Stuck inside together–the lessons of Screwtape.

The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis) was written as a series of letters of instruction from an experienced devil (Screwtape) to a junior tempter (Wormwood) on how to successfully tempt humans. In one particularly notable letter, Screwtape described how to inflame domestic hatred between a mother and son:

When two humans have lived together for many years, it usually happens that each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unenduringly irritating to the other. Work on that. Bring fully into the consciousness of your patient that particular lift of his mother’s eyebrows which he learned to dislike in the nursery, and let him think how much he dislikes it. Let him assume that she knows how annoying it is and does it to annoy—if you know your job he will not notice the immense improbability of the assumption. And, of course, never let him suspect that he has tones and looks which similarly annoy her.

In civilized life domestic hatred usually expresses itself by saying things which would appear quite harmless on paper (the words are not offensive) but in such a voice, or at such a moment, that they are not far from a blow in the face. To keep this game up you…must see to it that each of these two fools has a sort of double standard. Your patient must demand that all his utterances are to be taken at their face value and judged simply on the actual words, while at the same time judging all his mother’s utterances with the fullest and most oversensitive interpretation of the tone and the context and the suspected intention. She must be encouraged to do the same to him. Hence from every quarrel they can both go away convinced, or very nearly convinced, that they are quite innocent. Once this habit is well established you have the delightful situation of a human saying things with the express purpose of offending and yet having a grievance when offence is taken.”

Are you “stuck” at home with spouse, kids, roommates during “shelter-at-home-self-quarantine” week, month however long it lasts? Are you already bored with streaming video options–Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, Apple TV, YouTube–and the thousands of TV programs and movies they provide? Are you tempted, perhaps, to read (you know, allowing the written word to stimulate your imagination or educate)? I just read a celebrity’s take, and before we all roll our eyes or nod knowingly at the word celebrity, this one has some very intelligent advice. Reese Witherspoon’s house has 5 adults each trying to work or school from home. Here’s what she says: “I think it’s really important to designate space. My husband and I are both working from home and all three kids are doing school online,” said the actress, who also works as a producer. “So everybody has a room that has a little area and there’s a privacy sign there, so when the privacy sign is on and your headphones are on, you can’t interrupt. You have to have rules. … It’s really important to post them on the wall for your family, just so we respect each other’s space.” As for college students at home, “I think a lot about people who are coming home from college. That’s a time when you are trying to individuate,” Witherspoon said. “You have to actually kind of move away from your parents’ ideas, you have to move away from their structure, their routine, create your own. And now you’re having to go backwards. And that must be so frustrating to lose that independence.”

It all comes down to empathy, doesn’t it? In Christian parlance, that’s “suffering with” in suffering, “coming alongside” in other times. Notice how mama Witherspoon empathizes with her kids “losing their independence”. Still privileged you say? So what, don’t we all feel our own frustrations, no matter how minor, more emotionally than the much objectively greater suffering of others, especially when we aren’t living with them? I just read about indoor air pollution, and it reminded me of some tips for living in close proximity with others, so here are Uncle Curmudgeon’s tips for surviving self quarantine with others whom you still want a relationship with after the new normal resumes:

1. Smells, odors and fragrances: A smell is more or less neutral, an odor usually stinks and a fragrance is usually pleasant, but perfumes and colognes don’t cover up odors of frying onions, garlic, or unwashed bodies, they just add a sickly overlay. Shower (rather than bathe, unless you scrub the tub ring) frequently. How often is that? Ask your cellmates, “do I reek?” If yes, it’s time. Remember, when Archimedes was running around Athens shouting “eureka” about his latest discovery, he was telling Athenians it was bath time! As for cooking, think fresh bread, cookies, coffee, not onions, garlic or hard boiled eggs! Your cellmates will thank you. Don’t buy Durian fruit either.

2. Random, voluntary sounds: Just because they are “voluntary”, doesn’t mean you’re aware of making them. Grinding or chomping your teeth, clicking pens, tapping or drumming on hard surfaces, not to mention cursing, farting, or burping out loud, are annoying, impolite and even cringeworthy. Stop it. Or close the door and stuff towels under it. What if you don’t have doors, only privacy curtains? Pretend someone else is in the room with you, blame them, then stop it.

3. Involuntary bodily sounds: These include stomach gurgling (eat something), choking (Heimlich maneuver), coughing (too late for quarantine?), moaning in your sleep, moaning while awake (it’s a good idea to refrain from loud sex during this time), and the worst of all, incessant unnecessary talking, including automatic criticism and nagging. Keep all household guns securely locked away during such interludes.

4. Wearing dirty, smelly clothing, or no clothing if your body is gross: Seriously, you need a blog for advice on what to do about this?

5. Do what the Bible says: “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” 1 Peter 4:7-9. Hopefully, “the end of all things” means the old ways of doing and relating. Love does cover all.

Let’s throw a Coronavirus party.

The party or the epidemic?

