Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Pushback against Woke Math

For some strange reason, the headline to the story concerns Lawrence Summers. Former Obama administration official, current Harvard professor Summers, along with hundreds of other professionals, signed a letter opposing the current trend in woke mathematics. 

That is, they oppose the effort to dumb down math education in high school. They are striking back against wokeness and declaring that we should not be punishing children who do better because some children do worse. For those who do not follow what is going on in today’s American schools, it means that the children who excel are invariably Asian. The children who lag are invariably of color.

One understands that the ongoing revolt of suburban mothers against local school boards has less to do with what is being taught-- critical race theory-- and more to do with what is not being taught-- advanced math and science. Children’s minds are being damaged by indoctrination, but they are even more damaged by not learning the math that they need to succeed in most STEM subjects.

The movement to dumb down math instruction, especially to cancel advanced math education, is, according to Summers, a national security crisis. Right he is. We applaud his integrity, as we have had occasion to do before. Clearly, the war against wokeness is not going to be won by conservatives alone. They will need allies from the more liberal academic left.

The Washington Free Beacon reports:

Summers called rigorous math instruction "an economic and a national security imperative," noting that "in China, math standards are not subject to continued erosion by social justice warriors who can't themselves define exponential growth or solve quadratic equations."

And, of course, children in China do not have to suffer the oppressive weight of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s efforts, in Oregon, to fund the degradation of math education.

As for the open letter itself, here are some excerpts, beginning with the fact that advanced math education is vitally important for nearly all of the jobs in tech fields:

We write to express our alarm over recent trends in K-12 mathematics education in the United States. All of us have first-hand experience of the role that clear mathematical thinking has played in advancing information technology and American economic competitiveness. 

Then the authors take out after the California effort to render schoolchildren stupid, but especially to punish the children who are gifted in math.

However, we are deeply concerned about the unintended consequences of recent well-intentioned approaches to reform mathematics education, particularly the California Mathematics Framework (CMF). Such frameworks aim to reduce achievement gaps by limiting the availability of advanced mathematical courses to middle schoolers and beginning high schoolers. While such reforms superficially seem “successful” at reducing disparities at the high school level, they are merely “kicking the can” to college. 

But, can the children who miss out on advanced math in high school still make it up in college? The signatories say that they can, but surely that depends on how far behind the children are. Even if they can, still they will need to work harder and will need to sacrifice in order to make up their deficit:

While it is possible to succeed in STEM at college without taking advanced courses in high school, it is more challenging. College students who need to spend their early years taking introductory math courses may require more time to graduate. They may need to give up other opportunities and are more likely to struggle academically. Such a reform would disadvantage K-12 public school students in the United States compared with their international and private-school peers. It may lead to a de facto privatization of advanced mathematics K-12 education and disproportionately harm students with fewer resources.

And they are alarmed by the trend away from teaching algebra and calculus, in favor of the squishy data science. Evidently, this new discovery dumbs down the curriculum to make the dumb children feel better. And yet, it deprives the smarter children of the chance to excel:

Another deeply worrisome trend is devaluing essential mathematical tools such as calculus and algebra in favor of seemingly more modern “data science.” As STEM professionals and educators we should be sympathetic to this approach, and yet, we reject it wholeheartedly. The ability to gather and analyze massive amounts of data is indeed transforming our society. But “data science” - computer science, statistics, and artificial intelligence- is built on the foundations of algebra, calculus, and logical thinking. While these mathematical fields are centuries old and sometimes more, they are arguably even more critical for today’s grand challenges than in the Sputnik era.

Yes, indeed. American educators are hard at work dumbing down America’s children. And they have probably been doing so for years now. It is not an accident that most of the employees of Silicon Valley firms grew up in Asia.

Finally, K-12 math curriculum development cannot be disconnected from one of its most important end goals: Preparing students for success in college-level STEM education and a STEM career. As educators in public and private institutions, and working professionals in the technology industry, we have a first-hand understanding of the skills needed for this goal. While the US K-12 system has much to improve, the current trends will instead take us further back. Reducing access to advanced mathematics and elevating trendy but shallow courses over foundational skills would cause lasting damage to STEM education in the country and exacerbate inequality by diminishing access to the skills needed for social mobility.

