COVID19 update, May 17, 2020: Exposé on decision making timeline in Germany; YouTube censorship asininity of the day

(1) DIE WELT AM SONTAG, the Sunday supplement of the German daily, has a very long article detailing the timeline of Germany’s response to the pandemic. I will try to put up a translation somewhere, but the bottom line is: decision makers — both in the government and in the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany’s infectious diseases authority — were lulled into a false sense of security by the misinformation spread by the Chinese regime. The article concludes that if these precious weeks had not been lost, Germany likely would have been able to contain the epidemic without a lockdown, and at a much lower cost in lives (not to mention the ruinous economic cost).

A virologist named Alexander Kekulé [a great-grandson of the Kekulé who first discovered the ring structure of benzene] acted as a Cassandra — saying “this isn’t your garden variety flu, but SARS all over again”— but found little resonance at first. A continuous tension existed between the Minister Jens Spahn and the Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (a former head of the CSU, the Bavarian sister party of Angela Merkel’s CDU). Seehofer favored more restrictive measures than his colleague.

Even as the duplicity and manipulations of the Xi regime became clear, Spahn tried to defend the WHO chief, saying he was in an impossible position since he was wholly dependent on the Chinese for information.


Then a number of things happened in quick succession:

  • 100 Germans came in on an evacuation flught from Wuhan. Two tested positive.
  • Diamond Princess ship, first major spread outside China
  • Examination of the first cases in Bavaria revealed that, unlike the 2002-3 SARS, this virus did not confine itself to the lower lungs but also sat in the throat and upper respiratory system , and therefore could spread much more easily.
  • News from Italy came in about the outbreak in the North
  • Following carnival celebrations, the first major “community spread” outbreak in Germany
  • a German dealer in medical PPE (personal protective equipment) sold out of his entire stock (good for about 5 months of normal sales volume) in a single day, and realized something was up.
  • Angela Merkel, in a goodwill gesture, sent 5.5 tons of PPE to China — and in order to do so, had to dig into Germany’s own emergency stockpile, as China was stripping the world market bare
  • at an intelligence briefing, the BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst or Federal Intelligence Service, Germany’s CIA) showed satellite footage of mass graves in Iran that indicated the epidemic there was much more severe than they were communicating outside

Once the powers that be finally became convinced they were dealing with a potentially cataclysmic event, Germany appears to have gotten its act together quite rapidly.

(2) A commenter alerted me that Roger Seheult MD’s youtube video about the zinc-hydroxychloroquine combination, which I linked yesterday, had been deleted by YT for “violating community standards”. To call this asinine would be an insult to donkeys. Dr. Seheult is not your garden-variety crank poster pushing quack remedies, but a pulmonologist who actually deals with COVID19 patients and lectures in medical school, and who has been running an excellent medical school tutoring channel named MedCram on YouTube for some time. Whichever self-appointed medical authority at YT decided that we must be protected from “doubleplusungoodthink” ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Let me repeat once again a quote from the French mathematician, theoretical physicist, and pioneering philosopher of science Henri Poincaré that is something of a creed for French (and Belgian) secular humanists, but is a rallying cry for anyone who takes the pursuit of science and truth seriously:

Liberty is for science what air is for an animal: when deprived of liberty, it dies of suffocation like a bird deprived of oxygen. […] Thought must never submit — neither to dogma, nor to party, nor to passion, nor to special interest, nor to preconceptions, nor to anything but the facts themselves — for when thought submits, that means it ceases to be.

Quote from: Henri Poincaré, Le libre examen en matière scientifique [free inquiry in scientific matters], lecture Nov 20, 1909, on the 75th anniversary of the Université Libre de Bruxelles, http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-0348-8112-8_12

ADDENDUM: Mike Hansen MD on results from autopsies (the paper in the Annals of Internal Medicine being discussed is here: https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M20-2003 )

Surprise: Jewish groups that “signed” Soros-backed anti-Beck letter repudiate, citing misrepresentation

Yid With Lid has the goods:

Carried in the January 27th edition of the Wall Street Journal was an advertisement/open letter from four-hundred Rabbis organized by a socialist Jewish organization called Jewish Funds for Justice (JFJ), with strong ties to financier George Soros (the full ad is embedded at the bottom of this page). As discussed the day the ad came out, the rabbis efforts brought shame upon themselves, their holy profession and the entire Jewish people, and even worse have committed a Chillul Hashem (desecration of God’s name). A conversation with one of the signers, Rabbi Steven Wernick , the day after my initial post raised more questions (which as of this moment the Rabbi still hasn’t answered).

