There are a lot of numbers we don't know yet about the China coronavirus that's plaguing the world right now, but there's at least one number we should know that I haven't seen reported: the excess death rate:

I have no doubt the number of deaths there now is higher than usual and that there are excess deaths, perhaps a huge number, particularly in certain regions of the north where the virus has been concentrated. But how much higher? Italy ordinarily has a particularly high rate of death from the flu, for example, which might make the "excess death" figure especially important to know. Are significant numbers of the deaths we're seeing in Italy deaths that would be taking place anyway from the flu or other illnesses we're accustomed to and which sometimes cause the death of elderly people who are already ill? And if so, how many?

One of the huge problems with COVID-19 is that so far it seems to have caused localized outbreaks that burden a health system and in particular hospital ICU resources. That in turn results in some people dying who might otherwise be saved but for the sudden influx. That is particularly frightening, and many of the strategies being brought to bear in the US are a result of trying to prevent such a calamity. But in order to know how much we need to do and what we can expect in the worst-case scenario, wouldn't figures for excess deaths in Italy be helpful?

But so far I haven't found anything written for the public discussing that issue. I realize that, since the disease only began a few months ago, we don't have figures for total excess deaths. But shouldn't we have some preliminary figures to compare to average figures per day or per week or per month during a bad flu season and during a good flu season in the localities involved?

Basically, how many people are dying now than we'd expect to be dying in a "normal" year? We can attribute the difference to the China coronavirus.


Twitter's hateful conduct policy now forbids dehumanizing and hateful speech targeted at age groups. Presumably this includes unborn humans, who by virtue of their age are continually assaulted with dehumanizing and eliminationist rhetoric on Twitter.

You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease. We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of these categories.

A quick survey reveals that there are innumerable Twitter accounts whose primary purpose is to advocate for the right to slaughter very young humans. This hateful conduct needs to stop.

We prohibit targeting individuals with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to dehumanize, degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category.

Tropes like "a fetus is just a clump of cells" are clearly and intentionally dehumanizing towards unborn babies.

Note: individuals do not need to be a member of a specific protected category for us to take action. We will never ask people to prove or disprove membership in any protected category and we will not investigate this information.

You don't need to be an unborn baby to take action. Even if you are not a member of the category you can still stand up for the dignity of the unborn.


We citizens obviously want law enforcement agencies to have a strong incentive to catch criminals, and we shouldn't expect them to balance that incentive against our needs for privacy. We citizens and our elected representatives need to be the ones doing the balancing, knowing that we'll sometimes have to push back against the very people who work to protect us. The final paragraph in this article about a data breach of Clearview's facial recognition software highlights the tension.

Facial-recognition technology--which matches photos of unidentified victims or suspects against enormous databases of photos--has long drawn intense criticism from privacy advocates. They argue it could essentially mean the end of personal privacy, especially given the proliferation of security cameras in public places. Some law-enforcement officials, meanwhile, see it as a tool with enormous potential value.

They're both right. How to balance privacy against crime risk is a political question, not a law enforcement question.


California's homeless problem is almost over thanks to creative thinking by Governor Gavin Newsom.

Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom gave his State of the State address on Wednesday to a joint session of the California Legislature and told the predominantly controlled by Democrats body that of a new proposal that would allow doctors to write out prescriptions for housing as part of a five-point plan to combat California's homelessness situation.

Newsom proposed a "once-in-a-generation" Medi-Cal reform, which includes a $695 million budget request, according to Newsom's speech and the Sacramento Bee.

"Health care and housing can no longer be divorced. After all, what's more fundamental to a person's well-being than a roof over their head?" Newsom said during his speech. "Doctors should be able to write prescriptions for housing the same way they do for insulin or antibiotics."

I medically require a beachfront house in Malibu. Cleaning and maintenance work are harmful to my mental health, so I also need some servants.


The New York Times nails the subtext of my earlier post about the Iowa Democrat Caucuses: without secret ballots, have the caucuses been a fraud this whole time?

An hour after the caucuses began, the Iowa Democratic Party chairman, Troy Price, huddled in another room with other officials, none of them with a clear strategy to manage the unfolding chaos or answers to share with increasingly exasperated presidential campaigns. A conference call with the campaigns ended with Mr. Price hanging up on them, amid accusations that caucus results in Iowa may have been incorrectly reported for decades.

As disastrous as the 2020 Iowa caucuses have appeared to the public, the failure runs deeper and wider than has previously been known, according to dozens of interviews with those involved. It was a total system breakdown that casts doubt on how a critical contest on the American political calendar has been managed for years. ...

"You always had to calculate these numbers, all we're asking is that you report them for the first time," Jeff Weaver, Mr. Sanders's closest adviser, said he told Mr. Price on the call. "If you haven't been calculating these numbers all along, it's been a fraud for 100 years."

