Covid Policy Should Have Taken Account of Costs of Lockdowns and Mandates

(p. A17) Reducing the incidence of disease isn’t necessarily desirable if excessive prevention, in the form of lockdowns or school closures, is more costly to society than the damage done by an illness. We don’t close highways to minimize accidental deaths, despite the existence of dangerous drivers. Yet this is exactly what we’re doing when the government intervenes to limit the spread of communicable diseases by, for instance, mandating vaccines that don’t prevent transmission.

. . .

In early 2020, University of Chicago economists estimated that about 80% of the total damage from Covid came from prevention efforts that hindered economic activity, and only 20% from the direct effects of the disease itself. This analysis motivated me and others to recommend that initial efforts to stop the spread should focus on older people, who are at higher risk of severe illness and not as active in the economy as younger people. This would allow younger people to keep the economy going while limiting the spread of the disease among those most at risk from it. Some in the public-health community, like the signers of the Great Barrington Declaration, eventually saw the light.

My Chicago colleague Casey B. Mulligan has found that total monthly Covid-related harms fell from 2020 to 2021, even as the number of deaths rose. In tax terms, this is an effect not unlike that of the Laffer curve—a lower rate may increase revenue because of growth in the tax base. Similarly, vaccines and treatments reduced the costs associated with getting sick—call it the “disease tax”—but also increased social and economic activity, allowing the infection to spread. Even if the disease tax is paid by more people, the costs are outpaced by the overall benefit derived from the subsequent tsunami of economic activity.

For the full commentary, see:

Tomas J. Philipson. “An Economic Evaluation Of Covid Lockdowns.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, January 20, 2022): A17.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date January 19, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)

Some Venture Capitalists “Act as Mentors,” Some Install Seasoned Veterans as C.E.O.s, and Some Are “Founder-Friendly,” Allowing Genius “to Do Its Work”

(p. C4) . . . Mallaby never quite settles on the story he wants to tell. He introduces the book by laying out what he intends to do: “to explain the venture-capital mind-set” and “to evaluate venture capital’s social impact.” This mind-set, he says, revolves around the “power law” of his title — the idea that the distribution of phenomena is not “normal” but skewed. Instead of a bell curve, picture a long tail, where “winners advance at an accelerating, exponential rate.” Adapt or die, sink or swim — there’s no middle ground. This is why V.C.s like to talk about “grand slams” and “moon shots”; Peter Thiel says that a fund’s top investment should generate returns so spectacular that it will outperform everything else in the fund put together.

This, clearly, isn’t the kind of logic that has much use for steady, incremental growth, to say nothing of a flourishing middle class. You might therefore wonder about the “social impact” of venture capital, which Mallaby deems to be, on the whole, good. He concedes that “V.C.s as individuals can stumble sideways into lucky fortunes,” or can sometimes do unhelpful things. But he is ultimately bullish on what they have to offer: “Venture capital as a system is a formidable engine of progress — more so than is frequently acknowledged.” That engine, Mallaby reminds us, has funded such ventures as the development of synthetic insulin and, more recently, plant-based alternatives to ecologically damaging meat.

. . .

He gives examples of the different kinds of funds, with their various personalities and philosophies. There are V.C.s who see it as their role to act as mentors and coaches to inexperienced founders. There are V.C.s who insist on installing seasoned outsiders at start-ups to serve as C.E.O.s. There are also “founder-friendly” V.C.s, who promise to be hands-off, allowing genius, no matter how unorthodox or weird, to do its work.

For the full review, see:

Jennifer Szalai. “BOOKS OF THE TIMES; A Funder-Friendly Look at Venture Capital.” The New York Times (Tuesday, February 1, 2022): C4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Jan. 31, 2022, and has the title “BOOKS OF THE TIMES; ‘The Power Law’ Is a Funder-Friendly Look at the World of Venture Capital.”)

