If All Lives Have Equal Value, why does Bill Gates support shutting down the U.S. economy?

The Gates Foundation‘s main message is “All Lives Have Equal Value” (secondary message: send $billions in Microsoft profits over to Africa without it ever being taxed!).

Bill Gates is a righteous opponent of Donald Trump’s hopes to reopen the U.S. economy. From The Hill:

Asked about suggestions being floated in the U.S. about relaxing social distancing measures to avoid severe economic damage, Gates said there is “no middle ground” between the virus and the cost to businesses.

Gates, who did not mention Trump in the interview, said that “it’s very irresponsible for somebody to suggest that we can have the best of both worlds.”

Are these positions consistent? If some of the most pessimistic epidemiologists are correct, shutting down the U.S. economy might save a few hundred thousand American lives. For this to be true, the virus has to thrive in hot/humid weather, the Army Corps of Engineers has to be incompetent at setting up field hospitals, all drug therapy attempts have to fail, etc. But maybe all of those worst-case assumptions will be correct.

For every saved American, though, aren’t we guaranteed to cause more than one death in a poor country? The U.S. is 15 percent of the world economy. Our shutdown is going to make us poorer so we’ll buy less from the world’s poorest countries. People in those poorest of countries who were at a subsistence standard of living in 2019 are going to be without sufficient funds for food, shelter, and medicine in 2020. Even citizens of medium-income countries, e.g., those who work in industries that are tied to trade with the U.S., might be unable to afford previously affordable life-saving medical interventions.

So if Bill Gates actually believes that All Lives Have Equal Value, shouldn’t he be saying “keep the the U.S. economy open, sweep up any dead bodies, and keep buying stuff from countries where they desperately need the cash”?

[Update, 4/9: I have supplied this post to friends on Facebook who are most zealous regarding “savings lives” via a U.S. economic shutdown. Although in pre-plague times these same people were generally huge advocates for “thinking globally” and advocating for the vulnerable anywhere on Earth, they are hostile and confused when told that their shutdown might be an inconvenience or worse for someone in another country. It has proven to be an interesting window into the logic of the American Righteous. Planet Earth is exquisitely interconnected such that bringing a reusable shopping bag to the Columbus Circle Whole Foods will stop global warming and thus keep the seas from inundating Jakarta. On the other hand, we can stop trading with a country where people are living on $2/day and there will be no adverse consequences for those people.]


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Book on the evils of settler colonialism…

… offered for sale on land once owned by Native Americans who were dispossessed by settler colonialism. From the window of the Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, Massachusetts:

Where has the author, Rashid Khalidi, settled? Wikipedia says he’s a professor at Columbia, so presumably he is living on what was, until recently, Native American land (in case you want to argue that Manhattan was purchased, that’s also true of much land in present-day Israel).

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Wall Street billionaire thinks Hillary Clinton was going to deliver precisely the correct amount of social justice

Lloyd Blankfein, who amassed a fortune of more than $1 billion while working at Goldman Sachs, was a supporter of Hillary Clinton, and therefore justice, back in 2016 (Business Insider). It made sense to Mr. Blankfein to have higher income tax rates, at least for individuals and corporations that did not push activities offshore (with help from Goldman?), to fund a larger welfare state.

If helping 50 percent of Americans with fatter government paychecks and welfare checks (Hillary) is good, then helping 80 percent (Bernie) has to be better, right?

Wrong! Apparently one can have too much social justice. “Bernie Sanders Would ‘Ruin Our Economy,’ Says Ex-Goldman Sachs Boss” (NYT, February 12):

Lloyd Blankfein warned on Twitter that Mr. Sanders was “just as polarizing” as President Trump.

Bernie Sanders has proposed a wealth tax on the richest Americans, blasted big businesses for turning huge profits while paying little in taxes and said he believed billionaires should not exist.

“If I’m Russian, I go with Sanders this time around,” he wrote, referencing that country’s efforts to support Mr. Trump in 2016.

(i.e., to discourage working class Americans from referring to The International Jew, a Wall Street billionaire Jew says that U.S. election outcomes are determined from a foreign capital; nobody would ever make the leap in reasoning from “The most important things in the U.S. are controlled by Putin and his buddies” to ” The most important things in the U.S. are controlled by international Jewish financiers”)


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Middle class Californians pay for all Tesla owners’ electricity

“Top Seventeen Surprises From The First Year Of Driving A Tesla EV” (Forbes):

I was amazed when my electricity bill went down after I got the car, rather than up. This is because in California, EV owners get access to a special electricity pricing plan that is much cheaper at night and more expensive in the afternoons. Charging the car at night is of course a win, but I also moved things like pumping the pool to the night, and so the overall bill dropped. And of course my gasoline bill went to zero for this car.

In other words, Californians who struggle to pay rising rents and afford a 10-year-old Ford Focus pay the rich guy’s electric bill, at least for his Tesla and also for part of the pool pump. What better way to fight inequality?

(In Massachusetts, no similar deal is available and thus it costs about the same to buy “fuel” for Tesla, per mile, as it does to fuel an efficient gasoline-powered car of the same size.)

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Brookline Public Schools approve a book about aviation

Good news and bad news for a friend’s 12-year-old…

Bad: he was sentenced to read a book by his teachers in the Brookline (Massachusetts) Public Schools.

Good: One of the choices was on an aviation theme. Maybe this won’t be a painful distraction from video games and learning about technology. Perhaps it will be Fate is the Hunter?