Mr. Price ended the call.

It's time to end the caucuses. They aren't democratic, and it seems likely that they've been fraudulent since their inception. The new reporting rules simply revealed the errors that have been there all along.


The Republicans are going to get a lot of mileage out of Pelosi ripping up Trump's state-of-the-union speech. Here's a video of her ripping interspersed with clips of the outstanding American's that Trump recognized during his speech.

(HT: Powerline Blog)


Yes, the Iowa Caucuses were a disaster for the Democrats last night. But even aside from the execution problems they experienced this year, it's important to point out the biggest flaw of the caucus process itself: the lack of a secret ballot. Caucuses are explicitly designed to put social pressure on people's vote.

The Kremers plan to start caucusing for Pete Buttigieg. They say they like that he's intelligent and stands for what they believe. But what they like the most is that he can be a "healer."

"The world needs healing," Bonnie said.

They don't agree on their second choices: Jack said he prefers Amy Klobuchar. And when Bonnie said her second choice was Elizabeth Warren, Jack replied: "Don't forget you need a ride home."

The couple laughed and said they drove two hours from Fort Myers Beach.

Sure, it's a funny joke between a husband and wife, but there's absolutely no doubt that social pressure drives caucus behavior. It's undemocratic and should be eliminated.


Congratulations to our brothers and sisters in the UK.

"We love Europe, we just hate the European Union."


Not surprising that the GOP has already cut an ad from this cringeworthy CNN segment.

I personally think it would be great if both sides showed some respect for each other. The Left's disdain for Trump voters/sympathizers will be its undoing.


I thought the Babylon Bee was supposed to be satire? "Increasingly Secular Nation Replaces Outdated Religious Ideas With End Times Prophecies, Moral Judgments":

U.S.--The increasingly secular nation has replaced its outdated religious ideas with more advanced, enlightened ideas, like telling you what behavior is immoral and predicting when the world is going to end.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has just predicted that the world will end in 12 years if you do not give the government more power over your life. Leftists across the country agreed this is a big improvement on outlandish religious claims that the world will end and you will be judged for your sin one day soon.


I thought the Babylon Bee was supposed to be satire? "Increasingly Secular Nation Replaces Outdated Religious Ideas With End Times Prophecies, Moral Judgments":

U.S.--The increasingly secular nation has replaced its outdated religious ideas with more advanced, enlightened ideas, like telling you what behavior is immoral and predicting when the world is going to end.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has just predicted that the world will end in 12 years if you do not give the government more power over your life. Leftists across the country agreed this is a big improvement on outlandish religious claims that the world will end and you will be judged for your sin one day soon.


Despite claims that the money the Obama Administration gave to Iran already belonged to Iran, this isn't true. The Iranian money previously seized by the Unites States had already been paid out as compensation to the victims of Iranian terror.

The most infamous payoff was the $1.7 billion in cash the administration shipped off to the IRGC on wooden pallets in exchange for U.S. citizens held hostage by the regime. The White House said that there was no "quid pro quo," that it was Iran's money to begin with--$400 million the pre-revolutionary government had deposited in 1979 to buy U.S. arms, plus interest. But the U.S. had already used the $400 million to compensate terror victims of the Islamic Republic. That was Iran's money. The $400 million the Obama administration used to "pay back" the Iranians belonged to the U.S. taxpayer.

The administration argued that the U.S. had to pay the ransom in cash because Tehran had been cut off from the financial system and there was no other way to transfer the funds. That was not true. The Obama administration had wired payments to Iran before and after the wooden pallets episode. The Iranians wanted cash so it would be harder to track their terror financing.


Of course everyone is wondering if Iran accidentally shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, but it's too early to say anything definitive. However, internet speculation is running rampant. Check out this snap from 0:24 in this video of the wreckage.

PS 752 fragmentation damage.jpg

PS 752 fragmentation damage b.jpg

The speculation is that the dark spots you can see there on the fuselage are holes that were caused by fragmentation from an anti-air missile. Time will tell.

Update:

Here's a higher-resolution image of the first fuselage section shown above. It looks like the "holes" may actually be rocks.

PS 752 fragmentation damage c.jpg


The VASCO team ("Vanishing & Appearing Sources during a Century of Observations") is investigating 150,000 candidate objects that have appeared or disappeared from the sky since the 1950s.

vasco.jpg

A project lead by an international team of researchers use publicly available data with images of the sky dating as far back as the 1950s to try to detect and analyse objects that have disappeared over time. In the project "Vanishing & Appearing Sources during a Century of Observations" (VASCO), they have particularly looked for objects that may have existed in old military sky catalogues from the 1950s, not to be found again in modern sky surveys. Among the physical indicators that they are looking for are stars that have vanished in the Milky Way.