The book under review is:

Mallaby, Sebastian. The Power Law: Venture Capital and the Making of the New Future. New York: Penguin Press, 2022.

Modern Medical Consensus Supports Thousands of Years of Indian Ayurvedic Tradition of Nasal Rinsing

(p. D6) To the uninitiated, the neti pot may seem like yet another wellness trend. After all, the teapot-like vessel was popularized in the United States by the celebrity surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, who called it a “nose bidet” on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and has been criticized for promoting unproven supplements and health products.

Rinsing warm saltwater through your nose — in one nostril and out the other — as an antidote for a variety of woes like sinus inflammation, congestion and allergies may seem strange and possibly scary;  . . .

But according to ear, nose and throat doctors, nasal rinsing, which traces back thousands of years to the Ayurvedic medical traditions of India, is an unusual example of a practice that is at once ancient, trendy and evidence-based. And, it’s safe and inexpensive to boot.

It has a “very, very high level of evidence, randomized controlled trial evidence, that shows that it does work and it does help,” said Dr. Zara Patel, an associate professor of otolaryngology at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Here’s what we know.

. . .

In 2021, an international team of experts published a consensus on how best to manage common sinus issues, like chronic inflammation of the nasal and sinus passages that can cause runny nose, congestion, impaired sense of smell and facial pressure or pain. They concluded, based on the best yet limited evidence, that regular rinsing with saltwater was one of the treatments most proven to be effective.

Other small studies have suggested that saltwater rinses can help with seasonal or environmental allergy symptoms like congestion, runny nose, itching and sneezing.

And there is some evidence that rinsing can help soothe symptoms of acute upper respiratory infections, like those caused by common cold or flu viruses, though there is less research on this use. One of the largest studies to date, published in 2008, was conducted on about 400 children aged 6 to 10 with colds or flus in the Czech Republic. Among the children who used saltwater rinses several times per day, their symptoms resolved more quickly and they were less likely to use fever medications, decongestants or antibiotics, or to have to miss school, than the children who didn’t rinse.

Dr. Patel, who practices in California, said that rinsing can also help clear fine particles from wildfire smoke, which can be irritating.

Though the evidence that rinsing helps with these various nasal issues is of mixed quality, experts say there are few downsides to trying it. “The risk is so low and the potential benefit so high for rinsers” that it’s worth giving it a go, said Dr. Nyssa Farrell, an assistant professor of otolaryngology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

For the full story, see:

Alice Callahan. “What to Know About Nasal Irrigation.” The New York Times (Tuesday, February 1, 2022): D6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated January 31, 2022, and has the title “Do Neti Pots Really Work?”)

The international consensus mentioned above was published as:

Orlandi RR, Kingdom TT, Smith TL, Bleier B, DeConde A, Luong AU, Poetker DM, Soler Z, Welch KC, Wise SK, Adappa N, Alt JA, Anselmo-Lima WT, Bachert C, Baroody FM, Batra PS, Bernal-Sprekelsen M, Beswick D, Bhattacharyya N, Chandra RK, Chang EH, Chiu A, Chowdhury N, Citardi MJ, Cohen NA, Conley DB, DelGaudio J, Desrosiers M, Douglas R, Eloy JA, Fokkens WJ, Gray ST, Gudis DA, Hamilos DL, Han JK, Harvey R, Hellings P, Holbrook EH, Hopkins C, Hwang P, Javer AR, Jiang RS, Kennedy D, Kern R, Laidlaw T, Lal D, Lane A, Lee HM, Lee JT, Levy JM, Lin SY, Lund V, McMains KC, Metson R, Mullol J, Naclerio R, Oakley G, Otori N, Palmer JN, Parikh SR, Passali D, Patel Z, Peters A, Philpott C, Psaltis AJ, Ramakrishnan VR, Ramanathan M Jr, Roh HJ, Rudmik L, Sacks R, Schlosser RJ, Sedaghat AR, Senior BA, Sindwani R, Smith K, Snidvongs K, Stewart M, Suh JD, Tan BK, Turner JH, van Drunen CM, Voegels R, Wang Y, Woodworth BA, Wormald PJ, Wright ED, Yan C, Zhang L, Zhou B. “International Consensus Statement on Allergy and Rhinology: Rhinosinusitis 2021.” International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology. 11, no. 3 (March 2021): 213-739. doi: 10.1002/alr.22741. PMID: 33236525.