In Kentucky, at least 160 people have tested positive for COVD-19 — including one person who attended a “coronavirus party.” Yes, shockingly, someone who attended a party mocking the virus causing the current pandemic has contracted said virus. The Kentucky coronavirus party was reportedly composed of young adults in their 20s, and more people who attended are expected to test positive as well, as large gatherings in close quarters are a hotbed for transmission. The aim of the party was to reject instructions of social distancing and refute the severity of the coronavirus, which is clearly not ending well for party goers. But unfortunately, Kentucky isn’t the only coronavirus hub dealing with this kind of outright protest that is spreading the virus. In Connecticut, after a large farewell party in early March, the town of Westport experienced a massive spike in COVID-19 cases. The party is being referred to as “party zero” because the 40 attendees scattered across the county when they left, carrying the virus with them. In South Korea, one churchgoer — known as Patient 31 — can be tied to over 60 percent of the country’s cases. But the reckless 20-somethings at the party (and the ones on Spring Break) may be the exception rather than the norm. In fact, experts say young people actually seem more likely to take quarantine and isolation recommendations seriously than their parents, for a variety of reasons that include older folks having lived through many things and therefore assuming this won’t be so bad and younger people having a lot more years ahead of them that could be negatively affected by this pandemic.

But some boomers have become a source of frustration for their friends and family as they disregard the dangers of this pandemic. Now boomers aren’t going to parties on the beach, but many are failing to take this situation seriously. Their children are turning to social media in droves to vent about their parents who just don’t get it. So here are some tweets that are making kids say, “Come on, really??”: Disney Elle, “My fricken 60-something year old mom is MOCKING the dang virus! She actually threw a COVID PARTY. Can’t get her to take it seriously. What’s up with hard headed Boomers?!” Jenna says, “trying to explain to my boomer parents how serious this virus is and all my mom had to say was “we increased our vitamin intake so we’ll be fine. How do I gently explain that her ignorance could get her very ill.” Seyonce Knowles, “Are any of y’all’s baby boomer ass parents saying that this is a conspiracy theory. My dad is running me ragged. If I catch this virus know that it was his fault. Because he won’t chill the f**k out.” Allie Monster, “Man, if you wanna piss off boomers just tell them this is going to last longer than 2 weeks and watch them implode. My mom stormed out of room when I read science about the virus and it’s spread. My stepdad said it was all crap.” Emily RM, “My mom just said ‘I’m not going to get corona virus so don’t worry about me!’ This is someone who gets bronchitis with every cold, has diabetes and high blood pressure. The arrogance of baby boomers sure is something to see!”

I have found that the simpler the analogy, the more likely it is to yield an accurate prediction, so here goes: The question the most people are asking is, “when will I be advised to, or at least be allowed to, start resuming some semblance of normalcy. Of course, that’s unknown, but let’s start with a common science fiction plot. The world has retreated to underground bunkers, due to some combination of toxic pollution, nuclear radiation, chemical rainfall, or infection which makes life on the surface deadly, but not instantly. Depending on age, health and income, breathing the air will kill you in anywhere between 5 minutes and 5 hours, or not at all if you’re immune (but you don’t know if you are). To make matters worse, you can get particles of the toxicity on you and infect others. Inside the typical bunker, all the normal tensions arise between people living together, or with too much unproductive time, “cabin fever” to the Nth degree. No one is alive outside to test the air for viability nor to advise when its safe to come out, nor do the individual bunkers don’t have such capabilities. In this scenario, what, if anything, is inevitable?

The more adventurous, bored or wishful of the shut-ins will soon decide to take their chances, or adopt a fantasy philosophy of “what the heck” or “it won’t be me” (like in Vietnam, just before a combat assault, everyone figures it will be the guy next to them). Little by little, these venture out, first for a few minutes at a time, then longer and longer. Some stay out too long, and die. Others wander away and no one knows what happened to them. Some bunkers will bar the “early adventurers” from getting back in, but that’s not enough of a deterrent to those leaving. When they don’t come back—they either died or found out there was no problem any longer—more will venture out, throwing caution away. The end result will be, the bunkers will empty, as people start to figure, “if I’m going to die anyway, and I will if I have to stay here much longer, it’s better to die outside than in here.”

How does that scenario relate to the Coronavirus shelter in place reality? I believe that regardless of what the authorities say, at least in our country, it won’t be much longer, perhaps just weeks, that even responsible people will say, “enough!” Businesses will gradually respond to increasing demand, escalating the exodus from our bunkers, and government will have neither the will nor the resources to stop it. They will hope the curve has adequately flattened. Our industrial and technological capacity will expand to fulfill needs and demand. A lot of people will get sick, some will die, many will discover or develop their immunity, and the pandemic will begin to peter out. The technologies that have responded the most successfully to the needs and demands of consumers will become ascendant. Old ones will fade. My fondest hopes are: 1. Humanity will acknowledge the sovereignty of God. 2. All of us, especially the media and political leaders, will honestly and ruthlessly examine themselves, in preparation for the next crisis.

Of Crocodiles and “Covidiots”…and one toilet licker.

I don’t care about no stinkin’ virus

Aren’t we civilized in this country? While Denver is levying large fines for quarantine breakers, in Rwanda a quarantine breaker was eaten by a crocodile. Seriously, that was a pretty common hazard in Rwanda even before Covid-19, but with fewer people out and about, the crocs have slimmer pickings, and are probably more aggressive. The man in Rwanda violated lockdown orders amid the coronavirus outbreak to go fishing – but was killed and eaten by an crocodile. “He had broken the stay-home rule, he’s among very few people here who are not cooperating with the lockdown to stop the virus,” Alice Kayitesi, mayor of the southern Kamonyi district, told the BBC. The unidentified man was attacked by the croc on Wednesday in the Nyabarongo river, the news outlet reported. I’m sure he would rather have paid a fine.

