The Stock Market and the Virus

May 24, 2020 at 2:14 pm

The stock market's response to the coronavirus was the topic of my most recent column. Please check out the full column at the New York Sun ("Why's the Market More Optimistic Than the Experts?"), Reason ("Is the Stock Market's Response to Covid-19 Optimistic or Just Plain Nuts?"), and Newsmax ("Stock Market Bulls Telling Real Story About Recovery").

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Race-Based Distribution of Covid-19 Vaccine?

May 16, 2020 at 9:38 pm

From a New York Times news article headlined "Trump Vows Vaccine by End of Year, and Mobilizes Military to Help":

"If there's only a small amount of vaccine, a million or 100,000 doses, there will be very difficult decisions about who gets the vaccine first," said Dan H. Barouch, the director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a professor at Harvard Medical School who is also working with Johnson & Johnson on its coronavirus vaccine. "Is it high-risk people, different racial groups, different socioeconomic groups? Those discussions will be difficult."

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Newly Popular Houseparty App Is Part-Owned by Chinese Firm

May 13, 2020 at 9:37 pm

Houseparty parent company Epic Games is partially owned by Tencent Holdings Ltd., a company controlled by Chinese government officials, I write in my column this week. Please check out the full column at the New York Sun ("Houseparty Soars Even as U.S. Gets Set To Decouple From China") and Newsmax ("Is That House Party You're Joining China's?").

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Lamont's Lag

May 9, 2020 at 8:44 pm

An "updated May 8, 2020" New York Times infographic headlined "What Is the Real Coronavirus Death Toll in Each State?" reports, toward the end, "there are some places that are so far behind in submitting death certificates to the C.D.C. that comparing their reported totals to historical trends would not show much. In Connecticut, for example, zero deaths have been reported to the federal government at all since February 1."

Who is holding Connecticut's Democratic governor, Ned Lamont, accountable for this failure?

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First Amendment Is Coronavirus Victim

May 7, 2020 at 7:35 pm

Newspaper editorial boards have thrown the First Amendment overboard amid the Covid-19 pandemic, leaving religious leaders and their congregations to fend for themselves, I write in my column this week. Please check out the full column at the New York Sun ("Amid Plague, Press Takes a Powder on Religious Liberty"), Reason ("Prohibiting Religious Services Makes the First Amendment a Coronavirus Victim"), and Newsmax ("First Amendment Falls Victim to Pandemic").

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Any Federal Aid to States Should Come With Conditions

May 6, 2020 at 9:42 pm

Pleas from state governments for aid from Washington are an opportunity for President Trump and Senate Republicans to ask for some reforms in return, I wrote in a recent column. Please read the column in full at the New York Sun ("Art of the Bailout Means Conditions on New York Aid"), Newsmax ("Trump Should Demand Reforms From States Seeking Virus Aid"), and the New Boston Post ("Democratic-Tilting States' Request for Bailout Is Opening for Reform.") The column also generated a nice pickup in a Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial ("Under cover of virus, Dems seek to bail out states"), which concluded:

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New York Times Co. Earnings

May 6, 2020 at 8:47 am

Read between the lines of the New York Times news article about the New York Times Company's latest earnings release and there's some interesting math. The article reports that "At the end of March, The Times had more than five million digital subscribers, a high." It also reports that "For the quarter, the print subscription business brought in $155.4 million for the company, while the digital subscription business accounted for $130 million."

$130 million in digital subscription revenue divided by 5 million subscribers works out to $26 a quarter, or $104 a year. Meanwhile, the same Times article reports, "In February, long-tenured digital subscribers experienced the first increase in the cost of a subscription to the core news product — from $15 to $17 every four weeks — since the establishment of the paywall nine years ago." Seventeen dollars every four weeks is $221 a year. So the average Times "digital subscriber" is paying less than half of what the Times claims is the price of a "core" digital subscription.