That however, is the not the end of the story.  Over the past few days, three of the groups used to corroborate the false charges raised by Jewish Funds For Justice have repudiated the letter arraigned by the George Soros proxy. All three weren’t contacted prior to the use of their names, disagreed with the thrust of the letter and were not happy that they were included. A fourth came out and said the letter was too one sided.  Not surprisingly  the only group/person not raising some objection to the letter has an association with George Soros.

The first one to weigh in was Jeffrey Tobin of Commentary who saw the letter as an overt attempt to silence someone with home they disagree politically[…]

Yesterday in the Wall Street Journal there were two letters published from organizations named in the JFJ open letter:

Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld Vice President American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors wrote:

I suppose that I am to rest easy now that these rabbis and the individuals they quote in their advertisement find Glenn Beck and Roger Ailes… represent a greater threat to the welfare of the Jews than George Soros. I have no position on Mr. Beck, but I am frankly puzzled as to how he merits so great an expenditure by this group. What a waste of communal resources this represents when there are so many needy people, Holocaust survivors and others.

This absurdity and the fact that these rabbis have never seen fit to comment on Mr. Soros’s support for entities that have harmed Israel and Jewish interests (and in my view, Western interests generally), force me to speak out. [my emphasis]

[…] I also know that in my 30 years of participation in large-scale annual commemorations I have yet to meet a survivor who expressed support for Mr. Soros.

Most surprising was the second letter which was from Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, who has often used his organization as an arm of the progressive movement. Foxman defended Beck and Fox News as friends of Israel :

I was surprised to see my name and statements attributed to me used in the advertisement from Jewish Funds for Justice calling on Rupert Murdoch to “sanction” Glenn Beck for his repeated use of Holocaust and Nazi images on his Fox News program.

I want to make it clear, for the record, that I do not support this misguided campaign against Fox News, even though my name was used.

While we have said many times that Nazi comparisons are offensive and inappropriate when used for political attacks, in my view it is wrongheaded to single out only Fox News on this issue, when both liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, can share equal guilt in making trivializing comparisons to the Holocaust.

Furthermore, the open letter signed by hundreds of rabbis is a trivialization in itself—bizarrely timed for release on United Nations’s Holocaust Remembrance Day. At a time when Holocaust denial is rampant in much of the Arab world, where anti-Semitism remains a serious concern, and where the Iranian leader has openly declared his desire to “wipe Israel off the map,” surely there are greater enemies and threats to the Jewish people than the pro-Israel stalwarts Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes and Glenn Beck.

A fourth person sited in the letter Deborah Lipstadt, professor of Holocaust Studies at Emory University, said that she didn’t disagree with the thrust of the letter but felt it was distorted because of it was one-sided:
I don’t disagree with the thrust of JFSJ’s ad. That said, I do worry that it is a distortion to focus solely on the conservative end of the political spectrum.

When I saw the original ad I seriously wondered if these above organizations had completely taken leave of their senses. I am relieved that this is not the case. I cannot say that this incident lowers my esteem of the ones behind it by much, since it is currently approaching absolute zero in microkelvin steps.

See also YWL’s earlier coverage here and  here.

Ann Althouse: When did the left turn against free speech?

Ann Althouse:

One of the commenters declares that my “assertion that ‘the best test of the truth is its ability to get accepted in the marketplace of ideas’ was probably the most offensive part of her argument.” When questioned about whether I really said that, he comes back with:

She cited a Justice whose name I haven’t retained, as in: “As Justice X says, …” followed by the verbatim passage I quoted.

She cited a Justice whose name I haven’t retained…. Oh, for the love of God, why doesn’t every educated person in America know the name of the Supreme Court Justice who said that… or at the very least know that it’s embarrassing not to know? As if I’d thrown out some abstruse legalistic peculiarity!

And that was part of an argument by the commenter — echoing Bob Wright — that free speech is too dangerous because it might be false and it might inspire bad people to act out in terrible ways.

Remember when lefties were all about free speech? When did that change? Why did that change? Perhaps the answer is: Free speech was only ever a means to an end. When they got their free speech, made their arguments, and failed to win over the American people, and when in fact the speech from their opponents seemed too successful, they switched to the repression of speech, because the end was never freedom.

Indeed. “The only question is about who is to be master, that is all.”

The strange case of UIUC adjunct Kenneth Howell

Fox News has an article on the controversy involved in the “not firing firing” of UIUC (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) adjunct professor Kenneth Howell for private Emails expressing what some read as approval of Catholic doctrine on same-sex relationships. The case is less black and white than either side lets on, but disturbing nevertheless. A few impromptu remarks on this drama playing out at what is, interestingly, the birthplace of the first widely available web browser (Mosaic, which later became Netscape).

