Good Friday Morning, especially to the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly who reports, “Lilly’s neutralizing antibody bamlanivimab (LY-CoV555) prevented COVID-19 at nursing homes in the BLAZE-2 trial, reducing risk by up to 80 percent for residents.” If those studies hold up, it will give us yet another way to combat COVID-19 beyond vaccinations (of which we have four). This drug could become particularly helpful in reducing deaths in countries waiting on vaccine deliveries down the road.
And also, welcome to the end of the first week of the Biden administration. It’s a bit shocking we’re in a world without Trump in the White House. Given the constant barrage of news Donald Trump generated, it certainly felt like he had two terms. In his farewell address, he said, “Now, as I prepare to hand power over to a new administration at noon on Wednesday, I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning. There’s never been anything like it. The belief that a nation must serve its citizens will not dwindle but instead only grow stronger by the day.”
That indicates he doesn’t plan on leaving the scene any time soon. And there are rumors he’d like to start a third party. Like most things Trump says on this front, I take all that with a grain of salt. I’ll believe it when he does it.
As for Biden and his inaugural speech, I agree with Matthew Continetti, who called it “A forgettable inaugural speech” but that it “may be just what the country needs.” I also agreed with Continetti on what stood out:
What stood out most about the entire day was its religious spirit. Biden began the morning with a bipartisan Mass. The benedictions before and after the inaugural program were moving. Garth Brooks offered an incredible rendition of “Amazing Grace.” Biden asked all Americans to participate in a moment of silent prayer. He cited Scripture. And in one of the most interesting passages of his address, he invoked Saint Augustine’s description of a people as “a multitude defined by the common objects of their love.”
The bipartisan mass with all the Congressional leaders there with Biden was an important show of unity, especially after January 6. A display of unity and peaceful transfer of power is important symbolically. Even if I don’t think it will do a single thing to impact, the “election was stolen” crowd.
The thing I’m always reminded about every time we transition from one administration to another is George Washington’s farewell address in 1796. He lays out all the things he believed Americans should understand about their country and hold to keep it.
As for the newsletter today, I’m covering the dueling narratives two sides of the political spectrum believe in right now. You know the one on the right, where the election was stolen. The left has one too. It was front and center on the first full day of the Biden administration when CNN and Biden staffers lied about the vaccine rollout progress. So we’re going to hit that—links to follow.
Where you can find me this week
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The vaccine rollout is a success, not a disaster – The Conservative Institute.
America produces miracles while China sits on a throne of lies – The Conservative Institute.
When narrative trumps reality
I know it seems like ages ago, but think back to the Trump administration’s start in 2017. We started that era out with poorly-written executive orders and what felt like a weeks-long controversy over Trump’s decision to lie and fight about the crowd sizes of his and Obama’s inauguration events.
The Biden administration is starting on a similar foot. There are the dumb executive orders, like canceling the Keystone Pipeline. It’s one of those things that a useless and bad for the environment. Nothing about canceling that pipeline stops the oil from flowing. It’ll just get transported by truck, train, or some other delivery. The oil will go elsewhere. It’s one of those issues where green groups prove they’re more Luddite than “green.” But that pipeline is a flashpoint, and now the 1,000 workers who are getting laid off have to seek new jobs because of a stupid culture war flashpoint.
Biden and CNN lie.
And from there, we got the dumb lies. If Trump’s first lies as a new President centered around the inauguration crowd sizes, Biden’s administration is starting off lying about the pandemic. Thursday, CNN kicked off the day reporting that an anonymous Biden administration official said they “are inheriting no coronavirus vaccine distribution plan to speak of from the Trump administration, sources tell CNN, posing a significant challenge for the new White House.” They continued:
[I]n the immediate hours following Biden being sworn into office on Wednesday, sources with direct knowledge of the new administration’s Covid-related work told CNN one of the biggest shocks that the Biden team had to digest during the transition period was what they saw as a complete lack of a vaccine distribution strategy under former President Donald Trump, even weeks after multiple vaccines were approved for use in the United States.
“There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch,” one source said.