During Pandemic, Delayed Medical Procedures Rose from 4.6 to 6 Million in England’s Socialized Healthcare System

(p. A8) LONDON — Lara Wahab had been waiting for more than two years for a kidney and pancreas transplant, but months had passed without any word. So last month she called the hospital, and got crushing news.

There had been a good match for her in October [2021], the transplant coordinator told her, which the hospital normally would have accepted. But with Covid-19 patients filling beds, the transplant team could not find her a place in the intensive care unit for postoperative care. They had to decline the organs.

“I was just in shock. I knew that the N.H.S. was under a lot of strain, but you don’t really know until you’re waiting for something like that,” she said, referring to the National Health Service. “It was there, but it sort of slipped through my fingers,” she added of the transplant opportunity.

Ms. Wahab, 34, from North London, is part of an enormous and growing backlog of patients in Britain’s free health service who have seen planned care delayed or diverted, in part because of the pandemic — a largely unseen crisis within a crisis. The problems are likely to have profound consequences that will be felt for years.

The numbers are stark: In England, nearly 6 million procedures are currently delayed, a rise from the backlog of 4.6 million before the pandemic, according to the N.H.S. The current delays most likely impact more than five million people — a single patient can have multiple cases pending for different ailments — which represents almost one-tenth of the population. Hundreds of thousands more haven’t been referred yet for treatment, and many ailments have simply gone undiagnosed.

For the full story, see:

Megan Specia. “In Britain, an Ever-Growing Backlog of Non-Covid Care.” The New York Times (Thursday, January 27, 2022): A8.

(Note: bracketed year added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated January 27, 2022, and has the title “‘I Feel Really Hopeless’: In U.K., Millions See Non-Covid Health Care Delayed.”)

Excessive Hygiene from Masking, Distancing, and Deep-Cleaning, Can Increase Allergies and Auto-Immune Diseases

(p. A17) The idea that exposure to some infectious agents is protective against immune-related disorders isn’t new and comes with significant scientific heft. The so-called hygiene hypothesis is constructed from epidemiologic evidence, laboratory studies and clinical trials that, put together, support the notion that an excessive emphasis on antisepsis is implicated in misalignments of the immune system that risk disease.

Allergic and autoimmune diseases are far less common in communities with less hygiene, and autoimmune disorders increase in children who migrate from areas with less emphasis on hygiene to areas with more emphasis. They are less common in agricultural communities, where exposure to dirt and animals is common, compared with neighboring communities with shared genetics but little farming. Children who attend daycare early in life—runny noses, colds and all—have less asthma and fewer allergies. Animal studies, laboratory experiments and small trials in humans all point in a similar direction: Avoiding exposure to some microbes prevents the immune system from training well and predisposes to autoimmune diseases.

. . .

This isn’t a paean to infections and poor hygiene but a reminder of the importance of balance. When I prescribe antibiotics, they have to be strong enough to treat my patient’s infection. But if I overtreat, I run the risk of giving the patient colitis (inflammation of the colon) without additional benefits. Current hygiene policies and practices need rebalancing.

. . .

The extreme concern for hygiene at the onset of Covid-19 was intuitive and understandable. The virus was spreading fast, information on routes of transmission was limited, and we as a society tried to protect one another from infection. But policies that were easy to support two years ago need re-evaluation. Distancing, deep-cleaning and masking aren’t “more is better” kinds of goods.