This morning, I began typing “covi” on my iPad, and it provided the word “covidiot”. Then I read the following, from the Urban Dictionary. It seems like the naysayers, disbelievers and rule-breakers in the global fight against COVID-19 have been honored with a new term describing their dimwitted defiance: “Covidiot.” Urban Dictionary’s most popular, recent definition of “covidiot” defines the offender as “someone who ignores the warnings regarding public health or safety” during the worldwide coronavirus outbreak. If that is the definition of Covidiot, what the heck is Larz? Something lower, for sure.

A Beverly Hills “social media influencer” is reportedly hospitalized after contracting COVID-19 — mere days after licking a public toilet bowl. The influencer, 21-year-old “Larz,” went viral earlier this week after sharing a video of himself licking a toilet bowl, according to the Daily Mail. He reportedly shared the video with the caption “RT to spread awareness for the Coronavirus.” Obviously, being called an influencer is a very low bar, requiring a functioning cerebellum but not necessarily a cerebral cortex. Dude, your caption should have been shortened by leaving out the three words between spread and Coronavirus. Whom exactly is he influencing? Larz announced in a since-deleted tweet that he was diagnosed with the coronavirus. According to The Gay UK, video of the incident gained more than 90,000 views before being yanked off the internet. A later post reportedly included a video of the “influencer” lying in a hospital bed. In the video, he reportedly says that he’s “pretty doped up from his meds.” Actually, he was plenty doped up….or is it dumbed down, well before the hospital meds.perhaps from the womb.

Larz gained notoriety after reportedly being involved in viral videos featuring him licking stores’ ice cream cartons and more. He was just one of many young people who engaged in a summer 2019 trend of defiling ice cream in stores and filming the act for posterity. Larz, who interviewed in 2019 with Dr. Phil McGraw, also previously said that his own family is “irrelevant. None of them have followers, if they got followers or got rich, I’d probably talk to them again,” he petulantly blathered. His Twitter account appears to be suspended at the time of this writing. (His IQ development was suspended years ago). I think they should leave the Twitter account up–until he can influence enough folks as stupid as he to follow in his footsteps, thus raising the global IQ by 10 points or so if this pandemic keeps spreading. Yes, I’m mean. Sue me!

And now, for something completely different, some humor from Babylon Bee.

Trump Unveils Much Simpler Stimulus Plan: GIANT MONEY CANNON!
Man Working From Home Encounters Nasty 10-Matchbox-Car Pileup On Evening Commute
San Francisco Asks Homeless Residents To Poop At Home
Oops: CNN Forgot To Translate Its Latest Coronavirus Update From Mandarin
Journalists Investigating Ways To Make Crisis All About Them

Stay safe and at home friends….no toilet licking or fishing in croc infested waters!

Reflections of a temporary shut in, to the brotherhood and sisterhood of same…aren’t we all right now?

I think I’ll live in my car….if I ever get one.

Yes, fear of contracting or spreading the Coronavirus is temporarily upsetting our familiar habits and assumptions. Those who took their safety or security for granted—most of the United States, for example—are faced with the greatest fear of our time—being alone with themselves and their thoughts. I am feeling almost guilty that I am enjoying not missing out, since there’s nothing going on to miss out on. You see, staying in and reading, writing my blog posts, reviewing my many news feeds…..uh oh, danger. What is overwhelmingly followed in the news feeds now? Coronavirus, Trump bad, Covid-19, Trump bad, China Wuhan virus, Trump racist, you racist, me racist….and on, never letting a perfectly good crisis go to waste.

As I was saying writing, this is my normal lifestyle, except for FOMO, fear of missing out. I use my news feeds for inspiration to blog about rather than to incite outrage, fear, indignation and stoking other negative emotions. Before I get to some inspiring stuff, let me get one thing off my chest, and it isn’t a virus. Erik Erickson wrote this morning, “The other area of predictable press coverage is the defense of China. I think this is the thing that makes me the angriest. The press protecting Democrats is something they’ve been doing for years. But the press running interference for China is horrifying to see. An American press that treats the First Amendment as their exclusive right, should not be protecting and defending China.” Absolutely, the Chinese government, not the unfortunate populace under their boots, are manifestly guilty of suppressing information that could have slowed the spread of the Coronavirus, and enabled more effective measures against it. Axios reports that if China had acted just three weeks earlier to contain the virus rather than suppress information about it, “the number of coronavirus cases could have been reduced by 95 percent and its geographic spread limited.” The two countries with the highest death rates per capita (not per diagnosis)—Italy and Iran—got friendly with delegations from China at the wrong time.

Now I want to share some stuff I love which may be enriching for you. Blackmore’s Night: One of my favorite rock groups back in the 70’s was Deep Purple, especially their virtuoso guitarist Richie Blackmore. When the group broke up, as such endeavors always do (though thank God, the Moody Blues were still making great music until last year, though their two frontmen, Justin Hayward and John Lodge, are touring with their own bands), Blackmore went solo, formed a group called Rainbow. The music of Rainbow was similar to Deep Purple, but started to combine hard rock with “renaissance and medieval” styles. In 1997 Blackmore, with his girlfriend Candice Night as vocalist, formed the traditional folk rock duo Blackmore’s Night. From about 1995, they were already working on their debut album Shadow of the Moon, which I heartily recommend. Blackmore mostly used acoustic guitar to back Night’s delicate vocal melodies, which he wrote, but also mandolin and mandola (a mandola is to a mandolin as the cello is to violin). Night said, “When he sings, he sings only for me, in private”. The band’s musical style is inspired by medieval music and it blended with Night’s lyrics about love’s themes. You might be thinking, “hard rock and renaissance music? Are they daft?” It works, it’s beautiful. Try All the Fun of the Fayre. Rock on. If you have Spotify or Amazon or Apple Music, you can listen for free. Go ahead, expand your world. For you old fogeys like me, remember Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention? Candice Night sounds like her reincarnation. Sadly, Sandy Denny, once considered possibly the preeminent folk rock singer in the world, died at age 31.

