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.

There's no swab for angst.

I got the space I always wanted……I think.

Matthew Continetti, writing in National Review: “I revisited Brooks’s article this week while thinking about the differences between America during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918–1919 and America during the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic today. What changed is the American ethos. Expressive individualism replaced self-restraint. Narcissism and the therapeutic sensibility triumphed over the reticence and sense of tragedy that comes from living in places and times where there is no safety net and death is a constant presence. The culture of debunking, revisionism, and repudiation informs education, entertainment, art, and occasionally sport. The size, scope, and ambition of the federal government and its managers is far greater now than it was then. So are the public’s expectations of government capabilities and performance. The institutions that stand between the individual and state have weakened where they have not crumbled. Family, community, religion, and voluntary association attenuate as modernity deprives them of their traditional functions.” Angst: A feeling of anxiety, apprehension, or insecurity. That’s the definition, but it’s no longer simply “a feeling”–it’s now awareness of what our country has largely become.

The United States is beginning to shut down and self-isolate. Its G-7 partners range from states of quarantine (Italy) to lockdown (France) to closed borders (Germany). Countries do not make such decisions on a lark. Nor is the reason for these extraordinary measures a secret. What terrifies the authorities is the prospect of surges in infection that would push public-health systems beyond capacity and result in mass death. To prevent a medical catastrophe, the authorities guarantee an economic one. The social capacity of America has received less attention. The worst-case scenarios anticipate an epidemic that lasts until a vaccine can be mass produced 18 months from now. Do we believe that American society could withstand until then the additional pressures that have been put on it over the past week?

Thucydides described the way the plague of ancient Athens brought about “lawless extravagance” in which men set aside the normal rules. “They resolved to spend quickly and enjoy themselves, regarding their lives and riches as alike things of a day.” He wrote, “It was settled that present enjoyment, and all that contributed to it, was both honorable and useful. Fear of gods or law of man there was none to restrain them.

“Restrain them” indeed. If you believe that humans are born good, or neutral, and it’s “society” or “injustice” or “religion” or some other external circumstance that corrupts them, you probably haven’t watched groups of very young children play with too few toys to go around….and you probably excuse yourself for all the insidious thoughts that constantly assail your mind. No one, even devout Christians, want to believe Psalm 14:3 or 53:3. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good. God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.– Psalm 53:1-3. That cannot be true, you hope, lots of people do good. Yes, they appear to……once they are trained up or can model themselves after those they love and respect.

However, I am concerned with the conditions Thucydides wrote about. I am living in Spokane, Washington. One daughter also lives here, and my other two daughters live in Seattle, the epicenter of our modern “plague of ancient Athens”. People hereabouts and thereabouts are behaving mostly positively, as I predicted days ago in my post Could the Coronavirus be more blessing than curse?, 6 days ago.

Another positive development, from FEE.ORG: As the rampaging virus wields its way around the globe, prevention and early detection are key to limiting its reach. While a travel ban limited US exposure to the source of the infection, unwieldy government regulations needlessly slowed the detection process for weeks.Federal regulations barred any labs outside the federal government from developing a test to diagnose coronavirus. When the CDC sent out its test on February 5, it soon learned many of them were defective. The kits produced false positives. The government reversed course on February 29 and allowed private labs to begin developing their own tests. The results have been spectacular. The old tests took two to seven days to process. The patient was left in limbo in the meantime. Within a matter of days of the government dropping its restriction, the Cleveland Clinic developed a test that delivered results within eight hours. Our central government, instead of exacerbating a crisis as they have been wont to do in the past–Great Depression, 1970’s gasoline shortage, 2008 collapse of the “mortgage bubble”–is finally getting the message “private enterprise does almost everything better than central planning and politically motivated edicts!”

There is no nation that can scale up production the way we can when we do take a war footing. I suspect that the risk-taking and entrepreneurial spirit embedded and fostered in American life will pay off. It took a week for an open-source project to come up with a 3D-printed ventilator validation prototype for hospitals. It takes only days for trucks to arrive with more food and supplies. In the United States, the instinct to hoard is psychological, not a matter of survival. I’m encouraged. Here’s some pics of the temporary “new normal”. Don’t use these to develop more angst–they are evidence that Americans are doing what it takes to slow the spread!