On the other side of the balance, health risks from extended intensive hygiene are credible. As Omicron recedes and we internalize the paucity of Covid-19 benefits from some hygiene practices, we should balance those against the benefits we lose by shielding our immune systems from normal exposures—and the ones we withhold from children by preventing the exchange of microbes through play and smiles.

For the full commentary, see:

Eran Bendavid. “Covid and the ‘Hygiene Hypothesis’.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, February 2, 2022): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date February 1, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)

Venture Capital’s “Massive” Role in Funding Innovation

(p. A15) The average venture-capital fund launched in 2011 outperformed the S&P 500 by 7% per year. But that statistic understates the astronomical returns earned by a few top performers—and the mediocre returns earned by the rest. Between 1979 and 2018, the median fund underperformed the S&P 500, while the top 5% of funds nearly tripled the index’s performance.

The investor Bill Gurley, of Benchmark, describes venture capital as a “grand-slam business.” In “The Power Law,” business journalist Sebastian Mallaby argues that venture is defined by its most extravagant successes. A few deals explain the majority of returns, a few funds drive the majority of asset-class performance, a few wild ideas change the world.

Venture’s contribution to innovation and entrepreneurship is massive. Mr. Mallaby notes that between 1995 and 2019 venture-backed companies accounted for nearly half of U.S. nonfinancial IPOs. These firms are orders of magnitude more likely to launch an IPO than startups that don’t receive venture backing. The U.S. economy’s dynamism depends in large part on the Silicon Valley ecosystem.

. . .

Though the book focuses on the winners, Mr. Mallaby doesn’t shy away from criticism, especially in his description of the decline of Kleiner Perkins. The firm was successful in the 1990s, but lead partner John Doerr became more interested in virtue signaling than in profit making. He started a cleantech fund, based on a conversation with his teenage daughter about saving the planet, that put a significant dent in the firm’s long-term track record. And he embarked on a highly publicized gender-equity campaign to hire female partners, only to see some of the most talented women quit and then see the firm be sued by a disgruntled employee for gender discrimination.

. . .

In his closing words in “The Power Law,” Mr. Mallaby warns that it’s “unwise” to bet against venture. But public markets have recently turned against IPOs and other venture-backed companies, sending venture-style portfolios like Cathie Wood’s ETF into steep losses. With the IPO window closing and tech stocks selling off, some venture investors might well be thinking: “There but by the grace of God go I.”

For the full review, see:

Daniel Rasmussen. “BOOKSHELF; Chasing Unicorns.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, February 3, 2022): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date February 2, 2022, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘The Power Law’ Review: Chasing Unicorns.”)

The book under review is:

Mallaby, Sebastian. The Power Law: Venture Capital and the Making of the New Future. New York: Penguin Press, 2022.

Natural Immunity Is Stronger and Lasts Longer Than Immunity from Covid Vaccines

(p. A17) Public-health officials ruined many lives by insisting that workers with natural immunity to Covid-19 be fired if they weren’t fully vaccinated. But after two years of accruing data, the superiority of natural immunity over vaccinated immunity is clear. By firing staff with natural immunity, employers got rid of those least likely to infect others. It’s time to reinstate those employees with an apology.

For most of last year, many of us called for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to release its data on reinfection rates, but the agency refused. Finally last week, the CDC released data from New York and California, which demonstrated natural immunity was 2.8 times as effective in preventing hospitalization and 3.3 to 4.7 times as effective in preventing Covid infection compared with vaccination.

Yet the CDC spun the report to fit its narrative, bannering the conclusion “vaccination remains the safest strategy.” It based this conclusion on the finding that hybrid immunity—the combination of prior infection and vaccination—was associated with a slightly lower risk of testing positive for Covid. But those with hybrid immunity had a similar low rate of hospitalization (3 per 10,000) to those with natural immunity alone. In other words, vaccinating people who had already had Covid didn’t significantly reduce the risk of hospitalization.

