Archive for March, 2020

“Chinese Virus” is not Racist

March 22, 2020

No, it is not racist to refer to the coronavirus or COVID-19 as the Chinese virus or the Wuhan virus. Calling it the Kung Flu might be racist and is certainly inaccurate, considering we are not dealing with a strain of influenza, but it is funny. This pandemic had its start in Wuhan, China, and it is commonplace to name a new form of a disease by its origin. As David Mastio, the Deputy Editor of USA Today’s editorial page, and no Trump supporter, explains;

But many of the reports left something out: just how common and innocuous geographic names are for diseases.

Here are a few:

And disease names don’t have to come with a foreign flavor. Lyme disease is named for a town in Connecticut. Norovirus is named for Norwalk, OhioRocky Mountain spotted fever!

And then there is the issue of facts. The Spanish flu was most likely misnamed; we don’t know where it came from. But we do know that the novel coronavirus now sweeping the world emerged from a city called Wuhan in central China.

I suppose that if COVID-19 had first emerged from Hoboken, New Jersey it would be popularly named the Hoboken virus or the American virus. Would that be racist? Is referring to rubella as German measles racist or anti-German? No sensible person would maintain such a ridiculous notion. Why is Wuhan or the Chinese virus somehow racist? Why are so many in the media jumping on this bandwagon? I can only think of two reasons.

The government of the People’s Republic of China has been very eager for the rest of the world to forget that the coronavirus originated in China. China’s leaders would especially like for people to forget that the pandemic could have been easily managed had they managed the minimal level of transparency expected in a good global citizen. Instead, they tried to cover up the problem to protect the Party’s reputation. Now, they are trying to blame the United States by promulgating a bizarre conspiracy theory, while insisting that “China virus” is racist. Our elite media seems all too eager to repeat Chinese Communist propaganda points, whether because they are that eager to find some way to blame Trump or they admire China’s authoritarian government, I don’t know.

Or maybe they just despise their fellow Americans. The idea among our betters seems to be that if the president refers to the Chinese virus, it will lead to attacks against Asian-Americans. Already, the media is breathlessly reporting on a handful of incidents of insults and violence against East Asians. According to our elite, those of us who are benighted enough to live in flyover country are so racist and ignorant that any mention of the China virus will drive us into a frenzy of hate and will cause us to form mobs to hunt down every Chinese we can find and murder them, just as mobs of Europeans murdered Jews during the time of the Black Death. Well, in a nation of over 320 million people there are going to be a few cases of people behaving badly, especially in California. Contrary to what our betters on the coast might believe, the United States of America is not a nation of haters. We do not form mobs to kill “foreigners” at the drop of a hat. There are not KKK rallies being held on every street corner, and Trump’s supporters are not White supremacists. We are better people than they believe us to be and I wish they would stop projecting their own bigotry on to us.

It is certainly appropriate to refer to the coronavirus as the Chinese virus. I cannot say that I am very much troubled if the Chinese leadership or their allies among our own leaders are upset by the use of that term. To be honest, I am more than a little irritated at the Chinese, or to be more accurate, at the Chinese communist government for their negligence which led to our present crisis. I have already been upset by the Chinese government’s totalitarian disregard for the basic civil rights of their own citizens, the near genocide of the Uighurs, the occupation of Tibet and the bullying way in which they have been leveraging their economic power to supplant the democratic values of free nations with their own authoritarian values. The Chinese virus is simply the last straw. The People’s Republic of China has shown that it is not a friend to the United States or to the free world. It is time we take their threat seriously. We can begin by assigning the blame for the coronavirus pandemic where it belongs and not allowing them to bully us into denying the obvious truth.

St. Patrick’s Day

March 17, 2020

Today is St. Patrick‘s day and I thought it might be appropriate to write about St. Patrick. So, who is St. Patrick and why does he get a day? Not very much is known for certain about his life. It is possible that his story has been confused with one Palladius, a missionary who became the first bishop of Ireland. Still, Patrick wrote a short autobiography called “The Declaration” or “The Confession” as part of a letter which seems to be genuine.