There you have it. Voices crying out in the wilderness. They are sounding an alarm about the educators who have chosen to sabotage the country’s future in order to promote their own ideological agenda. Hopefully, they are not too late.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The Post-Work Society

Naturally, the seers among us like to ponder our future. Yesterday, Joel Kotkin, an interesting thinker on such matters, offered some reflections about the arrival of the post-work society. (via Maggie’s Farm) He opens ominously with a quotation from Martin Luther King, Jr.

If a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists.

From there Kotkin advances the notion that we may be entering an epoch where only a select few work, but where most people become wards of the state, receiving a universal basic income and the means of subsistence.

As for what they would do with their time, he seems not to have pondered the question. We might suggest that the workless masses might very well form organized criminal gangs, the better to steal the higher priced items that their universal basic income does not allow them to afford. 

If you think that these huddled masses are going to sit idly by while their betters indulge all manner of decadent overpriced luxuries, you are living in a dream. 

Of course, Kotkin is keying off of the fact that large numbers of Americans, laid off or resigning during the pandemic lockdowns, seem not to want to go back to work. The worker shortage has been dubbed the Great Resignation, and surely it is concerning.

And yet, among the reasons, Kotkin points out, is the fact that today’s young Americans, and even today’s not-so-young Americans cannot do many of the tech jobs now on offer. 

Consider this point:

Many of these problems are of our own making. Pundits have long been predicting the demise of factory jobs, and by now, according to Rifkin, factories should be “near workerless.” Yet as automation kicks in, American factory managers increasingly complain of a distressing lack of skilled workers. Due to an aging workforce, as many as 600,000 new manufacturing jobs are expected to be generated this decade which cannot be filled. The current shortage of welders could grow to 400,000 by 2024. Amid a mild recovery in the US, by May, an estimated 500,000 manufacturing jobs were left unfilled.

We have been keeping you abreast about these developments on this blog. We all like to complain about the jobs that have been flying out of the country, but we rarely note the fact that our educational system and our family structure is not producing enough skilled workers. You know well that a school system that wants to produce more social justice warriors is not going to be producing welders or even people who can manage automated factories.

By contrast, China is. Note well the observation by Apple CEO Tim Cook about America’s ability to produce tooling engineers:

In contrast, our non-Western competitors, notably China, are building a skilled workforce that can operate sophisticated automated facilities. As a report from American Compass noted, “Only five percent of American college students major in engineering, compared with 33 percent in China; as of 2016, China graduated 4.7 million STEM students versus 568,000 in the United States, as well as six times as many students with engineering and computer science bachelor’s degrees.” Meanwhile, in the US, Apple CEO Tim Cook has observed, “you could have a meeting of tooling engineers and I’m not sure we could fill the room. In China, you could fill multiple football fields.” This helps explain why the company maintains virtually all its production in the Middle Kingdom.

You can blame this on politics, but there is more to life than politics.

Anyway, while Asian countries are producing the workers of the future, Western societies are eliminating manufacturing and industrial jobs. You might consider this to be a good thing, good for the environment, that is, but surely it does not bode well for America’s future.

While Asian countries are focusing on future work, Western societies seem determined to eliminate gainful employment for blue-collar and middle-management workers. Many jobs that could support families have disappeared, and most new opportunities tend to be low-wage service work. One widely cited reason for the recent labor shortages relates to a post-pandemic reluctance to accept low wages, including those in the “gig” economy, where pay and hours are often uncertain.

In short, we are creating jobs in service areas, from restaurant servers to household help. But these are low paying. It is not easy to support a family on dishwasher wages.

Some low-paid workers have also found state support during the pandemic to be, in some cases, more profitable than work, and a way to remove the risks associated with crowded offices and public transport.

Yet, although the pandemic was the trigger for this withdrawal, high levels of public welfare delinked from work have also been associated with the persistently high unemployment that has plagued countries such as Italy and Spain.

Not everyone sees mass idleness as an unalloyed negative. “Post-work” fits neatly with the de-growth philosophy pushed by climate activists today. This notion seeks to ratchet down consumption among the masses by reducing the size of homes, cars, air travel, and air conditioning.

Particularly hard-hit would be millions of working-class people, particularly those in well-paying manufacturing, construction, and energy jobs. UBI would provide the basics for a properly austere ecological lifestyle.

Again, the post-work society would resemble something like a return to the state of nature. Less production means less pollution. Less pollution means a greener planet-- or so people believe.