Reality: the assigned book, Fly Girl, turns out to be more about skin color than aviation.

From the Amazon page:

All Ida Mae Jones wants to do is fly. Her daddy was a pilot, and years after his death she feels closest to him when she’s in the air. But as a young black woman in 1940s Louisiana, she knows the sky is off limits to her, until America enters World War II, and the Army forms the WASP-Women Airforce Service Pilots. Ida has a chance to fulfill her dream if she’s willing to use her light skin to pass as a white girl. She wants to fly more than anything, but Ida soon learns that denying one’s self and family is a heavy burden, and ultimately it’s not what you do but who you are that’s most important.


  • Bessie Coleman, a non-fictional pilot who identified as a black female
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Advocacy for women is a sign of racism?

Emailed to me by the MIT Powers that Be… “Women in mathematics aim for an equal sign” (MIT School of Science news):

“It is crucial to recruit and attract more women at all levels in the department, but also that more of our women math majors consider going into graduate school in mathematics,” says Michel Goemans, department head and professor of mathematics. “Last year only 13 percent of our graduate applicants were women, and this is clearly not enough. The department is happy to support the activities of the MIT Women in Mathematics, and this group helps create a vibrant, supportive community in which more and more female students might pursue or continue a career in mathematics.”

[Let’s ignore the issue of whether this say-gooder is guilty of promoting gender binarism. Let’s also ignore the issue of why the say-gooder does not use MIT’s massive endowment to become a “do-gooder” and hire the women that he/she/ze/they says he/she/ze/they wants to hire.]

I wonder if the focus on female victimhood is a sign of antipathy toward mathematicians of color. Why not focus on the underrepresentation of black and Hispanic mathematicians, for example? Could the motivation be that the white/Asian mathematicians would rather share an office with a white woman from a wealthy family than share with an African-American from the ghetto?

Advocating for “women” is less likely to expose the advocate to ridicule for not having any friends or relatives who are in the featured victim class. Since even the most hidebound human who identifies as a “man” is likely to have a mother and/or sister, there won’t be the awkward search for a friend of color with whom to attend Black Panther and get a selfie.

The article is also fun for revealing the existence of gender traitors:

Staffilani recalls that when she invited female mathematicians to speak with MIT women, sometimes the offer was declined. Invited academics preferred to be seen as “mathematicians” rather than be singled out as “female mathematicians,” separate from men. It’s a dilemma Staffilani says she understands; gaining extra notice as a woman — or any underrepresented group in a particular field — doesn’t feel like “equality,” she says. … she was surprised when a female physicist asked the room, “Why do we want diversity?”

Speaker of diversity, let’s have a look at the folks MIT has selected to teach subjects featured on the “Women’s Studies” poster board in the Infinite Corridor (if you visit the teachers’ biographical pages, you’ll find them referred to using “her” and “she” as pronouns):

Another initiative of the Women and Gender Studies Department:

Within the same poster board, some tips on organizing your bookshelf:

Nearby, a poster remembering MIT’s most famous donor:

There is room in the Infinite Corridor to provide the biography of one MIT graduate:

(See also “RPI alumni stop donating amid concerns over leadership, campus climate” (2018) and “America’s Highest Paid College President is Dragging Her School Into Crippling Debt” (2014).)

Unrelated… a poster regarding procrastination:


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Californian takes in a homeless couple

Whenever someone tries to get me to share his/her/zir/their enthusiasm for helping migrants, I offer to pay all of the expenses to bring a migrant to the say-gooder’s house. So far, this hasn’t cost me anything, but apparently sometimes this kind of offer is accepted.

“They were homeless. I took them in. Would you?” (Los Angeles Times):

This June, I participated in Safe Place for Youth’s Host Home Program, short-term “interventions” for unhoused young people, ages 18 to 24. In December, stuck in L.A. traffic, my ears had pricked up. Marlene and Michael Rapkin were on the radio describing an inspiring three months they’d spent as two of Safe Place’s initial cadre of hosts.

“Welcoming the stranger” is one of my core Jewish values, and I’d helped with the annual homeless count.

[See “White men correctly perceive American Jews as their enemies?” for my take on this last expressed statement.]

But could I take in someone off the street? What with a recent divorce, my kid’s stint in rehab and college expenses, I’d been renting out a guest bedroom to make my monthly nut. But when a tenant canceled, and I learned that Safe Space offered a small stipend to offset hosts’ household expenses, I challenged myself to “walk the walk” of my social justice values.

If she is enticed by the “small stipend” handed out by the homeless industry, this divorcée perhaps should have planned her foray into California family law more carefully…

I offered to house any of the youths I’d met except that heavily tattooed couple. She had the word “cured” in bold block lettering on one cheek and “More Love” above her brow; his forehead read “Less Hate”; alas, a skater beanie obscured “Less.” … Then I learned that Keyawna and Jesse had been living — sweltering — in their 2008 Kia. I’ve complained that my marriage broke up because my spouse and I shared a bathroom.

How much do multi-color tattoos over a substantial portion of a human body cost? Would the homeless couple have had a decent nest egg if they’d stuck with their factory skin color?

But if the city can’t accommodate artists from economically diverse backgrounds, then only the privileged will get to create. I was also certain face tats were job killers, until Keyawna explained that they fit their “brand,” and most were Jesse’s designs. He’s a visual artist; she’s an aspiring rapper and soul singer. … She told me later they’d hidden their valuables from me too.

If they have “valuables”, why are they homeless?

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