"Finding an actually vanishing star--or a star that appears out of nowhere-- would be a precious discovery and certainly would include new astrophysics beyond the one we know of today," says project leader Beatriz Villarroel, Stockholm University and Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, Spain.

When a star dies it either undergoes very slow changes and becomes a white dwarf or it dies with a sudden bright explosion i.e. supernova. A vanishing star can be an example of an "impossible phenomenon" that could be attributed either to new astrophysical phenomena or to extra-terrestrial activity. Indeed, the only non-ETI (extra-terrestrial intelligence) explanation for a vanishing star would be exceedingly rare events called "failed supernovae." A failed supernovae is theoretically predicted to occur when a very massive star collapses into a black hole without any visible explosion. Other physical indicators of ETI activity that the authors are looking for are signs of red interstellar communication lasers and Dyson spheres. A Dyson sphere is a hypothetical giant structure surrounding a star to harness its energy.

To be honest, it would be a lot more interesting if there were only a handful of examples -- 150,000 disappearing objects makes me think that it isn't aliens.


I'm on the phone for work every day, but apparently telephone calls died in 2007. I don't miss phone calls at all -- I never answer a call from an unknown number, and when I do have to call someone I generally feel bad for interrupting them. Texting has numerous advantages, not least of which is that it's less disruptive because it's asynchronous.

The phone call always was an invasive form of communication, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that as soon as a plausible substitute presented itself we grabbed it. What was the very first phone call, on March 10, 1876, if not an urgent human demand? "Mr. Watson," said Alexander Graham Bell, "come here--I want to see you." That Thomas Watson, situated in the next room, would comply was a given, because Bell was his employer. For the next hundred years, phones continued to boss people around. A loudly ringing telephone demanded its owner's immediate attention because you never knew who it might be. It could be the president! Or news that you'd inherited $1 million from a relative you'd never heard of! Or (God forbid) your teenager wrecked the car and was in the hospital! Octogenarians still tend to respond to a ringing landline with terrific urgency, risking hip fracture as they lunge to answer it. ...

The telephone's rule was absolute until the mid-1980s, when the rising popularity of answering machines and caller ID began to undermine it. Baby boomers wielded these tools against their telephones like a lion tamer's whip. If it was important, the caller could leave a message just as if they weren't there, a deception their World War II generation parents could never countenance. The advent around the same time of call waiting similarly made human agency a deciding factor in whether you were available to talk. Sometime around 2010, my then-teenage daughter was trying to call a friend. Something's wrong, she said. This phone has gone berserk. She handed it to me. I listened, then explained patiently what a busy signal was. She'd never heard one before.


Inspector General Michael Horowitz uncovered a lot of wrongdoing by FBI investigators but can't quite seem to put all the pieces together. Why were these corrupt investigators so eager to spy on the Trump campaign?

Inspector General Michael Horowitz wrote in his report released this week that although there were a number of "errors and omissions" that occurred during the FBI's bizarre investigation, he found no evidence of "political bias" and that the investigation was otherwise legitimate and justified.

But "errors and omissions," a quote that was repeated over and over again in headlines, sounds like minor missteps that could have been taken care of with a little Wite-Out. It hardly covers the blatant wrongdoing that Horowitz described in his report -- corrupt law enforcement officers abusing their power.

Both in his report and during congressional testimony on Wednesday, Horowitz admitted that he didn't know why the FBI was so keen to spy on Trump campaign associate Carter Page, who was in fact not a Russian agent after all; that he didn't know why they continued to spy on Page, even after the FBI was informed by the CIA that Page had actually been working for them as an informant; and that he didn't know why, when the FBI continually sought to have its investigation reauthorized by the FISA court, it routinely withheld information from the court or straight-up misled about things that might have undermined the investigation.

In his report, Horowitz said he found seven times where FBI agents relied on "inaccurate, incomplete, or unsupported" information in order to continually seek reauthorization for the surveillance of Page and others in the campaign.

Seems like quite a mystery! I guess we'll never know, but at least we can be confident that there was no evidence of "political bias". Ahem.


It would sure be nice if Trump and his allies didn't use Twitter to "attack" / mildly criticize children, but who decided to drag Greta Thunberg onto the global stage in the first place?

In case you aren't already familiar, here's a bit about Thunberg's original talk about global warming at the U.N. in September:

My message is: We'll be watching you [pause for laughs and applause]. This is all wrong. I shouldn't be up here. I should be back in school, on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to use young people for hope -- how dare you!

The lecture goes on in a similar vein, with poor Thunberg looking more and more disturbed as she continues. The Swedish teenager is not some science prodigy who graduated young from some Ivy League school with an advanced agree in physics or anything like that. Rather, the daughter (and granddaughter) of famous actors and opera singers suffers from Asperger's syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and selective mutism. I'm no medical professional, but these things might have been brought on when (according to public sources), starting at the age of eight, Thunberg was subjected to such a barrage of climate panic that she eventually became depressed and lethargic, and also developed an eating disorder.