Dr. Howell is an interesting character. An ordained Presbyterian minister by background, he converted to Catholicism and moved to UIUC to become involved with the Catholic student center, of which he eventually became the director. He simultaneous started teaching as  an adjunct associate professor on Catholic doctrine at UIUC, and by all accounts was popular with the students and well-liked by them. He was given an award for teaching excellence.

In an Email responding to a query about this, he expounded the reasoning behind Catholic doctrine on same-sex relationships, specifically the “Natural law” argument. He, however, did not state this in a manner disassociating himself personally from this doctrine (“Catholic moralists defending this doctrine put forward the following arrgument:”[…] or something of the sort). As he himself is by all accounts a devout Catholic, it was understood by some as personally agreeing with them, which led to complaints against him and his annual contract not being renewed. (Technically he was not fired, but I am familiar enough with academia to know how appearances are kept there.)

Leaving aside Jewish (or my own) views on homosexuality, I am personally of two minds about the affair. On the one hand, every college lecturer would do well to remember the admonishment of Avtalyon in Pirkei Avot 1:11: “Scholars, heed your words. For you may be exiled to a place of evil waters [i.e., malicious elements who will distort your words to suit their purposes]. The disciples who come after you will then drink of these evil waters and be destroyed, and the Name of Heaven will be desecrated.” On the other hand, for every Dr. Howell there are dozens of lecturers and professors who vigorously advocate Marxism (a doctrine in whose name even more people have been killed than in the name of National Socialism), spout antisemitic and/or anti-American drivel from their bully pulpits,… with impunity. (OK, most of these enjoy the protection of tenure, unlike Dr. Howell.)

Meanwhile, as the Fox article explains, students have rallied to his defense, including from some rather… unexpected groups.

Thousands of supporters are rallying behind Dr. Kenneth Howell, the University of Illinois professor fired for expressing his Catholic beliefs, via a \”Save Dr. Ken\” Facebook group.”
“It’s turning into a whole movement for freedom of speech in the classroom,” said senior Tim Fox, a member of the group and former resident at the university’s Catholic student Newman Center.The “Save Dr. Ken” Facebook group includes alumni, current students and outside supporters who are familiar with Howell through his books or his appearances on EWTN, a Catholic television network. Howell is actively involved in the group and has written personal responses to some of his Facebook supporters.

“Save Dr. Ken” is actively working to take its protest beyond Facebook. Its home page offers detailed instructions on how to protest Howell’s dismissal, separately tailored to students, alumni and outside supporters. […]

Students are also organizing a mass boycott of all university religion courses unless Howell is reinstated by the fall, Melissa Silverberg, editor-in-chief of the university’s student newspaper, the Daily Illini, confirmed.

Howell is a popular professor; his students voted for him to receive an “Excellence in Teaching” award last fall, and now they are rallying for him.

[…] Students at the center are not the only ones protesting. The campus secularist group, Atheists, Agnostics & Freethinkers, has taken up Howell’s cause. Howell had worked with the group in the past, helping organize a public debate between an atheist and a Catholic on “Does the Christian God Exist?” last February. Its president wrote a letter to the university chancellor, Robert Easter, saying, “[Howell] has shown a commitment to the questioning of all ideas. His loss is a profound blow to the University of Illinois and its purpose… Who will next be silenced?”“Even people who disagree with what [Howell] taught think that his firing was wrong,” said Silverberg.

But not everyone is in Howell’s corner. Some students say they are not so sure he should be coming back.

“I wouldn’t necessarily get behind this protest,” said David Bettinardi, a senior. “Teachers can abuse their authority, and if a teacher talks about his personal beliefs in class, it becomes less education and more indoctrination. That’s true for a professor with any set of beliefs – atheist, Catholic, whatever.”

Other students said Howell’s dismissal was not just an issue of freedom of speech, but revealed a double standard at the university.

“Professor Howell didn’t mean to insult homosexuals; he was just stating the Catholic position,” said Mike Hamoy, a senior chemistry major who took Howell’s class in fall 2009. “I’ve had multiple professors who have mocked how much Catholic families reproduce or who have implied to the class that God is a joke. Why aren’t these professors fired for their open insults?”

The logic behind the double standards is very simple, Mike. If you agree with the Anointed and thus are a loyal member of the New Class, you can get away with nearly anything. But woe unto those who dare stray off the reservation, or who simply are “not one of us”…