Since I mentioned her, I must include a this epitaph: “In 1976 Fairport Convention came home from tour in a parlous financial state, and Sandy Denny left the band for a second time. Her drinking escalated, and her black moods got deeper. She began to make another solo record with her husband, Trevor Lucas, intent upon aiming at a more contemporary sound, but her voice was showing the strain, and often as not she would turn up to the studio late, if at all. Yet still she was capable of moments of wonder, such as on the haunted song No More Sad Refrains that would end up closing the album. Arriving as punk blew up, it vanished into an abyss and Island Records let go of her like yesterday’s news. At the beginning of 1977, Denny found out she was pregnant. She had often spoken to friends of wanting to have a child, but impending motherhood didn’t rein her in. Georgia Rose MacLean was born on July 12 ,1977, three months premature. She was kept in an incubator in hospital for two months, effectively to be detoxed. Denny was no more able to look after her baby when she at last took her home.

At that point, I would see her sporadically and I was distressed when I did,” adds Richard Thompson, bandmate and virtuoso guitarist. “She was drinking more, doing more drugs, and I would have a really bad feeling that some potential tragic outcome was on the cards. Sandy was a mess. Her baby needed protecting. But even in a situation like that, people have to come to their own realization.” Denny managed one final tour of the UK that November. Attendances were erratic, and so were her performances. The following March she took Georgia to visit her parents at their holiday cottage in Cornwall. One afternoon, coming downstairs, she stumbled and fell, hitting her head on a stone floor. Afterwards she told friends that her mother had refused to take her to hospital, not wanting to be seen with a drunken daughter. She began to have debilitating headaches. She was prescribed a painkiller, Distalgesic, that when mixed with alcohol can have potentially fatal side effects. In the 40 years since Sandy Denny’s death, her recorded works have been reissued, remastered and re-evaluated. Today there is a more general awareness of her wonderful talent and the extent of her influence. In life she was unable to get out of the black pit she fell into; in death her light is undimmed. “No one came anywhere near Sandy. She was the best,” says bandmate Ashley Hutchings. “She just had that very special quality when she sang a beautiful song. It broke your heart.

Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays: The band formed in Missouri, near the birthplace of Rush Limbaugh. With the release of his first album, Bright Size Life (1975), Pat reinvented the traditional “jazz guitar” sound for a new generation of players. Throughout his career, Pat Metheny has continued to re-define the genre by utilizing new technology and constantly working to evolve the improvisational and sonic potential of his instrument. METHENY’S versatility is almost nearly without peer on any instrument. Its one thing to attain popularity as a musician, but it is another to receive the kind of acclaim Metheny has garnered from critics and peers. Over the years, Metheny has won countless polls as “Best Jazz Guitarist” and awards, including three gold records. He has also won 20 Grammy Awards in 12 different categories including Best Rock Instrumental, Best Contemporary Jazz Recording, Best Jazz Instrumental Solo, Best Instrumental Composition. The Pat Metheny Group won an unprecedented seven consecutive Grammies for seven consecutive albums. Metheny has spent most of his life on tour, averaging between 120-240 shows a year since 1974. His keyboardist Lyle Mays was the perfect complement to Metheny. Sadly, Lyle died in February of this year. Their friendship spanned over 50 years. If you aren’t familiar with their collaboration, I want to recommend the following titles: Cross The Heartland, The Fields The Sky, New Chautauqua, Ozark, Straight On Red, The Search. That will get you started.

No one needs a $3 million+ hypercar. They typically go very fast, look very swoopy, no doubt hasten the demise of the glaciers and the flooding of the earth by at least a year or two, unless you accept the demise schedule of climate change fanatics, in which case just the hypercars in Jay Leno’s garage hasten it by a week or two. In any case, “what’s a hypercar, how does it differ from a super car?” The term “hypercar,” was coined to qualify the top 1% of supercars. All hypercars are supercars, but not all supercars are hypercars, and while the qualifiers that allow a car to be elevated out of supercar territory and into the hypercar pantheon aren’t obvious, it’s clear with a few examples. The Ferrari 458 is a fantastic supercar, but it does not match the technological marvel of the 1,500 horsepower Bugatti Chiron hypercar. The McLaren P1, Ferrari La Ferrari, Pagani Huayra, Porsche 918: all near 1,000 horsepower, with first-class new-age technology, million-dollar price tags, stunning design and performance rivaled only by each other. Almost every aspect of each car is an advancement in automotive technology and puts them high atop the motoring totem pole. Hypercars are the stick against which all cars are meant to be measured, and not a single compromise can be made.

