for dogs.

Remember drive-ins? Drive-in theaters, drive-in diners. It was a civilized way to bring screaming children on a family outing. Back when the country was great, cars were the size of cruiseliners and the backseat was a fine place to take a date.

Then there was an oil embargo and gas guzzlers fell out of favor. No one wanted to be seen in public with their Ford Pinto or GM Vega, so restaurants created drive-throughs for patrons to discreetly grab their meals and go.

But oil is cheap again! It’s time to bring back ginormous Cadillacs and 20-acre parking lots. Hair salons, restaurants, doctors’ offices should all become drive-ins. No need to sanitize surfaces between customers, and hey, my car already comes with a reclining seat for the dentist.

Remember those electric hoverboards that were cool for about a month? No one born in this century knows how to rollerskate, so carhops can ride hoverboards instead.

Automakers are trying to get another bailout, but a more sustainable solution is to lobby the CDC to recommend vehicles for social distancing.

The Myth of the Myth of the Myth of Barter


Some years ago, anthropologist and Wall St Occupant David Graeber wrote a history of Debt in which he debunks the “myth” of barter. In his telling, barter never exists in human history – Any transfer of property is the result of an exploitative power relationship, therefore ownership is theft, debt is slavery, and socialism is the answer.

In short, Graeber was questioning Adam Smith’s thesis that the division of labor leads to the voluntary exchange of surplus goods, which leads to the emergence of money. Chartalism vs Metallism.

George Selgin debunks Graeber’s “debunking” by pointing out that barter is an unstable system, and any population that engages in barter will quickly progress to monetary exchange or perish from unmatched needs. Anthropologists rarely encounter barter societies in the wild because it’s a temporary state.

Here we are in the time of coronavirus, where preppers and hoarders have emptied store shelves and I’m forced to violate social distancing to trade toilet paper for distilled water from a neighbor. Barter is back. Will TP become the new store of value, or shall we starve?

In California, anti-gouging laws prevent retailers from raising the price of goods to meet heightened demand. Six months ago, Clorox disinfecting wipes averaged $3 a can. Today, it’s illegal to charge more than $3.30 even though I would gladly pay twice that.

This isn’t barter; it’s demonetization. Dollars no longer serve as an accurate unit of account for Clorox wipes, especially since no amount of dollars can buy wipes that are out of stock. This is the point where essential items should gain intermediate commodity status and evolve into money.

Except that can’t happen. The FBI has a Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force that prevents enterprising citizens from providing much-needed liquidity on scarce products. It’s illegal to even source them from elsewhere. My mother tried to buy a box of Chinese KN95 respirator masks for my brother’s hospital, but the masks were seized by customs at the border.

Even in the brief historical periods where barter may have existed, it was never really barter so much as bilateral monopoly. Do you think tribal chiefs allowed members to freely negotiate with hostile tribes? Of course not – some of the earliest traded goods were women and children.

So Graeber was wrong. Power isn’t the ability to assert ownership over property. Power is the ability to control how others assert ownership over property.

Blame China

China lied about their numbers.

Ohhh, I am so mad. The local stores have been out of toilet paper for four weeks. I asked why they didn’t restock in greater quantities; the stockers said their shipments had been calibrated to China’s Numbers. Health care workers don’t have protective gear – turns out our Strategic National Stockpile was downsized according to China’s Numbers. Hospitals, facing immediate bankruptcy, are forced to reduce physician pay and furlough staffers – a key component of their annual budget hinges on, what else, China’s Numbers.

Turns out China’s Numbers are a lot like LIBOR, a reference rate that serves as a keystone for the entire economy. The US Surgeon General, CDC, World Health Organization, are still advising us not to wear masks. Mask effectiveness models undoubtedly based on China’s Numbers.

The medical community made — interpreted the Chinese data as: This was serious, but smaller than anyone expected. –Dr. Deborah Birx, Deep State Department

This is stupid, but remember Russia? They spent a few rubles buying Facebook ads in 2016, and set off a butterfly effect that hacked our election, undermined democracy, and placed a Putin puppet in the Oval Office.

Initially, no one believed the DNC’s excuse that Russia had thrown the election. Even Mark Zuckerberg said the idea was crazy. But a constant drumbeat of establishment figures chanting nonstop about Russian hackers and Russian disinformation campaigns, and anyone who disagreed was accused of being a Russian shill. It turns out if you bleat nonsense for long enough, people… well, people still aren’t dumb enough to believe it, but they’ll accept it. They’ll pretend to see the Emperor’s clothes to avoid being canceled.

