The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

‘A Team of Editors’

Posted on | May 24, 2020 | No Comments

 

This is going to become the stuff of legend, so I wanted to take note of it: The New York Times decided to devote the entirety of its front page to a list of 1,000 names of COVID-19 victims. It’s Memorial Day weekend, and we are at or near the 100,000 mark in terms of nationwide death toll from the virus so . . . Well, there was some rationale for this, anyway, and the New York Times staff devoted hours to the project:

Simone Landon, assistant editor of the Graphics desk, wanted to represent the number in a way that conveyed both the vastness and the variety of lives lost. . . .
“We knew we were approaching this milestone,” she added. “We knew that there should be some way to try to reckon with that number.”
Putting 100,000 dots or stick figures on a page “doesn’t really tell you very much about who these people were, the lives that they lived, what it means for us as a country,” Ms. Landon said. So, she came up with the idea of compiling obituaries and death notices of Covid-19 victims from newspapers large and small across the country, and culling vivid passages from them.
Alain Delaquérière, a researcher, combed through various sources online for obituaries and death notices with Covid-19 written as the cause of death. He compiled a list of nearly a thousand names from hundreds of newspapers. A team of editors from across the newsroom, in addition to three graduate student journalists, read them and gleaned phrases that depicted the uniqueness of each life lost . . .

Scarcely five minutes after their list was published, people on Twitter began pointing out an obvious error: Jordan Haynes, 27, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was the sixth name on the Times list, but he did not die of COVID-19. He was a homicide victim, whose body was found in a car in a wooded area near Interstate 380. Exactly how the “team of editors” made such a colossal blunder, we don’t know, but they’ve deleted Haynes’ name from the list and promised to publish a correction tomorrow.

By the way, if the Times wished the list to be representative of the U.S. coronavirus toll, at least three-quarters would be over 65 years of age, and about 52 percent would be from four states — New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Michigan — with the highest death tolls. Iowa? With only 449 reported coronavirus deaths, the Hawkeye State is not even a full percentage point of the death toll, but 0.45%. If the “team of editors” needed the names of four or five dead Iowans to represent this, in a list of a thousand names, how was it that they chose this homicide victim? And if they can blunder so badly in this, what else do they get wrong?


 

The Early Summer Book Post

Posted on | May 24, 2020 | No Comments

— by Wombat-socho

Since the end of tax season, I’ve been making up for lost time. I’m a little behind on my Kindle Lending Library borrows, but on the other hand, I had some spare cash this month after paying bills, and I spent it wisely. On books. For my Kindle, because I’m still not in my own space – yet. SOON.

Going to start with an oldie but a goodie – Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising, which used to be a technothriller but is now an alternate history thank to the Great Politics Mess-Up. On the off-chance you haven’t read this, it’s a great recounting of the Third World War that never was, sparked by a massive act of jihadi sabotage against a major Soviet oil refinery. While Larry Bond’s name isn’t on the cover, Clancy gave him (and Bond’s game Harpoon) a ton of credit in the foreword, and rightly so. Clancy manages to keep several plot lines on both sides moving all through the book, and foreshadows the great work he’d later do on the best books from the Ryanverse. Highly recommended.

Kurt Schlichter’s Kelly Turnbull novels remind me somewhat of Clancy’s tales of John Clark, if Clark had less empathy and more of a tendency to get shot up…anyhow, I binged Wildfire and Collapse last weekend, and they’re both good reads. Turnbull’s mission in the former is to stop a bunch of jihadis from releasing a particularly nasty variant of Ebola Marburg in the People’s Republic while pretending to be a PBI agent. Bonus points for the many humorous parts where Turnbull turns the genderfluid transracial & transsexual craziness of the PR against its bureaucrats. The latter reads uncomfortably like a near-future technothriller in which the corrupt rulers of the PR’s Pacific States are selling out to Red China to save their own hides from the starving masses; initially, Turnbull’s mission is to smuggle in an ace hacker to trash the control systems for the reactor aboard the former USS Theodore Roosevelt, but as so often happens, he and the very unwilling hacker find themselves headed for San Francisco along with a team of Rangers and a somewhat demented demo expert whose dream of blowing up the Golden Gate Bridge is about to come true.

