Life-Threatening Ineptness

Frustrating article written by April Ponnuru about her experience trying to get her parents vaccinated in so-enlightened Fairfax County, Virginia. Stymied at every turn, her parents wound up getting COVID.

Meanwhile, the “hillbillies” in the state which broke off from Virginia are beating everybody else in getting people vaccinated.


From the Economic Journal “Duh”

The south leads the nation in job growth. I can’t imagine how that could be.

“It’s a greater willingness on the part of government to work with businesses,” Mr. Vitner said. He said stricter business limits in places such as California and New York, aimed at containing the spread of the virus, have curbed job growth.

December seasonally adjusted payrolls increased in 15 states—with significant increases in six states in the South, five in the Midwest and four in the West, the Labor Department said. Payrolls fell in 11 states and were mostly unchanged in 24.

In other words, if you don’t shut down the economy, it does well? That’s shocking. What’s more, this is not a short-term phenomenon.

The continued jobs rebound is a sign of longer-term growth for the South, Mr. Vitner said. He pointed to the heightened appeal of lower-cost regions during an economic downturn and the resurgence of domestic manufacturing as signs that the South could emerge from the downturn with a stronger economy than other regions.

“I don’t think this is a short-term Covid experience. What happens in recessions, particularly deep recessions, is that trends that were evident and that were emerging prior to the recession tend to be accelerated,” he said.

Meanwhile, people are fleeing New York, Illinois, and California, while Florida (host of the Super Bowl, Wrestlemania, and pretty much any public gathering people want to attend), is growing by leaps and bounds.

It’s all a great mystery as to why.

Our Children Are in the Best of Hands

I know this blog is threatening to become mainly an anti-teacher (or teachers union) thing, but I keep seeing stories that instantly make my blood boil.

The latest bit of public dissatisfaction comes from Massachusetts, where teachers are quite upset that the governor has prioritized people ages 65-75 to receive the vaccine over teachers.

MTA President Merrie Najimy said, “The Baker administration must do a better job of balancing the needs of people at risk because of age and other factors with recognizing that people working with students need to be vaccinated. We had not opposed the original prioritization list because it had a rational basis and promised to deliver vaccines to educators in February. Now, those hopes may be dashed.”

Here’s why the governor made the right decision: it’s a little thing called data. As you can see, 81% of COVID deaths are attributed to people aged 65 and older. Expand that range to 55 and up, and it’s 93%. If you look at deaths for all causes, COVID is responsible for at least 10% of all deaths for all people in this age range, and that percentage just nosedives as the cohort gets younger.

Teachers, like the rest of society, would like that extra layer of protection. Here’s the thing: teachers who are most at risk are going to get the COVID vaccine just like everybody else in their age range. If you are a teacher under the age of 65 or even 55, your risk is fairly minimal to begin with, so pretending like you have been given a death sentence if you are expected to, you know, do your job, is a little absurd. Add to that the preponderance of evidence that schools who take appropriate safety measures are not vectors of transmission, and it’s beginning to look just a bit as though teachers are looking for any excuse they can find to avoid returning to the classroom.

There Will Be No Reckoning

I have rebutted the talking point that Democrats are uniquely the “party of science” by noting their support for abortion on demand, buttressed by soundbites about “clumps of cells.” After COVID, the largely Democrat-led opposition to opening schools during COVID will be the second data point proving their weak devotion to science and data.

The latest teacher-led temper tantrum in the face of potentially opening schools is taking place in Chicago, where 71% of teachers voted to maintain distance “learning.” In other school districts, teachers are threatening not to return to school not only until they have vaccines, but all the kids are vaccinated as well. The latter threat is absurd for a couple of reasons. If the teachers are vaccinated, why would they be concerned about the kids getting vaccinated? More importantly, the vaccines haven’t even been tested on children, and may not be for another year. Considering that an otherwise healthy child’s chances of dying of coronavirus are a tad less than their chance of being struck by lightning, it makes sense for them remain at the bottom of the vaccine waiting list.

The party of science and data continually ignore the data showing that schools have not been a major source of COVID transmission. To the extent that there have been any mass transmission events, they have occurred in schools where safety protocols have not been safeguarded. But in the places which have observed the safety protocols, transmission has been almost non-existent.

No matter.

Christine Rosen expresses her frustration, and suggests some ways to deal with these intransigent teachers.