Los Angeles theater
Seattle I-5 freeway, downtown.
Costa Mesa shopping center, S. California.
Pike Place Market, Seattle
Cruise dock, La Jolla, CA
TLC (Grauman’s) Chinese Theater, Los Angeles
Hoboken, N.J.
NYC subway
Times Square, NYC

Well, not everyone is observing social distancing, or is the new definition the length of a Costco cart apart?

Costco, Seattle

Young, stupid and pale.

they worked hard in their college classes, where they learned about how to hate white people and stuff

Rick Moran, “No, all you stupid college kids cavorting on Florida beaches for spring break, swapping spit and other bodily fluids. You are not invincible. It’s so simple even a brainwashed, indoctrinated college kid should be able to figure it out. You can play Russian Roulette with your own life if you want, but have mercy on the rest of us and do as you’re told: stay away from crowds and party at home.I would add, get tested before seeing mom and dad….unless you don’t care about being the carrier of their death.

In general, the U.S. experience largely mimics China’s, with the risk for serious disease and death from Covid-19 rising with age. But in an important qualification, an  analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Wednesday underlines a message that infectious disease experts have been emphasizing: Millennials  are not invincible. The new data show that up to one-fifth of infected people ages 20-44 have been hospitalized, including 2%-4% who required treatment in an intensive care unit. Still feel like rolling the dice? Here’s more on your odds. Still, the most severe cases, and the highest rates of death, are among the elderly. Although 17% of the U.S. population is 65 or older, 31% of cases were in that age group, CDC experts concluded in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. While it is possible that the elderly have more chances to be infected than younger people, such as by living in nursing homes, that is considered unlikely, since younger adults encounter many others at work and school.

Then there is the Twitter video featuring (they really use their names???) Brady Sluder: “If I get Corona, I get Corona; at the end of the day I’m not going to let it stop me. I’ve been waiting for Miami spring break for months. Whatever happens, happens.” Really brave words. What will you say when dad is on a ventilator? Brianna Leeder: “This closing the bars is really messing up my spring break, what else is there to do?” If only the virus could talk like Steve Martin. “Excuse meee, I hate to mess with your spring break. I just want you to introduce me to your parents.” Atlantis Walker: “We need refunds. There’s more important things to address, like hunger and poverty.” Great dude, shows how politically aware you are while you’re doing stuff that can kill you…or your mom or dad. Keep up the righteous indignation. Shelby Cordell: “I just turned 21 and I’ve planned to party for months! We’re hanging out with another group at our Airbnb, getting drunk and having fun.” Don’t forget swapping spit. Bryson Taylor: “Stuff happens, we’re just living for the moment…” Stuff happens all right, like an “accident” while you’re driving high on weed at 80 mph on black ice. Was that an accident—”stuff”—or old garden variety stupidity?

President Trump: “We don’t want young people gathering, and I see they do gather, including on beaches, including in restaurants. Young people, they’re feeling invincible … but they don’t realize that they can be carrying lots of bad things home to grandmother and grandfather and even their parents. So we want them to heed the advice. We mean the advice. And I think it’s getting through.”

Megan Fox, “The young idiots on spring break who just want to get drunk and debauched are defying orders to social distance and stay inside to avoid the latest plague China has unleashed on the world. They don’t care if they make this outbreak thousands of times worse, they worked hard in their college classes, where they learned about how to hate white people and stuff. Considering most of these buffoons are white, I’m starting to hate them too. Whoever raised these morons should go collect them and then put a padlock on their bedroom doors. Meet the first college generation that no one would want on ‘Girls Gone Wild Spring Break Edition.’ But it isn’t just the girls. The boys look pretty terrible too. Why do these young people look so unhealthy and sick? I’m guessing it’s the birth control pills for the girls, causing the weight gain and bad skin, but the boys just need to get out in the sun and do some hard chores. They’re soft and pale and weak. I’m not sure why they’re not worried about the Chinese WuFlu, because none of them look healthy enough to survive it. You go, Megan, I love your candor!

Yeah, young, stupid and pale, soft and weak. Why do they look like they were just released from the ICU?

Quarantined for love….the new hookup(?)

Whatever happened to fear of AIDS?