Get out snakes!

Patrick, or Patricius was a Roman who lived in Britain. He may have been born around 387 and lived until 460 or possibly 493, so he lived during the twilight of the Roman Empire in the West. At the age of 16 he was captured by raiders and enslaved. He worked as a shepherd in Ireland for about six years. He managed to escape and return to his home, but then he became a priest and returned to the land where he was a slave and worked to convert the pagans to Christianity. He seems to have been very successful during his lifetime, though there were many other missionaries in Ireland. He helped to organize the Church in Ireland and is supposed to have traveled to Rome to seek the Pope’s assistance in this endeavor.

According to legend, Patrick died on March 17, so that date has become his feast day. He has never been officially canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. He became known as a saint long before the modern procedure for canonization was developed. He is, obviously, the patron saint of Ireland, and also Nigeria, Montserrat, engineers, paralegals, and the dioceses of New York, Boston, and Melbourne.

There are many legends about St. Patrick. The most widely known is that he chased all the snakes out of Ireland, thus ruining the local ecology. Another is that he used the example of the three-leaved shamrock to illustrate the trinity.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all the Irish, and Irish at heart, out there!

Sorry about the green text. I couldn’t resist.

Coronavirus

March 16, 2020

Maybe I shouldn’t bother to write anything about the COVID 19 virus since I don’t really have anything to say that has not already been said, but since I am off work, vacation, my place of work has not been closed, yet, I suppose I might as well say what’s on my mind.

First, despite what the media is saying, I actually think that our officials, from the president down, have done a fairly good job of containing the spread of the virus here in the US. Nobody is perfect, and I am sure they could have done a better job, but then they could have done a far worse job. I think that much of the criticism directed at President Trump is unfounded and counterproductive. He doesn’t seem to have taken the crisis seriously enough at first, but he did manage to turn around quickly and come up with a plan for managing the crisis. I have noticed that Trump has made a lot of mistakes while in office, particularly in the first year of his presidency, but he never repeated his mistakes. Trump is capable of learning quickly, unlike some other occupants of the Oval Office.

On the other hand, the media generally ought to be ashamed of themselves for needlessly spreading panic. Yes, the coronavirus is a problem. It could kill thousands if it is not contained, but this is hardly the second coming of the Black Death. There is absolutely no reason to panic. We are not going to see someone driving a cart shouting, “Bring out your dead!”

Yet, this is the impression that a lot of media coverage is generating. Even worse, some in the media, or the Democrats but I repeat myself, are indulging in speculation that the coronavirus could be Trumps’s Katrina. These people are actually hoping that Trump is not successful in containing this outbreak so that a Democrat will be elected in November. They hate Trump so much that they are willing to see thousands of Americans dead just to get him out of office. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to see this. They were also rooting for a recession. Despicable.

Also despicable is the overreaction from some members of the general public, particularly the idiots who have been hoarding.  What is the matter with you people? As I said, this is not a matter for panic. Just keep your hands washed, and avoid large crowds and you should be fine. This is not a zombie apocalypse. Civilization is not on the brink of collapse. All of the necessities of civilization will still be available unless idiots like you keep emptying the store shelves. Just buy whatever you need. There is no reason to stock up a six month’s supply. And what is with the toilet paper hoarding? Coronavirus is a respiratory illness. I have not heard that it causes dysentery. We do not get our toilet paper from China, and even if we did, I am sure they are going to keep shipping it over here. If worse comes to worst, use old newspapers.

Speaking of China, no, it is not racist to refer to the coronavirus as the Wuhan virus. The virus came from Wuhan. I also do not think it is racist to point out that this country with its huge population and poor sanitary standards has been the source of many of the pandemics that have plagued the world in recent years. If the Chinese are bothered by the “Wuhan flu” then maybe they should clean up their standards and stop producing these diseases. In the meantime, maybe someone should build a wall around China. We should also look into producing more of the stuff we import from China here in America. It might cost a little more, but maybe it is worth it. At least, we can stop helping to fund one of the most evil governments in the world.