Then there’s the Koenigsegg Gemera. At “only” $1.7 million, it’s a bargain among hypercars, yet is probably the most technologically advanced vehicle ever made. The Koenigsegg website calls it a new category of car, the mega-GT, and only 300 will be offered. From the website: The Gemera’s 2-liter 3-cylinder dry sumped twin-turbo Freevalve engine, named the Tiny Friendly Giant (or TFG for short) adds another 450 kW or 600 bhp. The TFG is a progressive outlook on the powertrains of tomorrow. The TFG offers a lighter, more efficient cradle-to-grave solution compared to any combustion engine before it. Combined with electrification, the Gemera can be argued to be cleaner than a long-range EV, by using next-generation combustion technology designed for next-generation renewable liquid fuels, together with a small battery plug-in electrification. The Gemera, if plugged in and filled with Gen 2.0 ethanol or CO2 neutral methanol like Vulcanol or any mix thereof, becomes at least as CO2 neutral as a pure electric car. Before these second-generation renewable fuel sources are more accessible, the Gemera can also be driven on E85 and in worst case normal petrol. Let’s see, goes very fast, is ultra safe, seats 4 adults in luxurious comfort, uses renewable fuels, can be non or minimally polluting while leaving your Prius or Leaf fading in your mirrors like a pin-pricked balloon, eye-wateringly beautiful design, my tongue is dragging on the ground….but I won’t have the $1.7 million before the run of 300 is gone.

I can dream of tooling down the interstate in my Gemera while grooving to Pat Metheny….or to the hardest hard rock guitarist like Ritchie Blackmore playing renaissance rock on mandola! Ain’t this world something? As Rush Limbaugh says, “it’s a beautiful thing!” It will still be beautiful when the pandemic is over.

TikTok: No uglies need apply. China to their journalists: Come home….or else.

TikTok: Dumbing down the already dumbed down!

TikTok is a Chinese video-sharing social networking service owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based company founded in 2012 by Zhang Yiming. It is used to create short dance, lip-sync, comedy, and talent videos. In an internal document, moderators have been explicitly told to suppress uploads from users with flaws both congenital and inevitable. “Abnormal body shape,” “ugly facial looks,” dwarfism, and “obvious beer belly,” “too many wrinkles,” “eye disorders,” and many other “low quality” traits are all enough to keep uploads out of the algorithmic fire hose. Videos in which “the shooting environment is shabby and dilapidated,” including but “not limited to … slums, rural fields” and “dilapidated housing” were also systematically hidden from new users, though “rural beautiful natural scenery could be exempted,” the document notes.

The document, presented in both English and Chinese, advised TikTok’s moderators that for videos shot in someone’s house with “no obvious slummy charactor [sic],” special care should be given to check for slummy features such as a “crack on the wall” or “old and disreputable decorations.” The mere appearance of residential disrepair or crooked teeth in the frame, the document shows, could mean the difference between worldwide distribution and relative invisibility. The justification here, as with “ugly” uploaders, was again that TikTok should retain an aspirational air to attract and hold onto new users: “This kind of environment is not that suitable for new users for being less fancy and appealing.” Social startups, eager to build on their momentum rather than disappear into the app heap of history, commonly consider growth and user retention to be by far their top priority, but rarely is the public privy to the details of this kind of nakedly aggressive expansion. Tiktok is one of the most popular apps in the world, with over 800 million monthly users who seem to think they are indulging their creative freedom, while being turned into unwitting pawns in Beijing’s lust for world domination!

While TikTok policies around the “For You” section had to do with suppression, that is, keeping certain content from becoming too popular, a second document obtained by The Intercept is concerned with censorship, laying out rules for outright removing content from the company’s video livestreaming feature. The rules go far beyond the usual Beijing bugbears like Tiananmen Square and Falun Gong. Crucially, these rules could be easily interpreted to proscribe essential components of political speech by classifying them as dangerous or defamatory. China says, “censorship? What’s that? All your rights come from the divine CCP, what you call censorship is your “tithe” to the Party!”

Any number of the document’s rules could be invoked to block discussion of a wide range of topics embarrassing to government authorities: “Defamation … towards civil servants, political or religious leaders” as well as towards “the families of related leaders” has been, under the policy, punishable with a terminated stream and a daylong suspension. Any broadcasts deemed by ByteDance’s moderators to be “endangering national security” or even “national honor and interests” were punished with a permanent ban, as were “uglification or distortion of local or other countries’ history,” with the “Tiananmen Square incidents” cited as only one of three real world examples. A “Personal live broadcast about state organs such as police office, military etc,” would knock your stream offline for three days, while documenting military or police activity would get you kicked off for that day (would-be protestors, take note). Folks, tell me that the CCP isn’t the REAL owner of Tiktok!

Other moderation documents obtained by The Intercept indicate that TikTok has influenced content on its platform not just by censoring videos and disappearing users, but by padding feeds with content from “shadow accounts” operated by company employees posing as regular users. Internal employee guidelines reviewed by The Intercept suggest that ByteDance employees scoured Instagram for popular topics, downloaded the videos, and reshared them on TikTok to maintain a steady spray of appealing content; workers tasked with populating “Nice Looking” videos on the app were encouraged to check out Instagram posts tagged with “#BeachGirl,” for example. At the same time as TikTok contractors seem to have been pilfering “beach girl” content, women who didn’t hew to TikTok’s invisible modesty code could have their streams terminated and their accounts banned, the livestream policy document shows. Streams depicting someone wearing bikini or swimming suits outside of a “beach or swimming occasion” were to be punished with a one-week suspension, while accounts showing the “outline of female nipples” could be closed “forever.” TikTok’s livestream modesty code even applied to the arts: “Singing or playing music pornography contents, sexual cues, etc” are forbidden, as is merely “discussing the topic of sexual reproduction” on stream — acts TikTok classifies as “voice vulgarity.I personally think that controlling content with a “modesty code” could be a good idea, if users were required to read and agree to the code before signing up….but that’s not how it’s done. Like any totalitarian entity, there are masses of ignorant slaves users controlled by a few elite in-the-know bosses.

