Reading is our primary way to expand knowledge. However, we all know that not everything is worth reading. As you know from the last post, I read only some excerpts from Bob Woodward’s new book. If the grabbers the publisher puts out were worthless, why bother with the book? This applies to the rest of the wave of election time books seemingly coming out every other day. These tell-all books add little to what we need to know for an intelligent decision. Disgruntled family members, former employees, and those suffering other party derangement syndrome come up every four years and then are rightly forgotten. Time is better spent elsewhere.
Recently, I finished two books worth time. The first is Matt Ridley’s How Innovation Works: And Why It Flourishes in Freedom. The author of many highly informative books, Ridley, understands how the innovations that changed humanity’s course came about. In most cases, it’s not how you thought. Very entertaining and informative. Ripley challenges how we think about things.
The other book is Alec Berenson’s Unreported Truths about COVID-19 And Lockdowns Part 2. Previously, I had recommended Part 1 of this series of what are really pamphlets. As Ii said then, the former New York Times reporter will reinforce what readers of this blog already know. However, Berenson has some information you may not be aware of.
I had no idea none of our emergency pandemic plans contained any provision for hard lockdowns. Apparently, when the idea was discussed, it was dismissed as far too disruptive. Berenson walks us through how policy planning that was highly reluctant to impose a hard lockdown did a 180 in March. He explains how, in panic, our policy changed.
In the calm before the storm, planners can take the time to use a larger canvas to factor in other aspects than just the spread of the disease. As we consider the bigger picture, the less attractive the massive dislocations caused by a lockdown look. Yet, only the narrow group of people dealing directly with disease spread had a real input in the actual March decisions.
It is reasonable for epidemic experts to present their narrow views. They didn’t want to be blamed for not doing enough to prevent deaths. Who was there to offer a broader perspective? The people available to present the economic side, such as the President’s chief economist Larry Kudlow, were constrained by fear of being accused of putting dollars above lives. In fact, this is what happened and closed off broader consideration. Why was there no one to present more general medical concerns? Shouldn’t there be some medical people charged with seeing the bigger picture?
Many institutions have recognized this problem and have people involved with public medical policy. Stanford University’s Hoover Institution is one aware of the value of medical people with a broad perspective. It has people like the senior fellow, Dr. Scott Atlas, to advise decision-makers how specific actions would affect other medical areas. How a decision concerning one specialty might affect areas such as pediatrics, surgery, acute treatments, psychiatric and psychological, just to name a few.
Sadly, in March, no such person was present at high levels when the lockdowns where imposed. No one to point out the host of resulting medical problems. Someone to identify the lasting harm resulting from keeping our low-risk children out of school and economic depression. Better late than never, President Trump has recently added Dr. Atlas as a medical policy advisor to his pandemic staff.
The first presidential debate will be coming up shortly, and COVID-19 is bound to be front and center. Usually, I’d be reluctant to tell Chris Wallace what questions he should ask. I consider him one of the few real journalists left and the best choice for the task. Still, on his recent Sunday program, he questioned Dr. Atlas’s addition to the President’s coronavirus staff. What could a neuroradiologist have to offer in a pandemic? Well, a Doctor has to start somewhere. Dr. Atlas has been advising prominent politicians on broad medical policies for years. As I have pointed out, we need more like him. Obviously, Wallace may not be as informed in this area as one might hope.
It is in this spirit I offer a line of questioning. Joe Biden bookends his Trump Covid-19 criticism on two medical studies. A Columbia University model study claiming to show tens of thousands of lives would’ve been saved if only we shut down sooner. The other is the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) model study. It’s predicting our death toll will more than double by year-end if we all don’t wear a mask.
The strange thing is the Columbia doesn’t mention mask-wearing as a crucial part of its massive lifesaving early action. Yet, the IHME study bases a better outcome mainly on mask-wearing. Of course, in March, nobody was saying we should wear a mask. In fact, it wasn’t till July 14 the CDC put out a press release advocating general mask-wearing. In March, we were told at the highest levels leave the masks to the medical people needing them. Columbia says we could’ve saved a massive number of people without mentioning compulsory mask-wearing. No, we can’t save thousands without one, says the IHME. Ah, to mask or not to mask, that is the question for mask maven Biden. His reliance on inconsistent studies makes it mandatory to ask. This is especially true in the absence of any known advocacy of an earlier lockdown by the Biden camp.
This opens Biden up to displaying his actual knowledge of the coronavirus situation. After all, he is on record saying he’ll shut us down again if the “scientists” tell him to do so. Well, who are the scientists he will follow? There is widespread skepticism as to the effectiveness of lockdowns. This is illustrated by the reluctance now in Europe to take anything but targeted actions. This is even in the face of rising infections. Why entertain a step many people see as a mistake? As Matt Ridley would point out, the path of advancement isn’t always straight and discernible.
As you may have guessed, I’m not a great believer in modeling. In a recent post, I’ve pointed out the IHME study is highly questionable. The Columbia study looks backward like a Monday Morning Quarterback. If lockdowns aren’t much use the world-over, why would it have been so successful here earlier? How does Columbia explain Sweden’s better outcomes using a more targeted approach similar to that of Dr. Atlas? That nation has a lower death rate and far less disruption than we have? One thing we know, once you shut down, it’s hard to get back up and running. Case in point, just look at how many kids aren’t in school. President Trump has answered endless Covid-19 questions. While we’ve heard his answers, Biden’s are unknown. I hope Chris has done his homework.