If there is any silver lining to the corona crisis, it is that is has exposed the folly of the globalist vision of a world without borders.  Better controls on the movement of goods and people between nations might have curtailed the spread of the virus. There may be a time for the utopian idea that movement between nations should be as easy as movement within nations, but that time, if it ever comes, is not now. The spread of the coronavirus from nation to nation has demonstrated that we need borders, and yes, we need walls. In light of recent events, any candidate for office who advocates opening the borders to illegal immigrants and abolishing ICE ought to be disqualified.

One more thing. Some states have been postponing their primary elections and this has caused some people to fear that President Trump will use this as a precedent to postpone or cancel the election in November. He can’t do that. There is an important difference between general elections and primaries. General elections are handled by federal law. Primaries are a matter for the states and the parties. No state has to have a primary at all. Primaries were only introduced during the so-called Progressive Era in the 1900-1910s and it wasn’t until the 1970s that enough states held primaries for them to become decisive in choosing a party’s candidates. There is no reason why we couldn’t go back to the time when candidates were chosen by party leaders in smoke-filled rooms, except that they probably wouldn’t allow smoking in the rooms. On the other hand, the date for the general election has been set on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November by federal law since 1845. It would require legislation by Congress to change the date of the election. Moreover, according to the constitution, the president must be inaugurated on January 20. It would require a constitutional amendment to change that, I don’t see that happening. So, again stop panicking. Trump is not going to use the coronavirus to cancel the election and set himself up as president for life. Although, seeing who his opponents are, a man suffering from dementia and a Communist who wants to turn the US into Venezuela, I’m not sure that would be the worst thing that could happen.

The Election of 1888

March 15, 2020

The election of 1888 was all about tariffs. There were other issues, to be sure, and the usual amount of mudslinging, but it was mostly about tariffs. Tariffs may not seem to be an issue to get especially excited about, but in those days before the income tax, tariffs were the major source of revenue for the federal government. Moreover, many people believe that high tariffs were essential to protect American industry for foreign, particularly British, competition. President Grover Cleveland had come out in favor of lower tariffs in his message to Congress in December 1887, arguing that the high tariff was an excessive and unjust level of taxation that hurt consumers. Some of the president’s advisors had fretted that his stand on lowering the tariff would hurt his chance of reelection, But Cleveland simply replied, “What is the use of being elected or re-elected unless you stand for something?”

The Democrats held their national convention in St. Louis, Missouri from June 5-7. Grover Cleveland was nominated for a second term by acclamation, the first Democratic president nominated to run for a second term since Martin Van Buren back in 1840. Since President Cleveland’s Vice-President, Thomas A. Hendricks had died on November 25, 1885, the Democrats needed to select a new Vice-Presidential nominee. They picked Allen G. Thurman from Ohio after only one ballot. Allen G Thurman had had a long and distinguished career in politics, serving in the House of Representatives from 1845 to 1847 and was the Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court from 1854 to 1856. Thurman was a Senator from Ohio from 1869 to 1881 and was on the commission to resolve the contentious election of 1876. Thurman was also known for opposing land grants to railroad companies and was said to have left the Senate as poor as when he had entered it.

The Republicans met in Chicago from June 19-25. James G Blaine was the front runner, but he withdrew, deciding that he was too controversial to defeat Grover Cleveland. Instead, the Republicans nominate Benjamin Harrison from Indiana on the seventh ballot. Benjamin Harrison was the grandson of President William Henry Harrison. He had fought in the Civil War helping to raise a regiment and rising to the rank of brevet brigadier general. After the war Harrison worked as a lawyer and became involved in Indiana politics, serving as a senator from 1881 to 1887. The Republicans went on to nominate Levi P. Morton from New York for the Vice-Presidency. Levi P. Morton had served in the House of Representatives from1879 to 1881, as Minister to France from 1881 to 1885 and the Governor of New York from 1895 to 1896. As the American Minister to France, Levi Morton had officially accepted the gift of the Statue of Liberty and had placed the first rivet in the statue.