De-industrialization means depending on foreign countries for our basic needs. Have you noticed that we are now facing a shortage of pharmaceuticals? I trust you understand that we import something like 90% of our pharmaceuticals from the Middle Kingdom-- point that tells us that no matter how much we enjoy the sport of China bashing, it is not necessarily a great idea to trash your major pharmaceutical supplier.

As for environmentally friendly lower emissions standards, they are de-industrializing the West while allowing Asia, especially India and China to corner the market and to force us into dependency:

By the time China, India, and other developing countries have to embrace lower emissions, likely with nuclear power, the largely self-driven de-industrialization of the West will likely be all but complete.

So, Kotkin asks whether we should institute a universal basic income, a UBI, even if it required everyone, including the middle class to pay higher taxes. One might note, as Kotkin did not, that UBI will be especially attractive to the hordes that are currently invading the nation over our Southern border:

In our era, a broad-based UBI would necessitate high taxes, particularly on the already beleaguered middle class. The question will then be who gets what and who pays? Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s campaign was built around UBI, and his plan was estimated to cost around $2.8 trillion annually, paid for by a national value added tax, and higher capital and social security taxes. But some on the Left see even UBI as inadequate, and seek to seize tech wealth and commandeer their technology to create “fully automated luxury communism”—a leisure society paid for by Apple and its counterparts.

Unsurprisingly, much kneejerk opposition to UBI comes from the Right. But Damon Linker, a liberal writing for the Week, describes UBI as the road to “spiritual ruin,” particularly for those most dependent on it. Some on the Left even see it as the construct of a neoliberal “income scam” to hasten the end of productive work and upward mobility. Most voters, according to an October Morning Consult poll, also oppose permanent income supports. Yet Democratic strategists realize that such largesse, once offered, will be likely accepted by recipients and so want to continue it ad infinitum.

UBI, dare we say, infantilizes people. It deprives them of the dignity that they gain from a job well done. People thus infantilized will either need to be controlled by a police state or else they will rebel against their condition.

In many ways, the post-work society will be decadent and demoralizing.

The alternative system, particularly under the de-growth regime, offers a different prospective future. This society may be secure in the basics, but it will be parasitic and stagnant, much like the last centuries of the Roman Empire or the Ch’ing Dynasty. It is a society in which young people can look forward to subsidized schooling, housing, and perhaps part-time work, but may never buy a house, raise a family, or start a significant business.

In short, for reasons that differ slightly from mine, Kotkin explains why the post-work society is a formula for civilizational decline.

In a post-work world, the whole diverse character of our lives—the last remaining vestiges of autonomy—would disappear. It may be true that artificial intelligence will deliver goods and services efficiently, but would they be able to provide personalized service, or allow for human creativity? We may exist in a digital age, but the analog is where we live, and without it our lives will be very bleak indeed—our democracy will be functionally dead as we go from contributors to permanent dependents. In our understandable desire to eliminate poverty and raise basic living standards, we need not embrace a system that turns most people into quiescent drones. The price of security must not be a new and cushy kind of slavery.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Overcoming Trauma

Today in the Wall Street Journal Carol Tavris has reviewed the latest in psychological resilience theory. I myself posted on George Bonanno’s book two months ago, so I will not go back over the major points.

I merely wish to extract a paragraph from the Tavris review. In it she notes that most people recover from trauma without therapy. The point is often ignored, but it deserves to be emphasized:

For decades, Mr. Bonanno has studied the side of trauma usually blocked from public view: the repeatedly validated discovery that the great majority of people who undergo a traumatic experience—9/11, devastating grief, violent encounters, natural disasters—recover over time, without therapy. They certainly have short-term distress, and this makes them feel frightened and vulnerable, but over time these strong emotions subside. These individuals, by definition, are not seen by therapists, who thus incorrectly conclude that where there is grief, trauma and loss, almost everyone will need help to recover. Therapists are blind to the default human response: resilience.

Of course, one might ask whether therapists have a vested interest in downplaying the role of resilience. One might ask whether they insist that the human mind can never heal from trauma without therapy because they have an interest in making people into permanent patients. 

In a way, that’s what this blog is all about.

Adopting or Rejecting Cultural Norms

The key here is conformity. To what extent should employees follow a dress code? To what extent should they adopt the customs and norms of their teammates? If they do not, should other people think less of them and think of them as being less competent.

The research is interesting, and worth notice. It has shown that when black employees adopt the "white" norms that pertain in a workplace, they are generally perceived as more professional. It shows that when black employees fail to conform to the cultural norms of the workplace, they are perceived to be less professional.