These statements and the quotes given were total and complete lies to anyone with a modicum of knowledge of what’s happening. It doesn’t even pass the smell test.
According to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker (updated late Thursday), the United States has administered 18.4 million vaccine COVID-19 doses, with 56.7 million doses administered globally. That means approximately one out of every three vaccine doses in the world is going to Americans. The 7-day average on vaccine doses sits at 940,000, and on January 20-21, we administered nearly 3 million doses.
The next closest country is China, which claims to have vaccinated 15 million people. But I’d doubt the accuracy of their numbers, and that’s not even counting the fact that their vaccine appears to be useless. The United States is, by far, the leading country vaccinating its citizens and that’s not even close on raw numbers. You can find better per-capita countries, places that are small and dense (Israel, Bahrain, and UAE). But even on a per-capita basis, we’re still a top-five country.
Could things be better? Absolutely. In December, vaccination experts said we needed to hit three million vaccinations a day, which I agree with. That’s a far more robust goal than the Biden administration’s goal of 100 million vaccine doses in 100 days.
But back to the Biden administration and CNN. It’s not just that that report was openly and stupidly wrong the moment it was published. It got nuked later in the day by none other than Anthony Fauci:
During the White House press briefing, Fauci was asked directly by NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker if the new administration was “starting from scratch.”
“We certainly are not starting from scratch because there is activity going on in the distribution,” Fauci responded before elaborating on the Biden administration’s own plan.
CNN heavily pushed the story prior to the briefing. According to Fourth Watch media critic and former CNN producer Steve Krakauer, the anti-Trump network had mentioned its now-disputed scoop “a total of 23 times” before Fauci faced the press.
CNN White House correspondent MJ Lee, who authored the controversial report, defended her reporting on social media, characterizing Fauci as “a holdover from the Trump administration.”
Fauci’s main point was that the Biden administration was expanding on the Trump administration plan. And that’s entirely true. The only difference in the Biden and Trump vaccine plans is that Biden is pursuing a “needles in arms” strategy instead of targeting vaccines like the Trump administration (Biden’s approach is my preference at this stage, after a month of targeting the most vulnerable). Biden has also authorized the Defense Production Act to generate the necessary supplies needed to manufacture vaccines (bottles, syringes, etc.). These are the right moves, and I praise the Biden administration for them but calling it “building from scratch” is utter rubbish.
Part of the reason for these early lies probably has something to do with Biden criticizing his COVID-19 response team openly. Politico reports that there is a lot of tension between Biden and his advisors. Biden sees them as failing in achieving the 100 million shots in 100 days metric he’s set. The anonymous sources CNN is relying on are likely that the same people Biden is criticizing. They’re attempting to shift blame away from themselves and onto the Trump team.
But the United States is already the best in the world at this, by nearly any metric you can set. Criticism is certainly there on ways to improve the distribution and manufacturing. If that’s true of us, it’s even more true in every other country in the world.
All of which brings me back to the point where I started: Biden and Trump are starting on basically the same foot, with harmful EO’s and lying about what’s important to them. That Trump and Biden are alike in these respects isn’t the main point. Still, it does undercut the arguments made by people like David French and others on the right who said character was paramount and insinuated people should vote for Biden. If character is essential, please point to where Biden has it, and no, empathy isn’t enough. That’s like listening to evangelicals talk about Trump’s kids and use that as proof of his character.
The difference between them is one of manners. Trump is open and brash. Biden does the same things within the parameters of “polite society.”
Different realities determine different beliefs.
The similarities here are interesting, but they also show something else: the partisan divides are utterly committed not to just beliefs but wholly different objective realities of what is happening in the world. If you’re going to claim the United States vaccine rollout is a “dismal failure,” then you have to square that with the fact that we’ve vaccinated more people than anyone and are top five on a per-capita basis (and the only large country in that top five).
The right has been wholly committed to the narrative that Donald Trump was impermeable and destined to win again. They were committed not just to Trump as a person, but beyond that and into everything he was. He shaped everything from political to religious beliefs (and dangerous thing by itself). Trump losing snapped that reality and brought those people dramatically back to reality.