 

The Greenback Party had faded away, but there were some minor party candidates. There was the Prohibition Party nominated Brigadier General Clinton B. Fisk for president and John A. Brooks for Vice-President and ended up getting 249,819 (2.2%) votes.

 

The Union Labor Party nominated Alson Streeter and Charles E. Cunningham and got just 146,602 (1.31%) votes.

 

The campaign was mostly about the tariff question with Cleveland and the Democrats supporting lower tariffs and Harrison and the Republicans in favor of higher protective tariffs. It wouldn’t have been an American election, however, if there weren’t at least some personal attacks. The Republicans accused Cleveland of abusing his young wife, Frances Folsom who he had married in the White House in 1886. She denied the story, assuring everyone that Grover was a kind and considerate husband. The Democrats retaliated by accusing Benjamin Harrison of being anti-Catholic, anti-labor, and wanting increased immigration from China to force wages down. The Republicans accused Cleveland of being pro-British and wanting to adopt the British system of free trade to assist British manufacturers at the expense of American industry.

The Murchison Letter was an election dirty trick worth mentioning. “Murchison” was a California Republican named Charles Osgoodby who wrote a letter to the British Minister to the United States, Sir Lionel Sackville-West. In this letter, he pretended to be a former British citizen named Charles F. Murchison, who wanted to know which candidate would be better for his old homeland. Sackville-West was imprudent enough to reply that, in his opinion, Cleveland would be the better candidate for British interests. The Republicans gleefully published “Murchison’s” correspondence with Sir Sackville-West, probably costing Cleveland the Irish vote and the state of New York. Sir Sackville-West ended up getting fired for his interference in American politics.

The Murchison Letter

It was a close election, but in the end, the Republicans turned out to be better organized and better funded than the Democrats. Cleveland won the popular vote with 5,534,488 votes (48.6%) to Harrison’s 5,443,892 votes (47.8%), but Harrison won in the electoral college with 233 votes to Cleveland’s 186. As the election of 1884, the results were regional with the Republicans sweeping the North and the Democrat winning the South, along with Massachusetts. Only two states switched sides from 1884, New York and Indiana. If Cleveland had won those two states he would have been reelected.

The Election of 1888

So, Grover Cleveland left the White House in March 1889, but he would be back.

Pi Day

March 14, 2020
English: Pi Pie, created at Delft University o...

English: Pi Pie, created at Delft University of Technology, applied physics, seismics and acoustics Deutsch: Pi Pie (π-Kuchen), hergestellt an der Technischen Universität Delft (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For all of the nerds out there, including me, today is international Pi Day, the day when we celebrate our favorite mathematical constant. Pi Day is best celebrated by pi memorization contests, walking in circles, and, of course, eating pies, or is it pis? I think I will celebrate by writing a little about pi.

Pi or π is, as everyone should know, the ratio between a circle’s diameter and its circumference. Pi is an irrational number. By this, they do not mean that pi makes no sense but rather that pi is a constant that cannot be expressed as a ratio of two integers. Numbers like 2 or .445 or 1/2 can be expressed as a ratio of two integers and so are rational. Numbers like pi or the square root of any number that is not a perfect square, the square root of 2 for instance, are irrational. An irrational number expressed in decimal form never ends or repeats but continues to infinity. Thus, there can never be a last digit of pi.

The symbol π was first by the mathematician William Jones in 1706 and was popularized by another mathematician, Leonhard Euler. They chose π, the Greek equivalent of the Latin letter p, because it is the first letter of the word periphery. Π, by the way is not pronounce “pie” in Greek but “pee”, just like our p. I don’t think that international “pee” day would be nearly so appealing.