Similarly, the National Institutes of Health repeatedly has dismissed natural immunity by arguing that its duration is unknown—then failing to conduct studies to answer the question. Because of the NIH’s inaction, my Johns Hopkins colleagues and I conducted the study. We found that among 295 unvaccinated people who previously had Covid, antibodies were present in 99% of them up to nearly two years after infection. We also found that natural immunity developed from prior variants reduced the risk of infection with the Omicron variant. Meanwhile, the effectiveness of the two-dose Moderna vaccine against infection (not severe disease) declines to 61% against Delta and 16% against Omicron at six months, according to a recent Kaiser Southern California study. In general, Pfizer’s Covid vaccines have been less effective than Moderna’s.

The CDC study and ours confirm what more than 100 other studies on natural immunity have found: The immune system works. The largest of these studies, from Israel, found that natural immunity was 27 times as effective as vaccinated immunity in preventing symptomatic illness.

None of this should surprise us. For years, studies have shown that infection with the other coronaviruses that cause severe illness, SARS and MERS, confers lasting immunity.

For the full commentary, see:

Marty Makary. “The High Cost of Disparaging Natural Immunity.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, January 27, 2022): A17.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date January 26, 2022, and has the title “The High Cost of Disparaging Natural Immunity to Covid.”)

The Israeli preprint study mentioned above is:

Gazit, Sivan, Roei Shlezinger, Galit Perez, Roni Lotan, Asaf Peretz, Amir Ben-Tov, Dani Cohen, Khitam Muhsen, Gabriel Chodick, and Tal Patalon. “Comparing Sars-Cov-2 Natural Immunity to Vaccine-Induced Immunity: Reinfections Versus Breakthrough Infections.” medRxiv (2021): doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.08.24.21262415.

Middle Class Hurt by California Mandate for New Home Batteries and Solar Panels

(p. B1) This month, state regulators updated California’s building code to require some new homes and commercial buildings to have solar panels and batteries and the wiring needed to switch from heaters that burn natural gas to heat pumps that run on electricity. Energy experts say it is one of the most sweeping single environmental updates to building codes ever attempted by a government agency.

But some energy and building experts warn that California may be taking on too much, too quickly and focusing on the wrong target — new buildings, rather than the much larger universe of existing structures. Their biggest fear is that these new requirements will drive up the state’s already high construction costs, putting new homes out of reach of middle- and lower-income families that cannot as easily afford the higher upfront costs of cleaner energy and heating equipment, which typically pays for itself over years through (p. B3) savings on monthly utility bills.

. . .

Adding solar panels and a battery to a new home can raise its cost by $20,000 or more. While that might not matter to somebody buying a million-dollar property, it could be a burden on a family borrowing a few hundred thousand dollars to buy a home.

“You’re going to see the impact in office rents. You’re going to see it in the cost of the milk in your grocery store,” said Donald J. Ruthroff, a principal at Dahlin Group Architecture Planning in Pleasanton, Calif. “There’s no question this is going to impact prices across the board.”

. . .

The Sycamore Square townhouses were the last ones developed in San Bernardino before the solar mandate took effect last year. Glenn Elssmann, a partner in the project who hired Mr. Marini’s company as the contractor, said the added cost of the solar requirement would have made construction of the development impossible. Homes in Sycamore Square started at $340,000 for the four-bedroom, three-bath units and reached as high as $370,000.

Jimmie Joyce, 44, who works in payroll at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, will soon close on the purchase of a house in Sycamore Square after trying for almost a year to buy closer to Inglewood, a city near the Los Angeles International Airport where he lives now. His commute will likely increase from about 40 minutes to an hour and a half.

“I, for one, didn’t even plan on moving out that far,” Mr. Joyce said. “The way the market is, people are just overbidding to just try to get in things.” He said he made an offer $10,000 to $15,000 higher than the asking price on a home that ended up with more than 70 bids, including one that was $60,000 more than his.