Multiple TikTok sources, who spoke with The Intercept on the condition of anonymity because they feared professional and legal reprisal, emphasized the primacy of ByteDance’s Beijing HQ over the global TikTok operation, explaining that their ever-shifting decisions about what’s censored and what’s boosted are dictated by Chinese staff, whose policy declarations are then filtered around TikTok’s 12 global offices, translated into rough English, finally settling into a muddle of Beijing authoritarianism crossed with the usual Silicon Valley prudishness. Talk about a “toxic” combination!

Not so muddled is Beijing on Friday ordered at least seven Chinese nationals to walk away from their jobs at American news outlets, escalating the public spat between the superpowers over press access. News assistants at The New York Times, Voice of America and two other outlets were dismissed from their positions and told to go home, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). “China appears determined to crush the news-gathering operations of major U.S. outlets in Beijing, this time by taking punishing measures against local Chinese employees,” Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator said. “This action will not stop the ongoing tit-for-tat between China and the United States, and may escalate it. China should stop trying to control and intimidate foreign news bureaus and allow them to hire Chinese staff freely and directly.”

Folks, don’t play China’s game! I’m talking to you, liberal American media and China apologists! While the ordinary Chinese citizen, like citizens in Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and every totalitarian country whose boots are stamping on their faces, yearns for freedom, they are clearly experiencing the ugly truth about the trade-off of freedom for “security”. It isn’t a trade-off. Once freedom is lost, to whom can you appeal to try to get some back? For those hearts in bondage, it’s our terrible, “racist” USA!! Show some gratitude!

The "run" on toilet paper and the "invisible hand" disinfected and dissected.

The information about Adam Smith and Mercantilism is from a lecture of February 17, 1976, at the Taft School, Watertown, Connecticut, by Edmund A. Optiz. “We celebrate in 1976 the bicentennial of two significant events, the signing of the American Declaration of Independence, and the publication of The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. Smith had made a name for himself with an earlier volume entitled Theory of the Moral Sentiments, published in 1759, but he is now remembered mainly for his Wealth of Nations, on which he labored for ten years. The Wealth of Nations sold briskly in the American colonies, some 2,500 copies within five years of publication, even though our people were at war. This is a remarkable fact, for there were only three million people living on these shores two centuries ago, and about one-third of these were Loyalists. In England, as in the colonies, there were two opposed political factions—Whigs and Tories. The Tories favored the King and the old regime; the Whigs worked to increase freedom in society. Adam Smith was a Whig; the men we call Founding Fathers were Whigs. There was a Whig faction in the British Parliament and many Englishmen were bound to the American cause by strong intellectual and emotional ties.

“Adam Smith’s book was warmly received here, not only because it was a great work of literature, but also because it provided a philosophical justification for individual freedom in the areas of manufacture and trade. The colonies, of course, were largely agricultural; but of necessity there were also artisans of all sorts. There had to be carpenters and cabinet makers, bricklayers and blacksmiths, weavers and tailors, gunsmiths and bootmakers. These colonial manufacturers and farmers had been practicing economic freedom all along; simply because the Crown was too busy with other matters to interfere seriously. There were numerous laws designed to regulate trade, but the laws were difficult to enforce, and so they were ignored.

“The nations of Europe at this time embraced a theory of economic organization called ‘Mercantilism.’ Mercantilism was based upon the idea of national rivalry, and each nation sought to get the better of other nations by exporting merchandise in exchange for gold and silver. The goal of Mercantilism was the enhancement of national prestige by accumulating the precious metals, but the goal was not nearly so significant as the means employed to reach it. Mercantilism was the planned economy par excellence; the nation was trussed up in a strait jacket of regulations just about as severe as the controls imposed today upon the people of Russia or China. The modern authoritarian state, of course, has more efficient methods of surveillance and control than did the governments of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but the basic idea is similar.

“Take the theory of Mercantilism and boil it down. What do you get? You get political control over what you eat. Now, if someone holds the power of decision over you as to whether you eat or starve, he’s acquired considerable leverage over every aspect of your life; you do not bite the hand that feeds you! If someone controls your livelihood, you do his bidding, or people start talking about you in the past tense! Mercantilism, in short, is the prototype of today’s totalitarian state, where government — by controlling the economy — exerts a commanding influence over people in every sector of their lives.

Twentieth century political despotism is much more extensive and severe than the monarchial rule of Smith’s day, which is why The Wealth of Nations is still a relevant book. Smith demonstrated that a country does not need an overall national plan enforced upon people in order to achieve social harmony. This is not to say that a peaceful, orderly society comes about by accident, or as the result of doing nothing. Certain requirements must be met if people are to live at peace with their neighbors. It is required, first of all, that there be widespread obedience to the moral commandments which forbid murder, theft, misrepresentation, and covetousness. The second requirement is for a legal system which secures equal justice before the law for every person. When these moral and legal requirements are met, then the people will be led into a system of social cooperation under the division of labor “as if by an invisible hand.”