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Biden Runs Against Milton Friedman

April 27, 2020 at 7:38 pm

Joe Biden's obsession with Milton Friedman is the topic of my column this week. Please check out the full column at the New York Sun, Newsmax, and Reason.

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Scientists To Stop Covid-19

April 27, 2020 at 12:07 pm

The Wall Street Journal has obtained a document from Scientists to Stop Covid-19, which is a high-powered group of scientists that include a Nobel laureate and a former head of research and development at Merck. I've been of the view that our response to the coronavirus should be informed by science but not dictated entirely by scientists, because many of the judgments involved are not scientific judgments but moral, philosophical, political, and economic value judgments. But in this case, the scientists have a lot of potentially valuable thoughts.

The most interesting section, I thought, was this one:

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What Leadership Looks Like

April 22, 2020 at 9:09 pm

From the April 21 letter by the president of Purdue University, Mitch Daniels, "regarding fall semester":

The global pandemic which has altered every previous reality of daily life has, of course, inflicted great harm on the nation's colleges and universities. American higher education, often criticized for its antiquated ways and its slowness to change them, has improvised and responded with admirable, even amazing alacrity to enable students to finish this semester with the progress they anticipated.

The central question now, assuming governmental authorities permit reopening of our schools by the customary August start dates, is should schools do so, and with what new rules and practices. Purdue University, for its part, intends to accept students on campus in typical numbers this fall, sober about the certain problems that the COVID-19 virus represents, but determined not to surrender helplessly to those difficulties but to tackle and manage them aggressively and creatively.

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April 21, 2020 at 8:45 pm

"It appears that most Covid-19 patients experience relatively mild symptoms and get over the illness in a week or two without treatment." This is from an April 20 New York Times article by Richard Levitan, "an emergency physician in Littleton, N.H.," who "is president of Airway Cam Technologies, a company that teaches courses in intubation and airway management."

Levitan's article recommends more widespread use of pulse oximeters, which we were writing about weeks ago here at

The usual advice to take the risk of this disease seriously and follow the recommended precautions (handwashing, etc.) apply. But sometimes it seems like officials and doctors and editors are so keen to scare people into obeying the public health guidelines that they are reluctant to acknowledge the reality described by Levitan.

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80 Year-Olds at Risk

April 20, 2020 at 8:32 pm

My home state of Massachusetts has started to provide its daily Covid-19 reporting in a new format. The first installment, dated April 20, includes this nifty figure that makes it possible to see at a glance the age distribution of the 1,809 fatalities that Massachusetts has attributed to the coronavirus:

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30 Million U.S. Covid-19 Cases

April 17, 2020 at 8:17 am

Michael Mina, MD, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, assistant professor in immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, tweets "In US Perhaps 30+ MILLION have had #COVID19 virus In NYC, 15% of pregnancies had antibodies A German town had 14% Most asymptomatic...If this is the case, it begins to paint a new path forward for society: If shown to be consistent in additional studies, such high numbers infected would suggest 1) SARS-CoV-2 has a much lower fatality rate than we think (by an order of magnitude or more) 2) Population immunity is already building up Elderly would still remain vulnerable."

He goes on:

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People, Not Politicians, Will Determine When To Reopen

April 17, 2020 at 7:49 am

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10 Million U.S. Coronavirus Cases?

April 12, 2020 at 9:15 pm

Trevor Bedford, a scientist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, tweets: "Estimating total number of infections is difficult without serology...but I'd guess that we're catching between 1 in 10 to 1 in 20 infections as a confirmed case....This would give 5-10 million infections in the US." Since we're at about 22,000 U.S. deaths attributed to Covid-19 (some say that's an undercount because of people dying at home and not being tested or counted, some say it's an overcount because of people dying of other things but testing positive for this virus, but leave that aside for now), the 10 million infections number would mean that the chances of having died of it if you got it are in the neighborhood of two tenths of a percent, or two out of a thousand.

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