Context Matters!

Preventing global food security crisis under COVID-19 emergency ...

By Mike Cronin

There are some folks who seem to think that because COVID-19 cases and death rates are roughly similar to the annual flu, that we are blowing the disease out of proportion or dismissing it.  While there is some out-of-proportion fear-mongering AND some unwarranted dismissiveness going on, and while COVID-19 may indeed turn out to be of similar menace level as the annual flu, the flu is still there. COVID-19 is happening ON TOP OF the flu, not instead of it, and there is no vaccine yet. That’s why there is genuine concern over the number of hospital beds and respirators, and that’s why COVID-19 can’t be easily dismissed.

Concurrently, panic-pushers, America haters, and political opportunists are giddily touting that the US now has the most reported cases of COVID-19.  There are a few things they are omitting:

The US has the most REPORTED cases. What about UN-reported cases? Do you think all of the countries not as transparent or as capable as the US really have lower case numbers and lower infection rates?

China has nearly five times the population of the US, and most Chinese citizens live in dense urban sprawl. The Communist party would have us believe China had a peak of only ~80,000 cases. Do you really think the disease is done there, or that the Communist government is reporting accurate numbers?

Do you think Iran or Russia even know how many cases they have, let alone are reporting accurate numbers?

Our reported cases have recently exceeded Italy’s (105K cases vs 85K). But Italy has roughly one-fifth the population of the US.  In other words, Italy has fewer absolute cases, but their infection rate is over four times higher than ours. (Infection rate = cases/population. Italy = 85K vs 60M or 0.14%. US = 105K vs 325M, or 0.032%). Worse, the COVID-19 death rate in Italy is almost 10 times higher! (10.5% in Italy vs 1.6% in the US.) https://www.cebm.net/covid-19/global-covid-19-case-fatality-rates/

So, what’s the upshot?

The truth is in the middle:

  • As ever, news outlets are trying to sell airtime to advertisers. They do that by getting ratings. Breathless coverage and ominous alerts will induce alarm, and that will keep the ratings higher than dispassionate, in-context reportage.
  • COVID-19 is a slow-moving natural disaster that is affecting the entire planet – but it’s not the worst such thing that could happen. It won’t wipe us all out, not by a long shot; but we do need to address it.
  • Absolute numbers of reported cases don’t tell the story very well. Infection rates and death rates are better indicators.
  • Criticizing anyone for what has already happened won’t solve the crisis – but it may be a fun diversion!
  • Social distancing and attending to surface and hand hygiene are effective in slowing the spread of disease, but it rankles and induces fear to be commanded by government to all but shut down the economy.
  • Our politicians would all do well to remember that the USA was born when our Founders penned the most eloquent “F*ck You!” ever written in response to too much government intrusion (the Declaration of Independence).  Americans are not the most obedient lot in normal times, and just now there is an up-welling of  F*ck You brewing. Politicians must tread very carefully indeed.

We are going through some scary times, but the fundamentals of our geography and the political system our Founders instituted will have us come out of this thing in better shape than any other country.  Stay strong.

It’s not that Simple

 

This photo released by the Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office shows a burning vehicle at the Baghdad International Airport following an airstrike, in Baghdad, Iraq, early Friday, Jan. 3, 2020. The Pentagon said Thursday that the U.S. military has killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, at the direction of President Donald Trump. (Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office via AP)

By Mike Cronin

True to form, American opinion on the Soleimani strike is splitting along ideological lines. The left is aghast, and the right is fist-pumping. It’s not that simple.

Hawks would have us believe that invading Iran would be like rolling over Iraq in Desert Storm. It would not. Iran’s military is no match for ours, but Iran’s terrain mitigates their military disadvantage. Where Iraq was a wide-open desert, Iran is a “Mountain Fortress.” A ground war there would be more difficult than anything our military has faced since Korea.

Doves would have us be shocked and appalled that President Trump ordered the bombing of the Iranian Quds Force commander. We’re supposed to be fearful of Iranian retaliation. We’re supposed to see the situation as Trump taking a page from Bill Clinton by ordering a military strike to shift attention from the impeachment debacle.

We’re not supposed to remember that Bill Clinton’s “wag the dog” attack was an ineffectual swat at murky enemies, while Trump’s attack dealt a major blow to a long-established, recognizeable foe.

The left doesn’t want us to note that the Quds Force has been fighting a war via proxies against the US and Israel practically since the Iranian Revolution got up and running and became the Islamic Republic.

The right doesn’t want us to remember our own proxy activity against Iran, such as the US initially backing Saddam Hussein, who used chemical weapons against Iran in his 1980s war.

The right would rather we not be reminded that the 1979 Hostage Crisis and general enmity of the Islamic Republic government stemmed from the US overthrowing the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister in the 50s and supporting the Shah, who was no angel.

The left would rather we not remember that the fear at the time was Iran would go Communist and become a Soviet client state – with the ability to choke off oil shipments from the Persian Gulf.

The Islamic Republic government should have noticed we’ve been withdrawing from the Middle East and let the withdrawal continue without attacking us via proxies. Who benefits from having us remain entangled in that web? Trump? Russia? China? Israel? Corporations? All of them?