Adam Smith liked this metaphor of “an invisible hand” and used it in Theory of the Moral Sentiments as well as in The Wealth of Nations. Every person, Smith writes, employs his time, his talents, his capital, so as to direct “industry that its produce may be of the greatest value…. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it…. He intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intentions.” Smith concludes this passage by adding, sardonically, “I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.”

Price gouging” refers to a phenomenon wherein customers at an especially vulnerable time are charged unusually high prices by “greedy” business owners taking advantage of their need. So why do prices rise during times of need? Prices are a rationing device and signal of scarcity, so this higher price naturally encourages customers to make do with less while simultaneously indicating to producers to expand production. Another, more subtle example and justification for “price gouging” is movie snacks, especially popcorn! You are gouged every time you buy popcorn at the movies, yet the lines for popcorn, candy and drinks are usually consistent. Why? Demand is always high, since you are not allowed to bring your own, and because the venue and snacks–popcorn–are paired in your mind; a habit pattern waiting for the stimulus….and no longer think about the money.

Back to t.p. Though buyers have to pay more for each product, it reduces the risk of shortages by making it easier for suppliers to meet the increased demand for their goods. What’s perhaps more relevant to our current situation is that hoarders are indirectly discouraged from hoarding. A higher price makes consumers think twice before buying a cart-full of toilet paper, leaving more product on the shelves and limiting or delaying, perhaps indefinitely, any shortage. But that’s not all, remember that the higher price is only temporary, since higher prices will spur production. Sellers see product flying off the shelves and note that they need to ramp up production to meet the growing demand. Potential entrepreneurs also recognize that there may be room for extra business in this particular market, so they start production. We’ve already seen these forces at work in the past few weeks. Distilleries have taken note of hand sanitizer shortages and are helping to meet the increased demand by producing their own—some even giving their product away for free. Just imagine, Jim Beam and Wild Turkey hand sanitizer! Yumm!

Last week Georgia-Pacific increased production t.p. capacity by 120 percent. Amplified production by existing companies, and the entrance of new business into markets, will lower prices to pre-crisis levels. Referring to rising prices as “price gouging” will not change the economic fact: in a free economy, prices are a vital signal to producers and consumers alike. It’s incredible that a single number can do so much. This is the miracle inherent in free markets—no solitary, all-knowing authority is dictating the direction of prices or production in a single market (let alone an entire economy). It happens naturally, as if led by an “invisible hand”.

But if you are still angry about either prices or scarcity of t.p., nature comes to the rescue. The following are among the best leaves to use as t.p. substitutes. Since you’re probably locked down anyway, it’s a good time for hiking and plucking up your own supply (for those hoarding beans especially!).

Woolly Lamb’s Ear
Mullein…you can also boil the leaves for tea
Big leaf maple, but watch the sap
Big leaf magnolia…tears easily, go slow

Leaves to avoid: Anything waxy (smears rather than absorbs); Leaves grouped in threes (might be poisonous) or growing in alternating, as opposed to mirroring, positions on the branch (might be poisonous). I guarantee you, if you use the wrong leaf and get poison ivy on the butt, you will never complain about the price of toilet paper! Hand bidets, anyone?

The Chinese "memory hole".

Helen Raleigh, in National Review, April 6, 2020 issue: “Unlike their parents’ and grandparents’ generations, today’s young Chinese have no living memories of the atrocities that the Chinese Communist Party has committed since 1949. Massive famine and poverty, minuscule food rations, and millions of people who perished are now a part of history that has gone up in flames, never to be spoken of again. The Chinese authorities have made sure that Communist China’s history, from 1949 to 1989 (including the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre), is scraped clean or reduced to just a few historically inaccurate paragraphs. Today’s young Chinese grew up with little to no awareness of what has happened, not knowing that the glorious Communist China sits on the corpses of millions of innocent people.”

Her piece continues: “With neither living memories nor historical knowledge, young Chinese today do not see the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) as an evildoer. They grew up in a China that has been a rising world power with signs of prosperity and modernity everywhere. The social contract the Chinese government has offered to them — limited freedom in exchange for stability and prosperity — appears to have worked out well for almost every citizen. So what if they can’t access a few Western social-media sites such as Facebook and Twitter? Western-style democracy wouldn’t work in China anyway, the CCP has told them.

“But the spread of the coronavirus has exposed the Achilles’ heel of this social contract. When everyone has the potential to be infected, when they hear stories of people who had to walk an hour to seek treatment only to be turned away, when they read the countless pleas for help and heartbreaking stories online, and when they see videos of overcrowded hospitals and overworked medical staff, they see the façade of stability and prosperity crumbling right before their eyes. They are hungry for information. They want to know how to protect themselves and their families. In the past, the search for information and truth would always eventually run up against a wall, and they would just give up. However, the death of Dr. Li Wenliang, one of the handful of early whistleblowers on the coronavirus outbreak, awakened many Chinese, especially the young. They finally realized that the stability and prosperity they were promised and for which they gave up their freedom was nothing but a beautifully wrapped lie.”

1984, Book one, Chapter three: “For how could you establish even the most obvious fact when there existed no record outside your own memory? Winston tried to remember in what year he had first heard mention of Big Brother. He thought it must have been at some time in the sixties, but it was impossible to be certain. In the Party histories, of course, Big Brother figured as the leader and guardian of the Revolution since its very earliest days. And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. ‘Reality control,’ they called it: in Newspeak, ‘doublethink’.”