Joe Biden should take a page from Ronald Reagan: In 1981, when the nation’s 13,000 air traffic controllers went on strike after Reagan issued an executive order (backed up by a federal judge) demanding that they do their jobs, he fired the 11,359 who refused to return and issued a lifetime ban on their ability to work in the field again. Air traffic came to a standstill for a short time, but by calling the union’s bluff, Reagan diminished their power and hired a new generation of controllers to replace them. Biden should encourage school districts to do the same.

Some already are. Chicago officials threatened to withhold pay from teachers who refused to show up to work in their classrooms. In the process, the city exposed the utter corruption of many of its teachers, who complained that it was “cruel and illegal” for them not to get paid even after they refused to return to work.

If the Biden administration won’t deal firmly with the unions, parents need to organize and start lobbying their school boards (and, if necessary, recall public officials who put the demands of teachers’ unions ahead of the wellbeing of children.) Those who can afford to are already voting with their feet by withdrawing their children from the public school system. An increasing number of state legislators are considering proposals for school reform that would allow states to fund students (and allow more options for school choice) rather than continuing to throw taxpayers’ money at underperforming schools and their unionized teachers. Lawmakers in Virginia are considering legislation requiring public schools to teach in-person to receive funding.

This is all well and good, but I expect no pushback. The problem is the teachers are supported in their actions by a good chunk of the parents – most parents, in some regions. Most schools which have been open to in-person instruction since the beginning have offered a virtual option, and the number of kids who are attending school virtually in these settings often hovers around 50%.

If parents are quite content to treat their children like veal, where is the mass uprising going to come from? Well-heeled suburbanites aren’t about to raise much a fuss. They either support school closures or can otherwise provide alternative teaching arrangements for their children. Urban parents who most desperately need their children to be in school (and whose children most desperately need to be in school) are too busy trying to provide ends meet to organize protests. So they are stuck and unheard.

When Montgomery County, Maryland threatened to (unlawfully) prevent private schools from re-opening, they were met by the fury of thousands of angry suburban parents. Well, that, and a competent governor concerned more about children’s welfare than placating teachers unions. The schools opened, and have been opened without interruption or breakout. I fear urban parents do not wield that kind of clout.

And so teachers continue to hold children hostage to their political games. I have been reluctant to blame teachers to this point, and instead rather have focused my ire on politicians and unions. But I’ve had it with the teachers as well. Certainly not all of them. A good number are as frustrated by this situation as parents. But it is evident they are a minority. As for the rest of them, they have proven themselves to be less essential to society than grocery store employees.

They should be fired. They will not be.

There will be no reckoning.

Meet the New Boss

Same as the old boss.

At least on trade and protectionism, which represented the worst policy aspects of the Trump administration.

These policies do nothing to help the people they are purported to help, but instead just cause added pain to the American consumer. But they cheer up jingoistic anti-free traders on both sides who are happy to pay more for stuff just so they can feel like they’re sticking it to the man.

Republican Again

As of 12:01 PM yesterday, January 20, 2021, I was once again a registered Republican voter, as I had been all of my adult life until July 2016. It does not take much imagination to figure out the significance of these dates and times.

Why would I, at this time, rejoin the mess known as the Republican party. Isn’t this a bit like jumping to WCW in February, 2001? If wrestling is not your bag, then it would seem to be like choosing to be a Mets fan over the Yankees in the late 80s and have that set the course of your future fandom for decades to come (sigh).

There are a couple of reasons. I could just sit on the sidelines and say to hell with all of it, as I have been inclined to do quite often. But because I am a political animal, I feel compelled to remain engaged on some level still.

Maryland is a closed primary state (which every state should be), and so if I am to have a say in the primary process and if I am to have any influence in the future course of a party, I must choose one of the two political parties. The Democrats are a non-starter for ideological reasons (confirmed by President Biden’s rash of odious day one executive orders, highlighted by reversing the Mexico City policy – some uniting moderate he showed himself to be). That leaves the Republican party. As much damage as Trump did to the party and the people within it, I can do more to change it from within than without.

Moreover, though I live in a very blue state, I will soon be moving from a super-duper blue county to a more 50/50 county (which used to trend Republican, but then Trump happened). Therefore, the Republican party where I live is actually meaningful, so it may be worth my time to influence it as much as possible.

This is not a lifetime commitment, and my change of party registration does not mean I endorse every idiotic thing said or written by other people with an R- next to their name. It is, rather, a meek sign of hope that change is possible.