His new home is already expensive for him, he said, and adding $10,000 to $20,000 more for solar, a battery and other amenities “would make that much more challenging.”

The changes regulators adopted this month will also require most new commercial buildings, including schools, hotels, hospitals, office buildings, retailers and grocery stores, and apartment buildings and condos above three stories to include solar and batteries. And regulators will require single-family homes to have wiring that will allow them to use electric heat pumps and water heaters, rather than ones that burn natural gas. About 55 percent of California’s homes use electric heat and 45 percent use natural gas.

For the full story, see:

Ivan Penn. “Greener Buildings, for a Lot of Green.” The New York Times (Monday, August 30, 2021): B1 & B3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Sept. 9, 2021, and has the title “California’s Plan to Make New Buildings Greener Will Also Raise Costs.”)

Democrat-Praised “Whistleblower” Rick Bright, Not Trump Admin, Delayed Molnupiravir by Months at Peak of Pandemic

(p. A17) When Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics announced on Oct. 1 [2021]that their new antiviral pill reduced Covid hospitalizations by roughly half, some in the media blamed Donald Trump. An Axios headline: “Before Merck backed COVID antiviral, Trump admin turned it down.” In fact, Trump officials pushed for government funding to accelerate the development of the drug, molnupiravir. They were opposed by a career official, Rick Bright, whom Democrats praised as a “whistleblower.”

Mr. Bright joined the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority in 2010 and became Barda’s director in 2016.

. . .

Emory had licensed molnupiravir to Ridgeback, which in April 2020 requested $100 million from the government to fast-track studies in humans. Mr. Bright says Trump officials ordered Barda officials “to fund the Ridgeback proposal as quickly as possible, and preferably within 24 hours.” But he said “Ridgeback had not followed the proper procedure for receiving BARDA funding.” Barda declined the request, and Ridgeback collaborated with Merck, which put its own capital at risk.

After Mr. Bright’s reassignment, Barda funding for trials, manufacturing and advance purchases of monoclonal antibodies proved critical in accelerating their development. Molnupiravir would likely have been available much sooner had Barda provided funding as Trump officials urged last spring.

For the full commentary, see:

Allysia Finley. “Who Slowed Merck’s Covid Remedy?” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, October 11, 2021): A17.

(Note: ellipsis, an bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date October 10, 2021, and has the same title as the print version.)

The Elite Experts Who Have Failed, Tend to Censor the Heterodox Outsiders Who They Fear

(p. 8) When you have a chronic illness and struggle to get better, you try to maintain a certain equilibrium by distinguishing yourself from all those other sick people, the ones who are trying truly crazy things while you are proceeding sensibly and moderately along the path to health.

. . .

These exotic treatments, from acupuncture to IV vitamin C to magnet therapy and more, weren’t the core of what helped me eventually gain ground and improve — strong and various doses of antibiotics played the central role. But they were the most educational part of my slow, still-continuing recovery, in the sense of what they revealed about the complexity and strangeness of the world.

The strangest of them all was the Rife machine.

. . .

Naturally, it worked.

What does “worked” mean, you may reasonably ask? Just this: By this point in my treatment, there was a familiar feeling whenever I was symptomatic and took a strong dose of antibiotics — a temporary flare of pain and discomfort, a desire to move or rub the symptomatic areas of my body, a sweating or itching feeling, followed by a wave of exhaustion and then a mild relief. I didn’t get this kind of reaction with every alternative treatment I tried. But with the Rife machine I got it instantly: It was like having a high dose of antibiotics hit the body all at once.

Of course, this was obviously insane, so to the extent that I was able I conducted experiments, trying frequencies for random illnesses to see if they elicited the same effect (they did not), setting up blind experiments where I ran frequencies without knowing if they were for Lyme disease or not (I could always tell).

. . .