On the left, they are wholly committed to the notion that our entire response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been a failure. The commitment they have to COVID-pessimism permeates everything. Part of that is a belief that everything is apocalyptically wrong. Still, the other part is the belief that the masses are stupid. If you aren’t pessimistic on every last single point, people won’t obey government orders. They hate positive news because that means people may become lax in their approach to the virus.
Of course, all the pessimism is wrong. Did we make mistakes? Yes. We did. COVID-19 is our generation’s Spanish Flu. An estimated 100 million people globally have had the virus, with another estimated two million deaths. But even with that, we’ve handled this virus better than any previous generation in history. The Spanish Flu resulted in nearly half a billion cases and somewhere between 20-50 million deaths (some studies go as low as 17 million and others as high as 100 million).
Some people have seen those numbers and claimed this virus isn’t a threat, which isn’t true. It is a threat. Our capability at handling a pandemic is far better than any previous generation. The United States has created four different vaccines, many treatments, and a veritable mountain of PPE and other medical equipment to deal with it. Our economy pivoted to remote work and limped along as best as possible. There are elements of our response to this pandemic that aren’t just good. They are miraculous. And all this has happened in only a year.
But that kind of news cuts against the constant drone of doom, gloom, and despair on the left. They can’t believe in good news on COVID-19 to the same extent some on the right can’t accept the election results.
For instance, did you know that new COVID-19 cases are down nearly 20% in the United States in the last week? It’s true. In fact, on January 8, we had a single-day high of new cases of nearly 300,000 in a day; the 7-day average was north of 225,000 a day. Those numbers have collapsed. The averages have fallen to 185,000 a day, and single-day numbers have wholly collapsed, all while testing has surged.
If you go from the January 8, 2021 peak of 292,204 and end with the January 21 total of 184,864, you’ll find a 36.7% decrease in daily new cases. In other words, we’ve slashed new case totals by more than a third. And the only new dynamic that can explain that case decrease: vaccinations.
Here’s how Axios headlined this objectively good news: “New coronavirus cases down, but more bad news ahead.”
I can’t make this up. Growing up, Democrats accused Republicans of fear-mongering over terrorism. The roles on that have utterly reversed. This kind of reporting is nothing more than a fear-porn to allow people to doom-scroll their social media timelines. Liberals and progressives are committed to this mindset, though, and it’s no different than Trump and the election. It’s an act of choosing to see the world differently than it is.
All the Democrats in my social media feeds are mocking that they haven’t noticed that the country has turned into a socialist state with Biden’s election. Well, I can’t find any proof that Trump failed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic like they continually believe. Trump’s response is so good that Biden is adopting it entirely and is mad his team can’t improve on it. The only real policy difference is enacting the DPA to produce more items needed to create vaccines.
If cases have slashed in a third and the United States leads the world in vaccinations, you can’t call that a “dismal failure.” We’re an example to the rest of the world.
In September, I wrote about “toxic progressivism” and how it was infecting every area of society. I bounced off the concept of toxic positivity. What we’re witnessing right now is nothing more than toxic pessimism. People who believe things will only improve if they are obnoxiously pessimistic about everything. Now that Biden has been elected, this will probably lift slightly while the right becomes more cynical.
But these kinds of reactions are just that: reactions. It’s not based on any objective reality. If you believe hard enough, the world is awful. It infects every part of your view. And that’s why, with both the Trump and Biden administrations starting with approximately the same actions, it’s only those internal biases that impact how you view them.
I’d rather remain as grounded as possible in an objective reality with fully formed beliefs grounded in that same reality.
Links of the week
Still Alive: You just keep on trying till you run out of cake – New home of the Slate Star Codex
Biden dresses down his Covid team over plans to speed vaccinations: The president-elect has criticized his Covid coordinator on multiple occasions in front of groups of transition officials. – Politico
On Day One, the Biden White House Dodges on Abortion – National Review
Democrat Gamesmanship on the House Impeachment Article – National Review
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire of the week
Thanks for reading!