For Those of You Who Came from the Star Tribune Ad

By March 27, 2020 Commentary

I assume a number of readers are here because of an ad that was run in the Star Tribune.  I am very happy to have you here.  I hope you will find the information and analysis helpful.  The ad you read is not the ad I submitted originally.  The Star Tribune, with no real explanation ever given, refused to run the original ad.  Since the language I changed in a resubmission was almost exclusively related to the current Governor of Minnesota, and potentially other politicians, I can only speculate, and it is speculation, that the paper is determined to protect that official from any criticism, which would be consistent with the general editorial and news coverage approach of the paper.  That does not seem to me to be an appropriate role for a large community newspaper.

So here I will give you a sense of the deleted portion of the ad, which I had already toned down from my actual feelings, which likely was just as well, since emotion and vituperation seldom adds light to any discussion.  I expressed my concern that the Governor was acting initially out of fear that people might say he didn’t take every possible step to save even one life; and that he was not adequately weighing the harms incurred by the vastly greater number of Minnesotans who would lose their jobs, with all the ancillary damage that flow from such an event.

Since then, the Governor has entered an even more restrictive lockdown order.  In this case, I felt very strongly about the scare tactics used, which included reliance on a supposed model which showed that 50% of Minnesotans would become infected and 74,000 die.  There is no basis, no basis at all for those numbers.  The only report providing anything like those numbers has been widely discredited by numerous subsequent analyses, largely because the assumptions in the model don’t at all reflect real world experience.  In fact, they overstate actual most likely outcomes by a very large margin.  One example is that no testing regimen in the US is coming up with positive results of even 15% and most are far lower.  And that is off a self-selected population much more likely to have positive results.   So the suggestion that 50% of Minnesotans might become infected is simply absurd.  And if you go back to an earlier post, you will realize that if the infection rate is that out of whack, everything thereafter is also widely off the mark, including death rates.

So why use such inflated and inflammatory information.  The most charitable interpretation is that there was a belief that it was necessary to scare people to ensure that they comply with the lockdown measures.  Of course that is somewhat circular reasoning, because if the risk is actually low, why do you need to scare people?  A much more likely interpretation, the Governor being a politician, is that there was no downside to using unsupportably large numbers.  If it turns out that the true number is much lower, well it must be due to the Governor’s lockdown.  And promulgating those numbers allows the justification of the measures which had already been taken and which were beginning to incur some significant blowback due to the adverse economic effects.

Of course, you will see no attempt to critique the accuracy of the numbers used or to examine the Governor’s possible motivations in the Star Tribune.

Remember this moment in time.  Remember what the information shows the true likely risk is.  And don’t be fooled when later the Governor tries to pat himself on the back for the great job he did in saving a large number of lives. Those lives were never at risk in the first place.

And I would like the Governor, when he is done congratulating himself for saving lives, to go in person to every Minnesotan who has lost a job, now over 300,000 of them, and hear the story of what happened to them.  And I want him to look each one of those people in the eye and say “I take credit for all of that too.”

Let me know if you ever see that happen.


ps.  I would advise you to read the coronavirus posts somewhat in order, from the bottom of the page, or oldest, up.

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