When I set out to write about the entire chronic-illness experience, I hesitated over whether to tell this kind of story. After all, if you’re trying to convince skeptical readers to take chronic sickness seriously, and to make the case for the medical-outsider view of how to treat Lyme disease, reporting that you’ve been dabbling in pseudoscience and that it works is a good way to confirm every stereotype about chronic ailments and their treatment: It’s psychosomatic … it’s all the power of suggestion … it’s a classic placebo effect … poor Ross, taken in by the quacks … he’ll be ‘doing his own research’ on vaccination next

    .

    But there are two good reasons to share this sort of story. The first is that it’s true, it really happened, and any testimony about what it’s like to fight for your health for years would be dishonest if it left the weird stuff out.

    The second is that this kind of experience — not the Rife machine specifically, but the experience of falling through the solid floor of establishment consensus and discovering something bizarre and surprising underneath — is extremely commonplace. And the interaction between the beliefs instilled by these experiences and the skepticism they generate (understandably) from people who haven’t had them, for whom the floor has been solid all their lives, is crucial to understanding cultural polarization in our time.

    On both sides of our national divides, insider and outsider, establishment and populist, something in human psychology makes us seek coherence and simplicity in our understanding of the world. So people who have a terrible experience with official consensus, and discover that some weird idea that the establishment derides actually seems to work, tend to embrace a new rule to replace the old one: that official knowledge is always wrong, that outsiders are always more trustworthy than insiders, that if Dr. Anthony Fauci or the Food and Drug Administration get some critical things wrong, you can’t trust them to get anything right.

    This impulse explains why fringe theories tend to cluster together, the world of outsider knowledge creating its own form of consensus and self-reinforcement. But it also explains the groupthink that the establishment often embraces in response, its fear that pure craziness automatically abounds wherever official knowledge fails, and its commitment to its own authority as the only thing standing between society and the abyss.

    This is a key dynamic in political as well as biomedical debates. The conspicuous elite failures in the last 20 years have driven many voters to outsider narratives, which blend plausible critiques of the system with outlandish paranoia. But the insiders only see the paranoia, the QAnon shaman and his allies at the gates. So instead of reckoning with their own failures, they pull up the epistemic drawbridge and assign fact checkers to patrol the walls. Which in turn confirms for outsiders their belief that the establishment has essentially blinded itself and only they have eyes to see.

    What we need, I’m convinced, are more people and institutions that sustain a position somewhere in between.

For the full commentary, see:

Ross Douthat. “How I Became Extremely Open-Minded.” The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sunday, November 7, 2021): 8.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date November 6, 2021, and has the same title as the print version. The passages that are underlined above, were in italics in the original. In the underlined passages I use a hyphen were the original had ellipses.)

The passages quoted above are from a commentary adapted from Douthat’s book:

Douthat, Ross. The Deep Places: A Memoir of Illness and Discovery. New York: Convergent Books, 2021.

Large Retailers Chartered Ships to Avoid the Most Crowded Ports

(p. A1) Global supply-chain delays are so severe that some of the biggest U.S. retailers have resorted to an extreme—and expensive—tactic to try to stock shelves this holiday season: They are chartering their own cargo ships to import goods.

Port delays, Covid-19 outbreaks and worker shortages have snarled the flow of products between Asia and North America, threatening the supplies of everything from holiday decorations and toys to appliances and furniture. It is taking roughly 80 days to transport goods across the Pacific, or twice as long as before the pandemic, retail and shipping executives said.

Walmart Inc., Home Depot Inc., Costco Wholesale Corp. and Target Corp. —some of the biggest U.S. retailers by revenue—are among the companies that are paying for their own chartered ships as part of wider plans to mitigate the disruptions, a costly and unattainable option for most companies.

For the full story, see:

Sarah Nassauer and Costas Paris. “Retailers Charter Ships to Ensure Supplies.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, October 11, 2021): A1 & A6.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date October 10, 2021, and has the title “Big U.S. Retailers Charter Private Cargo Ships Amid Port Delays.”)