COVID-19 and the panic narrative

By Edward Achorn

Many Americans remain terrified of COVID-19. The narrative of panic advanced by much of the news media fuels that feeling. In recent days, the focus has been on skyrocketing numbers of people testing positive for the coronavirus.

But there are very promising signs that the virus is burning itself out. After spiking earlier this year, death totals have fallen steadily — for 11 straight weeks, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control. While every death is sad, the curve reassuringly looks like charts of flu deaths in past years. Deadly viruses tend to strike hard, claim lives, and then mutate and weaken.

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Is it divisive to celebrate America?

By Edward Achorn

Has it become “dark” and “divisive” to celebrate America and honor such icons of freedom as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln?

According to elements of the American news media it has — at least if a politician they detest is doing the celebrating.

“Trump pushes racial division, flouts virus rules at Rushmore,” the Associated Press headlined its coverage of an ostensibly patriotic speech the president delivered at Mount Rushmore Friday night.

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Knavery at universities

By Edward Achorn

It makes me sad, if not anguished, to see liberal values under constant assault on college campuses. Rising totalitarianism, political conformity, and bullying are taking over, with the blessings of administrators who are worried about protecting their own careers. This is occurring, sadly, at our most distinguished institutions.

Administrators and many faculty members are retreating from the thing that once made colleges great: free and fearless intellectual inquiry.

And they are retreating from something else. Common decency.

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Black lives really should matter

By Edward Achorn

Black lives matter, virtually every American believes. Unfortunately, some of the people carrying that banner seem to be advocating policies that have the opposite effect of protecting black lives.

Vast majorities of Americans, thank God, still believe in equal justice under the law, which is the American ideal. Virtually no one wants police officers to bully and kill minorities (or even whites). The outpouring of grief and outrage by Americans across the political spectrum after the death of George Floyd argued that point. They care and want things to be better.

But making the latest act of police brutality emblematic of the American people is not only a gross distortion of reality but a prescription for disaster, including for black Americans.

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China, censorship and Twitter

By Edward Achorn

There are good reasons for Americans to be concerned about the increasing efforts of social media giants to censor or curate political speech.

Along with the First Amendment implications, there is this big concern: These global companies, quite naturally, have financial interests. Those interests do not necessarily coincide with the safety and security of America and its people.

Notably, these corporations have a stake in the massive, expanding market of China. They could conceivably have powerful financial motivations to please that regime.

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A blast of greatness

By Edward Achorn

I needed that: A blast of fresh air, relief from our incessant focus on sickness and ugliness — the coronavirus and the mob violence following an act of police brutality.

I loved this reminder of the greatness that is at the heart of America, and of our profound good fortune to be living here and now.

In an extraordinary private-public partnership, Elon Musk’s SpaceX Saturday launched NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley into space on board the Dragon spacecraft. They are now on board the International Space Station.

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Police brutality and accountability

By Edward Achorn

One of the reasons American history is critically important is that it teaches us how rare and precious civil liberties are.

Many Americans want to dispense with them. They want voices they disagree with to be silenced or constrained. They want government to exercise extra-constitutional powers for months on end to keep us all “safe.” They don’t care when one party uses the powerful apparatus of our nation’s intelligence agencies to spy on the campaign of another party.

But the horrible sight of a white police officer’s knee on the neck of a black man who was restrained and offering no resistance should remind us all of the importance of civil liberties.

It is hard to imagine a more potent symbol of the state’s unjust use of power against the individual.

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Trump, tweets and the truth

By Edward Achorn

President Trump is crude and obnoxious, especially on the Twitter platform. Like many politicians, he says many things that are patently untrue. His propensity for bullying and insulting others disgusts many decent Americans.

But his enemies have turned off people, too.

Their actions have caused Mr. Trump’s base to rally around him, arguably strengthening him politically rather than weakening him. I have often thought Democrats would have been much better off just letting him hang himself.

Now these adversaries are seeking to blunt one of his political weapons, his Twitter account, which has 80.4 million followers.

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Coronavirus facts argue against fears

By Edward Achorn

We are learning that COVID-19, while deadly, is much less deadly than originally feared. Moreover, it cruelly targets the elderly and those with serious health conditions, while tending to leave the young and healthy alone.

Whether the public knows that is another matter.

Rhode Island internist and epidemiologist Andrew Bostom, using the federal Centers for Disease Control’s “most likely case scenario” data  (published on May 21), has calculated that the infection fatality ratio of COVID-19 is 0.20% to 0.27%. The ratio for the 1957-1958 Asian flu was a comparable 0.26%, but nobody dreamed of shutting down the American economy back then.

Citing a British statistical analysis, Dr. Bostom also argues that a child under 15 in the United Kingdom is four times more likely to die from a lightning strike than from COVID-19.

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We didn’t close America in 1957-1958

By Edward Achorn

I was born in 1957. That’s me at the piano — late that year, I think — with my older sisters Susan (middle) and Nancy.

That fall, a deadly flu was tearing through America.

It ended up killing some 116,000 Americans — in a country that, with 170 million people, had about half the population of today’s America.

Even using inflated numbers, about 95,000 have died so far from the coronavirus, by comparison.

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