Jerry Pournelle’s heirs are getting his last works finished up and on the market. The last third of the Heorot trilogy, Starborn & Godsons, co-written with Larry Niven & Steven Barnes, is out (and on my reading list), and the long-awaited Mamelukes  (finished by David Weber & Philip Pournelle) is due out next month. In the meantime, there is John Carr’s memorial anthology for Jerry, The Best Of Jerry Pournelle, which contains some of the best of Jerry’s short work, some of it in collaboration with Larry Niven (“Reflex” and “Spirals”) and some of it previously uncollected  – there’s a Wade Curtis story that somehow didn’t get picked up before, and Jerry’s contribution to The Last Dangerous Visions, which is still going to be published Real Soon Now. This is an excellent collection just on the basis of the stories, but there’s also a lot of tributes from Steven Barnes, Larry Niven, and others. Highly recommended.

I am unenthused about the release of Uncle Bob’s The Pursuit of the Pankera. I thought the original version (The Number of the Beast) was terrible and was glad I’d just borrowed it from the library. However, if someone wants to shell out the $10 (or loan me the book) so they can get my opinion, I’m willing to tackle it.

On a more positive note, a bunch of authors I respect are having a Memorial Day Weekend sale. I’ve reviewed a fair number of these books over the last few years, and you could easily pick up a lot of good reads for five bucks without even trying hard. Go forth and browse!

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FMJRA 2.0: Walking In The Shadow Of The Big Man

Posted on | May 23, 2020 | No Comments

— compiled by Wombat-socho

Rule 5 Sunday: Sarah Rose McDaniel
Animal Magnetism
A View From The Beach
Proof Positive
EBL
Ninety Miles From Tyranny

Remember How Everybody Was Going to Die Because Georgia Ended Lockdowns?
Gregor Mendel Blog
EBL

FMJRA 2.0: Hocus Pocus
A View From The Beach
EBL

‘Out-of-Towners’ Blamed for ‘Mayhem’ After Florida City Re-Opens Beach
The Pirate’s Cove
357 Magnum
EBL

An Appeal From Bear Creek
Animal Magnetism
EBL

Trust the Health Experts!
357 Magnum
EBL

In The Mailbox: 05.18.20
357 Magnum
A View From The Beach
Proof Positive
EBL

The Battle of Atillis Gym
The Pirate’s Cove
EBL

An Experiment That Failed
357 Magnum
Dark Brightness
Pushing Rubber Downhill
EBL

In The Mailbox: 05.19.20
A View From The Beach
Proof Positive
EBL

Chelsey Coyer: American Hero
EBL

‘Biological Leninism’
EBL

The Big Yellow Button Has Returned
EBL

We Made It
EBL

In The Mailbox: 05.20.20
357 Magnum
A View From The Beach
Proof Positive
EBL

Dining at the Longbranch
357 Magnum
EBL

In The Mailbox: 05.21.20
A View From The Beach
Proof Positive
EBL

In The Mailbox: 05.22.20
357 Magnum
Proof Positive
EBL

Top linkers for the week ending May 22:

  1.  EBL (18)
  2.  357 Magnum (7)
  3.  (tied) A View From The Beach and Proof Positive (6)

Thanks to everyone for all the links!

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West Virginia’s COVID-19 ‘Hot Spot’

Posted on | May 23, 2020 | No Comments

After our trip to the Longbranch Saloon in Hedgesville, W.Va., I discovered that we had actually been in more danger than I knew:

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice said Thursday that West Virginia National Guard members were being sent immediately to the Eastern Panhandle because of an increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases.
Depending on their findings, Justice said he may consider making it mandatory to wear a face covering or mask while in public in Berkeley and Jefferson counties.
“We have been really watching an issue that’s been brewing in the Eastern Panhandle in Berkeley and Jefferson counties again,” he said during a news conference.
“Those numbers are not good and that’s all there is to it. Berkeley and Jefferson had 15 and 20 (new) positive cases, respectively, yesterday,” he said.
It’s time for action, but not time to panic, he said.
“We’re running to the fire. I’ve directed our National Guard to go, and go within hours, and to report back to me first thing in the morning as to all of their findings — with the assistance of the health people there — and any and everything they can come up with,” Justice said. . . .
State Department of Health and Human Resources’ numbers have consistently shown a local increase in the number of positive cases and especially during the last 10 days.
Berkeley had 191 cases on May 12, and that number had grown to 248 Thursday morning.
Jefferson had 88 on the same date, but the number had risen to 131 cases Thursday morning, according to DHHR data posted on its COVID-19 dashboard.
Justice said the increase in cases may stem from the counties’ proximity to nearby metropolitan areas like Washington, D.C., where the virus is also on the uptick. . . .
Both counties had previously been declared coronavirus “hot spots” because of their higher number of positive cases.

You’re going to see lots of stories like this about different parts of the country as statewide lockdowns end. In the case of West Virginia, which has a very low rate of infection ever since the coronavirus pandemic hit, the Eastern Panhandle was a “hot spot” only in comparison to the rest of the state, and an increase of about 45 cases in 10 days in Berkeley County is really a drop in the bucket, by nationwide standards.

Georgia, Florida and Texas have all reopened without experiencing disaster — so far, so good — but that doesn’t mean there won’t be “spikes” or localized outbreaks that cause public-health concerns. If your local area’s current level of infection is low, a couple dozen new cases can produce a troubling “spike” in the statistical trend, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in imminent danger. The liberal media have spent weeks trying to promote the narrative that corpses will soon be stacking up like cordwood in rural America (e.g., “The coronavirus invades Trump country”), but most of this is just statistical voodoo: “Look at this outbreak at a North Dakota meat-processing plant! ICU overcrowding in Montgomery, Alabama! See? We told you so!” If you examine such stories with a skeptical eye, however, you find that anomalous events are being dishonestly portrayed as examples of a “trend” that doesn’t actually exist. Meanwhile, in West Virginia:

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — State officials are moving forward with a plan to address the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Berkeley and Jefferson counties.
But people won’t be required to wear face coverings while in public, Gov. Jim Justice said during a news conference Friday.
The decision comes at the same time results have been announced for the approximately 1,600 local residents who were tested last weekend in Martinsburg and Charles Town.
Justice said officials had been compiling information on the situation from a number of sources including the West Virginia National Guard, legislators, local health departments and other state health professionals.
“The net of the whole thing, at least at this time, is that everyone concluded things are OK and aren’t at high alert,” he said.
“We want people to continue to know in Berkeley and Jefferson counties that it’s a high-exposure area. So we want them to continue to wear a mask as much as possible but we’re not going to make it mandatory,” he said. . . .
[T]here will be a greater emphasis on community testing in the Eastern Panhandle, including Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties, said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, Adjutant General of the West Virginia National Guard.
Bill Kearns, executive director of the Berkeley-Morgan County Board of Health, said results are now available from the testing conducted May 15 and 16.
Fifteen positive cases were reported each from Berkeley and Jefferson counties, he said.
“You have to remember that we’re talking about testing 872 people in Berkeley County, which has a total population of about 119,000, so the number was relatively low,” he said.
“But out of those 872 people who tested positive, the amount only comes out to be about 1.6 percent,” he said.

Widespread testing with a low rate of positive results will produce an increase in the number of known cases, but that doesn’t mean the community is experiencing an emergency situation, and so the governor is not going to make it mandatory to wear masks in Berkeley County. This is eminently sensible, far more sensible than what is going on in Michigan, where the wretched Gretchen Whitmer has extended her statewide lockdown order until June 12. She’s doing everything possible to make sure Trump wins Michigan by a landslide in November.


 

Further Developments

Posted on | May 23, 2020 | No Comments

 

The October 2018 murder of Univerity of Utah student Lauren McCluskey is a topic I’ve blogged about before (“An Apparently Consensual Relationship”), but I hadn’t followed further developments in the case. The man who murdered McCluskey, convicted sex offender Melvin Rowland, shot himself to death a few hours after the murder, and you might think there could be no further developments. However, officials and reporters kept probing the chain of failures that led to McCluskey’s murder, and it is a very long list indeed:

Sept. 2, 2018: Lauren McCluskey met Melvin Shawn Rowland at London Belle, a Salt Lake City bar where he was working as a bouncer, and began a relationship with him. He gave her a false name and age, and didn’t disclose that he was a convicted sex offender on parole. He visited her often at her residence hall and quickly built friendships with other students in the building. Later that month, she went pistol shooting with Rowland and his friends; as a felon, Rowland was not allowed to possess a gun. . . .