Arizona GOP: RIP

Barry Goldwater’s state is now represented by two Democratic Senators, and cast its electoral college votes (legitimately) for Joe Biden. The Republican party is run by Kelli Ward, someone who Lin Wood looks at and says, “Whoa, slow down there.” And as though eager to take its place alongside Colorado and Virginia in the “formerly red but now pretty deep blue” category, the state GOP is seeking to censure Republicans in the state who haven’t lost their minds.

The Arizona Republican Party will vote next week on a measure that would censure GOP Gov. Doug Ducey, former Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, the wife of the late Sen. John McCain, the latest sign of infighting in the state party.

The resolutions, which if passed would express disapproval but have no formal consequences, come as the state GOP is distancing itself from many of the Republican Party’s longtime establishment figures. The three censure resolutions easily passed the party’s resolution committee and will be brought before the entire state committee on Jan. 23.

The proposed censures for each person refer to what some party members say is executive overreach by Mr. Ducey in his response to the pandemic, Mrs. McCain’s support for same-sex marriage, and Mrs. McCain’s and Mr. Flake’s endorsements of President-elect Joe Biden in the 2020 election, among other things.

I have no particular love for Jeff Flake – who, I would suggest, helped fuel the incidences of last week by his own kowtowing in the face of the anti-Kavanaugh mob. I have no opinion of Cindy McCain, but Governor Ducey is one of the best governors in the country, and is one of the good guys trying to steer a middle course during the COVID pandemic by taking the threat seriously but also not shutting down his state’s economy.

If a censure is needed it is for Ward and whoever runs the state’s Twitter account (probably Ward) for such gems as asking people if they are willing to sacrifice their lives to #StoptheSteal. Ward and her minions have run the party into the ground, and yet they have the temerity to consider censuring an elected statewide official who is actually competent and popular (or at least was popular).

The GOP could do less with the likes of Jeff Flake, but banishing the likes of Ward from its midst will be essential for its survival. For now, it looks like we can start safely putting Arizona in the blue column, and all because the state GOP couldn’t maintain a semblance of sanity.

Throwing Away the Last Shreds of Credibility

In the wake of the Black Lives Matters protests and the increasing calls to “defund the police” (whatever that means), it’s not encouraging to read reports like this one from the Manhattan Institute. As explained by Robert Verbruggen at National Review Online, several provisions in collective bargaining agreements have made it more difficult to investigate police officer wrongdoing. This doesn’t justify the over-the-top anti-police rhetoric, but these are all items which should be carefully re-considered.

As difficult as it has been for police officers and their unions over the past year, no one has discredited themselves more than teachers unions. Their intransigence against re-opening public schools flies in the face of science and has relegated many children – especially the most vulnerable – to a year of almost worthless virtual “learning.” And now, even as vaccines begin to rollout, some don’t seem to be that much of a hurry to get back into the classroom. The same Robert Verbruggen relays his experience in Fairfax County, Virginia:

 I recently got an email from the school district saying that “access to the COVID-19 vaccine will be available to all FCPS employees” and “will be administered . . . beginning as early as Saturday, January 16.” Meanwhile, the district just delayed in-person instruction again for at least a month, at which point a new, to-be-determined plan will be announced.

He also relays news out of California where, despite impending teacher vaccinations, there doesn’t seem to be a rush to re-open school.

But vaccinating teachers may not be enough to earn support for a quick reopening of all schools from teachers’ unions, who must consent to reopening plans.

“It’s certainly an important part, but remember, right now there’s no research evidence that the vaccine alone eliminates or reduces transmissions,” said Claudia Briggs, spokeswoman for the California Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers union. “It reduces illness.”

Who are we protecting by refusing to open schools even after teachers are vaccinated? If the teachers are vaccinated, they don’t need to worry about transmission. As for the children, I am at the point where I think there’s no substantive difference in the mental capacities of those who refuse to accept the election results and those who fret about COVID transmission among children. The risk to otherwise healthy children from COVID is just about zero. Moreover, when schools follow basic CDC guidelines, the amount of transmission has been miniscule.

Schools are not anywhere close to being a major source of COVID transmission. Even without vaccinations being widely distributed, their continued closure has been a national disgrace. If vaccinated teachers still refuse (or the unions which represent them refuse on their behalf) to return to school, then it will be way past time (if it isn’t already) to question their oversized political power.