1984, Book one, Chapter four: “This last was for the disposal of waste paper. Similar slits existed in thousands or tens of thousands throughout the building, not only in every room but at short intervals in every corridor. For some reason they were nicknamed memory holes. When one knew that any document was due for destruction, or even when one saw a scrap of waste paper lying about, it was an automatic action to lift the flap of the nearest memory hole and drop it in, whereupon it would be whirled away on a current of warm air to the enormous furnaces which were hidden somewhere in the recesses of the building. And so it was with every class of recorded fact, great or small. Everything faded away into a shadow-world in which, finally, even the date of the year had become uncertain.”

The makers of TikTok, the Chinese video-sharing app with hundreds of millions of users around the world, instructed moderators to suppress posts created by users deemed too ugly, poor, or disabled for the platform, according to internal documents obtained by The Intercept. These same documents show moderators were also told to censor political speech in TikTok livestreams, punishing those who harmed “national honor” or broadcast streams about “state organs such as police” with bans from the platform. These previously unreported Chinese policy documents, along with conversations with multiple sources directly familiar with TikTok’s censorship activities, provide new details about the company’s efforts to enforce rigid constraints across its reported 800 million or so monthly users while it simultaneously attempts to bolster its image as a global paragon of self-expression and anything-goes creativity. They also show how TikTok controls content on its platform to achieve rapid growth in the mold of a Silicon Valley startup while simultaneously discouraging political dissent with the sort of heavy hand regularly seen in its home country of China.

On TikTok, livestreamed military movements and natural disasters, video that “defamed civil servants,” and other material that might threaten “national security” has been suppressed alongside videos showing rural poverty, slums, beer bellies, and crooked smiles. One document goes so far as to instruct moderators to scan uploads for cracked walls and “disreputable decorations” in users’ own homes — then to effectively punish these poorer TikTok users by artificially narrowing their audiences.

The citizen journalists of China risk their lives. Helen Raleigh again: “This is a generation that grew up with the abundance of social media, a generation that is constantly influenced by Western cultures through fashion, music, movies, and YouTube videos. They value freedom of expression. Like young people in the West, they want to instantly share with the world what they see and how they feel. They grew up with electronic gadgets; they have the technological know-how to bypass the Chinese government’s Internet firewall. Since the coronavirus outbreak, some of these young people have taken to heart Dr. Li’s final words: ‘A healthy society shouldn’t have only one voice.

“They have decided to do something about it — through seeking and sharing truth on their own. At what cost? Li Zehua quit his job and found a way to get into Wuhan. With the locals’ help, he was able to get a car and find a place to stay. By sheer coincidence, Li’s new temporary lodging was right next to the former lodging of another young citizen journalist, Chen Qiushi, who had previously posted videos about his visits to Wuhan. By the time Li arrived in Wuhan, Chen had “disappeared,” gone since February 7. Government officials told Chen’s family and friends that Chen had been put into forced medical quarantine, but they refused to disclose when and where.

“Undeterred, Li started posting videos of his visits to infected locations such as college campuses and funeral homes. He interviewed residents, migrant workers, and employees at the funeral homes. Li said in one of his videos, ‘If one Chen Qiushi falls, 10 million more Chen Qiushis will stand up to take his place.’ Li’s words held true. Through his reporting, we learned that local authorities didn’t carry out promised disinfectant measures in infected communities and that residents were running low on groceries. These are the types of information China’s state-run media would not dare to report, but Li chose to. For exposing the truth, Li was often harassed by the local police and self-identified security guards, but he continued to do what he regarded as legitimate reporting.

“On February 26, when Li was on his way back from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which many conspiracy theorists believe was responsible for creating and spreading the coronavirus, he posted a short video while he was being chased at high speed by a public-security vehicle. Viewers can hear him exclaim, ‘They’re chasing me. . . . I’m sure that they want to hold me in isolation. Please help me!’ Li made it back to his apartment and started livestreaming again. He was visibly shaken by the chase and knew very well that something baleful was getting close to him. Then he heard a knock at the door. Through the peephole, he saw two big guys outside. It was to be his final hour of freedom. Before he opened the door, he made an impassioned speech. Knowing he would be taken away and even forcibly quarantined, just like Chen Qiushi, Li made sure to note in the video that he had protective gear and that he was healthy at the moment of his arrest. It was important for him to emphasize this on the record, because if the Chinese government later claimed that Li was sick and quarantined or even had died of the coronavirus, the rest of the world, especially Li’s family, would know it was a lie.

“Many Chinese youths today ‘probably have no idea at all what happened in our past,’ Li went on to say. ‘They think the history they have now is the one they deserve.’ Li hoped that more young people would join him in standing up for the truth. After these words, Li opened the door. Two men in masks and dressed fully in black walked in. The camera was abruptly shut off, and the livestreaming stopped. No one has heard from Li since that day. Thanks to the China Media Project, Li’s final speech was translated into English.

As you complain–you who take your freedom for granted–about the United States of America, or compare President Trump to Hitler, or find “racists” and “white supremacists” behind every use of the words “Wuhan” or “Chinese virus”, contemplate 1984, the hypocrisy of TikTok (if it ain’t owned or financed by the People’s Liberation Army–PLA–or the CCP, I’ll eat my smartphone), and the massive memory hole that is China.