So even Trump had to play along, acknowledge the Russia narrative.

Billboards at the Moscow airport

Anyone could appreciate the value of having a general-purpose scapegoat. Vermont’s power grid went down – blame Russia! Yahoo suffered a major data breach – definitely Russian hackers. Experian loses everyone’s social security number – Russia again!

If China didn’t exist, we’d blame Iran for lying about their numbers. Or Russian disinformation campaigns.

The real victims in all of this are not the COVID-19 patients who will die, but the journalists hoodwinked by public health officials. Excuses are now acceptable substitutes for results. After multiple generations of rewarding failure, we’ve come to believe that everything will be fine as long as we can blame someone for our oppression.

And maybe this works in the West. Maybe if the virus had originated in Germany, we could cry foul and demand another century’s worth of reparations. But it didn’t, and we can’t. Strange, that the Marxist countries that celebrated class struggle refuse to recognize our victimhood.

Racist Virus? (part 2)

This was supposed to be an appendix to the last post, but there were too many images.

Here’s a breakdown of NYC COVID-19 cases by zip code.

Census data here, but this map may be more informative (most commonly-spoken language after English and Spanish):

COVID-19 cases by zip code in Seattle:

Census map here.

Analysis left as an exercise for the reader.

(Census data may be more useful for showing population density than racial distribution)

Update: I’m a little hesitant to link to this, as it appears to be the sort of website one might get canceled for reading. The author is doing a COVID-19 analysis for Los Angeles by zip code. (02-Apr)

Racist Virus?

Trigger warning: Racism ahead.

By now you’ve probably seen this NYTimes article describing the horrific state of affairs at a New York City hospital. Patients dropping like flies, nurses reduced to wearing trash bags, refrigerated trucks brought in to house the overflowing dead. I was struck by the cognitive dissonance — my brother’s hospital across the city was nothing like that. His hospital admitted many COVID-19 patients, but few have been severe cases and none have died. Today Hillary Clinton (SHE’S TOTALLY RUNNING YOU GUYS) ordered pizza for everyone, and the hospital workers had a pizza party.

I wondered if NYT was making shit up to advance some political agenda, as they are wont to do. But then I remembered that my brother’s hospital serves a white neighborhood (New York City has over 60 hospitals). Elmhurst Hospital (the one featured in NYT) is smack-dab in the middle of an Asian community in Queens. And by Asian, I mean Southeast Asian – Thai and Vietnamese.

Yet Thailand and Vietnam have had surprisingly few COVID-19 cases, and only a handful of deaths between the two countries.

In a Fox News column, former CDC Director Tom Frieden points out that over 40% of Americans are Vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D contributes to immune function by regulating cytokine production, so respiratory infections are more severe in those who are deficient. (Look, I know it’s Fox News, but there’s substantial peer-reviewed research backing this up.)

Our bodies produce Vitamin D proportional to the amount of light penetrating the skin, and light penetration is inversely proportional to melanin density. UV rays decrease as you move further from the equator, which is why Northern Europeans evolved to have fair skin. Agriculture further reduced Vitamin D intake and increased demand for UV-induced production. Polar populations (eg. Inuits) consume a diet of fish and meat – foods rich in Vitamin D – therefore they retain a darker complexion despite getting the least sunshine. [1]

Boris Johnson tested positive for COVID-19, but he’s practically translucent so he’ll be fine.

When sun people transplant to cloudy New York, a Vitamin D deficiency ensues. This is only a theory, and I’m sure there are many confounding factors. I’ll update this post as I find more evidence either for or against.

References
1. Razib Khan, Skin color & Vitamin D & folate. Discover Magazine, July 8 2007.
2. List of cities by sunshine duration

Updates

  • Racial Data compiled by Ibram X. Kendi, Director of Antiracist Research at American University (06-Apr)
  • Are some ethnic groups more susceptible to COVID-19? University of Hawaii (02-Apr)
  • Iceland has tested 3.5% of their population. Out of 1,020 confirmed cases, only 25 were hospitalized, 9 in intensive care, zero dead (?!). Live data here.
  • Six of the 15 people who died of COVID-19 in Stockholm were of Somali descent (24-March)
  • According to this article, 80% of Italians are deficient in Vitamin D (28-March)