A new study suggests that Black employees who adjust their styles of speech, name selection, and hairstyles to mirror White norms are perceived as more professional in the workplace. The findings come from a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

The United States’ deep history of racism and the domination of White people in professional settings has led to a bias against Black individuals in the workplace. With Whiteness being associated with professionalism, Black employees are perceived as less competent when presenting with physical characteristics and speech patterns that are associated with Blackness.

One might conclude, however, that race is not really at issue here. The same black person, with or without, for example, dreadlocks will be perceived differently. Failing to adhere to culture norms suggests a refusal to fit in to the culture. If soldiers joining a military organization choose not to wear the uniform, not to follow the grooming codes, they are normally not perceived to belong to the group.

One also notes two points. First, the recent BLM protest movements, accompanied with the smash and grab crime sprees in major blue cities have damaged the reputations of black people. This is more true since black community leaders and black politicians have tended to defend the rioters and looters. Ergo, they have suggested that such is acceptable behavior within the community. This caused significant reputational damage. To imagine that this does not play itself our in everyday business relationships is naive.

Second, the current mania about diversity, inclusion and equity-- i.e. DIE-- has created the impression, noted by Shelby Steele some two decades ago, that black employees were hired for reasons that had more to do with DIE and less to do with competence.

If a black person shows up to work dressed like a gang banger or even with dreadlocks down to his waist, people are going to conclude that he is less committed to the job. And they are likely to treat him accordingly. Cultural habits associated with people of a lower social class are easily recognized. The reason is that members of that class have not built world class organizations by adopting said cultural habits.

Unfortunately, the dummies who did the research blamed it all on racism. Since changing one’s cultural habits does not change one’s race, this is obviously nonsense. And besides, there are many other races that run companies in this world.

If they were largely run by members of a certain ethnic group, perhaps this tells us that certain cultural habits are more conducive to professional success. If your clients think of your staff as less professional because they are dressed in costume, don’t they have the right to draw whatever judgments they wish? If your apparently bizarre dress costs you customers or distracts from the work, shouldn't people notice?

This means that dress codes and cultural norms associated with a successful enterprise tend to be admired more than dress codes and cultural norms that were not associated with a successful enterprise. This is not rocket science. If you were brought up in a neighborhood where the dress code was casual, and you advance into company where the dress code is more formal, shouldn't you be happy to adopt the new way of dressing.

And yet, the researchers recommend that companies change their culture in order to accommodate people who are not interested in conforming to their norms. This will most likely be bad for business. And it might easily cause a certain amount of self-segregation within the workplace.

“Although all employees may behave more professionally at work compared to more casual settings, individuals from stigmatized racial groups may feel a disproportionate pressure to conceal significant cultural aspects of themselves to minimize stereotyping ascribed to their social identities,” McCluney and her team say. This racial codeswitching requires marginalized groups to “suppress their cultural identity”, a burden that is mentally and emotionally taxing and likely reinforces the association between Whiteness and professionalism.

The association was not imposed by a criminal enterprise. It grew up because companies that succeeded in the market have tended to adopt certain cultural norms.

The researchers are having none of it. Since they know nothing about corporate cultures, they recommend policies that will decrease deficiency and that will marginalize members of certain groups.

“In light of our research, we recommend that companies expand or redefine what constitutes professionalism so that it encompasses a range of cultural norms, behaviors, and values,” the authors report. “Similarly, employees who wish to build authentic relationships with their Black colleagues may need to turn inward and examine if they deem behaviors not aligned with White norms to be unprofessional.”

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Last Call

Today is the last day of my weeklong fundraising campaign. Of course, you should feel free to donate to the blog at any time in any way. Today is the last time I am going to post about the campaign this year. 

As always, I thank those who have contributed, and even those who will contribute. If I have your email address I will be sending out a thank you note. 

You can contribute by clicking on the orange Donate button, on the left side of this page. The folks at Paypal will help you to contribute as much as you would like. You can make a one time holiday contribution or a monthly contribution.

And, you can also contribute by doing your Christmas shopping at Amazon. If you enter the Amazon site by clicking the Amazon ad at the left of this page, a percentage of each purchase price will be credited to your humble blogger. Thus, you can support the blog-- at no extra cost.