Oct. 9: McCluskey learned Rowland’s real identity — including that he had lied about his age, 37, and not disclosed that he was a registered sex offender — in the first days of October, and briefly went home to Pullman, Wash. On Oct. 9, she invited Rowland to her dorm room, confronted him with the information, and broke off their relationship. He admitted his sex-offender status, but denied the age difference. McCluskey allowed him to spend the night in her room and borrow her car the next day to run errands. She began receiving text messages, purportedly from Rowland’s friends; some urged her to kill herself. . . .

Oct. 13: At 9:22 a.m., McCluskey again contacted university police, reporting she had received more messages she believed were from Rowland or his friends. The messages demanded money in exchange for not posting compromising photos of McCluskey and Rowland online. McCluskey said she sent $1,000 to an account as demanded, in hope of keeping the photos private. She spoke to an officer by phone, then in person, then by texts, and eventually called the Salt Lake City police department, which referred her back to campus. Chief Dale Brophy said police took the report, pulled Rowland’s criminal history — but did not learn he was on parole — and assigned a detective to follow up later on possible charges of sexual extortion. . . . “There was never an attempt by any of the officers involved to check [Rowland’s] ‘offender status.’ Further, there were no policies or procedures that required such checks.” . . .

It goes on from there, including the fact that the company that employed Rowland as a security guard had hired him under a false name (“Shawn Fields”) and had not run a background check. There were so many things wrong here, to say nothing of McCluskey’s poor judgment. She was 21, and probably a lot of 21-year-olds think of themselves as savvy enough to handle themselves in any situation, but like most college kids, she was not “street smart.” Rowland had obvious sociopathic traits (“He was really good at trying to say what he thought I wanted to hear,” said one woman who had briefly dated him a few months before McCluskey’s death), but McCluskey didn’t recognize those traits as danger signs.

The police handling of the case was a disaster from start to finish. Any woman who relies on police to protect her in this kind of situation is putting her life at risk. And the reason Lauren McCluskey’s case popped up in the headlines this past week had to do with the campus cops:

Lauren McCluskey explained to the officer at the University of Utah that she was being extorted over explicit photos she had taken of herself. Someone — she wasn’t certain who at that moment — had accessed her files and was threatening to release them if she didn’t hand over $1,000.
Scared by the demand, she paid the money and then sent copies of the messages and the pictures to the campus police department as evidence.
When Miguel Deras, one of the officers assigned to her case, received them, he saved the photos on his personal phone. And days before McCluskey was killed by the man who was blackmailing her, Deras showed off at least one of the images to a male co-worker and bragged about getting to look at them whenever he wanted, according to two fellow officers.

Disgusting. The whole thing is disgusting.


 

In The Mailbox: 05.22.20

Posted on | May 22, 2020 | No Comments

— compiled by Wombat-socho

Deadline to submit links for tomorrow’s FMJRA is noon; for Rule 5 Sunday links, midnight. All times Pacific. Please remember to link this and other posts on Twitter and other social media.

OVER THE TRANSOM
Bacon Time: Happy Birthday To Me
Red Pilled Jew: A Rant On The Wuhan Flu & Its Exploiters
357 Magnum: One Homeowner V. Three Miscreants
EBL: Appeals Court Asks Judge Sullivan To Explain
Twitchy: Joe Biden Gets The Dancing Pallbearers Meme Treatment And It’s PERFECT
Louder With Crowder: Joe Biden Tells Black People They “Ain’t Black”
According To Hoyt: I DO NOT CONSENT
Vox Popoli: Deflation In Canada, also, Affirmative Action & The NFL

RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES
Adam Piggott:
American Conservative: T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” Reconsidered In The Pandemic
American Greatness: Suicides Outnumber Coronavirus Deaths In San Francisco Bay Area
American Power: “I’m Afraid A Lot Of These Stores Are Going To Go Out Of Business”
American Thinker: From Frontline To Breadline
Animal Magnetism: Rule Five Sixth Annual Commencement Speech Friday
Babalu Blog: Be Very Wary Of “The People”
Baldilocks: Slow Joe & The Volcano That Is His Mouth
BattleSwarm: LinkSwarm For May 22
Cafe Hayek: Missing The Margin
Camp of the Saints: Yes He Can! Trumpicus Can Order Governors To Open Churches
CDR Salamander: Red China – Is The Quickening Here?, also, Fullbore Friday
Da Tech Guy: Mika Brzezinski & Media Bubble Blunders, also, DaTechGuy Off The Radio Livestream
Don Surber: Lockdown Protests Are American. Lockdowns Are Not.
First Street Journal: The Courage Of The Hong Kong Protesters Shames Us
The Geller Report: Joe Biden Tells Jewish Donors He’ll Reverse Trump’s Pro-Israel Policies, also, Muslim Terrorist Who Attacked Corpus Christi NAS Identified
Hogewash: Team Kimberlin Post of The Day, also, Yeah, It’s 2020
Hollywood In Toto: Military Wives Honors More Than Just The Troops, also, Anti-Science Daily Show Shames Lockdown Protesters
JustOneMinute: The Man In The Mask
Legal Insurrection: “If You Have A Problem Figuring Out Whether You’re For Me Or Trump, You Ain’t Black”, also, Coronavirus Lockdowns Continue To Decimate U.S. Healthcare System
The PanAm Post: Uruguay Dispels The False “Health or Economy” Dilemma, also, Iran & Venezuela Financed Spain’s Podemos Party Through HispanTV
Power Line: Joe Biden Beats Himself! also, How The Pandemic Has Widened Our Political Divide
Shark Tank: RNC Intervenes In Democrats’ Florida Vote Lawsuit
Shot In The Dark: Idle Question For Governor Walz
STUMP: States Under Fiscal Pressure – Illinois
The Political Hat: Firing Line Friday – A Healthcare Mini-Debate, Part III – Quality Care
This Ain’t Hell: Valor Friday, also, Carville Predicts Trump Defeat In November
Victory Girls: Joe Biden, Arbiter Of Blackness
Volokh Conspiracy: LawProf Falsely Accused Of Rape Gets $1 Million Award
Weasel Zippers: Washington State Unemployment Fund Loses Hundreds Of Megabucks To Nigerian Scammers, also, Joe Biden Says He’ll Raise Taxes Even If America’s Still In The Pandemic
Mark Steyn: Temples Of Doom

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In The Mailbox: 05.21.20

Posted on | May 21, 2020 | No Comments

— compiled by Wombat-socho

OVER THE TRANSOM
357 Magnum: Texans Are Still Armed
EBL: Kayleigh McEnany EN FUEGO
Twitchy: Appeals Court Gives Judge Sullivan Ten Days To Explain WTF He’s Doing With The Flynn Case
Louder With Crowder: Mike Rowe Gives A Commencement Speech That Poops All Over College

RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES
Adam Piggott: We Couldn’t Fix Humpty Dumpty, Nor Can We Fix Universities
American Conservative: The Long, Lingering Death Of The State Department
American Greatness: How To Hold Red China Accountable – Build Our Own Stuff
American Power: The Day Corona-Chan Nearly Broke The Financial Markets
American Thinker: Joe Biden’s Ukraine Scandal Is Exploding
Animal Magnetism: Animal’s Daily Shooter’s Grill News
Babalu Blog: Mexico Purchasing Slave Doctors From Castro Regime
BattleSwarm: Should 100 Million Dollar Man Joe Rogan Move To Texas?
Cafe Hayek: Internalize This
CDR Salamander: Neophilia, Presentism, & The Nightmares Of The Now
Da Tech Guy: So It Was All Insurance, also, Coronavirus Lockdowns Violate The Constitution & The Rule Of Law
Don Surber: Who Democrats Kill
Fred On Everything: Did Bats Get The Coronavirus From Humans?
The Geller Report: Jihadi Storms Naval Air Station, Killed by Navy Security Forces After Wounding One, also, Gov. Cuomo’s Policies Killed More New Yorkers In Nursing Homes Than Died On 9/11
Hogewash: Team Kimberlin Post of The Day, also, Crudely Modeling Herd Immunity
Hollywood In Toto: Inheritance Slams The Rich Along With Common Sense, also, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich Lets His Victims Speak
Legal Insurrection: Philadelphia Democratic Party Official Pleads Guilty To Stuffing Ballot Boxes, also, Appeals Court Orders Judge Sullivan To Explain His Actions In Flynn Case
The PanAm Post: UNICEF Warns Coronavirus Lockdown Could Kill 1.2 Million Children
Power Line: The Not So Great Hydrochloroquine Debate, also, Spying By The Book
Shark Tank: Challenger Quinn Calls Out Rep. Kathy Castor As Communist Sympathizer
Shot In The Dark: Blue Fragility, Part VI – Lysenkoism Vs. Actual Science
STUMP: States Under Fiscal Pressure – California
The Political Hat: Kill The Crazy – Dutch Dementia Death, Not Killing As Discrimination, Homicide Training As Medicine
This Ain’t Hell: Thursdays Are For Cooking, also, Daniel Bernath Cartoon Video
Victory Girls: Contrasting Narratives Of The Golden & Sunshine States
Volokh Conspiracy: Goodbye To Overlawyered
Weasel Zippers: MI Gov Begs Residents Not To Travel To Their Summer Homes – Before Going To Her Summer Home, also, Seattle & California Approve $175 Million Stimulus Fund For Illegals – Using Taxpayer Dollars
Megan McArdle: What The COVID-19 Unemployment Crisis Means For Young People
Mark Steyn: Crazy As A Loon

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Dining at the Longbranch

Posted on | May 21, 2020 | No Comments

(Click photo to see full-size)

(This is the second of two parts. Click here to read the first part.)

“Hey, somebody told me you guys were serving beer?”

“Outside service only,” said the guy who had come out of the kitchen. “We’re closed now, though.”

“When do you open?” I asked.

“Three o’clock.”

“What time is it now?”

“Two thirty.”

“We’ll wait.”

So I walked back around to the parking lot, where Kirby still had the car running. “Park it. They’re opening in 30 minutes.”

We sat down at one of the outdoor picnic tables. It was a nice sunny day — a little cool and windy, but nice. An awning shaded the tables that serve as the Longbranch Saloon’s smoking area under normal operation, but which are now the dining room due to “social distancing” rules.

(Click photo to see full-size)

Only 25 people were permitted to congregate outside, which I suppose might be a problem on a weekend night, but on a Wednesday afternoon, Kirby and I were the only early-arriving patrons, so there was no danger of us violating the health department regulations. After a few minutes, the guy from the kitchen came out to ask us what we’d like to drink.

“Do you have any beer specials?” I asked.

“Not really. Everything’s two dollars.”

“Two dollar beer! Do you have Yuengling?”

Indeed they did. So I ordered Pennsylvania’s finest lager, and Kirby ordered iced tea, because he is a professional driver.

Normally, Kirby drives a semi truck, but last summer, high blood pressure resulted in the suspension of his commercial license, and this eventually led to the decision to move him up here with our family while he recuperated. His health has been improving, and we hope in a few more months he’ll be able to resume his life on the road, but for now my brother is the professional driver of our old Nissan. So he drove us the 30-odd miles to the Longbranch Saloon and Grill, the mailing address of which is Hedgesville, W.Va., but which is actually nearest a crossroads hamlet called Johnsonville. It’s about 10 miles west of I-81 via West Virginia Rte. 901, which passes the historic Hammond House at Spring Mills, then loops down to Hedgesville, where you turn right and head west on Rte. 9 for four miles then turn left at Baxter Road. The Longbranch Saloon is about a mile down Baxter Road on the right.