NY Post, March 17, 2020: “Gone are the days of casual hookups: City dwellers aren’t seeking flings but bunker buddies. ‘If it’s end of days we can at least go satisfied, and if we live through it then we have an interesting story to share for the rest of our lives‘ reads one Craigslist post for an isolation mate by a 42-year-old business professional who includes their height, weight and that they’re ‘dd’ (drug and disease) free.

Would love to connect with someone, gather some food, necessities and hide together, we can get to know each other, have some fun while doing it,” writes the Queens-based searcher. Others are offering up provisions in exchange for love in the time of coronavirus.

Before we all get put into quarantine let’s live together,” a Bay Ridge-based individual writes in a Craigslist post seeking to quarantine and chill. “I am looking for a live in situation and you can have room rent free. I am very well stocked up on food and beverages.” In another post, a 63-year-old man is looking for “Westchester/Bronx only” women to quarantine with him. But first, they must “meet up for coffee and discuss this.” Sorry dude, you can’t “meet up” inside the coffeeshop. Today I went through a Starbucks drive-through, got my nitro coldbrew, then sat in my car outside the building for an hour, close enough to use their wifi. The baristas were happier than usual because they had a steady, manageable flow of drive-through customers, without the usual crush of impatient customers

One woman is using the concept of a wanted ad for a “Coronavirus Quarantine Boyfriend,” simply to gain Instagram followers — but was inundated with real applicants. “I didn’t expect to get 100, 150 applications that were serious through Craigslist,” says 32-year-old Kelly Lions, who found herself swamped with potential BFs after posting a call for a “Covid-19 boyfriend (2 weeks max).” In addition to describing herself as “an attractive ~30 yo professional female,” Lions also offers “Purell + lots of TP, a sunny apt with south facing windows,” in her writeup. Lots of TP? What is our society’s fascination with toilet paper anyway??? In addition to the Craigslist responses, she also got some 200-300 responses on Instagram. “People were serious,” Lions tells The Post, adding that she totally understood why people would be “freaking out” at the possibility of a solo quarantine.“I love that all the responses, they always started with the fact that they had Netflix accounts,” she says. I don’t suppose anyone wrote about their home library. You know, that reading thing. Well, maybe you don’t, you’re 30.

Despite some singles taking drastic measures amid the outbreak, 92% of people are dating as normal, according to OkCupid. Although with NYC’s bars, restaurants and nightclubs now shuttered for the foreseeable future, it’s unclear how much longer that statistic will hold true. “Dating as normal”? You mean swiping right, or sexting….what is normal in 2020?

From the CDC: Below is the per-capita infection rate for each state. So, for example, right now you’ll see 4,232 for New York City. That is NOT THE NUMBER OF INFECTIONS. That means it is 1 infection for every 4,232 people. Nationwide, there is 1 infection for every 31,471 people currently. The numbers are going to change as testing ramps up. That is to be expected. Do not panic when you see the spike this coming week. They are expecting it.

New York     4,232
Washington     6,415
Louisiana     17,811
District of Columbia     18,096
New Jersey     20,801
Colorado     26,661
Massachusetts     27,146
Maine     30,550
NATIONWIDE     31,471
Rhode Island     32,102
New Hampshire     34,864
Wyoming     36,172
Connecticut     37,138
Delaware     37,452
Georgia     40,525
Illinois     43,999
Nevada     48,891
Vermont     51,999
Wisconsin     54,929
Oregon     56,236
Maryland     56,502
Mississippi     59,523
California     60,602
Minnesota     63,367
Tennessee     69,726
Nebraska     71,645
Florida     71,832
New Mexico     74,887
Utah     80,149
South Dakota     80,424
Arkansas     81,563
Iowa     83,028
South Carolina     85,812
Montana     89,065
Virginia     90,803
Alabama     96,141
Pennsylvania     96,256
North Carolina     108,125
North Dakota     108,866
Alaska     121,924
Michigan     124,836
Oklahoma     127,644
Kentucky     127,648
Ohio     132,831
Kansas     138,729
Hawaii     141,587
Indiana     172,621
Idaho     179,207
Missouri     255,726
Arizona     269,582
Texas     349,348
West Virginia     357,429

My next post will profile Spring Break idiots, and the fact that 20% of hospitalizations are ages 20-44!