If you do not wish to use Paypal, I gratefully accept checks or cash sent to my address:

            310 East 46th St. 24H

            New York, NY   10017

The American Family is Broken

The American family is broken. One cannot draw another conclusion from the Census Bureau’s recent report. If you want to know how many children are living in homes with married parents, the answer is 17.8 percent. More than 80% of American children grow up in, as is most likely, fatherless homes.

As a basis for comparison, five decades ago, which means, at the time that contemporary feminism began to infiltrate American culture, 40% of children were living with married parents.

The Daily Mail has the story, as does Bloomberg. To my knowledge the mainstream media has ignored it:

The Census Bureau's count showed that 17.8 percent of the United States' 130 million households featured married parents with children under the age of 18. 

That's only down from 18.6 percent from last year but down much more significantly from over 40 percent in 1970.

All things considered, blaming it on the pandemic is ridiculous.

One other data point is striking. If you want ask what percentage of Americans are living with a spouse, the number is 50%. In 1960 the number was 87%.

Americans are also living alone at a higher rate than they used to.

The percentage of adults in the US living with a spouse was 50 percent, down from 52 percent 10 years ago.   

Over 37 million adults lived alone in early 2021, up from 33 million in 2011. 

As far back as 1960, 87 percent of adults lived with a spouse. 

For your edification the statistics come to us from the U. S. Census Bureau:

The statistics come from the 2021 Current Population Survey’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC), which collects labor force data as well as data on a variety of characteristics of households, living arrangements, married and unmarried couples and children. 

The statistics tell a story. The question is: what story do they tell? The easy answer is that they reflect the triumph of feminism. Feminists denounced marriage as a patriarchal institution, and decided that they wanted to remake it. Those would have been the best of cases. In truth, feminists exercised their awesome powers and broke the institution.

They also, apparently, broke American men.

Such is the conclusion reached by one Liza Featherstone in a New York Times article yesterday. She was complaining about Josh Hawley, who has been arguing that America is suffering a masculinity crisis. 

She explains:

Deindustrialization has stripped many men of their ability to earn a decent wage, as well as of the pride they once took in contributing to prosperous communities. Boys are sometimes overdisciplined and overmedicated for not conforming to behavioral expectations in school. And while more women than men are diagnosed with anxiety or depression, men are more likely to commit suicide or die of drug overdoses.

Fair enough. Given the war against men and boys, documented by Christina Hoff Summers, among others, one should not be surprised that the feminization of American culture should have beaten down boys and men. Naturally, Featherstone is seriously discomfited by manifestations of male machismo, but she does not know that machismo is a sign of female dominant cultures. When men are deprived of their ability to support their families and even to win wars, they resort to macho posturing.

But then, Featherstone trots out a piece of complete and utter stupidity. She writes:

None of these problems are caused by liberals. But liberalism hasn’t offered a positive message for men lately. In the media, universities and other liberal institutions, it sometimes seems that every man is potentially guilty of something. 

This sums up the problem. A dumb journalist cannot imagine that the war on men, the sense that men are demonized on a daily, even an hourly basis by the political left, and especially by feminists, should not have had a decisive role in producing this problem. For quite some time now schoolteachers have been beating boys into submission and have been glorifying girls. The result-- boys no longer want to pursue advanced education; boys do not want to compete in a game that is rigged against them. So you end up reading dumbed down articles by inferior writers like Liza Featherstone in the N Y Times.

As you might imagine, Featherstone believes that the solution lies in more government spending on more public programs. For certain people the government, the Nanny state, is always the solution. Rather than encourage initiative, rather than extol men for their achievements, Featherstone wants to make them wards of the state.

Tell me, how did she get to write this kind of swill for the New York Times? Might it not be a good thing to judge people according to their abilities, not according to their DNA?

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Three Blind Mice Led America's Covid Response

We do not know exactly what went on during the Trump administration when the coronavirus pandemic arrived in America. We have some vague sense that the government response was botched, but we do not know the details. And we do not know who was responsible.

Scott Atlas has now written a book telling us what was happening within the administration. In it he describes how a troika, who he calls three blind mice, Drs. Fauci, Birx and Redfield took over policy and largely did a very poor job. He is especially critical of Dr. Birx, an incompetent bureaucrat who had outsized influence. Whether she had a political agenda or wanted to cover up her own incompetence, she was the person most responsible for the failed policies.

Since none of the three paid any attention to him, Altas might be considered to be somewhat biased. Still, he is qualified to comment on what was happening in the White House. He

places the lion’s share of the blame with Trump administration officials who failed to fire the three. 