Now Thunberg is paraded around the globe as the voice of sanity on climate change.

Thunberg considers her medical condition to be a "superpower" that gives her a unique perspective on global warming, and she was right to say: "I shouldn't be up here. I should be back in school." The people who thrust her into the middle of a contentious global political issue should be ashamed.

As always, the Babylon Bee nails it: "Democrats Introduce Debate Strategy Of Holding Up Small Child Whenever Their Positions Are Challenged"


I may be delusional (or *too* sane) but my thinking leans towards Charlie Martin's articulation of why he still doesn't think Democrats will impeach Trump. The polls just don't show impeachment working out well for the Democrats, and they've worked so hard to obfuscate the House process that they must realize their case is weak. If impeachment goes to the Senate the Republicans will control the narrative throughout 2020.

Just a few days ago, I predicted that Trump won't be impeached. Of course, today we saw the announcement that Nancy Pelosi has directed the Judiciary Committee to start drafting Articles of Impeachment based on the hearing yesterday.

Now, that means a committee chaired by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Moria) is supposed to start coming up with a list of charges. Apparently, this is supposed to include bribery, abuse of power, and damned if conspiracy and collusion with the Russians isn't back, Mueller investigation be damned.

You might think this would cause me to rethink my prediction, but it doesn't. ...

I still think the risks are too great for the Democrats. Instead, we'll see this "drafting of Articles of Impeachment" drag on, "vaster than Empires and more slow," because they get all the political benefits of keeping IMPEACHMENT IMPEACHMENT IMPEACHMENT in the news, with none of the risks. ...

Coincidentally, Monday is the day the ICIG report comes out.


Hong Kong protests are spreading to Guangdong in mainland China:

Slogans of Hong Kong's democratic movement have been reportedly heard at protests in a Chinese city 60 miles to the west.

According to Hong Kong-based Apple Daily--a vocal supporter of the democracy campaign in Hong Kong--chants of "Liberate Maoming! Revolution of our times!" were heard during several days of protest in Maoming.

The chant is a take on the "Liberate Hong Kong" slogan commonly used during protests across the border, where anti-government demonstrations have raged since June.

Protestors also reportedly told Apple Daily reporters that their movement was "just like you [in] Hong Kong." Both cities share a common Cantonese language.

In confrontations that began last week, Maoming protesters pelted police with bricks and set off fireworks, forcing authorities to announce Sunday that they would not be building a crematorium on plot of unused land in the area. The long-running plan had infuriated residents, who had been promised an ecological park on the same site.

And Iran is in flames:

The Iranian regime faces the most serious popular challenge to its tyranny in 40 years. Sparked by a 50 percent hike in fuel prices last month, the uprising has spread to the whole country. Security forces have killed hundreds of protesters, and at one point they were even forced to shut down the internet -- a sign that the ayatollahs feared for the survival of their regime.

So it's worth asking: Did our ­experts see this coming?

Nope: Most were too busy blasting President Trump. The prestige press and Twitterati spent the last few years railing against the president for trashing the nuclear deal and ratcheting up sanctions -- actions that had supposedly sent the Iranian people rallying around the flag.

President Trump's approaches to China and Iran have been controversial, but they appear to be bearing fruit. Hopefully the United States will continue support the right of these protesters to express themselves freely and peacefully.


In an utter disgrace for our justice system, pro-life activists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt have been found guilty and will be punished for their work uncovering Planned Parenthood's business of selling dismembered baby parts.

A jury in San Francisco district court has found pro-life activists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud, breach of contract, and trespass and violation of state and federal recording laws. Daleiden, Merritt, and their Center for Medical Progress obtained undercover footage of abortion-industry workers, including from Planned Parenthood, discussing arrangements to illegally profit from the fetal body parts of aborted babies.

One can easily imagine the outcry if undercover activists were similarly punished for exposing, say, the routine mistreatment of animals.

The videos -- the first of which CMP released in the summer of 2015 -- showed all sorts of horrifying things. Planned Parenthood medical directors haggling over prices for fetal body parts over a lunch of salad and wine, another joking about upping the cost for certain organs so she could afford a Lamborghini. Abortionists admitting to altering late-term abortion procedures (which is illegal) in order to improve their odds of obtaining intact, and thus more valuable, fetal body parts. Industry workers conceding they had contracts to sell fetal tissue and describing in graphic detail their efforts to conduct post-viability abortions without violating the ban on partial-birth abortion. A former clinic worker saying she had been tasked with harvesting organs from an infant whose heart was still beating.

Pray for an end to abortion.

Genesis 4:9-10

Then the Lord said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?"

"I don't know," he replied. "Am I my brother's keeper?"

The Lord said, "What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground.

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