Although the symbol for pi is relatively recent, the concept is very old. The ancient Egyptians and Babylonians knew about it. Pi is even mentioned in the Bible.

23 He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits[o] to measure around it. 24 Below the rim, gourds encircled it—ten to a cubit. The gourds were cast in two rows in one piece with the Sea. (1 Kings 7:23-24)

Properly speaking, the line around the “Sea” should have been 31.5 cubits but the ancient Hebrews were not very knowledgeable about geometry and measuring techniques were crude.

There is no particular reason to calculate pi to so many digits. No conceivable application of pi would possibly take more than 40 digits. Still, the challenge of calculating pi to the farthest digit possible has been an irresistible one for mathematicians over the years.

Around 250 BC, Archimedes was the first mathematician to seriously try to calculate pi. He used a geometric method of drawing polygons inside and outside a circle and measuring their perimeters. By using polygons with more and more sides he was able to calculate pi with more precision and ended determining the value of pi as somewhere between 3.1408 and 3.1429. Archimedes’s method was used in the west for more than a eighteen hundred years. The Chinese and Indians used similar methods. The best result using the geometric method was the calculation of pi to 38 digits in 1630.

With the development of calculus by Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz in the 1660’s it was possible to calculate pi using infinite series, or the sum of the terms of an infinite sequence. The best calculations with these methods were done by the mathematician Zacharias Daze who calculated pi to 200 places in 1844 and William Shanks who spent fifteen years to calculate pi to 707 digits. Unfortunately he made a mistake with the 528 digit. Meanwhile, in 1761 Johann Heinrich Lambert proved that pi is irrational.

Computers made the calculation of pi much faster so pi could be calculated to more digits. ENIAC calculated pi to 2037 places in 1949. This record didn’t last long. A million digits were reached 1970. As of  2011, pi has been calculated to 10,000,000,000,050 places.

Pi is not just used in geometry. There are a number of applications of pi in the fields of statistics, mechanics, thermodynamics, cosmology, and many others. Here is a list of just some of the formulae that use pi. It seems you can find pi everywhere.

With that in mind then, happy pi day! For your enjoyment here are the first thousand digits of pi.

3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510
  58209749445923078164062862089986280348253421170679
  82148086513282306647093844609550582231725359408128
  48111745028410270193852110555964462294895493038196
  44288109756659334461284756482337867831652712019091
  45648566923460348610454326648213393607260249141273
  72458700660631558817488152092096282925409171536436
  78925903600113305305488204665213841469519415116094
  33057270365759591953092186117381932611793105118548
  07446237996274956735188575272489122793818301194912
  98336733624406566430860213949463952247371907021798
  60943702770539217176293176752384674818467669405132
  00056812714526356082778577134275778960917363717872
  14684409012249534301465495853710507922796892589235
  42019956112129021960864034418159813629774771309960
  51870721134999999837297804995105973173281609631859
  50244594553469083026425223082533446850352619311881
  71010003137838752886587533208381420617177669147303
  59825349042875546873115956286388235378759375195778
  18577805321712268066130019278766111959092164201989

 

Bernie Could Win

March 2, 2020

It may be too early to make predictions, but it looks like Bernie Sanders will end up being the Democratic nominee for president in the upcoming election in November. This prospect has Republicans giddy with glee and establishment Democrats dismayed, as they foresee a result similar to the election of 1972. In that election, the Democrats nominated the very left-wing George McGovern who then went on to lose to Nixon in one of the most lopsided defeats (520-17 electoral votes) in the history of American presidential elections. It is easy to imagine that the openly “democratic socialist” aka Communist, Sanders will suffer a similar humiliation.