Anyway, when the man returned with our beverages, I asked his name — Brian — and if the kitchen was open. Yes, and he furnished us with menus, then left us to consider our choices. After a few minutes, he returned. I ordered the cheeseburger with fries ($7.50), while Kirby ordered the jalapeño poppers ($4), and I said: “Oh, and bring me another Yuengling.” Journalism is thirsty work, and after two months of lockdown, I’d gone through that first 12 ounces with surprising rapidity.

Honestly, there are few places in America where you are less likely to contract COVID-19 than in Hedgesville. West Virginia has one of the lowest infection rates in the country, with just over 1,500 known cases so far. The Mountaineer State didn’t report its first case until March 17, and a month later still had only 777 known coronavirus cases. The peak of the pandemic, in terms of daily new cases, was April 24, when 48 new cases were reported statewide; in the past week (May 14-20), 163 new cases were reported, an average of about 23 new cases per day. So far, there have been a total of only 69 COVID-19 deaths in West Virginia, which has a per-capita death rate 97% lower than the rate in New York.

Hedgesville is scarcely a hotbed of viral contagion, although Berkeley County has been relatively hard-hit by West Virginia standards, with 245 coronavirus cases and six deaths from the disease. This is no doubt due to the proximity to Washington, D.C. (about 90 miles southeast of Hedgesville), and the county being bisected by Interstate 81.

Despite the relatively low risk of infection, “social distancing” regulations were still in effect Wednesday at the Longbranch Saloon, so we were sitting outside on this pleasant spring day. The awning-covered outdoor dining area was adjacent to a wide lawn, with a weeping willow tree, and there was a fire pit, where I suppose people huddle around on cool evenings. After a while, Kirby and I were joined by a third patron, a retiree who had come to have a mid-afternoon beer, and we made polite small talk for a few minutes before Brian returned to bring us our food.

(Click photo to see full-size)

The burger was good, and served with crinkle-cut fries. Perhaps the gourmets of New York would turn up their snooty noses as such a meal, but they can’t go out to dinner because New York is still locked down under the regime of Mayor Bill de Blasio. Probably there are lots of people in New York — not the snooty gourmet types, but regular New Yorkers — who dream of sitting outdoors near a willow tree on a spring day, enjoying a $7.50 cheeseburger plate and a cold $2 Yuengling.

It’s “almost heaven” in West Virginia, if you appreciate simple pleasures, and I was grateful for Tim Carney’s Washington Examiner column this week that alerted me to the opportunity to enjoy a meal at the Longbranch. When the cook/waiter Brian returned, I asked him if he realized that this establishment was now the most famous saloon in West Virginia, but he apparently hadn’t read Tim’s column. If you keep up with the news in West Virginia, however, the news is good:

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed an executive order allowing his state to enter the “Week 4” phase of coronavirus reopening on Thursday, which will include reopening indoor dining at restaurants, malls and outdoor recreation.
Large retail stores, tanning businesses, outdoor recreation rentals and campgrounds will also be reopened.
The new order also rescinds the requirement for out-of-state travelers visiting West Virginia to self-quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival.
The governor also outlined the plans for Week 5 reopening, expected to begin after Memorial Day, which will allow bars to open at 50 percent and museums, visitor centers, zoos, spas and massage businesses to open their doors.
At the same time, the Republican governor announced the results of his initiative to test every nursing home patient in the state, the first such policy in the U.S.
In total, 22,598 people at 123 nursing homes were tested, including 8,911 residents and 13,687 staff members. This resulted in the identification of COVID-19 in 28 new facilities. Thirty-one new staff and 11 new residents were identified as COVID-19 positive.

Thousands of New York nursing home patients have died because of Cuomo’s policy, while West Virginia is the only state in the country to have tested every nursing home resident for COVID-19. Tell me again, New Yorkers, how much smarter you are than these rustic hillbillies.

(Click photo to see full-size)

We finished our meals, and Brian brought the tab — $16.50 for a cheeseburger and fries, jalapeño poppers, two beers and an iced tea. I tipped $3.50, bringing the total tab to $20. Helping the local economy, like a patriotic American. There was a deadline looming, so we bid adieu to beautiful Hedgesville and made it back home by 5. Thanks to everyone who hit the tip jar for our trip to West By God Virginia.



 

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