Now, as a prelude to reading Atlas’s book, we report on John Tierney’s review from the City Journal. Tierney himself has been following the story for some time now, and he has proved to be a reliable source.

At the least, Atlas was qualified in the science. Strangely, it did not matter to the three blind mice, whose motives seem to have been less than pure:

How could public officials vowing to “follow the science” on Covid-19 persist in promoting ineffective strategies with terrible consequences? In a memoir of his time on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Scott W. Atlas provides an answer: because the nation’s governance was hijacked by three bureaucrats with scant interest in scientific research or debate—and no concern for the calamitous effects of their edicts.

Atlas’s book, A Plague Upon Our House, is an astonishing read, even for those who have been closely following this disaster. A veteran medical researcher and health-policy analyst at the Hoover Institution, Atlas, a radiologist, joined the Task Force six months into the pandemic, after he had published estimates that lockdowns could ultimately prove more deadly than Covid.

As for the question of mask mandates, the troika promoted them relentlessly even though the “scientific” evidence was sketchy, if not inconclusive. More importantly, the troika never considered the harm imposed on people by the lockdowns, the social distancing and the mask mandates:

Instead, the troika of bureaucrats obsessed over Birx’s charts showing how many Covid tests had been administered and what percentage were positive. They proclaimed success for their strategies when infections started to wane in states like New York and Arizona—never mind that the downward trends began before the lockdowns and mask mandates were imposed. They ignored inconvenient data, like the chart that Atlas reproduces comparing the rates of Covid cases in states with and without mask mandates: the two curves remained virtually identical throughout the pandemic. “The doctors in the Task Force showed no study about mask efficacy or any other of their policies, and they never once mentioned the harms of the lockdowns that I witnessed,” Atlas says. “Their sole focus was stopping cases, even when their policies were already implemented and were failing to do so.”

As we have reported on this blog, the question of collateral damage should have been front and center. In the end it was ignored:

It may seem incredible that the troika would violate a fundamental principle of public health by ignoring the devasting collateral damage of their policies, yet they never even pretended to conduct a cost-benefit analysis. “Perhaps the most remarkable insight in the Fauci email trove,” Atlas notes, referring to the thousands of emails from Fauci that were made public, is “the total lack of mention of harms from the lockdown throughout the pandemic.”

As for the notion that the science had affirmed the value of lockdowns, Atlas reports that such was simply not the case:

The troika also ignored dozens of studies showing the ineffectiveness of lockdowns, and the data showing that places that avoided lockdowns, like Florida and Sweden, did as well as or better than average in preventing Covid deaths. “I never fully understood why there was no admission, even internally by the Task Force, that the Birx-Fauci strategy did not work,” Atlas writes, concluding that it wasn’t simply because the media was eager to champion anyone who questioned President Donald Trump’s desire to reopen schools and businesses. “Disagreeing with Trump, especially in this election year, ensured near idolatry on cable TV and in the New York Times or Washington Post. But I never thought politics was the main driver of those on the Task Force. Perhaps it was an unstated fear that they were in way too deep to admit their errors.”

If Trump wanted to open schools and businesses, that was taken as proof that we should not open schools and businesses. As for the damage that the policy would visit on the nation, not a word. The response from the troika was that Atlas was not an epidemiologist:

Fauci, Birx, and Redfield were not epidemiologists, either, but they were enshrined as “the science” because they provided what mainstream journalists craved: scare stories that boosted ratings and made Trump look bad.

2020 was an election year. And journalists had only one thing in mind-- spinning the story to ensure that Trump would lose. The constant barrage of media attacks had had an effect on Trump, seeming to make it impossible for him to fire the three blind mice. In the end Atlas holds Trump accountable for the lockdowns. He was in charge, and he certainly knew how to fire people.

The politician who comes off best is Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who had, Atlas observes, “a far more detailed understanding of the pandemic than anyone I had encountered in the Task Force.” Trump comes off fairly well, too, in his conversations with Atlas, as he frets about the harms of the lockdowns and instinctively recognizes the futility of the troika’s strategies. But Atlas lays the ultimate blame for the lockdowns—“a crime against humanity”—on Trump himself, because he allowed Birx and her allies to remain in charge. “This president, widely known for his signature ‘You’re fired!’ declaration, was misled by his closest political intimates,” Atlas writes. “All for fear of what was inevitable anyway—skewering from an already hostile media.”