I am not so sure. This is not the same country as it was in 1972 or 1984 when Reagan won by an even more lopsided 525-13 electoral votes. We are more evenly polarized these days and people seem to be more loyal to their political tribes and less willing to vote for the other side’s candidate. Elections seem to be won more at the margins and there is less likelihood of the kind of massive landslide that occurred in those two elections. I cannot imagine California going red and voting for Trump, no matter how insane the Democratic candidate might be. I doubt if Sanders will make much headway in the deep red south. I do not think Trump is going to carry forty-nine states no matter what happens in the campaign. I am also not so sure that Sanders is doomed to be defeated. I do believe that Trump is likely to be reelected. He has the advantages of the incumbent and the economy is doing well, but nothing is absolutely certain. Bernie Sanders could win. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Bernie Sanders is actually the Democratic candidate most likely to defeat Trump.

The next President?

Donald Trump’s main advantage has been the enthusiasm of his supporters, and detractors. No one seems to be neutral or apathetic in their opinion about Trump. The people who do like like Trump, really hate him, and the people who support Trump really, really love him. It is this enthusiasm that won him the presidency in the previous election. Hilary Clinton had many advantages and ought to have won the election, but no one really liked her all that much. Her support among Democrats was lukewarm. She was too much a part of an increasingly unpopular establishment. People voted for her as the least bad option, not because they were excited about another Clinton presidency. In contrast, the people who voted for Trump were excited about his promise to Make America Great Again. They voted for him because they wanted him to be president.

Of all the Democratic candidates this year, only Bernie Sanders really generates the same kind of excitement that Donald Trump does. No one really likes Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, or Pete Buttigieg. Their supporters are not excited in the same way that Bernie’s are. If any of the other candidates become the nominee, Democratic voters will be voting against Trump. If Bernie Sanders is the nominee, they will be voting for Sanders. Voting for a candidate generates more excitement than voting against a candidate. Bernie Sanders is the only Democrat who generates the kind of enthusiasm that Trump gets from his supporters. I think that Sanders is the only candidate who might be a  threat to Trump.

It is disturbing that Bernie Sanders is the frontrunner and has at least some chance of being the next president. Judging by his campaign promises, a Sanders presidency would have the most extremist left-wing agenda in the history of the United States. He will ban fracking and the export of American oil, remove any limits on accepting refugees and leave the borders wide open. He wants Medicare for all to be paid for with massive tax increases on the wealthy and deep cuts to military spending. Because of the urgent climate emergency (and the fact that even a Democratic Congressional majority might balk at some of his more extreme plans), Bernie won’t have time to enact his proposals by legislation or permit the usual democratic give and take. He plans to act by executive orders, bypassing Congress and the constitution. In effect, Bernie Sanders plans to govern as an autocrat, ruling by decree. Bernie Sanders has never met an enemy of the United States he didn’t like and has expressed his admiration for some of the worst tyrants in the world. A Sanders presidency would be a gift to our enemies, especially Putin who would benefit greatly from the increase in the price of oil from an American ban on fracking.

It is even more disturbing that almost the entire field of Democratic candidates are competing to see who can out-Bernie Bernie and move furthest to the left. There don’t seem to be any moderates in the race, except for Michael Bloomberg, who has authoritarian issues of his own. Maybe some of them, perhaps Joe Biden for one, are not being entirely sincere and plan to pivot to the center, but the fact that they feel the need to even pretend to be so extreme is worrisome. As it is, the only difference between Bernie Sanders and the rest is that he is honest enough to openly run as a socialist.

The election of any of the current field of Democrats would be a disaster for our country and the cause of freedom. The danger is not just that we would have a socialist president, but that the Democrats will continue their movement to the extreme left. Trump and the Republicans in down-ticket races need to win by a large enough margin to thrash the Democrats and move them back towards the center.

To make that happen, the Republicans cannot be overconfident or think that running against Bernie Sanders will be an easy victory. The adage, “Be careful what you wish for” applies here. Bernie Sanders probably has as good as, if not better chance of winning as any other Democratic candidate. Don’t get cocky.


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